Boycotts, nazis, walls, treason; the entire new year could be spent celebrating the long, agonizing death of 2018. But what didn’t suck about last year was the music. While there was a pretty big roster to narrow down when it came to the AOTY list, not many of my personal favorites made the cut.
That’s not to say they weren’t as good as the ones that did, it just means most of them flew right under the radar.
But you know what? Us writers at Bearded Gentlemen Music pride ourselves in recognizing a good album whether it’s on the Billboard 200 or a flyer in a dive bar’s bathroom. This is why we like to put together a separate list of albums you may have missed. These are in no particular order because after all, we all know good music isn’t defined by rank… or race. Or gender. I should probably shut up and get on with the list yeah?
B.G.M.’s Hidden Gems 2018 – The Best Not On A List
Mimicking Birds – Layers of Us
If you’ve ever seen Mimicking Birds before, you’ll notice that the band takes the stage every time like it’s their first—understated and quiet, led by lead singer Nate Lacy’s humble demeanor. They let the music speak for itself; something reminiscent of simpler times, but in no way sonically simple. –Kelsey Simpkins
Full review and photography from Kelsey, please go here.
Brian Owens – Soul Of Cash
A black R&B artist dropping an album of covers from a white country singer shouldn’t make sense but everything about Soul Of Cash fits like a glove. With gospel and 1960s Motown flavor, Owens’ reimagines Johnny Cash standards and puts the focus on what makes them timeless. Be it songs of incarceration, a woman keeping you in line, or a protest anthem, every single track is as fresh and relevant today as they were back then. There was a lot of fantastic music released in 2018 but Brian Owens proves good music defies time, race, and genre. –Aaron Cooper
Full review here.
Slow Code – Wastelayer
Slow Code is one of Seattle’s best-kept secrets. They followed up their excellent 2015 EP Marketable Skills with one hell of a statement. Their debut full length is full of urgency and topical importance that seems to be lacking in a lot of current punk rock records. Slow Code are carrying the torch Fugazi set ablaze and it doesn’t look like they will be dropping it any time soon. Cannot wait to see what they have in store for us in the future. I hope the rest of the country starts paying attention to what they have cooking in The Emerald City. –Matt Jamison
Antarctigo Vespucci – Love in the Time of E-mail
I stumbled upon this by accident, whilst searching for songs for my radio show. Firstly, the name is ridiculously beautiful, I love the ironic sound and pronunciation behind it. Musically, Love in the Time of E-mail is a traditional College Rock album in all but name, it’s a marriage of Indie and Punk that stomps in and causes chaos when the noise starts. –Eddie Carter
The Rectangle Shades – Mystical Numbers
John Davis is an indie music legend. From Superdrag to The Lees Of Memory (and countless side-projects and guest appearances in between) everything he has been a part of has shaped the way I listen to music since childhood. But where did his journey start? It could very well be working in a record store as a teenager with Mike Armstrong. Fast forward to 2018 and these two guys got together after all these years and recorded an album. The result is a psychedelic power-pop extravaganza! Mystical Numbers pairs the sugar-coated hooks of The Monkees with the lush, heartfelt passion of Big Star to become the brightest, hopeful, most satisfying releases to come out of Nashville in 2018. -Aaron Cooper
Exploded View – Obey
Somewhere between Broadcast and The Space Lady Obey lives on it’s own planet and contains some of the best songs written this year. You kinda have to hear it for yourself. – Brandon Perras
Metric – Art of Doubt
Up front, this is a rock and roll album with some synth pop elements. A deeper listen reveals that Metric is exploring the spectrum of femininity, how exhausting and infuriating and invigorating the battles women face are. There aren’t any answers to the problems of the world on this album, but it comes to the conclusion that all we can do is be honest with ourselves, recognize our flaws, and move forward armed with that knowledge. “I’m just not for everyone, maybe just for you,” sings Emily Haines on the introspective closing track, and it feels like a ‘thank you’ to the fans who have followed Metric’s seven-album career. This was my album of the year. – Tatiana
For a list of 7 other albums Tatiana loved in 2018, go here.
Turkish Delight – Howcha Magowcha
Technically this is a reissue but it was new to me. Turkish Delight makes me wish I could have been present in the Boston DIY scene a few decades ago. If you like Kim Deal you are going to love this band. Playful lyrics, spastic noisy rock and positive energy that will have you looking for a hot tub time machine so you can immerse yourself in the bubble this band was a key fixture of. Thankful that I Heart Noise made the reissue happen it is a killer record! -Matt Jamison
A Star Is Born – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Have you seen this movie yet? Have you? If yes: no explanation needed. If no: what the hell is wrong with you? Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga? Come the fuck on. It’s beyond description. Watch it. Stat. Then all will be clear. –Amie Taylor
The Evening Attraction – The End Again
Despite America being in complete chaos with its political climate, The End Again is both a coping mechanism and a weapon of mass destruction. As Chicago’s best-kept secret, The Evening Attraction have been offering up 1960s influenced power pop for years but the album’s vitriolic wit and darker lyrics make it a turning point in their career. While the jangly guitars and sugary hooks make you want to dance, the underlying theme of laughing during an atomic bomb make The End Again the perfect summary of 2018 -Aaron Cooper
Full review here.
