If your only exposure to new music in 2018 was via the radio dial or supermarket tannoys, then you could be forgiven for thinking that this was an especially dire year for music, one in which the prevailing mood was existential despair, generic Tropical House beats and Trap drums were more pervasive than smallpox in the 18th Century, Drake was bloody everywhere, and two of the year’s biggest new stars were unrepentant and admitted criminals, one of whom would sadly not live to see their success or potentially turn their life around and the other of which is almost definitely going to prison albeit for crimes way less severe than the one he should be going down for. The algorithm comes for all eventually and, in 2018, it officially swallowed popular music whole.
But that’s why you don’t just blindly listen to the radio, duh! Outside of the narrow scope of what has been classed as popular – and even then, there were some bright Years & Years and 1975-shaped spots amid the miserable fact that Bradley Cooper now has more UK #1 singles than Pulp ever managed – there was a tonne of excellent music in 2018! Therefore, as a tonic to the misconception that REAL MUSIC is dead and only Greta Van fucking Fleet can save us, a bunch of us writers have gathered together to big up some albums we all really liked from the past 12 months. In many cases, our favourite albums were the same as those we talked about in our Mid-Year Report on this very subject, so to save needlessly repeating ourselves here’s a link back to that article for additional recommendations. Maybe you’ll find something new that you’ll like with these lists, and maybe you can also share your own personal favourites in the comments below! After all, 12 months is a long time and music is a wide-ass artform so there is definitely bound to be something we’ve accidentally missed. – Callum Petch
Black Moth – Astronomical Venus
Stoner rockers Black Moth have been making slow but steady process on the UK rock scene lately but still, with third album, Astronomical Venus, you can’t help but feel this should be the one to add to that popularity even more. A slightly more mature and darker sound with their core 70s rock/metal influences and the occasional nod to the grunge and even New Wave of British Heavy Metal eras, all complemented by Harriet Bevan’s at times soaring vocals, they’ve kept true to their original influences while clearly growing as songwriters and musicians to make what feels like a proper album as opposed to a collection of songs. As good as the first two albums were, Black Moth have really stepped up a gear here.
Other Albums: Judas Priest – Firepower, Halestorm – Vicious, Beartooth – Disease, Bleeding Through – Love Will Kill All, Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
Nothing is sure in life except death, taxes, and excellent Clutch albums. Over 25 years and 12 albums, the Maryland masters have evolved from an abrasive hardcore-tinged outfit to blues-rock royalty; and Book of Bad Decisions is up there with their very best. When it’s said ‘you know what to expect from a band’, that’s usually meant as a pejorative. Yet Clutch somehow always deliver records that are familiar but distinct from what has come before. It’s astonishing the variety they can spin on the careworn blues format. ‘Spirit of ‘76’ is a chilled jam drenched in a wistful, hazy nostalgia; ‘In Walks Barbarella’ is, as the lyrics suggest, “weaponised funk,” driven by the rhythm section of Dan Maines and John-Paul Gaster and augmented by Kevin Gatzke’s horn arrangements. It sounds like the theme to the best 70s detective show never aired. ‘How to Shake Hands’ is quite simply the political banger we need right now, as Neil Fallon fantasises what he’ll do when he gets his hands on the keys to the White House. It’s a pretty flawless package, but the best thing about Book of Bad Decisions is anticipating how great these songs will sound live, an environment in which Clutch are practically peerless.
Other Albums: Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit, Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest, Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, High on Fire – Electric Messiah, Arabrot – Who Do You Love, Bosse-De-Nage – Further Still, Conan – Existential Void Guardian, Crippled Black Phoenix – Great Escape
Hinds – I Don’t Run
Hinds are the masters of making noise that peaks the mixer level readings but still sounds delightful. The interplay of vocalists Ana Perrote and Carlotta Cosials in English and Spanish all just seems to fit together. Maintaining the jangly garage rock of their previous debut album, I Don’t Run amplifies this with a more mature sound to match the subject matter. With songs about isolation whilst touring and long-distance relationships, the guitars bounce and sparkle throughout. The songs feel stronger than their last lot too – with an added boost of confidence feeling like a hidden fifth member of the group.
Other Albums: Happy Accidents – Everything but the Here and Now, Grace Vonderkuhn – Reveries, CHVRCHES – Love is Dead, Miss World – Keeping Up with Miss World, Illuminati Hotties – Kiss Yr Frenemies, Bloods – Feelings, Daphne & Celeste – Daphne & Celeste Save the World, Superorganism – Superorganism, Bodega – Endless Scroll
boygenius – boygenius
Since my Album of the Year has remained unchanged from back at the Mid-Year point – it’s still Confident Music for Confident People, in case you’re wondering – allow me to instead join the growing chorus in the Indie Rock fandom field by proclaiming boygenius to be utterly and wonderfully perfect. Apart on their own individual records, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker are the reigning queens of heart-stomping Indie Rock, with Dacus’ Historian in particular being another highlight of this past year. But combined, in a supergroup born out of festival programmers and music critics frequently lumping them together and the trio’s resultant friendship in the face of that, they turn into the rarest of breeds: a supergroup that somehow is equal to and maybe even greater than the sum of its parts. boygenius’ six songs technically constitute an EP, but since this year had Nine Inch Nails and Kanye West proclaim their six/seven song barely-20-minute records as “albums,” I’m going to label boygenius as an album too and especially because it wipes the floor with almost anything else released this year. Each of those six being equally as perfect as one another – Julien’s lyricism on “Stay Down,” the Dixie Chicks harmonies on “Ketchum, ID,” the climax of “Salt in the Wound” where Dacus just shreds like the heavens are opening up, ALL of “Me & My Dog” – no member holding anything back for their own next records. Selfishly, I hope said solo records can be delayed a little longer in favour of more dispatches from Indie Rock perfection.
Other Albums: Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People, Gorillaz – The Now Now, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs, Pusha T – DAYTONA, Snail Mail – Lush, IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance., U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited, BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence, Kali Uchis – Isolation
Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love
Kent duo Isaac Holman and Laurie Vincent – better known collectively as the punk-rock band Slaves – released their third studio album Acts of Fear and Love this summer, maturing their sound. They have always had a Stooges-meets-Black Flag vibe, but with tracks like the anthemic ‘Bugs’, the Blur-esque ‘Chokehold’, and poppy ‘Cut and Run’, the pair have married the high energy of their first album Are You Satisfied? with the more bluesy and grimier feel of Take Control. As well as retaining the hard-hitting punk tunes, Isaac’s lyrics in this year’s album also manages to be even more cynical of modern society. The opening track ‘The Lives They Wish They Had’ sets the tone nicely as a takedown of the lives people portray online in places like Instagram: “So what exactly were you trying to say/When you put your latest purchases on public display?” The band copped a bit of flack last month for posting on Twitter that they don’t post set times for their shows because “we were the support once.” Clearly a stance that doesn’t help the majority of their fanbase who can’t live by their standards and have to hold down regular jobs and rely on public transport. Rather, it suggests that Slaves haven’t changed too much from the young, angry and loud rockers that they were when they began in 2014. And long may that continue if it means they still create albums as good as this.
What were your personal favourite albums of 2018 that we may have missed? Been turned onto any new favourites thanks to these lists? Let us know in the comments below! Keep it locked to Set the Tape all week for more Year-End articles like this!