You can find the first part of my end of the year list here
Here we go with my top 10. As in every year, there were a couple of albums that have been set for this for a long time, others, that continually moved up. And then others that had to fight hard but made it in nonetheless. This year, I was maintaining an Excel spreadsheet with all the new releases I listened to. I rated them and expected to easily see my favourite albums of the year if I just looked at my highest rated records.
Of course, it isn’t that easy.
Music is an emotional experience, and albums can become better or worse through connected experiences, memories and social contacts. So, in the end, the spreadsheet was merely a signpost and reminder. The placement of my records was, as in every year, a gut decision that could look very different if my 2018 was only a little different. I know you all only care about the facts, and here they are:
10. DENZEL CURRY
I have dismissed Curry as just another one of “these Soundcloud rappers” until this year. Which, in hindsight, was a huge mistake. In 2018, Denzel has shown that he is one of the best in the game right now. He stands above everyone else in the new wave of Hiphop, just as he says on highlight PERCS. TA1300 in its entirety flows very nicely, if you ignore the redundant three-part-topic of the record. The shift from light to dark, from sane to insane becomes very apparent if you compare the almost-mellow opening title track to the abrasive, breathless closer Black Metal Terrorist. The carefully-selected features fit seamlessly into the tracks and enhance them without taking too much attention away from Curry. Denzel shows versatility in delivery, flows, lyricism and choice of beats that no-one else can match this year. It’s a dark, album that requires your attention if you want to dive deeper into the head of Denzel Curry. And you should, because Denzel has proven me wrong and shown me that there is tons of talent to be discovered. He is ahead of the curve right now and has rightfully earned the title of best Hiphop album of 2018.
09. SPANISH LOVE SONGS
Every time Dylan Slocum has told me his stories with his distinctive, shaky yet strong voice, I liked this album a little more. And it has been a steady companion throughout the year. From start to finish, Schmaltz is an infectious album: The melodies are catchy, the guitars loud and Spanish Love Songs don’t bother with any bigger tempo shifts until the beautiful acoustic closer Aloha To No One. This album is, on the surface, a fun and thrilling Punk Rock record. Nothing special, there are tons of similar-sounding bands around. However, there is just something about this band that is even more heart-felt, relatable and candid. Maybe it was me seeing them live just a few weeks ago, but every word coming out of Slocum’s mouth seems more important than anything else in the world right now. His very personal lyrics about being broken, yet hopeful are wrapped in 11 hits, impossible to make out highlights because every single song has a special aura to them.
08. ILLUMINATI HOTTIES
Kiss Yr Frenemies
This might as well be called: Mid-20s, the album: No plan for the future, covering up insecurities with crude humour and just doing whatever seems right at the moment without considering the consequences are some of the topics you can find on here. Sonically, Sarah Tudzin’s songs are anything but one-dimensional, as she dips her toes in basically every genre she can get her hands on. For instance, the shy Bedroom Pop in Cuff and the ecstatic, horn-laden finale of For Cheez are tracklist neighbours. The lyrics are straight-forward, yet so relatable for anything around this age that this album definitely does not need any more lyricism than that. It is also an art to write lyrics that are both personal yet applicable to a larger demographic. This is probably not an album that will stand the test of time, as it is juvenile (I mean, fart noises!) and fragmented. But for this moment, for me, it is the exactly right album, the one I needed to hear in 2018. And maybe Sarah Tudzin won’t make any more rookie mistakes on her next project.
07. LUCY DACUS
Upon listening to Historian, you will be surprised to learn that Lucy Dacus is only 23. This is one of the most mature and carefully-arranged records I have heard this year. Leaning more to the Softrock side than her friends Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, she fills a niche in the Indie landscape that is not very saturated right now. I am particularly impressed by the clever use of the electric guitar on here, as it is the protagonist in many tracks and lifts songs like Timefighter and Night Shift from ‘great’ to ‘absolutely fantastic‘! It is easy to listen to her warm voice and let her take you by the hand to lead you through this record full of small stories. The laid-back atmosphere throughout the record is underlined by the time many songs take to uncover all their secrets and little details. I feel like there is something new for me to discover every time I start this album and going on this journey has not been boring yet.
A band that has been around for as long as Low, which is 25 years, knows that they don’t have to prove anything. Yet they do exactly that on Double Negative. They prove that they are still able to surprise and create something new from the puzzle pieces of their distinct sound. This album takes the Slowcore approach, sticks it into the blender with a couple of Drone tracks and the results are something of an enigmatic beauty. While the sound, especially in the first half of the album, is challenging, the album still embraces you with its warmth once you let it. Behind the façade of industrial stomping and distorted noise are still the gorgeous songs Low have always written. And while hidden on some tracks, it still enhances them and adds something exciting to the mix. One of the boldest albums of the year, a boldness that really pays off because this ranks among Low’s best releases.
