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Timmy Awards

Timmy Awards- The Best Albums of 2018

It's mid-2019, so yeah, I finished my 2018 list. You can get videos for them all in this YouTube playlist. If you click "play all," it will play them from 50 right on down to #1.

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Lera Lynn

50. Lera Lynn- Plays Well With Others: A great title for an album of duets, Nashville's Lera Lynn pairs up with like-minded Americana artists for a nice collection of tunes, including a great cover of TV On The Radio's "Wolf Like Me" with Shovels & Rope.

Gouge Away

49. Gouge Away - Burnt Sugar: This is the first I've heard of Florida's Gouge Away - this is their second album and it hits you right in the face with screamed female vocals, searing guitars and pounding drums. It's loud and agressive but some catchy melodies peek through when they need to.

Amaro Freitas

48. Amaro Freitas - Rasif: Jazz piano trio music from Brazil that draws from both Brazilian rhythms and classic jazz piano trio sounds.

Deaf Wish

47. Deaf Wish - Lithium Zion: Australia's Deaf Wish likely has its share of Sonic Youth records in their collection - the slashing guitars and gritty male/female vocals are definitely in the same ballpark. The songs are catch and they add their own take, but whether or not you enjoy Sonic Youth is probably a good indication of how much you'll enjoy Deaf Wish.

Maps & Atlases

46. Maps & Atlases - Lightlessness Is Nothing New: So I just spent several minutes combing through old Timmys writeups to see where Maps & Atlases placed with previous albums. But I couldn't find them. They SOUND like they would have been on before - poppy, catch alt-rock in the vein of Yeasayer, MGMT, Passion Pit and at some points, tune-yards. Very upbeat musically in spite of most of the songs being inspired by the passing of the singer/guitarist's father.

Mastersystem

45. Mastersystem - Dance Music: Frightened Rabbit is another band I thought made the Timmys but didn't; Editors didn't either but certainly both bands could have. Mastersystem contains members of each, including songwriter/singer Scott Hutchison, who passed away tragically a month after this album was released, after a long struggle with mental health issues.

Brownout

44. Brownout - Fear Of A Brown Planet: If being an eight-piece Latin funk band in 2019 was niche enough, Brownout takes it even a step further by doing albums full of covers of one band. Their first two albums were funky Black Sabbath covers (that almost certainally would have made the Timmys if I knew about them.) For album three, they take on Public Enemy. A more straight-foward choice perhaps, given how funky PE's beats always were, but to hear these tracks with horns instead of raps is still both eye-opening and a lot of fun to listen to. I wonder who the'll take on next?

Behemoth

43. Behemoth - I Loved You At Your Darkest: Now I'm not a metal head by any stretch of the imagination, but every now and then something catches my ear. Behemoth is definitely on the black/dark metal end of the spectrum, but there is no doubting their power and musicianship. I can even overlook the Cookie Monster-like vocals when the songs are this strong and the music is this unrelenting. Not waht I'll listen to every day, but I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed this one.

Dream Wife

42. Dream Wife - Dream Wife: UK all-female trio Dream Wife takes Riot Grrl influences and adds a bit of pop and even some classic rock sounding riffs for a collection of songs that pack a punch as well being pretty catchy.

YOB

41. YOB - Our Raw Heart: Maybe I'm more of a metal guy than I thought? Again, I'm not putting on YOB everyday, but this Eugene, OR band's brand of doom/sludge metal combines the right amount of volume, force and prog influences to be a good listen.

Shame

40. Shame - Songs Of Praise: London post-punk combo that at times sounds like The Fall, at others may a little like Franz Ferdinand or a dozen other UK bands. But the songs are solid on this, their debut album.

Thee Oh Sees

39. Thee Oh Sees - Smote Reverser: I know this group as being garage rock revivalists, but as the cover might indicate, there is definitely a prog rock influence here. Still fuzzy enough to be in the grage, but the organs and over the top lyrics show another side to the band.

The Orielles

38. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment: The opening riff on this album sound like the music they would play on some teen sitcom as they were transitioning from one scene to the next. The rest of the album follows suit, scruffy poppy rock with sugar-coated hooks and female vocalss.

Tune-Yards

37. Tune-Yards - I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life: A Timmys-repeat artist, Tune-Yards is no longer a one-woman affair as Merrill Garbus officially added her long-time bassist as a member of the "band". The songs aren't as catchy as some prior effort, but they are still really good and as rhythmic as ever.

Amnesia Scanner

36. Amnesia Scanner - Another Life: What is noise? What is music? Berlin-based Amnesia Scanner either tries to answer those questions, or can't see a difference. This is glitchy, scattered, experimental, odd and an adveturous listen.

