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Best of 2018: Kendra’s Top Discs, Diners, & Dogs

2018 was… something. If you’d like a voyeuristic view into the most intimate details of my struggles and triumphs over the last 365 days, you can check out this piece I wrote earlier in the year. If you want to know the music I listened to, the food I ate, and the dogs I cuddled to deal with 2018, then read on friends.

 

Top Albums of 2018:

10.) Direct Hit!Crown of Nothing (Fat Wreck Chords)

I’m not going to lie. Although this album came out in October, I just started listening to it a week ago. I’m fairly behind in my new music absorption. From what I hear, I like. But really, these guys could put out a LP of just farts sounds set to their trademark guitar and bass tones and I would probably be into that too. Goal for 2019: Interview Nick Wood’s daughter for the site.

9.) TurnspitDesire Paths (Dodgeball Records)

I snuck this LP onto my 2017 list since I had received an advance copy late into last year. Desire Paths was still on heavy rotation throughout most of this year as well. While the whole band is a force to be reckoned with, Gillian McGhee’s vocals and stage presence trumps most any others I’ve seen in a long time. Turnspit just recently finished recording new material, so fingers crossed for a new and highly anticipated album in 2019!

8.) JunebugsWho Are You Now? (Self-Released)

From the moment that I heard the intro to the first song, “August,” I felt like I already knew this band, this EP, and the songs on it. It’s one of those weird feelings were the music is inherently familiar without being a carbon copy of something or someone else. I love all five songs on this EP and cannot wait to see what these guys have in store for the upcoming year.

7.) The RidgelandsThird Times A Harm (Self-Released)

I’ve had this EP for what seems like three years. However, the band officially released it this year so now other people can finally sing along to “Concrete Shoes” besides just me. I keep promising these dudes that I will write a proper review for these handful of songs, and I plan to one day… probably in about three years.

6.) Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends (Run For Cover Records)

When I heard the single “The Opener” early in the year, I was floored. Never before had a song so fully spoken to past romantic relationships I had been in AND addressed comments I’ve received in casual conversation about being a female who is interested in music. I could not wait for the rest of the album to be released and, when it was, I devoured it over and over again with an insatiable hunger. I was never much of a Camp Cope fan before. I had tried, but I felt like they didn’t click with me. This was the album that made the connection. I have since gone back and re-visted their catalog and realized everything that I had been missing out on.

5.) Brendan Kelly & the Wandering BirdsKeep Walkin’ Pal (Red Scare Industries)

What a weird fucking album. I’m crafting the finishing touches on a more in depth review of this bizarre ten track journey, so I will refrain from going too much into detail here. What I will say is that this album makes me feel smarmy, like I should take a shower when I finish it. Also, leave it to Brendan fucking Kelly and his amazing marketing talents to create an ode to shitty margaritas that is not only catchy and somewhat clever, but actually has wormed its way so deeply into my brain that I start craving tequila as soon as I hear it, like one of Pavlov’s dogs hearing the bell.

4.) Dollar SignsThis Will Haunt Me (A-F Records)

I remember when Kevin and I discovered Dollar Signs. We were sitting around and listening to one of their first releases and we kept repeating the fact that we didn’t understand why this was not the biggest band in our scene. They say everything that we have thought about saying but never did in ways that are MUCH more clever than any stupid bullshit that would come out of our mouths. Wells apparently 2018 was the year that everyone else caught up. The band released their newest LP on A-F Records, they toured rather extensively, their Pre-Fest and Fest sets were absolutely jaw dropping, and Erik STILL hasn’t had margaritas with me all year. While This Will Haunt Me isn’t too far off from their previous albums musically, it does contain a fuller sound (especially live) since keyboardist/trumpet player/resident heartthrob Luke Gunn left LA and moved home. But really, the beauty of Dollar Signs lies in two things for me: the sharp wit behind the lyrics and the band members being great, amazing, hilarious people. So don’t change those things and you will always find me after your Fest sets, drunkenly and dangerously riding your hover board around parking lots with Regan Ashton. <3

