Top 25 Albums of the Year

Top 25 Albums of the Year

By Penny Bennett

Dec 19, 2018 10:31

It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone already. The year may have gone by in a flash, but it has left in its wake a plethora of musical highlights that will last much longer in the memory. Find a comfy chair, pour a glass of your favourite festive beverage, open a new box of mince pies and enjoy our selection of the top 25 albums of 2018.

25. Tiny Moving Parts – ‘Swell’

Minnesota emo revival trio, Tiny Moving Parts, gave us the gift of ‘Swell’ pretty early on this year and the gloves immediately came off as it contended for album of the year. Amongst their trademark mathcore guitar riffs and off kilter timings, singer Dylan Mattheisen belts out angsty lyrics with a note of desperation, making existing fans and new sit up and pay attention. If you’ve ever seen Tiny Moving Parts live, you know the sheer pleasure, enthusiasm and unabated energy displayed on stage is exactly what went into every track on the record. Songs like ‘Warm Hand Splash’ and ‘Caution’ might be the ones you immediately find yourself chained to, but there are so many layers and hidden gems that deep diving and wholly giving yourself over to this album, is really the only way to appreciate it. [Renette van der Merwe]

Read our full review of ‘Swell’

Read our live review of Tiny Moving Part’s support slot with Knuckle Puck

24. The Interrupters – ‘Fight The Good Fight’

Once again rejoicing in a combination of community spirit and good time ska punk, The Interrupters’ Rancid meets The Specials meets The Distillers flavoured third album ‘Fight The Good Fight’ has had punks, skinheads, metalheads and everything in-between skanking away to the chilled old-school beats of ‘Leap of Faith’ and singing their soul out to ‘Gave You Everything’. Thanks to the band’s genuine outpouring over topics including the state of the media, politics and even death, ‘Fight The Good Fight’ proves that there’s still some proud room for relevant ska punk even in 2018. [Louis Kerry]

Read our full review of ‘Fight The Good Fight’

23. Deafheaven – ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’

When Deafheaven released ‘Sunbather’ in 2013, they completely redefined black metal’s profile within the greater heavy music community. Whether that was a good thing or not is a matter of opinion, but the impact they made with their deft mixture of furious extremity and lush, shoegaze-inspired soundscapes cannot be denied. 2015’s follow-up ‘New Bermuda’ felt a little anticlimactic in comparison, offering mostly a retread of ‘Sunbather’s greatest tricks, and though still a strong album, it felt like Deafheaven’s playbook had been laid fully bare for all to see. It was, then, a huge delight soaking in this year’s ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’, an album that, whilst bearing all of the band’s hallmarks, managed to reshape their sound into something much less metal-focused, and one far more expansive and varied because of it. Were it not for George Clarke’s piercing shriek, many of the album’s shimmering compositions would barely resemble heavy music at all – passages of ‘Honeycomb’ and ‘Canary Yellow’ recall Mogwai at their loveliest, whilst the band’s collab with Chelsea Wolfe, ‘Night People’, is as haunting as it is beautiful, and at a lick over 4 minutes, is the most concise the San Francisco quintet have ever been. This is the album Deafheaven were always destined to make, and found them transform into the band they were always meant to be. [James Lee]

22. With Confidence – ‘Love and Loathing’

The biggest downside of creating an impeccable debut album is that you don’t really leave yourself with many places to go – and With Confidence definitely didn’t make things easy for themselves with 2016’s ‘Better Weather’. ‘Love & Loathing’, though, takes the delectably upbeat, poppy stylings of their debut and adds bite, kazoos (really), and even bigger choruses, with a heft of maturity for good measure. The lyrics feel raw and deeply honest, perfectly blended into melodies that stick in your head for days – the raging, screaming ‘Icarus’ is truly one of pop punk’s greatest of 2018. ‘Love & Loathing’ has cemented With Confidence’s place at the top, and proved they are the band we all hoped they would be. [Gemma Rogers]

Read our full review of ‘Love and Loathing’

