In six or seven years of being pretty immersed in the alternative music scene, this year was the most disconnected I’ve ever been. 2018 was a weird music year for me. The amazing was top notch, while some albums I was pretty sure were going to make this list didn’t wind up being for me. I listened to a ridiculous amount of audiobooks this year, cutting my music time down dramatically which shrunk some of the variety as well. The time I did spend listening to music was still top notch. I have some new favorites, and I’d like to share them with you.
Here are my favorite nine releases of 2018.
9. Shortly: Richmond (EP)
Shortly was such an unexpected, pleasant find. There’s something so vulnerable and often slightly heartbreaking about these songs. A mix of warmth and sadness in the best way. Perfect with a cup of tea on a rainy day.
Listen To: Finders Keepers, Two
8. The Xcerts: Hold on to Your Heart
If you came for upbeat and infectious, look no further. Genuine optimism and feel good vibes dominate this album. The Xcerts write life affirming tunes with a little nostalgia for good measure. I almost missed this album but I’m so glad it made it into my pretty small musical bubble this year.
Listen To: Daydream, Hold On To Your Heart, We Are Gonna Live
7. Trash Boat: Crown Shyness
On a very different note, Trash Boat steers into heavier, rougher territory. I listened to this album on repeat while drafting the first third of Bitterroot and it always put me in a weird, raw headspace. While Crown Shyness doesn’t necessarily reinvent the genre, it brings some teeth and surprising vulnerability.
Listen To: Inside Out, Shade, Old Soul
6. Can’t Swim: This Too Won’t Pass
To be perfectly transparent, I wasn’t sure where or how to put this album on the list. It came out in the middle of November and I could probably use another month or two to really form an opinion. That being said, I find more and more I like about with it each listen and this spot feels right. Compared to Can’t Swim’s first album last year, this is a much heavier showing. It feels earthier, trimmer, and even less hopeful than Fail You Again. This Too Won’t Pass tells it like it is, and I’m always down for that.
Listen To: My Queen, Hell In a Handbasket, Daggers
5. Trophy Eyes: The American Dream
This is a huge, sprawling, nuanced beast of an album. Trophy Eyes made it pretty clear that this was the album they wanted to make, and it’s evident. I love that they swung for the fences and just tried things. It’s a journey from euphoric highs, all the way down to brutally honest, extreme lows. There’s a solidity to these songs that feels like home. Oh, and it made me cry, so bonus points just for that.
Listen To: Lavender Bay, More Like You
4. Marmozets: Knowing What You Know Now
A twisty, inverting, speedy roller coaster of an album. It never turns the way you’d expect, providing plenty of plot twists along the way. My little lit loving heart is happy. A massive vocal range accompanies fascinating instrumentals which sometimes don’t make perfect sense at first listen. But things that shouldn’t work (like yelping) do. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. Or go and listen for yourself.
Listen To: Major System Error, Lost In Translation, Run With The Rhythm
3. Boston Manor: Welcome to the Neighbourhood
Boston Manor is really good at something that’s incredibly hard to do. They create seamless soundscapes that bridge the gap from a group of songs to an experience. All while incorporating brilliant new sonic elements. While Be Nothing left me feeling like an alien in my own skin, Welcome To The Neighbourhood leaves me worried about the world beyond. It’s a descent into a hazy, gritty, black as night world that promises no answers to endless commentary and questions.
Listen To: England’s Dreaming, Tunnel Vision, Halo
2. Florence + The Machine: High As Hope
If you’d told me in January that I’d have a Florence album at the number two spot on this list, I wouldn’t have believed you. Then it slowly tangled me up and didn’t let go. High As Hope is a stunning battle cry that demands to be heard. It’s an intimate, honest, angry, powerhouse. And it kept me company while I stripped myself down to nothing to write the book of my nightmares and dreams.
Listen To: Sky Full Of Song, 100 Years, The End Of Love
1. The Wonder Years: Sister Cities
It took about two listens for Sister Cities to jump to the number one spot, where it’s firmly planted itself for the last eight months. There’s so many aspects of an album that have to line up perfectly to fill a number one spot for me. It has to be a full arc from point a to b with the occasional plot twist somewhere in between. But most importantly is how it makes me feel.
There isn’t anything subtle about this album. Quiet, still, calm in places? Sure. But when it goes off, it goes off hard. The Wonder Years condensed all of the emotion, pain, and awe into songs with so much depth, I still notice new things months later.
The storytelling on Sister Cities is absolutely breathtaking. I feel like I’m right there experiencing these interactions all over the world. I feel like I’m on a plane headed for the eye of a storm, or alone in a temple in the middle of Kyoto. And at the end of the ride, a surreal almost hollow sense of peace.
This is a journey of an album with so much to dig into. So if you need to feel something, maybe give Sister Cities a listen.
Listen To: Pyramids of Salt, Raining In Kyoto, Sister Cities
2019 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for music. I’m looking forward to albums from The Maine, Walking On Cars, and a new find Small Talks . I’m also ever hopeful for new music from A Will Away, Sleep On It, Trade Wind, PVRIS, and Grayscale.
What did you love this year, and what are you looking forward to in 2019?
This is the fourth in a series of Albums of Year posts. If you missed the last three years, you can find them here: 2017, 2016, 2015