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Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Remixes, Pop, and Electronica Create my Top Five Albums of 2018

By on December 24, 2018

As we reach the end of 2018, it’s time to reflect upon the music released this year. With the advent of streaming services, it feels a bit like being in the 1980s when I could buy a release at Tower Records and then exchange it if I didn’t like the album. This year, 106 new releases made it to the end of the year. And still being an “album” kind of guy, I am focusing on full-length releases or EPs. No singles. My purchases are a mix a vinyl and digital download. When buying vinyl, I am happy to support bleep.com from the UK.
Starting with over a hundred albums created some challenges for picking the top five, so I started with a shortlist of twenty.
  1. Abul Mogard, Above All Dreams
  2. Alt-J, Reduxer
  3. Anna von Hausswolff, Dead Magic
  4. Bob Moses, Battle Lines
  5. Cat Power, Wanderer
  6. Chris Carter, Chemistry Lessons Volume 1
  7. Claptone, Fantast
  8. The Field, Infinite Moment
  9. How To Dress Well, The Anteroom
  10. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  11. Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
  12. Laurel Halo, Raw Silk Uncut Wood
  13. Loma, Loma
  14. Low, Double Negative
  15. Marie Davidson, Working Class Woman
  16. Rhye, Blood
  17. Ryuichi Sakamoto, Async Remodels
  18. Tirzah, Devotion
  19. Tune-Yards, I can feel you creep into my private life
  20. Young Fathers, Cocoa Sugar

Clearly this list crosses several different genres of music from country to pop to electronica to alternative so my top five will draw from across the spectrum.

The FieldThe unbroken sound of Infinite Moment by The Field is perfect for headphones and needing to get work completed. Turn it up and focus on writing or a project and the hypnotic and ambient sounds will carry you through. The electronica starts slow and quiet and builds into repetitive sounds of drums and keyboards. This is the sixth release by the Swedish producer Axel Willner. It is melodic and hypnotic. Popmatters writes, “The Field’s Formula for Musical Escapism Has Yet to Fail.” You can grab it on Bandcamp.

 

 

 

Chris CarterSticking with the electronic theme, the next nod goes to Chris Carter Chemistry Lessons Volume 1. Bleep writes, “Drawing great influence from 60’s radiophonic wonderment as well as the darker strains of traditional English folk music and wrapped up in an entire history textbook of industrial and electronic diaspora, Chris Carter’s first solo album in two decades Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 was a testament to his thirst and endless quest to craft innovative, mind-blowing electronic music.” I hadn’t heard of Chris Carter until this year and from the moment I heard “Blissters,” I knew it was my kind of music. Even though the tracks are short, especially compared with The Field mentioned above, they easily carry me and lift me up into the beauty and comfort of music. Carter is certainly someone I will revisit since I didn’t really listen to electronic music back in the 90s (except for the annoying DJ who lived next door to me at the time).

 

Async RemodelsThe number three and four spot are going to remix albums. I loved both the originals and these remixes make it even better. Ryuichi Sakamoto is a genius and Async Remodels revisits his 2017 Async release through the ears of Oneohtrix Point Never, Fennesz, ARCA and others. The gentle piano brings tears of joy and appreciation. Allow yourself to sink in and be moved. And when you are done listening, go watch the documentary CODA. The other remix is completely different by bringing a hip-hop and soul sound to Alt-J’s 2017 Relaxer. Reduxer’s hip-hop artists from around the world include Australian Tuka, France’s Lomepal and Kontra K from Germany. The blending of the sound of Alt-J is clearly present Alt-J-Reduxerbringing a harder edge to the softer Relaxer. To be honest, I am not a huge hip-hop fan (though I like the new Vince Staples) so walking into the familiar sounds of Alt-J made it easy to appreciate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Janelle MonaeBy this point, you are probably wondering where the traditional lyric album is on my list. Picking from Anna von Hausswolff, Cat Power, Janelle Monáe, Kacey Musgraves, Rhye, and Trizah is a tough call but I am thrilled this list includes only women! What have I enjoyed listening to and singing along with the most? The number five spot goes to Janelle Monáe. Certainly she has made many lists this year. Pop and soul at its finest along with the vulnerability and politics of being a queer woman of color in America. And the track “Make Me Feel” clearly points to her Prince influences. Guest artists include Grimes, Zoë Kravitz, Brian Wilson, and Pharrell Williams.

