Releases of the Year: 2018

1. Errorzone - Vein

This is an opinion I am definitely not alone on. Point blank, Vein is one of the most important hardcore bands of our generation. Their chaotic mix of hardcore, industrial, metal, and general Lovecraftian horror-meets-technology vibes create an unmistakably unique sound that no other band does quite as well. To paraphrase my best quote of 2017: this album is the audio version of how your Trojan-horse infected childhood computer in the garage would talk to you. Angry, left in the cold, glitching a little. Vein also happens to be a group of extremely talented individuals, with some of the most unique guitar effects, lightning-fast drumming, vocals that can be raw and angry at times and beautifully mournful at others, and amazingly descriptive songwriting that exists in our scene today. There’s something about the way they can make horror imagery sound like something that you can feel with them. However, common to many popular metal bands, I also think it’s cool to hear something that is so abstract and up to interpretation. Vein knocked Errorzone out of the park - which leaves me wondering what more they’ve got up their sleeves for the coming future.

My favorite tracks are Rebirth Protocol, Virus://Vibrance, Doomtech, Untitled, and End Eternal.

2. Ballads 1 - Joji

I’ll save you the usual press coverage on Joji - he used to do memes, he does music now, so on and so forth. Many people were doubtful of his entry into serious music because of that. What this record proves to me is that he is here to stay, and he has something important to share. This record takes Joji’s previous lo-fi sound and polishes it to perfection. Some songs like ATTENTION and YEAH RIGHT echo back to this sound, but overall, BALLADS 1 is a perfect progression into being a more mature artist for Joji. As I mentioned in the full review, one of my favorite parts of Joji’s music is that it is 80% self produced - meaning that he can create beats and lyrics that perfectly fit the intended mood of the song, sometimes with a cool lyrical contrast. Joji’s voice has an extremely versatile range, with tracks that sound like slow jams (WANTED U)  to potential radio hits (R.I.P. and NO FUN), to ballads (SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK - duh), and so on. BALLADS 1 is an incredibly well-rounded record - and I have no doubt that Joji will only get even better with time.

My favorite tracks are R.I.P. (ft. Trippie Redd), SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK, WANTED U, CAN’T GET OVER YOU (ft. Clams Casino), and NO FUN.

3. Springtime and Blind - Fiddlehead

Fiddlehead truly came for everyone’s AOTY lists just 4 months into the year. This album simultaneously soothes the ache that Title Fight’s absence left in my heart, while also channeling the sound of classic early 2000’s emo bands in a way that hardly any band has since then. This record encapsulates what I love about a good emo album. It is full of raw, honest emotion, without ever crossing over into genre cliches. The album is themed around vocalist Patrick Flynn’s experience of losing his father. Loss can be one of those things people are afraid to talk about, and Flynn has expressed what it’s like to lose someone beautifully, while also producing an album that is listenably sad. What I mean by this is the fact that the album smoothly shifts through all the stages of grief, including the most important one - acceptance. Speaking of Flynn - he and drummer Shawn Costa are seasoned musicians, previously of Have Heart, with guitarist Alex Henery also playing in Basement, making them somewhat of a “supergroup” - and it shows. This is an incredible record that’s sure to be an instant classic for many.

My favorite tracks are Spousal Loss, Poem You, Lay Low, and Widow in the Sunlight.

4. STOKELEY - Ski Mask the Slump God

Simply put - this record is so damn fun to listen to. After a handful of mixtapes, Ski has finally released his debut album. While he told XXL he’s not big on his last tape, he feels this has catapulted him into releasing a record where he is unapologetically himself - “This album is gonna show them who I am and gonna build a bridgeway to make music that I wanna make. Like singing, screamo—a lot of different shit.” Ski’s oft-quoted metal influences show in songs like La La and Nuketown - which, by the way, features Juice WRLD, and it’s awesome. (Other features include Lil Yachty and rising stars Austin Lam and Lil Baby. ) However, the album is still largely rap and hip-hop based - but with a twist that only Ski Mask can provide. His delivery and voice echo back to 90’s rappers with a newer edge. The album is full of odd metaphors that are always clever and unexpected, like the chorus of one of my favorites, Faucet Failure - “I'm a Goodfella, Maison Margiela my kick, uh/I am faucet failure, my n*gga, I got drip, uh/Ashin' on your bitch, this is that Pok√©mon trainer shit, uh/Who's this? He should be in cockpit, uh/’Cause I'm flyer than a fuckin' ostrich, uh (Okay).” On top of this, he is backed by distinct beats that’ll get stuck in your head and keep you listening for weeks after you hear them. This album is unique in a musical genre that can create a lot of similar sounding artists, but STOKELEY shows that Ski has zero plans on getting complacent - he’s just getting started.

