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05.20.20 20NEEK19: SOTYs 05.17.20 Neek ranks Bond
05.15.20 Sputnikmusic Site Study05.07.20 Best Album Covers: Q1 2020
04.22.20 The Strokes: Neek'd04.06.20 20NEEK19: AOTYs
04.02.20 20NEEK20: Q1 Albums 03.25.20 Neek's HORROR Binge
03.17.20 Machina I/II: REVAMPED03.14.20 TWENEEK19: FilmOTYs
02.08.20 Johnny v. Neek - ROUND 1: Sample Platte01.26.20 TWENEEK10s: AOTDs
01.19.20 Neek's January 2020 Mixtape01.13.20 TWENEEK10s: SOTDs
12.20.19 Neek's December 2019 Mixtape11.23.19 Neek's 1st Listen: Coldplay's "Everyday
11.13.19 Neek's November 2019 Mixtape10.02.19 Neek's 2019 Cram List
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Neek's 2018 To-Cram List

Well, here we are again already. It seems like it was not long ago, but that's because I was finishing last year's up until April of this year. Let's not have that happen again shall we? Just as before, the ones up here are stuff I want to listen to, but I'll take recs and get them all done by the end of the year god willing.

A dark and eclectic follow up to the saturation trilogy, I was mostly sold on the weirder elements and loops featured here than most of the hip-hop stuff, but overall they worked really well hand-in-hand. Some songs were too straightforward to stand out, and others were so bizarre that they didn't quite work on their own. This album definitely warrants more listens than I gave it, but for the sake of moving this list forward I'm limiting myself to only 2 or 3. I wish this leaned more into the punchy and aggressive yet melodic stuff of Sat 3, because while this was definitely as experimental, it sometimes just came off as cheesy or inconsistent. Overall I'd say this is still their second best release though.

Favorite Songs: "NEW ORLEANS" "SAN MARCOS"
Least Favorite Song: "SOMETHING ABOUT HIM"

This is the definition of a mixed bag. Like, fuck. No doubt this guy was a complete scumbag, but I genuinely dug a few of these tracks here. Others were untempered piles of shit. Overall I think this is a lot weaker than his first album, but at the same time I think that his creativity and potential is more visible here. The songs are more thought through, the ideas are fleshed out, and if he went with his more experimental material in the future, he might've been able to find a winning sound. As it is, his pop/hip-hop based stuff is generally just a mess. Well, that's a speculation at this point, but overall I'm actually glad I decided to give this a ring, why not? Also, that introduction was fucking complete trash.

Favorite Songs: "NUMB" "ALONE, PART 3"
Least Favorite Songs: "SMASH!" "Introduction (instructions)" (isn't a song but seriously fuck it)
3Nils Frahm
All Melody

This album is definitely a curious one. It's the looping, kaleidoscopic, never-ending tracks that rule here and the shorter, more playful ditties that just don't work as well. Perhaps it's the way that Nils has been able to master the flow and ebb of this lengthy compositions, but there's something so full and warm about the way that he works with music on this record. "Sunson" is just damn gorgeous, and the other nearly-10-minute tracks follow as well, aside for when they rip off other tracks on "Momentum". Very intrigued at what the rest of his discog sounds like given the more piano driven stuff I've heard from him before.

Favorite Songs: "Sunson" "All Melody" "#2"
Least Favorite: "Forever Changeless" "Momentum"
4All The Luck In The World
A Blind Arcade

Proof that overstated folk music still has a place in my heart just as much as understated folk, this album delivered some gorgeous, overblown yet intricate backdrops to some pretty run-of-the-mill yet emotive vocals. The theatrical qualities of this were just plain irresistible, its only flaws were in that it was simple not the most interesting or unique folk statement in a year chock full of them.

Favorite Track: "Starboard"
Least Favorite Tracks: "Pages" "A Thousand Eyes" "About the Ghosts"
New Material

Book-ended by a buoyant, synthy opener and a surprisingly solid atmospheric closer like two pieces of rye-bread on a shit sandwich, Preoccupations' latest work is otherwise pretty much useless. They often waste solid ideas (the first half of "Antidote" is groovy as all hell) with banal vocals and incessant repetition, eschewing their grimy post-punk motives for some jadedly pristine form of ironic new-wave that just makes me angry for no particular reason other than it just isn't any better than it is.

FT: "Espionage"
LFTs: "Decompose" "Antidote"
6Judas Priest

Wow. While the first half of the album delivered some great tracks that showed they were still able to churn out the same excellent metal tunes as always, the second half paired this with truly amazing choruses and emotional guitar solos, creating some of the best Priest tunes I've heard yet. I love how they were able to chain their heavy metal inclinations with the more grandiose moments of stuff like "Nostradamus" (I know y'all hate it, but I LOVE it), creating something more accessible for their fan but still damn excellent. The only fault is that the second half is far more exciting to me than the first, but overall this is just a really great metal album put out by rockers that should've petered out a long time ago--and we should all just be thankful they haven't.

Favorite Songs: "Spectre" "Red Sea" "Rising from Ruins"
Least Favorite Song: "Firepower"
7Jeff Rosenstock

I don't know what I was expecting from someone who's tags were proudly based in pop punk, but I guess I have to say I didn't love this. There were definitely some progressive and really fun bits of this, but there were also a lot of bits that were just plain boring punchy pop punk "bangers" that endlessly did the same thing until they eventually petered out. I've got to say that I really did appreciate some of his ambition, especially on uber-melodic tracks like "TV Stars" or "Let Them Win," which took his pop-punk ambitions and turned them into something a lot more palatable and exciting to me.

FTs: "TV Stars" "All This Useless Energy"
LFTs: "Powerlessness" "Beating My Head Against a Wall"
You Won't Get What You Want

The hype train definitely partially derailed this one for me; I definitely didn't find it as weird or abrasive as everyone is saying. The post-punk influences kinda negate those aspects for me, whether it's getting lost every so often in its drab vocals or monotonous instrumentals, it takes away from the experience rather than adding to it. That isn't to say this record isn't great, since by the time it gets into its second half it cements itself in a perfect mix of vibrant and violent rock music, especially with tracks like "The Reason They Hate Me" rocketing between one killer riff to the next. No, to me this is just great goddamn rock music. Nothing more, nothing less.

Favorite Songs: "The Reason They Hate Me" "Less Sex" "Guest House"
Least Favorite Song: "The Lords Song"
9A Perfect Circle
Eat the Elephant

This is some real great alt rock here. It's just glistening with killer melodies and fun riffs, bringing both together to create a sound that's different from what I've heard from them before, yet still great in its own right. The best and worst thing about this record is that pop sheen that makes even the heaviest moments sweet and light, sometimes crippling certain darker moments, and other times making them soar like on "Disillusioned." Overall I think this is a damn fine rock album, and I'll chalk it up as another case of overblown Sputnik anti-hype as to why the average is so dang low.

Favorite Songs: "Disillusioned" "The Doomed"
Least Favorite Song: "Delicious"
10Beach House

This at once is an affirmation of everything has to offering and a reminder of why it can be so frustrating. It's sweeping in setting a lovely tone and atmosphere, at yet it stretches the same sound so thin that by the end of the album its tired and ends up being far less than the some of its parts, which is a shame because the first half of this album really soars.

FTs: "Lemon Glow" "L’Inconnue"
LFT: "Girl of the Year"
We Are Alive Beyond Repair

This is a strange album for me. As Uzumaki said, it's like a post-hardcore Brand New records in terms of vocals, style, and scope, and yet there's a certain melodic genius to Brand New that this band can't quite capture. Oh sure, they hint at it, with some songs delivering some excellent sounds and atmospheres, but often they're cut off before they can truly get going or they're screamed over by the never-ending, monotonous screaming that isn't nearly as interesting as the clean vocals. Idk, this has pretty much everything that I like and everything I don't like about hardcore wrapped into one package. There's are some really solid songs, but not enough that I could come back to this in the future.

