Top 89 of 2018: Best Sessions

The Current's Top 89 of 2018
The Current's Best Sessions of 2018 (Luke Mills | MPR)

Let's face it: The Current's listener-curated Top 89 countdown is the main attraction among our year-end lists. By voting for your favorite songs of 2018 in our Top 89 poll, you're entered to win a serious Down in the Valley prize pack. We'll air the whole countdown from 5 p.m. to midnight CT on New Year's Eve and again on Jan. 1 from 12 to 7 p.m. CT.

That said, there's more to the story this year. While you make those tough voting decisions, we wanted to celebrate some of the extra-canticular categories of 2018: Best New Artists, Best Albums, Best Local Artists, Best Sessions, and Best Twin Cities Concerts. Here are our picks for Best Sessions, as chosen by The Current's staff.

Britt and Alex of Spoon MicroShow at the Turf Club - December 11 (2017)

Although this one actually took place in 2017, it was not shared with the wider audience of The Current until Jan. 8, 2018. Britt Daniel and Alex Fischel of Spoon visited the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minn., and treated the audience to a set of tunes from their latest album, Hot Thoughts, as well as three from They Want My Soul (2014) and one from Gimme Fiction (2005).

I'm With Her MicroShow at the Virginia Street Church - March 1

Following quickly on the release of their debut album, See You Around, the string-band supergroup I'm With Her — comprising Aoife O'Donovan, Sara Watkins and Sarah Jarosz — performed a MicroShow at the 1886-built Virginia Street Church in St. Paul's Cathedral Hill neighborhood on the first day of March. In addition to six tracks from the new album, I'm With Her surprised the audience with an encore that featured their cover of Adele's "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)."

Jade Bird at the Blackheart at SXSW - March 13

As raw and powerful Jade Bird is in her vocals and guitar, she's insightful and evocative in her lyrics — that's what totally captivated the audience at The Blackheart in Austin, Texas, as part of The Current's sessions there during SXSW. And if great songwriting and performances weren't enough, the audience were equally beguiled by Bird's interstitial storytelling and banter. (And Jade Bird did it again just three months later at a MicroShow at the James J. Hill House in St. Paul.)

Dan Auerbach in Studio P - April 3

Dan Auerbach is a busy guy; he's released a pair of acclaimed solo albums, earned eight Grammys, and put together a pile of successful bands, including the Black Keys and the Arcs. He also founded Easy Eye Sound, a label distributed by Nonesuch Records, with Shannon & The Clams and Link Wray on the roster. Despite his hectic schedule, Auerbach and members of the Easy Eye Sound Revue, together with special-guest vocalist and tourmate Robert Finley, all crammed into The Current's tiny Studio P for an unforgettable acoustic set.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in the Forum - July 6

As the Fourth of July holiday approached, Jason Isbell — along with 400 Unit bandmates Sadler Vaden and Amanda Shires — launched a few fireworks in the Forum at MPR with three songs from their 2017 album, The Nashville Sound, as well as one from Isbell's 2015 release, Something More Than Free. The set included a jaw-droppingly beautiful rendition of "If We Were Vampires," the song The Current's audience voted the best of 2017. What's more, Isbell, Vaden and Shires enjoyed the stripped-down combo at MPR so much that it inspired them to launch acoustic mini-tour that just wrapped up on Dec. 16.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats MicroShow at the Turf Club - August 6

To call this one a MicroShow might be an understatement; when Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats showed up at the Turf Club in August, they bashed out a rollicking eight-song set that had everyone hopping. And it's not like they hadn't already had a full day; in the hours leading up to the MicroShow, Rateliff and company used the Turf Club as the location to film the video for their song, "A Little Honey."

Death Cab for Cutie in the Forum - August 22

Death Cab for Cutie connected a lot with The Current in the latter part of 2018. In August, Death Cab's Ben Gibbard and his bandmates Dave Depper and Zac Rae assembled in the Forum at MPR to perform a four-song set that sampled from their 2018 album, Thank You for Today, as well as from Narrow Stairs (2008) and Transatlanticism (2003). The MicroShow whetted fans' appetites for two dates at the Palace Theatre at the beginning of October, one of which was live-streamed by The Current.

Superorganism MicroShow at Can Can Wonderland - September 17

The globally sourced, London-based band Superorganism have a fondness for whimsy, and what better place to lend further inspiration than St. Paul's arts-immersive entertainment space, Can Can Wonderland. Superorganism performed a MicroShow at Can Can's Wee Stage, and in a move that was polite, practical and prescient, Superorganism seated themselves on the stage and likewise asked the audience to sit on the floor, giving everyone in the all-ages crowd the best chance of seeing the show. On a stage decorated with balloons and stuffed toys, Superorganism delighted with stripped-down versions of their infectious pop songs.

Mitski in the Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Studio - October 27

The night before this session, Mitski and her band played a sold-out show at First Avenue. No matter. The studio session featured performances as passionate as one might expect at a sold-out club. And as fantastic as the performances were, Mitski's interview with Mac Wilson was engaging and fun, with Mitski sharing stories about how inspired she was to play in the First Avenue Mainroom, about what she and her bandmates were planning for Halloween, and about how she originally wrote the music to "Nobody" on a toy piano.

Reykjavíkurdætur at Skuli Craft Bar at Iceland Airwaves - November 16

Hip-hop is the most popular musical genre in the world, and the Iceland-based hip-hop collective Reykjavíkurdætur is evidence of that. The six rappers and one DJ who make up Reykjavíkurdætur took the stage at Skuli Craft Bar as part of The Current's sessions at Iceland Airwaves, and they lit up the crowd with their spirited performance of the funky song, "Ef mig langar það," which means "If I Want It."

Top 89 of 2018: Best Sessions - video playlist

Top 89 of 2018: Bonus Categories

The Current Staff's Favorite Songs of 2018

10 Photos

  • Britt and Alex of Spoon perform a Microshow at the Turf Club on Monday.
    Britt and Alex of Spoon flew into the Twin Cities for the day to perform a 30-minute set at the Turf Club in St. Paul on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017. (Ellen Schmidt | MPR)
  • I'm With Her
    I'm With Her perform at the Virginia Street Church in Saint Paul, Minn. (MPR Photo | Nate Ryan)
  • Jade Bird sxsw pledgehouse
    Jade Bird performs at PledgeHouse during SXSW (MPR Photo | Nate Ryan)
  • Dan Auerbach and the Easy Eye Sound Revue visit The Current
    Dan Auerbach and the Easy Eye Sound Revue visit The Current (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Jason Isbell performs in the Forum at MPR
    Jason Isbell, together with Sadler Vaden (left) and Amanda Shires (not pictured) of the 400 Unit, performs in the Forum at MPR. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats' MicroShow at the Turf Club
    Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats perform a MicroShow for The Current at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minn. (Josie Spry | MPR)
  • Death Cab for Cutie perform a MicroShow at MPR
    Death Cab for Cutie (L to R: Dave Depper, Benjamin Gibbard, Zac Rae) perform a MicroShow in the Forum at Minnesota Public Radio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Superorganism perform a MicroShow at Can Can Wonderland
    Superorganism performing a MicroShow at Can Can Wonderland in St. Paul, Minn. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Mitski performs in The Current studio
    Mitski performs in The Current studio. (Nate Ryan | MPR)
  • Reykjavikurdatur
    Reykjavikurdatur, Iceland's all-female hip-hop collective. (Ali Lozoff | MPR)

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