My favorite tracks are Faucet Failure, LA LA, Nuketown (ft. Juice WRLD), Foot Fungus, and Adults Swim.

5. Cold Side of Reality - Purgatory

Oh, Purgatory - center of every Twitter beef, but one of the only people on the website who write music that feels like they might just back up their words. In all honesty, I believe this album is one of the best hardcore records of the last 5 years. With some lineup changes in place, my personal favorite addition is No Victory and Another One Dead guitarist Brian Pilla - one of the best in the game. There is a noticeable metal influence to this record that is very welcome - from the slow arpeggiated intro of the title track, to the faster riffs of songs like Sincerely Yours and No Bastard’s Slave. Yet, there is undoubtedly a classic hardcore feel to the record that is reminiscent of greats like All Out War, Shattered Realm, Built Upon Frustration, and so on.  Lyrically, this album will take your local rich kid doing I Am Struggling cosplay and wipe the floor with them. Vocalist Matt Anderson writes and delivers the lyrics with the intensity of a person who actually has felt real fear/face to face with a .45.” This is an incredibly solid group of musicians doing what they do best - no bullshit, just hardcore.

My favorite tracks are Cold Side of Reality, No Bastard’s Slave, Down For Mine (D4M), and Pray For Death.

6. Invasion of Privacy - Cardi B

Cardi B has had a hell of a year. From a stripper and loveable social media personality to the single that catapulted her into the spotlight in 2017 (Bodak Yellow), her hard work has paid off, making her a permanent fixture on radio stations and in pop culture in general. With the release of her debut lay-it-all-on-the-table LP, Invasion of Privacy, Cardi has established who she is in music - fun, honest, pro-hoe, pro-woman,  and, in general, a force to contend with. Through all 13 songs, she takes us through her journey through fame, infidelity, and most importantly - thot anthems about enjoying the finer things in life that even your grandma might secretly bop to. This album got major play for me since its spring release, with most of the songs on it becoming an instant classic. Plus, she closes with a SZA collab, and if you know anything about me… Well, it was a given. Well done, Cardi.

My favorite tracks are I Do (ft. SZA), Bickenhead, Be Careful, Money Bag, and Ring (ft. Kehlani).

7. Sweetener - Ariana Grande

I’m aware this era ended maybe a month after the album’s release, but it’s still on heavy rotation for me. Sweetener was my first Ariana Grande stan experience, so to speak - I gave up discovering new pop divas around 2005, and was doubtful for a while. However, I’ll let my shocking source of words, Pete Wentz, say it all - “I love that @ArianaGrande took a left turn and made a strange, interesting pop album. She didn’t have to and I think that kind of makes it mean even more.” I think this expresses it perfectly. This is a pop album, no doubt, but each song is unique in some way. She opens the album with a short Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons cover (which made the Italian girl in me smile), and after that, each song feels like its own “mood,” with no fillers at all. Every song feels very artistically planned and intentional. While this song is full of the light, poppy love songs we’ve grown to expect from Ariana, she also  released the (mildly sacrilegious) women’s empowerment track of the year with God is a woman, songs about thriving through depression and anxiety (breathin and no tears left to cry), and even a sobering, honest look into her grief after the bombing at her Manchester concert with get well soon - complete with a moment of silence for the victims. This is Ariana’s most true-to-self, true-to-artistic-expression effort yet, and we’re so excited to see what she’s got in store for next year. Thank u, next.

My favorite tracks are pete davidson, goodnight n go, breathin, successful, God is a woman, and no tears left to cry.

8. I Hate the Way This Makes Me Feel - Tourniquet

Is this an EP? I don’t care. It needs a shoutout. One of the most underrated bands on the East Coast comes with a bang to show everyone how the metalcore trend is done. While many are afraid to push past Disembodied and into Drop Dead, Gorgeous territory, Tourniquet boldly pushes themselves into the possible leaders of a new fashioncore movement - and with a record this good, I’ll accept any scene kid that it produces. This is especially found in the lyrics - in a genre where most bands write generally threatening words that sound good over breakdowns, Tourniquet’s words paint the picture of the horror they produce musically. Seeing this band play in July was one of my favorite performances of the year - the rhythmic chaos, urgent screams, and general stage performance they deliver is some of the best in the genre. One of my favorite bits of I Hate the Way This Makes Me Feel is ambient artist Mirsy’s feature on Nine Dead Angels - the contrast of her angelic vocals against the angry dissonance provided by the band is soothing and dismaying all at once. There’s not much else to say - I just really fucking liked this record.

