2018 Music Reviews

Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals, Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue (2018)   C-
Pissed-off grumbling and mumbling - yes, the evil side of the Cookie Monster shows up - but it also seems like the ten songs are nearly identical, which is certainly a problem. I bet Phil's missing Dimebag ... I mean, aren't we all?

David Byrne, American Utopia (2018)   F
I can't speak highly enough of what Byrne and the rest of the Talking Heads brought to arthouse music, but Byrne's solo work, including this album about 'positivity' is grating to listen to: his voice was never the best and sometimes tough to take, but now it's warbly and annoying.

Dead Vibrations, Dead Vibrations (2018)   B-
Not bad for a less-than-chaotic Jesus & Mary Chain imitation, the hooks are solid and they know when to pack up their gear and hit the Svedka.

Franz Ferdinand, Always Ascending (2018)   B+
I admit to having written off Mr. Kapranos & Company for not having made a decent album in thirteen years (!?), so this took me by genuine surprise: it's as cleverly written as their debut: the title number that opens it is bouncy and stirring while bits like "The Academy Award" and "Lois Lane" remind listeners of Alex's burning, sarcastic side.

The Fratellis, In Your Own Sweet Time (2018)   C
They sure as hell know how to end the record - "I Am That" is a seven minute wonder - but otherwise they're a softer and less memorable Scottish version of Collective Soul. They're a smidge lyrically-challenged (on "The Next Time We Wed": "Make my night, hold tight / thrill me til my teeth go white"), and I'll never forgive them for making "Chelsea Dagger," one of the most obnoxious sports anthems of all time (full confession: I'm a Flyers fan).

Makthaverskan, III (2018)   B
Based on their band photos, they look like the kids you went to high school with that would puff on cigs when they were supposed to be in gym class and give each other unsterilized stick-and-poke tattoos, but their music, while a little spooky, does suggest a kind of optimism-amidst-the-ruins. I'm down with that. Now all I need to do is figure out how to pronounce their band name.

MGMT, Little Dark Age (2018)   C+
After their self-titled release, which I found underwhelming, they retreated back to the spirit of their debut, which came out eleven years ago ... and they have since come to the realization they want to be New Order ("Me and Michael"). It's a little corny (was "She Works Out Too Much" made for a Dreamcast game?) and when they try to show disdain ("When You Die") it's just juvenile.

Migos, Culture II (2018)   D
This sequel to last year's debut is (unfortunately) more of the same - hating the police, degrading women, loving drugs and murder and diamonds and Michael Winslow-style sound-effects (blurt! zip! snurt!). These hacks, in their total delusion, think have enough material for a 100+ minute record when they barely have enough content for a blog post, even with so many guest stars (it's a little startling when Cardi B's potty-mouth shows up).

Tune-Yards, I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (2018)   C
Merrill's first three releases were intriguing because she was casual-and-smart with the experimentation, but this feels almost routine for her, at least musically speaking. She spends too much time getting into what it's like to be a Caucasian in a mixed-race planet ... and I'm not sure what she's aiming for, and I doubt she knows either. "Look At Your Hands" and "Free" are maddening.

Zs, Noth (2018)   D+
Two-part experimental rock record that doesn't add much to the genre in terms of new technique (John Zorn does this same sort of thing ... except a lot better): section one is scattered horns and the random guitar jangle; section two is more of the same (cymbal crash!) except with spitting/hissing noises.

Singles of the Year: Dead Vibrations: "On a Sunday Morning," Franz Ferdinand: "The Academy Award," The Fratellis: "I Am That," Makthaverskan: "Eden," MGMT: "James"