Favorite Songs: "Starve" "Spill" "The Floorboards Are Breathing"
Least Favorite Song: "A Reverie in Mass Transit"
12Anthony Green
Would You Still Be In Love

Yeah this guy's voice was very very much not my thing. That added on to pretty plain acoustic strumming (as much as I love folk, when boring guitar arrangements and an irritating are the backbone of a song I always want to die (sometimes)), this was pretty much everything I don't like about folk music. To be fair, there were some really solid songs in here with some more expansive instrumentation that really scratched the itch for me, but otherwise this was like boring pop-punk pretending to be folk.

FT: "Keep Your Mouth Shut"
LFT: "Vera Lynn"
13Zeal and Ardor
Stranger Fruit

This one fell off HARD for me second listen. And believe me, I still really like it, the mixture of soul and black metal is far too ludicrous for me to not appreciate it, but at the same time they never played with it nearly as much as they could've across the album's lurching runtime. If this was an EP (even of just the first four tracks, easily the most fun and most convincing) it'd likely fare way better. Hopefully they learn from this and bring up the weird next time, as the latest Algiers was far more interesting and adventurous than this, because as great as it could get sometimes it could be boring or straight-up laughable at times.

Favorite Song: "Don’t You Dare"
Least Favorite Song: "Coagula"
14Melody's Echo Chamber
Bon Voyage

What a fucking trip man. This was just a stupendously awesome mix of sounds all across the board. I think Con's review summary of this was just perfect, as this just seems like a little bit of everything fun about music fused into one. Take "Desert Horse," the opulence of which could only be found on albums like MBDTF in terms of its brazen, ballsy uses of stolen riffs, gnarly autotune, and nary a song structure in sight. And that's just he tip of the iceberg in terms of the zany, beautiful energy that can be found here. Not a single track (that isn't a minute long interlude) is a let-down, and this thing just scream replay value. I can't wait to explore it further in the future.

FT: "Desert Horse"
LFT: "Var Her Du Vart?"
The First Requisite Is Life

For all it's faults, there's something so damned charming about this record. There's a lot of rough moments and ideas I'm not sure were fully formed enough (i.e. the spoken word pastiche on "Holy, Holy Holy"), but the sound is so heartfelt and even unique, to the point where I'm sure this is the first work of someone who's gonna carve a path for himself in the folk scene someday very soon. The fuller the sound here, the more successful he can be, especially on the later tracks like "Spiders." I was also really moved by the spoken word atmosphere of "Frost," so the experimentation here is not something to be shied away from, I just think that overall a stronger focus on melody over concept would make this music more palatable and even better.

Favorite Songs: "Spiders" "Sunday's Cool"
Least Favorite Song: "Holy, Holy, Holy"
16Let's Eat Grandma
I'm All Ears

This is a super cool album with a great variety of influences from pop to progressive, but primarily it's a electronic album. I personally think the electronic music blended with the latter influence is far more intriguing than the Sophie-produced tracks on here, as the duo make some serious magic out of the massive song runtimes and the layers upon layers of sweet melodies and cathartic emotion. The opener sets the bar high in terms of musical invention (one I wish they could hit more often), but there really isn't a dull moment on this thing. It's always doing something at the least intriguing, and at the most exhilarating.

Favorite Tracks: "Whitewater" "Snakes & Ladders" "Cool & Collected"
Least Favorite Track: "Hot Pink"
17Snail Mail

This is literally right up my alley in terms of genre so I'm kinda surprised it didn't hit me more than it did. It's really lovely and well-made sadgirl indie rock, but at the same time I wasn't really sold by her vocals (they were a bit droney and samey for me). I guess that's a problem that I have the album overall, it doesn't really find its own unique voice so much as it capitalizes on the common sound, unlike say soccer mommy, who really made it her own. That isn't to say there aren't some killer songs on here, and she definitely has some massive potential on display here, it's just that I want to see more what she herself can bring to the table in the future like what's hinted at in the album's stronger, complex, more "lush" moments.

Favorite Songs: "Speaking Terms" "Deep Sea" "Anytime"
Least Favorite Song: "Pristine"
18Kamasi Washington
Heaven And Earth

This was like shreds of jazz held together by cinematic glue. It's empowering and visceral, but not in an emotive way as much as in a big way. It's huge, grand music, more interested in scope than in trivial things such as catchiness or melody. It fails on repeated listens, but the musicality and instrumental talent is all there. This works for me, but just barely.

FTs: "Fists of Fury" "Street Fighter Mas"
LFTs: "Show Us the Way"
19Rolo Tomassi
Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It

Okay so yeah, I really dug this one. I know I'm not a fan of metalcore, but this really fused it with some attractive clean melodies and ambient textures that I think made the metalcore sounds even add to the rest of it, even if it leaned a bit too much on it for my liking. I anticipate that their future albums will feature even less metalcore stuff, and I honestly think it'd be better for it. But like I said, the screamed vocals and heaviness really added another layer that this wouldn't have had if it all sounded like "Aftermath." It adds a lot of depth to the other killer tracks here like "A Flood of Light" and especially "Contretemps." This one didn't completely blow me away, but it did certainly make me excited to hear what these guys come up with next!

Favorite Songs: "Contretemps" "A Flood of Light" "Aftermath"
Least Favorite Song: "Balancing the Dark"
20Anna von Hausswolff
Dead Magic

This is basically what I imagined that new Daughters album would be like. Actually insane, terrifying, and moving all at once. This thing is an absolute behemoth of sound, emotion, and just everything I’d want in an album like this. It’s fucking insane and every track build to a crazy and satisfying climax. I just love it.

Favorite Track: “Ugly and Vengeful”
Least Favorite Track (not that I’d even ever call it that, everything here is excellent): “The Truth, the Glow, the Fall”
21Wye Oak
The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs

This was just a crazy mix of influences all over the board, from electronic to psychedelic to folk, and this eccentric fashion was a big selling point to me. The band, especially the lead vocalist, just oozed confidence throughout and delivering a seriously convincing rock album, though admittedly some of the tracks bled together a bit too easily and sounded a little samey at times. This was remedied when a song would be particularly memorable, or would lean on its folk roots to hit something really unique, and overall it's just a damn great album kicking some ass.

FTs: "Say Hello" "Join"
LFT: "The Louder I Call, the Faster it Runs"
Be the Cowboy

As usual I'm gonna be in the middle of the road between "omg this is like the best album of the year" and "man this is so overrated i cant believe p4k loved this." This was a perfectly good, even great indie rock album than benefitted from some seriously great tracks with heaps of experimentation, but suffered a bit from an overstuffed tracklisting (it's not overlong, but with 14 tracks in half an hour it's a bit much to process) and songs that repeat the same dancey structures over and over again. Still, in this case experimentation didn't always win, such as on "A Horse Named Cold Air," which proved that Mitski can't carry a track purely on vocals alone, and the pure pop track "Nobody" just plain bangs. There are plenty of fun jams to play here, I just wish it was as amazing as some say it is.

Favorite Songs: "Geyser" "Why Didn't You Stop Me?" "Nobody"
Least Favorite Songs: "A Horse Named Cold Air"
23Hop Along
Bark Your Head Off, Dog

This is honestly just what I needed right now. It's bright and sunny, hopping along (heh) with abundant, radiant energy despite still having a sobered head on its shoulders. It's the kind of happy, hopeful music because you know it's not coming from a place of pure innocence or blindness, it's joyful because it's been through the bad, but now it's over and it can only get better from here. The vocals on this thing are just stellar, and the compositions do a really good job of maintaining their uniqueness yet still blending together to create a cohesive sound. There are so many great melodies and clever structures going on here, the best ones here for me are just the ones that sell them both the most memorably.

Favorite Songs: "How Simple" "Not Abel" "Prior Things"
Least Favorite Song: "How You Got Your Limp" (barely, these are all gems)
24Shakey Graves
Can't Wake Up

Sowing [2]
Sowing, you always do manage find some true gems. This album is some seriously jaunty, catchy, surreal, and just plain fun folk-rock. Each track has something going for it, to the point where the best songs are simply the ones that stand out the most (which is why the insane and bouncy "Aibohphobia" takes my pick), and the weakest just fade in the mind compared to the rest. Still, I'm in love with this thing. The rock moments rule, and the folk moments subdue. Everything works wonderfully well.

