2018 is almost over and these lists are kind of inane and asinine but really they’re just helpful for sorting through the massive amounts of releases. These are the records that our editors enjoyed this year in no particular order or ranking.
Navy Gangs Poach
When Navy Gangs put out their first EP however many years ago it felt like a four track realization of the sentiment explored in The Strokes “12:51” The EP is young and fun and about you know—the bodega being far and closed, spending your evenings at bad parties etc. Poach is such a huge development and evolution for the band. It’s sobering and not exactly grown up, but more acutely weary of the world and introspective. Tracks like “Vampire,” “Diorama,” and “Wide Awake” punctuate the record with melancholy exuberance. This record is beautiful and exhausting and a lot of it is good for crying to in the shower.
—Tamim Alnuweiri, Managing Editor
Lala Lala The Lamb
2018 has been a shitty year—beyond the “president” running the country into a tar fire kept burning by a slew of man child neo-Nazis, it feels like on a personal level everyone is going through some shit. I probably know like two people that haven’t had a fucked up year. Lala Lala‘s The Lamb captures the anxious combination of introspection, fear, and sadness brought on by an endless barrage of bad shit. The range of the album is captured by the opening and closing tracks. “Destroyer” is one of the more outwardly venomous yet musically upbeat songs on the record, and “See You At Home” is introspection so sincere and sublime it’s heart wrenching.
—Tamim Alnuweiri, Managing Editor
The Dreebs Forest of a Crew
If I was running the world The Dreebs would have done the Soundtrack for 2018’s Suspiria. Forest of a Crew is the epitome of guttural instinct. It sounds like if someone was able to translate human breathing patterns into music. It’s haunting and quietly violent, each vocal note, guitar note, and drumbeat a punch in the gut—an action that leaves you grasping for air.
—Tamim Alnuweiri, Managing Editor
The Sediment Club Stucco Thieves
This year The Sediment Club turned 10 which in New York’s landscape feels like the celebration of a centennial. Anyways the only reason I bring this up is because you know when a band has been around for too long and they just start putting out release after release and it’s all so underwhelming that it becomes overwhelming and there’s maybe an entire album of good tracks split across a 15 album discography? That is NOT The Sediment Club.
Stucco Thieves is so solid and intense that it would be the high point of a lesser band. But with every release, and this release especially, The Sediment Club find new pathways of noise to explore, new lyrical integrities to push forth, and more music to put into the world that makes you glad that New York has not fallen into the ocean (yet). Stucco Thieves is music made out of always anxious times, and it’s not the most comforting record (it’s not here to coddle you), but it and tracks like “Spent Americans” are the most important of the year.
—Tamim Alnuweiri, Managing Editor
Gnarcissists were basically my favorite and quietly life altering discovery of 2018. This EP is 4 tracks of loud and fast punk tracks that make me glad to have survived this long.
—Tamim Alnuweiri, Managing Editor
Plain Dog Big World
The immense emotional weight carried by Plain Dog’s Big World is only matched by the quality of its content. The final work from the extremely talented and loved Russel Efros is full of nostalgic, shoegaze indie-rock tunes of love and loss. Big World was recorded back in 2017 and finished by co-founder Willie Almack, previous bandmates, friends and family. The result is an album you’re able to listen and dance along to with your friends or listen to over and over while you’re alone and discover details you missed all the times before.
Haley Heynderickx I Need to Start a Garden
Haley Heynderickx’s debut album, I Need to Start a Garden, is an intimate and beautiful collection of songs that I’ve found this year to be perfect for the quiet moments. Heynderickx’s skilled guitar-work leads each song through stories of love, self-doubt, and loss which each more powerful than the one before it. Mostly jazz and folk influenced songwriting in an almost quirky, but extremely well put together fashion. I really imagine it being played live in some small jazz club late one night as an evening that only a few would have the privilege to experience and leave knowing they witnessed something extremely special. A real breath of fresh air with all the crazy shit that’s gone on this year.
