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10 Great Albums You Might've Missed in 2018

Music Lists Underrated Albums
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You know those albums that you had on constant rotation throughout the year, but as much as you talk about them and shove them in the face of your friends, they remain largely ignored? These are those albums. These are the diamonds in the rough that didn’t quite get the attention they deserve. These are the albums that were just as painstakingly-crafted as more well-known releases, but still feel like juicy secrets that only you know about. These are the records that flew under the radar and that make the current streaming-driven music landscape still feel like magic. These are the albums that would reinvigorate any cynical music listener who thinks that all the good stuff has come and gone. From the blue lo-fi pop of Free Cake for Every Creature to the grand psych-rock of Kikagaku Moyo and the gripping post-punk of Moaning, Paste chose 10 full-length albums, listed alphabetically below, that you might have missed this year and that deserve far more of the limelight.

Here are 10 great albums you might’ve missed in 2018:

Foxing: Nearer My God
Foxing are an emo gateway band that often get overlooked. Their third full-length LP, Nearer My God, arrived in August but has since slipped from our end-of-the-year music radar. It’s not too late to discover their heartfelt hard rock, though. Forget what you’ve heard about maudlin sad-boy bands: Nearer My God is funny, sad and real, and it smashes all the emo tropes while still maintaining the genre’s general stylistic guidelines. Also, how often do you hear bagpipes on a rock album? Probably not too frequently, but Foxing make good use of the woodwind sack on the echoey “Bastardizer,” which follows “Trapped in Dillard’s,” a cleverly devastating song about being stuck in the mall and stuck in life. Foxing make emo accessible, and Nearer My God is their most approachable record yet. —Ellen Johnson


Forth Wanderers: Forth Wanderers
The self-titled sophomore record and Sub Pop debut from New Jersey rock band Forth Wanderers follows the trends of rock in 2018, or the three F’s, if you will: It’s frank, female-fronted and fiery. And following another, less alliterate-friendly trend, Forth Wanderers are also young. Like so many of the year’s best indie-rockers, they’re still in their salad days. Ben Guterl and Ava Trilling first collaborated in high school in 2013 when the former sent the latter, his crush at the time, a demo tape. Five years later, they’re still exploring the young adult’s mind, offering up blunt takes on life and love without any of that coming-of-age cliche. “Nevermine” is their cleverest rendering, a glob of wordplay and regret, or maybe lack thereof. “I didn’t waste my time,” Trilling sings. “You were never mine.” They’re now into their second album (following their 2014 debut, Tough Love), but Forth Wanderers still have plenty of time to show the world their stuff. Give them a head start and listen to this record: A letdown is unlikely. —Ellen Johnson


Free Cake For Every Creature: The Bluest Star
Despite her indulgent moniker, Katie Bennett’s music is anything but over-the-top. Bennett makes paired-down bedroom rock as Free Cake For Every Creature, and her 2018 album, The Bluest Star, is a follow-up to 2016’s adorably titled Talking Quietly of Anything With You. And listening to her songs is a little bit like that, like conversing with a friend you’ve known for years, talking about nothing and everything at once. Bennett’s lyrics are a free-flowing river of stream-of-consciousness wisdom, and she seems comfortable enough to say anything around you, her listener and her friend. “Ten years later and I still play your song,” she sings on “Hometown Hero.” “It breathes and bobs along.” “In Your Car” is a snack-sized summer romance, and album standout “Around You” is a surprising lo-fi bop. Maybe there’s Free Cake, but there’s no pomp and circumstance at this party—just frank lyrics, uncomplicated production and a whole lot of heart. —Ellen Johnson