Favorite Track: "Aibohphobia"
Least Favorite Tracks: "Dining Alone" "Foot of Your Bed" "Climb on the Cross"
25Florence and the Machine
High as Hope

Sowing [3]
Goddamn I just can't stop listening to this thing. I really liked it the first time and by the second time nearly every track became an earworm with the anthemic "Hunger of course leading the charge (I mean seriously, it's easily one of the best pop tracks of the year). The deep cuts had a lot of stuff going for them too, retaining some serious variety and emotion to them while still being catchy and expansive as hell. There's a lot to find in this release, and she's got a hell of a voice at the forefront of some orchestral pop-rock that really helped the mood that I've found myself in lately.

FTs: "Hunger" "100 Years" "Patricia"
LFT: "South London Forever"
Heir to Despair

Yknow, I've gone on record to say that Sigh is my favorite extreme metal band from what I've heard of them, and this doesn't change that statement at all. While it might not be as wacky as the other record I've heard from them, Hail Horror Hail, it's more focused and still jauntily all-over-the-place in a lovable and exciting way. The way they play around with the genre is just so fun that I can't get enough of it, even if this album peters off a bit in the second half and a few of the songs could've used a slight trim. Still, I get the feeling that this is gonna have a warm spot on my Best-Of list for the year, just for the pure craziness they manage to pull off.

Favorite Tracks: "Aletheia" "In Memories Delusional"
Least Favorite Tracks: "Heresy II" and "III"
27The Armed
Only Love

My biased against metalcore (or whatever crazy conglomeration of hardcore influences make this up) shows again here, but I genuinely believe there's a lot to like here. There's a ton of cool melodic and experimental elements that help this to stand out, it's just that far too often they're buried by heaps of ugly and noisy production that drowns everything interesting out nearly completely. Still, there's plenty of neat tracks here with lots of cool stuff and engaging dynamics going on, and even a few genuine bangers that would be really fucking tight if they just... sounded better. Idk, maybe it comes with the territory for this genre but I believe this could've been at least twice as good as it is if they just wanted it to sound clear. I guess they didn't though.

Favorite Tracks: "Fortune's Daughter" "Nowhere to Be Found"
Least Favorite Tracks: "Witness" "Ultraglass"
28Emma Ruth Rundle
On Dark Horses

This is dangerously fucking close to my top 10, would've been a shame to have left it out in my year-end voting! Emma blends some very folky roots with some seriously heavy gothic metal vibes the likes of Chelsea Wolfe gave us last year, but all around features a much warmer and more inviting feel throughout. I love her vocals, they remind me of Alanis Morissette (a la her SFIJ days), in her weirder, more haunting moments. There was a lot to love here, my only wish is that there were a few more standout tracks to pull it even farther since there was a lot of uniformity here both sonically and quality wise, but believe me, I won't complain. Can't wait to hear more from her in the future.

Favorite Song: "You Don't Have to Cry"
Least Favorite Songs: "Fever Dreams" "Control"
29Carpenter Brut
Leather Teeth

This is just a joy of an album, ecstatically combining electronic, metal, and god knows what into a crazy but accessible amalgamation of music. It's fun piecing together what goes into this album, some tracks I swear are vaporwave driven, like "Sunday Lunch", and other (in my opinion better) tracks blend it with heavy riffing and rhythm, especially the fantastic opener "Leather Teeth." The vocals on here even work way better than one might expect on an album like this, coming in sparingly but adding a level of character that helps some of the tracks stand out, like on "Beware the Beast" which essentially sounds like if Ghost pulled off their transition into pop better. But yeah, overall there's a lot to love here, even if some tunes rely too much on 80s nostalgia to really hook on to the mind.

Favorite Tracks: "Leather Teeth" "Beware the Beast" "Hairspray Hurricane"
Least Favorite Track: "Sunday Lunch"
30Joey Purp

This was easily the most enjoyable hip-hop album of the year for me (even if not the best), every single song was fun and hype, or at the least thumping and pulsing. Even the quieter tracks here just had a huge sound to them, a lot of time was put into the sound of each track, and the variety of sounds was pretty astounding for a hip-hop album. Some of these had be nodding my head more than anything this year, and it's gotta be one of the most consistent albums of the genre I've heard, there were no weak tracks here.

FTs: "Godbody - Pt. 2" "Elastic" "QUARTERTHING"
LFTs: "Hallelujah" "Lebron James"
31Toby Driver
They Are the Shield

This is a just plain lovely listen, even if it's a little slow going as it goes on. The last two tracks on this are certainly the most unnecessary, which kinda makes it seems like he ran out of ideas since they don't really deviate much from the path set out, but they're lovely and calming in their own right. The best moments here are still the most challenging, such as the slow churning progressive tendencies of the opener, or the driving paring of propulsive drums and soaring strings on "470 Nanometers" that reminds one slightly of In Rainbows in its quiet complexity. So even if a lot of this was a bit uninteresting at times, no matter what it's doing, it serves its purpose as a moving, relaxing work of art.

Favorite Songs: "Anamnesis Park" "470 Nanometers"
Least Favorite Songs: "Smoke-Scented Mycellium" "The Knot"
32Elise Davis

I'm a sucker for this kind of music: mellow, emotionally-driven country music with female vocals. I'm sure it ties back to my childhood nostalgia for the Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain, but there's still something impactful about it now. The strength in the themes, the lovely soundscapes here and solid mix of sounds and ideas here makes it both refreshing and comforting at the same time. This stuff hits me where it counts.

Favorite Songs: "Married Young" "Man"
Least Favorite Song: "The Burn"
33Marissa Nadler
For My Crimes

Atari [2]
There's something really comforting about this release despite its eerie undertones. Sure the barren landscape on the cover is a great visual descriptor for its blend of gothic folk, but at the sme time between the strings and lovely acoustic compositions is something really moving. Sure it might be a little too straightforward for it's own good (the biggest problem is that it simply doesn't sound unique enough against the everygrowing palate of indie sadgirl singer-songwriters are out there, no matter how long Nadler has been doing this), but at times like the beautiful opener/title-track and the thumping "Blue Vapor," her skill and style is unquestionable, and I'm excited to see what else she has to offer when I inevitably delve into her back catalogue.

Favorite Tracks: "For My Crimes" "Blue Vapor"
Least Favorite Track: "Lover Release Me"
34Johanna Warren
Gemini II

Atari [3] (this looks fucked)
Again some kinda safe indie folk from atari, but as usual this one had more than enough instumental flourishes (particularly moving in the opener and closer). Idk, this one didn't stand out too much to me vocally or instrumentally form the rest of the genre, and yet it managed to encapsulate a very specific mood that others didn't quite as right. It wasn't uniform, but created a great tone that elevated it as a whole over it's already really consistent parts.

FTs: "Hopelessness Has Done Nothing for Me" "Was it Heaven"
LFTs: "Inreverse" "Mine to Take"
35Negro Galacticus

This is just a crazy release through and through. The mish-mash of genres (a surreal mix of jazz, rap, and... emo?) works way better than it should, giving off a charming and effusive vibe that's sure to win over any listener that isn't immediately turned off by the slip-shod style and awkward vocals. I find myself in a weird place with it actually, at first I was blown away by the sheer audacity of the music, but the more I listened and my initial shock wore off, I was a bit bit frustrated by how rough it all is. There's so much ambition and creativity here that the untempered vocals and careless (rather than purposefully strange) song structures got to me (both most evident on late-album cut "Lioness". Still, there's so much potential for this band and again, there's a hell of a lot to love here.

