Ava + Sam’s Favorite Albums of 2018

2018 truly blessed our ears and playlists with superb releases. We thought that there was no better way to officially launch What The Kids What than to talk about some of our favorite albums that came out this year. Take a peek, read some of our thoughts, but most importantly discover new music and share with others! We hope you enjoy these albums as much as we do. Also, keep in mind that these are listed in no particular order. Trust me, we tried and it was just simply too hard to compare a band like Joyce Manor to Mitski.

Written by Ava Butera + Sam Schraub

 

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When I Think Of You In A Castle by Post Animal

I was way too late to the game, in regards to discovering this album. I’m not sure what was preventing me from immersing myself into the Chicago band’s newest effort for the majority of the year. I often would listen to a few tracks from the album, like “Special Moment” and “Ralphie” but never fully dove in. A few months ago, however, I decided to sit down and take in the album as a whole. Not only is it a fantastic piece of music but it feels more like a musical journey than an album. Every song flows into the next, making When I Think Of You In A Castle present itself as more of one piece of music instead of individual songs. The decision to set up the album that way is one I truly applaud. It’s fun yet still interesting to listen to front to back. The stunning opener, “Everywhere All At Once” employs a thought-provoking acoustic driven riff, accompanied by surface noise and later on, keyboards. As the track crescendos, it bursts into the bold song, “Gelatin Mode” — one of my favorite songs of the year. As soon as the “Wooo” comes onto the track, that’s when the album truly begins. Again, it’s a FUN album. It’s a great album. Listening to this album countless times also soon enough made Post Animal one of my favorite bands. Since the band often incorporates psychedelic and progressive rock into their sound, many long instrumentation parts are featured toward the end of songs on this record. The powerful and heavy breakdown at the end of “Special Moment” and the eerie, ever-creeping outro of “Heart Made of Metal” are some of my favorite moments on WITOYIAC. Post Animal really crafted a stellar rock album — something music had been lacking as of late. – Ava Butera

 

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Be the Cowboy – Mitski

Mitski Miyawaki, oh how I want to hug you tightly and let you know you are wonderful. Be the Cowboy has been on every top list I’ve seen this year and it’s a much deserved ranking. While every previous Mitski album has been just as good, there’s a wailing sense of loneliness in Be the Cowboy. But Mitski takes that universal perverse feeling and sings with such immaculate vulnerability that instead of coming across as a sad sobfest, Be the Cowboy is spun into a tale of strength, transformation, and the overwhelming sense that we’re all in this together, you’re not alone even when you feel loneliest of all. There’s an imminent irony when singing “Nobody” with thousands of other self-proclaimed lonely people. It’s a disco ball moment, a feverish universal feeling swept over an entire audience of listeners be it at home or in public. One other thing that never fails to fascinate me with Mitski’s music is how much development can take place in a song that’s less than two minutes long. “Come into the Water” can make me cry in just 90 seconds. That’s talent. – Sam Schraub

 

Twentytwo in Blue

Twentytwo in Blue by Sunflower Bean

Oh where do I even begin? This was personally my favorite album of the year. I cried, I danced, I headbanged, I sang along, I came of age with this album in both the forefront and the background the entire year. Before Twentytwo in Blue was officially released to the public, I attended the intimate listening party at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on the last day of my vacation in New York City — about a week before the album was out. Having only been a casual fan of Sunflower Bean when they toured with Human Ceremony, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this album. You can guess I was rather blown away by “Burn It,” the forceful and punk-driven opener. This track alone is unlike anything we’ve ever heard from The Bean, but lead singer, Julia Cumming’s powerful voice makes it work superbly. As does the equally badass track, “Crisis Fest.”  More emotional moments on the album like the Fleetwood Mac-inspired, “I Was A Fool,” and the vulnerable “Twentytwo” — the first song that ever made me cry — are just that, emotional. These two songs alone really show how far the band has matured, in regards to their songwriting. Then upbeat moments on Twentytwo in Blue like “Puppet Strings” and “Sinking Sands” prove to be the most infectious ones on the album thanks to guitarist Nick Kivlen taking over on vocals for the majority of both songs, with of course harmonies from Cumming. This album helped me get through a lot. I can’t thank Sunflower Bean enough for releasing this album at the time I needed it the most. – Ava

 

