2018 | Steve's Best of the Year

2018 | Steve's Best of the Year

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

No, you’re not one too many eggnogs in, I said Thanksgiving.

I’ll tell ya why.

It’s the time of year that we find ourselves taking a step back and looking at all that presented itself to us throughout the last 365 days. In the music world, that often means a “Best of” list, but outside of that, it usually means taking stock of a whole host of other things. And this post might just be a combination of those two things, as while it’s obvious 2018 pushed forward just as much great music as years past, there’s a feeling of something deeper going on.

The past few years have seen resurgence in music that means something. Music that takes a stand, inspires change, and encourages action. This past year, though, music of that nature not only continued, it evolved. And I don’t just mean the notes coming out of our speakers.

We’re starting to rediscover the power of music to not only inspire, but to unite and heal. To bring people together not simply to resist, but to support.

Need proof?

Look no further than the work being done by organizations like Newport Festivals Foundation who are donating to music programs worldwide with the announcement of each artist playing the Newport Folk Festival. Of course, that’s just one example that’s close to my heart. You’ve also got folks like All Stars Project, Music Unites, VH1 Save the Music, and Music & Youth all taking charge in passing the mantle to the next generation so we’ll all have something worth listening to.

Heck, even The Walking Dead is talking about how music may have played a pivotal role in the evolution of humanity when we were able to harness its power to bring people together.

And you know what? As I sit here at the end of the year writing this, thankful is exactly what I am.

Thankful for all that music has brought to me. Thankful for all that those involved with the art continue to do to change the world. Thankful that I’m lucky enough to be able to go out and see live performances that make me dance, shout, cry, and sing.

This is the real Thanksgiving for me.

OK, enough rambling…

As the title promises, below is a bunch of my favorite music from 2018. And since we’re all in a rush at this time of year, I’m once again adopting the style of the #50WordReview for a few choice call-outs below.

And if you’d like to get a full view of what I’ve loved this year, go ahead and give this list a follow:

Here’s hoping 2019 hits all the right notes for all of us.
Be good to each other.

*raises glass*

See ya in the pit!

Pookie Baby — Prof

When I’d pretty much lost interest in any new hip-hop, Prof and Pookie Baby entered the scene like Andre the Giant. A highly entertaining, infinitely catchy, diverse album that I end up quoting regularly. I need more people to get those quotes, so please add this drop to your playlist.

LONER — Caroline Rose

Caroline Rose found it. Well, that’s not quite true. She created it with hard work. LONER presents a new version of Rose in an incredibly clever, well put together set of synth-driven rockers that rock twice as hard live as they do on the album. Each track is my favorite.

Glorietta — Glorietta

To make Glorietta, combine:

  • 6 Amazing Musicians
  • 1 New Mexico Hatch Red Chili Pepper
  • 2 Bottles of Tequila
  • 2 Bags of Heartbreak
  • 2 Pounds of Party
  • 1 Cup of Harmonies
  • 1 Sprinkle of Garth Brooks

Assemble on a small stage. Shake (sing, scream, cry) vigorously while consuming.

Enjoy completely recklessly.

On Trial — Josiah and The Bonnevilles

American Idol producers thought the story of a teen, living out of his car, trying to support his family and make it as a musician was the kind of story that would make Josiah Lemming a star. They producers were wrong. It’s his music that will make him a star.

The Tree of Forgiveness — John Prine

What can be said about John Prine’s popularity today that hasn’t already been said? Maybe the Singing Mailman said it best himself: “It took some of ‘em 45 years to get the joke.” But The Tree of Forgiveness is no joke album. As a matter of fact, it’s fucking fantastic.

By The Way I Forgive You — Brandi Carlile

I’ll admit it: I was late for the Brandi Carlile train. But I can assure that doesn’t mean I respect her or love her music one iota less than anyone else. By The Way, I Forgive You hits just about every perfect note—musically and subject-wise—that it possibly could.

How to: Friend, Love, Freefall — Rainbow Kitten Surprise

It’s been a fast five years for the college buddies whose name was chosen moments before an open mic performance. How to: Friend, Love, Freefall is simply the next step in a never ending progression for a band that evolves equally as fast. Oh well, that’s a story in itself.

Putting on Airs — Erin Rae

There’s a timeless beauty to Erin Rae’s voice and music that needs to be heard—live or on the album—to be fully appreciated. Rae’s dulcet tones are just as beautiful in person as they are on wax. One thing is for sure, she is definitely not putting on airs.

Providence Canyon — Brent Cobb

Anyone who thought Shine On Rainy Day was a fluke is eating (Black) Crow now. Songs with universal appeal sung with a perfect Southern drawl are the forte. When the Dust Settles, there’s a good chance that Brent Cobb’s name will be mentioned alongside some of “New” Country’s great singer-songwriters.

Loversity — Sam Lewis

Rhythm and blues, rock and roll, blues, folk, maybe even some country? Whatever it is that Sam Lewis uses to influence his musicianship is working. Baselines get your head nodding. Soulful lyrics / vocals turn the nod to a slow shake. No one will care when you play air guitar.

Tearing at the Seams — Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Are there musicians working right now who make music that is as consistently good as what Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats have been making? The soulful rockers did it again this year, keeping me into their new release from the opening riffs through to last note of the title track.


The Fearless Flyers — The Fearless Flyers

This side project (?) of Vulfpeck hits all the right notes, with sharp, funky playing from all the core members and guests like Blake Mills and Sandra Couch. If you Vulf and you haven’t started Flying Fearlessly, you’ve got work cut out for you. Guessing that won’t be a problem.

Surrender — Avi Jacob

There’s a quality to Avi Jacob’s voice and lyrics that keeps me coming back for more. It’s like each time I listen, I learn a little bit more about what makes the man tick. You’ll find absolutely no pretense here, but there’s a chance you’ll find a bit of yourself.


Stranger’s Bed — Glorietta

Over My Head — Matt Sucich

Wrong Side — Noah Gundersen + SISTERS

Our Friend Bobby — Donovan Woods

Purple Hearts — jeremy messersmith

She Haunts My Hideouts — Ike Reilly