2018 had just begun, and now it’s the final day of the year. I often approach the end of the year with a melancholy mood towards how quickly the time goes by. But there really should be some excitement, good fortune and even accomplishment in making it to another year. I guess we just have to embrace every moment, as there’s really no sense in trying to slow time down.
Below are a few of my favorite albums from another excellent year of music. Have a Happy New Year, and may 2019 be your best yet.
10. Fall Out Boy – MANIA
“Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” was one of my most played songs of the last few months, followed closely by “Heaven’s Gate.” When you enjoy newer albums from bands that some would argue had their heyday 10-15 years ago, it’s easy to default to a defense mode. But I won’t go Matt Damon on you here. With MANIA, the band of Chicago kids (and a Milwaukee drummer) continue to put a fresh, energetic spin on sing-along rock anthems.
9. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
I Love You ,Honeybear was one of my favorite albums of 2015. Such a beautifully written masterpiece; I really didn’t think Josh Tillman had it in him. Though I didn’t connect as much with last year’s Pure Comedy, I feel God’s Favorite Customer picks up much of the same introspective yearnings that made Honeybear so beloved. “Please Don’t Die,” “The Palace,” and “Disappointing Diamonds are the rarest of them all” are a few of my favorites cuts.
8. Albert Hammond Jr. – Frances Trouble
With his fourth solo album, Albert Hammond further establishes himself as a compelling standalone singer-songwriter beyond the shadows of his collective Strokes’ stardom. Frances Trouble reflects on the stillborn death of Hammond’s twin brother, Francis. But even with the heavy subject matter, the new album delivers Hammond Jr.’s unique brand of engaging rock melodies. Start with “Far Away Truths,” “Set to Attack,” and “Strangers,” and you’ll be hooked.
7. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
The first time I saw The 1975 was in the Spring of 2017, and I initially wasn’t thrilled about it. My girlfriend at the time had asked me to go last minute, and up until then, I had thought The 1975 were a glorified boy band. Of course, during the show, I began to realize the English foursome was much more than that. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is a carnival of an album, featuring everything from electronic pop (“Give Yourself A Try”) to R&B swoons (“I Couldn’t be More in Love”) to absorbing spoken word (“The Man Who Married A Robot/ Love Theme”) to Bon Iver-esque auto-tune (“I Like American & America likes Me”). And not to mention, the grand finish of “I Always Want to Die (Sometimes)” might be my favorite moment on tape right now.
6. Mitski – Be The Cowboy
At least for me, I can’t help but experience some deep reflection when I listen to a new Mitski album. On Be the Cowboy, I was notably enamored with the wonderfully sparse “Old Friend” and the sweepingly poignant “Two Slow Dancers.” It takes a special singer-songwriter to create windows into memories that feel so personal and unique, but are also so widespread and relatable.
5. Santigold – I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions
Released in the heat of summer, I Don’t Want: The Gold Fire Sessions was the perfect carefree soundrack of the season. The latest collection finds Santigold still incorporating the upbeat playfulness of 2016’s 99¢ but also demonstrating a swagger of complete control, and a voice that demands to be heard. “Valley of the Dolls,” “Don’t Blame Me (feat. Shenseea)” and “Run the Road” are favorites on a crazy fun album that doesn’t let up.
4. Beach House – 7
Three gorgeously layered albums in the last three years, and 7, the Baltimore duo’s 7th album, continues Beach House’s unflinching dream pop reign. From the enchanting immediacy of “Lemon Glow” to the flushed-out trances of “L’Inconnue” and “Last Ride,” Beach House is unstoppable, but in the most chilled out way.
3. Cullen Omori – The Diet
Cullen Omori is maybe one of the most underrated songwriters going today. The former Smith Westerns frontman follows up his impressive 2016 solo debut with The Diet, another wonderful collection of well-crafted pop songs. The sonically rich ”Black Rainbow” and soaring “Quiet Girl” are album favorites, and the mesmerizing “Millennial Geishas” was nothing short of a 2018 anthem.
2. Interpol – Marauder
It’s hard to find a collection of rock musicians more impressive today than Interpol. Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler and Sam Fogarino are all masters of their craft, and in an age of continual shifting sounds and genres, Interpol does not bend. 2014’s El Pintor was a revitalizing step forward for the New York band and the momentum only continues with Marauder. My favorite track has shifted a few times already, but currently riding high on the engrossing “Party’s Over.”
1. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
“Pull me in close on a crisp eve baby/ Kiss me underneath the moon’s side boob,” Alex Turner croons on the glimmery album title track. That lyric may just embody the entire album as a whole: odd lunar details masking Turner’s familiar love-sick longings. Following the high praise of 2013’s AM, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino was a shift most fans weren’t expecting, but nonetheless, turned out to be an achievement all its own. But that just tells you the lack of limits the Arctic Monkeys have. When the struggles of your world have you down, it’s time to go to the moon. For if nothing else, to try it out.