Locate S, 1 – Healing Contest
So chill, so loungey, so good. I don’t know anything about this band, but I really like this album. Like a lot. – Jon
Red Ribbon – Dark Party
Red Ribbon’s hauntingly ethereal sound is so addicting. They command attention with a unique blend of delicate and powerful that’s refreshing and invigorating. Here’s a quote from Rid Ribbon founder, Emma Danner:
My main goal with music and life, is just to try and connect with people. That’s kind of what pop is. I think it’s pretty an has a wide variety of influences. I think pop music has a big focus on listeners and sharing and connecting with people. It’s kind of a vague genre, and I like that.
Don’t miss out on making a connection with this band. -Matt Jamison
Chelsea Lovitt & Boys – You Had Your Cake, Now Lie In It
While there’s no shortage of female singer/songwriter types in country music, Chelsea Lovitt annihilates the stereotype by combining elements of Link Wray and Courtney Barnett-esque wit. Between self-awareness and brutal honesty, You Had Your Cake, Now Lie In It is an exercise in laughing at your own insecurities and taking back what’s yours. Lovitt has an insatiable knack for bringing a tear to your eye, whether it’s from laughter or heartbreak. – Aaron Cooper
Villagers – The Art of Pretending to Swim
These lads are an indie folk band from Dublin and have been around since 2008. I’ve only recently discovered them, and I really dig their sound. This nine-track album contains some real gems. I find myself returning to it again and again. – Amie Taylor
Dessa – Chime
To understand what makes this album so good and why Dessa is such an amazing artist, check out Kelsey Simpkins’ review of an early 2018 show in Denver here. – Kelsey Simpkins
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
The new Prince? The cool kid’s Beyonce? Or just one of the most unique and thrilling artists in R’n’B? Janelle Monáe is all this and more, delivering a third album full of poignant protest, fearless sexuality, and absolutely banging tunes.
Janelle Monáe might only have released three albums in her career, but she is making a claim for the throne of Prince. She is an artist in her own right, taking risks in a fickle Pop world and making sounds that should make fans of all genres take notice. A lost gem for me this year, but still a beautiful record. – Eddie Carter
Imaad Wasif – Great Eastern Sun
Somewhere between Thom Yorke and George Harrison, Imaad Wasif is mostly known for his work with The Yeah Yeahs and Karen O, but his uncanny mysticism is just as interesting as his musicianship. In 2012 Wasif had a nervous breakdown while writing and recording Great Eastern Sun and decided to shelve it for being too dark and introspective. It wasn’t until 2018 he made peace with it and decided to team up with Nomad Eel Records for the vinyl treatment. Dark, mysterious, and strangely beautiful, Great Eastern Sun is by far the most interesting psychedelic record to come out this year and one of my personal favorites even if for the unexpected Kinks cover. – Aaron Cooper
Full Bearded Gentlemen conversation with Imaad Wasif here.
We Are Scientists – Megaplex
The songwriting has always been the key thing for me with We Are Scientists. When they get it right, they are unbeatable. For 90% of Megaplex, they reach and achieve that high standard. The only track which feels like a filler is sadly the ending track, “Properties of Perception”. It just feels a little weak after those stunning songs that preceded it, which is a bit of a shame. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Megaplex is my most played album of 2018 so far. It’s a bit of a charmer, you think you can put it to the side, but you just want to return to it more and more. – Eddie Carter
Tres Leches – Amorfo
Tres Leches are a mosaic of things I love. Bilingual lyrics, shifting genres not only from song to song but WITHIN songs, good sense of humor and they exude an energy that makes the listener feel like they are right there in the dingy basement rocking out with them. In fact, they even call their style of music “Dark Basement”. Fast forward ten years from now and I hope people look back at Amorfo as the pioneering record for the Dark Basement movement of the 2020s! Anyway, if you are looking for a good time check out Tres Leches. – Matt Jamison
Sad Hill – Good if it Goes
Musically, Good if it Goes is a great little Emo album, you know, the sound of Emotional Rock before it became a fashion statement. Like most Emo music, it’s not a technical master class in the same way that Frank Zappa never made a straightforward rock album. But in it’s given genre, it’s spot on and a shining example that Emo has a place in 2018. I love the honest nature of the songs, the beautiful artwork, and the overall package. Good if it Goes is a God-honest album created out of love, frustration, tears, and hope. What is there not to like? – Eddie Carter
Adam Faucett – It Took The Shape Of A Bird
Touching on folk, jazz, alternative, and soul, It Took The Shape Of A Bird rarely sticks to a single genre. This proves to be more difficult when trying to describe Faucett’s sound to someone who might not be familiar with what he does. His knack for storytelling and ability to express one’s deepest insecurities brought me to tears more often than I care to admit. And that was on my first listen! I take no issue in saying Adam Faucett is one of music’s most gifted songwriters of the last 25 years. If you want me to back up that claim, look no further than It Took The Shape Of A Bird. – Aaron Cooper
Renata Zeiguer – Old Ghost
I am new to Renata Zeiguer’s music, but I think I might be right on time because this is her debut full length. Old Ghost has lush and creative compositions and Zeiguer does wonders with her voice and vocal melodies. Kinda has an old school vibe, but with modern indie, gazey twists. Huge fan of this “Tropical Apocalypse”. – Jon
Aaron (or Coop) is a freelance writer, multi-instrumentalist and overall lover of all things music. As an advocate for indie record labels and artists, he is passionate about local scenes and do-it-yourself artistry. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s bad, he’s not afraid to explain why.