Read our live review of With Confidence at King Tuts, Glasgow

21. Frank Turner – ‘Be More Kind’

Frank Turner’s seventh effort urges the world to be kinder to one and another, and in these increasingly divisive times, it’s a message we should all take heed of. From the ’80s post-punk ‘Blackout’ to the jarring synth of ‘Make America Great Again’, the record proves Turner is evolving and pushing his sound forward, whilst also appeasing fans from his formative years with songs such as the gently pleading ‘Common Ground’ and steering back into days of protest songs with ‘1933’. ‘Be More Kind’ reaffirms Frank’s  position as a somewhat elder statesman of the scene, and proves he is deserving of his continued success. [Romy Gregory]

Read our full review of ‘Be More Kind’

Read our live review of Frank Turner at The Roundhouse

20. Normandie – ‘White Flag’

This album is how you pack pop influences into heavy music and do it really, really well. Title track ‘Ecstasy’ is clue enough, with an enigmatic and snarling vocal line opening up the record before dropping into a chorus that’s just begging for fans to chant live. The rest of the album sees the band play with dynamics throughout, with the particularly sugary ‘Keep Fucking It Up’ keeping energy high towards the end of the record. With their debut ‘Inguz’ receiving so much praise, it was a worry that they would break under the hype on their second offering, but in delivering this well on ‘White Flag’ it’s only raised future expectations for the four-piece. [Eloise Bulmer]

Read our full review of ‘White Flag’

Read our live review of Normandie’s support slot with Hands Like Houses

19. Muncie Girls – ‘Fixed Ideals’

Back with their second album, Muncie Girls have created a record to rival their critically acclaimed debut ‘From Caplan to Belsize’. Adding an edge to their lo-fi punk sound by frontwoman Lande Hekt playing bass as well as guitar, there’s an increased depth to their composition. With the tried and tested formula of writing honest, believable lyrics, they’re ambassadors of “heart on the sleeve”. While their social commentary remains a recurring theme, the obvious message within the record is mental health and supporting those around you, be it family or friends. Held together by gentle riffs and coursing melodies, it’s safe to say the state of indie-rock in the UK is in exceptionally safe hands. [Andy Joice]

Read our full review of ‘Fixed Ideals’

Read our live review of Muncie Girl’s show at Deaf Institute, Manchester

18. Cult Leader – ‘A Patient Man’

Many bands would have struggled to follow a debut as solid as 2015’s ‘Lightless Walk’ but somehow Cult Leader have managed to surpass all expectations with ‘A Patient Man’. The elements of crust, grind and hardcore that you’d expect to see are all present and correct, with tracks like opener ‘I Am Healed’ and ‘Isolation In The Land Of Milk And Honey’ hitting impossibly hard. The harsh vocals on these tracks are truly monstrous, showcasing Anthony Lucero at his most demonic, and every lyric is delivered with unflinching intensity. None of this will be a surprise to existing fans of the band, but they may well be taken aback by the morose, sombre numbers like ‘To: Achlys’ and ‘A World Of Joy’, which are more akin to bands like Woods Of Ypres and Type O Negative, with low, miserable vocals and pained, lumbering instrumentals. ‘A Patient Man’ effectively has two modes; blistering and bleak, and as such it is not an easy listen, but for those with the patience (sorry) it is a multi-faceted, emotional, earnest release that is seriously worth investing in. [Liam Knowles]

17. Drug Church – ‘Cheer’

Drug Church are making the AOTY rounds, appearing in everything from Kerrang’s 50 albums that shook 2018, to Stereogum’s 10 best hardcore albums, and with good reason. ‘Cheer’ is a refreshing take on hardcore punk and the Albany crew do a marvellous job of dragging it, albeit kicking and screaming, into 2018 with shining satirical songwriting that still manages to highlight topical content and social issues without taking themselves too seriously. They might be too heavy for the pop crowd and too poppy for the heavy crowd, but this band has successfully created a titan among giants with a record that’s consistently solid in instrumentation and lyricism from the opening killer riff of ‘Grubby’. You can’t help but be fully engrossed in every hook, which is just one of the elements that makes ‘Cheer’ an arresting masterpiece that’s forceful and emotionally evocative, but mostly just pure genius. [Renette van der Merwe]

