Swim Into The Sound’s 2018 Un-Awards

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Let’s face it, lots of terrible stuff happened in 2018. While I could bust out a thousand words on the state of the world, politics, and my own mental health, none of that is why you’re here. No, Swim Into The Sound Un-Awards are designed for a very specific purpose: to highlight some of the year’s worst moments in music. The regrettable lyrics, the bad cover art, the poor decisions that need to be remembered if only so the feeling of shame may never be washed off these artists.

In all honesty, I don’t really like being negative. This blog is, has been, and always will be a place of positivity where I can recommend things wholeheartedly… but sometimes shit just sucks. 

If you’d like a refresher on how this works, feel free to revisit last year’s Un-Awards and give yourself a reminder of something from 2017 that you have tried to block out. Alternatively, if you’d like a more positive version of this list, I’d recommend reading our Diamond Platters which act as a companion piece more in-line with this blog’s usual sincerity and positivity. If nothing else, the Diamond Platters may offer a way to get the taste out of your mouth after reading this list. 

For those of you strong enough to continue, make sure your constitution is at peak performance because this list will test your mind, body, and soul. Be warned ye who enter here; this is the dregs of 2018. 


You Couldn’t Pay Me To Write A Worse Headline

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Winner: Flaming Lips tell us about their plans to make vinyl out of Miley Cyrus' pee 

Look guys, I get what you’re doing, but this needs to stop somewhere. I respect The Flaming Lips for what they’ve contributed to the psychedelic genre, hell, I even respect Miley for what she’s done in pop… but this? This is too far. 

Runner-up: Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst Is Directing A Thriller Where John Travolta Plays An Insane Stalker

Literally every sentence in this headline is worse than the last. 

 

“You Played Yourself” Award for Biggest Dumbass of 2018

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Winner: Nicki Minaj

2018 will forever be the year I lost respect for Nicki Minaj. Between lying in beefs with Cardi B, blaming Travis Scott for her poor album sales, and generally acting a fool on her radio show, she also managed to be a dick to her fans, elevate and legitimize a pedophile, remain openly-homophobic, and even ruin the life of one critic. No wonder why she can’t sell any concert tickets.

Runner-up: Tekashi 6ix9ine

Tekashi 6ix9ine is a pedophile. Let’s just get that out of the way up top. Much like xxxtentacion, this is a guy who never should have never gained a fanbase, legitimacy, or success in the first place. In fact, it’s amazing he’s made it this far without getting killed. This November the prayers of myself and every other sane hip-hop head were answered as Mr. SixNine was arrested on racketeering charges, landing him a minimum of 32-years in prison and a maximum of life. Do I think this will stop any of his more militant brain-dead fans from defending him? Not at all, but at least the guy is behind bars where he belongs. That’s what happens when you film your crimes for clout.

 

Words That Should Have Never Been Put To Music

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Winner: Justin Timberlake - “Hers (Interlude)”

It’s pretty rare that I shudder at a song. While I slogged through Justin Timberlake’s latest mistake of an album for a quick review this February, there have been few moments more uncomfortable than my first listen of “Hers (Interlude).” With lyrics that read like the rambling diary of a serial killer, the song is comprised almost entirely of Jessica Biel monologing over an atmospheric piano-laden soundscape. As the one-minute song wears on, his wife explains how wearing JT’s flannel makes her feel powerful, almost as if she’s wearing his skin. Oof. 

Runner-up: Justin Timberlake - “Sauce”

Okay Justin, I’m sorry, but I had to do this. I know you’re experimenting with new sounds on this album... but I don’t care what genre you’re writing, nobody should ever pen the words “Ooh, I love your pink, you like my purple.” wowzers. 

 

Most Reality-Questioning Collab

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Winner: Car Seat Headrest x Smash Mouth

2018 was a powerful year for collabs. From hip-hop to indie rock, it felt like every genre was blessed with an endless supply of albums that represented the meeting of musical minds… But most of those collabs made sense. Back in February indie darlings and known-meme lords Car Seat Headrest exchanged covers with Smash Mouth leading to one of the most perplexing and unlikely team-ups of all-time. 

Runner-up: William Shatner and Iggy Pop

If I told you that William Shatner and the Godfather of Punk crooned out a version of “Silent Night” earlier this year, would you believe me? Maybe it’s best that you just take my word for it. 

 

Worst Album Art

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Winner: Neko Case - Hell-on

I know for a fact that Neko Case is a great artist with a strong voice and a defined artistic vision. This cover does not show that. 

Runner-up: E-40 - The Gift of Gab

Oh no E-40, baby, what is you doin?

 

Worst “Last Call” Ripoff

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Winner: Bhad Bhabie - “Bhad Bhabie Story”

Like so many stars in 2018, Bhad Bhabie initially rose to prominence through a meme. At the end of her 38-minute debut, the queen of Reality Show Rap took a moment to reflect on how she got here. It’s like a white trash version of Kanye’s Last Call, but captured in a surprisingly lucid and earnest light, especially when you consider who we’re listening to.

Runner-up: Logic - “Last Call”

As Logic is wont to do, his version of “Last Call” is both a more technical and proficient version than Bhad Bhabie’s. However, he loses creative points for calling out the fact that he’s doing “his own” Last Call in the song itself. You want it too bad, Logic. 

 

I Know It’s Good, I Just Don’t Have The Patience For It

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Winner: Daughters - You Won’t Get What You Want

Admittedly not an entirely negative category, I know there’s something exciting going on under the hood of Daughters’ fourth studio album… I just can’t bring myself to dig for it. I think I’ve started this record nearly a dozen times but then given up before it has time to do anything interesting. I guess this isn’t the introduction to “noise” that I need.

Runner-up: Anna von Hausswolff - Dead Magic

Another album I’ve heard nothing but great things about, Dead Magic is one of those records I keep scrolling by in my Spotify saved section and telling myself ‘someday.’ Opening your album with a 12-minute droney goth song is just a big ask up front. On top that, ”droney goth” is rarely a headspace I find myself wanting to linger in.

 

Am I The Only One Seeing This Shit?

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Winner: Lil Pump’s Infatuation With His Grandmother

Last year it was 21 Savage’s obsession with food, this year it’s Lil Pump’s love for his grandmother. Penned early on in the year, Lil Pump Versus The Elderly was a then-comprehensive 3,000-word analysis of every time Lil Pump has referenced his grandmother and/or the grandmother of the listener. Quite frankly, it’s a shocking number of times for someone who (still) has such a small discography.

Runner-up: Offset’s Patek Collection

Did you guys know that Offset owns a Patek Phillipe? I know because I compiled all thirty references the Migos member has made to the watch across his storied career. I think it’s safe to say the man has purchased at least one of the high-end timepieces. 

 

Most Regrettable Guest Feature

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Winner: Lil Durk on “Off White VLONE”

Hey, Lil Durk? Of all the things to rap about (see above entry) why on earth would you choose to write about sexual assault? On the intro track to Lil Baby & Gunna’s otherwise enjoyable collaborative tape Chicago-based rapper Lil Durk decided to end his verse with the lyrics “Gotta suck dick on your period / You can't say, ‘No,’ I ain't hearin' it.” At least Lil Baby offers a somewhat redeeming ray of hope later on with a progressive line about consent on “Never Recover.”

Runner-up: Rick Ross on “What’s Free”

Rapping the f-word? In 2018? Please refer to this tweet.

 

American Fuss Award For Most Imbalanced Album 

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Winner: Foxing - Nearer My God

This award, named after a clumsy portmanteau of Bleed American and Hot Fuss, goes to an album that’s half great, half not so much. I’m having a hard time trying to think of an album I wanted to like more this year than Nearer My God. All the singles were great, it was receiving incredible hype, but when I sat down to listen to it, I got mind-numbingly bored. It’s just emo, nothing more than nothing less. It’s even more frustrating because half of this album is absolutely brilliant, but the other half is comprised of some of the most depressingly gray, bland, and boring indie rock I’ve heard in a calendar year. I’m sorry. 

