It’s our final roundup of the year, and it’s been an eventful month both in music and in life. This December I flew across the country, enjoyed the holidays with my family, and reconnected with all of my old friends back home. As far as this blog goes, I’ve been writing a ton in order to get our various end of the year lists and awards up before the year actually ended. Meanwhile, as with most other industries, new music seemed to slow down to a trickle in December for the most part. Even though there were less new releases this month, there was no shortage of quality projects worth enjoying through the final weeks of 2018.
Vulfpeck - Hill Climber
On May 26th of 2016, I saw Vulfpeck in concert, and it was one of the best shows I’ve been to in my entire life. I’ve been to rowdier concerts, louder concerts, and maybe even more “technically” impressive concerts, but there was a magic in the air that night as the ever-shifting funk group laid down a two-hour-long set of greatest hits and unforgettable spur-of-the-moment improvisations. While I respect the band’s hustle (one project a year from 2011 onward is nothing to sneeze at) even the most hardcore of Vulfpeck fans will admit that the band has gotten away from their instrumental roots. While the group’s “vocal” tracks have become some of their biggest hits, I was ecstatic to find out not a word is spoken on the back half of Hill Climber. There are still some catchy and funky cuts on Side A, but nothing quite beats the deep groove of the songs like “Soft Parade” or the fourth installment of “It Gets Funkier.” Despite my personal feelings on the group’s non-instrumental work, Hill Climber is yet another entry in an almost-flawless discography.
Field Medic - little place
Field Medic has been one of my biggest loves of 2018. From discovering Songs From The Sunroom at the very beginning of the year to saving his hat from mosh pit peril at a Remo Drive show, my year has been marked by the musical presence of Kevin Patrick Sullivan. I showered Field Medic with multiple awards in this year’s Diamond Platters, but right when I thought our year together was over he surprise-released little place in the twilight hours of 2018. Short and poetic as ever, little place features six songs, all one-minute a piece. The mini-ep is like a sketchbook put to music, and as invasive as that may sound, it feels more like a peek inside your own head than that of our narrator. Personable, charming, and poetic, there’s no better way to kill six minutes than a little listen to little place.
Bay Faction - Florida Guilt
Back in 2014 Bay Faction uploaded a four-track demo of their songs to reddit and a man named Jake Sulzer liked them so much he decided to start a record label just to help them release their first full-length. That label was Counter Intuitive Records which is now home to the likes of Mom Jeans, Prince Daddy & The Hyena, and more. While the band put out their self-titled emo debut on Counter Intuitive, they’re now self-released their long-awaited follow-up Florida Guilt, and the record is a bold and emotional step in a new direction. Moving away from the overwrought sentiments of their debut, the band now finds themselves placing a greater focus on catchy melodies, bouncy hooks, and memorable moments within the songs. There’s cleaner production, but the minds behind the words are still the same. Exploring a similar territory of youthful emotion and over-action, Florida Guilt is an unexpected but beautiful pivot.
21 Savage - i am > i was
While I would never have expected it back in 2016, 21 Savage seems like he’s on a warpath to become one of the rap game’s biggest stars. Between high profile collaborations, chart-topping singles, and a hearty helping of meme-worthy moments, 21 seems to have been making all the right moves recently. On top of all this, he’s spent the last two years honing his craft and becoming both a personable and proficient rapper while racking up hits along the way. i am > i was is the latest in 21’s string of increasingly-quality releases, the album boasts soulful beats, opulent flexes, and a star-studded feature list. While some spots lack substance, i am > i was is just excellent trap music, and sometimes you don’t need much more than that.
Clear Hearts Fanzine - Season 1, Episodes 1-6
Clear Hearts Fanzine is a collaborative project headed up by Dan Campbell of The Wonder Years and Ace Enders of The Early November Men. Bonded by their love of the mid-2000’s hit TV show Friday Night Lights, Season 1, Episodes 1-6 is a concept album centering around the occupants of Dillon, Texas and their day-to-day lives. While the two have collaborated before on Aaron West and a tearful Bruce Springsteen cover, this project represents the first full release the duo has teamed up to craft from the ground up. Preceded by an in-depth interview with the two artists, their passion for the show is deep, their creation is earnest, and their fandom is endless.
