I just finished off my first semester of college this Tuesday, and can pretty confidently say that one of the biggest things that got me to be able to go through everything is music. I’ve mentioned it in the past and still joke about it every now and then, but one of the most exciting things to me about going to school in America is the fact that I can go to shows (!!), see artists that I’ve been listening to since I was a kid after countless years, and immerse myself in incredible local music scenes. (Not to say that it isn’t prominent in the Philippines, though.)
Given an abundance of free time (at times), I’ve been more closely immersing myself in new releases instead of just listening to whatever like I have in the past. I’ve never realized how critical it was for me to be with people interested in the same kinds of music–or any music, for that matter–at all. It’s just something I can so easily slip in and out of between days and everything I do. Before I get back on the grind of things, here’s a little self-indulgent list of albums that came out this 2018 that I’ve been loving, in no particular order.’
Joy as an Act of Resistance. by IDLES
Though my furthest exposure to punk has been pop punk, I’ve heard tons of people talking about how amazing this album was and decided to give it a listen. Colossus is quite possible one of the best album openers I’ve ever heard and it hooked me in ever since that dramatic “goes and it goes and it goes” mixed with the abundance of religious imagery in its lyricism. Deeper into the album is a lot of confessional lyrics that aren’t normally touched on, from stillbirth to toxic masculinity. This is such a gorgeous listen to even if you’re not heavy onto the genre–because wow, it will convert you. Definitely listen in order as well. (Anyway, if you’re not listening to an album in order on the first listen you’re doing it wrong.) The raw energy, honesty, and emotion in this album is ridiculously infectious.
There is a scene of me nodding my head to this album and getting a bit to into it in a random Barnes & Noble Cafe on a Wednesday afternoon that exists somewhere out there.
Favorite track: Television
Be the Cowboy by Mitski
Probably on almost everyone’s top lists, but for good reason. The amount of raw energy, the variety of emotion, and the overall atmosphere of the album that settles me into this dark, somber mood for reflection but picks me up as if I can face the world. Mitski shares words that we see in all of ourselves, daring us to pick up our pieces and reflect on our lives along her. From the crescendoing introduction in Geyser with its static unsettle to the electricity and forwardness in Remember My Name as she sings “I need something bigger than the sky”–Mitski has given girls like me and so many countless others a musical masterpiece that ties in so many themes on loneliness, vulnerability, and how all of this is okay and wonderful. That losing is something necessary yet something below ourselves that we can always pick ourselves up from. I think of how I can’t stop myself from dancing alone to Old Friend in my shitty dorm room, thinking of love and things above me and the world ahead of me, or how my roommates ask me to tone down the volume when I first found the album and played Nobody on repeat as if all the lyricism about smallness made me whole again. It may seem like a surface album about love and all that to many others, but Be the Cowboy is about love, acceptance, and the self; it’s such a necessary entry and an album I desperately needed. A lot of criticism is starting to surround the album, and I just can’t help but think of lines like “Maybe I’m the same as all those men / writing songs of all they’re dreaming.” Mitski didn’t have to give us these words, but she did.
Favorite track: Old Friend / Me and My Husband (can’t choose!)
Million Dollars to Kill Me by Joyce Manor
I have adored Joyce Manor in ways I can’t really explain ever since their self-titled release, and I feel like this album comes close to it. Another of their twenty-minute-or-so entries with my favorite album art of them to date, this album just gives me the soul and spirit taking me back to summers I never had. The whole ride feels like a raw group of friends making music of the world they live in; there’s no deep metaphors or complex analogies necessary–it’s just growth and fun and dumb things and I find myself in love with this approach. It’s a lot softer and more freeing than their previous releases, and definitely not for everyone who initially loved their S/T as it’s nowhere near as fast (it sounds like they transitioned into a poppier sound–I’ll always prefer their old, frantic screamish stuff but ‘yaknow), but I couldn’t stop keeping this piece on repeat after going through it. The songs blend in together lovely and take me into this subtle upbeat ride–something that not lots of music can do. Joyce Manor always has that kind of sound that makes you want to live through something–not something that one thinks about too hard but just lives through, if that makes sense. This record falls in line with that, fun listen, no deeper meaning to that.
