Yikes, what a year for music. 2018 was practically besieged with standout releases, so much so that narrowing them down into a top 50 was a painful task – one that I have completed poorly, more than a little late, and quite possibly not to the best of my abilities. This list represents what I’ve found most enjoyable, exciting or personally moving this (last) year, with the top spots being a strange mixture of all those things combined.
There are so, so many notable exceptions – I apologise profusely to Sam Law, among others, for not including excellent releases such as Dirty Computer, Musas Vol.2 and Your Queen Is A Reptile on this list, but I’m fairly happy with how it reflects my listening, if anything. With that in mind, here are 50 pretty great albums that came out in 2018, starting with…
#51 – Los Campesinos – Hold On Now, Youngster [SPECIAL MENTION]
Whilst technically this list should only encompass albums first released in 2018, I’m just too much of a Los Campesinos! fan to not include their excellent remaster of 2007’s Hold On Now, Youngster. A fresh coat of paint on what is, frankly, a masterpiece is always warranted, and the expansive collection of B-Sides at the end is a welcome addition. Hold On Now, Youngster is twee-pop at its finest, an album of sickly-sweet jangle pop that has a cutting, sinister edge under its sugary surface. If you haven’t given them a listen, what are you waiting for? LC!4LYF.
#50 – Warmduscher – Whale City
Warmduscher’s chaotic brand of whatever the fuck it is they make returns with aplomb on Whale City, an album that sounds due to fall apart at any given moment. Assembled from the wreckage of Fat White Family and Insecure Men (among others), the virulent strain of garage rock that crawls its way out of Whale City is loose, uncontrollable and urgent. ‘Big Wilma’ is perhaps the finest example of the abomination they’ve created – with a pulse-pounding rhythm section accompanied by a yelped, frantic vocal performance. Whale City is an album to completely let loose to, perhaps the soundtrack to a night out that gets a little too out of hand.
#49 – MGMT – Little Dark Age
Instead of continuing the sub-par neo-psychedelic weirdness of Congratulations and their self-titled record, MGMT go full synthpop on the sumptuously produced Little Dark Age. There’s a brooding, ominous and gothic atmosphere to the title track, contrasted by a lightly-tinged psych-pop on ‘Me and Michael’ or ‘TSLAMP’. This is a more complete iteration of MGMT than their last two albums combined – a refined and fully-fleshed out musical experience that encourages excitement in their sound once more.
#48 – Mothers – Render Another Ugly Method
Mothers’ 2016 debut When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired manages to effortlessly swing between achingly delicate indie folk and crunching alt-rock tension in a heartbeat – each track feeling like a bubbling cauldron of emotion that spills at the edges and bursts at the seams. With their new album, Render Another Ugly Method, Mothers change their approach incrementally, with detuned guitars and swampy song structures providing an overwhelming sense of gloom and dread at every turn. It’s difficult to place praise onto an album like this as it doesn’t exactly create a friendly environment for its audience – instead choosing to dwell in more uncomfortable listening and grounded upset than its ultimately hopeful progenitor. The shift in focus ripples through the lineup of the band as well – with Kristine Leschper’s fragile vocals less of the ‘shining star’ of the album, taking a backseat to more peculiar instrumentation and what the band has described as a ‘collage approach’ to making music.
#47 – Idris Ackamoor and The Pyramids – An Angel Fell
An energetic and inspired collaborative release, An Angel Fell is an A-grade example of spiritual jazz perfected across the storied and vibrant career of its creator. An electrifying, genre-hopping listen, there’s nothing not to like across over an hour of loose, kinetic jazz performances. The breadth of flair and instrumentation that can be found splattered across each crevice of the album is astonishing, awe-inspiring and daring all at once.
#46 – Blawan – Wet Will Always Dry
The terse, interlocking mechanisms of Blawan’s Wet Will Always Dry are alienating, confusing and perplexing throughout its runtime – dragging you into a tv-static world of compressed, knotty songwriting that begs to be experienced through some horrifyingly analogue soundsystem. It’s an industrial, corrosive post-techno release that won’t be everyone’s idea of a good time, but its metronomic, jittering approach to electronica is enviable in its creative vision and dexterity.
