17 December 2018

The ATTIWLTMOWOS Top 40 Albums of 2018

I probably say this every year, but this year was a very good year for albums.  Whilst I didn't get to review every album I wanted to, I still had over 80 that made the required mark to reach this list.  There is a certain point on this list (not gonna say where) which every album afterwards would have been the AOTY, if it were not for the albums that follow.  But this is just the way the cookie crumbles.  Now, some of these albums were records I reviewed for the brilliant Bearded Gentlemen Music (a link to the blog here, check them out, all the team are mint!  Basically, any album I reviewed was up for this list, my blog - my rules!  Anyway, don't pay attention to the size of the album covers on the collage, that might be a red herring, what you need to do is read on - Eddie.

40 - Therapy? - Cleave

I love the tone of Cleave, it's meatier, thicker and sounds like the distorted sound of old.  But there is no feeling of trying to keep up with the current vogue of the world, no attempt to recapture their youthful rage or former glories here.  It's a short, sharp reminder that Therapy? never actually went away, they've always been there producing great records, and this is no exception to that rule.  Should I dare compare Cleave to their back catalogue?  Nah, what would be the point!  Let it stand out on its own and check it out yourself.

39 - Mantar - The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

I love The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze, it's a top-class metal album, one of the best in 2018 and is rightly receiving praise.  But the impact is not as big as their previous albums.  But no matter what, there's only one way to end this paragraph - All hail Mantar!

38 - Marmozets - Knowing What You Know Now

Knowing What You Know Now is a great record, one which is worthy of the praise and attention that it’s receiving, it’ll also shot them into the public eye even further than their brilliant debut The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets. When they’re on point, there are few acts who could better them.  They’re as important to the British Rock scene as any band that has come through the ranks and file in years, if not so more important.  However, and it’s just a small however, they should have knocked a few tracks off this one.  It’s not a bloated album by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have one or two fillers in the mix.  But a Marmozets filler is still better than a lot of bands A-sides, so as I said – this is a small however.  Overall, Knowing What You Know Now is an important record which lives up to the hype behind the band, it’ll be up there in the albums of the year for a lot of people.

37 - Sick of It All - Wake the Sleeping Dragon

Because of the nature of Hardcore music, Wake the Sleeping Dragon is a fast and furious release.  Now, whilst I truly enjoy this album, I also recognise it's an album that sticks to their guns.  Which is exactly how it should be.  If Sick of It All had of a suddenly changed even an iota, it would have sucked.  So, more props to them for sticking to that course they started years ago.  I love each of these songs, they never put a foot wrong throughout the album and it just goes to show, you truly cannot keep a good band down.  Sick of It All are as vital and alive in 2018 as they were when they first emerged on to the New York Hardcore Scene. Wake the Sleeping Dragon is a reminder that they've never been away!  

36 - Buñuel - The Easy Way Out

With each repeat of The Easy Way Out, you're no closer to understanding Buñuel.  You can say that you are, but that's a lie.  The Easy Way Out is a beautiful piece of art, an album that mixes the poetry of Eugene S. Robinson with the wondrous music of Messrs Iriondo, Capovilla and Valente.  Is it for mass consumption, no - not even close.  It's for people who enjoy music that confronts them, it's for those who want an album that will challenge them.  I've never come away from listening to this album without being impressed with it, or feeling as if I've been taken to school.  It's an enigma, a puzzle that I bring out of my collection to take away the grime of the day.

35 - Thomas Truax - All That Heaven Allows

I think Sir Thomas might have nailed it here, and I don’t say that lightly.  Each track on All That Heaven Allows could easily be transferred into his live set, some of them already have and they sound brilliant in studio form.  Each time I have spun this record, my love for this album has grown and it’s never lost my attention.  Are there any issues?  Well, apart from one song which does not quite cut the mustard for me, it’s the best work that Sir Thomas has released (I’m still upset he’s not got his real knighthood!!!).  I would recommend going to his live shows, purchasing this album and immersing yourself in the strange and wonderful world of Wowtown, you may never want to leave…...

34 - VETO - 16 Colors

VETO for me are the natural successors to the sound that was pioneered by Depeche Mode on Songs of Faith & Devotion.  16 Colors is the perfect combination of Alternative Rock, Electronica and Dark Pop.  Whilst there are elements of other artists in their sound, VETO have a sound all of their own, one which is enthralling.  If there was any justice in this world, VETO would be on the ascent all over the world, they sound that damn good.  16 Colors is a dark record, but a beautifully constructed one as well. 

33 - Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

Young Fathers can do with very little instrumentation what some back with 15+ member struggle to do, they create masterpieces that skin their hooks into your heart, refusing to let go.  When they are on fire, Cocoa Sugar can send the heart soaring high above this septic world, with minimalist odes of joy and pain. Sure, there are a few missed beats, a few songs which end too suddenly, but that doesn't change the fact that this is a great record.  Much like the album, this review is sort of short, but I think that is for the best.  Cocoa Sugar is another fine record from the Scottish trio.

32 - Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man

World's Strongest Man is an album which you must invest time into, a record where an instant reaction is not going to be forthcoming.  Hence why I'm reviewing it so late after its original release.  My first reaction - Well, that's different once again.  However, as the weeks have gone by, I've discovered little subtleties embedded into this album.  It's not an instant classic, it's a slow burner in the classic sense.  Songs like "The Oaks" take time to get under your skin, they cannot be rushed.  World's Strongest Man is a hidden gem in 2018, one that will take people by surprise.  I reckon that Gaz Coombes is onto a world beater here, but one that might not be for the masses.  If you're looking for something slightly off the beaten path of the mainstream, this could be the album for you.

31 - Richard Thompson - 13 Rivers

Over the thirteen tracks, Richard Thompson serenades you with hard rock, folk, gentle ballads, urgent pleas for help.  Coming in at just under fifty-five minutes, but it feels a lot shorter than that to be honest.  It demands nothing but utter engagement from the listener, this is a record that you cannot ignore, and you wouldn't want to anyway.  If (like myself), 13 Rivers is your first introduction to Richard Thompson, then you're in for a treat.  Now, let's get to work on that back catalogue.

30 - KEN Mode - Loved

Loved is a fantastic album, a Pandora's box that you can't close and probably won't want to.  I love the style; the production is massive and you have ringing in your ears long after the final note has finished.  In a year with some truly epic Metal/Sludge albums, KEN Mode have created something special on Loved.

29 - Eels - The Deconstruction

Overall, The Deconstruction is an uplifting, yet heavy experience.  It's an album that defies the normal expectations of an Eels record and shows that there is more to E than meets the eye. This is quite possibly the album which eclipses Beautiful Freak for me, which is a massive compliment from yours truly.

28 - Miles Hunt - The Custodian

What I love about The Custodian is the craftsmanship, love and effort that Miles has put into this project.  The attention to detail by a man who knows his worth is beautiful to hear.  Each track has been lovely re-created, the new song "Custodian" is brilliant, and I look forward to hearing it live.  This is a body of work that he should rightfully be proud of and one that his fans will enjoy immensely.  This is an essential piece for any fan of The Wonder Stuff or music in general.

27 - Thom Yorke - Suspiria

The further into Suspiria you descend, the more you wish you had the visuals.  Thom Yorke has made this a compelling piece of art, but I feel as if I'm cheating the movie out of something here.  This is a soundtrack which deserves the dancers, the violence and the screams to make it complete.  I'm not saying that the album is poor, quite far from it!  This is one of the best solo pieces from Thom Yorke that I've ever heard.  It's such a dark record, such a deep work of art and so out of the edge, that I want to see what is fuelling it.  I love the strange noises, but I want more. Because of the lack of context, I can't give Suspiria a full mark at this juncture. 