 

Naturally, I don’t only listen to new releases. A few that I particularly enjoyed this year were Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney BarnettLet it Die by FiestEulogy For Evolution by Ólafur ArnaldsExile in the Outer Ring by EMA, Singularity by Jon Hopkins, and probably my favorite being Apocalipstick by Cherry Glazerr (can’t wait to see them in March!).
And for the complete list of 106 releases from 2018 …

Artist Album Genre
A Perfect Circle Eat the Elephant Rock
Abul Mogard Above All Dreams Electronic
alt-J Reduxer Alternative
Alva Noto Unieqav Electronic
Anna Calvi Hunter Alternative
Anna von Hausswolff Dead Magic Alternative
Aphex Twin Collapse EP Electronic
Blackwater Holylight Blackwater Holylight Rock
Bob Moses Battle Lines Electronic
boygenius boygenius – EP Alternative
Brainwaltzera Epi-Log EP Electronic
Brian Eno Music for Installations Alternative
Cat Power Wanderer Alternative
Chris Carter Chemistry Lessons Volume 1 Electronic
Claptone Fantast Electronic
courtney barnett Tell Me How You Really Feel Alternative
Daniel Avery Song For Alpha Electronic
David Byrne American Utopia Alternative
Dead Can Dance Dionysus Alternative
deadmau5 mau5ville: Level 1 Dance
Death Valley Girls Darkness Rains Indie Rock
DJ Koze Knock Knock Electronica
Dream System 8 We Sleep Again Alternative
Emma Ruth Rundle On Dark Horses Rock
Fischerspooner Sir Electronica
Getter mau5ville: Level 1 Dance
GoGo Penguin A Humdrum Star Jazz
Griffit Vigo DJ – EP Electronic
GTA mau5ville: Level 1 Dance
GusGus Featherlight – EP Electronic
Haley Heynderickx & Max García Conover Among Horses III – EP Alternative
Helios Veriditas Ambient
How to Dress Well The Anteroom Electronic
IDLES Joy as an Act of Resistance. Alternative
Interpol Marauder Alternative
Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer R&B/Soul
Jeff Greinke Before Sunrise New Age
JFDR Gravity ep Alternative
Joshua Redman Still Dreaming Jazz
Julia Holter Aviary Alternative
Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour Country
Kamaal Williams The Return Jazz
Kasey Chambers Campfire Country
Kelly Moran Ultraviolet Electronic
Khruangbin Con Todo El Mundo Indie Rock
Laurel Halo Raw Silk Uncut Wood Techno
Loma Loma Alternative
Low Double Negative Alternative
Lowering Collapsule Electronic
Marie Davidson Working Class Woman Electronic
Mark Kozelek Mark Kozelek Rock
Mark Pritchard The Four Worlds Electronic
Mazzy Star Into Dust Alternative
Mika Vainio, Ryoji Ikeda & Alva Noto Live 2002 Electronic
Moby Everything Was Beautiful, And Nothing Hurt Electronic
Mogwai KIN (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Indie Rock
Natureboy Flako Theme For a Dream Electronic
Neko Case Hell-On Alternative
Nellie McKay Sister Orchid Jazz
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds Distant Sky Rock
Nils Frahm Encores 1 – EP Alternative
Ólafur Arnalds re:member Classical Crossover
Oneohtrix Point Never Love in the Time of Lexapro – EP Electronic
Paper Dollhouse The Sky Looks Different Here Electronic
Pariah Here From Where We Are Electronic
Rhye Blood Electronic
Rhye Blood Remixed Electronic
Roy Mattson Flora and Fauna Ambient
Ryuichi Sakamoto Async Remodels Electronic
Salif Keita Un autre blanc Africa
Secretary Parallels Indie Rock
Sigur Rós Frakkur, 2000 – 2004 Electronic
Sigur Rós Route One Alternative
Simian Mobile Disco Murmurations Dance
Skee Mask Compro Techno
Soccer Mommy Clean Alternative
Spiritualized And Nothing Hurt Alternative
St. Vincent MassEducation Alternative
Steve Hauschildt Dissolvi Electronic
Steve Roach Molecules of Motion Electronic
Szun Waves New Hymn to Freedom Jazz
Tapes and Topographies Opiates Ambient
The Amazing In Transit Alternative
The Breeders All Nerve Alternative
The Decemberists I’ll Be Your Girl Alternative
The Field Infinite Moment Electronic
The Necks Body Alternative
The Nels Cline 4 Currents, Constellations Jazz
The Pineapple Thief Dissolution Alternative
The Weeknd My Dear Melancholy, R&B/Soul
Thom Yorke Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) Soundtrack
Tim Hecker Konoyo Ambient
Tirzah Devotion Alternative
Tom Morello The Atlas Underground Alternative
Tord Gustavsen Trio The Other Side Jazz
Tune-Yards I can feel you creep into my private life Alternative
Van Morrison & Joey DeFrancesco You’re Driving Me Crazy Jazz
Vester Koza Loader Mither Electronic
Vince Staples FM! Hip-Hop/Rap
Willie Nelson Last Man Standing Country
Willie Nelson My Way Country
Yo La Tengo There’s a Riot Going On Alternative
Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar Alternative
Yves Tumor Safe in the Hands of Love Alternative
Zeal & Ardor Stranger Fruit Heavy Metal
Zola Jesus Okovi: Additions Alternative


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