As 2018 is coming to an end, it tends to be a time of reflection. We look back on the good, the bad and the ugly of the year that was. That also includes looking back on the year in toonage, but we choose to skip the bad and the ugly here at I’m Music Magazine. We tend to stay more positive here and we look at the albums that caught our attention and moved us for many different reasons. I don’t think we do our end of the year list like some magazines who tend to stick with what’s popular and what’s trendy. There may be a few mainstream albums on our list, but that’s because we really connected with them. You will see more indie bands/artists and bands/artists on the rise on our list. If you haven’t heard about them before, then we hope you will read about them and take a few minutes to check them out. We feel that each and every band on this list is deserving of your time and (hopefully) your support. So, let’s get this thing going, shall we? We know present to you (in no particular order) our 31 Best Albums of 2018!
New Reveille ~ The Keep: New Reveille is keeping the dying art of great storytelling in three and a half minute alive. This album is one of our favorites from beginning to end and for many reasons. I feel as if lead vocalist Amy Kamm is asking me to pull up a chair because she wants to share a story with me as each song begins. She really has a way of delivering the lyrical content in a way where you can feel the emotions that she’s conveying. The harmonies on the album are so rich and beautiful. In a day and age of auto-tuning and smoke and mirrors, it’s so refreshing to hear a band that takes an aspect like this so seriously. Last, but not least, the musicianship is top notch. We live in a singles driven age, so to have a band put together a complete work of art on a full length album like this is both highly respected and commendable. One of the few albums of 2018 where we don’t like to skip tracks.
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers ~ Years: In a day and age where some people are way too careful of offending those are are so easily butt-hurt over just about everything, there’s a bad-ass who speaks her mind and keeps it real. Shook has one of those factors that is sorely missing in country music today and it’s something that many of the great before her possessed. With so much (too much actually) of what dominates radio being so slick and polished, Shook is raw and real. She’s lived life; the good, the bad and the ugly and you feel it in her lyrics. Her voice and sound may take you back to the 60s or 70s, but the message in her lyrics defies being confined to a particular time frame.
The Struts ~ Young&Dangerous: Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters called The Struts “the best supporting band the Foos ever had.” In the words of Nicholas Cage, “that’s high praise.” On The Struts new album, they don’t stray topo far from we expect from them. It’s part Slade, part Queen, part Sweet, part Cheap Trick and ALL fun and infectious. Frontman Luke Spiller is one of the best to come along in a very long time. It seems like we’ve been losing more and more of our icons and heroes over the last few years and Spiller seems damned and determined to carry on for them. The guy has an amazing voice and knows how to command a stage. The rest of the band are no slouches themselves and help to provide the musical foundation for Spiller to work his magic.
Like A Storm ~ Catacombs: Auckland, New Zealand’s pride and joy Like A Storm have been one of the most consistent acts to emerge since their debut album The End of the Beginning in 2009. The guys release an album, have several hits from it, tour all around the world almost endlessly in support of it, take some time off and then they repeat the whole process again. Yet, they continue to grow and keep things fresh and their new album is a great example. The guys tapped into a new creative wealth of inspiration on his one and really raised the intensity level on this one. We can’t wait to see the guys live in 2019 and feel the intensity of this new material live.
Queen ~ Bohemian Rhapsody Soundtrack: It’s tough not to include this soundtrack on our list. If for no other reason, Queen fans finally have an official release of the band’s epic set from Live Aid in 1985. I also can’t get enough of the reunited Smile’s re-recording of “Doing All Right.” There are other gems all throughout the soundtrack. Oh Freddie, we really do miss you.
Cyhra ~ Letters To Myself: Ok, technically this was released in October of 2017, but it didn’t cross our radar until early January of this year.
Cyhra showcases the pooling of a huge quantity of modern metal talent. Formed in 2016 by long-time friends ex-Amaranthe vocalist Jake E and former In Flames guitarist Jesper Strömblad, these vital veterans were focused on lighting a fire under the contemporary metal scene that promises to blaze for decades to come. Strömblad’s riffs and hooks are pretty amazing as are Jake’s souring and soulful vocals. I was fortunate to see these guys live here in the US earlier and they live really elevates the already stellar material on this debut album. I can’t wait to see and hear what’s ahead for them in 2019!