Read our full review of ‘Cheer’

16. Architects – ‘Holy Hell’

A mere two years after the tragic death of guitarist Tom Searle, Architects storm back into action with the emotive and powerful ‘Holy Hell’. It’s a deep and meaningful journey into the hearts and minds of one of Britain’s most treasured bands, packed to the nines with colossal riffs and soaring melodies. They’re no strangers to writing heartfelt and honest material, with their last two records subtly referencing Tom’s suffering, but ‘Holy Hell’ is easily their most personal and painful affair. Dan Searle wrote the majority of the lyrics about the grief of losing his brother and trying to look forward and stay positive in the wake of tragedy. Check out tracks like ‘Mortal After All’, ‘Holy Hell’ and the beautiful ‘A Wasted Hymn’ for prime examples of the emotional weight that this record has in troves. A truly stunning record. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘Holy Hell’

15. The Xcerts – ‘Hold on to Your Heart’

‘Hold Onto Your Heart’ takes the rousing pop sensibilities of ‘There Is Only You’ and dials them up to 11. With songs soaked in tales of love and heartbreak, the maturity of Murray Macleod and company’s songwriting truly shines through on this record. Whilst wearing their influences on their sleeves with songs such as ‘Drive Me Wild’ and ‘Hold Onto Your Heart’, The Xcerts still strike new ground with the anthemic ‘The Dark’ and ‘Cry’. ‘Hold Onto Your Heart’ is a perfect demonstration of why The Xcerts are one of the UK’s most exciting rock bands. [Romy Gregory]

Read our full review of ‘Hold On To Your Heart’

Read our live review of Xcert’s show at O2 Academy, Leicester

14. The Wonder Years – ‘Sister Cities’

The Wonder Years have evolved once again with their latest album ‘Sister Cities’ which is undoubtedly their most ambitious project to date. With tales of heartbreak, distance and vulnerability, Dan Soupy Campbell’s lyrics are more vivid and emotional than ever before. Featuring patient melodies like on ‘Flowers Where Your Face Should Be’ without leaving behind their notorious soaring choruses on tracks like ‘Pyramids of Salt’ the band have transcended their pop punk past on ‘Sister Cities’ with a bigger and bolder output. [Louis Kerry]

Read our full review of ‘Sister Cities’

13. Panic At The Disco! – ‘Pray For The Wicked’

Following up on a grammy-nominated album could never not be daunting, but Brendon Urie, the man behind Panic! At The Disco just about managed it on ‘Pray For The Wicked’. It’s got showmanship, hooks and glamour in bucketloads as you’re transported to the most glitzy night out you’ll ever experience. The album cemented what Panic! At The Disco proved they could do really well on their previous album– it wasn’t a one off experiment with a different style. From the swagger of ‘Say Amen (Saturday Night) and the head-rush of ‘High Hopes’ to the moody drama of ‘King Of The Clouds’, ‘Pray For The Wicked’ is an example of how to make an excellent and always interesting pop album in 2018. [Eloise Bulmer]

Read our full review of ‘Pray For The Wicked’

12. Turnstile – ‘Time & Space’

When a beloved underground band signs to a major label, there can be some apprehension. This apprehension is amplified in the hardcore scene, where the DIY ethos is still paramount. On ‘Time & Space’, Turnstile absolutely smashed their debut for Roadrunner, making their sound more accessible without sacrificing any of their integrity. The Baltimore hardcore crew have taken the hook-laden hardcore template from their debut, ‘Nonstop Feeling’, and pushed everything as far as it can go. The hooks are catchier, the beatdowns heavier, and the song writing’s tighter. Turnstile have proved that they have the potential to reach far beyond the boundaries of their scene. [Sean Lewis]

