There’s no question that 2018 was jam-packed with anticipated releases across all genres, ranging from the upbeat turn-up music of ASAP Rocky’s Testing, to subtle car conversation tunes of The 1975’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, this year was one that blessed all our ears with new and diverse music. Originally, this article was going to countdown the top albums of this past year, when I humbly realized that I didn’t listen to all the great music, and with my own rankings, I would leave many great albums off the list. Instead, this is a list of my favorite albums of 2018. I hope that I can spread the quality of these albums in so that you can take a dive into music that you’ve never listened to before, or catch up on some artists that you may of forgotten about!
The Plot In You
Songs like “Pillhead” and “My Old Ways” are the ones that originally got me paying attention to the Ohio quartet. As always, I’m very late to album release parties, so I didn’t dive into DISPOSE until August, 2018, nearly six months after the albums release. As for many fans of DISPOSE, I heard “FEEL NOTHING” and was instantly hooked. From there, I played “RIGGED” and went track thru track listening to the dynamic vocals that lead singer Landon Tewers has diversified, as compared to the earlier years of the band. This album can strike a personal chord with each and every one of us that has been through tough breakups, substances, and more. “FEEL NOTHING” is just that! Filled with a heart-pounding and emotional tune to scream to, while thinking of the person that broke your heart. Every song is very much unique off this record, and you won’t have to search for a track to relax to. “The One You Love” left myself nostalgic of early 2000's alternative rock, featuring easy guitar riffs, upbeat choruses and catchy drum and bass lines. There is no question that DISPOSE was my favorite album of 2018, but was it underrated? Leave a comment below!
From the early days of J.Cole, I fell in love with his music. Not only does he do an excellent job at telling real stories, he produces almost all of his own music. Theres no argument that Jermaine Cole is an artist. I was eagerly anticipating J.Cole’s new album, but the news was minimal, and the marketing was almost non-existent. Then, KOD (Kids on Drugs) released on an early spring day, and I was absolutely hooked. It’s a clear indicator of fantastic and memorable work when you can remember the exact moment you were when first listening to a new release. I distinctly remember waking up, and listening to KOD from my bed, going through every track entirely as I yelled across the hallway of my house to ask my roommate if he’s listened to the album yet. I compare J.Cole’s albums, and most hip-hop artists to the release of 2014 Forrest Hills Drive. Forest Hills Drive resonated with me in a new way, as it was one of the very few albums today that I could recite nearly every lyric, even with no beat. KOD is just like that. As I was listening to the record, “Photograph” was the first track that really got a grip on me, with the unique and catchy lyrics, and the fast repeating tap of the hi-hat production and drums. And, of course, the sound of chimes being added during the bridge of the song, this track is hard to not listen to every time it comes through your speakers. Now, I’m an old-school type of hip-hop head, that isn’t afraid to harshly critique the new wave of hip-hop. With the scene filled with teenagers influenced by rappers and prescription drugs, “1985 - Intro to the “Fall Off” was the perfect song to wind up a mild slap to the face of all the rappers that are making their living off teenagers who have never heard of Tupac or Biggie Smalls. There’s no better way to explain this track other than the hard creative work of J.Cole himself - give it a listen. In fact, give the entire album a listen while you’re at it!
Hard To Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing
I distinctly remember when I was first introduced to The Neighbourhood - a greaser band with hip-hop roots from Los Angeles, California. Cruising along the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway for those who don’t know), while jamming “Sweater Weather” when radio gave it play, which seemed to be nearly every hour of the day. “Sweater Weather” was catchy, unique, mellow and lyrics like “…I stand in California with my toes in the sand” resonated with all Californians. Hard To Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing was a much different approach to the bands first release I Love You in 2013. With lead singer, Jesse Rutherford, becoming more involved in hip-hop through his solo career, The Neighbourhood is much different as they used to be, but still encompass the same downtempo vibes to get stoned to. It’s hard to not listen to this album when you have tracks like “24/7”, “Stuck with Me” and “Scary Love”, both featuring the same production that can make someone dance and sing along to. The production mixed with Jesse’s vocals - auto-tuned too much as times, gives their listeners a sense that the band was influenced by 80’s pop hits, which is easy to find in the track “Softcore”. Have you ever seen the movie Drive? If not, then you will know exactly what I’m referring to when you watch the intro to that classic cinema hit. Although Hard To Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing is much different than their previous albums, the record doesn’t veer too off from their EP’s and LP’s, which feature prominent or upcoming rappers in the game today. And of course, if the tracks I spoke about thus far seem to be too upbeat for your previous Neighbourhood stoner moments, tracks like “You Get Me So High”, “Reflections” and “Sadderdaze” will make you want to roll a joint and chill out on the couch on a rainy day.
