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Around 2018 in 12 Weeks: Staff Picks!

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Our staff (Petridisch, Chris Bynes and Sam Wade) shares their favorite songs and albums from 2018!

 

10 for 2018 by Petridisch


Songs of the Year 2018 by Chris Bynes 

Okay, okay. I give. I tap. I do have favorites after all.

Normally, giving people a list of my favorite albums and songs would seem kind of boring to me. But then, I remember that I do have a favorites list on YouTube, and most of those songs on 2018 are one I wind up going back to without even having to go through the list. So, here are my current favorite songs that I found myself coming right back to over and over again this year, and my explanation of why I liked the tracks so much.

 

Jean Grae and Quelle Chris “My Contribution to This Scam”

Mr. 96 introduced Eminem and Joyner Lucas’ “Lucky You” as his number 2 favorite song for Eminem’s rabid interest in dissing the entire popular Soundcloud rap/mumble rap genre. If only Jean Grae and Quelle Chris had a hit because rather than focus on one end of hip hop, they are willing to roll eyes at the entire culture and the annoying stereotypes within them. Everyone from the “conscious” “femcee” to the white girl rapper who claims to always love 90s hip hop to the backpack rapper to the Instagram rapper turned rapper gets slammed on the chorus, while Jean Grae and Quelle Chris bemoan their current place, or lackthereof, in rap.


Evidence and Slug “Powder Cocaine”

The psychedelic sunshine beat that blankets this rap track suggests that the music is an incredibly positive one, but as both Slug and Evidence will insist to you, they are merely “fine”. All to relatable a topic there.


Georgia Anne Muldrow “Overload”

Someone on Georgia Anne Muldrow’s official audio page to “Overload” (not the video) complained about Geogria Anne Muldrow’s dip into trap R&B, but if that commenter paid any attention to Georgia’s discography, she makes it clear that she does black music. So, that means that trap is within her wheelhouse, too. It works as her song is a black love anthem and a declaration of her wholehearted dedication to her husband, Declaime. A love song that doesn’t at all dare hide her love. You move, other trapsoul artists.


serpentwithfeet “bless your heart”

I’ll be the first to say that putting the last song on the album as a single is…odd. But this song is all one needs to listen to, if they want to get the entire vibe of serpentwithfeet. Romantic, otherworldly, old school (90’s edition complete with well-placed melismas), spiritual, surrealist, visceral with his love and his obsessions…serpentwithfeet embraces softness so hard that you start to feel every bit from the ivory tickle to the last eerie stab in the dark.


Elaquent “Celebrate Life”

If there is any beat that ought to get a chance to make its case that they should not need a rapper over it in order to be a hit, it should be this beat. A massively tranquil banger that weaponizes 8-bit synth underneath a sighing synth pad, “Celebrate Life!” is made for any mood, whether or not you are feeling massively amazing or moody as fuck. This is a beat made for any occasion because it embraces as much subtle composition as it does a certain intensity in emotion.


Tierra Whack “Pet Cemetery”

Tierra Whack has an uncanny ability to do what pop stars are now known to do too much of: deliver lyrics about depressing subjects over seemingly happy music. In this one minute pop song, she croons about what seems like a dead dog. Though, if you asked her directly, the song is actually about a real friend who was killed, but surely, she wouldn’t really mind if you DID think it was about an actual dog.


Marcelyn “Elephant in the Room”

Through the recommendation of A Day Without Love, Marcelyn was a curiosity, yet “Elephant in the Room” is a dissertation on how well she can pen a pop/antifolk anthem. This one being about being able to accept her body and overcome her young insecurity as a big girl. Frankly, while Meghan Trainor’s “All About that Bass”…lacks nuance when discussing the topic of fat acceptance, Marcelyn tackles size acceptance from the act of not needing anyone to accept it but herself.


