in Top Ten

Honestly, I’m not sure why we’re doing this. I pretty much said everything I had to say about 2018 music in my Top Albums of the Year post. Or, at least, I did before I looked at it and saw that it read exactly like something someone would’ve begrudgingly written at midnight on Christmas Day. Regardless, I probably won’t put a ton of effort into this post. But then again, I guess that’s what top ten lists are for. No one comes to these things for the immaculate prose. It’s just all about those rankings…

Honorable Mentions:
Lucy Dacus – “Pillar of Truth”
U.S. Girls – “M.A.H.”
Cat Power feat. Lana Del Ray – “Woman”
Fucked Up feat. J. Mascis and Jennifer Castle – “Came Down Wrong”

10. Swearin’ – “Grow Into A Ghost”

After disbanding a couple years ago, Swearin’ came back this year with a generally rockin’ album full of enjoyable garage pop jams like this one. There’s not much to say about this one in terms of innovativeness. It just hits the exact right beats of what I want a hooky indie rock song to sound like – an awesome guitar riff, plenty of wistful lyrics, and a nice mix of earnestness and abandon contained within Allison Crutchfield vocals.

9. Lady Gaga feat. Bradley Cooper – “Shallow”

“I’m on the deeep end! Watch as I dive innnn!” Yeah, that’s right. I bought into both the tenderness and histrionics of the pivotal song at the heart of Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A Star Is Born. I’m not sure that I necessarily fell in love with this movie, but it’s really really really hard not to get a big stupid smile on your face watching the lady known as Gaga belt out this song in the scene it’s featured in, as well as on the film’s soundtrack.

8. Snail Mail – “Pristine”

Snail Mail’s Lush was an album I liked, but for some reason never hovered anywhere near my top ten. So I was glad to see Sean gave it some love on his list. Lush was a very good summer album, and not in a cloying, overly upbeat kind of way. I’m not sure that any song on the album quite sums up this mix of breeziness and buoyancy as well as this sort-of lead-off track.

7. Kacey Musgraves – “Love Is A Wild Thing”

Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour was hands down my favorite album of 2018. Though the weird thing about that album is that it’s so consistently solid that it’s hard to pick out a favorite track. Really every one of its songs (except maybe the brief “Mother”) are about equally good in my mind. So for some reason, I settled on “Love Is A Wild Thing” as my favorite song on the album. Maybe because it feels about as calm, simple, and lovelorn as any song on Golden Hour, which are all the traits I love about it.

6. Robyn – “Missing U”

You could certainly make the case that “Honey” is the all-time jam on Robyn’s album named after that particular song. But there’s just something about the shimmering intro, which segues into a pulsating beat that features one of Robyn’s more melancholy vocal performances out of a career filled with plenty of them. Oh, and the chorus is pretty freakin’ heartbreaking too.

5. Christine & The Queens – “5 dollars”

Yup, another really sad pop song about how love can suck. I think this song is about prostitution? I’m not really sure, and I’m not sure if the true meaning of the song (or any of the songs on Chris) were muddled by the fact that the album was translated into an English version from its original French. Either way, the feeling and emotion of romance as some sort of fleeting, sometimes exhilarating endeavor is there for sure. And I suppose sometimes feeling is all that matters.

4. Kali Uchis – “In My Dreams”

There are a lot more overtly jammy jams on Kali Uchis’ Isolation, but something about “In My Dreams” just invaded my brain a little deeper. I suppose like the last two songs I talked about, it has a kind of pulsating heartbeat in the background, and then the song really takes flight when it goes into the chorus. And yet, at the same time keeps everything casual enough that it feels very easy to come back to again and again.

3. Mitski – “Geyser”

Back when we were thinking about doing a collective podcast for all our lists, I put “Nobody” on my list, just so there’d be some common ground between me and Sean. But if I’m being real, “Geyser” is probably my favorite track off of Be The Cowboy. I love songs that build, and true to its name, “Geyser” is all build before a mesmerizing climax. And like much of the songs on Be The Cowboy, it feels weirdly epic, despite the fact that it accomplishes everything it needs to in under 3 minutes.

2. Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”

As I believe I mentioned in my review of Dirty Computer, I noted my initial reluctance to embrace “Make Me Feel”, due to how overtly Prince-y it sounds. But much like the rest of Dirty Computer, it just feels like Monáe is channeling all her influences (as she clearly did on her previous releases), but also feels more like herself than she ever has. And it’s a fucking jam through-and-through. Isn’t that enough?

1. Neko Case – “Curse of the I-5 Corridor”

Neko Case has always been a satisfying artist to return to, because you kind of know what to expect, and yet within those expectations she always has room to surprise you. Here, she does it with a 7-minute epic about the trials and tribulations of a restless early adulthood, and then adds an eery layer of comradery by singing it alongside fellow PNW lifer Mark Lanegan. There’s also just something about the lyrics combined with the title of this song that struck me personally. I spent a lot of my early twenties driving up and down I-5 chasing something that probably was never there in the first place. And this song perhaps hits a little too close to home in that regard, and yet is soothing and moody enough to give off the vibe that all the weird/bad/stupid memories of your past are just that, memories.

Oh, and I also liked that the Neko Case is self-aware enough to actually sing “instrumental over the bridge” before the instrumental over the bridge. Ha.