My Top 30 Albums of 2018 – Part II

Before we get into the top 10 I wanted to recognize some great music I listened to this year that didn’t make it on this list for various reasons. I revisited a bunch of albums I missed in 2017 and three really stood out; Phoebe Bridger’s Strangers in the Alps, Paramore’s After Laughter and KB’s Today We Rebel. I listened these albums a ton and had I caught them in 2017 they certainly would’ve made my list from that year. Chance the Rapper released 6 singles this year and I listened to them pretty much nonstop. Had those songs been an album, it’d be listed below for sure! Lastly, when I checked my Spotify stats for the year my top artist was Caspar Babypants… who is Caspar Babypants you ask… it’s a band that makes children’s music and my boys are big fans, but honestly I like the music as well. So pro tip, if you have kids definitely check out Caspar Babypants, they have a substantial back catalog and basically put out an album ever year. Now, without further ado, here’s my top 10!

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10. Social Club Misfits – Into the Night

Social Club Misfits is a rap duo made up of MCs, Marty Mar and FERN. Their newest album Into the Night is one of those albums you put on because of how fun it is. As Marty and FERN trade off verses there’s a clear chemistry between them. They also have a playful, upbeat vibe. In terms of production it’s hook after hook on Into the Night. These songs will not only get you moving but they’ll be stuck in your head the rest of the day. In many ways this feels like it could be a mainstream rap album. The difference is these guys aren’t just going through the motions of making hit songs. There is clearly thought and intention behind every minute of this album. You can hear it in the interplay between Marty and FERN, or in the way their rapping and the production perfectly complement each other. The lyrics are also well thought out and well constructed. Marty and FERN also happen to be Christians, so their faith certainly comes through in their words. But again they veer away from the mainstream;  this isn’t cheesy, sugar coated Christian music. They go deep into their struggles and give God the praise for getting them through it.

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9. Jon Batiste – Hollywood Africans

If you’ve ever watched The Late Show with Stephen Colbert then you at least have some knowledge of who Jon Batiste. Batiste is the music director and band leader at The Late Show and it’s how I first discovered him. From the first episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert I was immediately captured by the show’s funky theme song and by Batiste’s huge smile and energy. Plus he was dancing around the stage playing a melodica… who plays a melodica, let alone as the leading instrument on a late night TV show!? As much as I love Stephen Colbert I found myself tuning into to hear Batiste and his backing band. Around the same time I was starting to get into Jazz music and found Batiste had a back catalog of Jazz albums. I ate them up. His style of Jazz was so unique and infectious. Plus I happen to really love piano and Batiste plays the piano like no other. All that to say, I’d like to now introduce his newest album, Hollywood Africans, which happens to be the first time I’ve had a jazz album make one of my annual lists. This album embodies all the things I love about Batiste and in a lot of ways it’s so much more than just a jazz album. In addition to jazz it features, blues, classical, contemporary pop, and modern pop. There’s a mix of songs featuring Batiste’s wonderful vocals, and others that are purely instrumental. Some covers and some originals. One song I’ll highlight is “It’s a Wonderful World.” Initially I was a little bummed to see this song… I thought, do we really need another cover of this song, but when I heard it I was blown away. It’s a beautiful version playing tribute the original while adding a whole new twist. Most notably it’s Batiste’s piano arrangement that makes this cover so special. He uses the whole keyboard making it a bit over the top, but in the best possible way. Batiste highlights a well written song with his own touches. This album is a special one, definitely check it out.

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8. Jeremy Messersmith – Late Stage Capitalism

Jeremy Messersmith used to teach a class on songwriting at MacPhail Center for Music here in Minneapolis. It makes sense because he strikes me as someone who could have a PHD in Songwriting. He writes incredibly well-crafted pop songs and his latest album Late Stage Capitalism could serve as thesis for such. Nearly all the songs could be a single made for radio, but unlike mainstream pop, there’s a precision and intentionality to every aspect of each song. Most people like pop hits because they’re catchy without a care as to what the song is saying, what instruments are used, how it’s arranged, or how it’s produced. The songs on Late Stage Capitalism are incredibly catchy and yet well thought out. I’m not sure if Messersmith is a perfectionist, but this album feels perfectionistic, in a good way. Messersmith is also really good at writing sad songs. Here he covers such topics as lost love, humanity’s poor treatment of the earth, the pitfalls of televangelism and on my favorite song “Monday, You’re Not So Bad” he argues that Monday is actually pretty good because the rest of the days aren’t that great. The somewhat pessimistic tone is carefully hidden and contrasted with bubbly upbeat melodies. Musically Messersmith captures some pop vibes reminiscent of the 60s as well as folk and rock influences. He’s once again surrounded by his usual cast of characters who provide great accompaniment, backing vocals, and production. I listened to a recording of Messersmith and his band giving commentary on the album and it sounds like they had a lot of fun making it, which comes through on the album. It’s actually somewhat contrary to what I mentioned before about the perfectionism of the song writing as the performances themselves feel more carefree.