#45 – Hovvdy – Cranberry
The hushed balladry of Austin’s Hovvdy manages to capture melancholy and nostalgia in a way that is instantly listenable. One of the quieter, more reclusive releases of 2018, Cranberry doesn’t push boundaries for the duo but sits in a comfortable space of miserabilia, an album that’s bittersweet from start to finish. The photograph that adorns the cover is suggestive of exactly what the duo are trying to recover – a quiet, isolated space, hazily remembered but tinted with the past. The title, Cranberry, sits suspended between the two figures, who could perhaps be suggested to represent the duo behind the record – a shared vision that evokes both The Microphones and (Sandy) Alex G in equal measure.
#44 – U.S Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
Meghan Remy’s luxurious seventh album is a triumphant, political and danceable release that shows a creative vision and talent beyond the art-pop stylings of 2015’s Half Free. Incorporating a huge range of styles and structures, the album exudes a certain confidence and completeness that is impossible to ignore. ‘Velvet 4 Sale’ kicks things off with a sly lounge-rock number coated in heady, body-politic themes, before slinking into the equally vivid ‘Rage Of Plastics’, a song that details a female worker at a chemical refinery becoming infertile. The album takes the storytelling and lyrical elements of Half Free and repackages them as stylistically diverse art-pop tracks – potent and vital songs of female empowerment in ‘grab-them-by-the-pussy’ America.
#43 – Clarence Clarity – THINK: PEACE
Clarence Clarity follows up his debut NO NOW with THINK: PEACE, an album similarly obsessed with WEIRD BEATS and CAPS LOCK. The new album takes what made NO NOW so great and refines it further, cutting down on runtime and unnecessary filler whilst keeping the core, messy ethos of his glitch-pop sound intact. Clarity’s voice across the project sounds like a fragile, confused and deranged Michael Jackson – but with his various vocal ticks backed by all manner of digitised instrumentation as opposed to more conventional pop melodies. Gooey basslines and crystalline leads effortlessly fuse into gloriously catchy alt-pop bangers, with repeated motifs throughout the album gluing everything together into a musical odyssey through the unstable mind of its creator. Influences and inspirations bleed and meld together into a bewildering sonic collage of peculiar samples, voice modulation, and dance beats – everything from Vaporwave to EDM is picked apart, mixed up and glued together like musical paper mache
#42 – Gazelle Twin – Pastoral
The peculiar creative vision that fuels Pastoral is bewildering, but somehow relatable. A funhouse mirror held up to the current state of the UK today, Elizabeth Bernholz’s avant-garde pieces are built around strangely traditional roots – but constructed from a mess of industrial texture and sonic abrasion. Instrumentally, the album is perhaps reminiscent of Blanck Mass or Demdike Stare, but has a vile, processed quality to its vocals that compel and disgust at the same time. Truly unique and oftentimes bewildering, Pastoral is an unnerving dive into the boundaries of music.
#41 – Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Snarling, aggressive and industrial, Daughters’ latest, You Won’t Get What You Want sounds like what would happen if you put Swans into the trash compactor from A New Hope. The murky, sinister atmosphere created across the album’s very brief runtime is punishing, alienating and claustrophobic – the aural equivalent of solitary confinement with only Charles Manson for company. This album is a draining experience – a metallic and harsh experiment in pushing listeners to a point of no return, dedicated to creating a dense, barely breathable atmosphere.
#40 – Django Django – Marble Skies
After an ultimately disappointing second album, Glasgow art-pop pioneers Django Django return with a more straightforwardly synthpop third album, to great effect. Abandoning their ‘space-western’ roots from their debut on all but a handful of tracks, the band coats their sound in space-age plastic synthesisers and sci-fi sound effects. ‘Surface To Air’ is an unbelievable left-turn in sound from the band, with Self Esteem‘s vocals converting the wheezing synths of the track into a dance-pop groove. Marble Skies shows the band adapting, morphing their sound and experimenting in exciting ways, building on the promise that their glorious debut opened with.