Favorite Songs: "Perspective" "Kai's Funky Revenge"
Least Favorite Song: "Lioness"
36Something and the Whatevers
Epic Fail

Kompys [2]
“Idk man, what if they don’t like it?”
“Why wouldn’t they? Our songs are pretty fun, and I daresay we are some pretty damn original ideas going on here. Plus our lyrics touch on some really interesting but universal topics that millennials all over face right now. “I Don’t Care About Anything” and “Everything Is Boring” might be two of the weirdest and most unique rock-based tunes of the year.”
“Fuck man, maybe we’re going too far. Like a 7-minute long “epic” rock anthem for an opener? Idk if we can really pull off a whole album of stuff like that.”
“Shit, maybe you’re right. Okay, we what about instead of fixing our overreaching pretension, we say that it’s “ironic,” like even in the bandcamp genre tags, so that if they don’t like it we can say it’s supposed to be kinda bad without our egos getting hurt?”
“Oh shit, man good thinking!”
“Yeah, isn’t hiding behind irony fun?”

Favorite Song: "Everything Is Boring" is seriously stellar
Least Favorite Song: "The Good News"
37Hot Snakes
Jericho Sirens

Kompys [3]
This was just a damn crazy release, with some seriously aggressive punk aesthetic matched with the playfulness and tunefulness of alt rock to make something really unique and fun. I just wish the rest of the album lived up to the violent, hyper-melodic guitars of opener "I Need a Dcotor," which blew all the others out of the water at the same time as setting the ground rules for an otherwise still satisfying album.

FT: "I Need a Doctor"
LFTs: "Death Camp Fantasies" "Psychoactive"
38Damien Jurado
The Horizon Just Laughed

Ironically, this reminds me of my own papa. He's always been a fan of this mellow, deep-voiced folksters who'd rather weave emotion with lyrics and gentle singing than overblown soundscapes. Not to say that this doesn't have interesting music, as it certainly does (especially on cuts like the opener and closer), but more often the album is moving through lyrics than through the instrumentation. Case in point is "The Last Great Washington State," which once it burrows into your mind with it's slowly snowballing soundscape captures your heart with some of the most poignant and intricate lyrics I've heard yet this year. It makes me want to pore over the rest of the album's liner notes searching for more. Perhaps in due time, I'll be so lucky.

Favorite Tracks: "The Last Great Washington State" "Allocate"
Least Favorite Track: "Lou-Jean"
Room Inside The World

Papi [2]
This has all the pieces that make up a boring-ass classic Uni post-punk album, yet it's all delivered with a solid edge of wonky and eclectic instrumentation that takes things to some unexpected places to break up the expected monotony of the genre. The vocals are surprisingly expressive compared to their contemporaries, and their best moments come from the heights they'll go to musically differentiate themselves from their peers (especially on the surreal gospel-tinges of "Desire").

Favorite Tracks: "Desire" "Alice"
Least Favorite Track: "Disaffection"
40The Skull Eclipses
The Skull Eclipses

Papi [3]
This had one hell of an atmosphere to it, especially from a hip-hop perspective. There's an apocalyptic, ominous doom through every track, which lent it some serious depth and heaviness that wouldn't have been there otherwise. The rapping also was really good, there was a solid flow to it all that actually reminded me a bit of Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park but with a bit less variety to his style. That confident cheese remained though, which kinda played against the doom and gloom in the choruses but never hurt it too much. Overall I'd say this is a pretty unique and fun indie hip-hop record, even if it didn't have the stand outs required to really have it stick out against some of the better albums this year.

FTs: "Pillars" "Pushing Up the Hills"
LFTs: "Gun Glitters" "Encyclopedia"
Love Is Dead

Please don’t take away my poptimism card… I just really didn’t think this was good. It’s pretty much just competent, okay pop music with some really grating synth sounds and occasionally some decent anthems. The best moments here are the least pop moments, and it makes me really wish that they’d explore different directions (let it be known that I’m not familiar with their earlier work). Her voice was really compelling but against the soundscape it just stood out rather than meshing nicely, and oh god, the guy’s voice… well let’s just say that’s the reason my least favorite song is my least favorite.

Favorite Songs: “Never Say Die” “Miracle”
Least Favorite Song: “God’s Plan”
Little Dark Age

Diva [2]
This was an unexpected win from me considering some of my earlier comments of 80s-based pop-rock, but this did a fantastic job of carving itself a bizarre and entirely enjoyable niche in the market. It's damnably creative and fun, and again I'm surprised that I dug this considering how much Ariel Pink was involved in this (was not a big fan of his album in this comp last year), but overall yeah, this was some pretty goddamn glorious indie pop music, even if it fell of considerably after the first three excellent tunes.

Favorite Tracks: "When You Die" "Little Dark Age" "She Works Out to Much"
Least Favorite Track: "TSLAMP" "When You're Small"
43Reed and Caroline
Hello Science

Diva [3]
Not gonna lie, I really dug some of the instrumentation here. The zany mix of electronics and orchestral overtones worked really damn well to set the strange mood on here, but unfortunately everything else just didn't work for me. The vocals for me fell flat, mostly sticking to plain melodies with strained/basic vocal delivery that only got fun on some of the stranger (better) tracks here, and the lyrics were like a strange soundtrack of a pbs kids show about science, in a slightly endearing but really awkward way. So sure, there's a cute novelty aspect to it, but when you got a few tracks that straight up bang like "Digital Trash," you really wish they were firing on all cylinders rather than just relaxing into plain twee science ballads.

FT: "Digital Trash"
LFT: "Another Solar System"
44Car Seat Headrest
Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

On the surface it’s a perfectly good indie rock record with some emo and whatnot, but on the inside it feels a bit pointless. I’ve never heard the original (though I probably will in the near future), but I doubt that this is any better than it. It mostly feels like an excuse for eccentricity, it’s odd for the sake of being odd. The biggest offender (outside of the ridiculously pretentious mid-song interludes that destroy any sense of energy) is the bloated 13-minute long Frankenstein’s monster of fun but uninspired punk jams that is “Beach Life-in-Death.” This is a rarity for me, but honestly in this album’s case the straightforward cuts are the most engaging. There’s a couple melodic, great tunes here that play around a little bit but don’t have bloated or pretentious tendencies as a lot of the cuts do here. But overall, I did like it. I just wish I liked it more.

Favorite Songs: “My Boy (Twin Fantasy)” “High to Death”
Least Favorite Song: “Beach Life-in-Death”
Down Below

Blazin [2]
Yeah this was some pretty goddamn gorgeous (death? black? heavy?... fuck idk I think it's progressive) metal, exemplified with some awesome musical passages that were excited to push the genre in less purely heavy directions, adding tons of awesome melodies and riffs to the fold. My only issues were that the vocals really didn't push the music in any interesting directions, and were easily the least enthusiastic part of the entire release. That and the music seemed to follow a similar formula after a certain point, but goddamn is it a great one.

Favorite Tracks: "Subterranea" "The World"
Least Favorite Track: "Lady Death"
46GoGo Penguin
A Humdrum Star

Blazin [3]
This was just a delight. Less obviously jazz influenced than some of the other recs on here, this had some massive melodies and genuinely enjoyable songs through and through. It's really memorable as well and something that I hope to come back to in the near future.

FTs: "Return to Text" "Window"
LFTs: "Transient State"
47Jon Hopkins

This here is something truly beautiful, and yet is in a genre that I'm mostly unfamiliar with. It's lush and organic despite it's electronic trappings, and I couldn't help but find myself most swayed by the moments that were less artificial and more straightforward. Still, I was mesmerized at times by the album, even if I can't quite put my finger on a melody or a sound when it was over. I think that's the albums' biggest weakness, a lack of catchiness or memorability that would hook a listener in for future listens. But regardless, it was beautiful.

Favorite Song: "Feel First Life"
Least Favorite Song: "Neon Drum Pattern"
48Ezra Furman
Transangelic Exodus

NorthernSkylark [2]
This hit me at a very good time, with incisive lyrics and refreshingly strange music that was very much rock, but it had a ridiculously eccentric ear that really pushed the genre into interesting directions. The best tracks here were pretty mind-boggling, and even the weakest had some really interesting lyrics that demanded my attention more than most other releases on this list. I don't mean anything weird by this, but this is the first time I've related to a (male) queer artist to this point in a very long time. Big points for this one.

