Overlooked Albums 2018

Treble staff
Overlooked Albums 2018 Anna Von Hausswolff

The best part of any year—or at least one of the best—is the opportunity to see what flew under the radar and demanded a second (or even first) listen. Every time Treble runs an Overlooked Albums list, it serves two purposes: 1. To highlight albums that maybe didn’t get as much attention as some of the critical favorites from the past 12 months; and 2. To get a chance to show some attention to the albums that we didn’t get a chance to write about earlier in the year. Some of them, of course, we absolutely did—it’s not our fault if you missed them, but we also want to give you the opportunity to catch up. This year’s batch includes some cyberhardcore, heavy darkwave, psych-soul, sax-heavy goth dirges and some lighthearted stoner rap. There’s plenty to dig into here, and while some of these may very well show up again on our Best of 2018 lists, here’s your opportunity to get caught up before that happens.


Overlooked Albums 2018 The ArmedThe Armed
Only Love

(No Rest Until Ruin)

The Armed are overwhelming. The Detroit band play post-hardcore with a wall of sound so massive and heavy that it can be hard to fathom how to even begin listening to them. But Only Love, the band’s sophomore record, finds a way to be inviting amid its own chaos. Bits of nintendocore are sprinkled throughout the production, but what is most shocking about Only Love is the presence of some of the year’s best choruses. These melodies and quirks help the The Armed’s unending aggression go down easier. “Wanna get beat down and be happy about it?” their slogan might go. And yes, yes you do. – BC


Overlooked Albums 2018 Kadhja BonetKadhja Bonet
Childqueen

(Fat Possum)

Kadhja Bonet’s Childqueen, a finicky psych-soul amalgam that leans in with uninhibited sonic creativity to speak about fractured adults, at first is hard to grasp. Even more so, it’s difficult to let go of. Recorded over two years in studios scattered throughout the globe—Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Copenhagen, and even in hotel rooms in Barcelona and Brussels—Childqueen was written, played, produced and mixed by Bonet herself. It’s aptly stocked with dreamlike AOR arrangements to nonchalantly sculpt different rules about R&B. Think of it as a proper extension of the Minnie Ripperton-led, Charles Stepney-produced, forward-looking psychedelic soul band Rotary Connection. Bonet works soft-rock constructs and glitchy Linn-drum ’80s pastiche here with a masters command. – JPS


Jaye Jayle No Trail reviewJaye Jayle
No Trail and Other Unholy Paths

(Sargent House)

Evan Patterson’s not an unknown name to punk and indie audiences, his past and present work including the underrated Breather Resist and the long-running, consistently badass Young Widows. With Jaye Jayle, however, he’s taken a detour into a different, much darker and less pummeling direction. No Trail and Other Unholy Paths, Jaye Jayle’s sophomore album, blends psychedelia and gothic rock in strange and thrilling ways, with a dusty gothic gallop in “Ode to Betsy” and an oozing, dense dirge in “As Soon As Night.” It’s not so much a harrowing darkness as a seductive one that Patterson and company yield, and the occasional addition of saxophone to punctuate the atmosphere is proof enough of that, turning a maleficent epic like “Low Again Street” into something weirder, sexier, and even more exciting. – JT


Makaya McCraven Universal Beings reviewMakaya McCraven
Universal Beings

(International Anthem)

We’re experiencing what’s arguably the most exciting time for jazz in decades, thanks in large part to some highly active regional pockets that have spurred some thrilling, distinctive scenes. Yet until Universal Beings, those various scenes hadn’t been bridged so seamlessly and explicitly. Paris-born, Chicago-based McCraven both performs and edits together sessions from Chicago, London, New York and Los Angeles into four sides of modern jazz. Only he does so with the sampladelic ear of a DJ, so it’s as much live jazz as it is acid- or nu-, crafting atmosphere from live recordings and letting the strengths of the performances shine instead of forcing square pegs into 12-inch shaped holes. So, then, is it an electronic record or a jazz record? Yes. – JT


Pill Soft Hell review overlooked albumsPill
Soft Hell

(Mexican Summer)

Did punk get better in the past couple years? Doubtful, but that’s partially because Pill’s pre-Trump output already set a lofty standard via no wave freakouts, uncomfortable examinations of sexuality and identity and saxophone-heavy arrangements as sharp as their social commentary. Then again, it’s comforting to know that whatever frustrating new thing we all have to trudge through together, there’s a band like Pill to help us get through it, turning manic post-punk rhythms and late-nite New York noir soundscapes into cathartic, agitated dance parties to wriggle the angst out. With Soft Hell, their songwriting is even stronger, even weirder, allowing more space in between the intense climaxes. It’s the rare album that makes discomfort feel oddly comforting. – JT


best albums of september 2018 Spirit of the BeehiveSpirit of the Beehive
Hypnic Jerks