Runner-up: Travis Scott - Astroworld

I love Tarvis Scott. He has some of the best songs in hip-hop right now, but holy god is Astroworld hit-or-miss. The album starts off strong with beat-switch bangers and a stacked guest list, but somewhere in the middle, it feels like he forgot to think of new things to say. I’ve spent thousands of words talking about how I want Trav to be better, but I guess I’ll consider Astroworld a half-step in the right direction for now.

 

Inevitably Going To Be The Slept-on Because It Released At The End Of The Year

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Winner: Parcels - Parcels

Finally, to end on a (somewhat) positive note, I’d like to focus on two albums that were fantastic but will go largely unnoticed due to no fault of their own. Berlin-based funk group Parcels released their self-titled album this October, and it took me by complete surprise. Like a more laid-back version of Vulfpeck, the songs grove forward endlessly in the most compelling way, it’s just a shame it released by the time most major publications already had their end of the year lists ironed out.

Runner-up: Grapetooth - Grapetooth

One of Polyvinyl’s newest signees, Grapetooth is comprised of Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni, a duo who are crafting sharp and compelling synth-based new wave. Even a cursory listen to the opening track off their debut album will offer a glimpse at the sort of shimmering Future Islands-esque tunes they’re capable of crafting, but an unknown band and a November release date are hardly a recipe for media coverage.

The Second Annual Diamond Platters: Swim Into The Sound’s Ancillary End of the Year Awards

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Most end of the year lists suck. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still in the process of putting together our own “best of” as you read this, but each December we see the exact same thing: dozens of publications all rushing to push out ten pages of clickbait listicles intentionally-ordered to cater debate (and clicks) while simultaneously falling in-line with the broadest most commonly-held opinion. There’s nothing technically wrong with “List Season,” but most of it just comes off as going through the motions, and I believe there’s a better way to reflect what happened over the previous year. That’s why I created The Diamond Platters

As you can tell by their name, The Diamond Platters are the highest honor that can be bestowed upon an artist. They are an extravagant and one-of-a-kind accolade representative of artistic achievement and abject opulence… Just kidding, this isn’t anything that grandiose. 

While the name is poking fun at the seriousness of List Season, The Diamond Platters do serve a purpose: they’re a way to circumvent publishing “just another” end of the year list. This is a look at the past 365 days in music through a unique (and sometimes hyper-specific) lens. These awards allow me to draw attention to releases that may not get discussed on a typical publication’s end of the year list. Most importantly, it’s a way to celebrate the year in music without pitting artists against each other. Unique categories for the unique music listener, because not everything fits into a list of 50. 


Best Cover Song

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Winner: The Regrettes - “Helpless”

2018 was a great year to be a fan of Hamilton. Not only did the show finally come to my city, but we also got a new one-off single, and to top it all off The Regrettes released their incredible cover of “Helpless.” Like a pop-punk counterpart to The Hamilton Mixtape, The Regrettes took an already goosebump-inducing song and transformed it into an empowering power-chord shred-fest that somehow works just as well as the original. 

Runner-up: Phoebe Bridgers - “It’ll All Work Out”

Last year Tom Petty passed on October 2nd. Less than two weeks after his death I caught Phoebe Bridgers live and witnessed as she closed out her set with a heart-rending cover of “It’ll All Work Out.” It nearly broke me. One year later on October 2nd Bridgers re-opened that emotional wound when she released a deluxe edition of her debut album featuring a full-studio rendition of the same cover.  

 

Remake/Rework of the Year

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Winner: Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

Remastering an album is one thing. Re-recording an album, amending it, and adding onto it is a different thing entirely. Indie darlings Car Seat Headrest did just that when they revisited their 2011 Bandcamp breakthrough earlier this year. Originally recorded entirely by Will Toledo in Garageband, the 2018 version of Twin Fantasy finds the songs backed by a full band, improved production, and an actual budget. The remake remains faithful its predecessor while simultaneously making just enough new additions to make it feel relevant and fresh, all while retaining the same core message that made the album resonate so deeply seven years ago.

Runner-up:  TTNG - Animals Acoustic

Possibly one of the most seminal albums of the entire math rock genre, TTNG’s debut full-length has built quite a reputation for itself over the past ten years. When the band revisited their zoological release in a fully-realized acoustic style this fall, they did so in the most careful, reverent, and precious way possible. 

 

Mini Wheats™Award For Hardest Shit I Experienced All Year

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Winner: Denzel Curry - “Sumo”

Cursed with the mixed-blessing of a meme-adjacent hit, “Ultimate” became the standard Denzel Curry was held to for better or worse. While Imperial, 13, and TA13OO prove his artistic talent undeniably, “Sumo” is the sequel to “Ultimate” we’ve all been waiting for. Featuring yelled vocals, blown-out instrumentation, and hard-as-bricks lyrics, “Sumo” will be a staple of the gym playlist for many years to come. 

Runner-up: Carnage x Lil Pump - “i Shyne”

Bolstered DJ Carnage’s destructive production, “i Shyne” finds Pump at his most ignorant, shouting boasts over an out-of-control hype-up beat for two and a half minutes. 

 

Stone-Cold Chiller

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Winner: Dylan Mattheisen of Tiny Moving Parts

Every once in a while you have someone that just makes your day on social media. Maybe it’s a friend, perhaps it’s a crush, but sometimes it’s a band. When he isn’t singing, shredding, or tapping on his guitar, the frontman of Tiny Moving Parts can be seen smiling across the world and enjoying life on social media. Aside from putting out a new record in 2018, this was also a year of personal progress for Dylan as he shared his weight loss journey with fans in between beaming selfies and adorable musings. Always happy to meet fans at the merch booth after shows, Dylan is a stand-up guy and the definition of a stone-cold chiller.

Runner-up: Caroline Rose of Caroline Rose 

Caroline Rose is a special crystal angel full of rainbows and dreams. Whether she’s releasing one of the best sophomore records of 2018, charming viewers with her music videos, or uploading goofy goings-on in her downtime on tour, Caroline’s red-hued antics are a constant social media delight.

 

Holdin’ It Down: Award for Most-needed Genre Makeover

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Winner: Bloodbather & Jesus Piece - Metalcore

While there were undoubtedly some early indicators like Knocked Loose, Code Orange, and END, the metalcore revival has never felt more real than it did in 2018. Between Jesus Piece’s Only Self and Bloodbather’s Pressure, it’s safe to say that the genre is back in safe hands and experiencing and refreshing second wind. May it never truly die. 

Runner-up: Shame & Heavy Lungs - Post-punk

Forecasted by the arrival of IDLES’ Brutalism last year, genuine, angry, gray, UK-based Post-punk is back in full-force in 2018. Back in January, England-based Shame kicked off the year with a world-rocking debut album, and more recently the IDLES-adjacent Heavy Lungs released a banger of a single following an angry little EP of political tunes. 

 

“Continental Breakfast” Award For Most Inoffensive Sunday Morning Easy Listen

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Winner: Hovvdy - Cranberry

Named after 2017’s collaboration between Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett, sometimes you just need slow-moving hangover music. While Cranberry is definitively much more than that, their music certainly is easy on the ears.

Runner-up: Yo La Tengo - There’s a Riot Going On

Yo La Tengo’s fifteenth album is a half-ambient relaxing descent into utter bliss. More like a float tank than a collection of songs, There’s a Riot Going On is a wonderful record to throw on in the early hours of a crisp Sunday morning as you contemplate whether or not you want to make eggs. 

 

Most Important Song Of The Year

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Winner: Stella Donnelly - “Boys Will Be Boys”

Boys Will Be Boys” is a song about the aftermath of sexual abuse. Specifically, it finds Donnelly talking to one of her close friends who, after confessing what had happened to her, explains why she’s to blame for her own rape. It’s an exorcism of pain — a condemning piece of art that’s more powerful than anything I’ve taken in this year, music or otherwise. 