26 - Youth Killed It - What's So Great, Britain?

What's So Great, Britain? is a brilliant modern Indie Rock album which has influences in the past, but it's also stamped with their own identity.  They might be shaking their head at the state of this country, but they've made an album that should put them on the musical map of this country.  This is a great record and you should get it as soon as it's released. 

25 - PigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigs - King of Cowards

At this point, I usually try to look for any negatives on an album, just so the review doesn't come across as a love letter.  But I can't do that here.  From "GNT" through to "Gloamer", each track is a psychedelic doom monster, one that you can invest yourself into and enjoy the moment.  With each spin, King of Cowards delivers and somehow gets better.  Everything about this release is amazing, it's over the top and it sounds glorious.  

24 - The Virginmarys - Northern Sun Sessions

With this approach, there is always a danger that it could all turn to shit.  Sometimes it can be a little bit too heavy, sometimes it can sink an album.  Thankfully, Northern Sun Sessions is not one of those albums.  The Virginmarys are a tight duo, so they know their strengths and they can make the same amount of noise as many five-piece bands.  It's an album that makes you want to jump around and fills the world with sunshine. The Virginmarys have upped the ante on Northern Sun Sessions, making all the right moves and sounding like fighting champions.  This is a passion project and it sounds great, definitely one that I would recommend to people who love their punk from the North!

23 - The Winter Hill Transmission - The Winter Hill Transmission

Much like the sound of the North West being eternally linked to Joy Division, the sound of The Winter Hill Transmission could not have originated anywhere else in the world apart from the North East of England.  It’s hard to explain, but when you listen to this album, you’ll hear the sound of the area where I grew up.  So, for me, this is a special album.  It’s a gentle record, one that contains hidden depths to immerse yourself in.   The Winter Hill Transmission is a brilliant (and long overdue) debut album, one that will fit perfectly in the collection of any music fan.  The sooner you get yourself a copy, the happier your life will be.  However, given their track record, I’ll be expecting a follow up sometime in the next decade……...

22 - Corrosion of Conformity - No Cross, No Crown

(Original review published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

The overall sound is smoother than the feral beast that is IX, you can see the influence of Mr. Kennan’s influence on their sound and I cannot argue with the results.  We find CoC to be in fine form on No Cross No Crown, which is not surprising when you consider the pedigree of the band.  Even at this early stage of 2018, this is could be a contender for the Metal album of the year.  If there is only one issue, I have is No Cross No Crown is that it’s a little too polished when you compare it to IX, but that has turned into my favourite CoC album ever.  So, there was already a hard act to follow in my mind, but I must admit that they have done a great job here.  And the reason for that is that they didn’t play it safe and repeat the same record, they mixed their classic sound with a bit more metal and delivered the goods.  This album is a record that keeps getting better with each spin, so this could turn out to be a slow burner for the rest of 2018.

21 - Antarctigo Vespucci - Love in the Time of Email

I like Love in the Time of E-Mail a lot, it's a contradiction in terms of messages, the positivity of the music is contrasted by the meaning of the songs.  Yet it all comes together, meshing into a beautiful painting of joy and sorrow.  Somehow, they combine everything into this fantastic record that may have a cover of a photo in the snow, but it'll leave anyone who hears it elated and full of energy.  I don't think I've enjoyed a side project as much since Grinderman by Nick Cave, I think I cannot think of any praise which is higher than that. Viva La Antartctigo Vespucci!

20 - Ginger Wildheart - The Pessimist's Companion

Well, this is a hard album on the soul.  The Pessimist's Companion is a beautiful record, one that will break everyone's heart and then some.  If you thought Ghost in the Tanglewood was devastating, then you might need to only listen to this in the company of others.  It's a weeper, a bruiser and a heartbreaker, I can see why this is getting so much good press at the moment.  If you're looking for fist-pumping anthems, then you'll need to look elsewhere.  If you're looking for candy coloured pop-rock, you will be able to find that on other records.  If you're looking for someone to voice your broken words and to help you heal, The Pessimist's Companion might be able to support.  

