Best Albums Of 2018
As 2018 draws to a close, we asked some members of Hard Rock’s music team to run down their favorite albums of the year. Dig it!
JASON LENT (RPM senior writer – Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas)
Sunflower Bean – Twentytwo in Blue
Astonishing. Sunflower Bean strike a match and burn down all expectations of what a young rock-n-roll band is capable of in the age of accelerated everything. “Crisis Fest” is the call-to-arms anthem for a new generation while “Twentytwo” shimmers with melodic grace. Sunflower Bean have given us an album in the classic sense where every song feels vital to the listening experience. The hints of Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, and even a dash of Mazzy Star don’t sound the least bit derivative. Last week, they released “Come For Me”, a new single that proves that Twentytwo in Blue is far from a fluke. For those of us that still seek truth in the grooves of a record, Sunflower Bean are the year’s best example of why we still believe rock-n-roll can save the world.
IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Pugnacious but positive. Political but personal. Vicious but vulnerable. IDLES bring a new dynamic to punk music that embodies the socio-political climate of 2018. Dismantling the attitudes that drive masculinity into dangerous alleys looking for fights, IDLES sound even tougher as a result. A perfect song for our times, “Danny Nedelko” neatly maps out the path of humanity in recent years:
“Fear leads to panic, panic leads to pain. Pain leads to anger, anger leads to hate.”
Joy as an Act of Resistance throws a molotov cocktail of hope and compassion at the angry mob and refuses to back down.
Cowboy Junkies – All That Reckoning
It has been over thirty years since Cowboy Junkies took over our college dorm rooms with the alt-country masterpiece The Trinity Session. While they have never stopped touring or recording, this year’s All That Reckoning brought deserved attention with sold-out shows from London to New York City. Offering a seasoned outlook on the world’s affairs, they ultimately arrive at the same place as the brash, young IDLES, most notably on “The Things We Do To Each Other”:
“Fear is not so far from hate, so if you get the folks to fear
It only takes one small twist, to kick it up a gear.”
Having maintained their artistic integrity over three decades, All That Reckoning ranks with their finest albums. Margo Timmins’ smoldering voice holds us mesmerized as the band’s haunted atmosphere shifts around us. Hiding any promise of hope deep within the lyrics, Cowboy Junkies leave it to the listener to make sense of the world around us.
Shopping – The Official Body
A post-punk band fueled by queer politics and an aversion to capitalism creates of the most danceable and upbeat albums of the year. While you unpack that sentence, I’ll be dancing to “The Hype” happily waiting for the world to end. Reminiscent of The Slits and Gang of Four in that they make their points without yelling in your face about it, Shopping and producer Edwin Collins allow the music plenty of space to breathe. The bass lines keep you glued to the dance floor while guitarist Rachel Aggs delivers an impressive array of taut riffs.
The Struts – Young & Dangerous
If music purists would stop arguing about Greta Van Fleet’s Led Zeppelin fetish for a few minutes, they might realize The Struts are the band bringing unadulterated fun back to rock-n-roll. Never taking themselves too seriously, The Struts return with a sophomore effort that doubles down on the anthems and guitar hooks. Every song lodges itself in the left prefrontal cortex of your brain and floods it with glittery endorphins. Singer Luke Spiller has the sort of irresistible charm that you cannot develop on The Voice. Equal parts Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, Spiller has charisma, baby.
JEFF NOLAN (Hard Rock music/memorabilia historian, RPM editor)
Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
For nearly thirty years, Clutch have sneakily established themselves as the greatest rock band in the world. Their albums mine a well-worn vein of riffage and testosterone, but there’s a wry humor to Clutch that serves them very well. Book of Bad Decisions is better than anything else that came out in 2018.
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Maybe I’m biased because Janelle absolutely blew my mind at the Mempho festival a couple months ago, but this album is consistently challenging, adventurous and downright badass.
Jack White – Boarding House Reach
What can I say? Jack just keeps making killer records.
WILLIAM POWELL (Hard Rock Music & Marketing, RPM writer)
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Daughters have been relatively quiet during the 2010’s so the announcement for a new album earlier this year had me incredibly excited. You Won’t Get What You Want feels like a natural shift in tone, noisey, droned-out, and bass driven post-hardcore while still honoring their sassy grind roots.
Mitski – Be the Cowboy
In 2014 I stumbled on a video on YouTube of Mitski performing “I Don’t Smoke” at a house show and immediately fell in love. Her stripped down guitar-rock banger of a third album, Bury Me at Makeout Creek was my favorite album that year. Mitski has since blown up and put out two more albums. 2018’s Be the Cowboy‘s standout single, “Nobody” shows Mitski at her best, perfectly riding a line between uplifting and sullen.
Joyce Manor – Million Dollars To Kill Me
Joyce Manor have been pumping out killer albums since 2011’s self titled debut. This new album had me (attempting to) sing along on the first play through. Joyce Manor have calmed down a bit but they still represent anthemic emo infused pop-punk at it best. As an added bonus, Rory Phillips of the Austin TX based ’90s ska-punks The Impossibles produced some of the songs on Million Dollars To Kill Me. So cool.
Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
Hardcore can be monotonous these days, but Gouge Away’s debut on the heavy powerhouse indie label Deathwish Inc is not.
COLLEEN FLYNN (Hard Rock Director of Live Entertainment)
Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
EARL DOUGLAS (RPM contributor – HARD ROCK CAFE NEW YORK CITY)
Mescalines – Brazilian Voodoo Exportation
Ebony Bones – Nephilim
Allan Rayman – Harry Hard On
Blak Emoji – Kumi
Bettye LaVette – Things Have Changed