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Songs of Praise – Shame

Shame’s Songs of Praise gets all of my praise. Named after a program on BBC, Songs of Praise is a snarky and sardonic yet critically self-aware album that only a bunch of young twenty-year-old dudes messing around can masterfully create. They know they’re a band that’s been heard countless times before and they jab at it every chance they get. In the post-punk world, it’s hard to be original and Shame gets their originality from pointing out that they’re not the first, won’t be the last, so they’re just here for a good time. In “One Rizla” Steen says it himself: “my voice ain’t the best you heard, and you can choose to hate my words, but do I give a fuck?,” no he absolutely gives no fucks. Do they care about “issues,” sure, as evidenced by the white hot anger in “Tasteless,” which points a finger at racism. But, they mostly just don’t care, because every other band to grace the punk scene in the U.K. has said it all before. “What’s the point of talking if all your words have been said?” Steen beckons in “Dust on Trial.” The entirety of the album is inventive in its dissection of music. And while Shame’s lyrical awareness gets them so far, a lot of the album’s greatness stems from their instrumentals. “Donk” is a mere minute and 42 seconds but it’s a fiery composition that you can’t help but feel like throwing hands around to. Overall Songs of Praise is a masterfully layered album. And while “Gold Hole” a song blatantly about eating a girl out is on the same album as “Angie” a heartfelt ballad dedicated to a girl who committed suicide, it somehow works, thanks to Steen’s perfectly raucous vocals. But what else can you expect from a band that manages to cover Rock Lobster and Feliz Navidad with ease? – Sam
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Flavour by Paul Cherry

Another one of my favorite artists of 2018 was in fact, Paul Cherry. He is definitely one of the most talented musicians to have come out of the underground lately. Self-producing, writing, recording, and of course laying down all the vocals/instruments himself, he really needs to be given some credit for his work on Flavour. Although he’s release some work in the past, none of those endeavors have really reflected his most recent efforts. Flavour is somewhat of a concept album. The overlying theme throughout the record is miscommunication and after a few listens, it becomes clear to the listener. This theme truly flows well within the album, given the way society seems to perceive social media and communication. The topics discussed on this album and current and prevalent. Songs like “Your Letter,” “This High,” and “Like Yesterday” are all uniquely funky tracks bound the make you groove. Fusing elements of jazz and indie rock into his music, Cherry creates an unprecedented sound on Flavour. – Ava

 

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Go to School – The Lemon Twigs

One album I failed to appreciate until I heard it live was the Lemon Twigs’s Go to School. This is no ordinary album, but rather a musical. A musical! The musical follows a chimpanzee named Shane, who is adopted by human parents who raise him as their own, and the trials and tribulations Shane struggles with while navigating school. There are several taboo topics tackled here such as miscarriage in the romp “Never in My Arms, Always in My Heart,” and sex, sex, sex galore in “Queen of My School” in which the popular girl Daisy lays eyes upon our protagonist Shane, and well the rest is history. The musical goes on to take a tragic turn escalating with “The Fire,” and despite its focus on arson “that took a hundred lives away,” it’s such a feel good song. I know that sounds a little fucked up, but listen to it, and tell me you can resist skipping up and down when the “shananananananana”’s kick in. The Lemon Twigs are hands down the best resurgence of classic rock I’ve seen in 2018. They’re a comical and chaotic blend that falls somewhere between The Mothers of Invention, Foxygen, and the Broadway cast of Hair. Artists, I beg you, make more musicals in 2019. Please. – Sam
Francis Trouble

Francis Trouble – Albert Hammond JR

One of the many albums I quickly grew fond of that was released in the month of March, included Francis Trouble — famed Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.’s fourth effort. I was first intrigued by its catchy hooks and brilliant instrumentation, but further sucked in by the story behind the album, somewhat of a concept album. Albert claimed that Francis Trouble is his alter ego. He was supposed to be a twin and his twin brother (Francis) was a stillborn. In interviews, Albert has discussed his connection to his twin which further moved him to title his newest release ‘Francis Trouble’. Although I’m rather biased, given that Albert is one of my favorite solo artists at the moment (and The Strokes being my favorite band), I feel like there’s something for everyone on this album. Whether it be the blaring opener, “Dvsl,” the catchy single, “Far Away Truths,” or even the cool, “”Rocky’s Late Night,” all tracks on this album truly are great ones. After playing around with his sound on his previous work, I feel like Albert has crafted a sound uniquely him. And from what I’ve heard and seen, Albert really encapsulates the tracks on this album in a live setting, making me even more anxious to witness and hear these songs live. – Ava

