Here are my ten favorite albums that have been released during the first half of 2018. There is a rough order in place, but nothing sacred. It was tremendously difficult to whittle my list down to ten; I will probably be publishing a much more expansive selection at the end of the year so no one is left out. If I’ve already reviewed an album I linked to it after the brief description.
Manja Ristić – The Nightfall (Naviar, Apr 26)
A near-flawless display of, and interaction with, the beauty of nature. Ristić takes us on a journey through the unstoppable cycle of the seasons, from the innocent warmth of summer to the growing darkness of autumn and winter, and ends with spring, whose corresponding track is one of the most sublime things I’ve ever heard. Original review
Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit (Mvka, Jun 7)
This adventurous project, led by Manuel Gagneaux, hones in on and perfects the ambitious genre mix explored on their previous albums. The messiness and failed experiments have been replaced with flawless integration of spirituals and melodic metal, stunning vocal performances, and tremendous improvements in songwriting. Original review
Toshiya Tsunoda & Taku Unami – Wovenland (Erstwhile, Mar 27)
I didn’t even write a review for this album because I knew any words I could come up with wouldn’t do it justice. The first of a planned trilogy from these two figureheads of the Japanese experimental scene, Wovenland is a powerful exploration of the sounds of environments and the uncanny properties that emerge when they are changed, sequenced, or combined.
Setsuko – The Shackles of Birth (Dog Knights Productions, Mar 9)
A mind-blowing debut effort that takes one of the most brutal and visceral approaches to screamo in recent memory. The Shackles of Birth is short, but it’s as fulfilling (and as exhausting) as a record three times its length. This young band’s potential is almost frightening. Original review
Amuleto – Misztériumok (Three:Four, Apr 6)
The compositions that comprise Misztériumok are startling, immersive, droning collages of acoustic instruments, electronics, and found sound. These tension-filled tracks are patient, vivid, and yield some tear-jerkingly beautiful moments. Original review
Gnaw Their Tongues – Genocidal Majesty (Consouling Sounds, Feb 9)
Genocidal Majesty is the amazing culmination of everything Gnaw Their Tongues has been working toward. It’s a dark, dirty, menacing record that employs the horrifying atmospherics of black metal with the jolting, metallic rhythms of industrial music.
Black Moth Super Rainbow – Panic Blooms (Rad Cult, May 4)
After six years, psychedelic pop collective Black Moth Super Rainbow have delivered their best and most emotionally touching album yet. Panic Blooms retains the weird and catchy songwriting that made so many of us fall in love long ago, with a newly nocturnal, weary tone that tugs at the heartstrings. Original review
Dosis Letalis – The Culture of Fear (Hellscape HN, Mar 20)
Possibly the most complete and cohesive wall noise album I’ve ever heard, The Culture of Fear lashes out at a less-than-stellar social climate with two unrelenting slabs of lush, chunky, visceral static. Original review
Fucked – Miss Piss (self-released, Mar 14)
I’ve been following and faithfully listening to most of what Fucked releases (minus anything anime-related), but so far nothing has hit me as hard as Miss Piss. A four-track, less than ten minute EP, it’s a skull-rattling tour-de-force of brutal noisegrind. The climax of the closing track alone makes it a favorite this year.
Anne Guthrie – Brass Orchids (Students of Decay, Mar 23)
In my opinion, this is Guthrie’s best work yet. It’s tense, dark, and abstract, crafting uneasy compositions from obscure field recordings, woozy ambience, and the mesmerizing drones created by the artist’s own French horn. Original review