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7. Leon Bridges – Good Thing

I don’t typically go for soul music or R&B, but every once in a while there’s an artist or album that really grabs me. Leon Bridges is that artist and Good Thing is that album. When I first started listening to Good Thing I liked it, but figured I’d get bored with it after awhile. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I kept coming back to it over and over, and found myself singing and dancing along. Bridges’ first album felt like a throw back to a different time, whereas Good Thing feels distinctly modern. There’s still plenty of throw back influences from the 50s and 60s and even some song that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Prince album. The difference being, those influences give flavor to a fresh sound rather than just mimicking the original. Bridges pulled together a talented team of producers and songwriters who together helped create a soulful, energetic, and sexy album playing to Bridges’ strengths. His vocals range from smooth to smokey and he hits his higher register and falsetto with precision. Lyrically Bridges grapples with finding true love for the first time and trying to balance that with being a touring musician. Does he settle down and possible risk his career or does he pursue his dreams and maybe miss out on love. There’s tension and Bridges captures those emotions so well in both his lyrics and his vocal performance. I’m not sure if my love for Good Thing will turn me one to more music in this genre, but I do know it definitely made me a Leon Bridges fan and I can’t wait to here what he does next.

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6. Thrice – Palms

Palms is Thrice’s second album since coming back from hiatus and with this release it’s become clear, this is a new era for Thrice in more ways that one. In 2007 and 2008 Thrice released their very ambitious concept album The Alchemy Index which found them at their most experimental spanning numerous genres. For their next couple of albums Beggars and Major/Minor Thrice responded in typical Thrice fashion by going in a stripped down, straight forward rock direction. In some ways it felt like something was missing from the Thrice catalog, something that belonged as a bridge between The Alchemy Index and Beggars. Now post hiatus Thrice is filling that missing gap with 2016’s To Be Everywhere is To Be Nowhere and particularly with this year’s Palms. Palms employs many of the electronic sounds that have been mostly absent since The Alchemy Index. Right out of the gate the opening track “Only Us” starts out with an eerie synth part which sounds reminiscent of the Stranger Things score. The song builds beautiful as the vocals come in, then drums, then after a minute in we get some deep crunchy bass, and finally in come the guitars. Thrice takes those elements and constructs each track sounding both like the Thrice we know and love and sounding like something totally new. I’ve always been a big fan of brothers Riley and Ed Breckinridge who play drums and bass respectively. Their parts really shine on Palms providing a nice backbone to the lead parts. Lead guitarist Teppei Teranishi also does some great work on the guitar sounds and brings back his skills on keys in full force. Going back briefly to this being a new era for Thrice, I think a big part of that is frontman Dustin Kensrue’s lyrics. Kensrue has always been pretty open about his Christian faith especially on the couple albums prior to their hiatus. But in recent years his worldview has changed. He still claims to be a Christian, but no longer in an orthodox sense. Many of the lyrics on Palms address these changes. I’ll admit I don’t connect with these lyrics as much as I have on past Thrice albums since I don’t share many of Kensrue’s new beliefs. However, I do still really love his writing and still find truth in these songs. Kensrue also seems to get more and more comfortable with his vocals with each new album. His vocals on Palms are raw and prominent in the mix and is one of his best vocal performances to date.

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5. mewithoutYou – [Untitled] and [untitled] e.p.

