It is that time again. For the sake of this list indie rock is anything that is not mainstream rock or hard enough to be punk or metal. Some folk and shoe gaze are included , though it can't be dark enough to be goth or tense enough to be post-punk The score from my reviews to help determine the ranking , but also how many times Last FM told me I listened to each album.An album can have all the critical acclaim in the world but if it does not inspire multiple listens then how good can it actually be ?
While the top ten lists for other genres leaned more heavily on the side of new blood it seems there is an even blend of well established acts who put out the greatest quality albums .; Rather than posting media of a track from each band I am leaving a link to the review, which will contain Bandcamp or Full Album Streams. Ok enough talking about it, the time has come to dig into the top 10 indie rock albums of 2018.
10-Slow Crush -"Aurora"
If this had come out earlier in the year and I had a more easilly accessible copy of it this album by the Belgian shoe-gaze band would have been higher on the list. But I just found them, the review is hot off the press, yet I could not avoid putting them on here because they are so good at what they do.
9-Rome-"Hall of Thatch"
By the second song Jerome Reuter proves his gets better with each album. By the 3rd song it's obvious this album is a lot darker, which is fine by me as it carries a very Swans like feel. The theme of the album is a darker spiritual exploration and much more personal than the political themes he has championed in the past. I think this is a wise choice for him as this seems to elicit a more emotional response.
8- Hillary Woods-"Colt"
Hilary Woods would not be out of place on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Less fey sounding than the Cocteau Twins, yet it occupies a similar sonic space as an album like "Treasure". These ballads are haunting, yet invoke spirits of inner space rather than from beyond the grave. Hazy not dark would be the best way to describe the sound. There is a jazz like minimalism, though unlike 90s acid jazz, it serves the melody rather than the beat. The percussion on these songs is incidental.Any genre that embraces emotive and shadow filled sounds could embrace what is done here.
7-Church Girls- "Home"
Poppier than what I expect of most indie rock that tries to be too cool for school. It's not a poppy as say Pale Waves, though it's not as dark as them either. Though there is a touch of punk to what they do. Mariel's voice is plaintive while being emotive. It reminds me of 90s alt rock like Liz Phair or Veruca Salt. She does have more range than she lets on at first . These guys are pretty impressive musically as the solo on "Black Seas" is pretty unexpected and highly fleet of finger.it's worth the dollar they are going to make me spring for it, which says something about the infectious nature of these songs.
6-Deafheaven- "Ordinary Corrupt Human Love"
The new album opens in a tone that is not metal at all with piano and post-rocky instrumentation taking a dreamy groove which the vocals eventually snarl over. Snarling doesn't instantly make things metal here or really anywhere. " The drums punch certain accents, but until it swells I am reluctant to call it metal. The drummer has really stepped up his game that is for certain. Vocally the are back to sticking to the same snarl so far. It's his typically mid range, sometimes it sounds like he is making more of an attempt to form words than others.It earns multiple listens ,while its not a metal album it excels when it comes to guitar playing and songwriting.
I was worried the boys from Denmark would stray to far from punk after their last album and the funky Rolling Stones like side project of their singer . The first song holds roots in the early days of punk, but is just good fucking music. While the drums continue to have a reckless edge the horns smooth out the sonic landscape. I am glad the gray clouds close in over the second half of the album, though none of it is sunshine and puppies,as it preserves the growing legacy of this band.
4-Marissa Nadler- "For My Crimes"
She continues down a path of hauntingly morose balladry. More ghostly than Lana Del Ray. More folk than country this time around, though hints of western sounds still color this album. Things seem simpler here. More minimal compositions, keep the focus on the vocals. Sometimes these vocals are layered on the chorus. Wispy the songs become intangible and don't hook me as quickly as some of her previous efforts, so its a grower not a shower.
These guys have come along a way. This is a much smoother and polished effort right off the bat with a stab at pop injected. Gone is the grunge rawness. It does get kicked up later in the first song, but the hooky alternative rock going on here is much different than my first taste of the band. I would not call it selling out. It's a refining that could open them up to a bigger audience, it's a natural progression I suppose as I could never find their last album. This one certainly earned repeat listens.
2- Nothing -"Dance on the Blacktop"
I found "Tired of Tomorrow" to be too happy and was underwhelmed. While this album might not be full return to the grunge tinged "Guilty of Everything" it does make shoe-gaze great again with more balls behind it than the previous album and keeps the surreal step back into the 90s going . There are authentic guitar tones and the songs builds into a hooky melody at the end. The new element being introduced on this album is the kind of vintage slacker rock that bands like Dinosaur Jr and Sebadoh used to crank out. This is a pretty solid return for them and was highly enjoyed even if it floats away at the end.
1-Pianos Become the Teeth - "Wait For Love"
There fourth album is another picture of this band's dramatic evolution. If you go back and listen to their first album it doesn't even seem like the same band. Gone is the explosive energy and the screamed vocals. While I think of these guys as having come from the same emo-revival that bands like Touche Amore came from, it's weird to here such refined indie rock coming from these guys. They are capable of going at it with an almost Jawbreaker like drive on "Charisma". The vocals are plaintive, but well placed. The guitar don't told much in terms of distortion and works off of a dream like jangle more often than not. While other albums might have scored higher on the initial listen this one earned it's place in heavy rotation and I actually listened to it more than the other albums.