01. DEDEKIND CUT - "TAHOE" (KRANKY)
On the cover of Tahoe, the Sacramento-based producer provides a list of locations with approximate mile markers for optimum listening environment. Taken in total, this guide through Northern California’s back country and national parks mark the set and setting to take in something as big and serene as Dedekind Cut’s first full commitment to an ambient album. Channeling Basinski and Grouper (both of which had great albums this year) the former beat maker has hurled himself headlong into unspeakable timing and genre perfection.
02. ANN ANNIE - "CORDILLERA" (DISTANT BLOOM)
Balancing both the chance constructions and penchant for beautiful melodies inherent in modular synthesizers, Ann Annie seems to hit a nerve with both, serving one of the most preciously balanced and straight-up pleasurable releases of this year. Out on the newly-minted Distant Bloom label, it has been sold out for a minute, but even to let this wash over you via a bandcamp download feels like stumbling upon something very important.
03. LOW - "DOUBLE NEGATIVE" (SUB POP)
Somehow 25 years into their career as a band, Low made the best album Tim Hecker never made. Unlike literally anything else they’ve ever put out, against any stylistic pivot, Double Negative is a bleak, towering all-consuming hi-fi album that hyper-focuses on textural decay, blown-out low end, snippets and trails of voice and percussion that lead into a beating heart devoid of much hope but full of love. An album you will need stare down at least once in your life.
04. HOUR - "TINY HOUSES" (SLEEPER) / "ANEMONE RED" (LILLY DISCS & TAPES)
Hands down my favorite band to form in 2018. Hour is a collective of Philadelphia musicians who create subdued, one might even say “laid back”, folk music and neo-classical music that has so many reference points that aren’t even close to describing what makes this music so engaging and downright pleasurable. Entrance points like Peter Broderick, One-Mile North, Halifax Pier and American Football get there but don’t quite nail it down.
05. ZAZZ - "SOFT HARBINGER" (INNER OCEANS)
Zazz is a collaboration between braeyden jae and Ang Wilson of Electric Sound Bath. Crafted around looping flute and synthesizer passages each side of the LP reach the quietest roar considered possible for such a an endeavor. Each pass from these gentle lapping movements accrue more meaning and create a bit more space in your heart to fill.
06. DUSTIN WONG + TAKAKO MINEKAWA + GOOD WILLSMITH - "EXIT FUTURE HEART" (UMOR REX)
Dustin Wong is often known as a very tasteful, but very proficient, shredmaster. Paired with musical partner Takako Minekawa and Chicago’s Good Willsmith, Exit Future Heart is the result of a night of jamming. From that night we get an album that feels fully fleshed-out. Delving into komische locked-grooves that allow synths and guitars to explore celestial zones and expanding out to aleatoric and totally out soundscape explorations that allow synths, vocals, guitars and electronics to wander and return, bearing something new bit of knowledge to the track’s meandering course.
07. THEM ARE US TOO - "AMENDS" (DAIS)
Them Are Us Too’s second album will always be linked to the untimely death of Cash Askew in the Ghost Ship Fire. The reverberations of that event and its knotty intersections with DIY culture, gentrification and querness will be unspooling for decades to come, but at the heart of this tragedy, a reminder that these spaces foster some of the most original and triumphantly talented voices in modern music. Case-in-point: Amends. R.I.P.
08. DINO SPILUTTINI - "FOREVER" (NO RENT)
I’ve been obsessing over the Austrian musician’s releases for the past few years. Spiluttini has the uncanny ability to run simple guitar and piano melodies through enough distortion, tape decay and unwavering human emotion to make him one of the most inspirational artists of the last few years. For his debut on No Rent, Spiluttini pares his compositions down to the brass-tacks. 18 tracks of ranging from one to six minutes that don’t stray from this formula but somehow pack an emotional wallop every time.
09. OBNOX - "TEMPLO DEL SONIDO" (ASTRAL SPIRITS)
Obnox made a free jazz record…and it sounds exactly like Obnox making a free jazz record. Political, audacious, furious, wisened and totally wonderstruck. Culling from both free jazz greats like Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp and Bim Thomas’s own contributions to the most outer-flung contingents of punk rock and noise, Templo Del Sonido flattens everything in its path but still opens itself up enough to pour a thousand different voices into itself to be incredibly dynamic and stylistically diverse.
