I tweak how I present my top 50 every year, sometimes picking a top disc and then offering the next dozen or so unranked. Other years I merely put the 50 selections in three tiers, and then separate out a definitive, standout top 5. Sometimes, I’m straightforward, and do a full 50-1 ranking in the best order I can manage. In attempt to always mirror what I feel is most appropriate given the years output, this year, I’ve found a clear top favorite, but also a number of terrific EPs. Thus I’ve included many EPs this year in an otherwise strictly albums list. The additional twist this year is I’ve gone all the way to 90, since I listened to so much new stuff this year, and attempted to include most of what I thought was truly exemplary. Then, I tried to thanklessly rank it all, knowing full well that after about 10 or 20 it’s all pretty arbitrary, and I hope that the small right ups will provide enough information for listeners to potentially hone into stuff they might find particularly agreeable.
Happy listening. Protect your ear drums boys and girls, you only get one set.
My Favorite Album of the Year, 2018:
1. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Merely attacking toxic masculinity is low-hanging fruit, but discussing its systemic roots in song is altogether more illuminating. But why IDLES second is so tremendous is that they also offer ways out, or refuge for the victims of such an environment. That it is often heartbreakingly touching and always at the cusp of noisy, brilliantly performed rock n’ roll music, it was places it at the top of my list. The best songs—the pro-immigration ‘Danny Nedelko’, the depression lifeline ‘Samaritans’, the tense ‘Colossus’, and the body image drenched ‘Television’—are some of the best of the year, and after their triumphant display on their Jools Holland introduction, you’re in for the next of the great English rock bands. They’re here.
2. the Who – Live at the Fillmore East 1968
This almost seems like a cheat, offering a celebratory 50 year anniversary release in a year that saw dozens (White Album, Elvis Comeback Special reissue, etcetera—1968 was a classic year) but this was only available in bootleg versions that bore the unfinality of an unofficial release. Tracks ended prematurely due to tape running out before jams had fully completed, guitars hissed and snarled at variable levels, sometimes in the same track, and the setlist was incomplete in most offerings. This corrects all that, and offers an incredibly lovely designed package. I chose it here because, as a lifelong Who devotee and once avid collector of Who bootlegs (owning over 50 at the height of my fanaticism) this was always the jewel to me. They’re in remarkable form, and it’s 13 months before they’d drop Tommy and have to cover that monument for the rest of their playing lives. Thus, here you get the Who free and ferocious, offering the most blistering cacophony of rock n’ roll the world had seen or heard up to that point. The version of ‘Relax’ here, often cited by yours truly as my favorite single track in the entire rock canon. Essential.
3. Yossarians – Ambition Will Eat Itself (ep)
The EP you’ll see stated often on other lists such as this is the very good boygenius self-titled one, a mediative first stab by a super-group with an incredibly bright future. It fell on the cutting room floor as I constructed this because a theme organically developed over the course of my picks, a theme of power more or less, power in the face of increasing turbulent times. We’re nearly rubbed raw by the influx of everything, so I thought dark, powerful statements should rule the day. Ambition Will Eat Itself is another such release; it takes its time, weaving about from calmed, hushed contemplation to titanic strength, the whole thing seeming like an entrenched build towards ‘Caramelised’s repetitive destruction, ‘Friends We Are’s titanic Led Zeppelin like stomp, or finally the title track, that slithers inside you and rips you apart. Magnificent. These guys need more press.
4. Unholy Two – The Pleasure to End All Pleasures
How do you top an undisputed masterwork of hardcore noise (their previous, Talk About Hardcore)? You do more of the same, but somehow more dense; sometimes the affair amounts to being in the middle of a swirling hurricane (‘Zero Tolerance’), the effect of being at a show where a great noise band catches that feedback loop and harnesses it for its seismic power, other times it’s a grinding doom (‘Woodstock ’99’). Or, maybe you just make a few allusions to pro wrestler Chris Benoit (‘Master of the Crossface’, ‘Rabid Wolverine’), the man who savagely murderer himself and his family more than a decade ago. Not for the faint of heart, but man is it powerful, and begs the question: what if I told you the best record by an American band I heard all year doesn’t even have an entry on (generally considered) authoritative music database, allmusic.com?
5. Iceage – Beyondless
Given that 2014’s Plowing into the Field of Love is one of the Aughts rock masterworks in my eyes (err, ears), I waited for what seemed like an eternity for its follow-up, Beyondless (hey, in Pop, 4 years might as well be an eternity). It doesn’t disappoint, lyrically they’ve never been more effortlessly epic, and musically they explode into new directions; ‘Pain Killer’ sounds like Tex-Mex T. Rex, ‘Take it all’, an icy 80’s dance hall revision, but for me it’s ‘Thieves like us’ that wins out. A loose country number that sloppily bounces towards their usual Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds nodes but also that great (lost to America) Scottish band, the Country Teasers, who thought enough of roots Americana to debase it to near oblivion. Taken with the tracks that followed it, ‘Balm of Gilead’ and ‘Broken Hours’ (they’re part of the Beyondless sessions, but the boys didn’t want to release another album with three vinyl sides so they were ditched), the album grows even more. ‘Broken Hours’ especially, it’s a tensely wound ball of menacing, slashing guitars and a laconic bassline scotch taping everything together so that is doesn’t rip apart at the seams. In a lesser year, this gallops to pole position.
6. FACS – Negative House
For years my favorite Chicago rock attraction was Disappears, so when news of their split came I mourned the loss of a real gem on the local scene. FACS came from their ashes, and doesn’t disappoint on their proper debut; it’s a brooding minimalist record that careens between dark highs and claustrophobic lows, with special mention to several of its standout tracks: the tribal patterns of ‘Skylarking’, the sheet of feedback draped over ‘Others’, the rickety flicker of noise that envelopes ‘Exit Like You’ and shifts towards the pulsing heartbeat of life. (If haven’t gotten enough Chicago based post-punk then check out Product KF’s Product Kf single/cassette on bandcamp)
7. Shopping – The Official Body
Not unlike the Oscars, these sort of lists always inadvertently punish LPs that appeared early in the year, as Shopping’s newest did on January 19th. It’s worth stating if to only remark that upon immediately listening—I eagerly looked forward to it after their previous Why Choose had been such a favorite—it became entrenched here, with special note that it needed to never leave. I’m not that old or senile yet, I just wanted to asterisk the arrival of a fresh set of songs, steeped in its love for its forbears—you can’t get through Shopping without stating Au Pairs, ESG, Gang of Four, Delta 5, et al, but here you have a collection of tunes making a great leap forward. ‘Asking for a Friend’, ‘My Dad’s a Dancer’, ‘Wild Child’ and ‘Discover’ are defiantly boastful and highly danceable blasts. Even their influences didn’t make agitprop this damn fun. (If you haven’t gotten enough throbbing dub punk, then check out Portland’s Lithics ‘Photograph of You’ single)
8. Hobbyist – Sonic Cramps
A near collage of a record, Hobbyist’s newest pounds with feminist odes perfectly appropriate for our times, but it’s the recalling of the place of women in the past, however that they’re able to most accurately capture the contemporary. My favorites; ’Company Man’, takes on the entire corporate system, but it’s blissfully irritating and genuinely thumping, while ‘The Pastor’s Wife’ goes back lyrically farther as its beats broach closer. When they combine it all, ‘Self Employed’, it laments, “I mopped the piss in the unisex” and brings the boys down into the drain as well.
