2018 in review

as 2018 draws to a close, we’ve decided to do something we haven’t done in a couple of years: publish a year-end list on the dimestore.  folks who follow our twitter feed may recall seeing our favorite albums of years past tweeted out in a threaded form, often accompanied by requisite links to our previous coverage or words from other publications that really resonated. 

this list will be very similar, with a paragraph or two of year-end reflection running alongside links to purchase the album, select media, and previous coverage.  like its twitter predecessors, our review of 2018 will run without numerical ranking, instead presented in alphabetical order.  by no means authoritative, this list features ten albums that have made a lasting impact in our small corner of existence over the past year.  we hope you find something new to embrace.

hovvdy – cranberry

the austin duo hovvdy joined the ranks of double double whammy for their second full-length, their warm, lived-in nostalgic turns slotting nicely into the label’s aesthetic.  cranberry finds hovvdy using a familiar palette as a foundation for cautious forays into tangential sonic realms; the gorgeous lilt of  the stand-out cut “truck” is punctuated by wisps of pedal steel, an affective presentation of reflective recollection.

cranberry review || dimestore saints
texas forever: a breakdown of cranberry with hovvdy || portals

juliana daugherty – light

the charlottesville-based daughtery turned in her exquisite debut full-length amidst the dark cloud that hung over her city, its titular light a beacon guiding wayward travelers out of the deepest recesses of their minds.  light is ten tracks of melancholia with glimmers of hope and clarity, the perfect album to escape inside of with a pair of headphones on a solitary afternoon.

light review || dimestore saints
juliana daugherty’s new album light invites you to break apart softly, quietly, beautifully || into the void

kacey musgraves – golden hour

the seemingly-endless critical acclaim heaped on kacey musgraves throughout 2018 was entirely deserved; golden hour is a timeless collection of songs that is easily poised to be one of this decade’s most enduring artifacts.  throughout thirteen tracks, musgraves invites the world to peer through her kaleidoscopic lens of cool, cosmic country, folding synthesizers into the expanses of pedal steel vistas while her lead vocal floats effortlessly in the foreground.

a top-ten list of musical moments from golden hour could easily be litigated for a substantial amount of time, but a handful are indisputable: the snappy drum fill before each chorus in “lonely weekend”; the vocoder harmonies in the second half of the second verse in “butterflies”; the entire seventy-eight seconds of “mother.”  it’s an album so outwardly joyful and pristine yet inwardly so nuanced and pensive that each repeated listen returns impressive dividends to its recipient, with myriad aural ecosystems just waiting to be discovered. 

kacey musgraves is a wild thing || stereogum
kacey musgraves knows love makes the world go round || the fader

mr twin sister – salt

salt is one of those rare new albums that feels like stumbling upon a long-lost hidden gem upon first listen.  mr twin sister spent four years away from the cyclical drone of the music industry, hunkering down to create a lush composite of electronic pop and jazz that functions as the perfect lounge music for the raging inferno of late capitalism that has been 2018.

salt review || dimestore saints
salt review || northern transmissions

noname – room 25

the southside chicago rapper noname took the fruits of her 2016 mixtape telefone and let them marinate for a couple of years. the result is room 25, a vibrant debut album that accentuates fatimah walker’s independent streak while honing her singular, spoken word-influenced aesthetic. this outing is a bit more visceral and less conversational than its predecessor, a poised and confident collection of songs from an indispensable voice.

here comes noname || the fader
room 25 review || pitchfork

pat moon – romantic era

kate davis returned for her sophomore spectral outing as pat moon this past summer, escaping into a slightly different headspace that yielded the ten tracks populating romantic era. a cavernous, intensely intimate project, romantic era resonates as haunting whispers from a parallel dimension, a respite from the cacophony of our everyday existence.

“spiraling” premiere || dimestore saints
entering the romantic era with pat moon || week in pop

r beny – saudade

austin cairns has recorded ambient music under the moniker r beny for the past few years, filtering the central tenets of 1990s slow-core through a prism of analog and modular synthesizers.  his excellent full-length saudade, released in february by the belgian tape label dauw, is a glimmering snapshot of a relatively young synthesist hitting his stride. (cairns’ other 2018 release, october’s eistla, is also commendable.)

any penchant for melody may get buried in a medium that favors deteriorating and evolving soundscapes, but carins’ melodic intuition is the glue that holds saudade together, from the stately, brassy declarations that announce “streams of light” to the hesitant ascent of “burl.”  a mixture of percolating motifs and blurry synth pads makes saudade the ideal aural companion for crisp morning walks, hazy summer evenings, and nearly any other solitary venture in between.

duologue: a conversation with r beny || stationary travels

sun june – years

sun june shares some commonalities with another austin outfit on this list, all the more reason to keep a steadfast ear to the ground for music coming out of that particular city.  on years, the band’s debut full-length for keeled scales, laura colwell and company offer up ten spare tracks that synthesize 1960s pop, early-2000s r&b, and country ornamentations, colwell’s electric piano and the telecaster’s more mellow spectrum teaming up with a tasteful rhythm section for slow-burning standouts like “johnson city” and the muted gleam of opening number “discotheque.”

years review || dimestore saints
a road (opening): on sun june’s years LP || gold flake paint

tierra whack – whack world

maybe whack world is an album, or maybe it’s, as its creator describes it, a “visual and auditory project.”  while its classification is debatable, the fact that tierra whack offered up something that frustrated a playlist-oriented, algorithmic streaming economy while simultaneously capitalizing on the limitations of instagram videos makes whack world decidedly a product of its time.

