2018 had nothing on 2017 in terms of quantity of amazing releases (seriously, 2017 may have been the best year for new music since the 90’s). However what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.
My favorite releases from 2018 were quite selective, but dominated my listening habits.
#5 Chvrches - Love is Dead
This album took me a bit to come around to. There were some songs that grabbed me straight out of the gates (Heaven/Hell, Really Gone, Forever), but thanks in part to my daughter, I came to love the entire album. For whatever reason she absolutely loved Miracle, and then from there moved on to asking to listen to *nothing* else other than Love is Dead when we were in the car. After dozens (hundreds?) of listens, this album has become the gold standard for Chvrches in terms of audio quality. (It still hasn’t replaced Every Open Eye for my favorite, but it’s really close).
#4 Jim Marcus - Wonderland
The first of two Jim Marcus projects to make my top 5 from this year, and a testament to the multifaceted talents that he brings to the table. Wonderland is Jim stripped back, it’s a much more reflective, personal, and raw album. If you were a fan of Die Warzau’s quieter moments (such as those on Convienence, which by the way, is finally available again. It had been a nearly impossible to find release, and now in on Bandcamp in both digital and physical form, and which I cannot recommend enough) this album is for you. Or if you just love music period. This is Jim removed of expectations that he sound like “x”. This isn’t Die Warzau, this isn’t Go Fight, this isn’t even Jim as producer/mixer/guest… this album feels like Jim as artist.
Tracks like Radio, just shine, and honestly, even without Jim’s personal stories (which he has been slowly writing, in excellent, superbly presented and written form, though his Facebook page) you can feel and hear the emotion and passion that went into these songs. And speaking of Shine (and Convenience), Jim “covers” Shine, and it’s flipping amazing. I spent the first few months of 2018 sleeping and listening to this album and played with me on many travels.
#3 Nine Inch Nails - Bad Witch
I saw NIN 5 times in 2018, and I’d be lying if I didn’t obsessively listen to this album for at least some portion of the year. It’s my second favorite of the Triad (the three release which lack a proper collective title, though I think of them as ‘The Presence Triad’) after Add Violence, however that should not take away from this release. Shit Mirror is one aspect of Nine Inch Nails defined and clarified. Raw, aggressive, catchy, and built for live performance. Ahead Of Ourselves similarly is in tune with this new incarnation of NIN, and then Bad Witch does something no one expected, and steals a page from Bowie’s Blackstar, and Trent and Co channel the jazz influenced mood of Bowie’s final release. And to everyone’s surprise. It works. It’s recognizably NIN, fits the album, and when performed live, is stellar. Play The Goddamned Part and God Break Down The Door are both amazing tracks, I’m Not From This World and Over and Out are both long form pieces which draw themselves out and showcase NIN as musicians. This album was out of left field, and honestly is an evolution of NIN and all of their influences over the years.
#2 Project Pitchfork - Fragment
In other years this would have easily been my favorite record of the year. This is maybe the best release from Project Pitchfork ever, it is perfectly produced, tells a story throughout, and is danceable from start to finish. This album lived (and continues to live) in my car with me when I drive. And Hearts Got Wings might be my favorite track by them ever.
#1 Go Fight - Tokyo Sexwale
Tokyo Sexwale is to modern electro/industrial as Die Warzau’s Engine was to the same genre in the 90’s. Go Fight knocked it completely out of the park with this album. Political, modern, forward thinking, and unapologetic in its ethos. Striking, multicultural, aggressive yet poetic, and bombastic with its musical approach. Some things feel the same and others are very much new. Go Fight is Jim Marcus’ primary musical outlet these days, and it fills the wake left behind Die Warzau, but doesn’t always follow it.
Sometime around the time of the last truly major federal election Go Fight released a single which ended up on this album (“Pussy”), and I’ll be honest, musically that song kind of sets the tone. Also worth noting is that It isn’t the only political song featured on Tokyo Sexwale, hell, it’s not even the most political song.