 

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Dream Wife by Dream Wife

Does anyone remember the Hex Girls from that one episode of Scooby Doo? They’re just three badass women doing the damn music thing. And for some reason whenever I think of Dream Wife I always picture the Hex Girls. Dream Wife is what happens when the music of the riot grrrl movement is rebirthed in 2018 and their self-titled, debut album is one of the best of the year. Equally rock as rebellious, each song off the album is jammable and scream-able.  Of course the only thing better than the recorded album is hearing it live. There’s something so empowering in being album to scream “I am not my body I am somebody” (Somebody) and even more powerful when you can hear hundreds of other girls (and non-binary pals!) screaming along with you. Rakell Mjöll has an enormous stage presence, and when she leers at the crowd counting each and every bad bitch she sees there you can’t help but feel part of something greater than just yourself. “F.U.U.” is that perfect ignition for any simmering flame inside you. It’s that “angry at the world but mostly angry because of boys” song you can’t help but feel like a badass while listening to. Now go, put on “Act My Age,” perform a couple spells, and riot while you can. – Sam

 

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This Is It by The Greeting Committee

Released on the tail-end of 2018 in late October, the up-and-coming indie rock band from Kansas City, The Greeting Committee dropped their long-awaited debut. Given the band consisting of rather young members, ranging from 19 to early 20’s, this album often talks about coming of age — a common theme amongst many of the albums I gravitated toward this year. The band not only stands out from the average indie rock act by lead singer, Addie Sartino’s vocals, but also by featuring atypical instruments such as saxophones, tambourines, and prevalent pianos. The Greeting Committee play around with different genres, including alternative, rock, indie, jazz, and pop and fuse them all together, perfecting an exceptional sound that really sets them apart from most bands in the current scene. Some highlights on This Is It include the brilliant opener, “Is This It?,” the upbeat “Pull It Together,” and the pensive “17.” Each track mentioned, possesses a different presence, however the songs flow well together, furthering my praise for this record. – Ava

 

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Prom Queen – Beach Bunny

Alright, I’m cheating on this one and talking about an EP instead of an album, but hear me out. Prom Queen by Beach Bunny has been on repeat since it’s come out this past August, soundtracking my own “quarter life crisis.” Prom Queen takes place in the headspace of the average twenty-year-old tackling a quarter life crisis. Rather than glooming about it, a la Girlpool, Beach Bunny take the anxiousness that composites a pity party and emphasize the party. With a surf rock edge, the Midwesternite’s lamentations become power anthems for anybody dealing with the apocalypse that is post-adolescence.  “Prom Queen” gives the big “F.U.” to body insecurities and the expectations that society puts on us to fit that perfect Barbie doll standard. “Painkiller” is not only the best instrumentally crafted off this album, but also showcases Trifilio’s lyrical cleverness as she tosses and turns over a relationship as painful and mendable as a cavity. Put a cap on it, swallow some pills, and try to move on but what happens when the painkillers wear off? Prom Queen is Trifilio’s personal diary of navigating the difficulties of adulting and it’s wonderful, comical, and relatable. – Sam

 

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Street Safari by Public Access T.V.

If you know me, I became Public Access T.V.’s biggest fan in a mere amount of months. Now, let me give some context to that. In late February, I was browsing through Spotify, desperate to find some new music, since I often ended up listening to the same new-wave artists of the 70’s. I somehow stumbled across Street Safari, the second album from alternative rock band, Public Access T.V. I soon became absolutely enthralled with the album, even obsessed if you will. Not only does this album draw influences from those new-wave artists I mentioned before, such as Television and Talking Heads — some of lead singer, John Eatherly’s biggest inspirations — but the band takes those inspirations, incorporates them, and then adds in their own flair. I can’t go into depth about each song because this will be a full-on album review, but I can highlight some of my favorite parts of the album. Moments that shine on this album can me amounted to the playful cockiness within the lyrical content of “Lost in the Game,” the nostalgic vibe of “Meltdown,” the punk-inspired vocals on “Rough Boy,” and the funky instrumentation featured in “Metrotech”. This album truly has staying power and I encourage everyone reading this to go out and take a listen. – Ava