Iceage’s Beyondless is riddled with an alluring, dazzling sense of darkness that taps into the epicenter of human emotion. It bleeds vulnerability against a backdrop soaked in captivating percussing and snarling guitars, making for a soundscape that is just as dynamic as it is lush. The duality of introspective and extrospective elements within the lyrics makes it feel comfortably whole, and this is enhanced by the quiet undercurrent of pure potency that underscores each and every track. Beyondless naturally asserts its own artistry without needing to push or pull to do so, making it among the year’s strongest releases.
Bad Sports Constant Stimulation
In the release of their latest album Constant Stimulation, punk trio Bad Sports seemed to have cracked the algorithm for sonic addiction. Maybe it’s the ease in which the rhythm makes one’s blood rush, the anthemic nature of the choruses, the growl and bite that’s radiated with each strum of the guitar, or the fact that each track sounds like something that would be played in the coolest, most dangerous scene in a movie. Whatever it is, the result is an almost immediate urge to hit the “repeat” button. Constant Stimulation’s effortless ability to sustain the attention of the listener makes it worthy of joining the ranks as one of the year’s most fresh and fun rock albums.
Surfbort Friendship Music
Surfbort’s debut album, Friendship Music, is a gospel for the modern age set to an electromagnetic display of punk-infused grit. The album’s smartly-crafted lyrical hooks and musical stamina makes for an immersive listening experience that engages the ear and mind alike. The refreshing poignance that hallmark its offering of social commentary acts as a long-desired auditory dose of novocaine – as well as a kindred spirit – for those who, to state it simply, have had more than enough (and after this year, who hasn’t?). Friendship Music exudes a thrashing and magnetic rawness that roars to life instantaneously, making it the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll cocktail that will keep listeners coming back for round after round.
Outer Limit Lotus Lotus Eaters
Outer Limit Lotus’s Lotus Eaters brought the sound of the 70s to our door this year in the form of a breathy and emotionally charged odyssey of tracks, each of which greeted the darkness with acceptance and serenity. With the lingering instrumentals of a Bowie track, coupled with a strangely symphonic use of melody over lyric, this album is timeless in the way that you know while listening to it, that it could easily be picked up a decade from now, and still feel new. Each track tells a story, from the death of the sun, led deep into the night, and finally, with the final track, ironically titled “Deeper and Darker,” the newfound energy leads you into a new day. It’s the sort of album you can listen to every day, and you will never stop finding something new in the music of Outer Limit Lotus.
The Voidz Virtue
If there’s an album I’ve told everyone to listen to this year, it’s Virtue. With its blending and innovation of genres, impassioned outcries (“Don’t you ever listen to the white man’s lies”), and unexpectedly catchy hooks, it’s a record that can appeal to a variety of people without sacrificing specificity and bold experimentation. It’s not pandering, it’s purposeful. Whether I’m angry at the world (“Pyramid of Bones,” “We’re Where We Were,” “Black Hole”), floating along (“Leave It In My Dreams,” “Wink”), or trying to throw down (“QYURRYUS,” “All Wordz Are Made Up”), Virtue has not once let me down.
—Lauren Khalfayan, Associate Editor
Shame Songs of Praise
“Songs of Praise” is a fucking exceptional record. It’s vulnerable in how it pokes and prods at insecurities, fears of failure and mediocrity, and confesses the self-destructing agony of losing someone you’re in love with. It’s powerful in it’s rejection of the confining beliefs and expectations of others and the acceptance of one’s own flaws. It’s self-aware in it’s frustration with current injustices. It’s a “fuck you” and a hand to hold all at the same time. With lines like “I like you better when you’re not around,” “Do they hear you when you laugh or only when you cry?” and “I don’t want to be heard if you’re the only one listening,” lead singer Charlie Steen has put words to the internal juxtaposition of self-imposed solitude and the unrelenting human desire to create meaningful connections in an increasingly meaningless world. Musically, it’s equally, if not more, impressive. Whether it’s driving tracks like “One Rizla” and “Dust on Trial,” percussion and bass heavy “Lampoon,” or spoken-word-esque “The Lick,” the record is composed with enough variation as well as overlapping musical themes to feel like an impactful, cohesive piece. It’s one of those records that forces you to feel something. It’s overwhelming and invigorating and just really fucking exciting.
