Live Ledge #361: Scott Hudson's 40 Best Albums of 2018

As a person who has compiled a favorite album list since the early 90's (or maybe even earlier), a routine has been developed in regards to putting this list together. It all begins in mid-November where possible choices are written down in a little spiral notebook. As the month continues on, others are added. At some point, usually around Thanksgiving, they're broken down into various categories. This group is all potential Top 10's, another is Top 20. Inevitably, there's a long list of records that need a few more listens.

Early December sees the process accelerated. Besides beginning to make some tough decisions on who will or will not make it, publications and online lists are analyzed. Spotify playlists of friends, fellow music geeks, and musicians are analyzed. There's also a quick look at new release lists just in case there's that rare December release that deserves to be considered.

Then there is that moment of truth. That full day set aside, with piles of records scattered all over the living room. The iPad and laptop is next to me on the floor, not only for research purposes but to play the releases that weren't purchased in a physical format.

So here's this year's list of the 40 best records of 2018. It was a seriously fantastic year for music; a year where almost 100 releases were considered and deserved recognition. To listen to selections from these records, the latest Live Ledge was a massive, three hour Casey Kasem-ish countdown of the 40 selections of new 2018 releases. You can find this show at almost any podcast site, including iTunes and Stitcher.


Best New Records of 2018

1. Superchunk, What A Time To Be Alive. Their 11th album just may be the Chapel Hill band’s true masterpiece. This state of the union overview is catchy, powerful, and genuinely urgent.

2. Ty Segall, Freedom’s Goblin. Is this Ty’s White Album? Could be, as this double record combines any and all types of tunes you’d expect from one of this era’s most prolific musician.

3. Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel. Barnett’s sophomore record differs little from her debut (or her earlier EP’s) but why should it? She’s a brilliant songwriter full of quotable lines of self-loathing.

4. Parquet Courts, Wide Awake! The New York band’s sixth album is quite possibly their masterpiece, combining punk, funk, and even elements of dub reggae. While it sounds like a party record, the lyrics actually reflect the a darker worldview.

5. Jeff Tweedy, Warm. The Wilco leader’s first solo record features a much more laidback sound that is reminiscent of Wilco’s first releases.

6. Spiritualized, And Nothing Hurt. Haunting and engrossing. This is a record that’s hard to ignore once you throw it on your turntable.

7. Wreckless Eric, Construction Time & Demolition/8. Amy Rigby, The Old Guys (tie). It’s hard to think of these records as separate releases. Both were produced by Eric, and both are full of humorous stories of being middle-aged musicians who have seen it all.

9. Bodega, Endless Scroll. The party record of the year. Produced by Parquet Courts’ Austin Brown, this is the fun, upbeat Mark E. Smith album that never happened.

10. Michael Rault, It’s a New Day Tonight. Rault is a man that was born about 40 years too late, as this record would have fit in perfectly in an early 70’s playlist of Badfinger, Big Star, Wings, and The Raspberries. And this is said as a compliment, as the record’s warm, clean guitar sounds echo that era’s analog production.

11. Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Years. Shook’s bandcamp page describes themselves as a “country band with a sneer, a bite, and no apologies”. I can’t top that.

12. Art Brut, Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out! Berlin’s greatest indie rock band returns after a seven year hiatus, and they haven’t missed a beat. Lead singer Eddie Argos still speak-sings his often-humorous, often-self-deprecating lyrics about himself and his obsessions, and they’re as entertaining as ever.

13. Archie & The Bunkers, Songs From the Lodge. First off, this is the best band name in years. Secondly, what they describe as “hi-fi organ punk” is some of the best garage rock in quite some time.

14. Subsonics, Flesh Colored Paint. Take one part 50’s Sun Records vibe and mix it with a bit of ? and the Mysterians and other 60’s garage rock before tossing in a pinch of Suicide and you have this crazy Atlanta band.

15. Titus Andronicus, A Productive Cough. A departure of sorts from their previous records, the fifth album by this innovative Jersey band retains their loose style that’s seemingly always teetering on collapsing yet has nothing that leader Patrick Strickles would call their usual “punk bangers”.

16. The Shadracks, S/T. The first time I heard this all I could think about was how this album sounded like a Billy Childish (Thee Milkshakes, Thee Headcoats, CTMF) record. Well, of course it does, as leader Huddie Shadrack is his son. It’s safe to say that Childish’s patented minimalist garage rock will live on through another generation.

