These Are The 2018 Albums That Deserved More Love
Stop sleeping on them and start listening.
It’s been a massive year of albums across the board in 2018.
We cried to Mitski, we threw bows to Pusha, we cheered on Ari and we… well, we had some thoughts on that Arctic Monkeys record.
In the stampede of releases, there were always going to be a few that fell through the cracks. With that in mind, here are 15 (okay, technically 16) overlooked albums that didn’t get enough love in 2018.
Birds in Row – We Already Lost the World
Our list begins in France, but Birds in Row are just about as far removed from the chic jazz-pop normally associated with the country’s musical exports. Instead, the mysterious Laval trio are merchants of scathing, urgent post-hardcore inspired by DIY punk and the so-called ‘skramz’ movement.
The album’s nine tracks shift from earth-shaking breakdowns to scuffling D-beats and back again without losing their footing for a second. We Already Lost the World is their first album in six years, and both its chaotic vitality and emotive core leave you hoping it’s not another six before we’re given a follow-up.
Colter Wall – Songs of the Plains
Wall’s voice is at once refreshingly new and seemingly familiar to the ears. There are endless country roads and age-old wisdom in his vocals and words, so it’s legitimately shocking when you find out he’s 23-years-old.
He’s a classic country troubadour in the spirit of John Prine, Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson, fruitfully carrying on their tradition on his beautiful second album. As its title suggests, Songs of the Plains has a deep connection to place and to land – a native of southern Canada, Wall is simultaneously well-travelled and homesick in his storytelling. Ride on.
Daphne & Celeste – Daphne & Celeste Save the World
If you’re of a certain age, you may remember Daphne & Celeste’s bubblegum-pop hits from the turn of the century, ‘Ooh Stick You’ and ‘U.G.L.Y’ (apologies for getting either stuck in your head). After only one album, they subsequently quit the industry – it’s a pleasant surprise seeing the duo reunite for a completely unexpected follow-up.
With producer Max Tundra at the helm, it’s fuelled by the same sugar-rush running through PC Music’s veins – all pummelling drum machines and fairy-floss synth. Save the World would be a wonderfully weird pop record without its context. With it, it’s jaw-dropping.
Dessa – Chime
A cult figure crossing over between the hip-hop and podcasting world – shout-out to the Doomtree Collective and Welcome to Night Vale, respectively – the woman born Margret Wonder has always created and existed on the fringe. Her third studio album Chime is no exception. Dessa is a performer who is entirely confident in her own abilities and artistic vision, refusing to compromise over her decade-plus career.
Chime is another album of inventive flows, brimming production and poetic lyricism from an artist that intimately knows their way around all three.
The Dirty Nil – Master Volume
This Canadian trio have been going out for a rip for a few years and a couple of loud, fun records now. This, however, may well be their best yet – it’s power-pop turned up to 11, bolstered by a wall of guitar noise and the kind of choruses that will leave you with absolutely no voice the day after the gig. If that wasn’t enough, they close out the record with a big-swinging and decidedly bold move: They earnestly cover Metallica’s ‘Hit the Lights.’ It kicks arse, too. For those that don’t classify rock & roll as noise pollution.
East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Teddywaddy
The second album from this Milk! Records crew has been years in the works, following on from 2014’s Seven Drummers. They’ve strengthened their sense of dynamics and connectivity on Teddywaddy, which in turn leads to a more widescreen production approach. The title alludes to a small town in regional Victoria, while tracks like ‘Essendon 1986’ and ‘Cicada Chirps the Chicane’ are similarly rooted in deep, thorny Australiana.
The Drones-like guitar twang and churn against the rumbling rhythm section, topping over into yelping vocals detailing dark, introspective lyricism. Talking about how great they are should be like… well, preaching to the choir.
Field Music – Open Here
The Brewis brothers have been making music together for nearly 15 years as Field Music – and were doing so even before that band was formed. They’ve made a string of great indie-pop records with consistency and flair, but for whatever reason it’s never tapped into a larger audience. If it was ever going to happen, it absolutely should have happened on Open Here.
Bursting with art-rock resilience and new-wave grooves, it’s easily their most ambitious effort yet – see opener ‘Time in Joy,’ for instance, which could be the single greatest Split Enz song that they never wrote.
Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
Named for a classic Pixies cut, these Floridian punks waste no time – by the time Burnt Sugar finishes, some 26 minutes after you press play, there’s still smoke coming off it. It’s gnashing, grinding punk that pierces through the speaker and gets right into your face.
There might have not been a more accurate album title throughout all 2018 releases – although Burnt Sugar has moments of sweetness, it’s so consumed by fire that it can be difficult to detect at first. Made by design for all-ages floor shows, this is primitive punk that cuts deeper than your average.
Infinite Void – Endless Waves
In a way, it’s not that surprising Infinite Void’s second album passed by without any real reception – the band had split up permanently by the time it came out, making it a posthumous release.
For those that ever encountered the post-punk Poison City alum, it was generally understood how good the band were at their jobs. Jarring, angular guitars tussled and twisted against urgent drums and strikingly-melodic vocal contrasts that shot beams of light into their darker corners. Endless Waves is a fitting send-off to a band that deserved so, so much more.
Mountain Man – Magic Ship
After the gentle beauty of their debut, 2010’s Made the Harbor, this Vermont trio went quiet – and for an indie-folk troupe to go even quieter is nigh-on impossible.
Projects like the wonder Sylvan Esso followed, but the faithful held out hope that one day these three would meet again. New songs arrived unexpectedly this August and a full-length arrived a month later. A very warm and very welcome return.
Pianos Become the Teeth – Wait for Love
Kyle Durfey once prowled stages, screaming against cacophonous builds with emotionally-devastating lyrics like “We were based on an end/It’s as if everyone arrives already gone.” Years later, he sings over atmospheric guitars: “Would you believe it? I’m a family man now.”
An entire lifetime has gone by in the world of Pianos Become the Teeth, as they’ve shifted into being a post-hardcore band in a literal sense. Wait for Love still tugs the heartstrings like The Lack Long After did, but there is now beauty to be found rather than sadness or despair. Good things come to those who wait.
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – Hours
It was an eventful year for country music, to say the least. There was the little boy from Wal-Mart, Dolly Parton in the news again thanks to Dumplin’ and country haters pretended they were converts – “yee-haw!” – when all they really liked was Kacey Musgraves.
If you’re legitimately invested in great country, however, you could do far worse than to spin the second studio album from North Carolina native Sarah Shook. Born out of busted up bar-rooms and pit-stop townships, Years is a genuine product that isn’t interested in trends or cheesy tropes. Just three chords and the truth.
Shopping – The Official Body
For their third album, London post-punks Shopping brought in Edwyn Collins on production duties – if you don’t know that name, you almost certainly know his sole hit, 1995’s ‘A Girl Like You.’ It was a move that paid off big-time – The Official Body is easily the best that the trio have ever sounded on record.
Their bass-heavy grooves and multi-layered vocals feel more present and resonant this time around. So, too, does their message of societal unease and empowering individual agency – we needed albums like The Official Body in a big way this year.
Snape – Always
Both the band name and album title are instantly familiar to anyone who has paid even the most cursory of attention to a particular turn-of-the-century franchise. Rest assured, however, this ain’t no Harry & The Potters fan-fic.
This Sydney band thrives on archetypal doom and gloom, bringing out the severity of their source material and turning dark art into a masterful debut. Always gets decidedly brutal at points – there are songs called ‘I Wish I Were Dead’ and ‘All I Wanted to Do Was Kill You,’ driven by funeral-dirge organ and droning, down-tuned guitars.
Tom Lyngcoln – Doming Home / Harmony – Double Negative
We couldn’t choose between the two albums released by the erstwhile Tasmanian in 2018, so both have been included here for completion’s sake.
The former is Lyngcoln’s solo debut, a stark portrayal of a solitary man with only his buzzing electric guitar to guide him.
The latter, meanwhile, is the third album from Melbourne’s premier chorally-inclined garage art-rock sextet – which is definitely a real thing. After 2014’s devastated Carpetbombing, Lyngcoln and co. turn their focus to matters of the heart and all that goes along with that. Both, unsurprisingly, are complete masterworks.
Feature image by Tajette O’Halloran from East Brunswick All Girls Choir Facebook.
David James Young is a writer and podcaster. He’s also U-G-L-Y, and at the time of publishing had no alibi. He tweets at @DJYwrites.