My Favorite Songs of All Time

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With this post, Swim Into The Sound has officially reached 100 articles! I’ll admit between the dreary weather and burnout at work I’ve felt less than inspired to post here regularly this year, however 100 blog posts is a big deal, and I wanted to make sure that I did it justice. I’ve got dozens of different ideas for articles jotted down in digital notes across various devices, but it felt ingenuine to put up “just another” write-up as my one-hundredth post. 

This January I celebrated all of the site’s recent achievements, and of course, the Favorites page has an ongoing list of our best articles, so I didn’t really want to focus on the blog from either of those perspectives. Instead, I’ve decided I’m going to do a write-up on something straightforward but important: my favorite songs of all time. 

My desktop has a 100+ song playlist of my favorite songs all meticulously organized, ordered, and ranked. While that playlist still receives some regular updates, the top 15 or so haven’t changed in a number of years, so I figured why not highlight all of these tracks in one place to celebrate the site’s recent milestone? Without further adieu, I’m excited to share my 15 favorite songs of all time.


15 | Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - “Sunday Candy”

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Two years after Acid Rap had cemented itself in my life, I was eagerly waiting to see what Chance the Rapper would do next. Suddenly on a late May evening in 2015, an album called Surf was uploaded to iTunes for free. Released under the name “Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment,” Surf was a collaborative project that combined the artistic powers of Chance The Rapper, trumpeter Nico Segal, and a host of other Chicago musicians. 

Making sure to savor every ounce of this new release, I wanted to ensure my first listen was special. I downloaded the album, grabbed a couple of hard ciders, and spent the evening in my backyard listening to Surf on a night that was just warm enough to enjoy without a jacket. 

Surf wasn’t quite the Acid-Rap follow-up I was expecting, but it ended up being a release I enjoyed nonetheless. The record is a joyous, warm, and creative outpouring that’s filled to the brim with collaborative spirit. As my first listen came to a close, the record began to wrap up with the penultimate “Sunday Candy,” a bright and loving gospel track that finds Chance reminiscing about his grandmother’s role in his life. These expressions of love are all wrapped around a sunny, infectious chorus courtesy of Jamila Woods that radiates with happiness and a vibrant zeal for life. My first listen of the song left me breathless, tearful, and overjoyed. To this day, “Sunday Candy” still has the power to make my day a little bit better merely by its presence. 

14 | Band Of Horses - “The Funeral”

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While I have an overall preference for Band of Horses’ sophomore record, there’s no denying the brilliance of “The Funeral.” Far and away the band’s most popular song, “The Funeral” revolves around a sparkling guitar line and poetic lyrics that address loss and separation. At some point in the late-2000’s the song entered the pantheon of iconic alt-rock tracks alongside the likes of “Mr. Brightside,” and “Skinny Love,” yet no matter how many times I hear “The Funeral” in a bar, in a movie, or in a commercial, the song manages to disarm me completely. There’s something profoundly spiritual and awe-inspiring lying at the emotional core of “The Funeral,” and that feeling hits me harder each time I listen to it. 

13 | The Flaming Lips - “Do You Realize??”

Around the same time that I was discovering indie rock, I was also introduced to The Flaming Lips. While the entirety of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots was a mind-bending discovery back in high school, “Do You Realize??” was anything like I’d ever heard in my life. Tackling death from an honest and straightforward perspective, the song genuinely made me consider what all my relationships meant to me. It made me think about the inevitability of it all, and what kind of life I wanted to share with those around me. I’d like to think it gave me a greater appreciation for life as a whole, not just existence itself, but life as it was happening. Because one day all of this will be gone, so why wouldn’t you savor every second? Good or bad, life is a gift, and it’s easy to take that for granted. 

12 | My Morning Jacket - “I Will Sing You Songs”

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I still remember my first time hearing “I Will Sing You Songs.” After having My Morning Jacket’s discography on my iPod for nearly three years, I’d put off listening to them only for “I Will Sing You Songs” to come up on shuffle and stop me in my tracks. Almost instantly, I was swept up in the song and found myself frozen by its slow-moving melody. For nine minutes the song carried me gently into an expression of love and adoration that I felt down to my bones. It was dream-like, transportive, and absolutely gorgeous; precisely what I needed to hear at that moment. Years later, It Still Moves has become one of my favorite alternative records of all time, and “I Will Sing You Songs” remains it’s shining, perfect centerpiece.

11 | Radiohead - “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”

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Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is one of the most well-paced songs in Radiohead's discography. Starting out with a winding guitar lick and hi-hat keeping time, these two instruments set the scene for an explosive tale of flirtation, heartbreak, and love lost. Within a few beats, the bass enters the fray, and suddenly the song ignites like an engine. Within an instant, all of the instruments fall into a fast-paced groove as the guitar jangles underneath Thom Yorke’s moody humming. Depicting a series of drunken college nights filled with missed connections and possible love, “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” is a nonstop, evermoving journey that can only end in one way. The song continually mounts until every element is exploding to life with color and the song reaches its emotional fever pitch. Everything is humming at the right frequency, beguiling the listener in the most well-crafted and artistic way. 

