2018 MIXTAPE INVITATIONAL PLAYLISTS
hunter R. Slaton
“I can’t do the best of the year. With the way music is, all its tentacles and insular channels, I am increasingly unable to feel like there’s legitimate rationale to say ‘best’. Music is personal, so instead, let me share what feels like it resonated with me this year - and yeah, critics add value by trying to assess that resonance against personal and cultural landscapes but to say what has intrinsic value… that’s personal. That’s why I appreciate everyone sharing their soundtracks to the year. I learn a lot. Some of you, I knew years ago and so it’s nice to hear how you change or experience from your sounds - and to those strangers I’ve not met, it’s nice to meet you through a love of the sonic. I’ve culled 10 songs that informed by 2018 and had a bunch of replay or are so innately tied to the experience as to get my exuberance all aflutter. With gratitude and joy everyday—Shane
“Tongue” - MNEK. A forward-looking throwback to classic house fulfilling my need to hear whispered vocals, syncopated nonsensical sing-along (a un/intentional reference to the classic “Din Daa Daa” or the great Aviance’s “Din Da Da”), along with unabashed appreciation of the black queer experience all through a lens of an artist who appeared to learn at the feet of a prime-era Janet Jackson.
“Bridges” - Aisha Badru. I can...not...stop crying. I just can’t. It’s the song that gives us all transition, lush, thick in strings and production (i.e. sap), but also strangely cathartic and intimate. She is talented live, she is a grand meshing of influence of 90s electronica and her own Caribbean-American roots.
“Burning Man” - Dierks Bentley. Country pop music is rarely the place one can look for some respite from the pop doldrums. This year, so many women have given us massively influential and powerful albums ranging from Pistol Annies to what will become a widely awarded Golden Hour from Kacey Musgraves (like the disco-country hit "High Horse"). And each of those has incredible, notable cuts as complete albums worth making the top of anyone’s list. I call this one out because men outside of alt country artists have been pretty much non-contributors to the move to make country music better than its racist-laiden, misogynist-dependent tropes. I feel like this infectious track is moving us a teeny bit towards greater self-acknowledgment. It’s a bootkicker, flagrant wielder of country rock all to say one can be a mix of things, vulnerable and fierce, capable of dogma and chaos. It might even be a little humility.
“Nobody's Biz” - Four Fists. I am a long-time fan of the Doomtree label, and so it’s no wonder this long-awaited album pairing the incredible talents of P.O.S. and Astronautalis produced an album that moves deftly from rap to near punk to even electronica on this opener. The video is a nice capture of the complexity and momentum, and the live experience of the pair of them on stage is a power-packed night of fun amongst friends. I’ve always admired fusions that feel natural on delivery, and this one achieves that for me. It's also a welcome return for P.O.S. who faced serious health issues and comes on strong here.
“I’m Here” - Tunde Olaniran. What? In one year three black queer men release albums that are unabashedly powerful, interesting, and authentic to their own influences and voice. Critics are going to get all up in the grill of serpentwithfeet (and they should - and you should!), Tunde is a midwest artist who produced an album that is strong on its sing-along while merging all the elements of pop cohesively. It’s daring where it needs to be, and songs like “I’m Here’ are purely anthemic and perfect for replay if you are feeling all hands-in-the-air for the night.
“Bittersweet” - Yellow Claw (w Sofia Reyes). This song makes me all happy as it bounces between beats and breaks. It is summer and it’s pure candy. You’re welcome.
“Lovely” - Billie Eilish and Khalid. I’m apparently a sap these days because when it comes to the slowburns, they are heavy on the strings and intimate vocals, so when this track breaks from its rich production to isolate the vocalists, I kinda want to grab something and hug it.
“Nont for Sale” - Sudan Archives. Electronic music has long incorporated the elements of African cultures, and I look at this as a beautiful evolution of those interests. It’s heady, confident, and movement inducing. Janelle Monae created an artwork this year that managed to intersect so many cultural influences, but this track from Sudan Archives felt to me like it connected in a less overt homage to pop while still making me snap some fingers.
“Malamente” - Rosalia. Tough to overstate how exciting it is to hear young voices looking to the past but bringing their whole new future-forward selves with them. This is a near reinvention of Flamenco, wrapping arms around the incredibly talented vocal stylings and elegant stylized treatments while bringing modern cadence, beats and themes to the foreground. The entire album is a fantastic voyage.
“All is Soft Inside” - Aurora. I know Robyn is getting all the attention for her fantastic return with Honey, but whereas that Scandinavian darling gets all the love for sparse quirkiness, I want to list up this Norwegian’s ethereal landscapes which are unabashedly cinematic, earnest, and not for everyone. Here, we get rich thumpiness and builds that catapult Bjork-esque lyrical chaos to foot-pounding swells. It’s cathartic for me, and in this era, I apparently need some Nordic-y equivalents of yodeling to dance beats.
Hardly an exhaustive list as I hear other artists missed in the year and some like the artist LP release albums late in the year but it’s a place to start :) Looking forward to others sharing some new discoveries!”