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Tyler Clark presents: Local Mythologies writesCHIRP Radio Best of 2018: Tyler Clark

CHIRP Radio Best of 2018

Throughout December, CHIRP Radio presents its volunteers’ top albums of 2018. Our next list is from CHIRP DJ and Programming Committee member Tyler Clark.

 

 

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

Kamasi Washington Heaven and EarthAs I wrote in my review of Heaven and Earth for Consequence of Sound back in June, "After claiming his place in the spotlight by overwhelming force with The Epic, Kamasi Washington capitalizes on both his newfound fame and his journeyman work ethic to produce a follow-up that’s more intimate and just as daring at the same time. Listening to Heaven & Earth will give you a better sense of Washington, the man and the artist, as well as the moods and textures of the America in which he resides." After grabbing the top spot on my list back then, Heaven and Earth never came close to letting go; six months on, the album's maximalist jazz highlights - from the B-movie bombast of "Fists of Fury" and irresistible updates to Freddie Hubbard's "Hubtones" to the arcade noir of "Street Fighter Mas" and reverent choruses of "Will You Sing" - burn even brighter than they did when they first arrived.

Favorite Track: "Fists of Fury"

 

 

#2   The Horizon Just Laughed by Damien Jurado (Secretly Canadian)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Damien Jurado The Horizon Just LaughedAfter a stellar run of four records produced in partnership with the late Richard Swift, longtime Seattle singer-songwriter Damien Jurado assumed production duties himself on this, his 13th studio album. The result is a moving, bittersweet collection of what Jurado calls "goodbye songs"; on each listen, it's hard not to imagine the tracks here being addressed to Swift (who passed away in July), the Pacific Northwest (which Jurado recently left for southern California), and even the most artistically fruitful part of his long career (the aforementioned Maraqopa trilogy). Soft, spare, and unguarded, the tracks on The Horizon Just Laughed slot in naturally to the unmoored moments of life, when the past, present, and future feel like they're all happening at once.

Favorite Track: "The Last Great Washington State"

 

 

#3   Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (Atlantic)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Janelle Monáe Dirty ComputerAfter years of dazzling listeners with tales of Art Deco android androgyny, Janelle Monáe spent 2018 making a proud, joyous splash in a more wholly human world. Called an "homage to women and the spectrum of sexual identities" by Monáe herself, Dirty Computer tackles these and other topics of identity and acceptance with a pop poetry that's as unsparing in its intimacy as it is bombastic in its delivery. Along the way, the record becomes a valuable artifact from our turbulent American moment; instant classics like "Pynk" and "Crazy, Classic, Life" feel destined to endure as anthems of inclusivity and self-love long past the turmoil that inspired them, and long enough to offer comfort and inspiration to whatever hardships face the generations that come after.

Favorite Track: "Crazy, Classic, Life"

 

 

#4   Clean by Soccer Mommy (Fat Possum)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Soccer Mommy CleanAs a '90s high schooler for whom My So-Called Life was less a TV show and more an aspirational how-to text, I'm a sucker for any song that can be accurately described as "music to cut class to." Twenty years later, the kids are still alright (and ready to make mistakes); as Soccer Mommy, Sophie Allison turned in a record that married '90s whateverism with the always-on anxieties of the Gen Z set. For me, the thing that sets Clean apart from its peers (chiefly, Snail Mail's Lush and Lucy Dacus's Historian) is Allison's keen self-deprecation; although standouts like "Cool" and "Your Dog" might hit the hardest, the one I'll keep with me the longest is probably "Last Girl" and all of the wryly relatable interpersonal angst that comes with it.

Favorite Track: "Last Girl"

 

 

#5   Double Negative by Low (Sub Pop)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Low Double NegativeThe crooks are winning. The climate is doomed. The border is militarized. Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court. After spending the first year of the Trump Administration punching Nazis and rallying the #Resistance, Americans on the left spent year two fighting the numbness of normalization while the mounting damage of sociopolitical attrition tightened like scar tissue around them. In addition to representing a stunning sonic reinvention for veteran Minneapolis slowcore band Low, Double Negative could also function as a soundtrack for this most nihilistic year. It finds the band lost in a void of digital decay and dead ends, one that has more in common with William Basinski's Disintegration Loops than it does Things We Lost in the Fire. As we struggle to make meaning out of the record's semi-lost transmissions, we're left to draw a disheartening conclusion; Double Negative is the most accurate musical representation of what it felt like to survive 2018.

Favorite Track: "Always Trying to Work It Out"

 

 

#6   What A Time to Be Alive by Superchunk (Merge)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Superchunk What A Time to Be AliveOf course, there's a flipside to the ambient despair captured on Low's Double Negative, and it's one that you'll find in large, loud quantities on Superchunk's What A Time to Be Alive. Like the Facebook page of your hippest, angriest Gen X cousin, the longtime indie band's 11th album simmers with a combination of rage at the current state of the world and reminders to the younger generation that this isn't the first time things have been shitty. From the reproductive health anthem "I Got Cut" to "Reagan Youth" (which might be the theme song for anyone whose old high school friend started posting QAnon conspiracies on Facebook), What A Time to Be Alive bears up lefties young and old with a few battle cries tinged with just enough bitterness to harden things against naivety. Clear eyes, full heart, fuck shit up.