Hello June: Hello June
The first time I heard The Cranberries’ “Dreams” was while watching what I believe to be the greatest romantic comedy of all time, You’ve Got Mail. Maybe I’m partial to that track because I associate it with a chipper wool-clad Meg Ryan skipping around the Upper West Side, crisp fallen leaves underfoot. But the likelier cause for my devotion to “Dreams” is its stellar display of etched guitar, shimmery production, affecting lyrics and Dolores O’Riordan’s haunting voice. I’ve never heard another song pair warm, memorable riffs with idyllic lyrics in that same way, until I heard “Mars,” the lead-off track from Hello June’s self-titled debut. O’Riordan mused that dreams aren’t always as they seem, and Hello June’s Sarah Rudy, assumes, almost grimly, “that there’s so much more than we know / that there’s so much more to fear.” Vocalist/guitarist Rudy and drummer Whit Alexander, who met in their shared apartment building in Morgantown, W.V., don’t tarry on their very first album—within the first few bars of “Mars,” they already appear as a poised musical force. Like The Cranberries and other heroes of sweeping ‘90s guitar rock, Hello June are adept at drawing maximum emotion from just a few simple riffs. They manage to make vast, planetary ponderings feel like a devoted promise: “As soon as you hear / that there’s life up on Mars / that there’s more out there,” Rudy sings. “I’ll catch a plane / Or I’ll walk there.”In the same way that “Dreams” jostles memories of a New York fall and a glorious bygone era of alt-rock and romantic comedies, the blustery twinkle of Hello June offers up eight autumn anthems. But while the romantic comedy may be dead, indie rock sure isn’t. —Ellen Johnson


Jonathan Wilson: Rare Birds
If you’re exhausted by the hype of Father John Misty or jaded with Kurt Vile’s rambling psychedelia but still enjoy the moody, esoteric musings of a hairy gentleman, Jonathan Wilson might be just the man you’re looking for. Wilson himself won’t advise you against indulging in flannel-clad fanfare—he produced Misty’s debut album, Fear Fun, as well as records for Dawes, Chris Robinson and others. He’s a stalwart studio rat, but some of Wilson’s best work is found in his own solo ventures, like this year’s sleeper Rare Birds, which sneakily arrived in March and hasn’t caused much of a ruckus since. Sleeper it may be, Rare Birds is also one of the year’s best slow-burn records. It’s 80 minutes of cosmic, trippy guitar rock heavily influenced by the blues. Listen long enough and you’ll find yourself taking flight, like one of Wilson’s “rare birds,” who are “out in space,” paying little attention to the world below them. Like Misty, Wilson also dallies in Portlandia-inspired hipster critique, but he very well may be chastising Tillman himself on the title track. “Falsetto folkies with Pitchfork at your side,” he sings. “Your tunes, they will be forgotten.” Though Wilson’s tunes may have succumbed to the same fate this year, they don’t deserve it. From the twangy, declarative do-si-do on “Hi Ho the Righteous” to the bouncy subculture gospel of “Miriam Montague,” Wilson’s tolerably wordy indie-rock ditties are rare fare, indeed. —Ellen Johnson


Kikagaku Moyo: Masana Temples
Masana Temples, the fourth full-length from Japanese psychedelic outfit Kikagaku Moyo, is a magical whirlwind of twisting, multicolored soundscapes, dramatic tempo shifts, masterful performances and playful experimentation. After the calming instrumental “Entrance,” the band rips into the album’s centerpiece, “Dripping Sun,” a several-part epic in the form of an eight-minute, otherworldly psych-rock song. The track has a detectable inhale and exhale—collapsing for something more understated and introspective before expanding into something much more colossal, transcendent and detailed. The passages of uninhibited, melting guitar solos are the moments where the band effectively spreads their peacock wings and they couldn’t be more awe-inspiring. Their shape-shifting sound is guaranteed to bewilder with its touches of classical Indian music, psych-folk, krautrock and pop, and they master both the laidback psych that lulls you into a dreamlike state or the animated psych that broadens your musical and spiritual horizons. —Lizzie Manno


Moaning: Moaning
On their self-titled debut album, Moaning captured the frenetic energy and uncertainty of 2018 across its 10 tracks. It was a big year for the Los Angeles post-punk trio as they released their first LP on Sub Pop and played live with The Breeders, Ought, Preoccupations, Mothers, Lala Lala and others. The album opens with the punchy “Don’t Go,” which captures the fragility of a relationship and the fear of depending on something that you know won’t last forever (“This might work out somehow / Might as well see / Cause it’s right, right now / Even if it’s temporary”). They master the coupling of rumbling, feverish guitars with starkly-delivered deadpan vocals, mercurial synths and tumultuous drums—sounding composed one second and effectively disheveled the next. Their volatile guitars mirror the distressed, anxious tone of their lyrics—“Tired” and “Useless” follow the end of a relationship with the latter laced with hints of regret and the rehashing of memories to find out why it soured (“There’s nothing we can do / You had to go / If I loved you / I guess you’ll never know”). Frontman Sean Solomon is at his best on “Artificial”—with an imitation of someone rather pompous (“Pardon me / Everything’s so easy”) and a vigorously delivered, reality check of a chorus. —Lizzie Manno