Blood Orange

35. Blood Orange - Negro Swan: Devin Hynes (Blood Orange) is now consistently cranking out albums that are nice blends of smooth, modern soul and singer-songwriter alternative.

Ty
More Ty
Even More Ty

34. Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin/Joy/Fudge Sandwich: Ty is cranking out albums on a Guided By Voices-like pace, with three in 2018. Freedom;s Goblin is the cream of the crop, with plenty of horns and a killer cover of Every 1's A Winner. Joy, a collaboration with White Fence, leans a little more to guitars and psychedelia. Fudge Sandwich, an all-covers album, didn't quite meet my expectations, which admittedly, were super high. His take on Low Rider is almost unlistenable, but I'm A Man pulls me right back in. Ty will keep cranking out the albums, I hope the quality stays at this level of gets even better.

Franz Ferdinand

33. Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending: Their first two albums were back-to-back #1 finishers on the Timmys in 2004 and 2005. Subsequent albums were good but not great. And here we are again - flashes of brilliance but not as good as the first two.But Franz Ferdinand's "good" is still very Timmys-worthy.

The Beths

32. The Beths - Future Me Hates Me: The title track is a refreshing blast of sunny power pop and the best thing on this album, but there are other equally peppy tunes here worth your time.

Interpol

31. Interpol - Marauder: I was shocked when I heard the first "single" off this album, "The Rover." Deb and I both immediately thought the vocals sounded like Ozzy Osbourne. Other tracks remind me of Spoon a little. Interpol still sounds like Interpol, but on album number six, they show they still have some new tricks up their sleeves.

Bodega

30. BODEGA - Endless Scroll: Very much in the post-punk, rhythmic new wave mode, BODEGA has elements of LCD Sound System, Franz Ferdinand, early Wire and even - with their male/female vocal mix - a little of the edgier side of The Human League. Looking forward to more from them.

Haley Heynderickx

29. Haley Heynderickx- I Need To Start A Garden: This is probably what MAGA-cap wearing dolts think every NPR-endorsed band sounds like. Yes, Haley is from Portland, OR and sounds like it, and she's often a little too precious for her own good - just watch her Tiny Desk Concert where she begins by wishing everyone "many mothers and waterfalls." That being said, the folky innocence of this album is also quite charming and Heyderickx is a unique songwriter with a very gentle sense of humor.

Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids

28. Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - An Angel Fell: Jazz is back in a big way - do we really have Ryan Gosling to thank? Idris Ackamoor is no young gun, having been around in the early 70's and coming close to 70 year old himself. I saw one review describe Ackamoor's music as Sun Ra meets Fela. That's pretty accurate, as African grooves and spaced-out jazz blend together nicely.

The Decemberists

27. The Decemberists - I'll Be Your Girl: Synths play a much big role on this album, further distancing themselves from their quirkier early albums. But they still sound like themselves and they still write some good songs.

Makaya McCraven - Universal Beings

26. Makaya McCraven - Universal Beings: More jazz!Drummer/producer McCraven helps further jazz by taking world rhythms and divergent styles and brings them all togeter in a fresh way.

U.S. Girls

25. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited: Meghan Remy is U.S. Girls and her musical style has been called "Experimental Pop" and those two words say a lot. At points edgy and arty, at others catchy and tuneful, often happening at the same time. In the same ballpark as St. Vincent, but at points both edgier and poppier.

Ezra Furman

24. Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus: Ezra has been on my radar for a few years as a singer/songwriter with some catchy hooks. He raises his game on this one by going a little further out there in a few ways. This is a essentially a concept album about a guy and his lover - an angel - on the run. It rocks where it needs to, is cinematic at parts and a nice step in Furman's career.

Tropical Fuck Storm

23. Tropical Fuck Storm: A Laughing Death In Meatspace: Their artist profile on Spotify - provided by the band themselves - says "From Melbourne, Australia, TFS is Weird music for people who are sick of the same old shit." Concise and accurate, but I can add it's guitar-driven, sometimes prog-based and definitely weird and different.

Phosphorescent

22. Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie: Phosphorescent is singer/songwriter Matt Houck, now on his sixth album. It's been five years since his last album and he's started a family and moved back to Nashville during that hiatus. These are upbeat, well-arranged songs that recall a little Paul Simon at times - in a good way.