This album comes out swinging with Welcome to the Future. And even without the admissions from Jim and the band that this song is a throwback to his first ever single (Die Warzau’s Welcome to America), it’s clear that there is some animosity that in the intervening nearly 30 years (ed note: Jesus, really?), we’re fighting the exact same issues as a society.
From there things get seriously ready for the nightclub with Monster. This would be your first reminder that Jim is effectively a godfather of the Chicago industrial scene. The production values at play here are awe inspiring and you can instantly tell that this is not a band who is calm, or who wants a calm audience.
The next highlight from the album is the wonderfully titled Another Fucking Love Song. (Which has some of the best imagery ever for its promo campaign). This is where I remind you all that this is the same Jim Marcus who demonstrated and operated a dildo modified reciprocating saw repurposed as a sex machine in a university classroom. That might be relevant when considering the subject at hand.
Then comes the most political song on the album. Thin Blue Line is… well, so the lyrics are the dying words of many victims of police brutality. Literally. He’s made a song with the words of:
And it’s a catchy fucking song too. It’s hard because I can’t separate the message from the song.
Chemical is my official “driving fast at night with the windows down” song of this album. It’s very much a 4/4 verse chorus verse industrial rock song. Predictable yet sultry bass, everything is synchronized, the song pulses with energy, and it also starts a section of the album where everything hits full stride and does not let up for quite a while.
Next up is You Are The Drug, which I do wonder if this is the song that Jim sought out to write when writing Chemical and ended up with two songs, or if this is the case of two songs just coexisting which tell similar stories in familiar ways. (Admission: songs about people as addicting factors, whether written by Jim, Chris Randall, or Taylor Swift, will always get a thumbs up from me… it’s just how I’m wired).
And then we get to Pussy. This song… I love this song. (And the beat goes on… if you’re running to this album you’ve just covered more than a mile to effectively the same beat).
And then the beat steps up, and we reach my favorite song of the album, Queer The World. It’s kind of a typical anthem format. Stadium ready drums, multilayered vocals, “na-na-na-na” style accompaniments, it just happens to be about having sex with a diverse range of people.
By now, on this metaphorical run, your legs are feeling the burn of many many songs with rhythms and beats made to make you move… but the album does not yet let you pause. Though I will say that Civilized does at least give you a moment where you can finally jog at a breath friendly pace. Unless you’re like me and singing along silently as you run. Then you try to run with the damn beat and let the lyrics motivate you.
Assuming you survive all the way to American Superman you are rewarded with a reminder of the element of funk that Die Warzau was recognized and known for. But with gofight’s trademarked electroscuz brand all over it.
And let’s hope you are in full cool down effect for Don’t Stop, because it takes the elemental approach from The Blue Line (and might actually have the same beat), and clobbers you with it. This song is a reminder that gofight does not let up.
The closing track of Gods Tonight is, at least based on the lyrics, meant to be the road trip, driving at night, seeking a destination, and it feels like a coda. Simultaneously restrained and freeing. A bit of a personal anthem… closing with the repeated refrain:
But don’t don’t give up
Don’t give up
Don’t let em get you down
Though they’re gonna let you down
We are gods tonight
Which, honestly, based on everything I know about Jim, is a pretty solid ending from him.
I wrote about Jim Marcus’ previous band (Die Warzau) when I was first starting this attempt at reinvigorating my music writing. In a world of artists who used their voice, Jim and company stood out as artists who stood behind their voices. But that wasn’t only if you listened to the lyrics, or cared to read the interviews (or in this day and age, follow them on social media). It was part of their message. Which is to say, the more some things change, the more some things stay the same, and in this case, it is a testament.
Gamecat235 was a music reviewer once upon a time, has been listening to music of all walks for just about his entire life, and has far too many CDs, not nearly enough records, and befriends DJ’s very very easily. This series was started when an online discussion made him realize, yet again, that he knew more about the music he loved than he really had any reason to, and that he missed writing about it. You can find him online all over the place, but he’s most active here. Have any songs or albums that you think everyone should know about, but no one does? Share them in the comments!
You can follow the link http://kinja.com/tag/songs-ever… to see all of the posts in this series.