Undefined Collective

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Undefined Collective

January 7, 2019

2018 is in the books and proved to be yet another great year for music. From the surprise release of a new Daughters‘ album to G.O.O.D. music’s insane undertaking of releasing 5 albums back to back to back, there were enough twists and turns to keep even the most devout listeners occupied. With such a packed year, narrowing it down to just 50 albums meant a lot of tough choices had to be made. All that being said, here are our favorite records to drop this past year.
Nearer My God by Foxing

50

Nearer My God
Foxing

The newest release from longtime emo band, Foxing, marks a major a departure from their previous works. The group has never been afraid to offer tasters of non-rock platters, but on Nearer My God, they fully commit to kaleidoscopic art rock and have made a record all the better for it.

49

Rifles and Rosary Beads
Mary Gauthier

Part of the magic of Rifles and Rosary Beads comes from the truth of her stories. Aimed at bridging the “civilian-military divide,” Gauthier co-wrote the songs with those most affected by war, from soldiers on the front-line to the spouses supporting at home. It can be eye-opening for the previously unexposed and cathartic for those struggling to cope with the same realities.

48

Manor of Infinite Forms
Tomb Mold

Manor of Infinite Forms is a grittily recorded death metal album that delves into science fiction and apocalyptic themes that also happens to have some of the most berserk riffing in metal this year. The growling vocals and bleak production combine into a real face-melter of a listen.

47

Skylight
Pinegrove

Skylight is Pinegrove’s third studio album. The country-esque alternative indie group continues to improve but still pulls extensively from previous albums. While they may not expand well beyond their past sound, the group still has an uncanny ear for beautiful melodies.
See our full review here.

46

Your Queen is a Reptile
Sons of Kemet

Your Queen is a Reptile has the same uncompromising energy of a punk album but channeled through an afro-jazz lens. Made by a British band, rebuking the British monarchy, the Sons of Kemet’s latest installment looks to powerful black women throughout history for guidance. Even amidst all the politics, between the deep grumbling of Theon Cross’s tuba and the eccentric saxophone of Shabaka Hutchings, the band never loses sight of the fun that is so central to their music.

45

The Widow’s Son
Apathy

This album is a straight-forward quasi-battle style brag rap over solidly produced boom-baps. Apathy is at his most venomous here with cutting flows and great rhyme schemes, and it’s truly a hip-hop head’s confection.

44

Stranger Fruit
Zeal & Ardor

Manuel Gagneux continues his bluesy black metal, but this time with an added introspective theme that gives the album a more personal feel, but doesn’t stray from being a clear critique on society and history. Zeal & Ardor continues to successfully and beautifully combine a twist on spirituals with his riveting electric guitar.

43

Bon Voyage
Melody’s Echo Chamber

This one is a grower for sure, with its incredibly fleeting songs that mush and meld into one another, but as a full album experience this thing really hooks the listener in. The whole album plays like a journey across space, dimensions even, and the strange oft warbled instrumentation reeling in influences from French music and psychedelia is incredibly compelling.

42

Room Inside The World
Ought

Ought are back in full force here, but with a more melancholic, drab release than previous work. After 2 modern post-punk masterpieces, the Canadians are definitely more subdued, but I think that’s part of what makes this a really great record. Not only do we get that same instrumental prowess and cultivation of atmosphere the band has become known for, but here there’s actually a greater commitment to consistency of sound. Darcy sounds absolutely on the verge of an emotional breakdown on most of the record while simultaneously convincing the listener that he has been drained of any emotion through the routine grayness of modern life. Existential sadness is the band’s bread and butter, and those pistons are firing with full force on this album.

41

Singularity
Jon Hopkins

This album has been nominated for a Grammy for a reason. The electronic masterpiece transports listeners to a different dimension within 15 seconds and can be described as ambient with a bounce. It’s peaceful, but it’s not boring— a perfect balance.

