There’s a five to ten percent where I’m not listening to metal, or I’m just in the mood for something else, and in that window I find music that is just as impactful for me as metal. I just spend less time listening to it but a lot of my favorite albums and musicians aren’t even metal, or metal related or adjacent (punk). So here’s some stuff I enjoyed that’s outside the metal-sphere of 2018…
15. Colter Wall – Songs of the Plains
I can’t even get over Colter’s voice. There’s such a tenor of a seasoned country stalwart in his crooning you’d never believe this was coming out of a 23 year old kid. It’s with such an experienced voice that Colter brings us his second album, which is full of emotional, classic, country songs beautifully sung and performed minimally to perfection. This is the country that needs to be heard.
14. Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
Fucked Up put out so man EPs and singles and non-full-length material it’s fucking impossible to keep up with so it’s no surprise their new full-length slipped right by me this fall. Fucked Up being one of the most experimental and creative punk/hardcore bands return with an hour and a half concept album that true to form is all over the place creatively. From their go to punk songs, the electronic infused dance, pop hits, indie rock, fucking disco, and everything in-between. Fucked Up are never boring, never coasting, and always pushing the boundaries of their music and in today’s age of rehash and reboot, that’s something to fucking praise.
13. The Damned – Evil Spirits
I mean, it’s The Damned. They’ve been classic for so many years now and this new album does nothing to disrupt that status. True to their unpredictable and wild form, this album draws from all of their career: it’s got some goth stuff, some punk stuff, some rock n’ roll stuff, some rockabilly, and the band sounds great. Dave Vanian’s vocals are on point and he sounds just as great as he ever did. It’s The Damned and it’s fucking awesome.
12. Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
Following up last years debut album Sidelong with some more roughed edged, heart felt, spitfire country. Simple, honest, effective, good country music.
11. Neko Case – Hell-On
I don’t venture into mainstream, hipster, indie rock very often but Neko Case and her folk infused crooning always gets me. Hell, I didn’t even know there was bullshit hipster associations with her until she was name dropped on Parks and Rec. Regardless, I’m endlessly infatuated with her music and I don’t give a shit about any of the scene cred involved with saying so.
10. Red City Radio – SkyTiger EP
I always equate Red City Radio with Nothington as both play (played) a nostalgia driven, Bruce Springsteen, story telling styled pop punk. Nothington veered away from that but Red City Radio doubled down and on this new album (EP) they explore how they tell those stories through the music as well as the lyrics as this is their most diverse sounding album. Way more rock and roll that isn’t all to different than The Gaslight Anthem’s rockier moments. Maybe not as catchy as their previous two albums but still a damn good listen from a band I thoroughly enjoy.
9. Marissa Nadler – For My Crimes
Marissa Nadler’s alternative tinged, dreamy and haunting folk songs are uniquely beautiful and simultaneously sad. The songs put you in a difficult spot because you’re so enamored with her talent but the songs are so heart wrenching you don’t want to be enjoying her dark times but alas, that’s what listening to Marissa Nadler is about.
8. First Aid Kit – Ruins
Leave it to some Swedes to fully capture that Americana folk sound so captivatingly. First Aid Kit write beautifully warm and mesmerizing folk songs with some added pop influences but each song is unique and interesting on its own.
7. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers
I’m fine if Brian Fallon wants to keep putting out solo albums and skip The Gaslight Anthem seeing as how their last album wasn’t all that great. Now he’s put out two excellent solo albums in the mean time, even though, they don’t sound that much different from Gaslight. So why is his songwriting more clever, more emotional, and more on point on his solo albums? Who the fuck knows but Sleepwalkers is all the storytelling focussed, heart-string pulling, when we were young in middle town America gold that Fallon does so well.
