ACL 2018 ~ The Year in Review

“In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers.  We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”  Although these words are spoken by a fictional character (T’Challa in The Black Panther), they still contain great strength.  While last year’s dominant global theme seemed to be division, this year’s theme seems to be hope ~ or at least the seeds of hope.  The #MeToo movement continued to add momentum, Democrats gained ground in the States and a large number of Brits decided that hey, maybe Brexit wasn’t such a good idea after all.  Many natural disasters ravaged the world, from hurricanes to forest fires to earthquakes.  The United States continued to suffer mass shootings.  But in the aftermath, teenagers stepped up as leaders, showing us how it could be done.  Policies began to change, albeit slightly.  And there was such love ~ not from those in office, but from regular people who marched, volunteered, voted, and gave generously of their time and income.

As the one who reads all the ACL email (approximately 250 emails a week / 13,000 a year despite the GDPR), I’m constantly amazed at the unanimity within the musical community, which seems to be shared with most of the larger artistic community as well.  No one seems to be pro-isolationist.  Each week we receive dozens of emails that speak of unity, of intercultural cooperation, of the free exchange of ideas.  These attitudes are translated to the music as well.  One might think that instrumental artists have little to say; but just read the liner notes on release pages and one will find a different story.  These artists have a lot to share, whether expressing dismay over prejudice, calling attention to climate change, raising funds for troubled youth or simply celebrating the joys of collaboration.  A few that come immediately to mind: Frank Horvat / Mivos Quartet‘s For Those Who Died Trying, which honors 35 activists killed or “disappeared” in Thailand; Institute of Landscape Architecture‘s amazing Melting Landscapes, which draws attention to global warming; and Polar Seas’ compilation A Light, A Glimmer, which raises funds for a farm-based animal facility.

Are we acting like Polyannas?  Not at all.  Our site is founded on optimism and positivity.  But if you want encouragement, just read Factfulness, and learn how many things have actually been getting better over the past twenty years: everything from global poverty to women’s rights.  There’s a lot of good news out there, obscured by the bombast.  One of our favorite stories this year was that Iceland Airwaves pledged a gender-balanced festival, and delivered; in fact, they said it wasn’t even that hard to do!  In like manner, the artists we cover have found new and dynamic ways to improve the world, one album at a time.  Some compose music to soothe; others use abrasion as catharsis.  Some make us think; others inspire us to action.  And yes, some just make us want to dance!

This year’s most-viewed posts (outside of our main pages) were from our new video game score imprint, *Press A*.  The first was 2018’s Best Video Games So Far and the second, The Music of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  We’re super happy about the support for Chris and David’s new venture!  The most-viewed reviews covered new releases by Laura León, world’s end girlfriend and the sadly missed Jóhann Jóhannsson, whose untimely passing left an ache in our hearts.  Over the next three weeks, we’ll be sharing a whole bunch of lists with you, one day at a time.  We’ll begin with eight speciality lists such as The Year’s Best Winter Music and conclude with our top tens in each of seven categories, followed by our overall Top 20.  We hope that you will enjoy our choices and perhaps find a few new favorites!  Thanks to you, we’ve grown in readership seven years in a row, and we’re grateful to all our readers, whether you visit our site directly or follow us on social media. We wish you hope, joy, peace and love this season and throughout the year.

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