Favorite Tracks: "No Place" "Suck the Blood from My Wound"
Least Favorite Track: "I Lost My Innocence"
49David Byrne
American Utopia

NorthernSkylark [3]
I had a surprising amount of fun with this, quality wise it was a bit scattershot because there was a pretty clear divide between the really fun funky genre-blends and the bland rehashes of his old sounds, but overall I thought this was a jam. The bangers banged and the weaker tracks didn't really detract from the sound too much, and even though some of the choruses were really rough, others just plain excelled.

FTs: "Gasoline and Dirty Sheets" "I Dance Like This"
LFT: "Dog's Mind"
50Rainbow Kitten Surprise
How to: Friend, Love, Freefall

Yeah I really liked this one actually, as much as his voice could get a little grating and as much as it felt like a hodgepodge of other indie rock and folk influences, this largely came into its own strange subgenre of indie music. I mean, sure it's not as weird as the title might suggest, but there are a lot of sounds here that laregly come into their own. There's some rundancy of this song throughout the tracklist unfortunately, but often they manage to keep things sounding new and interesting. I especially loved the mellower tracks where they toyed with surreal sounds in the background of folk-based tunes and keeping things relatively calm. This didn't totally blow me away as well as I feel they could eventually do if they get a bit stranger and confident, but this was a great jam regardless.

Favorite Tracks: "Painkillers" "Polite Company"
Least Favorite Track: "Possum Queen"
51The Bamboos
Night Time People

bgillesp [2]
idk maybe im getting to cynical

FT: "Broken"
LFT: "Golden Ticket" (this song sucks my ass)
52Murder by Death
The Other Shore

bgillesp [3]
Another great album with a couple faults that held it back, namely the first three tracks. None of these really clicked, and the old-timey vocals really made even the more progressive elements here sag a bit. Thankfully, after these three the musicianship really shined, particularly on "Space" which felt like it was a leftover QotSA b-side with a different vocalist, and "Bloom" which almost felt like it belonged on the latest Gang of Youths album. Yet still there was a great uniformity here that held all the crazy pieces together. This was a winner before, I just wish it started as well as it stuck the landing.

Favorite Tracks: "Space" "Bloom"
Least Favorite Track: "Chasing Ghosts" "True Dark"
53Night Verses
From the Gallery of Sleep

This hit me hard at first, and then eventually waned for me on further listens. I love the sound here, an amalgamation of metal and progressive influences, with some seriously talented and exciting musicianship unfolded throughout. My only problem is that like Singularity, none of it really stuck to me in terms of catchiness or tunefulness. Sure a lot of it I felt while I was listening to it, but when it's over I feel there's little to really bring me back to it in the future. That and some of the melodies feel a bit cheesy and some feel trapped in a loud-soft dynamic without flowing naturally. I'm being far more critical than I meant to, this is an awesome album that I just wish clicked better with me over time than it did.

Favorite Songs: "Copper Wasp" "No Moon"
Least Favorite Songs: "No.0" "The Glitch in You I Thought I Knew"
54The Wonder Years
Sister Cities

zombie [2]
Fusing the predicability and obvious choruses of pop-punk with aggressive guitars and surprising depth, The Wonder Years craft a surprisingly worthy addition to an irksome genre. The tracks all here have a level of musicality and thought that makes them all really enjoyable and thoughtful, and the weakest ones are only the ones that blend in too easily with the album's general sound and lean too heavily on their roots. The best are the ones that really stand out, especially on the album's gigantic sounding closer. This is an emotional, fun, and great pop punk album. Never thought I'd get to say that this year.

FTs: "The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me" "We Look Like Lightning"
LFTs: "Sister Cities" "The Orange Grove"
55Birds In Row
We Already Lost The World

zombie [3]
I found myself enjoying this far more than I thought I might based on the genres, as this was really brought up thanks to its reliance on more mature and progressive elements than I usually find in the genre. Screams and hard-hitting guitars channelling pure aggression where leveed by massive melodic riffs and changing song structures. It really added all up to something pretty unique and emotional, so hats off to this rec!

FTs: "We vs. Us" "Fossils"
LFT: "We Count So We Don't Have to Listen"
56Mac Miller

This was so goddamn nice chill-ass R&B to vibe and rest too, mellowed me the fuck out right when I needed it. Most of this is pretty straightforward, but there's some really interesting beat switches and instrumental elements that really make everything click together. Even the weakest tracks are still nice, and the best one are true bangers. Count me up as a convert to his smooth message, I'm just sad that I didn't find him sooner.

FT: "Self Care"
LFT: "Small Worlds"
57Parquet Courts
Wide Awake

Yeah okay this was really damn good. You all know I'm not super into punk, but even the punkier moments here were really tasteful and well done (i.e., not just boring yelly noise, though the opener dig kinda verge on this). Naturally I preferred the weirder moments such as "Freebird II" and "Back to Earth," and especially the crazy fun title track. Idk, there was a lot of fun to be had here and though I wish I had more time to spend with it before continuing this list, I had a really good time with it overall.

Favorite Track: "Wide Awake"
Least Favorite Track: "Total Football"
El Mal Querer

Last year I gave Rosalia's debut Los Angeles a similar rating, citing that it's sound was interesting to me but too slight, even if some of the tunes (especially "De Plata") were especially moving. Once again, despite her fully transitioning into pop music after her flamenco debut, I find myself at odds with her sound. There's just not enough going on to keep it interesting. The artistry of what she's doing is always clear, but more often than not all she's doing is playing around with vocals and handclaps. Which isn't to say there isn't something to be said for a capella-based pop, but to me the most obviously best tracks were the most orchestrated ("RENIEGO") and poppy ("MALIMENTE", which is downright sexy I might add). I'd love to see her playing around with more sounds and layers in the future. Until now, I remain hopeful from the sidelines of her fandom.

Favorite Tracks: "MALIMENTE" "RENIEGO"
Least Favorite Track: "A NINGUN HOMBRE"
Angel Youth

Everyone who's been following any of my write-ups (major or minor) these last couple years will know that I have a complicated relationship with nostalgia. Partly due to my being brought up mostly in the 00s (the shittiest decade in terms of pop culture), I don't really feel nostalgic for the time period, nor do I love art that thrives primarily on nostalgia for any period, especially the 80s. This album is largely 80s influenced, from the light synthy touches to the affectless vocals. However, there is something really lovely about the hazy and deep soundscapes here, more so when they're tied with light unique touches, and less so when it's paired with vocal melodies so disgustingly sweet they'd leave a rotting gap where your tooth used to be ("Moon Hits"). Also, this is like two albums in one. The first focusing on those sickly sweet dream pop ballads, and the second on a surreal mix of that and hip-hop.

FT: "KW" "Synth Man"
LFTs: "Moon Hits" "Yours Truly"
Care For Me

Okay, so hear me out. This guy has some serious talent. He’s one of the few rappers that I actually listened to and digested some of the stories on first listen (I think the last time that happened was with The College Dropout), and his flow is pretty solid. But goddamn is some of this album boring. Aside form some interesting melodic/jazzy influences (nothing new for the Chicago scene these days (also, Chicago repreSENT), a lot of it is really chill and mumbly. Many tracks, especially in the middle, just sag with annoying choruses and sterile soundscapes. So yeah, I enjoyed a decent amount of this. I didn’t a decent amount too. But, he’s got an important vision to him that I hope to see fleshed out in the future. Maybe he should get Noname to produce his next record.

61Mid-Air Thief

As much as I wanted to resist its cutely twee tendencies, Crumbling won me over not just through it's implacable charm, but its lovely, warm, churning soundscapes. The music is unlike any other I've really heard, and it's just goddamn attractive and likeable even if it might not always be the most listenable, sometimes reaching comparisons to a Korean Bon Iver. It's a great album that I might not find myself reaching toward often, but would love to have in my own music library.

