The Best Music of 2018: An Introduction

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Hi there! It’s that time of year again, when I devote the first 24 days of December revisiting all of the great new (and not so new) music I’ve encountered over the past year. 2018 was indeed another crummy year for the world in general: fascism is on the rise, the schism between left and right is deeper and uglier than ever. While I’m super proud to live in a relatively progressive country (compared to the regressive republic-in-tatters to the south), my home is not immune to poisonous politics. The racism of Saskatchewan, simmering for 150 years, bubbled to the surface in very ugly fashion, climate change denial is rampant, anti-immigrant sentiment is growing.

It’s not easy to see much positivity, even in music scenes (the metal scene especially) but at the very least, things are going well for me personally. After working very hard I finally have a permanent job with benefits and am just starting to earn some decent money, the most I’ve ever earned. Consequently, that makes my writing work a lot more enjoyable: when I’m not writing because my life depends on it, it becomes a lot more fun. Imagine that! So my little niche, writing-wise, has never felt comfier. I churn out a couple reviews per month, maybe a small feature, and take on the odd special assignment if the timing is right. For instance, I was asked to write the biography for High on Fire’s latest album, which was a huge thrill since they’re a band I’ve admired for a long time. Or if I’m feeling particularly inspired, I’ll toss out a lengthy review for a publication. The balance between work, life, and writing is where I wanted it to be, which is a great feeling.

Travel was kept to a minimum this year, but my fiancée and I saw plenty of outstanding, eclectic shows. There was Tim Hecker blasting our ears in a fog-filled church. The perpetually adorable Partner highlighting a fun night of indie rock. Eyehategod opening for Black Label Society, something I never expected to witness. The Flaming Lips put on a concert for the ages at the Jazz Fest, followed by a transcendent performance by Kamasi Washington a few days later. Alice Cooper was a total blast as usual, Deerhoof was a joy, KEN Mode brought the (healthy) vitriol, and the boys in Untimely Demise played a triumphant hometown show commemorating the release of the best Canadian thrash metal album in many years. Best of the lot, though, was Metallica’s show in Saskatoon in September. I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see them in an arena setting again, let alone in as cozy a venue was this was, but it was an amazing experience, an astonishing show that I was super glad to see with Stacey. I paid hundreds for upper level seats, but then was miraculously given media passes (well, not miraculously: I applied and was approved, but still) so I gave my paid-for tickets to my brother, and Stacey and I got a seat upgrade most would kill for. It was easily one of the more satisfying concert experiences I’ve ever had, right up there with seeing Metallica in 1986, 1989, and 2014.

All the while I do everything I can to keep up with current music, and I’ve heard plenty of stuff worth writing about, which you’ll find here over the next three and a half weeks. As always there’ll be some of the usual suspects, but some surprises too. Because I am such a creature of habit, the format is still the same as it has been since 2001: two days of reissues/live albums/etc., one day of new albums that deserve honourable mentions, and then the big top 20 albums and singles countdown, to be posted daily until December 24, when my Album of the Year and Single of the Year will be revealed. I say this every year, and I mean it every time: if I introduce you to one new favourite record in the next few weeks, then I’ve done my job. This is the best time of the year, because I get to spend 24 days writing about music that I’m passionate about. I hope you enjoy it.

Goodbye 2018, and good riddance. I’m getting married in five months, so 2019 is going to rule.

Impeach Trump. Justice For Colten. Yes to the carbon tax. No to pipelines. Death to fascism, the Catholic Church, patriarchies, and black metal. Go Habs. Up the Irons. Enjoy life.

(Photo of Eddie the pom by the lovely Stacey. Follow her on Instagram)

My top ten albums of 2016:

  1. Zola Jesus, Okovi
  2. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Rest
  3. Pallbearer, Heartless
  4. Partner, In Search of Lost Time
  5. Paramore, After Laughter
  6. Spirit Adrift, Curse of Conception
  7. Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
  8. Biblical, The City That Always Sleeps
  9. Goldfrapp, Silver Eye
  10. Haim, Something to Tell You

Past albums of the year (uh, please bear in mind I was sixteen when I started this):

1986: Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time
1987: Def Leppard – Hysteria
1988: Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
1989: Voivod – Nothingface
1990: Megadeth – Rust In Peace, Led Zeppelin Box Set (tie)
1991: Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger
1992: R.E.M. – Automatic For The People
1993: Nirvana – In Utero
1994: Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
1995: Elastica – Elastica
1996: Pulp – Different Class
1997: Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind
1998: Monster Magnet – Powertrip
1999: Metallica – S & M
2000: Yo La Tengo – …And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
2001: Bob Dylan – Love And Theft, The Langley Schools Music Project – Innocence & Despair (tie)
2002: The Streets – Original Pirate Material
2003: Manitoba – Up in Flames
2004: Arcade Fire – Funeral
2005: Opeth – Ghost Reveries
2006: Mastodon – Blood Mountain
2007: Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
2008: Fucked Up – The Chemistry of Common Life
2009: Fever Ray – Fever Ray
2010: Best Coast – Crazy For You
2011: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
2012: Rush – Clockwork Angels
2013: Paramore – Paramore
2014: fka twigs – LP1
2015: Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
2016: Kaytranada – 99.9%
2017: Zola Jesus – Okovi