10 | Sufjan Stevens - “Oh God, Where Are You Now?”

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I’ve already written at great length about my love for Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan, but “Oh God, Where Are You Now?” is the single-song encapsulation of why I love this man’s art. It’s the song that led me to Sufjan. The song that carried me through countless winters whether I was alone or surrounded by loved ones. This song is everything that I love about the Earth, and art, and creativity, and beauty. It’s a haunting, spiritual, and heart-rending question of existence all wrapped in memories that make me feel like I’ve lived this story a hundred times before. It’s the soundtrack to my heart and the death of each year. An absolutely stunning and beautiful track that’s quintessential to my existence. 

9 | Funkadelic - “Maggot Brain”

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I first heard “Maggot Brain” in middle school knowing nothing of George Clinton, Parlament-Funkadelic, or even rock as a whole for that matter. I’d barely dipped my toe in the water of psychedelia, and even less in instrumental music… which explains why this song felt so revelatory when I’d first experienced it. “Maggot Brain” begins with a disarming spoken word introduction followed by ten minutes of the most soulful guitar work I had ever heard...or have ever heard. Split into two halves, the first section of “Maggot Brain” reads like a eulogy. A wordless loss that commemorates the unspeakable feeling of discovering a loved one had passed. This builds up into an eruption of emotion found in the second half in a transition that flows seamlessly and makes sense on a cosmic level. The journey contained within the song can be read in many different ways, and I hear a different pathway each time I relisten to the piece. Truly a powerful condensation of the human psyche. 

8 | Radiohead - “You And Whose Army?”

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There aren’t many words you can make out in “You And Whose Army?” Sure, you can hear the title (also about the closest the song ever gets to a chorus), but what’s left is a mush of phrases that are practically left up to the listener’s imagination. Individual words may make their way through, but for the most part, I love “You And Whose Army?” because it’s an endlessly-interpretable song. These delicately-delivered lyrics are placed above a gently-strummed guitar and Yorke’s own hums in the background. Midway through the song, these fragile elements meet a more precise bassline, rigid drumbeat, and shaky piano that all carry the song to its wounded emotional climax. “You And Whose Army?” is haunting, beautiful, and foreboding all at the same time. Everything feels at once obscured and perfectly in place. 

7 | Pink Floyd - “The Great Gig In The Sky” 

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One of the most spiritual experiences I’ve ever had wasn’t at a church, on a vacation, or in a relationship, it was listening to “The Great Gig In The Sky” in my backyard all by myself. Yet another album I was handed in middle school, I must have listened to Dark Side of the Moon dozens of times trying to figure out why everyone thought it was so great. It was on t-shirts, referenced in pop culture, and obviously meant a lot to everyone older than me… but I just couldn’t for the life of me figure out what made this record so great. Years later, I put the album on during a warm summer evening and let the LP carry me from beginning to end. It was an experience I’ll never forget, and “The Great Gig In The Sky” was the emotional climax of that journey. From the introductory dialogue, the way the instrumental lifts, and of course, Clare Torry’s brilliant performance on vocals, there’s nothing quite like “Great Gig” out there in the world. To this day, I’ve still never found a song that captures the hard-to-grasp emotions tied to life and death as well as this song does within these four minutes.

6| Explosions In The Sky - “Have You Passed Through This Night?”

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For my money, there’s no song more frisson-inducing than Explosions in the Sky’s “Have You Passed Through This Night?” Centered around a sample of dialogue from The Thin Red Line, this is one of the only songs in the band’s discography to have any sort of lyrical content whatsoever. Maybe the decision to center a track around these words is what makes it even more powerful. 

As you listen to the gentle guitar strums laid carefully underneath this sample, a sudden gunshot cuts through the song. Then we hear the titular line. Then a slow-moving guitar. Then a series of increasingly-powerful drum strikes. The song then mounts for the remaining four minutes creating one of the most beautiful builds in the entire genre of post-rock. Truly a moving piece of music that instills a sense of something greater just beyond the next mountain. Absolutely awe-inspiring. 

