Q2 has officially ended, and the panic sets in. Have we gotten our requisite quarterly amount of clicks?! We’ve spent so many weeks breathlessly covering Kanye’s antics and dissecting everything through a Trumpian lens, we’ve almost forgotten entirely about our bread and butter! LISTS!

And so, at the dawn of Q3, thus begins the reign of the “Best (So Far) List” – A tradition spawned by the popularity of end-of-the-year Best Of lists but broken down into an even more arbitrary unit of time… the half year. Sorry, Albums Released on July 10th! Even if you’re the best, you’ll only end up on the Year End List. Good Albums from March? You’re in luck! You’ve got a solid shot at topping So Far Lists AND Year End Lists. Get that adulation, friends.

If you wanna break it down to an absolutely comical level, you can also slide over to the Fork for the seven best music videos from June of 2018. Wow. That’s quite a stack of specifics ya got there!

Here in Niche Land, we’ll leave the haphazard ranking of completely different types of music that serve completely different audiences and purposes to the professionals. But there have been a bunch of notable releases in Q1 and Q2 that have earned our blurbs of praise, and so it is.

Plus, we’re straight thirsty for the clicks! Just a little click, buddy! Not even a full press of the mouse; just a brush-by of a click, ANYTHING, MAN!  HIT IT!  SWEET CLICKITY CLICKITY!

 Middle Kids, Lost Friends: This debut is Bangertown, USA. Fitting right in with the greats of modern, off-brand country-dabbling, pop-punk-descended indie rock n’ roll, Middle Kids bring Hannah Joy’s bright and shivery vibrato and chorus-crushing abilities as well as music that merrily rocks and pops along, numerous songwriting tropes perfected. Epic hit after hit, like “Mistake” and “Maryland” and a lot of songs that don’t start with “M” fill the album to the brim and make me worry about whether or not they’ve burned through all of their material in their first go of it. Are Middle Kids an explosion, or are they a steady-burning fire?  Only time, and a sophomore album, will tell.  The band seals this particular deal with the thunderous closer “So Long, Farewell, I’m Gone” — I, for one, certainly hope they’re not gone! These anthems raise up my weighty spirit, and that’s a heavy lift. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’ll get the youths to sing along, arms up as if to collect with their fingers the floating joys drifting by in the sound waves.

The Pitch: Do you like songs? Catchy ones even?  You’ll probably like this album.

Typhoon, Offerings: While referencing everything from the 1958 short story “Flowers for Algernon” to Fellini’s 1963 film 8 ½, the Renaissance-era art concept of chiaroscuro (or bold contrasts between light and dark) to Ariadne, the Greek goddess of mazes, this concept album doesn’t lose the emotion of its story to a historian’s data set. The dense collection of orchestrated rock wanders through the mind of a man losing his memory and all the sadness and bewilderment that inevitably entails. Kyle Morton’s voice somehow sounds like its sucking inward and trembling outward at the same time. Without obscuring the feeling that he’s much too young to convincingly perform this storyline, his vocals do ground the songs in an earthy hurt. It’s not for everyone — Some may be put off by the earnestness and the at-times bombastic musical pathways through it; however, it’s always inspiring to see a young band striving to capture the complexities of human experience in a way that’s not necessarily in-synch with the money flow of the music biz.

The Pitch: A more intellectual Bright Eyes? Regardless, there are very moving passages in this suite that are well-worth your ear-time.

Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs: The first time I witnessed Wye Oak was as a Bowery Ballroom opener during their The Knot tour, and I was immediately hypnotized by Jenn Wasner, her face hiding behind ragged bangs, her viciously dark guitar work and contradictingly gentle sighed vocals. An idol was born and pedestalled as high as a Wasner falsetto. [Her lyrics showed up in my wife’s wedding vows, so this runs *deep*, friends!] Having drifted far from those grungy beginnings, with Jenn’s now-angelic voice flittering across the soundscape like a sparrow, dancing like the smallest candle flame in a light breeze, the tight and weird electro-grooves of this new album can’t be beat. It’s a summertime hit that’s too off-kilter to ever be a hit in the summertime. Just listen to the low-key bouncy title track, where a choir of Wasners sing you into Glory: “And we were jubilant!” Lyrically, these songs are brainy puzzles of beauty and longing, and they make my heart beat to the tempo. Credit is also due to Andy Stack who drives those drums hard and handles some synth duties simultaneously. Look, I can’t be counted on to judge this fairly; just listen to it, okay?  I’m gonna go gallop off into a grassy field now — Bye.

The Pitch: Sunny but slightly sad, this is perfect to bump to at your more intimate summer rooftop picnics. Or maybe through your headphones on a rainy day that needs to brighten the fuck up!

Loma, Loma:  This new combo group serves up the perfect blend of Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater’s lyricism and Cross Record’s jagged ambiance. Only Meiburg would use the word “anodyne” more than once in a song (“Dark Oscillations”), but it sounds natural enough coming out of Emily Cross’s smooth vocal instrument. This is traveling music that’s equal parts soothing and tense, trotting along at an animal speed, loping and sprinting and stopping at times to gaze at its horizon. Sometimes it’s fogged over with horror and dread (“White Glass”), other times dreamy and lit by the last rays of a day’s sun (“Shadow Relief”). Odd instruments, field recordings of frogs and dogs and what-have-you, plus a driving rhythm section will keep you in your headphones on this one.

The Pitch:  Good soundtrack for a daydream.

Jim James, Uniform Distortion: Despite any grudges you might hold against the My Morning Jacket frontman for his kinda dumb “Yim Yames” days, this new record is a goddamned delight. It even squeezed an appropriate albeit not necessarily positive review out of Rolling Stone! [Jim James doesn’t have those U2 dollars to purchase the *best* reviews after all.] Reviewer Will Hermes raves “intentionally half-assed”! It “fucks with his angel-in-a-grain-silo voice”, and you probably won’t “remember any of it by morning” – And this is all to its benefit! James rocks plainer and harder than he has in a long time, dabbles with an odd lisp for some reason, giggles at random moments (infectiously, I might add), and you’d swear it was a random garage recording if it weren’t for the spot-on back-up vocals evening out the roughness of the mix.

The Pitch: Get in your car and toss it on. My Morning Jacket fans can come for “Throwback.” Road-ready rock fans can come for the rest!

And finally, if you’ve somehow gotten away with not listening to Drake’s Scorpion, then congratulations! What site’s gonna put together a list of “The Albums You Really Don’t Need To Listen To (So Far)”?  #Drake #Scorpion #DrakeKilledX #ClicksPlease

Join us next time for “The 100 Greatest Songs from the Past 10,000 Years” and the “28 Best Post-Pop Synthcore Monster Hits Released in the Past Minute.”

 

David C. Casey