10. WIZARD APPRENTICE - "I AM INVISIBLE" (RATSKIN RECORDS)
I found myself hanging onto every word on Wizard Apprentice’s I Am Invisible. In many ways I Am Invisible sounds like what happens when you reach the “other side” of some huge and life-altering event: squaring with one’s insignificance, self-love, the transient nature of sensuality, and among other things an actual treatise on forgiveness. All of this is displayed through accessible, user-friendly digital music-making. Is this the new folk singer?
11. ROSALI – “TROUBLE ANYWAY” (SCISSOR TAIL RECORDINGS)
12. ANENON – “TONGUE” (FRIEND OF FRIENDS)
13. INDIRA VALEY – “NO ME TENGAS MIEDO” (ANTIQUATED FUTURE)
14. JPEGMAFIA – “VETERAN” (DEATHBOMB ARC)
15. PHEW – “VOICE HARDCORE” (MESH-KEY)
16. CHEEKBONE – “TSUKA NO MA” (MUZAN EDITIONS)
17. CURT OREN – “FOR SAM, FOREVER AGO” (ALREADY DEAD)
18. THE OPHELIAS – “ALMOST” (JOYFUL NOISE)
19. TASHI DORJI – “BUT A NIGHT THAT ENDS, AS ALL NIGHTS END, WHEN THE SUN RISES” (MOONE)
20. DAUGTHERS – “YOU WON’T GET WHAT YOU WANT” (IPECAC)
21. ROB COLLIER – “13 STAGES” (AURALGAMI)
22. PALM – “ROCK ISLAND” (CARPARK)
23. LOMA – “LOMA” (SUB POP)
24. YVES TUMOR – “SAFE IN THE HANDS OF LOVE” (WARP)
25. U.S. GIRLS – “IN A POEM UNLIMITED” (4AD)
26. HDMIRROR – “ANTHEMS” (GENOT CENTRE)
27. LEE NOBLE – “ASHENDEN” (MUZAN EDITIONS)
28. DROWSE – “COLD AIR” (THE FLENSER)
29. LANA DEL RABIES – “SHADOW WORLD” (DEATHMBOMB ARC)
30. 070 SHAKE – “GLITTER” (G.O.O.D. MUSIC)
31. SETH GRAHAM – “GASP” (ORANGE MILK)
32. FOREST MANAGEMENT – “BIQUI” (NO RENT)
33. HAWTHONN – “RED GODDESS” (BA DA BING)
34. BLUE NUDE – “BLUE NUDE” (PUFF BOYS)
35. GROUPER – “GRID OF. POINTS” (KRANKY)
36. NADIA STRUIWIGH – “WHRRu” (DENOVALI)
37. QUJAKU – “QUJAKU” (SO I BURIED)
38. MARY LATTIMORE – “HUNDREDS OF DAYS” (GHOSTLY INTL.)
39. STEVE HAUSCHILDT – “DISSOLVI” (GHOSTLY INTL.)
40. ROY MONTGOMERY – “SUFFUSE” (BA DA BING)
41. NOTHING – “DANCE ON THE BLACKTOP” (RELAPSE)
42. JESUS PIECE – “ONLY SELF” (SOUTHERN LORD)
43. BRUNO SANFILIPPO – “UNITY” (DRONARIVM)
44. CULT LEADER – “A PATIENT MAN” (DEATHWISH)
45. OLIVER COATES – ” SHELLY’S ON. ZENN-LA” (RVNG. INTL.)
46. ARTAUD – “CABALA” (NECIO)
47. AMULETS / BUS GAS – “IMMORTAL YELLER / MOUNTAINS PAST” (SPRING BREAK TAPES)
48. LAWRENCE ENGLISH + WILLIAM BASINSKI – “SELVA OSCURA” (TEMPORARY RESIDENCE, LTD.)
49. STRIE – “PERPETUAL JOURNEY” (SEREIN)
50. MIDWIFE – “PRAYER HANDS” (ANTIQUATED FUTURE)