40

Persona
Rival Consoles

Ryan West has been on an interesting journey under the moniker Rival Consoles, but on Persona, you get the sense he has finally arrived. Inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film of the same name, the project aims to capture the space and relationship between the face shown to others and the true self-conceptualization beneath. The strong blend of microhouse and IDM influences represent these two sides of the same coin and fill the project with soothing textures in what is his finest release to date.

39

2012-2017
Against All Logic

Nicolas Jarr has given us something to dance about with this fantastic modern techno twist on funk. His niche genre has a repetitive characteristic, but while the underlying beats send listeners into a transient state, he has enough ambient bass and melody variations that he keeps his 5 to 10 minute-long songs both entertaining and engaging.

38

KAOS
DJ Muggs & Roc Marciano

Roc Marciano has had a prolific 2018 but it’s on his collab project with DJ Muggs that he truly shines brightest. The grimy, unpolished beats Roc enough of a groove to slide into while at the same time giving the project a much-needed edge.

37

7
Beach House

After a few albums full of limp experimentation, Beach House has given us an album that feels like a complete work of full-bodied dream pop songs with tinges of techno. This album is far less timid with an intensity that can be likened to My Bloody Valentine. This album is unlike any other Beach House album and can easily be tagged as one of their best.

36

Paraffin
Armand Hammer

The third album from underground hip-hop duo Armand Hammer somehow manages to surpass their previous works. The dark, choppy beats make for a listen as challenging as it is rewarding, and the jarring sounds add an extra level shock factor. Every nook and cranny is packed with air-tight wordplay and obscure samples, creating a project that both demand and rewards multiple listens.

35

The Skull Eclipses
The Skull Eclipses

This record is packed with witty and gritty lo-fi hip-hop with abstract and at times industrial instrumentals. Not only will you find loads of food for thought here, but the tracks themselves are well-arranged and offer an array of incredibly interesting production choices. A must-listen for fans of Dälek especially but really just underground abstract hip-hop fans in general.

34

Where Blew a Flower, May a Flower No More
Apricot Blush

It’s hard to pigeonhole what exactly Apricot Blush is. Their original bedroom, DIY approach had all the making of a typical indie rock group, but when that fell short of their aspirations, the band moved to create a self-described “theatrical live experience.” The resulting folk album is nothing less, and although they may have a broad instrumental palette, accented by the downtrodden banjo, the record is conceptually tied together by the Inuit tale of Sedna. 25% of the album’s profits will go to organizations within the remaining tribe.

33

Ere
Storm{O}

If you’re looking to mix it up, check out this languished Italian screamo record that’s filled with fantastic writing and brilliant guitar work. A great record to just be upset to, and the raw vocals really give this thing a visceral and convincing aesthetic.

32

Black Velvet
Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley may no longer be with us, but fortunately, he was kind enough to leave Black Velvet as a warm parting gift. Instead of being mired in death, his swan song is an uplifting one that looks to the future. It’s the kind of soul music that can resonate with fans of the old school, while still reaching those with more modern inclinations. He may be gone, but when he’s belting out on “Slip Away,” it’s like he never even left.

31

De Doden Hebben Het Goed III
Wiegedood

De Doden is a fitting conclusion to the band’s trilogy of extensive, progressive black metal tracks. This thing’s got some great riffing, it’s really well produced, and the songwriting ties everything together extremely precisely. It’s just a straight-forward, great black metal album.

30

Orpheus vs. the Sirens
Hermit and the Recluse

The debut from Hermit and the Recluse is a clinic in how to excel with dark beats, mixed in orchestral arrangements, and equally downtrodden rap vocals from one of the greatest New York rappers of the decade, Ka. The production complements Ka’s wordy raps about the struggles of impoverished living fantastically, and the stories told here are incredibly evocative as well.

29

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
The 1975

One of the biggest surprises of the year was the exceptionally made album from The 1975. The pop intuitions aren’t completely gone, but the band has moved beyond that with the synth-driven production and electronic interludes. There are nods to Radiohead‘s Ok Computer as well as Bon Iver‘s glitch-pop 22, a Million, but it never strays too close to imitation. From the soaring melodies of “Love It If We Made It” to the minimalist ballad “Be My Mistake,” this record has it all and then some.

