Musically speaking, 2018 wasn’t too memorable. You really had to dig for the prime paydirt. Oddly, the one consistent — which again topped Spotify playlists and Billboard charts alike — was Imagine Dragons, with its tub thumping populist anthems and heartfelt, charity-minded sentiment. Like Ugg boots, it was a phenomenon that never waned, even on the band’s fourth outing, “Origins.” Even odder, good earworm songs weren’t always on the radio — Erin Bowman’s jubilant ukulele-strummed “Keep Me Warm” soundtracked a series of TV commercials, and required some tracking down. But here are this scribe’s most-enjoyed records of the year. Hope you will enjoy them, too.
10) Dorothy, “28 Days in the Valley”
After not becoming the new high priestess of Heavy metal, Dorothy Martin and her band Dorothy lost the plot in an alcohol-drenched haze. Enter veteran producer Linda Perry, who nudged her into sobriety and this shrewder roadhouse-R&B direction. It works.
9) Editors, “Violence”
Sometimes navel-gazing can be good for an artist. Not so on UK gothic Outfit Editors’ last lint-heavy yawner “In Dream.” This inspired follow-up finds Tom Smith and company dancing with their beloved darkness again.
8) Death Cab For Cutie, “Thank You for Today”
Tragedy can often make for some pretty great art. Frontman Ben Gibbard not only conquers comedowns like his ephemeral marriage to actress Zooey Deschanel, but turns these negatives into chiming, charming Pet-Shop-Boy-precise pop.
7) Elle King, “Shake the Spirit”
Another blues belter that got ousted from the throne room via short-lived marriage and substance abuse, this future superstar is back on triumphant track with this stark dirt-dishing confessional that lets her make poetic sense of the hell she’s endured.
6) Goat Girl, “Goat Girl”
Finally. Some London all-girl post-punkers got the genre right in this bratty 19-song blast, anchored by the brainy, self-effacing banshee Clottie Cream. Ones to watch in 2019.
5) Brian Fallon, “Sleepwalkers”
The Gaslight Anthem frontman continues to sonically branch out on this, his second solo disc, which delves more deeply — and confidently — into finger popping old school soul. He’s reached a proficiency level that’s nearly Springsteen.
4) Pale Waves, “My Mind Makes Noises”
Make no mistake here: With her Clara Bow-spooky silent-film-star wardrobe and makeup, combined with a love of decadent bass-heavy melodies, Pale Waves vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie is a future Robert Smith in training. The fact that she was discovered by The 1975 doesn’t hurt her chances, either.
3) Interpol, “Marauder”
Like the Coen Brothers, these fey New Yorkers can be annoyingly hit or miss. This shot is a gothic-grim bullseye, which taps into the creepy Trump era at a galloping pace, without ever giving you the actual creeps.
2) Tracyanne and Danny, “Tracyanne and Danny”
From Anthony A. Aardvark to Zelda Z. Zygote, fairy-throned Camera Obscura thrush Tracyanne Campbell can sing the local phone book and we’d pay to hear it. Teamed with folkier foil Danny Coughlan for this playful duets collection, she’s even more beguiling.
1) The Vaccines, “Combat Sports”
Bandleader Justin Young openly admits it: He lost his songwriting mojo on the last Vaccines disc, “English Graffiti.” But he and guitarist Freddie Cowan found the spark again on this masterpiece, easily the most perfect album of the year.
28 Days in the Valleybrian fallonCombat SportsDeath Cab for CutieDorothyEditorsElle KingGoat GirlInterpolMarauderMy Mind Makes NoisesPale WavesPop MusicShake the SpiritSleepwalkersThank You for TodayTracyanne and DannyVaccinesviolence