—Lauren Khalfayan, Associate Editor
Let’s Eat Grandma I’m All Ears
Two years on from the nightmarish fairytale world of their debut album, Let’s Eat Grandma return with something a bit more grounded, and a bit more groundbreaking. Whether it be the nightclub friendly “Hot Pink,” the guitar driven “Snakes and Ladders” or the eleven minute synth odyssey “Donnie Darko,” this album effortlessly demonstrates how to make a pitch for the mainstream without losing any artistic integrity. The song’s are familiar yet unpredictable, accessible but bizarre. The songwriting shines at every moment and the band are never afraid to go just a little bit mental. Cat’s purring over keyboards, why not? Orchestral ring tone interlude, sounds good. Nine minute guitar fest, fuck it. With I’m All Ears, there are no boundaries. Let’s Eat Grandma make their mark on an established pop scene in the only way they could, by taking the script and tearing it up.
Viagra Boys Street Worms
Let’s get this straight off the bat, this band is fucking cool. Like seriously cool. Not many other frontmen can pull off stumbling around a tennis court shirtless while singing about “weiner dogs” and “short shorts” (see “Sports” music video), but when you’re in a band called Viagra Boys, things like that are just par for the course. So long as you’ve got the debut album to back it up, that is. Spoiler alert: they do. With a mixture of ironic and self deprecating lyrics, hard hitting bass guitars and unbelievably groovy saxophones, Street Worms is easily one of 2018’s seminal punk record’s. It’s grungy, ugly, loud and unrestrained; everything you want from a Scandinavian outfit who aren’t afraid to pull punches and have a bit of a laugh whilst they’re doing it.
Parquet Courts Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts had no intention of reinventing the wheel on their sixth studio effort, Wide Awake! Despite the highly publicized move of bringing on Danger Mouse as the record’s producer (which provided occasional forays into funk and dance music throughout its tight forty minute run-time). Wide Awake is still at its core a primarily post-punk album, evoking a feckless energy that came before it with some bells and whistles of dance and indie that never get too “out there” from the band’s previous recordings. This being said, no record comes close to manifesting the year’s zeitgeist like Awake, made possible in large part by frontman Andrew Savage’s album-spanning stream of consciousness sing-speak narrative. From our desensitized collective worldview on “Violence,” to climate change on “Before the Water Gets Too High,” to performative wokeness on album namesake “Wide Awake,” Parquet Courts succinctly get to the core of many contemporary frustrations, exacerbated by an urgent and palpably frustrated energy. Against this nihilism, however, there are moments of respite, with album closer “Tenderness” serving as a track brimming with optimism and laden with a danceable honky-tonk piano. For a group whose soundscapes seem fully rooted in the last century, Wide Awake! resonates as an instant classic, an energetic testament to the uncertain times in which we live.
Vera Sola Shades
Vera Sola does not create music without underlying meaning and message inherent in the lyrics. In her album Shades, she touches on everything from environmentalism, to colonization, to the issue of acceptance and bigotry deep-seated in our modern society. The message is not just hidden in the lyrics, but spoken into the melody as well, Colonial drum beats and choirs pepper this record like a beacon from another time. We have simply been lucky enough to have this album in the now.
Mitski Be The Cowboy
For me, the joy of listening to Mitski has always been her unpredictability, both in terms of how she structures her songs and the instrumentation employed – and Be The Cowboy is Mitski at her most satisfyingly experimental. From album opener “Geyser” and its quick switch from atmospheric synth to an explosive, scorched earth anthem, to the unexpected disco build of single “Nobody,” Cowboy thrives on spur of the moment transformation, one that circumvents listener expectations while at the same time being satisfying and sincere. No album in recent years has provided such a space for an emotional catharsis that is able to shift from somber piano ballads to dancing-by-myself-in-the-club-on-a-Tuesday-vibes as quickly and gracefully as Be The Cowboy, and it endows the entire record with an an energy that is as exciting as it is cohesive.