Runner-up: Field Medic - “Let Freedom Ring 2”

If you were to ask Field Medic why he recorded a sequel to “Let Freedom Ring” he may tell you he had to. He may tell you it was an exercise. He may tell you it was a way to air his grievances and get his thoughts out into the world. Whatever the case, “Let Freedom Ring 2” is a raw, honest, and transparent assessment of where America is in 2018. It’s a middle-finger-adorned callout as much as it is a plea for sensibility… and we’re at the point where even that would go a long way. 

 

Most Fabulous Christmas Bop

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Winner: Sufjan Stevens - “Lonely Man of Winter”

Having launched, organized, and ran a Sufjan Christmas blog this December, the back half of my year has been absolutely dominated by Sufjan’s Christmas music. While I gave his 100 Christmas tracks dozens of spins as I usually do, this season felt extra special when fans received a long-obscured loosie from the days of Christmases past. Crisp, cold, and frigid, “Lonely Man of Winter” is a realist Christmas song about feeling a distinct lack of jolliness during a season where that seems to be a requirement. 

Runner-up: August Burns Red - “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”

August Burns Red may have released a highly-influential metalcore album early in their career, but their vast body of Christmas work has always been a personal favorite of mine. Needless to say, when we got a six-song EP of holiday tunes earlier this season, it practically made my year. Hearing lead guitarist JB Brubaker shred out the melody to “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” was exactly what I needed to ignite my Christmas spirit. 

 

Best Cover Art

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Winner: SOPHIE - Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides

Shiny, soft, synthetic, glossy, reflective, and smooth are just a handful of the adjectives that come to mind when one finds themselves face to face with the cover to SOPHIE’s debut record. Turns out these words also accurately describe the futuristic dance music contained just behind this cover, all while taking the viewer by surprise and making them want to know more. In other words, it does everything an album cover is designed to do.

Runner-up: Nas - Nasir

An image of five black children lined up against a wall with their hands up in the air says more than I ever could, and almost says more than Nasir does in its 26-minute running time. 

 

Best Gibberish

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Winner: Kanye West - “Lift Yourself”

In the confusing lead-up to Kanye West’s eighth album, anything could have happened. While the aftermath left me and many other fans deeply-conflicted, pretty much every Kanye fan could agree on one thing: “Lift Yourself” was a masterstroke. Clocking in at two and a half minutes, the song was uploaded to Kanye’s site late on a late May evening. Like most fans, I clicked play, vibed out to the classic Kanye soul chop, and then proceeded to bust out laughing when he starts aggressively scatting. I can’t think of any other moment this year that evoked such a strong reaction from me, and for that, I must commend Mr. West. 

Runner-up: Future - “King’s Dead”

Picture this: you’re listening to the newest Jay Rock song. It features Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake. You’re taken aback by the song’s rapid-fire bars and powerful beat. Then halfway through, the instrumental pauses and Future busts out a raspy ode to Slick Rick and Juicy J’s with the line “La di da di da / slob on me knob.” You are shocked. You try to brush it off, but you keep coming back to it. What was once an off-putting and perplexing yelp soon becomes something so stupid it’s catchy. You can’t help but love it. That’s how I feel about “King’s Dead.”

 

Live Album of the Year

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Winner: The National - Boxer Live in Brussels

Often cited as one of their best records, The National’s performance of their 2007 record is everything a live album should be. Bearing faithful renditions of their wine-drunk songs, the band also manages to inject some moments of surprise into this recording. Whether it’s a vibrant horn break on “Slow Show” or a series of distressed guitar solos leading up to a frantic yelp of a chorus on “Squalor Victoria,” the band was able to breathe new life into these classic indie songs. Plus, with engaging crowd responses throughout, and just the right amount of banter, Boxer Live in Brussels is proof that, much like a fine wine, The National are only getting better with age.

Runner-up: Mac Miller - Tiny Desk Concert

While it’s only three songs long, Mac Miller’s Tiny Desk Concert remains one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen all year. Released just one month before his passing, this video became one of Miller’s final moments in the public eye. Fortunately crystalized on film for the rest of time, the video is a 17-minute encapsulation of the type of soul, charm, and artistry he was possible of. 

 

Porch Beer Album of the Year

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Winner: Bonny Doon - Longwave

Sometimes you hear an album that jangles just in the right way. That kicks up just enough dust and casts just enough of an amber-coated summer breeze. A record where the drums are light, the vocals are relaxing, and the bass is played just in the pocket. The kind of music that you can close your eyes, sip your beer, nod along, and enjoy the absence of worry. That’s Longwave.

Runner-up: Nap Eyes - I’m Bad Now

Practically punk compared to Bonny Doon, Nap Eyes’ third record I’m Bad Now is a lovely and light-colored Lou Reed-esque jaunt that’s as pleasing and flavorful as it is relaxing. 

 

One for the Streets

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Winner: Young Dolph - Role Model

At the end of the day sometimes you just need to turn your brain off. There’s no need high-minded metaphors or far-reaching artistic goals, and luckily Young Dolph is striving for neither of those on Role Model. Featuring some of the most audacious, enigmatic, and hilarious bars I’ve heard all year, Dolph’s fifth studio album is 44-minutes of braggadocio, all delivered at a shockingly-consistent quality. Everything’s a banger, and we’re all better off for it. 

Runner-up: Sheck Wes - MUDBOY

Outside of Playboi Carti, it’s hard to think of a single artist who pervaded the hyped-up online sphere more than Sheck Wes. While his popularity had been brewing up for some time now, a Travis Scott co-sign, Drake name-drop, and perfectly-timed album release all converged into the perfect storm of hype and success. 

 

Best Album From Last Year That Took Until 2018 To Discover

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Winner: Field Medic - Songs From the Sunroom

Earlier this year I discovered Field Medic through a stroke of Spotify luck and almost immediately turned around a short review gushing about his poetic folk music. The album has been a constant companion of mine throughout the year, and my discovery felt affirmed when I saved Field’s hat during a Remo Drive mosh pit over the summer. Clever, romantic, and emotionally-raw, Songs From The Sunroom is a lovely and personable release that’s as charming as it is inventive.

Round-up: Surf Curse - Nothing Yet

The modern surf rock scene walks an intoxicating mix of fast-paced aggression and laid-back good nature. While it may sound contradictory, this balancing act is a feat clearly mastered by Surf Curse on their sophomore album which also happened to be the soundtrack to my summer this year. 

 

Best Music Video

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Winner: Childish Gambino - “This Is America”

This is America, and it’s terrible. After producing a transformative funk album in 2016, Donald Glover returned to rap with one of this year’s most impactful singles. “This Is America” has a lot on its mind: gun violence, police abuse, and institutionalized racism are all tackled in the space of four minutes. Not only does Glover eloquently address all those topics, he also managed to deliver this message over a beat that bangs so hard the song’s both catchy and accessible. The music video itself is a striking, twisted, and hypnotic bit of long-shot cinematography that half a billion viewers found impossible to look away from… much like America. 

Runner-up: Charli XCX - “1999”

We have to go back. Not to do anything different, but just to enjoy it all again. On this nostalgic bop, the underground pop queen teams up with Troye Sivan to recreate some of the 90’s most iconic moments. From Matrix dodges to Skechers advertisements, the mix of wistfulness, commitment, and innovation is simply too impressive to ignore. 

 

“It Me” Award For Verbose And Awkward Lyrics That Most Closely Mirror My Internal Monologue

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Winner: Retirement Party - Somewhat Literate

There’s something to be said for representation in music — representation not just in race, gender, religion, or culture, but in thought and personality. Even upon my first listen, I could tell that Somewhat Literate was the most I’d identified with a lyricist in some time. Opening and closing with the airing of her own hypochondriac-fuelled grievances, lead singer Avery Springer spends the rest of the record weaving nervous stream-of-conscious tales fraught with overthinking, awkwardness, and self-deprecation. In short, it feels like someone took my brain and transposed it onto jittery garage-filtered pop-punk.