9. Protomartyr – Consolation (ep)
I don’t want to jinx it, but I state it with every Protomartyr release; I like it a little more than the previous one. Consolation’s greatest gift is in the hooks, I instantly recognize what the boys are going on about, even if I’m erring in not listening even closer. But it’s that quickness, that shared sensibility that is the measure of the greatest of art, and “keep me above this filth…”, “I decide who lives and who dies…”, and the sound of giving up as “pull that sheet right over me, you win again…” is uttered, make me grow closer, these are all statements I feel in my bones as I board the morning trains. Easily one of the most astute and emotionally cathartic releases of the year, at least for us malcontents.
10. Television Personalities – Beautiful Despair
After the high of 1989’s Privilege, Television Personalities looked to strike while the iron was hot. Instead, as true with cult artists often, they had no ready offers for release, so much of the work would never see the light of day, or when it did, it was picked apart for a song here and there to appear on follow up records spread over the next several years. The group of songs seemed a cohesive whole though with an intended title—Beautiful Despair—that finally sees the light of day as originally intended in 2018. This is reason for real celebration, the Television Personalities are one of the great English bands, something like the true forefathers for the last time British rock truly set the precedent during the heights of BritPop. Here, it’s all they do great; the ramshackle Westerberg-like, ‘Hard Luck Story Number 39’, the bedroom poetry of ‘How Does It Feel To Be Loved’ and the aching title track, which only make the bright Pop tunes like ‘Razor Blades & Lemonade’ and ‘I Like That In a Girl’ fly that much higher. But make no mistake, this is called ‘Beautiful Despair’, and that’s as apt as it gets.
11. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
In what will probably age even higher into one of my favorite releases, Rolo Tomassi’s newest is an epic, artful canvas of subterfuge. I’d heard a song and thought I’d needed to hear the whole, only to hear lovely dovey, atmospheric overtures for the first two tracks. But stick around; it’s the construction of the whole, and track three, ‘Rituals’ rips the whole open, and we’re in Rolo Tomassi’s wheelhouse. ‘Alma Mater’ is a particular highlight, a series of cascading, spellbinding riff assaults break for light, which encompasses the album entirely in 3 minutes. Their best one yet.
12. Gnod – Chapel Perilous
One of the supreme Noise acts around, Gnod continue down the path of previous masterworks, Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (selected as one of my favorites for last year) and 2016’s Mirror. The slight twist here is an attention to shorter songs, still a relative claim of course, the resulting work a brooding, science-fiction infused, crimson hued work instead of one of pure, stomach burning bile. Gnod is offering the atmospheric post-fallout landscape now and it’s come as a set of thrilling rock n’ roll tunes (don’t fret, this still contains moments of startling punishment).
13. Anthroprophh – Omegaville
In a world where most artistic statements on our coming dystopian future are mired in droning synths, oppressive minimalism, or icy coldness, it’s quite a treat to hear a band just have a complete go at producing it as a ripping thrash psych fest with a heaping dose of classic Prog to make it all tie together. Guitars mimic seismic blasts, but it’s in the structure of the double LP length story; after track 5, ‘Sod’, concludes the album takes a noticeable detour into rocked out, CAN-like excursions of radical 70’s Prog. By ‘Why Are You Smiling’s sludge and ‘Maschine’s jazz fusion (only separated by ‘I’, another 8 minutes of rocked out bliss), we’re nearing what could be the conclusion, but instead we get Omegaville’s most radical idea: the last two tracks are 15 minutes and 21 respectively and are drone-laden, fuzzed out experimentation. This just might be the artiest hard rocking slab in quite some time. Highly recommended.
14. the Ex – 27 Passports
Perhaps the greatest Post-Punk band to ever come from the Netherlands, you’re almost startled how tremendous they still are in 2018, this their 38 (or 39th) year of existence. It really is something when you drop a needle on ‘New Blank Document’ and, for over 7 minutes are flabbergasted at the angular stomp that amounts as much to a cut up glued down DIY collage as it does a serious rock n’ roll jam session. It’s both loosely conceptual and as water tight as a frogs ass, which makes sense, what with the lower sea level of their home and whatnot. You imagine year after year, floods imminent, a band working tirelessly to craft a tightness that snaps loose on 27 Passports. You could pick highlights here, but what’s the point, the consistency and variance here is remarkable.
15. Uniform – The Long Walk
A continuation of their great run, The Long Walk takes last years masterful Wake In Fright’s metallic political intensity into a grinding static drenched world. They keep with the blazing guitars, which on something like ‘Headless Eyes’ takes their aesthetic to a real height. A power riff before a hiccuping glitch; there are layer upon layers of sonic ideas here, and you love how they each punish in different ways.
16. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace
Formed partially from the ashes of the Drones, this Melbourne band and accompanying debut is quite a mouthful. It’s quite an earful too, some tracks border on noisy, what-is-that-classic-rock! (‘You Let My Tyres Down’) to hazy Bowie-meets-Nick-Cage-vocal-readings (‘Antimatter Animals’). Around it all is quite an interesting band, as adept as blistering noise as they are at club beats (‘The Future of History’). I’d never heard of this prior to doing a few laps to shore up some listens in the queue and I was happy I did. Quite a find.
17. Just Mustard – Wednesday
Ireland’s Just Mustard are a rare thing in rock nowadays, a band that can hone a sound or two and not becomes slavishly indebted to its upkeep and its rigid tonal qualities. They dabble in noise, sometimes straddling into a warmed over Shoegaze sensibility, but ‘Deaf’ is a major revelation; a looping bassline drives a soothing hum of a song, before a secondary vocal crashes the party into an urgent fracas. It’s surely one of the rock happenings of the year, on a debut no less!
18. Dr. Octagon – Moosebumps: An Exploration Into Modern Day Horripilation
Ultramagnetic MCs Critical Beatdown was a landmark record, and its relative inability to be reproduced now a testament to its trailblazing originality (comparatively: you’ll hear, say, the work of the Bomb Squad all over the beats of JPEGMAFIA’s newest, very good record) and sonic singularity. It’s no surprise then when you do hear the type it’s from an old member, Kool Keith via his Dr. Octagon alter ego, on his first record in over a decade. Most of the songs are about his dick and what he does with it, and it must really be something, so it’d be a pity if the songs didn’t measure up. Thankfully, they do, and then some.
