Welcome back for the top 10 albums of 2018, as chosen by the high council of Cyano Crits (that's me). These are the Real Ones, so get ready to have your brain invaded, assuming it’s shaped a bit like mine. Overall the top 10 is filled with a bunch of rockers who would thrive in any era and probably are unsure what era they’re in. Enjoy!
10. Mitski - Be the Cowboy
A very strong album from Mitski in 2018 starts us off. She continues her exploration of the depths of neediness and vulnerability, here from a perspective that seems a few years down the road from Puberty’s college-something. Good hooks and interesting observations, along with her unique phrasing, make Be the Cowboy another sad girl success story. Though not a hard rocker, Mitski seems to be coming along quite fast as the genuine article for the next gen.
9. Chapel of Disease - ...And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye
If you read the above title, it’s pretty clear this is a metal album. It’s a pretty great one too, it goes easy on the angry voice and its composition is very King Crimson influenced. Some have made the argument that metal and classical music share vast commonalities, and the precision and instrumentality on display here certainly bolster that claim. Chapel of Disease embraces the cliches and soares with them.
8. Lena Raine - Celeste Original Soundtrack
Usually I talk a lot about guitar sounds and clean vocals, but this year I seem to be talking a lot about composition. One oft neglected corner of the composition world that is usually ignored is soundtracking. In the case of film, often it is the role of the soundtrack to underline moments and then stay out the way, which often makes even the most effective soundtrack a weak independent work. Video game soundtracks, especially for non-AAA games, have no such limitation, as they often fill level time with no talking where they can rise and climax as they like. It’s obvious Lena Raine slaved over the hooks and beats in this precise chiptunes album which demands your attention at times rather than hides from it, and it’s worth a listen even if you’ve never heard of the game.
7. Hank Wood and The Hammerheads - Hank Wood and The Hammerheads
A blistering punk rock set, the self titled jam rolls in at under 23 minutes. There’s no time to waste on instrumentals, crooning, or silence. Instead, Hank Wood and the Hammerhead capture the groove of rock. It’s the propulsive swinging energy that is the essence of the genre, right back to its Chuck Berry and T-Bone Walker roots. Sonically, Hank Wood draws more directly from the 80’s hardcore scene but, despite dispensing with the experimentalism of that era, creates a swing to slam dance to right in the first few seconds.
6. Parquet Courts - Wide Awaaaaake!
Trippin through time, Parquet Courts are the waking dream of the 80’s hardcore scene, direct descendants of the Minutemen who have been steadily honing their indie craft for decades now. It's the kind of music that's not really defined by guitars or hooks, but instead by energy, phrasing and experimentation. Wide Awake is another pepped up album, with expert construction ala Human Performance, this time with some almost protest anthem-like vibes and unexpected subject matter.
5. Death Grips - Year of the Snitch
Much of music love is contextual, which is a big part of the reason why I never was able to get deep into rap. I wasn’t raised with it or the culture, both of which have only recently become dominant in the American sphere, so a lot of the great rap albums miss me. Death Grips speak my language though. While I’m too lazy to know a lot about grinding, I do know about fear. Experimental Sacrementans Death Grips have made a very primal album that speaks directly to the amygdala, with their vague industrial soundscape and lyrics directly addressing the unconscious. Even more paranoid than usual for them, Year of the Snitch is a bracing trip through modern anxiety.
4. Ty Segall & Freedom Band - Freedom's Goblin
One may question how Ty remembers all of his jammy noodling songs, but he’s really the king of them. Freedom Goblin is one of his most sublime wanderings, a sonic landscape album that finds him weaving in and out of his musical toolbelt, even with a reprise of an old favorite. While it may lack the immediacy of his most uptempo work, Freedom Goblin is among his most peaceful and enjoyable, a perfectly crafted album for some funky cruising.
3. Idles - Joy as an Act of Resistance.
Thoughtful punkers the Idles are doing something kind of unique here. They’re woke but metal, a kind of transformation and expansion of the Nazi Punks Fuck Off vibe into a slightly more tongue in cheek but still-angry attack on BOTH the upper and lower class snobs. Joy as an Act of Resistance sees them transitioning even further into woke mode, but also this time they’ve created some very personal songs. That trick, expanding into vulnerability under the snide screams, is a rarity indeed. Joy as an Act of Resistance is a powerful, earnest statement, a rarity today.
2. Estrons - You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough
If you look back at prior best of lists from me, you should find a discussion of my weakness for exactly the band that Estrons is. A high energy thrashing rock band with clean lady vocals, the album title really says it all. Of the great albums of 2018, Estrons put together the most climactic, with tremendous highs like the crashing of waves. Each screaming track makes me vibrate with the power of the emotion on display. Somehow the phrasing and musicality perfectly complements it too, with varied surprising progression. It’s the perfectly evolved form of Speedy Ortiz, the ultimate hard rock punk lady album I’ve heard so far. BEAT, DEPRESSION, LOVE, OBSESSION.
1. Tropical Fuck Storm - A Laughing Death in Meatspace
Thank fuck for Australia. These Aussies put together a weird, tone-full concept album about modern dread and anxiety in the information age, and I absolutely love it. Tropical Fuck Storm just nails it with a perfect album title, poetic lyrics, and a driving yet deliberate note progression. These are the kind of hooks that stick in your head not because they are peppy, but because they are rattling around in the library of your mind, making you think. With something new to discover on every listen and smart as hell lyrics, A Laughing Death in Meatspace is definitely the best album of 2018.
Well that’s it sonically Cyanonauts. No need for much discussion of 2018 music, as taste is so personal and specific, so we’ll keep it short. Outside the top 10, several notable artists turned in good work (Monae, Misty, Oh Sees) that nonetheless paled compared to their previous output. Gotta grow up or grow sideways. I’m sure I missed a lot of albums too so there’s that. I listened to hundreds for this but looking at the other lists I’m like yeah, heard of Soccer Mommy, oh well next time. Within the top 10, some old favorites appear but they get beat by newcomers. Ty Segall’s album in particular feels a bit like a greatest hits version of himself, with really cool reworks but it doesn’t have the single that brings you back. The Idles’ album is superb, drags in a few locations, but might be better than their debut overall. Meanwhile, Estrons and Tropical Fuck Storm just seem to take me deeper on every single listen. It was their year for sure. Regardless, every album on this list is a bop.
Anyhow, I hope you met some excellent new favorites for your own rotation. Stay tuned while the best of 2018 festivities continue.