Read our live review of Turnstile’s show at Rebellion, Manchester

11. Møl – ‘JORD’

Denmark’s Møl have created one of 2018’s most interesting and ambitious records with ‘Jord’, a stunning mix of shimmering post rock and acerbic black metal that’s held together by an almost poppy approach to the writing and the structure of the songs. If bands like Deafheaven and Alcest invented the ‘blackgaze’ genre, Møl may well be the ones to perfect it, with tracks like ‘Storm’ and ‘Bruma’ packing enough pulsing, hypnotic layers to make the listener experience a feeling of sheer weightlessness. That’s not to say Møl shy away from their more metal influences; ‘Vakuum’ carries some seriously chunky riffs and ‘Ligament’ is just utterly carnal. Top this all off with Kim Song Sternkopf’s harrowing vocal performance throughout and you’ve got a record that could easily go on to be considered a classic among fans of truly extreme music, which after some of this year’s releases feels like it’s in perfectly safe hands. [Liam Knowles]

Read our full review of ‘Jord’

10. Black Peaks – ‘All That Divides’

Quite frankly, it should not be legal for one album to be as dripping in beautiful, enchanting riffs as ‘All That Divides’. Captivating from the first second and spinning wildly but confidently through just nine songs, it is heavy, complex, and majestic; a colossal leap forward from debut ‘Statues’ and with the kind of melodies that will ensure a much wider appeal without deviating from the band they are. Each song builds like intricately woven fabric, as Will Gardener’s stunning vocals provide the most vivid of colours for an album that is utterly enjoyable from start to finish. In a year where we have lost Arcane Roots, it is incredibly comforting to know we have the rising majesty of Black Peaks, and ‘All That Divides’ feels like only the beginning. [Gemma Rogers]

Read our full review of ‘All That Divides’

Read our live review of Black Peak’s show at The Key Club, Leeds

9. Conjurer – ‘Mire’

So many of Holy Roar Records’ bands have made a stir in 2018, but few have been hyped up quite as much as Conjurer. Their debut album ‘Mire’, along with their earth-shattering live performance, has shown the world that they deserve every shred of that hype, and more. From the devastating opening chords of ‘Choke’, through the scorching shred of ‘Retch’, right up to the imposing finale of ‘Hadal’; Conjurer are absolutely spellbinding. The sludgy twin guitar work, caustic vocal trade-offs and mind-bending drum patterns will undoubtedly summon comparisons to giants like Gojira and Mastodon, as the band manage to create textures that are as dynamic and harmonious as they are monolithic in their heaviness. Conjurer are just one of those bands that are so good at everything they do that it starts to become a bit unfair on everyone else, and if they can top the dizzying heights of ‘Mire’ with their next release there should be no limit to what they can achieve. [Liam Knowles]

Read our full review of ‘Mire’

Read our live review of Conjurer’s support slot with Employed To Serve

8. Deaf Havana – ‘Rituals’

Deaf Havana took a risk with ‘Rituals’, going in a direction that no one could have anticipated. It was a risk that paid off, though, as the dark themed, pop driven concept album is undoubtedly their most cohesive and interesting collection of tracks to date. The record is sincere, and as much as it makes you want to dance, it also encourages introspection as you relate each track to your own life. Tracks such as ‘Holy’ and ‘Worship’ are some of the best of their entire discography and as such, ‘Rituals’ feels like a turning point in a career that will see them gaining the recognition they’ve always deserved. [Yasmin Brown]

Read our full review of ‘Rituals’

Read our live review of Deaf Havana’s show at O2 Academy Brixton

7. Black Foxxes – ‘Reiði’

It’s a welcome rarity to find a band that push the boundaries in the way that Black Foxxes do. Refusing to follow musical trends, this band continues to put out music that is authentic, raw, and emotional, filling you with sensations that are almost impossible to describe. The uninhibited guitar riffs act as a cathartic release, and front man Mark Holley’s strong and determined vocals demand your full attention throughout. Thematically, ‘Reiði’ is intense yet relatable, making you feel less alone as Holley delves into his continued battle with issues such as poor mental health and Crohn’s disease. In an industry saturated with carbon copies of one another, Black Foxxes have created something phenomenal and unique with Reiði, the impact of which will extend far beyond the 2018. [Yasmin Brown]