Favorite track: Friends We Met Online
what people call low self-esteem is really just seeing yourself the way that other people see you by awakebutstillinbed
This is. My absolute favorite emo release of the year, I’m positive. Female-fronted awakebutstillinbed and their debut extended play is just phenomenal; everything in this reminds me of my emotions at their extremes–the most vulnerable parts of myself where I allow my entire self exposed in the face of everyone, empty afternoons where I crumble into this personal, boiling anger at the world that at times comes inexplicable. I am in love with Shannon’s vocals though it might not be a sentiment that everyone shares, but there’s just something so haunting about the lyricism in stumble taking you back from this light narrative about love and regret to “I know I’ll stop breathing one day / and I’ll never be able to justify the ways that I lived my only life / I just want something to feel all right“. On the surface, it does seem totally incoherent and senseless, but in introspection of how we feel–it is what it is. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve revolved my entire self-image about things I shouldn’t have let myself wait for. The album shifts from slow, painful dynamics to straight on switching to lines calling for self-forgiveness; the transition from stumble to fathers best shows this. Another thing: I’ll never forget how I felt the first time the album title was uttered in the line of life; it’s built up in a way that I beg you to properly take in by starting from the very beginning.
Emo albums always sound intoxicatingly desperate and filled with complaints, but maybe it’s a bit of what the world needs. (Also, the interlude here is incredible.)
Favorite track: life (the world around me fades!!)
The Joy of Loving by Joyd Parker
Oh my god. Oh my god. I came across this from the third track by chance while trying to get on iwrotehaikusaboutcannibalisminyouryearbook’s artist page, and I am so, so happy that I stumbled across this. The mix of experimental spoken word in the song, the screams, all the lyrics about things that hit the deepest parts of myself that I never knew could be put into words until this song pulled it off. This is such a wonderful screamo, emo, whatever album that rolls off a lot of frustration and angst about god and being–things that I am so fond of. In this six minute masterpiece, they pull together so many things that just gave me an experience for an album produced in a bedroom. The rest of the album is amazing as well, and is such an experimental, sleeping masterpiece that I can’t wait for the world to see, even if I could only get this work out to just a handful more people. Wow. I played this album on repeat with pauses in between, trying to take it in. I am looking forward to everything else this band will come up with and this is the greatest thing I have found this year.
I’m still trying to find the words to explain why this hit me so much.
Favorite track: I wrote Haikus About Communism in Your Hotel Book
Sunset Blush by Kississippi
Kississippi put out my favorite emo-adjacent album with soft indie rock vibes. I first came across the band with Dogmas from their We Have No Future, We’re All Doomed EP, and this album follows through with everything I’ve loved from it. Mostly a portrait from loss and severance, Sunset Blush to me opens up an end not commonly explored: disappointment at how things could just never fall into place, loss of hope after doing everything possible. The mellow sounds throughout the album, how the lyrics come so easy and are just that kind of album where I don’t have to look up the lyrics because it comes after just a single listen. This album is like a lot more palatable Be the Cowboy that’s still on the stage of loss for me; there’s something about the entire sound that makes me feel like I’m there, so intimate and close in a way that all the other indie albums–the same narrative of spilling out a story, girls talking about life and everything–couldn’t do as well as this.
Favorite track: Shamer
7 by Beach House
The most frequently-used term that I’ve heard for Beach House is “immersive”, and there’s no better word that I can imagine. I constantly feel like I’m being taken to new places, breathing in times and memories that aren’t mind, and scraping my own self for pieces of my story that can compare. This is music that I’ve played walking back to my dorm room at early 6AM when the sun is barely rising after pulling off an all-nighter, and could just dream to. Also, I still don’t know how to distinguish Beach House songs by title–but that doesn’t stop it from being a good album.
