I’m in no position to say what 2018 was the year of. This site isn’t so much an endeavor in music criticism as the journal of a personal aesthetic journey. I’ve been obsessed with music since I can remember, and here, I’ve made a signpost of where almost 40 years of omnivorous listening has lead me.
If I’m allowed to pat myself on the back (just a little), I feel like I’ve yet to fully surrender to nostalgia. While there are bands I’ve followed closely for decades here (read: Autechre), almost every one of these recaps has included names that were new (or new to me). Granted, I still refer to Field Music as a ‘new’ band, but they’ve been around for 15 years (and have appeared regularly in my recaps for a decade, now).
For some time, I’ve been tracking, what I found as a glimmer of something new, in music. Since about the late 90s, music has been awash in retro-fetish. Not to say all of it is a rehash, plenty of artists, like Shopping, are revisiting the past to build upon it. There was this new thing brewing, though.—this sound that I can’t call a ‘style’ because it’s central premise seemed to be a disregard for the boundaries between styles. These artists weren’t mashing things up, they were making seamless hybrids—or better yet, uncovering the hidden connections between genres a layman like me had never noticed.
For me, 2018 was when this fascination blossomed into obsession. A healthy portion of the albums I’ve included here fall into this category: Ashley Paul, Hen Ogledd, Ben Vince, Sandro Perri and especially Eric Chenaux.
I first heard Eric Chenaux on his 2012 album, Guitar & Voice—which is an entirely accurate title that gives you no clue as to what you are about to experience. He’s appeared regularly in my year-end round-ups since, but Slowly Paradise felt like the one I don’t want to live without.
Slowly Paradise is a beautifully confusing album that doesn’t so much balance contradictions as refutes their very existence. To paraphrase the Quietus’ apt review: Chenaux’s love of Sade in no way conflicts with or confuses his love of Derek Bailey.
I would argue Slowly Paradise is a capital-z, Zen, album. It plays both outside and inside in perfect simultaneity, to show us that there is no in or out to speak of. And all the while, still manages to have some memorable hooks along the way.