Harriet Tubman

21. Harriet Tubman - The Terror End Of Beauty:  So I guess for the lack of a better genre, Harriet Tubman is a jazz band- guitar, bass and drums. But when you look at the acts the band members have played with - Living Color, Rollins Band, Caetano Veloso, Lou Reed, Herbie Hancock and many more, including some more out-there jazz acts - a fuller picture emerges. Their first album was in 1998 - this is their fifth and it's a collision of hard rock and jazz with a little funk thrown in.

The Goon Sax

20. The Goon Sax - We're Not Talking: Australia's The Goon Sax weaves catchy tunes together with innocent vocals and jangly guitars, with ocassional strings and horns. The Go Betweens are an obvious touchstone - and not just because the Goon Sax's Louis Forster is the the Go Between's Robert Forster's son. There's also a little Aztec Camera here, Orange Juice there - and several other 80's UK indie bands with their hearts on their sleeves serve as touch points.

Preoccupations

19. Preoccupations - New Material: I discoved these guys when I was researching last year's Timmys. I looking into Protomartyr and saw they were touring with Preoccupations, so I decided to check them out. Artsy, dark, post-punk with poppy hooks and solid beats - I hear some Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, maybe a little Bauhaus, but it a blend that sets them apart.

Big Red Machine

18. Big Red Machine - Big Red Machine: BonIver's Justin Vernon and The National's Aaron Dessner join forces and come up with something that hints at their prior work but takes it in a different direction. More beat/loop driven with beeping synths, but the songs maintain a down-home folkiness. I first hear Big Red Machine driving in Iowa with kids at twilight the night before Thanksgiving when Sirius XM was playing a live concert. The kids grew tired of it, but I was transfixed. The setting was the perfect intro to this music, 21st Century folk rock.

Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth

17. Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth: I'm tellin' ya, Jazz is back. Kamasi may be the unofficial leader of the new wave of jazz, and he is up to the challenge. Funk, latin, soul, movie soundtracks - it's all here. Heaven and Earth is a pretty grandiose title, but this

Mitski

16. Mitski - Be The Cowboy: Mitski's last album cracked my Top 5. This one is not as strong, but still really good. Kind of a shy St. Vincent at times, and I even hear a little Kate Bush here and there, but Mitski is getting her own style. I expect her next albun will make The Timmy's also...

White Denim

15. White Denim - Performance: This is White Denim's sixth album and fourth to make the Timmys. And it's no wonder . They take pieces of garage, psych, alt rock, southern rock, prog- genres that all pop here and there on the Timmys - and melt them all down and make melodic songs out the whole mess. Sloppy when it needs to be, concise where it should be.

DJ Jazzy Jeff

14. DJ Jazzy Jeff - M3: Yes, it's that DJ Jazzy Jeff. While his former partner The Fresh Prince assumed the alias Will Smith and made a movie or two, Jeff has been mostly in the shadows, working as a producer for artists like Jill Scott and The Roots, while releasing albums of his own on independent labels. M3 stands for The Magnificent 3, the third in a series of albums with original material amd showcasing rappers. The first two had guests but this one has three rappers throughout - Rhymefest (a former Timmys honoree), Dayne Jordan and Jeff's son, Uhmeer. It's a great team, as Jeff lays down beats that are reminiscent of the early 90's hip-hop heyday, but the rappers help keep things sounding current and, um...fresh.

13. Micall Parknsun & Mr. Thing - Finish What We Started: I learned about British DJ Mr. Thing through his work on the Strange Games series where he mixed funky 60s/70s beats into very cool mixes, and then again when he joined another Timmy Awards favorite, DJ Format, mixing thrift store religious albums together for the album Holy Shit. I hadn't heard from him in a while, so I did a serch to see what he was up to and found this album. I wasn't familiar with Parknsun, but his deep-voiced delivery and lyrics are a great match for Mr. Thing's turntablism. A nice slice of throwback hip-hop.

12. Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy: I liked Car Seat Headrest from the first moment I heard them - melodic and sloppy pop with hooks to spare, not unlike Guided by Voices but with more fleshed-out songs. The brainchild of Will Toledo, CSH had years of home recorded albums when they surfaced with Matador records for the collection Teens of Style followe up in 2016 Teens of Denial. 2018 saw CSH re-visit the home-recorded 2011 Twin Fantasy (are you still with me?) It's not as catchy as the last two efforts, but it works well as a whole album and I can't wait to see what he does next.

11. Elvis Costello and The Imposters - Look Now: Speaking of not as good as previous work but still really solid, Elvis Costello albums literally have a special place in my collection - I have an entire shelf of his CDs along with books, a Simpsons figure of him and a framed, autographed picture Debbie got me for my 50th birthday. I refer to it as Shelf-is Costello. So yeah, a new album by EC will likely be in my Top 50. The question is "how high?" I guess it depends on a lot of things - this collection has nods to some mid-to-late EC - Imerial Bedroom and that general era- and the songs are pretty solid. I wouldn't put it in his top 10 albums, but it's better than a lot of what he's done lately and worth a few listens for sure.

