Honey marks the full length recording return of Robyn, the first since 2010’s compilation Body Talk. Title song “Honey” appeared in the final season of HBO’s Girls. Like first official single, “Missing U”, this is perfect futuristic pop music. Robyn has said that she spent more time on “Missing U” than any other tracks she’s ever recorded and it shows. The lyrics are heartfelt and the music sparkles with electricity
“Baby Forgive Me” begs for forgiveness while riding a slinky bass groove while “Because It’s In the Music” sounds like a lost Daft Punk track. Album closer “Ever Again” is mid-tempo 80s R+B before it turns into a synth rave. The best tracks are front loaded, towards the end “Beack2K20” is more of a interlude than song but continues for long five minutes and the house-y “Between the Lines” is less than essential. At nine tracks Honey is more often than not very good and at its best is peerless.
5. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour: Arguably the biggest country crossover into the indie rock world of 2018. Musgraves’ fourth major album release was as slick as they come but hard not to appreciate the quality of the songs. “Lonely Weekend”, “Space Cowboy” and album standout “High Horse” are the touchstones. But those are accompanied by opener “Slow Burn” and “Velvet Elvis”. While many of these songs could easily be featured in almost every commercial on TV, it doesn’t take away from the fact that virtually every one is a winner.
4. Mitski – Be The Cowboy : The first vocal on Mitski’s fifth album claims “you’re my number 1” which is fitting as this is topping album polls across the world. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes with most songs around the two-minute mark, it is easy to leave this one on repeat for a few hours. First single “Nobody” provides the longing that is at the heart of this album. The hard rocking “Remember My Name” is followed by the defiant “Me and My Husband”. There is a reason people keep talking about this album, the quick snapshots of music cut across numerous styles but most of all, it does them expertly.
3. Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny : Quietly one of the most welcome returns to music was from Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell. Her voice is like a warm fire on a cold winter night. Here she appears with Danny Coughlan and together they create one of the best runs of music in 2018 from first track “Home & Dry” to infectious single “Alabama”. Second half highlight belongs to Coughlan with his 50s style “Anybody Else”. Overshadowed by bigger releases, this Merge Records release is an easy album to fall in love with.
2. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel: In the disposable world of streaming and downloads, it’s rare that an album is a grower but Tell Me How You Really Feel did just that. Hard to get into at first, it feels disjointed and a bit of a downer album about touring but repeated listens prove that is not true. “City Looks Pretty” and “Nameless, Faceless” are dynamite indie rock songs. “Need A Little Time” features a pretty melody in the chorus and it’s all closed down with the melancholic uplift of “Sunday Roast”. Barnett tore the Winnipeg Folk Fest down on the Friday night this past summer. Too hard rocking for a lot of the crowd but was a glorious racket for the rest of us.
1. Beach House – 7: When reviewing the latest Beach House on the Celebration Rock Podcast, critic Steve Hyden talked about how 7 does exactly what he wants from a BH album. This is pretty much bang on. “Pay No Mind”, “Lemon Glow and “Dive” standout and the rest of the album does a very good job of being atmospheric and ethereal. “Lose Yourself” is beautiful as is “Woo” but with an 80s synth feel. 7 glides along on its rails and is happy to take the listener to the next station for its duration.
10. G Flip – About You: One of the earliest songs that caught our ear in 2018, this Australian released “About You” in February. The DIY esthetic was not just in the music but in the music video as well. The beat doesn’t drop until the chorus while a synth makes thunder like noises in the background. Sounding not too dissimilar from Grimes, “About You” announced a brilliant new talent.
9. Cherry Glazerr – Daddi: Recording under the Cherry Glazerr moniker, Los Angelino Clementine Creevy delivers a wallop of defiance in just over three minutes. Asking “Daddi” what she should be doing, where she should be going and who to be f*cking but never wanting to actually hear the answer. The verses are breathless before she shouts the chorus. This fiery track was a late entry into our top ten.
8. U.S. Girls – Rosebud: Meghan Remy put out her second album on 4AD in March of 2018 and found quite a bit of critical acclaim. This single is memorable right from the first-string sounds before it falls into an up tempo lounge track. In typical U.S. Girls fashion, the great sound bed covers up that Remy is digging deep into lyrics about the government while using Citizen Kane as a jumping off point. One of the groovier tracks of the year.
