DS Staff Picks: Jay Stone’s Favorite Albums of 2018 (w/Spotify playlist)

Hey boys and girls, Jay Stone checking in with yet another year-end list. I’m the dopey one on the left up there. Anywho, as is par for the course, I put way more than ten albums on my “top ten” list, because rules are for squares or whatever. I tend to have a tough time coming up with a definitive number one, but my choice here has occupied that spot for the last eight months and never really got knocked off. A lot of the top half of the list is almost interchangeable based on my current mood, and might have even changed in the time between when I typed this list and when I actually published it. There’s a pretty extensive (fifty-ish song) Spotify playlist that features at least a couple tracks from each of these releases, so check it out and maybe find some new music! Check it all out below!

Noteworthy EPs

If you’ve been reading my lists here for the last eight years (hi dad!) you probably know I keep my actual “best of” list limited to only full-length studio albums, because it’s just too damn overwhelming otherwise. That said, there are a handful of EPs that I found particularly enjoyable this year. There’s a few tracks from each in the Spotify playlist down below. So, in no particular order…

  • Dave Hause: September Haze – Five songs including a reworked version of Bury Me In Philly‘s “Shaky Jesus” and a cover of Brandi Carlisle’s call to arms “Hold Out Your Hand.” Self-released too. Fun little album that’s more than just a gap-filler between full lengths.
  • Kayleigh Goldsworthy: All These Miles – In the few years since Goldsworthy put out her last album, she jumped from Nashville to Philly, a move that was more than just geographic. There’s more of a raw, visceral sound to the tracks here that showcase the talent that she’s got in droves.
  • Red City Radio: SkyTigers – Jesus tap-dancing Christ this album rules. Garrett Dale and the fellas found something unique, a style of punk rock that harnesses all the bombast of a gigantic 70s arena rock band.
  • Face To Face: Hold Fast – I have to admit that this album was a bit of a grower for me. I’ve been a diehard F2F fan for more than two decades, but one of the first songs I heard from this was a little too Jason Mraz-ish for my liking. But I listened to it with headphones on recently and totally heard everything differently. Gives great new emotion to some classic songs and sheds new light on a few deeper cuts.
  • Strung Out: Black Out The Sky – I wish that this album, and its individual tracks, were so much longer. It beautifully showcases the talents within Strung Out’s ranks in ways that balls-to-the-wall punk rock don’t always. Each member’s performances really, truly shine. Damn I love this album.

The Spotify Playlist

 

The Top Eighteen

18. William Elliott Whitmore – Kilonova

We don’t give William Elliott Whitmore enough coverage on this site, and that’s a damn shame. On Kilonova, one of the most badass voices and songwriters in the game opted to put out an album of covers from artists as varied as The Magnetic Fields, Red Meat, and Bad Religion. One of the more unique records in recent years.

 

 

 

17. Art Thieves – Russian Rats 

Kick-ass, raw punk rock from the streets (south of) Boston. The kind of middle-finger to the government, call-to-arms record that we were supposed to start seeing in waves after the Trump inauguration.

 

 

 

 

16. Bar Stool Preachers – Grazie Governo

At some level, it feels like a travesty to have BSP this low, but maybe that speaks to the depth of quality music released this year. This album is more enjoyable with each and every listen, and the packaging put together by the Pirates Press crew was hands-down the best of the year. Lots of different sounds and influences on this one.

 

 

 

15. Laura Jane Grace and the Devouring Mothers – Bought To Rot

It’s weird to say that this might be the most personal album in the Laura Jane Grace catalog because she’s long worn her heart pretty viscerally on her sleeve, but I think it’s true nonetheless. It’s a bit more scattered than an Against Me! album, though people who were worried that a solo album would be too much of a departure were sadly mistaken. It’s catchy, it’s funny, it’s blunt, it’s interesting, it’s at times jarring. Exactly what you’d want from a Laura Jane solo release.

 

 

14. Coffin Salesman – Nicrophorus Americanus

I vividly remember the first time I saw Coffin Salesman live. I’d seen Aria play in a bunch of other bands over time – which is not a surprise because I think he’s at least sat in with 84% of Boston bands over the last few years. But it took catching him open for Tim Barry in Manchester, New Hampshire, under the Coffin Salesman moniker to wrap my head around what a tremendously talented songwriter and lyricist he is. Nicrophorus Americanus finds him backed by a pretty bombastic full band. Go find this one.

 

 

13. Harker – No Discordance

I can’t recall who it was amongst my PR associates that forwarded me this album, and that’s a damn shame, because I need to properly thank them again. I love this album. It’s like if The Loved Ones had a tryst with like Mineral or Braid or some other classic emo band and had their love child in London.

