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Favourite 20 Albums of 2018

Well, dear readers, it's that time of year again. I'd like to thank you for sticking with me this year as I've made vast changes to how I run the blog, my continuing health issues and my commitments to other blogs. It's definitely been a strange year. Yet, if there's one thing that this year delivered on in bucket fulls, it was good frickin' music. This year has been full of terrific album releases. I've constantly been excited from month to month, just waiting for the new albums. It's been a year where some of my favourite artists have returned with some impressive albums but also I have also discovered some incredible artists and they have released some amazing music too. The music of 2018 has been incredible and has kept me going even when my spirits were at their lowest. So, as you can imagine it was mighty difficult to narrow my favourite albums list down to 20. In all honesty, I couldn't narrow it any further. I could have done a top 100 of this year and still would have had to make some difficult choices. Still, I got it down to 20 and I think that was enough to wrap up this year. 

So, without wasting any more time. (and let's be honest, you've already scrolled past this part to see the countdown) Let's start this!

20. KT Tunstall - Wax
Label: Virgin   Release Date: 05/10/2018   Genre: Alternative/Indie

Wow, starting this list off strong! KT Tunstall just continues to grow as an artist. Her new album Wax is mind-blowingly good. A much more subdued album, in comparison to previous effort Kin. Still, nonetheless, this is a damn fine effort. Here, she expands her horizons and really creates an atmospheric and interesting record. It's been a cool journey following her career and Wax has some decent tunes in there. Be it her lead-in single "The River" or the smooth rich tune "The Mountain" she continues to create great tune after great tune. Although I wouldn't call this her best work, this is still a fun album with lots to appreciate. 

19. Orange Goblin - The Wolf Bites Back
Label: Spinefarm Records   Release Date 15/06/2018   Genre: Stoner Rock

Orange Goblin is just one of those bands for me. Constantly producing great album after great album. I can't really think of a bad album they have ever put out. The Wolf Bites Back is a whole bunch of fun. I have to say like this album more than their previous record Back From The Abyss. There is just this quality to it that reminds me of their better albums. It's a no-nonsense, balls to the wall stoner rock record. The riffs are impactful and the solos are sharp. The grooves are fantastic and the band sound tighter than ever. Songs like "Sons of Salem" and "Ghosts of the Primitives" just have that charm to them. The heavy tone and bolstering bass make this an excellent listening experience. 

18. NateWantsToBattle - Paid In Exposure 
Label: Give Heart Records   Release Date: 01/06/2018   Genre: Pop Rock

Well, I wasn't expecting NateWantsToBattle to come back quite so quickly with a new album. However, I'm glad he did. Paid In Exposure is quite a different record album from Sandcastle Kingdoms. More going in a pop direction though not in a bad way. This album kind of reminds me of one of the really good Panic! At The Disco albums. The slick production and upbeat tone make this for a good time. Songs that are written around his own life and the struggles he faces is interesting. Yet, it's written in such a way, that the listener can derive their own meanings and apply the songs to themselves. Nathan Sharp continues to impress me with his songwriting skill and his relatable tunes. Definitely, one to listen to.

17. Monster Truck - True Rockers
Label: Mascot Records   Release Date - 07/09/2018  Genre: Hard Rock, Southern Rock

This band just never fails to impress me. I remember hearing their first album and being truly blown away. This year, Monster Truck continue their tradition of blowing my mind with great rock 'n' roll tunes. True Rockers is probably their best record to date with well-crafted riffs, brilliant grooves and an anthemic atmosphere. Their sheer presence on this album blows me away with Jon Harvey's vocals sounding amazing through the whole album. The appearance of Twisted Sister's Dee Snider on the song "True Rocker" is much welcome and awesome, to say the least. This album kicks so much ass and Monster Truck continues to be a band I always enjoy and I will keep my ears pricked up to hear their music.

