selling – On Reflection

Sunrise side of Mount Rainier

“On Reflection” is a collaborative album by Gold Panda and Jas Shaw (of Simian Mobile Disco) that came out in late 2018, which is maybe why there hasn’t been a whole lot of discussion about it. It’s a beautiful, laidback album, with lots of moments that feel characteristic of each contributor. The sound world in “On Reflection” summons up a similar vibe as the more stretched-out and wilder parts of the original “TRON” soundtrack, but without sounding at all like a retread (there’s also an aspect of a few of the synth tones that reminds me slightly of James Murphy’s “Remixes Made with Tennis Data”). “On Reflection” is a little stained glass window.

[BUY On Reflection]

Pedro the Lion – Phoenix

Cactus near Phoenix

Pedro the Lion’s “Phoenix” seems like a loose memoir in album form. Apparently the album arose from the time when David Bazan, the main songwriter, took a side trip to visit Phoenix and the home he grew up in. Actually, the album doesn’t feel as much like a memoir as it does like a semi-autobiographical novel, because there are other stories besides Bazan’s that come through in these songs (primarily about his family, on songs “Model Homes,” “Piano Bench,” “Circle K,” and “Leaving the Valley”). The album pulls out memories and anecdotes (“Black Canyon,” features ‘Uncle Ray’, a paramedic who responds to an attempted suicide-by-car on the Black Canyon Highway; it’s a chilling song and one of the best on the album) and details from the past to recreate a whole world that’s now gone.

The whole album’s vibe reminds me a little bit of the first few lines of Wilco’s “Misunderstood”: “When you’re back in your old neighborhood/the cigarettes taste so good/but you’re so misunderstood/so misunderstood/There’s something there that you can’t find…” It’s all burrowing into resurrected feelings, the thrill of being able to revisit these memories alongside the attendant sadness of summoning these details (sometimes at less than high fidelity) from a past that will never exist again.

“Yellow Bike” was the first single and it’s my favorite song on the album, a recollection by Bazan of receiving and learning to ride his first two-wheel bike. It’s high-energy nostalgia, with Bazan’s vocals sounding somehow celebratory and mournful at once. There is a pretty great moment 40 seconds into the song, when the other guitars kick in, that brings a rush to the song, a little simulation of tearing off down a hill on a one-speed bike.

[BUY Phoenix]

Accounting Procedures 2018

Mount Rainier, Sunrise

There was a lot of good music in 2018 (this is the kind of trenchant commentary that brings readers here). Below is my list of favorite albums and songs, presented in no particular order.

I admired a lot more music than what’s represented below, but what’s in the list is what I listened to most and what brought me the most enjoyment. As always, anyone seeking more comprehensive lists that are presented in more attractive ways, with better prose, would do well to check out the year-end lists and mixes at Said the Gramophone and Fluxblog.

Nils Frahm – All Melody

Nils Frahm is always good. This album feels superficially ‘light’ over the first few listens, but over the long term reveals itself as being complex, dramatic and grave.


Against All Logic – 2012-2017

This album came out of left field after Jaar’s “Sirens” and the work he’d done with the “Nymphs” releases. “2012 – 2017” is exhilarating and shows (again) that Jaar can do anything.


Mount Eerie – Now Only


Preoccupations – New Material

The beginning of the song is bleak, rough, austere: cascading drums, bass. “Sending current down the barbed wire/burning currency in bonfires….” and “Whether we ask for it or not/deliver us to suffer again and again.” Matt Flegel’s lyrics read like a manifesto and he declaims them like a manifesto. There aren’t many people who sing with the same stentorian ferociousness as Flegel; every time he sings “Whether we ask for it or not…” it sounds like he’s rallying people on a battlefield.

Antidote takes on a different shape midway through. The drums trip over themselves, the pattern shifts. Flegel sings (utters) with flat, dead resignation: “Information overdose/looking for antidotes/uneven ratios/under a microscope.” (and variations of that). You get fed up with what’s happening all around, the sickness of it, but then it overwhelms you, there’s nothing to be done, you’re left searching—in a futile and perfunctory way—for answers that don’t exist.


