I wasn’t going to make a list. But then I decided to make a list.
I enjoyed a lot of music in 2018, and I thought I should make note of it. The music I mention here was what I was listening to during my most prolific songwriting year, so it must be good stuff, right?
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Anyway, I wanted to talk about some of my favorite albums that were released in 2018. And then I thought I should talk about the artists I got into in 2018, whether they were contemporary or not. And then I thought I should talk about some of the songs I listened to a lot in 2018. And then I thought I should stop. I mean, I was going to get into movies, TV and podcasts, but geez, that would have been too much. And we both have things to do.
So here’s my list of music stuff I dug in 2018. I’ve included the appropriate links to Spotify (sorry if you don’t use Spotify). Enjoy!
2018 Albums I Enjoyed (In No Particular Order):
Con Todo El Mundo
Probably my favorite new album in 2018. Mostly instrumental, laid back and funky grooves. A guitar album that doesn’t seem like a guitar album.
Future Me Hates Me
I just kept coming back to this one and enjoying it more with each listen. Power pop with great hooks.
Peace of My Heart
This album is a heart-opening aural salve for the soul. I listen to it and I cry; it’s just so beautiful. Hare Krishna!
This is good modern rock-and-roll music.
Stoner rock of the highest order. If you know what I mean.
I can feel you creep into my private life
Both a welcome return to form and a document of artistic growth from one of my favorite artists.
I listened to a lot of rap/hip-hop this year. This album stood out for its focus and unbridled creativity. It seems like this album was created on the inside edge of the outside. Or maybe the outside edge of the inside. I like that perspective.
Another super-tight, focused and imaginative album. The best thing Kanye did in 2018. Plus Pusha T is an older guy, like me, and he is creating vital art.
It just hits so many of my musical pleasure centers. Rocking and trippy.
Selected Music Artists I Got Into in 2018:
I got into this Australian group in a big way in 2018. I love their grooves. Vocalist/guitarist Nai Palm is a superstar.
A uniquely soulful vocalist and gifted songwriter.
These guys. I listened to a lot of Vulfpeck and watched a lot of Vulfpeck videos in 2018. They kind of dominated my year, musically. I’m kind of obsessed with them and their whole deal. There’s the core four of Jack Stratton, Theo Katzman, Joe Dart and Woody Goss. Then there’s all the other individuals who are associated with the group. People like Cory Wong and Joey Dosik, among others. Then there’s The Fearless Flyers, with Joe Dart and Cory Wong along with superstar drummer Nate Smith and guitar hero Mark Lettieri. They have this whole world and a comprehensive musical worldview to go along with it. “Low volume.” I think they are amazing musicians and they create some super-cool grooves. All of that being said, there’s something about Vulfpeck that keeps me from loving them. A lack of raw, feral sexual energy? A tendency toward cheesier smooth-jazz stylings? I don’t know what it is, exactly. Nevertheless, I will continue my obsession with all things Vulf in 2019.
I listened to their terrific, perfect 1998 album American Water a lot in 2018. It used to not be on Spotify, which is where I listen to the majority of my music. But now it is on Spotify, and I am grateful. I don’t really know much about the rest of their catalog; I’ve only really listened to this album. But I think it’s perfect. Maybe in 2019 I’ll listen to more of their music. I understand frontperson David Berman is planning to release new music in the new year, too. That’s pretty cool.
I discovered this duo and their weird, funky music by investigating the work of people associated with Vulfpeck. I think I like them better than Vulfpeck. Super-technical pop/funk. Every single beat of their music has been fussed over. Nothing is out of place, and there’s no fat. They don’t sacrifice humanity, though. It sounds like real people making real music.
This guy. Kind of like the dirty Al Green. I love his style and whole vibe. I need to learn more about him and his deal. Everything Spotify serves me by him is my new favorite song.
The Fearless Flyers
I love this guitar-based Vulfpeck offshoot. Nate Smith is a monster drummer. Like most things in the Vulf world, the video content is well worth watching.
Her songs are dynamic and passionate. I want to learn more about her and her music in 2019. I think she came to Sister Bar in Albuquerque this year; I regret not going to see her perform.
I listened to a lot more rap/hip-hop than usual in 2018, and my life has been enriched immeasurably as a result. Vince Staples just really stands out for his wit and outsider energy. Plus his music has great beats, some of which are impressively adventurous for mainstream-adjacent content.
I exposed myself a little more to the whole “neo-soul” genre in 2018, and D’Angelo was a big part of that. He writes great songs and performs them with passion and dynamics. He also plays with all the best musicians.
Another amazing artist from the “neo-soul” genre. Her December concert at the Warfield in San Francisco was one of the highlights of 2018 for me. I have Annie, my girlfriend, to thank for turning me on to this magical being.
Aretha Franklin passed away in 2018, which prompted me to dig into her music in a big way. She was truly a force of nature. So, so funky. A great voice and a stylish way with the piano keys.
This guy is, like, the best drummer. He played a lot with Aretha, so I listened to his drumming quite a bit in 2018. The Vulfpeck people talk about him a lot and hold him in high regard, so I was inspired to check out more of his work with artists like Steely Dan and Robert Palmer, among others.
I just keep loving this band more and more, year after year. I watched Stop Making Sense a few times in 2018. That film and this band are a huge influence on my own musical vision.
