Despite innumerable thinkpieces loudly proclaiming the contrary, rock is not on its last legs in 2018. In fact, it’s thriving quite nicely. Are there artists dominating the charts in a Drake-like fashion this year? No, and it doesn’t seem like there will be anytime soon. That being said, the slate of new and amazing music being released on a monthly basis for those who love a fuzzed-out guitars has been downright impressive.
October was an especially fruitful month for rock fans looking for something new to listen to, stacked as it was with long-awaited releases from titanic, genre-defining bands, ambitious next steps from some adored indie groups, and some amazing statements from several groups on the come-up. While some of these albums haven’t garnered the wider exposure they may have otherwise deserve, here, collected are the 10 best new rock albums that dropped in October 2018.
David Nance Group — Peaced And Slightly Pulverized
One of the best rock albums that dropped this month is the David Nance Group’s record Peaced And Slightly Pulverized, and in my opinion, it’s even close. I’ve been obsessed with this album over the past few weeks, listening to it over and over again. If Jason Molina fronted Neil Young’s loose and brutal backing band Crazy Horse, that’s about as close as you might get to what this album sounds like. “Amethyst” in particular is a towering monolith of lazily strummed, fuzzed out minor guitar chords and sinewy solos that stretch out for what seems like an eternity. In it, Nance sounds like a long lost sage asking big questions to someone specific, but no one in particular. “How’s it feel to be on your own now? / Looks like you’re better off / Keep holding on to your amethyst / Who knows when your luck will run out.”
Kurt Vile — Bottle It In
Coming three years after his generally downtrodden, jam-packed project B’lieve I’m Goin’ Down, Kurt Vile’s latest album Bottle It In finds the Philly rocker in a decidedly sunnier mood. There’s still plenty of cosmic space rock jams to lose yourself in of course — “Check Baby” is one of the heaviest he’s ever put to tape — but Bottle It In is notable more for things like “Skinny Mini,” “One Trick Ponies” and especially the Charlie Rich cover “Rollin’ With The Flow,” expressions of either love or contentment. Approaching 40 years old, Vile sounds like someone finally comfortable with his place in the world as a respected musician and family man.
Cloud Nothings — Last Building Burning
Cloud Nothings’ latest stellar album is thematically tied to its title. It’s about destruction. It’s about the tearing down of unique artifacts in an unending quest of general sameness. In an interview with Uproxx’s Derrick Rossignol, Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi said, “I can go from Cleveland to Glasgow and find stuff that just looks exactly the same, and I feel like it shouldn’t be like that. I feel like every place should have its own identity.” Sonically, Last Building Burning also adopts that ethos as well. Not two tracks feel and sound the same, whether is the centerpiece, 10-minute leviathan “Dissolution,” or the upbeat stomper “Leave Him Now,” or doom-fueled “So Right So Clean,” there’s a fantastic mix of different sounds, ideas, and vibes spread out across all eight of the songs here.
Arkells — Rally Cry
The Arkells are quickly taking over the crown so ably held by the iconic band the Tragically Hip, who for decades reigned as a beloved stalwart of rock and roll in Canada, racking up awards and playing sold-out shows, while remaining generally unknown in America. Okay, maybe unknown is too big a word, but here’s hoping with their latest release Rally Cry, more folks in the good ol’ US of A take notice. It’s a bracing record for sure, filled with big hooks, singalong-inducing choruses, and a wealth of sonic candy. The song “American Scream” in particular is an earworm that I haven’t been able to extract from my brain for the last two days.
Elvis Costello & The Impostors — Look Now
Elvis Costello is one of the greatest songwriters of the last 40 years. Full-stop, no question, no debate necessary. I almost shudder to think now about the cancer scare that took place earlier this year that may have deprived him of us far before he was finished producing fantastic new music, like the songs found on his latest album Look Now. There’s something comforting about hearing Costello’s signature warble over something like “Unwanted Number,” a song that could have been written last week, or three decades ago. It’s so completely an Elvis Costello song, a mix of cheeky irreverence and deep melancholy sadness that I don’t think there’s any other way to describe it.
Yowler — Black Dog In My Path
Yowler is the brainchild of All Dogs frontwoman Maryn Jones. Three years after sharing the incredible debut album The Offer, Yowler is back again with an even better, and even more versatile album called Black Dog In My Path. Songs like “Where Is My Light” sound like a harbinger of the actual apocalypse. Opening with a doom-laden swath of guitar chords and squeals of feedback, Jones sounds like an angel descended from heaven looking with melancholy over the scorched and burning earth. It really is that good.
Eric Church — Desperate Man
But isn’t Eric Church a country artist??? That is certainly the box that genre labels have traditionally boxed Church in, but listen to this album all the way through and tell me what you hear. Loud guitars, funky and outlandish drum lines, open-hearted lyrics. I dunno, sounds like a rock album to me. The biggest country signifier is the twang in Church’s own voice, but turn up the volume on “Desperate Man” and tell me that isn’t the closest thing you’ve heard to The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” in decades. My point exactly.
Fucked Up — Dose Your Dreams
Dose Your Dreams is a commitment. It’s a nearly 90-minute long, double-album packed with more hooks, more ideas, more emotion, more gutturally raw rock and roll singing as any other record you’re liable to come across this year. Fucked Up are one of the best hardcore-ish bands to come out of Toronto in quite some time, and this new record might just be their best yet, or at least, it’s in the discussion alongside 2011’s David Comes To Life. It’s boozy and brawny, and begs to be cranked while driving down your nearest interstate.
Jim James — Uniform Clarity
As the frontman for My Morning Jacket, Jim James’ bread and butter over the last 20 years has been spaced-out, trippy psychedelic guitar jams. For Uniform Clarity, he decided to strip things back to the barest essentials; just a dude, an acoustic guitar, and a couple of microphones playing the same tracks from his earlier solo record Uniform Distortion. The sparsity of the arrangements really adds an emotional heft that may have been missed under the wealth of electric instruments. For any fans of his music, this is a must-have.