It’s been said before and will be said again, but 2018 has been a great year for music. The amount of new music I have been exposed to thanks to the CPRW team, Facebook groups, and festivals like MPF has made choosing a top 10 albums of the year really difficult. The albums released this year that I’ve felt connected to far outnumber the limit of 10 required for this list. Fair Do’s, Spoilers, Spanish Love Songs, and Alkaline Trio all released amazing albums this year and only just missed out on making my list. For this I am sorry, but I do hope they make it onto some other best of 2018 lists. The Lawrence Arms collection almost made my list until I decided to exclude compilation, split, and cover albums. I haven’t listened to nearly enough EPs this year but Petrol Girls, Red City Radio, and Forever Unclean were standouts for me.
10. Entropic by Hit The Switch
As a young punk living in South Africa, I’d have to rely on the thank you lists in liner notes of albums and record label mailing lists to find new bands to listen to. I would then connect using our dial-up internet to a website like mp3.com or Yahoo (yes, I am old), spend hours waiting for songs to download just to find something new to fall in love with. As the internet has got faster, and the way in which I consume music has changed drastically, so has the manner in which I find new bands. Hit The Switch arrived on my radar when I received a Bandcamp notification from Bird Attack Records, sharing their newest album called Entropic. I quickly swiped left and searched Apple Music for this band I had never heard of, trusting the reputation of Bird Attack and believing that if it was worth a notification, it’s got to be worth listening to at least once. Clean, high-toned vocals combined with harmonized guitars, the odd shred-solo, and some tight drumming all make for an album worthy of the Bird Attack lineup and any melodic skate punk collection. The pace is set to fast from the first track and never really subsides until the end, although the more melodic songs like ‘North Star’ and ‘Manic Heart Disease’ are probably my favourites on the album.
9. I Think We’ll Be OK by Eat Defeat
Another band brought to my attention thanks to the MPF lineup and suggestions from Colin and Emma. After listening to their 2016 EP Time & Tide on repeat and seeing them open the Saturday of MPF, I was waiting for their second full-length with a high level of anticipation. I was jealous that Colin was able to get an early preview of the album and his statement that “Eat Defeat have probably won pop punk in 2018” didn’t make the wait any easier. While my title for pop punk of 2018 may be disputed and closely contested, the fact remains that I Think We’ll Be OK is one of the highlights of the year. From the opening chord, the band draw you in with songs that will be stuck in your head for days and are sure to make you feel better no matter the mood you find yourself in.
8. True Capacity by Astpai
One of my most anticipated albums of 2018, I pre-ordered True Capacity the moment it was announced. Astpai take influences from hardcore, melodic and pop punk and have managed carve out their own sound, refining it with each release. True Capacity takes the listener on a journey through the Astpai formula without ever getting too predictable. The album is full of powerful sing-along moments provided by songs like ‘Rotten Bait’, ‘Falling Trees’ and my personal favourite ‘No Hero’, which builds you up, brings you down, and builds up again with a great melody and super catchy chorus. There are also songs like the title track that remind you of the band’s hardcore roots with hints of a Refused influence, while still fitting in with the rest of the album easily. When deciding on a top 10, I look at the albums I’ve listened to the most over the last year and True Capacity has been a favourite of mine on the drive to work and back since its release. This is Astpai at their best.
7. Everything But The Here And Now by Happy Accidents
When Robyn and I made the decision to attend MPF 2018, we had no idea that our world of music would be blown open. Way back in November of 2017, Colin described Happy Accidents as a “London indie pop punk act” and “cheerful types”. After testing the water with their first album I agreed with Colin’s description and was excited to get the chance to hopefully (schedule permitting) catch them at MPF. I was lucky enough to travel to London in March for a conference and Happy Accidents announced a launch show for their new album. It was right in the middle of the crazy snow storms and I had jet lag in a new city but pushed through to attend one of my favourite gigs of the year. I remember telling Robyn after the show that Happy Accidents had become an absolute must-watch at MPF. With Everything But The Here And Now, the band push their unique genre of pop punk to new places and the talent of each member is highlighted throughout the album. The sincerity of the songs combined with genuine talent and some slick production make this one of the unmissable albums of the year. If this is what London 2018 pop punk sounds like, count me in!