3.) The CreepsBeneath the Pines (It’s Alive Records)

I have been planning to write a review of this album since its May release. But I always felt like I had not full digested it and needed more time. Of course, time has run out (at least for 2018) and I still keep finding hidden secrets that I love with every listen. I guess that sentence is probably more telling than a seven paragraph review anyway. When The Creeps released Eulogies in 2014, I thought they had hit their peak. I still listen to that album at least once a week; it’s fucking incredible. But Beneath the Pines is the perfect follow up to Eulogies. In a conversation with the band’s drummer, Jordy, he told me that they were just trying to make an album that sounded like them… a true version of them that shows their age. I think they captured that perfectly without losing their trademark sound or any interest from their fanbase.

2.) Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring MothersBought to Rot (Bloodshot Records)

This album managed to not only sneak onto my list at the last minute in November but also managed to resonate with me so much that it crawled its way up to the #2 slot. Mat and I were lucky enough to snag tickets for a very small and intimate show where Laura and the band played the new album along with the songs off the Heart Burns EP, a few covers, and “Happy Birthday” in celebration of Laura’s birthday that day. That show was the real nail in the coffin of me becoming obsessed with this album.

While many artists go off and start side projects that are essentially a dumping ground for songs that just didn’t ‘fit’ with their other band, the Devouring Mothers seems worlds apart from Against Me! On the surface, it’s pure Laura. But the lyrics and issues addressed here are much more in depth, filled with a much stronger narrator voice than even the strongest more recent AM! songs. It took almost 100 listens, but I even decided that I like the song “I Hate Chicago,” and if you know me and how I feel about my city, that’s saying something.

1.) The Shell CorporationFucked (La Escalera Records)

I reserved the #1 spot on my list for this album before it was even released in March. Singer Jan had slipped me the super secret private Sound Cloud link and I promised not to share. But fuck man, it was too good to not have someone to talk about it with, so I sent the link to Kevin and waited. It took less than an hour for him to text me back “Fuck” and away we went, gushing over how amazingly hard-hitting the LP is from start to finish. The lyrical content covers everything from the crumbling political state of the country to a relationship gone sour resulting in divorce all set to fast, loud melodic punk.

I listened to this album when I felt like my life was falling apart. In fact, there were days where I didn’t listen to anything else. And while I enjoy ever song on Fucked, nothing quiet hits me as hard as the track “They Live.” With lyrics like They’re cheering at Wrigley while I chew Tums / To quench the fire fed by too much drink / That quenches the fire fed by too much thinking, I am almost sure that Jan is writing a musical biopic of my life. I vote for a Midwest tour in 2019. Please!

 

Bands Who Released Albums That I Did PR For This Year But Felt Like I Shouldn’t Put On My Top 10 List Because Clearly I Believe In These Bands and Love the Work They Produce Or Else I Wouldn’t Be Promoting Them:

Four LightsKobayashi Maru (Bomb Pop & Stardumb Records)

And the winner of ‘Hardest to Spell Album Title’ Goes To…

SquarecrowBefore The Sun Catches Us All (La Escalera Records)

Winner of the ‘Longest Album Title Of 2018’ award

MoonrakerLanterns (Tiny Dragon Music)

Winner of the ‘Yo This Band Has Come A Very Long Way Since I First Met Them And I Am So Proud’ award

The EradicatorThe Court’s Closed On Christmas (Stonewalled, Underground Communique, & Programme Sounds)

Winner of every game he’s played on the D-Squash Ladder. Also, still one of my favorite live shows to watch.

 

Top Five Foods I Ate in 2018:

5.) Avo – Nashville, TN

According to the internet, I am a millenial. And apparently that means I like avocados. So when my friend Corinne and I found an all avocado-based restaurant on our road trip, we had no choice but to try it. While Corinne eats basically only meat and veggies, she was just as amazing and I was by the vegan cheese platter that I ordered. There was also this berry cheesecake that I would literally cut a limb off to taste just one more time.

