The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2018

David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Tim O’Shea

We have to be honest: 2018 was kind of a weird year for music. Sure, there were some major highlights — many of them listed below, in fact — but we also saw a serious changing of the guard. The decline of mainstream rock and the continued rise of hip-hop, R&B and pop was more noticeable than ever, from this year’s Coachella lineup to the cancellation of FYF Fest, making us wonder what the next twist or turn will be for the industry now that the demand for EDM has started to cool off following its boom circa 2012. That said, we still listened to a lot of new albums and caught plenty of concerts over the last 12 months, and it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done over the past several years (see our 2017 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2018.

See our favorite performances from 2018 here.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2018:


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018 // Photo courtesy of Coachella

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – February 17th
Just more than two months after his infamous assault on a photographer at The Forum for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme made his return to the LA arena for a proper, sold-out affair with UK rock duo Royal Blood delivering what proved to be a headbanging opening set. From there, it only got better as Homme and the boys dazzled with a headlining performance that even included Villains producer Mark Ronson sitting in for most of the five-song encore and the band’s live debut of its “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” cover. You can bet Elton John, whom Homme actually collaborated with during the writing and recording of QOTSA’s sixth album …Like Clockwork, would have been proud. I always know when I’ve seen a good rock ‘n’ roll show because my neck will be sore the following day, but after this one, it was sore for the next three days. Ouch.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – December 12th, 14th-15th
3. Jamiroquai at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 13th
4. David Byrne at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – August 24th
5. Foo Fighters/Nirvana reunion at Cal Jam 18 – San Bernadino, CA – October 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Jungle – For Ever
Unlike previous years, picking a favorite album in 2018 wasn’t quite as easy for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t hear every one that was released this year, but I listened to a lot of them. So, call me boring and short-sighted if you like, but nothing totally knocked my socks off. After much deliberation, it was Jungle’s sophomore LP For Ever that stood the test of time for me (no pun intended). The English soul collective’s follow-up to its 2014 self-titled debut doesn’t veer off in a completely different direction from what came before, but it still moves the sonic needle forward enough. After two full lengths, Jungle have shown a knack for writing catchy, dance-fueled tunes that transport you to a different time and place — even if it’s only for a three- or four-minute stretch.

2. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
3. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
4. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
5. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Nine Inch Nails – “Over and Out”
When I first listened to Bad Witch, I immediately knew this one was my favorite track on the album. But hearing it performed live on the final night of NIN’s “Cold and Black and Infinite” North American tour sealed it for top honors in 2018. Layering a brooding, yet funky bass line on top of a glitchy, experimental beat, Trent Reznor shows that he isn’t just playing it safe and merely saving his creativity for scoring films with bandmate and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. You can tell Reznor had his late friend David Bowie in mind when he wrote the song too as he conjures up an even deeper baritone from behind the microphone than the one we have come to know over the last 30 years.

2. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
3. Jungle – “Heavy, California”
4. Wild Nothing – “Partners in Motion”
5. The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”


Richard Russell - Everything Is Recorded

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – August 16th
In support of his seventh solo album American Utopia, musical virtuoso David Byrne hit the road for one of this year’s most creative and ambitious tours. Over more than 150 dates that spanned the entire globe, the 66-year-old delivered Broadway-caliber performances with a traveling 11-piece band that served as a traveling retrospective of his solo and collaborative work. Meanwhile, the tour also doubled as a platform for him to deliver his “Reasons to Be Cheerful” manifestos on civic engagement, climate/energy, culture, economics, education, health, science/technology and urban transportation. He partnered with HeadCount while encouraging audiences every night to engage in public discourse through social media and their own personal stories on his website. And as a result, Byrne elevated the concert-going experience into more of an interactive, performance-art space that his fans became a living, breathing part of.

2. Young Fathers at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 10th
3. Erykah Badu & Thundercat at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – February 14th
4. Beck at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
5. LCD Soundsystem with TV on the Radio at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – April 27th-28th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Richard Russell – Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell
A multi-artist project released as the debut album of XL Recordings founder Richard Russell, Everything Is Recorded is collaborative effort representing the ties between past and present sounds currently shaping the framework of hip-hop, funk and soul. Featuring collaborations with Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Syd, Damon Albarn, Peter Gabriel, Ibeyi, Obongjayar and more, the album also plays as the soundtrack to a 30-minute film, which documents the time each spent in the studio during its conception and is interspliced with archival footage of Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield. With its underlying themes of loss and isolation, Everything Is Recorded effectively communicates Russell’s emotional journey as he battles a debilitating autoimmune disease in hope of finding salvation through the shared experience of creating a beautifully mastered piece of art.

2. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be
3. Pusha T – DAYTONA
4. Robyn – Honey
5. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
If any song embodied the insanity and collective discontent of 2018, it was definitely Childish Gambino’s epic single “This Is America”. The juxtaposition of an a cappella choir leading into Donald Glover’s soft crooning over island beats and drum samples before staunchly diverting to a menacing base line reminiscent of 90’s gangster rap — as well as the hortative delivery of degrading lyrics about the current state of violence and American ideals — is near-perfect. Of course, the provocative music video that accompanied the track’s surprise release during his “Saturday Night Live” debut was incredible. The song, lyrics, video and marketing campaign could not have been a more flawless “slice of life” reflection of modern American society and justifiably has boomeranged into probably the most important moment of Childish Gambino’s career so far.

