Best Albums of 2018

Here are some of the SoCC writers’ favorite albums this year in no particular order:

Be The Cowboy – Mitski

If you can believe it, I didn’t like Mitski (of Bury Me at Makeout Creek era) at first. I thought her sound was too rough, too grating, somehow a little too angsty. Fast-forward two or three years, and songs from Be The Cowboy occupy at least a quarter of my weekly music rotation. I can’t give Mitski all the credit for that transformation; I’ve grown enough to learn to love Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2. Still, Mitski’s own artistic development is crystal clear to everyone engaged with her art–– for proof, google Be The Cowboy and count the number of “Best of 2018” lists the album’s included in.

This album shines so brightly because it feels so honest. We know most of the songs are persona songs; few contain any autobiographical information about Mitski at all, and yet almost every lyric feels intensely personal & soaringly sincere (i.e. “and I am the idiot with the painted face/ in the corner taking up space”). Musically, Mitski experiments more on Be The Cowboy than ever before, which is explicitly evident on “Nobody” –– a disco-Daft-Punk-circa-R.A.M. track that is both extremely energetic and emotional, a panic attack coated in glitter.

I could write about this album forever, except I can’t. I’m about to get on an 8 hour plane ride, during which I will listen to Be The Cowboy in its entirety at least three times. I don’t necessarily suggest you do the same (your Mitski tolerance might be a little lower than mine), but you cannot sleep on this album. If you do, you’re depriving yourself of the joy of feeling validated in your own experiences through a voice, and an artist, from the realm of the divine.

– Paulina Ukrainets

abysskiss – Adrianne Lenker

 

You might recognize Adrianne Lenker’s stunning voice from the songs she’s sung with her band Big Thief. Her solo album abysskiss, released this October, is a hushed, focused, and beautiful account revolving around intimacy, death, and nature. Because her airy voice and finger-picked guitar are the album’s only audible sounds, her emotions are palpable and the listeners feels as if they’re sitting in the recording studio by her side. The album’s highlight is the song “symbol,” an ambiguous love story in which Lenker explores phrases and imagery as she echoes sounds with the words: “fly make flea, make haste, make waste, eight makes infinity / times I’ve tried to make breaks, embrace for the enemy”. During a year marked by seemingly incessant chaos and negativity, Lenker created a space for introspection, appreciation, and imagination with her stripped down musings about life.

– Mimi Norton

Isolation – Kali Uchis

While there were great albums that came out this year, the album that completely commanded my attention was Kali Uchi’s pop masterpiece Isolation. Uchis’ debut album Isolation has a nostalgic tinge that made it warmly familiar. While nostalgic, it strays from solely being campy throwbacks through its hybridity of genres. The sound is an entirely new animal in its eclectic fusion of soul, funk, and reggaetón. Isolation’s lyrical content is apt for the times, speaking to a year of political distress, escapism, and loneliness. While the instrumentals are upbeat, her melancholic voice and lyrics throw each song askew. This album has been the soundtrack of my year as a relatable emotional landscape and a source of empowerment. A song that particularly jumps out for me in the album is “Dead To Me” with biting lyrics that make Uchis diva of the year. She is taking pop in an entirely different direction, opting out of the sonic trends of 2018 and delving into the past to make an entirely unique sound.

– Maya Day

I’ll Be Your Girl – The Decemberists

If the lyrics “…Everything, everything, everything, everything, everything is awful” aren’t relatable to a college student experiencing a minor inconvenience, I don’t know what is. This song, aptly titled “Everything is Awful,” is the seventh track on The Decemberists’ newest album, I’ll Be Your Girl. The nihilism continues with lead singer Colin Meloy’s plea, “Oh, for once in my life…could just something go right?” on the first track, “Once In My Life” (also aptly titled), overtop synth beats and chords reminiscent of the music of New Order and Berlin. Questions of doubt, life’s meaninglessness, and embracing despair pop up in tracks throughout the album while also, inexplicably, appearing alongside “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes,” an eight-minute ballad about a mermaid (I think). “Rusalka, Rusalka / Wild Rushes” returns me, a seasoned The Decemberists listener, to the lengthy epics “The Mariner’s Revenge Song,” “The Crane Wife” parts 1 through 3, and their insane rock opera The Hazards of Love.

