Users’ Top 10 EPs, Live Albums, and Compilations of 2018

Published: January 10, 2019

50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1 | EPs/Live Albums/Compilations

10. Iglooghost – Clear Tamei

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By now Iglooghost has solidified himself as one of the most talented producers, being able to take the most frantic drums of Aphex Twin’s and molding it into something that’s altogether his own. Within the splashes of melody lines, one can hear influences of bubblegum bass, rap breakdowns, fluttering ambient passages, and at times even twinkly math rock arpeggios. All of these are on full display on Clear Tamei, yet he’s taken it a step further within the overall atmosphere of this EP; Iglooghost wants to become a world-builder. Instantly, you’re immersed into this alien land, filled with many characters speaking gibberish while metallic clangs of synths and samples elongate across the ground — much like blowing up a balloon, only to have it pop and burst into nonstop explosions of robotic sound effects. At times this world seems like it’s underwater, like an unimaginable Atlantis filled with multicolored sea life. Other times, it seems as if you’re in some jungle as birds chirp by your ears gracefully among the gorgeous chaos happening before your eyes. It’s meant to be confusing only in the sense that everything you are hearing and experiencing is completely and totally new, making it one of the most successful EPs for immersing you into foreign, dreamed up lands. While it’s at times unsettling, it focuses its atmosphere a bit more on the unspeakable beauty of nature, unlike its counterpart EP Steel Mogu. The natural world has, however, been mangled and morphed into something that only could’ve come from the brilliance that is Iglooghost. –Connor S.

9. Touche Amore – 10 Years / 1000 Shows: Live at the Regent Theater

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8. Boygenius – Boygenius

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Of boygenius’ three members — Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus — Dacus is, by most accounts, the least impressive. Where Baker’s Sprained Ankle sparked a gradual flame within the collective hearth of the emo and indie-folk scenes, and Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps began appearing — seemingly out of nowhere — on all your favourite artists’ year-end lists, Dacus’ success with last year’s Historian, though considerable by any other measure, seems modest in light of her bandmates’ successes. When boygenius was announced, then, and Dacus appeared seated next to who are — or will be — considered essential figures within the scenes in question, a few scratched heads were more than justified. Which isn’t to suggest that the skeptics were right, or to diminish the immense talent of the indie-rock songstress. In spite of speculation, Dacus’ often mature, never-not-sophisticated approach to songwriting does more than live up to the prowess of her counterparts. It is, in fact, the backbone against which the trio stand: emotional, powerful, fervent in their stance. After all, it’s opener “Bite the Hand”, a characteristically ‘Dacus’ track, with its subtle wit and cautious unravelling that lays the groundwork for much of what follows. A modest, often plodding project that is no less intoxicating in its delicate moments than in its attempt to find catharsis through wails. In truth, each respective member within the ‘supergroup’ flavours the project with her own distinct charm. Where with Baker and Bridgers it’s obvious the two account for much of the project’s bombast, delivering most of its heartrending climaxes, Dacus’ impression is a lot subtler. But it’s where these the distinctions blur that boygenius shine, a palette of blues, greens, and reds, bleeding together beneath a monochromatic façade. –BlushfulHippocrene

7. Aphex Twin – Collapse

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It’s a long time since Aphex Twin could reasonably be called a pioneer — if indeed he ever was — but inflecting his oddities onto a lavish carpet made from Footwork makes for his finest hou– err, half hour, since at least Drukqs. Collapse sees our protagonist in rude health and sunny disposition for someone who allegedly spends much of his life submerged beneath the sea. The only inspiration I can see him drawing from his sub is the rollicking waves, which crash down constantly on effervescent, bubbling career highlight “1st 44”, or the aquatic stillness that suffuses through “abundance10edit[2 R8’s, FZ20m & a 909]” in… abundance? While previous attempts to reinvent the wheel turned oblong, taking a backseat and taking his cues from up-and-coming artists shows a side of Aphex Twin falling, unexpectedly, into graceful maturity. Although if the video for the pulsating, surrealistic fever dream of “T69…” (nice) is any indication, he’ll do it in his own consummate fashion. –WinesburgOhio

