The 50 best albums of 2018

40. Blackberry Smoke - Find A Light

We said: "Like Skynyrd and all the other great southern rock bands who came after them, Blackberry Smoke know the value of keeping it simple. As the name suggests, I’ll Keep Ramblin’ is a no-frills boogie-shuffle featuring a guest appearance from rising pedal steel star Robert Randolph and some solid-gold testifyin’ from a bunch of passing female backing singers. It’s simple to the point of boneheadedness, but it’s got guts. Best of all is Nobody Gives A Damn, a steel-plated ripper that sounds like AC/DC might if they’d grown up on Waylon Jennings and grits for breakfast rather than Chuck Berry and 60 Marlboro a day. This is unvarnished, unpretentious music played by men who don’t give a flying fiddle."

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39. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Wasteland

We said: "The fifth Uncle Acid album nailed 2018’s vibe with unflinching accuracy. A concept piece for the darkest of days, it conjured a dystopian nightmare where humans are slaves to propaganda-spewing screens, robbed of thought. The fervently melodic and densely psychedelic songs boasted unforgettable riffs and that wonky Uncle Acid vibe gluing the whole trip together. A stunning soundtrack to a shit future." 

38. The Virginmarys - Northern Sun Sessions

We said: "With the likes of Virginmarys, IDLES and Blinders (in their own different ways) exploring current social and political tensions in quality new rock records, there’s a good argument to suggest that the protest song is back. The Virginmarys' New album Northern Sun Sessions is a stirring call-to-arms full of songs which are at once beautifully intimate and full of fire."

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Architects Holy Hell

37. Architects - Holy Hell

We said: "Holy Hell isn’t the best Architects album, but it doesn’t have to be. It deviates away from the previous two albums into something more fractured, missing the mark at times, but still able to deliver knockout blows when it counts. As Sam sings he’ll ‘always carry the cross’ on closer A Wasted Hymn, the emotional force of the previous 40 minutes strikes in the chest, flooding all senses, highlighting just how much of Tom is in this album and in Architects. It’s not perfect, but it’s a victory."

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36. Louden Swain - Splitting The Seams

We haven't actually said anything about this album this year, as this entry came straight through from your 'add your own' votes and wasn't included on our long-list. So, congrats Louden Swain! This album complies the indie rockers' acoustic reimaginings of tracks from their earlier albums, all dressed up with delicate strings and soft horns. If you're looking for something completely new from this list, this isn't a bad place to start. 

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35. Joe Bonamassa - Redemption

We said: "Redemption brings the virtuosic discipline Bonamassa is known for, while being one of the most dynamic things he’s done. Lyrically it’s the closest we’ve had to a heartbreak confessional from this typically guarded bluesman, with songs like Self-Inflicted Wounds showing him at his most intimate and vulnerable. But it’s also a bold, brassy production, peppered with big gospel backing harmonies, actual brass and good-time licks, as heard in bouncy highlights such as King Bee Shakedown."

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34. Sleep - The Sciences

We said: "Sleep made their long-awaited return to (un)consciousness in 2018, as The Sciences dropped in surprising fashion, like an asteroid-sized hot-rock from an intergalactic blunt. Their recognisable sativa-stained riffs and mantric grooves sounded as potent as ever, and on Giza Butler, the trio not only had the most on-brand songtitle you heard all year, but the intoxicating track itself confirmed Sleep as the only true natural successors to the Sabbathian dopethrone."

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33. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance

We said: "If you were asked to put 2018 in review, chances are themes like Brexit, Trump and the global refugee crisis wouldn’t be far from your thoughts. With this in mind, IDLES’ second album Joy As An Act Of Resistance is very much a product of its time. Focussing on the importance of collective unity in the face of growing global disenfranchisement, lead single Danny Nedelko celebrates the simple, beautiful power of community and of the open-minded, while elsewhere tracks like Samaritans offer a damning takedown of modern masculinity’s suffocating stereotypes to a soundtrack of infectious post-punk. That the album itself was born from significant personal tragedy for vocalist Joe Talbot makes its moments of single-minded optimism all the more infectious, and while loss permeates the album, as a piece of work it serves as an inspiring – if brutally honest – exploration of the human condition."

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Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit album cover

32. Zeal & Ardor - Stranger Fruit

We said: "Where Devil Is Fine was a clash between different worlds and extremes, Stranger Fruit sees multi-instrumentalist Manuel Gagneux fuse them. The contrasts and opposites don’t work against but with each other; it’s not a battle anymore, it’s a symbiosis. The atmosphere has changed a bit; instead of the heavy noise of chains weighing you down, Stranger Fruit elevates the listener with the sound of chirping birds and dripping water – all while keeping up the eerie, morbid and devil-worshipping vibe that made Zeal & Ardor so intriguing in the first place."

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31. 3.2 - The Rules Have Changed

Another new entry which won its place in this list through 'add your own' votes alone, this album from 3.2 more than deserves the love it's been getting from fans. The work of Robert Berry, who previously had formed the band 3 with prog-rock luminaries Carl Palmer and Keith Emerson, 3.2 picks up where that project left off and celebrates both those men and their musical legacy. Including songs and music co-written by Emerson before his death, this marks his last project before his untimely passing in 2016. It's a fitting tribute to his legacy.