As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’
10. Big Lad – Pro Rock
The band formerly known as Shitwife (a far more… interesting band name, shall we say?) released their first rebranded new album in October, and it contains exactly the edge-of-your-seat energy and musical genre abuse that has taken the UK live scene by storm. Imagine Aphex Twin as a two-piece live rock band, and the resulting carnage is somewhere near. A whirlwind of adrenaline-charged synth surges, faster-than-light drum barrages, and tongue-in-cheek gags and throwbacks aplenty, that give this duo arguably the most explosive crowd crossover appeal since The Prodigy. However you choose to administer Pro Rock, this is a group on the cusp of something truly spectacular.
9. VEXES – Ancient Geometry
In a year absent of a new Deftones release, you could market VEXES as bridging that gap perfectly, and leave it there. But Ancient Geometry encourages and ultimately rewards multiple listens, rich with subtleties and nuances amongst luscious atmospheres, mesmerising melodies, and moments of full-throttle aggression. Excelling at universe-sized anthemic choruses, and visions of thousands strong sing-alongs, this core component in a volcanic post-hardcore masterpiece makes it stand head and shoulders above the status as an imitator of its influences. A passionate, involving journey, Ancient Geometry both slots in, and defies subservience, as a worthy addition to the nu-metal generation canon.
8. The Crystal Method – The Trip Home
Their first studio album since co-founder’s Ken Jordan’s retirement and continuation as solo act by Scott Kirkland, is arguably their best collective body of work (soundtracks excluded) since Vegas. Conceptually a cinematic listen, spread with multiple potential radio cuts in its duration, The Trip Home is the past, present, and future of a group’s lasting impact on a movement it helped define. Constructed around trademark big beats, the electronics vary from serene breeze, pounding dancefloor earworms, and immersive dystopian pursuits, all forming an enormous, evocative rush, engineered with excellence, beginning to end. An incredibly welcome return to form, and soon to be beyond.
7. Hazel Iris – Nine Sisters
California-born, but German-taught and UK-adopted, songstress Hazel Iris weaves tales tall with wonder and whimsy, befitting of any West End-calibre stage production. Ushered in with a twist of heart-warming eccentricity, this classically trained and extraordinarily talented spirit explores ethereal folk strolls, upbeat pomp and splendour and haunting but touching ballads, while effortlessly blurring the lines of indie, electronic, folk, and classical music with the wave of her wand. Nine Sisters is a truly absorbing realm of an album, in its lavish atmospherics, lovingly composed instrumentals, and the oft hypnotic, caressing melodies of their chief architect, lay the logical heiress to Kate Bush’s kingdom.
6. Rivers Of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name
What a year for these gentlemen from Pennsylvania. Now heading into the new year on their tenth anniversary as a band, third album Where Owls Know My Name cements Rivers of Nihil as true innovators and boundary-smashers in modern death metal, and this album will stand as a new monument for the genre, and a fascinating argument for death metal as an art form. Stacked with artistic flourishes and eclecticism that transform blackened and murky stereotypes into an arresting, often beautiful kaleidoscope, revolving around the subjects of loss, life, and retrospective, Rivers of Nihil once again take conventions kicking and screaming to outer limits and beyond what thought possible.
5. Amigo The Devil – Everything Is Fine
The word ‘genius’ isn’t thrown around too often on this site, but the word certainly comes to mind when discussing Danny Kiranos, the very dark heart of murderfolk balladeer Amigo The Devil. Debut album Everything Is Fine, in part, inspired by a collection of suicide notes including his own, drags country, folk, and the blues, down into the grave and inside some of the most despair-driven recesses of sanity, and has a raucous good time with them. Absolutely astonishing, often wickedly funny, and completely heart-breaking at its apexes, Everything Is Fine is inarguably the most earnest, powerful entry on this list, hoping to unite its listeners in empathy, not apathy.
4. Palm Reader – Braille
A band not long ago at the very brink, to return in such vigorous and devastating fashion with their third collection of take-no-prisoners hardcore fury, has become one of 2018’s biggest success stories. Continually evolving and shifting the many spears of their multi-pronged attack, Braille was a do-or-die album, and the energy, raw heart, musicianship, and endless graft that ensued, absolutely shines through. Technically dizzying, reflective yet visceral, and with moments of genuine heartache and agony, Palm Reader have unquestionably made the album of their lives, and in true style, Braille is an album not just made to be listened, but an album that has to be felt.
