Best of 2018: My personal Top Ten Records - and ten more I still have to listen to

What I like best about my music blog is compiling the list of personal favorites at the end of the year. And while many music magazines publish their best-of-lists earlier - in my opinion too early - I always enjoy using the days between Christmas and New Years Eve to put that list together. 2018 was a funny year for me. I made a musical discovery that changed my taste forever - although the artist has been around for a really long time. But that's the thing about music: You can only listen to one album (or even more precise: one song) at a time and sometimes you know you'd have to check out this band or that artist - but until you do, many years go by. But let's see... here are my favorite records of this year. By clicking on the album name, you can read my reviews. 

10.) Seas - Cursed

Take my advice: Never miss the support bands! If I'd shown up too late to the Flatliners gig at the Park Theatre in Winnipeg, I'd never have seen Seas. I'd never heard of Seas before, but I'm so happy to have seen them for the first time! Chris Hughes impressed me with his charisma and his voice. His appearance with his the flannel shirt and the impressive dreadlocks, the guitar held together with duct tape, he reminded me of a grunge hippie of the 90ies. The music was much harder to classify. There's heavy guitars, but also roaring soundscapes, there's melancholy, but also high energy. "Cursed" gathers nine songs that will amaze you with their straightforward rhythms ("Plans") and their dreamy vibes ("Without A Sound"). Now all I wish for is a European Tour in 2019. Festival bookers, take notes!

9.) Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive

What an Album to Listen to! I've only known Superchunk since their 2010 album "Majesty Shredding" and their 2018 record has the same energy, but in addition it is a very political album. The four-piece from North Carolina raises its voice to address the sad state of affairs in the US. It's good to hear Mac McCaughan sing lines like "The scum, the shame, the fucking lies / Oh what a time to be alive." What I like most about the record is that it's full of positive vibes - and that's especially important for protest songs unless you want them to drag you down. At the same time, it proves that bands which don't care for trend cycles can just work on developing their sound and make records that you appreciate just as much as the one that was your first and that will therefore hold a special place forever.

8.) The Dirty Nil - Master Volume

I did not realize that Rock music was having such a hard time and becoming a niche thing again. But then again, I never cared about what's up to date, so let's just celebrate Rock as we always did. As long as there's bands like The Dirty Nil, we don't need to worry about our favorite kind of sound. Singer and guitarist Luke Bentham, bassist Ross Miller and drummer Kyle Fisher are such a force and if you've never seen them play live, make sure you do! They worship Rock'n'Roll and I don't think there's anything ironic about that (read some comparisons to The Darkness, but I don't see the similarity). With "Master Volume," the Canadians have topped their debut "Higher Power" in my eyes. And seeing them perform songs like "Bathed In Light" in Winnipeg was one of my favorite musical moments this year.

7.) Amorphis - Queen Of Time

When the 90ies came to an end, I was a metalhead. And I especially loved bands from Scandinavian countries. Amorphis from Finland were among them, due to milestones like "Tales From The Thousand Lakes." I lost touch with metal and many of my favorite bands over the years, so I was completely stunned when I listened to "Under The Red Cloud" by Amorphis. Their 2018 album "Queen Of Time" is just as amazing. The balance between Death Metal, Folk sounds and Heavy Metal is just perfect. Tomi Joutsen can sing epic stuff just as convincing as he can growl, and when Anneke Van Giersbergen joins him in "Amongs Stars," the 90ies me rejoices!

6.) Christine Fellows - Roses On The Vine

Another musical memory from my time in Winnipeg. Christine Fellows presented her new album at the Good Will Social Club and while I like my guitars with lots of distortion, I feel the need to slow down from time to time. "Roses On The Vine" is the perfect record for that. It's Indie in the truest of meanings, a DIY record with adorable music and nice stories woven into the lyrics. I've already written my thoughts about it in my concert review, so I'll just say that this album is for people who love The Weakerthans, enjoy rain on their window and if you drink something while listening to it, make sure it's True Blueberry tea.