Soccer Mommy – Clean

Every song on this album is fantastic.


Rival Consoles – Persona

It is staggering, watching the time-lapse evolution of the planet. First: accretion. Then it was a ball of hot iron and nickel. Volcanism reigned. Lava was everywhere, moving, spurting, flying all over and inside. Meteors hit, brought water (maybe?), and the moon was ejected, too weird and wicked to be a part of the planet. Atmosphere began to pile up, slow and steady, from the volcanic exhalations. Oceans pooled. Then everything was on fire again for a while. Then the planet cooled again and everything started to get its act together. It was a great time. Some chemicals and proteins and acids mixed together and flowed towards and away other chemicals. Then everything was on fire again.

“Unfolding” is the first single from Rival Consoles’s forthcoming new album, “Persona.” The song builds and annihilates itself. It collapses and rises up again. Subduction, erosion, eruption. It is beautiful and massive, pulsing, vivid, wild.


DJ Koze – Knock Knock

“Knock Knock” is an endlessly inventive album, so much bewildering soundcraft, beautiful voices, unexpected music.


Forth Wanderers – Forth Wanderers

I wrote the following about “Not For Me” originally, but I think it works even better for “Ages Ago.”

Remember chaotic shows, in small theaters, in basements, in a hot attic in Virginia? Early morning Wawa donuts, coffee, and cigarettes. Sitting on brick walls. Someone always brought back handfuls of candy from work. Food, we were always searching for free food. Racing against the clock to get beer before midnight. Our friends snuck into the pool at the Holiday Inn, but we stuck with the one in our apartment complex, full of leaves and dead spiders. We went to see bands in Richmond and Newport News, bands that then dissipated like they’d never existed. You went to Fredericksburg and never came back.


Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

I was a little surprised not to see more widespread or prominent discussion about this album, but music doesn’t quite occupy the same space in pop culture that it used to. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is a vibrantly weird, funny, and beautiful album, and “Four Out of Five” is its most spectacular song–so many good lines from Turner, with an ending that remains one of my favorite moments of music of the year.


Beach House – 7


Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

“Wide Awake!” is another one that didn’t seem to get a whole lot of attention. I think this is Parquet Courts’ best album overall, and it’s so fucking fun too. It’s hard not to love an album with a lead track that references Dutch soccer, collectivism, and ends with the line “And fuck Tom Brady.” (and an album with a song titled “Freebird II”)


Pusha T – Daytona

I loved the Clipse and I love Pusha, so it was thrilling to listen to “Daytona,” which was not only new Pusha music, but great Pusha music, the essence of Pusha’s aesthetic delivered in dense but accessible form. And then “The Story of Adidon,” which really is probably the most thrilling thing I heard this year–the only music I’ve heard in a long time that actually produced in me the same feelings of awe and surprise that usually come with watching something incredible happen in live sports (e.g. seeing someone hit a perfect rabona cross in the midst of a soccer match, etc.).


Snail Mail – Lush

Snail Mail’s music (like Forth Wanderers in some ways, too), is both throwback and forward-looking. Another album that’s totally enjoyable and surprising.


Jay Som – Pirouette

Jay Som released two great albums in two years, and now there’s a 7” of outtakes from the sessions that resulted in the absolutely unbeatable “Everybody Works.” Both “Pirouette” and “Meet Me Underwater” fit, in terms of quality, with the other songs on that album and have the same kind of energy. “I pray for answers/beneath the moon” Melina Duterte sings, seeking clarity, and then, halfway through, the song leaves the earth and lifts off into space. Incredible.


Topdown Dialectic – Topdown Dialectic

The more I listened to Topdown Dialectic’s self-titled album, the more I liked it. Some electronic music doesn’t give you much to hold on to, but this album has great melodies and rhythm and fascinating soundwork. It’s both expressive and restrained.


