There have been an overwhelming number of excellent releases this year, and there’s no chance at Top 10 list will ever do justice to the talent out there. I have based this list on the punk rock records that have had the most repeat spins on my stereo this year, as I think it’s that long-term connection that gives an album real weight.
As Burnt Tapes once said, “This year’s been a weird one.” That lyric rung true enough for me in 2018 that I got it inked on my arm, and it’s really only gotten weirder since then.
One of the strangest things to happen to me in 2018 was being invited to join the crew at Lockjaw Records. As a result I’ve been able to work with some of my favourite bands. Clearly I’m incredibly biased towards bands I’ve worked with however I felt like I’d be lying if I didn’t include them here – I wouldn’t have volunteered my time and effort into the releases if I wasn’t completely in love with them.
Note: I’ve restricted this list to punk-related records, however my ‘true’ top 10 includes other genres as well. I’ve written a Top 10 Releases for the Lockjaw Records site that gives an even more accurate picture of my top picks. Notable mentions go to Kali Uchis, Jorja Smith, Tim Loud, Incisions, The Human Project, Nosebleed, Call Me Malcolm, Eat Defeat, Not Scientists and Spanish Love Songs.
#10: Tim Loud – Salvation
Since his days in Bootscraper, Tim Loud’s been a consistently entertaining songwriter and performer, however 2018’s Salvation is his darkest release to date. The record becomes a window into his soul at times, especially as it skips from genre to genre. The first and second halves of the album are distinctly different releases.
My highlights from the album are What Am I? which is a rollicking ride of a tune, the stomp of Grief Whores and the angry blast of Hate. Throughout the record there are notes of punk, rock, blues, country and folk, and yet it flows perfectly as a complete piece, underpinned by rare Tim’s vocal and lyrical clarity. This a mature record that I’d highly recommend to anyone looking for something beyond the average.
#9: Youth Avoiders – Relentless
Relentless is exactly that: relentless. From the fuzzy opening to On The Run, it tears into unwavering, heart-attack quick hardcore with a rock ‘n’ roll edge. The snappy vocals that race to catch up with the onslaught of unyeilding drums convey an urgency that’s hard not to get caught up in.
That said, it’s the jangly, angular riffs, tipping on the top line of every tune that give Youth Avoiders their quintessential sound. It’s catchy, irresistable and intense from start to finish. More please.
- Available at Destructure Records
- Read our album review
- Youth Avoiders were also one of our top 10 live bands
#8: Only Strangers – Only Strangers
Stoke-On-Trent’s Only Strangers are a relatively unassuming group, but they’ve produced a superbly detailed melodic punk record early in 2018. Their self-titled debut takes cues from acts like Hot Water Music, The Lawrence Arms and Leatherface but it’s not an instant copy-cat release.
This is an urgent, passionate album with a beating heart to every song. It also sounds huge. The dual guitars weave beautifully together, as do the dual gruff vocals. It’s that mix of different tones, plus their perfectionist approach to composition that sets this album apart.
#7: Money Left To Burn Vs. The Affect Heuristic
Discovering The Affect Heuristic was one of the biggest wins of 2018 – they’ve stormed in from out of nowhere with a massive sound that’s breathed new life into melodic hardcore. Taking influence from classic skate-punk and infusing it with a metal twist akin to Shai Hulud and Between The Buried And Me, TAH have brought something new and special to the table.
Although TAH have received a lot of attention, Money Left To Burn‘s side of this split release shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s five songs of brilliant, stomping skate-punk with huge politic lyrics, energetic riffs and head-bangingly great tunes. Both sides are equally enduring a year after it’s release, and I can’t wait to see more from these bands in 2019.
- Available on Lockjaw Records
- Read our interview with guitarist, Dave Gourlay
- Listen to our KNRD podcast, featuring Dave and Cedric
#6: Misgivings – Hermitage
It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for melodic punk with coarse, raspy vocals. That gruff-punk sound makes me a bit weak in the knees. Portsmouth’s Misgivings have taken everything I love about that genre and wrapped it up in eight tracks on Hermitage.
This album’s flown a little bit under the radar but I love with such an intensity that it’s hard to describe. Although this is a debut LP, Misgivings have a strong grasp of writing layers of hooky guitar lines that both anchor and lift the record. They’ve emulated a classic Leatherface / Polar Bear Club / Osker – style sound and they’ve done it well.
My highlights on the album are The Artless Life, I Keep Hoarding Up and The New Lows. Lyrically, there’s a few one liners in here that cut to the bone; it’s that detail that’s enabled Hermitage to grow for me the more I’ve listened to it.
#5: Throw – I’m Very Upset
I’m Very Upset is a glittering gem of a punk rock album. It’s easy to overuse the word ‘perfect’ but it definitely applies here. Portland’s Throw have captured the simple, effective excellence that you find on Descendents records or massive late 90’s skate-punk albums.