Runner-up: Illuminati Hotties - Kiss Your Frenemies

Much like Retirement Party, Illuminati Hotties’ debut album represents a similar verbose and overwrought self-criticism. With songs about doughnut dates and searching for a fourth job to pay off her college debt, Sarah Tundzen was able to capture the average Millenial’s quarter-life-crisis with depressing accuracy. 

 

Freestyle Maestro

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Winner: Tyler, The Creator - Various Loosies

If nothing else, Tyler wins this one for the sheer amount of freestyles he gifted fans this year. Most of them under two minutes long, the ex-figurehead of Odd Future released somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen freestyles this calendar year alone. While not all of them wound up on the major streaming sites, tracks like “Okra” and “435” alone should prove Tyler’s proficiency as a freestyle titan.

Runner-up: Saba - “Nice For What Freestyle”

While I found myself extremely disappointed with Drake’s Scorpion, I was glad that someone took the time to salvage the album’s best beat and transform it into something with a little more substance.

 

Biggest Glo-Up

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Winner: Tay Keith

I’m not going to pretend I was up on Tay Keith before “Look Alive,” but unless you’re big into Southern hip-hop, it’s likely that 2018 was the first time you heard his iconic producer tag. While some deride Tay Keith for making the same type of beat over and over again, he’s seemingly produced hundreds of songs this year alone, and there’s something to be said for respecting the hustle.

Runner-up: Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves has been making country music for over a decade at the time of writing, so it’s hard to call her an undiscovered force in the country scene, but Golden Hour sparked conversations across the music sphere when it became a certified crossover success. Balancing at the perfect intersection of country, pop, and indie, Musgraves proved that you don’t have to relegate yourself to one lane. 

 

Song of the Year

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Winner: Saba - “PROM / KING”

PROM / KING” is a seven-and-a-half-minute two-part hip-hop epic that packs as much personality, story-telling, and raw honesty as the entirety of Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The first half of the song finds a sixteen-year-old Saba reconnecting with his estranged cousin Walter back in high school. Saba recounts his traumatic prom night experience over a woozy Chicago jazz beat for three minutes until exactly halfway through the song when everything stops. There’s a brief moment of silence, and then the song explodes into a new pattern now propelled by a bombastic drum beat. From there, time flashes forward to 2017 as Saba paints a picture of his first successes as a musician and his growing bond with Walt. As the instrumental grows faster Saba’s flow increases and you get the feeling of an inescapable danger. Eventually the story unfolds, Walt is involved in a fatal stabbing, and Chicago claims another life. As the beat gets faster, so do Saba’s bars. He eventually raps until he’s out of breath, seemingly collapsing from exhaustion, but then making way for a posthumous outro sung by Walter himself. It’s harrowing, beautiful, and painful all at once. In a year where hip-hop was largely dominated by lyrics about money, women, and opulent flexes, it’s refreshing to hear a song with a message and a story. “PROM/KING” is an artistic achievement. A feat. A warning. A memorial.  

Runner-up: Mac Miller - “2009”

For one month “2009” was a poignant reflection on nostalgia, addiction, and innocence lost. Then Mac Miller died, and all of those feelings became amplified ten-fold. With his passing, an already-great track became the penultimate swan song of an artist we lost just as he was reaching his prime. It makes you equal parts heartbroken and thankful to have shared the world with such an incredible artist.  

 

Most Anticipated Project of 2019

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Winner: Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen’s 2016 record My Woman opened up my world musically and philosophically. While last year’s b-sides collection temporarily satiated my hunger for more Olsen, I absolutely cannot wait to see what she’s been cooking up for us over the last two years.

Runner-up: PUP

The Dream Is Over was one of those rare records that was so good it crossed musical boundaries. From indieheads to emo boys to hardcore punks, there seemed to be nothing but praise for the Canadian group’s sophomore effort. With tracking finished back in May, we should be on the receiving end of some heart-rending thrashy punk rock any day now.

November 2018: Album Review Roundup

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As I settle in for my first-ever winter here in the midwest, I’ve found myself thankful for ice scrapers, Dr. Martens, and lots of good music. It may already be colder outside than I’ve ever experienced in my entire life, but at least November gave us got lots of great new music to keep warm. Here are some of the month’s best albums.


Metro Boomin’ - Not All Heroes Wear Capes

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After taking a short hiatus earlier this year, the biggest producer in the rap game has returned to his rightful space at the top of the modern music landscape. With 21 Savage and Travis Scott features aplenty, Not All Heroes Wear Capes is a producer-led playlist the like of which we rarely see anymore. From Crooning Swae Lee tracks to worldly dance songs, even a fast-paced Drake feature, everything about the album seems scientifically-designed to succeed. Indicative of the goodwill he’s built up in the industry, the record earned Metro a well-deserved #1 spot on the Billboard chart, perhaps signaling a new era for the unspoken heroes of the rap game: producers.



boygenius - boygenius

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In 2015 Julien Baker released Sprained Ankle and it destroyed me. In 2016 Lucy Dacus released No Burden and it moved me. In 2017 Phoebe Bridgers released Stranger in the Alps and it robbed me of happiness for a full calendar year. Now in 2018 the three musicians team up to take down my emotional state once and for all with boygenius, a 6-song EP of smoldering emotional destruction. With voices that intertwine, unfurl, and cast a spell on the listener, boygenius is a siren song of sadness and emotions all entangling like a string of Christmas lights.



Sufjan Stevens - Lonely Man of Winter

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I love Christmas. I love Sufjan. I love Sufjan’s Christmas work. Originally recorded in 2007, “Lonely Man of Winter” has existed for over one decade as a single vinyl record belonging to Alec Duffy who originally won the track in a Christmas Song Exchange with Sufjan himself. Since 2007 Duffy held yearly listening parties of the song for friends and family (complete with hot cocoa), but now the track has been released to the world in both its original form and as a 2018 Doveman remix featuring Melissa Mary Ahern. Adding onto Sufjan’s already-massive 100-song Holiday Canon, “Lonely Man of Winter” is a lush, crisp, and bitter look at the holiday season. The single also includes “Every Day Is Christmas,” the track that won Duffey the honor of guarding this Sufjan rarity. Overall, Lonely Man of Winter is a welcome throwback to the heyday of Sufjan’s Holiday powers and a song that makes me feel like the entire world has received an early Christmas treat.


August Burns Red - Winter Wilderness EP

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Aside from Sufjan Stevens, August Burns Red is my next favorite creator of Christmas music. While the group initially dipped their toe into the genre with a headbanging rendition of “Carol of the Bells” back in 2008, the metalcore act eventually unveiled their full Christmas spirit in 2012 with their full-length holiday album Sleddin’ Hill. Releasing one additional Christmas single every season from that year forward, the group has now returned with Winter Wilderness, a six-track EP of holiday offerings. From spicy originals like “Avalanche” to traditional classics like “What Child is This?” and even some out-of-the-box deep-pulls like the Home Alone Theme, this EP has a little something for every type of Christmas fan.


Vince Staples - FM!

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Vince Staples feels like rap’s odd man out. His debut double-album Summertime ‘06 made waves in insular music communities, Prima Donna attempted to cultivate his fanbase, and Big Fish Theory pushed the boundaries of the current hip-hop sound. He’s tried everything he can, and never really broken through to a mainstream level of acceptance… not that the man himself is too concerned with that. On FM! Vince takes listeners through hectic two-minute chunks of a would-be terrestrial hip-hop station. Featuring interviews, sneak peeks, and surprisingly-accessible bangers, FM! feels like the synthesis of his high-concept aspirations with the kind of radio-ready hits he often finds himself circling around. Only time will tell how deeply this resonates with his current fanbase, let alone connects to the audience just outside of it.