5.) Alice In Chains - Rainier Fog

Sure, the ingredients are the same, but Alice In Chains have achieved something very important. Formed in 1987, they were part of the influential grunge movement during the 90ies, they had to deal with the drug-related death of their singer Layne Stayley in 2002, but they are still around and the fans have embraced William DuDall as Stayley's successor. And Jerry Cantrell and his musical fellows still put out music that adds to the greatness of the band while other musicians tend to do more damage to their legacy. Just listen to the soothing "Maybe" and you know why "Rainier Fog" is nominated for a Grammy.

4.) A Perfect Circle - Eat The Elephant

It seems that this year is one of many returns. While the world still waits for a new Tool record,
Maynard James Keenan made a dream come true with a new record by A Perfect Circle. "Eat The Elephant" feels like being inside the mind of a man who's just awoken from cryosleep and now he's looking at the world in disbelief. From the technology-skeptical "Disillusioned" to the untypical sounding "So Long And Thanks For All The Fish" with its thoughtful lyrics, this record is full of relevant messages. I'm a little bit sad that Josh Freese is not playing the drums on this one, but that's a luxury problem. Oh, and I still think the cover is hideous.

3.) Ghost - Prequelle

Tobias Forge is a musical mastermind and that's the reason "Prequelle" works. Sure, there are pop music elements on the fourth studio album, but they blend in so nicely with the heavy guitars that you just have to love them. Forge also masters the art of putting together harmonies that will haunt your memory even in your dreams. Just listen to "Pro Memoria" and the intro that could be part of a movie score. There's one of the funniest moments in music this year: I listened to "Danse Macabre" and was willing to shun them for the cheesy lyrics - until I realized it's "I just wanna be, wanna bewitch you in the moonlight" and not "be with you." And when even the instrumentals "Miasma" (that saxophone solo!) and "Helvetsfonster" are captivating, you know that this record is a special one. Needless to say: Go see Ghost in concert. Hope I catch them next year!

2.) Farmer Boys - Born Again 

As a Farmer Boys fan from the very start, I never understood why the German modern metal heroes went on a hiatus that would last over a decade. But now, 14 years after their last record, singer Matthias Sayer and his companions have returned to reclaim their throne. And "Born Again" is the proof that the crown belongs to them. The songs are more refined but they don't lack punch, they are epic and melodic, but still heavy and filled with tons of groove. "You And Me" was the first new song that the five musicians published and it still stands out on this triumphant comeback album. So does "Isle Of The Dead" with its calm pace. I was too jetlagged to catch them at a show right away, but I'm looking forward to their tour in 2019. Welcome back, Boys!

1.) Steven Wilson - Home Invasion: In Concert At The Royal Albert Hall

He's been around for a long time, and I know I should have listened to Porcupine Tree a long time ago. But it wasn't until Steven Wilson played a concert in Southern Germany that I discovered this unbelievable musician. I've never listened to music that unites intensity, emotions, and technical skills like that. The visuals added to that, and while the venue in Ravensburg is not nearly as glamourous as the Royal Albert Hall, that evening completely blew my mind. When Wilson and his incredible musicians played "The Raven That Refused To Sing," I was in tears. I just got the CD/DVD pack last Friday (I had no DVD Player in Winnipeg and didn't want to write a review without having seen the concert in full length), and I'm looking forward to reliving my memories by looking at the immaculate live performances captured here. Most Top Ten lists refrain from including live records because the songs are not new, but as Steven Wilson is the most important musician in 2018 for me, I figured - what the hell.

And as always, there's so much more music going on and so little time. Here are ten records from 2018 that I still have to explore!

Interpol - Marauder

Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

The Pineapple Thief - Dissolution

Alkaline Trio - Is This Thing Cursed?

Monster Magnet - Mindfucker

Cloud Nothings - Last Building Burning

J Mascis - Elastic Days

Hot Snakes - Jericho Sirens

The Sword - Used Future

Thrice - Palms

If you want to see my lists with the Top Ten Records of former years, just click on the year: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011. They were still written in German, but you get an idea of my musical taste.