Plan B “Queue Jumping”/ “Wait So Long”

Those who have paid attention to Plan B’s album cycle pretty much knows the cycle by now. Rap album, R&B album, Rap album, R&B album…and Plan B made sure not to slack on anything with the tracks he returned with. As I can really only put up two song by the same artist (per my rules), I found myself coming back to “Wait So Long”, a dancehall bouncer about wanting love form a woman who would rather him be patient, and the immediate pop crooner “Queue Jumping” about wishing to talk to a girl and gain her love before all of the other men get to her. Either song could easily have blown up on the radio here, but since United States revels in the idea of being Fashionably Late…


Blood Orange “Jewelry”

Somehow the whole Janet Mock quote about a black person being where he isn’t supposed to be fits the song, as I suspect with the last few lyrics (“go back to being unknown, relax your hair, tuck your shirt, put your glasses on, play your guitar”), he tackles his past as indie rock crooner Lightspeed Champion. Underneath that name, Dev Hynes WAS the black man in a space where most of the peers who share his skin didn’t tread. He tackled dance rock, he wrote alt-country tunes, surf rock tunes, he covered Elvis. Those who stuck with him through his short-lived mixtapes and musical experiments knew he was the man who did the most. The “Jewelry” video finds him back with his black brethren and song finds him back to finding love in his skin, regardless of whether or not, he will ever feel completely comfortable or anyone else will let him. The line “One time for the help when the news is way too fi’/And a man get shot on the passenger side,” would have been tragic, if it wasn’t for Hynes’ strange turn of optimism, “too bad ‘cos a nigga went live”. That is one for history.


Moors feat. Tune-Yards “Mango”

Offensive freestyle aside, people really should keep their eyes upon Lakeith Stanfield’s rapping ability where past videos found him embracing old Wu Tang Clan-like beats and metaphysical ideas, new ones found him looking in the eyes of the devil that still haunts him and people like him. On “Mango”, Stanfield laughs directly in the face of those who distressed his people. “We can meet outside/We can do this dance/You can get these hands/you can throw down, man”. If case you think he is playing, Stanfield sneers “Calling all troops: gimme what you got or get hit with the boot”. If you don’t run this man his country back…


Melvin Burch “Wasted”

After watching the entire year’s worth of episodes of This is Melvin, it proves that Melvin Burch is indeed the perfect pop star for these times. He loves fast food too much, had to over come, anxiety, depression and so much unrequited love, and plus, people seem to love black people more when they are entertaining, even if he does not rap for the public anymore.

A marine baby, Burch had to overcome unrequited love, childhood depression and heavy obstacles surrounding his blog-era hip hop past career to get to the conclusion that not only did he want to continue with music, but now he wants to try and be a pop star, which is a shame since hip hop has indeed blown up to the point of becoming a cash cow for those of his age. But rather than take the Lil Peep or Juice WRLD route of bloody heart poetry, Burch tackles his own personal shortcomings with a smirk and a sigh…and some funky ass basslines to boot by Moustache Machine.


Ladytron “The Island”

Ladytron has always been the artists most likely to play with sounds of the future as we know it, but the kicker of “The Island” is that the song re-imagines an actual future and a place away from the one we know so well. As the synth heightens in the chorus, Marnie softly croons “We are sirens of the apocalypse”. Over heavenly pads that they are well known for, they softly echo the new wave creed: rip it up and start again.


deM atlaS “Gratitude”

Surely, those who only know deM atlaS from his rapping on Rhymesayers was incredibly surprised to hear this barn burner from deM atlaS. Those digging in his history knew he was a rock singer, but this song solidifies his talent as a singer and his animated personality shining directly in his music. The fact that he uses it to sneer at people at large who rejected his very being makes the rock song even more powerful. “I tried to be like somebody I already was, but I don’t give a fuck/I just wanted them to like me for who I am”. Your move, Kid Rock.


SOPHIE “Ponyboy”

Is it possible for music to be aggressive and sexy at the same time? Almost like a slap in the face after she slaps her ass to entice some poor soul. Sophie steps hard with a track that shocks and entices like Timbaland if he was replaced with robotic parts. The is is what pop ought to sound like in the future. Expect this anthem to be blasted at ballrooms across the country.


Calvin Valentine “LA”

Certain songs just take you to a place you have never been. This very beat takes us to the Christ-blanketed dirty south. It brings out that feeling of being in church where the spirit of artists singing and catching the spirit just hits you hard in the feels. And this man is from Oregon.