My favorite track, “Sucker’s Prayer,” showcases that good-old-Decemberists commentary on unrequited love, present on their older albums, with cheery chords opposing this chorus: “I want to love somebody, but I don’t know how.” That lyric, followed by “I want to throw my body in the river and drown,” presents an image so painfully full of aching, desire, and self-hatred. I may be very dramatic, but I almost fell out of my chair when I first heard it. “Sucker’s Prayer” thankfully brought me back to some earlier Decemberists tracks that have now been occupying my mind and Spotify queue for weeks. Overall, I’ll Be Your Girl, despite being an eclectic mix of songs experimenting with new styles and sounds, nonetheless draws from the best of their old music and projects their ideas towards the future and cements itself as one of my favorite albums of 2018.

-Jane Harris

NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES – Metro Boomin, Travis Scott, 21 Savage

Metro Boomin’s sixth studio album, NOT ALL HEROES WEAR CAPES, redefined rap in 2018. The album’s sharp beats over ambient instrumentals forms a futuristic, yet familiar Atlanta sound.

 

[TOP SONG: Don’t Come Out the House (with 21 Savage)]

– Emily Faulks

Aviary  – Julia Holter

With the resurgence of vinyl and physical forms of music, the album as an art form has come back into style. Julia Holter’s latest album Aviary is not only a work of art; it stretches our ears into unknown shapes and sizes. Each of Holter’s songs feels like an album in itself. One moment we are wrapped in electronic, orchestral swirls, and then we land in a glitchy, spooky folk fairytale. Although it is hard to isolate individual tracks, “Voce Simul” exhibits this transformation of time through delicate sonic manipulation. Her songs are in constant conversation with one another. This is an album that I could write or think about for hours on end, discovering endless secrets embedded within pockets of sound. Holter guides us through the terrifying beauty of “Everyday is an Emergency”, which reflects on various sounds that occupy daily life, and how something as simple as a siren can affect us in multiple ways. These soundscapes are only strengthened by Holter’s usual thought provoking lyrics: “Firm in your mystery/ Will you remember the body?/ And what does it do to you?” Melding genres together with lucid craftwork, Aviary is so progressive that will certainly not be left behind in 2018.

Listen to when: you are ready to experience feelings that you’ve never had before.

– Lena Farr-Morrissey

 

SOCC DJ Profile: Hannah Bollen

DJ Cowgirl Pervert (AKA Hannah Bollen) moved out here to the Wild West from Nashville, TN. She’s studying Economics with a minor in Art History. As a senior this year, she’s been managing the SOCC radio DJs. Every Monday from 7-8, you can tune in to her show “Hoppy, Crisp, and Fizzy” to hear some indie tunes.

This weekend, I got the chance to sit down with her in the drawing studio and interrogate her for 40 minutes! So read on to find out what she had to say about the music in her life J

Mimi: Who’s your favorite artist from your hometown?

Hannah: Probably Sun Seeker. Although, can I have multiple? Have you ever heard of R. Stevie Moore? He’s from Nashville and has collaborated with Ariel Pink and he’s been doing lo-fi, weird music for like forever. I only found out about him a few years ago, but he’s so cool.

M: When did you first get into music?

H: Well, I played in band from 6th grade through high school and I think that playing an instrument really lead me to develop a love for listening to music. I played in the jazz band in high school, and I think people are like “Oh, band is such a geeky thing to do,” but it was so cool. I really miss playing – I played the alto saxophone and think I might join the jazz band next semester. Anyways, in terms of listening to music, growing up my dad would always have cool CDs in the car we would listen to. One was a band called Everything But the Girl, and he had a lot of Smashing Pumpkins in the car which I didn’t really appreciate when I was younger – I was always like “Eh this is just kind of annoying” but now I definitely appreciate it more. We’d always have a David Bowie CD in the car too. But I didn’t really have good music taste until late high school. I think one of the first artists I got really into was Fleetwood Mac.

M: How would you describe your show?