 

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Grapetooth – Grapetooth

I haven’t heard a band like Grapetooth. If there’s anyone like them please let me know. Seriously, point me in their direction, (I’m talking to you Pitchfork writer who rated this album a 5.9). Grapetooth’s self-titled debut is arguably the most creative album to be released this year. Duo, Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni created an album that’s a mystic blend of synth pop with songs like “Death” and a grungier folk that’s more reminiscent of Clay Frankel’s work with Twin Peaks with songs like “Mile After Mile.” Every time “Violent” stops playing I do a double take and make sure my playlist didn’t accidentally switch to The Cure’s “Inbetween Days.” Grapetooth is the perfect soundtrack for a night in with friends, bumping red solo cups and wine bottles, playing board games while eating dinner on the floor. You can feel the drunkness in “Together,” and albeit more rag-tag than studio clean, it’s a fun song, and you can’t help but feel part of the little tight knit Chicago community that created Grapetooth and all their flaws. Each time the song fades into “Trouble,” with the beat of an unplugged keyboard, I can’t help but shout along “trooooubleeeeeeee” with Chris and Clay. Grapetooth is a bubbly little spectacle that epitomizes togetherness and radicalizes rambunctiousness favoring the DIY days of youth, pushing routine out the window. – Sam

 

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Million Dollars to Kill Me by Joyce Manor

Yet another album that I definitely overplayed this year was Million Dollars to Kill Me by Joyce Manor. Often associated with the lo-fi punk scene since they first came into it, Joyce Manor basically revamped their look, feel, and sound as a band with the release of their newest effort. Although many long-time fans were shocked with what felt like a sudden change in sound, when listening to each of the band’s albums consecutively, it can easily be identified that they’ve slowly but surely been straying away from the heavier material and incorporating more polished and produced songs. And despite that brash sound working in their favor in the past, the new sound shows how much Joyce Manor has matured since the release of Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired. When I saw Joyce Manor last year toward the end of their touring cycle for Cody, they performed “Million Dollars To Kill Me” before it was released as a single. Though the lyrics within the verses were different from the finished product, at first listen I was instantly obsessed with the track. Of course oblivious me didn’t get to record it and had the lyrics, “she’s the only who can take you to a pawn shop and sell you for twice what you’re worth” stuck on repeat for almost a year. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I finally got that studio version. Along with that, songs like “Think I’m Still In Love With You” and “Silly Games” present lead singer, Barry Johnson’s well-crafted lyricism, along with longer playing times on songs. Overall, Million Dollars To Kill Me is a step in a new direction for the band, but it’s a positive one. – Ava

 

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Joy as an Act of Resistance by IDLES

The magic of punk as a genre is that it is made for questioning and challenging EVERYTHING. And that is absolutely what IDLES do with their album Joy as an Act of Resistance. “Colossus” is an uneasy opening track that threads you into the album with its steadily increasing instrumentals mounting Joe Talbot’s rallying frustrations with toxic masculinity. The first part of the song begs for forgiveness and relays the difficulties of living up to a father’s expectations which becomes more and more distorted and echoed until it fades out. Then the second part hits and the song explodes out with a shout that howls into the bridge “I don’t want to be your man.” From here the song swings into a succession of name drops, and my favorite lyric “I put homophobes in coffins.” IDLES don’t back down from there, the entire album challenges the conforms of society. “Danny Nedelko” tackles immigration, and is what Talbot has deemed the “belly of the album.” It’s by far one of the most important songs of this year considering the political climate, and Brexit hand in hand. The song rationalizes people are people, be they immigrants or not, they’re people; flesh and blood and love and beauty. IDLES quickly became a namesake in Britain and it feels like with Joy as an Act of Resistance they’re finally turning the corner and doing the same in the states – or at least we can hope people are finally listening. – Sam

 

