- Secrets: “Secrets”
The first album to make their appearance is the self-titled album by Secrets. Secrets is one of those bands who can put out content that continually evolves while staying widely related to their previous works, and their self-titled did just that. Throughout this album, audience members will get hard-hitting instrumentals that hold to their metal/alternative approach. These breakdowns vary from song to song, which helps the band to give a more dynamic record, rather than a typical, static metal release. A strong note about this album is that the band takes risks, musically speaking, for not all of the moments found on the record hold true to the metal, alternative sound; meaning, the band brings outside genre influences here and there to supply that dynamic record for their listeners. This technique helps to keep Secrets leaning forward in terms of innovation, which helps this album to stand out among the pack. Lastly, the album pulls on the heartstrings through its lyrical content. This isn’t entirely new for the band; however, within this album, the audience is able to hear the vulnerability of the lead vocalist more often than not, and that makes for a magical album that everyone should know.
Top Tracks: “Incredible”, “Mouth Breather”, and “3.17.16”
- Real Friends: “Composure”
It wouldn’t be an “Album of the Year” post if the boys in Real Friends didn’t make an appearance if they participated in the yearly festivities, so welcome “Composure” to the family. When first listening to this album, the audience will be smacked with the Real Friends sound immediately; however, this time around, the band gave their listeners that same sound with a slight elevation. To further, this album drives the normal Real Friends sound that has made them into the phenomenal band they are today, but that sound is refined slightly to bring them to a more modern feel, which works well for the aesthetic and mood of the album. The one thing that I adore about this album is the connection of feelings that come from this record through the music and the album cover itself. The album cover has a bird on it, who is trying to fly in the rain. This symbolizes that there are hardships when moving through life, but one must keep their composure and move onward. This record talks about the feelings inside our head that we may not like to bring to light, but that helps to make this album even more successful because of its reliability. So, this may be your album to cry to from this year’s lineup.
Top Tracks: “Ripcord”, “Me First”, “Composure”
- Death Cab for Cutie: “Thank You for Today”
With the reputation and the hype for this band’s newest release, of course the album was going to be a total bop, so why not give the kids what they want and put “Thank You for Today” by Death Cab for Cutie on the list. There is really so much to say about this album, which is so impressive, for Death Cab rocks with a minimalistic kind of vibe, but that makes for such an elaborate sound. The album takes the audience through a variety of tunes that puts them into a euphoric state, for their music is that entrancing. With that in mind, also take into consideration the subtle grooves that the band places within each track. Mixing all of this together makes for a musical experience that is hard to explain. This is an album that you can have in the background as you’re doing other things, but it is also an album that you can turn on 35 and get the place bumping. Like I said, I could go on all day about this album, but check it out for yourself to get the full experience.
Top Tracks: “Gold Rush”, “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”, and “When We Drive”
- Tiny Moving Parts: “Swell”
Bringing the heat earlier in 2018 with their release “Swell”, it is not a surprise that Tiny Moving Parts’ newest album would be making the cut. Through this release, the Tiny Moving Parts brand is back and bigger than ever. It is heard as one moves throughout the work, that there was going to be an abundance of small ornate rhythms that weave throughout the entire instrumental ensemble. This makes for not a single dull moment throughout the record. Also, when keeping the intertwining of instrumental moments in mind, this helps to connect the vocal line of each piece as well. The connection of these two techniques creates a pop punk album that would challenge all the other bands in the scene to step their techniques up because this album is practically impeccable. The one major thing I love about this album is that the artist talks about situations that are relatable to most people and are heard on a lot of pop punk albums; however, they present these emotions and ideas in new and inventive ways, in terms of specific lyrics, which helps to elevate the work as a whole. Furthermore, if you’re looking for an album to scream your heart out to- this is the one.
Top Tracks: “Malfunction”, “Wildfire”, and “Applause”
- Convictions: “Hope for the Broken”
Moving right along, the next album that makes the cut is an album that deserves more recognition than it has received thus far: “Hope for the Broken” by Convictions. This is an album that brings the heat back into metal music. Now-a-days, most metal albums feel subpar, safe, or just repetitive; however, when listening to this album from front to back one will hear instrumental riffs that marry perfectly with the lyrical line that is being provided by the vocalist at that time. Additionally, the band is able to give their audience an album that is on the heavier side without each track sounding similar. This tactic is hard for a lot of metal artists, for since the techniques of metal music are rather direct, it is easy to fall into a certain mold for each track and run with it. Therefore, it is admirable that this band is able to break away from this to give their listeners an album that smacks and sounds unique when moving from track to track. Lastly, I have to mention the band’s intent behind this album. The band took the time to say that they are a Christian metal band, and that is what they are their music will always stand for. That is admirable because not many bands, when faced with opposing views, will stand up for their craft and their overall intent of the album, and all of that put together makes for a must listen-to album.
Top Tracks: “The Storm Will Pass”, “Divided”, and “To Sleep is to Feel”.
- Hot Mulligan: “Pilot”
When talking about show-stopping debut LPs, this is an album that must make the cut: point, blank, period. After their EP that enforced their unique band aesthetic, Hot Mulligan fans were dying for more musical material, and boy did the boys do everything but disappoint when this album dropped. From the jump, it is apparent that the sound that is heard on their EP is going to be prevalent with a slight upgrade. This helps the band to continue to evolve with the music scene, while also holding onto the Hot Mulligan brand that helped to make a name for themselves. As one listens throughout the album, it is heard that the band is giving their audience an abundance of opportunities to scream at the top of their lungs or harmonize like there is no tomorrow. This technique is well-balanced with the bands ornate instrumentals that follow a similar pop punk band’s set up with the addition of a synthesizer. This addition in tone color brings forth the vibes of the party band musical genre, which makes for an original experience that can only come from diving into this album. Therefore, if you’re looking to stay in the pop punk realm with some dashes of experimentation- here you go.
