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JUMP’s Top 25 Albums of 2018

December 7, 2018

Between a steady stream of bands relocating here, and a rich crop of homegrown talent, Philadelphia is arguably the country’s best city for music. The quality of releases on this list is jaw-dropping, and by no means complete. Suffice it to say, it was a difficult task paring it down to 25. We hope you enjoy, and please let us know what you think!

1. Tierra Whack – Whack World (self released)
Fifteen one-minute songs, and a stunning video for the entire album, serve as an announcement of a major talent. Whack World is infused with humor and is bursting with creativity. A fan of Quentin Tarantino, Tierra Whack shifts gears quickly, and displays a musical versatility comparable to her new friend André 3000. Tierra Whack is going places, but she started here.

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2. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog (Saddle Creek)
Somehow, even with high expectations following the excellent Painted Shut, indie rock outfit Hop Along manages to surprise. Frances Quinlan and company are at the top of their game.

3. Low Cut Connie – Dirty Pictures, Part 2 (Contender Records)
Low Cut Connie is one of the most energetic and entertaining live shows in the business, but this record, anchored by the single “Beverly,” reveals a more introspective dimension.

4. The Skull  Eclipses – The Skull Eclipses (Western Vinyl)
A collaboration between Philly-based Lushlife and Texas-based Botany, The Skull Eclipses sounds kinda like It Was Written-era Nas meets Olivia Tremor Control or Ryuichi Sakamoto remixing Kool G. Rap’s Road to the Riches.

5. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In (Matador)
Vile somehow aims high while wandering aimlessly. Coming off a great album with Courtney Barnett and a mega-hit mural-earner Wakin on a Pretty Daze, Vile’s drifting never fails to captivate.

6. Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop (Relapse)
Even a move by lead singer Domenic Palermo to New York couldn’t make Nothing anything but a Philly band. Dance on the Blacktop combines their dark, unyielding shoegaze heaviness with flashes of positivity. You know, like life in Philly sometimes.

7. Dr. Dog – Critical Equation (We Buy Gold Records)
Dr. Dog has never been a group to take long breaks. They released the surprise LP Abandoned Mansion just months after 2016’s The Psychedelic Swamp. This year’s Critical Equation sees the psych-rockers just as tight, trippy and immersive as ever.

8. Secret American – Warmth & Shelter (self released)
The instrumentation is undeniably retro and hearkens back to pop/rock groups from the mid-1960’s, while the lyricism is contemporary, innocent and familiar. Secret American presents a respite of brightness to the otherwise current dark texture of indie rock.

9. Ivy Sole – Overgrown (Les Fleurs Records)
Since moving here to attend Wharton, Ivy Sole has emerged as one of the city’s finest talents. Her sweet, poetic rhymes and ear for catchy melodies make Overgrown one of the most impressive debuts in contemporary rap.

10. SAD Marquise – iPhone Pop (self released)
iPhone Pop is somehow joyous and melancholy, optimistic and bitter. Completely recorded on a smart phone, iPhone Pop is a shining example of  DIY ingenuity and an ode to the complexities of modern love.

11. Outer Heaven – Realms of Eternal Decay (Relapse)
Equal parts primitive and complex, Outer Heaven sounds familiar yet new, culling influences from death metal classics and streamlining their sound to break new ground.

12. Restorations – LP5000 (Tiny Engines)
With a mature take on the changes in life that took place since their release of LP3, LP5000’s earnest rock and roll shows growth while keeping everything the band’s fans have loved over their career.

13. Ceramic Animal – The Horse (self released)
A psych-rock element permeates the record, but Ceramic Animal tests the genre with doses of pop and, uniquely, a certain Western cinematic style. The Horse is compact and stunning, but you should see these boys live.   

14. Strange Parts – Oh God, What A Beautiful Time I Spent in The Wild (Specious Arts)
Attia Taylor and Corey Duncan’s debut is full of dense, soaring, heartbreakingly beautiful songs. A breathtaking debut by any measure, Oh God… is a perfect piece of psychedelic dream-pop full of magic and grandeur.

15. Johnny Shortcake – It’s the Johnny Shortcake Show! (self released)
A superbly crafted album that will delight kids from one to 92. This is a funky and funny record; when will Johnny Shortcake get the TV show he deserves?

16. Horrendous – Idol (Season of Mist)
Idol is the Philadelphia quartet’s most ambitious work yet, with Horrendous delving further into progressive song structures and intricate musicianship. Each listen yields previously-unheard surprises and the songs are some of Horrendous’ most memorable yet.

17. Dark Lo – Bucket List (OBH Records)
A short, brutal concept album, each song touches on something that Lo would like to do before dying, from the big ticket personal dreams like “Win a Grammy” to the overtly political “Break Mumia Out of Jail” complete with dramatic delivery and cartoonishly violent imagery.

18. Free Cake For Every Creature – The Bluest Star (Double Double Whammy)
The Bluest Star is one of those albums that proves you don’t have to be loud to hit hard. The melodies are hushed, and the recording is charmingly lo-fi, but Katie Bennett brings so much power to her third full-length LP.

19. Palm – Rock Island (Carpark Records)
Rock Island is all over the place. We really mean that as a good thing. For fans of glitchy melodies and shimmery soundscapes, the latest release from Palm is right up your alley.

20. Queen of Jeans – Dig Yourself (Topshelf Records)
Queen of Jeans blends classic girl-group harmonies, ‘90s folk sounds, and hazy, lo-fi beats to make music they call “crockpot pop.” Take a trip to their soft femme aesthetic dreamland with their debut LP Dig Yourself.

21. Speedy Ortiz – Twerp Verse (Carpark Records)
Though Massachusetts-bred, Speedy Ortiz is ours now. Sadie Dupuis has a knack for pop-ready hooks that also feel at home atop grungy guitar. The stories on Twerp Verse feel familiar and relatable, and are witty as ever.

22. Steady Hands – Truth in Comedy (Lame-O Records)
Truth in Comedy is like a PBR-fueled night that ends in smiles—and maybe a couple new tattoos, too. The full-length debut shows vocalist/guitarist Sean Huber’s songwriting chops, grit-punk prowess and the strength of his surrounding cast.

23. Thin Lips – Chosen Family (Lame-O Records)
Chosen Family is an emotional, honest and fun love letter to friends and community. Killer riffs, huge hooks and powerful lyrics. 2016’s Riff Hard did just that, and gave us a a full exposure to Thin Lips as people.

24. Zilla Rocca – Future Former Rapper (P.O.W. Recordings)
Melding gritty, sample-based beats with devastating one-liners about being “30 years old and you never had a breakthrough,” these songs highlight the fear, contempt and confusion that comes with growing old in a young man’s game.

25.  mewithoutYou – [untitled] (Run for Cover Records)
Aaron Weiss’s vocals alternate between being deep in the mix as an instrument themselves and scorching in the forefront, and the instrumentals keep pieces of their post-hardcore beginnings and genre-exploring history.

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