Top 5 Albums of 2018
As I write this, we’re already almost two weeks into 2019. I didn’t have time to write this after migrating my blog since I thought it was a bit more important to get that done and detail the process.
I always think about my top albums and concerts that I’ve been to in a year and I wrote about my soundtrack one year. For 2018, I thought it might actually be nice to write it publicly than just writing it on a list somewhere and not having it anywhere.
These probably aren’t a big surprise for anyone who knows me really well, but here are my top five albums of 2018:
5. The Longshot, “Love is For Losers”
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day released his side project’s debut album in 2018. It’s less punk and more straight-up rock and roll, though Billie Joe’s voice is instantly recognizable. The band consists of Green Day’s touring guitarist Jeff Matika on bass, guitarist Kevin Preston, and drummer David S. Field.
I particularly liked this album because it shows Billie Joe’s ability to write catchy songs that don’t sound like Green Day. He’s done this before with Green Day when they did the Foxboro Hot Tubs album in 2008 and also The Network in 2003. Although Green Day are massive and can command arena audiences, The Longshot goes back to the simple roots and joy of rock and roll in a small, sweaty club.
Favorite track: “Cult Hero”
There’s something charming about Billie Joe singing, “I’m a last of the lesser knowns/Because I wanna be a Cult Hero.” The guitar riff is simple but catchy, but gets stuck in your head really easily.
4. The Interrupters, “Fight the Good Fight”
I discovered The Interrupters back in 2017 when they opened for Green Day in Cologne. I was pretty much hooked after that, buying their first two albums on vinyl fairly quickly after seeing them. “Fight the Good Fight” is in the same vein as their self-titled debut and “Say It Out Loud:” smart ska punk with a political message (at times).
This album was on repeat because it just automatically made me want to dance. The song “Title Holder” was one of my anthems this year, with the chorus, “Fight like a title holder/Stand like a champion/Live like a warrior/And never let ‘em break you down,” getting me motivated for the day.
The Interrupters are coming back to Europe supporting the Dropkick Murphys this summer with a few scattered solo dates, though nothing extraordinarily close to Düsseldorf. Maybe I’ll catch them in another city. Who knows?
Favorite track: “Gave You Everything”
Despite really loving “Title Holder,” “Gave You Everything” is a damn great break-up song that has no meaning for me at all personally right now. I just love the driving bass line and drums here.
3. Franz Ferdinand, “Always Ascending”
OK, I’m not going to lie, but deciding between the top three albums of 2018 was really difficult. This is Franz Ferdinand’s first album after becoming a five-piece band after guitarist Nick McCarthy left in 2016. Any time any band that I really love changes the lineup, I get nervous, despite understanding that things like this happen. “Always Ascending” proved me wrong and I didn’t need to be nervous.
This album brings Franz Ferdinand back to playing music that sounds like it should be in a club. And it should be! Julian Corrie’s contributions to the album are quite clear with a lot more synth than previous albums, but it works.
In 2018, I saw Franz Ferdinand twice in London: in February at Brixton Academy and in September at the legendary Roundhouse. Despite Albert Hammond, Jr. opening and having great company at the Brixton Academy show, I think the Roundhouse one was slightly better because the venue is really impressive and boasts amazing acoustics.
Favorite track: “Always Ascending”
What a brilliant opening track. I really enjoy how the song builds at the beginning and acoustically gets you to feel the ascending. In general, this album makes me really appreciate listening to music on vinyl, but I find this particular track on vinyl in a big room with the volume turned up is pure musical bliss. Well, ok, “pure musical bliss” is actually hearing this song live.
A close second is “Lazy Boy” because of the guitar riff and it’s just lyrically a song I think I can sometimes relate to.
2. The Living End, “Wunderbar”
The Living End is a band that has a special place in my heart because my Australian pen pal Linda got me into them back when we first started writing to each other in middle school. We saw them together for the first time in 2017 (and multiple times at that) and had the opportunity to tell them how their band plays a special role in our penpalship.
Their seventh album “Shift” was pretty solid, but it didn’t catch my ear like some of their previous albums did. In contrast, “Wunderbar” is a pretty perfect album. Their experiment of recording the album in Berlin with Tobias Kuhn producing really paid off: there’s some songs reminiscent of earlier ones and there are experiments like “Amsterdam” with Chris Cheney alone on his guitar.
A day after arriving back in Europe from LA, I went to Eindhoven alone to see The Living End, which some would say is crazy. For me, it was the right choice because I got a live preview of “Wunderbar” before its release. Sometimes it’s special experiencing new songs live before hearing them recorded.
Favorite track: “Not Like the Other Boys”
A song about being slightly different, “Not Like the Other Boys” is a powerful statement coming from a fairly “blokey” band like The Living End. But the way Chris screams, “He said I won’t, so let me bleed/ You can’t decide my life for me/And my love doesn’t define/Cause you have your way/And I have mine” contrasts with how he sings the verses, which brings across their message in a very forceful way.
1. Frank Turner, “Be More Kind”
Before people say, “Frank Turner sold out” or “Frank Turner went mainstream” with “Be More Kind,” my answer: seriously, would it be better if he put out the same music all the time? I liked “Be More Kind” because it was different. Sure, it’s a bit more polished and cleaner than his previous albums, but I think he is expanding beyond his core base of fans. Songs like “1933” and “The Lifeboat” show that Frank is still in touch with what got his older fans’ attention in the first place: smart lyrics, guitars, raw emotion.
For me, “Be More Kind” was the right album at the right time for me. Is it my favorite Frank Turner album? No. But it had a mix of songs that resonated for various reasons. For example, “Don’t Worry” and “Brave Face” because of going through some personal stuff; “1933,” “Make America Great Again,” “Get It Right,” because of the current political climate throughout the world.
I got lucky that Frank and the Sleeping Souls played a small club show in Warsaw when I was there for work, so I bought a ticket and went alone. It was quite possibly the best Frank show I’ve been to because it was so intimate and Frank and the Sleeping Souls’ energy is just electrifying. To say the least, it definitely convinced me to get tickets for Lost Evenings 3, even if I wasn’t sure I could make it in 2019.
Favorite track: “Blackout”
Yes, there were songs that resonated with me on very emotional and intellectual levels. “Blackout” is a track that Frank wrote essentially because he wanted something that could be played in a club. If you haven’t noticed, I really like songs that are danceable, even if I really don’t like going to clubs nowadays. But it makes me want to get up and dance at home. And guess what? For me, that’s a big part of what music should do. And the last point what I like about “Blackout?” To quote Megan Trainor, “I’m all ‘bout that bass, ‘bout that bass…”
Yes, 2018 was a very predictable year for what wound up being my favorite albums. What can I say? A lot of these bands are in my top ten favorites overall. But what am I looking forward to in 2019? Another year of favorites but in the realm of seeing them live: Weezer, Frank Turner, and hopefully The Living End.