Honourable Mentions of 2018

The best of the rest, in alphabetical order:

2018h01Amorphis, Queen of Time (Nuclear Blast)
I’ve said it plenty of times before, but Finland’s Amorphis have become one of the most enduring metal bands of the last quarter century, and they continued their sterling post-2005 run with a 13th album that showcases their strengths masterfully: dynamic songwriting, an impeccable balance between aggression and melody, and rich lead vocals by Tomi Joutsen. There’s slightly more of a folk influence here than on recent records, which is presented well, as well as a wonderful cameo by the great Anneke van Giersbergen. Spotify

2018h02Fucked Up, Dose Your Dreams (Arts & Crafts)
Another Fucked Up album, another two-disc punk rock opera. Which is perfectly fine by me. The Toronto band continues to flirt with repetition, but once again they’ve churned out a very impressive album that gracefully weaves in and out of hardcore punk, art rock, classic indie rock, and even pop. This is sure to be an album that ages very well, because there are so many moments on this dizzying, wildly eclectic record to rediscover. Spotify

2018h03Low, Double Negative (Sub Pop)
Give full credit to the slowcore veterans for putting out their most ambitious and challenging album this late in their long career. It’s as though their typically beautiful, minimalist compositions were fed through an electronic blender, making for something starkly beautiful yet alien at the same time. Producer BJ Burton does an incredible job twisting this music around, starting with the jarring “Quorum” and culminating in the stunning “Disarray”. Spotify

2018h04Messa, Feast For Water (Aural)
Not enough people remember just how much Black Sabbath were influenced by jazz and blues. Italian band Messa are indeed aware, and they bring a very strong jazz and blues vibe to their sultry brand of doom metal on this surprising second album. Like great American bands SubRosa, Witch Mountain, and Yob, Messa also know how important restraint is, too, taking their own sweet time, wooing the listener before pummeling them. Spotify

2018h05Janelle Monàe, Dirty Computer (Bad Boy)
It took five years for the great Janelle Monàe to put out a new album, but the wait was worth it, because Dirty Computer turned out to be just as varied, vibrant, and fun as anyone could have ever hoped for. Monàe thrives on diversity, and the variety on the record is indeed there, but it all ties together extremely well, the ebullient “Screwed” segueing into the angry “Django Jane”, which then leads into the electropop duet with Grimes on “Pynk”. Spotify

2018h06Snail Mail, Lush (Matador)
There are a lot of highly overrated young singer-songwriters in indie circles these days, but 18 year-old Lindsey Jordan is the most talented of this young lot. Her beautiful and quirky debut album arrives boasting a sound indebted to the likes of Helium, Liz Phair, and Throwing Muses, but there’s enough of her own idiosyncratic touch to convince you just how singular (and rare) a rock songwriting talent she is. Spotify

2018h07Sons of Kemet, Your Queen is a Reptile (Verve)
I was sad to have missed Sons of Kemet perform at the local jazz festival this past summer, and in the months since, word of mouth has grown as more people have caught on to how cool this album is. Rarely do you hear such a politically-motivated album that feels so joyous, but that’s indeed the case, as Shabaka Hutchings and his band (primarily saxophone, tuba, and multiple percussionists) play themselves into a masterfully controlled frenzy. Spotify

2018h08Tomb Mold, Manor of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
There’s nothing like a good, old-school death metal album, the kind that swings as hard as it blasts, for cleansing the musical palate, to blast after a hard day’s work. Toronto band Tomb Mold put out the most memorable death metal album of 2018 with a piece of work that focuses on catchy, groovy, Bolt Thrower-esque riffs, its best moments ranking as some of the most striking death metal of the last decade. Spotify

2018h09U.S. Girls, In a Poem Unlimited (Royal Mountain)
After 2015’s sample-heavy Half Free, the immensely talented Remy Martin surrounded herself with an array of talented musicians on her much-anticipated follow-up, and the result is something even stronger than her previous Polaris shortlisted work. You hear traces of everything from Scott Walker to Phil Spector to Italo disco, and Martin’s unique vision keeps it all from flying out of control. It’s proof you can still dance while being artsy at the same time. Spotify

2018h10Jack White, Boarding House Reach (Third Man)
Boarding House Reach is the sound of Jack White losing his marbles. I don’t know exactly what he was trying to achieve on this strange experiment of an album, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t steadily win me over as the year progressed. There’s something about the manic energy of tracks like “Corporation” and “Ice Station Zebra” that reminds me of why White blew me away back in 2001. At his best he’s an unhinged whiz with just the right amount of ambition and self-indulgence, and this album is loaded with such moments. If only that snowstorm didn’t prevent Stacey and I from seeing his show in November. Spotify