5| The Cribs - “Be Safe” 

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Generally speaking, I am not a “lyrics guy.” I tend to take songs as a whole without necessarily focusing on any one individual element, including the words being sung. That goes for just about every song except for “Be Safe” by The Cribs. An anomaly within their discography, “Be Safe” finds lead singer Ryan Jarman ceding control to Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo for long-winded spoken word passages that act as collages of random visuals placed over a ceaseless instrumental bed. Beginning in a definitively-negative headspace, the song finds its narrator complaining about “One of those fucking awful black days when nothing is pleasing” and how they hate everyone around them. Our narrator explains that he could change, but he knows his old self will always catch up no matter how hard he tries. Suddenly, without warning, The Cribs’ lead singer Ryan Jarman enters the song with a bright and shimmering chorus that seems to give our narrator hope:

I know a place we can go
Where you'll fall in love so hard that
You'll wish you were dead

From here, Ranaldo describes life through a series of abstract flashes, each of which brings a beautiful glimpse of the world into the listener’s mind. As these images pass through your headphones, the song gets brighter and picks up its pace. The words become more positive until they culminate in an escalating rallying cry of “Open all the boxes!” before one last scene-setting outro. It’s undeniable poetry. A reversal of mood that captures these two vastly different feelings and how one person or event can turn your life around in such a short amount of time. It’s a reminder that sadness isn’t permanent, and that the world is beautiful. That it always has been. 

4 | Queens Of The Stone Age - “A Song For The Dead” 

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It only took a few listens for Songs For The Deaf to become my favorite album of all-time back in middle school. The record was unlike anything I’d ever heard and introduced me to a vast array of genres that I’m still shocked all work in conjunction with each other. At this point, Songs For The Deaf has been my favorite album for over one decade, and “A Song For The Dead” is just one of the many reasons why. If you were to ask me why this song spoke to me specifically, I’d answer with one word: drums. 

Featuring Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters on percussion, “A Song For The Dead” is a marvel of precision instrumentation. It’s a middle-finger-extended ‘fuck you’ rock track that’s propelled by Grohl’s unrelenting presence on the drums. Beginning with a single organ note and hi-hat keeping time, a guitar sets the scene followed quickly by a series of drum fills courtesy of Grohl. Within seconds, Grohl lays down a swaying drum beat, and the bass enters mimicking the guitar line perfectly. Josh Homme’s trademarked snarling vocals throw the listener headfirst into song’s desolate, desert-themed hopelessness, all the while Grohl’s cymbals crash, snare snaps, and sleigh bells jingle. 

One of the best moments come in the songs final seconds where several fakeout endings are tied together by multiple drum solos and an unrelenting guitar line. This is one of the few songs I know every molecule of, and I have to give Dave Grohl props for contributing such a major element to the track’s structure. 

3 | Sharks Keep Moving - “Like a River” 

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Picture this: It’s summer. You just graduated high school. You dropped your date off at her house, and now you’re going for a long drive through the countryside with your windows down as you watch the sun set over rolling hills in the distance. That’s what listening to “Like a River” is like. 

Helmed by Minus The Bear’s Jake Snider, Sharks Keep Moving was a short-lived jazzy-math rock band from Seattle featuring members who would go on to form groups like Pretty Girls Make Graves, Botch, and The Blood Brothers. The band produced one full-length, two EPs, and one split in their five-ish years together, and despite their relatively-small output, every song managed to strike a chord in the heart of a high-school-aged Taylor. 

While every song is worth a listen, “Like a River” is the crown jewel of Sharks Keep Moving’s discography. Front-loaded with a narrative tale of drunken love, the song is half storytelling, half gorgeous instrumental. Throughout the first half, Snider paints a scene of meeting a woman at a bar and becoming immediately infatuated with her. Ending the tale with a half-drunk rallying cry of “Get up / Let’s Walk,” the song then floats the listener along a river of sound with an instrumental that adds some color to the narrative brush-strokes laid earlier in the track. It gives just enough time for the listener to meditate and fill in the blanks of the story, whether that be with the words they were just handed or recent experiences in their own life. It’s a transformative piece of art that manages to clock in at 11-minutes long, yet not overstay its welcome. It’s pure contentment, captured to music. 

2| Radiohead - “Nude”

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I know what you’re thinking… another Radiohead song? But hear me out, “Nude” is the perfect Radiohead song. A love song at its core, “Nude” may not be as popular as “Creep” or as catchy as “Karma Police” or as versatile as “Exit Music,” but it manages to reach another level entirely. Lying somewhere between the groovy approach of “Reckoner” and the lyrical content of “True Love Waits,” “Nude” was a long-shelved Radiohead track that took literally one decade to see the light of day.  

Centered around a pristine bassline, careful drumming, and a reversed vocal bed, “Nude” is a world-shattering love song. The defeated lyrics are sung in Yorke’s highest falsetto as Colin Greenwood’s bass rumbles lovingly below him. Meanwhile, Philip Selway’s drums fall into perfect synch with Johnny Greenwood’s gentle guitar plucks, and all of this swirls behind gorgeous orchestral swells that mount with each word.

There’s no other word with which to describe “Nude” other than beautiful. Each element works in perfect synch for a song that emulates love, loss, heartbreak, and sorrow all within the space of four minutes. Those feelings crest as Yorke belts out “You’ll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking” before the song is carried out by a build of double-tracked hums that feels careful, practiced, and achingly beautiful. A rare example of a song that was worth the ten-year incubation period. 