16. Boss Caine - Loved By Trouble, Troubled By Love
Self Released   Release Date: 25/03/2018   Genre: Country

Raw, gritty and really heartfelt, this album took my attention this year. Boss Caine's new record Loved By Trouble, Troubled By Love is a beautifully composed and fascinating listen. From start to finish the album is just so damn pleasant to listen to. Daniel Lucas's voice is great, there's this magnificent tone to it that matches the music so well. It suits the more upbeat songs and really fits the slower ballads. The sweeping production and wonderful melodies are presented really well here. I just love how this album sounds, there is such an earnest quality to it and you can really feel the emotions written. A terrific album and well deserving of this list. 

15: A Sound of Thunder - It Was Metal
Label: Mad Neptune Records Release Date: 15/06/2018  Genre: Heavy Metal

It was a good year for finding out about new metal bands. One that just so happened to cross my path was the US rockers, A Sound of Thunder. This record is just a blast to listen to all the way through. On top of that, the comic book counterpart makes this record a fun rollercoaster ride on emotional highs and lows. It Was Metal is a much more fast-paced, high energy record than their previous albums, as discussed in my interview with the band. Which I'm really into, it's a really lively record that has kept me going. The production is big, bold and in your face. It feels like an old-school metal album but with modern production. Everything about this record just feels big and it fits right in with the rest of their discography. A Sound Of Thunder is an excellent band and I have massively enjoyed listening to and reading, It Was Metal this year.

14. Ninja Sex Party - Cool Patrol
Self Released   Release Date: 17/08/2018   Genre: Comedy, Glam Rock

Ninja Sex Party are one of the most consistent bands working today. Releasing a new album every year since 2015, leading to this year's release, Cool Patrol. I love listening to these guys so much, their blend of comedy and glam rock is always nicely put together. Dan Avidan's vocals are great on this record and you can tell he's putting his all into it. In particular, on the song "Danny Don't You Know" where he gives a great vocal performance on the bands first, emotional (non-comedic) ballad. The production on this record if bigger and better than ever, with bold guitar lines and well-executed keyboard parts. It really is a well put together album. Once again, a good balance of comedy and rock music make for an enjoyable listen and overall fun time. 

13. Man With A Mission - Chasing The Horizon
Genre: Sony Music Labels Inc.  Release Date: 06/06/2018   Genre: Electro-Rock

Man With A Mission, are by far one of the most creative and interesting bands in my collection. Their new album, Chasing The Horizon is another powerhouse album filled with excellent electronic sounds and high energy rocking tones. This album has certainly been a highlight of this year. This is a high octane thrill ride from start to finish and it certainly keeps you energised and pumped. From the insanely good production, that really makes this feel like this music it's from the future to the great songwriting, that grounds them in a way that their previous albums have not. All that makes this a continuously exciting and interesting record to listen to. I hope to catch them live again soon and I will always look forward to new music from them. 

12: Blackberry Smoke - Find A Light
Label: 3 Legged Records  Release Date: 06/04/2018   Genre: Southern Rock

This album has really been the soundtrack of my car this year. No joke. This is southern-rock music at it's finest and Blackberry Smoke really delivered something special with, Find A Light. This album is downright brilliant from the fabulous songwriting and emotive lyrics to the great musicianship and a well put together production. There is a great mix of rock 'n' roll tunes and simple ballads, all with that signature southern tone of theirs. There's such a warmth and depth with the music that makes feel so calm, their sound is just so pleasant to the ear. The big anthemic choruses sound great and make for great karaoke fodder. No joke, I did a 2-hour drive this year with just this album blasting and I never got bored of any of the songs. Now, how's that for replayability?! A genuinely fun and interesting record.

11. Master Sword - Shadow And Steel
Self Released  Release Date: 02/01/2018   Genre: Power Metal

How could this not be on my list? A heavy metal album themed around the lore of The Legend of Zelda. For a metal nerd like myself, this was an instant winner. I love the sharp tone of the guitars and the eerie aura of the keyboards. With great hard-hitting music, captivating vocal performance and imaginative lyrics Master Sword hits fast and hits hard. Obviously you'll like this record more if you like The Legend of Zelda series of video games. Yet, I don't think it's actually necessary to enjoy the music, it just helps is all. I like all the little nods to the gaming series hidden in the songs but it's also just a good power metal album that's easy to get into and enjoy. I also had the great pleasure of interviewing them this year if you want to read that, click here.