19 - Bloods - Feelings

Due to the short nature of Feelings, you can easily listen to it twice in an hour and not get bored.  If I have one complaint about Feelings, it's front-loaded.  The first five songs, from the glorious "Bring My Walls Down" to "N C C" are really good.  The second half, whilst not poor by any stretch of the imagination, it doesn't have the same impact as those initial five tracks.  This gives the album an uneven feeling, but not enough to sink the album.  It's just my own take on this record.  Overall, Feelings is a little ray of fuzzy sunshine, one that is making this winter in the UK a nicer place.  As I said before, I wish Sweetie good luck and I hope that Bloods release more albums.

18 - Not Scientists - Golden Staples

Golden Staples is a rewarding record, it has some rough edges and I love the fact that it reveals more about itself each time.  As I previously said, if they had done a repeat of their earlier work, it would have sucked and shown them to be a one trick pony.  Golden Staples is a great record, one which has some depths that I’ve not fully explored, but that will change over time.  If you’re looking for new indie/punk heroes, Golden Staples is the album for you.

17 - MGMT - Little Dark Age

Little Dark Age is the best album that MGMT has released ever.  This is not open for debate, it’s their most consistent record, their most focused record and MGMT's most adventurous as well.  I love the fact it’s trying something different to their normal stuff, it goes out on a limb, it takes the leap of faith into the unknown.  I love that they had the confidence to release this record, I cannot praise it enough and I hope it gets the respect and reception I think it deserves.  And it's a multi-produced album that I love, this is truly a rare and wonderful beast of a record!

16 - Clutch - Book of Bad Decisions

(Original review published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

Clutch are the modern-day Motorhead, no-one can beat them at their own game.  You couldn’t mistake this for anyone else, they are masters of this genre.  Others might imitate them, but no-one comes close to matching their sound.   They know exactly what they need to make an album perfect.  It’s never too flash, just pure rock fury.  And above all, they make it look so easy! That is the hardest part, having the ability to make it look effortless.  With Book of Bad Decisions, they have further cemented that reputation of greatness!  It’s a reputation that is justified as well.  Book of Bad Decisions is a brilliant record, one that is not a direct follow on from Psychic Warfare, but you can trace the lineage with ease. Book of Bad Decisions will be hailed as one of their best, mark my words here.  It’ll receive praise from all corners of the rock community.  Are there any issues?  Yes, it ends too soon!  They have made my end of year album chart interesting. I love this record.  To quote “How to Shake Hands” “……hot damn!”

15 - The Chewers - Downhill Calendar

The Chewers are showcasing everything that makes them special and unique on this album.  Downhill Calendar is a brilliant album, with its maverick spirit that possesses the trinity of Primus, the droning tone of Waheela (without the metal) and the originality of themselves, they are on a winner here.  Downhill Calendar is a neat package of noise, drone and bat crap crazy sound.  I cannot tell you how much I love this album, it's another joyful trip into the unknown and beyond.  Welcome back The Chewers, we've missed you!

14 - Idles - Joy as an Act of Resistance

In one sense, the steps forward here are not huge, some tracks could have fitted effortlessly on Brutalism.  Is that really a crime though?  It's only just been over a year since Brutalism was released, so their sound is not going to be that much different.  Therefore, it shouldn't really be an issue here.  At the end of the day, I'm focusing on how the album leaves me once the final note has rung out.  I think they've reached whatever target they set themselves. Joy as an Act of Resistance takes them further down the road towards infamy, it meets the hype head on and hits it out of the park.  It's a harrowing, vicious and brutal record in places, but who said Idles were ever easy?  I love it, it's a small improvement on everything from Brutalism, so it's not the shocker that I was expecting.  Don't get me wrong, that doesn't change the outcome for Joy as an Act of Resistance.  This is a great album and it'll be near the top of my end of year list.  It doesn't repeat the shock and awe of their debut, but that was never on the card in some ways.  

