Jenna DePasquale’s Top Albums of 2018
While all of us at Invisible Oranges have musical tastes that err on the eclectic, upon reflecting on this year’s best-of list, I think I may take the cake. The only common thread that tends to run through my Apple music collection is profound heaviness, but not in the way that one would necessarily expect of your average metal blogger. Marked by melancholy, angst, but also a glimmer of hope, this list spans the arenas of both Bandcamp and Soundcloud. For more orthodox heavy music fans, I recommend checking out my best of the metal underground list. But I promise if you stay with me through just one “Lil,” we can have a relaxed reflection on all the great albums to which I wallowed in disillusionment at 2:00 a.m. Whether or not you choose to come along on this spirit journey, I would like to thank you just for clicking, whether it be on this article, or any other content I’ve shared on Invisible Oranges this year. Cheers!
13. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – Wasteland (Rise Above)
12. $uicideboy$ – I Want to Die in New Orleans (G59)
11. Bogues – Life, Slowly (N/A)
If you didn’t incessantly make “slob on my YOB” jokes when pregaming the doom legend’s set with Bell Witch this past summer, what were you even doing? In case you goofed and missed one of the most dynamic tours of the year, YOB still has Our Raw Heart to offer. Ultimately, this record is an ode to what YOB does best, but with a twist. Four years after Clearing the Path to Ascend, YOB explores the layers of light that can be found within the fringes of doom metal. Perhaps due to the circumstances the three-piece faced concurrently with recording this album, clinging to the bright(er) side was the only fathomable option. After an intestinal disease nearly cost frontman Mike Scheidt his life, YOB as a unit also miraculously pulled through. Still, the lava lamp-like colors that Our Raw Heart evokes deep in your imagination are still offset with the crunch of cynicism that’s expected of the heaviest of metal.
The world of beat creation and production is one very much out of my realm of expertise. Technique aside, I know all the moving pieces of an alternative hip hop track have come together nicely when it socks me in the goddamned chest. Little did I know, the individual going fisticuffs with me in my Soundcloud app for the past two years has been no other than a 20-year-old vegan straightedge lad named Jay Vee. After leading production efforts for $hy, Shinigami, and nothing,nowhere., Jay, also known as Joey Valla, stepped definitively forward in his own right this year. His album Hiraeth, featuring his own instrumentals and the help of vocalists like guccihighwaters and familypet, proved to be the perfect mix of floaty summer slappers. The simultaneous finale and title track (ft. Sullii & drip-133) ends the album on the strong note as the sounds of melancholy wisp away with cool rhythm. Overall, Hiraeth marks a new stage of prominence for the young artist; shortly after its release, he premiered his first-ever vocal contributions with Promise and Held Down. Valla is also known for his crisp nae nae, which he brought to stages across the United States earlier this year while on tour with nothing,nowhere., Shinigami, and Lil Lotus.
A little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, Wayfarer spent this year proving that they’re the fleet of cowboys for which we’ve been waiting. World’s Blood, a follow-up to 2016’s Old Souls, is a new classic for an interpretation of folk metal that’s uniquely American. Hailing from Denver, Wayfarer brings frontier atmosphere that could compete with The Revenant. The opening riffs of World’s Blood are not only instantly iconic, but the makings of a bear-wrestling smackdown anthem. Much to the disdain of one xenophobic YouTube commenter, the album’s final track is titled “A Nation of Immigrants,” and saves one of the most delightfully abstract folk moments for last. While what essentially can be considered spooky folk music is probably astray in the blog circuit receiving even more preposterous of labels, I respect the movement for what it is and there is only hope that it will continue to grow, even at the risk of the concept growing contrived. With a busy docket for 2019 including Northwest Terror Fest and a European jaunt, it appears that Wayfarer is ready to test the boundaries of their experimentation.
While gothboiclique’s Wicca Phase Springs Eternal has been relentless when it’s come to releasing material over the past few years, Corinthiax has particularly garnered attention around the alternative hip hop circuit. While this release is technically an EP, the cohesion of consistent consecutive tracks perfectly captures Wicca Phase’s polarizing tone of anguished apathy. Also known as Adam McIlwee (ex-Tigers Jaw) the shadowy singer achieves his goal of creating occult-themed love ballads for when Michael Bolton just doesn’t cut it. The title track’s visuals are as simultaneously bold and understated as McIIwee himself as he selects bird feathers and lights candles for a magic circle in the sullen landscapes of Pennsylvania. While flutes and trap beat generally don’t tend to correlate, all the details balance each other with grace. Nevertheless, non-single "There Was a Feeling" brings a certain sparklines that one would expect while under the spell of twentysomething angst. Together, the five chapters of Corinthiax are fit for endless replay until Wicca Phase releases his completed full-length in February.
After Eneferens marked 2017 with acoustic renditions and a cover of 40 Watt Sun, The Bleakness of Our Constant is the full throttle full-length that we have been so desperately craving. Interestingly, but perhaps not unsurprisingly, solo practitioner Jori Apedaile chooses to write his next chapter of U.S. black metal with a progressive twist. Apedaile’s less-is-more approach to capturing the bleakness of black metal bodes well for bright, meandering melodies and contrasting vocal variety. Going as far as to spin into the jurisdiction of jazz odyssey at times, The Bleakness of our Constant brings a sense of humble decorum as seven solid tracks lay the path for an introspective journey. Ultimately, the icy Northern pines that this album conjures in the mind encourage the listener to walk alongside some of that existential dread until peace has been made. As Apedaile continues to overcome everyday practical challenges of doing it all on your own, as well as fist-to-the-face incidents like getting robbed, a sense of human resilience will continue to be at the heart of what Eneferens is all about.
