I actually got my 2018 roundup finished before the year is over! Here’s hoping I can keep that planning and productivity intact for all things to come in 2019.
Before we jump into the top 10 albums, here are some concert highlights from 2018:
I went to Cincinnati, Ohio for The National’s first ever Homecoming Festival. (Looking back to last year’s album roundup I had my fingers crossed the lineup would be good, and it was great!)
Saw Jack White at the Mayan and there was a “no phone rule”. Watching a show with my own eyes and not through the video screen of some strangers phone felt refreshing.
Smash Mouth played a free concert at Pershing Square in DTLA. No shame: it was amazing!
Other staple shows of the year were: LCD Soundsystem & the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Hollywood Bowl, Arctic Monkeys at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Courtney Barnett at Pico Union and Leon Bridges at The Greek.
Went to The Foo Fighter’s festival, Cal Jam, and was there for the Nirvana reunion.
Listen along with the 2018 playlist as you make your way through my top 10 albums of the year!
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
10. SOLACE / RÜFUS DÜ SOL
It’s an odd thing for me to stray from the indie/alternative path… Solace is the exception being the one EDM album on my list. Synth-y, deep, but not too “unce-unce-unce” rave-like. The album is influenced by stark Californian desert landscapes and has a dark, moody vibe that comes along with it.
The cover for Solace was taken by Le Fawnhawk who also photographed artwork for each single release. It’s definitely worth checking her out for her contrasting desert style, especially in the photos where people and shapes are the main focus.
9. FOR EVER / JUNGLE
I had been patiently awaiting Jungle’s sophomore album since 2014. For Ever was worth the 4 year wait which, at times felt like forever. It comes in strong with a heavy, funky percussion on “Smile” that you can’t help but move to. Mid-way you’re met by a keyboard-strong “Casio” that sort of gets you to sway. And it ends on a mix of a bit of everything with “Pray” that’ll send you into a dreamy state of mind.
They have a show at The Hollywood Palladium March 1, 2019!
8. THE OTHER / KING TUFF
The Other dives into the issues of technological addiction, the environment and how it’s suffering by our neglect, and ultimately, death.
Kyle Thomas, (aka King Tuff), touches on questioning what’s out there in the universe; but urges that if we focus too much on what’s out there we may forget what we have here on Earth, and we might realize that too late.
The song “Thru the Cracks”, is a touching tribute where Thomas reminisces about an old friend who is now at peace. Featuring an assist from Jenny Lewis on vocals, it’s a warm reminder that we are all loved, even our darkest hours.
7. SPARKLE HARD / STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS
Good ‘ol American Rock pretty much sums up Sparkle Hard. A bit twangy, almost country at times, with classic storytelling at the center of it all. Listen close for the modern day stories about the “Me Too” movement and Black Lives Matter.
“Kite”, weighing in at a nearly seven minutes, departs from the rest of the album by journeying back to the 2013 style of Wig Out at Jagbags and beyond. It’s like a walkabout for guitar riffs and “doo doo doo” backing vocals. A refreshing jam in the center of the album.
Malkmus has been in the game for a long time and seems to be finally kicking back, doing whatever he wants. Luckily it’s what I want too.
6. GEOGRAPHY / TOM MISCH
Tom Misch has a calculated take on jazz in that his songs are crafted to his version of perfection. They range from the slow, building storyline of “Movie” to the dancy, steady repetitive bass of “Cos I Love You”.
There’s also a cover of “Isn’t She Lovely” randomly wedged in the tracklist that’s a nice little instrumental surprise, and a fun exploration from his usual style.
Even though Geography was one of my most played albums of the year, I somehow can’t sum it up into words as to why. It’s just an easy listen that makes me happy.
5. VIDE NOIR / LORD HURON
Vide Noir is an atmospheric folk-pop triumph.
If you’re searching for the perfect road tripping/driving album, this is it. Picture fuzzy 8mm film playing where the sun hits your windows just right while you drive off into the sunset. Yeah, this could be you.
Lord Huron played The National’s Homecoming festival earlier this year in Cincinnati, OH at Smale Riverfront Park. Hearing them play "Wait by the River" while being between a river and at the edge of a city was a pretty surreal experience. Ben Schneider took it all in when he motioned to the river and skyline as he sang. Goosebumps all around.
4. GOOD THING / LEON BRIDGES
From the first listen, Good Thing felt nostalgic, familiar, comforting and warm. It’s like you’re listening with your best friends, arms around one another even when it’s just you and the music.
I can't listen to "Beyond" without tearing up especially when he sings, "I know that Grandma would've loved her like she was her own." (I’ve got a soft spot for my grandmas in my heart).
On the flip side of that, some laid-back, up-tempo funk songs that were on my heavy rotation this year are “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be")” and “Bad Bad News”.
There’s authenticity that comes with the songs on Good Thing. They remind me of love and loss, better days, but more importantly the great days to come.
Really regretting not buying a "Good Thing" jacket when I saw Leon Bridges at The Greek in LA earlier this year.
