NN PRESENTS: Our Favorite Records from 2018

It’s that time of year again where everyone and their mother is summing up the year that was by compiling lists of their favorite this-or-that’s that happened over the course of the last 12 months. This particular list, as you may have guessed from the title of the article gives us a chance to riff on a few of our favorite records from 2018. As we’ve done in the past, we each picked 5 of our favorite records that came out of Louisville, and 5 records that came from NOT Louisville. Get it? Got it? Good.

Joining Jake and I for this special end of the year post are Julie Gross (WXOX 97.1 FM DJ on the  OhManYes show) and Lisa Foster (Guestroom Records). Hell yeah.

DISCLAIMER: This was put together for fun, so please don’t get angry with us because your favorite band or artist isn’t included.


PHIL PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


JAYE JAYLE No Trail and Other Unholy Paths
The latest from Evan Patterson & company is the most beautifully haunting cinematic experience I’ve had with a record in a long time. With tracks like “As Soon As Night” and “Cemetery Rain”, Jaye Jayle maintains it’s trademark “lost in the desert” vibe, but then the needle makes its way to songs like “Accepting” and “Marry Us” which radiate more of a hopeful essence. Every time I listen to it, I end up projecting myself into the scene at the end of Lost Highway where Bill Pullman meets the Mystery Man at the shack in the middle of nowhere. When it comes to a complete, full on record-listening experience, it doesn’t get much better than this. [LISTEN]


GRLWOODDaddy
Considering that every song on this album is absolutely chalk full of passionate rage and punk rock energy, it’s easy to forget that GRLwood consists of just two people: Rae Forester and Karen Ledford, a pair of self proclaimed pissed off Kentucky fried queerdo’s. While there are many things I love about this album, perhaps what I like the most is the general sound it boasts. Despite the band’s minimal setup, the recording sounds fucking huge — the drums bang while the guitar, much like Rae Forester’s voice, can go from a gritty distorted kick in the pants to a softer lullabying tone all while maintaining her operatic range that she’s become known and loved for. [LISTEN]


STONECUTTERSCarved In Time
My favorite song might be the second track “Wealth and Power” which midway through features a righteous harmonized duo guitar riff that would fit in easily on the original Castlevania NES soundtrack if it were reduced to 8-Bit. The song kind of reminds me of early Cave In if early Cave In had had more of an abrasive, barbaric energy — perhaps its that essence that elevates their music into a separate stratosphere from similar troupes. For me personally, this is the most important metal record to come out of Louisville in a long time as it reinvigorated my love for the genre. Yeah, it’s that fucking good. [LISTEN]


DR. DUNDIFFMuneybeats
Not only the best instrumental hip hop album from Louisville, but for my money the finest of its kind on planet Earth to be released this year. Perhaps what I appreciate the most about Dundiff’s production choices is the fact that while each track is immensely layered with warm samples, analog synthesizers and killer rhythm sections, he never over-complicates his music. Every song on this album finds its own groove, allowing the listener to relax and fall into whatever vibe they want to settle with. [LISTEN]


STATE CHAMPIONSend Flowers
My favorite song on this record is undeniably the slowed down, piano laden “Legends of Miami Bass”, a reflective tune that is warm and cozy, but also gut wrenching at the same time. While I’m never 100% certain of what Ryan is referring to, there are bits and pieces from each song that beg for a personal interpretation. Lines like “reduced to the memo line on a personal check” and “God has left us in charge” really get me, not just as stand alone lyrics in a song, but also the solemn way they are delivered. It’s the most pleasurable kick in the stomach that I’ve received from a song in quite a while. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


GOUGE AWAYBurnt Sugar
I can’t remember the last time that an album got me this fucking riled up. Seriously — Christina Michelle’s gritty, pissed off vocals alone are enough to get my heart beating heavy with excitement to the point of kicking down my cubicle and jumping out the window and running away like the Chief character at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s easy to get behind her overall message, too, as she’s vehemently against animal testing, police brutality, and social injustice. Serve that over some heavy-as-shit 90’s indie rock, and bam: you get my personal favorite record from 2018. [LISTEN]


