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Sowing's 2018

I deleted all 125 of my lists and am now archiving my favorite albums from each year of the previous decade. Just my way of trimming my profile and making it a bit leaner/meaner. List is straightforward; these are my 20 favorite releases from 2018.
20Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Sparkle Hard


An intriguing blend of guitar rock, psychedelia, funk, and classic rock. The album is very much driven by Malkmus and his electric guitar, but it's the softer moments that sparkle the hardest so to speak - like the shimmering acoustic ballad "Solid Silk".
19The Wonder Years
Sister Cities


Somehow this was my first Wonder Years album, which makes no sense as one of the site's bigger pop-punk fans. This is more mature and emotionally intense than I'm used to hearing from the genre, and I fell in love right away. "Pyramids of Salt" and the title track reign supreme.
18Haley Heynderickx
I Need to Start a Garden


A bustling and experimental indie-folk record. It's very subtle and understated except for when it isn't, like the hoarsely shouted titular refrain on "Oom Sha La La", which remains one of the decade's most inspiring songs.
17Pinegrove
Skylight


A solid collection of indie-folk/country gems. The smooth production and lush atmospheres are lit up by gorgeous pianos and outstanding vocals. A very consistent batch of songs with nary a weak track.
16A Perfect Circle
Eat the Elephant


Politically motivated rock always scores big with me, and this one covers very relevant themes of corruption and abuse of power. One of my favorite moments comes on 'TalkTalk', where Maynard shouts "Try walkin' your talk or get the fuck out of my way", seemingly at the broad population of internet debaters and religious fanatics who don't practice what they preach.
15Wild Pink
Yolk in the Fur


This is an absolutely beautiful experience. Lavish indie-rock crosses paths with Americana in a way reminiscent of The War On Drugs at their very best. This is a warm, inviting, breezy listen that can be enjoyed in just about any setting.
14Julia Holter
Aviary


A lot of the songs here are peculiar, lengthy, and dauntingly inharmonious - but when this thing hits like it does on 'I Shall Love 2', for instance, it is monumental. There's a very autumn-y feel to this, like Holter's voice is at one with the clattering chimes and wispy strings that surround her, her voice going wherever the wind carries.
13Cursive
Vitriola


This is an absolutely miserable album. It's sort of like a much better-done version of Eat The Elephant thematically - it covers a lot of the same ideas - corruption, abuse of power, etc. - but in greater detail and with an anger that actually reflects the issues at hand. 'Noble Soldier/Dystopian Lament' is one of the greatest songs about disillusionment with the world/society/politics that I've ever heard.
12Antarctigo Vespucci
Love in the Time of E​-​Mail


Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock create pop-punk magic here. Lyrically vulnerable and insanely catchy, this thing should do for modern teens what Ocean Avenue and blink-182's self-titled did for me. It's a throwback pop-punk album in all the best ways.
11William Ryan Key
Thirteen


Want to hear Yellowcard's former front man do his best Elliott Smith impression? Perhaps the most surprising thing about Thirteen is that is actually works. Devoid of pop-punk energy, Key hasn't lost any of his lyrical or melodic prowess. This is a stunning acoustic EP with immersive atmospheres, haunting choruses, and memorable hooks. If he continues down this path, his solo career could be just as fruitful as his one with Yellowcard.
10Let's Eat Grandma
I'm All Ears


And the award for most uncomfortable band name goes to...but yeah, this experimental indie-pop/electronic release blends the best traits of Chvrches and Lorde. While the entire thing is very memorable, three towering "epics" are the cornerstones that make this a top-10 LP for 2018: "Snakes & Ladders", "Cool & Collected", and "Donnie Darko". All clocking in between 6-11 minutes, they wind, progress within themselves, and arrive at some spectacularly unanticipated peaks.
9Shakey Graves
Can't Wake Up