Read our full review of ‘Reiði’

Read our live review of Black Foxxes’s show at The Key Club, Leeds

6. Beartooth – ‘Disease’

Beartooth - 'Disease'

Beartooth have a reputation for releasing unrelenting, white knuckle records. ‘Disease’ undoubtedly keeps that reputation strong. From the very first note of raging opener ‘Greatness Or Death’ to the closing moments of the uplifting ‘Clever’, there is no opportunity to regain your breath. It is pure bliss from beginning to end. Everything about the record reeks of class, from Caleb Shomo’s ever honest lyrics to the neck snapping riffs and pounding drums. The album flows like a dream, with punishing brutalisers like ‘Used And Abused’ sitting comfortably amongst calmer belters such as ‘Believe’. Beartooth never stop pushing themselves to be better, and ‘Disease’ comfortably sets their bar at a new high. A completely punishing yet effortlessly beautiful powerhouse. [Dave Stewart]

Read our full review of ‘Disease’

5. State Champs – ‘Living Proof’

Pop punk is commonly associated with fun, energy and catchy songs, but can it ever be considered sophisticated? On their third full-length record, State Champs provide us with ‘Living Proof’ that it certainly can be. On their previous two records State Champs have proven themselves masters of the pop punk basics, consistently churning out massive choruses and anthems, and with this latest instalment they move the genre into new territory with a full spectrum of tempos, introducing the kind of variation in song writing that’s rarely seen in this genre, particularly to this level of success. ‘Living Proof’ breaks the predictable formula of pop punk while still retaining all of its infectious energy and uplifting sentimentality, making it a perfect ambassador for the genre. [Mark Johnson]

Read our full review of ‘Living Proof’

Read our live review of State Champs’s show at O2 Academy, Leeds

4. Palm Reader – ‘Braille’

It’s been said a million times, but Palm Reader are The UK underground’s best kept secret. This is a shame, because an album as good as ‘Braille’ deserves to be heard by everyone. Slightly more melodic than 2015’s punishing ‘Beside The Ones We Love’, ‘Braille’ see’s Palm Reader’s intensity expanded into progressive territories. Building songs around mesmeric grooves that give Deftones a run for their money, ‘Braille’ is an awe-inspiring listen. Palm Reader hit it out of the park every time though, so expecting anything less than greatness from these guys is moronic. [Sean Lewis]

Read our live review of Palm Reader’s show at The Key Club, Leeds

3. Spanish Love Songs – ‘Schmaltz’

Before I had listened to ‘Schmaltz’, I overheard a friend describe it as “a Menzingers road-trip across rustbelt America as a twenty-something anxiety-ridden fuck up”. And frankly, I can’t put it better. Brimming with outrageously poetic angst, it acts as a soundtrack to a generation of those in the flux between what they wish to be and accepting who they are. Almost panic attack inducing in its honesty, ‘Schmaltz’ reflects on what is, what might’ve been and what came to be. A taster of this comes in the first track Nuevo, with the line “Well fuck I’m miserable which means it’s me that hasn’t changed” and that self-awareness is a thread throughout the record. Effortless melodies are sprinkled throughout the album, bringing a lighter side to the oft melancholic lyrical content. While Dylan Slocums voice might seem to overly rely on vibrato at points, the way his voice almost breaks throughout each track creates a sound that perfectly matches the emotion within the lyrics. With all this said, it may sound like a difficult listen. Whilst there maybe songs that focus on loss, the underlying message is self-acceptance and appreciating who you are and what you’ve done. And if that’s not the perfect message for 2018, nothing is. [Andy Joice]