WILD NOTHINGIndigo
For me, Wild Nothing frontman Jack Tatum is at his best when he’s channeling his 80’s pop urges. I’m happiest when I’m reminded of Flock of Seagulls and Tears For Fears, which I am quite a bit throughout this record. Don’t get me wrong, I love modern synth-fueled indie pop as much as the next guy, but no one blends today’s take on the genre with vibes from the past quite like this guy. My favorite track might be “Partners In Motion”, a groovy track with big hair that’d be perfect for a montage scene in a movie where the star aimlessly drives around at night, trying to put together how exactly he ended up in this god damned predicament. [LISTEN]


FREDDIE GIBBSFreddie
In case you were wondering, this is my #1 gym album from 2018. There are enough blood-pumpin’ bangers on this record to motivate even Jabba the Hut to get back in shape. Tracks like “Weight”, “Death Row” and “Toe Tag” all really do it for me as motivating tracks that provide an endless supply of adrenaline rushes. That being said, as a lyricist and rapper he may be at his best when he irons things out with a few smoother, laid back tracks like “Triple Threat” and “2 Legit” where he really pushes his flow to places I haven’t often heard it go. This ain’t my favorite Freddie Gibbs record (that award goes to Piñata from 2014), but this may be his grittiest. [LISTEN]


SHOPPINGThe Official Body
Shopping manage to combine the sassy, party time attitude from The B-52’s with Frusciante-esque guitar plucking to create one hell of a record that I can’t get enough of. I love the rotating vocals that at times remind me of Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider, but never in jest — this record isn’t fucking around, I assure you. I dare you to try listening to this album in your cubicle while trying to fend off the urge to dance your ass off. My favorite song is “Wild Child”, an up beat toe-tapper with a catchy chorus backed by a killer synth. Hell yeah. [LISTEN]


BEACH HOUSE7
Man, I tried my hardest to find a release from anyone other than Beach House to chronicle as one of my favorites from 2018. I mean, fuck, I’ve included one of their records in every end-of-the-year list I’ve been a part of for the last half-decade. But if I’m being real with myself (who I know pretty well) and you (the reader who doesn’t care either way), the new Beach House record is undeniably fantastic, adding to their already stacked repetoir of airy, blissful take on Cocteau Twins-inspired dream pop. Like all of their previous records, 7 begs to be experienced from start to finish on each listen, maybe or maybe not after a few light puffs from your favorite marijuana smoking device. [LISTEN]


JULIE PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


GRLWOODDaddy
For similar reasons as to why I love the band IDLES, I love GRLWood. They obliterate stereotypes while delivering a fem forward punk sound all with a smile on their faces. This powerful duo confronts machismo fathers, horny fuckboys and the absurdity of the causes of homosexuality. Even though there are only two instruments in the band, they fill a room with such explosive sound that your ears will be ringing for days. Daddy has been released at the right time for a generation ready to scream in order to be heard. [LISTEN]


NATHAN SALSBURGThird
In a world full of chaos and uncertainty, Nathan Salsburg gives you his album “Third” to sit and rest in the beauty of a peaceful river of notes on an acoustic guitar. “Impossible Air” is the perfect song to be your cuddle buddy. [LISTEN]


JANE.Amen Dudes
Singer Christy O’Connell is a great balance to the hard rock sound of Jane. Her voice is a mixture of Joan Jett grit with Chrissie Hynde range topped off with a little southern accent. Jane has a solid rock sound that easily fits into the Louisville music scene without trying too hard. [LISTEN]


GIVING UPGarner Cardinals
This band has some Louisville natives and some part-time Louisville natives, but an all-time amusing sound. The lyrics have a thinking out loud quality and the reverbed guitar hints at that surf rock wave. Giving Up is another great live band that appears to enjoy playing their music as much as you enjoy listening to it. In fact, “Fun” is a song that will push you into believing you are having fun even if it’s on manic type of level. [LISTEN]


