The Best of 2018

Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2018

When I look back on the year of music that was 2018, I can’t help but marvel at the great mix of variety and strength of material that came out of it. From polished singer-songwriter material to stadium ready anthems, this year had it all. Here is my list of the 30 albums that had the biggest impact on me:

1. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

The thing that I have always most admired about The 1975 is their ability to convey such an array of emotions, thoughts, and sounds into a cohesive work of art. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is no exception, as they are able to encapsulate everything going on in today’s digital world and still make the music have a heartbeat. The 1975 could have gone a number of directions with this album, as showcased on the variety of styles of the previously released singles, but I’m thoroughly pleased with the final product that has arrived as a perfect snapshot of where we are as a society.

Key Track – ”It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)”

2. Lord Huron – Vide Noir

On Lord Huron’s third full-length album, Vide Noir, they are able to get in touch with the starry-eyed vibes and the beauty of being in touch with the atmospheric elements of a night drive thru downtown Los Angeles. The real treat that accompanies this record is the wide range of styles, themes, and song structures that make every track change feel like an adventure. On their early career masterpiece, Lord Huron have created a collection of songs that not only can stand on their own merit, yet transform the listener to a new environment and journey that they may have not have intended to take, but will ultimately be worth the trip.

Key Track – ”Lost in Time and Space”

3. Metric – Art of Doubt

When I first sat down to listen to Art of Doubt, I was not expecting to find a band reinventing themselves and fine-tuning all of the elements that made me a fan of them in the first place. However, that’s exactly what Metric accomplished. This LP found a way to make me sit back and admire every note, beat, and vocal from a band that was able to top everything that they had released prior to this point.  While many may have doubted Metric’s ability to remain relevant in the crowded Indie Rock scene, they were able to surpass all of my already high expectations to deliver my favorite record in their impressive discography.

Key Track – ”Now or Never Now”

4. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Upside Down Flowers

Andrew McMahon is one of the rare artists I have had to privilege to grow up with, quite literally, as I have followed his career path from the early stages of Something Corporate, the fine-tuned songwriting of Jack’s Mannequin, and the latest iteration of his musical journey in Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness. The fact that he was just a year older than me made me find new ways of relating to his musical messages, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the thematic elements of each record. I was immediately drawn to his way of telling stories in his music, and Upside Down Flowers was a perfect way of reflecting back on the journey I have taken with Andrew through his music. Each song, such as “Teenage Rockstars,” “Ohio,” and “Monday Flowers” seemed to carry more sentimental value than I was anticipating for a musician whom I have marveled at for his impactful evolution as a songwriter. While I didn’t find Upside Down Flowers as immediately gratifying as Zombies on Broadway, it will likely be a record I continue to revisit as a way of remembering how far Mr. McMahon has come.

Key Track – ”House in the Trees”

5. CHVRCHES – Love is Dead

While many may have written off CHVRCHES latest effort as being too cliche or predictable in its structure, I felt that they enhanced each element of their sound in thrilling ways.  From the up-tempo beats found on “Get Out” to the somber and reflective songs such as “Heaven/Hell,” CHVRCHES showcased what made me believe in their longevity as artists on Love is Dead. By not trying to reinvent the wheel, in terms of their sound that made them a household name in the scene, these three artists were able to fine-tune every aspect of their songwriting into another memorable collection of songs that will help their maintain their place among the elite artists of 2018 and beyond.

Key Track – “Graffiti”

6. Middle Kids – Lost Friends

Of all of the artists I have reviewed this year, I felt most disappointed that I had not seen Middle Kids live during this album cycle. In fact, I even won tickets to a local event to see them play in Washington, DC, but again a conflict arose. In a way, Lost Friends became my outlet to maintaining this virtual connection with these musicians that I couldn’t seem to connect with in real life. The themes of loss, heartbreak, and failed relationships were all relatable at some point in my life, and this record did its damnedest to showcase the human element of all of these thematic elements in a memorable and catchy way. It didn’t hurt that they had a direct shout out to hometown in “Maryland,” that became an anthem of sorts for me during long trips with my family. Middle Kids may not have lit up the charts with their debut full-length album, but it’s an LP that definitely deserves some extra attention as we wrap up 2018.