28

Hell-On
Neko Case

Hell-On is far from the typical singer/songwriter record, and even with a twenty-year career, Neko Case is still finding new ways to reinvent herself. A self-produced album is always a bold endeavor, but she manages to strike the right balance between a comforting lush background and dark pangs of emotion.

27

In a Poem Unlimited
U.S. Girls

An eclectic sampler platter of art pop bangers with wide-ranging influences from R&B to disco music. It’s an incredible amount of fun, and Meghan’s voice is one of the most addictive from the entire year.

26

Musas Vol. 2
Natalia Lafourcade

More pleasant and beautiful Spanish folk songs from one of the great female Mexican singers doing it right now. The Latin guitar riffs on the record are gorgeous, and for those who don’t speak Spanish, you should definitely look up the lyrics because they are absolutely sublime.

25

Haru to Shura
Haru Nemuri

For those unfamiliar with the eclectic 春ねむり (Haru Nemuri), you’ll want to quickly change that. Her debut album, 春と修羅 (Haru to Shura), is one of the most infectious releases of the year and sees her seamlessly integrate noise into her distinctive j-pop style.
dead magic - anna von hausswolff

24

Dead Magic
Anna von Hausswolff

There’s not a lot of words that could do this tape justice, but ethereal comes pretty close. The gloomy soundscapes are all-encompassing and embody the ride out of a funeral march. Although the organ may be the biggest player on this album, the interspersed elements of drone, ambient, and even pop music all meld together to form something much greater. Amidst the gloomy backdrops, there’s an undeniable alluring quality to the album, almost tempting the listener to forego what’s around them and instead give themselves entirely to the beautiful world of Anna’s creation.
unloved - fronterier

23

Unloved
Frontierer

This is one of the most chaotic and unrelenting metal records you’ll hear all year. The thing is a 56-minute onslaught of martial guitar riffs, pummeling drums, and tortured vocals. But where many similar records sacrifice songwriting for an insubstantial wall of noise, this album actually crafts some pretty neat songs that will keep the listener engaged. Don’t expect the normal letup other metal records like to work in, but do come away with some pulverizing anthems to aurally beat yourself up with.
mire - conjurer

22

Mire
Conjurer

This is nothing short of being a soul-crushing barrage of sludge metal full of thick-bodied distorted guitar chords, oddly timed rhythms, and defeated, nihilistic lyrics. The production here does a fantastic job of evoking that sense of claustrophobia in tandem with the instrumentals as well. If you’re looking for something to beat your head against a wall to, you can’t go wrong with this album of aural pandemonium.
lost & found - jorja smith

21

Lost & Found
Jorja Smith

A finger-snapping smooth R&B record from the biggest overnight sensation for the genre that the United Kingdom saw in 2018. Really subtle instrumentation is paired beautifully with serene but convicted vocals that bring together a work that you can throw on as both a background crowd-pleaser at a light hangout or listen to actively to grasp at some truly heartfelt emotion from the topical and relatable lyricism.
hot snakes - jericho sirens

20

Hot Snakes
Jericho Sirens

Just a simply rockin’ post-hardcore record from a couple of the same members that comprised the acclaimed and influential group Drive Like Jehu. It’s hard-hitting and engaging from front to back with some garage production and an enjoyable punk aesthetic. 
tahoe - dedekind cut

19

Tahoe
Dedekind Cut

Incredibly tasteful and minimalistic ambient music that paints a grandiose soundscape. The toilings of legendary musician Brian Eno’s Music For Airports can be found in some of the angelic chants and wavering drones here, but they’re marbled in such a way that paints a picture all its own. In the right light, this can be a revelatory and life-affirming journey of an album that offers itself just as much to hushed introspection as to eye-opening epiphany.
crumbling - mid air thief