Sugarland ~ Bigger: This is the first album of new material from Jennifer Nettles and Kristan Bush in seven years. There’s lots of fun love woven all throughout the album and it also touches on current topics in the news such as school shootings and the #MeToo movement. Nettles’ vocals are just a souring and beautiful as ever. The harmonies between Nettles and Bush are some of the best that you’ll hear. I am a fan of the upbeat stuff, but I think the band shines its brightest when they slow it down.
Meka Nism ~ The War Inside: The independently released The War Inside continues to make us shake our head and wonder why this band hasn’t exploded yet. Lead vocalist/frontwoman/Shaman Ms. Meka continues to be one of the most visually and sonically captivating figures in the industry. We have to throw some props as well to guitarist Bobby Keller who continues to amaze us with the way he can make a guitar speak. The band continues its powerful and positive message of standing up to face your inner demons, conquering your internal battles, and to realizing that you can change your life for the better.
Myles Kennedy ~ Year of the Tiger: Myles Kennedy possesses, hands down, one of the most amazing voices in music today. It’s hard to think that as long as he has been in the music business that this album is his debut solo effort. One good reason could involve the story behind the content of the album itself. It’s about the time right after his biological father passed away and Kennedy (along with his mother and brother)had to learn how to move on. It’s a very personal album and if fans tuned in expecting the hard rock sound that they get from Alter Bridge or Slash and The Conspirtors, then they were very surprised. The album is acoustic geared colored with touches of folk, country and blues. This is a side of Kennedy that normally doesn’t get to spread its wings in his other bands, so it was a thing of beauty to hear it happen on his solo effort.
Dee Snider ~ For The Love of Metal: This new album from Snider was produced by Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta. He solicited ideas from metal artists throughout the industry and he received contributions from from Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), Mark Morton (Lamb Of God), Alissa White-Gluz (Arch Enemy), Joel Grind and Nick Bellmore (Toxic Holocaust) and Charlie Bellmore (Kingdom Of Sorrow). Snider definitely put his stamp on them. The merging of Twisted Sister and Hatebreed has Snider sounding more metal than ever!
Melissa VanFleet ~ Ode To The Dark: This EP was produced by Lacuna Coil’s bassist/producer Marco “Maki” Coti-Zelati along with engineers Marco Barusso (Thirty Seconds To Mars, Coldplay), Dario Valentini and Marco D’Agostino – and features guest musician Douglas Blair (W.A.S.P.) on lead guitar on the single “Raven.” VanFleet has steadily been building a fanbase with her dark, brooding piano interpretations of classics from such legends as W.A.S.P. and Black Sabbath. This new EP really has us excited about the future of this incredibly talented young lady.
Kobra and the Lotus: Prevail II: Originally intended as past of a double album set, Prevail II as released this year on Napalm Records by one of the most underrated bands in metal fronted by one of the most underrated voices. I’ve been singing the praise of Kobra Paige and KATL since their first studio album Out of the Pit back in 2010. We loved Prevail I that was released in 2017, but the band really has raised the bar on Prevail II. The songs do have a more emotional thread running throughout them on both a lyrical level as well as a musical level. The band is currently working on new material which will (hopefuly) see the light of day in 2019!
Lillye ~ Evolve: Another one of our fave albums from beginning to end!Australia’s female fronted rockers Lillye is led by frontperson Virginia Lillye. Her background in performing in musicals (Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, Grease, and Fame) throughout Europe give her a unique voice to bring to rock. Imagine if Freddie Mercury of Queen and Ann Wilson of Heart had a lovechild whose aunt was Debbie Harry of Blondie. She’s a total bad-ass and her vocal delivery grabs you around the throat and makes you take notice. She’s also surrounded by a rock solid band that lays down the foundation for her to display those amazing pipes!
Lady Gaga/Bradley Cooper ~ A Star Is Born Original Soundtrack: First off, we knew that we were going to have to check this one out when we first heard the rumblings about it a couple of years ago. Who knew (I know, I know……her fans did) that Lady Gaga was going to turn out to be a really good actress? Who knew (I know, I know……his fans did) that Bradley Cooper was going to turn out to be a really good singer? This is such a great soundtrack and it really tugs on your heart strings. Major props to Gaga, Cooper and everyone else involved.