#39 – King Tuff – The Other
King Tuff’s brand of off-kilter psychedelia is expansive, wide-eyed and dramatic on The Other, an album that draws liberally from a seemingly endless pool of influences, piles them into a blender and hits infinity. The elevated, glorious noise of ‘Thru The Cracks’ leads on from the scuzzed-out pop-rock of ‘Raindrop Blue’, a one-two punch of psychedelic goodness that’s hard to find anywhere else. The dusty, rattling ‘Circuits In The Sand’ is another highlight, nestled between track after track of weirdo bangers.
#38 – Rolling Blackouts Costal Fever – Hope Downs
R.B.C.F’s debut album is gloriously straightforward, direct indie rock with no frills and heaps of personality. Recalling a slew of artists from Pavement to Nap Eyes, the Australian newcomers create an engaging, catchy jangle-pop record that begs for repeat listen after listen. ‘Sister’s Jeans’ is a personal highlight, with a weeping, aching chorus that exudes a teenage melodramaticism that I haven’t felt since first pressing play on Romance Is Boring.
#37 – Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meatspace
Why aren’t you listening to this album right now? It’s called A Laughing Death in Meatspace? Have you seen the cover? The band is called Tropical Fuck Storm? There’s no excuse. This album is pure anarchy – distilled chaos and childish abandon combined into a whirlwind of psychedelic garage rock that threatens to come apart at any moment. When describing this album, the word ‘janky’ comes to mind – it’s imperfect, unstable and volatile but in ways that are oh so appealing.
#36 – The Armed – Only Love
I stopped listening to Only Love almost immediately after putting it on when I first gave it a spin. It’s sheer, unbridled aggression was just a bit too much for me at the time – because it really, really goes hard. I’d encourage anyone reading to approach this album as they would a really, really hot bath. It’s impossibly hard to get into, but once you’re in, that slightly painful bliss is worth it. After submerging my entire body into said the lovely warm bath that The Armed had kindly run for me, oh boy, did I have a good time. Only Love takes an approach to hardcore unlike any other – offering a vibrant colour palate just under the surface of its abrasive stylings. The Armed produce an album of pounding, vital tracks that get under your skin and electrify your blood.
#35 – Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs
Wye Oak’s expansive fifth album is a complex, powerful work that employs Jenn Wasner’s soaring vocals to their fullest potential. ‘The Instrument’ is electrified by a warbling, synthetic energy that courses through the veins of the song whilst ‘Lifer’ dwells in a more pensive wash of instrumentation before bursting into an affirming, triumphant final section. The addition of all kinds of synthetic instrumentation on the record goes a long way to rejuvenate Wye Oak’s sound – keeping the vital, raw energy that powered records like Civilian intact whilst adding layers of texture and detail. The title of the album, a kind of psychological litmus test, frames the album perfectly in its context of mental health struggles and finding the strength to fight seemingly impossible battles – a motif that appears continuously through the title track and ‘Lifer’, to name the standout examples. The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs is a vivid and dramatic album from a band that goes from strength to strength with each consecutive album of stellar indie rock.
#34 – Gwenno – Le Kov
Gwenno’s Le Kov is a vibrant, peculiar suite of music that delights in its own post-disco glory. Written entirely in Cornish, Gwenno’s dazzling tracks pirouette and spiral, glinting off one another in bursts of colour that recall the glorious dream worlds of Melody’s Echo Chamber – perhaps with a tighter focus on pop sensibilities (for better and for worse). The lush strings that propel ‘Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow’ forward merge with Gwenno’s vocals to create a luxurious opener that tempts you further into the sonic world created.
#33 – Camp Cope – How To Socialise and Make Friends
‘The Opener’ of How to Socialise and Make Friends is, well, the perfect opener. The Australian three-piece open their album with a track that merges post-breakup blues with frustrations of being capital-F-female artists in 2018. ‘It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up the room / It’s another man telling us we should book a smaller venue’ belts Georgia Maq at the song’s climax – a cathartic, simple outburst of anger at those who tell them no at every turn. More confident, assured and vibrant than their 2016 self-titled debut, How To Socialise and Make Friends shows a terrifying amount of promise for the young band, blending elements of P.S Eliot and Courtney Barnett to great effect.