17. Kurt Vile, Bottle It In. Describing Vile’s music is next to impossible but “warped, psychedelic folk-rock” (as Pitchfork described it) is probably the best. After a handful of good but not great records, this is the one that works from start to finish.

18. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Hope Downs. This Australian band proudly wears their influences on each and every song. Take a bit of The Chills, R.E.M., and the Go-Betweens, and the combination is the best jangle pop record in years.

19. Nap Eyes, I’m Bad Now. Let’s be honest. Nap Eyes leader Nigel Chapman’s voice is pretty similar to Lou Reed’s but while Reed generally examined what is wrong with society Chapman’s viewpoint is much more insular.

20. Ethers, S/T. The latest purveyor of ragged, anthemic garage rock that is equal parts cynicism and charm.

21. King Tuff, The Other. The record that sees leader Kyle Thomas move from Ty Segall-ish 60’s garage rock into 70’s glam-influenced pop anthems.

22. Spice Boys, Glade. A clever band name means little if the chops and hooks aren’t there. This Swedish garage rock outfit has plenty of both to spare.

23. Warm Drag, S/T. An arresting pairing of Thee Oh Sees drummer Paul Quatrone on samples and Vashti Windish on haunting vocals.

24. Table Scraps, Autonomy. Chaotic yet catchy punk-inspired garage rock that owes quite a bit to 70’s New York and 80’s Minneapolis.

25. Night Shop, In the Break. Kevin Morby was one of 2017’s great discoveries. The drummer of his former band, The Babies, is now carrying a similar torch of catchy, rocking singer-songwriter tunes.

26. David Nance Group, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized. The record that sees Omaha’s eccentric version of Neil Young release his most Crazy Horse-ish record to date.

27. Guided By Voices, Space Gun. What is it now? 105 releases associated with Robert Pollard? Yet the last few have been among his best ever, and this year’s model is no exception.

28. Lithics, Mating Surfaces. So reminiscent of early 80’s postpunk, this Portland band is chock full of angular rhythms, staccato leads, and extremely catchy melodies.

29. Shame, Songs Of Praise. Is it possible to combine Fat White Family, Gang Of Four and The Fall? This record proves it can be done.

30. J Mascis, Elastic Days. The Dinosaur Jr leader’s latest solo record is certainly a more acoustic version of his day job, but this one is highlighted by some of Mascis’ best songs in quite some time.

31. Bad Sports, Constant Stimulation. Dirtnap Records is known for their punk-influenced garage rock, and this fabulous Texas band has certainly listened to their share of Replacements, Soul Asylum, and Magnolias albums.

32. Camp Cope, How to Socialize & Make Friends. In a year full of fantastic female-fronted indie rock acts (Soccer Mommy, Stella Donnelly, etc., this Australian trio may be the most vital and angst-ridden of the bunch.

33. The Jayhawks, Back Roads And Abandoned Motels. On this unique record, Jayhawks leader Gary Louris reclaims songs that he originally gave away to the likes of the Dixie Chicks and Jakob Dylan.

34. Hot Snakes, Jericho Sirens. Quite possibly the reunion of the year as this post-hardcore rocker’s first album since 2005 is every bit as full of intensity and swagger as their original trio of records.

35. Reverend Horton Heat, Whole New Life. Although the Rev has been consistently great for over 25 years, it’s been quite some time since a truly great record. Reinvigorated due to a couple of new band members, this record is chock full of the twangy guitar workouts that originally made him famous.

36. Fucked Up, Dose Your Dreams. Is there truly a story behind this epic double record? Who knows. Whatever it is or not, it’s still a varied collection of songs that go way beyond the band’s punk rock label.

37. Ron Gallo, Stardust Birthday Party. Gallo is one of the most interesting songwriters of our time. Earlier this year he put out an EP of songs, Really Nice Guys, that was a satirical look at how the record industry looks these days. His second full-length combines elements of oh so many past greats (Buzzcocks, Cheap Trick, Beach Boys, Iggy Pop and so many more) with a dark humored look at whatever elements impact his life today.

38. The Longshot, Love Is For Losers. In recent years the side projects of Billie Joe Armstrong have eclipsed the quality of his day job as frontman of Green Day. The Longshot is no exception as it allows him to toss his influences of the Kinks, Replacements, and Cheap Trick (amongst others) into a giant blender that thankfully reeks more of tribute than theft.

