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DJ Stranger Waves writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2018: DJ Stranger Waves

CHIRP Radio Best of 2018

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2018. Our next list is from DJ and Assistant Marketing Director Mel Marquez aka DJ Stranger Waves.

This has been my first full year on the air with CHIRP and hosting my show on Sunday mornings from 6-9 am. I said last year that my aim was to showcase as many women, LGBTQIA+ artists, and musicians of color as possible because I think they can be underrepresented and their voices deserve to be heard. Looking back, I think I can say that I've really tried to do that. It's been a pretty great year for music and my list definitely reflects the goal stated above. I had a hard time picking just ten albums, but here are my faves of 2018 in no particular order...

 

Ruins by First Aid Kit (Columbia)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

First Aid Kit RuinsRuins was the new and eagerly awaited album from Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit. This new album finds First Aid Kit as you've never heard them before: wounded and biting back hard. While Ruins follows the traditions of the classic folk-rock sound that First Aid Kit revived via their breakthrough album Stay Gold (2014) and previous releases The Big Black And The Blue (2010) and The Lion's Roar (2012), the difference is that this time they've lived, and the results are intense. "Fireworks" is a song I've not been able to stop singing along to ever since I first heard it. Ruins was made with one target in mind: make it sound more real a result the Söderberg sisters have clearly achieved.

 

 

Saved by Now, Now (Trans)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Now, Now SavedReturning to their roots of basement recording, Saved is the third full length album from the Minneapolis duo KC Dalager and Brad Hale. Their first release in six years, time proved to be an important factor in the band's growth musically and lyrically. Saved moves away from the fuzzy, '90s inspired, alt-rock sound of earlier releases and into a cleaner, crisper sound that experiments with synths. This combined with the transparency and rawness of the lyrics create a sense of hopefulness that runs throughout the album.

 

 

Radyo Siwél by Melissa Laveaux (No Format)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Melissa Laveaux Radyo SiwélMelissa Laveaux is a queer Haitian-Canadian singer-songwriter and guitarist, whose music is described as a mix of roots, African, folk and blues, featuring her signature percussive finger-style guitar, and soulful vocal styles. Laveaux has opened for several artists who inspired her music, including Meshell Ndegeocello, Feist and Lura. In 2016, she visited Haiti for the first time in 20 years and wrote the tracks for Radyo Siwèl, conceived around songs that were famous during the American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1936. Recorded with Drew Gonsalves, songwriter for Trinidad band Kobo Town, on guitar and quattro, the 11 songs explore Laveaux’s roots and bring to life the stories and dreams of Haitian folklore and voodoo culture. Sung primarily in French, with occasional English lyrics, Radyo Siwèl, is chock full of gorgeous, seductive songs, most featuring subversive lyrics that belie the catchy melodies.

 

 

Semicircle by The Go! Team (Memphis Industries)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

The Go! Team SemicircleThe Go! Team’s patented blend of samples and genre hopping feel good music hasn’t deviated much since their 2004 debut album, and album number five brings more of the same. And in a world where a chiseling reality show charlatan has the nuclear codes, there is something reassuring about that.

 

 

Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (Wondaland)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Janelle Monáe Dirty ComputerEver the innovator, Janelle Monáe has crafted a singular, youthful pop record that combines and continues her blend of sturdy ‘70's/‘80s R&B; with increasing concessions to modern sounds. As a queer, dark-skinned black woman in an industry historically inclined to value her opposite, Monáe knows that the narrative behind the content matters just as much as the content itself, despite its exceptional quality. The relief of Dirty Computer is palpable, the culmination of years of silence and deflection in order to one day be free.

 

 

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett (Milk / Mom+Pop)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Courtney Barnett Tell Me How You Really FeelTell Me How You Really Feel is everything one would expect from the Sydney-born garage-rocker, following 2013's The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, her 2015 debut LP proper and last year's Lotta Sea Lice, a collaborative album with Kurt Vile. It's full of incessantly catchy guitar riffs; a keen, driving rhythm section; and the unparalleled witty lyrics with which Barnett made her name. But it also bursts with more contradictions and a wider variety of personal intimacies than ever before.

 

 

Be The Cowboy by Mitski (Dead Oceans)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Mitski Be The CowboyMitski’s stunning release Be the Cowboy collects 14 such stories in elegant, compact musical vignettes that explore the pain and folly and intoxication of building and losing connections. For anywhere between one and four minutes (most songs are in the two-minute range), the musician grasps the listener’s hand and plunges them into a self-contained world in which one narrator confronts her relationship with relationships. And it is addicting. Each track is a gem, reflective and complex and yet exactly as simple as it ought to be.

 

 

Skulls Example by Dear Nora (Orindal)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Dear Nora Skulls ExampleLast year, Portland non-binary singer/songwriter Katy Davidson revived their beloved indie-folk project Dear Nora to reissue their 2004 record Mountain Rock. Riding the high from that triumphant return, they released their first new album in over a decade. Unsurprisingly, every song on the record is great. Most of the 14 tracks rely on the classic Dear Nora building blocks of jangly, reverbed guitar riffs, layered harmonies, and observational lyrics that painstakingly catalog details of the natural world: wildfires, hot pink bougainvillea flowers, the smell of rain, the feeling of sunlight on Davidson’s back. However, with the synth-electro feel and the punkish energy of some of the songs it’s not accurate to file Skulls Example as a straightforward indie-folk record, It has tighter melodies and more focused themes.

 

 

Family of Aliens by Teleman (Moshi Moshi)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Teleman Family of AliensWith innate British sophistication and a positively Scandinavian pop sensibility, Teleman’s third album is an impressive shift to synth pop from the dance rock of earlier releases. The title track displays exceptional production and solid songwriting that runs throughout this album. Cerebral lyrics and toe-tapping melodies are often afterthoughts in electronic music, but this album abounds with them.

 

 

Mating Surfaces by Lithics (Kill Rock Stars)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Lithics Mating SurfacesMating Surfaces is the strident second album from this Portland, OR post-punk quartet, and their first for legendary Northwest indie label Kill Rock Stars. The album is a bracing, catchy twelve-songs-in-under-thirty minutes jammer, taking what was great about their 2016 debut Borrowed Floors and cranking it to the nth degree. Everything about Mating Surfaces is more immediate, from the songwriting (their strongest yet) to the sheer sonic wallop it packs.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Angelique Kidjo - Remain In Light
  • Anna Burch - Quit The Curse
  • Forth Wanderers - Forth Wanderers
  • Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
  • JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound - Red Black and Blue, Vol. 1
  • Kali Uchis - Isolation
  • La Luz - Floating Features
  • My Brightest Diamond - A Million And One
  • Naked Giants - SLUFF
  • Negative Scanner - Nose Picker
  • Shopping - The Official Body
  • The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking
  • The Ophelias - Almost
  • The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
  • tUnE-yArDs - I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life

 

 

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2018

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