Stirring Tunes in 2018: Big Bliss, Pusha T, Yo La Tengo

A Compendium of Music That Mattered, Including Something Called Tropical Fuck Storm

Two sisters plus two friends equals The Orielles, a Halifax outfit whose debut album, Silver Dollar Moment, was one of 2018’s best. (Heavenly)

2018 was a doozy. The fact that my two favorite movies of the year both captured the American zeitgeist but one was about a small town cult summoning one of the nine kings of hell in order to subjugate civilization to its nefarious agenda (family film Hereditary) and the other was about the continuing adventures of a digital bear that dispenses advice both urbane and ursine (the dystopian nightmare Paddington 2) demonstrates the psychological, moral and spiritual dichotomy of existence in the Age Of Trump. The tenets of Cartesian Dualism can be a useful filter through which to…blah blah blah…are you asleep? Good…

Here are the people who made the music I liked this year, unordered. (Click if you gotta Spotify.)

Tim Ruttili & Craig Ross: Like the softer, folky side of Pink Floyd played on The Fat Albert Gang’s gear and run through a broken sampler.

Ovlov: Slowcore will be the comeback Indie subgenre of 2019. Or is this Shoegaze? Help.

CK Mann & His Carousel 7 (Mr. Bongo edit): Life affirming.

Big Bliss: I am kind of ashamed of this for some reason, but I have always really liked The Church.

Pusha T: Those who think Kanye should just stay behind the mixing desk say “aye.”

Dean Wareham and Cheval Sombre: Two low-sky favorites team up for an album of dusty hammock rock.

Chappo: Maybe I just like saying the name of this band out loud. Chappo. Chappo. Chappo.

Shintaro Sakamoto: This came out a few years ago, but I didn’t stumble across it until 2018. This guy has a huge pair of Cuicás.

Paul Jacobs: Engineer on the session, “Hey guys, everything is kind of distorting, do you really want it to sound like this?”

Amen Dunes: His last record, Love, is one of my favorites of the past decade. This is not quite the stone cold classic that was, but it has its gentle charms.

North Americans: Not a lot of people can make music that works equally as well at dawn as it does at dusk. I really need to get to some woods and walk around in them to this.

Whyte Horses: In my mind The Partridge Family jangle along groovily like this. But then I actually listen to them and wonder where I got that idea. Perez Hilton wrote of their earworm Next Year Will Be Mine, “The British female-fronted band has just created one of the best Christmas songs of all time! NOT an exaggeration!”

The Orielles: The Tanya Donnelly/Juliana Hatfield secret project turned out pretty good.

Grapetooth: Goofball pop that sounds like it was made by rubbing two Commodore 64s together. A great live show, if you get the chance.

Camp Cope: Sometimes female indie bands getting booked, but forever only in the opening slot so a club can fulfill some imagined gender quota. Unfair. Liz Phair should have written this in 1995. Bonus points for somehow being redolent of Bettie Serveert.

Sonoda: One thing we can all reach across the aisle on is that the band Live was awful. They, like many other groups at the time, were somehow scavenging the corpus of R.E.M. but took the offal instead of the choice cuts. I think we are now hitting that phase with Beach House. This is a blend of loin and snout.

Tropical Fuck Storm: Incandescent rage teetering on the brink of implosion. They probably won’t get big on Christian radio, but there is a seedy catharsis going on here that borders on the evangelical.

Sha La Das: Like Santo & Johnny backing up The Flamingos on an AM broadcast of a rural prom in a town you drove through one night in your previous life.

Peel Dream Magazine: Modern Autobahn Music.

Exploded View: I still occasionally see Goth Kids roaming around the city looking lost and always want to make them a warm cup of cocoa and play them this and say there there.

Skinny Pelembe: As Rap gets more monochromatic R&B becomes more kaleidoscopic.

Viagra Boys: When everything that can be said and written about current politics has been said and written, this is the purest form of protest music left to make. Their Record  ‘Street Worms’ came out out in September and the video is priceless:

Warm Drag: A necromantic Mazzy Star, but the spell went slightly wrong.

Beak>: It should be impossible to feel claustrophobic in the middle of an open field, but Beak is like “Naw dawg, it’s possible.”

Peggy Gou: There is good House and bad House. Is this even House?

Yo La Tengo: The Cal Ripken Jr. of Indie Rock.

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Blake Smith

Blake Smith founded and played in several Chicago bands, including Fig Dish, Caviar, The Prairie Cartel and Forgotten Species. Follow him on Twitter @FoSpecies.

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