19. Salad Boys – This Is Glue
A band recalling the great label from their New Zealand label Flying Nun’s output of the 1980s, the Salad Boys offer perhaps the best set of chiming, guitar jangle of the year. ‘Psych Slasher’ is perfectly representation of the sound; bright, sunny, affirming. Oh, and you’ll almost want it on vinyl so you can stare at the wonderful cover in a 12 inch square (or in New Zealand, 30 centimeters or so).
20. Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch (ep)
The last of the trio of EPs Reznor envisioned to make up a trilogy that would amount to a proper LP release, Bad Witch is the most interesting of the bunch, a harkening back to the glorious heyday when Nine Inch Nails were getting ‘fist fuck’ on commercial radio. But the tunes have grown up as well, with collaborator Atticus Ross, they rock with full worlds of consideration and the trademark NIN static stomp. Highlights include the feedback din of ‘Play the Goddamned Part’ that experiments with horns and ‘Over and Out, which mixesYear Zero-like digital hardcore with Ghosts I-IV tranquility. When do these two sleep?
21. Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love
A real testimony to the quality inside this year is the fact that this Slaves LP slipped slightly outside the my personal 5 or 6, as I certainly bopped it as much as those up there. Plus, I caught the boys live again, which is reason enough to worship the very ground their tasseled loafers glide over. Acts of Fear and Love is their shortest work to date at 9 tracks, but there’s some of their most interesting lyrical passages, and, as always, it’s chock full of pummeling riffs (Laurie Vincent creates memorable riffs as well as anyone going nowadays) and stomping Englishness. Highlights include ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’ (oh, that closing feedback drenched coda), the new wave agitation of ‘Chokehold’ and ‘Magnolia’, a kitchen sink drama complete with cowbell. I just love these guys.
22. Sumac & Keiji Haino – American Dollar Bill – Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous to Look at Face On / Sumac – Love in Shadow
A bit of a cheat here, listing two LPs in one slot, but its meant to show the titanic year Sumac had, releasing a tremendous split, which is perhaps the most challenging listen on the first half of this years list, with the pairing alone implying what you’re in store for. The bracing, titanically heavy sludge of Sumac meets the experimental noise collages of innovator Keiji Haino. Thus we’re only at 5 songs there, but the shortest clips just over 9 minutes, and the rest are epic, maddeningly brutal excursions into a dark abyss. It’s the sound of the modern opera; noisy, heavy, paranoid, expansive. Then, a few months later, they released what could only be described as their masterpiece, Love in Shadow—a considerable statement as their 2016, What One Becomes made my list that year very high. Taken together they’re a brooding whole hellscape of love and loss in the modern world, leaving any curious listener feeling: how long did that climate change report say we’ve got?
24. Warthog – Warthog (ep)
It’s a cheat almost to call this an EP at a mere 4 blasts of songs, but this packs a full on assault in its abbreviated run time. Special mention to ‘Levitated Corpse’, that has a fiery breakdown halfway through where a doubled up guitar riff matches a bass run that sparks a blistering sprint to the songs finish. It’s the sort of moment that reminds you why you got into thrash in the first place. Surely isn’t wasn’t only about being a cantankerous, adolescent boy.
25. Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile
It’s nice to see bands hit the end of their third decade still releasing great music at a busy clip; in the past decade they’ve managed 5 records including this one, with two—Journal for Plague Lovers (2009) and Futurology (2014)—claiming my favorite LP of their respective years. Both those LPs harkened to other works earlier in their careers, coming as something of a ‘: Part II’ in each case. It’s no surprise then that Resistance is Futile is most accurately read like 2007’s Send Away the Tigers: Part II, with its overt attention to sunnier Pop structures, and lovely vocal duo’s. It still crunches with touches of the Manics politically charged weariness though, the Pop of ‘Hold Me Like a Heaven’ sits along the forlorn strings of ‘Vivian’ and the romanticism of ‘Dylan & Caitlin’ shows the boys with a bag full of melodies, at least enough to survive another few decades.
26. A Place to Bury Strangers – Pinned
The Aughts Noise pioneers return with another fuzzed out effort, this time with a new wrinkle, drummer Lia Simone Braswell. She’d previously drummed on Les Butcherettes’ Cry Is For the Flies, so you know she’d be fine being heard over the din, but she’d also offer a new texture: the female voice. It’s adds a delicate, warmly pleasant tone to the chaos, and where some would accuse it as a softening of the sound, or in the ‘hip’ terms it the classic ‘sell out’, you see them live and the accusation is supremely unwarranted; ‘Never Coming Back’ she offers light (just as her tom runs whiplash along the breaker), ‘There’s Only One of Us’ vocal mix adds a ghostly undertone. And the boys can still bring the thrash; ‘Too Tough to Kill’ and ‘Attitude’ strut with the best of ‘em.
27. Bush Tetras – Take the Fall (ep)
On their first collection of new tunes in a decade, the Bush Tertra’s are at their scary, souped up Post-Punk best. On these 5 dubbed out slabs, Cynthia Sley shrieks and threatens, “I’m not gonna take the fall for you…..” that by ‘Red Heavy’ we’re in a dark corner where it’s every man for himself. They sound vital and alive leaving you with a hope that ‘Don’t Stop It’ is both a promise for coming work and another barely veiled threat.
28. KEN Mode – Loved
This pick, I’d imagine, crystalized in honor of Pitchfork naming ‘Love It If We Made It’ (from Manchester quartet 1975) their song of the year. It’s a real thinker they argue, a perfect statement for our turbulent times. I wondered how true that was (definitely isn’t) and how much more interesting potentially that’d have been if they picked ‘Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should’ instead. The title implies the power, what else of a world so determined to destroy itself and, when offered a lifeline, so carelessly uninterested in grasping it? You’re pummeled for the songs first 2 minutes or so, then one of the dirtiest riffs snuffs our faces out like lit cigarettes. And you still have 8 songs to go. (Oh, and skip the 1975 entirely)
29. Lithics – Mating Surfaces
Kill Rock Stars used to be one of the greatest labels in the world. I shudder to say ‘used to be’, as I know their catalogue still releases wonderful blasts with great regularity. But man, I just don’t dig a once riotous, fiery label dipping into the mainstream with stuff like the Decemberists. It’s got its place on many turntables, and I don’t begrudge, but the new Lithics harkens back to the angular, ripping intensity of yore that I happen to prefer. About 10 seconds into ‘Boyce’ you’re bound to agree.
30. Årabrot – Who Do You Love
I pretty much hate Greta Van Fleet, a statement I’d hope you’d understand deserves an underline because I’ve come out and said it here, an activity—speaking negatively in print about an artistic creation—I generally never try to do out of respect for creators and their time spent creating as they creatively see fit. But what has grown around them in certain circles, mainly ‘love’ bordering on irony for their blatant rip off Led Zeppelin cosplay. Mostly it’s old farts who condescendingly think this is what rock should be now, since it’s ‘dead’. Their laziness in not keeping up rewarded with a band that can make them feel all warm and fuzzy about because they remind them of something they loved decades ago. Instead, if you want power, Bonham like stomping and Page’s heaven scaling riffs, do a band evoking that, but moving towards genuinely new areas. For 2018 that’s Årabrot, the Norwegian power quartet, who delivered the hot mass throughout Who Do You Love, with ‘Maldoror’s Love’ (now that’s Led Zeppelin), ‘Sinnerman’ and ‘Look Daggers’ being the highlights.
