Favorites from 2018

2018 is done, so it’s time to look back at the Blailist’s favorite music from this crazy year. I had a hard time editing my revolving playlist and found myself returning to several artists who I feel deserve special attention. MITSKI, KACEY MUSGRAVES and TRACEY THORN each provided career highlights with each at a different point in their career. Others, like ELVIS COSTELLO and JEFF TWEEDY, clearly showed their continuing relevance in a changing music world. Let’s look back, shall we.

(A link to the Spotify playlist is at conclusion).

  • TRACEY THORN “Queen” from Record. TRACEY THORN set out to make an album whose sound captured a PET SHOP BOYS feel and ended up making a mature and beautiful collection of songs from a women’s perspective, most of which you can dance to. TRACEY continues to inspire – as a musician, an author, a columnist for the The New Statesmen, or even as a calming influence on Twitter. This was by far my favorite album of this past year. Everyone I played it for loved it and sought it out. So the Blailist is bookended by two excellent songs from this amazing album.

  • THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE QUEEN “Merrie Land” from Merrie Land. DAMON ALBARN’s supergroup return with their first outing in 11 years. Brexit is a big topic here. Coupled with a nice release from GORILLAZ in 2018, its clear DAMON takes no breaks. it is impressive how much good music this guy produces.

  • GWENNO “Tir Ha Mor” from Le Kov. Following 2015’s excellent Y Dydd Olaf, gives us another beautiful electronic sound wash written and sung mostly in Welsh but also featuring some Cornish, a nearly lost language.

  • THE FERNWEH “The Liar” from The Fernweh. “Fernweh” means wanderlust in German. Enough reason to like this. The solo at the end just adds to it for me.

  • U.S. GIRLS “Pearly Gates” from In a Poem Unlimited. This one is hard to get out of your head once you hear it.

  • BEACH HOUSE “Dark Spring” from 7. Dreamy…

  • STEVE MASON “Stars Around My Heart” from Stars Around My Heart.   I do not know anything about STEVE MASON‘s prior work in BETA BAND, but this sounds something from another era, even before Brit Pop. One of my favorite songs from this year.

  • MOLLY BURCH “To The Boys” from First Flower. New to me but she sounds like she’s from another time. I love that voice and that delivery.

  • LAURA VEIRS “The Lookout” from The Lookout. By now, you all pretty much know that if there is a new LAURA VEIRS album out, it’s gonna end up on this list. The Lookout is another stunning collection from a master songwriter.

  • I’M WITH HER “See You Around” from See You Around. SARA WATKINS, AIOFE O’DONOVAN and SARA JOROSZ teamed up for this wonderful album. It’s a true collaboration, yet each of their distinctive skills shine through enough to know who is doing what. To truly appreciate their immense talents, you should see them live. I had the pleasure of doing that earlier this year – spellbinding from the first note until the end. Here is their Tiny Desk concert, which clearly captures the virtuosity and beautiful harmonies from three true pros.

  • AMANDA SHIRES “Leave It Alone” from To The Sunset. I came late to AMANDA SHIRES but, after seeing her and JASON ISBELL at the Ryman Auditorium in October, I am now on the firmly seated on the bandwagon. In one of the front rows.

  • CAROLINE ROSE “Money” from LONER. So did I.

  • PARQUET COURTS “Freebird II” from Wide Awake. Two reasons to like this. Because IGGY POP loves them and because the name of this song. Oh, a third reason, this is a fucking great song,

  • MK.GEE “I Know How You Get” from Pronounced Mcgee. Thanks to Oskar for showing me this poppy little number with groovy guitar.

  • ARIANA GRANDE “no tears left to cry” from Sweetner. Tough year for this artist. This is a great great pop song. Check out QUESTLOVE below.

  • LOU HAYTER “Cherry On Top” (single). London based DJ makes some catchy dancey poppy musiks. BBC 6 played this one over and over.

  • KARA MARNI “Move” from Move. Thanks to BEN WATT’s Spin Cycle for finding this. You should check it out on Spotify if you are in the mood for discovery. BEN helps me find so much good stuff. The original version is also amazing.

  • ROBYN “Honey” from Honey. I know ROBYN from her collaboration with ROYKSOPP, but she has a career full of perfect Swedish electro pop that is hard to ignore. Her latest shows she is still at the top of her game.