Thank Me Later was my first thought when I first listened to the intro track “Survival”, and I loved it! Now, I’m a huge Drake fan, and was a fan of his since his post-wheelchair Degrassi era when So Far Gone was released in 2009. What I’ve always recognized from Drake’s sound is the production, but more importantly, the lyrics and the clarity of his lyrics. Compared to nowadays where I have to search for lyrics to my favorite mumble-rap songs in order to properly sing along, Drake’s tunes have always been easy to diagnose and vocalize while in the car or watching him live. Drake is - a sing along, on a Friday night with friends at 3am music - and I love it! Scorpion is just that. The album features two very different and distinctive parts, totaling a massive tracklist of 25 songs. Part One, to me, encompasses the party tracks like “Nonstop”, “God’s Plan” and “Can’t Take A Joke” all featuring easily rememberable choruses and hooks to sing along to. Part Two is just the same, but different. A more emotional and nostalgic tone to Scorpion that makes you remember Drake’s early days, with a touch of the 2013 release of Nothing Was The Same. I can confidently say that it was impossible to go through 2018 without listening to a snippet of one of many Drake’s popular tracks off Scorpion, whether it was on the radio, listening at your own accord or apart of the countless video memes, Drake is still a force that will be in the ears of the innumerable fans for many years to come.
This record is beautiful, emotional and an absolute incredible piece of art. Since the passing of the dearly beloved guitarist and founding member, Tom Searle, Architects released their new album that encapsulated all the emotions that were running through the band and their fans hearts since his passing in 2016. To start off, I’m a huge Architects fan that truly appreciates the vocals of Sam Carter and his talented and passionate set of musicians in the back, all in which make Architects f*cking incredible. The first single off Holy Hell was “Doomsday”, which got all of their fans’ blood fuming, while attracting a new crowd of fans. What makes Architects a special band from a genre that is populated, many of which lack the kind of talent that Architects brings to the genre, are the lyrics, production and most of all, the mosh, wall of death type of destruction that’s found in more than half of their entire discography. If you don’t believe me, give “Hereafter” a play. It’s hard to imagine yourself not reciting BLEH! at the 3:06 mark - BLEH! Comforted by hard-hitting and powerful tracks throughout the record, like “Modern Misery”, “Royal Beggars” and emotional tracks like “Death Is Not Defeat” and “A Wasted Hymn”, Tom’s presence is still very much involved within the members of Architects, as Sam Carter did a brilliant job in writing the lyrics to Holy Hell - a spot once filled by the beloved Tom Searle.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
It’s mind-blowing to see bands like The 1975 blow up so fast, to the point where they easily sell out some of the biggest venues today. Since the 2013 self-titled album The 1975 which featured the single track “Chocolate” that helped take their career to a new level, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is reminiscent of their entire discography, into one cohesive record. The 1975 holds a special place in my heart, especially when my all-time favorite band is another U.K. great - Coldplay. The ‘75 brings eighties pop music back to the new era of music with catchy love songs that can either have you sobbing in your pillow, car conversations with the one you like and a possible make-out session, or the track to that perfect date night, The 1975 is love music. The album kicks off fast with a different approach to what The ‘75 has been producing previously. “Give Yourself A Try” is a perfect record to dance to, and maybe play a little air mic as well (I certainly have). If you don’t believe me, then the lead singer will provoke you to when you watch the music video where he’s doing just that. The record takes you on an emotional journey through pop hits, blissful acoustics, and jazz vibes that were easy to find on their 2016 release of I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware, a record that I’ve spent many days shedding tears over, while singing my heart out to classic pop tunes. If you’re looking for a track that can make you feel emotional on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, listen to “Be My Mistake”. A lowkey and sorta hidden track amidst all the other great songs off the record, this song is a testament to love. Something easy to find in The 1975’s entire discography, and broad theme of their newly released record that became one of my favorites in 2018.