mewithoutYou released both an LP, [Untitled] and an EP, [untitled] e.p. this year. I’m primarily going to talk about the LP, but definitely check out the EP as well. It serves as sort of a companion piece to the full length album and is excellent in it’s own right. With that said, mewithoutYou is one the most unique rock bands of the past 20 years. There are not many bands to really compare them too. Over their career they’ve gone from post hardcore, to folk, to experimental indie rock. All while being lead by Aaron Weiss’ unique mix of spoken word, screaming, and singing vocals. They continued to innovate from album to album and [Untitled] finds them pushing their sounds in directions they’ve never gone before. In many ways they’ve returned to their heavy roots. Some of the new songs are some of their most aggressive with Weiss using his signature scream much more than he has on the past few albums. Not to mention plenty of distorted guitars and hard hitting drums. At the same time [Untitled] features some of mewithoutYou’s most subdued songs in which they incorporate ethereal and ambient vibes not previously present in their catalog. To describe this album in cinematic terms I would say it paints an eerie almost post-apocalyptic landscape. But the driving force of any mewithoutYou album is Aaron Weiss and the same is true for [Untitled]. Weiss is an interesting character, who’s life has been shaped by various faith traditions including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. His lyrics are very poetic often dripping with religious and Biblical symbolism. It can sometimes be hard to understand what he’s singing about, but on [Untitled] there seems to be a theme of seeking. Weiss got a married a few years ago and now has daughter. I could be wrong but I image some of these changes in his life have made him reevaluate the meaning of life and how it connects with faith and God. Either way there’s a wealth of fascinating lyrics to dive into here, and I’m pretty sure I’ve just scratched the surface.

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4. boygenius – boygenius

boygenius is a collaboration between Phoebe Bridgers, Julian Baker, and Lucy Dacus who are three of the best up and coming song writers in the indie scene right now. Phoebe Bridgers’ album Stranger in the Alps was my favorite album from this year that came out in 2017. Julian Baker’s album Turn Out the Lights was number 11 on my list last year. I’m just becoming familiar with Lucy Dacus, but let’s just say when it comes to boygenius, I was already a big fan of two thirds of the band before it even existed. Each of these women write deeply stirring songs full of passion and imagery. They also each have beautiful voices, each unique in their own right. Bring them all together and the result is something really special. Their debut album is just six songs, but considering their short writing and recording time these songs are the best of the best. There’s no filler on this album, it’s exceptional song writing from three exceptional artists. Bridgers, Baker, and Dacus each brought one song idea to the table and then the three worked together building upon those ideas and co-writing the rest. Their three voices harmonize beautifully together and musically each of their strengths plays off the others making for a truly collaborative album. The three each have a propensity for the melancholy, which is certainly present here, and yet there’s a sense of togetherness if not commiseration. It’ll be great to continue to follow these women as they continue what I’m sure will be incredible solo careers. Whether or not we’ll get more boygenius remains to be seen, but even if this is it, what a great little album it was.

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3. Roma di Luna – We Were Made To Forgive

I first encountered Roma di Luna performing in my friends’ backyard in north Minneapolis for a house party. The performance was stripped down and featured the then married couple Channy Leaneagh and Alexi Casselle. Their intimate performance of folk songs both originals and covers instantly won me over. I bought a CD from Leaneagh afterwords and we talked a bit about their bass player James Everest who I was taking guitar lessons from at the time. It was an experience I’ll never forget. Roma di Luna would go grow in their sound over the years and release a couple more albums before Leaneagh and Casselle divorced putting an end to the band. Not long after Leaneagh became the front woman of the synth-pop band Polica. Polica got fairly big as Twin City’s bands go and had some national success. It would seem Roma di Luna was a long distant memory. Then something interesting happened. A couple years ago Leaneagh start jamming with some of the Roma di Luna guys again and formed a new band. But the new band was short lived and after a series of events Roma di Luna official reformed. Some reunion shows followed and eventually they got back in the studio and recorded We Were Made To Forgive. The title kind of sums it up, doesn’t it? A band that ended due to the divorce of it’s two leading members is back together. Forgiveness and reconciliation would have to play a part in that equation. The songs on We Were Made To Forgive mostly sung by Leaneagh catalogs the pain she and Casselle caused each other but also the fruit of finding forgiveness and peace. What a great example for us all to follow. Musically this feels like a whole new Roma di Luna. They sound much more like a seasoned indie rock band and I think Leaneagh brought some pop sensibility from her work in Polica. I was really blown away honestly. Roma di Luna always felt like a live band to me, but We Were Made To Forgive is amazingly written, produced, and recorded. I’m sure it sounds great live too, but it’s definitely a studio album. Lastly I wanted to mention Casselle’s role on this album. He only performs on two songs which are delivered as spoken word performances over ambient music. The first serves as an interlude in the middle of the album and the second closes out the album. They are really incredible performances and the add a perfect unexpected touch.