Favorite Song: "These Chains"
Least Favorite Song: "Dirt"
62Field Division
Dark Matter Dreams

If ever there was an album designed specifically to hit me in a weak spot, it's this one. Beautiful country tinges coupled with atmospheric rock soundscapes, catchy-ass riffs, and beautiful female vocals, this just totally hit the nail on the head for me. Sure, a couple tracks can seem a bit underwhelming (the male vocalist is at the forefront of these weak links, but luckily they use him sparingly and it admittedly does help with variety; the atmospheric instrumentals are more than enough to take up most of the slack), but overall this is a breathtakingly gorgeous, cinematic marvel of an album that dives confidently into a throng of disparate genres and comes up with a winning, unique yet nostalgic sound. This rules.

Favorite Songs: "Farthest Moon" "It's Not Gonna Be Alright" "This Is How Your Love Destroys Me"
Least Favorite Songs: "Lately" "Stay"
63La Luz
Floating Features

Dewinged [2]
Woah, where tf did this come from? An all-female band that blends blissful dream-pop with guitar-driven psych, there's a crazy amount of effort given to the atmosphere of the album, which adds to its overall insane amount of consistency. There isn't a track on here that isn't great, and yet at the same time there aren't really too much tracks that jump out at you and demand year-end highlight status. This is the album's only downfall, as its smooth af and a joy to listen to, I just hope that next time around they craft their sound into something with a bit more variety and bite to it. Until then I'm sure this'll come up often for me.

FTs: "My Golden One" "Greed Machine"
LFT: "Don't Leave Me on Earth" (i guess)
64Jaye Jayle
No Trail and Other Unholy Paths

Dewinged [3]
While this took a while to get off the ground for me, there were some seriously great moments later on that sold this slow-burning, weird rock album for me. I loved the blend of jazz and other elements throughout, which helped to differentiate an album that otherwise might not have stood out much from the pack. The biggest problem for me however was the lethargic pacing that filled most of this album. Many of the tracks occupied a very similar tempo, which not only made it hard to tell them apart, but added to the frustrating opening. Still, this album got really great as it went on, and overall was a just a really good pick overall!

FTs: "Cemetery Rain" "Marry Us" "Ode to Betsy"
LFT: "No Trail"
65Blurred City Lights

There's something at once gorgeous and menacing about this album, perhaps best evidenced by its monster of a closing track, "Argue Till We Die." I mean, this song just hit me like a train, but it does a great job of distilling everything about what came before it into one condensed sucker-punch of shoegaze and electronica. It also dilutes it a bit, considering just how good it is makes the rest feel a bit inessential. That isn't to say the rest isn't good, in fact there's hardly a dull moment between the thick atmospheres and lovely vocals soaring here and there. It's a mood-piece of an album, and at that it succeeds incredibly well. I greatly look forward to what this duo has to offer in the future.

Favorite Tracks: "For a Day" "Argue Till We Die"
Least Favorite Track: "Clusters"
66The Innocence Mission
Sun on the Square

Blush you beautiful devil, you knew exactly what this would do to me when I heard it. It's a blissful and at times adorable trip through various styles of indie folk, starting with simple girl and her guitar tunes before branching out into blooming, flowering orchestral-folk offerings. I generally preferred the latter, but there were plenty of gems to be beheld. I'm surprised I'd never heard of these guys but I'll have to check them out soon!

Favorite Songs: "Buildings in Flower" "Sun on the Square"
Least Favorite: "Star of Land and Sea" (male vocals didn't click for me here)
67Slowly Slowly
St. Leonards

BlushfulHippocrene [2]
This is just some damn gorgeously produced, well-crafted straightforward indie rock. The best songs here are the ones showcasing the biggest breadth, while the tracks with simple acoustic strumming or pop-punk levels of simplicity don't hit the mark quite as well. And while, as always with these releases, I really wish that they pushed themselves and their sound more, there's some great tracks here showing some great dynamics and range from the band, showcasing some potential I really hope they capitalize on in the future.

FTs: "Dinosaurs" "Smile Lines" "The Cold War"
LFTs: "Sorry" "Sunburnt Shoulders"

BlushfulHippocrene [3]
This was about as strange and off-the-wall as an album can get while still being able to call it mainly folk, and it really pushes the boundaries of the genre to the point where I would call it "progressive folk." There's some brilliant genre bending here, employing electronic beats and electric rhythm sections with finesse that never feels out of place or contradictory to the feel of the song and the chaotic song structures. It's also crazy consistent, with nearly every song being excellent in its own unique way (with one obvious exception that just doesn't stand out thanks to its pleasant monotony), and overall it's just a great album I'm happy to have heard.

FTs: Everything other than "May I Be the Light"
LFT: "May I Be the Light"
The Smoke of Atavistic Fires

This was a really solid folk metal outing, if a very standard from my understanding. To be fair 've only jammed a few in this subgenre, but this didn't really stand out to me too much compared to those. Still, it supplied some excellent atmosphere, solid melodies and fun riffs, which is basically all I could ask for with this. It's hard to say much more because as much as I liked it, a lot of it tends to slip away in the memory almost immediately, but this was a worthy jam to anyone interested in this kind of music, and it's one that I'm ultimately glad I checked.

Favorite Song: "Fig.2 - Within a Decaying Vessel"
Least Favorite Song: "Fig.3 - As Stars Shimmer Upon the Ritual"

This thing is remarkably great and rridiculously consistent. There wasn't a single song of this I didn't think was excellent, but at the same time I wish there were a few more tracks that acted as highlights. Therefore the best songs for me were simply the most catchy or memorable because they stood out against the pack sonically rather than necessarily being much better. Still, that's not much of a complaint. I expect this to be a very rewarding album in the future just because of how dense this is, there's so much going on that I imagine future listens will really color my experiences more with it. Well yeah anyway I totally get why this is getting the acclaim it's getting, and I'm looking forward to digging deeper into these guys.

Favorite Tracks: "Julia" "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore"
Least Favorite Tracks: literally none but I guess "Wendy & Betsy" just for being a bit unmemorable
I Loved You at Your Darkest

These guys just rip your face off and do it in such a fun and ridiculous way without ever coming off as less badass, no matter how many orchestras and children's choirs they fit into their music. There's some serious talent behind this music, and even though I have a weakness for uber-melody and genre-breaking turns like this in metal, this band does it in a way that just doesn't hurt the mood of what they're going for in the slightest. In that way, they pull it off better than Sigh. Because even though I enjoyed that Sigh record more, at the end of the day, this is far more m/

FTs: "Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica" "God = Dog"
LFTs: "Angelvs XIII" "Rom 5:8"

Okay yeah this was really sweet. I accidentally jammed Cardinal before this thinking that it was this, but I can honestly say that I def preferred this. Whereas that felt like solid indie rock with some splashes of americana, this was by far a more interesting mash of the genres. Both sides worked so well, most evidently on the rocking opener and the very country-esque t/t, this sounded a lot more like the band I saw live a couple years ago then Cardinal. Even though the quicker tracks didn't add much and the album got a bit redundant near the end.

FTs: "Rings" "Skylight"
LFTs: "Easy Enough" "Light On"
The Clever Use Of Occult Symbols...

WRYN [2]
Definitely more mixed on this than on your last offering WRYN, though I did get a kick out of what they were trying to do here. I think there was a lot of potential to the sound here, though it did remind me of a more scattershot and electronic-based attempt at something Igorrr would try to pull off, with a strange combination of sounds both heavy and light making something not necessary palatable yet strangely listenable. There was def some stuff to enjoy here.

FT: "Inchoate Hepatoscopy"
LFT: "Incarnadine Materials"
74Various Artists (Electronic)
Forms Of Hands 18

WRYN [3]
This was a pretty enjoyable if strangely monochromatic release given how many artists contributed to it. I remember enjoying a lot of it and being annoyed by the rest. There's some really fun stuff here, but like my biggest problem with electronic is that it just dronesssssss on sometimes. I usually listen to these twice before rating, but since this was technically kinda not an album album and I didn’t love it, I gave it one. There were some great bangers on here though so thanks for sharing!

