Here it is, WUOG’s 2018 year end list as voted on by DJs and staff members at the station with words from Tori Benes (outgoing Music Director), Stan Standridge (Music Director), Will Morris (incoming Music Director), Frances Newton (outgoing Local Music Director), Mason Cardwell (incoming Local Music Director), and Jack Memmer (incoming Local Music Director) .
10. Soccer Mommy – Clean
The last three tracks of Clean are powerful enough that if they had been released alone as an EP, it still would have been one of my favorite releases of this year. After trying to form a persona of the cool, detached girl, everything falls apart for Sophie Allison on “Scorpio Rising,” an intimate slice of narrative about losing the person you love and yourself along the way. Followed by an instrumental interlude and a hazy promise of recovery on closing track “Wildflowers,” Soccer Mommy has crafted what is possibly the best one-two-three punch of 2018. Clean is so much more than those three songs, however: there’s seven other bedroom pop gems on the record just begging to get stuck in your head, from the defiant indie rock stomp of “Your Dog” to the lofi folk of opener “Still Clean,” and the endlessly catchy “Skin” and “Flaw.” Clean is a touchingly honest piece of music, with a sense of authenticity that can’t help but capture your attention and make you feel something.
9. SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES
At its core, OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES comes down the idea of struggling with and understanding your own identity; it is believed by many that the album is an alternate way of saying I LOVE EVERY PERSON’S INSIDES. Before the release of this album, nobody knew who SOPHIE was or what she looked like. She never showed her face, and even went as far as to hire actors for shows. The release of “It’s Okay to Cry,” the lead single off the album, was a significant turning point in many ways. It was her first track to include her own vocals, the first time she revealed her face, and the moment she came out as transgender to the public.
This album is a turning point not only for her, but for pop music in general. Sophie’s album effortlessly balances heart-wrenching and beautiful ballads filled with genuine and vulnerable lyrics with heavy and hard hitting industrial pop. Songs such as “Pretending” even have elements of ambient music, with the closing track “Whole New World / Pretend World” mixing all of these genres in one nearly ten minute song. UN-INSIDES has the same gorgeous production you would expect from her, and it is clear how much care went into every moment of every track. Her pop sensibilities have never been stronger, with tracks such as “Immaterial” having an incredible amount of infectious energy, and tracks such as “Ponyboy” having this incredibly raw feeling and sound to them. In the end, it’s an album about being comfortable in your own body, or insides as she would say, no matter what that is or what that looks like. That is undoubtedly a very important message, and this is undoubtedly a very important album.
8. Kali Uchis – Isolation
On Isolation, it’s clear that Kali Uchis is feelin’ herself. When she asked you to “Just come closer, closer, closer, closer, closer,” on the album opener “Body Language” it’s like she’s inviting you into that mindset too. And with the luxurious atmosphere created by reggaeton, Brazilian funk, R&B, and jazz instrumentation, it’s hard to not get into it. Bilingual goddess Kali Uchis prances from track to track with high-caliber guest stars, calling out those who have wronged her, from exes (“Dead To Me”) to U.S. immigration (“Miami”). Between her songs of frustration, she also finds time spotlight romantic ecstasy (“Flight 22”). Kali Uchis leads this album with confidence and charisma, and with a sole listen, it feels like she’s giving us some of that sparkle too.
7. Idles – Joy as An Act of Resistance
I was never expecting Idles’ sophomore release to worm its way into my brain quite like it did. I quickly brushed off 2017’s Brutalism as the brand of post-hardcore tinged post-punk that never quite resonates with me. Joy as an Act of Resistance doesn’t flip the formula in any groundbreaking way, but hits you with some of the most infectious, scream-along ready hooks that I wasn’t quite prepared for. Joe Talbot’s aggressively English vocals touch on topics ranging from toxic masculinity, nationalism, self-love, and immigration, all with just enough tongue-in-cheek lyricism and one-liners to keep it interesting. It doesn’t hold back from the occasional emotional gut-punch either. “June” is a starkly honest track that expresses Talbot’s emotions after having a stillborn child. In less deft hands, this track could’ve felt awkward and out of place, but it works well here. While there’s some occasional brief lulls on here, no album title this year felt quite as apt as this one. Yelling along to lines such as “I put homophobes in coffins” or “this snowflake is an avalanche” or even a simple “yadda yadda yadda yadda, aye aye aye aye” make this an absolute joy to listen to.