I mostly stopped listening to Jimi Hendrix about 15 years ago, probably. I just got kind of burned out on all the classic rock stuff. But in 2018, I rediscovered him. A magical being.
Tony Joe White
When Tony Joe White gets funky, few people are funkier. My rhythm-guitar technique is highly derivative of his. We lost him in 2018. RIP.
The more I listen to her music, the more I discover, whether it’s the instrumentation, hooks, arrangements, lyrics, etc. I think she’s an important artist.
I think Paul might actually be my favorite Beatle. Yeah, John is cool. And George is the hip pick. Ringo is Ringo. Sure, Paul is kinda uncool. But he just keeps writing, recording and performing. Some of his stuff is not very good. Some of it is great. A lot of it is just whatever. But I love that he just keeps on being inspired. I love that he loves being a guy in a band. I engaged with a lot of Paul’s post-Beatles material in 2018 and was pleasantly surprised by all the stuff I had dismissed or left unexamined previously. We are lucky to have him in our world.
These guys. They are a very necessary band for me. One of my guiding lights. They perfectly embody the whole I-can’t-tell-if-you’re-being-serious-or-not aesthetic that I aspire to.
Somehow I ended up loving the Grateful Dead. I listened to them more than any other musical artist in 2018. What a gift to be able to discover so much of their music at this stage in my life!
Selected Songs I Enjoyed in 2018 (In No Particular Order):
“No Hard Feelings”
One of those songs that just makes me cry. A beautiful and inspired piece of music that reckons with one of my favorite subjects — what happens after we die?
“Put a Light On”
I am envious of the sheer number of hooks they fit into this song.
This is a song I will probably listen to at least 10 times a year for the next 100 years or so.
“What Will You Say”
Jeff Buckley really inspires me. I got back into his music a little bit in 2018, but it was mostly this track. Fearless, ferocious and vulnerable.
“Mask Off (Remix)”
Future feat. Kendrick Lamar
This is another go-to track that will probably appear on my year-end lists for decades to come. This version is superior to the original thanks to the presence of Kendrick.
“Nice for What”
This track slaps. Such a cool sample of Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
I just love this song’s groove. There’s something about the way the drums were recorded, too, that hits the pleasure zone. The hi-hat holds it all together.
I got this one caught in my head for a while. I’m not really a lyrics person, but this one’s words draw me in.
“In Between Stars”
So many hooks! She doesn’t waste any time getting to them, either.
“Baby Let Me Kiss You”
On one of my nights of cosmic exploration I wondered why people don’t consider this to be the greatest song of all time.
“Drivin’ My Life Away”
I have always had a sweet spot for the late, great Eddie Rabbitt. This song, in particular. It was used excellently to score a montage scene in the final season of The Americans in 2018.
God, Julien Baker just knows how to hit that sad spot. In a good way.
“Sphynx Gate/The World It Softly Lulls”
Holy shit — music can do that?!?
“Everything I Do Goin’ Be Funky”
So funky. I prefer this one to the Lee Dorsey version, which is the one the Beastie Boys reference in “Sure Shot.”
“Hard to Handle”
Tony Joe White
The rhythm guitar on this cover is just ridiculous.
“The Book of Right On”
There’s virtually no Joanna Newsom music on Spotify, but there’s this fantastic cover.
Third Eye Blind
A stone-cold groove with a confidently laid-back vocal performance. Endlessly repeatable.
“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”
Morris was more than just a kitty cat. He was truly one of my closest friends. I spent more time with him than anyone else. We lost Morris on Thanksgiving Day, 2017. I never really grieved his loss properly until I listened to this song on the evening of January 13th, during one of my cosmic-exploration sessions. I moaned and cried and finally allowed the sadness to fill my body. I didn’t push it away. I breathed into it, expanding the space for it to live. It was unpleasant, but absolutely necessary. Healing.
“Doing It To Death - Pts. 1 & 2”
This is the kind of funk that makes me lose myself. In the best possible way. It’s so repetitive and persistent, and it works itself into you the way a skilled massage practitioner can get deep into your muscles. I especially love focusing on the interlocking dual guitar parts. Give me that sweet ostinato, baby!
You can tell that I’m a relative GD newbie because my favorite show of theirs is their mythical 5/8/77 performance at Cornell University. To me, this is peak Grateful Dead. And this song is just so happening and crackling. Beautiful energy.
Another one from 5/8/77. Although I didn’t really get this one until I saw Albuquerque’s leading Grateful Dead tribute band, Let It Grow, perform it in July at the Launchpad. I’ll get into some stories from that pivotal night in another blog post. Maybe. We’ll see.
I Missed Lots of Things
There were lots of Tiny Desk Concerts and there was lots of good stuff on YouTube. I went and saw some really good shows, too. My favorite was probably Of Montreal at Sister Bar in Albuquerque, which happened back in May. Or was Erykah Badu at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater in December my favorite? There was also Kendrick Lamar at Isleta Amphitheater. I saw lots of great local musicians and songwriters, too. I want to do a better job of highlighting them in this space next year.
What am I missing? What do I need to check out? What music stuff did you enjoy in 2018? I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below or contact me on social media. Have an excellent 2019, friends!