My 2018 in music can be best summed up in five words: “Bark Your Head Off, Dog.”
Hop Along’s third album took a moment to get lodged in my brain, but once it did, it was a force of nature. I can’t recall the last time a new record took over my life like this, standing up to repeated plays for hours, weeks, months on end, refusing to wear out its welcome. Every spin revealed a new favorite song, a nuance somehow unnoticed in the hundreds of previous plays.
I’d be quite surprised if this record doesn’t end up occupying a place of pride in my Favorite Records of the Decade list.
(Playlist also available on Apple Music.)
How my listening habits changed in 2018
Two new developments changed the way I listen to music in 2018:
In March, I ditched Apple Music (which I had subscribed to from day one) and signed up for Spotify.
Why? For years, I had believed that Apple Music’s integration into the OS was worth putting up with its decidedly less polished UX and lack of any meaningful social of curation features. I had also dabbled with Spotify before and remembered not loving it.
But with the gentle encouragement of Merlin Mann, I took another look at Spotify and was hooked. The curated playlists are wonderful and meet a lot of my “I’m not exactly sure what to listen to” use cases. The Amazon Echo integration rules, and has allowed me to create an ersatz Sonos multi-room speaker setup.
The only drawback to Spotify is the nascent state of their Apple Watch app. Specifically, it’s really just a controller, and does not allow you to download music to listen to without your phone. But minus this one feature, Spotify wins for me in every conceivable way.
I know, I know. I’m That Guy. I am every stereotypical middle-aged dad. I am an extra from High Fidelity. I know. It’s fine.
I got a record player last year and have spent much of 2018 filling out my record collection. I won’t bore you too much with how It’s Different and There’s Just Something Warmer About Vinyl, but it’s all true. It also scratches my long-ignored collector itch; the buzz I got when I found original pressings of both Chronic Town and Hatful of Hollow in my local record store’s bins was indescribable.
I know. I’m sorry.
Most year-end reviews tend to focus on things that are were newly released in that year, but I’d like to note a few old wells I fell down this year.
All Hail West Texas
I stumbled across the wonderful I Only Listen To The Mountain Goats podcast sometime early this year. I had been familiar with “All Hail West Texas” prior to this podcast, but the cover versions (and John’s thoughtful commentary on the genesis and meaning of the songs) led me back to the original artifact.
I’ve dabbled before, but I hate, hate, hate that it took Scott Hutchinson’s tragic death for me to finally get all the way into Frightened Rabbit.
Joni Mitchell is arguably the coolest person to ever be born on this planet and this is the Most Joni Mitchell record in her expansive catalog. While plumbing the depths of this record, I found a bunch of early- to mid-80s performances of this material and they somehow made me love it even more.
The Last Waltz
Speaking of Hejira-era Joni Mitchell, I watched The Last Waltz for the first time this yea, thanks to urgings by the Celebration Rock podcast and Hanif Abdurraqib. Putting aside whatever contention may exist around the making of the film itself, the performances strike the perfect balance between ragged looseness and turn-on-a-dime tightness that The Band were know for their entire career.