It’s been a pretty good year for music – here’s what we’ve had on repeat the last twelve months.
If the last year has shown us anything it’s that rock music is alive and well in all its shapes and forms. It may not be dominating the charts or making national headlines, but if it were up to us, it absolutely would. Whether it’s the lyrical genius of Brian Fallon, songwriting talents of Ruston Kelly or the boundary-pushing growth of Boston Manor, there’s so much to love about this year’s releases. We’ve picked our ten absolute favourites from this year, and the choice sure wasn’t easy, so we’ve added a few special mentions as well.
State Champs – Living Proof
Our MVP of 2018 comes straight from NY pop-punks State Champs. Living Proof was recorded in two different sessions with John Feldmann as well as Mike Green and Kyle Black, the pair that shepherded Around The World And Back across the finish line. State Champs also co-wrote songs with Alex Gaskarth of All Time Low and Mark Hoppus from Blink-182. Living Proof delivers tune after tune, fast-paced pop-punk hits as well as ballads that will leave wanting to add a few notches to the volume button on your stereo.
Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?
What the world needed, and let’s be honest – always needs, is a little more punk. In 2018, Alkaline Trio delivered us exactly that with Is This Thing Cursed?. Five years after their last release My Shame Is True, the trio is well and truly back with an outstanding record. Having been released just in time for Halloween season, Is This Thing Cursed? is all the emo-tinged, ghouly punk you need in your life. Its iconic songwriting and dark and grungy lyrics will have your little punk emo soul devour every minute of it.
As It Is – The Great Depression
When a band decides to make a record that is not only pushing boundaries with its genre-crossing sound but also tackles societal issues with a concept album such as The Great Depression it can go one of two ways. Brighton rock outfit As It Is have managed to walk the narrow line of this and come out with an exceptional record on the other end. Musically, this third studio album takes their signature sound and delves into the realms of indie, pop and even metalcore. The Great Depression takes issues that fans, band members and many people in the scene face, and attacks them head-on. Discussing toxic masculinity, self-harm, and many more mental health topics, As It Is have given us one of the most important records for 2018.
Boston Manor – Welcome To The Neighbourhood
Our most ambitious record of the year comes courtesy of Boston Manor. Stepping way outside their comfort zone, the band have truly grown and taken their sound to a whole new level on Welcome To The Neighbourhood. Produced by Mike Sapone at New Jersey’s Barber Shop studios in the dead of winter, the album’s story of disenfranchisement incorporates an ambitious new approach incorporating pulsating synths into Boston Manor’s punk-fueled sound. At times you feel like you could see yourself in an abandoned theme park at night listening to this album turned up loud.
Ruston Kelly – Dying Star
Dying Star has been on repeat on our record players ever since its release in September. Folk singer Ruston Kelly has delivered one of the best debut albums of 2018 with Dying Star. The mellow character of the record shines a bright light on Kelly’s extraordinary songwriting talents. Dying Star is modern folk that shows how you can take a genre with so many stereotypes attached to it and add lyrics about screw-ups, drugs, and cross-country traveling and make it relevant.
Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
Okay, we firstly need to admit that we are slightly (aka extremely) biased when it comes to our main man Brian Fallon. It’s been a very busy year for the Gaslight Anthem frontman with anniversary tours in the summer, a new solo album and various UK/Europe and US tours. And with Sleepwalkers the New Jersey songwriter has once again given us an abundance of lyrics to obsess over, lyrics that truly deserves to be called poetry. Whether it’s Come Wander With Me’s genius “Mama was a woman and a hard-workin man” or the entirety of the chorus of Etta James, a song that will leave you an emotional wreck, it’s that gorgeous.
The Dirty Nil – Master Volume
The record with THE most rock’n’roll swag came from Canadian trio The Dirty Nil and their masterpiece Master Volume. On it they marry punk and old school rock’n’roll like it’s nobody’s business and we are obsessed, thank you very much. On Master Volume the band proof once again that there is one thing you can’t do: define The Dirty Nil. Is it melodic punk like you’d find with bands like The Menzingers? Definitely. Is it classic rock influences that gives their songs volume like you’d hear in stadiums? One hundred percent. Vocalist Luke Bentham concludes: “We don’t really label ourselves other than just… the best band. That’s our genre!”
Lucero – Among The Ghosts
Celebrating almost two decades as a band, Lucero show that they are at their most mature yet with Among The Ghosts. Co-produced and engineered by Grammy Award winner Matt RossSpang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Driveby Truckers), Among The Ghosts was recorded in the band’s hometown of Memphis, TN at the historic Sam Phillips Recording Service. With two decades under their belt – filled with endless touring and nine studio albums – a band could be forgiven for releasing more of the same at some point. But Lucero don’t take the easy route, instead they deliver one of the best records of their career.
Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers – Bought To Rot
On Born To Rot, Laura Jane Grace bares her soul to the listener and delivers a record you’ll still want to listen to in thirty years. Born To Rot is one of those albums you’ll find yourself listenting to over and over again, finding new bits to love and obsess over. Lyrically and musically it’s an instant classic. Across fourteen tracks Grace opens up to the listener about her fractured relationship with her adopted hometown of Chicago, true friendship, complicated romance, and reconciling everything in the end. It’s not the teenage anarchist thematic you might expect, but that’s what makes Bought To Rot so refreshing.
Arlington – A Walk Through Jackson County
We love nothing more than classic rock’n’roll sound, and So-Cal outfit Arlington are one our very favourite discoveries of this year. Their debut record A Walk Through Jackson County is an absolute masterpiece not just for a debut record but by any standard if you ask us. The band combine the swagger of early Arctic Monkeys, guitar riffs that would make The Strokes jealous and a dash of Jack White and Alabama Shakes. A Walk Through Jackson County is catchy AF rock n roll music with a big big heart and it won’t be long before these guys headline all your favorite summer festivals.
These are just the tip of the iceberg, though. The list of stellar records of 2018 also includes Kacey Musgraves’ stunning Golden Hour, Architects’ intense Holy Hell, Will Varley’s incredible Songs Of Minnie, Muncie Girls’ killer sophomore release Fixed Ideals and Americana starlet Wild Silence by The Wandering Hearts.
A very, very special mention goes out to our one and only, our god of rock ‘n’ roll, the man himself, the only boss we listen to – Bruce Springsteen. His Springsteen on Broadway run has come to an end and while many did not get to see the once in a lifetime performance, we do get to have a little piece of it. With a Netflix special and a record of the show, we get an insight into what the man from Freehold New Jersey has gotten up to in the last year. It’s given us all the feels and all the goosebumps and the reimagined Born In The USA, as well as his stories, remind us once again why he is truly a one in a million talent.
Music-wise, 2018 was pretty sweet if you ask us and we sure cannot wait what 2019 has in store for our ears! We will be reviewing records for you, letting you know which ones you should treat yourself to, so stay tuned.