1 | Minus The Bear - “This Ain't a Surfin' Movie”

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Well, here we are, my favorite song of all time, and I don’t even know where to begin. “This Ain't a Surfin' Movie” is perfect — a song of love, beauty, and escape that feels like it was tailor-made for me specifically. 

I first discovered Minus The Bear back in high school around the same time as Bon Iver, Portugal. The Man, and half of the other songs on this list. Specifically, I remember hearing “Pachuca Sunrise” (the band’s most popular song) and “Fulfill the Dream” on a friend’s iPod and being nothing short of blown away. Minus The Bear’s music just made sense to my brain, like it was something I’d been waiting for for years and finally found. Both of those songs coming from the same record, I decided to give the rest of Menos El Oso a listen, and wouldn’t you know that I loved it almost instantly. 

My favorite song on the record jostled around from time to time throughout high school, but a piece of me was always impressed with the way the band ended the album on such an abjectly-beautiful and warm note with “This Ain't a Surfin' Movie.” Depicting a beach-side evening alone with a lover, “Surfin’ Movie” is a song about physical and emotional paradise. A day spent in the arms of a lover in a beautiful place where nothing else matters but you and the connection to that other person. It’s quite literally the most powerful, moving, and loving thing I’ve ever heard put to music. 

Keep in mind, this song comes after ten other dancy, catchy, groovy songs that soundtracked my high school years, so there’s absolutely some added power there, but even still, “Surfin’ Movie” caps off not just this album, but our list as my favorite song of all time. 

To this day, I still remember sitting in the parking lot of a 7/11 back in high school with my childhood friend. We were riding the high of having just attended our first Minus The Bear concert, drinking AriZona’s, listening to Menos El Oso, and reveling in what we had just seen. I remember feeling speechless once the album ended, wishing I could live in that feeling forever.

“This Ain’t A Surfin’ Movie” is a marvel to listen to. It’s a monument to love and an absolute artistic achievement. It’s something that I’m lucky to have found, and fortunate enough to have felt. It’s simply perfect. 

You can listen to a playlist of all these songs here.

The Year In Music: 2018 Month By Month

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I saw someone online call 2018 “The Year of Forgettable Music,” and, while I understand where they’re coming from, I must disagree. Much like 2017, I feel like there was no breakaway “unanimous” album of the year. There was no Blonde, no Carrie & Lowell, not even a DAMN. No single album swept through every major publication’s AOTY lists, and that’s a good thing. Despite the lack of a clear AOTY winner, I found myself impressed by 2018 because I was keeping track of new releases more than any other year before.

Back in January I felt overwhelmed with the amount of exciting new music that had come out in a month that’s typically quiet for new releases. Inspired by this wealth of new music, I sat down, wrote a few thoughts on some of the month’s best albums, and published it in the same day. In truth, that post was as much for me to help remember what I was enjoying as it was a genuine “roundup” of new releases. 

While I didn’t know it at the time, the decision to publish that one post would have an impact on the rest of my 2018. From that month onward I took note of every new release I listened to throughout the calendar year. I kept a long-running Google Doc of upcoming albums and even went as far as noting when artists put out new singles. 

In 2018 I listened to and wrote about 454 new releases. Some of those were full reviews, some of them were a paragraph or so, and some were only one sentence. While I would never have expected it back it at the beginning of the year, this monthly recap became a self-imposed tradition. What began as a one-off post about albums I’d been enjoying that month soon became an institution that I enjoyed doing. It was a challenge, but it also helped me feel more tapped-in to new music than ever before, and now you get to reap the benefits. 

While this may feel like a lot of backstory, this post is merely a collection of every monthly roundup I posted last year. It’s a comprehensive list of everything I listened to, enjoyed, and wrote about throughout all of 2018. Collectively, this post represents hundreds of albums, thousands of words, and countless hours of time. Please enjoy, bookmark, and feel free to use this as a guide to venture back through 2018 month-by-month to catch a release you may have missed out on. 

I choose to think of 2018 not as a year of forgettable music, but a year of hidden gems. Sure you may have to dig a little bit to find them, but the truth is the year is only as forgettable as you allow it to be. 


January Roundup

Featuring Tiny Moving Parts, Lil Wayne, Ty Segall, JPEGMAFIA, Jay Some, Migos, No Age, Drake, August Burns Red, Jeff Rosenstock, and Shame.

Featuring Tiny Moving Parts, Lil Wayne, Ty Segall, JPEGMAFIA, Jay Some, Migos, No Age, Drake, August Burns Red, Jeff Rosenstock, and Shame.

February Roundup

Featuring Cameron Boucher, Field Medic, Hovvdy, MGMT, Turnstile, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Justin Timberlake, and Car Seat Headrest.

Featuring Cameron Boucher, Field Medic, Hovvdy, MGMT, Turnstile, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Justin Timberlake, and Car Seat Headrest.