6. MGMT – Little Dark Age
Little Dark Age is the fourth studio album by the band we all know and love—MGMT. The album moves away from where the band was in their last two albums. Where they once tried to stray away from the success of their first album, Oracular Spectacular, with strange shifts in their sounds that appealed to more narrow audiences, they now have embraced the sound of mainstream music with an upbeat sound and a funky use of synths. “One Thing Left to Try,” a song chock-full of synth rhythms inspired by the 80s, serves as a perfect example of this with it’s upbeat tunes perfect for a dance anthem. Despite it’s more chipper mood compared to the band’s previous works, the album makes sure to still make statements about the more morose parts of life. The title song, for example, takes a turn into a more goth genre and presents the listener with a dirge of throbbing synths and a wobbly bass while regaling them of the narrator’s depression. The album also presents the band’s negative view of excessive phone usage with the songs “She Works Out Too Much” and “TSLAMP” (Time Spent Looking at my Phone). It’s a bold move to put such views on an album that’s trying to appeal to the mainstream, but I’m a fan.
5. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Oh, what a world we live in that a pop country album could make a top five ranking on WUOG’s end of the year list. Genre dig aside, Kacey Musgraves more than earned this spot with Golden Hour and I doubt any pop country album in the near future will be even comparable. The production is crystal and Musgraves’ vocals are like silk. While a few goofy lines slipped in (“Grandma cried when I pierced my nose”), Golden Hour’s lyricism is nearly airtight, much of it detailing the feelings of not a hot, passionate love, but an effortless and almost innocent love: one that gives you butterflies. Golden Hour is like a blissful daydream, and wow, we are lucky that Kacey Musgraves chose to share it with us.
4. Sidney Gish – No Dogs Allowed
No Dogs Allowed, the second full length album from Boston-based artist Sidney Gish, is truly a triumph of pop music. The project is filled to the brim with infectious melodies, witty lyricism, and a whole bunch of angst. It’s the kind of album that gets better with every listen, and that is really easy to just blast on repeat. Songs such as “Sin Triangle” and “I Eat Salads Now” have been stuck in my head since I’ve first heard them, and I feel like they might be there for the rest of time. Where Sidney really shines is in how truly and unabashedly relatable she comes across here. She’s willing to make a joke at her own expense, and the jokes land almost every single time. She is the kind of lyricist who writes songs about things that could be mundane, but that evoke feelings we all have and situations we have all experienced. Alongside this, she has a weird variety of samples and vocal clips that go a long way to add a new layer to the already high energy songwriting. This album is easily the most fun I’ve had listening to anything all year, but also is a definite moment of growth with this being by far her most coherent and polished set of songs. Just do yourself the favor and listen to this if you haven’t already.
3. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts’ Wide Awake! revels in its funky party atmosphere through all of its nihilistic, 80s style post-punk revelations on the state of the world. “Violence,” with all its sharp socio-critical language about ATM machines, TV shows, and the “pornographic spectacle of black death” harkens back to the speechlike, driving songs of the New York post-punk scene in the 80s. “Tenderness” resembles another side of 80s post-punk, exemplified in bands like Orange Juice, with all its grooviness. In David Bowie’s absence, songs like “Back to Earth,” which really opens the album up, spark memories of his songwriting with its spacey musicality and vocal styling. “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” is by far my favorite song on the album: Andrew Savage singing “I’m in the chaos dimension, trapped in a brutal invention” over such exciting, chaotic instrumentation brings me so much joy, and the transition into “Freebird II” alleviates the tension in such a glorious way.
2. Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Be the Cowboy was my first real exposure to Mitski–I think I listened to Puberty 2 when it first came out, thought it was fine, and never revisited it. After seeing all the hyperbolic thinkpieces about Mitski this year (“Mitski Is the 21st Century’s Poet Laureate of Young Adulthood” is a real headline of a real NPR article) I decided to give it a shot, and while maybe I don’t feel the need to make the same grand statements, I am seriously kicking myself for not diving into her discography sooner. Mitski taps into what seems to be a generational sense of loneliness and existential dread on Be the Cowboy, with singles “Nobody” and “Two Slow Dancers” being some of the most impactful (and catchy) songs of this year. While her previous albums stayed pretty firmly in the indie rock lane, Be the Cowboy jumps recklessly from genre to genre, ranging from piano rock (“Me and My Husband”) to dance-y art pop (the aforementioned “Nobody”) to almost-but-not-quite country (“Lonesome Love”) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it barrage of brief vignettes. There’s been a lot of mixed opinions on the brevity of Cowboy (with 14 songs and a 32-minute runtime, there’s only two songs that breach the 3-minute mark), but to borrow a metaphor from one of many writeups praising this album, it feels to me like tapas: many small, unique courses that together make up a whole satisfying dinner. Be the Cowboy is direct, concise, well-performed, and it slaps like nothing else. Yeehaw!
1. Haley Heynderickx – I Need to Start a Garden
Haley Heynderickx earned quite a lot of praise here at WUOG especially considering no one could confidently spell or pronounce her last name. When you craft an album that glides from delicate instrumentation to gorgeous swells with powerful, introspective vocals like I Need to Start a Garden, it seems people will keep talking about said album, no matter how much they butcher your name. Thank god for that; Haley Heynderickx’s art should spread like wildfire. Few crafted albums this year that better dealt with nature, spirituality, and introspection all in one lyrical swoop (see “The Bug Collector”). Haley Heynderickx is upfront in standout track “Oom Sha La La”: some parts of her life have spoiled and she needs a fresh start. Coming out of a tumultuous year like 2018, many are in need of new growth and I Need to Start a Garden is a great soundtrack for just that.
I could rave on and on about what I love about I Need to Start a Garden. Haley Heynderickx’s powerful vocals falter at just the right moments. Every note played from every instrument feels like it was mulled over for hours, even on the dense cascading piano lines on “Show You a Body.” A lightly touched instrumental palette gives it a certain warmth. The brief moments where everything lets loose occasionally on here are sublime and cathartic all at once. But at the root of it all, and what makes this album stand above everything else this year, is the masterclass songwriting present throughout. Even if this wasn’t a majestic album in production and instrumentation, it’d still be incredibly well written and emotionally affecting. Immediately on opener “No Face,” Heynderickx weaves her metaphorical storytelling with simple, forward lyricism, all while alluding to the Miyazaki classic Spirited Away. Album standout “The Bug Collector” tackles what it’s like to help a person with their demons, all through a whimsical lens of catching centipedes, millipedes, and praying mantises. While this may not be the case for everyone, nothing this year resonated with me quite as heavily as this album. Everything melds together for an incredibly cohesive whole, and every single track on here makes me feel something. Weather it be overwhelming joy, sadness, or a mixture of both depends on the day. On the off chance that it’ll affect you in the same way, I can’t recommend it enough.