Bruce Springsteen - Springsteen on Broadway
In a move that harkens back to one of the greatest live albums of all time, Springsteen on Broadway is the audio version of Springsteen’s Broadway residency which spanned from 2017 to 2018. The format is simple; The Boss himself is on stage alone with nothing more than a guitar and mic. As he runs through some of the greatest hits of his five-decade-long career each song is accompanied by an introduction in which Springsteen details the backstory that led to its inception. Pulling largely from his 2016 autobiography, the tales are earnest, confessional, inspirational, and intimate. There’s a reason why Springsteen is our country’s greatest classic rock act, and we should all be honored to have him tell the story of our lives.
Catholic Werewolves - You're Gonna Miss Everything Cool And Die Angry
I’ve fallen back in love with emo this year, and bands like Catholic Werewolves are the reason why. Sure, moving to the midwest lends itself well to frigid, inward thoughts, but I’ve felt a real sense of pride uncovering the bustling underground scene of a new city. In the case of You're Gonna Miss Everything Cool And Die Angry I found Catholic Werewolves through Stars Hollow who I found through Jail Socks who I found though Absinthe Father. The point is, there are dozens of bands like this in every city who are making incredible music that’s worth yelling out in someone’s sweaty living room. Yes, this record rips, but it’s also symbolic of the hungry acts in your local scene and the brilliance lying in wait for those willing to look.
Gucci Mane - Evil Genius: The prolific godfather of trap rounds out the year with a star-studded 18-pack of hip-hop bangers.
Irk - Recipes from the Bible: Soul-disintegrating noise rock from Leeds with the power to make you feel infinitesimal and infuriated all at once.
Liminal - Liminal 3: An ambient Sigur Rós side-project designed to be an “endless mixtape” akin to a musical soundbath.
Valleyheart - Everyone I've Ever Loved: Bass-drenched emo rock from Rise Records of all people.
Domo Genesis - Facade Records: The ex-Odd Future member delivers a satiating EP of six hard-hitting hip-hop tracks with Wu-Tang-like confidence and flow to match.
Walter Etc. - Chaparral: Thirteen minutes of bombastic and heartfelt indie rock that tears at its own soul.
Various Artists - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Soundtrack From & Inspired by the Motion Picture): Following the path blazed by Black Panther and Creed II, this is a soundtrack that promotes the newest marvel adventure while also managing to feel artistically-fulfilling at the same time.
Big K.R.I.T. - Trifecta: Three highly-proficient and lyrical hip-hop songs that keep their feet on the ground and their mind on the world around them.
Vic Mensa - HOOLIGANS: To be honest, I have no idea what’s going on with Vic Mensa anymore.
Hot Mulligan - YSG Years: A remastered compilation of every original song the band put out through Save Your Generation Records.
Soulja Boy - Swag 2: In between winning Fortnight matches, releasing unlicensed video game consoles, and unwittingly recording anti-semitic propaganda, Soulja Boy managed to mumble into a microphone long enough to try to stay relevant through an actual musical release.
Waka Flocka Flame - I Can't Rap Vol. 2: Some hard-as-bricks bars delivered directly to mixtape sites around the world on Christmas day.
Palisades - Erase The Pain: Palisades jump straight to the “radio rock” phase every vaguely-hardcore band seems to feel is a requirement now.
This month we also heard new singles from Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Toro Y Moi, La Dispute, Illuminati Hotties, Pedro The Lion, Fucked Up, CZARFACE, Phoebe Bridgers, Deerhunter, Xiu Xiu, Copeland, Broken Bells, Anna von Hausswolff, Ice Cube, Ezra Koenig, Danny Worsnop, Joshua Homme, Saba, Max Bloom, American Football, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Jay Som, Matt Berninger, Growlers, Saba, Amine, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Cane Hill, Cigarettes After Sex, Kelso, Swae Lee, 6Lack, The Voidz, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Post Malone, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Mac Demarco, The Raconteurs, and Noname.