Well, here it is, Mr. December, yet another year, yet another year-ending list.

And what more can be said? We want to be free. We want to be free to do what we want to do. We want to be free to ride. We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by The Man. And we want to get loaded!

Now, let’s roll.

Record of the Year 
Will Oldham – Songs of Love and Horror

Everyone’s favorite indie-folk troubadour par excellence releases another collection of re-imagined songs from the Palace and Bonnie “Prince” Billy catalogues. The antithesis to 2004’s lustrous and (intentionally) over-produced Sings Greatest Palace Music, Songs of Love and Horror features a carefully-mic’ed Oldham and Oldham alone — guitar and voice, no multi-tracking, all the emotions worn right on the sleeve. Never before has this enigmatic Louisvillain sounded so vulnerable or so human. Ten fucking stars.

Most Ambitious Outing
Low – Double Negative

We should’ve seen this coming down the pike three years ago with Ones and Sixes. Low delivered a knock-out performance on this year’s exceptionally dirgy, experimental addition to its impressive canon, and angled to re-craft some of the optics of post-rock as a result. Breathtaking stuff. 

Best Reissue (Tie!)
Calexico – The Black Light: 20th Anniversary Edition
Jeremy Enigk – Return of the Frog Queen

Both the Enigk and Calexico LP sets were reminders, two decades on, of where these artists cut their teeth — Enigk after the first dissolution of Sunny Day Real Estate, and Burns & Convertino previously on loan from Howe Gelb and Giant Sand. Both were lovingly remastered, sequenced and given the anniversary treatment. Both are gems well worth the investment.

Best Debut
Exhalants – S/T

Austin’s Exhalants follow Reno’s Elephant Rifle and Pittsburgh’s Microwaves (more on that later) with a potent, heady brew of explosive punk, angular pig-fuck exercises, and dramatic art-rock. If Touch and Go was still active — Corey Rusk, SAVE US! — these guys would most assuredly make the roster. Recommended.

Best Comeback
Papa M – A Broke Moon Rises

Okay, okay, so I wasn’t a fan of Highway Songs. After that awkward and ultimately disappointing cry-for-help LP, David Pajo — legendary scenester of Slint and Tortoise, both drool-worthy resume notches — returned with an understated acoustic gem, his best record since Whatever, Mortal more than a decade ago. Forever may he roam.

Best EP
The Elephant Parallax – Loam and Sky

Yeah, some of this four-song EP is less than exceptional but when these guys get churning, time signatures and soaring guitars tremble in the wake. Worth downloading if only for the epic final track.

Three Incredible Pittsburgh LPs To Fill Out The List
The Lampshades – Astrology
Microwaves – Via Weightlessness

Three excellent Pittsburgh bands with impressive pedigree, and three excellent full-lengths to define the Year of Our Peduto 2018. Lampshades crafted ingenious trash-art spectacles, Microwaves managed to record a Three One G release that sounds like a Best Of collection, and Bat Zuppel put aside some of the rollicking for a little more melody. (But still, um, plenty of rollick.) These are three regional releases that, if there’s any justice left in the nether regions of the Interwebs, will transcend Allegheny County and kick listeners outside Pennsylvania square in the teeth.

By Justin Vellucci

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer at MusicTAP and Popdose, a contributor to Pittsburgh City Paper and Punksburgh, and a former staffer at Delusions of Adequacy and Punk Planet. His music writing has appeared in national publications such as American Songwriter and PopMatters, alt-weeklies The Brooklyn Rail and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.