SEXJUICE“Tammy” Official Motion Picture Soundtrack
This would be the funniest joke band if they weren’t any good, but instead they’re a great instrumental band with a funny joke. The joke being there isn’t a “Tammy” movie so the fact they wrote a soundtrack for something that only came into existence through music is damn clever. Sexjuice is loaded (pardon the pun) with talented musicians from various other bands who came together (yikes these puns) to create a groovy jazz album that can stand alone without the soundtrack tie-in. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


IDLES – Joy as An Act of Resistance
This may be one of the best punk bands to come along in the last ten years. You think, ‘Oh it’s another white dude band,’ until clenched chin Joe Talbot starts thrashing about sing/shouting about pressured masculinity, the grief of losing a child and humanizing those we call immigrants. Even their album title, “Joy as An Act of Resistance” is an absolute punk paradox. Although the album has an overall dark timbre, it’s the confessional lyrics that cause you to pause from the moshing and realize its vulnerability. The song “Samaritans” speaks directly to the mental grief of toxic masculinity. Talbot recites a list of learned “How To Be a Man” phrases such as “Man up, Sit down, Chin up, Pipe down, Socks up,Don’t cry, Drink up, Just lie, Grow some balls, he said Grow some balls.” He sings of how the mask of masculinity is wearing him, which the double entendre of the physical and mental meaning of that statement is quite profound. Twice, I’ve travelled over 2,000 miles to see them perform live and it was worth every penny and effort. They blow away all the stereotypes and
leave you with the overall joyful message of “Love Yourself.” [LISTEN]


KIDS SEE GHOSTSKIDS SEE GHOSTS 
Kanye West’s collaborative project with Kid Cudi does something to my brain unlike Kanye’s solo albums. Kanye has always been a musical innovator and listening to the multiple layers happening on each song is a total brain orgasm. The album starts with ‘Feel the Love,” which the only time you hear Ye is when he spits out sounds like “Grrrat-gat-gat-gat-gat-gat” and “Ru-ru-ru-ru-oh!” making the Genius lyric writer really work for his money. “Freeee” not only has a great spine curving beat, but Ye’s advice of “you should quit your job to this” would for sure be the soundtrack to my resignation. [LISTEN]


OH SEES – Smote Reverser
These guys, who quizzically dropped “thee” from their name recently are a must- see live band. That doesn’t mean their “Smote Reverser” album isn’t worth listening to in your living room, but to witness the full effect and experience of having dual drummers striking in tandem is nothing short of a spiritual experience. I saw them in Seattle and declared then and there that I want to be cremated and put into each of their clear acrylic snares, so I can bounce around for eternity. [LISTEN]


JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
This is a breath of fresh air in the hip hop arena. He’s part hardcore rapper, part R & B, part DIY. His album came out in early 2018 and he’s been on the road the entire year playing to young sweaty crowds who have no idea who he is but once he starts everyone comes running. On the song “Real Nega” you immediately think “what am I listening to?” He holds an operatic high note in the background while digital drums pound around airy keyboard riffs while he raps “White boys getting mad cause of my content, Y’all brave on the web, keep it in the comments.” Try to listen to “Baby I’m Bleeding” and not feel like you want to rip your shirt off. “Peggy” is young, daring and unafraid to mess with your ears and the rap art form. [LISTEN]


JOAN OF ARC1984
There’s something about this album that sends me back to my childhood and the George Orwell nod is completely noted. Newest member Melina Ausikaitis’ stark voice sings ‘I pretend I’m a tiny baby that can’t keep its eyes open,” is a beautiful remembrance of a time when all that mattered was being warm and fed. The album continues with overdubs and echoes adding to the nostalgia. She also sings about being ‘a real punk kid’ which let’s be honest, we all long to be. [LISTEN]

SIDE NOTE: I’ve seen 9 out of the 10 listed perform live


JAKE PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


NICK DITTMEIERAll Damn Day
This guy gets better with every album. It’s funny — he’s been honing this swamp country sound for at least a decade now and at first glance it doesn’t seem like he’s changed that much. He’s always written great songs, he’s just consistently gotten better at every aspect of it. This album, in some ways at least, feels like a coming out party in the sense that Louisville would be silly to ignore him any longer. [LISTEN]


