2018 Music Review

The Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018.  Did anything really matter after that?  Even more shocking is that Philly folks became nice.  Seriously nice! I bet I had at least one enjoyable Eagles conversation every day for the first 6 months after the glorious win. 

My partners and I closed the largest and most stressful transaction of my career on Jan. 31st.  Birds win 3 days later.  Followed by a ridiculous parade, Jason Kelce’s speech and fun post-parade party at our house 4 days after that.  Hard to imagine a better week in my almost 60 years!

2018 will always be identified with the powerful #MeToo movement.  The repercussions were long over due and a welcome shift in the paradigm of female roles.  The music of 2018 was not surprisingly dominated by female artists.  Half of my list below are female artists.  But another 5-10 albums that were considered were women artists, including Robin (dance/pop), Courtney Barnett (alt country/folk), Cardi B (hip-hop), and Cat Power (moody, calming). 

We saw a lot of great concerts in 2018 including Radiohead at the Wells Fargo Center, First Aid Kit at the Fillmore, Aimee Mann at the Ocean City Music Pier, and Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite at the Union Transfer.  The most memorable show was Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field.  Eddie Vedder is from Chicago and just killed it on his return home.  I am a fan of good cover songs at concerts and 3 really stood out this year.  Pearl Jam did 6 covers including songs by Tom Petty, David Bowie and Chris Cornell.  The Record company did an amazing cover of the Beastie Boys song ‘Sabotage’.  But the best live cover this year was Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite doing the Led Zeppelin classic ‘When the Levy Breaks’.  It was a stunning version incorporating their sound yet remaining true to the original.

Top 10 Albums of 2018

Brandi Carlile – By the Way, I Forgive You – This is Brandi’s seventh album.  She is a great lyricist and story teller.  The music is folky, Americana, alt-country.  Every song on the album is unique and strong. The stories are personal as she writes about moving on from bad relationships, being a mother, and forgiveness.  Powerful vocals and well written songs make this my best of 2018.  Brandi received Grammy nominations for her well regarded album.

First Aid Kit – Ruins – Two sisters that sing like angles make up First Aid Kit.  Klara and Johanna Soderberg hail from Sweden.  The harmonies are beautiful, and the melodies are catchy.  We saw them at the Fillmore this year.  The album came out in early 2018 and stayed in my personal rotation all year.

Big Red Machine –Big Red Machine – Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) teamed up with Aaron Dessner of the National to form Big Red Machine.  They first started collaborating in 2006.  They are an indie rock band with Vernon doing most of the vocals, so because of that it sounds like a Bon Iver album.  Lots of interesting instruments and sounds make this a diverse and easy listen album.

Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar – This was an album that my son Liam turned me on to.  Both my kids are into all kinds of music and I love being able to compare interests.  Young Fathers is a 3-person Scottish band that is not easy to categorize — jazz, hip hop, rock influences — and all three members take turns on vocals.  This is their 3rd studio album and worth checking out.

Hop Along –Bark Your Head Off, Dog – Another great indie rock album from Philadelphia native Frances Quinlan.  This follows her critically acclaimed album in 2015 Painted Shut which also made my top 10.  Frances’s brother is the drummer in this 4-piece band.  Her voice is one that you either love or hate, kind of screechy in an almost Janice Joplin kind of way. 

Santigold – I Don’t Want – Santigold (real name is Santi White) is another Philly artist who put out a fun reggae album in 2018 that flew under the radar and did not appear on any ‘best of’ lists that I saw at year end.  The enjoyable album does not have a weak song.   

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy in this Land – Ben Harper is a lot of things in music including a great guitar player.  He teams up with the blues and harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite.  This is their second album together and the songs are all new but sound like old classic blues songs.  Although a star in his own right, in concert Harper gives Charlie his due as the blues and harp legend that he is. 

Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie – Mathew Houck plays under the band name of Phosphorescent.   His music is mellow, dreamy and could be categized as indie folk.  This is his 7th studio album and first in 5 years.  During that 5-year hiatus he got married, moved from NYC to Nashville and had 2 kids.  His music is personal and covers parenthood and life changes in beautiful songs.

Ruston Kelly – Dying Star – Ruston is better known as the wife of Kacey Musgraves, who put out a much more highly regarded album in 2018.  This singer/songwriter sounds a little like Jason Isbell.   He recently went to rehab for drug use and released this album after getting clean.  The song Mocking Bird got stuck in my head for months over the summer.

Kamasi Washington – Heaven and EarthKamasi has become one of the best jazz artists of our time.  The Los Angeles based sax player has put out 3 albums over the last 4 years and every one has made my list.  He puts out long albums with long songs, but there is rarely a bad song.  On this release there is the usual large backing band.  It is easy to put on any of his albums and just get lost in the music. 

Honorable Mention:

The Internet – Hive Mind – The 4th studio release from this Los Angeles based band is soulful, R&B with a dash of funk.

Loretta Lynn – Wouldn’t it be Great – At 86 Loretta Lynn can still belt out quality country songs.

Boy Genius – Boy Genius – This band was a female ‘supergroup’ featuring Lucy Dacus, Julian Baker, and Phoebe Bridges.  All three put out well received individual albums in 2017-2018.  They were able to beautifully harmonize on the 6 song EP. 

Pusha T – Daytona – Best hip-hop album of 2018, produced by Kayne West.

Jim James – Uniform Distortion – Jim James is best known as the lead singer and songwriter of My Morning Jacket.  His solo album in 2018 is similar sounding with great rock n roll songs.