18

Crumbling
Mid-Air Thief

The delightful unpredictability of this Korean folk-electronica project is reminiscent of Olivia Tremor Control. The fluttering guitar strings and explosive synths are married in a surprisingly palatable and engaging way, but for all the tonal variance and sudden momentum shifts in the tracks, the groups’ ear for melody and songwriting delivers an easy and groovy listening experience. The sheer bliss present on tracks like “Gameun Duet” is infectious and will always leave you grinning stupidly.
Bad Witch - Nine Inch Nails

17

Bad Witch
Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails are back, and have brought a new level of freshness. The project is filled with their typical jagged edges, but they smooth it over by incorporating elements of jazz and even dance music. Between the crackling energy and disorienting saxophone, it can be as dizzying as it is energizing. And coming in at only 30 minutes, it’s one of the band’s most restrained efforts, ensuring there’s never a dull moment.
See our full review here.
Room 25 - noname

16

Room 25
Noname

Noname continues her diary-esque confessional output on this album, but there’s a motivation of combating social injustice that lends a fire to this project that her previous work hasn’t had. Her confrontations with large scale problems (institutional racism, gentrification) are always gently balanced with her own experience, never letting the listener forget her own complexity imperfection. Like in her debut, she keeps the lowkey delivery, her vocals never extending above conversational tones, but the initial disarming tone belies her endless creativity in rhythmic changes and adaptations over the course of any given track. Listen to her newest album, and feel like you’ve made a friend worth staying in touch with.
Ex:Re - Ex:Re

15

Ex:Re
Ex:Re

If the album cover of Elena Tonra being stuck behind a rain-soaked window didn’t already give away how isolating of an album this would be, the music certainly hits that point home. Much like the cover, the sparse and dreamy production coats the tracks in a wet blanket while still giving her somber, drawn-out vocals the space to shine. It may not be an album that flaunts all it has, but instead commands attention with its subtlety, forcing the listener to lean in to her tales of anguish as opposed to shoving it down their throats. Whether she’s hiding out in hotels on standout track “The Dazzler” or trying to find a lost love in strangers on “Romance,” she relays her stories with an elegance not many have achieved this year. At first glance she may appear withdrawn, but if you’re willing to listen, she lays it all on the line.
el eco del sol - bubu

14

El eco del Sol
Bubu

The Sophomore Argentinian progressive rock effort from a band whose debut not only came out exactly 40 years ago, but whose debut is seen today as a landmark release in the country’s rock music history. Perhaps the most amazing thing about it is that the band hasn’t missed a step, as composer and the band’s founding member Daniel Andreoli works in an incredible array of instrumentation from jazz-rock horns and flutes to heartfelt strings and bouncy guitar melodies. It’s a diverse record to be sure, but a pleasant one as well.
avantdale bowling club self-titled

13

Avantdale Bowling Club
Avantdale Bowling Club

A combination of smooth modal jazz instrumentation and conscious hop vocals from New Zealander Tom Scott. The listener is handed a barrage of vivid stories, witty wordplay and philosophical advice ranging from an ode to a friend that helped the speaker get over his addiction to using water as an extended metaphor for an ambitious 9-minute number. All in all, the ingenious execution of all these components makes this a magnificent and consistent listen.
joy as an act of resistance - idles

12

Joy as an Act of Resistance
IDLES

On their latest release, IDLES deliver yet another barrage of post-punk righteousness. From the grumbling opener of “Colossus” to closer “Rottweiler,” this record never lets up in intensity. “Never Fight A Man With A Perm” cuts straight through the album with one of the years most irresistible buzzsaw guitar riffs, “Samaritans” derides a society perpetuating toxic masculinity, and through it all, the pulsating energy never gives way. Despite all the noise and the record’s in-your-face attitude, there’s a clever sense of humor that rounds everything out.
konoyo - tim hecker