10. Lucy Dacus - Historian: There's a lot of good female singer/songwriters putting out albums these days, so what sets Lucy Dacus apart? Razor sharp lyrics, interesting melodies, varied instumentation from one track to the next, and a voice that can be sweet without being cloying. A really nice effort from start to finish.

9. Makaya McCraven - Where We Come From (Chicago x London Mixtape): So we already saw Mr. McCraven at #26, but here he is again in the top 10. This time, he's on stage with some of the new London jazz musicians breathing life into a genre that definitely needed a boost. There's loops recorded and played back as they happen, soaring solos, steady grooves and it flows from one track to the next. More like a hip-hop mixtape than a jazz record, this is an experiment that definitely worked. Hopefully there's more of this to come.

8. Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer: A guy that keeps showing up on my list and while it's one of the smoother sounding albums on this year's list, it's almost as muc of an acquired taste as some of the noisy albums on the list. It harkens back to orchestral 7os songwriter pop, like Harry Nilsson, with a healthy dose of Randy Newman's snark. And I could see someone listen to the lyrics of a song like "Mr. Tillman" - his real surname - and think "what the hell is this guy going on about." OK, so there's the warnings. If you like the sound of orchestral pop and are not too afraid of overly-clever lyricists who occassionally take themselves too seriously, you may really enjoy this one - I sure do.

7. Fucked Up - Dose Your Dreams: I guess we're still in the acquired taste section of the Top 10. I was trying to figure out the best way to describe Fucked Up's sound and I saw that Pitchfork beat me to it when they described them as an "art-hardcore" band. They have hardcore underneath and in the lungs of their giagantic lead singer Pink Eyes, who screams and growls his way through most of these songs, but they have indie rock hooks, female vocals, synths and melodies on top, fighting for attention. With their name alone, they will never be mainstream, but with each album (this is their fifth), they are honing their craft and becoming more accessible.

6. Sons of Kemet - Your Queen Is A Reptile: Sons of Kent leader Shabaka Hutchings also leads psych/prog/jazz group The Comet Is Coming and played with Sbun Ra's Arkestra, so there's no surprise that this collection is jazzy, funky, out there but not too far. Another bright light in the recent resurgence of soulful jazz.

5. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!: I heard the title track of this album first and was surprised to hear that it was percussion-laden and sounded like it could fit on Talking Heads Fear of Music and thought it was an awesome left turn for the band. Itturns out that while there are other new twists, you get the same old garage-y Parquet Courts elsewhere, sounding as sharp as ever. Another step forward for a really fun band.

4. Ben Lamar Gay - Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun: OK, I went a little heavy with jazz this year, but there were a lot of really strong albums this year that continue to expand the genre. Chicagoan Ben Lamar Gay takes funk, soul, Brazilian music, jazz and whatever else he thinks might work and puts it all into his original sound. Like Car Seat Headrest a few years back, this is a compilation of tracks from 7 albums he recorded but didn't release. I'm not sure how much of an audience this music will have, but it's really creative stuff.

3. Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today: I liked some early Death Cab For Cutie albums and then kind of lost interest after 2003's Transatlanticism. 15 years later, I started hearing "Gold Rush" on the radio and decided I'd give the whole album a listen. It's really polished but it works form start to finish - the sound is cohesive and the songs are pretty solid. A big surprise for me this year.

2. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer: This album was in contention for my top spot for quite sometime but ultimately wound up a close second. Holy cow, what an album. Prince is the most obvious reference here, but there's Bowie, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, so many other influences but all blended in to her own style. The lyrics reflect on her place in the world as a queer, black woman but the music expands pop music to new heights. A great album and an exciting artist to watch.

Idles

1. IDLES - Joy As An Act Of Rebellion: Their debut was 11th on last year's list, and this one blew me away. The Clash is an obvious influence, but Idles blaze their own trail from where The Clash left off, both musically and lyrically. I read one review that referred to Idles as "Snowflake Oi" which seems appropriate. It's punk with sing-along choruses but from a sensibility of young men who are willing to stand up politcally for what's right, even if will have others labeling them bleeding hearts or snowflakes. A cover of Solomon Burke's "Cry To Me" suprisingly fits in well. This is joyous music and the lyrics are rebellious. While the vocals are in thick British accents, it's music that fits well with what's going on in several countries right now. Idles are a band we need right now.

 

 

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