31. Mothers – Render Another Ugly Method
I’d selected their 2016 When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired higher than this one, its tranquil sadness finding me wanted on the day I constructed my list apparently. I say this because this one is ranked lower, but I think I prefer it (at least today) as they now seem bigger in the space, and while that would imply something approaching happiness, I’m not sure these songs are brighter or sunnier. They’re just fuller, with ‘PINK’ being an excellent representation for this transformation, easily one of the rock tracks of the year.
32. The Choir – Artifact: The Unreleased Album
I’ll sometimes slip and reveal my Cleveland roots, which would go along way in describing not only my supreme love for this album, but really why it was on my radar in the first place. The Choir were a band that counted several members of the eventual cult heroes the Raspberries, a Northeast Ohio band that would help bridge fans of guitar pop in the lean years of the early 70s before Punk burst on the scene. I wouldn’t want to discount this on a purely regional pick, what is here is tremendous in its baroque guitar pop bliss; to me best of all is ‘Have I No Love To Offer’, which evokes the Mod stomp of early Who and Small Faces, while rocking with purpose that the early Heavy Metal heroes would envy. A true lost gem of the late 1960s newly discovered and released for the first time.
33. Sleep – The Sciences
The Stoner Rock kings dropped their recent opus by surprise on the holiest weed day of the year, April 20th, and given that their last, Dopesmoker arrived in the last century, this was quite a shock. Dopesmoker in the following (almost) two decades has become thoroughly entrenched in the annals of Heavy, a one 70 some minute song/opus to all things heavy and lethargic. Thus, on the newest they offer something almost approaching commercial; short snappy songs (OK, only three songs are under 7 minutes) full of memorable riffs and their trademark thudding, droned out bass.
34. Mekons 77 – It Is Twice Blessed
It’s hard for me to iron out the ideals of the two versions of the Mekons currently in operation. But, it’s in that that we get the interesting nature of the idea; Mekons 77, which released this years It Is Twice Blessed, features members of the classic Mekons lineup of 1977-1980, while the Mekons, who released the very good Existentialism in 2016 that made my list that year, are new members, with only founding members Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh being in both incarnations. Thus, Mekons 77 stick more to their angular, art-punk roots, complete with updated radical leftist politics for today’s ever charged climate. This is a long way of saying this is a typical brilliant record from the Leeds-turned-Chicago agitprop group; ‘Still Waiting’ is indicative of their sound and lyric in 2018 and the standout track amongst many others; ‘In the Red’ is a rhythmic mantra of punk song, ‘Stuck In a Static In Camber’ a and ‘Bug Out Time’ the raging stompers, and ‘Not In My Name’ the sedate, almost dub reggae chill-out.
35. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love / Portrayal of Guilt – Let Pain Be Your Guide
Another cheat in the Heavy arts, allowing a broaching of Deafheaven’s much debated status as a Metal band. Genre aficionados and other assorted dickheads will pull rank, claiming their attention to shoegaze or other soft acoustics exclude them from the Metal moniker or even lifestyle*, effectively relying on the age old ‘poser’ or, worse yet, the dreaded, ‘false Metal’ tag. I’d given the debate value, thinking some of their previous releases were hedging their bets, but on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love the effects transfix and coalesce, perhaps reaching the zenith of the albums that preceded it were building towards. I can’t see them topping it within their aesthetic, and even if they don’t the conversation has perhaps shifted: Portrayal of Guilt’s debut show a Metal conversation post-Deafheaven, a heavy, aggressive sound built on elements ranging from Shoegaze to Dream Pop, but nevertheless very aggressive and dense. Let Pain Be Your Guide leans more towards hardcore and aggressive Metal tendencies so I don’t foresee their cred ever coming into question in the Metal world, but for this, we can perhaps just bask in a very accomplished debut, of which more is surely to come.
(*It’s interesting to consider the extreme Metal band Nachtmystium, who returned this year with Resilient (EP), and their ultra brutal style that nonetheless always exhibited an additional desire for different, ‘un-Metal’ textures which they referred to as being a ‘Black Meddle’ band rather than a Black Metal one. Their Metal credentials were never up for question—sure, they are more extreme, but it warrants some consideration.)
37. Tommy and the Commies – Here Come…
In a year where we sadly lose Peter Shelley much too early, I thought it appropriate to have a selection deeply indebted to his Buzzcocks sonic Pop bliss. I can’t imagine coming closer to those glorious shrieking early singles, but the Canadian Tommy and the Commies somehow manage, releasing some of the best singles of 1979, or 2018 in ‘Suckin’ In Your 20’s’ and ‘Devices’.
38. Ellis – The Fuzz (ep)
Classic Shoegaze with a modern twist; favorites include the lovely ‘All This Time’ and the upward bass runs that drive the second half of title track, ‘The Fuzz’.
39. No Age – Snares Likes a Haircut
There are parts of No Age’s newest that I’m slightly ambivalent to, their trademark indy noise becoming too neat for its own good. Everything seems nearly on autopilot, which is no doubt a dubious (and probably lazy) critique on my part. Bands can’t be ‘too good’, rather they’re just good or not. But then you get to the midway point—‘Tidal’—and you despair that you ever mucked around for so long on the fence. Here is one of the great rock songs of this or any year, where an early, slight melody gets washed over by a tidal wave of a gigantic riff, that spirals down the drain to pure ecstasy. You recall the late 80’s, or was it the 90’s that feedback regularly melted our brains like this? Who cares, brilliant.
40. The Breeders – All Nerve / Lala Lala – The Lamb
The Breeders return after a decade away, and their occasional disappearances and reemergences do nothing but reenforce their importance. It starts quiet, nearly an adult record, but ‘Nervous Mary’ kicks into classic ’90’s soft/loud dynamism, and you bounce between classic singles. They’re a band that hasn’t lost a step, or an ounce of their ability to pack hooks on hooks, ‘Wait in the Car’ should be a classic single we’re all humming on commutes to work or at school during drags on the cigarette over lunch. They’ve grown up (‘All Nerve’ is bittersweet and poignant, ‘Spacewoman’ is equally eerie and serene), but not grown old (‘Skinhead #2’ is a booming hum of a track), and here’s to hoping it isn’t another decade before the next one. Putting it with Lala Lala’s dreamy, fun The Lamb, is meant to pull out it’s obvious 90’s influences, each slightly softer than the last. It’s slacker music, if the slacker is a true romantic at heart. But aren’t they all?
