Favorite albums of 2018:
Exploded View – Obey (Sacred Bones)
We almost missed Exploded View in Detroit. We walked into the venue as they were playing. Not enough people were paying attention. The 60’s decor seemed out of place for what appeared to be a typical night club. Annika looked disinterested, the sound wasn’t the best, but maybe it was where I was standing. Hearing “Dark Stains” was one of the highlights of 2018 for me. “You’re in a constant battle with yourself / fighting those ghosts of the past / but that inheritance is no excuse / and you can break this.”
The Shifters – The Shifters (Future Folklore)
I remember when I first learned of this album (originally released on a small run of cassettes), I messaged the band on their facebook page and asked them if they had any left, telling them I needed a physical copy of this. They politely said they didn’t have any left but “Thanks mate.” Then this year I see Future Folklore is pressing the tape to vinyl and i immediately buy it, pay the overseas shipping, and pray to the Post Office Gods it actually makes it to my apartment. It did, and now I can sleep at night. Would have made my top ten list the last three years it’s been on bandcamp.
Constant Mongrel – Living In Excellence (La Vida Es Un Mus/ Anti Fade)
This I did not see coming. I should have, given that two labels I respect did a split release. I did not expect to enjoy this as much as albums like Henge Beat, or Positive Energy. It was a pleasant surprise. Anti Fade posted to my review of the album on their social media outlets, and that was another highlight of 2018 for me. Recognition is great, even if you think you have no clue of what you’re doing. Keep practicing.
Sex Tourists – Sex Tourists (Drunken Sailor)
My obsession with post-punk(especially Factory Records bands of the late 70’s) may be unhealthy, but it’s not something that will change with a new year. I slept on the original release of this record, and hearing the repress was exactly what I needed. Melancholy synth-pop can be so satisfying right in the middle of some existential crisis you brought upon yourself. I will give you a little tip, but only this one time: The State Laughter Distro is a hidden gem. That is where I found this record, along with Maraudeur LP, and other hard-to-find-in-the-US records.
Snob – Snob (La Vida Es Un Mus)
My favorite hardcore release of 2018, on the most trusted label for HC. The art-work is perfect. The lyrics are fucking spot on. One of my biggest complaints about records that I buy is that that they don’t include the lyrics. I don’t want to guess at what you are telling me, it could be misinterpreted, like all of The Fall songs I became obsessed with in high school. No I didn’t understand why Chairman Mao loved repetition, I was busy getting stoned before my history class. After I posted the review I did of this record in one of my early columns, one of the members of the band messaged me to say thanks for the kind words, and that is another highlight of 2018 for me.
EXEK – Ahead Of Two Thoughts
Ok, I know, this came out in 2017…but to be fair they toured the US this year and I think more people caught on to how great this band is. We almost played a show with them in Detroit, but due to technical difficulties(I won’t go into details), we missed out on that one. I stumbled upon this record through Hirikari Diat, the best Youtube music channel in the business. You can find all of the latest punk, hardcore, and post-punk albums there, maybe even impress one of your “friends.”
Dark Thoughts – At Work (Stupid Bag/ Drunken Sailor)
Someone please help me book this band in Grand Rapids. My email is email@example.com and I check it occasionally to find out the terrible messages I get from buyers of records I sell on Ebay. Middle aged squares are very particular with their record grading, one guy even told me he wanted a refund due to the smell of the record. The customer is always right, and I have to hold back from calling them things they never wished to be called. This is not fun, if anyone else has a better way to sell used records online, please inform me. My email is listed above, and you can contact me day or night. I’m always up.
Table Sugar – Collected Acknowledgements (Stucco)
Another art-punk gem, if that’s what you’re into. Hearing the loss of a MRR as a printed zine really took its toll on me, because I always looked forward to reading Erika Elizabeth’s column FUTURES AND PASTS. It was my favorite column, full of new bands to check out, as well as references to older bands that could lead to a rabbit hole of youtube videos of excellent, and often undocumented bands. You can find all of her writing and radio shows on futuresndpasts.org…..as I’m whining about the loss of a physical print zine, I’m writing for a website…so what do I know?
Vital Ides – Left Hand (Upset the Rhythm)
I think I came across this album because one of my friends was telling me about a band called Idles, which from what i can remember translated to Vital Idles in my head. Oh how my brain works magic sometimes, mostly under the influence of alcohol. This album is exactly what I needed, and not in the usual punk vein I often write about. This is stripped down pop, but still with DIY ethics. Upset The Rhythm never disappoints.
Erik Nervous – Assorted Anxieties (Neck Chop / Drunken Sailor)
By the time I’ve completed writing a few sentences here, Erik will already have three songs written. He sends me clips of things he’s been working on, and it’s always good! If I didn’t love the guy and his enthusiasm for music, I’d be full of envy. He is that good. Erik’s live show consists of Rold Gold on bass, and Jeff on drums. Three of the nicest dudes I know, I’m lucky they play house shows in Grand Rapids. I’ve been trying to book more shows here, with some success I suppose, but having Erik & The Beta Blockers nearby is always a highlight for me.
Favorite books I read this year:
Let It Blurt by Jim Derogatis
Lester Bangs Bio. It lead to me writing this column.
Dopesick by Beth Macy
Terrifying look at the opioid epidemic.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
My introduction to Baldwin, and the best book I read in 2018.
The Knockout Artist by Harry Crews
My friend Aaron has given me a lot of incredible reading material, and this is a great read.
Call If You Need Me by Raymond Carver
The short story master himself.
Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds
I reread this because it’s the story of post-punk and as you can tell I like that genre.
The Neon Wilderness by Nelson Algren
Another excellent collection of short stories.
Lou Reed: A Life by Anthony Decurtis
It kind of dragged on towards the end, documenting his entire solo career but it was good.
Filmstruck lasted two years and provided the most extensive look at criterion collection films and other great films of the past. If you got past the early issues (often buffering mid film, not the best layout), it was like the film class that was never available. Suddenly, I could dive into the greatest directors and access some of their best work. I learned a lot, and I was sad to see it shut down. It ended my days of scrolling for a half hour on netflix only to find mindless garbage and fall asleep right away. It challenged me to watch films that I would now consider essential, as essential as albums like The Velvet Underground & Nico, Fun House, The Modern Lovers, Horses, or Marquee Moon. It was my gateway drug to real cinema, and like a lot of my favorite bands, it ended too soon.
Favorite films from Filmstruck:
Ingmar Bergman – Winter Light, Persona, Scenes From a Marriage
Films that you can’t get out of your head.
Jean-Luc Godard – Alphaville, Vivre Se Vie, Masculin Feminin, A Woman is a Woman
French New Wave
Andrei Tarkovsky – Stalker, Solaris
Psychological sci-fi, set time aside for these.
David Cronenberg – Scanners, The Brood, Videodrome
Gruesome sci-fi, in the best way possible.
Fritz Lang – Metropolis, M
Metropolis is required viewing.
Francois Truffaut – The 400 Blows, Shoot The Piano Player, Jules And Jim
If you can’t relate to The 400 Blows, we probably shouldn’t be friends.
Some more films(without the director)
Sisters, Eraserhead, The Samourai, Eyes Without A Face, A Woman Under The Influence