Staff Picks: Best Albums of 2018
Shutter 16’s AOTY – as told by the staff
Year end lists have been making their way around the internet, whether it be albums, singles, new artists, or whatever else people like to view in listacle form. While these lists can cause tensions, celebrations, and everything in between, it is important to remember that these lists are completely objective! Listen to the music y’all wanna listen to! Celebrate the albums you love, appreciate the new artists you were introduced to, and let others do the same. I’m not bashing the year end list tradition, but why stress when The 1975 tops Pitchfork’s best singles of the year instead of your local favorite? Make your own list, share it with others, and let others share with you. Music for everyone!
All that being said, we here at Shutter 16 have decided to pull our staff’s favorite two albums that were released this year. They are in no particular order, but instead are just a presentation of what soundtracked our 2018. The only tension that was caused was the collective outrage of “Only TWO??? Two albums?? That’s it??” That might have been a direct quote from yours truly… but enough of that. Who did you listen to this year?
Eminem – Kamikaze (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope Records) | Buy the album!
He went back to his roots – and let out and album worthy of praise. It was introducing the entire new generation to the real slim shady. He most definitely STOOD UP! Any album being able to be described like this – has it for me:
He slashes and hits anyone featured on a rap Spotify playlist as he digs into all realms he dislikes; The President, Mike Pence, media journalists, MTV stars Charlemagne and face-tatted rappers, Lil Xan, and a major shout and rip about the mumble auto-tune asshats in the opening jam ”The Ringer”. While he is shredding them, he at least has a little empathy towards Lil Yachty’s popularity; it’s just not his jam. As the track unfolds it’s hard to disagree.(Read the full album review here)
James Bay – Electric Light (Republic) | Buy the album!
Three-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated and BRIT Award-winning multi-platinum singer-songwriter James Bay new album Electric Light was fire this year! Honestly, who tore this dudes heart out? Even if he’s single, or in love right this moment, his angelic timbre lends for an oddity of Mr. Bay vocalizing what inner torment sounds like in notes sung softly over tracks. The lyrical weight of track “Us” where we hear “I believe in something, I believe enough, in us,” hits you somewhere deep and unexplained. Turning simplistic satin breathes to ballads of the summer and now winter. Such as his steamy reverb in “Wild Love,” an acoustic portion of the cut sounds like he was recording old-school in a bathroom steaming up mirrors. “Pink Lemonade” is pretty layered and unlike anything Bay has thrown at us before. Very Euro-trash and poppy, less guitar-heavy, though definitely a new but favorable direction. Notes: Emotive overload – I’ve been in a monogamous loving relationship for 13 years now, and this new album is leaving me crying for an imaginary love that did me dirty and I can’t figure how to live without them now. If you have not indulged in this brilliance drop the mistletoe, pop open some New Years champagne early and enjoy.
Best Singles: A toss up between…
In Flames “I Am Above” (Nuclear Blast) | Buy the single!
The metalcore pioneers have dropped onto our maps again with the quirky single and video of actor Martin Wallström most known for his role in Mr.Robot, lipping the words with a cool effect of a demon coming out every once in a while when the chorus breaks into I AM ABOVE! The song itself is more poppy, and seems to be In Flames evolution metalcore-pop does not have a bad ring to it. You can actually understand the lyrics, and it still bring that heaviness that let you rip shit up when you feel the need. That connection being able to actually sing the song is \m/. Highly anticipating the new album coming in 2019.
John Mayer ‘New Light’ (Snack Money) | Buy the single!
“New Light” is Mayer’s first solo treat since his 2017 release The Search for Everything. He’s about has been on the road with members of the Grateful Dead in the super-group band Dead & Company on an extensive tour. Spin the track, soak in the new John, and hope he finds himself someone that won’t hide him in a top drawer. (read rest of the review here.) and damn we cannot wait for the full album to drop!
Long Neck – Will This Do? (Tiny Engines) | Buy the album!
In case you’ve not been paying attention to the DIY scene as of late, Jersey’s Long Neck (Tiny Engines) has been on everyone’s end of the year list – and for good reason. Confident vocals, heavenly melodies, and honest, like actually honest, lyrics set Long Neck apart from others, and it doesn’t hurt that their acoustic songs are just as good as their straight up rock tracks. Though Long Neck is comprised solely of Lily Mastrodimos, her gusto as a front person and raw talent as an artist leaves no room other contributors; she’s got this thing under control. Can I also admit that if I were somehow in a band, I’d cover the hell out of “Elizabeth.” What a SONG. My favorite tracks: “Elizabeth,” “Milky Way,” “Lichen,” “Rosy,” and honestly, ok, let’s just say the ENTIRE album, yeesh.
Liza Anne – Fine But Dying (Arts & Crafts) | Buy the album!