42. Priors – New Pleasure
Montreal punk with sometimes glossy Post-Punk overtones on their first LP, those are mostly dusted off for their second, New Pleasure. The pleasures become all ours, as this amounts to a more guttural, abrasive set of tunes, with staccato hooks to warm it all up. Highlights include the buzzing guitar of ‘Bell Ringer’, and the beaten to a pulp epic, ‘Sunshine’.
43. Blushing – Weak (ep)
Warm, glowing shoegaze fuzz embalms a set of songs that opens with, ‘can you feel it?’, a thought we feel, err, experience again and again. These are lovely, embracing tunes, wrapping us in layers upon layers of cascading noise and lush harmonies. They followed it up 10 months later with ‘The Truth’/‘Sunshine’ single which is even more glowingly optimistic in acoustic temperament. Taken together it was a banner year for the Austin, Texas outfit.
44. The Chills – Snow Bound
New Zealand jangle Pop maestros of ‘Pink Frost’ return for their first album in 3 years with Snow Bound. They’re so great at their melodic, wistful, shimmering Pop that you sometimes think they could be on autopilot as the album unwraps itself in front of you. That’s a mistake of course, great Pop is hard work that only appears effortless, and on the real gems here—the evocative ‘Bad Sugar’, ‘Snow Bound’ and ‘Complex’, which stomps with their golden era—they do just that effortlessness with stylish pomp.
45. Moaning – Moaning
Post-punk in the Aughts will look to capture either the brittle iciness or the throbbing, bouncy low end, but every now and again a release emerges that somehow captures both those divergent sonic temperatures. Moaning’s debut does just that, easing into a second half that builds in intensity. We’re not supposed to listen to complete LPs, in their correct order nowadays, but damn if the albums buildup to closer ‘Somewhere in There’ doesn’t seem perfect. In between, ‘The Same’ is one of the most darkly glimmering blasts of the year, featuring a close that is urgently screamed.
46. Deaf Wish – Lithium Zion
You had me at hello. When you name a band after a desire to melt your eardrums, you’ve gone a long way in piquing my interest if I see a gig poster pasted on a telephone pole in my neighborhood. It’s a fuzzed out blast that’s more tuneful then I’d expected; ‘FFS’ and ‘Ox’ are riff-laden standards, ‘The Rat Is Back’ a strained, stretched, electric chord of a song pulsing with a throbbing bass part, and the appropriately named ‘Metal Carnage’ and ‘Hitachi Jackhammer’ the steely aggro cuts that go straight for the throat.
47. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
The sound of a distorted Gibson is largely the bedrock of what the style of rock n’ roll was founded on, so pairing two intertwining ones is only going to produce a bunch of beauties, and on Jericho Sirens, the Sub-Pop stalwarts Hot Snakes do just that. Special attention to ‘Six Wave Hold-Down’s canopy of macho strumming, ‘I Need a Doctor’s punk fury, and the surf stomp of ‘Death Camp Fantasy’ and ‘Death of a Sportsman’.
48. Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
While Gouge Away’s newest has been called Metal, I’d just go classic sludge, or dreamy noise. Something like Cherubs without all the male aggro chugging, and in its place an aching, female voice. The 90’s comparison still works, and when it clicks—the deflated bass of ‘Ghost’ that swirls with tension and ‘Fed Up’s breakneck abandon—becomes a good representation of what we should expect from modern mainstream rock radio.
49. Junglepussy – JP3
Junglepussy’s release largely flew under the radar as I understand, a strange feat when you consider the audacious, varied nature of the albums 10 highly creative tracks. Junglepussy has a braggadocio you used to here in the classic Little Kim/Foxy Brown releases of the 90s, but I like this better, it’s an assured, laid bag arrogance, tracks as much hang out anthems as they are club ready hits. When it strays— the opening of ‘I Just Want It’ is psychedelic and manic—we only realize this that much more.
50. Superorganism – Superorganism / Go-Kart Mozart – Mozart’s Mini Mart
Perhaps, if my list was the usual top 50, it’d start with my two favorite straight up Pop records. But this is Pop for 2018; cut up sound collages of samples and subversion, Go-Kart Mozart’s ‘When Your Depressed’ is clear enough, a cheery sounding lament on the ills of being suicidal which only segues to the dance hall camp of ‘living on goodness gracious a tenner a day’ heard in ‘Relative Poverty’. It’s all very British and very wonderful, ‘A New World’ sound something like Blur but laden with nothing but a cheap casio keyboard. Bigger in theory is Superorganism, a collection of artists working on Pop records from various parts of the globe remotely, building in pieces the impeccable Pop of ’Something For Your M.I.N.D’—perhaps the Pop track of the year for me—an amazing feat when you realize how many times they almost match that feat; ‘Everybody Wants To Be Famous’, ‘Night Time’, ‘Nai’s March’.
This is all a con, in reality these are top 10 LPs in quality, and I stuck them here with the idea that I was going to do these postings as a series, so this would have been the first entry you’d have read on day 2. That was scraped, and I was too lazy to reorder. What can I say, I’m growing old and I work too much.
52. U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
In a Poem Unlimited is an expertly made Pop record, the sort of ones that used to get made that could appeal to teens as well as adults, with their lasting impact filling the thoughts of music-minded obsessives for decades of come. In thinking what is this comparable to I happened to, by complete chance, dive back to McAlmont and Butler’s pair of gorgeous 1995 singles, ‘Yes’ and ‘You Do’ that they’d made to mimic those artful 60’s releases on 45 rpm that they loved so much. Bernard Butler had just been spit out from Suede, and coming out from a dark place composed some of the most beautifully life affirming tunes you’d ever hope to hear. It all seems fitting, while the slight experimental funk approach on In a Poem Unlimited strays from McAlmont and Butler, it doesn’t matter, as there is pain and redemption in this beautiful mix, and you aren’t soon to tire of this one.
53. Suede – The Blue Hour
Speaking of Butler, Suede return (granted without Butler) and continue their late career resurgence with The Blue Hour. Night Thoughts was an impressive feat in and of itself, and the dark, operatic leanings are slowly morphing to near Grand Guignol heights. I’ve heard it described as ‘decadent romanticism’ and that’s really apt, ‘Wasteland’, ‘Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You’, and ‘Mistress’ all glimmer a dark light. In the annuals of British rock, Suede hover in rarified air, a fact easily understood in Ol Blighty, but it’s time Americans feel this way too.
54. Screaming Females – All at Once
I’d say a thing you realize quite quickly if you go to a steady stream of rock shows in a smaller, club setting is just how much the 1990s Alternative scene has informed the bands and sounds of today. Given that that era featured some of the most expressive and interesting work the form has seen (and since seen), this definitely isn’t a complaint, nor a slight when I remark that virtually no one bares the stamp of 90’s rock more than Screaming Females. On their newest you get all that—the guitar heroics of Dinosaur Jr. via Smashing Pumpkins—but with a renewed sense of attention to rhythmic dynamism you’re in for a scorching set of rocking’ tunes. Highlights include the chugging ‘Black Moon’, the brittle ‘End of My Bloodline’ and finally, ‘My Body’, where vocalist/guitarist Marissa Paternoster deals with sensitive body issues as a ritualistic sacrificial art project. They seem to only be getting better, how is this still possible?
55. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – King of Cowards
Last year’s Feed the Rats was a beast, three songs totaling 37 minutes or so of naked, raw, over-driven amp aggression, so they follow it up by chopping that up to 6 songs, all under 9 minutes. The accumulative effect seems more harnessed and powerful, tightly wound stomp recalling the heyday of Sludge. Opener ‘GNT’ has a real swagger, grooving to brutal simplicity, leading into the bass onslaught of ‘Shockmaster’. The rest is more of the same, pulling us into the tar pits and leaving us rudderless and slowly sinking. I loved Feed the Rats, but this is something altogether more impressive, the best Sludge record I heard all year.
56. Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin
Like the Chills above, Ty Segall’s output sometimes could led one to believe he’s running on auto-pilot, so razor sharp is his ability to compose and release solid to great LPs. Every few months there’s something from him, or one of his many bands (my favorite, Fuzz), each ticking ever so slightly into new terrain. The ones that do make huge stylistic leaps within his aesthetic are masterpieces—think 2014’s Manipulator, which might have topped my rankings for that year had I made one—while the others offer a song or three here and there amidst the fuzzed out sludgy blasts. Freedom’s Goblin is somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more towards Manipulator; the garage rockers are still here (‘Shoot You Up’, ‘Fanny’), reminding everyone that Ty Segall still does that just about better than anyone, but so is a real attention to the 1970s. His T. Rex obsessions crop up (‘You Say All the Nice Things’, ‘I’m Free’), and so does Neil Young like excursions (‘And, Goodnight’), but it’s a newfound love of disco/funk on his terms (the ‘Every 1’s a Winner’ cover is fabulous, but don’t sleep on ‘The Main Pretender’) to something akin to Kraftwerk (‘Despoiler of Cadaver’) and No Wave (‘Talkin’ 3’) that excite the most. The kids got a future.
57. Chain Cult – Isolated (ep)/Chain Cult Demo 2018 (ep)
I’ve combined the two releases from the Athens, Greece trio, as in unison they still don’t reach LP length. They’re thumping bass workouts that recall the early 80s work of Killing Joke, with a slightly made over Pop vocal delivery of, say, Social Distortion. In short, they’re darkened New Wave, and the song titles describe much of the sound; ’Empty Hearts’, ‘State of Fear’, ‘Isolated’. Their proper debut, which we’d assume is coming in 2019, is going to be an absolute event.
58. Dylan Carlson – Conquistador
Away from his day job fronting titanic drone/doom group Earth, Carlson creates Conquistador, a true solo record. Meaning, he steers clear of the oppressive heaviness of Earth, producing what amounts to rough and ready near county blues rock drenched in echo. But it’s not a revivalist enterprise of outlaw country as he’s able to capture an immense sense of dread in the 5 wordless tracks where the titles—‘Scorpions in Their Mouths’, ‘And Then the Crows Descended’—cloud much of the context, while ‘Reaching the Gulf’ provides the catharsis. Great mood music for those often in a sour mood.
59. Goat Girl – Goat Girl
How can you describe this, in comparative terms? Near impossible I’d think, as it’s something I find entirely new; slight country influences mixed with bubbling Post-Punk cloaked by a sensibility that is three-fourths female. It makes for a interesting and potent mix, that is highly attractive; ‘The Man with No Heart or Brain’ gets to this description closest and shows how much tension seeps from underneath. It’s like the sound popped forth from a nickel juke in a dusty rural town in Texas that serves nothing but Lone Star lager, the type of place my father used to warn me about as ‘punch palaces’ when I was first becoming legal drinking age. ‘The Man’, ‘Dance of Dirty Lovers’ and ‘Country Sleaze’ are other highlights, which hell, after writing this I understand this should probably be a lot higher. Great debut record.
60. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
After the epic majesty that was Teens of Denial, you could almost forgive Will Toledo when you heard its proper follow up was to redo an album from 2011. But then you spin the things in close proximity and see just how radically new this is; with a full band and studio, all the emotional moments succeed with better precision and weight. The juxtapositional transition between ‘Stop Smoking (We Love You)’ bedroom aesthetic and ‘Sober to Death’ indy guitar rock is sublime, and the fully flushed out ‘Bodys’ amounts to a titanic work both in current rock but in the Car Seat Headrest ever tightening harness on ‘joyous songs on emotionally thin tightropes’.
61. Dead! – The Golden Age of Not Even Trying
Earlier I’d broached Gouge Away’s Burnt Sugar under the idea that that should be an appropriate enough album spun on modern mainstream rock radio. The idea that it’s not a tepid rehash like so much going now, but it wouldn’t be too aggressive or objectionable to the Big Six conglomerates either (who knows though, they’re never consistent). I think most rock fans would find something to latch onto here, and with the Dead!’s newest, the point could be expanded. It shows considerable stylistic growth, a band focused on exploring new ideas and textures, and covering much ground within the rock tent; ‘The Boy † The Boys’ is Heavy Metal Skater music for example, ‘The Golden Age of Not Even Trying’ a low-fi rocker, ‘Off White Paint’ a deep-stomping groove, ‘You’re so Cheap’ a lighter waving ballad, and while ‘W9’ takes that idea, it does so into even darker ranges. For not even trying, the boys sure covered a lot, and magnificently so.
62. Thou – Magnus
A genre I love that is nonetheless sorta waning—Sludge—is resurrected with touches of Doom on Thou’s newest, Magnus. I’d previously only known their split collaboration with The Body, 2015’s Released From Love/You Whom I Have Always Hated, and never took the dip deeper into their catalog. I’m happy that when I did, it was for this, their generally perceived masterwork up to now. Song titles imply overtly deep themes which scanning the lyrics reinforce, it’s Will to Power/sacred ego stuff, the desire to become the greatest individual possible, worthy of calling art unto yourself. The tunes help reinforce these ideas; there are mutlilayered compositions moving from intense heaviness to introspective beauty, proving again that the best classical music being made now is by savage guys who dress in all black.
63. Melvins – Pinkus Abortion Technician
Referencing the Butthole Surfers’ Locust Abortion Technician with their newest release, the Melvins also manage two Butthole Surfer covers amidst the 9 tracks here (another is the Beatles’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ that plods along, thankfully without any of the syrup of the original). There isn’t much new within the Melvins’ sound here, sure, bass is doubled up so stuff seems even denser at times, but what you’ll get is another classic, Melvins record. Which, for this listener, is what I want more often than not when I flick the stereo on.
