alternative press ap best albums 2018
[Photos by: twenty one pilots/Jonathan Weiner, the Aces, the Dirty Nil/Shervin Lainez, Panic! At The Disco/Jonathan Weiner]

Do you have any idea how many records are released in any given year? That’s OK, neither do we. We do know that there are thousands of records that come out every year, from manufactured pop stars to local church choirs, and all of them are hoping to get your attention.

So through all the noise, here’s what stood out. Check out our favorite albums from 2018.

Read more: twenty one pilots invite fans to explore DEMA in interactive experience
Underoath – Erase Me
Underoath Erase Me

Underoath’s highly anticipated Erase Me finds the reunited group creating a renewed vibrancy in a music scene that’s seemingly idling. Fans and critics use the term “game-changing” rather loosely these days, but really, there isn’t a more concise way to describe what Underoath have captured on Erase Me. The music business being what it is, you would think the band would reintroduce themselves in the most populist way possible. So when they decided that “On My Teeth”—the accelerated head rush powered by Aaron Gillespie’s regimented, martial drumming and heightened by Spencer Chamberlain’s roar—would be the world’s first exposure to the band since 2011, it felt like traveling across a burning jungle on a zipline going 117 mph.—Jason Pettigrew

5 Seconds Of Summer – Youngblood

5 Seconds of Summer Youngblood
5 Seconds Of Summer’s Youngblood is an amalgamation of love, loss, heartbreak and finding yourself. From the echoing opening chords of the title track to the pounding electric beats of “Babylon,” the 16-song album leans completely into pop, but also invites ’80s influences and far more grooves than you’d normally find in the mainstream. Personal standouts for the band include the reflective, melancholy tones of “Lie To Me,” as well as the heartbreaking waltz of “Ghost Of You.”—Mackenzie Hall

Old Wounds – Glow

Old Wounds Glow
It’s hard to tell whether New Jersey quartet Old Wounds have come to elevate hardcore or to put several bullets in its drooping, blurry-inked carcass. On the band’s third album Glow, they offer a rare chemistry that traipses across genre signifiers in a way that’s not slavish, exacting or contrived. In their hallowed lair, nü-metal survivors (Deftones), modern hardcore avatars (Every Time I Die, Glassjaw) and classic goth forebears (Sex Gang Children) are placed on pedestals of equal height. Fortified by their own taste for adventure and the knowledge that a whisper is just as terrifying as a scream, Old Wounds are magnificently compelling in their quest to befuddle critics and pit policemen, alike.—Jason Pettigrew

Palaye Royale – Boom Boom Room (Side B)

palaye royale boom boom room side b
Palaye Royale’s debut album, Boom Boom Room (Side A), saw the Toronto natives compared to everyone from emo-punk legends My Chemical Romance to indie-rock heavyweights the Libertines. Everything from the lyrics to the band’s outfits and stage show was carefully planned, the product of an artistic vision grander than most musicians dare to dream up. A vision so daring, in fact, that Palaye Royale had to split the music into two parts. The second installment, Boom Boom Room (Side B), sees the self-described “fashion art-rock” band pushing their eclecticism further still. “Dying In A Hot Tub” is more composed and classier than much of what Palaye Royale have released up to this point, and it’s one of Side B’s standout tracks. This may be the end of an era, but you get the feeling Palaye Royale are only just getting started.—Jake Richardson

YUNGBLUD – 21st Century Liability

Yungblud 21st Century Liability
London-via-Yorkshire MC Dominic Harrison—aka YUNGBLUD—is raising social consciousness, heart rate and hell. Harrison is equally informed by classic punk sides as he is hip-hop and the U.K. garage scene, delivering a flow somewhere between Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and the Streets’ Mike Skinner with even more mania. He tackles disparaging attitudes toward youth (“21st Century Liability”), depression (“Anarchist”) and shitty misogyny (“Polygraph Eyes”) in ways that lift your spirit high enough that you’ll want to fight beside him.—Jason Pettigrew

Architects – Holy Hell

Architects Holy Hell
Holy Hell opens with “Death Is Not Defeat.” An album highlight, it encompasses all the very aspects of grief Architects felt after guitarist Tom Searle’s death, and finds the band addressing him directly. Of course, the band gave it everything they fucking had, something you can hear across the album’s 11 tracks. Naturally, the songs are characterized by unimaginable pain, but rather than reveling in misery, Holy Hell takes the excellent foundation laid down by Searle on All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us and pursues them to a triumphant conclusion. This is a career-defining moment for Architects, but more than that, it’s a message of love for their brother and friend. —Jake Richardson.