2. Cancer Bats – ‘The Spark That Moves’

The unexpected and unheralded arrival of ‘The Spark That Moves’ demonstrated everything there is to love about Cancer Bats. This is not a band to go by convention and rather than sit on the rigmarole of endless promotion, guarded hype and waiting around to release a record that’s been ready for months, they got it out there. Arguably one of their heaviest records in years, it is the essence of a hardcore band hitting the very peak of their powers. A level up in terms of production means that every chugging riff from the guitar of Scott Middleton is enhanced and the guttural howls of Liam Cormier are increasingly raw. The immediacy and spontaneity of the record’s release is mirrored in the intense, frantic and chaotic nature of ‘The Spark That Moves’. The sludging, headbanging riff of ‘Gatekeeper’ blows the hinges off from the get go and there is no let up with the thrashing ‘Brightest Day’ and ‘Bed of Nails’. There is commentary on the modern world that only these punks can deliver on ‘Fear Will Kill Us All’ while the anthemic ‘Winterpeg’ brings it all to a crashing crescendo. When they open the history books in years to come and look down the list of hardcore bands that have shaped the scene in the past 15 years, Cancer Bats will be sat among the very best. Their infectious energy and knack for writing seminal tracks are helping to ensure they will be forever enshrined as hardcore punk royalty. This album is that good. [Tom Walsh]

Read our full review of ‘The Spark That Moves’

Read our live review of Cancer Bat’s show at The Underworld, Camden

1. Rolo Tomassi – ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’

For a band as consistently eclectic, progressive and phenomenally talented as Rolo Tomassi, writing and releasing an album that genuinely surprises as much as ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ is no mean feat. The band have made their name on a string of albums that have consistently upended expectations, and has seen their sound diversify from their earliest Locust-aping cybergrind dalliances through monolithic post-rock, swirling black metal, furious noisecore and every sub-sub-genre in between. Even taking that into account, the band’s fifth LP immediately shakes the system up by opening with the delicate, glimmering instrumental tone-setter ‘Towards Dawn’, before launching into ‘Aftermath’, the most outright melodic and ‘pop’ track Rolo Tomassi have ever written. And. It. Is. Glorious. Whilst a number of the Sheffield quintet’s peers have left their heaviest days behind them and have pursued more traditionally mainstream sounds, there isn’t even the slightest smack of Rolo Tomassi shooting for more radio appeal here –  this is just an incredible song that, without even the merest hint of a scream, still feels uniquely a part of Rolo Tomassi canon.

From there on the band head back into more familiar territory, and in stark contrast to the anthemic beauty of ‘Aftermath’, ‘Rituals’ sees them at their nastiest, opening with a barrage of blastbeats and razor-edged riffs, and Eva Spence’s broken-glass-gargling roar at its most ferocious. That Rolo Tomassi can glide between such contrasting sounds without stopping to take a breath has always been one of their biggest strengths, but it’s the confidence and grace with which they achieve it nowadays that really sets ‘Time Will Die…’ a notch above the rest of their back catalogue, and every other album released in 2018.

Despite the ominous title, ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ is probably the most uplifting record that Rolo Tomassi have ever committed to tape. From the swirling melodies of the two opening tracks to the Blade Runner-inspired synths that radiate a warm glow throughout ‘A Flood Of Light’, and the lush ambiance of the delicate piano-led ‘Contretemps’, there’s an undeniable feeling of positivity among the heaviness that was missing on ‘Grievances’. Keyboardist and co-vocalist James Spence acknowledged as much in the run-up to the album’s release, stating “I felt that I’d overcome everything that we’d written within that record. For me, it was about moving forward and taking things to a slightly happier place.” In a typical contrast for Rolo Tomassi, though, the album still knows when to hit hard, such as in ‘Alma Mater’, which feels like the math rock rager The Dillinger Escape Plan never quite managed to write.

Rolo Tomassi have come a long way in the last decade, and it’s hard to imagine that anyone could have foreseen this noisy little teenage outfit from Sheffield evolving and maturing into what is almost unarguably the premier heavy band in this country, at least in terms of sheer unbridled creativity. Though they’ve been cranking out top-tier albums for many years already, ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’ will surely be the record that pushes them into the full-blown international superstars they deserve to be. [James Lee]

Read our full review of ‘Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It’

Read our live review of Rolo Tomassi’s show at Rescue Rooms, Nottingham