Mitski

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2018

Today is April 15, and while the rest of the nation trudges through another Tax Day, we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to return from the dead and release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.

10. Black Panther: The Album; Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs; Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance; Lucy Dacus – Historian; Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap; Ought – Room Inside the World; Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs; Sleep – The Sciences (8 plays)

Against all odds,  we somehow once again agree with at least one of the “Best Album” choices from the Grammys with our inclusion of the Kendrick Lamar-assembled soundtrack to Black Panther.  Its inclusion was a surprise to us, but the Kendrick/SIA mega-hit “All the Stars” helped make this solid compilation one of the more memorable soundtracks to be released in years.  Another surprise was Ought’s latest release, which zigged when we expected it to zag–we were anticipating a return to their hard-hitting debut,  but instead it was an album marked by its ballads, most notably the show-stopping “Desire”.  Earl Sweatshirt returns with his latest venture into the avant-garde, eschewing choruses and hooks for the enigmatic Some Rap Songs.  Idles created one of the hardest-hitting albums of the year with the politically-influenced post-punk Joy, bringing to mind a British working class version of Protomartyr.  Lucy Dacus created some of the most gorgeously epic indie rock this year, unafraid to play with dynamics and mix her lovely voice with music that shifts from the tranquil to the anthemic.  Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever brought the chill factor, recalling a laid-back Real Estate kind of vibe, but with a bit more pep and greater variety to their overall sound.  Sleep seem intent to prove how Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality is the greatest album of all time, and considering the results, we are not inclined to argue.  As for Nipsey, his inclusion on this list is bittersweet because of his recent murder, but hopefully more people will seek out his music (and benefit his family–he owned all his masters).

9. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino; Beach House – 7; Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1, Vol. 2; Vince Staples – FM! (9 plays)

We were puzzled by the backlash to the latest Arctic Monkeys album, which we believed followed the same trajectory as their mainstream-breakthrough AM without being a shameless imitation; maybe we just appreciated their retro/futuristic lounge style more than most.  We initially felt 7 was an unremarkable addition to the Beach House catalog, but subsequent listens revealed a greater depth to their trademark synthpop sound.  Black Thought released two EPs this past year, and depending on the day we might switch our favorite, though we more often end to lean to the more energetic Vol. 2.  For FM!, Vince Staples made the perfect soundtrack for a summer cookout, and even the skits are still able to blend seamlessly after multiple listens.

8. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy; Moaning – Moaning (10 plays)

Will Toledo dipped back into his past for his follow-up to RIJR favorite Teens of Denial, reworking his early work Twin Fantasy.  Fans of his hypersensitive attention to lyrical detail and his appreciation for classic indie rock tropes should be pleased with the results, though like Teens, it takes a few listens to appreciate the craft.  Moaning is a new group that decided to put a more lively spin on the current revival of shoegaze, and the result is some of the catchiest songs of the year.

7. Hookworms – Microshift; Cloud Nothings – Last Building Burning (11 plays)

If you were looking for a more rock-inclined version of LCD Soundsystem, then Hookworms provided the perfect album for you.  It is impossible to not get fired up after listening to opener “Negative Space”, and the album never lets up.  After cleaning up their sound and sanding down some of the edges for Life Without Sound, Cloud Nothings get back to basics and blow out their amps again for the furious Last Building Burning.

6. Mitski – Be the Cowboy (12 plays)

We loved Puberty 2, and Mitski continues her hot streak with her new album.  Mitski gets to the point quickly in each of the fourteen songs here, dispensing with conventional verse/chorus/verse structures and getting the message across around two minutes for each song.  Mitski does not necessarily switch between different genres; it would be more accurate to say she explores the limits of the various styles one can find within the larger umbrella of “indie music”, from the swelling “Geyser” to the effervescent “Nobody” to the gentle closer “Two Slow Dancers.”

5. Fixtures – Trust Yourself I Guess [EP]; No Age – Snares Like a Haircut (13 plays)

A link from Twitter led me to this Bandcamp release from Fixtures, and it did not take long for me to get sucked into its irresistible hooks.  If you aren’t humming by the end of “On Tape” or “Remember Who I’m Looking For”, then you might need to schedule an appointment with your local ENT specialist.  No Age returned from a long layoff showing no signs of rust (no pun intended), and were able to compose an album that effectively summed up the sounds they explored in their previous experimental works.  We also love the title, which we learned is a reference to how much like a haircut, one can usually pick out what era a song comes from simply by the way the snare drum is recorded.

4. Preoccupations – New Material; Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt (14 plays)

We continue to be impressed by the evolution of Preoccupations, who have now settled into a gothic post-punk sound.  We said it the first time we heard it, but we are glad to confirm that “Disarray” is the best song we heard this year.  Take note of the different time signatures employed by the guitar, bass, and drums, as they shift in and out of sync with each other in a perfect illustration of the title.