March Roundup

Featuring Soccer Mommy, Camp Cope, Sorority Noise, Jack White, Earthless, Yo La Tengo, and Haley Heynderickx.

Featuring Soccer Mommy, Camp Cope, Sorority Noise, Jack White, Earthless, Yo La Tengo, and Haley Heynderickx.

April Roundup

Featuring Fiddlehead, Hop Along, Saba, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Underoath, Half Waif, The Wonder Years, and Janelle Monáe.

Featuring Fiddlehead, Hop Along, Saba, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Underoath, Half Waif, The Wonder Years, and Janelle Monáe.

May Roundup

Featuring Parquet Courts, Rae Sremmurd, Beach House, Arctic Monkeys, Pusha T, Courtney Barnett, Ministry of Interior Spaces, and Illuminati Hotties.

Featuring Parquet Courts, Rae Sremmurd, Beach House, Arctic Monkeys, Pusha T, Courtney Barnett, Ministry of Interior Spaces, and Illuminati Hotties.

June Roundup

Featuring Kanye West, Dance Gavin Dance, Nas, Colin Stetson, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Nine Inch Nails, Father John Misty, Snail Mail, and Kids See Ghosts.

Featuring Kanye West, Dance Gavin Dance, Nas, Colin Stetson, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Nine Inch Nails, Father John Misty, Snail Mail, and Kids See Ghosts.

July Roundup

Featuring Mom Jeans, Future, Bongripper, Deafheaven, The National, Denzel Curry, and Wild Pink.

Featuring Mom Jeans, Future, Bongripper, Deafheaven, The National, Denzel Curry, and Wild Pink.

August Roundup

Featuring Travis Scott, Tides of Man, Foxing, Jesus Piece, Young Thug, IDLES, Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner, and Mitski.

Featuring Travis Scott, Tides of Man, Foxing, Jesus Piece, Young Thug, IDLES, Justin Vernon, Aaron Dessner, and Mitski.

September Roundup

Featuring Noname, Yves Tumor, Shortly, Young Thug, BROCKHAMPTON, This Will Destroy You, Microwave, Pinegrove, and Lil Wayne.

Featuring Noname, Yves Tumor, Shortly, Young Thug, BROCKHAMPTON, This Will Destroy You, Microwave, Pinegrove, and Lil Wayne.

October Roundup

Featuring TTNG, St. Vincent, Kurt Vile, Haley Heynderickx, Max García Conover, Destroy Boys, Gunna, Lil Baby, This Will Destroy You, The Wonder Years, Shortly, Oso Oso, Have Mercy, and Minus the Bear.

Featuring TTNG, St. Vincent, Kurt Vile, Haley Heynderickx, Max García Conover, Destroy Boys, Gunna, Lil Baby, This Will Destroy You, The Wonder Years, Shortly, Oso Oso, Have Mercy, and Minus the Bear.

November Roundup

Featuring Metro Boomin’, boygenius, Sufjan Stevens, August Burns Red, Vince Staples, Liance, Takeoff, Fleet Foxes, and Earl Sweatshirt.

Featuring Metro Boomin’, boygenius, Sufjan Stevens, August Burns Red, Vince Staples, Liance, Takeoff, Fleet Foxes, and Earl Sweatshirt.

December Roundup

Featuring Vulfpeck, Field Medic, Bay Faction, 21 Savage, Dan Campbell, Ace Enders, Bruce Springsteen, and Catholic Werewolves.

Featuring Vulfpeck, Field Medic, Bay Faction, 21 Savage, Dan Campbell, Ace Enders, Bruce Springsteen, and Catholic Werewolves.

December 2018: Album Review Roundup

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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. 

 

Quick Hits

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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.

Swim Into The Sound’s 10 Favorite Albums of 2018

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All Hail The Algorithm

If there was any sort of theme to 2018, it was Discovery. Discovery on a personal level, discovery on a professional level, and (most importantly) discovery on a musical level. This year I landed a new job, moved across the country, and started a new life three thousand miles away from everything I’ve ever known and loved. I met people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise and experienced things that only this opportunity could have afforded me. 

On the blog front, I kept up to date by writing about new releases each month. I conducted my first interview, got paid actual money to write reviews, and hit dozens of other landmark firsts that made running this blog feel like a fresh, rewarding, and challenging endeavor all throughout the year. 

As 2018 ticked on and my album of the year list began to take shape, an interesting trend emerged: most of my favorite albums of 2018 were from band’s I’d never listened to until this year.

Discoveries can be found in the most unexpected places, and sometimes coming into something entirely fresh leads to the most impactful results. Whether it’s discovering a band live in-concert, reading a compelling review, or hearing them pop up in a Spotify playlist, there’s something rewarding about that feeling of discovery. 

