Across the Margin continues its rollout of the Best Albums of 2018 with albums 40 – 31…
The countdown rolls on…
40. IDLES — Joy as an Act of Resistance
IDLES are an English punk rock band formed in Bristol in 2011, and since that formation they have released two colossal albums, their debut Brutalism (2017), and 2018’s Joy as an Act of Resistance. Joy, as was the case of Brutalism, is heavy and raucous sounding, but it is also a deeply personal album to lead singer Joe Talbot. Brutalism was written following the death of Talbot’s mother, while Joy was birthed in the wake of the death of his daughter (the heart-wrenching track “June” is in reference to this loss). While a great deal of pain is at the core of the album’s genesis, Joy is no sorrow-filled affair. At times it is steeped in sarcasm and humor (“Never Fight a Man with a Perm”) and often it is pulsating with raw emotion and earnest humanity. We believe we are not alone in feeling the angst and frustration that lingers in the air these days, and IDLES’s latest release finds a way to bottle those sentiments, zestfully shake that bottle until primed, and then release its contents upon listeners in a barrage of sound and emotion.
39. Low — Double Negative
Low, the famed indie rock trio from Duluth, Minnesota, have been in the mix for some time now, so it was a surprise to us how taken we were with their twelfth studio album, Double Negative, released this past September. Double Negative is a departure for Low, one that finds them twenty-five years into their career journeying sonically to heights of cacophony never before breached. Producer BJ Burton (Bon Iver’s 22, A Million) played a large roll in the crafting of the soundscapes on Double Negative, and after multiple listenings we found ourselves in awe of Low’s musical range, and wholly smitten with an album so textured and nuanced. Where songs commence with churning thuds and hisses (“Dancing and Blood” for instance), a purposeful, buoyant, and glorious build is birthed from the madness. In short, Double Negative isn’t a typical Low album, and it’s all the better for it, an album that holds within it a wealth of layered, moody, and flat out beautiful music.
38. Black Thought — Stream of Thought, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
It has been our position for years on end now that Black Thought (Tariq Luqmaan Trotter of The Roots) is the most underrated emcee in the history of hip-hop. As bold of a statement as this is, we stand behind it, and present as evidence to his illustriousness Stream of Thought Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, two eagerly anticipated solo projects released by Black Thought in 2018. On the heels of a freestyle that shook all of hip-hop on NYC’s Hot 97, the Stream of Thought releases allowed Black Thought the opportunity to stand alone in the spotlight as opposed to being just a member, however pivotal, of the legendary Roots crew. Spitting rhymes purposefully and unrelentingly (#BARS), Black Thought’s talents are so evident on Stream of Thought that we hope hip-hop takes notice, steps back and considers all Black Thought has contributed throughout his career, and begins to speak about him in the way he should be spoke of — as one of the best to ever do it.
37. Anna St. Louis — If Only There Was A River
We here at Across The Margin owe a debt of gratitude to the great Kevin Morby for the virtual introduction to the gifted, young, Californian-based (via Kansas City) singer/songwriter Anna St. Louis. It was via Morby’s Instagram feed, where he was touting St. Louis’ debut release If Only There Was A River (which Morby produced with King Tuff’s Kyle Thomas), where we learned of this extraordinarily talented songstress. As it turns out Morby and St. Louis have a great deal in common musically. Both exhibit a patient approach to their song crafting, both are able to lull listeners into a blissful daze through their work, and both of their music feels entirely, and beautifully, timeless. “Understand” might be the most alluring track we have heard all year, and every other song on If Only There Was A River isn’t far behind it. It is fascinating to consider this is St. Louis’s first album, as it exhibits the talents of a veteran songwriter. For St. Louis, this is only the beginning, and that thought is wholly exciting.
36. Jeff Tweedy – Warm
For those who are ardent fans of Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, this is a special moment in time. For Tweedy can be found everywhere these days, on podcasts, on late night talk shows, and at speaking engagements from coast to coast. Because at the same time he released his long-awaited memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), where he opens up about his past, his songs, the music, and the people that have inspired him, he also released his first solo album of original work, Warm. Tweedy is bearing his soul at the moment, in written word, in conversation, and wonderfully on his stunning, deeply personal new solo album. Warm exits as an exposé of sorts, from an artist and human that is at a point in time comfortable enough to face and attempt to explain the demons with which he’s struggled. Music has always been Tweedy’s method of escape, his cathartic release, and seemingly no more so than in Warm, an album that is sparse but potent, weighty yet delightful, and honest through and through.