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
They say third time’s a charm, and the 1975 are proving this to be true. On A Brief Inquiry, the Manchester act pack everything from massive gospel choir backing to ambient, robotic rhythms to create a puzzle-like final package that ensures each track has its own unique fit as part of the whole. Social and political commentary flow through poignant, heartfelt reflection, which will certainly make you think. It’ll certainly make you feel hope. And it’ll certainly make you believe that this honest and ambitious effort is the band’s best work to date.—Maggie Dickman

Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys

post malone beerbongs & bentleys
It was hard to escape Post Malone this year and with good reason. The singer dominated the charts with “rockstar,” “Psycho” and “Better Now,” but beerbongs & bentleys proves there’s more to Posty than his hits. He successfully melds a mellow flow with an alternative grit across the board while still proving he’s got a bit more up his sleeve with the standout acoustic track “Stay.” The result is an album chock full of earworms that beckon you to sing along.—Rachel Campbell

The Dirty Nil – Master Volume

The Dirty Nil Master Volume
Listen: There are plenty of reasons to want to emigrate to Canada, but at the top of our list are the Dirty Nil. Do you have a pulse? Does that pulse pound for distortion, feedback and sardonic wit? Do you teeter the line between painfully cool and cheesy as hell with a maniacal smile plastered on your face? Whether you’re into power hooks, Hubba Bubba bubblegum, middle-finger-raising power ballads (“Auf Wiedersehen”) or Metallica covers (“Hit The Lights”), Master Volume is your album, so do yourself a favor and accept this gift.—Rabab Al-Sharif

The Aces – When My Heart Felt Volcanic

The Aces When My Heart Felt Volcanic
Jam-packed with retro-vibing melodies and a whole lotta girl power, alt rockers the Aces marked their full-length debut with a record as heartfelt and honest as it is dance-worthy and dreamy. With When My Heart Felt Volcanic, the Utah-based four piece embraced all-too-relatable lyrics that glisten with an indie sheen for an album that cements their standing in the pop-rock world.—Maggie Dickman

Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

Pale Waves My Mind Makes Noises
My Mind Makes Noises is dressed in a shimmery exterior and jam-packed with intoxicating hooks, proving Pale Waves possess the power of pop. But the beauty of the buzzy Brits’ debut is the way Heather Baron-Gracie pours her heart out into lyrics that encompass love, loss and longing in a package that creates a dance party out of heartbreak.—Maggie Dickman

Joyce Manor – Million Dollars To Kill Me

Joyce Manor Million Dollars To Kill Me
Joyce Manor’s fifth full-length enlists Converge guitarist and prolific producer Kurt Ballou for a more refined version of what the band do best: write quick and quirky power pop. The band continue to prove a song doesn’t need more than three minutes to make a point, and frontman Barry Johnson can still write lyrics that while at times can sound pretty stupid, they are actually really clever. Hearing the line “Girls can be kind of controlling” in the standout “Big Lie” might give you the urge to kick the testicles clear off his body before he follows it up with a sarcastic “I wanna be controlled, I think it’d be alright.” The moral of the story is that Joyce Manor keep things interesting by requiring you to listen closely for the punchline.—Rabab Al-Sharif

Turnstile – Time & Space

Turnstile Time & Space
Baltimore punks Turnstile point a new forward for hardcore on their breakthrough second album, Time & Space. Showing that you can still two-step and slam dance while allowing for a broader palette of sonic colors, the rhythmic tautness of the band’s effervescent sophomore shuffle only lets up for brief, kaleidoscopic moments of unexpected texture. Dare we say it sounds something like a No Warning record, but with all the drugs kicking in at once.—Philip Trapp

Hot Mulligan – Pilot

Hot Mulligan Pilot
It’s no surprise that Hot Mulligan tend to get compared to the band’s Midwest pop-punk counterparts. But the group’s debut full-length, Pilot, is proving the Michigan-based act have something special going for them. Jam-packed with song titles so long they could challenge old-school Panic! At The Disco in length, and exploding with an energy reminiscent of Take This To Your Grave-era Fall Out Boy, Pilot thrives in throwback-worthy nostalgia—with a signature Hot Mulligan twist. There are intricate math-rock vibes on songs such as “There Was A Semi Fight On I-69,” which stand out alongside stripped-down tracks such as “Pluto Was Never Really A Planet Either Even.” Ultimately, the album melds intricate guitar and cathartic lyricism into a final product that’s utterly relatable and made for singing along—a fact made obvious when you see ’em live.—Maggie Dickman

nothing,nowhere. – ruiner

nothing,nowhere ruiner
Backed by stamps of approval from emo torchbearers Pete Wentz and Chris Carrabba, nothing,nowhere. took the leap from underground buzz act to full-blown head-turner with his Fueled By Ramen debut, ruiner. Joe Mulherin melds melodic emo and toxic-tongued hip-hop beneath tales of self-doubt and depression (“ruiner”), the head-spinning effects of success (“hammer”) and yearnings for simpler days (“better”), carrying the weight of a dozen lifetimes in every cathartic, nakedly personal verse. But ruiner’s biggest success is how it—perhaps unintentionally—challenges listeners, balancing empathy for Mulherin’s personal demons while forcing fans to confront just how close to home his devastating words hit.—Evan Lucy

