I’m a year older. So is everyone I know. The Warriors have another championship. Sea levels are rising. Each day brings new horrors to America’s increasingly sad and bizarre political stage. Time continues its inexorable march forward.
Then again, some things are exactly the way they were at the end of 2017! Yet again:
- It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
- I’ve spent the year tracking the albums I listened to (125 in total this time around) via a shoddily organized spreadsheet.
- I’ve waited too long to start turning that spreadsheet into best-of lists.
- I’m using last-minute panic as fuel to finish those lists, which mean more to me than they probably should.
Without further ado, let’s get this retrospective party started with a handful of alphabetically ordered EPs that I particularly enjoyed this year, starting with a two-parter that I recommend highly if you haven’t heard it/them yet:
Jackie Cohen — Tacoma Night Terror Part 1: I’ve Got The Blues
Some albums feel like fully formed universes — like you’re being invited to join something vivid and different that’s already in progress and has been for some time. That’s how it felt first encountering Jackie Cohen’s music via Spacebomb’s communication channels. From the off-kilter album art that accompanied Tacoma Night Terror Part 1 to the EP’s sound, which immediately called to mind the girl groups of the 1960s but felt more gothic and organic, somehow. It was one of those exciting “I don’t know what this is, but count me in” moments. To this day, it still feels like I’m entering and exiting a world when I start and finish this EP. Not something you come by often.
Jackie Cohen — Tacoma Night Terror Part 2: Self-Fulfilling Elegy
When Part 2 of the Tacoma Night Terror project was released, I started getting my hopes up about an eventual vinyl release that would compile both parts and bring the whole project full-circle, literally and figuratively. Vinyl Me Please to the rescue. The subscription service named Cohen a VMP Rising artist and pressed the Tacoma Night Terror set to gorgeous purple and blue vinyl. Its arrival and time spent on my turntable have provided a fitting sense of punctuation to a musical thread that’s run throughout my 2018.
The Fearless Flyers — The Fearless Flyers
Following along with the release of the Fearless Flyers EP was my way of peering into the greater Vulfpeck universe and looking around a bit. I’m really glad I did, because this is an exceptionally fun and funky set of songs, with a top-notch cover of “Under the Sea,” drums by the great Nate Smith, and a guest spot from Blake Mills, who contributes truly filthy slide guitar to the Flyers’ version of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours.” Take a listen:
Panda Bear — A Day with the Homies
This got the 2018 party started on my end. Released January 12. Exclusively on vinyl, so no sample tune to share. I find that a good measure of how the year went is looking back at the first album you really dug into in the new year and thinking about how long ago that feels. It feels like this record was release about 12 years ago. It’s a good one, though, and I’ve brought it out consistently when I’m cooking dinner and in a good mood. It’s not that the music is aggressively buoyant or anything; I think the title has really shaped my perception of the music, as has the fact that I can only listen while at home — where I tend to be more distracted and less able to zoom in on lyrics.
Moses Sumney — Black in Deep Red, 2014
“Rank & File” is one of the year’s best songs, and it may not even be the best song on this three-song EP. (Don’t sleep on the wordless “Call-to-Arms.”) I’m so glad Sumney decided to share this brief collection of tunes, which have thematic roots in 2014, when a grand jury decided against indicting the police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I wrote about “Rank & File” in RVA Magazine earlier this year, and I zoomed in on one lyric in particular: “If we make you nervous, what is your purpose?”
That question calls attention to the mangled power dynamics at work during protests like the one Sumney attended in honor of Michael Brown — complexity that finds a musical parallel in the song’s time signature.
More 2018 in Review to come…
2018 in Review: Jazz
2018 in Review: Blasts from the Past
2018 in Review: RVA
2018 in Review: 15 Favorites