These are the albums that helped me. The projects that brought me joy, sorrow, pain, and everything in between in a year when emotions ran high, and everything seemed bound for cosmic change. These albums are the soundtrack to the development of my life. A year in flux and a life in motion. These are my favorite albums of 2018.


10 | Advance Base - Animal Companionship

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On some level, it’s easy to make songs that anyone can relate to. The biggest pop songs in the world are all about falling in love, or breaking up, or hanging out with your friends. Those are universal experiences. They’re songs written so broadly that’s you have to go out of your way to not connect with them. What’s more difficult than that is instilling that same feeling of connection through a life that the listener hasn’t experienced. To convey a sense of empathy through a portrayal so specific that, while not experienced first-hand, it loops back around to being relatable. That’s what Advance Base has done with Animal Companionship, and it’s a marvel. 

A loose concept album centered around pets, Animal Companionship finds Owen Ashworth rumbling through a series of ten tales all depicting a handful of ordinary Midwesterners. While their stories would sound bland being told in any other way, the Chicago folk singer has a way of delivering them which such gravitas and specificity that they become extraordinary. His vocals never rise above a steady barrel-chested hum, but emotions run high throughout the record.

Often accompanied only by keys or a solitary drum machine, Ashworth’s voice (and words) are almost always front and center for the listener to ingest and ruminate upon at their own pace. The tales are crystalline, realized, and lived-in as if Ashworth himself has lived all of these disparate timelines and experiences of the album’s fictional characters. Whether it’s running into an ex’s dog tied up outside of a coffee shop, or a friend who still has an answering machine just so they can leave their pet voicemails, every word is measured and impactful. It’s a frigid-sounding record that, yes, is sad, but is also sprinkled with moments of hope and even joy. It’s a portrayal of humanity framed through the animals who, through their proximity to us and our lives, make us a little more human in the process.  

9 | Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off, Dog

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I’ve spent about three years trying to understand the appeal of Hop Along. Between the time they released 2015’s Painted Shut and this year I’ve listened to every one of their albums multiple times and even seen them live, but for some reason, the band never stuck. Right when I was about to write them off telling myself “you don’t have to like everything” the group released Bark Your Head Off, Dog and everything finally clicked into place. 

While it took me a while to figure out, my biggest problem with Hop Along has always been that Frances Quinlan’s vocals are so good they overshadow everything else in most of their songs. There’s nothing wrong with the group’s instrumentals; I would just rather hear Quinlan sing over something that rivals her intensity. 

I gave Bark Your Head Off a few cursory listens before the final stretch of three songs began to sink their teeth into me. They were biting, fast-paced, and had enough ornamental flourishes that they rewarded repeat listens. They felt emotional and heartfelt while still retaining the personable stories Quinlan is known for. In short, the final three songs on this record were everything I’d been waiting to hear from Hop Along for years. 

Something about those three tracks must have opened my eyes because I eventually found myself listening to Bark Your Head Off, Dog front to back and being captivated by every track. I now realize the fault in my prior attempts was not the band, but me. I was looking for aggressive smoldering pop-punk songs, but in truth Hop Along is crafting loving (if not a little damaged) indie rock with a folk bent. It’s the musical equivalent of a glass of red wine, and either my taste was not refined enough to enjoy it before, or I came into their music thirsty for a cheap beer when I should have been savoring the complicated notes. Bark Your Head Off, Dog is a triumphant and passionate record that’s beautiful, rich, and worth savoring.

8 | Turnstile - Time & Space

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Clocking in at a grand total of 25 minutes, the longest song on Turnstile’s Time & Space is three minutes and 15 seconds. With every other track hovering between 46 seconds and two minutes, the album ends up feeling like an exercise in violent minimalism.

Making a name for their photogenic live shows, engaging crowds, and hard-hitting songs, Time & Space vaulted Turnstile to the forefront of the underground rock scene. The record itself is picture-perfect hardcore and irrefutable proof that you don’t need anything more than a solid riff and a driving chorus to make great music. 

Not only that, the band’s sophomore effort proved to be surprisingly-accessible, gaining them coverage, accolades, and glowing reviews from dozens of mainstream publications. Walking an intoxicating balance of punk and thrash, Time & Space is an outpouring of emotion. It’s barebones, straightforward, and efficient. It’s artistically-fulfilling, temperamentally-satiating, and even surprisingly catchy at times. It’s everything hardcore needs in 2018, and proof of what it can one day be.

7 | The Wonder Years - Sister Cities

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When I saw the Wonder Years back in May, lead singer Dan Campbell took some time between songs to make sure everyone had heard their newest album. After the resounding swell of voices quieted, he went on to explain a bit about the concept behind Sister Cities, specifically how the opening track “Raining in Kyoto” embodies many of the LP’s recurring themes. “It’s a record about connectivity, commonality, and empathy” Campbell explained to the rapt Portland audience. 

