The 50 best albums of 2018

20. The Pineapple Thief - Dissolution

We said: "Although Dissolution carries all the hallmarks of The Pineapple Thief’s sound, it’s never predictable. By Soord’s own admission, this is a varied album that pulls together the band’s diverse styles into nine cerebral but very accessible songs. Like so many modern groups, they recorded it remotely at their own respective studios, with Harrison in London, Sykes in Leicester, Kitch in Exeter and Soord in Yeovil, yet the finished result is both intimate and cohesive – each note is polished and each harmony beautifully rounded, even more so than on previous releases. Credit goes to Soord and Harrison for the dynamic final mix, and it’s easy to hear how the former has become such a sought-after producer and remixer in recent years, with Gong’s Rejoice! I’m Dead! and the most recent reissue of Opeth’s Deliverance on his ever-growing list of notable projects."

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The Magpie Salute - Hot Water I

19. The Magpie Salute - High Water I

We said: "Rich Robinson laid down a marker for The Magpie Salute with 2017’s mini-LP of covers and old Black Crowes tunes; a collection that suggested an organic, loose entity with bags of groove. The band’s debut proper made good on its promise, as Robinson and his trusted crew – former Crowes bandmates Marc Ford and Sven Pipien, plus keyboardist Matt Slocum, drummer Joe Magistro and singer John Hogg – cut a swathe through Southern blues, rootsy soul and crunching rock‘n’roll. The idea, as Robinson explained, was to create “something different and also a little familiar”. Diehard Crowes fans would have much to enjoy in the album’s big fists-in-the-air moments, particularly Send Me An Omen and Mary The Gypsy. But equally striking were the songs that wandered slightly off track, from the folksy jam of Hand In Hand to the low-down frontier ballad, Can You See."

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18. Massive Wagons - Full Nelson

We said: "Massive Wagons in the Top 20? The real one? It was a happy moment when Baz Mills and co. kicked down the album-chart door; no tricks or commercial backing, just an organically grown fan base and an album full of lovable, no-bullshit rock’n’roll. The kind that Status Quo might have made if they’d found the fourth chord and jammed with Motörhead and Slade’s Noddy Holder."

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A Perfect Circle – Eat The Elephant album cover

17. A Perfect Circle - Eat The Elephant

We said: "Eat The Elephant is a new set of original songs about humanity, reflecting the current age. In some senses, society has slid further towards destruction. Dramatic march The Doomed appears to ask why we overlook the virtuous (‘What of the righteous, what of the charitable, what of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent’), while the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy-referencing So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish takes our trajectory to its logical conclusion by absurdly ushering in the end of the world. The wistful Disillusioned (‘How did zombie media/Keep us obedient and unaware’) comments on the slow creep of online power, which barely existed when the band started. Elsewhere, the lyrics are more oblique but no less damning in tone."

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16. Thumpermonkey - Make Me Young, Etc

We said: "A whopping 10 minutes long and easily the most ambitious thing Thumpermonkey have produced to date, Make Me Young, Etc’s title track is where this band push the prog fader into the red. Borderline orchestral in its intricate depth, it boasts so many twists and turns that it’s almost too much to take in on first listen. At times it sounds like an underwater Gentle Giant, at others it’s like Joe Jackson fronting mid-70s Van der Graaf. Either way, it’s an audacious and utterly absorbing statement from a band that have always seemed to revel in their shadowy, underground status, but that here sound ready to step into the light and blow some minds."

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15. Haken - Vector

We said: "As they prepared to drop this new long-player on us, Haken gave us a few pre-release clues about what to expect. But did they really tell us much? One word they used to describe their new material was ‘darker’. Fair enough, but how often do you hear of a rock band promising their next record would be ‘lighter, full of laughs!’? Their suggestion that we’d be hearing some heavier sounds on Vector was also fairly standard pre-release rhetoric. But it has been borne out in the finished product with some aplomb. Most importantly, it manages to pull off the delicate trick of blending hooks both melodic and visceral with heart-stopping hails of metallic riff bullets, dizzying instrumental and rhythmic complexity, alongside an intriguing lyrical tale." 

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Slash - Living The Dream album cover

14. Slash Feat Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators - Living The Dream

We said: "Okay, let’s forget all about Guns N’ Roses. At least for now. While GN’R offers Slash a nice way to bolster his bank balance and play to huge audiences, on the creative front Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy &The Conspirators is where he belongs. Living The Dream is the band’s third, and best, album. It brings purpose and focus to the vision he and vocalist Myles Kennedy have for what they want to achieve. It has arena-rock attitude, but contained within songs and performances that are a lot more intimate and highly charged than you might expect. Slash’s punchy guitar style complements Kennedy’s passionate vocals, and in doing so brings to mind what Aerosmith achieved in the late 80s."

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13. Tom Petty - An American Treasure 

Not originally on our long-list, this is another album voted in by the strength of user suggestion alone. Half compilation half rarities collection, this posthumous offering houses lesser-known tracks that Petty himself preferred. You won't find any hits here, and it's all the better for it – an intimate, considerate look inside Petty's creative mind. Another fine tribute to a life that helped shape American rock'n'roll as we know it. 

12. Palm Reader - Braille

We said: "On their third album, Braille, Palm Reader stepped it up a notch. Interspersed with the intricacies and razor-sharp erratic nature of gut-punchers Swarm, Internal Winter and Like A Wave, tracks like Coalesce and A Lover, A Shadow experimented with space and melancholia, pushing their sound into a brand new dimension. Braille was the moment the band perfected their brand of jagged hardcore and began to grow into something much bigger."

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11. The Fierce & The Dead - The Euphoric

We said: "The Euphoric, their third album proper, takes this worthy amalgam and attempts to stretch it with the addition of more: “More psychedelic, more spacey, more synths, more downtuned guitars,” says guitarist Matt Stevens. More weirdness, says Prog. Opener Truck forms a bridge between old and new, with a squelching, flabby-bottomed distortion sound that’s straight out of the Queens Of The Stone Age tone book, while Kevin Feazey adds a chest-shaking bass that seems to peak the sub-woofers in a sort of crumbling sketch of a four-string. It is one of their darker, more haunting and heavier efforts, but will still seem like a logical step to TFATD veterans."

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