My favorite tracks are Nine Dead Angels, Artax, Copper Palms, and Black Cups of Spit.

9. A Love Letter To You 3 - Trippie Redd

Everyone tried to tell me. I saw Trippie’s name on my feed and slept on his music for a good year until someone made me listen to this record, and my dumb ass is thankful. This album is back-to-back bangers. Trippie’s newly polished sound is somewhere between the typical “SoundCloud rap” and the “emo rap” popularized by artists like Lil Peep.  This record goes from fun, windows-down-in-the-summertime bops… To more of those, but except some of them include Trippie telling you he’s gonna shoot you or beat your ass or whatever else you deserve, and he’s not gonna miss a beat. Jokes aside, however, Trippie shows his range with slower songs like So Alive and Love Scars 3, fit for anyone’s subtweets to their boo-that’s-not-really-their-boo. Still, though, the songs that stand out to me on this record are the faster ones - the man certainly knows how to write a catchy hook that’ll get stuck in your head for weeks. He also knows how to choose a good feature - Juice WRLD on the freestyle, as well as rising stars Emani22 and Kodie Shane on other tracks, all add the perfect complement. With A.L.L.T.Y.3, Trippie certainly has the potential to thrive with the kind of stuff that’s popular right now, and I predict 2019 being an even bigger year for him.

My favorite tracks are Topanga, Fire Starter, Love Scars 3, A.L.L.T.Y.3, 1400 / 999 Freestyle, and I Tried Loving.

10. Isolation - Kali Uchis

Kali Uchis is arguably one of the most creative artists in her corner of the music world, with a unique blend of soul, R&B, Latin influences, jazz, and more. With this release, Kali shows she’s more than just a feature on another rapper’s song - they should be calling her for a collab. Lyrically, most of Kali’s songs tell a story of a woman who enjoys the finer things and scamming men, in songs like Miami and Just a Stranger. However, she has just the same amount of finesse in the kind of dreamy motown-influenced love (and self-love) songs she based most of her first album on, such as in the tracks Flight 22 and After the Storm. Isolation is a dreamy trip through Kali’s mind, be it through fantasies of a fast and dangerous life, tracks about the frustration of competing with others, or even songs that encourage positivity and happiness. Though it didn’t get a ton of internet attention in 2018, this record is worth your listen.

My favorite tracks are Just a Stranger (ft. Steve Lacey), Miami (ft. BIA), Tyrant (ft. Jorja Smith), After the Storm (ft. Tyler, the Creator), Your Teeth in My Neck, and Dead to Me.

Best EPs, demos, and singles

Reflection of an Enemy - Mal Intent

Best track: “Drown”
Winter Promo - Tears of Blood

Best track: “FJB”
Demo ‘18 - Tears of Blood

Best track: “Spilled Milk”
Summer ‘18 Promo - Foreign Hands

Best track: “Laceration Wings”
Demo - Vortex

Best track: “In Two”
Welcome to the… - Never Ending Game

Best track: “Jokes On You”
Cursed the Will to Dream - Life’s Question

Best track: “Rhythm of the Street”
Magic With a Smile - Illusion

Best track: “Behind the Mask”
Sex Tape - Krust

Best track: “None Greater”
No Law Beyond - Invoke

Best tracks: “Lacerated Sorrow” & “Common Grave”
Steadfast - Low End

Best tracks: “Empty Vessel” & “Struck My Chord”
Multiple Homefront Chaos - MH Chaos

Best track: “Reality”
Unnoticed and Unmissed - Heavens Die

Best track: “I Made a Deal With God”
Promo 2018 - Forced Impact

Best track: “I Wanna Know”
Thank U, Next - Ariana Grande


Creature of Habit - Typecaste

Best track: “Let Myself Die”
Wasted - Juice WRLD

Lucid Dreams - Juice WRLD

Countin’ Up - Rico Nasty

Lovely - Billie Eilish

Go To Town - Doja Cat


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