Liance - The Rat House

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When he’s not penning ambient music as Ministry of Interior Spaces, James Li creates heart-rending indie songs under the moniker Liance. Inspired by true events, The Rat House acts as a companion piece to Bronze Age of the Nineties, both of which recount the events of his college years spent in Michigan. Featuring densely-packed multi-part folk epics, bite-size personal tales, and Sufjan-esque instrumentation, The Rat House is a more than worthy successor to his full-length. And clocking in at just 14 minutes, it’s a wonder he was able to pack such deeply-emotional and universally-human feelings into such a small amount of time.

Read our full review of The Rat House here.


Takeoff - The Last Rocket

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Takeoff has always been my favorite Migo. While I definitely understand the poppy appeal of Quavo and the hard-edged bars of Offset, Takeoff’s untouchable flow is often my favorite component of any Migos song. While he’s often unfairly named last as anyone’s favorite Migo, The Last Rocket is irrefutable proof that he can stand on his own as an artist, creator, and voice to rise above the crowd. The second solo Migos release of the year following QUAVO HUNCHO, Takeoff’s turn at the wheel sees him crafting everything from grimy gangster tracks to raspy confessionals, all with expected proficiency and accessibility.


Fleet Foxes -First Collection 2006-2009

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Way back in 2006 a group named Fleet Foxes emerged from a rainy corner of Seattle, signed to Sub Pop Records, and released one of the most important folk records of the decade. Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut, alongside albums like For Emma, Forever Ago, acted as an entry point to the indie music genre for hordes of directionless teenagers (myself included). Now one decade down the line from that album’s release, the band have returned with a wistful and comprehensive four-disc compilation of demos, outtakes, and b-sides. It’s interesting to listen to First Collection and wonder what songs might have become iconic classics had they released back in ‘08, but for now, all we can do is listen, reflect, and appreciate the hearty wilderness of Fleet Foxes’ early years.


Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs

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Spring of 2015 was a weird time for me. A major transition in my life combined with the changing of the seasons compounded into a mixture of anxiety and claustrophobia that felt like an uphill battle to overcome. Extensive listening to Earl Sweatshirt’s second album I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside definitely didn’t help alleviate that feeling. Now, nearly four years after his sophomore record, I’m in a much better spot, and the public has finally got its hands on Earl’s long-awaited follow-up. The unceremoniously-named, Some Rap Songs is a dissonant, blippy, and insular hip-hop album that’s as enigmatic as it is reclusive. With most of the songs hovering around one-minute-long, the tracks clip forward with muffled Madlib-esque beats and effortless flows. A dense, personal, and abrupt album that forces you to lean in, listen, and absorb it fully.

Quick Hits

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  • Action Bronson - White Bronco: Embracing his go-to husky flow, Bronson makes a brief outing to discuss food, women, drugs, and fashion in this mixtape released the second the clock struck midnight on Halloween.  

  • Sun Kil Moon - This Is My Dinner: It’s basically a sad podcast.

  • Sia - Everyday is Christmas (Deluxe): The Australian pop star revisits her fabulous Christmas bops of yesteryear, adding on a trio of cheerful oddities.

  • Rostam - In A River: Technically just one song recorded in three different styles, Rostam’s newest single still feels rich enough to gorge out on in the most decadent and delicate way possible.

  • Ellis - The Fuzz: Dreamy and lonely indie rock songs beamed across a pastel canvas that’s burning slowly.

  • Nap Eyes - Too Bad: A two-song sample platter of the group’s lovely and laid-back indie rock tunes that drip with Lou Reed-inflection.

  • Smino - NOIR: Fast-paced and hyper-lyrical jazzy raps straight from the soul.

  • Hopeless Records - Songs That Saved My Life: From Dance Gavin Dance to Wonder Years Frontman Daniel Campbell, this comp organized by Hopeless Records is packed with mutual appreciation and admiration sure to warm your inner pop-punk kid’s heart.

  • Grapetooth - Grapetooth: A wildcard new signee in the Polyvinyl lineup, Grapetooth’s self-titled debut exceeds expectations as a groovy, synthy record that mixes throwback instrumentation with distinctly modern lyrics and deliveries.

  • It Looks Sad. - Sky Lake: Dreamy, swirling, atmospheric indie rock with an electronic infusion.

  • Architects - Holy Hell: Anthemic metalcore recorded in the wake of guitarist and founding member Tom Searle’s death.

  • Lil Peep - Come Over When You're Sober Pt. 2: Elaborating on the intoxicating mix of emo and trap we witnessed on the preceding album, this sequel is a swan song to Lil Peep’s life, and proof that one’s impact can last beyond death.

  • Macseal - Map It Out: Jangly heart-on-sleeve pop-punk that’s as pleasant as it is earnest.

  • CupcakKe - Eden: Horny, Hungry, and Hilarious, Mrs. CupcakKe is the exact type of emcee we need in 2018.

  • IDK - IDK & FRIENDS :): A start-studded producer-led EP of bangers.

  • Anderson .Paak - Oxnard: Funky hip-pop with stellar Dre production and passionate vocals.

  • Tyler, The Creator - Music Inspired By Illumination & Dr. Seuss' The Grinch: Following his iconic contribution to this year’s Grinch reboot, Tyler doubles-down with an EP full of Grinch-themed hip-hop cuts.

  • Smashing Pumpkins - Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.: While this may be one of the best records the group has put out recently, Billy Corgan is still a bad person, and that makes me want to dislike this album.

  • Mike Will Made-It - Creed II: The Album: The mastermind behind some of hip-hop’s biggest hits tries his hand at his own Kendrick Lamar-esque curated soundtrack for this year’s biggest sports drama.

  • Jaden Smith - The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story: While he’s a meme to some, Jaden Smith is actually surprisingly personable and proficient when he focuses on rapping.

  • Memphis May Fire - Broken: Synthetic and sterilized metalcore that’s stretching desperately for maturity and emotional resonance.

  • Tenacious D - Post-Apocalypto: The gut-busting and earnest soundtrack to Tenacious D’s post-apocalyptic animated series of the same name.

  • Like Moths To Flames - Dark Divine Reimagined: Three songs from the band’s 2017 record revisited in a heartfelt acoustic style.

  • Something Merry - EMO-TION: A wide range of indie/emo/pop-punk darlings sharing their takes of Carly Rae Jepsen’s monumental E•MO•TION, all for a good cause.

  • Oneohtrix Point Never - Love in the Time of Lexapro: Songs for drugged-out space cowboys.

  • Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Clams Casino, and Fish Narc - Spider Web: Five goth rap tracks from an ex-pop-punk icon.

  • J.I.D - DiCaprio 2: Impactful and compact bars from the most outstanding member of this year’s XXL Freshman Class.

  • The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships: This is probably what they were listening to in “San Junipero.”

  • Mac Miller - Spotify Singles: Two posthumously-released cuts that showcase Miller’s unique voice and sense of style.

  • Lil Baby - Street Gossip: His third release of the year, Lil Baby keeps his hot streak alive with another helping of catchy, personable, and flex-worthy trap.

  • Meek Mill - Championships: Mother. Fucking. Heat.

  • Ski Mask the Slump God - Stokeley: Hip-hop that jumps between vocal-chord-destroying shouts and hyper-dense rapid-fire bars.

  • Jeff Tweedy - WARM: A soundtrack from the Wilco frontman that goes hand-in-hand with his memoir from earlier this month.

  • Thomas Erak - The Whole Story: The Fall of Troy guitarist spreads his wings in a snarling and technical 22-minute crowdfunded solo EP.

  • Peewee Longway - State of the Art: A trapped-out hip-hop release for the streets.

  • The Alchemist - Bread: Four star-studded slow-moving rap tracks alongside their instrumental counterparts.

