THE BEST OF 2018
I ain’t gonna lie to you, people…this was a very thin year for recorded music (to my taste at
least). There can be little argument that this was a weak year for rock, as synthetic pop and
rap/hip hop continue to dominate both the alternative and mainstream music platforms, but, as
always, there were beacons of light to gravitate towards.
So let’s jump right into chorusVERSEchorus’ favourite spins of 2018!
Johnny’s Top 5 Albums
5. R.E.M.: R.E.M. At The BBC (box set) - Eight discs worth of Athens, Georgia’s favourite sons
playing at the Beeb. Though there is one disc solely featuring an excellent 1984 show in
Nottingham, the BBC collection focuses exclusively between the years 1995-2004…strangely
enough, there is nothing featuring the very fruitful period between 1984-1994! Do I need five
different versions of “Losing My Religion?” No, and frankly I don’t really need one, but this is an
excellent collection of live recordings done of one of the most important bands of all time!
4. Spiritualized: And Nothing Hurt - This time around Jason Pierce had to piece together,
almost single-handedly, just about everything you hear on this LP. No longer being flush with
major label cash hasn’t hurt Pierce’s output in the slightest…space rock, fuzzy garage jams,
delicate ballads…classic Spiritualized!
3, PILE: Odds and Ends - Yeah, it’s a compilation: get off my back! The title gives away exactly
what you’ve got here, but don’t let that fool you! Odds and Ends contains yet more invigorating
material from the Boston quartet. “Special Snowflakes” is an almost eight minute math rock
epic, “Keep the Last Light On” pulls at the heartstrings in all the right ways, while “Cup” is
some sort of awesome combination of the two. Love this band and can’t wait for whatever
2. Failure: In the Future Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind - The L.A.
rockers are back with their second post-reunion LP…and it’s another remarkable effort! I know
I said this with their last one, but it’s incredible how seemingly effortless it was for this outfit to
pick up right where they left off seventeen years earlier. There is a thru line that runs directly
from 1996’s Fantastic Planet straight to In the Future..and it can be heard all over this record.
1. The Breeders: All Nerve - Hard to tell if this is came out in 2018 or 1994, but whatever year it
is, All Nerve is brilliant! Featuring the lineup that brought you 1993’s Last Splash, this is The
Breeders that we’ve waited decades to hear. With everything from the pop hooks of “Wait in
the Car” to the harrowing tale of “Walking with a Killer”, All Nerve is Kim Deal’s worthy return
to the indie rock spotlight!
Leks' Top 5 Albums
5. Jonas Bonnetta: All This Here - The second "solo" offering from the Evening Hymns front man, All This Here couldn't be further removed from Bonnetta's 2006 debut, Farewell to Harmony. Rather than continue to mine the folk songwriting that has come to characterize the majority of the Evening Hymns catalogue, All This Here is a collection comprised entirely of field recorded soundscapes flushed out by a spare but effective instrumental arrangement of piano and strings. Given that all three Evening Hymns album have featured at least one substantial soundscape element, All This Here is definitely less of a sonic departure than one might initially think.
4. Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino - The sixth Arctic Monkeys LP is hands down their most muted and understated offering to date, yet in many ways their most nuanced. While there are none of the riff-driven slow-burning rockers that populated their last release, the excellent AM, what takes its place is a singular mood that is evoked from the first note of the first song and is sustained until the disc's end. For the first attempt at a concept album from the band they have managed to very effectively channel their inner Bowie and make a genuine piece of art.
3. Metric: Art of Doubt - Seven albums deep into their career, Metric have once again managed to find their sea legs after the misstep that was their last release, Pagans in Vegas. Chalk it up to working with a new producer, or perhaps to letting front woman Emily Haines focus on her solo career and Broken Social Scene for the majority of 2017, but the result has been by all accounts and undisputed creative reboot for the band. They have managed to once again strike the perilous balance of being a radio-friendly rock outfit while at the same making an album that stands on its own two feet as a creative force to be reckoned with.
2. Jack White: Boarding House Reach - Easily the most divisive release of Jack White's career, fans and critics alike collectively either loved or hated this album. Packed with as many off-the-wall ideas and studio experiments as possible, including White's first foray into the world of recording using ProTools, the results are definitely mixed. However, after two relatively middle-of-the-road solo releases, White has never sounded more revitalized and indeed vital than he does here. Songs such as "Corporation," "Respect Commander," and "Over and Over and Over" prove that he is still the riff-master, while "Get it the Mind Shaft" and "Ice Station Zebra" demonstrate that he is far from being an old dog incapable of learning new tricks.
