What I Listened to in 2018

I didn't attempt, let alone consider, year-end lists for 2018, not because it wasn't full of exciting new stuff and meandering journeys through back catalogs, but because the thought of compiling them always makes me squeamish and anxious.

I did do something, however, and I think it's a little more compelling than the top ten or twenty I would've banged out in the final moments of the year. From January 1 on, I maintained two playlists—one titled Classic, one titled Current—which were essentially repositories for all that struck my fancy and piqued my interest over the course of these twelve months we just lived through. They're rather long—total, there's nearly five hundred tracks represented here—but, considering I did listen to just over sixty thousand songs, I'm gonna argue it's rather tight. This is my top one percent.

For the most part, they cover only that which was new (or newish) to me—no Joy Division, but David J and Nikki Sudden are in there; no ELO, but Roy Wood is given a shout-out—and focus on what would be generalized as "rock." While I got into a lot of jazz (ECM!), library (KPM!), hip-hop, and electronic, too, I knew embracing some tunnel vision for this exercise be the only way to make navigating through the process of selecting material managable—and the only way to make the resultant piles of tunes not impossibly daunting.

A few more notes below, but first, the playlists themselves!

2018 was definitely a year of periphery exploration, of finding fringes and following their threads as far as I could. That said, I seem to have mostly focused on "indie" action from the 80s and "classic" jams from the 70s. I also delved into much from the 90s, but I was more scattered when it came to that decade, dipping one toe in hardcore, another in glam, another in singer-songwriter folk. Regardless, if I set out to direct most of my energy towards enjoying that which lay beneath unturned stones, I succeeded.

A few standouts, in no particular order: World of Pooh, Tall Dwarfs, the Cat's Miaow, Close Lobsters, Pink Industry, Pauline Murray, David J, Roy Wood, Suzi Quatro, Be Bop Deluxe.

I also found myself continually returning to Brazilian and French artists, though I'd be exposing how uninformed I remain in those worlds if I suggested my finds—Elis Regina, Astrud Gilberto, Michel Berger, France Gall—were anything other than mainstream. Still, beginning those travels was rewarding and exciting in a way I hadn't expected; I found that, with foreign music, I was able to feel surprised and viscerally moved simply because my left brain was mostly shut down during those listening sessions.

With respect to Current, it's tough for me to make generalizations as everything I consumed came to me rather organically; I got new records, I received promos, I combed through magazines and blogs. The process by which I acquired all that music was a lot less disciplined and, therefore, while not less interesting, less organized. There's not as much to study there, but the overview of 2018 it provides is nonetheless pretty neat. It was a good three hundred sixty-five days.