STAFF LIST: Tyler Holland’s Top Albums of 2018

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‘Tis the season. We travel to see and exchange gifts with loved ones, have fellowship while eating delicious foods, and make highly subjective ‘Albums Of The Year’ lists and check them at least twice. 2018 had its share of ups and downs throughout, but it also continued a shift to a truly inclusive outlook. Our world, country, cities, and neighborhoods are filled with diversity. Music is a reflection of that, musicians come from all walks of life. Unfortunately the coverage of music has not always reflected that diversity. I am proud to contribute to a music site that is doing their part in the shift. It is made up of a group of bright, open-minded, talented, and diverse people. All doing our part in spreading the news about the music we love. I joined this community in late 2018 as the ‘somewhat cool older brother’ whose musical taste is varying but tinged on the heavier side of things. I’m looking forward to contributing even more in 2019.

Making an AOTY list is personal and people compile and rank their lists for all kinds of reasons. The method to my madness is that I create a playlist at the beginning of a year and add albums to it that grab me. At the end of the year (because I’m insane), I “grade” (painfully) the albums based on these parameters in no particular order: instrumentation, album flow, theme, mood, challenging to listen to, lyrics. From there, I somehow land on a list of 30 albums that resonate with me. I love EPs but I only keep my AOTY list to full length releases. Without further ado, I unveil to you my top albums of 2018.

30) Expert Timing – Glare

The debut full length from this indie-punk band from Orlando. Featuring catchy dual vocals, solidly punchy yet melodic riffs abound. A theme of self worth is established throughout. A feel good listen. It makes me want to hangout in the sunshine at a skatepark with my friends. A nostalgic sound made anew. It also doesn’t hurt that the people behind the music are pretty swell as well. Favorite Track: “Sever Your Ties”

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29) Birds In Row – We Already Lost the World

This post-hardcore band out of France does not have to concern themselves with a “sophmore slump.” Arriving six years after their debut album, this one is a fierce aural assault, with a pinch of melodic-ness. Not much resembles a chorus here, the delivery is intense poetry rich with metaphors. In a time where many are scared and pissed, they explore the well of human emotions we feel in our current society. An impressive blend of melodic noise and punk. Favorite Track: “Remember Us Better Than We Are”

28) Vein – Errorzone

Lets face it, when most of us hear the term ‘nu-metal’ we can be be filled with ear throbbing pain. It is absurd to think there was a time when people would willing go see bands like Disturbed and Godsmack headline music festivals. The late 90s into the early 2000s was a strange time in music indeed. However, it wasn’t all horrific. This band from Boston blurs the line between “nu” and modern hard music. The recipe: the heavy grooves of Soulfly, a healthy dose of the mechanical mayhem of Slipknot, some Converge-like chaos, and a pinch alt-metal styles of Deftones and Glassjaw. The end result is 28 minutes of intriguingly interesting metal music. Favorite Track: “End Eternal”

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27) Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want

Noise rock out of Rhode Island release their first album in eight years. This everchanging band reinvent themselves. They are already known for their unhinged esoteric tunes, now they add another layer of demented industrial sounds to their repertoire. A feeling of uneasy dissonance is throughout. A dark, beautifully horrid release. Favorite Track: “Satan in the Wait”       

26) Drug Church – Cheer

In 2018, this is what “punk” sounds like. It is riddled with catchy ‘hardcore’ with 90s alternative sensibilities, charming guitar riffs, brusque lyrics, and a reasonable amount of power pop. The versatility and nuance makes for yet another exceptional album from the umbrella of Patrick Kinlon. Favorite Track: “Conflict Minded”

25) Khemmis – Desolation

They claim their rightful place amongst Denver’s up-and-coming doom metalers. On their third album they manage to blend stoner, sludge, and doom metal with 70s-style classic rock. A psychedelic ride through tempo changes and an assortment of atmospheres. Favorite Track: “Bloodletting”

24) KEN mode – Loved

This noise band from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada released their seventh and most ferocious album to date. It is as vicious as the album art indicates-It’s a visceral reaction to the state that the world is in specifically from a political and media standpoint, crafting a dystopian universe to do it both sonically and lyrically indistinguishable from that sinister smile. Favorite Track: “This is a Love Test”

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23) A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant

14 years after releasing an album filled with anti-war cover songs, Maynard James Keenan and Billy Howerdel reunite to continue crafting political in nature tracks but this time with a more mellow, piano driven approach. It may have not been exactly what people were expecting, but Maynard’s voice has never been as charming as it is here. During these trying times his serene rage is righteous. The songs about smartphone addiction and feeble leaders are poignant in our current circumstance. Favorite Track: “So Long and Thanks For All The Fish”

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22) YOB – Our Raw Heart

This 73 minute epic album creates a harmonious, psychedelic soundscape on par with their contemporaries Baroness and Mastodon, while saluting their elders Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd. An album made up of spiritual submission, poetic wonder, and incredible perseverance. I guess surviving a near death experience on an operating table will do that to you. Favorite Track: “The Screen”

21) mewithoutYou – [Untitled]

A band that never stays still. Flowing between genres without any restrictions. Their evolution and showcase of multi-style talents is on full display. There are scatters of warm acoustics, but this release is more about explosive riffs with a driving cadence. This release is further proof of why they are well respected and serve as a source of inspiration for many for nearly two decades. Favorite Track: “Julia (or, ‘Holy to the LORD’ on the Bells of Horses)”

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20) Pennywise – Never Gonna Die

Celebrating their third decade as being one of the most relentless bands in music. This album stands toe to toe with their classic material. It is remarkable how they have maintained their passion to craft superb fast paced punk rock, outliving their peers and surpassing a legendary dignity from those who came before them. Favorite Track: “Live While You Can”

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19) Night Verses – From the Gallery of Sleep

When a band loses a vocalist, normally it can be a sign of demise. Replacing said singer can bring about a fate worse than death. Choosing to become an instrumental band after is a risky endeavor. This band chose the latter and it has made them better for it. The aerial nature of their post-rock and progressive technical precision has rendered vocals useless. They sweep the listener away to a beautifully dynamic terrain. Favorite Track: “Phoenix IV: Levitation”

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18) Coheed And Cambria – The Unheavenly Creatures

It’s a return to form for them as they pick by up their space odyssey storytelling as well as their core sound. A 78 minute monster of an album. Plenty of time to enjoy every triumphant guitar riff, all the anthemic vocals, and thunderous syncopated drum beats. This is another jubilant addition to this band’s legacy.

17) Kississippi – Sunset Blush

This album is full of angst, self-deprecation, and heartbreak. Colorfully relatable. An injection of synths and toe tapping pop sensibilities. It delivers catchy hooks with the greatest of ease. A perfect marriage of indie rock and pop. Favorite Track: “Cut Yr Teeth”

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16) Dessa – Chime

An impeccable combination of experimental pop and the hard edged rap she is know for as a member of Doomtree. Lyrically, it branches out heartbreak to expositions on feminism. She sneers, “I’m here to file my report as the vixen of the wolf pack; Tell Patient Zero he can have his rib back.” Dessa isn’t afraid to hit us with the truth, even about the darker side of love, power, and success. Favorite Track: “Good Grief”

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15) Atmosphere – Mi Vida Local

This is my favorite hip-hop album of 2018. This is an organic brew of live instrumentation with honest and introspective raps. The duo have been making waves in the underground rap scene since 1996. Lately, they have established “dad rap” which is mature impassioned reflective bars about life. It turns out the joys of being middle-aged hip hop artists merges with the highs and lows of being fathers and human beings. A well balanced solid release. Also, The Dynospectrum have a nice reunion on here. Favorite Track: “Randy Mosh”     

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14) Sleep – The Sciences

The first album in nearly two decades from a band whose previous releases was a one track, hour long song about smoking weed in the desert. Half of the songs here are new, the other are songs that were written but not officially released on a record. The band considered to be the ‘greatest stoner metal band of all time’ is rejuvenated and at an all time high. Reunions are fun but make no mistake, this is a comeback. Fully loaded psych-doom and muddy spiritual yet sinister landscapes fitting for an album that dropped on 4/20. Favorite Track: “Marijuanaut’s Theme”

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13) Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens

Their first album since 2005 is another illustration of the ones who are truly great continue to succeed even as they get older. When something returns it is rare that it even holds up to what it once was, even more unique for it to actually be even better. An increasingly rewarding listen the deeper you take this contorted enigmatic ride. Favorite Track: “Six Wave Hold-Down”

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12) High on Fire – Electric Messiah

Mike Pike had a rather awesome 2018, first with his other band Sleep’s comeback and now this wild voltaic tribute to Motorhead’s Lemmy. Which is fitting since this band sounds like Motorhead if they were on steroids and struck by lighting. Another stellar output from a highly regarded pillar in heavy music. Favorite Track: “Electric Messiah”

