Best of 2018 - Eric Rosso's Picks (Cover Artwork)

Best of 2018

Eric Rosso's Picks (2018)

Staff Picks

This was not originally my what my personal reflection introducing my first Best Of list was supposed to be. Instead what I’d like to spend a few lines talking about is music, particularly the elasticity of it. A quick Google search definition states it’s the ability of an object or material to resume its normal shape after being stretched or compressed. Your relationship to music has this. Albums particularly have it. I’ve talked about the concept in a few of the reviews I wrote this year. A combination of variables affect your relationship with the music. When a variable specific to you changes, what will it affect?

This is the music that soundtracked my year up until I went to submit this list the day a new life changing variable was added into my equation. Also a day past deadline because of this. Sorry about that to my editor. The variables that made these my 2018 favorites produced some combination which I have spent some time turning into a Top 20. I did my best to explain what that was in each accompanying graf. This list isn’t solely based on technicality. Some rankings are influenced by it though. Others choices connected with me at a certain part of the year or provided the score to a memory. There are a few included that are just important albums in the punk rock scene that deserve recognition. I’m about to find out what happens when I change and what it means to my feelings about these albums. Rankings are likely to be affected. So cheers to 2019, a new stage of my life, much P.M.A., and upping the punx forever!

Here are a few bands that made some version of this list over the course of the month long editing process. They all put out great albums this year as well. In no particular order: Primal Rite, Screaming Females, The Sidekicks, The Interrupters, illuminati hotties, Travis Scott, Pig Destroyer, Restorations, and The HIRS Collective.

Top 10 Concerts of 2018

10. Joyce Manor, Vundabar: Union Transfer

October 14

I mentioned this show in my Top 20 write up of Million Dollars To Kill Me. What really stands out when seeing Joyce Manor is just how much of a pop-punk band they are. Despite their forays into more indie sounding affairs, there core doesn't change. It didn't even matter that they didn't really play anything off Million Dollars To Kill Me despite my desire to see it. They played just about everything a Joyce Manor fan would clamor for with preciseness. Vundabar were also an enjoying opener. One of a few on this list that I had no previous experience with before the show.

9. The Menzingers, Rozwell Kid, Iron Chic: Musikfest Cafe

August 18

I am devotee of The Menzingers. This was one of five shows I've seen by the group this year, one of 15 plus shows since the release of After The Party, and my first time seeing them in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Their set was heavy on On The Impossible Past songs that I will never complain about seeing live, including 'I Can't Seem To Tell.' A special treat, because to my knowledge I haven't seen them play it live in a while. It's clear The Menzingers on tour is a well-oiled machine at this point. This band never gets old for me and here's to hoping I can catch outside of the United States sometime next year.

8. Coheed and Cambria, Taking Back Sunday, The Story So Far: Festival Pier at Penn's Landing

July 18

I was obsessed with the drama of Taking Back Sunday's lineup many years ago. The John Nolan and Adam Lazarra beef was a much debated topic amongst my friend group in high school. Since his return to the band, I still hadn't seen them live despite generally enjoying their output since. I don't care much for Coheed and Cambria or The Story So Far though and with the price of the ticket, I was a little hesitant to go. I don't go to many actual concernts at venues this big, but I'm glad I did here. The sound and lights were overwhelming and I can vividly remember the overwhelmed by rock 'n' roll experience as I'm typing this. Taking Back Sunday put on an incredible show and it was great to hear the classic dual vocals that put Tell All Your Friends on par with the bible for teenagers when I was one. Coheed and Cambria were also surprisingly good. The epic prog rock was made for a stage this big.

7. Turnstile, Touché Amoré, Culture Abuse, Razorbumps: Theatre of Living Arts

May 6

This was one of the buzziest tours of the year and rightfully so. Two of these bands made my Best Of list and the others are fire too. It was on one of the first genuinely warm days of spring as well and the crowd was inspired in-kind after a long winter. This is another one that as I write this, I vividly remember being slammed by the incredible wall of sound that night. I watched every band from the same place because it was one of those concerts that you physically feel. The bass shattering, the stage dives, and the positive vibe made this one of the best of the year.

