If last week’s post was all about taking stock (not drinking it, won’t be making that mistake again) then this one if much more fun, because it’s just a great big list of what I’ve enjoyed this year. Now, bearing in mind I tend to get round to books a good few years after they’re released, and I never get to the cinema any more, the one thing I can claim any current opinions on is music. So let’s start with my top 20 albums of 2018.
20. Allfather – And All Will Be Desolation: One of those rare times where you get to know the people through social media first and then their band turns out to be properly, crackingly good. No nonsense in its approach, this is sludgy thrashtastic metal at its modern finest.
19. KEN Mode – Loved: Given that their last album made it to pride of place in my end of year rankings, it’s hard to see this as anything other than a step backward, no matter how good it is. And that’s true of the music, too, with the band stepping away from the ultra-noise rock stomp of Blessed toward their more chaotic hardcore norm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still great, but it’s not a pinnacle like Blessed was.
18. Harms Way – Postmortem: This album makes me want to fight dance everyone in whatever room I’m in at the time, so I’ve had to stop listening to it at work, just in case.
17. Cult Leader – A Patient Man: If I had a few more months with this one it would almost certainly be higher up the list. The most extreme noisecore you’ll ever hear nestled alongside harrowingly stark folk. Brilliant.
16. King Buffalo – Repeater: Only an EP, and their follow up album later in the year doesn’t exactly set my world alight, but there’s something achingly lovely about this shimmering, sad stone rock, even if it’s over far too quickly.
15. Messa – Feast for Water: Another album with sadness running through its core, this is all big doom riffs and soaring soul vocals, which is rarely a bad combination. This, however, steps above the rest of the pack. Sublime.
14. Boss Keloid – Melted on the Inch: Speaking of sublime. This is utterly baffling, taking the inventiveness of Leviathan-era Mastodon, the chest pumping song writing of Baroness, and throwing big barrels of heaviness at them until you’ve ended up with something quite odd, but utterly compelling.
13. Sleep – The Sciences: Sleep were always one of those stone rock bands I knew I was supposed to like but never really got the point of, until now. This is absolutely brilliant doom.
12. Black Peaks – All That Divides: If there were any justice, these would be the next big thing in metal. utterly modern, with great song writing, fantastic vocals, and just enough of a pop sensibility to be flung at a mainstream audience.
11. Erdve – Vaitojimas: Bleakest of the bleak. This has been a great year for post metal, a genre that seemed to be disappearing up its own collective misery pipe, but this, like The Atlas Moth and a few others that haven’t quite made the cut, show that there’s life in the old girl yet.
10. Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance: If Black Peaks are the underground band who deserve the mainstream adulation, Idles are a band about to burst into the mainstream who sound utterly underground. Pop punk without any of the awful connotations of that phrase, this is politically fierce, packed with great songs, and fierce af. Their Later performance will go down alongside the At The drive in one for sheer joy.
9. Yob – Our Raw Heart: As achingly sad as it’s possible to get without becoming Leonard Cohen, this is somehow utterly uplifting, which is no mean feat. Glacial space doom made from tears of sorrow and joy.
8. Dessa – CHIME: I’ve not really listened to much hip hop this year, it’s just not really been my bag for some reason, but this has cut through that. Stridently feminist, as clever as you’d imagine, but pop enough that it’s one of the rare things I put on in the car without making my daughter want to die of embarrassment.
7. Haken – Vector: On a list of what are admittedly pretty bleak albums, this is a little ray of proggy 80’s synth metal that just makes me smile from ear to ear, just like their last album did. It’s a genre I care not a jot for, and it’s absolutely delightful.
6. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe. As much as I’ll always enjoy a new Fu Manchu album, I didn’t think I’d ever love a new one again, not like I did when I first heard The Action Is Go. This is astoundingly good, all fuzzed out petrol rock, big riffs flying everywhere before it goes all weird and un Fu at the end with a song that actually goes for longer than ten minutes. Even with that, it never outstays its welcome.
5. All Them Witches – ATW: I adore this band. In a year when I’ve spent a good few months listening to nothing but old stone records, this has been on heavy repeat along with everything else they’ve ever done. Bluesy, loose, heavy when it needs to be, it’s a long night in a good bar with best friends.
4. Conjurer – Mire: I’ve been trying to sum up my feelings about this, because the truth is that it just rages. Thoroughly, comprehensively, relentlessly. Just an absolutely brilliant modern metal album.
3. The Atlas Moth – Coma Noir: This first time I heard this, I hated it. All screechy vokills, pretentious cod-symphonic nonsense. And yet… I just couldn’t stop listening, until I had to admit to myself that I actually loved it very very much. I still don’t know why, I just know I can’t stop listening to it.
2. Dead Meadow – The Nothing They Need: This has been a good year for stone rock, with some great bands returning with career highlights, and nowhere is that more evident than here. They’ve done nothing revolutionary with their sound, still the same washed out Doors and Blue Cheer worship they’ve always done, but it’s miles ahead of their recent albums. An absolute cracker.
1. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It. Every year, amongst a sea of fantastic albums, there’s always one that stands out above the rest, head and shoulders higher than the nearest competition. That one album that grabs you and won’t let you stop playing it until your children groan at the opening shimmer of the intro because they’ve heard it too many damn times. This is that album. If Rolo Tomassi were always also-rans of the noisecore scene, forever slightly in the shadow of the American giants like Dillinger, the disappearance of those bands has offered them the briefest glimpse of limelight, and chuffing Nora have they taken it. This is an album so confident, so bafflingly complex and utterly epic as to stand entirely on its own. 2018 has been a stellar year for albums, but to my mind there’s no competition for the top slot, and you have to take your hats off to Rolo Tomassi for that.
Book of the Year: Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. I haven’t actually read any new releases this year, but I did read all three books of this trilogy, and absolutely adored it. Vampire plagues have never been this thought provoking.
Film of the Year: A Star is Born. I cried quite a lot at this, knowing full well how manipulated I was, not caring even remotely.
TV of the Year: Inside No 9 Live Special. Either you saw this and know, or you didn’t, and you don’t.
Podcast of the Year: The Daily. Absolutely essential for politics nerds obsessed with the slow decay of America
So, what did I miss?
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