As I’m writing this, I’m currently wearing my orange tie dye Beartooth shirt from the release of Disease, and if purchasing an album t-shirt isn’t a clear indicator of how dominate this album was in my daily listening, then you’ve been living under a rock, with no rock music! This record is impeccable compared to a lot of rock music, and in particular, metalcore music today. And I’m not comparing Beartooth to Architects’ Holy Hell, but Disease is filled with uplifting and well-produced rock music. You won’t hear Caleb scream as often as he usually did, and certainly no screams like his prior involvement in Attack Attack!, but features guitarists Kamron and Zach, bassist Oshie and drummer Connor doing what they love - rocking the f*ck out! Disease emits a sound that reminds me much of punk rock, but with a more alternative approach. This is easily recognizable when listening to “Disease”, “You Never Know” and “Manipulation”. Quite frankly, this is considered a straight up new-age punk album that is a breath of fresh air where punk music is harder to find (check out the band Knocked Loose for some hardcore type of punk music) in today’s rock music genre. What makes this record stand out more to me than other rock records I listened to in 2018 were the guitar riffs. Very simple, but brought a distorted sound to their audience that is the recipe for more stage dives and crowd surfs, than mosh-pits. If you’re looking for a record that you can blast and forget about all the bullshit that might be going on in your life, forget about going to a psych - listen to Disease!
Twenty One Pilots
The bass lines in “Jumpsuit”, the first track off their successful 2018 release of Trench is truly amazing! Give it a few more minutes, and a slow interlude later to hear lead singer Tyler Joseph scream that is reminiscent of the screams you might hear in metalcore. After this, you’re hooked and fully understand why Twenty One Pilots has progressed so much since their conception in 2009. And for those who don’t know, the band consists of only two members - Josh Dun on the drums and Tyler Joseph playing piano, bass, ukulele and probably every other instrument on the face of the earth. Twenty One Pilots has been recognized for their alternative hip-hop sounds, which is still found on Trench with the second song off the record, “Levitate”. Between the rapping of Tyler and Josh’s fast drumming, it’s a classic Twenty One Pilots track that reminds me of many songs off Blurryface (2015). Trench is so diverse that there are songs that make you wanna dance, like “Morph” - one of my favorite songs off the record. “Morph” is different than anything I’ve ever heard from the duo’s previous records, with a mix of fast and lyrical rapping, and slow and dance-worthy choruses that I can see being remixed by some popular electronic producers to make this a full-fledged dance track. The dance sound doesn’t stop there. Give the next track “My Blood” a listen and you’ll know what I mean! Another powerful dance-type of track with vocals that resemble early MGMT - which is awesome! One of the key factors that has contributed to Twenty One Pilots broadened success is the ambiguity of Tyler’s lyrics. Yes, they are good, but they aren’t the easiest to decipher. The fifth track “Chlorine” is just that. A song that is so brilliantly-produced, and is covered with ambiguous lyrics that only Tyler Joseph could’ve written. “Sipping on straight chlorine…” is the line that has cause a search within the bands fanbase to figure out what Tyler is singing about. Speculation has been mainly focused on his career of song writing, as it relates to sipping on toxic chemicals. Don’t think this theory is correct? Give Trench a listen and comment below to tell me your own thoughts!
The Love You Let Too Close
If you’re one of my close friends that has been engulfed with the sounds of Thousand Below, or in the metalcore community, there’s a slim chance that you’ve heard the songs of Thousand Below. That’s going to change! Hailed from San Diego, California, Thousand Below’s 2018 smash record The Love You Let Too Close was simply brilliant. Packed with 11 tracks of pure metalcore, surrounded by lyrics of love and heartbreak. It’s no wonder why prominent metalcore record label, Rise Records, added Thousand Below to their already stacked lineup of bands. Growing up in the midwest where metalcore is so prevalent, it’s still very hard for me to be able to listen to such a freshman band’s record all the way through. The song I seem to play on repeat is the song that takes the name from the record itself, “The Love You Let Too Close”. Introduced with an array of screams and guitar riffs, followed by short bursts of intricate drum lines - but it doesn’t stop there. Entering the pre-chorus and chorus, you are listening to a sound that is remarkable at this stage in the Thousand Below’s early career. All the songs off the record are composed very tightly, with the same distinct sound, which to me, makes an album more recognizable. “No Place Like You”, “Carry The Weight”, “Sleepless” - well, all the songs off The Love You Let Too Close is a sonic boom of new metalcore from a very prosperous and unique Southern California band. I’m excited for Thousand Below and hope to work with them someday!