And Nothing Hurt is another wonderfully gorgeous space rock opus from Jason Pierce’s Spiritualized project.  As one may expect, repeated listens reveal brilliant sonic details, and soon you will be picking up the various random instruments that help fill out the sound.  Amazingly enough, most of the album was recorded in Pierce’s bedroom, though with the extent of the orchestration and the depth of the overall sound it would be easy to assume it was done instead in a giant studio.

3. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer; Pusha T – DAYTONA (15 plays)

Considering we named his album I Love You, Honeybear our favorite album of 2015, you would be correct to assume we were disappointed with Joshua Tillman’s follow-up, Pure Comedy, which we found overlong and way too much of a chore to listen to all the way through, so much so it did not come close to appearing on our 2017 list.  However, FJM redeemed himself with the much tighter God’s Favorite Customer.  The bite has returned to the lyrics, but more importantly, it is an infinitely more interesting album from a musical perspective, filled with memorable melodies.

Pusha T once again delivers a batch of coke raps, but the wordplay on this quick-hitter is among his best work, and Kanye provides his best production work in years.  DAYTONA was at the forefront of the switch to shorter works, with its 7 tracks clocking in at 21 minutes, leaving the listener wanting more and never wearing out its welcome.

2. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (16 plays)

Deafheaven broke out with the genre-defying Sunbather, and then followed up their shoegaze-meets-black metal classic with an emphasis on their heavier roots with New Bermuda.  It seems this was a move made in response to concern about proving the group’s metallic bona fides, and while we loved both albums, it seems the audience expectations weighed heavily on the band.  With Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven threw out those expectations and indulged their inner muses, and the result is easily their most fun album to date.  If you were hesitant to dip into their work before, this might be the album for you.  It even features some actual singing at points!

1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (17 plays)

We were initially weary when tracks from Wide Awake! began to be released, as we could not find a common thread between any of them–one of the singles was even a stitched together combination (“Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience”) that did not make much sense by itself.  However, the disparate styles explored by the band made sense within the context of the album.  Perfect for the streaming age, Wide Awake! seems perfect for shuffling, even though one track leads into the next through almost the entirety of the album.

There are several reasons why Wide Awake! is our favorite album of the year, including the overt nod to Pavement (their most obvious comparison) with “Mardi Gras Beads” (that somehow also seems to be influenced by The Walkmen), to the infinitely catchy “Tenderness”, to the goofy title track, which effectively parodies the current movement to appear “woke” even if it means sacrificing depth–which led to the surreal moment of the band performing the song on Ellen.  But it’s understandable–goddamn, that bass groove is infectious.

But the band is not just smart-asses looking for piss-takes.  The opener “Total Football” is the best summation of the group’s approach, with insightful lyrics and hooks galore.  And in this time of great division, we can all agree with the song’s final words: “And fuck Tom Brady!”

Rust Is Just Right’s Best Albums of 2016

Today is April 18, and while the rest of the nation trudges through another Tax Day (a few days later this year), we here at Rust Is Just Right choose this occasion to return from the dead and release our Best Albums of the Year list.  We follow this unusual schedule for a few reasons: 1) It allows some of the albums that are released at the end of the calendar year to get some recognition, since they usually get swallowed up in the attention of the flurry of year-end lists; 2) We get the chance to analyze other lists to pick up on albums that somehow escaped our attention during the course of the year; and 3) It provides a handy consumer guide for people to focus where to spend their tax refund.

The process that is used to determine this list is highly rigorous and hardly scientific.  However, we are still in the process of attempting to patent and trademark The Process, which if you may recall, is simply tallying up the play counts on iTunes for each album.  It has served us well in years past, and a quick glance at our list this year proves that it has worked once again.

Note: Though the list is a Top 10, there are more albums than slots, because we don’t like breaking ties for the same play count.  If you’re really intent on focusing on only 10, I guess take the 10 highest performing albums from the list, but you really shouldn’t limit yourself like that if you can help it.  Also, we have reviews for nearly all of these albums, so for those of you seeking a more detailed analysis all you need to do is click the appropriate tag above.

10. Alcest – Kodama; Angel Olsen – My Woman; A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service; Bon Iver – 22, A Million; Pity Sex – White Hot Moon; Summer Cannibals – Full of It (7 plays)

Garage rock is still a dominant trend in indie circles these days, and Summer Cannibals with their fiery energy and Pity Sex with their peppy melodies represent the best of the scene.  As for Tribe, who knows what was more surprising–that the group reunited or that its comeback effort was so good, able to call back to their 90’s heyday without sounding like retreads.  Many have pointed out the influence that Alcest has had on Deafheaven (frontman Neige even appeared on the latter’s groundbreaking Sunbather for a spoken-word contribution), and it looks like the tables have turned–after going in a softer direction in Shelter, Alcest brought some edge back (and a few shouts) to their melodic mix of shoegaze and metal.  Bon Iver continues to experiment with loops and vocal effects (in the vein of his work in Volcano Choir) moving further and further away from the delicate acoustic of For Emma, Forever Ago; however, the result is still some gorgeously moving music.  Angel Olsen was one of the artists that we picked up on after reading year-end lists, and we quickly became fans of her versatility, with an album that ranges from classic retro numbers to sweeping epics.

