Kat: It was a tough year for music. In fact, I think the tough year explains why critics fell for Barbra Streisand's hideous WALLS. The critics fell for it even as her fans rejected it. For years, the soundtrack to ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER and the studio album BUTTERFLY were said to be her worst selling albums but now WALLS has that honor. In fact, if she releases another album that sales so poorly, don't be surprised if COLUMBIA finally gives her a gold watch and shows her the door.
Barbra sounded a little husky on the album but Joan Baez was outright croaking on WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND. Joan Baez, Barbra Streisand, Judy Collins and various other singers would do well to really listen to how they sound now before stepping in front of a microphone again.
Fortunately, 2018 was not without its pleasures.
1) Cat Powers' THE WANDERER.
Cat returned with another masterpiece. A lot of people would like to have the discography of, say, Joni Mitchell. Few will ever even come close to matching Bobby Sherman. But Cat's shaping up to be a long term artists and THE WANDERER doesn't just satisfy, it also makes you hungry for her next album.
2) Sting and Shaggy's 44/876.
They're not a pair that naturally comes to mind -- at least not in my mind. But the two worked together to produce what was easily the most fun in music this year. Provided they don't try to go deep, I'd love to see them pair up again.
3) Rod Stewart's BLOOD RED ROSES.
There was a time -- from about the mid-seventies through the end of the eighties -- where a lot of us eagerly anticipated each new Rod Stewart album. Would he dazzle us by mastering a new genre or blow us away with a beautiful ballad? We were never sure but a lot of great songs came out of that period including "You Wear It Well," Young Turks," "Tonight's The Night," "You're In My Heart (The Final Acclaim)," "Da You Think I'm Sexy," "Baby Jane," "Some Guys Have All The Luck," "Infatuation," "Lost In You," "My Heart Can't Tell You No," etc. Those days ended a long, long time ago. So imagine my surprise to discover BLOOD RED ROSES and a Rod that still mattered and still committed to the song. This is a real treat and probably the hidden find of 2018.
4) The Cowboy Junkies' ALL THAT RECKONING.
The reckoning? That Cowboy Junkies remain a band worth listening to. They continue to explore the space between the notes. It's not just what they play or sing but what they don't. One of the finest bands recording today.
5) Neko Case's HELL-ON.
"Bad Luck" should have been the anthem of 2018. Actually, any of the album's twelve tracks could have been the year's anthem. HELL-ON is the album where Neko fully lived up to the critical praise she's earned for years. If you've never been able to connect with her before, check this out.
6) Cher's DANCING QUEEN.
Cher just wants to have fun. And when the results are this dazzling, who can argue? "The Winner Takes It All" is a must listen.
Speaking of fun:
But I'm just dumb enough to try
To keep you in my life
For a little while longer
And I'm insane enough to think
I'm gonna get out with my skin
And start my life again
7) That's the artist known as Father John Misty. Josh Tillman really delivered on GOD'S FAVORITE CUSTOMER.
8) Janelle Monae's DIRTY COMPUTER.
"I Got The Juice" was on Ava and C.I.'s iPods. I heard it for months and thought it was some classic r&b song. It was only around Thanksgiving that my sister's kid was playing it and I said, "Hey, I know that song." To which the snot-nosed replied, "Aunt Kat, everyone does." Apparently he was right. As I got into DIRTY COMPUTER, I would praise this or that song to this or that friend and the reaction was repeatedly some variation on "Duh!" This is one of 2018's finest albums. If you're coming to it late, like I did, remember late is better than never.
9) Dashboard Confessional's CROOKED SHADOW.
Dashboard finally did what their fans -- their long suffering fans -- have been pleading for: Chris got back to basics. It's their best album since the 90s.
10) Diana Ross' WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME.
Yes, it's a Christmas album but it's truly one of my favorite albums of 2018. "Overjoyed" alone is amazing. With the Supremes, Diana did SING HOLLAND-DOZIER-HOLLAND. Maybe now it's time for a DIANA SINGS MOTOWN -- where she covers Stevie, Smokey, Marvin and others.
Click here for my 2004 music piece, here for 2005, 2006 in music, 2007 in music, here for 2008, here for my 2009 piece, here for my look at the decade, here for my 2010 piece, here for my 2011 piece, here for my 2012 piece, here for my 2013 piece, here for my 2014 piece, here for my 2015 piece, here for my 2016 piece. and here for my 2017 piece.