Mike Gallagher’s 2018 Year in Review – Staff Picks

How long have you been with Live in Limbo?

  • 7.5 years

What was the most underrated album of 2018?

  • Let’s Eat Grandma, I’m All Ears

Top 5 Songs of 2018

  1. Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
  2. The 1975, “Love It If We Made It”
  3. Beach House, “Dive”
  4. Pusha T, “If You Know You Know”
  5. Idles, “Samaritans”

How many concerts did you go to in 2018?

  • 63

Top 5 Concerts of 2018

  1. Fever Ray @ Rebel, May 17
  2. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds @ Scotiabank Arena, October 28
  3. Frightened Rabbit @ Mod Club, February 18
  4. Anderson Paak @ Osheaga, August 4
  5. New Order @ Budweiser Stage, August 30

What Festival had the best lineup?

  • Primavera Sound, Barcelona Spain.

What was the biggest musical disappointment?

  • Having to order CDs from the UK because it is cheaper or more available than my local outlets.

Who did you see for the first time that really impressed you?

  • Trombone Shorty

Who were you disappointed to miss seeing this year?

  • Idles, Janelle Monae, Jon Hopkins

Who should we be looking out for in 2018?

  • Idles

Who’s going to be headlining all the festivals in 2019?

  • The 1975.

Top 30 CDs of 2018

I got about half the number of albums I got in 2017, in part due to releases not even coming out on CD or the difficulty in finding CDs in Toronto. It’s how I listen to music and am well aware they are on their way out, but feel these lists will be getting real small real fast. Aside from it being a relatively disappointing year quality wise, there were CDs I really enjoyed this year and here are my 30 favourites. I don’t get to listen to everything so am happy to follow up on recommendations.

  1. The Field, Infinite Moment (Kompakt)

The Swedish producer doesn’t stray too far from his template on his sixth album. His minimal electronic music seemingly has little going on but still manages to take the listener on a hypnotic, trance-induced trip far away.

  1. Kurt Vile, Bottle It In (Matador)

Philly singer/songwriter Kurt Vile has been releasing solid albums since he started and he gets extra trippy on a couple of extended workouts here on his seventh album.

  1. Mac Miller, Swimming (Warner)

What has turned out to be his swan-song, Miller’s fifth album is an attempt to purge his demons and move on in the funkiest way thanks to the impressive guest roster and Mac’s dedication to his craft.

  1. The Breeders, All Nerve (4AD)

Kim Deal got together with the crew members from 1993’s Last Splash and picked up right where they left off delivering their quirky indie-rock dripping with sugary pop hooks.

  1. Troye Sivan, Bloom (Universal)

Impeccably produced and filled with quality songs, Sivan weaves a vivid and sweet vision of young queer love. I’m baffled as to how tracks from here did not dominate radio playlists for the back half of the year.

  1. Leon Bridges, Good Thing (Columbia)

When talk of Leon Bridges’ new album laid claim to an 80s influence, I got my back up. I went through the 80s and once was enough! But fear not, as Bridges shows depth and a variety of soul sounds to get lost in, and how can you not be seduced by that voice.

  1. Deafheaven, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (Anti)

The San Francisco metal group adds pianos and a ballad duet to great effect. Some may balk at the serenity, but is a welcome respite to their monstrous guitars.

  1. Nao, Saturn (RCA)

I heard this British woman’s debut on an Aer Lingus flight to Dublin and was immediately hooked by her voice. Her sophomore album continues her short trend of marrying that voice with some great contemporary R&B.

  1. Blood Orange, Negro Swan (Domino)

Dev Hynes’ fourth album as Blood Orange is a compelling snapshot of his story navigating America. His funky pop is interspersed with interludes that call on the listener to think while they collect their breath.

  1. Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel (Mom + Pop)

Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett released her sophomore album full of her personal observances of everyday life set to a very lively rocking band and Barnett’s enthusiastic guitar playing.

  1. Tune-Yards, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (4AD)

Merrill Garbus officially welcomed Nate Brenner into the fold and the result was an invigorating shot of adrenaline into Tune-Yards’ music. Lyrically self-analytical, the music to accompany is original and guaranteed to get a dancefloor moving.

  1. Brigid Mae Power, The Two Worlds (Tompkins Square)

After a promising debut, Irish singer-songwriter released her gorgeous sophomore album, stark and beautiful, much like the landscape that inspired her quiet folk, along with a couple of devastating tracks that make this a compelling quiet listen.

  1. Kali Uchis, Isolation (Virgin)

This debut from the American is such a vibrant slice of global street parties, and Uchis seamlessly touches on various regions to unleash the year’s best global dance party.

  1. Pusha T, Daytona (GOOD)

At 21 minutes, this can be hardly declared an album, but every minute is packed with high-octane hip-hop with lyrical bombs to cement the former Clipse MC’s legacy.

