Not musically, folks. No, musically, we were fine and thank God for that because between drowning in the abyss of political news sewage and the faith-in-humanity crushing fucktard/orange beanbag that resides in Washington DC (still at a loss as to how many boneheads voted for that), glimmers of hope were lifelines. And music is always my lifeline so I’m extending it to you.
Now “Best of” lists don’t serve my nature: I’m not so arrogant to presume my taste and judgment warrant claiming anything as best. Instead, considering the plethora of sound and vision that we are bombarded with in the span of a calendar year, I lean towards pointing out/shining a light on musical gems that could very easily have slipped beneath one’s radar.
So instead of Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer, Nine Inch Nails’ Bad Witch or Brandi Carlile’s By The Way I Forgive You (three albums that escaped no one’s radar), here are 5 Albums You May Have Missed in 2018 (plus 5 EPs) of various genre flavors for your listening pleasure and discovery. Here’s hoping something catches your ear, lovelies.
Christine and the Queens – Chris
Yes, I know: the album is almost an hour and a half long, but that’s because Héloïse Letissier is bringing you her world of songs in English AND in French but – in truth – she is not here for your pleasure and neither is Chris. Chris – the album and the stage persona – are here to “deconstruct” sexuality, lust, the male and female gazes, and the framework of “normal” desire. And she does so with some smooth criminal, French-flavored funky pop that would make Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis tilt their fedoras. It’s a big, playful, brilliantly sensual, and pansexual ocean that Chris is swimming and dancing through: dive in.
PRESS PLAY: “Girlfriend,” “Damn (what must a woman do),” “5 Dollars,” “Comme Si”
The Virginmarys – Northern Sun Sessions
Like most professional musicians who have been around for longer than a minute, Macclesfield, England’s Ally Dickaty (vox/guitar) and Danny Dolan (drums) of the Virginmarys have been through some shit. Yet despite it all – or perhaps because of it – the former trio-now-duo are the epitome of tenacious and woke rock fury.
From the onset of album opener “Look Out For My Brother,” Northern Sun Sessions is the sound of a band ripping out its guts and shoving a fistful in your face for consumption. Loudly. They are confrontational but compassionate, bruised but still agile, simultaneously spitting poison and its antidote in the same breath and with cause because the world is fractured on multiple levels and they embrace not being immune to it: hell, by album’s end a call to “make some use of this pain” attempts to salvage the human wreckage. And the fusion of Dolan’s deep rhythmic foundation with Dickaty’s raw and high-octane vocalization makes for thrilling modern-day rock angst.
PRESS PLAY: “Look Out For My Brother,” “S.O.S.4.U.N.I.,” “Wanna Be Free,” “All Fall Down”
Allan Rayman – Harry Hard-On
Once you get past that album title, it takes a mere song or two like “Crush” before you realize that Allan Rayman (the latest addition to the KidInAKorner/Interscope roster) is quite the storyteller: but whose story is he telling? That’s for him to know and the fans who covet him to wrack their brains on but, in the meantime, Harry Hard-On (Rayman’s third full-length) hits a sweet spot in fusing his affinity for guitar rock with dark industrial tones and his elemental R&B habitat. Yes, he creates a more abrasive sonic space than usual, but it’s the byzantine emotional self-portrait which he paints that is delicious to the psyche. Whether or not Rayman meant to tap into Depeche Mode’s toolbox for “Amy,” I appreciate the dip because the shading is a good look on Harry….and Allan.
PRESS PLAY: “Rose,” “Amy,” “Crush,” “Ducks On The Pond,” “Never Any No Good”
Jess Glynne – Always In Between
Since Jess Glynne’s 2015 debut, I Cry When I Laugh, I’ve been waiting for the return of this British pop and soul slinging ginger for some very specific reasons:
- That killer vibrato. I crush on her vibrato.
- Neither pop or dance music are my natural element, but Glynne makes me each them up like chocolate chip cookies.
- She comes with the brassy, the honest, the darkness, the self-conscious, the self-loving and the feel-good.
The thing is Glynne excels equally in wrapping her fantastic voice around bouncy choruses as much as meatier ballads and whichever route she takes, Glynne elicits a pure and earthy joy meant for making it better. So, basically, I dare you to put this album on when you’re trying to get ready to go out because chances are you will be late. Trying to get fully dressed while constantly busting a move ain’t easy.
PRESS PLAY: “1, 2, 3,” “Thursday,” “I’ll Be There,” “Rollin”
The Dirty Nil – Master Volume
Riding the rails between punk rock glee and snotty sardonicism with a gusto that’s difficult to fake, Ontario’s the Dirty Nil came to rock at your neighborhood arena. Chances are they don’t take themselves nearly as seriously as frontman Luke Bentham’s elastic, high strung vocals would imply because damned if “Bathed In Light” doesn’t prove they know how to thread the pop-punk needle. But what is serious business is blowing up your speakers with abrasive power chords and a flurry of drum fills, so turn it up to 11 and then put seeing the Dirty Nil live on your to-do list. Why? Because remember how the Hives performed with so much vainglorious audacity and strut as if they were indisputably the best band on the planet?
PRESS PLAY: “Bathed In Light,” “Pain of Infinity,” “I Don’t Want That Phone Call”
Dead Sara – Temporary Things Taking Up Space: That time when one of my and Los Angeles’ FAVORITE real ass rock bands threw down a 6-song EP with sleeker edges that you could still head bang to and did so on Atlantic Records (a major label that actually knows how to work with a rock band). All together, now: “I’m not your daughter / I’m not your bitch / I guess I’m Unamerican”
That’s my band.
Holy Wars – Mother Father: From the Los Angeles duo of Kat Leon and Nicholas Perez, Mother Father is an expansive, gorgeously darkened musical sound of love expressed as grief expressed as pain expressed as fear expressed as fury at what is an unimaginable loss. Cathartic rock goth.
grandson – A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1: Think rock n roll needs a shot of adrenaline? See Jordan Benjamin or stage name, grandson, for further because dude is righteously pissed off at our current state of affairs and he’s not afraid to sing about it. Unfortunately, considering how often our fixation with gun culture goes horribly wrong, expect his single “Thoughts & Prayers” to continue to be painfully relevant.
Sam Fender – Dead Boys: He may have a face that could have been carved exclusively for a Calvin Klein advert, but British singer/songwriter Sam Fender has bigger concerns on his mind such as the alarming rate of male suicides or our societal fixation with things like keeping up with the Kardashians.
(Yes, I made a playlist for you because I care)