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CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2018: Jenny West

CHIRP Radio Best of 2018

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2018. Our next list is from DJ and Record Fair Co-Director (Promotions) Jenny West.

This year's contenders seemed well-represented by solo female artists (Caroline Rose, Lucy Dacus, among many others) and exemplary resurrections of retro sounds in new and finely executed forms (the bubblegum psychedelia of 77:78, '80s darkwave with Holygram, early Aughts power-pop in Gal Gun).

 

#1   Loner by Caroline Rose (New West)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Caroline Rose LonerA compelling rumination on the celebrity industry, feminism, and general disillusionment, Rose's sophomore release is thoughtful and sardonic while maintaining an upbeat, devil-may-care pop perspective that makes it a thoroughly enjoyable record from start to finish. Just try to get "Jeannie Becomes a Mom" out of your head, I dare you.

 

 

#2   Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington (Young Turks)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Kamasi Washington Heaven and EarthKamasi has been gradually clawing his way into the mainstream, which is pretty damn impressive for a jazz musician in 2018. A mix of transcendental Afrofuturistic paeans and revival tent rallying cries, Kamasi Washington's fifth full-length album and first since 2015's The Epic is crammed full of references to the old masters (Davis, Mingus, the inevitable Sun Ra), while also drawing from the heart-stirring rhythm and language of civil rights marches and the musical motifs of traditional hymns and gospel.

 

 

#3   New Path by Essaie pas (DFA)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Essaie pas New PathIf the married Montrealers' 2016 debut LP for DFA was a tripped-out cold wave dance party, then this latest effort is the 4AM walk home when the trip turns sour. Heavily influenced by Philip K. Dick's 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly, the six ambient grooves of New Path (so named for the corporate rehab facility on which much of the plot hinges) loyally follow the narrative arcs of the book, opening with paranoid, skin-crawling beats and ending on a "Fitter Happier"-esque recitation of the protagonist's side of the dialogue from the novel's closing chapter over ominous synth chords and white noise.

 

 

#4   Special Music of Emotion by Gal Gun (Self-Released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Gal Gun Special Music of EmotionTrying to strike the balance between establishing a cohesive, identifiable sound and building an interesting and dynamic studio album can be tricky for even the most experienced acts -- so it's even more impressive that this debut album from local outfit Gal Gun manages to walk that line into power pop perfection with apparent skill and ease of a Blue Album-era Weezer. Every track is a singable, danceable banger.

 

 

#5   All At Once by Screaming Females (Don Giovanni)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Screaming Females All At OnceGotta save a spot on this list for the latest from my favorite New Jersey punks. Marissa Paternoster is here to melt faces as per usual, and the album is full of new ideas for us old fans while still remaining Rose Mountain's level of accessibility for the new folks. You'll never get bored with these guys.

 

 

#6   Chris by Christine and the Queens (Because)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Christine and the Queens ChrisA nonstop pop album from a queer-friendly, European-accented solo female artist? This is the space we were all saving for Robyn, but I wouldn't be surprised if I'm not the only one who found Hélöise Letissier’s sophomore album (performed in the identity of her male alter-ego Chris) to be much more compelling.

 

 

#7   Jellies by 77:78 (Heavenly)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

77:78 JelliesThis is a delightfully solid debut from two of the members of UK band The Bees (a.k.a. A Band of Bees in the US) that quickly settles into a groove of psych-tinged indie rock reminiscent of XTC's explorations as The Dukes of Stratosphear. The album vacillates between the light and airy sounds of the Flower Power years and a more robust late-70s funk, but every song lands.

 

 

#8   Historian by Lucy Dacus (Matador)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Lucy Dacus HistorianYou can hang on to Mitski and friends for your own lists - Lucy Dacus's brand of fuzzed-out guitars and pensive, personal lyricism rang much more sincere to me. She has a reserve and a maturity about her writing that this current class of diary songwriters doesn't have enough of, and can tug on your heartstrings without liberal helpings of lovelorn cliche.

 

 

#9   Bienaventuranza by Chancha Via Circuito (Wonderwheel)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Chancha Via Circuito BienaventuranzaThis was maybe the most original album I heard all year. Pedro Canale masterfully combines cumbia and traditional Argentinean folk sounds with glitch-laden electronica to create otherworldy soundscapes that still manage to earworm themselves in your brain, despite their lack of familiarity.

 

 

#10   Modern Cults by Holygram (Cleopatra)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Holygram Modern CultsThis is everything darkwave should be. I want to blast this entire album while dancing in the resurrected bones of Club Neo, wearing my platform vinyl brace boots, fishnets, and a full stick of eyeliner. Thank you, Germany, for originating this delightfully pure goth kid chestnut.

 

A Few Quick Additional Mentions

Local Honorable Mentions:

V. V. Lightbody - Bathing Peach

Serengeti - Dennis 6E

C.H.E.W. - Feeding Frenzy

Man's Body - Put Your Family In It

Fauvely - Tides EPs

and singles...

Dry Cleaning - Sweet Princess

Emily Blue - *69

Ravyn Lenae - Crush

Chance the Rapper - Four New Songs

boygenius - boygenius ep

 

 

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2018

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