#32 – Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
After the bombastic catch-all of Pure Comedy, singer-songwriter Josh Tillman brings things back down to the microscopic on God’s Favourite Customer, an album more personal than anything he’s released prior. Tillman’s humour and charm oozes from every track on the album, backed by lush instrumentation and sophisticated songwriting. Whilst not as expansive and all-encompassing as his previous works, God’s Favourite Customer is an honest portrait of a flawed artist – a diary of the thoughts and feelings that pass in and out of his mind, upholstered in velvet.
#31 – Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Courtney Barnett’s sophomore album is an absolute treat from start to finish, capturing the wit and sophistication of its creator at the height of her powers. ‘City Looks Pretty’ is one of the most poignant rock tracks of 2018, and ‘Nameless, Faceless’ captures the claustrophobic feelings of the ‘Me Too’ era with a steady hand. Barnett’s songs are leaner, but still rough around the edges – a more cohesive release than 2015’s Sometimes I Sit And Think, Sometimes I Just Sit and all the better for it.
#30 – Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food
The production on Sex and Food is an instrument all of its own, bending Ruban Nielson’s voice and guitar alike into terrifying new shapes. The fuzzed-out bombast of tracks like ‘American Guilt’ contrasts perfectly with the delicate minimalism of ‘Chronos Feats on His Children’, creating an album that swings between crushing psych-rock splendour and intimate indie rock in a heartbeat. The album also holds moments of dance-pop perfection, such as the yacht-rock ‘Hunnybee’ and shimmering disco of ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’. A globetrotting, ambitious and sleek release, Sex and Food is experimentation done right.
#29 – Jeff Rosenstock – POST-
Released at the very start of 2018, POST- has an urgency to it that few other albums match – it just needed to come out. Opener ‘USA’ is an effusive, potent punk banger that stretches over 7 minutes to scream its anti-trump message as loud as it can. ‘We’re tired, we’re bored’ Rosenstock chants over and over again on the song’s close – a disappointment that this whole thing is still going on. The album keeps up its pace over a relatively shot runtime, churning out a selection of punk bangers that match anything on Rosenstock’s earlier masterpiece, WORRY. An anthem, or perhaps an antidote to troubling times, POST- is not to be missed.
#28 – Shame – Songs Of Praise
Shame’s grimy brand of punk-rock shines brightly on one of the most exciting debuts of 2018. With a hefty amount of influence from the anarchic Fat White Family (they even shared gear and practice space) as well as the kind of catchy, witty lyrics that demarcate any good punk release, Shame are set to make some serious waves in 2019. Songs of Praise is a surprisingly complete release for such a young band, stocked from front to back with certified ‘bangers’ that light up the minds of their burgeoning audience.
#27 – JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
JPEGMAFIA’s Veteran is a truly explosive release. Confrontational and assertive, the 28-year-old rapper barrages the listener with an array of glitched out samples, frantic verses and aggressive lyricism. The uneven surfaces of songs like ‘Baby I’m Bleeding’ and ‘Curb Stomp’ exude a fever-pitch instability that shocks and absorbs with equal measure, pulling the listener deeper into the world through Peggy’s eyes – teetering on the verge of collapse at all times. The album also has a track called ‘I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies’ and I mean, come on, that has to be worth something.
#26 – Parquet Courts – Wide Awake
Parquet Courts’ anarchic punk wisdom has never felt sharper than on Wide Awake!, their most complete and full-bodied work yet. Andrew Savage’s lyrics are more poignant than ever, dealing with a spectrum of political issues alongside battling his own introspection. Sean Yeaton’s bass is the unsung hero of the album, weaving in and out of the chaotic guitars that surround it – anchoring the madness whilst bearing a character all of its own. All of this is tied together under the creative direction of Danger Mouse, a creative risk, but one that pays off so well that I can only hope for further future collaboration.