11

Konoyo
Tim Hecker

Tim Hecker is one of the few artists best listened to with closed eyes. Where other artists inspire movement or readily recognizable emotions, Heckers impossibly dense sonic architecture always leads me to sit down, be still, and try to pull it apart. Konoyo may be his most accessible work yet, but don’t expect anything in the way of a hook. The incorporation of a group of Gagaku music, an ancient form of Japanese courtly music, is utterly seamless in the production as Hecker blends the acoustic with the electronic until neither are identifiable. The vastness and intricacy of the music alone may have secured it a spot on our year end list, but its surprising emotional intensity, if given time to gestate, is what wowed us.
wide awake - parquet courts

10

Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts

A brilliant post-punk record that takes on an array of sounds spanning from new wave to punk rock, as well as an ambitious look at today’s current politics and where this new generation finds itself nestled amongst the chaos. The album’s message positions itself as a much-needed bullhorn for unity in times of turmoil, lacing this message into direct, well-written punk songs that across the album’s runtime will have you dancing whilst pissed off, lamenting whilst laughing, and empowered whilst entertained. A beautifully executed album that works on a litany of different levels.
See our full review here.
void ripper - animal flag

9

Void Ripper
Animal Flag

An ambitious blend of 90’s alt-rock guitars and midwest emo vocals/lyricism. Throw in a strong ear for compositions and you’ve got a great album. I love how the catchy choruses and nihilistic lyrics mesh here, along with the distorted waves of guitars that at times border into shoegaze territory. Songs like “Candace” have a piercing hard rock edge to them, while songs like “Lord of Pain” work in an acoustic folk guitar and haunting female backing vocals. All in all, this album is a sorrowful but expressive listen that can feel quite liberating to sing along with and relate to.
bark your head off, dog - hop along

8

Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Hop Along

Bark Your Head Off, Dog displays a further evolved version of Hop Along. Though Hop Along could be considered offbeat and unusual, each of these tracks has the propensity to get stuck in any listener’s brain. This album resembles the witty, emotionally intelligent, “emo” indie rock that is desperately needed for older music-lovers. The title of “How You Got Your Limp” gives the impression of a sad story, but points out using position as an excuse to abuse is unimpressive, shameful, and even a weakness with a reality-check: “I can hear you. The whole bar can.” The folk qualities of recounted personal stories with highly visual descriptions entertains and engages, and the quality of the actual music and vocals themselves is entirely unique. Francis Quinlan roughly shouts “I’m still in my prime,” during the climax of “Prior Things,” which is undeniably true for herself and her band members. Hop Along has clearly mastered songwriting and instrumentation. Each track is nearly perfectly written and cohesive, giving the essence of a full story.
Golden Hour - Kacey Musgraves

7

Golden Hour
Kacey Musgraves

A beautiful, heart-warming blend of country pop, dream pop, and soft rock that places a positive spin on relatable positions across the span of life. It’s an album that can equally appeal to both fans and non-fans of country music, and the sweet southern twang of Kacey’s voice combined with the smooth, well-mastered instrumentals are really something special. It’s an album that refuses to grow stale as well, bouncing organically from the disco beat of “High Horse” to the sugary dream pop vibraphones of “Butterflies.” It can be easy to cast off releases that factor in tropes from adult contemporary music and soft rock as inherently derivative(an ill-advised choice of action), but Golden Hour is anything but with its wide array of instruments and brilliant songwriting approach. This record was put on Earth to put a smile on your face and really make you appreciate what you have.
See our full review here.
TA13OO - denzel curry

6

TA13OO
Denzel Curry

Quite simply this is one of the greatest trap rap albums to be released this decade. TA13OO runs the gamut of hip hop’s aesthetic, from the politically conscious bars of “SIRENS I Z1RENZ” with fellow rapper J.I.D to the bass-heavy party rap of “SUMO I ZUMO.” Even the seemingly obtuse tracks on this album poke at and even satirize the ignorance of the darkest side of hip hop culture, while remaining fantastic surface-level bangers. The record’s true shine is through its ability to simultaneously play chameleon and present an entirely unique and refreshing message. And that effect is derived equally through the production, which similarly rides the fence between the accessible and the ambitious. This is without a doubt one of the most well-executed and addicting hip hop albums to drop all year.
cocoa sugar - young fathers