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Clean by Soccer Mommy

This heartbreakingly beautiful piece of art is reminiscent, alluring, and poignant. Sophie Allison, who uses the alias Soccer Mommy, really broke through with Clean. Allison is surely a talented musician, who literally puts everything into each song she puts out. Having been listening to Clean throughout 2018, it’s slowly become one of the only albums I can really relate to. As a young female, it’s often hard to find another female in the music industry with a huge presence that shines through their art to relate to. But I feel like I have found this in Soccer Mommy. After I witnessed her open for Paramore this summer, I was instantly hooked by her captivating performance. Then later when I dug deeper into Allison’s work, I was stunned by her songwriting. Allison’s constant use of metaphors throughout her lyrical content really gets me — I’m a sucker for a good comparison. Comparing herself to a ‘dying flower’ on “Last Girl,” Allison really makes crushes and past love interests candid and relatable. She puts words to the aching and pining one goes after for love. And then on “Your Dog,” Allison compares herself to her partner’s ‘fucking dog’ and ‘little pet’, demanding she be treated equally and not like an animal. Throughout this album, the lyricsm and the downtrodden instrumentals that accompany them encapsulate what relationships and love often feel like, but aren’t typically discussed so vividly in music. Allison changes that with Clean. – Ava

 

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Little Dark Age – MGMT

The spearheads of indie MGMT made a return to music this year, one I kept thinking was fake. I truly thought after MGMT the band had hung up their hats and taken a break for good (and don’t you dare slander MGMT I still think that’s a fantastic album despite the bulk of fans arguing otherwise). Even among the releases of music videos for “Little Dark Age” and “Hand it Over” I still thought I’d wake up and it would all be a dream and there would be no new MGMT album. But it’s here and it’s real and it’s really good.  Little Dark Age is the most delicious taste of nostalgia to be released this year. “She Works Out Too Much,” sets the tone of the album with a very 80’s pop tale of a breakup that sounds like the ultimate workout tune, interrupted by a female instructor that I can picture so clearly in spandex, hair hung high with a scrunchie. There is a structural clarity with Little Dark Age that is reminiscent of Oracular Spectacular. Everything feels purposeful and there’s somehow a clear message to each song of this album that feels out of a new dimension. “TSLAMP” is a clear derailment of phone usage and social media consumption, whereas “Me and Michael” comes as a self-criticism in which MGMT created a song, gave it to a fictional band of their creation first, and then released it as a “rip-off” of the band they gave it to, teasing critics and consumers who attest that MGMT is not original. It’s a composite album with swirls of synth and new age flair that remind me of the old days while being a perfect soundtrack to the new age that MGMT brought into 2018.  – Sam

 

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The Nude Party by The Nude Party

Yet another one of the most fun releases of the year was hands down, The Nude Party’s debut album. Though the band has extensively released singles and EPs when they were first starting out, they’ve since then taken down said work in that they don’t really feel like it reflects the sound they were aiming for. However, with the release of their self-titled album, I feel like it really establishes not only their extremely defining sound but also The Nude Party as a band. I was first introduced to The Nude Party’s music after seeing bands I love promoting the release of the album, such as Sunflower Bean and Hinds. I instantly gravitated toward this band from the first time I heard “Chevrolet Van” and then shortly after, watching the hilarious yet creative music video. Echoing things people have told them when starting out a band like when the chorus says “you’ll never make enough money and no one cares about the things you say,” The Nude Party tell a sarcastic tale on this song. Another song I really loved was the catchy opener, “Water On Mars” featuring lead singer Patton Magee’s Jack White-esque drawl. The band draws influences from many areas. Now whether that be country, folk, alternative, and rock, all mentioned are present through each song, showing The Nude Party’s versatility as musicians. – Ava

 

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chapter 1 – girl in red

One more EP! Bet you weren’t expecting that! As it is with internet culture, 2018 was redefined as 20gayteen, and 20gayteen would not be complete without talking about girl in red’s EP chapter 1. Not to get all “hipster” on you, but this EP has flown a bit under the radar critically (despite the millions of streams online) so if you haven’t yet heard of girl in red go check her out. chapter 1 is the quintessential “Friday night, alone, sad, in love with girls, and want to dance” EP to turn to. “girls” is a poppy little piece about just how pretty girls are, yes girls, not boys. My favorite off the EP, “i wanna be your girlfriend” swoons over a yearning crush that reminds me of summer filled days and childhood crushes in the sweltering heat that you just don’t know how to handle yet. There’s nothing too special in instrumentals or production with this one, but that’s what makes me love it so dearly. It emanates an inspiring vibe that makes music seem achievable by anyone. Read those lyrics you wrote about the girl from your class you had a crush on from your diary and get grooving! – Sam

 

Be sure to check out this playlist we made on Spotify, featuring some songs from the albums mentioned!

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