Best of 2018: Kelly's Top 5 Picks

Posted by Kells, December 31, 2018 03:35pm | Post a Comment
It's that time of year again—the end! But before I dive into my five faves of 2018, I'd like to briefly salute Destiny's Child Kelly Rowland's new single "Kelly" for adding some much needed beef to the existing "Kelly" songs menu. It's a shameless strut of an anthem that blows the hatches off Air's sweetly space-crafted "Kelly Watch the Stars" and stomps the throat of Woody from Cheers' dopey "The Kelly Song". But for all it's sass (and "ass"), Rowland's "Kelly" can't surpass the scandalous charm of Del Shannon's wistfully two-timing "Kelly", not by my reckoning anyway. That's just this Kelly's opinion though, and, no matter what, it is good to know that that Kelly's "got flex", et cetera. In other words, i.e. her own words, "go Kelly go—go, go Kelly go"! 
Read on for more of this Kelly's opinions re: top five records of 2018, it's been one helluva year...

Dick Stusso - In Heaven
(Hardly Art)

I don't know who Dick Stusso is, but I'm convinced he's got it all figured out. His tight yet loose roadhouse-rock sound is so right, with heavenly guitar tones and twangy saloon piano interludes that sway and swagger over close-carpeted rhythms and far away vocals so in your face and from the gut it sometimes feels like an arm creeping 'round your shoulder to give you a sip and questionable life tips. Maybe it's too easy to say Stusso's got a little bit country of a rock'n roll thing going on, but that's a good place to start. Also, I don't really want to get political here, but anyone remember that time before the 2017 inauguration when folks were saying stuff like the incoming administration would make Punk great again? This review has nothing to do with that exactly, but as far as present times fostering better modern music goes, Dick Stusso’s In Heaven achieves the level of excellence I’ve been waiting for in terms of any silly "great again" shorthand beckoning a means to a musical renaissance, or something similar. Cue title and final track on the record for a come down fitting for a new year and a new you; may the things you like always last...

Various Artists
- Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights
(Numero Group)

Leave it to the tireless diggers at Numero Group to unearth and lovingly compile a buy-or-die collection of musty, dusty,  mid-century musical curios from the tiki craze heyday. This 3LP
 box set of deep Exotica, Jazz, Surf and other tropical novelties is easily the most crucial release of the year by my reckoning. With so many standout tracks and impressive behind-the-music research packed into it, I'd be hard pressed to highlight any way in which this label has not outdone themselves (yet again) with this project. Make mine a triple!

Cold Beat
- A Simple Reflection
(Dark Entries)

Sometimes the best obsessions come from flipping through records (an obsession in and of itself). This dreamy 7-song collection of Eurythmics covers began when Cold Beat front-woman Hannah Lew came across the Eurythmics' early works while digging through a bin of 12"s,
sparking an obsession that crystallized into A Simple Reflection. With tracks plucked from the Eurythmics' early b-sides, their In the Garden debut, and Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) follow-up, Cold Beat's reimaginings sound as fresh and organic as they play faithful to the original material, their synths and rhythms seemingly maintaining the bands' overall sonic trajectory while likely informing new directions to come. As always, Lew's high level of aesthetic taste is on display, this time exhibited playfully on the cover in a series of Annie Lennox-inspired looks.

Speaking of inspired looks, and given that songs from A Simple Reflection were featured in Moschino's Spring/Summer 2019 fashion show(!), I was thinking to button up this blurb by including show footage backed by Cold Beat's version of "Love is a Stranger", especially considering its lyric that delivers the word "obsession" so deliciously. However, because 2018 may be remembered as a peak year for RuPaul's Drag Race, what with the debut of season 10, seasons 3 and 4 of All Stars, and the "Holi-Slay Spectacular", I've to go with the show opener video featuring "Never Gonna Cry Again" and champion Ru girl Violet Chachki both on the runway and in the air! Feast your eyes and ears:

Various Artists - W2NG 89.9FM
(Numero Group)

If there were anything left field of Yacht Rock, this is it, volume two! Numero Group, bless them, unapologetically dropped this breezy, easy listener for Record Store Day 2018 along with a written middle finger to the romper-room, cash-grab antics of major labels, flippers, and store owners who they claim called the first RSD installment, WTNG 89.9 FM, their worst release ever. (For the record, it was my pic for best of 2012). Doubling down on this series came as a surprise following last year's excellent Seafaring Strangers compilation of similarly relaxed disco-folk-pop vibeage, but it is certainly a welcome one, and a deliciously effective FU of a listen at that. Whether you get your kicks measuring an arbitrary genres' offerings according to scales and gradients set by jaded comedians podcastin' from L.A., or simply seek some added thrust to your sparkling white Sausalito hot tub nightlife, W2NG 89.9 will do you, and do you riiight


Tony Molina
- Kill the Lights

A potent slab of folk-pop elegance, this short and sweet collection of melodic mood-rock tunes rides the same trail blazed by Molina’s 2016 Confront The Truth EP, but packs a little more plugged-in, full band heft in it's caravan. His lyrics and vocals remain as touching and tender as ever, while his skillful picking and impressive fret mastery seem informed by the likes of George HarrisonThe Byrds, and pre-Cucumber Castle Bee Gees on this release. A delight for this long-time admirer, I'm sure Kill The Lights will win over many new fans in its wake, and effectively shade any cowards or fools who would attempt to step to it. 

Final words for 2018: RIP Isao Takahata, brother Bourdain, my one and only Burt, and Illogical Contraption radio. Cheers to the new year and the promise of many great creations to come, like new moods from Kyle Field, Grace Sings Sludge, and Jessica Pratt

Relevant Tags

Best Of 2018 (11), Exotica (15), Destiny's Child (2), Kelly Rowland (1), Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights (1), Dick Stusso (3), Wtng (2), Eurythmics (7), Numero Group (14), W2ng (1), Cold Beat (12), Tony Molina (4)