Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best Of 2018 Vol 4 - Newer Things

A good chunk of the music that felt the most purely 2018 to me is featured here in this wide ranging mix that encapsulates everything from Contemporary Pop, Country, Reggaeton, Hip Hop, Jazz, Mainstream Rock, Experimental Music and Alt-R&B.

Here's the Spotify link. Enjoy!

About The Albums/Artists/Songs Represented On This Mix:

1. Whisper - serpentwithfeet: Delivering sonic thrills reminiscent of those found on Moses Sumney's brilliant 2017 effort Aromanticism, Whisper is the opening track from Soil, the full-length debut of Brooklyn-based, gay-positive R&B singer Josiah Wise (aka serpentwithfeet). Raised in a deeply religious family, Wise's songs pull often from his deep connection with gospel as much as they do form R&B tradition and the mergers are often fascinating.

2. Noid - Yves Tumor: Noid is the lead single from US-born, Italy-based experimental artist Yves Tumor's impressively weird third studio release Safe In The Hands Of Love. Despite its far-from-mainstream nature, the album went on to become one of 2018's best reviewed releases and produced multiple hit singles, including the excellent tracks Lifetime and Licking The Orchid in addition to Noid presented here.

3. Oh, What A World - Kacey Musgraves: Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour was the cross-over country album of 2018, a gorgeous, sunset-inspired, mega-hit song cycle that rates among the best produced albums of the year. Nancy gobbled up two of the album's top moments, but the Bon Iverish, autotuned Oh, What A World has always been one of my personal favorites from the record.

4. My Queen Is Harriet Tubman - Sons Of Kemet: Jazz continues to experience a resurgence in mainstream popularity, and one of the best acts to surface in the wake of Kamasi Washington's breakout success (though they actually formed four years before The Epic landed) is British, tuba-anchored quartet Sons Of Kemet. On their lively third album Your Queen Is Reptile, each instrumental composition is named after a notable female icon who inspired the all-male band, and Harriet Tubman gets a grand reverence here in this highly percussive number.

5. In My View - Young Fathers: While I can't say I truly love any album Young Fathers has put out yet, there's no question the interracial Scottish trio is one of the most unique acts working in the hip hop today, and that a future stone-cold classic might be within their grasp.  This song, one of several fascinating, minimalist tracks from their best record to date, Cocoa Sugar, was among the more critically celebrated tracks of the year.

6. Pet Cemetery - Tierra Whack: After over thirty years of 60-80 minute, 15-plus-song-tracklists loaded with skits and commentary asides being the unspoken defacto design standard of most full-length releases in the genre, hip hop developed a sudden, widespread interest in brevity in 2018.  Kanye West, Pusha T, Earl Sweatshirt, Kids See Ghosts, and Vince Staples all released albums that failed to crack the 30 minutes mark, but no one took that exploration of brevity farther than Philly's Tierra Whack (her original name btw) on her appealing debut Whack World, in which each of the album's fifteen track clocks in at exactly 60 seconds. Kaleidoscopic in subject matter, Pet Cemetery is one of the album's most endearing songs.

7. My My My! - Troye Sivan: An emerging superstar based out of Perth, Australia but originally born in South Africa, former child actor and MCU veteran (he played young Wolverine in X-Men: Origins and Wolverine) Sivan's proper full-length debut Bloom was my second favorite contemporary pop album of 2018 after Kali Uchis Isolation. Full of bouncy dance-oriented pop like hit My My My here and impactful ballads such as The Good Side, the album suggests we'll be hearing much more from Evian in the years to come.  

8. Blaxploitation - Noname: One of my favorite hip hop albums of 2018, Chicago-based spoken-word artist Fatima Nyeema Warner's (aka Noname) self-financed Room 25 hits with possibly the lightest musical touch to be found in rap today, and is all the more engaging for it. 

9. August 10 - Khruangbin: The epitome of niche band, Khruangbin is a multiracial trio of Houstonians who parlay in a very specific chill version of late 60s East-Asia psychedelia.  Their debut album Con Todo El Mundo, while not a dominating presence in the aggregate 2018 polls, did have its passionate adherents, as the album score the number one position in a couple individual year-end album polls. While not the liveliest of foregrounded listens, it's a great album to throw on in the background for mellow gatherings, and I especially admire the dextrous, subtle guitar work of band leader Mark Speer.