Favorite track: Drunk in LA
M A N I A by Fall Out Boy
This is probably cheating, but technically the album was still released this year so I’m plopping it in! Fall Out Boy has stuck with me ever since I first listened to it in middle school in a hazy summer in a place that is no longer the same–the band itself coming in different forms to millions and millions of people since the mid-2000s. The thing is: many people drift away from Fall Out Boy, severing their pre-hiatus and post-hiatus selves, praising the former and calling the latter anything but praise. Like many “still in love” fans, I’m in awe of the evolution of MANIA–I felt it ever since I sat down excitedly upon the album’s rolling Spotify release, hearing the vocal run at the beginning of Heaven’s Gate, saw adoration in the maturity of Patrick’s vocals where I literally sat back at my chair, stunned, and giggled because I was so surprised. That first listen to the Church-Heaven’s Gate combo, to hearing Stay Frosty kick in brought me back to that summer in a different lens. I walk the same places in a wholly new way, and I am immersed in something familiar but in an entirely new nature. I am so, so utterly in love.
This is a pretty biased view, perhaps because this band is entwined in a lot of nostalgia for me–but then again they were nominated for a Grammy for this album for the first time since their entry into the scene with the Best New Artist one. There are some misses in the album, but even Young and Menace gets more pleasant the deeper you dive in.
Favorite Track: Church
The Yunahon Mixtape by Oso Oso
Oso Oso is the emo-adjacent gateway that brought me into the midwest emo side of music that has helped me a ton throughout this year. Starting from the pastel hues given off by the album cover of the popular dgadsgk in Hong Kong, The Yunahon Mixtape is such a delightful, upbeat album that gives me such positive energy and vibes. There’s something about how diluted the vocals are, the continuously resonant sound, the drumwork, and everything that perfectly piles up the album into this indie-esque exploration of emotions, living, and love. This reminds me a lot of almost a counterpart to Sunset Blush, with nearly every song here maintaining more of the colorful energy. It’s as fast and as true as it needs to be, its lines filled with passion and intent. Even on tracks with “sparser” vocals like shoes (the sneaker song) hook you in with the “when we sing our song the words never need to rhyme” in between a chorus of ooo’s and aaah’s; there are so many songs here about living and love that mean everything to me, and this is definitely worth a listen. I’m sure you’ll find a song or two (or maybe the whole album?) that you’d love to make yours.
Favorite Track: great big beaches
Now Only by Mount Eerie
My heart fell apart over and over again while listening to this. Now Only connects to Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked At Me, albums dedicated to the death of his wife. It’s filled with poetry, melancholy, and just absolute anger and disbelief at the world in the midst of loss. The way Mount Eerie handles death, holding its carcass in his arms with the unwavering commitment to sending a message about how futile and unfair the world can feel when it rips something so wonderful away from you hurts. I’ve closed my eyes and played this in full so many times in the summer, memorizing the narrative in Tintin in Tibet from the casual pain tearing in from “You don’t exist / I sing to you though” to Phil recounting, in such beautiful imagery, this trip he had with his wife in Vancouver Island in the midst of a story crushing her death and instead letting the fact that she was alive and there resound greater than anything else. Many albums try to portray that things happen for a reason, and that there are greater meaning to things, but Mount Eerie confesses that nothing can resolve death, and that there is no greater reason or deeper meaning that could come out of someone no longer being there–a thought that isn’t commonly shared today. At the bottom of everything, the whole album is a whole symphony about how unnecessary the loss of life can be; that one can exist with loss, but confesses that without it, life would be so much better. And in some cases like in this beautiful narrative, it is.
Being that the album is an incredibly personal recount, to fully appreciate, you must read the stories and interviews and comments left about the music. This is music that isn’t just meant to entertain us, but this is someone’s life and loss in a transcendent form that we don’t deserve. The least one can do is see the true meaning behind the things here. I urge you to.
Surviving with what dust is left of you here
Now you will recede into the paintings
Favorite track: incredibly difficult decision but Tintin in Tibet!
That pretty much wraps up my top albums for the year! I’m not as updated as I’d like to be and I know there are tons of other interesting releases this year (Foxing’s Nearer my God, the new Carseat Headrest, the abundance of T-50 albums that don’t really hang around my wavelength)–but this is the collection that I had to list down. If this list helped you expand your taste a bit or rediscover something you may have forgotten this year–I’ve done my job!
Without music, 2018 wouldn’t have been the same for me. This was the first year that I spent consistently listening to music (I go on some weird droughts at times) and it was an interesting rollercoaster; though it seems like 2019 will be even more interesting–so here’s to more obscure videogame soundtracks to guilty pleasure pop hits and long-awaited spins.