Sister Cities is a record about distance, but it's also a record about lack of distance. It's about the commonalities of man and the universal things that bind us as a race, about how little the physical space between people really matters when it comes down to it. Sister Cities is an album about human connection on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level.

While it's reinforced by music videos and lyrics throughout this album, this concept of connectivity is exemplified best by the record’s 6-minute closer “The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me.” In the song, Campbell uses the ocean as a stand-in for multiple important entities in his life. At first, the ocean is spoken of literally as a physical body of water that we're all attached to in some form or another. As the song plays out, the ocean becomes a metaphor for the brotherhood of humanity and the salvation we can find in our loved ones. 

Thematically, “Ocean” ties back to the opening track by referencing the passing of Dan's grandfather, but even that specific event is just a larger allusion to life, death, regret, and other inescapable human feelings that bond us together. The final verse of the song discusses illness and religion (two recurring topics for the band) but quickly moves onto real people in Dan's life. He talks about finding support in others when he needs it and learning to embrace that. Before a grandiose swell of music carries the record to a close, the final message of the album is a vital one: humanity is everything. Campbell explains there’s no fault in feeling defeated or asking for help. In fact, learning to give in when things are out of your control and growing to rely on those around you is an important part of life because sometimes that’s all we have.

6 | Mom Jeans - Puppy Love

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If you were to ask Eric Butler what type of music Mom Jeans makes, he would simply answer “pop.” Not emo, not indie, not pop-punk, but straight-up pop music. In truth, Mom Jeans is a little bit of all these things, but if you go into Puppy Love with an honest heart and an open mind, you’ll quickly understand exactly what he means. 

The band’s sophomore album is a release that appears unassuming on first listen. You might hear it a few times and think nothing of it. Then you may find yourself humming a melody that subconsciously embedded itself somewhere in your brain. Then on a relisten, a chorus from a deeper cut will grab you, and you’ll find yourself queueing that song up too. Then you find yourself identifying with a lyric from the opening track about staying in, eating Cheetos, and drinking chocolate milk because that’s exactly what you were doing this weekend too.

Puppy Love is my most-listened-to album of 2018, and that’s because Mom Jeans truly are creating pop music. It’s pop-punk perfected. It’s catchy, melodic, relatable, and keeps you coming back for more. Whether it’s screaming about moving out of your parent's house, or getting confessional with your dog, Mom Jeans have found a way to get to the heart of it all.

5 | Lucy Dacus - Historian

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Historian is the soundtrack to a life in decay. Opening track “Night Shift” starts calm and collected as a slow-moving folky jam extending a middle finger to evil exes. Gradually, the song builds without the listener realizing it, and suddenly Dacus is belting out the track’s namesake in a piercing Julien Baker-esque cry that pulls on your heart like an anchor. It’s a stunning moment that commands your attention and rips you into the reality of the song, if only for a moment. 

This jaw-dropping performance is just one of many surprises packed on the follow-up to Dacus’ impressive debut No Burden. Topics range from relationships in collapse to the imperfect nature of the self. It’s as disquieting as it is engaging, every word hinged around expert instrumentation and melodies that alternate between lying bare and exploding to life.

Pillar of Truth” is the record’s monumental penultimate track, an ode to Dacus’ dying grandmother who faced the unknown head-on with level-headed composure. The song peaks with a volcanic guitar solo that paves the way for the more pensive title track which acts as the record’s thesis statement and end credits. Historian is an album about failure. About collapse. About annihilation. More importantly, it’s about finding the power to recover from those feelings even when life leaves you feeling ragged and profoundly-alone… which is more of an inevitability than any of us would like to admit.

4 | Caroline Rose - Loner

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Sometimes it’s easy to forget that rock music is supposed to be fun. And throughout all of 2018, I found no single album that embodied “FUN!” (caps, exclamation point and all) than Caroline Rose’s Loner

Loner is an album about being your uncool self and learning to embrace it. About saying ‘fuck you’ to the people that tell you to smile when you don’t want to smile. About sexism, bad decisions, and menial jobs. About being the one person at the party without a cool haircut. It’s a blend of hyper-specific yet universal songwriting that hits home for me, all of which is packed in an easily digestible 30-minute record. 

While the album itself is a wonderfully-varied and full-throttle romp, Caroline Rose’s live show adds a different level onto the proceedings entirely. From executing a flawless Macarena on-stage during an instrumental break to a rockin’ recorder solo, and even a loving cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” I’ve never seen a band have this much fun on stage making music, and that’s something we could all use more of in 2018. 

3 | Bambara - Shadow On Everything

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You wake up. A light breeze has blown the covers off of your body. You reach out to grab your sheets and pull them back up, but as your eyes open you notice you’re no longer in your room. You sit up, look around and see the horizon in every direction. You’re in the middle of a desert. It’s 3 in the morning, and you don’t know how you got here. That’s what listening to Shadow On Everything is like. 