Shifting from strictly indie-folk/Americana to more of a dark, mysterious alt-rock sound, Can't Wake Up is the fullest-sounding and most rewarding album in Shakey Graves' discography. "Counting Sheep" is an eerie lullabye-like opener that will make you want to lurk in dark alleys. "Dining Alone" has some of the most pristine acoustic guitars you'll hear. "Big Bad Wolf" is simultaneously welcoming and ominous. The aura here is very strange and diverse, making it difficult to pinpoint in a blurb. You're better off just checking it out.
8Florence and the Machine
High as Hope


There are times where I seriously think this could be her best album, even over Ceremonials. Even if it isn't, it's damn close. The production is flawless, and the overall smoothness and lush strings/synths recall Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool, which is very much a new aesthetic for Florence. Closer 'No Choir' is as minimal and barely exposed as I've ever heard her. Make no mistake though, this still thumps when it wants to - see "Patricia" and "100 Years". This album is a clear 2018 standout and obvious top 10.
7Allelic
The Smoke of Atavistic Fires


Project of site user lalchimiste, this gorgeous blend of black metal and folk immediately ensnared my attention. The atmospheres are as chilling as they are epic, and the atmosphere swings seamlessly between storms of riffs, battle-ready chaos, and lush, intimate acoustic gardens. I'm not even a fan of metal broadly speaking; for many this could rank higher.
6mewithoutYou
[untitled] e.p.


The calm before the storm. This EP is like discussing the end of the world over tea. In blending acoustic and ambient styles, it's very spacious and open. As usual, Aaron Weiss' lyrics are of immense importance, and a lot of them are even better than they are on the LP. As per usual mwY standards, there are no bad songs here - just better ones like "Bethlehem, WV", "Cities of the Plain", "August 6th", and "Kristy W/ The Sparkling Teeth".
5Kacey Musgraves
Golden Hour


Musgraves emits a certain warmth here, as if she's trying to suppress a smile but just can't. Each song’s atmosphere possesses a wistful forlornness, but also this sly, knowing optimism that paints each verse a silver lining. It's very intimate songwriting that seems in no hurry, and it encourages listeners to slow down and look at the world around them as well. Beautiful and accessible, Golden Hour is a huge album for modern country.
4The Republic of Wolves
Shrine


Everyone's favorite Brand New disciples come through with their very own version of The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. This is their magnum opus, combining all their greatest strengths into one album. The intensity can get downright frightening ("Bask", "Mitama"), while the beauty can also be breathtaking ("Birdless Cage", "Worry If You Want"). Fans of dark, heavy alt-rock with mysterious atmospheres and themes based in folklore, spirituality, and existentialism should make this a priority immediately.
3Ben Howard
Noonday Dream


I've rarely seen an album cover/title combination so aptly define the music it contains. Noonday Dream is a spellbinding collage of hazy, dry afternoon heat. It's a very ambient experience, relying on instrumental atmospheres to transport the listener. The record deftly yet unpredictably weaves between all things earthly and ethereal, resulting in everything from the cutting electric guitars of 'A Boat to an Island on the Wall' to 'Murmurations' - a song about isolation that retreats so far inward that it practically emerges into another realm. To see him go from Starbucks art like Every Kingdom to something like this is almost unbelievable.
2Foxing
Nearer My God


On the heels of the very understated Dealer, Nearer My God sees Foxing go all-out. This is grandiosity and epicness thrown into a blender with influences ranging from Brand New/Modest Mouse/Band of Horses to Muse, and rather surprisingly, it actually works. Themes of the end of the world abound, the record is driven by an intense urgency, and the near-maniacal vocal delivery helps to sell it - as do the incredible guitar solos on "Lich Prince" and "Lambert". This album is a soundtrack to the sinking titanic that is our modern society.
1mewithoutYou
[Untitled]


mewithoutYou's greatest album - yep, even better than Brother, Sister. This takes the intensity that was displayed during certain moments of Pale Horses, corrects the foggy production, and blasts it across an entire album. Weiss' lyrics are more cryptic than ever, but also better. The melodies are as catchy as they've ever been, even amidst the mayhem. mewithoutYou ultimately close out their careers with the downright frightening "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore" - a glimpse into the mind of someone actively having a mental breakdown. This swept away 2018's top spot, and it was never even really close.
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