Key Track – ”Don’t Be Hiding”

7. The Aces – When My Heart Felt Volcanic

When I first heard the opening notes of When My Heart Felt Volcanic, I had to double check that I hadn’t accidentally played a song from The 1975. I mean this in the sincerest form of a compliment, as I hold the aforementioned band in such a high regard, and I quickly came to discover just how special these four young women are in The Aces. From the bouncy soul-searching songs such as “Stuck” and ” Lovin’ is Bible,” to the earnest and thoughtful songs like “Strong Enough,” there really was something for everyone to admire about their debut album.

Key Track – ”Volcanic Love”

8. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers

On Brian Fallon’s sophomore solo effort, Sleepwalkers, he continued to evolve as an ultra-talented songwriter with a solid ear and imagination of stretching the limits of what a record can be. From the catchy opening single “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven” to the closing notes of “See You On the Other Side,” Fallon was able to showcase a wide range of emotions and stylistic elements that he may not have been capable of a few years ago. The Gaslight Anthem are missed, yes, but do not sleep on the beauty and longevity of this dynamic LP.

Key Track – ”Forget Me Not”

9. Hippo Campus – Bambi

Hippo Campus released one of my favorite records of last year, in 2017’s Landmark, only to follow it with an equally brilliant, yet substantially different record in Bambi. In my review earlier this year of the album, I made several comparisons to Weezer’s Pinkerton to this LP.  I still notice several of these similarities today, and further solidified my thought process of having this record be one that both the band and their fans will look fondly on in years to come.

Key Track – “Anxious

10. Panic! At the Disco – Pray for the Wicked

The largest climber on my list this year was Panic! At the Disco’s Pray for the Wicked, if for no other reason than the fact that I continued to revisit and enjoy this record repeatedly. Although this LP was not my favorite in their discography, the strength of songs such as the greatly successful “High Hopes,” and the brilliant closer “Dying in LA” made this one of the albums that I tended to throw on regardless of what mood I was in. Much like an old friend coming to stay for a few days that I haven’t seen in awhile, this album will be one that I always will welcome with a warm smile.

11. Coheed & Cambria – The Unheavenly Creatures

Epic. I still can’t think of a better adjective to describe Coheed’s latest adventure in their massive space odyssey discography, and yet I feel vindicated by its warm reception by fans and critics alike. Coheed could’ve been one of those bands that just went through the motions in the latter stages of their career, played sold out shows all over the world on the strength of their back catalog alone, however this is a band that never sits still and consistently has high expectations for what their sound is and can become. Coheed and Cambria definitely came “home” on this record.

Key Track – ”The Gutter”

12. Muse – Simulation Theory

On Muse’s latest album, Simulation Theory, they crank up the heavy synths and electronica elements in order to achieve their true Blade Runner visions. The results are immediately gratifying and cohesive, as they made one of their more accessible records to date. It doesn’t hurt that the songs themselves are incredibly vast and spacey, while still feeling almost ahead of their time. The trio of musicians have never felt or sounded more confident in their direction than on this LP.

Key Track – ”The Dark Side”

13. Twenty One Pilots – Trench

Twenty One Pilots likely could have had a successful follow-up to Blurryface just on the strength of their name alone. However, never being strangers to raising their own expectations for themselves, Josh Dun and Tyler Joseph crafted an album worthy of standing on its own merit. The singles released prior to the album release are still the strongest songs on the record, yet everything else around it helps paint a picture of a band truly comfortable with who they are and the music they are capable of making. Twenty One Pilots will not outsell Blurryface on this effort, but Trench arguably deserves more attention.