6. Capture The Flag by War On Women
Following up War On Women’s amazing 2015 self-titled album was never going to be an easy feat. The band has taken the challenge head on and stepped up to deliver one of the best hardcore albums of the year. I believe that Shawna Potter is one of the best vocalists in hardcore and the talent she has for combining beautiful melodic moments with brutal emotion with her voice is second to none. With this album, it feels like War on Women have taken their anger and frustration to new levels musically with more dynamic songs than featured in their previous work. Capture The Flag is filled with passion and aggression, and songs featuring topical themes such as gun-control, LGBTQ+ rights, racism, and women’s reproductive rights. These topics should be brought into the spotlight and discussed not only through music but in all aspects of life, especially (although not exclusively) because of the Trump-era mess the planet finds itself in. Bands like War On Women help to bring these topics to the forefront and it’s easy to see how much they care about the battles we should all be fighting.
5. Self Care by We Are The Union
One of the later entries into this list, We Are The Union had faded into the background of my music library since seeing them live at Fest 10 in 2011. Sure, they put out You Can’t Hide The Sun in 2012 but it never really grabbed me in the same way as their earlier releases. Six years later, Kickstarter and the stars (or whatever) have aligned and We Are The Union have been able to release a crowdfunded album that feels like a collection of letters express-delivered to people that could use a pick-me-up. It’s ok to feel sad sometimes, you’re not alone. It’s ok to feel frustrated with the state of the world, you’re not alone. It’s ok to feel alone sometimes, you’re not alone in that either. After a pretty rough year at work, this album arrived at exactly the right time for me and has been in regular rotation since its release. The horns are more prominent again, the mix is perfect, and the songs are fun. I regret not catching the band at Fest 15 but I do hope to get the opportunity to see them live again, and thank them for an album that made me feel better when I really needed it.
4. MxPx by MxPx
MxPx have been around for a long time and have released a lot of music. Some I’ve loved, some I’ve liked well enough, and some I’ve only ever listened to once. I enjoyed 2012’s Plans Within Plans, but it still felt as though the band would never reach the highs of Life In General or Slowly Going The Way Of The Buffalo. When the band announced the Kickstarter campaign to release the self-titled album on their own, their enthusiasm was impossible to miss and they have delivered an album that is their best in decades and which has reignited my love for the band. The first 4 songs of this album easily rank as one of the best first sort-of-halves of any album in recent memory. The songs on this album emanate fun and remind us how great MxPx can be when they’re having as much fun as the listener.
3. Body Feel by Shook Ones
It’s always going to be a great year in music when it involves new Shook Ones. I had regarded the band as pretty much broken up after having heard almost nothing from them for almost 10 years. But after a member of the Fest Friends Facebook group shared the news of a new Shook Ones album and a new song, it was an easy decision to pre-order and put the song on repeat for a few days. I am a big fan of Kid Dynamite and Lifetime, and considering the influence of these two bands I’ve loved everything put out by Shook Ones almost immediately. Nearly a decade since their last full-length, Shook Ones have managed to mature their sound enough to keep things fresh while staying true to the formula that made it so easy to enjoy their releases from the past. Some might argue that the songs have gotten slower but the crunchy guitars, Shevchukesque vocals and melodies delivered with energy don’t feel slow. Although comparisons to Kid Dynamite, Lifetime, and None More Black are never far away, Shook Ones have managed to release an album that fits right into their already excellent catalogue of music and one which sounds more like the best Shook Ones rather than any other influential band.
2. Clarion Call by The Human Project
Thanks to Robyn’s recommendation, I first listened to The Human Project around May of 2018, shortly before the release of their second album Clarion Call. Thank goodness I didn’t have to wait too long for the new album, even though I feel like it would have been worth the wait regardless. This is fast, technical, and melodic punk rock done right, with thought-provoking lyrics and music that makes you want to get up and take action. Given the style of music and way in which it is delivered here, there was never any doubt that Clarion Call would be a long time favourite of mine.
1. How To Socialise & Make Friends by Camp Cope
I wasn’t super familiar with the Melbourne trio before 2018. I had heard of them touring with the likes of Against Me! and Worriers, and after listening to a few songs from their debut album and the Audiotree Live EP I was keen to hear more. My interest culminated in November 2017 when the band released the first single from How To Socialise & Make Friends into the world. ‘The Opener’ immediately drew me in with its brilliantly catchy bass lines and infectious melody. The lead single highlights the hypocrisy and misogyny occurring within the (punk) music scene, and was met with acclaim. In March of 2018, the full album was released. Not only did it live up to my expectations, it completely blew them out of the water. The album does not contain a single bad song; it’s full of personal and honest lyrics, beautiful melodies, and perfect bass lines that sound deceptively simple. Everything is put together so well: the songwriting, structure, musicianship, and production are all perfect. From the very first listen and despite being released so early in the year, I knew that the album would rank highly in my top 10 and Camp Cope are right at the top of my must-see-live-one-day list.
This top ten was written by Brett Coomer.