10. The Rumjacks - Saints Preserve Us
Label: FOUR||FOUR   Release Date: 12/10/2018   Genre: Folk Punk

Now here we are top 10... And of course, The Rumjacks were going to make it on to my list. The Australian folk-punk outfit brought this biting record this year, that's a nice mixture of everything that has come previously. Saints Preserve Us is the band at their very best, with a very in your face approach and the band's emotions bled into all of the lyrics. It's been cool to witness their evolution over time and I must say that on this record, they are more direct than ever before and cut the shit. The best punk rock is pure and visceral, which this album certainly is, yet, the folk elements adds that nice warmth to the harsh punk tones. There is definitely that big, sing-out-loud feel to the record and the melodies are ones that just work their way inside your head. This is one record that's been bouncing in my head this year and well worth checking out.

09. The Night Flight Orchestra - Sometimes The World Ain't Enough
Label: Nuclear Blast   Release Date: 29/06/2018  Genre: Hard Rock

I still don't know how this band evaded my radar for so long but my god, am I happy that I know their music now. The Night Flight Orchestra is one of those bands that just piques my interest. Their new record, Sometimes The World Ain't Enough is a great mix of hard rock, glam metal and funk. You wouldn't think it would work so well but my god it does. The sharp and consistent riffs form the backdrop to some awesome melodies and fantastically catchy choruses. Bj√∂rn Strid's vocals are excellent and you can tell he loves singing these songs. I think with this band being a side project, there's more of vibrant energy to them and they're just having fun with the music. The whole album just feels effortless. Excellent addition to 2018 and I hope to catch them live in the near future.

08. Tantric - Mercury Retrograde 
Label: Pavement Records  Release Date: 05/10/2018   Genre: Hard Rock

Well, it was about time. After five years my favourite band return with their new album and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. Tantric just keep it coming with the great songs and Hugo Ferreira's song-writing is as emotive and powerful than ever. Even though I didn't really get into the more aggressive songs at first, I will admit they have started to grow on me as I've had this on repeat again and again. Still, I'm a sucker for the more emotional tunes and Tantric deliver that in droves here. They've moved away from that traditional southern rock tone in favour of more hard rock, but it's still noticeably Tantric. Mercury Retrograde is a stand out of the year me personally and hopefully, there is more to come from them.

07. Chasing Dragons - Faction
Self Released   Genre: 05/10/2018   Release Date: Hard Rock

Where has this band been all my life. Displaying a commanding, powerful and charming presence, Chasing Dragons stormed their way into my head this year and refused to leave. Faction is a simply excellent record. No ifs, ands or buts. Their no-nonsense heavy rock music is just what I needed this year. It's refreshing to hear a band that I automatically connected with, their songs have genuine heart to them and their forceful presence sells the record so thoroughly. The booming bass and the roaring guitars have so much impact coupled with excellent drum and vocal work this album just stuck to me for so long. Chasing Dragons have quickly become one of my favourite bands this year, on record and live. I can only hope they continue to grow and get even better.

06. Muse - Simulation Theory 
Label: Sony Music Labels Inc.  Release Date: 09/11/2018  Genre: Rock, Electro

Well, this was certainly the year I got back into Muse. After checking out their Drones: World Tour Film, I started listening to their music in droves. As a result, I waited for Simulation Theory with excitement. When this album finally dropped I must have put it on repeat about fifteen times in the same day. Although, I wouldn't call this the best album in their catalogue, it's a damn fine effort. With, what I would call, the right mix of weird electronica and hard rock. With the weirder tunes standing out because of the bands continuing passion for experimentation and the hard rock songs getting the radio play, so it evens out. All in all, it's a Muse album, at this point take it or leave it. Although, this album did give me my favourite Muse song in a long time with "Pressure". 