10. Say When - Tirzah: Though the face and name on the cover of Tirzah's full-length debut Devotion belong to lead-vocalist/lyricist Tirzah Mastin, Tirzah the band has always been a duo composed of Mastin and her childhood friend, uber-successful UK producer/recording artist Mica Levi (who also performs solo as Micachu). This album, a favorite of the UK-indie crowd and composed exclusively of almost gut-wrenchingly intimate alt-R&B numbers, ended as one of 2018's top 20 albums in the aggregate polls, and actually landed the number one spot on four separate lists. Say When here is perfectly indicative of the music on the record as a whole.

11. I Like It - Cardi B: One of the biggest names in mainstream hip hop in 2018, Cardi B's full-length debut Invasion Of Privacy was among the most celebrated albums of the year, topping Rolling Stone and Time Magazine's individual lists, and finishing up Top 5 in the year-end aggregates. I myself can't go quite that far in my praise, finding the record a touch uneven and actually liking the other two 2018 female hip hop releases featured on this mix (Whack World and Blaxploitation) more, but there is no denying Cardi B's potent, Nikki Minaj-styled take-no-prisoners sass, or the appeal of the Privacy's best tracks like Get Up 10, Be Careful, and the popular Bad Bunny collaboration featured here. 

12. Song For You - Rhye: After a five-year break that featured tons of touring (their Saturday afternoon Coachella set was the best show I saw at the 2016 edition of the festival), and the departure of confounder/multi-instrumentalist Robin Hannibal, vocalist Mike Milosh finally rallied the remaining troops to produce another round of ultra-smooth R&B winners for sophomore full-length Blood.

13. Riot! - Earl Sweatshirt: Love this brief retro-interstitial from former Odd-Future member (and son of South African poet laureate/political activist Keorapetse Kgositsile) Earl Sweatshirt, and his endearing third full-length release Some Rap Songs, which like many other hip hop albums of 2018, pursued a brevity-above-all-else aesthetic, its fifteen tracks clocking in at a mere twenty-four minutes.

14. Fists Of Fury - Kamasi Washington: One more from Kamasi Washington's latest mega concept album Heaven & EarthHere, an old Bruce Lee movie theme song gets reworked as a forceful black power anthem!  I caught Kamasi at his 2018 Coachella set, and the final five minutes of the performance of this song, when vocalists Dwight Twibble and Patrice Quinn started exchanging martial exultations, was simply extraordinary.

15. Saint - Blood Orange: If you're already a fan of British singer/songwriter/producer Dev Hynes and his many past efforts, you'll find plenty more to like on his latest release, 2018's Negro Swan, which continues to discover new wrinkles in his modernized What's Goin' On meets Avalon formula. 

16. No Es Justo - J Balvin: Though it's been around since the late 1990s and amongst the most popular genres in many Caribbean and Central American countries, Reggaeton, with its mix of latin, hip hop, and dub influences, experienced one of its biggest years ever in the states in 2018. And leading the charge, along with Puerto Rico's Bad Bunny, was Columbia's J Balvin. No Es Justo is taken from his third proper full-length release, the very enjoyable Vibras.

17. Is It Cold In The Water - Sophie: One of the most celebrated records of the year, Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides, from Scottish trans producer Samuel Long (aka Sophie), will also be for many, the toughest listen of 2018. Alternating between operatic synth numbers like Is It Cold In The Water here and positively jarring electronic concoctions, the album's unique way with pure noise on its more aggressive tracks didn't work for me at all, but Oil is such an unusual, innovative, and cutting-edge effort, I felt it important to include a representative song in these mixes nonetheless.

18. Reborn - Kids See Ghosts: Both my son Kevin and I's favorite hip hop efforts of 2018 came from a trio of short, collaborative, seven-song albums each released a week apart by Kanye West & Pusha T's Def Jam subsidary label GOOD Music. But we are in stark disagreement over which release was the best.  Kevin, as with the critics, sides with Pusha T's gritty drug trade championing, Drake-trashing Daytona (which you will hear plenty from on Kevin and EAM's mixes). I sided with the superstar pairing of Kanye and Kid Cudi represented here, which seemed to rekindle the best in both artists (Cudi's potent rock leanings and Kanye's expansive production creativity). Landing with a huge splash, the duo's eponymous debut opened at number two on the charts, with every one of its seven tracks landing on the Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart in the record's opening weeks.   

19. Feel Like A Fool - Kali Uchis: Here's one more winning track from my favorite contemporary pop album of the year, Isolation.  The spirit of Amy Winehouse's couldn't be stronger than on this number here. 

20. Love It If We Made It - The 1975: We close, probably as a mix entitled Newer Things should, with Pitchfork's number one song of 2018, from this highly popular Manchester-based band's poppified appropriation of the latter day Bon Iver auto-tune-heavy approach, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.

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