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