Haley Heynderickx really came out of nowhere this year. I never heard so much as a murmur about the Portland-based musician (whose debut EP Fish Eyes dropped two years ago) until her debut came out and blew the whole station away. So much more than typical singer-songwriter fare, I Need to Start a Garden’s mellow folk rock is accentuated by piano flourishes, trombone pulls, and Heynderickx’s desperate lyricism. The album, shrouded in uncertainty, dependence, and the inability to let go, climaxes in “Oom Sha La La,” an electric folk anthem of self-affirmation in which Heynderickx chants–almost yells–the album’s titular mantra in one of the most cathartic moments I’ve heard this year. Few albums in 2018 sounded this persistent, this meticulously crafted, and, though it’s cliché to say at this point, this human. I Need to Start a Garden really grabbed me this year, and I (along with the rest of WUOG) will excitedly listen to anything Heynderickx releases after this.
Haley Heynderickx is an artist I completely skipped over this year despite all the WUOG buzz. I can’t say I feel like I missed out. The first three songs are constructed with beautiful cooing over delicately finger picked guitar—the perfect soundtrack to some sunny daydreaming. The rest of the album just doesn’t sit right with me in its attempts to break out of its proto-Mothers/Angel Olsen/Joni Mitchell sonic mould like when Heynderickx yells “put me in a box” on “Worth It” and “I need to start a garden” in “Oom Sha La La.” It just seems like a lame attempt to give indie folk a feeling of urgency.
The first thing that should become apparent when listening to I Need to Start a Garden is how deliberate it all sounds. Every note seems placed with care and precision, every shake in her vocals striking a seemingly impossible mix of vulnerability and professionality. The album to me in many ways is made up of contradictions that on paper shouldn’t work. Lyrically, she mixes themes of burgeoning adulthood and all that it entails with a sort of childlike whimsy, especially present in songs such as “The Bug Collector” and “No Face.” On tracks such as “Oom Sha La La” she mixes gorgeous harmonies with much more raw and unfiltered vocal delivery in the latter part. All of this comes together to create easily one of the best albums of the year, and the album I have spent the most time listening to personally. Life is stressful, and what better way to escape that stress than through such a truly breathtaking album; who knows you might even get inspired to start a garden of your own.
I Need to Start a Garden by Portland artist Haley Heynderickx is an album that I only started listening to after it was on the top of the year-end list. While modern folk is not something I typically listen to, this album stands out among the genre and it will be definitely be on my list for 2019. The lyrics and rhythms perfectly capture the idea of a serene lark in the woods with the repeated motifs of insects and nature along with the way she accompanies her vocals with just the finger-picking of a guitar in many songs. With a play length of thirty minutes, she manages to bring nature, solitude, and honesty about her struggles together in a single album and that’s something that many artists don’t have the skill or courage to do especially in a short timespan, but she has both.
- Haley Heynderickx – I Need to Start a Garden
- Mitski – Be The Cowboy
- Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
- Sidney Gish – No Dogs Allowed
- Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
- MGMT – Little Dark Age
- Idles – Joy as An Act of Resistance
- Kali Uchis – Isolation
- SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’s UN-INSIDES
- Soccer Mommy – Clean
- Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
- Boygenius – Boygenius EP
- JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
- Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
- Lucy Dacus – Historian
- Kero Kero Bonito – Time ‘n’ Place
- Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
- U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
- Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
- Snail Mail – Lush
- Blood Orange – Negro Swan
- The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
- Beach House – 7
- Noname – Room 25
- Brockhampton – Iridescence
- Spirit of the Beehive – Hypnic Jerks
- Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
- Jeff Rosenstock – Post-
- Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
- Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
- Pusha T – DAYTONA
- Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
- Hippo Campus – Bambi
- Julia Holter – Aviary
- Caroline Rose – LONER
- Palm – Rock Island
- Denzel Curry – TA13OO
- Gorillaz – The Now Now
- Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
- Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
- anderson .paak – oxnard
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
- A.A.L (Against All Logic) – 2012-2017
- Tierra Whack – Whack World
- Hovvdy – Cranberry
- The Internet – Hive Mind
- The Voidz – Virtue
- Rico Nasty – Nasty
- Hinds – I Don’t Run
- Tom Misch – Geography