#25 – Julia Holter – Aviary
Aviary is a truly remarkable work of art – a complex beast that I am still unravelling as I write these words. Each individual track is packed with detail and technique – concepts clashing together at every turn to create music that pushes into avant-garde territory as it pleases. Aviary strangely reminds me a lot of a nature-based version of Platform from Holly Herndon in its staggering complexity and nuanced use of voice modulation and manipulation throughout. Whilst Herndon’s work felt synthetic, claustrophobic and automated, Holter’s is its binary opposite in these places – a lush and verdant garden of an album that expands outwards in every sense. I find myself at a loss for words when describing Aviary – cinematic, layered, dense… all these words cling to elements of the album but none strike it at its core – it needs to be heard to be understood, absorbed and enthralled by.
#24 – SALES – Forever and Ever
Why on earth do Orlando’s very own SALES get so overlooked? Their own brand of indie micro-pop was sensational on 2016’s SALES EP, and has only improved on the sharper, more focussed Forever and Ever. The album refines the hooky, simplistic tracks from their debut into more complete, robust songs that incorporate a more diverse range of guitarwork instrumentation. Opener ‘Spiral’ set the scene wonderfully, with bright, spangly guitarwork looping and layering on top of itself in a gloriously produced indie-pop experience. If you’ve never heard of SALES, now is the time to give them a try – all the pop, and none of the bullshit.
#23 – Haley Heynderickx – I Need To Start A Garden
Intimate, personal and beautifully simple, Hayley Heynderickx’s I Need To Start A Garden tackles the minutiae of everyday life with the poetic eye of an artist beyond her years. Lyrics depict fighting turning into ‘No Face’ (from Spirited Away) and scooping centipedes off the carpet – events with a weight of meaning for the artist that we voyeuristically poke around in. Heynderickx’s angelic voice bows and breaks in crucial moments – a fever-pitch at the close of ‘Oom Sha La La’ and a warbling crackle on ‘No Face’. Sparse fingerpicked guitar intertwines and duets with Heynderickx’s honeyed vocals, filling out the spaces between her melancholic lyrics and wrapping the listener in the cosiest of cocoons. There’s a gentle, absorbing atmosphere to I Need To Start A Garden, an intimate and compelling listen from one of the most promising folk artists of 2018.
#22 – Anna Von Hausswolff – Dead Magic
Recorded on an organ in a marble church, Dead Magic is an album that sounds exactly like its recording method. Glowering, titanic, ethereal and only slightly disturbing, Hausswolff’s operatic screeches and wails cut through the dense atmospheric fog that shrouds every inch of the album, pulling you deeper into her gothic vision of the world around her. The five tracks are multi-part epics, taking you on a harrowing journey besieged by the audio equivalent of lashing rain and billowing winds. A personal highlight is the relatively short (for Hausswolff) ‘The Mysterious Vanishing Electra’, a song that ends with Hausswolff crying out to some unknown god to ‘push the trees, push the sky, push the air aside’ – an agonised yet graceful howl of biblical proportions. Hauntingly beautiful.
#21 – Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
Kurt Vile’s snails-pace indie rock on ‘Bassackwards’ seems almost comical at first – a strangely lengthy track with lots of repetitive, open space. Vile’s talk-singing drifts over sparsely plucked guitar chords, with reverse reverb riffs meandering through the open space at their own languorous pace. Vile’s latest is full of tracks like this, constantly reminding you of the personality of the man behind the guitar – not too fast and not too slow, wandering through the album with a quiet eye for details. Bottle It In is a less immediate listen than his earlier work, but just as rewarding – his indie rock goodness sprawled over an hour of sumptuous, cosy balladry.
#20 – Lucy Dacus – Historian
Following up 2016’s incredible No Burden was a near-impossible task for Virginia’s own Lucy Dacus – how do you improve on perfection? Historian dials up Dacus’ sound; packed with towering songs that encompass history, memory, love, and loss. Her songwriting is more nuanced, her vocals sharper and instrumentals just a little bit meatier. There’s a timeless quality to this album, as well as a quiet, confident perfectionism. Gone is the awkward, slightly hushed Dacus of No Burden, replaced with an assured ‘cool’ that exudes from tracks like ‘Night Shift’ and ‘Nonbeliever’. An essential listen from one of the most vibrant and promising artists of 2018.