  1. Christine & the Queens, Chris (Because)

Chris builds on the promise of Christine & the Queens’ solid debut. Her synth pop incorporates more funk second time around and fills those beats with even better songs.

  1. Yo La Tengo, There’s A Riot Going On (Matador)

Releasing solid albums for longer than some of the others on this list have been alive, Yo La Tengo are not keen to rest on their laurels and continue their fascinating, understated musical journey at times with breathtaking results. May they never go away.

  1. Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour (MCA)

The Texas country singer’s album was one of my biggest surprises of the year. Her lyrics, vocals, delivery over music that looks to push country’s boundaries outwards make for one of the year’s most surprising, fascinating albums, deserving of every pop crossover success it has coming to it.

  1. Amen Dunes, Freedom (Sacred Bones)

Despite four previous releases, this was my first foray into the music of Damon McMahon, recorded as Amen Dunes. Part Springsteen, part Spiritualized and accompanied by some personal lyrical pain make for one engrossing release.

  1. Spiritualized, And Nothing Hurt (Fat Possum)

Jason Pierce returned with And Nothing Hurt, featuring mostly him and featuring some of his strongest songs and riveting music since his 90s heyday. Always chasing symphonies in his head, Pierce will go out on a symphonic high note if this is the last Spiritualized release.

  1. Neneh Cherry, Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound)

I picked this up because Four Tet was behind it but honestly didn’t expect much, but this was so much more riveting than expected. Her fifth album is reflective and joyous accompanied by a mixed stew of music that can only come from living in London. She may only be a one-hit wonder over here, but Broken Politics offers a more satisfying route for her career.

  1. Jon Hopkins, Singularity (Domino)

Hopkins’ fifth album is one immense electronic beast, and one that demands active listening from its audience. Unrelentingly heavy in parts, it is gorgeous in total.

  1. Robyn, Honey (Konichiwa)

After an 8 year break, Swedish pop-star Robyn returned with a retro-tinged ode to the dancefloor. The album is surprisingly understated as one might expect something more bombastic. The bangers are banging and the rest appear to recognize dance music of the past.

  1. Low, Double Negative (Sub Pop)

After 25 years in the business, Duluth trio Low released this blindside from left-field as their twelfth album. Double Negative is not an easy listen as some may find the production a bit off-putting but this was such a fantastic pairing of Low songs without any pop sheen and roughed down to the raw, but it works, especially offering rewards with repeated listens.

  1. Mitski, Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans)

If anyone owned 2018, it was NYC’s Mitski. Beginning the year touring North American arenas with Lorde, she released her fifth album Be the Cowboy mid-way through the year to adoring critical acclaim. From opener “Geyser” to contemplative closer “Two Slow Dancers”, Be the Cowboy masters the multitude of styles it touches on with lyrical frankness endearing to its audience.

  1. Young Fathers, Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune)

Scottish trio released their third platter filled with music worthy of carrying the torch previously carried by Massive Attack. Stylistically diverse and lyrically urgent, everyone will soon catch up to Young Fathers’ street party.

  1. Let’s Eat Grandma, I’m All Ears (Transgressive)

The name Let’s Eat Grandma screamed punk band to me, but what a left-field surprise I’m All Ears was when I first put it on. The young British duo’s sophomore album is an hour of immersive, experimental pop that should have fallen on more ears this year.

  1. Fucked Up, Dose Your Dreams (Merge)

When early word came out that Toronto punks Fucked Up had made their Screamadelica, I got very excited. Screamadelica is my fave album of all time and Fucked Up are my favourite Toronto band in many years. But Dose Your Dreams is a closer companion to Primal Scream’s opus from nine years later, XTRMNTR. With a revolving door of guests on vocal duties and distorted beats, Dose Your Dreams remains true to Fucked Up’s sound and manages to pull off a radical left turn.

  1. Beach House, 7 (Sub Pop)

Baltimore duo Beach House’s seventh album is their most realized dreamscape trip. Songs flow in a hazy fog and vocalist Victoria Lagrande’s breathy hypnotic vocals lull the listener into a beautiful calm. Beach House have never been front and centre for me despite previous valiant attempts, but 7 has made me see the error of my ways.

  1. Idles, Joy as an Act of Resistance (Partisan)

Bristol rock band IDLES released their ferocious sophomore album and I ended up picking it up purely by accident. I was shopping for some CDs on my list to no avail when I ended up with Joy as an Act of Resistance in my hands. I decided to take a chance, and unbelievably glad I did. This is my favourite album lyrically this year and it comes with such a joyous wallop of punk energy that you can’t help but feel energized by it.

  1. Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer (Bad Boy)

Monae’s previous two albums made their way into my best of list for their respective years, but Dirty Computer married Monae’s love of funk and pop and released it at just the right time when the world needed to hear it. Monae shed her skin on her third album and released an orgy of ecstatic sounds that were retro and at the same time futuristic and it is this delicate balance that Monae has mastered that makes her albums so compelling.

About author

Concert reviewer at Live in Limbo.