What a year! I’m always thankful that I have music to help me get through it. Beginning this year, I’m also including my top 10 live shows.
You can hear a mix of the songs on Spotify. Enjoy! https://open.spotify.com/user/kornmann/playlist/5KCFxbS3fz3xIL0JjeTahp
1. Low Double Negative
Upon the first listen, I thought my vinyl was damaged or that my speakers had blown. I quickly realized that the distortion I was hearing was intentional. I admit that this album is pretty dark, even scary at times, but it is so beautiful. Kudos to a band that has been making music for 25 years and continues to break new ground.
2. Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour
On her third album, Kacey tows the line between country and pop, redefining what contemporary country music can be. Catchy melodies paired with her honey-soaked voice, makes for a winning combination. Good luck getting these songs out of your head.
3. Mitski Be The Cowboy
This album is full of sadness, but doesn’t leave you feeling hopeless. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The lyrics are relatable on many levels and she elevates them with upbeat production. Songs like “A Pearl” and “Two Slow Dancers” are perfect examples of the range that she is capable of.
4. Lissie Castles
Gaining confidence and being grounded are common themes throughout this album which displays an evolution, both musically and emotionally. The production, which is acoustic-based, but also incorporates electronic effects and layered vocals, compliments her dynamic vocals, to create both an intimacy and a sense of grandeur.
5. Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer
An album dealing with female empowerment that is both soulful and funky. Prince worked with her, before his untimely death, which is evident throughout the album. But make no mistake, it’s her vision and voice that comes through loud and clear.
6. Parquet Courts Wide Awake!
Rock music was not highly represented in 2018. These guys combined punk and funk to create a recording that sounds like a mash-up of The Clash, The Black Keys and Devo. They recruited Danger Mouse to produce the album, who works his magic and brings it all together.
7. Robyn Honey
The Swedish queen of pop is back with her first album in eight years. She was inspired by Kate Bush and it shows. Even though many of the songs come from a place of sadness, she said the album represents “this sweet place, like a very soft ecstasy...I danced a lot when I was making it.”
8. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper A Star Is Born Soundtrack
A great soundtrack for a great movie. Gaga pushes herself into more rock territory and her talent shines. As a musician, Bradley Cooper is no hack either. The chemistry that they have in the movie translates to the record as well.
9. The Internet Hive Mind
The Internet was formed in early 2011 by Odd Future members Syd and Matt Martians. The musicians all have other projects, and in 2017 each member released an individual solo project. They reunited to create a trip-hop collection which sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a cocktail party circa 2000.
10. Low Cut Connie Dirty Pictures (Part 2)
The Philadelphia band makes some straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll fused with soulful R&B. The album was recorded at Ardent, the legendary Memphis studio, but sounds like it could have been recorded in a bar, with the band’s loosely handled production and raw energy.
11. Christine And The Queens Chris
Chris is the second studio album by French singer Hélöise Letissier. Sounding similar to Marina and the Diamonds, she writes smart pop songs that are very danceable. The playful, funky song “Girlfriend” is a perfect example of that.
12. Lord Huron Vide Noir
On their major label debut, the third studio album by the LA band has a cinematic quality to it. They weave airiness and delicacy with lush, heavier beats, reminding me of My Morning Jacket, who’s also capable of creating this balance.
13. Beach House 7
On their seventh album, aptly titled 7, hazy guitars and dreamy melodies are still at the forefront as the band continues to experiment with sounds and textures. If you are waiting for a new Cocteau Twins album, this one will suffice for the time being.
14. MGMT Little Dark Age
On their last release, I felt the duo had lost their way. In a welcome return, they have simplified things, embracing the weirdness that make them unique. The opening line from “She Works Out Too Much” says it all; “Get ready to have some fun!”
15. Ariana Grande Sweetener
Much as been said about Ariana this past year, both professionally and personally. She had a tumultuous couple of years, and has certainly matured from the events, as demonstrated on this cohesive collection of songs. Here’s an artist who has found her voice, and is not afraid to use it.
16. Boygenius Boygenius
Boygenius consists of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus, is considered a super group in the indie folk world. Beautiful harmonies and simple arrangements let the songs shine. My only complaint is that it’s too short.
17. The Carters Everything Is Love
The final piece in the Beyoncé / Jay-Z triptych. She raked him over the coals with Lemonade and he asked for forgiveness on 4:22, and in the end, love triumphed. A perfect ending to an imperfect relationship.
18. Young Fathers Cocoa Sugar
I recently discovered this Scottish “hip-hop” group and was immediately intrigued. Their style is hard to describe as they blur the lines of multiple genres. The best comparison may be TV On The Radio combined with Dirty Projectors. Inventive yet accessible.
19. Tracey Thorn Record
Everything But The Girl hasn’t released an album since 1999, but lead singer Thorn continues to make music in the same vein of their later electronica releases. Seasoned but fresh, this is euro dance music for the middle-aged.
20. Arctic Monkeys Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
This album is a complete 180 from it’s predecessor, AM. This collection of songs is much more challenging, and incorporates lounge, glam rock and psychedelic pop, as well as elements of jazz. They took a chance and it paid off.