13 - Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Look Now

Look Now is the album that I was not expecting, which means it’s sort of the album I needed as well.  It's a thing of beauty and it soothes the wounded soul, I cannot stop listening to it in my spare time. From the first note to the last, each song is a little oasis of pleasure and joy.  I could easily lose myself in this record for a few hours at a time, with the music full of hooks, charm and beauty.  Every now and then, I might (for my shame) forget how great a songwriter Elvis Costello can be.  Look Now is a reminder that he's not done with this world yet, it's a passionate and beautiful record.  The album of the year list has just gotten interesting at the 11th hour, I think that if you give Look Now a chance, so will yours.

12 - Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

If you're a fan of Alkaline Trio, Is This Thing Cursed? will be the best thing that they've ever done as it hits all their high-water marks and the joy of having them back in the world.  If you're a casual fan, it'll deliver everything you wanted and a lot more which you'll be able to explore later.  Basically, Is This Thing Cursed? is their strongest album since From Here to Infirmity, it's that damn good and if they're cursed, then it's fuelled a fantastic record!  Let's not leave it so long next time, OK?

11 - David Byrne - American Utopia

American Utopia is a stunning record, one which shows how relevant David Byrne is in 2018 as he was back in the '70s and '80s.  Each song is a strange tale, a cautionary look at the world and seeing how it's going to hell in a handbasket.  Yes, there was the controversy upon its release, but I think that was caused by people looking for issues.  We are living in a new Puritan age after all.  This is Pop Music for Avant-Garde fans, what is there not to love?
10 - Sad Hill - Good if it Goes

Musically, Good if it Goes is a great little album.  Like most Emo music, it's not a technical master class in the same way that Frank Zappa never made a straightforward rock album.  But in it's given genre, it's spot on and a shining example that Emo has a place in 2018.  I love the honest nature of the songs, the beautiful artwork and the overall package.  Are there any issues?  To be honest, not really.  It does exactly what it says on the tin.  Good if it Goes is a God-honest Emo record, created out of love, frustration, tears, and hope.  What is there not to like?

09 - Frank Turner - Be More Kind

Be More Kind is my type of album.  Full of passions, a little political and with its heart in the right place.  It's attempting to make sense of how humanity cannot learn from its past, how we're still looking for love and wondering why we seem to let horrors return.  It's a gentle and powerful record, one which will be in in a lot of people's album of the year lists.  But the title alone is a lesson which everyone should live by, why can't we just Be More Kind?

08 - The Temperance Movement - A Deeper Cut

From beginning to end, A Deeper Cut takes all the experiences that The Temperance Movement have encountered, built on it and released a monster!  I’ve never been so excited about a traditional Rock album in such a long time, it has that special factor which makes music my all-time passion.  A Deeper Cut is one of the best albums of the year, it’s that damn good.

07 - Alice In Chains - Rainer Fog

I can wax lyrical about Rainier Fog all day, it's a brilliant album and a worthy addition to the AiC discography.  Each song is a brilliant reminder of their legend and a dark anyway which will brighten your day.  To be honest, Alice in Chains rarely placed a foot wrong.  Even when they do, it was only against their own high standards.  Are there any issues with it?  No, it's as good as they get.  It's full of melancholic noise, heart bleeding solos, breath-taking passages and top-quality craftsmanship.  When you compare it to their other records, only Dirt, Black Gives Way to Blue and the Jar of Flies EP are ahead of it.  And those three are stone cold classics.  One day I might regret only giving this nine out of ten, but that is an issue for the future.  Rainier Fog is a must have for not just anyone who considers themselves not only an Alice in Chains fan, but for anyone who considers themselves a fan of music in general.

