This year in music was full of highs and lows for me. The highest of the highs was getting to see one of my favorite bands, Frightened Rabbit, in concert in Chicago. The band made a brief tour in honor of the tenth anniversary of the release of their album The Midnight Organ Fight, the album that FR singer, songwriter, and frontman Scott Hutchison credited during the concert as the one that told them that they "might be able to make a living doing this."
|Scott Hutchison (center) and his FR bandmates in Chicago|
(photo courtesy of me).
The low was when, less than two months later, Scott Hutchison took his own life. He was 36, seemingly at the height of his career and in the prime of his musical life. Even a casual listener of FR's songs could not mistake the references to depression and suicidal thoughts that ran through nearly all of the band's five albums. But it was still a shock, particularly to me since Hutchison seemed in such a good place during the concert. His last public words, in a Tweet, summarize all that was good about him and all that is so terribly awful and unrelenting about depression: "Be so good to everyone you love. It's not a given. I'm so annoyed that it's not. I didn't live by that standard and it kills me. Please hug your loved ones. I'm away now. Thanks."
I soldiered on after that shocking event and once again dedicated myself to bringing to you my favorite songs of the past year. You will, as always, recognize several of the artists here from past years. You will, with very few exceptions, have never heard them on your local Top 40 radio station. But I hope that you enjoy many of them, and perhaps go to see at least one of them if/when they come to your town.
"I'm sick and tired of being such a hypocrite
I'm kinda over being over it all
I think I hate yourself
I think I hate me even more
I can't remember what happened before."
Kate has always been a favorite in our family. Her clever, witty lyrics are usually amusing and always thoughtful. One of several break-up songs on this year's list (and in fact this edition of the list).
24. About You by G Flip.
"Yeah, we got crazy, yeah, it did phase me
When you just went and took off
Yeah, I know I pushed you
Didn't think you'd follow through and leave me on the rocks."
Another break-up song that perfectly captures the yin-yang of feelings that go with it. Which, I believe, purposefully matches her black and white sneakers in the video.
"Far out past the astral plane
I cast you back from whence you came
Cosmic ash and blackened brain
I call you by your ancient names."
Our boys from the Mitten State seem to have taken a turn from pseudo-cowboy rock to Raymond Chandler-esque indie noir with their latest album (maybe my first hint was its name, "Vide Noir"). No official video or official concert video for this one as far as I can tell, so let your imaginations run wild with fortune tellers and soothsayers.
26. Without Applause by Horse Feathers.
"Mama's here and nothing can be done
No other thought meanwhile something thaws
Dad to rise, there to fix something
It's not the drinking but the worry that does him in."
First heard this band on KEXP, one of my favorite radio stations. A song, I think, about the daily grind for working for a living and the toll it takes not only on the wage earner, but on his/her loved ones as well.
27. Fell In Love by The Pollies.
"Fell in love with the one I love
When she's starin' back at me.
Fell in love with the one I love
And now she gives her love to me."
The Pollies were high on this list a few years ago with the politically charged "Jackson." "Fell In Love" is less dramatic as far as subject matter goes, but certainly not as far as musicianship goes.
28. Give Yourself A Try by The 1975.
"And what would you say to your younger self?
Growing a beard's quite hard
And whiskey never starts to taste nice
And you'll make a lot of money, and it's funny
'Cause you'll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs
And spend obscene amounts on f**king seeds and beans online."
A sneaking feeling that The 1975 are becoming (or at least trying to become) this generation's The Beatles. Ambition is sometimes a bad thing, but for me not in this instance.
29. better off by Sjowgren.
"I'm down low and I'm nothing without you
I'm better off to stay, I'm better off to say
I'm better off with you."
Kind of a love song, kind of a regretful "I can't help but be in love with you" song. Sjowgren has appeared several times before on the list, but each time they've given a little more of a hint of who they might actually be. I'm fine with the mystery, as long as they keep making great music.
30. Plimsoll Punks by Alvvays.
"When I chip through your candy coating
You're stuffed with insulation
Just strawberry ice cream floating
With a sprinkle of indignation."
Yes, Alvvays (pronounced, of course, Always). Saw them when they opened for The Decemberists a few years back. They sound like an '80's girl group (The Go-Go's?), but with better musicianship (including a fuzzy grunge guitar) and much sharper lyrics.
31. Call It Dreaming by Iron & Wine.
"'Cause the sun isn't only sinking fast
Every moon and our bodies make shining glass
Where the time of our lives is all we have
And we get a chance to say
Before we ease away
For all the love you've left behind
You can have mine."
Finally! An honest-to-gosh love song instead of a broken love song. Also saw Iron & Wine, many moons ago now, and frontman Sam Beam appeared to be trying to turn them into a "jam band" (I believe my line at the time was "trying to be another Phish - don't bite"). Nice to see him back to doing what he does best.
32. Quarter Past Midnight by Bastille.
"We keep on running
Running through a red light
Like we're trying to burn the night away
Away-way, oh, away-way oh
Why are we always chasing after something
Like we trying to throw our lives away?
Away-way, oh, away-way oh."
Dan Smith, Bastille's lead singer, has a great voice. And if you're a list regular, you know that I'm a sucker for big choruses.
33. Everybody Lost Somebody by Bleachers.
"I waited 'til the night was over
Cursed the sun for coming up all over
Cashed the checks I had, I didn't own
Standing on the corner, God I wonder when
I'll give myself a break (hey)."
The winner in Facebook voting for this year's number 33 song. It appears that in this song our boy Jack Antonoff is beating himself up, instead of allowing others to do it as seems to be a frequent theme in Bleachers' videos.
So that's it -- the first 11 songs from my favorites of 2018. Stay tuned for the next 22. And while you're waiting for the next installment, hug someone you love. For me, and for Scott.