H: Well, I usually just put whatever songs I’ve been listening to in a given week and play from that. I feel like I like to think that my taste is somewhat eclectic, but then when you look at it, it’s really just not that eclectic, you know. It’s usually just a lot of indie and non-mainstream artists.

M: Do you ever talk about the songs you play?

H: Yeah, I like to give context to them. Sometimes I like to come up with a theme like “these are all songs that are special to me” and for each one I’d say why. For one of my shows that I did recently, I remembered what song was playing when I drove for the first time and it was “China Girl” by David Bowie. I also like to encourage people to say something in the DJ chatroom, that’s like my favorite thing about the show is when people participate.

M: What’s your favorite show you’ve ever done?

H: Well, last year I had a Tinder date on my show, so that was fun.

M: Do you have any famous DJs you look up to?

H: Peggy Gou. She does live house music… well I think you’d call it house music. Maybe club music. She’s so f—cking cool. Like look up a picture of her, she’s just so cool. And she has five songs on Spotify but there are a ton of remixes of them.

M: What were some of your favorite albums of 2018?

H: One of my favorite albums of the year was Sam Evian’s album You Forever. He’s really good, it’s kind of like ethereal but country-twangy a little bit. Also Sugar Candy Mountain’s Do It Right was a really good album – a lot more pop-y than their older stuff. Oh also Jerry Paper’s new album too, that was very good.

M: What were some of your most played artists and songs of 2018?

H: According to the Spotify Wrapped thing, Ariel Pink was my #1, which was not surprising at all to me. Then I think Sugar Candy Mountain, Sam Evian, Jerry Paper, and R. Stevie Moore. I think I’ve already mentioned them all before. Anyways, my top songs were:

“Pink Litmas Paper Strip” by R. Stevie Moore

“Hand It Over” by MGMT

“Sweet VA Breeze” by DRAM

“This Time Around” by Sugar Candy Mountain

“Escalator” by Good Morning

And I listened for 25,575 minutes!

M: What are your desert island albums?

H: Hmm, my immediate thought is Jim Sullivan’s album UFO. Ariel Pink’s album Before Today. And maybe a Steely Dan album, but I can’t decide which one. And ooh maybe an Amy Winehouse album – Back to Black I guess.

M: Do you have any favorite movie soundtracks?

H: Oooh, Napolean Dynamite. Elf, hahaha. And Boyhood. We grew up with the Elf and Napolean Dynamite soundtracks in my mom’s car. And in between each song, they’re like thirty seconds, there’s a quote from the movie. So yeah I think I can do the whole movie by now, haha. And the Elf soundtrack is definitely the best Christmas music soundtrack.

M: Do you think you’ll try to continue music in any way after college?

H: Yeah… I’m trying to figure out in what capacity I can, but one thing I want to do is join a local band, like a community jazz band or something. If there is a college radio station like KRCC or something nearby and they have volunteer DJ slots I would totally do that. On the more business side of it, I’ve looked into applying for some music analyst jobs that I’ve seen, but I’m not really sure.

M: Do you have a favorite music blog or any favorite music writers?

H: Have you ever watched Anthony Fantano videos on YouTube? He’s not my favorite, but I watch a lot of his stuff. He’s really annoying but I do watch his stuff all the time. Other than that, maybe like Consequence of Sound but not any particular writer.

M: How do you discover new music?

H: By stalking all of my friends, but stalking cool friends. Strictly cool friends, hahaha. And also just keeping my ears peeled wherever I go. And Discover Weekly on Spotify. Some people just poo-poo that because it just gives you more music that’s similar to your own stuff, but I find a lot of music that way that I wouldn’t otherwise know about. I also go down rabbit holes on Spotify and find a lot of stuff like that.

M: Where’s your favorite place to listen to music?

H: I think walking around campus and walking to class in the morning. I think when I’m listening to music at home a lot of the time I’m on my computer and not focusing on the music, but when I’m walking I’m not doing anything or talking to anyone, just walking and listening.

M: What’s the best show you’ve ever seen?

