Music does not obey time in the same way that its creators have to – it builds on itself, it influences laterally, it changes the context of what precedes and proceeds it, and makes itself into something current and classic at the same time. Yet, the passing of a year shows how much music has somehow evolved, even if its evolution is not exactly linear.
Just like the music of 2018, the past year saw as much change as has ever happened for our site – our rebranding has allowed us to engage with an even broader scope of music and subsequently widening audience. The energy that this opportunity has brought to our team of writers and creators is palpable. I think our volume and variety of content reflects that excitement, as does your support as readers. Thank you.
But what does all this have to do with our AOTY list?
If, like I mentioned earlier, music is not bound by the same limits of time that its creators are, then neither is it limited by the words its creators or critics have to describe it. 2018 has seen music explore beyond boundaries in ways that are new and exciting, merging disparate influences and elements into cohesive and emotive wholes. This description can be given for much of the content of our AOTY list – many of the albums here are difficult to label, existing on intersections of influences and genres that are new and promising. Others pull from previous decades or build on established sounds, creating through-lines from the past to the present. And it is this variety that leads me to proudly present what is the first AOTY list from Everything Is Noise. Even though many worthy albums did not quite make it onto the list, our hope is that it helps you find music that moves you, and is a start to even further discovery.
50 // Sora Tob Sakana – Alight
May 16 // Warner Music
49 // Crck Lcks – Double Rift
July 11 // Apollo Sounds
When a skilled musician like Rafiq Bhatia sets his mind to exploring the vast array of influences at his disposal, there are very few limits to what might come out of the ensuing experimentation. Breaking English is an intriguing, multifaceted inquiry into the depths of musical expressiveness, carrying Bhatia’s unique, impressive fingerprints all over its nine genre-eschewing compositions.
Nothing compares to a good old subversion of expectations. Behind the dreamy, at times sensual noise pop/shoegaze sound of Mexican duo Mint Field lies a swirling, enticing darkness, which is made all the more potent by the ominous Spanish vocals. Estrella Sanchez and Amor Amezcua have successfully added another country to the world map of shoegaze aficionados.
Acadie: Raw is everything there is to love about the current neo-soul and nu-jazz movements, combining sounds from both styles with adventurous abandon. This results in a flurry of smooth, exciting instrumentals for Allysha Joy to lay her sultry, silken vocals over. What a voice!
Although all of Azusa’s members have well-established pedigrees, their international collaboration on Heavy Yoke speaks for itself. Technical, unpredictable, and cathartic, this is the genre-bending culmination of impassioned songwriting and precise performances from experienced and energized musicians.
An unusual record by an unusual band. London-based jazz outfit Sons Of Kemet proved that they are a force to reckon with, and band leader Shabaka Hutchings established himself as one of the most forward-thinking individuals in modern jazz with a record dedicated to important black women throughout history.
Nobly late to the party, but good enough to get a last-minute spot on this list. Make We Here Our Camp Of Winter channels its inner Boards Of Canada, adding a lot of winter and bonfire romance to the mixture. You better listen to this when the snow falls. It adds the much needed extra portion of magic.
Modern r’n’b and old-school soul go extremely well together. Leon Bridges delivers a modern soul record with so much life and finesse, so much smoothness, so much groove. You could try not to move, but why? Give in. Enjoy yourself. All day, all night.
It may not be an easy listen, but damn, it’s utterly rewarding. Pierrefilant is the new album by French experimental band Saint Sadrill, which comes courtesy of the outstanding Lyon-based label Dur Et Doux. Get lost in the imaginative soundscapes and captivating vocal performance.
This album brought us one of the catchiest songs of the year, accompanied by a joyful, energetic, and phenomenally groovy rest of the record. Band leader Forrest Kline created a wonderful and vitalizing indie pop album, packed with synth funk and dance influences.
Coming back to a sense of normality after a life-altering event can be a daunting task at best, and an impossible feat at worst. And yet, Yob have brought their absolute A-game even after singer/guitarist Mike Scheidt’s close brush with death in 2017. Our Raw Heart feels like a celebration of life by way of crawling, heart-wrenching doom metal.
For being kind of a big pop record, Primal Heart is shamefully overlooked within the music scene. Aside from the songs being fantastic across the board, the record is empowering and triumphant, but also vulnerable and thoroughly human. This is without a doubt Kimbra’s most accomplished and consistent work to date.
Modern free jazz at its best! The whole of There Is A Place carries reminiscences of old greats like Pharoah Sanders on its sleeve, while portraying a promising way forward for the genre. Maisha are the new bearers of a torch that was lit decades ago, and I’m anxious to find out where they will carry it next.
Con Todo El Mundo is the soundtrack to a movie Quentin Tarantino has always dreamt of making. Drawing from funk, psychedelia, surf rock, and world music influences, this (mostly) instrumental trio likes to keep things fresh, groovy, and refreshingly weird. Khruangbin are not a band to miss out on in the years to come!
Clocking in at nearly two hours, Abraham‘s post-metal opus Look, Here Comes The Dark! is quite a mountain to climb, but it’s worth every moment. This journey makes the album so rewarding and beautiful, and at the end, you will reach the record’s peak, slightly exhausted, but a changed person.
Blackened screamo with orchestral elements and dreamy soundscapes? Yes please! Respire’s Dénouement (extra points for the French title) is a true underground gem. It’s full of gorgeous, exuberant compositions, and yet it retains the amateurish charm of a small garage band, especially in the black metal passages.
Despite the bombast of 70s prog not being a stranger to technical death metal, Alkaloid’s take on this combination is especially unrestrained and expansive. However, instead of this approach weighing down Liquid Anatomy, the record flows in enjoyable and unexpected directions, moving forward the genre at the same time.
Between indie, post-punk, post-rock, and experimental music, The Will To Burn is a phenomenal gem which simply keeps on growing with every listening session. Full of great ideas, emotional summits, and authentic songwriting, Scraps Of Tape released a criminally overlooked masterpiece.
At this point, a Delta Sleep album will be always a highlight of the year. Their ability to create complex compositions which sound like some friends having the time of their lives in a shitty garage and just enjoying music for the sake of making it will be always their most important quality. Ghost City oozes this essence with every note.
Have You In My Wilderness mesmerized me back in 2015, and it made Julia Holter an artist to look out for. Now, in 2018, she has outdone herself with Aviary. 90 minutes of avant-garde art pop/folk, equally majestic and compelling. Take your time, and immerse yourself in her world.
It’s usually only in retrospect that the impact of a record becomes apparent. And yet, the importance of Dirty Computer seemed obvious even upon its release. Janelle Monáe’s songwriting shows the powerful blurring of the personal and political, all against a backdrop of pristine pop, r’n’b, and hip hop.
Warm blankets, a cup of tea, and a raging snowstorm outside – those are the things I wish for the most when listening to Birthplace. It exudes the same feelings of warmth and fragility that made Novo Amor’s 2017 collaborative record with Ed Tullett one of the best records of the year, and it almost matches it in quality, too.
The grand genre-less dream of Ryan Lott has finally become a reality. Brighter Wounds sees Son Lux (now consisting of Lott alongside guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang) in peak condition. A myriad of different elements are spliced into lustrous, marvelous forms throughout the record’s ten tracks, and Lott’s inimitable vocal performance has reached staggering new heights.
Step one: write some damn amazing indie pop/rock tracks. Step two: slather them in various effects and reverb to a degree which would do My Bloody Valentine proud. Step three: AOTY material. Kraus’ second full-length is a master class in shoegaze, and stands out head and shoulders even among all the amazing records this genre has produced in 2018.
Rarely does a record appear on the scene to such nearly universal critical and popular acclaim. However, with its implementation of saxophone, classic prog, and electronic flourishes into an undeniably death metal framework, Rivers of Nihil crafted a record so unbelievably heavy yet adventurously progressive that its reception has hardly been surprising.
Vulnerable. Light-footed. Mesmerizing. Vibrant. VLMV are all that and so much more. The London duo takes cues from an amalgam of unobtrusive musical styles and mold them into a unique and captivating sound that’s truly their own. Stranded, Not Lost leaves you stranded on the shores of your own subconscious, in the most beautiful way imaginable.
Shift is the audio equivalent to a sweet summer daydream, a guided tour to the innermost reaches of peace within your soul. Combining ambient textures with glimpses of folk and slightly danceable beats, Henry Green crafted an astonishingly mature and promising début record. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.
We say goodbye to a phenomenal musical year. Many great records didn’t make the cut for our list, but we feel very confident and happy about the outcome. We are eager to hear about your picks, and please keep it civil and constructive.
Thanks for scrolling!