The only thing worse than losing visionary crossover artist Lil Peep to a drug overdose in 2017 was the subsequent infighting among his collaborators, business handlers, and Twitter followers that popped off in 2018. Even a simple stance on his posthumous release Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 (prod. Smokeasac) carries some political connotations as the appropriate way to mourn a loss and to handle the art of the deceased is adjudicated. Truly, there is no winning, so I choose to speak candidly. Inherently, receiving new and polished music from a favorite artist from whom you never thought you’d hear again puts wind in your sails. However, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 -- the follow-up to the last album Lil Peep released in his lifetime -- does a great deal of cruising in its own right. From the first breath of "Broken Smile,' the magic atmospherics associated with the golden age of Soundcloud from which Lil Peep arose are evoked. While the alterations to beats and production on revamped tracks like "Life is Beautiful" are unfortunate, having the work that Lil Peep wrote at a remarkably young age lay languid in a lo-fi state is perhaps the greater of two evils. While much of the strife that occurred this year regarding the late artist’s legacy is probably indicative of frustration that he can never physically come back to earth, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2 is a beacon of greatness that Lil Peep ignited while he was here.
The year 2018 has been remarkable in the great decade of American doom, but in a subgenre that runs the risk of falling formulaic, Chrch is garnering the reputation as a relatively new stand-out. Echoing the yearly selections of spooky citrus grove brother Andrew Sacher, Chrch’s Light Will Consume Us All stands up alongside releases from doom/stoner/sludge giants such as YOB and High on Fire. The follow-up to 2015’s highly regarded inaugural full-length Unanswered Hymns, this record masters the mysticism at which lesser, clout-driven artists merely grasp. In a similar vein as Bell Witch’s Mirror Reaper, which burned up last year’s list circuit, Light Will Consume Us All achieves those limb tingles by forgoing excess instrumentation in favor of fully-exploring a melody’s potential. It becomes easy to close your eyes and imagine the troop strumming guitars from under heavy veils and dark desert skies. Being able to create these kinds of vignettes is not a talent on which we can place a price. Through their authentic artistry, Chrch has the potential to make their mark for decades to come.
Without fail, there is an album with a sneaky December release date that manages to punch you in the gut so hard that you have no choice but to clear a hurried spot. Hacker (prod. Ghostrage et al.) is precisely this record, and if it had been released a bit earlier in the year and given more time to marinate, it might just be sitting at number one. While the art of cohesive albums has been lost among many web-based artists, OmenXIII proves that he can strike a beautiful balance of tones, both vocally and thematically. Perhaps the most admirable part of the staggering 29-track album is that it embodies what his name is all about. As explained in the rapper’s interview with Masked Gorilla, an omen, while often given negative connotations, can be good or bad, leaving the listener to apply this blend of flow, shrieks, and clean vocals in any way that feels appropriate. Citing Suicide Silence, Chelsea Grin, and Carnifex as major influences, OmenXIII has spent this year blazing trails with an elevated approach to crossover music laden with integrity. Unsigned, unpromoted, and unrepresented, Hacker is left to speak for itself.
What if we pronounced shoegaze like it rhymes with fugazi? It’s a question that was posed recently on Twitter, and I’m still not sure if I’m ready to confront the reality of such a proposition. Nevertheless, one double album that wasn’t afraid of looking the intricacies of ambient metal in the face this year is This Will Destroy You’s New Others series. While both parts were released over the course of the fall, the gap in time served as a digestive window for the wild-blooded part one before consuming rock and roll-fused part two. The well-placed beeps and boops of the technology-gone-awry spin on part one builds a fantasy that’s kept afloat by the more conventional guitar effects of its sequel. Perhaps most admirably of all, This Will Destroy You toured relentlessly in support of their efforts, spreading their message of fragile hope from their home state of Texas all the way to China. While an extremely prominent post-metal band dropped a record this year, it’s about time we hear if for an underdog who proves that this subgenre contains a hell of a lot more depth than just one artist could ever provide.
Like with all good things, Ruiner (prod. Jay Vee) starts with a sample. Through the gradual build of atmospheric magic, a faint voice describes what coming to terms with early-life introversion looks like: in your class it’s not so bad, but when school’s out and the others go out to enjoy themselves, well, when you’re what they call a "shy" guy, that’s when you really feel it. While nothing,nowhere. has never catered to a specific genre, countless EPs and singles, and now, a full-length, have hit the nail on the head of the experience of someone who suffers from crippling anxiety, depression, and self-hatred. Solo artist Joe Mulherin has cited artists ranging from Dashboard Confessional to Cam’ron to Code Orange as his favorites – a sure recipe for diversity in his own songwriting. Ruiner’s key singles embody exactly that as "Rejecter," a floaty abyss of suicidal desires bounces off come-up slapper of the century, "Hammer." While the brutal honesty of 2017’s chilling Reaper is difficult to top, Ruiner proves that Mulherin’s journey from the basement where he recorded much of his early work to endless stages across the country where he plays sold-out shows is adding dimension and growth to his artistic perspective.