64. Heavy Lungs – Abstract Thoughts (ep) / ‘Blood Brothers’ (single)
Buzzing, fuzzy Bristol punk, Heavy Lungs burst out with their first releases, promising a cracker of a debut (hopefully) in 2019. Highlights include ‘Stutter’, a vital rocker that erupts midway through into a scorching feedback onslaught, while ‘Blood Brother’ is most tuneful of all, showing that lead singer Danny Nedelko being the namesake of IDLES’ tremendous pro-immigrant single mid-year, and then a highly charismatic lead actor turn in the video was because he’s a captivating presence. Here’s their own song showing it.
65. Uniform/The Body – Mental Wounds Not Healing
The Body again partners with a band in sync with their arty ideas in the Heavier realms, this time featuring the textures of Uniform’s industrial hardcore wasteland. It plays like a dystopian cyberpunk soundtrack, opening to the squalled screams deep in ‘Dead Rivers’ unrelenting beat, before more oppressive atmospheric textures blanket much of the next few tracks. The second half of ‘The Boy with Death in His Eyes’ picks up the intensity again, which shifts everything to a darker edge, closing with ‘Empty Comforts’, which in another world is one of the great club hits of the year.
66. Body/Head – The Switch
The collaboration of Kim Gordon and fluid experimental guitarist Bill Nace has now produced three exceptional records beginning with 2013’s Coming Apart, which many consider the duo’s best. I’m not so sure, No Waves was primal, something like roots blues for the No Wave set. On The Switch that continues, Gordon furthering the idea that she’s as great and haunting a singer of the blues as we’ve ever had. It’s a wonderful song structure, songs building in intensity and scary rage as the album as a whole is likewise. Closing with ‘Change My Brain’s whirling, intertwining feedback swirls and then ‘Reverse Hard’, one of the most soothing explorations of intensity as you’ll hear this year.
67. Flasher – Constant Image
Featuring former members of Priests and Fugazi who worked at DC venue Comet Ping Pong famous for the Pizzagate conspiracy theory, you’d expect an tightly wound ball of political fury. And while Constant Image is perhaps slightly more subdued, this isn’t a slight—‘Skim Milk’ is dark and seductive, ‘Pressure’ an angular New Wave track, expertly composed in unison playing. It all sorta climaxes near the middle on ‘Who’s Got Time?’ a fuzzed up piece of laconic Pop Punk, that would’ve made Pete Shelley smile.
68. Spider Bags – Someday Everything Will Be Fine
Good time 80’s indy rock that occasionally broaches a mixture of Husker Du inflected Shoegaze (‘Tonight, I Walk on the Water’). I generally like it all, but when they truly buckle down and think twangy cowpunk, the results are tremendous; ‘My Heart Is a Flame in Reverse’ and ‘Ninety Day Dog’ both rock like the best of Rank & File and X at their country-inflected heights. Best of all is ‘Oxcart Blues’ which is easily one of the songs of the year, you wouldn’t mind just doing that 11 times in a row and calling it an LP.
69. Guttersnipe – My Mother The Vent
One of the supreme Noise purveyors going, Guttersnipe are as much an absurdist piece of nihilistic performance art as they are rock n’ rollers. On My Mother The Vent, they take these ideas to even further heights then previous extreme offerings promised; when guitarist Violaxia (one half of the band, the other being drummer Bdallophytum Oxylepis, both using pseudonyms) broke her arm, rather than having the inability to play the usual noise blasts, she adapted to one armed piano/synth and kept going. The results is a collection of oddly effecting, but alarmingly annoying songs. This is Experimental Noise so it’s not for everyone, but, when was any single piece of Art for everyone?
70. Titus Andronicus – A Productive Cough
Perhaps strangely, I’ve never really warmed to Patrick Stickles & company’s erudite blend of barroom punk and intellectualism. I’m not totally sure why, but, when a slight change of gears was promised, my interest was piqued. It’s perhaps their punkest idea yet to make an album this rooted in 70’s corporate label ballroom heroic sloppiness, but nonetheless, this sounds more effortless than anything ol’ Bruce ever squeezed out, so I’m prompted to admit that it’s warranted semi-regular spins throughout the year. Who would’ve thought that?
71. Vile Gash – Nightmare in a Damage Brain
Perhaps if you know the vile piece of Italian cinematic trash with which this takes its name from you’ll know what dropping the needle on this will entail. It’s pure unadulterated Hardcore, circa 2018, full of pounding drums, growled aggression and screeching, howling guitar. It’s unrelenting bile, bitter and engulfing, and if you’re in the mood, highly rewarding.
72. Tomb Mold – Manor of Infinite Forms
One of the heaviest releases of the year, Tomb Mold’s newest pummels riffs upon riffs, held together by a menacing growl and breakneck, thunderous drums. This is quintessential Metal for 2018,; ‘Final Struggle of Selves’ a barrage of a groove, and while the title track, ‘Manor of Infinite Forms’ takes a bit longer to get to it, you welcome the journey into darkness.
73. Lily Allen – No Shame
It pained me that I couldn’t eventually talk myself into liking Sheezus, so I was ecstatic to hear early efforts for No Shame be so strong, a fact that was eventually fully realized when the album dropped. But I so dig the idea here: ‘Trigger Bangs’ sleepy feel and Allen’s beautiful hook and both ‘Lost My Mind’ and ‘Family Man’ pretty odes that are covering the cracks of otherwise pretty sad tales. Welcome back to the top Queen.
74. Low – Double Negative
While Low have long been a band that appreciated the finer, more subtle qualities in rock—they’re probably the best know exemplifiers of the Slow Core moniker—but they have done some works approaching modern rock. The Great Destroyer, for example, is often positively thrilling, soaring rock n’ roll. This isn’t to comparatively say that the newest, Double Negative, is dull, rather, it’s an approximation to let the reader know that this is a dark, somber work for a band that treads these waters regularly. But as its title implies, this seems doubly so now, it’s a record of largely digital touches and static, the warmth coming from Mimi Parker’s pretty as pink vocals. That they’re able to offer this much beauty amidst such otherwise bleakness, is why you celebrate the record, and this band in general. I don’t doubt that over time this one, more than anything else on this list, will rise as listens swell.
75. Frigs – Basic Behavior
An opening slot on tour with the Savages would do wonders for these Toronto based Post-Punkers; let a highly sympathetic audience become exposed to their starkly atmospheric, airy works, and provide them a hall or two big enough to explore that impeccable studio separation inherent in the tunes. But, in the meantime, pick up their newest bruiser and regale in the fervor.
76. Warm Drag – Warm Drag
For Warm Drag’s debut you’d expect their previous bands—Thee Oh Sees, K-Holes, Golden Triangle—to feature heavily in the sound, and it does, but theres a nice, dirty Pop sensibility here too. ‘The Wanderer’ is a nice drone chiming thing, while ‘Cruisin’ the Night’ is heavy and doom laden, like Suicide in the era of Surf or Rockabilly, then there’s ‘End Times’ and ‘Lost Times’ featuring the chugging garage riffs their previous band indicated. Perhaps my favorite is the dreamy ’Sleepover’, which is pretty dream pop about an altogether dark topic, the rare narcotic love song. You almost immediately pair it with 1955’s ‘Smoke from a Cigarette’, the Mellows gorgeous Doo-Wop ode featuring the heavenly Lillian Leach on lead. A song so darkly beautiful, it’s rumored to be Lou Reed’s favorite Pop song. But I digress, you take a warm drag of the cigarette, hopefully unfiltered, and bask in the hazy plume overhead.