Key Track – ”Neon Gravestones”

14. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

Another big climber on my year-end list is The Wonder Years’s Sister Cities, mostly because I didn’t spend enough time with the record until after the mid-year deadline. However, I would be remiss if I did not give the proper love to this LP that it rightfully deserves. From up-tempo rockers to thoughtful ballads, this record has it all. As a relatively new fan of The Wonder Years, I will happily be following what they come out with next with much more watchful eyes.

Key Track – ”It Must Get Lonely”

15. Mayday Parade – Sunnyland

As I mentioned in my review of this record earlier in the year, I am very much a “rookie” when it comes to the Mayday Parade story. However, much like my love of other Summer records like Yellowcard’s Southern Air and Ash’s Free All Angels, this will be another record that I revisit in June thru August to reminisce over good vibes and memories made with family and friends.

Key Track – “Where You Are”

16. The Neighbourhood – S/T

The Neighbourhood were definitely feeling the same mojo as Muse when it came to making a record in 2018. With heavy synths and atmospheric backdrops over their trademark lyrical content, this will be another LP that I will look fondly upon as we wrap up the year. Jesse Rutherford truly shines throughout this record with some of his best vocals to date. The Neighbourhood may not quite be a household name yet, but their stamp of approval on the Indie Rock scene is coming closer to fruition.

Key Track- “Scary Love”

17. The Voidz – Virtue

As I look back on a strange year that was 2018, it wouldn’t be complete without some very odd records mixed in. Look no further than Virtue, led by Julian Casablancas (of The Strokes). The LP really was all over the place with so many different styles and genres mixed in, yet it all worked out into a great collection of songs. Songs such as “Leave it in My Dreams” and “Permanent High School” drive the message home to a band attempting to put their own mark on the crowded Indie Rock scene.

Key Track – ”Qyurryus”

18. The Revivalists – Take Good Care

The Revivalists made a major return to the rock scene in their latest effort, Take Good Care, their first album in nearly four years.  With clever song structures, rockabilly guitars, and a passionate croon in their vocal delivery, The Revivalists cemented their status as major players in today’s music scene. From the haunting vocal intro of “Otherside of Paradise” to the straight-forward rock and roll approach of “All My Friends,” this band showcased why they should continue to be ones to watch for this year and beyond.

Key Track – ”Otherside of Paradise”

19. The Struts – Young&Dangerous

When Dave Grohl goes out of his way to declare you the best band to ever open for him in his career, you better believe more eyes and ears will be turned in your band’s direction. Luckily for The Struts, they were more than ready for the pressure that came along with releasing their sophomore album, with zero chance of a drop-off from the stellar debut. Young&Dangerous takes full advantage of the Queen revival with stadium ready anthems, heavenly vocals from Luke Spiller, and breakneck hooks filled throughout. Maybe Dave really does know what he is talking about.

Key Track – “Who Am I?”

20. Don Broco – Technology

I was first introduced to Don Broco’s music when I attended a Mike Shinoda concert this past Fall with a friend from college. My first impression of the group was that their image could use some work, but the music itself was insanely catchy. Alas, I decided to take a stab at their latest full-length album in Technology only to be blown away by how good the music actually was.  With hook after hook, Don Broco took full advantage of the new exposure in the states to making a genre-jumping fun-as-hell record. While their image may need a bit of an overhaul, the music itself stands on its own quite brilliantly.

Key Track – ”Come Out to LA”

21. Gorillaz – The Now Now

Bands typically don’t release music this good this quickly, especially considering how their last LP Humanz was released 14 months prior to The Now Now. Yet, that is exactly what Damon Albarn and company did here on this record. With great songs such as “Humility” and “Souk Eye,”  everything falls right into place in a record that focuses more on the singer-songwriter craft than previous efforts from the band.

Key Track – ”Hollywood”

22. Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz

One of the records that caught my eye late this year was Schmaltz, mainly due to many of my colleagues recommending the band’s album. What first stood out to me was just how immediately gratifying the record was from start to finish. With certified bangers of songs like “Sequels, Remakes and Adaptations” I could fully understand the adoration that my peers had for this band. While it may lack a bit in variety of song structures, it’s still one hell of a fun ride.