  • David Bowie - Glastonbury 2000: Two hours of David Bowie live goodness.

  • Oliver Houston - Mixed Reviews: The final release from the Grand Rapids emo rockers.

  • The Mountain Goats - Aquarium Drunkard's Lagniappe Session: A mini-offering of Bon Iver, Robin Trower, and Godspell covers.

  • Wavves - Emo Christmas: Two surfy Christmas cuts from the recovering party animals.

This month we also heard new singles from Saba, Desiigner, Juice WRLD, Ice Cube, Shame, JPEGMAFIA, Emarosa, Hozier, 2 Chainz, Kodak Black, Saba, Girlpool, The Regrettes, Weezer, Preoccupations, Amine, Manchester Orchestra, Slaves, A$AP Rocky, Vulfpeck, Mono, Iceage, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Sharon Van Etten, Jeff Tweedy, Travis Scott, Kim Petras, Grimes, Phoebe Bridgers, Kaytranada, American Pleasure Club, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Conor Oberst, Big K.R.I.T., The Beths, Offset, Cold War Kids, Say Anything, Jay Rock, AFI, Blood Orange, Arctic Monkeys, Men I Trust, Deaf Dog, Chance The Rapper (Times Two), and Saba.

Submitted Music Showcase Volume 1

2018 has been a year of many firsts for this blog. One of the most significant changes was a full redesign as we escaped from the clutches of Tumblr and moved onto our own dedicated site. While it was a long time in the making (and comes with its own challenges), this move has allowed us much more flexibility as far as what we can do and how we can present ourselves. 

One important addition within that redesign was a contact page including an email dedicated solely to Swim Into The Sound. I initially just set this email up for solidarity and didn’t expect to get much use out of it, but I’ve been surprised, overwhelmed, and overjoyed by the number of music submissions I’ve received through it. 

Busy as ever, I’ve let these submissions build up over the past few months as I tried to figure out how they fit into the site and my schedule. Hopefully a semi-recurring feature, I wanted to create a place to write explicitly about all this awesome music that is being sent directly to me. It’s already cool to know people are reading, but to get actual music sent my way is a different form of affirmation entirely. While I can’t write about everything, I wanted to say thank you to every band, artist, and creative that’s sent their work my way. Some of these have been in my inbox since the summer, so sorry that this took so long, but I wanted to make sure I gave your art the justice it deserves. Without further adieu, I’m thrilled to present Swim Into The Sound’s first-ever Submitted Music Showcase.  


Nanaki - Decline & Dislocation

Simultaneously prolific and moving at his own pace, Nanaki is a post-rock project helmed by Michael Daugherty who’s creating spiritual post-rock songs that drip with distortion and head-bobbing riffs. Decline & Dislocation is actually Nanaki’s second release of the year after January’s Epilogue. Recorded in tandem, the two releases are independent pieces that also function together as part of a larger journey. Opening track “Curator of Molluscs” sets the tone nicely, beginning with a slow-burn instrumental that builds into a propulsive riff worthy of a Mogwai record. The remainder of the album hits just as hard, and late album cut “Despicable Fuckwits Elect Complete Prick” is a strong contender for song title of the year.

Wet Dream - “Groove Plug”

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If you needed more heart-rending electronic indie rock in your life, Portland-based Wet Dream is here to supply it. Filmed in a geodesic dome filled with mirrors, the video for “Groove Plug” is a vibrant, dreamy, and hypnotic experience that pairs with the music perfectly. Sporting a smooth bass line, fan-like keyboard work, and an absolutely immaculate chorus, “Groove Plug” is a psychedelic love song of duality, replication, and universality.

William Patrick Owen - first person singular

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Since the days of Bob Dylan, it’s only become easier to get your thoughts and feelings out into the world. While there were plenty of folk artists before him, Dylan represented a sort of stripped-back rough-around-the-edges purity that anyone could achieve. One man, one guitar, and his poetry. That’s it. It’s barebones, but it allows the words, emotion, and heart to take center stage, and that’s exactly what’s happening on William Patrick Owen’s first person singular. Fittingly sung from first-person, the album is a melancholy, earnest, and queer exploration of the self, sung to nobody in particular. first person singular has all the makings of a fantastic folk album. Evocative of cold fall evenings, crunchy leaves, and sorrowful goodbyes, the record is 52 minutes of nostalgic regret that can only be voiced to song, lest they be too powerful on its own. 

Polartropica - “Golden Soul”

Some topics are too raw to handle on their own. Death. Grief. Suffering. Loss. Music is important because, not only does it give us a way to cope with those concepts as a listener, it also gives artists the same opportunity. While there’s something to be said about how performing that kind of emotional exorcism night after night impacts an artist, but the form itself will always be there to act as an outlet. On “Golden Soul,” Los Angeles-based pop/psych artist Polartropica is addressing this sort of pained experience writing about a friend who went missing after becoming addicted to opioids prescribed by a doctor. Within recent years we’ve seen multiple artists speak on this topic from The Wonder Years to Kanye West, it’s an issue that’s (sadly) recurring within our society. “Golden Soul” recounts lead singer Ihui Cherise Wu’s experience losing her friend to the slow, disintegrating, and hopeless phenomenon addiction that encroaches until it swallows someone’s life. It’s a touching song with an instrumental that melds an unexpected mix of pop, synths, and string arrangements creating what she describes as a “bubblegum psychedelia” sound. A vital message packaged in a unique song that tells an all-too-familiar story. 

Tyson Kelly - “Girl You’re So Money”

Have you ever heard a song that sounded so familiar you’re sure you’ve heard it somewhere before? Something that feels as if it was beamed in from a past life. A sound that makes you unsure how music has progressed this far without this exact melody being created? That’s how I feel about Tyson Kelly’s “Girl You’re So Money.” Like a long-lost Beatles single, the song is a psychedelic love ballad with groovy guitar, smooth bass, and an absolutely infectious chorus. 

Los Doggies - Heddagabalus

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Sometimes tastes are simple. Sometimes you don’t need a high-minded concept, or multi-genre mastery, you just need a really great tone. Los Doggies’ Heddagabalus is a tripped-out, grungy psych album that drips with incredible guitar tone and laid-back melodies. Sometimes you don’t need anything else. 

Weston Smith - “Beckon”

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Inspired by Japanese Soul artist Hiroshi Sato, Weston Smith’s “Beckon” comes to us from DC in a skull-adorned psych pop package. Featuring a laid-back synthy instrumental, “Beckon” feels like equal parts Mac Demarco and Ween. A little weird. A little loving. A lot of emotion. 

Norphlet - Norphlet

Walking an intoxicating line between emo, pop-punk, and indie rock, Norphlet’s self-titled EP hits you right in that space teetering between melancholy and unbridled joy. Packing an emotional punch, the EP’s first track “Brand New” bowls the listener over with a fakeout acoustic start, before erupting into a raucous pop-punk beat.

Emmanuel Patterson - The Silver Story, A Starry Night

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Sometimes music is best enjoyed on its own. No visuals and no distractions, just you, sound, and the void of space. That’s exactly how Emmanuel Patterson recommends his music be listened, and I couldn’t agree more. While I gave the record a spin air-condition-less in the heat of summer, the album chilled me to the bone and left me in a completely different emotional state than I was going into it. Featuring gentle singing, warm lyricism, and loving instrumentation, The Silver Story, A Starry Night is a Wintery folk album. With well-considered ornamental additions, regretful lyricism, and thought-provoking ambient stretches, the album is meant to be enjoyed in isolation. While the cover is reminiscent of American Football, the snow-covered music almost evokes Michigan-era Sufjan at some points. 