Georgia’s own Liza Anne is reviving what it means to be a folk-alt conqueror, in that she’s taken over the genre altogether. From brutally honest ballads to everyday anxieties to mind-numbing paranoia, Liza Anne is someone you oughta know by now. Her resume is filled to the brim with folksy tracks, taking up two full EPs before revamping her sound with some bass lines and kick drums. “Paranoia” caught my ear thanks to her theatrical vocals (love emphasis!), but her lyrics kept me coming back; and it’s a good thing I did. I haven’t stopped listening to (read: crying to) “I’m Tired, You’re Lonely” since it dropped.
Ghost – Prequelle (Concord Loma Vista) | Buy the album!
“The album feels more like a soundtrack than an album; the stories throughout are interesting and told brilliantly through the beautiful instrumentation work on the album. Every Ghost album becomes more, dare I say, mainstream. On Prequelle, Tobias chooses to lose a lot of the heavy elements that listeners know from the band’s early days, and instead takes a very catchy yet beautiful songwriting approach.” (see full album review here)
Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of the Peaceful Army (Republic) | Buy the album!
Greta is the modern embodiment of classic, seventies blues based rock and they are all technically skilled well beyond their years.
Stryper – God Damn Evil (Frontiers Music s.r.l) | Buy the album!
Stryper’s God Damn Evil is the heaviest album they have ever done, a perfect blend of modern metal and eighties style hair metal. The title track is a powerhouse, stadium rocker, one of the best rock anthems I have heard in a very, long time. If that track doesn’t have you on your feet, nothing will.
Panic! At The Disco – Pray For The Wicked (DCD2/Fueled By Ramen) | Buy the album!
From the very first note to the very last it was an album I listened to on repeat for a solid two weeks (not just because I was reviewing it either). So many creative paths were taken. Each song feels unique but with a common thread that Panic (Urie) brings. All wrapped up with a beautiful ballad “Dying In LA”.
Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere (Atlantic/Warner Music Nashville) | Buy the album!
Ashley McBryde has had an incredible year in music and her album proves who she is in every way. Each song gives you an insight to her life in a genuine and beautiful way.
This year has been massive for hip-hop but the two I have had on consistently were these two albums.
DJ Koze – Knock Knock (Pampa) | Buy the album!
DJ Koze’s Knock Knock finds the perfect balance of chill. With skillful arrangement of samples and loops paired with a good selection of guest vocals presents just the right amount of variety to keep me hooked the whole album.
Turnstile – Time and Space (Roadrunner) | Buy the album!
Turnstile’s Time and Space immediately hooked me with a wonderfully produced album front to back that demonstrated a slight evolution of their sound and in my mind showcases their growth in songwriting.
Nicki Bluhm –To Rise You Gotta Fall (Compass Records Group) | Buy the album!
Nicki Bluhm is a wonderful voice emerging as a strong, independent singer moving on from personal heartache to forge her own unique path.
We Banjo 3 – Haven (We Banjo 3) | Buy the album!
We Banjo 3, the Galway, Ireland band defining the genre of Celtgrass and combining Irish and American roots music while highlighting issues of mental health.
Brandon Scott Hanks:
All That Remains – Victim Of The New Disease (Razor & Tie) | Buy the album!
All That Remains goes back to their roots with a brooding and yet somber final release with now late Oli Herbert, this album needs to be heard front to back and leave your thoughts on any previous record behind, this is how the band was meant to be.
Breaking Benjamin – Ember (Hollywood) | Buy the album!
Breaking Benjamin have done it again, but this time they have thrown together a heavy dynamic record that tells a story of pain, determination and even loss. The way that the band compliments each other you can almost see them playing off each other’s energy in the studio as they recorded it. This is one of their best albums yet with so many gems, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
The Joy Formidable – AAARTH (Frontiers S.L.C) | Buy the album!
Joy Formidable showed substantial songwriting growth and expanded their sound smartly without leaving behind what got them where they are. Read full album review here.
James – Living In Extraordinary Times (BMG) | Buy the album!
James released a pointed protest album that sounds absolutely nothing like a protest album. It’s brilliant. James’ album also reminded its listeners of the band’s continued evolution and experimentation with their bedrock rock sound. Full review here.
Halo Circus – Robots and Wranglers (Halo Circus Propaganda) | Buy the album!
I think I just listened to next year’s Grammy Album of the Year. I know that’s a risky statement but Halo Circus’ Robots and Wranglers is a nuclear-powered musical missile aimed at the heart of our society and ourselves. It is so far out of this world and so deep into our zeitgeist that is hard to see anyone catching up. It simultaneously creates and pushes a revolutionary musical envelope that others will be scrambling to fit into. Its first single, Narcissist, is already making waves, starting with a premiere in Billboard. When the full album comes out those waves will become a tsunami. Read the rest of the review on this album here!
Eminem – Kamikaze (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope Records) | Buy the album!