That said, this is a snappy and up-to-date release. As the title suggests, they talk a lot about the afflictions of modern life. On the opening line of the album in Atlas, Bummed, they cry, “It feels like the weight of the world is crashing down around me, like the forest is burning and I can’t do anything to prevent this from happening. All I can do is stand still.” The album descends from there. My other major highlight from the album is Pass The Prozac, a harsh, sharp honest tune full of bile and catchy riffs.
Eternal thanks for Colin from Colin’s Punk Rock World for this exceptional recommendation. Go discover Throw right now, you will love them.
#4: Ducking Punches – Alamort
This album has musically and thematically woven itself into my year. Released in February, it’s humbly and quietly slid into my regular rotation. Alamort is eleven soulful, gripping songs – it’s an album with a living, breathing, pulsing warmth to it.
Alamort is an accomplished, confident release for Norwich’s Ducking Punches, who’ve grown into a band who deserve overwhelming mainstream recognition. Dan Allen pours his heart out in raw, superbly crafted lyrics, not shying away from complex themes like addiction, depression and self-deprecation. After years of line-up shifts among friends, Ducking Punches also seem to have settled on a dream team combination that you can hear working fluidly on this release.
Smoking Spot, Sobriety and The Club With No Name are my stand-out tracks from this record, but there isn’t a weak moment. The flow of the album reflects the lush guitar lines and the memorable, anthemic lyrics.
- Available on Xtra Mile Recordings
- Read our interview with Dan Allen
- Listen to our Punk Rock Holiday podcast with Dan Allen
#3: Main Line 10 – The Fox
The only complaint I have about The Fox is that there’s not more of it. When it landed in February I was instantly gripped by the speed, skill and sheer melodic force of this record.
The opening song Rise & Fall is a lesson in how to compose intense, singalong thrash; every time I hear it, a pit opens in my imagination. It’s lively and, lyrically, it’s the ideal motivation for getting past any of the shit life has to throw at you. Following that, Survive, takes you on an equally uplifting ride. From the gentle opening to shredded solo and layers of backing vocals, this song rips.
Overcoming adversity and living life to the full seems to be a theme on The Fox and this record had helped me to do just that this year. If you want an absolutely killer melodic hardcore release to sum up 2018, Main Line 10 have you covered.
#2: Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope
It’s Hard To Have Hope is an absolute masterpiece in bleak, dissonant breakneck harcore. It’s an enthralling listen; an album that’s had multiple weekly rotations since its release in May.
Bristolian four-piece Svalbard deftly combine the brutality of d-beat / crust with the atmospheric guitars and dynamics of post-hardcore to create a cacophany that’s equally crushing and uplifting. It’s a complex sonic tapestry of layers; ripping overdriven guitars, unrelenting pace and soaring howls of higher-pitched guitars.
Atop all this, Serena Cherry’s vocals flip from soft, sombre tones to empassioned howls, often tackling a political and feminist commentary. The whispered introduction to Revenge Porn, “They assume it’s your fault for being a slut,” opens one of the entrancingly heavy songs I’ve heard this year. Svalbard’s honest, no-holds-barred lyrical approach imbues ultimate force to an already impeccable record.
It’s Hard To Have Hope is flawless and I cannot wait to be floored by it live.
Album Of The Year: Fair Do’s – Leopards
In this age of oversaturation, streaming and an inbox stuffed with submissions and demos, I would have thought it impossible for an album to hold my attention the way Leopards has in 2018. I usually flit between genres, bands and playlists, however Fair Do’s have created an album that I’ve engaged with on every listen. Whether it was rinsing it on repeat in my car in the summer (9 times in a row was my personal best, but that was partly because my CD player broke), using the pace as motivation for getting work done or turning it up for a party playlists… on average I’ve listened to Leopards more than once a day and I’m still listening to it now.
I’m not going to be prosaic enough to say Fair Do’s are redefining the genre, but they’ve certainly taken technical punk to a new level. They’ve combined styles from different corners of music with overwhelming technical ability and tongue-in-cheek stubborness. Fair Do’s won’t settle anything less than perfect.
Leopards took a long time for the band to craft, and you can hear the hard work in each bar. On first listen, I’d thought the production on Leopards was a little too clean, but I’ve since realised you couldn’t appreciate the complexity of the record without it – producer, Dave Boothroyd, has reflected the band’s perfectionism in the clarity of the recording. In paticular, the drum sound is second-to-none. Just try to stop me air-drumming at my desk.
Even if you love Leopards on first listen, this album is a grower. I would love to sit you down and give you a detailed commentary on every riff, every lyric, every shouted harmony, every complex little drum fill. I’ve got such an intimate relationship with this release that some of my favourite details last only milliseconds. Even after so many repeat listens, I still get a rush of joy when I hear the soaring solo towards the end of Hanging, the howled opening to Candleman, the mix of voices on Distress Calls, the stop-starts and the build-up on In The Mean Time or the catchier chorus on Lose My Touch.
Leopards is spotless – my album of the year 2018 by a distance.
What were your favourite albums?
While you’re here, check out our other 2018 Round Up Articles:
- Top 5 Punk Rock Festivals of 2018
- Top 10 Live Bands That Blew Us Away In 2018
- Top 5 Punk Rock EPs of 2018
Written by Sarah Williams.