2. The Presets – “Downtown Shutdown”
3. Jon Hopkins – “Everything Connected”
4. Jungle – “Casio”
5. Parquet Courts – “Wide Awake”


Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Jazzfest – New Orleans, LA – April 29th
You know what they say: the first time is always the best. With David Byrne’s 2018 “American Utopia Tour” being universally acclaimed as one of the most enigmatic live shows of the year, it’s not surprising to see it top other “Best of” lists. Byrne and his merry band of “unplugged” pranksters created a feast for the eyes and ears, and his daytime set on the Gentilly Stage did not disappoint at all. While his Fox Theater Oakland shows were more intimate and featured some more dynamic lighting features, his performance at Jazzfest back in April was the most memorable for NOLA revelers.

2. Jamiroquai at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – April 17th
3. Polo & Pan at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – June 20th
4. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 4th
5. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 2nd

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
What a banner year for this Texas trio! Khruangbin have been on a steady rise the past few years as they turn on the masses to their infectious amalgamation of psychedelic soul, Thai surf rock and subtle funk. Having cemented their reputation as beasts in a live setting, Con Todo El Mundo proved their knack for penning tunes of equal strength with its emotive first single “Friday Morning” serving as a clear standout. “Evan Finds the Third Room” has also become a fan favorite, and the accompanying music video only lends to its growing charm. The sky’s the limit for Laura, Mark and DJ, so grab your ticket to fly.

2. Hookworms – Microshift
3. Amen Dunes – Freedom
4. Shame – Songs of Praise
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Jonathan Wilson – “Trafalgar Square”
LA producer-turned-frontman Jonathan Wilson churned out one helluva album opener for his third solo LP Rare Birds, as this six-plus-minute romp has all the right pieces for true liftoff. A proper intro leads into a riff so heavy that it’ll break your mama’s back. Top-notch production is key to this track, as Wilson is a wiz behind the boards. As you cruise down the 405 with this whopper blaring, you’d be hard-pressed not to nod along. Extra points for those of you with a 1970’s convertible, too.

2. Tom Misch – “Water Baby” feat. Loyle Carner
3. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
4. Jonathan Something – “Happy Day”
5. Men I Trust – “Seven”


Shame - Songs of Praise

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. The Smashing Pumpkins at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – August 27th
The Smashing Pumpkins are the quintessential 90’s arena-rock band, and they fully lived up to that billing at Oracle Arena for their Bay Area stop over the summer. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and although this time it was pegged as a “reunion tour” (minus D’Arcy, sigh), you never know what you’re going to get from them. Billy Corgan led the band through over three hours’ worth of material with some killer stage production to go with it. The show was definitely a marathon, but totally worth being there for. It came to light later that Corgan was also fighting off a bad case of food poisoning, but it didn’t show. It was great to see James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain back onstage, too — the way it should be.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 3rd
3. Against Me! & Turbonegro at UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA – May 25th
4. Alkaline Trio at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – October 6th
5. Back To The Beach Festival – Huntington Beach, CA – April 28th-29th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Shame – Songs of Praise
This album hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way. I had heard a ton of hype around Songs of Praise before giving it a first listen, and usually I am a healthy skeptic, but good Lord, does this record rip. It has a dark flavor and carries with it a lot of angst, and you can’t help but get caught up in the hooks that Shame offer. These five lads from South London simply killed it.

2. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
3. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
4. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
5. Snail Mail – Lush

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Shame – “Concrete”
Conjuring up the ghost of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis without sounding like a complete poser is challenging for newer post-punk bands it seems — except for Shame’s Charlie Steen. Paired with some brilliant instrumentation, I just couldn’t stop listening to “Concrete” when I first heard it. I must have listened to the track a solid 10 times in a row on the first go. This song has an infectious quality to it and is a straight-up ripper.

2. The Soft White Sixties – “I Still Love You, San Francisco”
3. Hot Snakes – “Six Wave Hold-Down”
4. IDLES – “Colossus”
5. The Sword – “Come and Gone”

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New Music Tuesday: Tyler, The Creator • Alkaline Trio • Cold War Kids • The Black Angels • Charles Bradley

Tyler, The Creator - Wolf

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


Tyler, The CreatorWolf

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Jamba”
“Colossus”
“IFHY”

Album Highlights: “Wolf” opens Tyler’s new album, flexing his pension for odd intros before bursting into “Jamba.” At this point, you are either nodding along with the analog-sounding beat and rhymes or have turned off the album in disgust. This is the nature of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All’s ringleader. Love or hate him, Tyler has churned out a stylish album full of profanity and confessional sincerity. “Slater” features the smooth vocals of Frank Ocean, just one of many guests, including most of Odd Future along with Pharrell Williams and Erykah Badu.