Kamikaze – when this album debuted everyone who has ever talked trash about Eminem just smiled and bowed down. Not only did the album help settle all the battles that were circulating between various artists and Eminem, but the single “Venom” helped make Tom Hardy’s lovable parasite that much more awesome.
The Amity Affliction – Misery (Roadrunner) | Buy the album!
Misery – One of my favorite aspects of The Amity Affliction sixth studio album is how three tracks in particular come together to make one hell of a story. “Feels Like I’m Dying”, “Ivy (Doomsday)“ and “D.I.E” all come together to make a little Misery three part movie. Add in the few nú metal vibes in a few of the tracks and you have a new favorite album.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise – How to: Friend, Love,Freefall (Elektra) | Buy the album!
I love how this album (and the RKS group) because of their folks-y, indie sound that takes us on a journey of joy along with heartbreak with chilling harmonies. I admire their ability to make my heart truly wrench. Originally discovered them from their 2013 release, “Devil Like Me” I love their different perspective painting on a devil which then is referenced in a few songs including “It’s called: Freefall” as well.
The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight (Hellcat/Epitaph) | Buy the album!
The Interrupters. Ska albums aren’t exactly common these days, so to get one this good in 2018 is a treat.
Judas Priest – Firepower (Columbia) | Buy the album!
Judas Priest. Not just a great latter career album, a great Judas Priest album, period.
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer (Bad Boy Records) | Buy the album!
Almost every track on that album was fire🔥 from the production to the lyrics to the delivery AND she rapped on and killed it. Technically this is a mix-tape I think but Black Thought and 9th Wonder Streams of Thought. He literally just rhymed over beats, no real hooks, just bars upon bars and make a lot of hip hop albums look weak in comparison
Architects – Holy Hell (Epitaph) | Buy the album!
The fact that this album even exists is incredible. Tom Searle (guitarist and sole writer) passed away from cancer in 2016 at 28 years old. His twin brother, Dan Searle (drummer), wrote lyrics for this new album and it hits you right in the feels.
This has been on of my favorite bands for over a decade. They’re an instrumental band and their music just takes you away to another planet. Their sound is just so peaceful.
Shinedown – Attention Attention (Atlantic) | Buy the album!
I absolutely love Shinedown’s single “Get Up” (from their new album ATTENTION! ATTENTION!) because it was written by Brent Smith to Eric Bass to open up a conversation about Eric’s depression. The song is inspirational, supportive, and a great mantra for those of us who struggle with depression. I saw Shinedown five times in 2018 and each time they played “Get Up,” the crowd was visibly moved and energized. The entire album takes you through the world of a person who battles depression, makes their way through it, and finds ways to live productively despite it.
Godsmack – When Legends Rise (BMG Rights Management) | Buy the album!
Godsmack’s song “Someday” (from their new album WHEN LEGENDS RISE) is a perfect example of Godsmack still being at the top of their game after all of these years. The lyrics are a kick in the ass for anyone wanting to start over and the music fires you up in Godsmack’s signature style. It’s in a three-way tie for my favorite song with “When Legends Rise” and “Under Your Scars” from the same album. The rich quality of Sully’s voice and his carefully crafted lyrics are top-notch.
Red Sun Rising – Thread (Razor & Tie)| Buy the album!
Red Sun Rising’s THREAD is filled with the unexpected and I love albums that surprise me. They are one of the few bands today that incorporate layered vocals from many band members and their sound is quite unique.
The Weeknd – My Dear Melancholy (Universal Republic) | Buy the album!
The Weeknd’s new album, basically, was him heartbroken, singing about his feelings. Many people relate and whenever you’re sad, you can listen to it.
Post Malone – Beerbongs and Bentleys (Republic) | Buy the album!
Post Malone’s new album showed a new side of his musical style, which was very well received. With his cool new awards and the respect of most of the media circus, he’s a powerhouse to watch for in upcoming projects in 2019!
A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant (BMG) | Buy the album!
Having been over a decade since their last album this one came with much anticipation. It did not let me down and “Disillusioned” alone was well worth the wait.
Breaking Benjamin – Ember (Hollywood) & Shinedown – Attention Attention (Atlantic) (photos above)
Both feature multiple smash hits; both records can be played front to back. Can’t say that about many records these days.
The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight (Hellcat/Epitaph) | Buy the album!
The songs are so catchy that they make me dance around my house. 😎
Lake Street Dive – Free Yourself Up (Nonesuch Records) | Buy the album!
Excellent lyrics and Rachael Price’s voice is magic.
Underoath – Erase Me (Fearless) | Buy the album!
This is the first UO album we have had in eight years, and they are still killing it. Solid production all the way through that makes it a must have for a vinyl collector.
Bullet For My Valentine – Gravity (Spinefarm) | Buy the album!
BFMV’s Gravity was their first attempt at a new metal record, since the early years of BFMV and I think they killed it. Again, any vinyl collectors add this to your must have list.