#19 – Objekt – Cocoon Crush
Cocoon Crush is an album that exudes the energy of a living, breathing entity – its snapping, rippling beats pulsing and writhing inside each of its tracks. This biological sound is what anchors and connects each song on Objekt’s latest work – each track more alien than the last. There’s a kind of mesmeric quality to the album, placing its listener into a meditative and transcendental space outside of the real world, transporting to someplace new, wild and dangerous. ‘Lost and Found’ kicks the album off with a mystical yet welcoming ambiance to it, whilst ‘Another Knot’ feels more menacing, brooding and foreign than the rest of the material. Objekt pushes and pulls the barriers of his songs, warping them, stretching them and destroying them in ever more interesting fashions.
#18 – Iglooghost – Steel Mogu and Clear Tamei
Iglooghost’s twin EP projects Steel Mogu and Clear Tamei are something truly special and offer a sound unlike anything else around. There’s a scattered, buoyant and propulsive quality to all of Iglooghost’s work, a childlike energy and wonder that can’t be contained. Incorporating elements from ‘bubblegum bass’ (vis-à-vis SOPHIE), chiptune and IDM, Clear Tamei and Steel Mogu are a hyperkinetic journey into the colourful mind of their creator. If you want to listen to something truly unique this year, you can’t do much better than Iglooghost.
#17 – All Against Logic – 2012-2017
2012-2017 is Nicolas Jaar’s love letter to house music in all its forms, a vibrant and danceable collection of masterfully crafted tracks that couldn’t come from anyone else. Recorded under his All Against Logic moniker, the album steps boldly into new territories, incorporating a vibrant palate of samples, distorted textures and a handful of shimmering, soulful grooves. There’s a measured perfection to the hour you’ll spend with the album, swaying gently to its danceable, scattered beats.
#16 – Noname – Room 25
Following her startling debut Telefone, Noname astounds on the luxurious follow-up Room 25. The album exudes the confidence of an artist who has truly found her feet, incorporating a range of influences and dramatic flourishes on every track of her masterpiece. Some tracks seem to have more in common with spoken word than rap, set to a backdrop of glittering jazz and soul instrumentation. Room 25 is an assertion of presence, of power, and of an artist focused on not getting bogged down with sophomore-album-blues. An honest and potent work.
#15 – No Age – Snares Like A Haircut
One of the earliest releases of 2018, No Age push noise rock forward on Snares Like A Haircut, a grimy, low-fidelity album of honest rock songs. There’s some strange experimentation going on, to boot, such as the rattling chorus of ‘Stuck In The Changer’ and the sampled, textured surfaces of the title track. It’s an emotive, gritty release that’s simple on the surface but with plenty going on under the hood, rewarding on each subsequent listen.
#14 – Grouper – Grid Of Points
One of the most sparse and evocative albums released this year, Grouper’s Grid of Points might be easily forgotten. It’s songs slip between the cracks, hushed whispers of melancholic beauty that pass as soon as they arrive. Liz Harris’ occasionally choral vocals somehow push her into new realms of isolation – recording to dozens of copies of herself as if trapped in an endless hall of mirrors. There’s a devastated, ruined quality to the album – something otherworldly in its singularity and remoteness. The record thrives on the suspenseful, delicate touch of fingers on keys – each press endowed with a tangible weight and emotion, suffused with a gentle beauty that rings out through long stretches of silence. Clocking in at just 21-minutes, Grid of Points is a silent victory – a sensationally chilling and personal album of piano balladry that can’t be shaken easily after it’s heard.