H: I keep bringing up Ariel Pink, but honestly he played such a good show last year in October in Denver. Afterwards, “I was like that’s the best concert I’ve ever seen.” Freshman year I saw Father John Misty in Denver and I don’t know if it was the orchestra hall but it was a really big, airy venue and it was really good. He’s such a good show person and all of the lights were timed perfectly. Oh, also Chicano Batman played in Nashville in 2017. They are so well practiced and they hit every note just right. That was a great show.

M: Okay, last question. Do you have any guilty pleasure music that you listen to?

H: “thank u, next.” Such a f—king good song. Although I don’t feel guilty about it. It’s so catchy. And then, well I also don’t feel guilty about this, but I think 80’s pop music is so cool. And early 2000s middle school songs. Like “Fire Burning” by Sean Kingston. I mean, that’s a great song too.

SONG OF THE WEEK(END): Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds- “Burn You Up”

Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds performing at Globe Hall in 2016. Image Credit: Nikki A. Rae

This song has haunted me all week. From the deep, deliberate drum beat at the song’s beginning to the singer crooning, “You know it’s gonna burn you alive…burn you up, burn you up” at the bridge, listening to this track transforms me into a more melancholic version of myself. “Burn You Up” reminds me of a failed relationship and lost love I’ve never even felt nor experienced before. However, the song isn’t overwhelmingly sad. It’s tinged with sweetness, present in the way the guitar chords are somewhat reminiscent of bells ringing, the way the lead singer draws out certain words while keeping others short, and also for the way the lyrics “you called me darling when you broke my heart” are sung- simply, tenderly, and truthfully.

The simplest way I could explain this song to my friends in hopes they would add it to their Spotify queues went along the lines of, “Oh my god, it’s SO good. It goes through, like, three vibes during the song.” For lack of better phrasing, “Burn You Up” does go through multiple vibes. The song’s cyclical nature takes the listener through different technical and emotional sections of the song, only to return you exactly where you started. Listening to it feels somewhat like recounting a dream when you wake, sometimes the details are fuzzy, it might have been strange (but seemed totally normal), and you always end up back at the beginning.

Of all the tracks on the one album Mike Clark & the Sugar Sounds have on Spotify, “Burn You Up” stands out, for me, as one of their most dynamic, and more emotional, songs. This song, though not too good at hyping anyone up for Winter Break, still serves as a good, chill listen as we near the end of fourth Block. Happy studying, procrastinating, and listening. Hopefully you enjoy the bittersweet “Burn You Up” as much I do!


You can listen to “Burn You Up” on Spotify with the link below:

A Few New(ish) Things to Hear & See

Earl Sweatshirt –– Some Rap Songs
This album doesn’t feel suited for taking apart. It’s full of seamless transitions from one jazz-beat and sample to another. Earl’s lyrics are significantly more dense here than on I Don’t Like Shit… or Doris, and in some ways, this contributes to some difficulty in approaching the album. Still, a single listen through the tracklist and the genius of the album and its maker become instantly clear. Maybe I’ll have more concrete things to say after a few more listens. For now, I let the album play out and wash over me, like a slow-moving tsunami I’ve not quite comprehended the magnitude of.
Bug Fight –– “Worm”
This is a recent single from Bug Fight, a band on the New Perfume label that is home to CC’s own Seal Eggs and the upcoming Honour Council album. Musically, “Worm” reminds me of Ought, with a sharp, pleasantly dissonant inflection in guitar and vocals. Lyrically, it brings me right to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, with lines like: “Onwards, upwards, till death or a conception of a different world.” The song lives in the abstract, but in an abstract that, even without totally understanding it, feels eerily reminiscent of the current cultural climate that surrounds me.
A$AP Rocky –– “Sundress” (directed by Frank Lebon)

Frank Lebon has been one of my favourite directors ever since I watched his video for King Krule’s “Czech One.” His video for A$AP’s recent single is just as innovative, moving endlessly through lo-fi Super-8-esque shots to disorienting (in the best way) animation. While I’m not a fan of the “jealous-ex-girlfriend-with-a-gun” narrative in the video, watching the video feels like a big breath of fresh air; in a climate that’s so invested in narratives, it’s so enjoyable to see as much emphasis on getting meaning from visual effects, rather than tropey storylines or characters. The song by itself is totally worth a listen, but if you’re gonna experience it at its fullest, watch the video.