3. CON TODO EL MUNDO / KHRUANGBIN
Con Todo El Mundo means "With all the world" which, coincidentally is how much I love this record.
I also recently learned that “Khruangbin” is Thai for airplane. Very fitting for their 70s psychedelic, global sound that will definitely take you on a trip.
I put this album on when I need to zone out to some smooth sounds, or, on the flip side, dance to the occasional funky tune. May I suggest, “Evan Finds the Third Room” or “Maria También” for your swaying dance floor needs.
2. WIDE AWAKE! / PARQUET COURTS
The lyrics off the title track, “I'm wide awake, Mind so woke 'cause my brain never pushed the brakes”, are actually a great way to describe my 2018. A constant ‘go-go-go’ mentality of over-working and planning and trying to make time to do everything all at once, at points resulting in a flurry of anxiety.
Wide Awake! is loud, a bit punk, full of noise/yelling and serves as a great companion for LA traffic.
Earlier this year while browsing a blog I frequent, It’s Nice That, I was surprised to stumble upon an article about Andrew Savage of Parquet Courts. Not only does he do vocals/guitar in the band, but he creates all of the album artwork, too. What an awesome relationship between two creative outlets: one completely fast-paced, and the other slow and relaxed. What a good balance to strive for.
1. TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL / COURTNEY BARNETT
Equipped with a bit of anger, a lot of hope, and a “take shit from no one attitude”, Courtney Barnett told us how she really felt on Tell Me How You Really Feel.
Back in May in a tiny chapel near DTLA, Barnett played the full album front to back and I honestly can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to it all the way through since then. (look it’s me front ‘n center in a pink hat!)
This album is chock-full of emotional, soul searching anthems and for me, “Charity” really rose to the top. It talks about this “everything’s amazing” veil we all have over our lives, the obstacles in our way and the truth that none of us really know what we’re doing. “You don’t have to pretend you’re not scared, everyone else is just as terrified as you.” Be kind to one another: we’re all searching: we’re all going through something: we all want to be heard and respected: Are you listening?
Happy Friday! The song, "Cross My Heart" by Melody's Echo Chamber has been on my mind lately and it always makes me happy, so I thought I'd share it here.
Have a listen below, and wait for it. That "Friday Feeling" hits at 1:32.
Here's hoping your day is filled with upbeat French songs.
2017 has come to a close, and with it comes my yearly roundup of top music! (Can you believe we're already 7 days into 2018?!)
First, here are some musical highlights from my 2017:
- I went to my first East Coast music festival, Panorama NYC, where I met my favorite band, Spoon!
- I finally made it to Red Rocks and saw Bonobo with Nick Murphy. Obviously it was amazing, and exploring Denver proved to be more fun than I could've imagined.
- Some other "staple" shows of the year were !!! (Chk chk chk) at the Echoplex, The Shins & Spoon at The Greek in Berkeley (road trip!), Beck at the Ford Theatre and El Ten Eleven at the Masonic Lodge in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
- According to Spotify's 2017 Wrapped, I listened to 78,502 minutes of music, 7,926 songs, 2,423 artists and explored 110 genres along the way. If you haven't gotten your stats yet, try it here!
Listen along with the 2017 playlist as you make your way through my top 10 albums of the year!
TOP 10 COUNTDOWN
10. IN MIND / REAL ESTATE
Real Estate has always been the perfect band for a summer drive down the coast. Rolling down those windows and feeling the breeze through your fingertips, the salty sea air tangling into your hair and the sunlight kissing your skin. In Mind is the perfect roadside companion and a good reminder to just take it easy, you know?
Also fun lil' link to click on: there's a cool, interactive music video for "Stained Glass", featuring geometric outlined illustrations that the user can fill with color. Give it a go yourself here!
9. TI AMO / PHOENIX
The album opener J-Boy is synthesized auto-tune bliss. Not a sentence I ever thought I'd say, but seriously they know the formula to mix songs that just work.
Phoenix is a French band, known to sing in English. Not only are there dashes of French on Ti Amo, there's also Italian, Spanish and French. Each language subtly slips into the songs, blending perfectly with the rest of the lyrics.
A bit of rock, a lot of pop, perfect for the dancefloor and singing along at concerts... ti amo, Ti Amo.
8. SLEEP WELL BEAST / THE NATIONAL
On Sleep Well Beast, the first track grabs your attention by opening with an Imogen Heap-esque harmony, shifting to quick choppy drums and guitar. According to an interview with Pitchfork, "The System Dreams in Total Darkness" is "an abstract portrait of a weird time we're in."
I saw The National at the Hollywood Bowl this year when I was having a really rough day. A friend sarcastically said, "Oh good, that'll cheer you up". But it was therapeutic listening to the raw sounds of The National when my emotions were a bit raw, too. It's good to tap into your emotions and feel those feelings, even when it's tough.
Last month, The National announced a hometown music festival called "Homecoming" in Ohio. The lineup releases this Monday, January 8. Crossing my fingers it's a good group!
7. A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING / THE WAR ON DRUGS
When you listen to A Deeper Understanding, it's like a winding stream of music washing over you. There are unexpected splashes of sound and it always feels like you're floating.