6. The Matches: The Foundry

June 29

I haven't listened to The Matches in many years, but it caught my attention that they were playing in Philadelphia when the venue announced the show. Having seen them many times in their more active years, I was super excited for this show. It was an anniversary show for A Band In Hope, an album I had no familiarity with. I was glad I didn't let that stop me because the band hasn't missed a beat. They sounded as tight as I remember them which was of particular importance during this show because my eyes were out of order for the week since it was after an eye surgery. They also played a handful of songs from E. Von Dahl Killed the Locals which all my friends from back in the day demanded seeing videos of after they saw I was at the show on social media.

5. Jeff Rosenstock: Colectivo Coffee

April 28

This show was another last minute score on sold out tickets. I knew a few weeks out that I would be in Milwaukee while Jeff Rosenstock was performing, but it was already sold out by the time I was for sure booked. The venue released a handful of tickets about an hour before the show and my Twitter addiction finally paid off. The venue was in the back of a coffee shop. Colectivo Coffee has very good chicken salad sandwiches by the way. Jeff Rosenstock was high energy turning in a very spastic performance. Part of the joy of a Jeff Rosenstock show, particularly lately as the band gains in popularity, is the delight and disbelief in which he performs while so many stoked people lose their fucking minds to the songs. To curb an album title from a popular release this year, joy is an act of resistance!

4. The Lawrence Arms, Red City Radio, Sincere Engineer, Ramona: Theatre of Living Arts

April 7

I was asked by Punknews to cover this show. If you want the full breakdown, please check out the review. This was cool for many reasons. I've been reading this site since sometime around 1999. This year was the first year I became a regular contributor and I'm very appreciative of having this as an outlet to write about some of my favorite music and the feelings it inspires in me. The Lawrence Arms' set felt like a celebration, Red City Radio sounded arena ready, Sincere Engineer held the room down playing to a bunch of drunk Philadelphians acoustically, and Ramona were a great up and coming addition. I'm also very excited to fly out to Chicago to see the annual War on X-mas shows from The Lawrence Arms a few weeks from now. It likely would've made this list.

3. I Am The Avalanche, Nightmare Of You: Gramercy Theatre

March 25

When I was entering college, it was shortly after the dissolution of The Movielife who were one of my favorites. I was bummed out, but it quickly dissipated upon the release of albums from I Am The Avalanche and Nightmare Of You post-breakup. They were both better than anything I could imagine from The Movielife. Along with my new roommates, these albums sound tracked our friendship and we never missed an I Am The Avalanche show. We have many crazy stories, traveled many miles, and have spent the following 13 years growing with these bands. One of my best friends made the journey from Ohio to Philadelphia to go to New York City to see this with me. It made for a blast watching the bands celebrate a hometown show. I'm still counting on the album shows I Am The Avalanche frontman Vinnie Caruana teased at this show. Fingers crossed.

2. Jessican Lea Mayfield, Mal Blum and the Blum Blums: Boot and Saddle

March 8

I've always been a huge fan of Jessica Lea Mayfield, but never managed to see her in concert. This is noteworthy given that I lived in Akron, Ohio neighboring Kent, Ohio where her career began. The gig sold out, but I managed to grab a ticket the day of and I'm incredibly glad I did. Jessica Lea Mayfield played a career spanning set and openers Mal Blum and the Blum Blums were a really fun addition who I had never heard before. Both bands sounded incredibly tight, had great stage presence, and the vibe of the sold out show was good. Can’t ask for much more.

1. Roger Harvey & Family: The First Unitarian Church

April 20

Sad cowboy and punk rock socialist troubadour Roger Harvey performed a series of Roger Harvey Family shows throughout the country this year. I highlighted this particular show on another feature in Punknews. This April 20th show remains my favorite of the year for a few reasons. Alongside Roger Harvey were a handful of Philadelphia-based artists including The Menzingers, Cayetana, Katie Ellen, Captain We're Sinking, The Holy Mess, Restorations, and Kayleigh Goldsworthy. The renditions of the songs, the set-up of the First Unitarian Church, and show date made for a lasting experience that was different from a standard show. I appreciate Roger Harvey's commitment to these intimate performances with like minded songwriters. They make for an easy and enjoyable night and usually come with memorable reflections from the artists performing.