05. BEACH HOUSE
While calling their seventh full-length simply 7 is not the most creative thing Beach House have ever done, this album might be. The duo has never diverged much from their proven sound and only given us slight, yet great variations of their trademark sound, 7 does everything a little differently. This is still the Beach House we know and love, but the songs have even more going on in them and sound a lot more psychedelic than ever before. Standout Black Car with its mysterious and dark atmosphere is an excellent example for the progress in sound that the band demonstrates on this record. It is easy to get lost in this sea of warm distortion and intricate sound details that Beach House throw at you. For me, every song on 7 has something unique going on that stands out and right now, this might be my favourite Beach House release. It shows development and progress without leaving the roots behind and I’m excited to see where Beach House go from here.
As I have written in my first review, I feel like this is a straight continuation from Pale Horses, the quiet before the storm, as the band kicks your door in with the opener 9:27am, 7/29. MewithoutYou’s seventh album is their most aggressive yet, which is mostly because of singer Aaron Weiss. He is really let loose on here, screaming, shouting, speaking, singing, story-telling, he does it all, again in his inimitable manner. Grizzled veterans of the Post-Hardcore scene, mewithoutYou still manage to offer variations of their sound that have not been heard before. The lyrics inspire discussion, as they are as puzzling as they have always been, but that just makes it more interesting to really delve into the record’s stories. This band is releasing classic after classic and with Julia they have a proper rock hit (in a fair world) on here, too. This has grown to become my favourite album of theirs and it has not stopped growing on me.
03. THE BETHS
Future Me Hates Me
Charming, lovable, fun. Usually these adjectives are not reserved for the highest of praise which has to change once you listen to The Beths’ debut, as it is the most charming, lovable and fun record of the year. You would not expect for a straight-forward Indie-Powerpop album to get the title ‘grower of the year’ but Future Me Hates Me (great title by the way) has risen through the ranks, only to be stopped at the bronze rank. And while, sonically, this record has a lot of great catchy melodies going on, it is worth to look at the lyrics about separation and love. Singer Elizabeth Stokes wraps her stories into witty and sincere lyricism that is not as simple as the instrumentation might make you think on first listen. Standout among standouts that is Little Death is the prime example as it describes the physical responses of having a crush. Every song on here is harmonious, thrilling and fun and you will not get enough of it, as the melodies suck you into The Beths’ world and you really don’t want to leave.
Nearer My God
The catch-it-all record of the year, these guys decided to just screw any expectations and genre-restrictions and sound like everyone. You can hear traces of Indie heroes such as Portugal. The Man, TV On The Radio or Brand New on here. Whatever you throw at this album, at least one song will have traces of something you know. So, is this just an elaborate copy?
Not at all, because Foxing remain umistakably Foxing: The unique style of singer Conor Murphy, the emo roots of the band, all that is still in place. However, this album can be so much more and therefore anything you’d like it to be. Except for boring. My foot is tapping rapidly, as Conor Murphy croons into the highest of highs, the fucking sick guitar solo in Lich Prince makes me jump out of my chair and I really don’t know what is what anymore for the one hour runtime of this insane Rock album. The lyrics revolve largely around religious imagery, especially thoughts of death and afterlife. That doesn’t stop Murphy to include political criticism, personal self-doubt and even nods to high fantasy such as D&D in his lyrics, totally in line with the musical ‘whatever’ sound of this record. Foxing finally deliver what they have always promised and thus become one of the most exciting Rock bands of our time.
01. ROLO TOMASSI
Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
For some records, you have immensely high expectations. You liked some of their prior projects but you always felt that something was amiss. Then, you hear a couple of tracks and you like them. Very much so, despite being very different. And then you go into the album, expecting nothing less than one of the albums of the year. In most cases, such high expectations would lead to disappointment.
Enter: Rolo Tomassi.
But let’s start with the singles: While the aggressive Mathcore of Rituals and the dark Jazzcore of Balancing The Dark (released in 2017) are amazing songs, I was especially intrigued by Aftermath. It is one of the few tracks that does not feature any screamed vocals and seems to be Rolo Tomassi’s version of a Pop song that still has this underlying sense of urgency that makes you expect an eruption any second. In the tracklist, this eruption is, in fact, Rituals.
And despite these tracks already being so good, I was then floored by the sheer beauty that is standout track A Flood Of Light.
I have never heard a combination of good and evil that was so pure, with Eva Spence switching between her angelic clear vocals (agaaaaaaain) and her fury screams from the depths of hell. In this song, they really manage to balance the dark and light in their music. I have liked their earlier albums but on Time Will Die and Live Will Bury It, they have blown all my expectations out of the water and become a band without boundaries and rules. After few listens, I was sure that something even more otherworldly would have to happen for this album to leave the first place of this list. And that did not occur.
Rolo Tomassi let the light into their sound and are rewarded with the crown. This is an album full of memorable moments that will accompany you throughout the year. It is haunting and gorgeous, wild and ugly, it will pull you down and lift you up and change the way you look at heavy music in 2018.
So, this was my 2018. It was an exciting year and I hope I find time to keep up the work I did on here because I really enjoy it. If you have read anything that I have written in the past 5 months, I simply want to say: Thank you.