I’ll let you guys in on a little secret: almost everything I do is an accident. When I sat down to plan out this site’s 2018, monthly new music roundups were not even part of the equation. By the end of January I was already so overwhelmed with incredible new music I just couldn’t help but collect it all in a write-up. I wrote that post in one day (a quick turnaround for me), and since then I’ve been keeping track of new releases more than ever before, discovering to new acts, and posting new music roundups along the way each month.
Now that we’re officially halfway through the year I wanted to look back and pick one album from each month that stood out to me. This article is basically a way for me to repurpose these mini-reviews in a more topical “mid-year recap” that every publication seems to be doing, but with a focus on smaller releases that have flown under the radar. So without further adieu, here are six albums from 2018 you (probably) haven’t heard yet.
Shame - Songs of Praise
Far and away my favorite album of January, Songs of Praise is the debut record from London-based post-punk group Shame. It’s an aggressive, moody, and surprisingly poetic album that’s currently filling the IDLES-shaped hole in my heart. Cold and grey, angry and calculating, this is an unflinching and immaculate record that took me by surprise and still hasn’t let go.
Hovvdy - Cranberry
Like most other bands on this list, Hovvdy is a group I’d never heard of until I sat down to listen to them this year. When I first hit play on Cranberry, I instantly fell in love with the warm, hazy, nostalgic sound of the record, and with each further listen a different track has jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Both spiritually and stylistically, this album reminds me of Turnover’s Peripheral Vision from 2015. Both albums hooked me on first listen and bear the same fuzzy spaced-out sense of nostalgia. While Turnover’s record is more pop-punk influenced, Cranberry finds itself taking cues from bedroom indie, Americana, and even country at times, but both play out like a distant memory that slowly grows to shroud the listener in their own nostalgia.
Haley Heynderickx - I Need To Start a Garden
On I Need To Start a Garden we witness as Haley Hendrickx attempts to balance the cultivation of her soul with the well-being of those around her. With deeply-cutting lyricism, haunting, fragile vocals, and wonderfully-arranged instrumentals, Garden is a carefully-crafted record. At its best moments, the album’s minimalism serves Hendrickx’s style well as the songs crest from held-back whispers into full-blown explosions of sound and emotion. Currently my strongest frontrunner for album of the year, Haley Hendrickx is a person to watch, with a record to love.
Fiddlehead - Springtime and Blind
Fiddlehead is an emo supergroup comprised of members from Basement and Have Heart who are making hard-charging punk in the style of Jawbreaker or Balance and Composure. A recent addition to the Run For Cover family, the label’s co-sign immediately put the band on my radar and got me to give this debut a shot. While the 24-minute running time makes Springtime and Blind an easy listen, the lyrical content makes it anything but. After witnessing the impact of his father’s death on his mom, lead singer Patrick Flynn set out to bottle up that emotion and hurl it back in the face of his audience. Opening track “Spousal Loss” immediately sets the tone of the record, and (aside from an interlude or two) the heavy-hearted energy of this release doesn’t let up until its final moments. It’s a compelling and expansive listen that grabbed me on first spin and has somehow managed to hit even harder with each subsequent listen. It’s musical and spiritual forward momentum.
Ministry of Interior Spaces - Life, Death and the Perpetual Wound
I’m not a sad person. I don’t have many regrets in life, nor a wealth of personal tragedies to draw from. Earlier this year I attended a This Will Destroy You concert, and it was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve had in recent memory. I knew their songs like the back of my hand, and midway through the instrumental set, my mind began to wander into long-forgotten thoughts. It was meditative. I started thinking about people, places, and events I hadn’t considered in years, as if the music was helping my brain re-establish these broken connections in order to feel these things I hadn’t in decades. At its best, I feel music offers listeners a canvas on which to project their own feelings and anxieties. An avenue to interact with deep-seated traumas and unheard thoughts, and that’s exactly what Ministry of Interior Spaces offers on Life, Death and the Perpetual Wound. Half concept album, half whatever you want it to be, Perpetual Wound is an ambient release that recounts the tale of a “mystical road trip through a magic-realist American West.” It’s a document of its creator’s struggle with drugs, depression and, friendship in the face of natural beauty. The record tells a timeless tale that simultaneously acts as a canvas for the listener to venture through and draw upon. A beautiful self-exploration.
Snail Mail - Lush
At the risk of echoing already-hyperbolic publications, I flat-out adore Lush. I’ve previously written quite a bit about Snail Mail, even going as far as to call this my most anticipated release of the year, and I’m now proud to write that Lush is everything I’d hoped it would be.
I first discovered Snail Mail last year when they were opening for Girlpool. I had already staked out a great spot for the main act one or two people away from the front of the stage in a small 200-some capacity venue here in Portland. I’d never heard of Snail Mail, but once they started playing my jaw just dropped, and I was rapt for their entire set.
There’s something pure about “discovering” a band like that, especially in a live setting just a few feet away from the music. It has been weirdly-affirming to watch Lindsey Jordan blow up since then. Between the Matador signing, her Tiny Desk concert, and all this recent press, it’s been wild to watch her soar so high so quickly.
I guess I feel a microcosm of the “I liked them before they were cool,” but at the same time, I’m goddamn happy for her. I’ve been spinning Habit and her (now deleted?) Sticki EP endlessly since that concert last year, even going as far as to manually rip the Tiny Desk performance onto my phone just so I was able to listen to “Anytime” at any time. This record has been a year in the making for me, and I couldn’t be happier.
Lush is somber, morose, and personal. Built around heartfelt tales and personal drama, each song features Jordan’s voice front and center, often working itself up to an explosive and passionate melody over her own jangly guitar-work. It hurts to listen to, but it also helps the ease the pain at the same time. It’s a beautiful contradiction, an awe-inspiring exploration of growth, and the exact kind of record I need right now.