As 2018 winds down and you gear up for the holidays, it's time to wrap up the year here on MusicBoxPete, and I proudly present to you my picks for Top Albums of 2018. It was a banner year for a bevy of acts, with Vacationer delivering their best album to date, The Kooks, Underoath, and Arctic Monkeys returning after long absences, and the U.K.'s own As It Is and Boston Manor delivering their most ambitious efforts to date. No matter what your musical tastes are, there's something on this list for everybody, from indie rock, pop-punk, to even a little metal to throw in the mix! And to close out the year, here is my list for the Top Albums of 2018:
Vacationer - Mindset
Kenny Vasoli and Vacationer deliver another huge masterpiece with their 3rd full length album, "Mindset". This effort branches out into avenues never before dreamed of, with Vaca's sound getting more expansive and dreamlike, and even more musical experimentation utilizing Kenny's ability to take ambient sounds and translate it into a experience that is best enjoyed live, as I got the opportunity to see firsthand back in July at Brighton Music Hall. The band have morphed into a family, and there is simply no stopping these gents and their musical mission that is still being realized to this point.
Key Tracks: "Magnetism", "Being Here", "Entrance", "Strawberry Blonde"
The Kooks - Let's Go Sunshine
U.K. indie mainstays The Kooks returned after a 4 year hiatus this year with their exciting new effort "Let's Go Sunshine". Many fans including myself, were disappointed with the lackluster abilities of their last album,"Listen" as it was disjointed and didn't exactly capture the magic and essence of their prior releases. But their new LP realizes why The Kooks are so special and talented in their own right. Frontman Luke Pritchard is able to hearken the band's sound back to the early years, and take some of that magic from "Inside In/Inside Out" and translate into a more modern timeframe with catchy hooks, memorable lyrics, and a sing along, carefree attitude that will permanently put a smile on your face.
Key Tracks: "All The Time", "No Pressure", "Four Leaf Clover", "Chicken Bone"
As It Is - The Great Depression
Brighton, U.K. pop-punkers As It Is returned this year with their most ambitious album to date, The Great Depression. A concept album of sorts in the vein of Green Day's "American Idiot" and My Chemical Romance's "Welcome to The Black Parade", this album touches upon the stigma of depression and mental health disorders in general, an issue that is plaguing the youth of today. Frontman Patty Walters and the band do an excellent job of deviating from their happier pop-punk rhythms, and taking a bold creative risk with a decidedly darker edged tone to their music that adds to their creativity and versatility as musicians, and is just a hint of where the band are moving forward with their sound.
Key Tracks: "The Great Depression", "The Wounded World", "The Stigma (Boys Don't Cry)"
Today Junior - Single Forever
Local indie studs Today Junior blew it out of the water this year with their sophomore full length LP "Single Forever". This effort broke away from the psychedelia influenced sounds that were omnipresent on their previous album "Ride The Surf", and instead relies on a more straightforward garage rock sound that is representative of who they are and where they got their start in the first place. Frontman Harry O'Toole is on top of this game with his vocals reaching new heights never before dreamed, and his brother Mike is a menacing madman on drums, and really helps this effort become one of the landmark efforts in their catalogue thus far.
Key Tracks: "Primal Rage", "Tramp", "Blunt Breath", "Skate Punx"
Boston Manor - Welcome To The Neighbourhood
Blackpool, UK's Boston Manor take a dark turn on their sophomore LP "Welcome To The Neighbourhood". On their debut "Be Nothing", the band relied on an emo influenced sound, channeled through the influences of Brand New to name a few. On this ambitious new effort, Boston Manor leave all the cards out on the table, and deliver one whopper of an album that will leave you spellbound by the time the effort has concluded. Monstrous rhythms and Henry Cox's howling vocals will leave you floored, and the balance of brothers Mike and Dan Cunniff, along with the exploits of Jord and Ash make this effort a true family affair.
Key Tracks: "Welcome To The Neighbourhood", "Flowers In Your Dustbin", "Halo", "England's Dreaming"
Phillip Phillips - Collateral
Former "American Idol" winner Phillip Phillips returns to his down home Georgia roots on his long delayed third LP "Collateral". His first in four years after a lawsuit with his former record label, Phillip parlays and hones all of his influences that have made him who he is, and presents Phillip as a gentle and carefree soul who brings out the best in everyone who listens to his music. With gentle folk rhythms and even some hardcore breakdowns to throw you for a loop, Phillip proves to everyone how remarkably special and delightful he is and we couldn't be more grateful to have him back.
Key Tracks: "Magnetic", "My Name", "Miles"
Devon & The Doo - Floating On A Dream
The debut album from Devon & The Doo was a welcome surprise to my ears this past year. Fronted by Devon Pinto, whom you may remember from his time on "Survivor" last season, Devon brings the warmth and vibe from his native California full circle into a truly communal listening experience. With influences ranging from Jack Johnson among others, it's Devon's persona and charm that will work wonders for you, and you really begin to grasp who Devon is as a person by the time has concluded. Having the chance to interview him on my podcast back in May, Devon is a truly charismatic person whom I'm proud to be great friends with.
Key Tracks: "Shalom", "Falling", "Smile Worth While"
George Ezra - Staying At Tamara's
UK based singer songwriter George Ezra avoided the dreaded sophomore slump with his new effort "Staying At Tamara's". You may remember George from his breakthrough hit "Budapest", and on this effort George proves to everyone that his first effort wasn't a fluke. Bolstered by more varied instrumentation and an ability to branch out of his comfort zone, George seems remarkably at ease and comfortable of who he is as a musician and if this is any indication, he's got a long and plentiful road ahead of him.
Key Tracks: "Don't Matter Now", "Shotgun", "Pretty Shining People"
Underoath - Erase Me
Florida metal legends Underoath returned with a bang this year with "Erase Me", their first album since 2010's "Disambiguation". Frontman Spencer Chamberlain's raucous vocals and drummer Aaron Gillespie's thunderous drum rhythms are definitely the staple of some of their earlier material, most notably 2004's "They're Only Chasing Safety". What's incredible about this album is how the band mature and don't try to experiment with anything they've done in the past. They just let the music do the talking, which to their credit has worked wonders for them then and now.
Key Tracks: "It Has To Start Somewhere", "Rapture", "On My Teeth"
Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
U.K. alt rock legends Arctic Monkeys returned with their most ambitious effort to date, "Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino". With the title sounding like something Pink Floyd would make, it's a concept album of sorts designed to transport listeners to an otherworldly place where frontman Alex Turner and company stun listeners with a beautiful and serene effort that captures the band's evolution, while still bringing in some elements from their prior releases. While their new sound may alienate some long time fans, new fans and some established ones will find something to appreciate from this bold and risky effort from the collective.
Key Tracks: "Star Treatment", "Four Out of Five", "Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino"