For once, picking favorites was pretty easy. When the editors at P&W reflected on what we felt were the most important albums released in 2018, there were three clear standouts – records that not only thrilled us musically (disclosure: we love rock and punk over here), but made statements that stuck with us, sharing perspectives the world really needed to hear. This year, fortuitously, we had the honor of speaking to all three of the frontmen who brought these works of art to life, so we’ve added some commentary in their own words, to enrich your listening experience. Being lifelong music lovers who just want to spread cool things far and wide, it’s tempting to rave for paragraphs and keep urging you to check these albums out (in fact, we already have), but each one is so awesome, they need no extra promotion. Just add them to your collection, if you haven’t already, and thank the gods of good music for a blessed year.
#3 – Red Trees and White Trashes, Welles
This fiery record surged into consideration before it was formally out (released in June), and even now, we’re still taking in the vivid pictures painted by Ozark, Arkansas native Jesse Wells on Red Trees and White Trashes. On his impressive debut, he transports us to his hometown with chill-inducing vocals and true rock-and-roll riffs that make the songs feel like classics after just a few spins.
Jesse Wells on the album: “If you were to walk with me through my life, it would be through the red trees that I just grew up all around, and white trash – which I feel like I belong to. I lived in a town that many people in the country would drive through and go, ‘Wow, it’s a cute little town. A lot of white trash.’ And then they’d just keep driving. There are entire states that are like that. So I’m self-aware of that perception. And I just felt like this entire album, with all the words I put in, was about all the wild shit I did back in Arkansas. If you’re going to be listening to it, you’re going to be stepping through my life…so why not name it after the place you’re stepping into? It’s a journey; you’re listening through red trees and white trashes. Because that’s me; I’m red trees and white trashes.”
#2 – WP2, Walking Papers
Pure rock like this can have a life-altering effect, and WP2 genuinely shook up our year, setting the bar high for all genres way back in January. Fueled by the evocative storytelling and rich vocals of frontman Jeff Angell, Walking Papers’ blues-steeped melodies and effortless shredding form a scorching sound that not only steals your focus, but has the power to reset your pulse – not just for a few moments, but throughout every song on the record.
Jeff Angell on the album: “Sometimes the songs have dark characters, or there’s tragedy in there, but in my heart, I feel compassionate or empathetic for those characters. I don’t necessarily agree with them. This record was inspired a lot by touring and being away from home. Listening to it in hindsight, I can see that there’s a lot of temptation, validation, and redemption. That’s what I hear later, you know? At the time, I didn’t realize it at all. But when I listen to it later, I can see what was going on in my head; what kinds of things were grabbing my attention. I’m probably every character in those songs in one way or another. The only difference is, I don’t let those feelings or inclinations out into the public. It’s better for me and the world that those characters stay in the song.”
#1 – Joy as an Act of Resistance, IDLES
Whether they’re bashing xenophobia, tearing toxic masculinity to pieces, tackling Brexit, or spreading self-love, IDLES are nothing less than superheroes throughout Joy as an Act of Resistance, the second album from the Bristol-based punks (released in August). Every component of their razor-sharp sound is necessary and infectious, and anyone on earth could connect to this viciously uplifting masterpiece on a personal level.
Joe Talbot on the album: “We’re just trying to do something that we feel was missing in our lives – like, bands that really give a shit, and just play horrible music with a beautiful message. I think it takes a certain kind of patient, compassionate person to really understand it. So I think that’s it. I think we just draw empathetic scumbags to the table, and it feels great, you know? I’m in love with it. It’s a really strange bunch of people that seems to have congregated around us, and it feels good; it feels right. I think we wanted to make this record in light of what we were receiving from the first record – which was a certain expectation to be like, this angry man band. And it was exactly what we’re not. So we wanted to explain that, and portray a different side to what we are – who we truly are – and build something more important than a mosh pit. We wanted to build a community, and I think it’s happening.”
You can find Red Trees and White Trashes here, WP2 here, and Joy as an Act of Resistance here. (If you haven’t listened to them yet, we’re pretty damn jealous you get to hear them for the first time.) For more updates from these talented bands, follow Welles here, Walking Papers here, and IDLES here.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Cover Photo: Shayne Hanley