Top 20 Albums of 2018

20. Pass Away: The Hell I've Always Seen

Suburbia Records

Mikey Ireland had a stellar year of releases between this and his Spirit Houses project. I'm a huge fan of I Am The Avalanche and was immensely excited to hear The Hell I've Always Seen . This album is for the punks and one of the best straight up punk rock releases of the year. It's clear these players were raised equally on New York hardcore and SoCal punk rock. That combination made for a winner, particularly combined with the stellar production found here. This is the type of record you put on with your buddies to prepare for a long night of drinking. Sure fire sing alongs about hangovers, pocket drugs, getting older, and lost loves sound great on The Hell I've Always Seen.

19 . Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer

Bad Boy Records

Sundays have always been a day where I don't really listen to much punk rock, not really for any reason. It's just a day that usually calls for lounging around the apartment and digging into some deep cuts in my collection. 'Dirty Computer' is not a deep cut in any sense of the word. It’s a massive pop album. And it turned into a perfect Sunday album for me. There are so many incredible sounds within this release spanning the spectrum of pop music. It's perfect to put on and dance like no one's watching (and second floor staging in my apartment ensures no one is watching). It's also pointedly political exploring issues of race, gender, and class with an eye towards the future. Not many albums, especially embraced in more mainstream pop circles, comes close to it.

18. Hell To Pay: Bliss

Get This Right Records

There were a ton of bands that did creative things with hardcore this year. Some of that involved adding elements of nu-metal and industrial to the ingredients, while others fuzzed off in indie rock directions. Hell To Pay released the heaviest fucking album of the year. I remember once reading a description of Thrice's The Illusion of Safety on a Punknews Best Of list that stated, 'Everything good about hardcore, metal, punk and pop is in here. Everything bad isn't.' To crib that line, everything good about hardcore, grindcore, metalcore, and death metal is in here. Everything bad isn't. If you were enamored with more headline grabbing bands like Harms Way, Jesus Piece, Vein, or their ilk, but didn't get to check out Hell To Play, do yourself a favor and do it now.

17 . Bat Fangs: Bat Fangs

Don Giovanni Records

This album came out at the perfect time to connect with me this year. Its huge sugar soaked hooks sound perfect in the summer, but its January release date was relief from the gray landscape that dominates in early winter. I don't know if I would have had the same connection if it was released at a different point in the year. I said in my initial review that 'riffs for days' is all you needed to know about the album. I stand by that assessment.

16. Pusha T: Daytona

Getting Out Your Dreams, INC / Def Jam Recordings

There were a bunch of albums that fit this mold that came out this year. Falling somewhere between seven and nine tracks, it seems the format of the album is being shortened. As an advocate for full albums, but also cursed with a short attention span, partially because I grew up on 25-minute punk rock albums and partially because the digital economy is turning my brain to mush, these mini-albums hit just the right length for me. Daytona contains one of the best album openers this year and never lets up from the opening bars. I also have to say watching the rollout of this record with the ensuing mic drop on Drake was something else. Like I said, the digital economy is giving me brain worms.

15. Elway: For The Sake Of The Bit

Red Scare

For The Sake Of The Bit by Elway was one of the best punk rock records released this year. It also contains my favorite song of the year on most days with 'Hold On.' That song alone makes this album worth placement on this list with the way it falters the line between Chicago 90s pop-punk and a modern post-hardcore vibe. At a sleek 8 songs and a few winks to the absurdity of it all, this is Elway's best. I mean seriously, these lyrics: 'Hold on / A part of me remembers when / All my friends weren't so blasé / Seems like yesterday / Hold on / I swore that I would never sweat / The stupid expectations that they set / Is it now or then that I was full of shit?'

14. Fucked Up: Dose Your Dreams

Merge Records

Fucked Up has previously never connected with me. It's not that I think they are a bad band or anything. Their grandiose and orchestra composed punk rock was too much for me. I've seen them live a few times, have given various spots in their discography a few spins, and appreciated it for what they are. Dose Your Dreams is a different story. The scrutiny they placed on the dominating neo-liberal economic system is inspired and one of my favorite discussions of it this year. As someone who works with labor unions, this is extremely my shit. This struck me the same way that Arcade Fire's Reflektor did. I swear there are moments where they come pretty close to that record...and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones as well.