11) Mitski – Be the Cowboy

An instant classic. A collection of songs exploring the discretion, stimulation, as well as the irritation of building and the lose involved in relationships. Displaying that love and loss can be monumental and minuscule close at hand. She has perfected blending rawness with sincerity while using a trace of humor. A brilliant swirl of shiny pop with fuzzy guitar work. Favorite Track: “Washing Machine Heart”

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10) Failure – In the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind

A band that has seemingly had an influence on the majority of music that I thoroughly enjoy. An album that is just as excellent as it is interesting. The theme is of “the surrogate reality of the internet,” the idea that we are prisoners of our technology. It features top notch production, with multi-textural layers of shapeshifting music. A divine relic from the 90s alternative culture that continues to impress. Favorite Track: “Solar Eyes”

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9) Vacationer – Mindset

Kenny Vasoli continues to impress with his latest dreamy electronic pop project. On this album he adds elements of soul, soft and psychedelic rock. Immediately like-able tunes that leave you with tons of euphoria. Favorite Track: “Being Here”

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8) Hopesfall – Arbiter

They dust off the cobwebs and continue their Cave In paralleled post-hardcore trajectory. They can blow the door wide open with bulky guitar riffs and shift into soft spacier arrangements with the best of ‘em. This is a culmination of their last few releases after ditching metalcore for more experimental terrains. A delightfully cathartic release. Favorite Track: “C.S. Lucky-One”

7) Soccer Mommy – Clean

A record deserving of all the critical acclaim it has been getting. An outstanding debut full length. A kind, nostalgic feeling conjurer of a listen about the melodrama of youth. Sophie has a way of compressing deep sediments into down to earth phrases. The music behind the phrases are fun and cinematic at the same time. It flows like a diary that has come to life, like a soundtrack to a coming of age film. Favorite Track “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)”

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6) Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers – Bought to Rot

Laura Jane Grace has written songs that have influenced my attitude towards socially and politically in my teenage years and also in my current chapter of adulthood in Against Me! While this is a different project from the band that introduced me to her, the eclectic nature of Against Me had me at times reminding myself it wasn’t them. It is lovely hearing Laura getting more into her Tom Petty and Bob Dylan influences here. This album allows her to explore other sounds outside of the punk anchor. A showcase of versatility. Favorite Track: “Reality Bites”

5) Camp Cope – How to Socialise & Make Friends

Although it may not exactly be for me in context to who it is written by and written for, I can surely respect and appreciate the message and music behind it. I will never fully understand some of the subject matter covered here, but I see the importance and mettle for these songs. This album means a lot to a lot of people. It is a triumphant call out to detractors. All gravity aside, it happens to also be a great album. For every memorable lyrical line, there’s an equally iconic bass line. Favorite Track: “How to Socialise & Make Friends”

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4) Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses

As tremendous as the instrumentation is on this album, Rundle’s voice is the captivating impetus here. It is afflicted yet delicate and otherworldly cinematic in nature. An abstract listen to understanding and coming to terms with an emotional hurdle and building up the strength to leap beyond it passionately. Favorite Track: “Darkhorse”

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3) Thrice – Palms

Their 10th album in 20 years is yet another testament to their continual progression. There is an underlying theme of acceptance and understanding. Each member of the band has signature moments showcasing what they do best with their respective instrument. For them, their versatility and being unclassifiable are their paramount virtues. Favorite Track: “Blood On Blood”

2) Foxing – Nearer My God

They take some risks on this album and the payoff is tremendous. An organic progression and one inflamed with ambition. They take their unique brand of indie rock and sprinkle elements of free-form R&B, post-rock tendencies, and dazzling ambience. This will take it’s deserving spot amongst the best third offerings history, standing boldly beside Ok Computer and Relationship of Command. An elite release from an elite band. Favorite Track: “Won’t Drown”

1) Pianos Become The Teeth – Wait For Love

Their second album since changing their angsty raw sound for a more dynamically powerful mellowly melodic voice. One of the catalysts for this change is behind the helm again, one of my favorite producers Will Yip. The production is clean, crisp, and stimulating. The guitars are pretty and definitive throughout. The drum work steals the show, thunderous yet calm. It carries the album with masterfully full sound, playing intricately in the background when needed or taking the reigns completely. A massively captivating album with a beautiful statement about love that continues to allure and delight with each listen. Favorite Track: “Love on Repeat”    


Tyler Holland @InTyler_WeTrust