The Internet – Hive Mind

“Mood” is an insanely good song–I think I could listen to the outro to this track for an hour or two and not get tired of it. “Hive Mind” is an amazing album and includes what is probably my favorite musical moment of the year in “Come Over,” when Syd cues a scything guitar solo from Steve Lacy with a sweet, casually whispered, “Steve…”


Aphex Twin – Collapse


Black Belt Eagle Scout – Mother of My Children

This is a beautiful song about naked, wild yearning, sung beautifully. It all builds from slow, tender strums and whispered declarations into crashing electric turbulence. “Need you/want you.” What a simple phrase to express a humble and real truth. Sometimes you need someone so badly, it feels as if you’re about to burst right out of your own body—this song effectively renders that feeling in musical form.


Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens

So good to have them back.


The Field – Infinite Moment


BEAK> – >>>

“Alle Sauvage” is a car chase on a quantum level, through different dimensions. “>>>” feels like BEAK>’s most accessible and open album, ending with a song that is, for them, surprisingly tender and pretty, “When We Fall.” Every time a new BEAK> album comes out, I lament the fact that Geoff Barrow isn’t working feverishly on new Portishead music, but it’s hard to be disappointed when he’s making music like this.


Autechre – All End

All of Autechre’s “NTS Sessions” are on streaming services, so you can listen to the whole thing online through the service of your choice. I don’t think I’d heard much Autechre before I listened to the sessions when they were first streaming through NTS Radio, but I was captivated by it all, the breadth and depth of it, some of it just unparseable to my ears, but all of it fascinating. “All End” is the last track and it is mammoth: an hour-long ocean of static, shifting in tides and waves.


Tim Hecker – Konoyo

“Konoyo” is a striking and gorgeous album and seems far away from what Hecker has done previously. It’s filled with new and alien sounds, though there’s a moment in the middle of “Across to Anoyo” that sounds familiar: a guitar riff emerges that (I swear) seems like an allusion to a Godspeed You! Black Emperor riff; like a slantwise rhyme or half-rhyme to that riff.


Belle and Sebastian – How to Solve Our Human Problems (Parts 1-3)

Not their best, but better (I thought) than “Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance.” Lots of good songs, a couple great ones, including “Everything Is Now (Part Two),” included here thanks only to this enterprising mash-up of the song with footage from “The Royal Tenebaums.”


John Coltrane – Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album


Vince Staples – FM!

You should just read Shea Serrano’s review of “FM!” at The Ringer.


Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings

Another masterpiece, grander and more expansive even than last year’s “Highly Rare.”


Jeff Tweedy – WARM

I listened to “WARM” a whole lot last month. Jeff Tweedy’s first real solo album is better and more listenable by far than the last couple Wilco albums, and there are some songs on “WARM” that rank up there with his best. “How Hard It Is for a Desert to Die” is one of those; it starts with the heartbreaking line “I hear your laugh/in my laughter,” a reflection on his father’s continuing presence after his death.



New Kaytranada is always a reason to celebrate.


Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

I have a half-remembered line in my head from someone’s critique of Jonathan Ames, which I think he himself referenced somewhere: “For once, Jonathan, try writing with both fists.” “Sparkle Hard,” more so than other recent Jicks albums, feels like Stephen Malkmus writing with both fists–there’s a lot of urgency and energy in these songs, and they’re better for that. I think “Middle America,” “Solid Silk,” “Bike Lane,” and “Difficulties – Let Them Eat Vowels” are all late-career highlights.


Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

I don’t know how Earl Sweatshirt is able to make music that so effectively feels both tossed-off and deeply considered, but he does it. This album seems so casual at first listen, like it’s coming together as you listen to it, but over the course of five or six more listens, you hear how weird and strange the music is, and how many ideas Earl packs into each brief track. It’s a feat.



Another incredible release from Wah Wah Wino, the Irish label responsible for last year’s astounding “Short Passing Game,” by Davy Kehoe. WINO-D feels wilder than Kehoe’s work, flightier and less focused, but just as entertaining and mysterious.


Jim O’Rourke – Sleep Like It’s Winter

Jim O’Rourke’s ambient album, full of pockets of static, silence, creaks, gales, swelling and subsuming tones.


Jim O’Rourke – Steamroom 40

A beautiful drone.