13. Noname: Room 25


I enjoyed Noname's debut, but Room 25 is an album that listens like it has something to prove. The album felt real in a way that some of the bravado and ego in hip-hop sometimes doesn't. The lyrics, both political and personal, are engrossing, yet composed with enough reflection to be both introspective and outward facing. Noname's poet-esque delivery adds another layer of emotional heft to Room 25. All of this over jazz beats that remind me of A Tribe Called Quest makes this album a winner. Whether Noname is name dropping Ishkabibble's cheesesteaks in Philadelphia, Huey P. Newton, or the intersection of the black experience and capitalism, you can count on it being fire.

12. Candy: Good To Feel

Triple B Records

As I mentioned before, hardcore really had a year. There were so many releases that redefined and pushed the genre in new directions. Candy is one of those bands and Good To Feel is one of those albums. The mix of power violence with hardcore throughout this album makes for a banger of a listen. What really caught my ear though is that Dinosaur Jr.-inspired fuzz pop on the 2-minute album closer 'Bigger Than Yours.' It feels like this band has already set boundaries that allow it to grow into something crazy and I'm excited for the ride. This album was also an emphatic fuck you to fascism and racism which desperately needs to be said over and over again these days.

11. Nothing: Dance On The Blacktop

Relapse Records

Not to take away from the excellent mix of swirling guitars and 90s alternative rock nostalgia found on this release, but this is an album that sound tracked a very specific time and place for me. I was not hip to Nothing before this album came out, so this was my first entry point for the band. In late summer, I found myself frequently driving back and forth between Philadelphia and Brooklyn via the New Jersey turnpike. The desolate highway lights and endless concrete urban sprawl tracked perfectly with the dark city vibes that make up Dance On The Blacktop. With Nothing claiming ties to both Philadelphia and New York City, it's easy to see how the record synced perfectly with my drive. It will always sound best on that turnpike.

10. Swearin’: Fall Into The Sun

Merge Records

I've always been aware of Swearin' and the earlier bands from the Crutchfield sisters before they received more wider notoriety. They were frequent performers at basement shows in Columbus years ago alongside bands like The Sidekicks, Delay, Spraynard, and others. This year, some trips to Milwaukee re-introduced me to the band in the lead up to Fall Into The Sun because of the Wisconsin references populating one of their previous efforts. My interest was piqued ahead of the release for Fall Into The Sun. I was immediately drawn into the honest exploration of co-writers Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride preceding break-up. There's an earnest reflection here matched with festival ready hooks.

9. Turnspit: Desire Paths

Dodgeball Records

Chicago is one of my favorite cities. A whole host of bands that were important to me growing up and that still have a special place in my heart come from there. My best friend lives in the city and I'm a frequent visitor for festival shows, weekend concert runs, and the triple cake shake from Portillo's. I know a lot of good people there. Turnspit are a quintessentially Chicago band that deserve a wider audience. If you doubt me, you need to look no further than Desire Paths' opener 'Irish Name.' That song is one of the best of the year in my humble opinion and I can't wait to shout it alongside a live show soon, preferably in Chicago with my friends.

8. Turnstile: Time and Space

Roadrunner Records

In January, I had eye surgery on my right eye for Keratoconus, a degenerative disease of the cornea that currently has no cure. Later on in the year, I had it on my left eye as well. Essentially, the ophthalmologist scrapes off the top layer of eyeball called the epithelium to inject a solution in the cornea with ultraviolet light in an attempt to halt the progression of the disease. Across the dozen pre- and post-op appointments I went to, I always jammed 'I Don't Wanna Be Blind' on my way there. It became my theme song for the year. In a year that hardcore took a giant lead forward, it was Time and Space that set the bar. From the guest spots by Diplo and Sheer Mag's Tina Halladay to the 80s pop-infused riffage, this album was fun at a time when we need it.