Insecure Men Karaoke For One: Vol I
It’s hard not to be a fan of anything that comes from the brilliant and bizarre mind of Fat White Family’s guitarist Saul Adamczewski. His own project Insecure Men produces music that sounds like something straight out of a scene from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Following his debut self-titled album, released early this year, Karaoke For One: Vol. I has the same feel, but different philosophy. The debut album, though equally as enticing, does not have the same focus as Karaoke For One: Vol. I has. This album feels like an ode to heartbreak in a reckless world. Themes of grey skies, rainy days, and hopeless loves set to echoing keys and drumbeats creating catchy melodies that truly are one of a kind. Sprinkled in with the cover of 1960’s blues hit “I’m So Depressed” by Abner Jay and this melancholic masterpiece is perfect for anybody’s darker side.
Champagne Superchillin’ Beach Deep
This album takes you into a romantically bizarre world you could’ve never imagined on your own. You won’t find this level of expert experimentation done with such theatrics like Champagne Superchillin‘ has done in Beach Deep. The album is almost entirely sung in French, with the exception of “Manzueta,” a glorious Spanish duet that sounds like it should be playing in an underground dance club in some lost and decrepit Spaniard ruin. The album is also hearty in ’60s French pop-inspired songs like “Babylone Mon Amour” and “La Pudeur,” with the title track “Beach Deep” creating that existential feeling of dread that is always settled somewhere deep in everyone’s hearts.
Noname Room 25
In her sophomore album, Room 25, neo-soul rapper Noname has aged gracefully. Her poignant lyricism, “my pussy wrote a thesis about colonialism” is now paired with groovy jazz band beats and militant audio clips seamlessly elevating her sound. As a poet first, Noname takes us on journeys of the mind with existential lyrics about police brutality and sexuality. In 2016, Noname emerged as an outspoken Chicago rapper but Room 25 shapes the future of conscious hip-hop with ‘lullaby rap.’
Saba Care For Me
I had a difficult year with hip-hop in 2018 (thanks Kanye.) After hearing Chicago’s Saba guest star on countless tracks over the past few months, I grew increasingly excited for his second album, which has saved the genre for the year. Care For Me is like a mixed bag of delicious candy. Some tracks start off slow and then blossom into instrumental hymns while others are hard rap anthems with completely relatable content matter, “I still go to family functions, even though I am anti.” In Care for Me, Saba wants you to hear his lyrics-he is articulate and intentional with his sound from start to finish.
Ive been listening to this album pretty much nonstop since it was released. I’ve found the rage and charm presented by band members, Rej Forester and Karen Ledford intoxicating and incredibly powerful. Daddy is a well rounded scream-pop machine, producing playful hits like I’m Yer Dad” and deeply moving slower tunes like “I’m Not You.” Whats even more impressive is GRLwood’s live performances in which you can feel their screams from inside your chest. Nearly every song on Daddy is about sex and the exploration of their bi-sexuality as far as they want to go in the least amount of words. However, their musicianship become their lyrics as they use their sound to make us squirm.
IDLES Joy as an Act of Resistance
Joy as an Act of Resistance is crazy full of energy, and it’s more than I could have hoped for coming off of their debut album, Brutalism, from last year. They say a band is only as good as their drummer, and Jon Beavis is absolutely the concrete that holds this already otherwise incredible album together – his lead-in to the second verse of “Never Fight a Man with a Perm“ is my favorite isolated moment on any record from this year. But that’s not to say that the rest of the band doesn’t hold up. Joe Talbot’s voice and the lyrics allow room for humor and vagrancy as well as heartfelt sincerity at different moments throughout the album, though they’re also bursting with anger. However, the overall mood is a positive one, a result of allowing themselves to be stripped back and vulnerable. A highly political album, Joy speaks very directly to so many of the injustices that have come to the surface in the wake of the Brexit vote, among the rest of the political shitstorm of class inequality, immigration issues, and toxic masculinity. The video for “Danny Nedelko,” a song written about their good friend and Ukranian Immigrant, is silly and sincere. It’s a solid representation of what this album’s all about…but so is every single other song. I could listen to this album every damn day, and for the most part, I do. More than once.