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2. Dessa – Chime

I’ve never been a huge Dessa fan, but I’ve liked her stuff enough that I’ve casually followed along over the course of here career. Her latest album Chime completely changed that. From first listen I was hooked and have been diving in ever since. Dessa splits her time as a musician between being a member of the hip hop collective Doomtree and releasing her own solo albums. While Dessa does some rapping on Chime it certainly isn’t a rap album. However, it does have a fair amount of hip hop influence primarily in the production. Chime is produced by Doomtree alum Lazerbeak and Andy Thompson who is a long time calibrator with the aforementioned Jeremy Messersmith. Lazerbeak and Thompson bring a more beat driven approach to Dessa’s songs. Dessa adds in flair and personality with her vocal performance and melodies making for dynamica album full of energy. Another area where Dessa shines on this album is in her lyrics. Like many rappers she has a way with words particularly in her use of metaphors. In the song “Velodrome” she uses the idea of racing in a velodrome as a metaphor for facing life’s challenges. You race fast around the track leaning hard into the steep banks on the edge of control and sometimes you just can’t hold on. Dessa also happened to put out a book this year titled My Own Devices. It is a collection of essays about her life and it provides an inside look into her lyrics and the way she thinks about things. One of the main themes in the book is her difficulty of getting over a long time love interest and going to extreme lengths to do so, even going as far to participate in neurofeedback therapy in an attempt to scrub her brain of her romantic feelings toward this person. This theme is also explored on Chime as well as her experience being a woman in a man’s world, her thoughts on freewill, grief, pain, and growing up. It’s definitely a deep dive and well worth the journey.

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1. Shad – A Short Story About a War

I’d like to start out with a quote about this album which I feel like perfectly captures it, “We found [Shad’s album A Short Story About a War] satisfying and engrossing, like a good book… it’s not background music and it’s not going to help you turn off your brain.” This was said by by Frannie Kelley as an intro to her and Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s conversation with Shad for their podcast Microphone Check. Another thing I wanted to mention about this album is it was my most anticipated album of 2018. Shad is my favorite rapper and it’s been five years since his last full length album, Flying Colours came out. Also, Shad does an excellent job of speaking into what’s going on in culture and I felt his voice was one we really needed to hear during these crazy times we find ourselves in. However, when I first put on A Short Story About War, I wasn’t really feeling it. But as the quote above implies this album is not an “easy” listen, it’s not one you just put on for fun, it’s one that requires some time and thought. Because I love Shad’s past work so much I knew this album was worth giving a chance and sure enough it got better with each listen. It started out at about 15 on this list and slowly but surely made it’s way to number one! One of the reasons this album takes time to digest is because it’s a concept album with many layers. As you might have guessed from the title the album tells the story about a fictional war with a couple of key characters, the sniper and the fool. The music unfolds a bit like a play, with Shad providing narration in the form of interludes throughout the album. While the story is fictional it pulls truth from the real world we live in. Shad speaks to the violence and injustices in our world and highlights how some are blind to these things and others are impacted by them daily. The production is fairly dark, but masterfully matches the mood of each scene in the story. There’s a mix of heavy beats, samples, and some nice jazz influences in the interludes. Shad’s rapping, lyrics, and word play are on point and could honestly go toe to toe with any of the top rappers out there. Here’s a taste from the song “The Stone Throwers (Gone in a Blink)”:

Game hasn’t changed, same ol’ monopoly
Same couple players own all of the property
I ain’t a prop, don’t give no props to me
My people still don’t eat properly
Think we forgot? We was just property
Think we’ll be bought again?
Think that they brought them democracy?
I think they brought back them poppy seeds
My people locked up for chopping
That’s hypocrisy
We wasn’t thought of
We wasn’t brought up and taught we was set up
That’s why we get caught up
Y’all discarded us
Put them bars up
Of course we got guards up
We hard cuz we’re hard up
They got them start-ups and Starbucks’
We got a couple of stars till they turn ’em to stardust
They starve us
Can’t even drink water
Up North with that Flint water
All in the sink as they sink farther
Kids on the brink
Y’all went to Harvard and Stanford
Think harder for answers man, think
We’re far below standards
Don’t tell me anger won’t help us
You told me the cancer would shrink
We need a shrink
We just see boys making bands: N’Sync
Open your eyes my fam, we all could be gone in a blink

As I alluded to before, the lyrical themes go deep on this album and requires repeat listens to fully take it all in. I don’t think I can even come close to doing this album justice in a short review. My hope would be, if this sounds interesting to you in anyway, go give it a listen. It’s worth digging into and chewing on a bit and you get some great music along the way.