7. Vital Idles – Solid States: This minimal track from Glasgow’s Vital Idles hardly set the world on fire in 2018 but it certainly grabbed our attention. The simple guitar melody and deadpan vocals recall post punk records from the early 80s. “It won’t do, it won’t do” but somehow this track does and does.
6. SL – Genes (Feat. Chip): “I’m flexing in my 20s, I was flexing in my teens” is my most quoted lyric from 2018. With his “Gentleman” track from 2017 having over 23 million views on YouTube, SL was picked by factmag.com to be one of the UK rappers to keep an eye on. While the rest of the lyrics on “Gene” are harder to follow for these 40+ year old ears, the chorus is pure fire.
5. Robyn – Missing U: Released in September, “Missing U” was the lead single from the Honey album and it was a banger. In an interview with Time magazine, Robyn has said this is the track she spent the most time on over than any other, and it shows. Everything fits together perfectly. The cascading synths are propelled forward through the beat of the chorus in this perfect pop song.
4. Playboi Carti – Shoota (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert): I’m not sure what it is about this single from Playboi’s fifth album but the piano at the start sounds like a call to arms for having a great time for two minutes. The music really kicks in just over a minute for the Playboi verse while the beat takes forever to finally drop. The “pecan drop” and “bestie” are ridiculous but add to the infectious fun of this track.
3. Courtney Barnett – Sunday Roast: The melancholy track sounds like Courtney talking to herself. The fourth single from Barnett’s excellent sophomore album, suddenly takes an uplifting turn in the second half of the chorus when she sings “I know you’re doing your best, I think you’re doing just fine” and features a pep talk in the outro. It’s the sound of hanging out with friends, enjoying the quiet times and not just the nights out on the tiles.
2. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Talking Straight: The Melbourne group’s debut LP featured several terrific guitar rock songs, none were better than this. The guitar melodies all meld together while vocalist Joe White nails the kick-ass chorus. This is the kind of thing you want blasting out of the car on road trips to the beach.
1. Otha – One Of The Girls: If you base your track of the year just based on listens, this is the one for me. Otha quietly sings over a bed of electronic beats and synths. It’s a downcast track, sounding both defiant and sad at the same time. I came across it on Pitchfork then never heard or saw it anywhere else. It mysteriously appeared and disappeared that one day but got played endlessly in basement parties at home, by myself.
5. Paris Angels – Perfume (Song): When going down a YouTube rabbit hole late one night, we discovered this lost track from the early 90s Madchester scene. We like to consider ourselves fairly up on British guitar bands from that era but had never even heard of this band before. With well over 200K views on YouTube, it is not obscure by any stretch and the anthemic quality to the track is a good reason why. The “loved up” version on Apple Music is the one to get.
4. Pet Shop Boys – Please/Further Listening 84-86 (Album): Over the past two years, Pet Shop Boys have been re-releasing remastered versions of their albums along with B-sides and rarities discs. The first album in their long career,Please provided a worldwide smash hit in “West End Girls”, a handful of great singles, and memorable album tracks. The second disc is a strong collection of dance mixes and B-sides almost as good as what appears on the original album (“In The Night”, “Was That What It Was?”).
3. Paul Simon – The Paul Simon Songbook (Album): Taking advantage of sales and gift cards, we picked up both the Simon & Garfunkel box set as well as the solo Paul Simon collection. While the S&G debut failed to deliver, many of those songs appear on the Paul Simon Songbook a year later in better form (“The Sound of Silence”, “He Was My Brother”) along with acoustic version of future classics (“I Am A Rock”, “Kathy’s Song”). The recordings are sparse and at times Simon delivers them by spitting out the lyrics but this album helped gain a following in England and superstardom back home was only a few months away.
2. Lily Allen (Feat. Giggs) – Trigger Bang (Song): Right at the end of 2017, Allen released one of her best singles in years. A brief intro by Giggs before the lady herself steps in singing about her past party lifestyle. As with her best songs, “Trigger Bang” was self-aware with a chorus that sticks in the head for days.
1. The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2CD Deluxe (Album): This was an easy one. Released in November of 2017, I received this at Christmas last year and started listening in early 2018. The original album continues to be a wonder and the new remix by Giles Martin/Sam Okell make it even more so. After listening to the album for the 1000th time and just when you think it couldn’t get any better, “A Day In The Life” appears at the end. The second disc of different recording takes with new versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” was better than most rarities collections. It is one that will continue to get played for years to come (see: the title track, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and “Getting Better”).