There’s a lot happening in the music world, and we here at Heavy Blog try our very best to keep up with it! Like the vast majority of heavy music fans, our tastes are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a bi-weekly column which covers noteworthy tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. This week, we’ll be focusing on a list of Jonathan’s favorite non-metal albums of the year. Enjoy!
1. mewithoutYou – [Untitled] (Post-hardcore/indie rock)
What to write about this band that hasn’t already been said? Incredible post-everything music that is as thoughtful and beautiful as it is elusive and aggressive. Aaron Weiss’ musings on Christianity, mental health, and life at large are beautiful, esoteric and powerful. A high watermark for the band, and my most enjoyable and oft-returned to record of 2018.
2. Low – Double Negative (Indie rock/electronic)
It’s a brave thing for a band to alter their sound, even more so after decades of consistent work. Low has had fairly concrete sound for a good while, and Double Negative deconstructs that sound beyond recognition. This is a jarring change of pace and sound for the band, and it works in every possible regard. Bleak, sad, subdued, and simultaneously lush and ethereal, this is music for 2018 if I’ve ever heard it. One of the year’s most unexpected revelations.
3. Julia Holter – Aviary (Avant-garde indie rock/folk)
Not since Joanna Newsom’s Ys have I heard so expansive a mixture of sounds and styles in a single record. Aviary is weird. It’s also about as unpredictable and avant-garde as indie rock/folk gets while maintaining any ties to those genres. It’s a sprawling kaleidoscope of sounds and textures that is brilliantly performed and never once dull. Julia Holter’s voice, a mighty instrument in and of itself, has never sounded stronger. Her best and most ambitious record.
4. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (Pop country/folk)
I don’t like pop-country. At all. As a matter of fact, I deeply despise it in its modern form. But I LOVE Kacey Musgraves. Completely. Blending folk/americana, country, and pop sensibility into a brilliant and supremely singable stew of musical excellence, this is one of the first country records that dips its toes into the pop pool that I’ve unabashedly loved. Whether you like country or not, there’s something here for you. Musgraves is a national treasure, and Golden Hour her best and most accessible work so far.
5. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love (Experimental/psych rock)
I don’t even know to describe this record. It’s spacey, deeply experimental, wildly unpredictable ambient/psychedelic rock that is in all its cosmic strangeness incredibly easy to listen to. These songs bend into shapes altogether unexpected and grand, making each new track a journey down a road that has no foreseeable conclusion. It’s also catchy as all heck. “Licking An Orchid” is one of the best songs I’ve heard in a long time, and the album on the whole is stuffed with amazing individual tracks that can be enjoyed outside the context of the full record. Just gloriously strange and wonderful stuff.
6. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer (R&B/Funk/Soul)
Janelle Monáe is unlike anyone else. She’s also better at what she does than everyone on the planet. Is this her best album? That’s debatable. Is it one of the most thoroughly enjoyable, funky, fun, and sneaky deep records of the year? Absolutely. A future classic and a bold, defiant statement of independence from one of music’s most creative and confident talents.
7. Kamasi Washington – Heaven & Earth (J A Z Z)
If there’s someone better at jazz than Kamasi Washington, you’ll have to show them to me. While not quite as captivating as The Epic (which is one of the single best pieces of music of the 21st-Century), Heaven & Earth is a classic in its own right, and will most assuredly go down as one of the most ambitious and effective jazz releases of the decade. There’s nothing wrong with this record, and if getting lost in some incredible instrumentation is your jam, this is your album of the year.
8. Zu93 – Mirror Emperor (Dark folk)
Dark acoustic bliss. David Tibet of Current 93 fame and Italian instrumental group Zu team up to create one of the most singularly unique collections of songs that I’ve heard in years. Tibet’s spoken-word exaltations are as strange as they are engaging, and Zu’s lush yet sparse instrumental backdrop is a perfect accompaniment to Tibet’s musings. Some of each entity’s best work.
9. No Age – Snares Like a Haircut (Indie rock)
No Age have been on my radar since 2008. They never reached their full potential, in my mind, with each new release falling short of my probably-too-high expectations. Snares Like a Haircut is the album they were always destined to make, and fulfills a decade-long march toward transcendence for the band. It’s thoughtful, energetic, weird and loud. Everything a good No Age record should be. Dope as hell.
10. IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance (Post-punk)
I love post-punk, and IDLES arguably did it better than anyone else this year. A stellar band releasing their best music is cause for celebration, but when your previous record is as difficult to top as Brutalism it’s an even more impressive feat. I don’t know how IDLED do it, but they’re operating at a level that few in the subgenre can touch right now. Fantastic work.