TUNES: Top Ten 2018

TUNES: Top Ten 2018

As always, there are too many albums I didn’t hear in 2018, but here are 10 favorites in roughly chronological order.


Con Todo El Mundo
(Dead Oceans)

This was the runaway crowd pleaser of the winter, spring, and summer. Though they’re from Texas, Khruangbin’s hybridized funk invokes the musical reaction to ’60s soul that took place in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (the band name means airplane in Thai). But this is no geopolitical treatise—it’s sun-baked, chilled- out goodness.

Album reviews: Xylouris White, Inara George, Carmen Villain and Khruangbin

Camila Cabello

Camila (Sony)

How thrilling to discover a glossy pop album that sounded personable rather than generic. Major props to the just-out-of-her-teens Cabello, who’s willing to take chances with her voice and to set it in minimal acoustics as well as dance floor bangerdom. Here’s hoping she gets the creative leeway she deserves going forward…

Album reviews: Camila Cabello, BØRNS, Reptaliens and Shopping


The Good Is a Big God (Luaka Bop)

Rio’s Lancelotti evokes the restless creativity of the best MPB, incorporating and elegantly updating bossa nova, psychedelia, and turn-of-the-’70s pop. There are delicious instrumental nuggets on The Good Is a Big God, but Lancellotti’s vocals cast vaporous spells, especially on “Tudo Ao Redor” and “Insatiable.”

Album reviews: Domenico Lancellotti, Linda Sjöquist, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Duck Baker and Ric Wilson


Every Day I Feel Like I’m Dying (Nevado)

I’ve long loved Roanoke dream
punk trio Eternal Summers, but
the first bars of Every Day It Feels Like I’m Dying felt like a fresh discovery—“Motionless” is a perfect indie anthem, tuneful and laden with anthemic keyboard-horn lines. It’s a golden rush, and an apt opener to the Summers’ best album as a trio.

Album reviews: Chip Wickham, Beach House, Eternal Summers, Yung Wu, The Sea and Cake and Deeper

Tierra Whack

Whack World (Universal)

My album of the year, video of the year, and artist of the year altered the trajectory of 2018for a great many folks. Not everyone seems to get the Philly rap/soul/pop savant, but those who do, really get her (signature T-shirt slogan: I WAS ADOPTED BY TIERRA WHACK). Joyous, poignant, surreal, earthy, and inspired above all, Whack World announced the arrival of an artist who instantly felt necessary.

Album reviews: Golden Dawn Arkestra, Juliana Daugherty, Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy, Wooden Shjips, Mary Lattimore, Tierra Whack

Stimulator Jones

Exotic Worlds and Masterful Treasures (Stones Throw)

Also from Roanoke (see above) is Sam Lunsford, who led jangle rockers Young Sinclairs and reinvents himself here as a blue-eyed R&B seducer, circa 1984. His retro-electro soul production touches are spot-on, walking the line between deadface serious and hilarious, but never overshadowing the earnestly good songs themselves.

Album reviews: The Orb, Stimulator Jones, Fascinator, Natalie Prass and Various Artists


Room 25 (Noname)

With Room 25, Chicago rapper Noname gave us the Trojan horse of the year, assaying sexual and social politics in an ever-smiling, girl-next-door voice. And the sunshine funk backing tracks make the incisive, even subversive lyrics go down that much smoother. Touring in early 2019, Noname should soon be a known name.

Album reviews: Anna St. Louis, Peel Dream Magazine, Connan Mockasin, and Noname

Molly Burch

First Flower (Captured Tracks)

Austin’s Molly Burch has a jazz-school background and classic song-writing chops, and puts both on display on First Flower. Her voice, a cross between Patsy Cline and Peggy Lee, perfectly delivers these songs of humor and heartache, and the record floats by like jasmine breezes on the impeccable, twangy arrangements.

Album reviews: Prince, Les Big Byrd, Mueller & Roedelius, Harmony Rockets with Peter Walker, and Molly Burch

Mountain Man

Magic Ship (Nonesuch)

A cappella I can deal with. These three Bennington pals intertwine pure, vibratoless voices on modern songs that evoke Appalachian/shape note traditions—not with precious, studied pretension but exquisite, sparkling vitality. Acoustic guitars show up on occasion—as does whimsy—but nothing detracts from the harmonies’ constant, sustaining wonder.

Album reviews: Kurt Vile, Kikagaku Moyo, Pip Blom, Ethers, and Mountain Man

Pistol Annies

Interstate Gospel (Sony)

New country I can deal with (admittedly because it sounds like old country), delivered by another trio of pals. Apparently, country radio doesn’t know what to do with a No. 1-charting country album, which is all you need to know about the pitiful condition of country radio. Not pitiful: Pistol Annies, whose characters may be bruised, but are also resilient, wry, and headed for another joint.

Album reviews: Vince Staples, The Berries, Million Miles, Lil Peep, and Pistol Annies

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