(Tiny Engines)

Spirit of the Beehive’s sophomore effort is focused, fine-tuned and deliberate. Hypnic Jerks’ soaring pop hooks steep listeners into an aural dream state, constructing dissociative moments of comatose and consciousness; paralysis and lucidity. The band’s hypnagogic excursion toes along a semi-cognizant twilight, enveloping lo-fi pop hooks in cozy tones and hazily faint cassette recordings. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I’m here talking to you, but I’m not,” begins “nail that couldn’t bite,” setting Hypnic Jerks’ mood of detachment in motion. Each tape hits a nonsensical note, bearing the meandering resemblance of the tangentially soothing “Sleep With Me” podcast. Hypnic Jerks slips under a threshold of awareness, surfacing only for flashes of momentous pop clarity and visceral punk agitation, capturing a sense of sleeplessness that is both drunken and surreal. – PP


Overlooked Albums 2018 TherapyTherapy
Therapy

(Volar)

Therapy’s only existed for a bit over a year, but in that time the San Diego crust punk/hardcore band has released two EPs of vicious, blistering anthems, both of which are collected on their self-titled full-length debut. The entirety of the set’s 10 tracks fit on a single side of vinyl, but that’s not to say that this is a less-than-substantial set of rippers. Far from it—the sunny home city of Treble only occasionally produces music this intense, and for that matter, few cities between here and Maine have delivered a batch of songs this explosive and visceral in 2018. If the gallop of “Failure” doesn’t leave a mark right away, at least let it be a warning. As full-length albums go, you’d be hard pressed to name one that packs as much impact into such a concentrated period of time. – JT


Thou Rhea Sylvia reviewThou
Rhea Sylvia

(Deathwish Inc.)

Grunge and metal have always been connected. Alice In Chains and Soundgarden’s best material always felt like a gateway between alternative rock and metal, and I personally can credit grunge with bringing me closer to Satan’s sanctuary, musically speaking of course. Thou understand this better than anyone, having covered countless Nirvana songs and citing grunge as one of their biggest influences. The Louisiana sludge metal band put that into practice with Rhea Sylvia, one of three EPs and five releases total they released this year, which found the band shortening their runtimes and sharpening their hooks. It’s a murky, heavy and potent release, though it’s remarkable to hear Thou playing songs this catchy; “The Only Law” and “Deepest Sun” are just a few guttural screams’ distance from being radio-friendly. As part of an overwhelming release campaign this year, Rhea Sylvia might not have yielded the same level of attention as their magnificent new full-length Magus, but it’s a glimpse at a different side of Thou, one of flannel shirts, shout-along choruses and hoisted lighters. – JT


overlooked albums 2018 Vic Spencer SonnyJimVic Spencer and SonnyJim
Spencer for Higher

(Daupe)

Pop music, hip-hop in particular, has been remarkably bleak of late—a fact that’s pretty easy to square with (gestures broadly) all of this. So perhaps it’s a blessing that cartoonish oddballs like MF DOOM and Dr. Octagon returned this year, but it’s even more of a blessing that Chicago’s Vic Spencer and London’s SonnyJim emerged with a set of crackly, weeded-out hip-hop bangers featuring funky samples (Mulatu Astatke!), hilarious one-liners and, yes, plenty of dialogue from Spenser for Hire. There are more introspective rap albums from 2018, more innovative or exploratory, but few are as fun to listen to as this one. – JT


Overlooked Albums 2018 Anna Von HausswolffAnna Von Hausswolff
Dead Magic

(City Slang)

As obnoxious as it might be to use a phrase like “goth revival,” the haunted theatrics of vintage post-punk have permeated indie music in recent years, with mostly spectacular results (the roster of Sacred Bones is evidence enough of this). Yet there’s also been a perplexing reliance on safe darkwave tropes in some circles that’s made nu-goth a bit safe. And what’s the fun of harnessing a dark aesthetic if you can’t run wild with it. That’s not an issue for Anna Von Hausswolff, a Swedish artist whose growth over the years has led to a breathtaking climax in Dead Magic. It’s a crushing and awe-inspiring work of intense power, with an aesthetic akin to Dead Can Dance backed by Neurosis. This isn’t “goth” so much as an unholy spiritual ritual, an artful convergence of muscle and magic that’s unlike any other album released this year. – JT

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