FTs: “Linear” “Forever Fading”
LFTs: “Seuranta”
75Twenty One Pilots

TØP follows up Blurryface with a far more exciting and mature album overall. It takes the experimentation of their older albums and brings their more successful pop appeal to it with really solid results. The lyrics can be asinine at time (like seriously, who gives a damn about the album concept? It’s convoluted af), and there’s a string of eh songs in there (with single “Nico and the Niners” as the main offender), but still, there’s a lot of fun to be had here and quality wise it stand right between their older indie efforts and their recent major label stuff. I’d say this has the best hip-hop stuff they’ve put out yet though.

Favorite Songs: “Jumpsuit” “Leave the City”
Least Favorite Song: “Nico and the Niners”
76Haley Heynderickx and Max Garcia Conover
Among Horses III

Stripping back Haley's instrumentation to match that of her companion (I'm assuming), this relies more on her husky and full voice which isn't so much a bad thing, but I really wish there was more variety here musically. Still, each gets a truly great song, and the weaker moments are solid if not totally impressive folk tunes. Overall a really good listen for fans of the recent batch of singer-songwriter folk and Haley in general.

Favorite Songs: "Francis" "Mother"
Least Favorite Songs: "Little Wind" "Crow Song"
77Alkaline Trio
Is This Thing Cursed?

I'm gonna be honest, I've never gotten all the appeal of pop-punk, and it's never been more perplexing than this album. Sure it's upbeat and a bit fun, but the choruses are plain irritating and some of the vocals (from the not-Matt Skiba guy) are just not good. Why this album gets all the acclaim when to me it's as middle-of-the-road it can be for a genre that's already pretty middle-of-the-road is beyond me. Luckily it's gotta pretty solid duo of closers, as "Krystalline" might be the one convincing display of emotion on the entire album.

FT: "Krystalline"
LFT: "Little Help?"
The Snaking Path

I feel as I'm contradicting myself a bit given my criticisms of Steak's rec, but I really found myself enjoying this one. It definitely had a similar video game-y feel to it, and I think it could've worked excellent as a soundtrack. The main difference for me between the two I suppose (aside form the obvious genre contrasts) is the way that natural and organic sounds are weaved into the soundscape of the album. The synths and melodies are never at odds with the nature in the background, if anything they combine to create a unique and moving atmosphere. It's refreshing, like taking a walk through the woods. It's strange because I've never heard anything quite like it technically, but it felt so familiar and inviting at once. I suppose you can just chalk that one up to good musicianship.

Favorite Song: "Edenic Reflections"
Least Favorite Song: "A Copse O’ergrown"

AsleepInTheBack [2]
This was a really fun album, and even if it didn't click with me as much as I'd like, it made for one hell of an enjoyable listen, and worked surprisingly well as background music for work and monotonous tasks. I wish they'd have played with the melodies a bit more, but there's plenty going on for this band that I'll be keeping an eye on them for future releases.

FT: "Just a Begining Part 3"
LFTs: "Spatial Night Part 1" & "Spatial Night Part 3"
80Molly Burch
First Flower

SowingSeason [4]
This was a strange album, completely detached yet comforting in its hazy, wavering warmth. While I never felt like I could get immerse myself into it given the fact that the music just seemed to be hiding behind a pane of glass, there was something alluring about that. Just a really pretty album with a sultry voice in the front, that I wish could've switched things up a little bit and involved me more.

FTs: "Good Behavior" "Nothing to Say"
LFT: "Candy" "Wild" "To the Boys"
81Madeline Kenney
Perfect Shapes

SowingSeason [5]
Wow, ending this run on a hugely high note. I loved this thing and just how deep the sound was. There was always something going on, and always something going on beneath that. The scope was huge, the melodies were huge, and the emotion was huge, all to the point where the one flaw I have with the album is that there were no cracks, no stripped-back moments to let me in and appreciate the smaller feelings that were hiding underneath it all (as say, Haley Heynderickx did (yes, I did read your review sowing)). Either way, this is one of my favorite finds of the year, and it just plain rocks.

FTs: "Overhead" "Bad Idea" "Your Art"
LFT: "No Weekend"
82Ice Nine Kills
The Silver Scream

I’m not even sure how I would’ve reacted to all of this before my recent horror binge, but I’ll admit to this hitting a certain sweet tooth thanks to it. Still, I’m just not a fan of metalcore, and while there’s a lot of guilty pleasure stuff here with tons of weirdly progressive influences, there’s still enough syrupy sweet pop choruses and lame one-liners to bring it almost solely into pure cringe territory. There’s a lot to like here, and there’s a lot to dislike too, and quite often it’s one and the same, exemplified perfectly on the surreal duet “Love Bites.” Bonus points for the fun and novelty though!

Favorite Track: “Thank God It’s Friday”
Last Favorite Tracks: “The Jig Is Up” “Enjoy Your Slay”
83Olafur Arnalds

Snide [2]
How can a guy that thinks Black Veil Brides is the best band ever rec something so goddamn pretty? This is one of the nicest, most purely uplifting albums I've heard all year, and I very much appreciate it coming along when it did. There's some gorgeous tracks here, and a few others that just don't stand out the way the rest do, but it's hard to fault that on an orchestral/electronic album like this one. Strongly recommend this to anyone that's a fan of instrumental music or just needs to mellow out sometime soon.

FTs: "re:member" "undir"
LFTs: "momentary" "nyepi"

Snide [3]
Well, I definitely enjoyed this more than one might think given my proclivities to this genre, but above all what sold me on it was the boundless fun that the band seemed to be having. Sure, they get caught up in poetic angst a bit more than they can handle, and maybe they'd be better off deviating from the formula for more than a couple half-song lengths here and there (some songs are just inarguably plain), but here's a band that wants to try new things and wants to enjoy doing so in a genre that often gets so caught up in self-seriousness far too often.

FT: "Shame"
LFTs: "Everything that She Offered Me" "Is This the Real Life?"
85Adrianne Lenker

Atari [4]
I've gotta be honest, this one didn't click for me the way others in the genre do. In fact, it takes me back to what I imagined when people described Julien Baker for the first time, it's all the sadness and simplicity with much less of the singing talent and ear for melody. It does set up a unique atmosphere throughout it all though, and at its worst, it's nothing worst than forgetful. At it's best, it's remarkably pleasant and sneakily dense.

FT: "out of your mind"
LFT: "10 miles"
86Snail's House

This is really nice and really cute but I guess it just isn't the kind of music that clicks with me. It chirps and fuzzes its way around pimped-out, looping, Nintendo soundtrack-type tunes that and as nauseatingly adorable as they are surprisingly layered at times. The saccharine sweetness and artificiality was a bit too much for me sometimes, it never felt truly moving or organic to me as it probably should've, but I suppose that's because to me it felt too much like it wanted to emulate nostalgia and sounds than truly come into its own. Later on in the album it definitely got closer to it, but overall I just wished it would've left a longer lasting impression in me.

Favorite Songs: "Pluie" "Platonique"
Least Favorite Song: "秘密基地"
87A Beacon School

SteakByrnes [2]
It's funny that I listened to this the same time as Beach House, as this is a far more pristine example of the wonders of dream pop than that album in my opinion. This album is just damn gorgeous, especially the looping, flowing "It's Late," which is honestly a highlight of this year as a whole. They take some seriously varied and interesting ideas for the genre, and thanks to the short runtime it doesn't get old and peter out like some albums do. I just thought this was an absolute pleasure, and I'm excited to listen to what they put out in the future.

FTs: "It's Late" "Algernon"
LFT: "Ash"
Empty Black

SteakByrnes [3]
This just might be the strangest reaction I've had to any of these albums so far. On first listen this just did nothing for me, it felt like a strangely unpalatable mix of unnecessarily heavy and condescendingly accessible parts that wasn't my thing at all. On second listen however, it unlocked a part of my mind that was largely resistant to this genre, and even if it's still not "my thing," the insane atmosphere and musicianship was more undeniable than any metalcore album I've heard. This felt like it might just be my first big step into this genre, and I'm curious to see if it grows on me in time.