The 11 minute dream-like haze that is "Thinking of a Place" feels like that completely, and I want to be lost in it forever. Hell, I want to be lost in this album forever.
6. SILVER EYE / GOLDFRAPP
"Systemagic" may have been my most played song of the year. A good, synthesized beat and soothing repetitiveness are found in this song and throughout Silver Eye as a whole.
I'll take some good electro-glam any day, and this is close to as good as it gets.
5. CRY CRY CRY / WOLF PARADE
Cry Cry Cry was worth the 10 year wait from Wolf Parade. It's indie rock at it's finest.
Don't get me wrong, I've loved Dan Boeckner's side projects with Operators (shoutout to last years top 10) and Handsome Furs but I'm glad to have Wolf Parade and their raw, gritty sound back.
These guys are the only band out of my top 10 that I've never seen live. But that's changing this month when they play at The Observatory in Santa Ana!
4. HEARTWORMS / THE SHINS
Heartworms is a pop-infused album guaranteed to make Zach Braff's character in Garden State smile.
James Mercer's skill for songwriting and making memorable songs has always been strong, and it's held the test of time judging by the tracks off of Heartworms. The only dispute to that I've ever witnessed was at their El Rey show in March of 2017 where Emily and I witnessed someone Shazam New Slang. Obviously that was a fluke and that person didn't know anything about anything. End of story.
My front-runners off of the album are: "Name For You", "Painting a Hole", "Dead Alive" and "Half a Million". The music video for "Half a Million" is awesome. It's composed of 500,000 (or half a million, get it?), hand cut stickers filmed in a stop motion fashion. Very clever.
3. COLORS / BECK
I'll admit it, when "Wow" initially came out in 2016, I laughed out loud. I had always admired Beck's experimentation with genres and his ever changing musical styles from album to album... but this felt too weird. I thought the weird shift was a predecessor of what to come from his next full length.
Now I look back at that moment and laugh, because I'm kind of into that song. It grew on me a lot. Granted it's not my absolute favorite off of Colors, but I really appreciate it for what it is. And the rest of the album blew me away with it's all around happiness.
I finally got to see Beck this year for the first time ever in his hometown of Los Angeles. He described the show as more of a "backyard barbecue filled with friends" than a concert because he was surrounded by so many people he knew. It was one of the most intimate shows I've ever been to and he owned that intimacy on stage.
Most importantly, I really connected with this album. When I was feeling down or not like myself, Colors lifted me back up.
2. MIGRATION / BONOBO
Bonobo started off strong in 2017 with the release of Migration. It's overflowing downtempo, nostalgic sounds are lifted up even further with the collaborative additions on the album of Rhye, Nicole Miglis, Innov Gnawa and Nick Murphy (previously Chet Faker).
I saw Bonobo 3 times in 2017: Coachella, The Theatre at the Ace Hotel Los Angeles, and most importantly Red Rocks Colorado.
During takeoff on the plane ride to Colorado, I listened to Migration. Watching the world shrink smaller out the window as I floated away with the music almost felt like an out-of-body experience.
1. AMERICAN DREAM / LCD SOUNDSYSTEM
Ah, LCD. The indie-electro rock-n-roller who went out with a bang was reborn this year with a long awaited reunion album.
I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for the first show at The Hollywood Palladium during their 5 night residency. I had goosebumps, and maybe even shed one single tear when I chanted along to "Tonite" with James Murphy.
"Tonite" is probably my favorite track off of American Dream. It's a bit reminiscent of "Losing My Edge" from '05, where Murphy talks about the past with that infamous line, "I was there". But instead of talking about the past, he's going on about the present. The world we live in where everybody is 'famous' (*cough, cough* Instagram) and how songs are all recreations of the same thing over and over. A world where technology is blindsiding us, changing who we are and making us question things when comparing ourselves to others. Which is something so accessible at our fingertips every day with the influx of tiny screens that act as windows into other people's lives. It's easy thinking others' lives are better, that they know better than us and are better than us. But they're not. The song closes with, "But that's all lies. That's all lies."
This album gets... really real about modern life. It makes you feel something. Or at least it does for me, and that's why it's my #1.
Get your weekend started with some tunes! ✨ I have this playlist on Spotify called Loungey. It's full of low key, toe tappin' tunes perfect for the background of any party. (I also listen when I'm designing). I update it weekly with loungey, electronic, disco tracks and right now it's at 24hr2min!
*Best listened to on shuffle while enjoying a disco cone.
Here's some luck for your Friday the 13th: Bonobo's new album, Migration released today!
I've been waiting for this a while now, guys, (I'm sure same with you), and the wait was definitely worth it. Have a listen for yourself below!
If you're in the LA area today, Bonobo is doing a pop up shop at Subliminal Projects in Echo Park from 5-9pm. I think it's just merch but hey if he were to do a little preview of a show that'd be rad!
I do get to watch this magic happen for real in May at Red Rocks Amphitheater! Excited is an understatement.
Going to listen to Migration on repeat for the rest of the day now. Enjoy!