77. At the Gates – To Drink From the Night Itself
In the world of Heavy Metal now there have fractured so many subgenres that to anyone not interested it all seems too, well, intense, but if I was to point someone who thinks (the otherwise great) Iron Maiden or Candlemass are as extreme as Metal should go, it be towards At the Gates approach to melodic Black Metal where I’d recommend a serious spin. It’s rooted in complex structures but is highly hooky, a new signature riff popping up at every turn, with the Black Metal signifying that this is also appropriately heavy as well. The title track a riff laden beast, while ‘Daggers of Black Haze’ ventures towards slowly growled groove, then there’s ‘The Colours of the Beast’, a slab of pummeling symphonic punishment. As good as anything from their 90s heyday.
78. Stiff Love – Attitudes/Out of Control / Trouble (ep’s)
There was a time when Olympia, Washington was the center of the rock n’ roll universe, especially where females were concerned. A few decades later (more or less), Stiff Love are here to say that could very much still be the case. With a pair of raucous releases adding up to 6 songs, barely scrapping in at a quarter of an hour, there’s real edge here; ‘Like a Dog’ is bass driven and ready to pounce, ‘Trouble’ is punkish (it all is really) and full of devil may care spunk, while ‘Walk In the Dark’ is ominous and highly tuneful. ‘Out of Control’ is melodic garage fury, mixing (what must be their obvious heroes) the Shangri-La’s with all those first wave punk bands that so loved them. Stiff Love is yet to do a debut full-length, but when they do, I’m all ears, but in the meantime, we’ll savor these.
79. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Sparkle
Stephen Malkmus has produced enough quality in his life that releases baring his name shouldn’t surprise us, but of late he’s been constituently lukewarm, songs appearing semi-regularity sounding like slight variations on the same thing. It’s why you’re so braced when Sparkle first gets spun, his usual professional consistency shows clear, but there’s occasional, real brilliance as well (‘Middle America’ being the most readily apparent).
80. Half Japanese – Why Not?
Half Japanese, the art punk institution for Maryland, return for their 19th record, Why Not? It’s a great title that could double as its raison d’etre, a bristling collection of razor sharp lo-fi garage punk tracks that would be just as appropriate sitting on the Pop charts as they would freely cast aside in their studio. That they’ve been around since the 70’s but they sound as fresh as ever is borderline remarkable at this point.
81. Beak> – >>> / Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings
Taken together, these two releases could give a good DJ quite a few weeks worth of ideas tinkering them into something resembling a cohesive whole. Taken separately they’re two of the most worthwhile rhythmic releases of the year; Beak> the product of Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, mixes icy cool electronic pulses with warm human touches, it could score the best espionage thriller you’ve never seen. McCraven’s effort, meanwhile, takes a similar approach if producing different results; organic beats producing a warmer ensemble, pulsing towards Afrobeat inflected Jazz. Perhaps in a perfect world, it’d score the hippest heist movie ever made.
83. Beach House – 7
Beach House are more than secure in their place in the musical cosmos, and 7 is another assured work of sonic exploration and distortion. It’s also considerably pretty too, not unlike 2015’s Depression Cherry, but here there seems to be some sharper, rougher edges, and less reliance on 80’s New Wave synths. As a result I think ‘Lemon Glow’, ‘Dive’ and ‘Pay No Mind’ will age gracefully, just like the band that birthed them.
84. The James Hunter Six – Whatever It Takes
One of the true masters of blue-eyed Soul croons another beauty. Early, organ drenched Motown and Chicago Soul are given new life; ‘MM-Hmm’ recalls Major Lance’s ‘Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um’, while ‘Don’t Let Pride Take You For a Ride’ gets inspiration from ‘(You Can’t Let the Boy Overpower) The Man in You’, Smokey’s Robinson’s timeless 1964 stunner. Comparisons to these two are about the highest I can offer; shuffle the night away in loafers with this one.
85. YOB – Our Raw Heart
Earlier I called Tomb Mold quintessential Metal for 2018, and really, you’d have to pair it with YOB’s newest for the statement to be totally accurate. YOB is less guttural, but in that airy, epic quality covering all the avenues into Prog structures, metal finds itself contemporaneously whole. In short, there is light here—‘Ablaze’ opens the record with 10 minutes of otherwise straight forward rock pageantry, a beautiful appetizer before ‘The Screen’ gallops in and rips the party to shreds. They play considerable attention to these juxtapositions, resulting in an album of complexity and attractiveness. I know, we shouldn’t use such warm, glowing terms for Metal, but what can I say, this is a beaut of a record.
86. Yamantaka // Sonic Titan – Dirt
I’ve liked all the previous Yamantaka // Sonic Titan releases, their attention to intricate, often scary heaviness in a Kaidan milieu setting them apart from the legions of terrifying Heavy Metal acts. On their newest, Dirt, they branch out even further, minimizing some of the aggression and in its place epic atmospheric touches anchored by Joanna Delos airy vocals (‘Someplace’). They still bring distortion and chaos of course, ‘Yandere’ is a Prog-inflected stomper for the ages.
87. Burmese – privileged
Modern No Wave, where 2 bass guitar duel into fits of pure anarchic madness. Surprisingly tuneful, within context of course. One of the experimental releases of the year.
88. the Damned – Evil Spirits
The original British punk legends return with a strong collection of tunes played at their usual gothic, breakneck best. Lead track, ‘Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow’ is indicative; a driving bassline with Dave Vanian’s tremendous vocals brooding hovering above. They’re peaking into politics again—they were more interested in the state of the world then they’ve ever been given credit for—and ‘Look Left’ and ‘Daily Liar’ succeed. Sure, perhaps it’s no masterpiece or even breaking new ground, but it’s already been decided that I’m in the bag for the Damned and most bands half their age would kill for a set of tunes like this.
89. Noname – Room 25
Chicago based Noname exploded onto the hip-hop community with her debut mixtape, Telefone, but few could have guess the leap the proper debut, Room 25, would exhibit. Socially conscious and impeccable arranged, the jazzy Room 25 is surely one of the rap releases of this or any year.
90. Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt
Perhaps the first (or last) entry at 90 is much to low for Spiritualized’s newest masterwork, but I’d just done it once late in the year and haven’t returned to it like I know I will. That’s an important caveat in Jason Pierce’s music as dense, intricate songs burrow in and plant memorable lines and melodic devices over time. Even on these truncated listens, ‘The Morning After’ is tremendous and epic, ‘Sail on Through’ swirling and majestic, and ‘I’m Your Man’ tender and thoughtful. Yeah, this’ll rise.
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See first comment underneath for my favorite compilations/re-issues from this year.