Favorite Track: "I Got Cut"

 

 

#7   Be the Cowboy by Mitski (Dead Oceans)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Mitski Be the CowboyAfter fully announcing herself as one of rock's most interesting voices on 2016's Puberty 2, Mitski Miyawaki would've been forgiven for not quite topping that record's breathtaking freshness just two years later. Save your sorrys, then; Be the Cowboy not only tops its predecessor, but does so with a pop confidence that, in a just world, would launch Mitski from the world of rapturous rock clubs all the way to the arena stratosphere. Perhaps the album's biggest triumph comes in its songwriting, which finds Mitski dialing back Puberty 2's confessionalism in favor of wider social commentary while avoiding the (usually inevitable) sag and softness that comes with such widening of scope. Instead, we get a meditation of what it means to a woman, and American, and a being of existential dread, all delivered to some of the catchiest hooks you'll hear this decade.

Favorite Track: "Nobody"

 

 

#8   Room 25 by Noname (self-released)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Noname Room 25 In a Chicago hip-hop scene whose cup's been runneth-ing over for a while now, it takes a truly singular performance to stand all the way out from the crowd. Fatimah Warner delivers just such a performance on Room 25, her debut record as Noname. Drawing inspiration in equal parts from the jazzy day-to-day musings of Digable Planets, the neo-soul poetry of Erykah Badu, and the explicit realness of fellow riser cupcakKe, Room 25 offers a confident, funny statement of purpose that lands with a lushness rarely seen in these dark, spare days of mumble rap. Though she's since left Chicago for the sun of Los Angeles, Noname remains one of the Windy City's best hip-hop exports, and a voice poised to lead the genre's conversation for as long as she cares to.

Favorite Track: "Ace"

 

 

#9   The Hex by Richard Swift (Secretly Canadian)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

Richard Swift The HexI think it's safe to say that we won't fully appreciate the magnitude of Richard Swift's death for a while yet. The indie pop production wizard, who passed away this summer at the age of 41 after a long battle with alcoholism, was a master of the slow burn, and imbued the music that he touched with irresistible layers that only unfolded with patience and repeat listens. That's why it's bittersweet that The Hex should function as his farewell letter; although its intense, ethereal soundscapes burn with a last-minute brightness that seems to portend an imminent end (a feeling helped along in no small part by the deaths of Swift's mother ("Wendy") and sister ("Sister Song," "Nancy")), the record's rallying vigor only reminds us of all the records like it that will never, now, be written. Instead, we'll listen to this one again and again, each time hoping we find one last marvel.

Favorite Track: "Broken Finger Blues"

 

 

#10   Slide by George Clanton (100% Electronica)
BUY: Reckless / Amazon

George Clanton SlideAs I told my friend Travis, whose tireless boosterism for George Clanton got me to listen to this record in the first place: at its best (as, for instance, on opener "Livin' Loose"), Slide sounds like Tears for Fears playing acid house through a screensaver (in a good way). If that's not enough for you, I'm afraid I've done all I can.

Favorite Track: "Livin' Loose"

 

The Rest of the Top 25:

11) Sons of Kemet, Your Queen is a Reptile

12) Dirty Projectors, Lamp Lit Prose

13) Richard Thompson, 13 Rivers

14) Sen Morimoto, Cannonball!

15) Antarctigo Vespucci, Love in the Time of Email

16) Jeff Rosenstock, POST-

17) Earl Sweatshirt, Some Rap Songs

18) Lala Lala, Destroyer

19) Blood Orange, Negro Swan

20) Guided By Voices, Space Gun

21) Ty Segall, Freedom's Goblin

22) Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour

23) Neko Case, Hell-On

24) Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Sparkle Hard

25) Yo La Tengo, There's a Riot Going On

40 Songs I Loved from Bands that Didn't Make the Top 25

The 1975, "Love It If We Made It"

Acid Dad, "Die Hard"

Arctic Monkeys, "Four Out of Five"

Army Navy, "Her Makeup"

awakebutstillinbed, "Opener"

Camp Cope, "The Opener"

Chance the Rapper, "65th and Ingleside"

Childish Gambino, "This Is America"

Christine and the Queens, "Girlfriend"

Courtney Barnett, "Nameless, Faceless"

cupcakKe, "Duck Duck Goose"

Eleanor Friedberger, "Make Me A Song"

Flasher, "XYZ"

Foxing, "Nearer My God"

Hop Along, "How Simple"

Kurt Vile, "Loading Zones"

Lonnie Holley, "I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America"

The Love Language, "Frames"

Lucy Dacus, "Night Shift"

Matthew Dear, "Modafinil Blues"

MGMT, "She Works Out Too Much"

Moses Sumney, "Rank and File"

Mount Eerie, "Tintin in Tibet"

Natalie Prass, "Short Court Style"

Nilüfer Yanya, "Thanks 4 Nothing"

Okkervil River, "Famous Tracheotomies"

Onyx Collective, "2AM at Veselka"

Ought, "Take Everything"

Parquet Courts, "Wide Awake"

Ruler, "Winning Star Champion"

Saba, "GREY"

The Sea and Cake, "Cover the Mountain"

Slaves, "Chokehold"

Spiritualized, "The Morning After"

Sunflower Bean, "Memoria"

Superorganism, "It's All Good"

Tracyanne & Danny, "Alabama"

tUnE-yArDs, "Colonizer"

Viagra Boys, "Sports"

Yves Tumor, "Noid"

 

 

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2018

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