Terry Ilous and the Vagabonds ~ Gypsy Dreams: Ok, here’s another one that came out in 2017, but it didn’t cross our musical radar until this year. Ilous, the voice of Great White for eight years and also the voice of XYZ, puts a flamenco touch on many classics from the soundtrack to our lives. He tackles Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games,” Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and more. I’ve always felt that Ilous had one of the most underrated voices in rock and he proves that argument once again on this new album.
Enuff Z’Nuff ~ Diamond Boy: This is the first album of all new material with Chip Z’Nuff handling all of the lead vocal duties. The album has elements of what we have come to know and love about Enuff Z’Nuff, but Chip and the guys push forward with their sound thus keeping it from sounding dated. The band sounds tight and pretty damn amazing. There are so many bands from this era who live on the nostalgia aspect and refuse to move forward, but not Chip and the guys. For those who can’t get over Donnie not being in the band, you’re really missing out on some awesome music by not giving this album a fair chance.
Stone Broken ~ Ain’t Always Easy: I feel a bit cheated adn deprived that I have been missed out on some damn fine music from British rockers Stone Broken. Formed in 2013, the band released its self-financed EP in 2014 and a buzz started growing. It’s hard to think that frontman walked away from music (after the tragic death of a former bandmate who suffered from alcohol addiction) and almost never returned. Fast forward to 2018 and teh band released its Spinefarm Records debut Ain’t Always Easy. Holy Headbang Batman! This is a damn solid album vocally, musically and lyrically. I hate like hell that I was sick and missed them when they were here in the U.S. in 2018 and I really, really hope they make it back soon.
Red Sun Rising ~ Thread: Rock is dead? Bullshit I say, not with band’s like Akron, Ohio rockers Red Sun Rising making music. After setting the bar high with their last album Polyester Zeal, (their first two singles hit #1) the band released their 2nd album for Razor & Tie in 2018. They delivered in a major way with their infectious grooves, meaningful lyrical content, bad-ass musicianship and killer vocals from Mike Protich. You package that with one of the best live shows that we’ve ever seen and it absolutely amazes me that these guys haven’t blown up huge by now.
Matt C. White ~ Wallow in the Hollow:
Grandpa Jack ~ Grandpa Jack:
Matt C. White & Charles Ellsworth ~ Rose Door:
This entry may have you scratching your head, but there’s a reason I did it this way. It’s obvious that Matt C. White is involved in two of these albums and he’s also the drummer in Grandpa Jack. Three albums, but all three being so different that the other. Wallow in the Hollow is acoustic with elements of blues, folk and southern flavors. The self-titled album by Grandpa Jack is this crazy, psychedlic, fuzzy rock from the power trio that totally blew our mind! Rose Door is a split EP from White and Charles Ellsworth. Two of the four tracks are instrumentals with both being incredibly beautiful. The other two tracks are somber, acoustic folk tracks. It’s been a very busy year for White who had 75 tracks over 21 releases in 2018.
Typhoid Rosie ~ This Is Now: Brooklyn based Typhoid Rosie, fronted by the bad-ass Rosie Rebel, delivered ten tracks of power pop/punk goodness with a good dose of “grrrrr” on their third album This Is Now. It’s fun and catchy, but at times can also be dark and brooding. This is one release that was sent to us that took us by surprise and for all the right reasons.
Hawks & Doves ~ From a White Hotel: This is another album that took us by surprise. I will admit that I wasn’t familiar with Kasey Anderson or his backstory (see out interview with Anderson for more info), but I popped this one in my CD on a roadtrip one Saturday evening and was totally caught off guard by what I heard and felt. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s a damn solid album from beginning to end. The material draws on Anderson’s own journey a well as the current state of affairs in our country. It’s one album that you don’t just hear, but you also feel.
Judas Priest ~ Firepower: It’s hard to believe, but almost 50 years into their career and Judas Priest managed to make one of their best albums in 2018. Firepower has classic producer Tom Allom, who was at the helm of some of the group’s most heralded records spanning from 1979’s Unleashed in the East through 1988’s Ram it Down, involved in its production. This is classic Priest, but it sounds far from being dated. It’s been jakked up with a massive dose of musical steroids and it sounds amazing. Halfprd and Priest are doing what they do best on here, so prepare for some major headbanging and air guitar playing when you play this one. One last thing: this is an album that deserves to be played on speakers and cranked up loud! Earbuds and computer speakers just don’t do this one justice.