  • ARC IRIS “If You Can See” from Icon of Ego. Almost unclassifiable, this album from ex-LOW ANTHEM’s JOCIE ADAMS has bits of prog, some pedal steel, some electronica and accessible catchy songs. This was a great discovery this year. Thanks to BBC 6.

  • JULIA HOLTER “I Shall Love 2” from Aviary. Speaking of BBC 6, this song was played often on 6 throughout the fall. Every time I heard it I was reminded of how vital radio can still be, even if in other parts of the world. This is not a radio song as we know it here in the U.S. Hearing this song over and over reveals many layers. each listen reveals something new that makes you yearn to hear it again and again. Much like BRIAN ENO has done in the past, she makes you want to peel back the layers to discover different things each time you listen.

  • MITSKI “Nobody” from Be The Cowboy. MITSKI continues to amaze. This is arguably the best album she has made and the best out this year. And, from a stunning album of amazing songs of real emotion, this one stuck out. You cannot get this out of your head, so don’t even try!

  • LAURA JEAN “Girls On The TV” from Devotion. From Australia, strong songwriting and powerful images. This song is particularly haunting.

  • LITTLE SIMZ “Offence” from Offence. New song from British rapper. I’m Jay-Z on a bad day, Shakespeare on my worst days.

  • JEFF TWEEDY “Some Birds” from WARM. I have never been as enthusiastic about Tweedy as so many others have been. But you have to acknowledge his songwriting prowess.

  • ROSEANNE CASH “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For” from She Remembers Everything. CASH is one our generations best songwriters, so that’s always a given. I especially liked this one because of hubby JOHN LEVENTHAL’s tasteful Strat.

  • KACEY MUSGRAVES “Slow Burn” from Golden Hour. Another strong candidate for favorite album of the year. KACEY is revealing herself to be a master songwriter and the production of this album is so cool. Check out the instrumental bridge, which reminds me of THE BEATLES. There is a lot going on here.

  • BRANDI CARLISLE “The Joke” from By the Way, I Forgive You. My three or four readers already know I really really love big ballads.

  • LOW CUT CONNIE “Beverly” from Dirty Pictures Pt. 2. Just discovering these guys – this is a fantastic song.

  • PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING “White Star Liner” from White Star Liner. It’s always a good time for history lesson. And it’s always a good time for Blailist to go off on a tangent.

  • PUBLIC PRACTICE “Foundation” from Distance Is A Mirror (EP). I could not find out much about this band. One article says they are a DIY supergroup and are from Brooklyn. The article also drew a similar conclusion to what I immediately thought of when I first heard them. Could they be a reincarnation of TOM TOM CLUB or Fear of Music Era-TALKING HEADS?

  • THE VACCINES “I Can’t Quit” from Combat Sports. I want to dismiss these guys as juvenile one trick ponies but they keep coming up with the most catchy hooks. So I need to get over it.

  • ELVIS COSTELLO AND THE IMPOSTERS “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter” from Look Now. This is ELVIS absolutely at the top of his game. A few years ago, I saw the tour where ELVIS and the IMPOSTERS played much of Imperial Bedroom and it was incredible. From what I’ve read since, ELVIS said he felt that tour proved there is nothing that the THE IMPOSTERS cannot do. This album was made in part to demonstrate that. In addition to the versatility of his band, this album also shows that there is nothing that ELVIS COSTELLO, as a songwriter, cannot do, and do well. I tried to find a good clip of the new BURT BACHARACH songs, to no avail, but this one, co-written with CAROLE KING (another songwriting legend), really shows that the IMPOSTERS are one of the best bands ever.

  • HUBERT LENOIR “Fille de personne II” from Darlene. Last minute addition! Who knew this could come from Quebec City? Can we somehow twist this into convincing the NHL that the Nordiques need to return!

  • TRACEY THORN “Dancefloor” from Record. And as has become custom in the past few years, we return where we started. This song closes TRACEY’s album and it is absolutely perfect. In two brief verses, the listener is taken back to a place in life where the drama of real life only exists to interrupt the refuge of the dance floor. And the song is so brief it leaves you wanting more, which is how you usually feel at the end of a good night.

Here’s the playlist. It includes a few more songs:

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