Top Tracks: “The Soundtrack to Missing a Slamdunk”, “Wes Dault Can’t Find the Madison Falcon”, and “How Do You Know It’s Not Armadillo Shells?”
- Senses Fail: “If There is Light, It Will Find You’
An album that was definitely going to make this list is “If There is Light, It Will Find You” by Senses Fail. From the moment that this album dropped in earlier part of 2018, this album has been all the rage, and it has every right to be. This album takes audience members through a variety of emotions that holds true to the different event and feels that are current to today’s society. This helped to increase the success of the album from the jump, and the immaculate instrumental and vocal moments increased that level of success significantly as well. Also, when thinking about an album that would be coming from Senses Fail, there is a certain sound that comes to the mind of the listener, and through this album, the band took that sound and refined it so much so that upon its first listen, one may not pinpoint Senses Fail from the jump. After knowing it is them, it startles listeners, for the album has all of the qualities of their previous releases that they love with a slight enhancement, which gave them a slight punch when coming back into the game. This helps to put their name back on the map, especially barring that it deserves to be there. Also, it is crucial to talk about the final track on this album: the title track. This song is absolutely breath-taking, and if you listen to just one piece from this album, it should be that one, for it is emotional, relatable, and it will make you feel every bit of emotion that the vocalist is pushing throughout every word on the track. This helps to tie together the entire emotional roller coaster that is this album, and give the audience a sense of closure. Thus, to be blunt: check out this album immediately.
Top Tracks: “If There is Light, It Will Find You”, “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket…”, and “Elevator to the Gallows”.
- Polyphia: “New Levels New Devils”
Next on the list is an album that takes the instrumental world by storm: “New Levels New Devils” by Polyphia. Before listening to this album, I had never given this band a chance, so when it came time for me to give it a run down, my jaw dropped because of how struck I was. Not only was I not expecting an instrumental album, but I wasn’t expecting the level of perfection that this instrumental album supplied to the audience. This album takes the audience on various musical journeys, and the band is able to pull this off by giving the audience melodies that stick in their head. They do so in a way that they’ll (the melodies) remain in the minds of the listeners, so that they can eventually hum along with the tracks. This is a hard technique, for if you can make people hum along to your melody when it lacks lyrics- you know that you’re doing something right. Additionally, this instrumental album is going to be hard to compete with, for the band supplies the music industry with top notch techniques while producing tunes that sound absolutely effortless. This puts a nice staple for instrumental alternative music, and that is a scene that needs more attention (the attention it deserves when done right). Furthermore, this album sounds effortless and it is simply phenomenal- a must listen for sure.
Top Tracks: “Nasty”, “Saucy”, and “Rich Kids”.
- Beartooth: “Disease”
Pulling to the runner-up spot is the fantastic album “Disease” by Beartooth. I must start this by saying that this album was so close to being my top album of the year. I went back and forth constantly, for this album is that good. After their previous release, audience members were itching for a record that screamed the brand that the band portrayed through their release “Disgusting”, and that’s exactly what they got through “Disease”, expect, they got that similar sound with an evolutionary twist, musically speaking. The album takes the audience on an emotional journey when listening to the lyrics, and the instrumentals enhance each moment, which makes the album all the more successful. Also, when listening to the album it can be heard that the band is giving their audience members those over the top instrumental moments that are keen to the Beartooth brand, and this helps to sell the album as well. All in all, this is an album that everyone can relate to, and they should certainly take the opportunity to give it a chance.
Top Tracks: “Disease”, “Greatness or Death”, and “Bad Listener”
- Boston Manor: “Welcome to the Neighbourhood”
The album that changed the game for pop punk music this year was the one, the only “Welcome to the Neighbourhood” by the boys in Boston Manor. After their debut LP “Be Nothing.”, fans were elated that another LP was about to hit the world, but there was a tad bit of hesitation, for that album was going to be hard to top, but let me tell you- the boys more than did that. This albums hits audience members in so many different ways: lyrically, instrumentally, strategically, emotionally, and it is just enjoyable to listen to. The majority of the lyrics talk about addiction or substance abuse. This topic was very popular in the music scene this year; however, for the most part, Boston Manor wrote their lyrics to appeal to different situations with similar feelings other than substance abuse. This helped the band to get their personal goals and aspirations across while making an album that was widely relatable. One of the major aspects of this album that I absolutely love is the instrumental moments that are present either on their own or present to enhance the specific melodic ideas. These instrumental breakdowns give the album a slight metal edge, which makes for the perfect blend of the metal/alternative music scene as well as the pop punk music scene. This gives the band a lot of creative freedom with how they approach the intensity of each selection and emotion, and that helps this record stand apart from the others. Finally, this album made its way to the very top for me because there is, truthfully, a song for everyone on this album while staying rather direct, in terms of musical sound, moving from front to back. This album will change lives, I have no doubt about that, and it earned the top spot of my list fair and square.
Top Tracks: “Flowers in Your Dustbin”, “England’s Dreaming”, and “Hate You”
- Honorable Mentions:
Basement: “Beside Myself” / Can’t Swim: “This Too Won’t Pass” / Dance Gavin Dance: “Artificial Selection” / Manwolves: “A Safety Meeting” / Panic! At the Disco! “Pray For the Wicked” / Trash Boat: “Crown Shyness” / Trophy Eyes: “The American Dream”