THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND STARTS HERE... with FAVES 2018! I occasionally hear from folks who want to know what music -- from among all of the posts I do here -- I recommend. To some degree, I recommend all of it, unless I expressly write otherwise (e.g., it's not my thing, but it might be yours). With the holiday shopping season upon us, I have tried to make a list of reasonable size. It's an unordered list. I likely will have overlooked something that I really dig. And note these are my faves; I'm not purporting to list the "Best" albums of the year.
U.S. GIRLS: Meg Remy's In a Poem Unlimited has the indie DNA and biting lyrics, but with soul, funk and disco influences running throughout that may recall Blondie, if you fed Blondie through a flanger to make it a little more mellow and groovy.
BOYGENIUS: This self-titled EP brings together Julian Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus together for a collaboration that may not be a supergroup in the trad sense, but still superb. All three bring to the table different flavors of a sensibility that might be described as Laurel Canyon filtered through the Carolinas, and spiced by the perspective of a younger generation of female songwriting. They seem to edit the collective pretty well, with the sum occasionally being greater than the sum of its parts. Dacus put out a fine LP of her own this year, Historian. And I was probably remiss in not at least mentioning mentioning Bridger's Stranger in the Alps or Baker's Turn Out the Lights in 2017.
COURTNEY BARNETT: Like many, I name-checked Liz Phair as a refernce the last time she made the Faves. That influence remains on Tell Me What You Really Feel, though it's perhaps more in the sound and general non-glossy production. I might say there's a bit more Chrissy Hynde there now, especially on the more muscially aggressive numbers.
COURTNEY MARIE ANDREWS: May Your Kindness Remain takes the occasional nod to modernity in its instrumentation, but the confidence of this album is evident in the degree to which it is also very much an old school country album, with well-observed lyrics rooted in a sense of place and a kindness for its people. And it doesn't hurt Andrews has a gorgeous voice that lends the entire album a sense of grace.
NEKO CASE: The coverage of Hell-On emphasized Case's triumph over various travails, and certainly she makes good use of it as grist for her mill. But the fact is that I could listen to Case sing the phone book, if phone books still existed.
RICHARD SWIFT: It may be reductive as it is unavoidable to listen to Swift's final album, The Hex, as wrestling with the demons that finally killed him. But the saddest parts are those flashes where you think he may have subdued them. There is perhaps as much beauty to be found there as there is in the music, with its jazzy arrangements recalling Rundgren, Nilsson, and Lee Hazlewood at times, albeit swaddled in a cozy reverb that allows you to sink into it like an overstuffed sofa.
FATHER JOHN MISTY: God's Favorite Customer is ever-so-slightly less lush than its predecessors, slightly less arch than Pure Comedy, and less unsparing than I Love You, Honeybear. Yet I don't get the feeling that he was deliberately looking to annoy fewer people, even if he was (and weirdly recalling early Elton John in certain melodic moments). Indie kids of this generation will lord it over their offspring that they were around for a fairly remarkable string of albums, if they have offspring.
TY SEGALL was a busy, busy man in 2018. Freedom's Goblin may get my vote for fave rawk album this year, a double LP that has enough variety to sustain itself, though generally stamped with Segall's mix of "heavy" guitar with its psych, garage, and occasional funk influences. He also released a covers collection called Fudge Sandwich, which is good though slighly less interesting, and Joy, a second collaboration with White Fence, that is alright, biut the least of a big year.
CHARLES BRADLEY: Obviously, you weren't going to get through Faves list of mine without some retro-soul if it all possible. The posthumous Black Velvet is largely a collection of outtakes, but the steady involvement of the Menhan Street Band and Bradley's own musical compass make for a coherent album. And really, I wouldn't care so much about the coherence anyway; I just want to luxuriate in Bradley's passionate grooves.
SHANNON & THE CLAMS: Onion nicely captures the sort of pop America got from the time Elvis entered the Army through perhaps the first year or so of the British invasion. It doesn't come off as overly studied, even when the homage to someone like Del Shannon stays a notch to close to the source. After all, I like that thin, mercurial, desperate organ sound.
CAR SEAT HEADREST: Remaking 2011's Twin Fantasy is a bit self-indulgent, but he retains its wit and verve while bringing greater definition to the sound. I'm still a bit of two minds about it, insofar as I'm fine with a lo-fi production, but as I get older, I have less of a problem with this sort of move if it expands his audience. He certainly pulls this off better than George Luca did with the Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy, anyway.
THE LEMON TWIGS proved this year that a disappointment can still make my Faves. Go To School doesn't really hold up as a concept album, but then again, most concept albums don't withstand a great deal of scrutiny. In any event, those '60s and '70s influences I like in Richard Swift's LP get a brighter and jauntier take here and I'm a sucker for that, even if it occasionally gets a little pompous. When it works, as on "Queen of My School," it really works.
ST VINCENT: MassEducation is the stripped-down version of MASSEDUCATION, which probably should have made last year's Faves for it's less arty, more new wavey vibe. So at least Annie Clark gave me the chance for this make-up, and to focus on the quality songwriting as well. I may miss her earliest, twee Disney incarnation, but Clark has become a vital force and pop is better off for it.
RICHARD THOMPSON: I suppose I have come to terms with the fact that someone with this much talent -- whether it's ths the guitar, the songwriting or the singing -- may never get the recognition of a Clapton, Beck or Page, even though he's also remarkably consisent. 13 Rivers winds up being one of the longer single LPs on this list, perhaps reflecting my "don't bore us, get to the chorus" pop bias. But when it's Thompson, you just want to hang out longer as he unreels a solo (even when you know it's probably going to be better live).
ELVIS COSTELLO: Like Thompson, EC is usually so consistent that it would be unfair to view his latest, Look Now, as a "return to form." But it has some of the snap of Get Happy and, pop of Punch the Clock, combined with some of the sophisticated flourishes of Imperial Bedroom or his collaborations with Burt Bacharach. And the lyrics remind us he is a master craftsman. He may have mellowed a bit with age, but so do fine wines.
THE KINKS: Fifty years on from the creative destruction of 1968, we're getting a lot of top-flight reissues: The Beatles, Music From Big Pink, and Electric Ladyland among them. But The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society really leapt out at me this year. Conflict with US labor unions kept the band out of America for years, and as a result this collection is the start of a particularly British phase for Ray Davies. It's a collection that also deepens his suspicion of modernity. Aside from being a fave of mine on a purely musical level, its nationalistic and communitarian streaks are worth comparing and contrasting with the current political moment, both here in the US and in the UK.
Anyway, that's a fairly representative sample. On another day, maybe it would be Yo La Tengo, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Go-Kart Mozart, Phosphoresent, or Bob Dylan's More Blood, More Tracks edition of the Bootleg series making the big list.
A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING: It's always somewhere on the net.
WKRP: "Turkeys Away," in its entirety. And here's the turkey giveaway by itself.
THANKSGIVING: George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation (1789). It was controversial at the time.
NOW SHOWING: This weekend's wide releases include Ralph Breaks the Internet, which is currently scoring 91 percent on the ol' Tomatometer; Creed 2, which is currently scoring 81 percent; and another version of Robin Hood, scoring 16 percent. Green Book expands wide scoring 81 percent, while The Front Runner expands to 500 screens scoring 58 percent.