[Album Reviews] 2018 Albums as I Heard Them

For me, 2018 is the turning point where albums readjusted to the digital age. For materialistic listeners, we can easily afford and acquaint ourselves with CDs, records, and cassettes. For highlight listeners, it’s easier than ever to legally access just about any album we could think, at least in the top 100. Now we are the gatekeepers. If we like something, we can invest our time before we invest our money. The industry paywall guesswork is gone.

My favorite album is free.

I remember when I first heard it. My work at the time “enabled” me to listen to anything, so long as it was within a browser. I liked upbeat, plain music the most for that job because anything more would waste “great music’s” motivation with data entry work. Immediately upon listening to You’re Not Alone, I knew that it was too good for background music, it was immediately going to be my favorite album of the year, and I needed to buy it as soon as possible.

My other favorite 2018 albums are less bold.

They are all good, and it would be nice to own all of them, but they don’t have that sort of quality where you put it on and you just know you’re going to work a little harder, be a little more inspired, or live a little fuller. Is it fair comparing an album that might appear once every five years or several thousand albums to the rest? Don’t those other decent, good, or great albums help flavor those few amazing albums?

I’d still like owning any of my 4-star albums.

It’s just a matter of space. We’re in an era where more musicians than ever will give away most, if not all, of their music for free because you’re more likely to tell your friends about them, go to their shows, buy their merchandise, support them, or in other ways invest in them if you have easy access to their music.

This leads to higher quality music overall.

I’ve been listening to new albums since 2008, and the biggest difference between then and now has certainly been advertising on the musicians’s own terms. Social media leads the charge in advertising concert dates. Some bands even leverage their fans within social media: feature our content, tag us, and we’ll repost your media for our audience with credit to you.

Barriers to entry are lower.

This does mean that musicians must rely less on financial investors from record labels, but, the bands that are thriving in fringe markets wouldn’t be sold in big box stores anyways. Their music might be uncompromising or unconventional. They might be more willing to sacrifice everything to attain their goals.

Nothing’s changed except the source of money.

You could be riding the bus into work with your favorite rapper. Your favorite guitarist could serve your dinner. Your favorite drummer could follow you on social media. Celebrity is less of a concept in this weird world without contrived pretenses.

Here are my favorite 2018 albums:

But first, I wanted to riff on the tangential “honorable mentions” section here.

How did my picks from 2016 hold up?

I haven’t listened to much Tanya Tagaq at all since. The real reason is less because it’s a special experience and more because I’m more likely to listen to rock music than anything else. Sorry. I’ve listened repeatedly to Wormrot, NOFX, Amon Amarth, but the ones to barrel through to the top of the heap have been Sabaton and Run the Jewels. If I were to reorder the Top 5 with two years of listening, I would go like this:

  1. Sabaton
  2. Wormrot
  3. Wardruna
  4. Run the Jewels
  5. Tanya Tagaq

Now onto 2018, with extended thoughts here:

  1. Jukio KallioMinit soundtrack
  2. JPEGMAFIAVeteran
  3. MelvinsPinkus Abortion Technician
  4. dir en greyThe Insulated World
  5. Jean Grae & Quelle ChrisEverything’s Fine
  6. Zeal and ArdorStranger Fruit
  7. DaughtersYou Won’t Get What You Want
  8. PanopticonScars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness
  9. Natalia LafourcadeMusas Vol. 2
  10. Tengger CavalryCian Bi
  11. WardrunaSkald
  12. ClutchBook of Bad Decisions
  13. Аркона [Arkona]Khram
  14. Denzel CurryTA13OO
  15. Andrew W.K.You’re Not Alone

That was a fun exercise.

I skipped 2017 because the end of that year was chaotic and also I was less interested in new music. Part of the “yearly album review game” or whatever it’s called is forcing yourself outside your comfort zone. I’m listening to the Minit soundtrack right now because it’s cozy and nice. It felt weird listening to 2016’s Sabaton while editing this essay, because similar to getting outside of one’s comfort zone, it’s anachronistic to include non-“current year” releases on a “current year” chart, unless that’s what you feel like doing.

There aren’t any clearly established rules.

You can do what you want with these lists, so long as you put a little justification for it if you feel so inclined. The important thing is checking out new stuff. If I had let my preconceived notions of Andrew W.K. keep me from listening to his latest album, I wouldn’t have had a year with someone constantly cheering me on in the background as I made difficult but necessary changes. Even writing, to some degree, is more difficult than doing nothing. I mean, writing is fun for me and it’s getting to the point where it can be super easy for me to just write exactly what I’m thinking, but even still, it’s easier to not think or not do.

That’s why most people just live their lives in misery without taking action.

Peeling your body off your couch on a rainy weekend day to do some sort of seemingly trivial responsibility might be the least hedonistic thing imaginable, but here’s the thing: sacrificing that short-term hour to do something even as simple as cleaning your room, helping someone else, or helping yourself, can lead to significant long-term benefits.

You’re Not Alone advocates that self-care effort.

If there were more albums like that, we’d more easily motivate ourselves, but, motivation isn’t about oversaturating our efforts singularly.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My listening experiences.
Inspirations: Originally, this essay was just going to be a straightforward review of You’re Not Alone, but when I was editing, I felt like including a bunch more information, and eventually, it turned into this weird possibly unapproachable essay about current music and motivation. Thanks for reading.
Related: Besides 2016 Albums as I Heard Them? This isn’t a Moving Zeal essay, but it could fit in as a little buddy to it, so check out: Albums: Move, Sell?.
Above: Late night drawing of my Top 15 album covers in a weird collage. The four colors were randomly generated.
Below: Original essay cover.
Written On: December 27th [30 minutes], December 28th [45 minutes]
Last Edited: December 28th – I wrote the first 500 words on the bus ride into town. Midway through, I realized how much effort this would require, and did a little compromise: I didn’t really want to link to RYM because I disapprove of their corporatization, but as it goes, all things change, and that’s where I put all my reviews.

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.