6. Counterparts – Private Room

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5. AFI – The Missing Man

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You would think a band nearing three decades of album output would slow down, but that is the opposite of AFI. Following their full-length, self-titled Blood Album from 2017, AFI continue their experimentation and find new ways of being creative. The Missing Man is quite reflective and pushes forward what the Blood Album started, with singer Davey Havok hanging back and letting the instrumentation take over more often. Some bands go into their 30th year lacking any punch or magic, but AFI seem determined to be better than that, even if it’s not what some AFI lovers necessarily want. –Storm in a Teacup

4. The Nietzsche – Finals.

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In Finals. I found myself far from my natural habitat of atmospheric folk and arty alt-rock. However, where other metalcore/whatever-the-hell-this-is bands tend to bore with being aggressively redundant song after song, I found there to be more variety in a single track here than I’ve heard on entire albums in the past. Thanks to a blend of just plain lovely melodic tendencies with muscular metallic roots, this is a release that keeps you guessing just as you’re trying frantically to sing along. This short EP allowed me to set up a small camp in this style of music, and was my first big step towards being a convert. –neekafat

3. Converge – Beautiful Ruin

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Beautiful Ruin, simply put, is the ferocity that The Dusk In Us didn’t end up possessing — its four songs are quick bursts that recall an earlier, angrier Converge, back when Jacob Bannon was less brooding and more vicious. It’s about as no-nonsense and pared-down as Converge have ever been, from the straightforward, d-beat-esque “Permanent Blue” to the venomous snarls of “Melancholia”. The EP is by no means any revolutionary change in the band’s sound, but the way that Beautiful Ruin so satisfyingly burns throughout its brief runtime may be a sign that Converge can, in fact, afford to rest on their laurels every once in a while. –clavier

2. Thou – Rhea Sylvia

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As if releasing one of the best albums of their career wasn’t enough of a 2018 accomplishment, Thou decided to expand the release of Magus into the Summer of Thou, preceding the album with three EPs that departed from their typical doom-sludge sound in drastically different ways. While the noise-soaked drone of The House Primordial and the contemplative slowcore of Inconsolable were both compelling experiments, it was Rhea Sylvia that, perhaps owing to its closer proximity to Thou’s usual oeuvre, proved to be the most rewarding of the three. The guitar work and clean vocals on Rhea Sylvia clearly take their influence from ’90s grunge, especially Alice in Chains, but the EP maintains the deliberate tempos and desolate tone of album tracks like “Grissecon” and “Into the Marshlands”. By retaining core elements of their signature style, Thou allow themselves to play to their strengths while experimenting with the intriguing new grunge elements. The end result includes some of the most satisfyingly cathartic moments of Thou’s career, such as the final refrain of “The Only Law” and the climactic crescendo of “Restless River”. The infamously prolific Thou have long excelled at producing B-sides that match their album tracks in quality, but rarely has the complete package been as engaging; Rhea Sylvia is the exception to that rule. –Dean M

1. mewithoutYou – [untitled] e.p.

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If the [untitled] LP kicks off with a ferocious lightning strike, then its adjacent EP is a ominous roll of thunder. A far softer, more acoustic-based offering than its bigger brother, it finds surprising sonic cohesion despite the vast variety of sounds here. From the looping dystopia of “Existential Dread, Six Hours’ Time” to the autumnal, country-esque chill of “Kristy w/ the Sparkling Teeth”, there’s a deep sense of purpose in the way the tracks interlock. They simply belong together, the way that they are, in the way that they do. There’s something comforting about these wintry melodies, and yet they continuously find ways of crawling under the skin, most obviously in the rapturous “August 6th”, which rains violent imagery down upon the listener with apocalyptic certainty. The poetry on display here indeed bleeds with self-referential religious language, one song will name drop another, which will in turn spout Bible verses and cite Revelations. I mean, the opener is named “Bethlehem, WV” for crying out loud.

But all this is beside the point. Perhaps there’s something unfair in focusing so much on the dichotomy between the two releases, but the differences between them are as purposeful as they are necessary. After hearing them out of order and with so much delay in between, there was a sense of completion to be found when I finally gave this a spin, and then moreso when I trapped myself inside it over and over for this write-up. Just as the tracks fit together in a magical way, these two releases do as well, coloring and filling each other with new context and meaning. They enhance each other. But damn is this a great EP on its own. And it’s a work of sound whose muted psalms leave room for even more growth in the listener’s ear than the album that often and wrongfully eclipses it. –neekafat

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