Definitely at the top of this list is Vortex by Sonar with David Torn. From the moment I heard the first previews of this album I was hooked. Torn's guitar slashes through Sonar's precisely elegant playing like lightning through a storm, providing flashes of brilliance that illuminate the ensemble's power. Available from RareNoise records.
As a bonus, later in the year came Live at Moods, a collection of live tracks featuring Sonar and Torn, a beautiful complement to their earlier studio album.
Rumor has it that Sonar and Torn will be releasing another album in 2019 on the RareNoise label.
Then there's the gorgeous soundtrack Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It from Eraldo Bernocchi. I don't know many artists who have a musical vocabulary as extensive as Bernocchi's, and here he's applied it beautifully to the film Cy Dear about artist Cy Twombly. The video below isn't "official" and I apologize for that but at least you can get a taste of this exquisite album.
Even though it's not new, it's new to me. 1999's Dead Bees on a Cake by David Sylvian is intoxicating in its lushness and evocative with its lyrics. I "discovered" Sylvian a year or so back through his work with Robert Fripp et al on the album Damage. The track Thalheim is what motivated me to buy the CD.
Also notable for me in 2018:
- Solo a Geneva by Jamie Saft - beautifully played piano. It seems I'm slowly acquiring Saft's entire catalog and I probably should've given this album the same treatment as the three above.
- We Like it Here by Snarky Puppy - A modern, energetic approach to big band jazz. (Big band isn't the right term but I already used the word ensemble above.)
- Anguish - For album cover of the year.
For anyone interested, the full list of the albums I purchased in 2018 is here.