New Ghost - Burning Out EP

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While they sound (and look) like a black metal band, New Ghost’s music is proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Released over the summer, the Group’s two-track Burning Out EP subverts expectations from its first notes, bowling the listener over with a cascading wave of electronic claps and warbles. Soon joined by the ghastly vocals of Caroline Cawley, the track plays out like a post-modern, futuristic dreamscape where technology has consumed everything and our narrator is the sole remnant of a long-forgotten world. Just as impressive, “Sleepwalkers 1 & 2” is an 8-minute instrumental expedition that winds its way to a conclusion fit for a feature-length movie.

October 2018: Album Review Roundup

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Now that we’re most of the way through 2018 I feel like it’s safe to say that this has been an incredible year for music. Maybe I’m just paying more attention than usual through these monthly roundups, but lately I’ve felt absolutely overwhelmed with a wealth of music, both new and old. It’s always easy to be hyperbolic and say “this year has been the best” while you’re in the middle of it, but October certainly made a strong case for itself. 


TTNG - Animals Acoustic

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Few bands ever find themselves in the privileged position to celebrate the tenth anniversary of anything. Even fewer bands can boast the unique distinction of having crafted one of their genre's most defining works for an entire generation of fans. When TTNG released Animals back in 2008, the band themselves probably didn’t even know what they had put out into the world. One decade down the line TTNG is celebrating with a fully-acoustic re-recording of their seminal math rock LP, and the songs sound just as fresh as the day they were recorded. Whether it’s the careening vocals of “Gibbon,” the heart-rending piano of “Crocodile,” or the jagged string section on “Badger,” every song is breathtaking. On Animals Acoustic TTNG was able to retain the original album’s brilliance while simultaneously adding just enough flourishes to make this release feels like a genuine celebration. Here’s to Animals and everything it stands for. 


St. Vincent - MassEducation

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Feels like there’s no better time to admit it, but St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION was just barely edged off our best of 2017 list. In fact, I spent days agonizing over its 21st placement, almost going as far as turning the list into a top 25 just so I could give myself the opportunity to write about it. Needless to say, when I heard that St. Vincent was revisiting one of my favorite albums from last year in a stripped-down/reworked style I was ecstatic. While the new versions of the songs work excellently on their own, one of the more impressive aspects of MassEducation is its sequencing. Re-ordered from top to bottom, the tracklist now flows in a completely different way, delivering the same core message but somehow telling a more impactful story in the process. A beautiful companion piece to one of last year’s most impressive musical statements.

 

Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

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If you were to look up the phrase “stone cold chiller” in the dictionary, you’d find a picture of Kurt Vile. While he initially made a name for himself contributing guitar to heartland rockers The War On Drugs, he quickly broke out through fantastic solo work and (more recently) sunny indie rock collaborations. Centered around his melting guitarwork and even-keeled vocal delivery, Bottle It In is picture-perfect Vile. From enthusiastic hoots and hollers on “Check Baby” to a smoldering solo on “Skinny Mini,” there are countless peaks on the record, but even the baseline is an ever-enjoyable laid-back slacker rock. The perfect soundtrack to a crisp fall morning or a day spent in a hammock drinking beers and taking advantage of the last warm days of summer. 


Haley Heynderickx & Max García Conover - Among Horses III

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After releasing her emotionally-devastating debut earlier this year, Haley Heynderickx has been on a whirlwind of tours, press coverage, rave reviews, Tiny Desk performances, and more. Capping off her eventful 2018, the Portland, Oregon native now also gets to add “collaborative project” to that list. Teaming up with Portland, Maine-based songwriter Max García Conover, the two created Among Horses III; a six-song, seventeen-minute mindful jaunt of folky goodness. Whether weaving thoughtful narrative webs or showing off their acoustic chops, Among Horses is an aggressively-pleasant and wondrous release that leaves you wanting more. A perfect encapsulation of pensive fall weather and homesick love. 

Destroy Boys - Make Room

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Destroy Boys rock. I could stop the review there, but there’s simply too much to gush about on Make Room. Ever since Spotify served me up the careening “American River” over the summer, I’ve been bumping the group on a regular basis in anticipation of this album. Featuring thrashing guitars, snarling vocals, and thunderous drums, the group’s sophomore record is picture-perfect 90’s garage rock. The band manages to capture the grungy essence of groups like Toadies, Bikini Kill, and Green Day while also putting their own spin on things for a release that feels more like a long-awaited announcement than an undiscovered punk force. Lovely, powerful, and crushing music that will leave you emotionally and physically decimated. 


Gunna and Lil Baby - Drip Harder

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I love me some good trap, but it’s never a genre that I go to for artistic fulfillment. While both Gunna and Lil Baby have had a banner year of hits, viral moments, and career-elevating collabs, they rarely ever produce music that’s worth hanging your hat on. On Drip Harder the two up-and-coming rappers team up for 38-minutes of banging beats and boastful bars. While the final result won’t wind up on any end of the year lists, it’s absolutely perfect for those moments when all you need is some hyped-up background trap.

This Will Destroy You - New Others Part Two

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While I feel like I just got done digesting the post-rock forebearer’s previous release, This Will Destroy You have already outdone themselves not 18 days later with a surprise follow-up to last month’s New Others Part One. While ‘Part One’ should have been a dead giveaway, the sequel’s unceremonious Tuesday release took me by complete surprise. Capping off an already-eventful year, New Others Part Two seals off the group’s 2018 into a duology of thrilling instrumental rock that’s steeped in urgency and immediacy. From ripping opener “Sound of Your Death” to slow-mounting closer “Provoke,” Part Two finds the band unfurling in exciting new directions that are both spiritually and artistically satisfying. 

The Wonder Years, Shortly, Oso Oso, and Have Mercy - Tour Split

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When I first saw the announcement for this split on Instagram, I had to stand up and physically leave the room out of excitement. Featuring my favorite band of all-time, and two of my standout discoveries from this year (Shortly and Oso Oso), Tour Split finds the fall tourmates covering each other's songs in an affectionate familial style. While I already raved about Shortly’s new EP last month, hearing The Wonder Years cover one of her songs in their heartfelt style is both jaw-dropping and incredibly affirming as a fan of both parties. 


Minus the Bear - Fair Enough

While I saw them earlier this year on their victory lap of a tenth-anniversary tour, Minus The Bear’s breakup announcement this summer blindsided me and sent waves of shocked texts through my friend groups. I understand not wanting to endlessly play the same songs you wrote when you were a teen, but Minus The Bear was a band I just assumed would “always be there.” 

“Seventeen years goes by in a flash” lead singer Jake Snider admitted on-stage during an October performance of the band’s Farewell Tour. As he said this, my mind flashed to all the ways Minus The Bear has touched my life. They were my gateway to entire genres. They gave me and one of oldest friends something to bond over. They created my favorite song of all time. Minus The Bear’s music has soundtracked some of my most formative years, phases, and feelings of my life, and that makes the group’s final release all the more bittersweet to write about.

Now that I’ve had time to properly process their end (and that phase of my life along with it) I found myself emotionally-ready to enjoy the band’s newest release, and as much as I wish there were more, it’s fantastic. Featuring three new tracks and a remix to one of their biggest late-career hits, Fair Enough is a four-song send-off to nearly two decades of beauty. A wonderful punctuation mark on an entire musical lifetime. 


Quick Hits

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  • Kim Petras - Turn off The Light, Vol. 1: The pop princess serves up eight fresh bops on her first full release.

  • Titus Andronicus - Home Alone on Halloween: A seasonal EP featuring two new songs alongside a spooky rerecording of a track from A Productive Cough

  • Kero Kero Bonito - Time ‘n’ Place: The music that Knives Chau would have made if she were in a band. 

  • Phoebe Bridgers - Stranger In the Alps (Deluxe Edition): One year after her emotionally-shattering, list-topping debut, Phoebe Bridgers gifts us a deluxe edition that adds a heart-rending Tom Petty cover and a spellbinding stripped-down demo

  • Clarence Clarity - THINK: PIECE: Part funk, part electronic, part hip-hop, part rnb, Clarence Clarity’s newest LP is a bombastic and eclectic assault on the senses that must be heard to be believed.