 

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My Top 30 Albums of 2018 – Part I

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I’ve been doing a list like this every year for roughly 10 years now and I think this year was possibly the hardest one I’ve done. There was a lot of really good music this year and unlike years past there wasn’t a particular album or albums that immediately jumped out as album of the year. As the year went I kept shuffling the list around and had a hard time narrowing down any kind of order. As a music lover that’s good problem to have. I also made a few changes to my approach this year. This is my first time doing a Top 30 list and I’ve decided to allow EPs and soundtracks to be considered for contention. I primarily do these lists for myself and don’t intend them to be comprehensive by any means… I can only listen to so much music in a year, ha! But I figure if I can turn one person onto to something new then I’ve contributed a little something to supporting good art. If not, then I still had a lot of fun doing it. So if you’re here reading, thanks! I hope you enjoy and find something you like.

30. Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning

Cloud Nothings provide the indie scene with a good dose of edginess and aggressiveness that it is sometimes lacking. That is especially true for their latest album Last Building Burning which is their heaviest to date.

29. Sho Baraka and Vanessa Hill – So Many Feelings

Sho Baraka an Vanessa Hill take on the persona of a fictional married couple on So Many Feelings, which explores the ins and outs of married life. The interplay between the two is perfect and is complemented with great production. The moral of the story? Marriage can be challenging at times, but it’s always worth fighting for.

28. Emery – Eve

Emery is back with perhaps their most ambitious album to date. At first it feels a little all over the place, but with each listen it starts to make more sense how each of the many parts makes up the whole. Emery may have gotten their start in the emo, screamo, or whatever scene you want to call it, but now they are simply making creative rock music with a quiver full of arrows at their disposal.

27. Lykke Li – So Sad, So Sexy

Lykke Li seems to like making sad songs, and she happens to do it very well. On So Sad, So Sexy she takes her unique style of pop and marries it with a mix of modern pop sounds and hip hop inspired production.

26. Four Fists – 6666

P.O.S and Astronautalis, collectively known as Four Fists, have finally released their long awaited album, 6666 and it was worth the wait. It’s aggressive, urgent, and fast past… just what you’d expect from these two juggernauts of the Twin Cities hip hop scene.

25. Tancred – Nightstand

Jess Abbot has really come into her own as a solo artist. Over the past three Tancred albums she’s gone from emo to pop punk to indie rock and every where in between. Her latest album, Nightstand is her most vulnerable yet, taking the listener on a raw emotive ride that’ll keep your head bobbing and your heart stirring.

24. Taelor Gray – The Love Don’t Last Long

Besides moonlighting as a rapper, Taelor Gray is a black pastor of an all white Church, just to give you an idea of the kinds of things he might be thinking about. As you might imagine he covers such topics of race and faith and the cultural impact of both. Gray doesn’t sugar coat anything or hide his emotion in bombastic beats. Rather his delivery along with the production is more subdued, highlighting the depth of what he’s talking about.

23. Metric – Art of Doubt

I lost track of Metric over their past couple of albums, but decided to check out their new one and I realized I’ve been missing out. In many ways Art of Doubt is pretty much the Metric I remember from 10 years ago or so. That could be a bad thing, but there’s also something about a band that has truly honed their craft to perfection. Whether your a rocker or you just love hitting the dance floor, there’s a little something for everyone here.

22. Andy Mineo – I: The Arrow and II: The Sword

Andy Mineo is the midst of releasing a series of four EPs the first two of which came out this year. The first part titled The Arrow finds Mineo opening up about his struggles with depression, anxiety, and doubt. His rapping is spot on and the production of each song complements the emotions behind his words. Part two, The Sword dives more into personal and interpersonal struggles with pop and rock influenced production. Through his journey of ups and downs Mineo, continues to come back to is need for God which ultimately becomes the central theme of this project.

21. Snail Mail – Lush

Lush is an example of Lo-Fi indie pop at it’s finest. Lindsey Jordan who performs as Snail Mail, delivers emotional music in a somewhat delicate package, yet despite being only 19, she comes across as completely composed and confident. The confidence comes out in subtle ways on Lush, whether it’s a cool guitar part in just the right spot, or the way the melody grabs you in an unexpected way. Jordan take an otherwise simple album and give each moment exactly what it needs to make it something special.

20. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

Big Red Machine is the latest project from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. This time he’s joined by The National’s Aaron Dessner. I haven’t seen an official list of credits, but from bits and pieces of what I’ve read Vernon and Dessner are also joined on this album by some of the best and brightest indie artists out there. What they’ve created is cacophony of beautiful sounds with Vernon’s unmistakable vocals leading the way.