JAYE JAYLENo Trail and Other Unholy Paths
This is my album of the year for Louisville, and it’s not far behind my national pick. “No Trail and Other Unholy Paths” is a masterclass in building tension and holding back. Sounds only exist on this album if they’re necessary. Chords only change on this album when it really matters. “No Trail” also features some of my favorite Evan Patterson vocals on the track Cemetery Rain. [LISTEN]


GRLWOODDaddy
What else can be said about this band? If you’re in Louisville and haven’t seen them, shame on you. Still, Daddy is a nice introduction since it was basically recorded live in 1 day. [LISTEN]


BABY BONES
Heavy rock ’n’ roll with the energy of a Black Flag album. Baby Bones aren’t quite a punk band, and they are almost a metal band, but more than anything they just write catchy rock songs. There’s a certain uneasiness about their songs that is magnified by a recording style that’s rough around the edges (in a good way). Lastly, their socio-political lyrics for tracks like “Pay Us in Dimes” are powerful enough to make you want to power bomb your boss. [LISTEN]


FOTOCRIMEPrinciple of Pain
As far as I’m concerned, this record is a lesson in post-punk. Big drums, catchy guitar licks, haunting deep vocals, and dark eccentric lyrics about love. “Love in a Dark Time,” “Don’t Pity the Young,” and “The Rose and the Thorn” are 3 absolute bangers that WILL get stuck in your head. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


TYLER CHILDERSLive on Red Barn Radio I & II
While this isn’t my favorite Tyler Childers album, I absolutely wore it out this year (along with everything else he’s ever done). Tyler encapsulates living in the hills of Kentucky at the heart of his music. He’s an incredible songwriter with the voice of a god. This album is highlighted by killer performances of “Charleston Girl,” “Whitehouse Road,” and “Follow You To Virgie.” It’s also a nice preview for the 3 sold out shows he has coming up at The Louisville Palace. [LISTEN]


ANDREW W.K.You’re Not Alone
It’s hard to put into words what Andrew W.K. does for me. This world can be complete shit, but he never is. “You’re Not Alone” features his best songwriting since his debut “I Get Wet.” It also features uplifting spoken words pieces. Who doesn’t need that in 2018? The most important song on this album (from my perspective at least) is “Music Is Worth Living For.” This is the first love song I’ve ever heard that was written to music itself. Music is the love of my life (sorry Miranda, Thor, and Data), and nobody has ever expressed that in a more badass way than Andrew W.K. [LISTEN]


JUDAS PRIESTFirepower
Fuck. What a surprise? At the beginning of this year I had heard a total of maybe 3 songs from Judas Priest. In the past 3 months I’ve listened to everything they have and this newest album is in my top 3 that they’ve ever done (along with “Sad Wings of Destiny” and “Hell Bent for Leather”). Highlights from this album are “Evil Never Dies” and “Children of the Sun” but there really isn’t a bad song to be found. Don’t sleep on this one! [LISTEN]


GHOSTPrequelle
First of all, if you’re one of these people who think Ghost sucks because they aren’t evil enough, fuck you. You have a very childish view of what is evil. It’s much more evil to write music about Satan that is accessible to the masses than it is to growl into a mic too loudly at a dive bar once a month. I’m not saying I don’t love me some death, black, viking, or thrash metal, I’m saying Ghost is scarier. Ghost follows the Anton LeVay tradition of Satanism that attracts people with it’s theatrics. Also the music rules. [LISTEN]


JAKE SHEARS –  Jake Shears
This is my album of the year. It’s a call back to those early days of Elton John when he really rocked. This album is like the fuck-party you weren’t invited to (neither was I). We’re all jealous of Jake’s stunning good looks and incredible voice. I’m just glad I get to bask in the glory of it all. In all seriousness, Jake took chances on making pop music in a rock format and it’s brilliant. This is what pop music could and should be in 2019. [LISTEN]


LISA PICKS

LOUISVILLE:


JAYE JAYLENo Trail and Other Unholy Paths [
Jaye Jayle has long produced an enveloping darkness on stage, but the addition of Dean Hurley (David Lynch’s long time music supervisor) in the production of “No Trail and Other Unholy Paths” has elevated that darkness to an essential part of indie music’s neo-noir cannon. The next time you want to watch a film, close your eyes and pick up this album instead. LISTEN]