Vic Mensa “Empathy”

Vic Mensa has had a bad year to say the least. With The Autobiography and
There’s a Lot Goin’ On, Vic Mensa follows the creed of changing yourself before changing the world. Mental health, domestic violence, all of it is out in the open. Unfortunately, it is also used to be thrown directly in his face when he disses the late XXXTENTACION who died this year. In response to all of this, he releases “Empathy” which can double as a warning, an apology or an explanation of his intentions following the diss of all abusers within the rap game. “I’m a magnet for hella bad energy/Got a tendency to make a lot of enemies,” he sighs. But he claims to be “working on [his] everything” despite the hate. Time will tell how that goes, but for now, he bore himself again with little thought as to whether you like it and more of a thought as to whether you will attempt to understand.


Swamp Dogg “Lonely”

People claim that everything has been done in music. All of it has been done before. How often have you heard an old school soul song, where the singer uses auto-tune? No? That is the power of Swamp Dogg. In a song lamenting his aforementioned loneliness between saxophone stabs, Swamp Dogg croons with the same power as your average soul singer, same conviction, same everything. But it feels like an unwritten rule to never use auto-tune in stuff like this because…old school rules and feelings. The man also wrote a song dedicated to having sex with your ex. It is clear that he cares less for convention. What’s more is that his experiments are not at all supposed to work. May I say, what a re-entry back to the music game.


Standing on the Corner “Revelation #6: I Used to Want to Be An Astronaut In My Yout”

You know you must have something when Earl Sweatshirt puts you on your album. Ever the curator for musical dopeness (The reason you heard of Vince Staples of s.L.U.M.s collective is because he fucks with them so much), he brings to us free jazz/lo-fi pop band Standing on the Corner. This band is the master of zigging where you thought it would zag, but regardless of conventions, they tackles their chosen genre masterfully. A live a improvised performance, “Revelation #6” is Standing on the Corner doing a Sun Ra meets Stark Reality tackling of free cosmic jazz and stream of consciousness spoken word. Alien vocals and cacophonus drums begin the song, and you are left sucked in till the very end.


Sound of Ceres “Star Shroud”

It wouldn’t be far off to say that I listen to tracks off of Adult Swim Singles every year religiously. There are some tracks (like the emotionally cathartic groove of Robyn’s “Human Being”, the stuttering beauty of ambient band Rival Consoles to even goth-stained R&B lothario Kossisko, who released “Superficial” to promote his new album, Low) that highly perked my ears up, but no track I can say really kept my ears coming back like the otherworldly waft of Sound of Ceres’ “Star Shroud”. Imagine shoegaze, if My Bloody Valentine willfully traded in loud guitars for Moogs, and you will not only get the idea, but wind up drowning in what you hear from start to finish.


Denzel Curry “CLOUT CO13AIN”

“I just want to feel myself/You want me to kill myself/Man I’ve been on my own/Lord, I’mma need some help”

It’s almost sad how Denzel’s second true breakout track as far as gaining mainstream attention (we will get to the first one in a minute) has to begin on a sour yet emotionally honest note. Listening to this track, you find yourself conflicted between nodding your head to the wonky trap beat and feeling for Denzel as he lays down woes from a lack of true friends. It seemed like the sound rap has been going for was trying to balance the explosive almost punk energy of trap music and grunge/goth’s depressed and emotional openness. For this, Denzel turns down the punk energy and goes straight for the feels. However, if punk energy is what you are looking for, “Sumo” is also a dope option.


BONUS #1: Childish Gambino “This is America”

Through assisting rappers like Young Thug to lay down adlibs, a powerful yet meaningful video that people still to this day discuss, and the powerful hitmaking way of sneaking messages surrounding gun ownership, black pride, and the ability to distract people FROM those moments of wokeness (represented in the video by kids dancing with Glover seconds after shocking gunshots), and Glover blew back onto the scene with a piece of media that guarantees that he would never need to release a album or a mixtape ever again as long as it is still talk of the internet.