Rumbling, snarling, and demonic, Shadow On Everything is a post-punk record with a southern twist. Described by the band as a “western gothic concept album,” it only takes one listen to see what that means. From front to back, Bambara’s sophomore effort is a morbid, disorienting, and dream-like exploration of humanity’s dark side. 

Shadow on Everything sounds like an episode of True Detective come to life, complete with all the violent self-destruction, overwrought sentiments, and foreboding imagery. Each song serves as a disturbing vignette, bonded together only by the ever-present sense that something horrible is lurking in the shadows just out of sight. It’s terrifying, engaging, and striking in a way that grips your attention and punishes you for looking away. A character study of humanity’s dark side and we have no choice but to stare into the reflection. Unforgiving desolation and absolute obliteration of the soul.

2 | Haley Heynderickx - I Need To Start A Garden

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We tend to measure our lives based on major events. When we tell ourselves our own story there are act breaks and demarcation points that signal a new phase of our ongoing story. While it feels like we’re perpetually in the most “important” period of our own existence, not everything is that life and death. Sometimes directionlessness and absence of action are just as harrowing as loss or heartbreak, and that sort of millennial malaise is the exact sentiment at the heart of I Need To Start a Garden.

The abundance of choice that comes with the first phase of adulthood is overwhelming. The sprawling omnidirectional decisions can feel endless, and sometimes failing to take that first step can lead to a cataclysmic avalanche of self-doubt and paralysis.  

Garden is a folk album. It’s instrumentally-simple, lyrically straightforward, and emotionally-bare. Despite the simplicity of its base components, the end result feels like something much more complex and grand than the sum of its parts. 

I first heard of Haley Heynderickx one week after her album was released, and even then I felt immediate guilt of not having listened to it even earlier. That’s how badly I needed this record in my life in 2018. I turned around a full review of the album within a month of its release, but Heynderickx’s messages of listless 20-something pain cut a path directly into my heart at a time when I was experiencing all of these exact feelings. To hear these struggles put to music was not only reassuring, it was spiritually-affirming. 

I now realize the difference between childhood and adulthood isn’t a feeling of assurance or confidence in your actions because that fear of the unknown never truly goes away. I may have felt listless, disheartened, and directionless this spring, but now having moved across the country, starting a new job, and embarking on new artistic endeavors, I’m just as unsure of myself as ever before. Adulthood is not knowing what you’re doing with one-hundred percent certainty. Adulthood is knowing that feeling of uncertainty is always going to be there, acknowledging it, and being okay with it as much as you possibly can.

1 | Fiddlehead - Springtime and Blind

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Sometimes music is the only thing that makes sense. Even when the world is changing, even when nothing works the way it’s supposed to, even when life throws everything it has at you, music is always there. Music has no judgments and no preconceived notions. It’s an objective outlet that exists to execute, quell, accentuate, or invert whatever mood you’re feeling at that time. There’s music for happiness, music for long drives, music for love, and sometimes there’s music for grief. 

Some of the greatest records of all time deal with insurmountable pain. 40-minute voyages into an artist’s psyche in the wake of a great loss or seismic shift of their day-to-day existence. Alums like Carrie & Lowell, A Crow Looked At Me, and Skeleton Tree are not only albums about death, they also happen to be some of the best in their respective artist's discographies because they feel the most human. While Springtime and Blind might not initially sound as “sad” as any of those records listed above, it deals with the same topic from a unique perspective that ends up making its message all the more powerful.

Springtime and Blind begins with a slowly-mounting drumline that’s soon joined by a grief-ridden cry of “YOU LIE AWAKE / to pass the time / Lose all your love? / Want some of mine?” Allegedly improvised in the album’s recording session, this first message bears the brunt of the record’s emotion and ignites the path for the remaining twenty-some minutes.

They’re not the same genre, but if I were to compare this album to anything, I’d name Japanese Breakfast’s 2016 breakthrough Psychopomp. Both records are under 25 minutes, segmented by meditative instrumentals, and waste no time jumping straight into heart-wrenching lyrics. Just as Psychopomp is an album about a daughter losing her mother, Springtime is an album about a son losing his father. They’re inverted experiences, yet still one and the same; two alternating approaches to the same universal experience of grief and loss that we will all must go through at some point. 

On some level, screamed frustration is a more accurate depiction of loss than sad, reserved folk music. Not to discount the inherent beauty of Carrie & Lowell, but everyone experiences loss differently, and Springtime and Blind offers a very authentic and genuine version of loss that I identify with. 

Sometimes change is a choice, but more often than not life forces change upon you. You’re forced to adapt and overcome or risk collapsing in the process. Some things can’t be changed or reversed, and all that’s left is to pick up the pieces and cling tightly to what’s left. That’s what Springtime and Blind offers. A family recovering. An explosion of grief followed by the first step of many toward recovery. It’s the sound of everything happening at once. The sound of birth and death. Of love and life. Of spirit and demons. And then it ends.

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.