 

 

 

12. The Shell Corporation – Fucked

If you want fire and brimstone and scorched earth reactions to the direction the country has been heading the last couple years, look know further than the aptly-titled Fucked. Jan and the fellas have never really pulled punches anyway, but they through a barrage of haymakers right from the opening notes of this one. How The Shell Corporation aren’t a bigger deal is a mystery to me. This album slays.

 

 

 

11. Bundles – Deaf Dogs

I don’t think I was at Bundles’ first show however many years ago, but I do know that I was at a show at the lovable Allston dive bar O’Brien’s pretty early on, and I have been hooked ever since. Lots of raw emotion and throat-shredding vocals and angular guitar melodies on this one. “Lorem Ipsum” and “B&E” and “State Of Seattle” are damn near perfect songs.

 

 

 

10. Murder By Death – The Other Shore

This is a concept album about a relationship that’s grown troubled in the wake of an apocalypse, and finds our protagonist unsure if he should flee to distant lands in outer space or stay behind on the ravaged planet. It’s a space-western, cello-heavy rock opera that really defies any and all of those labels. This band, more than any other on this list or probably in this scene, is truly unique.

 

 

9. Swingin’ Utters – Peace And Love

There’ve been a few moving parts in the Utters’ ranks over the years, and that was certainly the case on Peace And Love, as it’s the first album to feature the new rhythm section of Luke Ray and Tony Teixeira. Peace And Love features a lot of the weird stylistic turns we’ve come to know and love from the Utters over the years, and closes with probably the most beautiful and  song in their catalog, the Jack Dalrymple-penned “HLS” about his friend and former bandmate Heiko Schrepel.

 

 

8. Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers

As a longtime Gaslight fan, I liked Fallon’s debut solo album, Painkillers, a couple years ago, particularly for the different style it presented, even if I didn’t always think the songs hit the mark. Sleepwalkers has been a favorite since first listen, and while it’s still got plenty of Fallon’s dark sarcasm present, it’s also the most happy he’s been on record in some time.

 

 

 

7. Mercy Union – The Quarry

Whether in The Scandals or in his own solo work, Jared Hart has always been able to write a hook in a variety of different musical styles. His new project finds him branching in different directions and collaborating with a different cast of characters for an album that sounds like an awful lot of different influences within a style all its own.

 

 

 

6. Tiny Stills – Laughing Into The Void

Unfortunately, a lot of things that end up in my inbox get bookmarked and forgotten about before I listen to them, but I remember being drawn to the title of this album when I first read it, so I fired it up and holy shit I was hooked from before the first song was over. Kailynn West has struck gold not only in her ability to write a poppy hook that’s not too syrupy sweet, but in her ability to write songs that are honest and vulnerable and yet defiantly strong.

 

 

5. Street Dogs – Stand For Something Or Die For Nothing

Street Dogs may not be the primary source of income for each of the band’s members anymore, but this album is proof that when these five guys get together, they’re as strong as they’ve ever been. They took a few stylistic chances here, and they paid off. I have a soft spot for State Of Grace still, but SFSODFN might be their best album to date.

 

 

 

4. The Interrupters – Fight The Good Fight

I haven’t talked to them specifically about it, but I’d assume the members of The Interrupters would rank 2018 as the best year of their career, and rightfully so. This band just keeps getting better and raising the bar for themselves, and aren’t afraid to work their asses off in the process. Some of the most raw and honest moments of their songwriting careers, yet their still positive and uplifting and danceable as hell.

 

 

3. Culture Abuse – Bay Dream

If you’re picking up on a theme, it’s that I was particularly drawn to a lot of music that was fun and honest and interesting and poppy-but-not-pop, and this album probably best exemplifies all those labels. This album has been virtually stuck in my car’s CD player pretty much since it came out, and always seems to put my in a good mood on the ride to work.

 

 

 

2. Smoking Popes – Into The Agony

This album has a picture of Judy Garland on the cover and features a song inspired by Judy Garland and a cover of another song that Judy Garland popularized many decades ago and is, unquestionably, the best prototypical “punk rock” record of the year. Poppy, anthemic, hooky as hell. The Popes have been somehow both influential and underrated over the years, and Into The Agony proves that they haven’t lost any miles-per-hour off their collective fastball.

 

 

1. Lucero – Among The Ghosts

There are some bands that put out a song that comes out at the right time and seems to best exemplify what you’re going through at the time. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a band that puts out a whole album like that. Somehow, Lucero has made a career out of doing that. Two decades in, Ben and Brian and John and Roy and Rick put out an album full of infinite different sounds and textures that is somehow the most “Lucero” album of their career.


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