  • Adrianne Lenker - abysskiss: Ten lower-case folk songs that showcase an isolated soul trapped in amber and held up into the light.

  • High On Fire - Electric Messiah: Ass-ripping, face-melting metal that’s more thrashy and anthemic than I was expecting. Like a spiritually-updated Iron Maiden. 

  • mewithoutyou - Untitled: The follow-up to August’s equally-unnamed EP is far more lively, a little more pissed off, and a pinch more punk.

  • Jim James - Uniform Clarity: The acoustic re-recording of Uniform Distortion that, when combined, showcases the exact range that Jim James and My Morning Jacket thrive within. 

  • Sheck Wes - MUDBOY: Yet another viral success story, Sheck segued two mega-hits and a “SICKO MODE” name-drop into a forceful and explosive hip-hop release that can barely contain itself.

  • T.I. - DIME TRAP: While he may not receive the credit he deserves when it comes to the creation of the trap genre, Dime Trap is picture-perfect proof why T.I. has endured and influenced for this long. 

  • Atmosphere- Mi Vida Local: With impeccable beats and effortless flows, Slug and Ant dish out 48-minutes of hip-hop that comes pre-rolled and ready to smoke.

  • Fucked Up - Dose Your Dreams: Relentless and pounding punk music featuring gnarled vocals and dancy beats. A soul-affirming odyssey on-par with Titus Andronicus. 

  • Ron Gallo - Stardust Birthday Party: Self-conscious post-punk with a laid-back flavor.

  • WNYC Studios - 27: The Most Perfect Album: In an effort to educate voters (and themselves) in the lead-up to Election 2018, More Perfect created a free compilation about all 27 amendments. 

  • Black Peaks - All That Divides: A bold step forward into a soulful and swirling new direction for metalcore.

  • Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples: Jazzy and light psychedelic music that lifts you up and pushes you forward. 

  • Quavo - QUAVO HUNCHO: The figurehead of the Atlanta trap trio steps out into his own 19-track outing of hard-hitting bangers, emotional auto-tune, and decadent flexes.

  • Yowler - Black Dog in My Path: A dark and rainy-day counterpart to yesterday’s unbridled optimism. 

  • Basement - Beside Myself: Tasteless and formulaic indie pop-punk.

  • Future & Juice WRLD - WRLDONDRUGS: After putting himself on the map with one of 2018’s most unexpected hits Juice WRLD teamed up with Future for a quickly-turned-around collab of drug use and emotional abuse. 

  • Greta Van Fleet - Anthem Of The Peaceful Army: It’s not that bad

  • Lil Yachty - Nuthin’ 2 Prove: After kinda reaching my tipping point with Lil Boat 2, Yachty returns with a half-step in the right direction and a focus on bangers over everything.

  • Empress Of - Us: Bilingual indie music with pop production and endlessly-accessible delivery.

  • Open Mike Eagle - What Happens When I Try To Relax: Hyper-aware hip-hop that inhales pop-culture and lobs it back at you before you can even react.

  • Cloud Nothings - Last Building Burning: Hard-charging punk music that springs back and forth from spiraling darkness to boundless optimism. 

  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Rose - Mid90s (Original Soundtrack): Short but sweet, Trent Reznor and Atticus Rose team up yet again to provide sparkles of pensive, instrumental moments in between the time-appropriate hip-hop of Jonah Hill’s directorial debut. 

  • Will Oldham - Songs of Love and Horror: Music for the spiritually-exhausted.

  • Ashland - misc: Rise Record’s newest signees release a three-song teaser of their hard-hitting anthemic balladry. 

  • R.E.M. - Live at the BBC: A decade-spanning five-disc collection of the band’s BBC performances, all of which amount to 7.5-hours of classic alternative radio hits. 

  • John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies - Halloween (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack): Just in time for the holiday itself John Carpenter and Daniel Davies team up yet again alongside Carpenter’s son for a fast-paced piano-laden return to one of Horror’s most iconic scores.

  • Khalid - Suncity: After managing to become a global pop star overnight with his debut record, the American Teen is back with a mini-album of fresh songs to keep the die-hard fans satisfied. 

  • MØ - Forever Neverland: One of pop music’s best-kept secrets finally gives fans her long-awaited sophomore album, and it’s a colorful and perfectly-produced work of art. 

  • Weakened Friends - Common Blah: Weakened Friends offer up slightly-punky throwback garage rock tunes that transport you back in time two decades with minimal effort. 

  • Petal - Live at Studio 4: The Run For Cover indie rocker continues to shake my emotional state with a three-pack of live songs from this year’s Magic Gone

  • Advance Base - Live on Audiotree: A relaxed stroll through the singer/songwriter’s most impactful songs to date. 

  • Thom Yorke - Suspiria Soundtrack: The Radiohead frontman scores a (mostly) instrumental horror movie for a distorting out-of-body 80-minutes.

  • Antarctigo Vespucci - Love in the Time of E-Mail: Jeff Rosenstock and Chris Farren team up for one of indie music’s most vivacious supergroups of the year.

  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra - IC-01 Hanoi: A collection of wonderfully-weird instrumental tracks that provide a counterpoint to this year’s satiating Sex & Food.

  • MadeinTYO - Sincerely, Tokyo: Lively and youthful bangers with more ad-libs than any man can handle. 

  • Julia Holter's - Aviary: 90-minutes of spaced-out feelings and drip-fed emotions.

  • William Shatner - Shatner Claus - The Christmas Album: The man recorded “Jingle Bells” with Henry Rollins, and if that doesn’t excite you, then I don’t know what will.

  • John Legend - Legendary Christmas: It’s “Adult Contempo” as hell, but Legend definitely gets points for original songs. 

  • Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want: Noisy and industrial rock that soundtracks the mass-destruction of society. 

  • The Berries - Start All Over Again: Jangle-heavy tunes that rumble with a spiritual ferocity.

  • Stand Atlantic - Skinny Dipping: Bouncy female-fronted pop-punk that’s as catchy as it is relatable. 

  • Ty Segall - Fudge Sandwich: His third release of the year, Furdge Sandwich sees the prolific multi-instrumantalist covering everyone from John Lennon to Amon Düül II in an extremely-brown style. 

  • Robyn - Honey: Robyn returns for her first release in eight years, offering up a cleanly-produced slate of nine immaculate electropop songs. 

  • Mick Jenkins - Pieces of a Man: Humanizing hip-hop.

  • The Browning - Geist: The Missouri-born metal act add some much-needed poppy and electronic metalcore to the genre’s landscape.

  • Arlington - A Walk Through Jackson County: One of Rise Records’ most perplexing signees dole out a catchy batch of country-flavored alternative rock.

  • Laura Gibson - Goners: Warmed by coffee and filled with winter air, the Oregon-born folk artist crafts ten rural love songs.

  • Blocboy JB - Don’t Think That: The greatest Memphis glow-up of the year heats up the winter with an EP full of ignorant bangers.

  • Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs, and The Alchemist - Fetti: A spiritual successor to their GTA contribution continuing the collab for another jazzy and free-flowing 23-minutes.

Plus new singles from Charli XCX, Pusha T, Anderson .Paak, Pond, Lil Pump, Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile, Soccer Mommy, Pond, Hovvdy, Regrettes, Flight of the Conchords, Girlpool, Weezer, FIDLAR, Kodak Black, Billie Eilish, Post Malone, Toro y Moi, Denzel Curry, Protomartyr, Lil Peep, Powers Pleasant, Saves The Day, Vulfpeck, Citizen, Cardi B, Bring Me The Horizon, Takeoff, Tyler, The Creator, Tides of Man, Fleet Foxes, Varsity, Deerhunter, Thundercat, Flatbush Zombies, Beach House, Young Fathers, Slipknot, and Pedro The Lion.