Mark Smotroff's Top Picks For 2018 on Blu-ray, Vinyl, Tidal and CD (Part 1)

Wow folks, 2018 has been quite an emotional rollercoaster on so many fronts, I am thankful that I have had music to help keep my world in balance, especially through such turbulent times. This year we've welcomed some terrific tunes to escape reality for a while. Here is a  round up of some of my favorites which I've reviewed here on AudiophileReview.com.  You can read the reviews by clicking on the italicized sub-headers at the start of each entry. So much good music for the music fan on your holiday gift list or just for yourself

New Music

AR-StevenWilsoArt225.jpgTo The Bone -- Renown producer, songwriter, singer and Porcupine Tree founder Steven Wilson's great rockin' pop album was lovingly made with prog rock chops and an ear for melody. An homage of a sort to some of his favorite recordings from the 1980s, this album looks back with both feet in the future. Great tunes you swear you have heard before but you haven't...

Look Now -- Elvis Costello's fine new album features stellar collaborators like Carole King and Burt Bacharach, backing by his longtime amazing band The Imposters and some of the best songs he's crafted in recent memory. The vinyl sounds real nice too!  

AR-6StringDragTopoftheWorld225ttt.jpg6 String Drag - I love underdog bands and this group caught my attention with a fine rockin' new album and a reissue of their cult classic from the 90s. If you like Elvis Costello's trajectory circa King of America and Blood & Chocolate, you might like this. 

Childern Of Paradise -  Simply because it rocks -- and this world needs to have its butt rocked a bit more to kick it back into shape -- Willie Nile's Children of Paradise is the best album Bruce Springsteen didn't make this year and I mean that in the best possible way

Bird Streets - Fun fine new pop rocks from an artist you probably never heard of before, produced by someone you probably have: the great Jason Falkner. 

AR-AppleVenus225.jpgSilverlake - Thomas Walsh's latest Pugwash album is also a joyous pop blend this side of The Traveling Wilburys, ELO, The Beach Boys, XTC and The Dukes of Stratosphear. And while it technically came out in late 2017 my review ran in 2018 so thus its inclusion here.

Meklit - Global grooves, terrific singing, spectacular musicianship and lovely production for When the People Move, the Music Moves Too puts this Bay Area singer on my list... again! Even though this came out in 2017 (and I admit I snuck a preview onto  my best of list last year), my actual review ran in January so for me its OK to on my list and should be on yours too! Support local music!

Reissues

Apple Venus Volume 1 - It is SO so rewarding to finally hear this brilliant second-to-last XTC album in a higher resolution format (it was pretty much only available on CD previously). This new 200-gram vinyl reissue does not disappoint.  Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) is pretty darn grand too! 

AR-Pugwash225.jpgThe Olympus Sound - Pugwash's first time vinyl edition was sold out quickly so hopefully they will reissue it soon because it is so so good! Go sign up on their mailing lists to keep track of  new releases!

Lumpy Gravy Primordial - A fascinating look at the genesis of Frank Zappa's legendary first solo album that sounds wonderful on first ever vinyl release. Its also on CD and on Tidal. 

We're Only In It For The Money in Mono - Ok, so I'm an unapologetic Zappa fan and thus I'm including a picture disc on this list because its fun, not because it is an audiophile revelation. Actually, as picture discs go it sounds pretty great and it is the first time this album has appeared in Mono on vinyl since 1968 so that counts for something. Hotcha!

Oklahoma! - I include this simply because the reissue was done well and everyone should explore some of the classics of Broadway and theater to understand where things are today.  Hamilton didn't just appear out of nowhere!  This legendary show is a good place to start, perhaps the best place to start.

AR-OscarPetersonPlays22544.jpgOscar Peterson Plays - This five CD compilation of quite rare sides by legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson interpreting compositions from the first half of the 20th century is a bargain. Featuring the music of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and seven other renown composers from the period, getting 10 albums (from clean vinyl disc sources!) for thirty bucks is both a bargain and an instant education.  This is especially true as finding original LPs from this series in playable condition is not easy. 

In part two of this round up we'll look at the best of the boxed sets and super deluxe editions.  Stay tuned for more!

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