After listening to hundreds of records this year, here are my ten favorites. While this is no metal-fest it is more rock-oriented than in years past, when folk and country seemed much more prevalent. A few weeks ago I was convinced that 2018’s music was weaker than the few years that proceeded it, but now that I have spent a few weeks focusing on the ~30 best records I have changed my mind.
First up, the bottom half of the top ten. My commentary for most will be very brief, as I have written about these albums before. Links to those earlier reviews as well as the records on Spotify are included for your reading/listening pleasure.
#10 Dommengang – Love Jail – 10 tracks / 40 minutes / Released January 26th
Good old fashioned rock and roll, folks. I admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Sig Wilson’s vocals, but the riffs and top-shelf musical adventures this three-piece sends me on are marvelous and some of the coolest shit I heard all year.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5Gvzb5v8zPGMf2TZMM7gkz?si=0bHTw0ZKR7mct-ZXW-7idg
#9 All Them Witches – ATW – 8 tracks / 51 minutes / Released September 28th
This album didn’t receive a proper review when it was released, because I sadly missed it at the time. After I heard they were coming to town, I discovered that they had released this monster of a record and fell in love at first listen. This is not your Dad’s rock, no sir; this is more of a groove, a vibe, a psychedelic tour through the worlds of blues and prog rock. With exception of the last track, I could listen to this entire album every day and not get tired of it. “Harvest Feast” sucked me in immediately, and “Diamond” grew on me over time – both are tremendous guitar songs.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/29zIQDGwvtcvbaqCISJSMC?si=vdlal5eSRUC4Oay-prFXIw
#8 Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel – 10 tracks / 37 minutes / Released May 18th
Courtney followed up last year’s stellar 90’s-rock soaked collaboration with Kurt Vile with a solo record that channels the same vibes, with a little more depth on the songwriting front. This is quite a work of art, and her best yet.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/3l7JWewI3ZByxaT5BCgRx2?si=1JYuiuyhQ4-J1CW1Ipu81g
#7 Godsmack – When Legends Rise – 11 tracks / 38 minutes / Released April 27th
Yes, I am a sucker for Sully and the fellas, always have been. However, I will admit that their last three albums before this one were not of the quality of their first three. In fact, I had resigned myself to the notion that this band of my youth was going to be forever mired in mediocrity, releasing records with a few good songs but nothing to write home about. Well, folks, that notion can “get away”, because these guys are back with a vengeance.
I absolutely love this record, which mixes arena-ready choruses from Sully Erna with that classic whine/sludge guitar riffage we’ve come to expect from Tony Rombola, but also finds them growing and expanding their sound. I go back and forth on “Under Your Scars”, but it is as close to a ballad as these guys have ever gone. “Someday” has been lodged in a corner of my brain for months now, and “Eye of the Storm” is one of the first tracks I would play for someone who didn’t know Godsmack and wanted to know what they sound like.
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/1n5bxxxowQ8ufvx2DXKeEV?si=sJCxuGXOTHq3XlyTNLxkOQ
#6 Low Cut Connie – Dirty Pictures (Part 2) – 10 tracks / 30 minutes / Released May 18th
Adam Weiner and crew are sure riding high. The first edition of this double album made my top ten last year, and this one is even better. Short and sweet at a mere half hour, these songs do hold up and are worthy of their separate release, even though all twenty of these songs could have fit on a standard record (as if anyone buys physical music anymore).
This release finds the band continuing to grow and move away from their sleazy bar-band roots, becoming more dynamic with each effort. “Every Time You Turn Around” is an absolutely gorgeous love song that I wish I had written, and the leadoff track “All These Kids Are Way Too High” is a fun memoir of the band’s former days playing college dorms and rec centers. My man Adam Weiner has a true knack for turning the most minimal piano arrangement into a truly compelling song (see “One More Time” for proof). And yes, crazily enough when I saw them do an in-store this year at the Record Exchange, Adam remembered me from our pre-show conversation at their Neurolux set in 2017 and labeled me their biggest Idaho fan – I’ll take it. I told him I would continue to spread the gospel of LCC, which I guess I am doing here. Give this a listen!
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5mI2WHE8DKDu1qwK7v7QCG?si=HEUg79WDRnWaoanszbI-AQ