Album Lowlight: As long as you can take his obscenity with a grain of salt, realizing this is his “art,” you will enjoy this album if a fan of off-kilter hip-hop. Many people may write off the whole thing as juvenile, but once you look past that there is lots of fun to be had on this release.

Takeaway: Wolf is a wild romp of an album, as is to be expected from the off-the-wall personality that is Tyler, The Creator. The pace of the album is a bit reserved, which is refreshing coupled with the blistering baritone voice of Tyler. Maturity may come slow for this crew, but that certainly does not mean there isn’t a fair amount of talent shining through all the obscenity and profanity.

~Kevin Quandt


Alkaline TrioMy Shame Is True

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Kiss You to Death”
“The Torture Doctor”
“I’m Only Here to Disappoint”

Album Highlights: “Kiss You to Death” is my personal favorite, as it has a style similar to the songs that gave Alkaline Trio its start. Staccato guitars and big break downs with harmonic vocals that play on the juxtaposition of love, life and death all come together in this track to make you nostalgic for their earlier works, when all the songs seemed to have this same energy and feeling behind them.

Album Lowlight: “Only Love” was a bit of a snoozer to me, and it just sounded like they needed to throw in a more down tempo, change of pace song. It’s also just plain boring, with the chord progressions being pretty repetitive and the slight organ sound in the background just making it seem overproduced and more formulaic pop than the other songs.

Takeaway: “The Torture Doctor” grew on me the more I listened to it. It’s got enough energy and harmony to bring back memories of their older work, but enough maturity to give hope that the band’s particular brand of pop infused, tongue in cheek dark rock can keep going for years to come without sacrificing quality. Overall the album wasn’t amazing, but it has a handful of tracks that will entertain old fans and new fans alike.

~Sean Little


Cold War KidsDear Miss Lonelyhearts

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Miracle Mile”
“Lost That Easy”
“Tuxedos”

Album Highlight: Packing a punch with “Miracle Mile”, Cold War Kids kick off their fourth album with a track that gives established fans, new listeners and soon-to-be-converts a friendly reminder of just how talented of a powerhouse act they are. Nathan Willet’s vocals reign true, but aren’t necessarily the focus of this piano driven, guitar heavy track. Regardless of where this pop-rock anthem fits into a live set, it will undoubtedly get the crowd on its feet screaming along with the falsetto laced call-response chorus.

Album Lowlight: Although characteristic for the band to throw a couple slow, drawn-out tracks on each album, “Dear Ms. Lonely Hearts” almost is trying to be too epic. The initial build-up prepares you for what lies ahead, but it takes too long to kick in to the remainder of the song. Once past the initial lyrics and operatic drum rolls, the song still remains sub par and simply gets by on the Willet’s vocal skills.

Takeaway: An unexpected electronic effort, Cold War Kids masterfully execute their dance-rock track “Loner Phase”, showcasing their versatility as songwriters and ability to assimilate to current musical trends. Known as a band with a pension to branch out style-wise, this track ups the ante creatively and brings a whole new level of intensity to the band as they teeter between indie rock and mainstream success.

~Molly Kish


The Black AngelsIndigo Meadow

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Don’t Play with Guns”
“Indigo Meadow”
“Evil Things”

Album Highlights: The opening three songs to Indigo Meadow are the heavy hitters in the bunch, especially the first single “Don’t Play with Guns”, which is dark, psychedelic and could easily come from prior generations if you didn’t know better. The title track and opening song “Indigo Meadow” sets the stage quite nicely for the whole album, which contains The Black Angels’ signature psych-rock.

Album Lowlight: Indigo Meadow fucking rocks, but a few songs were a little too polished. I love the dirty acid rock that these guys started playing almost a decade ago in a grungy garage in Austin. Don’t stray too far.

Takeaway: If you dig the psychedelic sounds of the Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane, then I would definitely recommend Indigo Meadow. A casual listen will not do this album justice. You must listen to it loud and late at night — and you’ll get the idea.

~Pete Mauch


Charles BradleyVictim of Love

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Love Bug Blues”
“Strictly Reserved for You”
“You Put the Flame on It”

Album Highlights: Charles Bradley, The Screaming Eagle of Soul himself, is back with his sophomore release Victim of Love. Just like 2011’s No Time For Dreaming, Bradley pours his soul out with every song he sings. This man bleeds soul. Victim of Love continues where No Time For Dreaming left off, full of sounds reminiscent of the 60’s and 70’s. You won’t know what decade you’re in when listening to Charles Bradley.

Album Lowlight: Don’t get me wrong, Bradley oozes and drips soul from every pore of his body, and as great as this style is, it feels somewhat pedestrian at times. Not much new musical ground is broken with Victim of Love, but that’s not the point. This album is all about the funk, soul and Bradley’s emotional release, which is very apparent with this record.

Takeaway: They don’t call him The Screaming Eagle of Soul for nothing. Charles Bradley is a modern day soul singer who draws comparisons to James Brown and Otis Redding. That’s quite a pair to be associated with, but who else is doing what Bradley is doing these days?

~Kevin Raos