35. Yo La Tengo — There’s A Riot Going On
Veteran New Jersey indie rock trio Yo La Tengo — vocalist/guitarist Ira Kaplan, drummer/vocalist Georgia Hubley, and bassist/vocalist James McNew — are well aware of the cathartic nature of rock. Getting lost in music is something that not only enriches the soul, but can also act as a mental departure from the struggles of life. In the case of There’s A Riot Going On, Yo La Tengo’s fifteenth studio release — the title is a nod to Sly and the Family Stone’s 1971 album There’s a Riot Goin’ On (which featured “Family Affair”) — that is exactly what the band is going for: escape from the gloom that lingers about. In the blissful soundscapes present on “For You Too,” Ira croons “But if it’s not too late / If I could protect you / Whenever you can expect to, for you / When everything’s hurting / And things are uncertain / Maybe I’ll be that guy,“ exuding a desire to be the arms one retreats to in times of need, a sentiment that describes There’s a Riot Going On’s true function — a port in a storm. Over the course of fifteen tracks, Yo La Tengo’s latest album allows one to meander into, and vanish within, their often subdued but bewitching offerings, a collection of potent yet driving dream rock songs that are — even if just in brief — shelter from all of life’s worries.
34. Deafheaven — Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Honestly, inclusion of Deafheaven’s fourth studio album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, on our Best Of 2018 compilation could have been based on the brilliance of the track “Honeycomb” alone. “Honeycomb” is an eleven-minute journey into raucous, hard-rock territories and onto surprisingly blissful terrains (think Explosions in The Sky as the song approaches its zenith!) that display the awesome prowess of the famed post-metal rockers. But “Honeycomb” is far from alone it its musical majesty on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, as tracks such as the entrancing “You Without End,” and the dizzying odyssey that is the closing song “Worthless Animal,” all crescendo to goose-bump inducing heights. Deafheaven never cease to amaze, and none more so than on this latest dazzling release.
33. Black Panther / Creed II — The Album
Please accept our apologies for doubling down here and celebrating in unison our two favorite film soundtracks of the year in Black Panther: The Album and Creed II: The Album…but so it goes. As for the former, we are running out of superlatives over here at Across The Margin in order to describe Kendrick Lamar’s prolific and remarkable output since the release of Good Kid M.A.A.D. City in 2012. This year, he was the cherry on top of an exceptional and important Hollywood blockbuster, one that highlighted the true power of black enterprise in America with Black Panther. Of course Kendrick Lamar was the one that was going to provide the musical tone for such a cinematic endeavor, one that celebrated an African superhero, was directed by an African-American director, and featured a majority black cast. Always up to the task, the recent Pulitzer Prize winner came with it, leaning on contributions from a crew of talented musicians including Sza, Ab-Soul, Anderson.Paak, Vince Staples, 2 Chainz, Future, and James Blake, creating an album that undoubtedly “lives on X.”
Creed II: The Album is not the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack for the film (which features a score by Childish Gambino collaborator, Ludwig Göransson), but a collection of songs inspired by, and in celebration of, the latest installment to the Rocky series. With super-producer Mike WiLL Made-It at the helm, and featuring artists such as Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Rocky, Nicki Minaj, Young Thug, Vince Staples, J. Cole, and more, Creed II: The Album bangs hard, and undoubtedly, there is no better album released this year to work out or run to — give it a go…
Essential Tracks: “King’s Dead with Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake,” “X with Schoolboy Q, 2 Chainz, and Saudi,” “All The Stars with SZA,” “The Mantra with Pharrell and Kendrick Lamar,” “Runnin with A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, and Nicki Minaj.
32. Courtney Barnett — Tell Me How You Really Feel
There is that one day every year where we here at Across the Margin are completely taken aback by the amount of quality music set forth into the world at once. That day this year was May 18th, 2018, when Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Ray LaMontagne, and Parquet Courts all put out awesome albums. On that day as well, Courtney Barnett also dropped her latest album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, and with no offense intended to the other artists, we indulged in Barnett’s brand of piercing rock first and foremost — her work is just that special. In a short amount of time, Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett has ascended the ranks of indie rock royalty. Due to her introspective lyrics and deadpan delivery, we have come upon comparisons of Barnett to Kurt Cobain and Bob Dylan, and in many ways that makes sense to us. She is an indie rock phenom that continues to impress with her releases, none more so than her latest album, one that is just as soothing as it is edgy and flat out rocking.
31. Amen Dunes – Freedom
If you’re not familiar with the New York-based psychedelic-folk rock phenom Damon McMahon, former frontman of Inuok, and his band Amen Dunes (made up of McMahon, Delicate Steve on guitar, Parker Kindred from Antony & The Johnsons and Jeff Buckley on drums), their fifth album released this March, Freedom, is an excellent place to start. While not fully representative of all that Amen Dunes has to offer, as each release is its own unique animal, Freedom will draw you into McMahon’s world. Freedom manifests itself as Amen Dunes’ most focused and beautiful offering yet, with McMahon’s delicate falsetto gliding over understated electronic soundscapes, and nothing highlights this feeling more than “Believe,” one of the most gorgeous tracks he has ever released.
To Be Continued…