and what a product it is.  watching the fifteen-minute project in its audio/visual form is obviously the intended method of consumption; whack’s world is a vibrant one that toggles between playful pastiche and snippets of sincerity, a dichotomy reinforced by the characters whack portrays in each vignette.  an exercise in limitation and unabashed originality, whack world is one of 2018’s truly unique releases.

tierra whack can’t be pinned down || stereogum
tierra whack is building her own world || the fader

video age – pop therapy

a quintessential album of the summer, video age’s pop therapy picks up right where the new orleans duo’s 2016 living alone leaves off, putting synths that previously sat in the background squarely at the center of their balmy new wave exercises.  the production across pop therapy is top-notch, with each song carving out its own little niche as ross farbe and ray micarelli steer their sophomore vessel towards its therapeutic destination.

pop therapy review || dimestore saints
comfort without a catch || the new orleans advocate

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video age – pop therapy

– featured image courtesy of sarah wagner –

staying on top of every new release is hard.  staying on top of every new release is even harder when your blog uses language that suggests multiple people are cogs in the machine, but really you’re just flailing helplessly by yourself, trying not to drown in a heavily-saturated inbox.  “fashionably late” is a remedy, an intermittent feature designed to showcase particularly special albums or EPs that evaded us (there i go again) during their structured press cycle.  next up is the sophomore full-length from video age.

A song of the summer is among the last bastions of the monoculture, something still largely dictated by radio play and its overall utility.  an album of the summer is a bit more fickle.  the latter isn’t as ubiquitous, in turn exponentially more subjective, and the date of its arrival a bit less indicative of its endurance.  pop therapy, the sophomore full-length from the new orleans duo video age, makes a strong case for contention as this year’s go-to album of the summer, its eleven tracks an instant portal to FM synth-laden, compressed guitar-driven sonic nostalgia.

on their 2016 debut, living alone, bandmates ross farbe and ray micarelli turned in a guitar-pop masterclass coyly disguised as a deep dive into 1980s synthesis.  its successor sheds any semblance of a veneer and puts its synths squarely in the foreground, with lush pads, aqueous bass lines, and brassy squelching leads all converging as an aural thesis for an incredibly timeless new wave exercise.

opening number “lover surreal” is a no-holds-barred take on this approach, a legion of yamahas cresting towards the crystalline cadences of the chorus, but the synth’s reign is often more subtle, machiavellian even: “days to remember” masquerades as the most immediate callback to living alone, only to be disrupted by a buoyant synth motif that instantly shifts the track’s tenor, while the gorgeous, understated fantasy “paris to the moon” is underscored by pulsing chord progressions and the soft detuned wanderings of sustained notes.

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admittedly, it’s rather easy to get lost in the glassy production and utmost care that farbe and micarelli put into the arrangements across pop therapy.  if the first listen is defined by the album’s immediate accessibility and awareness of what constitutes a memorable hook, then subsequent passes through can easily be dedicated to nuance, either by exploring each timbre in isolation or examining how they function in concert, often shifting fluidly from melodic to counter-melodic to rhythmic duties.  pop music is, for better or for worse, often defined by the applicability of its lyrics, however; video age don’t disappoint in this realm, either, turning in a booklet that demonstrates their understanding of a simple refrain’s impact alongside an introspective depth.

dealing in the wistful and the nostalgic is all but expected of a band with such a sonic palette, but farbe drills beneath surface level observations across pop therapy.  “hold on (i was wrong),” a mid-tempo number with the split personality of a dance track and a ballad, hones in on the minutiae of a concession; the fantastically-meta “echo chamber” makes references to its digital namesake while emulating the recording structure, the couplet “in my catacomb / slap-back telling me i’m not alone” solidifying its place as a studio engineer’s anthem; the gait and brassy synth swells of “scenic highway” converge on a portrait of a contemplative scenic drive.

as its title implies, pop therapy finds video age exploring the genre’s propensity for healing.  indeed, its title track contains their most direct and compelling mantra: “pop therapy / it’s easy.”  in an interview with the new orleans advocatefarbe pushes back on the cynicism attached to the concept of pop therapy, saying “it’s actually positive. i’m quoting ray here, but the ’80s music we listen to has a really victorious, heartwarming, enthusiastic feeling to it.  and it’s just these specific chord progressions a lot of times.  so ray said, ‘it’s easy! you can make yourself feel better by playing these chords.'”  with nearly two dozen songs under their belt to back up that proclamation, it appears that video age may be onto something.

video age – “days to remember”

– featured image courtesy of sarah wagner –

the new orleans duo video age have trafficked in lush, infectious synth-pop for a minute now; their 2016 debut living alone is a chilled-out, ten-track collection populated by washes of analog synthesizers and warbly guitar lines, its adroit vocal melodies providing the finishing touch.  tomorrow, ross farbe and ray micarelli will release their follow-up, pop therapy, its advance singles providing every indication that this full-length will be as enticing as its predecessor.

the latest of those singles, “days to remember,” finds video age riding a crisp chord progression, its titular hook augmented by a nimble guitar motif as it imprints its contours on auditory senses.  throw in a scene-stealing synth melody courtesy of collaborator duncan troast, and “days to remember” becomes the perfect vessel of fond recollection, its brief pauses providing just a tinge of melancholy.

pop therapy arrives tomorrow via inflated records.  check out “days to remember” below.