Until I sat down to put this list together, I hadn’t realised how fantastic 2018 has been for music. It’s all the more evident for what’s not made my top twenty with bands like IDLES, Wild Cat Strike, Barely March, The Interrupters, Clutch, Pijn, Cancer Bats, Fucked Up and so many more missing out. If I’d wanted to be self-indulgent (okay, more self-indulgent), I could quite easily have come up with fifty albums that I loved and a hundred that were at least good. If you’re interested, buy me a pint sometime, and I’ll happily talk at you about them. In the here and now, here are the twenty that blew my mind.
If I were to guess, I’d say that Can’t Swim’s second album was honed on the road. While the core sound of the band is still there, these songs are stripped down and simplified which, dare I say it, may well have made them better. Ten emo led rock songs every single one of which brings a sprinkle of magic to the table. Wherever it was written, it worked.
A lot of the albums on this list are complex and demanding, requiring multiple listens to get to the bottom of them. Others are packed with fucking bangers. Hold On To Your Heart is very much the later. One listen to The Xcerts latest and you’ll be singing these songs for the rest of your life. You won’t be complaining about it either.
As the days ticked away since the release of The Weird And Wonderful Marmozets, you couldn’t be blamed for worrying about Marmozets. Life seemed to be against them as illness got in their way just as they appeared to be taking off. Had they missed their opportunity? Don’t be fucking stupid.
The second ‘Play’ launches Knowing What You Know Now into life those fears were put to bed. It’s a timely reminder of why that momentum was kick-started in the first place, and with tracks like ‘Major System Error’ leading the way, the push towards greatness can pick right up from where it paused. Thank fuck they’re back.
Sometimes judging a book by its cover works. I only listened to illuminati hotties because it’s a badass name for a band, and thank fuck I did because Kiss Yr Frenemies came into my life at the exact right moment for all sorts of reasons. From the sweet emotion of ‘Shape Of My Hands’ to the raspberry blowing punk of ‘Pressed 2 Death’ they already mean the world to me. It pays to dive into the unknown sometimes.
Stop reading this and go listen to Mire right now. Done? Aye, well that slab of genius you just heard is Conjurer’s debut album. It’s fucking unfair, isn’t it?
You know what? The cunts are right, Deafheaven no longer sound like a metal band. However, if you’re dumb enough to want to excise this band from our scene, then you need your head examined. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is further proof that they are extraordinary. We should be hanging onto them, no matter what they sound like.
The members of Rolo Tomassi have committed the crime of being too wonderful for too long. Because of that, it’s no longer a story when they release a great album. It’s the norm, and that norm is bullshit. In the last however many years, they’ve gone from snotty punks making deliberately abrasive music into fucking awesome adults making abrasive, but beautiful albums like Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It which is packed with epics that deserve to be treated like the masterpieces they are. Stop taking them for granted you prick, go love Rolo Tomassi.
The rant I started in the last entry is about to continue.
Here, motherfuckers, why aren’t you all listening to Palm Reader? In fact, why haven’t you been worshipping Palm Reader for seven fucking years? This band have been crafting excellent albums since before any of the members were actually born, and they don’t give a shit that such a thing is impossible. Braille just serves as further proof that they are one of our very best, and I’m fed up telling of people to pay them the respect they deserve. Go listen to it.
I love hardcore, but even I have to admit that the very best bands are the ones that take the genre and twist it. Birds In Row are the perfect example of how to do exactly that. We Already Lost The World is as inspired by Nick Cave as it is Minor Threat and that dark, cold streak which it brings to the music only serves to make proceedings all the heavier. If this is the starting block for where this band go from now on, then they have the potential to become something truly remarkable.
Restorations are yet another band who to come out of Pennsylvania with songs destined to break your heart. However, while it’s easy to pair them up with groups like The Menzingers, the truth is that LP5000 is a very different proposition. While those bands revel in the warmth of nostalgia, this is laced with a bitter streak that twists through these heartbreak tunes. It’s that edge which allows them to stand out in a scene that already has its share of sublime bands.