39. Graham Parker, Cloud Symbols. Is it possible for Graham Parker to make a bad album? It sure doesn’t seem to be the case. Yes, he’s still a curmudgeon, but unlike Elvis Costello, his late 70’s angst-ridden singer/songwriter competitor, Parker has never settled into the sort of rock classicist that rewarded Costello with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors. However, the latest is his most laid back, roots-oriented releases in years, but Parker’s songwriting skills have yet to diminish.

40. Terry & Louie, A Thousand Guitars. The indie music world lost one of its best up and coming bands after the tragic accident that saw three members of The Exploding Hearts die in a 2003 car accident. The surviving band members, Terry Six and King Louie Bankston, have this new project that takes up where the original garage-ish power poppers left off.

Best Reissues, Box Sets, Cover Records, and Re-recorded Releases of 2018

1. The Beatles, White Album 50th Anniversary Box Set. The box set of all box sets. A remixed version of the original album, an accompanying album of acoustic demos, and tons of outtakes and rehearsals.

2. Rich Show, That Was The Future, This Is The Past. Local hero gets the opportunity to redo 35 years of his best songs, and the results exceed all expectations.

3. Bob Dylan, More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14. Every surviving take of every session for Blood On the Tracks, one of Dylan’s greatest albums.

4. Neil Young, Songs For Judy/Tonight’s the Night Live. The latest two archive releases are quite possibly the best to come out so far. Both from the mid-70’s, they showcase both his acoustic and electric personas.

5. Car Seat Headrest, Twin Fantasy (Face to Face). Will Toledo gives a full-band reworking of an old homemade bandcamp release

6. Juliana Hatfield, Sings Olivia Newton-John. Maybe the most shocking great release of the year. The Olivia Newton-John catalog gets an indie rock makeover.

7. Joe Strummer, 001. Strummer was always more than just the leader of the “only band that matters”. This two disc collection gathers up his non-Clash highlights and outtakes.

8. The Glands, I Can See My House From Here. The great discovery of 2018. After leader Ross Shapiro’s death in 2016 the surviving members cobbled together a double album of demos and unfinished tracks to accompany a box set of their two official records.

9. The Kinks, The Village Green Preservation Society 50th Anniversary. Arguably the greatest Kinks album of all time, Village Green gets the box set treatment.

10. John Lennon, Imagine (The Ultimate Collection). Similar to the White Album in scope, hours and hours of unheard outtakes tell the story of the creation of one of Lennon’s greatest solo albums.

11. Various Artists, 3 x 4. Maybe the most clever Record Store Day release saw four “paisley underground” bands (Bangles, Rain Parade, Dream Syndicate and The Three O’Clock) cover one song of each other’s songs.

12. Wire Reissues. The legendary first three Wire albums receive the box set treatment.

13. R.E.M., At The BBC. Almost 30 years of great live performances are collected in this giant box set.

14. Tom Petty, An American Treasure. Outtakes, live tracks and somewhat obscure album tracks tell the story of the late music great.

15. Liz Phair, Girly-Sound To Guyville. One of indie rock’s greatest 90’s recordings gets the box set treatment.

16. Ty Segall, Fudge Sandwich. A busy year for Segall (just how many records did he release) culminates in this collection of covers.

17. New York Dolls, Personality Crisis: Live Recordings & Studio Demos. Honestly, there is so much repetition in the track listing that this is for completists only but the best moments (both live and in the studio) are a fan’s dream.

18. The Who, Live at The Fillmore East. One of the most bootlegged shows ever finally sees an official release...and for the first time ever it’s the full show!

19. Various Artists, Harmony In My Head:UK Power Pop & New Wave 1977-81. Cherry Red Records are the king of punk and alternative rock box sets, and this collection of perfect pop is a true celebration of my favorite era.

20. Various Artists, She’s Selling What She Used to Give Away. “Naughty” songs have always existed, as this collection of 80 year old blues and country novelty songs prove.


kurt said…
Since you asked for fan favs, my completely non representative list includes:

Buffalo Tom: Quiet & Peace
Hot Snakes: Jericho Sirens
Jeff Tweedy: Warm
Superchunk: What a Time to Be Alive
The Paranoid Style: Rock n Roll Can't Recall

My listening list though, is entirely esoteric and incomplete. I spent most of the year discovering / working through Lee Scratch Perry records, for some reason, and then Ethiopian jazz. Well, and following my pre teen boys imagine dragons listening.
Joseph said…
I love year-end lists, articles, episodes, etc, and the one I absolutely look forward to more than any other is The Ledge albums of the year episode. Thanks for all the work you put into it, Scott! Looking forward to hearing more awesomeness in 2019!

Popular Posts