BONUS #2: Pusha T “The Story of Adidon”

It seemed for a while like as much as Young Money’s hardhitters gained love, they gained just as much hate, and not only for their music, but for their real life personalities. Drake being known as the pretentious fuckboy who has a superiority complex masquerading as “being the good guy” and Nicki being a childish narcissist masquerading as a hypersexual feminist. So, naturally, there would be some rappers looking to knock them off of their pedestals. Meek Mill and Lil Kim tried to come for Drake and Nicki Minaj respectively to what seemed no effect. Then, Remy Ma and Pusha T came in.

Remy Ma used the Ether beat last year to cut Nicki Minaj directly to size with facts from blaming her for girls wanting to get big asses, her painfully obvious support of pedophiles, her going after pop stars rather than actual gangsta rappers, and even rumors about sleeping with said hardhitters of Young Money. Pusha T’s approach is a little more… fatherly. Over “The Story of O.J.” by Jay Z, Pusha tackled everything about Drake from his lightskin complex to trying to compare Drake’s father being a deadbeat and unlikely to want to marry his mom to Drake’s own disrespect of women in professions they chose. Namely, his inability to make public being in a situationship with Rosee Divine aka SophieKnowsBetter and having a child by her. His hard hitting moment didn’t come until he finally talked about producer Noah 40 Shebib’s Multiple Sclerosis. And rather than deliver it all at once like Remy Ma did with Nicki, Pusha promises to “take this slow” and “peel it back layer by layer”.

Unfortunately, the Surgical Summer he had promised was cancelled as Drake’s fabled response was held back by J. Prince. But both songs got the members of Young Money gaining side eyes from the larger public, and while it didn’t exactly break Drake’s stride as much as it clearly hurt Nicki, it was the sucker punch that Drake never saw coming.


Top 5 Albums of 2018 by Sam Wade

1. Molly Nilsson – Twenty Twenty

As soon as I heard the song Gun Control I hooked. This album makes me feel hopeful for the future. How do you not love an album that starts with, “it was a late capitalist night and I was feeling alright?” I’ve been pushing Molly Nilsson so hard on my friends that I may as well be part of her PR team. Seriously, this is a little masterpiece and I can’t wait to explore the rest of her catalog in full.

2. George Clanton – Slide

The first cassette I bought on Bandcamp and a monster of an album. This one’s gotten a lot of acclaim and rightfully so. George followed me on “the gram” a few years ago, but I only got around to hearing his music right before the release of this. Also feel I have to mention that he’s awesome about interacting with fans. Great influences mixed together on this record: very 80s but also shoegaze at the same time? Which also describes my 3rd pick…

3. Negative Gemini – Bad Baby

Yeah, I know, I’m breaking my own rigid rules by including an EP on this list but this EP rules. Musically I feel like it’s a similar vision to Clanton’s but heavier on the dance elements. Also after I heard Bad Baby, I immediately bought her full-length Body Work and first EP Real Virtual Unison. Easily one of my favorite current artists, and this might be Negative Gemini’s strongest release out of the three (though I love Body Work).

4. Connan Mockasin – Jassbusters

The opener, “Charlotte’s Thong,” is probably the best rock riff of the decade. Only spun this a few times since I purchased it recently, but immediately connected with it. I wish it was on cassette (along with Nilsson’s 2020) but a digital download will have to suffice for now. A problem I’ve had with Connan is I get stuck on one song and wind up passing over the rest of the record. Several years ago I was driving for Dominos, blasting “I’m The Man, That Will Find You” in somewhat dangerous areas, but still need to spend more time with Caramel. From the couple of spins I’ve given this I already love it, and the only reason it’s 4 is I already knew I dug Connan, whereas 1-3 were new finds for me this year.

5. Beach House – 7

I’m probably the last person who’s a fan of indie rock to get into Beach House. I’m not sure why I didn’t connect with any of their records before…I probably just didn’t give them close enough of a listen. This one sounds like an incredible My Bloody Valentine record, so yeah, more shoegaze I guess. Sonically awesome, and one that I’m excited to delve into more.


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