When Devil Is Fine burst into the metal world catching people off-guard with it’s ingenious meld of chain gang blues and black metal, it seemed likely that Manuel Gagneux could do something truly spectacular. I’m not sure if anyone expected to get it this quickly. Stranger Fruit blows that effort away as Zeal & Ardor have suddenly become one of metal’s most powerful voices. Any album that can drop a two punch of ‘Row Row’ and ‘Ship On Fire’ is doing something damn right.
What Turnstile do is so clearly brilliant that you kind of wonder why every other fucker hasn’t been doing it for years. Take hardcore, meld it with alternative rock and deliver it with Vince McMahon’s levels of swagger. How can that be anything but incredible? Time & Space is the album where this band went from potential into fucking world beaters and you can bet that are more people are going to be using that formula in the years to come. Few, if any, will do it this well.
In these complex times, there is a real need for carefully constructed arguments that can cut through the bullshit of the world. We also need rip-roaring hardcore punk that grabs you round the throat, smashes your head off the wall and lectures you about why you’re a fucking moron. Suffrage is thirteen tracks in twenty minutes with names like ‘0FUXX’ and ‘#GTFO’, what more needs to be said?
‘I used to bury my feelings deep down inside of me’ is the refrain which kicks off This Will Haunt Me and it’s a near perfect rallying call for this collection of slacker stoner anthems. From their wish to enjoy ‘Shallow Pop Songs’ to ‘The Devil Wears Flannel’ (which is what ‘Tribute’ would sound like if it was good), Dollar Signs have written a collection of songs about feeling lost and a bit sad. What could be more 2018 than that?
How do you follow a debut album like Statues? If you’re Black Peaks, you bash out one that might actually be better. All That Divides feels like the natural next step for a band that worships at the altars of Mastodon and Tool as they start their adventure into the out there worlds of prog. Songs these big deserve to be heard by as many people as possible, so get on it!
Some albums benefit from being analysed and obsessed over. Others are at their best when they’re put on, turned up loud and sung along to with all your heart. Every song on Schmaltz is begging to be adored, and if they keep writing music like this, it won’t be long until the world becomes aware of Spanish Love Songs.
A lot of bands believe that power comes from throwing a hurricane of sound at the listener. However, it can often be found in the noise that you don’t make. With Animals revels in its own silence. Duke Garwood is a good enough musician to know that with someone like Mark Lanegan the best thing you can do is stay out of his way, complimenting his voice rather than battling with it. When you do that, magic like this occurs.
Holy Hell is the album that no-one wanted Architects to have to write. Yet, it is undeniably a triumph. From the second the rage-fuelled defiance of ‘Death Is Not Defeat’ roars out of your speakers the message is clear. The death of Tom Searle will always be a part of this band, but there is a future beyond that and Architects are now stepping into that with their heads held high. 2019 is already shaping up to be a massive year for this band, and Holy Hell is further proof that no-one deserves it more.
On their second album, Nervus continue the trend that they established on Permanent Rainbows. It’s a trend characterised by an outstanding ability to write songs loaded with depth and emotion which are also fucking jams that you want to sing along to with your arms in the air. This band take the real-world hurt and difficulties that people go through and turn it into joy. If there’s any justice, we’ll all be singing them together for a long time.
From the eye roll of ‘The Opener’ through the devastated anger of ‘Face Of God’ to the bittersweet, tear-inducing reflection of ‘I’ve Got You’ Camp Cope’s greatest strength is that you know that every single word that comes out of Georgia McDonald’s mouth is born of the truth. If the rest of the band were to get drunk and blindly thrash at their instruments, those words would still make this album incredible. The fact they write fantastic songs is almost a bonus. Camp Cope are one of those incredible bands that come along and speak the truth. It’s time to start listening.