Black Coffee ~ Take One: Excuse me, but how in the hell is this a debut album? This is going to be a debut album that we will be looking back on for many years to come. It’s solid from beginning to end and sounds like a bunch of seasoned vets made it far into their careers. These dudes have some serious chemistry between them and a quality that you cannot teach someone. It’s pretty damn magical and something that rock music needs a big dose of these days.
Paralandra ~ Ascension: Female fronted bands come along a dime a dozen lately with too many being fronted by eye candy with style over substance. Luckily, it doesn’t take too long for those to overstay their welcome. In the case of Paralandra, one listen to them makes the band stand out leaps andbounds above the others. Why? It’s because you can immediately tell that the band is the real deal. Lead vocalist Casandra Carson is a little bit Amy Lee of Evanesence, a little bit of Lzzy Hale from Halestorm and a lot of bad-assery. After their previous EP proved to be to poppier than they had intended, but the band re-focused and got back on track while making this new album. Thank goodness for that and thank goodness for this band!
Paul McCartney ~ Egypt Station: I’ll file this one alongside the new Judas Priest album. WTF you say? Well, I do so because it is absolutely amazing how each of these artists managed to make one of their best albums in 2018 after being in the business for so freaking long. As for McCartney, it’s rather interesting how his creative juices seem to be flowing richer than they have in a while. Could it be all of the touring he has been doing? It could also be the fact that he’s worked with some people who have pushed him a little bit in a way that hasn’t happened to him in years. This album actually surprised me with how rich it is from beginning to end. Kudos Sir Paul on a job well done.
Stew ~ Hot: I feel like I’m on a bit of a time warp when listening to Stew’s EP Hot. You can tell that the band’s roots are in firmly solidified in the late 60s and early 70s. The power trio’s blend of blues and soul seem to channel Hendrix at times and then Cream. It’s a blast of retro rock that doesn’t sound dated at all. If you grew up on stuff like Hendrix, Cream and even Stevie Ray Vaughn, then this one will hit you right in the feels. The only bad thing that I can think to say is that it’s only four songs and leaves you wanting more. I guess we will have to (im)patiently wait for that to happen. In the meantime, we’ll keep this one cranked loud and on repeat.
A Flock Of Seagulls ~ Ascension: Yes, this is the same band that gave us the 80s classic “I Ran.” This is the first time that the original band (Mike Score on vocals/keyboards, Paul Reynolds on guitar, Frank Maudsley on bass and Ali Score on drums) has recorded together since 1984. Ascension features revisited classics from AFOS performed with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Other bands have tried to pull this kind of feat off and it doesn’t always work, but this time it works almost to perfection. This is a thing of beauty and seems as if these two musical entities were destined to do this.
CO-OP ~ CO-OP: I’ve always wondered what it’s like to grow up with a parent who is a famous musician. What if you’re parent is an icon like Alice Cooper? Do you pursue music or go in a totally different path? Well, Cooper’s son Dash chose the music route and he’s proving that his dad has definitely passed some of those genes along to him. Dash has a band called CO-OP (who we have featured here more than once) and they released their sef-titled debut album this year. Dash ha a cool, bit of gruff to his voice that sounds pretty cool and the guys in the band sound incredibly tight. There’s definitely no shortage of riffage on this one! The album even features appearance from Joe Perry of Aerosmith/Hollywood Vampires and Dash’s dad Alice.
Greta Van Fleet ~ Anthem of the Peaceful Army: I struggled a little bit as to whether or not to include this album in my list. It seems like everybody is going with this one and in some cases (not all), it’s become the popular thing to do and include them. We were one of the first to get behind this band. We were one of the first to introduce you to the band, we delivered the very first review of their four song EP Black Smoke Rising as well as an interview with Sam. The more we listened to thsi album, the more we knew we had to include it. Although the guys are still battling the Led Zeppelin Jr. label, this album does show them spreading their creative wings even further. Yes, there are plenty of those LZJ moments on this album, but far less than on that initial EP. This is a great album and shows even more layers to the creativity that these four young guys possess. If you get a chance to see them live, we highly recommend that you do because they will blow you away. Now, if we can just get the guys to own it when it comes to the Zeppelin influence.