5

Cocoa Sugar
Young Fathers

It’s interesting that by indulging in obscurity, Young Fathers have found a new sense of clarity. Instead of feeling compelled to provide the “right” answer, the genuineness of Cocoa Sugar comes from them acknowledging the coexistence of multiple truths. The pop transcendence of “In My View” and upbeat abstract hip hop of “Toy” still have melancholic undercurrents that make their respective peaks even higher. Even amidst the choir of biblical proportions, the album’s emotional centerpiece, “Lord,” has a similar air of trepidation despite the exalting overtones. The rest of the album is laced with that same authenticity, where excitement and uncertainty not only intermingle but augment each other. It’s an eclectic mix that pulls from a myriad of genres, making for some of their most accessible work as well as their most exploratory.
ordinary corrupt human love - deafheaven

4

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Deafheaven

After their return to a more traditional, stripped back sound with New Bermuda, it was surprising in the best way possible that the group would draw together their most ambitious statement yet. Serving up a black metal album that is just as much indebted to progressive rock as it is dream pop, Deafheaven seems at their most comfortable working on the multi-faceted, organically produced songs here. Tracks like “You Without End” harness grandiose piano lines and astral guitar melodies while moments like “Glint” work in some fantastic grooves and razor-sharp vocals. I hear a lot of Alcest here but performed with a gusto that is all the band’s own. It’s a journey of an album to be sure, and a quite rewarding one.
daytona - pusha t

3

DAYTONA
Pusha T

A fantastic collaboration between two rap veterans firing on all cylinders. Pusha T churns out some of his most cutting jeers and smoothest flows since his days in Clipse, and Kanye’s lush instrumentals do a near flawless job of complementing Pusha’s trademark duality of the gritty and the lavish. And at 21 minutes the listener is handed a wide array of sounds, from the southern hip-hop derived rhythmic banger “If You Know You Know” to the soulful “Come Back Baby” to the ominous quasi-horrorcore beat of “What Would Meek Do?” The almost seamless implementation of all these components makes DAYTONA an undeniable contender for hip hop’s greatest release in 2018.
A Laughing Death in Meatspace - Tropical Fuck Storm

2

A Laughing Death in Meatspace
Tropical Fuck Storm

What do you get when you mix art punk, psychedelic rock, and a whole lot of political retaliation? Tropical Fuck Storm. The newly formed Australian quartet had hands down the best debut album of 2018 and definitively proved they’re much more than just a Drones spinoff. A Laughing Death in Meatspace is a no holds barred fight, taking shots at anyone from the powers that be to the people who put them there in the first place. Track after track, the onslaught hammers down, and even the small reprieve offered on instrumental cut “Shellfish Toxin” quickly distorts into a similarly depraved nightmare. Filled with feedback-laden guitars, bluesy basslines, and a deceptive sense of humor, A Laughing Death is that one last jubilant dance while the world quickly collapses around you.
See our full review here.
You Won't Get What You Want - Daughters

1

You Won’t Get What You Want
Daughters

After an 8 year hiatus, the noise rock veterans manage to keep ahead of the curve with a blackened, pessimistic character study of life’s darkest corners. From aphotic industrial synthesizers to buzzsaw guitars to pummeling drums, You Won’t Get What You Want is as dizzyingly chaotic as it is dull and dismal. The unsettling misanthropy of “City Song” casts a depressive cloud over the entangled tension of tracks like the nihilistic “Long Road, No Turns” and “Satan in the Wait”. Meanwhile, the album’s title is exemplified by the heartbreaking fruitless yearning of songs like “Ocean Song” and the brutalizing closer Guest House. This is an album that will tear at the listener’s shell layer by layer until all that’s left is their true self.
See our full review here.

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