2018 Music Awards and Superlatives

Including the top 10 albums of the year, best music video, biggest pleasant surprise, best pop album, best EP, most disappointing albums, and more.

The last time I doled out awards in lieu of a strict “best albums” list was 2014. 2018 reminded me of 2014 in a way — both years didn’t have a clear hierarchy of albums. I feel strongly about my top 10, which we’ll get to first, but I couldn’t have extended the list beyond that with any conclusivity. So instead, we’ll flesh this out with some superlatives — most overrated, most underrated, biggest surprise, biggest disappointments, best music video, and more.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The 15 Best Live Performance Videos of 2018


It’s time for the third annual installment of the best live performance clips of year. When you get a chance, feel free to check out the 2017 and 2016 live performance lists as well. And also, if you haven’t already perused the 50 best songs of the year, don’t miss it! And come back soon for the best albums of 2018.

Alright, let’s get to it.

15. Lorde covering Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me” (Live at Ally Coalition Talent Show)
At the Ally Coalition Talent Show in New York City on a January night, Lorde was joined by her producer Jack Antonoff on piano for a cover of Carly Rae Jepsen’s pop gem “Run Away With Me.” It shouldn’t be a surprise, but Lorde just kills it, imbuing the song with feeling and E•MO•TION.

 
Continue reading

Summer Mix 2018, Part 2: Night

Here’s Part 2 of this year’s summer mix (here’s Part 1, in case you missed it). This time, songs to play as twilight is dissipating and the heat from the day seeps into the night. Listen now on YouTube or Spotify.

1. Neon Indian: “Polish Girl”
2. Miguel feat. Travis Scott: “Sky Walker”
3. Blue Hawaii: “Versus Game”
4. Michael Jackson: “Rock With You”
5. Kali Uchis feat. Reykon: “Nuestro Planeta”
6. Dream Wife: “Hey Heartbreaker”
7. The Carters (Jay-Z and Beyoncé): “SUMMER”
8. Kendrick Lamar feat. SZA: “All the Stars”
9. Amber Mark: “Love Me Right”
10. Tennis: “No Exit”
11. Leon Bridges: “Beyond”
12. The War on Drugs: “Holding On”
13. Maggie Rogers: “Fallingwater”
14. Nico Yaryan: “Just Tell Me”
15. LCD Soundsystem: “Home”

(Note: “SUMMER” by the Carters is not on YouTube.)

Summer Mix 2018, Part 1: Day

Summer is here, and so is D-Brad Music’s annual Summer Mix. This year’s mix will come in two installments — Part 1 for the daytime, Part 2 for the nighttime. Check out Part 1 now on YouTube and Spotify.

1. Drake: “Nice for What”
2. Ty Segall: “Every 1’s a Winner”
3. Haim: “Little of Your Love”
4. The Voidz: “Leave It In My Dreams”
5. The Rolling Stones: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
6. Naughty by Nature: “Hip Hop Hooray”
7. De La Soul feat. Snoop Dogg: “Pain”
8. Natalie Prass: “Short Court Style”
9. Hinds: “New For You”
10. Parquet Courts: “Wide Awake”
11. Whitney: “No Matter Where We Go”
12. Snail Mail: “Heat Wave”
13. Kacey Musgraves: “Slow Burn”
14. Kali Uchis feat. Tyler, the Creator & Bootsy Collins: “After the Storm”
15. Zacari feat. Babes Wodumo: “Redemption” (from the Black Panther soundtrack)
16. Amber Mark: “Love is Stronger Than Pride”
17. Khruangbin: “Friday Morning”

The Grooviest Punk Song Ever: “Why Can’t I Touch It?” by the Buzzcocks

The incredibly catchy punk track, its role in 20th Century Women, and the joys of discovering music through movies.
 
As a teenager, I had a self-important habit of thinking the only valid method of musical discovery was going straight to the source. You had to seek out an album or artist’s catalog and listen to it directly. Finding out about songs through movies or TV shows or video games wasn’t “legit.” “Oh, you only know that song because of the Elizabethtown soundtrack?” Or, “I can’t believe the only reason you know ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ is because of Guitar Hero.”

This was a stupid and reductive way for me to think. Movies are a perfect conduit for hearing new music — the visuals and backstory give even more life to a good song. What better way to discover “Bohemian Rhapsody” than Wayne’s World? Or “Tiny Dancer” from Almost Famous? Or “The Sound of Silence” from the freaking Graduate? Besides, the road you happen to take to discover excellent music does not matter in the slightest.

I watched 20th Century Women on a recent plane ride. The movie, set in late-1970s Santa Barbara, follows a teenage boy named Jamie and the women that play crucial roles in raising him. Abbie, played by Greta Gerwig (the mastermind behind last year’s critically acclaimed Lady Bird), is one of the women, a twenty-something photographer who lives with Jamie and his single mom. Punk music plays a significant role in the movie, as Abbie introduces Jamie to the genre, making him mixtapes and taking him to punk rock clubs.

Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Jamie (Lucas Zumann) in 20th Century Women

The whole soundtrack is excellent, but I am eternally grateful for one inclusion in particular. As the end credits rolled, one of the catchiest songs I had ever heard started to play. “What is this?” I thought. It had a sense of swagger that I hadn’t really encountered in punk music before.

Punk comes in all shapes and sizes — the movie itself addresses how “art punk” kids who liked Talking Heads were at odds with the more aggressive punks who were into Black Flag — but the punk music I had previously come across, no matter how disparate, always had a certain neurosis to it. Whether it was the ominous underbelly of the Clash, the overflowing wound-up energy of Gang of Four, or the ugly brashness of Dead Kennedys, classic punk (and all punk, really) was usually restless, fidgety, sweaty.

But this song was different. It was self-assured, comfortable in its skin. The bass line — oh man, that bass line — is the song’s anchor, joining forces with the funky drums to settle into an unshakable groove. That’s not to say it doesn’t have that restless quality that binds all punk together, especially with those ringing stabs of guitar. But the underlying groove gives the song a sense of laid-back coolness and poise. It’s a perfect song for strutting.

Turns out that song I was hearing was “Why Can’t I Touch It?”, a 1978 single by power pop/punk pioneers the Buzzcocks. I enjoy classic punk quite a bit, but I’m far from an expert, and the Buzzcocks had eluded me until hearing that glorious groove. “Oh, you only know that Buzzcocks song because of 20th Century Women?” Yes. And thank goodness for that.

Best Albums of 2017

I get the most fun out of determining my favorite songs of the year, but I get the most satisfaction from piecing together my favorite albums. In an age dominated by playlists and cultural phenomena that burn brightly and quickly, it gets progressively harder to give proper attention to an album front to back. But devote a little time and you’ll begin to notice an album’s ebb and flow, or look forward to that one really cool part on a song you had forgotten about, or gain an appreciation for how those slower, more quiet numbers emphasize the power of the faster, catchier ones. There were dozens of albums with fantastic songs this year, but only a select few can boast a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

This year, the best music spanned genres and backgrounds. There were the self-assured truths of a rapper from Compton; the tales of city life, displacement, immigration, and struggle of a Puerto Rican woman from the Bronx; the insightful musings on heartbreak and maturation from a 20-year-old New Zealander pop star; the bedroom indie pop creations of two Asian-American women; the celebrated returns of a British shoegaze band and a storied Brooklyn electronic band; pop-punk, folk, moody R&B, 2000s-style indie, and AC/DC-style rock.

I hope that you find something on this list that piques your interest and resonates with you like it did with me.

Continue reading