4.) Freezy Drinks – Centro Cantina – Ybor City, FL

There is no better place in all of Florida than the freezy bar during Pre-Fest. For the past few years, I’ve camped out there before, between, and after bands. Am I not at a venue taking photos? Check the freezy drink bar. I said I’d meet you somewhere but never showed up? Check the freezy drink bar. Is it almost last call? Check the freezy drink bar.

3.) Skinny burritos from the Plaza – TJ, MEX

The last day of La Escalera Fest is always my favorite. The fair weather fans stay in San Diego as the rest of us make our way across the border hungover and yet hungry for more. Everyone we know in TJ has always been so amazing and accommodating. They always make sure we have food and that our drinks are full. This year, our group was at El Tigre in La Plaza Fiesta chugging down $2 Big Gulp sized mixed drinks with enough booze in them to stun a horse, when Alex (drummer for DFMK) ran off and came back with a bag full of vegan burritos. They were legit some of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Even Kevin, hater of all things vegan and vegetable related, scarfed them down with no complaints. I’m finding you at LE Fest 8, burritos. You will be mine again!

2.) Cheesebread – Pizza Pi – Seattle, WA

In April, I flew out to Seattle with only a few plans on my docket. I would see my pals in Four Lights play their record release show at the Kraken and I would get pizza and cheesebread from the place across the street. Little did I know that the pizza and cheesebread at Pizza Pi are the exact same size, so I ended up with two medium sized ‘pizzas’ smothered in white garlic sauce. I brough them back to the bar, sat in the corner where I hoarded both rotating between slices, and refused to share with anyone because I had never tasted anything so decadent. Was I drunk? Who me? Never.

1.) Literally any taco – Quesadilla La Reina del Sur – Chicago, IL

I go here at least once a week. I’m actually there either dining-in or picking up food so frequently that the whole staff knows both me and my mom. They know my go-to order and look shocked when I change it up. $10 gets you more food than you can eat. And it’s all amazing. Words of advice when ordering: Get the Tinga. Always add rice and beans. Green sauce > red sauce.

 

Favorite Dogs I Met in 2018:

(in the order I met them, because ranking them based on cuteness or personality is just impossible)

1.) Rolo the Skeedog

While I think I technically met Rolo a year or two ago, we became best friends this year. He is part of our Skeeball League which means I get to see him every Tuesday night. Here’s a photo of Mat (photographer, skeeball team member, and overall great human being) and Rolo during our skeeson finals.

2.) Ming the Pug

A little classy, a little flashy, and always hungry, Ming quickly became my favorite dog when he quickly established daily visits in my office after I started my new job. If my office door is ever closed when he is in the lobby, he will sit down in front of it and whine until someone opens it for him. I have his birthday written down on my calendar. My employees give me updates about him whenever I take time off work. Our love runs deep.

3.) Henry the Cavalier

Henry is the cutest, fanciest, laziest dog I’ve ever me. He also is part of my daily work dog visits. He arrives promptly at 3:15PM and has made a habit of sitting on my feet. His grey sweater is the envy of all other dogs in the Gold Coast. His favorite snack is Cheerios.

4.) Eric the Pug

Eric the Pug

I have met Seattle-based Eric only twice in person, but I follow him and his parents on social media. I’m pretty sure that we became best friends the first time he snorted snot on my hand outside the Kraken. Two pugs on one list, can you tell I love the smoosh faced dogs?

5.) Clark

Clark is part of the Counterpunch clan. I met him when Seattleites Erin and Shawn McClung were in town and we swung by guitarist Eric’s house between bar hops. Clark licked my face a bunch and then plopped down in the kitchen where I learned that his favorite phrase is “Is it for puppies?”

6.) Griffey the Corgi

From the moment this short, long creature crawled onto my lap during the first few minutes of a four hour drive, I knew that we were going to be best friends. In just a few short days, we explored in the sand and ocean, almost got hit by a scary car, snuggled and took some good naps, and hit up a bar for a night of partying. Griff even introduced me to his best friend, Spud. He is now my long distance dog and we FaceTime at least once a week.

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