FT: "Echo and Dust Pt. II"
LFT: "Broadcast Heaven"
89The Spirit of the Beehive
Hypnic Jerks

Well this was certainly something. A swirling, dense, and atmospheric concoction of psychedelia and its various components, this record was almost nausea inducing (in a good way?) at times. It’s so adamant about its constant flow and intricate instrumentation that it’s hard to pull the songs apart from each other, even just to pick out a favorite. This consistency is both a strength and a weakness, as are the constant interludes that come up mid-song and the heavy reliance on Beatles worship. It’s a great album, just one that I might find it hard to come back to thanks to its hazy uniformity.

Favorite Track (i guess): “hypnic jerks”
Least Favorite Track: “(without you) in my pocket”
90The Sidekicks
Happiness Hours

suppatime [2]
This was honestly just a really nice and agreeable rock album in a good way, there were a couple non-starters here and moments where things just felt a bit uninspired, but overall it was a good time and fun was had by all. A few tracks here have some goddamn gorgeous choruses and melodies going for them, "Mix for Rainy Day" and "Serpent in a Sun Drought" especially. And lord is that closer a beaut. I hope that in the future they can hone their sound into something more consistently exciting, but for now I'll enjoy this for what it is; a good pop rock album.

FTs: "Mix for Rainy Day" "Happiness Hours"
LFT: "Other People's Pets"
91Mathias Eick

suppatime [3]
Man there was some just plain lovely stuff here. Tracks just oozed with melody and beauty, some hitting more than others, but all of them fitting the same crisp and hazy atmosphere. This album was a treat, especially the moodier tracks like "Girlfriend." There's a lot to love here, so I'm gonna have to check back to his earlier work!

FTs: "Parents" "Girlfriend"
LFTs: "Friends" "For My Grandmothers"
92Kylie Minogue

Yeah, sorry Aiwaz but this just didn't click for me much at all. Most tracks would start with a tease of something mildly country-esque before Kylie goes into balls-out pop with a Southern accent, but the problem is, neither the country or the pop here is particularly good or well crafted. Things do better a bit better as they go in terms of a better mix of genres, and the best tracks come along when Minogue surprisingly finds enough grace to keep it in her pants and stick with the muted country aesthetic for a whole song like on the lovely ballad "Radio On" and the layered closer "Music's Too Sad Without You". Otherwise this is pretty much the opposite of what I enjoy in either genre thanks to her screechy vocals and often mind-numbingly uninventive take on "country-pop".

Favorite Songs: "Radio On" "Music's Too Sad Without You"
Least Favorite Song: "Sincerely Yours"
93Novo Amor

Man, this really clicked on my second listen. As it goes on, it starts to feel less of an elaboration of his previous stuff and more like a true progression. This feels like the first time he's properly given his music room to breathe from his Bon Iver-like airy, sometimes suffocatingly sweet vocals. This time it feels perfectly in tune with all of the new sounds and textures he's playing with, and honestly it sounds excellent. Can see this growing on me even more in time as well.

Favorite Song: "Anniversary"
Least Favorite Song: "Seneca"
94Julia Holter

This is one of those weird albums that I respect more than I like. It's totally off-kilter, uninviting, and strange, and I get that there's something to really be found somewhere in it, but the landscapes are so inhospitable at times that I honestly don't know if they're worth it. Also I know that this is a grower but honestly I found myself more at odds with it the second time than the first. Still, there are more than a few moments of scattered beauty where her weirdness finally settles into something truly fun and listenable, especially on the second half. Yes, there's a lot of great stuff here, it's just muddled, stretched, and purposefully obfuscated, sometimes it feels like just for the sake of being "out there."

Favorite Songs: "Les Jeux to You" "Words I Heard" "I Shall Love 2"
Least Favorite Songs: "Turn the Lights On" "Everyday Is an Emergency"

This is one hell of a nice little pop album. I don't find the same emotional catharsis and poignancy that a lot of people seem to be gathering for it, and there's a bit less going on musically than I normally like, but I can't argue against the subtly effective musicianship abound here. There's some really good passages and quietly progressive notions going on from here and there, which make the majority far more interesting than your average pop release. It's at its worst the closer it comes to generic pop tunes, such as on the opener and closer, which, while fun jams in their own right, just aren't unique enough to make the cut imo. But overall, this is a very nice, very solid pop album with the power to grow on me if ever I find myself coming back to it.

Favorite Song: "Send to Robin Immediately"
Least Favorite Songs: "Missing U" "Ever Again"
96Rotor (GER)

A fun, exciting, and easily flowing instrumental stoner rock record that fashions melodic tunes out of its marble chunks of rock very similar to the monolithic tracks that Elder gifted us with last year. If you dug that album, I strongly recommend this. It might not be quite as exquisitely crafted, but it's a lot more immediate and fun at first, even if it might wear off a bit with a couple listens.

Favorite Songs: "Abfahrt!" "Vor Dem Herrn"
Least Favorite Song: "Würdigung" (not really a song but it sucks as a closer)
97Night Flowers
Wild Notion

This is such a nice goddamn album. It's right on that edge of a 3.5 and 4.0 but I can't help but give it the boost just because of how fun and amiable it is. It's not got much going in terms of originality, but it's got a tried and true dream pop sound with some really nice vocals that lead the way over music of varied complexity. Sure there are a few moments where the melodies are just a bit too sweet for my ears, but when they're pared with some really moving sounds (and the production here is really great too) then you can feel the magic.

Favorite Songs: "Head On" "Let Her In"
Least Favorite Song: "Hey Love"
Devouring Radiant Light

Demon of the Fall
Okay so I'm not normally a fan of whatever subgenre of metal this is ("blackened thrash metal" was Minushuman's guess) so I'm already biased against this album, but honestly it was pretty good. I enjoyed a decent amount of it, especially the first two tracks; the first has some almost poppy melodies and the second had a fun groove-y stomp to it. The only problem is that a lot of it just didn't latch on in my mind. I won't really remember this album as having a different voice from any of the other metal bands I've jammed in the past, I'll just remember thinking it was alright. And honestly, I had a decent time listening to it so that's all I can ask for with this stuff, I just wish it was a tad more memorable in the end.

Favorite Songs: "Fen of Shadows" "When Paradise Falls"
Least Favorite Song: "Carnarium Eternal"

This is one of those albums that I can appreciate artistically but for the life of me just can't stomach. That's not to say there aren't some truly pretty pieces on here, such as the opener, which blend the scattershot and noisy approach to the titular concept with melody in a way that's enticing and innovative. However, the album is largely unlistenable as "music" the violent voice slicing of "As Long as Skies Are Blue" is rough at best, and "Pit Formers," might just be one of the most unappetizing stretches of music I've ever heard (up there with Bar Sachiko, yes, it's really bad) thanks to being the musical equivalent of sandpaper rubbing directly against your eardrums. So yeah, there was a lot of clever, even good stuff here, but there was just enough here that diluted it to the point that I won't forget this album, but I'll surely actively avoid it.

Favorite Tracks: "Pattern Definitions"
Least Favorite Track: "Pit Formers" (definitely my worst SOTY so far)
100Myles Oliver

theYearis1999 [2]
You know what, I'll give a lot of credit to these electronic albums or really broadening my mind to this kinda music. I've been trying to get more into electronic music and this stuff is really letting me know just how insanely artistic this stuff is. As for my relatively low score, I thought this album was seriously deep and well created, all around artful in almost every way. But it's almost something I can imagine myself going to a museum to see, something so painstakingly constructed and carved out of razor wire that I can't ever imagine myself listening to it out of enjoyment. It'd be fantastic to study, to observe, to take notes on and hear a lecture on it, but I'll be damned if ever I had a really fun time listening to it.

FTs: "Where World Begins (Forget the Past/Katashi Mix)" "Reflection"
LFTs: "Shimizu" "City Faves Ohnuki"

theYearis1999 [3]
I'm sorry but this is some of the striaght up worst music I've heard from 2018. It's just boring rap/r&b/electronic music with so little passion or excitement that it's genuinely irritating. I'll admit that it picks up a tad in the last few tracks ("Puppet Master" is better than it has any right to be on an album this bad), which is just barely enough from saving this from my title of worst album of the year, just barely.

FT: "Pupper Master" (really nice song ngl)
LFT: "For You" "Decay" "Fake News"
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