3. A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant
When the ignition was sparked on various occasions on a then dormant A Perfect Circle, nobody could’ve quite predicted the capacity they would truly rematerialise in. Some 14 years later, the follow-up to the divisive eMOTIVe arrived, and despite mellowing in age, it heralded some of their best material. Still as ever the philosophers and social critics, though with over a decade’s worth of source material more, a wholly experimental and oft piano-driven series of songs retains and cherishes the supergroup’s emphasis on an emotional connect with its listeners. Eat The Elephant needs room to breath and time for digestion, but was ultimately one of 2018’s most gratifying listens on its standalone merits.
2. Trevor Something – ULTRAPARANOIA
Firstly, to give gravitas to this unfathomably impressive sonic experience, the entire universe within this album requires full continuity. Save that the strength of the songs produced by this prolific and still anonymous musician from Florida, are among his most addictive work yet, but to truly understand ULTRAPARANOIA, it needs to be listened to from front to back. Shifting far from his synthwave roots, Trevor Something’s impeccable production honed onto the many glitches, segues, and minutest of details contained here, gives belief that he totally gets isolation, anxiety, depression, and the discomforts of dwelling within the digital age. A fundamentally unsettling, but inspirational listen.
1. OddZoo – Future Flesh
Perturbator, thank you. Spreading your peers’ unabashed waves of noise, soaring, dream-like sound design, and elegantly perfect pop compositions, has brought consistent delight and distress into 2018 that no other has achieved. Alternating between light and shadow, peaceful slumber, and unrelenting nightmares, OddZoo conjure a sensory extravaganza, pitting frosty, unearthly synths and soothing vocal harmonies, against thunderous, mechanized beats, and the buzzing of menace and dread always lurking nearby, and the stark contrast makes for one of the most unique, unforgettable 40 minute thrill rides you’ll ever embark upon. Future Flesh stood unchallenged as this year’s favourite from first encounter, and OddZoo have a very bright future ahead of them.
Lastly, what would a year’s recap of terrific music be without recognising the others that didn’t make the final list? So I wanted to celebrate these very honourable mentions, by reviewing and summing up each one with just three words, hopefully giving you incentive to check them out, and as a bid to do some justice to what was a standout year in modern music. This was a lot of fun, see if you agree with any of them. Join me in congratulating:
Intercourse – Everything Is Pornography If You Have An Imagination (Wisecracking. Hardcore. Rollercoaster.)
Razorrhead – (—O_x—) (Leftism-inspired soundscapes.)
The Afterimage (nka Brand of Sacrifice) – Eve (Technical. Prowess. Incarnate.)
Mefjus – Manifest (Neurofunk. Instant. Classic.)
Hardcore Anal Hydrogen – Hypercut (Frenetic. Brilliance. Ducks.)
XavlegbmaofffassssitimiwoamndutroabcwapwaeiippohfffX – Gore 2.0 (African. Slam. Tomfoolery.)
Slow Crush – Aurora (Spectral. Noise. Anthems.)
The Algorithm – Compiler Optimisation Techniques (Formula. Finally. Perfected.)
All Hail The Yeti – Highway Crosses (Grizzled. Metal. Masterclass.)
Maeth – Whaling Village (Underground. Phenomenon. Swansong.)
Sleep In Heads – On The Air (Gothic. Majesty. Unfolding.)
Zombie Western – Omen (Stellar. Foreboding. Cinematic.)
The Deadlights – Adrift (Seminal. Sonic. Eruption.)
Popcorn Kid – Newness (Immaculate. Nostalgia. Wave.)
Somali Yacht Club – The Sun (Ukranian. Psychedelia. Rising.)
World End Man – Use My Knife (Japanese. Death. Charge.)
Gottwut – Konglomerat (Rammstein’s Russian cousin.)
ADULT. – This Behaviour (Techno. Punk. Discotheque.)
Witch Ripper – Homestead (Son of Mastodon.)
Hallouminati – Tonight, Is Heavy (Progressive. Gypsy. Shenaniganry.)
The Cancel – Autumn (Chilled. Urban. Hustle.)
Zapruder – Zapruder (Calculated. Jazzy. Riot.)
Khôrada – Salt (Sprawling. Musical thunderbolt.)
The Ocean – Phanerozic I: Paeleozoic (Unstoppable, once again.)
Pijn – Loss (Raw, ferocious emotion.)
Abbe May – Fruit (Striking. Soulful. Swagger.)
Deth Crux – Mutant Flesh (Post-punk perversions.)
Azusa – Heavy Yoke (Hypersonic. Fist. Fight.)
Khemmis – Desolation (Emphatic. Doom. Celebration.)
Cavern – Eater (Short. But sensational.)
That about wraps up every album that struck a chord or made a lasting impact with me in 2018. Obviously it’s impossible to listen to and cover absolutely everything that emerged in 2018, but hopefully this has a breadth and diversity that avid music adventurers will appreciate, although my opinion is 100% subjective.
Have a playlist of every album mentioned:
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