Our Girl: Stranger Today
Brighton, U.K. trio Our Girl’s debut album, Stranger Today, is the perfect gift for the listener that loves a good musical dichotomy. Fronted by The Big Moon’s Soph Nathan, the band exudes the sweet and tender meets heavy and formidable sound of groups like the Pixies and My Bloody Valentine with their cathartic, thoughtful pop/rock and distorted shoegaze and grunge. As much as the term “grunge” has been thrown around to describe the band, it doesn’t fully account for the beauty and richness of Nathan’s songs and guitar playing. It’s actually quite easy to become numb to her guitar skills because the shredding never lets up, but it’s a different kind of shred—not the overblown, self-indulgent kind but the kind of melodic, earworm riffs and engrossing guitar tones and effects that justify both fixation and awe. Their self-titled track, like many others, discusses the emotional intricacies of relationships, the closeness in feeling between romantic love and friendships and the devastating effect that isolation can have when you have a strong support system. Though she often overthinks and overanalyzes (“I get scared that other people haven’t been in my head”), it’s because she cares and her interconnectedness with others will bring out emotions in anyone who listens, particularly on songs like “Being Around” and “Josephine” (“My stomach’s tied to my friends”). While the band isn’t immune to occasional aimlessness on tracks like “Sub Rosa” and “Heat,” their debut album should be praised for what it is—a strong record with memorable melodies, lovely vocals, impactful lyrics and some of the best guitar playing you’ll hear this year. —Lizzie Manno


Say Sue Me: Where We Were Together
If one thing’s for sure, it’s that South Korean rock four-piece Say Sue Me made one of the finest dream pop albums in recent memory. The young quartet’s latest album, Where We Were Together, is brimming with bright, visceral jangle pop tinted with moody post-punk, ’60s girl group pop and ’90s indie rock. Sumi Choi’s frosty vocals are garnished with sunny guitar riffs as their lyrics capture the polar opposites of the emotional spectrum. On “Coming to the End,” Choi sings an unpleasant truth, “Today is coming to the end / Nobody’s going to tell you who you are” while on “But I Like You,” she showcases self-loathing and finds solace in another person (“I’m full of things I hate but I like you”). Say Sue Me don’t revolutionize the pop song structure, but while many dream pop bands favor sonics and aesthetic over songwriting, Say Sue Me bring the focus back to those things that will keep you coming back for more—sugary melodies, immediate hooks and affecting lyrics (“I’m afraid of making new memories without you”). This isn’t an album that’s going to sound kitschy or unfashionable in 10 years like other bands that spend too much time fiddling with their guitar pedals or that try to sound like the next Bandcamp sensation. Where We Were Together is peppered with ecstasy-filled peaks of pure guitar joy, soothing, melancholy vocals and unforgettable, luminous melodies that will rattle in your brain long after the needle leaves the grooves. —Lizzie Manno


Young Jesus: The Whole Thing Is Just There
Young Jesus fuse emo-tinged indie rock with post-rock influences in a way that feels both ingenious and comfortingly familiar. Their latest album for Saddle Creek, The Whole Thing Is Just There, is based on the words of neo-expressionist painter Philip Guston who once said, “What I’m always seeking is some great simplicity where the whole thing is just there.” As the members of Young Jesus similarly extend their arms into the far unknown in hopes of grasping something worthy of artistic inspiration, they manage to capture something worthwhile. While on its face, a six-track album with a 20-minute closer seems like a steep hill to climb for some listeners, as long as you tread and listen carefully, you will be plentifully rewarded. Marked by uninhibited vocals that burn and heal, unwinding, chaotic guitars, crashing drums and lyrics coded with imagery of dreams, nature and the human soul, these songs are as gut-wrenching as they are beautiful. —Lizzie Manno

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