Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best Of 2018 Vol 9 - Strange & Ethereal Things

A weird one here, capturing much of the best that was odd or vaporous in 2018.  Basically, mostly a mix of super chill electronica, art-rock, ambient, and folk, these unusual, mellow numbers actually coalesce into one of my favorite theme mixes of this year's collection.

Here's the Spotify Link! Enjoy.

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

1. Save Me - Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood: The second proper release from longtime friends and identically voiced collaborators Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood, With Animals is a characteristically haunting, eerie effort and well worth a listen for those (like me) who have a natural affinity for super atmospheric music.

2. Dancing and Fire - Low: The first of two more songs we'll be featuring on this mix from Low's Double Negative, one of my three favorite albums 2018. As far as Strange & Ethereal Things go, these songs from Low's latest couldn't be more on point. Beyond that, this is music meant to be experienced, not described, so I'll leave things there.

3. Flyby Vfr - Skee Mask: This wonderfully moody techno number is brought to us by German producer Bryan Muller (aka Skee Mask), who also records as SCNTST, and is taken from his latest release under the Skee Mask moniker (reserved for his heavier, headier, more experimental material) Compro.

4. Music On My Teeth - DJ Koze: One of my favorite tracks of 2018 not included on our Best Of The Best mix, DJ Koze's Music On My Teeth is a perfect representation of Knock Knock's more unusual and gentler side, a light-as-a-breeze, new-agey number that for me at least captures the spirit of the Avalanches at their warm-hearted, plunderphonic best.

5. Thanks 4 Nothing - Nilufer Yanya: This beautiful, compellingly genre-fluid number (Is it art rock? Jazz? Alt-r&b? A cabaret torch song? All four at once? I'm not sure.) comes to us courtesy of the fast-rising Nilufer Yanya, a stylistically restless British indie rocker of mixed Barbadan and Turkish descent and her 2018 EP Do You Like Pain? 

6. Bells & Circles - Underworld & Iggy Pop: The liveliest (and funniest) track on this mix finds UK electronica act Underworld and everyone's favorite grandpa punk teaming up for an amusingly, inappropriately entitled, Icarus-tinged rock star rant. Taken from the collaborative 2018 four track EP Tea Time Dub Encounters.

7. Parking Lot - Grouper: Raised in a 4th Way commune around San Francisco as a child, there's always been an intangible otherness to veteran indie artist Liz Harris's distinctly breathy ambient pop. On her very short (21 minute) eleventh studio release Grid Of Points, Harris meditates on the implications of the empty spaces that remain after people/things have left/been removed, a feeling hauntingly summoned here on the album's lead single and most celebrated track Parking Lot. If you like this number, be sure to check out the track Driving as well.

8. Dreamer's Wake - Rival Consoles: Simply put, British producer Ryan Lee West's fourth full-length outing as Rival Consoles Persona was my favorite pure electronic album of 2018. Dreamer's Wake is just one of many, many excellent tracks from this album that drew thematic inspiration from the Ingmar Bergman art-house classic of the same name, and tries to emotionally suggest the gulf between our public face and our very different authentic interior selves. 

9. For You Too - Yo La Tengo: Inscrutably copping an album title from Sly And The Family Stone, Yo La Tengo's fifteenth full-length There's A Riot Goin' On couldn't be farther away in feel from that original drugged-out soul classic, offering instead what is arguably the Yo La Tengo's most meditative, least aggressive batch of songs ever. But what the Jersey indie-legends version of Riot lacks in punch, it makes up for with tons of warm, tranquil indie guitar beauty, amply illustrated by the track For You Too here. 

10. This Time Around - Jessica Pratt: Just love the soft, retro otherworldliness to this 2018 lead single to California indie-folker Jessica Pratt's 2019 release Quiet Signs.

11. Bassackwards - Kurt Vile: It always amazes me how sometimes one unusual little instrumental motif can completely transform a song. Here, on the best cut from Kurt Vile's eight full length release Bottle It In, Vile employs a simple sample of backwards-recorded guitar to turn this druggy ten minute folk-rock rumination on aimlessness from something that could have felt interminable into something that is endlessly listenable. 

12. Brean Down - Beak >: One of the strangest art-rock/electronic records of 2018 came to us via the third album, >>> (yes that's the title), from this long-running but sporadically appearing side-project lead by Portishead (and sometimes Radiohead) drummer Geoff Barrow. An eclectic effort to be sure, >>> opener Brean Down here finds the band doing their best CAN impersonation.

13. Hidden - Rival Consoles: Now here's my favorite number from UK Producer Ryan Lee West's Persona, its stirringly anthemic penultimate track Hidden.

14. Here - David Byrne: It doesn't get stranger or more ethereal than a chill song from David Byrne singing about the regions of the brain. A nifty song in its own right, this number from his 2018 release American Utopia served as the perfect understated opener to his otherwise positively ecstatic 2018 mobil band tour, one of the 10 greatest concerts experiences (and quite possibly the single most joyous) I've ever had. The tour was such a monster hit, it has since taken up residency on Broadway, and I encourage everyone to check it out, it is no average concert.

15. Always Up - Low: One more from Double Negative.  Tough to pick this one over the album's most celebrated song Always Trying To Work It Out, but I just love the Minnesota trio's mellower numbers from the record too much.

16. Snakes & Ladders - Let's Eat Grandma: On this track from Let's Eat Grandma's 2018 sophomore effort I'm All Ears, we check out the album's artier side with Snakes & Ladders, one of the records two fantastically weirded out longer tracks (the other being Cool & Collected). 

17. I Shall Love 2 - Julia Holter: I Shall Love 2 is the lead single from LA-based experimental pop artist Julia Hotler's 2018 double-album release Aviary, a sprawling, at times flat-out indulgent, but often spellbinding avant-garde work anchored around the concept of an Aviary as a metaphor for the way our memories - good, bad, indifferent - are all constantly and chaotically swirling about inside our heads and influencing our present days.

18. Feel First Life - Jon Hopkins: While I still liked it quite a bit, I didn't gravitate to British electronic musician Jon Hopkins fifth full-length release Singularity as much as I did his previous effort, 2013's Immunity, for the simple reason that Immunity focused to a greater degree on those gorgeous Eno-esque ambient soundscapes that Hopkins does as well as just about any artist living today with the exception of Eno himself. But less focus doesn't mean complete abandonment, and on Feel First Life Hopkins does once again summon that same mystical ambient grandeur that Immunity delivered time and time again. 

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