Editor’s note: The point of more extensive genre lists is to help give shine to albums that wouldn’t make it into the overall best albums list. After all, the point of these lists is to examine the way music has changed or moved throughout the year, and our year-end framework will continue to reflect that impetus. Though it’s meant to highlight the best work in the genre, hopefully, you can also make some discoveries through this list.
While rock’s presence in the pop sphere has been diminished over the past several years, that doesn’t so much reflect on the strength at the genre. Trends change, things go in and out of style, and rock will have its day in the sun again. But being pushed back to the fringes is also proving to help rock evolve, where commercial expectations are tapered and bands are given more time to hone their craft before they are thrown into the public eye. That said, some rock music did manage to push its way into larger discussions, be it Greta Van Fleet’s retro debut album, Jack White’s boundary-pushing latest, or the continued ascent of Courtney Barnett to the songwriting throne.
For the most part, our favorite rock music from 2018 are albums that point towards its bright future. Bands like Hop Along and Speedy Ortiz show that some of the most exciting rock craftmanship is originating in the DIY scene, while people like Jeff Rosenstock and Idles are giving rock its much-needed punk attitude in 2018. Deafheaven and Turnstile found greatness in heavy blasts, while Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever and Meg Myers focused more on vibes and nuance. So turn it up loud and blast the pain away with these 20 must-hear rock albums.