06 - Sylvaine - Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone

Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone has bucked the trend for third albums.  It's an absolute corker, a real treat as we approach the winter months of 2018 and one that I'm enthralled with.  But the biggest pleasure I get from this album is not the music.  It's the joy in seeing an artist developing into something more.  Sylvaine has improved with each record, taking someone who was not really acquainted with Blackgaze and made him into a fan.  For that, I'm truly thankful to Sylvaine for that initial email. Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone will be high on a lot of people's end of year lists, I recommend you checking it out now.

05 - Laura Veirs - The Lookout

The Lookout is one of those gentle albums which leaves you breathless, but it's as gentle as a breeze.  It also leaves you wanting more, there is a beautiful loss to the music and it stays with you long after the final notes have rung out.  This might be a short review, but it’s an honest one.  This is another classic record from one of my favourite artists, she is a trailblazer and The Lookout will be in my top albums of 2018, you can bank on that.

04 - We Are Scientists - Megaplex

(Originally published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

The song writing has always been the key thing for me with WAS, when they get it right, they are unbeatable.   For 90% of Megaplex, they reach and achieve that high standard.  The only track which feels like a filler, is sadly the ending track, “Properties of Perception”.  It just feels a little weak after those stunning songs that preceded it, which is a bit of a shame.  However, it doesn’t change the fact that Megaplex is my most played album of 2018 so far.  It’s a bit of a charmer, you think you can put it to the side, but you just want to return to it more and more.

03 - Soul Dissolution - Stardust

Stardust is a stunning record, a beautiful piece of art that is as important to me as the last Mogwai album.  It breaks through Black Metal and Post Metal, creating one of the biggest statements so far in 2018.  You don't have to be a fan of either genre to appreciate how good this record sounds, it's that damn good.  If I had to describe it to someone, I would compare it to a fight between Agalloch, Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, with Exxasens acting as referee.  Basically, it’s the best of both Post and Black Metal in one album.  There are no problems with the length of the album, the intro tracks are great, all the songs are amazing!  What Soul Dissolution have done here, is releasing one of the best records of 2018 so far.  I cannot praise Stardust enough, it's just a powerful and wonderful statement of intent and purpose. 

02 - Amorphis - Queen of Time

Because this is such a long album, you're either going to fully invest in it or walk away.  Queen of Time is not something to put it on for ease or to have on in the background.  You’re either going to be committed or you’re out the door.  To be honest, if you step over this album, you’ll be missing one of the best European Metal acts ever.  Everything about this album is amazing, from the opening moments of “The Bee” to the closing of “Pyres on the Coast”, there is no wasted note, no waste beat, no wasted sound.  This is an album when each band member has a moment to shine, a moment in the sun and it's a jaw-dropping experience. I was staggeringly impressed with Under the Red Cloud, I’m just as impressed with Queen of Time.

01 - YOB - Our Raw Heart

(Originally published on Bearded Gentlemen Music)

At the time of Our Raw Heart, Yob were in healing mode.  This was Mike’s way of expressing what had happened (directly or indirectly).   It was Aaron’s and Travis’s way of supporting their friend. It was producer Billy’s job to document this healing processes.  This record is bathed in emotions.  It feels like a raw nerve, it contains something which is beyond comprehension.  To be able to understand it, you need to have experienced something similar.  But most of all, this is a towering statement of how music can heal you.
If it wasn’t for the trials YOB have experienced, could Our Raw Heart exist?  I don’t know if a song such as “Beauty of Fallen Leaves” would exist.  Would “In Reverie” would have contained that same impact or sounded different?  Maybe the atmosphere of “Lungs Reach” could have changed.  Who knows, these are “what if” questions.  All I can tell you about is my own reaction to Our Raw Heart.  By the time you reach “Our Raw Heart” at the end of the record, you feel relief and joy.  But to be honest, it’s as if no time has passed at all.  I’ve found myself reaching for repeat each time I’ve listened to this record, it’s just a stunning experience.

And there you have it!  Well done to YOB and to all the other artists who made this list.  Until next year! - Eddie

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