#13 – Marie Davidson – Working Class Woman
Marie Davidson’s oftentimes chilling minimal wave on Working Class Woman is inflected with vibrant touches of comedy and wit – most notably on standout single ‘Work It’ – a song that has to be heard in all of its unusual techno weirdness. The ASMR-esque opening of ‘Your Biggest Fan’ is delightfully creepy, and ‘Workaholic Paranoid Bitch’ sounds like Aphex Twin at peak-‘Windowlicker’ energy. When Davidson enters the album at any point, her words have a biting, controlling quality to them – tangible anger, disgust and commanding power that’s as comedic as it is imposing. The album delights in analogue synthesisers, hallucinogenic, skittering beats and flashes of dancefloor brilliance across each of its ten tracks – a bewildering and ferocious listen that asserts Davidson’s vision outside of the slightly less intimidating Essaie Pas.
#12 – Adrianne Lenker – abysskiss
Outside of the occasionally rowdy electric-guitar sound of Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker carves out her own niche of folk ballads on the sensationally gentle abysskiss. The album is simple, personal and achingly delicate – each track featuring little more than some sparse fingerpicked guitar alongside Lenker’s ethereal vocal performances. The album is perfect for a winter night, a rainy day – a reflection on how strange it is being anything at all.
#11 – Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
After the straightforwardly black metal New Bermuda, Deafheaven return to the successes of Sunbather on their latest and greatest – merging elements of shoegaze and post-rock with the calamitous roar of black metal guitarwork. ‘Honeycomb’, the first single and standout track of Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, starts with a rigid, almost militaristic industrial blend of black metal that, over its 11-minute runtime, flashes into Coheed and Cambria-esque riffs and Explosions In The Sky-style catharsis. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love bends boundaries in ever more compelling ways – creating a stark but beautiful masterpiece that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the band’s discography.
#10 – Khruangbin – Con Tondo El Mundo
Merging elements of funk and soul from the US and Middle-East alike, Khruangbin’s distinctly ‘global’ sound is far greater than the sum of its influences. Con Tondo El Mundo is an album to do just about anything to – some of the most enjoyable instrumental music released this year and a worthy follow-up to their astonishing debut, The Universe Smiles Upon You. There’s a melting-pot quality to the band’s sound – boiling down their influences to their most basic elements and stitching them together again into a tapestry of joyous world music.
#9 – Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage
Putting the psychedelia back into psychedelic music seems to be the sole mission of Melody Prochet on Bon Voyage, an album that is colossal in its ambition and gloriously colourful in execution. There’s no genre left untouched as the musician confidently explores whatever creative impulses seem to come to her mind – with sublime production and deft songcraft in tow. The album is a spectacular achievement, especially considering her involvement in a serious accident that caused a brain aneurysm and broken vertebrae – to return so triumphantly after such a short recovery period is nothing short of miraculous. On only 7 short tracks, Prochet paints a vibrant picture of a world that’s kaleidoscopic, beautiful and glowing with untapped potential.
#8 – Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Hop Along’s sparkling take on indie rock shines brighter than ever on Bark Your Head Off, Dog, a sharply political and sonically diverse follow-up to the excellent Painted Shut. Frances Quinlan’s erratic vocal performances give each track a rough-around-the-edges charm that gels effortlessly with the pristine performances given by her fellow bandmates. Bounding, catchy and defiant, Hop Along are destined for great things.
#7 – IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
IDLES prove to be one of the UK’s most formidable cultural exports with Joy As An Act Of Resistance – a defiant, triumphant sophomore album that expands in scope and scale in every way from their stellar debut. The record exudes a vibrant, endlessly compelling energy that fearlessly challenges authority, toxicity and the chaos of modern life with razor-sharp focus. Every lyric across the album’s runtime is destined to be belted at the top of the lungs, and songs like ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’ exude an anarchic wit and ferocious energy that’s sorely needed in such bleak times.
#6 – Death Grips – Year Of The Snitch
Year Of The Snitch is the filthiest Death Grips album to come out to date, which is certainly saying something. The album sees them joining forces with DJ Swamp to produce some astonishingly warped tracks of glitched-out noise, as well as collaborating with Australian experimental musician Lucas Abela and… the director of Shrek… Something deeply horrifying is at the core of Year Of The Snitch, because Death Grips wouldn’t have it any other way.
