Justin Bailey (Managing Editor)
- Prof – Pookie Baby
My favorite album to come out from any Minnesota-based artist all year, and my favorite album from any Anywhere-based artist all year. Absolutely incredible from start to finish.
- Boygenius – Boygenius EP
Album, EP, who really cares, this is incredible. I had the opportunity to see Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker perform at this years Eaux Claires festival, and knew immediately I needed to hear more from them. Lucky for me, they teamed up with Lucy Dacus and created this amazing piece of art.
- Mac Miller – Swimming
This album certainly took on an entirely new meaning after Mac’s unfortunate passing earlier this year. It’s an immaculate album from start to finish and a heartbreaking look into Mac’s final months with us. Giving him his first Grammy nomination ever, this album is truly deserving of every accolade it receives.
- Ghost – Prequelle
If we’re being honest, while this album is very deserving of this ranking, but the saxophone solo on the song “Miasma” is what pushed this album over the top for me. Watching that song performed live was really, really fun as well. This band is just so cool, I can’t tell you to check them out anymore, just go do it!
- deM atlaS – Bad Actress
This is definitely the dark horse out of the list. When I first sat down to listen to this album, what I got was definitely not what I expected, but in all the right ways! This album features incredible vocals, the amazing songwriting of deM atlaS, as well as some classic Anthony Davis (Ant) productions. Check it out immediately if you haven’t.
Honorable Mentions: Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett, KOD by J. Cole, Tha Carter V by Lil Wayne, Daytona by Pusha T
Laura Buhman (Photographer/Writer)
- The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE
- Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
- Jack White – Boarding House Reach
- Lucius – Nudes
- Lily Allen – No Shame
Renee Jones (Photographer/Writer)
- Fires in Denmark – With Love
- Good Morning Bedlam – Like Kings
- Frank Turner- Be More Kind
- Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
- Robosapien – Robosapien
Erik Ritland (Writer/Editor)
- John Prine – The Tree of Forgiveness
Outside of Willie Nelson, John Prine is the greatest living songwriter, and it isn’t even close. The Tree of Forgiveness proves as much, showing his intelligence, wit, and indelible knack for a simple melody. If you haven’t listened to his seminal debut album, you’re missing out.
- Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing
You can count on Willie Nelson for an album or two every year, and they’re almost always solid-to-classic. Last Man Standing, his 2018 release of original material (he also did a Sinatra covers record, My Way), features 11 fun, tender songs. Each is written by himself and producer Buddy Cannon, and it’s nice to hear new material rather than the covers that so many classic country artists fill their albums with.
- Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet – South of Dark
I’ve often described Erik and UHQ as Minnesota’s Wilco. Their new EP South of Dark is their first release since 2012’s innovative The Long Winter. The laid-back songwriting feels effortless, especially on affecting waltz “Rearview Mirror” and Mavericks-inspired “Better Days.”
- Jeff Tweedy – Warm
After a triumphant sold out, three-night stand at the Palace Theater late last year, Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco went on hiatus. With his year off, Tweedy went on a solo tour, wrote a memoir, and released Warm, his first solo album of original material. Writing about his life made the songs on Warm more introspective. Check out his memoir, Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back). He discusses Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, songwriting, his family, and his struggle with opiates with warmth (pardon the pun) and humor.
- Painted Doll – Painted Doll
Painted Doll is fronted by comedian/guitarist Dave Hill and metal mainstay Dave Reifert. Although they’re something of a one-off band, they created a stunning collection of energetic, song-driven, melodic hard rock. Check out the video for Blue Oyster Cult-inspired opening track “Together Alone.”
- Andrew Bayer – In My Life
This is an unexpected release from Anjunabeats, but man, it is a deeply emotional journey worth taking over and over again. It’s also a bit of a challenge in terms of expectations for an electronic music fan. I feel guilty, but when I hear his extended cinematic builds, I really want a drop into a dirty beat at the end of it. But when I don’t get that, I’m actually glad. It’s better his way. Also, there are club mixes due for most of the songs, so I’ll get that filthy beat eventually. There’s also a lovely back and forth from song to song as he alternates between two female vocalists for the entirety of the album. They’re distinctly different, but also complementary.
- Lane 8 – Little By Little
According to Spotify, I listened to 25 hours’ worth of Lane 8’s music in 2018, and that’s not even counting the time I listened to his 4-6 hour seasonal mixes on SoundCloud. Little By Little is a perfect soundtrack for a weekend at the cabin, a road trip, a walk on the beach, a walk through a bustling city, for going to sleep, for waking up…you get the picture, it’s a versatile record.
- George FitzGerald – All That Must Be
Anybody who can get Tracy Thorne back to providing vocals to dance music is my hero. On ATMB, FitzGerald enlists Thorne’s help on ‘Half-Light – Night Version’ and her voice envelopes my whole being in a comforting embrace. It also features ‘Burns,’ a song that, if it were possible to wear out a digital song, I would have gone through several copies of by now. The album tracks FitzGerald’s transition into fatherhood, moving like a story as it progresses from a basic okayness into tumult and eventually to calm acceptance.
- Booka Shade – Cut The String
It feels like Booka Shade was replaced by somebody else on Cut the String. I don’t know who, but I really like them. I also like the old Booka Shade, but this new stuff is something else. One of my friends sent this to me and about 15 minutes later, I wondered if this was going to be 11 really long songs because I thought it was still on the first one. Nope, I was well into the third song, but they fit together so well that it’s more like one long body of work rather than 11 pieces. Highly recommended.
- Jon Hopkins – Singularity
It’s difficult to describe Jon Hopkins’ music. It’s irregular where many others are regular. Take his percussion, for instance. There is no 4/4 to be found. It’s complex but not crowded, scattered but not at all chaotic. It’s ordered, but just different than we’re accustomed to, and that’s a good thing. Headphones are definitely a good idea for this one.