6. Lucero – Among the Ghosts
After the amazing All a Man Should Do and its surprisingly post rock bend, I wasn’t sure what the band would do next. Over the past four albums they’ve grown larger with their composition and bombastic, soul infused, outlaw country, and that original alt country, punk attitude sort of took a backseat. A little bit it did. And I loved the soul flavor. Maybe not so much on Women and Work where they went all in on the soul and horns section but on Among the Ghosts the boys stripped it down to just the main band. It reminds me greatly of Tennessee, my unquestionably favorite of the band’s. That is to say, Ghosts is more focussed, darker, and all those sad love song stylings. But it’s not just a throwback. It’s more of a maturity and its modern production combined with Nichols life experience and matured songwriting make it sound like a new, refreshed band. It’s basic, but I think that’s where the band truly shines.
5. The Devil Makes Three – Chains Are Broken
The Devil Makes Three’s cool, sultry, swinging, rockabilly, blues, indie rock infused country is a treat for the fucking ears. Nothing but catchy song after catchy song. Simply excellent.
4. Manes – Slow Motion Death Sequence
In case you didn’t know, Manes put out an amazingly killer black metal album in 1999 then said “well, lets change everything up” and became an ever evolving experimental, jazz-inspired, electronic-ish band releasing an insane amount of weird singles and compilations but whenever they decide to put out a fully realized full length album I usually check it out. On this album, some metal like qualities have slid back in to the band but it’s more like an industrial kind of guitar work. It’s not quite industrial, not quite metal, but heavy and “metal” sounding. The whole album is kind of weighty. Electronics, and samples, and sounds scapes, even pop at times. Sure as shit, it’s an eclectic weird fest but more palatable than they’ve been before and with some actual catchy songs. It’s grown on me more and more with each listen and now, obviously, has become on of my favorites of the year.
3. The Armed – Only Love
Despite my love of punk rock, over the past decade or so I have really been keeping up with it all that much, save the bands I’ve always liked and a couple new ones here and there, so I don’t really know what the genre is producing that is new and original but The Armed don’t sound like any punk band I’ve heard, and I fucking love that. Equal parts, electronic, bit noise, punk, and grind, this frantic album is a cornucopia of sound for the ear that is equally chaotic and maddening as it is pleasing and melancholic. There’s that same originality and blast of attitude that made me gravitate towards White Lung. Both are unique in completely different ways and The Armed are a shot of awesome I needed in my punk rock arm.
2. Ghostbound – All is Phantom
Ghostbound just jumps in full-hearted and is acutely aware of just how over the top they can get. It’s like goth era The Damned, meets Nick Cave, meets While Heaven Wept, Anathema, but with some post-punk, and some nods to metal. Particularly black metal, or post whatever metal. There’s a lot going on here. “Cinematic” is a pretty good summation. One review I read described it as “Opeth meets David Bowie.” Maybe so when Opeth was good. Again, it speaks to the eclectic nature of the album. I think it’s fucking amazing. I love the “everything and the kitchen sink” approach and how well they pull it off without sounding a fucking mess, and how eccentric they get. It has it’s own uniqueness to it and that’s mostly what I’m looking for nowadays. Stuff that has its own identity.
1. Austin Lucas – Immortal Americans
Maybe 10 or 11 years ago when I discovered Chuck Ragan and all those punk guys exploring their folk side, Austin Lucas was one of the musicians that was in my rotation constantly. The Bristle Ridge album he did with Ragan as well as his first couple releases were some of the few good memories I have from that time. Despite that, I haven’t kept up with Lucas over the years so the news of this new album was a nice surprise. Just looking at the cover told me that Lucas has gone though some changes since last we met and this stirring album proves that even more. Lucas has always had a way with lyrics and songwriting and there’s no lack of that here, if anything, he’s only gotten better. More refined, yet more creative, yet more free all at once. Speaking of refined, my god his voice is absolutely perfect on this album. Some times on older releases I thought his voice veered into caterwaul at moments which became almost too much for me at time but on Immortal Americans it’s simply powerful.
Lucas’ songs are passionate, emotional, truthful, and devastating. He’s a master. Simply beautiful