1. Fucked Up: Dose Your Dreams - Never a band to shy away from over-reaching concept albums and larger than life storytelling, Dose Your Dreams is the spiritual sequel to 2011's punk rock opera David Comes to Life. Casting our aforementioned protagonist David in a new setting, Dose Your Dreams relies on multiple voices to tell his story, as well as that of the newly introduced character Joyce Tops. Lead vocalist Damian Abraham populates the first two-thirds of the album, while the remaining story line is "narrated" through song by a wide cast including J Mascis, Ben Cook, Jonah Falco, Mike Haliechuk, while Joyce's story line is brought to life by the likes of Jennifer Castle and Mary Margaret O'Hara. Epic doesn't even begin to describe the whole that is created from the sum of these parts.
Johnny’s Top 5 Songs
5. Interpol: “The Rover” - A good song from a disappointing album. Though much of the
Marauder LP was tedious to get through, “The Rover” was a rare exception. The pacing is
right, Daniel Kessler’s signature guitar is in place and Paul Banks’ Ian Curtis infused vocals hit
just the right mood. Too bad the rest of Marauder didn’t reach the same heights!
4. Spiritualized: “Here it Comes (The Road) Let’s Go” - Jason Pierce sounds loose and relaxed
on this tribute to the open road. Spiritualized can be fuzzy, pyschedelic and/or lush and
orchestral but here it’s just good old fashioned laid back rock n roll.
3. PILE: “Cup” - Springing out of the same sessions that gave us A Hairshirt of Purpose, it
should be no surprise that another gem was lying in the weeds. What starts out as a simple six
note guitar pluck escalates into a satisfying full blooded tale of regret that culminates with the
line of “I am lonely whenever you’re around!”
2. Failure: “No One Left” - A fuzzed bass leads the way to an eventual cavalcade of guitar in
this so typically awesome Failure track. Guitar rock served just the way it should be! Absolutely
gorgeous guitar and bass tones are all over, not only this track, but every song on In The Future
Your Body Will Be The Furthest Thing From Your Mind.
1. The Breeders: “Walking with a Killer” - This haunting track has stayed me ever since I first
heard it. Not your typical Breeders cut by any means (in fact its origins date back to the Kim
Deal solo release series) but that makes it no less powerful. A spare baseline, delicate drums
and a lullaby guitar soundtrack the tale of a woman’s (or girl) last night alive. Deal’s vocal
delivery perfectly matches the hopelessness in the lyrics she’s singing…lines like: “I didn’t
know it was my time to die / but it really was” or “I’m going out / I’m a dark star / I’m done” will
stay with you long after the song has faded out.
Leks' Top 5 Songs
5. Arctic Monkeys: "Four Out Of Five" - The lead single off of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is perhaps the band at their most Bowie-esque, and much like the beloved single "Do I Wanna Know?" from AM has a riff that will burrow itself deep into your brain for a permanent hibernation.
4. Fucked Up: "Normal People" - Easily the most accessible single that Fucked Up have ever released, "Normal People" now joins the ranks of 2011's "The Other Shoe" as being among the most anthemic in the band's catalogue.
3. The Raconteurs: "Sunday Driver" - Perhaps one of the best releases of 2018 is the lead-off single from the yet-to-be-released Raconteurs long overdue third album. While no release date or title have been announced yet, this is the sound of White getting back to his 2008 basics in a way that many fans have been yearning for since the last decade drew to a close.
2. Jack White: "Corporation" - Arguably one of the best rock songs that effectively managed to stretch White as both a guitarist and songwriter from the Boarding House Reach sessions. The electric guitar tells the story while White provides the narration. Pure genius.
1. The Raconteurs: "Now That You're Gone" - Significant not only because it marks the return of The Raconteurs in over a decade, this song once again reminds listeners what a force to be reckoned with Brendan Benson is as a songwriter. The last decade has not been kind to Benson's solo career, characterized by three forgettable solo albums that pale in comparison to his turn of the century material. Perhaps it took the creative synergy of teaming back up with White, not to mention Keeler and Lawrence to pull the creative juices back out of him.