#5 – Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – King Of Cowards
‘Fuzz’ seems to be an instrument all of its own on Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs’ second album, King of Cowards. The psychedelic swirl of the effect tugs at the corners of every riff and motif that are slathered across its seven tracks, bending each song into oncoming walls of terrifying noise that crash like waves over the listener. ‘GNT’ is possibly one of my favourite openers, and indeed songs, of the year – opening the door into a world of colossal acid-rock that’s full to the brim with corrosive, bone-crunching riffs.
#4 – Low – Double Negative
Low’s Double Negative is a huge innovation in the storied career of one of Slowcore’s most powerful voices. Every track on the record seethes with crackling, distorted energy – falling apart at the seams and stitched back together by Sparhawk and Parker, creating a disorienting and overwhelming listen with a texture and sonic palate unlike anything else released this year. Haunting and beautiful, it’s incredible to see such creative ambition from such a legendary band – its avant-garde production sensibilities hiding a glittering, gentle core.
#3 – Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
Whilst album of the year lists are typically reserved for new material, Will Toledo’s magnum opus, Twin Fantasy, is near-unrecognisable with this new coat of paint. More than just an album of back-to-back bangers, Twin Fantasy is fascinating in its ability to reconcile the past with the present – reflecting on what has been and what is still to come. The short, punchy ‘bangers’ such as ‘Cute Thing’ and ‘Sober To Death’ are interspersed with longer, more personal cuts such as ‘Beach Life –In-Death’ and the titanic, sprawling ‘Famous Prophets’. More than just a fantastic album, Twin Fantasy also represents something personal for me – the first album I reviewed for The Edge, and a record I’m still feverishly passionate for even now. Compelling in its songwriting, instrumentation and narrative, Twin Fantasy is a modern classic of indie rock – bombastic and triumphant on the surface but with an intricate personal narrative hidden just out of sight. Unmissable.
#2 – Beach House – 7
Fearing a stagnation in sound, Beach House respond to their greatest critics with a dazzling album of sky-touching shoegaze, hypnotic synths and delicate guitar. Refining their trademark sound to a razor-sharp-point whilst incorporating all manner of new techniques, 7 sounds like an album that is unlike anything the band has ever produced, whilst simultaneously featuring an abundance of their hallmarks. Victoria LeGrand still provides gorgeous, honeyed vocal performances, and Alex Scally’s reverb-drenched guitar reaches higher and higher into realms of atmospheric beauty that fans could previously only dream of. More than just being an astonishingly good album, 7 represents a new era in one of dream-pop’s most beloved bands, a bold statement that Beach House have plenty of fight still left in them.
#1 – Amen Dunes – Freedom
When I first listened to Freedom in March of this year, it didn’t quite get me like it eventually would. Its appeal grew on me, the layers of complexity that swaddle the album unfolding on each repeat listen as it began to soundtrack my entire year. Each song is a sumptuous offering of indefinable, decadent psych-rock that drifts through the brain like a hallucination, the acid-ghost imprint of its influences branded into the fabric of each and every track. Damon McMahon’s vocal performance on this album is enthralling, complex and cryptic – phrases tumbling from his mind in an order that never truly locks itself into place, instead opting for a hazy recollection, a nostalgic memory made from incomplete truths. There are so many beautiful, evocative moments on Freedom – from the wheezing, warbling harmonica that slices through the empty space of ‘Skipping School’ to the energetic, almost religious final moments of ‘Believe’ – musical motifs that revel, grow and sprawl into the mind of the listener at every turn. There’s an indefinable greatness and completeness to Freedom that I can’t capture no matter how hard I may try – its beauty and power as an album lie in those moments where McMahon’s vision locks into place, where it seems his words are reaching you, and you alone. It’s unavoidable and impossible to talk about this album without mentioning how ingrained it is in my personal life – a record to play when things are all too much, too little, or some place in between. When things are grey, Freedom has a multicoloured radiance and hope that reassures that it might just all be okay in the end, and that ‘when things go black / I’ve got you’. An album that has stuck with me throughout the year, and possibly for life, Freedom is a complex, complete work of art that resonates on personal, political and historical levels. An utterly unmissable triumph and the perfect portrait of an artist in motion.