SHUTARO NOGUCHI – Lover Super Terranean
I have listened to and watched Shutaro Noguchi collaborate with so many of Lousiville’s finest musicians (many of whom collaborated with him on this album) but on Lover Super Terranean it is his art at center stage. Noguchi blends and bends electronic and experimental folk sounds with grand psych arrangements that picks up the listener in one sonic field and drops them off on another planet entirely. It’s brave and an exciting record. [LISTEN]


NATHAN SALSBURG – Third 
At once welcoming and complex, Salsburg’s “Third” is an exemplary lesson in modern guitar as sonic narrative. His arrangements speak like voices — leading the listener through winding paths, subtle standoffs, and pausing for simple presences without a single word. I could listen to this album over and over and over again and never tire of it. [LISTEN]


STATE CHAMPIONSend Flowers 
I honestly didn’t believe that I could love a State Champion album more than “Fantasy Error” but “Send Flowers” has proven me wrong. Ryan Davis has always woven mundane life fragments into lyrical magic but on this album the words just settle into themselves better. Strings and guitars are endlessly dancing with the lyrics and the synergy among band members feels like a low-key revival of youthful old souls. [LISTEN]


TOMBERLINAt Weddings
There are so many lauded and exceptional young women in independent music today it’s hard to think about wading in, but Sarah Beth Tomberlin skipped the wading and dove head first with her debut LP “At Weddings.” The record is personal, about navigating shifting ideological waters, and political, insofar as she experiences the world as a woman. I find the album so highly identifiable. The clean and uncluttered production allowing Tomberlin’s songwriting to shine is a major plus. [LISTEN]

NOT LOUISVILLE:


JANELLE MONAE Dirty Computer
Dirty Computer is at the top of lot of lists this year and it’s no surprise why. It’s fierce. It’s unapologetically feminist. It’s full of rage and hope. Dirty Computer is also an incredible pop retrospective. Monáe makes references to the iconic sounds of Prince, Madonna and Michael Jackson while blending that history into an album for this moment in her voice. The vinyl, a double LP mastered at 45rpm, lends higher fidelity so that you don’t miss a note. I usually don’t love a dance record broken up like this but it’s worth it to catch the nuances of every song. [LISTEN]


PARQUET COURTS – Wide Awake
This wins my favorite indie release of the year award. This album, for me, is what modern art rock should be. It’s dissonant and yet catchy, the lyrics are at times absurd and allusive and yet its messages about solidarity and survival are clear. The addition of Danger Mouse as a producer allows Parquet Courts’ punk to become something truly joyful and at least 50 listens in I still find myself hearing new sounds and textures. The deluxe vinyl edition features an incredible art booklet from Andrew Savage too. I love it VERY much. [LISTEN]


PREOCCUPATIONS – New Material
Preoccupation’s new record is a simple love for me. New Material is full of no frills well-edited and well-executed post-punk songs that harness noisy angst into melodies to assuage the listener’s own anxieties. If you are a fan of such songs, it’s a must. [LISTEN]


JORJA SMITH – Lost and Found
I learned of Jorja Smith’s “Lost and Found” after getting multiple requests at the store the week of release for the vinyl. It took just a few songs in to fall hard —Smith delivers honest and contemplative lyrics with a fresh and captivating R&B vocal delivery littered with her British pop roots. Written before she could legally drink in the states, she is thoughtfully aware and unafraid. It’s an inspired album and I cannot wait to hear more from her. Thank you Ms. Smith. [LISTEN]


U.S. GIRLS – In a Poem Unlimited 
is likely Meg Remy’s most approachable sound yet. If Monae is blending in the iconic sounds of the ‘80s, Remy is reaching back to a glam-rock and disco fueled ‘70s. It’s a good thing the sound is approachable, too, because she has important things to say. These danceable tracks undergird auspicious lyrics that create space for women in the violent realities of a #metoo era. And live? Her show with collaborators at Zanzabar earlier this year is among one of my very favorites. [LISTEN]