Dilly Dally Heaven
Katie Monks’ voice is singled out and brought to the forefront of Dilly Dally’s second album, Heaven. The sound is simultaneously full of hope and tragedy – a sentiment that’s reflected in the record’s first two songs, “I Feel Free,” and “Doom.” The instrumentation has a way of swallowing you up with it’s epic, be-all-end-all distorted riffs mixed in with the occasional emotionally exhausted but perseverant verse. The lyrics are overall empowering, at times a reminder to practice self-care and at others releasing the anger of feeling trapped in a body. But it will always come back to Monks’ voice, which can rip through a chorus with savage grace and sink into a bright, crackling, gravel-y whisper. She’s insanely gifted and decidedly herself, and it makes Heaven what it is: satisfyingly reminiscent of the 90s grunge rock vibe from their first album, Sore, but just enough to keep it inventive and evolved.
MGMT Little Dark Age
MGMT’s Little Dark Age first spoken line is “Get ready to have some fun!” an amusing intro by what it seems to be a futuristic fitness instructor. LDA’s pop enthusiasm and synth induced melodies are an inspiring saga of freely creating a cohesive sonic atmosphere. I mean, almost everybody just knows “Time To Pretend” and “Kids” as the band’s biggest and also festival-loved hits, but Little Dark Age deconstructs any commercial assumption you could have of the band, and drags you into this new exploration of pop music, at least for the band. I listened to it a lot while being on tour in early February throughout the fucking freezing east coast and it translated to me. The slow-synths and 80’s revival mood of the album is just too good to pass upon, you don’t know if to take it seriously, but the songs stick and they’re honest, and lack exactly what you probably hated from their most known hits, hype and frivolity – which ends up being a great surprise.
Balún Prisma Tropical
Balún’s Prisma Tropical is an important record, brought to you by a squad of Puerto Rican musicians who have swiftly uncovered and created over the years a sound of their own. Balún hails from the DIY culture and underground music scene of Puerto Rico, where their minimalism and originality has always spoken bigger than words. In Prisma Tropical the band’s connect reggaeton beats with expansive electronic beats, blending with lead singer Angelica Negron unmistakable and dripping lullaby voice. The maturity presented by album juxtaposes between urgency and methodically produced songs that commune’s perfectly with what they call as “dreambow.” With songs like “Teletransporte” rendered with impatient synths and kaleidoscope ambience, is resonant of Bjork and Arca, to “La Nueva Ciudad” that just makes you want to either dance with a friend, or just by yourself. Prisma Tropical is an accomplishment from the Puerto Rican group and a present to all listeners, no matter the native language, it is expressive, delicate, and layered in rhythms of the world.
GØGGS Pre Strike Sweep
With Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw on lead vocals, Fuzz’s Charles Moothart on drums and guitar, bassist Michael Anderson, and Ty Segall on guitar, GØGGS’s latest release is evocative of the present rock and roll incessant and abrasive display of punk resurfacing. Released later in the year, it’s not meant to go unnoticed. Chris Shaw himself has contributed to various subversive hardcore scenes, and this record finds perfect balance between melodic production and the sludge parade. The tracks on this record are charged with dominance, confrontation, and unrestrained energy. Pre Strike Sweep is a jam-fueled chaotic soundscape created amongst friends, and authentic shared purpose that’s yet individual and compulsive. “Pre Strike Sweep,” “Vanity,” and “Morning Reaper” are my favorite songs on the album, perfectly comprising the sonic agenda – Shaw’s dismissive behavior, Segall’s melodical surge, Anderson’s simplistic approach and Moothart’s abrasive drums. I can’t keep up with fucking Ty Segall’s discography whatsoever, but I am more than excited about GØGGS sophomore release. Fuck.