Dance Gavin Dance – Artificial Selection

Dance Gavin Dance - Artificial Selection
Known for being one of the most ridiculous and experimental bands in the heavy music scene, post-hardcore outfit Dance Gavin Dance took a surprising serious tone on their new record Artificial Selection. The new record differs from Mothership in other ways, as well. The overall sound this time around is much more aggressive and reigns in their trademark prog-rock writing style.—Taylor Markarian

twenty one pilots – Trench

twenty one pilots Trench
twenty one pilotsTrench  is both business as usual and significantly different. Tyler Joseph’s ability to convey his personal fears and existential musings remains as doggedly self-examining as it gets. Pop hooks? They’ve got ’em, from the sprite love song “Smithereens” to the self-cautionary tale of “The Hype” to the ’70s disco falsettos of “Morph” and “Legend.” Joseph’s been able to maintain the ease and flow of his world-class spit-boxing rap skills, and on those rare moments where he does deliver a throat-shearing war cry (“Jumpsuit”), he still conjures more cathartic force than the ocean of faceless metalcore howlers currently operating on the third slot of a six-band bill.—Jason Pettigrew

Real Friends – Composure

Real Friends Composure
Its creation was surrounded by turmoil owing to Dan Lambton’s well-publicized struggles with mental illness––the band admitting to AP that, at one point, they considered calling it quits––but despite the trauma, Real Friends regrouped and produced a cathartic and ultimately triumphant record. Lambton’s lyrics will strike a chord with anyone who’s struggled with their mental health, while the huge choruses on the likes of the title track and “From The Outside” showcase how Real Friends’ songwriting continues to grow stronger.—Jake Richardson

Good Charlotte – Generation Rx

Good Charlotte Generation Rx
After bringing pop punk to the mainstream and building an empire from the ground up, what’s left for Good Charlotte to tackle? On their seventh studio album, Generation Rx, they just want to be themselves. Overall, the record address confronting uncomfortable feelings and turning adversity into strength. With Generation Rx, Good Charlotte are encouraging fans to embrace their pain and turn it into something productive.—Rabab Al-Sharif

Ice Nine Kills – The Silver Scream

Ice Nine Kills The Silver Scream
Ice Nine Kills take things to the next level with the cinematic quality of The Silver Scream. Perfectly crafted lyrical content combines with the band’s theatrical brand of metalcore, delivering an album as timeless as the classic horror films that inspired them.—Whitney Shoemaker

State Champs – Living Proof

State Champs Living Proof
State Champs’ third record for Pure Noise, Living Proof, finds them expanding the notion of what they do while offering the sweet pop-punk jams they’ve built a fanbase upon. Ambitious moments as the everything’s-cool vibe of “Safe Haven” and the dialed-down melancholy of “Time Machine” show some new facets to the band while destined-to-be-classic gems as “Cut Through The Static” and “Sidelines” rank with some of the Champs’ best work. With assistance from both a proven hitmaker (John Feldmann) and old-school associates (Mike Green and Kyle Black), Living Proof will be paying sonic and psychic dividends decades after its release.—Jason Pettigrew

LANY – Malibu Nights

LANY malibu nights
LANY’s sophomore record is a synth-soaked tale of heartbreak, with lyrics that linger in the brokenness of past relationships but blossom with boppy beats and Paul Jason Klein’s mesmerizing vocals. The band’s newest chapter is still rooted in the rock ’n’ roll energy fans know and love, but it’s a sonic step forward that proves pop can do emo right.—Maggie Dickman

Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2

Lil Peep Come Over When You're Sober Part 2
Lil Peep’s first posthumous release following his tragic death last year posed a challenge for co-producers Smokeasac and George Astasio: Stay true to Peep’s vision while making sure his sound is moving forward even when he wasn’t here to do it himself. The album is a labor of love that showcases the same catchy hooks and confessional lyrics Peep had become known for while continuing to refine the production process of the songs and offer enduring tracks to Peep’s canon (“Runaway,” “Sex With My Ex,” “16 Lines”). The truth is that while the singer was branching out and recording more experimental sounds prior to his death, this album honestly captures all the things that made us fall for him in the first place without photocopying his previous work.—Rabab Al-Sharif

Tonight Alive – Underworld

Tonight Alive Underworld
Unrestricted honesty and self-empowerment are perfectly blended within the core of Underworld. The album amplifies the true essence and growth of Tonight Alive, proving that when you let go of those unnecessary expectations, you’ll thrive.—Whitney Shoemaker

DON BROCO – Technology

Don Broco Technology
Bedford contingent DON BROCO are bringing the grooves and the power that’ll melt your head like a Mounds bar in July heat. The band’s latest LP, Technology, is a wild departure from their previous fare with “Porkies” being one of the weirder (and sinister-sounding) tracks on the record. Horror-movie organ chords, a loping groove and some schizophrenic vocals from frontman Rob Damiani converge brilliantly. How brilliant? This reviewer can’t tell if Technology is genius or commercial suicide—and that’s the kind of band you’re supposed to build pedestals for.—Jason Pettigrew

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