Friday, 21 December 2018

Robyn's Top Ten Albums of 2018

2018 has been a pretty amazing year. After twelve years of sharing our triumphs, failures, and passions (and a lot of music), Brett and I got married on a rooftop in the middle of Johannesburg. And, because we’re not really concerned with following the strict traditional ‘rules’ for these things (insert punk joke here), we decided to have our honeymoon holiday celebration beforehand at Manchester Punk Festival. As a couple who share a love of music and live performance, this was the perfect choice for us and we had the most amazing time at MPF with Colin and Emma. MPF introduced us to the U.K.’s flourishing D.I.Y. scene, and we discovered so many fantastic British acts. The fact that half of the albums on my top 10 list for 2018 are from British bands (compared to the single band featured in last year’s list) really attests to how much of an impact MPF has had on my listening this year. We met so many lovely people in the UK (including other members of the CPRW team – hi guys!) and are honestly just dreaming up ways to come back and do it all again. These albums were the soundtrack to this amazing year.

10. MxPx by MxPx

Like last year’s Goldfinger release, the new MxPx album feels like a gift to long-time pop punk fans. These songs are nostalgic and joyful, and just so damn catchy. Brett and I would often choose to listen to this album in the car while driving around on the weekends, shamelessly belting out “It’s Friday tonight!” The band had more creative freedom to play around and have fun on this album, and it really shows. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit it into my top 10 this year, but in the end I just had to make space for MxPx.

9. Body Feel by Shook Ones

It’s been NINE YEARS since Shook Ones gave us a full-length album. Their previous record The Unquotable A.M.H. was perfection from start to finish (and, along with D4’s Civil War, is the only reason I survived my Honours year), so when this album was announced I was super excited. The week it was released I spent an entire day with it on repeat, savouring all of the Shook Ones’ fast and raw melodies, and I’ve been bopping along to these tunes for weeks now. Their sound on this record is just as gritty and fun as before, although there are a few slightly gentler parts. I also love the hand-drawn album art, which is just so cute! I can’t help wanting every possible piece of merch that goes along with this album. Body Feel was such a welcome surprise this year, and, after making their fans wait such a long time, Shook Ones definitely did not disappoint.

8. Roundabouts by Spoilers

Spoilers are undoubtedly one of my favourite British bands. Seeing them at MPF this year meant that I missed out on seeing Lightyear, but it was totally worth getting the chance to sing along to some of the songs off of their EP and to hear some forthcoming material. (Side note: an awesome side-effect of choosing to watch Spoilers was that we didn’t get stuck in the super long queue outside Zombie Shack and were able to catch Aerial Salad’s Green Day cover set. It was so sweaty, and so awesome.) Spoilers’ first full-length album follows on beautifully from their highly-successful EP, and now I really can’t wait to see them again.

7. Exiled by Drones

Drones is another band I found through MPF, since I first heard their song ‘Territories’ on one of the playlists that the organisers put out at the beginning of this year. The band’s sharp and aggressive melodies immediately stood out to me, and I was surprised when I was the only one in our small group at MPF who had planned to check them out. I also suspect that I was one of very few people in the crowd who knew every lyric to every song they played (particularly strange for a South African watching a British band at a British festival), but I think I’m just early to the party. Drones were excellent live (as I gushed to them afterwards) and I’m still binging on this album.

6. Schmaltz by Spanish Love Songs

I only really discovered Spanish Love Songs this year, and although on first listen I could not get over how much vocalist Dylan Slocum sounds like Greg Barnett from The Menzingers, this band totally won me over with their rousing melodies and intricate song-crafting. The songs on this album are saturated with emotion, with lyrics that are raw and direct. I love the resonance that Meridith Von Woert’s keys bring to songs like ‘Nuevo’ and ‘Joana, In Five Acts’, and how the band builds up its sound in a banger like ‘Bellyache’. I enjoyed Schmaltz on first listen, and I’ve only grown to like it more.

5. Clarion Call by The Human Project

The Human Project is another phenomenal band I only discovered this year, but it’s also the only British band on this list that didn’t play MPF this year (and why I’m so keen to come back and catch them in 2019!). This was one of my regular running albums this year. Even when I had nothing left, the fast-paced melodies could get me over any hill and even helped me push through a few tight work deadlines. I can only imagine the energy these guys would bring to a live performance, but I’m hoping I won’t have to wait too long to find out.

4. Everything But the Here and Now by Happy Accidents

Leading up to MPF I happily binged on Happy Accidents’ first album, You Might Be Right, and then swiftly moved onto their latest release. Both are packed with lively indie-punk jams, but their newest album is a bit more filled-out as it includes a second guitar and features Phoebe’s vocals more prominently. In a similar way to Worriers, Happy Accidents blend joyful and engaging songwriting with frank and introspective lyrics. A song like ‘Free Time’ is ridiculously catchy, while reflecting upon the damaging effects of remaining too self-focused; and, ‘Text Me When You’re Home’ is both tragic and powerful (and absolutely superb live). This album feels timely and fresh, and seeing many of these songs played live is one of my best memories from this year.

3. True Capacity by Astpai

If it were possible for The Flatliners and None More Black to have an Austrian lovechild, then Astpai would be it. As a major fan of the former two bands, it’s unsurprising that I’ve quickly come to love Astpai as well. This album is full of great hooks and interesting melodic details, and is suffused with Zock’s gorgeously gruff vocals. It’s excellent from start to finish, and at one point this year it was the only album I could bear to listen to while working. Astpai have also been announced for next year’s MPF, so there’s even more incentive for me to get there.

2. I Think We’ll Be OK by Eat Defeat

Whenever anyone asked me which band at MPF really impressed me, Eat Defeat was my default answer. I’d listened to them a little before we saw them, but I was totally won over by their energetic live performance. And then this album came out, and I quickly became an Eat Defeat superfan. These guys just exude happiness and positive energy, especially on this album (the central message is, after all, that “we’ll be okay”). Possibly my favourite thing about this album is the vocal layering and harmonising (it’s everywhere, but check out the superb endings for both ‘Running in Place’ and ‘Not Today, Old Friend’). I’ve been jamming to it almost non-stop since it was released, and I’ll still be rocking out to Eat Defeat in 2019.

1. How to Socialise and Make Friends by Camp Cope

Damn, Camp Cope. I just completely fell in love with this band this year, and I’m definitely not the only one. This Australian three-piece seems to have had an amazing year touring on a phenomenal sophomore album, and I’m so happy for them. With Georgia Maq’s soaring vocals and searing lyrics, and Kelly-Dawn essentially playing lead bass, they’re a band with a unique setup and a distinctive sound. The internet was all abuzz about this album and I really wondered if there was any way it could live up to the hype, but from the first few delectable bass notes on ‘The Opener’ I was totally hooked. Songs like ‘The Face of God’ and ‘I’ve Got You’ are incredibly moving and powerful, and no matter how many times I listen to this record it still gives me all of the feels. ‘The Face of God’ in particular seems timely – speaking to all of the issues raised this year by #MeToo, #TimesUp, and even #MakingSpacesSafer. As I wrote in my review for this album, these songs are personal and hard-hitting, gaining their intensity from the band members’ own personal experiences, and I just can’t imagine ever tiring of listening to them.

Honourable mentions: Old Youth by Former Member, Self Care by We Are The Union, Palms by Thrice, Salvation by The Penske File, I Was Broken When You Got Here by Call Me Malcolm, and Is This Thing Cursed? by Alkaline Trio. And, even though it’s not a full-length album, I just have to include a shout out to Red City Radio’s EP Skytigers, which I played to absolute death this year.

This top ten was written by Robyn Pierce.

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