7. Hop Along: Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Saddle Creek Records

I think back about the review I wrote for Bark Your Head Off, Dog often. I think about it because it's one of my least favorite that I've authored for Punknews. This isn't because I regret the score or any of the descriptions, it's because I feel I didn't do justice to how good the album's lyrics are. There are so many layers to unpack on Bark Your Head Off, Dog. It's true that this album remains a searing indictment against the way in which toxic masculinity shaped much of the modern world, but it's also true they are constructed with an empathy on how that has hurt all of us. I appreciate that type of inclusive approach even if it's not warranted. To boot, the compositions here are incredibly intricate and exemplify the cohesiveness of a band totally in sync.

6. Soccer Mommy: Clean

Fat Possum Records

This is another album that I associate vividly with a time and place from 2018. As I somewhat mentioned in the above Swearin’ write up, I spent a handful of weekends flying back and forth between Philadelphia and Milwaukee. I remember putting on Soccer Mommy's Clean often while walking around Farwell Street there. In fact, I bought the vinyl version of this album at a record store called The Exclusive Company on that very street, which quickly became a go to spot for me when I had time to kill. The lyrics on this album are so cuttingly heartbreaking. It hits hard with the romanticism of love and how devastatingly empty the absence of it can weigh. This is an album that you want to sit and listen to while following along on a gatefold.

5. Lee Corey Oswald: Darkness, Together

A-F Records

Late capitalism is a term that gets thrown around an awful lot on the internet. I happen to be pretty fond of the phrase and I think it perfectly (and with some hope) describes the adult experience of many millennials. Darkness, Together is the record that best sums up late capitalism to me. The album captures what it's like to feel like an imposter as an adult, the tribulations of cohabitation, and the existential dread that naggingly grows with each year older. It also happens to be probably my favorite review that I've written for this year, so I'd encourage you to check it and the album out if you haven't.

4. Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour

UMG Recordings

I went on a trip two years ago to Nashville. Before the weekend excursion, I was very anti-country music. I also didn't draw any distinction between outlaw country, honky-tonk, modern-pop country, or even artists who managed to transcend country labels to become musical icons. That all changed after the weekend exploring the history of the genre, the whiskey at Broadway country joints, or the famous recording studios. I don't know exactly what it did to me. There wasn't one moment in particular and the music still sounds the same, but exploring country music these two years, while frustrating at times, has been very enjoyable. With that said, this album is really good and its lush pop orchestration overshadows the country influence. In the words tweeted by Kacey Musgraves herself, 'Welcome to the yee yee club bitch.'

3. Joyce Manor: Million Dollars To Kill Me

Epitaph Records

Joyce Manor is a confounding band and I appreciate the fuck out of that. I think the band gets this and I certainly think Epitaph head honcho Brett Gurewitz gets it. I was struck by an interview he gave to Stereogum when this was released where he described them as an 'every other record' band while talking about this album in the context of Joyce Manor's career trajectory. I saw them shortly after the release of Million Dollars To Kill Me and was super excited to hear how these songs fit into their pop-punk repertoire live. I think they played one song off the album, but the concert was one of my favorites of the year. This record made for great early fall vibes and I think, like many of their records, is criminally underrated. The late 90's Superchunk vibes and saccharine lyrics touching on goodness and wealth made this album one of my favorites this year.

2. Gouge Away: Burnt Sugar

Deathwish Inc.

The hype machine was in overdrive in the lead up to the release of Burnt Sugar. Nearly everyone I talked to had an opinion about this album, many before it was even released. It seemed to capture a moment in the hardcore scene. For me personally, this album connected when I saw them play days after its release with Culture Abuse in Philadelphia. It was clear the band was not quite comfortable with playing these songs live yet and it also underscored what a sonic leap forwards this record truly is. The band even addressed it throughout the set, but they didn't shy away into older material. That type of vulnerability is heavy. As I write this, I'm hours away from seeing Gouge Away again and couldn't be more excited now that they've toured on this record for months to see how these songs have grown their live show. Expanding their sound from their debut, Gouge Away successfully brought in bits of indie and alternative rock to create a soundscape of paranoia.

1. Culture Abuse: Bay Dreams

Epitaph Records

'Be kind to the bees / Be kind to the bugs / Be conscious of others / Be careful with drugs / Be kind to yourself / Even though it gets hard / Don't let the distractions / Stack up to the stars.'