By Brian Yauger
My name is Brian and this is a music blog
Volume 1: Best of 2018
I usually write about sports so this is a bit of an adjustment, but I want to branch out my horizons to something else I’m passionate about. That being music. I used to review video games back in middle school, so those skills will totally translate, right?
There’s no music out in 2019 that I am interested in reviewing just yet, so here’s my top five albums of 2018 as a way to sort of get my feet wet with this whole music thing. This was a really solid year for music as there were several albums I didn’t include that I very easily could have. Also, just a disclaimer, I haven’t listened to every album of 2018, so this is in no way definitive, just my five favorites.
5. “Zephyr” – NIKI
I think this is technically an EP, but it was too good to not include. Indonesian singer NIKI released her debut project last year after peppering 2017 with singles such as “I Like U” and “See U Never.”
“Zephyr” feels like a merging of two eras, with retro synths spread across modern trap-inspired percussion. On some of the tracks the merging creates a sort of spacey and sometimes even sensual feel, especially on the track “Spell.”
“All of the lights are down
But I see right through you, dear
It’s silent as we trade mouths
But I hear you loud and clear.” – Spell
With this album, and NIKI’s many guests appearances on her 88Rising labelmates Rich Brian and Joji’s albums, 2018 looks to be the beginning of a bright career for the 19-year-old.
- Key Tracks:
- Dancing with the Devil
4. “Isolation” – Kali Uchis
The debut full-length album of Kali Uchis is on a ton of top five and top 10 lists for a very good reason. Kali Uchis has been pretty quiet since her 2015 EP “Por Vida” barring some guest appearances alongside frequent collaborator Tyler, the Creator.
Kali’s voice flows like butter over the tracks, especially over the song “After the Storm,” a track I’ve listened to probably over 100 times since its release as a single in January. (The music video, directed by Tyler, the Creator is also really cool, check it out.)
“Isolation” continues the trend of the last Kali Uchis album, involving a blend of multiple genres. The album includes nods to classic R&B, soul, bossa nova, Latin pop and hip-hop. Read any review of this album and I guarantee you’ll find a new comparison on each one.
There’s not much more I can say. This is an album that just needs heard, and it does the talking on its own.
- Key Tracks:
- After the Storm (ft. Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins)
- Flight 22
- Just a Stranger (ft. Steve Lacy)
3. “Swimming” – Mac Miller
By far the most emotional album of the year for me, Mac Miller’s final album “Swimming” struck a chord with me on release, but increased tenfold upon the artist’s tragic death.
While it may be an acquired taste, Mac’s singing voice shines through on tracks like the penultimate track, “2009” where he sings about how far he’s come and what he’s learned his past eight years in the mainstream. With hopeful lyrics that make his passing all the more tragic.
“Now when it gets hard
I don’t panic, I don’t sound the alarm.” -2009
The final track, “So It Goes,” ends with a swelling string section truly invoking a feeling of finality. “So it goes” is the phrase oft repeated throughout Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel, “Slaughterhouse Five.” The phrase appears after any death is described in the book. I know it wasn’t intended, like the entirety of David Bowie’s “Blackstar,” but it’s an eerie thought in hindsight.
In a tweet that was later deleted, Mac tweeted the following: “the end of so it goes is so beautiful man, I told jon brion to play the ascension into heaven and he nailed it.”
This album is incredibly good. It’s so good that I totally missed Travis Scott’s “ASTROWORLD,” which released on the same day and actually have yet to listen to the entire thing. Here’s hoping it wins a Grammy.
- Key Tracks:
- Self Care
2. Oxnard – Anderson .Paak
The latest album by California artist Anderson .Paak is a glossy, sunkissed, 56-minute record that brings his subgenre of funk-rap to the mainstream once again.
“Oxnard” is a star-studded affair, featuring appearances by many of hip-hop’s finest including Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, J. Cole and Dr. Dre who also has production credits on a few tracks.
Paak gets political on the track “6 Summers,” when he attacks the Trump administration’s handling of gun violence in America, but doesn’t overstay its welcome playing the political themes off of typical rap braggadocio.
“This shit gon’ bang for at least six summers
But ain’t shit gon’ change for at least three summers.” – 6 Summers
As odd as it seems, the biggest fault of this album is when it was released. Oxnard’s November 16th release date does not fit the atmosphere the album creates. Listening to it gives me the atmosphere of walking down a boardwalk in California, the Pacific Ocean in view. Not, you know, November.
- Key Tracks:
- Cheers (ft. Q-Tip)
- 6 Summers
- Tints (ft. Kendrick Lamar)
1. For Ever – Jungle
Describing the English group Jungle to those who don’t already know of them is something I struggle with. They’re sort of funk, sort of neo-soul, sort of electronic. Whatever they are, its really good.
Opening with the track “Smile,” which you may recognize from the latest wave of Uber commercials with a pounding drum rhythm, an infectious bass line and falsetto lyrics. It kicks the album off perfectly.
The group described the album as “A post-apocalyptic radio station playing break up songs,” and that description couldn’t be more fitting. A siren quietly blares at the beginning of the track “Happy Man” to create the atmosphere of a wasteland, and “House In LA” is a wistful embodiment of the band’s sentiment.
“Lost in L.A.
But you won’t care about that
Eyes full of rain
You be the sunshine and it’s alright now
I should’ve stayed
Woke up in the hope that it could feel my pain.”- House In LA
“For Ever” is another album with a “past meets future” feeling, even down to the vinyl marks on the album cover. Pitchfork describes the band perfectly in their review of the album. “They come about disco by way of Disclosure, Marvin Gaye by way of Pharrell, and Sly and the Family Stone by way of Portugal, The Man.” That’s where my agreements with their review end however, as their middling score for the album is nowhere near mine.
This is my album of the year. Point blank. I could go a lot more in depth on this, but I’m approaching a deadline. All I can say is just listen.
- Key Tracks:
- Beat 54 (All Good Now)