19. Moda Spira – Divorce

I’ve heard a few albums over the years that have dealt with divorce, but none as direct as Latifah Alattas’ second album as Moda Spira, aptly titled, Divorce. This album is deeply heartbreaking as Alattas processes through the end of her marriage. She sings things she actually said, and things she actually felt, and you can feel the rawness of the emotions in her voice. The arrangements and production provide a beautiful back drop to this difficult journey giving the album a lightness without masking it’s intent.

18. Matthew Thiessen and the Earthquakes – Wind Up Bird

Matthew Thiessen, of Relient K has released a handful of solo songs over the years, mostly sad piano ballads. That changed this year when Theissen released the first ever Matthew Theissen and the Earthquakes album Wind Up Bird and it’s pretty different from those one off songs. It’s upbeat and folksy and features lovely backing by Ellie Schmidly. The lyrics are playful which Thiessen is know for, but they are shrouded in metaphor making this one of his most creative works to date.

17. Meg Myers – Take Me to the Disco

I’m still shocked this album hasn’t gotten more buzz. For her album Take Me to the Disco, Meg Myers culls influences from the previous three decades worth of music. There’s 80s synth pop, grunge and alternative of the 90s and pop punk of the 00s. Mix that with fiery song writing and pop sensibility, and you have a catchy, angsty good time.

16. Neko Case – Hell-On

I always forget how good a song writer Neko Case is. Every time she puts out a new album I’m pleasantly surprised and quickly drawn in. There’s a warmth to her voice and in her brand of Americana and yet she exhibits a fierceness that’s unmatched. I mean just look at the album cover, then spend some time digging into the lyrics. She’s a strong woman who doesn’t mess around and isn’t one to messed with. This comes out beautifully in her music and is part of what makes it so special.

15. Sandra McCracken – Songs from the Valley

I’ve known of Sandra McCracken for a long time but only discovered her music for the first time this year. I’ve been really gripped by her song writing. This album in particular comes from a place of sorrow and the struggle of moving on. She captures those emotions perfectly, which I’m sure wasn’t easy to do. At the same time it sounds as if these songs came so effortlessly. Her voice, the lyrics, and the arrangements come together seamlessly to fully capture her very personal journey.

14. LUMP – LUMP

LUMP is a collaboration between solo artist Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay of the band Tunng. I’m a big fan of Laura Marling so I was really excited about this project. It’s great hearing Marling lend her voice and lyrics to music that’s very different from her own. Lindsay who provides the music for LUMP has created an experimental soundscape full of effected guitars and synths. The music is funky and strange at times, but Marling’s vocals and melodies bring it all together making for a memorable listening experience.

13. Derek Minor – The Trap

The Trap is part three of Derek Minor’s Up and Away series. It is the longest album in the series so far and maybe the most fully realized. Lyrically he really hits on the subject of racial inequality and how he and his community have been impacted by it. It’s really great to hear a Christian voice on these matters and one who’s able to do it with great music to back it up. The Trap does a give nod to trap music through out the album, but also covers many other genres, which you don’t often find in hip-hop.

12. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Frances Quinlan has one of the most unique voices in indie rock. It’s raspy and strained at times, while at others it’s soft and restrained. She also sings rhythmically in a way that feels a bit like spoken word. This works well with her often literally lyrics, which read more like poems rather than pop songs. She has the execution of seasoned rapper knowing the best way for her voice to sound when saying specific words and lines. Hop Along’s music rounds out their creative sound. On Bark Your Head Off, Dog their influences range from folk to surf rock, and like so many other bands are doing these days, they pepper in a little 90s alt goodness.

11. Black Panther Soundtrack

Kendrick Lamar serves as the curator for the Black Panther Soundtrack and right there you know it’s not going to disappoint. Lamar hold up his end of the bargain by bringing in some of the most talented artists in hip-hop and R&B. Additionally Lamar adds his own razor sharp rapping along with his artfully crafted lyrics. It doesn’t sound as much like a Kendrick Lamar album but rather a collaborative effort with each artist and producer bringing his or her own flair to each song. The soundtrack also serves as a nice companion piece to the film. It follows the film’s themes and gets into the heads of some of the main characters. Like the movie the album is filed with tension, passion, and energy. I really love this album and there was a point in the year I thought this would make number one. Hopefully that gives a little taste of how good the top 10 will be!