The year in (Wil’s favorite) music: 2018
This year’s Music Weekend started with the question “How might we support artists in their act of creating?” And while we couldn’t come up with a definitive answer, we could acknowledge the changes we’ve seen in the industry each year since I joined the annual music sharing ritual in 2012 — and the resulting increased importance of the question.
We agreed to keep this question in mind. Whether buying records, buying merch, going to live shows, supporting crowd funding, chipping in to offset production costs, helping with promotion of the small acts, or some other blended solution of signaling support, the one thing we agreed on is that it’s critical. An intentional weekend of sharing music with each other is a start.
If there was any question of whether or not I could call myself a kid anymore, that changed in 2018 when I became a dad. My son Desmond was born in August and the music I listened to leading up to, during, and after that moment are now sloppily emblazoned across my psyche. I followed moods more and trends less this year. I can’t recall ever disagreeing with the End-Of-Year-Best-Of lists more.
I respected a whole lot this year from so many voices but when I had to make some tough choices, it came down to sounds that pulled me in when it was just me listening. Well… often my son Desi, now nearly 6 months old, was there too.
“We are like space warriors. Music can be used as a weapon in many ways. And you can also use music as energy. It can transport us into space. Just playing the right note or the right chord can transfer you into space, and also those who are listening. If they are listening carefully and are sincere enough, they can feel the energy that is being projected, and can travel along with you.”
— Arkestra member Fred Adams
Here’s the ’18 music that kept us company — the mixtape and the top releases:
Stream or download the 84 minute wk18 mixtape featuring a handful of songs I enjoyed in 2018 (track list viewable on SoundCloud).
wil’s top releases of 2018
My top 100 releases are listed below. But more to the point, here are my faves:
10. Phosphorescent — C’est La Vie
I had a very hard time choosing from great records to cut from my top 10, ultimately choosing this very familiar artist’s return. In a somewhat chaotic year, this was pure comfort. And save a track or two, it’s as good as the very first records from Matthew Houck and his band that made me a loyal fan.
9. Parquet Courts — Wide Awake!
The Clash had Sandinista! as an evolution of their sound drawing on the world music trends of their day, and these guys now have the Dangermouse produced Wide Awake! On days when there wasn’t enough caffeine in the world, this record pushed me through. Especially the album’s closer.
8. Low — Double Negative
They say there is so much we don’t know about life in the oceans. When I first heard this record, I thought the whole thing sounded like it was recorded underwater. That wasn’t necessarily a great thing, but it drew me back again and again. Then I heard an interview on the radio and learned about their Mormon roots for the first time. It was somber but meaningful. I was hooked.
7. Nils Frahm — All Melody
I’ve enjoyed Nils Frahm for a while now (thanks to Music Weekend participant Peter Woodburn) but rarely understood his works as tethered to a specific collection. This record has its own universe, which is very Nils, but is much more too. It has flora, fauna, and texture. It was my getting-work-done record of the year. And when Abby found out I had tickets to see him, she wanted in.
6. Jeff Rosenstock — POST-
If you saw me wearing headphones at my local New Seasons grocery store, there was a 9/10 chance I was listening to this record. Appropriately named “POST-,” this album perfectly blends nostalgic sounds of my youth with a subtle but present forward leaning attitude. Thanks Jesse for sharing him.
5. Tierra Whack — Whack World
I heard this record later in the year than anything else on my top 10. The songs are immediately noticeable for being well produced and catchy. But the visual aspect is what made this project so unique. I haven’t watched a music video as much as the one for this 15 minute album in years. She blends serious talent with a not-taking-herself-too-seriously attitude. This is exactly the combination that my favorite artists possess. I wish it was 90 minutes.
4. John Prine — The Tree of Forgiveness
I did not see this record coming but I’m so glad that it did. The care and fun that John Prine brings to his songwriting is as ever-present and infectious as it was across many of his early incredibly influential recordings. I saw him when he stopped by Music Millennium in Portland and the (illegal) smiles per capita were off the charts. Special shout out to Richard Swift (RIP) for the photos.
3. Colter Wall — Songs of the Plains
There’s a thing that’s hard to put into words about knowing the difference between pure emulation and successfully executing a traditional style. I have a soft spot in my heart for artists that effectively sound like the ones that I’ll never get to see who preceded them but also bring something fresh. This is my favorite set of Colter Wall songs yet and he even played “Goodbye Old Paint” when I saw him on the Thursday before Music Weekend, which happens to be the song I sing to Desi to put him to sleep each night.
2. Dick Stusso — In Heaven
There’s no contest. This is the artist I got most excited about in 2018 and the album I’m most excited to include in my top 10. On a casual listen it won’t stand out, but on a deep listen I’m so into it I listened to it on repeat. It’s my type of sound through and through. The album was lost, and re-recorded, which I can only imagine from painful experiences with film, made it even better. The only thing that kept this from being my top album is that I believe that he still has even better albums ahead of him! (Told you I was excited.)
1. Amen Dunes — Freedom
He broke through and got me with his blend of wit, songwriting, and a cohesive album that is both moody and danceable. In a world of increasingly unorganized sounds, Freedom is bound together by something not quite within reach. It feels like a weird throwback road trip, and somehow makes me appreciate the 80s just a touch more. The best work from a talented guy.
The full list of wil’s top releases of 2018:
Hear songs from my 100 favorite releases of the year in order on Spotify.
At Music Weekend, after all four members have presented their top 10 albums and shared their mixes, a scientifically proven method is used to compile the objective best albums of of the year. See the other members’ top 10s and the overall results here. The weekend starts with each member alternating in choosing songs not featured on the mix or top 10; we call it honorable listens.
Be good to each other, and to your artists.
See you out there,