9. Chance the Rapper – Colouring Book; Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression (8 plays)

If you were looking for inspiration or a quick pick-me-up, the best place to look last year was the ebullient Chance the Rapper.  His mix of gospel and hip-hop helped create some of the best songs from last year, but the album as a whole seemed to run a little to long.  Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age helped Iggy Pop stun audiences and critic with a great comeback album, mining the sounds of Pop’s landmark solo efforts Lust For Life and The Idiot.  The new songs mixed seamlessly with the classic material when they were out on tour, and together they put together one of the best shows we saw last year.

8. Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not; Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – I Had A Dream That You Were Mine; Mitski – Puberty 2; Parquet Courts – Human Performance (9 plays) 

With their latest, Dinosaur Jr. has now put together more great albums in their reunion years (four) than in their original golden era (three-ish).  Parquet Courts rebounded with an album that stood up to repeated listens much better than the at-times grating Sunbathing Animal, and songs like “Berlin Got Blurry” stuck with us long after the fact.  Hamilton Leithauser formally teamed up with Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend) for his second solo effort (after collaborating on a couple of tracks for Black Hours), with the result being a record that effectively matched Hamilton’s remarkable and unique voice with doo-wop, old country, and soft ballads.  Mitski was another find from the critics lists, and we only wished we had come across her inventive explorations of identity and depression sooner.

7. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition; Deftones – Gore; M83 – Junk (10 plays)

We continue to be amazed at the ability of the Deftones to continually put out great new records in a genre where bands can quickly grow stale; perhaps more impressive was how Gore did not have any big singles but was still able to hold your attention from beginning to end.  A lot of people dismissed Junk when it first came out, but we quickly grew to love it once we realized the truth in the title; the complaints about the sequencing of the album have some merit, but we enjoyed the detours into what seemed like theme songs from lost 80’s French TV shows.  Plus, Anthony Gonzalez deserves all the credit in the world for his ability to use a Steve Vai guitar solo effectively.  Danny Brown’s voice can grate on people, but if you can accept his B-Real-style vocals, then it’s easier to plumb into one of the most musically adventurous hip-hop albums in years.

6. The Besnard Lakes – A Coliseum Complex Museum; Radiohead – A Moon-Shaped Pool; The Thermals – We Disappear (11 plays)

This is the part of the list where old favorites take up residence.  The latest from the Besnard Lakes was a bit of a disappointment, though it ends on an incredible high note that makes one wonder why they didn’t build the whole album out of this song.  Radiohead returned with a much better version of what they previously attempted with the forgettable The King of Limbs, though the best song from the sessions comes only on the deluxe edition (the rejected version of their theme to Spectre).  However, we don’t need any caveats to explain how The Thermals ended up this high on the list, as we enjoyed how they were able to meld the better parts of their recent work (the energy of Desperate Ground, the insight and thoughtfulness of Personal Life).

5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial; Operators – Blue Wave (12 plays)

Come for the lo-fi guitar rocks, stay for the incisive wit and deep explorations of the young psyche with Car Seat Headrest.  Teens of Denial is an album that grows with each listen, and amazingly never feels as long as its 70-minute runtime.  Dan Boeckner never lets us down, and we were big fans of his latest side-project Operators, which brightens the sound of his previous drum machine-and-guitars outfit Handsome Furs.  The man effortlessly comes up with great melodies, and the new wave keyboards are a nice touch.

4. LVL UP – Return to Love (13 plays) 

We were excited to find a new band that apparently loves the classic Elephant 6 sound as much as we do, with the song “Hidden Driver” especially reminding us of On Avery Island-era Neutral Milk Hotel.  However, the band switches between three different songwriters, which leads to a more varied record than one might expect, though all hit in that sweet spot of classic alternative/indie rock.

3. The Avalanches – Wildflower (14 plays)

Another comeback album that a lot of people seemed to have forgotten, we immediately fell in love with Wildflower.  Yes, Since I Left You is now a classic in some circles, but this was another brilliant mix of countless samples and original music that we kept revisiting over and over again.  Also, we might argue that “Because I’m Me” was the song of last summer and of many summers to come.

2. Preoccupations – Preoccupations (15 plays)

We initially were underwhelmed by the announced name change, but we were much more impressed by this sophomore effort from this Canadian foursome.  The band built on the promise of the second half of Viet Cong and released a post-punk masterpiece.  This time the centerpiece of the album comes right in the middle, with the epic three-part “Memory”; the middle section with guest vocalist Dan Boeckner might be some of the most gorgeous music we heard all of last year.

1. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years (17 plays)

We still believe that LOSE should be considered the band’s masterpiece, but we became serious fans of the band’s followup to that incredible album after repeated plays in our car.  It may be a step back in terms of ambition, but there are plenty of hooks throughout the record, and you may find yourself humming different songs each day of the week.  The band is still capable of packing an emotional punch as well, and the layers reveal themselves after multiple listens.  At the end of the day, this is the album we always would default to when deciding what to play, and that may be as good a reason as any to make it our album of the year.