05. The Shires - Accidentally On Purpose 
Label: Decca   Release Date: 20/04/2018  Genre: Country

What a year for good country music. The English country duo, The Shires released their third album, Accidentally On Purpose... And I love it! Seriously this album lifts my spirits every single time I play it. Every song is well written and well produced. I don't think there's a song on here that wouldn't work as a single. Crissie and Ben work so well together and their vocals create beautiful harmonies. Even though there are more soft ballads than upbeat pop-country tunes, I still think this album is definitely on par with their previous work. With it's smooth production, the album is generally easy on the ear and I would recommend this album easily to anybody.

04. Turbowolf - The Free Life 
Label: SO Records   Release Date: 09/03/2018  Genre: Electro-Rock

F*** me sideways with a fork. Turbowolf just kicked it into high gear and kept right on going with this album. The Free Life is such an entertaining album in so many different ways. It's energetic, fast-paced and fun as hell. With some excellent guest performances as well this album really is a cut above anything the band has ever done. Their sound is so distinctive that when the album plays you automatically know who it is. When they kick into full punk mode you feel this rush of psychedelic electronic sounds. The riffs are tight and the bass-lines are highly enjoyable. Every second of this album hits hard and fast with all of the verbose and intricate sounds that Turbowolf have become known for. For me, they're one of the best bands working and touring in the industry today.

03. Zack Logan  - Raised by Wolves 
Label: Badlands Records   Release Date: 03/08/2018   Genre: Country 

You know what the most magical thing about going to a festival. Discovering a new artist that truly captures your imagination. This year at HRH C.R.O.W.S. I caught the excellent Zack Logan perform an intimate acoustic set. Needless to say, he really impressed me. After that performance, I had to get his debut album, Raised By Wolves and it's been my soundtrack to the latter half of the year. Zack puts so much pure emotion into his lyrics you can hear his soul come through. The acoustic guitar is wonderfully smooth and the violin in the background adds so much to every song. Every song is a story that Zack is telling to the audience, a chapter of his life. By the end of this record you feel like you know the man better. Which I think is the main goal of a good singer-songwriter record. After interviewing him this year, click here, it's clear that he still has a long way to go in his career, however, this album marks a great start with his music. 

02. Curse of Lono - As I Fell
Label: Submarine Cat Records  Release Date: 17/08/2018   Genre: Alternative/Indie

I adore this band so damn much. Getting sent this album about two months prior to its release was pretty good as well. Curse of Lono is consistently exciting for me to listen to. Their use of dark melodies and eerie atmosphere creates some great moments here. Particularly on "I'd Start A War For You" and the title track "As I Fell". The grooves are great with excellent riffs and fabulous melodies, Curse of Lono keep their gothic dark and moody appeal. The vocal performance is subdued and fits with the general mood of the album, even in the more upbeat songs. As I Fell is a great continuation from their previous album last year. From the moody opener "Valentine" to the wonderfully smooth "Tell Me about Your Love" and through to the great closer "Leuven" this album oozes from start to finish.

01. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
Label: Mercury Records  Release Date: 30/03/2018   Genre: Country

Capping off the year is my number one pick and from the moment I heard the first single "Butterflies" I knew what that pick was going to be. Kacey Musgraves took a bold step in a new direction with this record. Golden Hour is by far my favourite album this year. The mix styles and great use of genre-hopping, all contained in one hell of country album. The sweet tones and gorgeous melodies really bring this record to life. Kacey's song-writing is sharper than ever. With great use of poetic language and interesting ideas being thrown in everywhere, the imagination on display is incredible. The production is awesome with every single musical element coming through crystal clear. There's just no other album this year that I can think of that has showed this amount of creativity and emotional weight. Getting to listen to these songs live in Liverpool was an extra treat this year as well. She is one the strongest performers in country music right now. Golden Hour is a triumph for Kacey and definitely my favourite of the year. 


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