KXLL DJ Patrick Klacza spins tunes as the host of Sunday night’s Cat Plaza radio show from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. He shared some of his favorite albums of 2018 just in time for the new year.
“Nothing 2 Loose” by DJ Healer
I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of music and information that’s available. In an era when we can listen to practically every song ever made, how do we choose? And how can artists separate themselves from the pack? One possible solution is to opt out altogether. DJ Healer’s “Nothing 2 Loose” is a vinyl-only release; it isn’t on streaming platforms, and nobody knows exactly who made it. I’m drawn to that mystery, and it doesn’t hurt that “Nothing 2 Loose” contains some of the best minimal house and techno tracks of the decade. Come for the mystery, stay for the drum programming, sampling, and immersive listening experience.
“Cloud Corner” by Marisa Anderson
If you’re at all invested in the future of guitar-based music, you owe it to yourself to hear “Cloud Corner.” This album is the aural equivalent of waking up early on a Saturday morning, making a French press and looking out on Mt. Juneau as the sun begins to rise. On “Sant Feliu de Guíxols,” Anderson conjures this melody from her electric guitar that fills me with hope. I’m not kidding. I’ve played guitar a long time, and Anderson has quickly become one of my heroes.
“The Future and the Past” by Natalie Prass
I’ve got a soft spot for session musicians. Without them, there’d be no “Thriller,” no “Court and Spark,” no “Pet Sounds.” I don’t want to live in that world! Natalie Prass must feel the same because her new album, “The Future and the Past,” features some truly nasty players. The drummer’s a beast and so is the guitarist. Now please direct your attention to the keyboards on “Ain’t Nobody.” I don’t need to tell you that this player sounds a lot like Stevie Wonder. That being said, Natalie Prass holds it down in her own right. The penultimate track, “Far From You,” is 2018’s best song. It’s a masterclass in economic songwriting, virtuosic singing, and Carpenters worship. I adore it, and so will you.
“All Melody” by Nils Frahm
In 2015, the Berlin-based pianist Nils Frahm created the holiday Piano Day, a global celebration of — what else — the piano. In 2018, he released his best and least piano-centric album to date, “All Melody.” My favorite song of the bunch, “Human Range,” begins in ambient mode. At 0:43, trumpeter Richard Koch enters sounding not unlike “In a Silent Way”-era Miles Davis. The track builds; Frahm adds marimba, tympani, viola and cello. At 3:12, a choir appears. They sing in a fashion reminiscent of Popol Vuh. What I’m trying to say is: Frahm covers a lot of ground on this bad boy. Wearers of expensive headphones, collectors of Deutsche Grammophon LPs, and even techno fans will feel right at home here. 2018’s most contemplative release.
“We Can Pretend Like” by Ogikubo Station
Mike Park had one hell of a year. His label Asian Man Records released fantastic new music by Warm Thoughts, the Smoking Popes, and Jabber. And as one-half of Ogikubo Station, he put out 2018’s most effortlessly catchy album, “We Can Pretend Like.” This is music for jumping into lakes, riding bikes and drinking around the bonfire. It’s fun, in other words, and fun music is in short supply these days. Shout-out to Maura Weaver, Ogikubo’s lead singer, for turning in one of 2018’s finest vocal performances.
“The Day Before the Peaches Rot” by Tim Rutili & Craig Ross
Tim Rutili is the most underrated songwriter in the game. Bold statement, I know, but I stand by it. After all, he brought us “Red Red Meat,” “Califone,” and now this collaborative album with Craig Ross, “The Day Before the Peaches Rot.” On the highlight song, “Choke,” Rutili and Ross take their winning melody and slather it with noise and reverb, then throw in a ripping guitar solo for good measure. Eight sturdy songs let loose in a funhouse. Folkies, noise rockers and disciples of Eno: unite!
“I Went Swimming Alone” by Warm Thoughts
“I Went Swimming Alone” was the soundtrack to my summer. Musically, it’s as upbeat and optimistic as any record that came out this year. The hooks just do not stop. But what distinguishes “I Went Swimming Alone” is singer Eliot Babin’s introspective and often self-deprecating lyrics. He opens the album with, “I’d just prefer a daydream to living in real life.” Boy, can I relate to that. And what a set of pipes. If you’ve ever bought a Jimmy Eat World CD or pogoed at a Motion City Soundtrack concert, you know what to do.
“There’s a Riot Going On” by Yo La Tengo
The band Yo La Tengo formed in 1984, two years before I was born. They’ve put out 15 studio albums, 15 EPs, and 22 singles. Of course, prolificacy means nothing if you can’t write a song, but that’s not a problem for YLT. Their newest LP, March’s “There’s a Riot Going On,” is seriously inspired. I get chills when I hear Ira Kaplan’s barely-there singing amid the motorik thrum of “For You Too.” And seeing as I’m a freak for ambient music, I just love the textures and patience of tracks like “Shortwave” and “Dream Dream Away.” With Riot, YLT adds another highlight to their reel. This band belongs in the Hall of Fame.
“Dose Your Dreams” by F***** Up
F***** Up is hardcore’s most consistently inventive band. They’ve held the title for at least a decade, and on Dose Your Dreams, they somehow find new genres to absorb and regurgitate. Industrial? Check. Shoegaze? Check. “Normal People” begins with a spoken word passage, transitions into power pop, and ends with lead singer Damian Abraham laying waste to everything. Fun fact: I met my wife Kathy at a F***** Up show in Chicago, but I was too busy moshing to ask for her number. That’s how good this band is!
“2 Sad 2 Funk” by Young Guv
Young Guv is the solo project of Toronto’s Ben Cook. Cook plays guitar in F***** Up and vocalizes for No Warning. You already love those bands, so please don’t sleep on “2 Sad 2 Funk,” Young Guv’s sophomore album. When I listen to this thing, I imagine I’m at a late-night dance party. I’m alone and wearing black, of course, but having been energized by Guv’s oblique melodies and tasteful use of autotune, I tear that dang club up. “2 Sad to Funk” exists at the intersection of chillwave, Ariel Pink and Prince. Bonus points go to Cook for writing 2018’s best dumb lyric: “Here’s a stupid question / do you want to go for ice cream?”
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