Key Track – “Bellyache”

23. Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers – Bought To Rot

When Laura Jane Grace announced that she was launching a new project, I couldn’t help but get excited at the prospect of new music from one of my favorite singers in the punk realm. It only added to my excitement that several members of Against Me! were joining her in her quest for world domination. Luckily, the music lived up to my own hype for the album, with songs such as “The Airplane Song” and “The Friendship Song” immediately catching my ear. The album seems well thought out from start to finish and signals a confident direction from Grace.

Key Track – “China Beach”

24. Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic

Like pages ripped directly from a personal journal, Mike Shinoda pours his heart and soul directly into Post Traumatic. The wide range of emotions that a person goes through when losing a dear friend is hard to put into words, yet Shinoda does all of this with grace and conviction. Mike Shinoda has definitely lived up to the Linkin Park community’s creed of “Make Chester Proud” with an album that showcases just how deeply talented this band is and how much Bennington meant to him.

Key Track – “Make It Up As I Go”

25. Thrice – Palms

The new electronica elements that Thrice have mixed into their already dynamic sound came across as a band that continues to evolve gracefully in the latter stages of their career. My personal favorite on the record, “Everything Belongs,” lets the electronica take a brief backseat to a brilliant ballad that may not make into many setlists for Thrice on tour, but is a song that I am so glad that they put to tape. Over songs such as “The Grey” and “Only Us” are vintage Thrice, with some newer sounds and modernized elements mixed in to make this record stand out from others in their impressive discography. Thrice may just be on the cusp of their next great moment in their career.

Key Track – “Just Breathe”

26. Good Charlotte – Generation Rx

Just when you thought it was time to write off the career of Good Charlotte, they release the excellent Generation Rx to save the day. This album is filled with some of the better songs in their catalog such as “Self Help” and “Actual Pain.” This was an album that I found myself putting in my regular rotation much more than I anticipated, but it just goes to show their staying power as artists.

Key Track – “Prayers”

27. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

If the era of concept albums is coming to a close, a lot of people forgot to tell Arctic Monkeys this. On Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, they get their entire mindset wrapped around this idea of futuristic hotel where some of the strangest things come to light. The LP itself takes some deeper dives to truly absorb and appreciate, much like a Pink Floyd record with more to unpack than a day of moving houses. The true reward of this album is getting yourself fully immersed in this new world Arctic Monkeys have created and enjoying the ride along the way.

Key Track – ”Four Out of Five”

28. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

For whatever reason, I didn’t find myself coming back to this record as much as I would have thought after its release date. Whether it be the less upbeat nature of the songs, or the vast number of great albums that came out in 2018, I don’t think I gave this LP enough love along the way. Adoration aside, Father John Misty made a fantastic album here and I’m hoping casual fans will also give it a chance along the way.

Key Track – ”Please Don’t Die”

29. A Star is Born Soundtrack

My lone soundtrack on my list this year deserves all of the praise it has been getting, plain and simple. The high-profile collaboration of A-list artists didn’t hurt either in the songwriting category, and Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga really help drive the point home with their vocal performances. “Always Remember Us This Way” is one of the better movie soundtrack songs of this era and will stand the test of time moving forward.

Key Track – ”Shallow”

30. Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams

Rounding out my top 30 list this year is another album I feel didn’t get enough critical praise as it should have in Nathaniel Rateliff’s Tearing at the Seams. The bluesy-rock elements found throughout are powerful and well crafted as it plays from start to finish. While the LP may lack a true standout single in the mix, when your album is this solid, you can live off of the cohesive nature of your work for quite some time.

Key Track – ”Say It Louder”

Adam Grundy Adam Grundy is a contributor at chorus.fm. He can also be found at @paythetab on Twitter and on Facebook.