It's December, which means it's that time of year where everyone you know thrusts a list of their albums of the year at you and demands instant approval. Your mates at Upset are no different. We've raided the archives, checked out score sheets, and picked out fifty of our favourite records from the past twelve months.
You can find the full run down in our new issue, out now, or check them off day by day over the coming week right here on upsetmagazine.com. We're kicking off with numbers 50 to 41. Enjoy!
Zeal & Ardor’s ‘Devil Is Fine’ was held together with string. Six tracks, three interludes and a whole lot of ideas, it flirted with something a lot bigger but wasn’t quite sure what path to take. ‘Stranger Fruit’ sees Zeal & Ardor arrive. From the fizzing swell of the opening track to the aching collapse of ‘Built On Ashes’, the band embrace and explore every avenue. Powerful in every decision, deliberate in every move, the record makes everything count. Full of colour, and letting each shade run, ‘Stranger Fruit’ is a masterpiece of excess and control. Ali Shutler
If there’s one criticism of You Me At Six’s recent output, it’s that they seemed a band unsure of who they wanted to be. On ‘VI’, they’re still refusing to stick to a single, easily identifiable template, but it no longer feels like they’re blindly chasing that arena rock trophy with no real plan. From deep grooves to giant riffs, variety truly is the spice of life. Dan Harrison
Casey’s ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ is a record of pain. You don’t need to know the details of the afflictions that vocalist Tom Weaver suffers from to feel the weight; the struggles are front, centre and scarlet-soaked. Scratched vocals and furious colours run the show as the band point the finger, wallow in pain and try to find a way out. Disappointment and frustration at their own shortcomings crackle like lightning before they lash out with thunderous rage. It’s a record of pain, sure. But more importantly, it’s a record about wanting to be better. Ali Shutler
While both ‘Save Rock and Roll’ and ‘American Beauty/American Psycho’ stood proud with their singular purpose and ten-chapter story of reinvention and purpose, ‘M A N I A’ is as glitching and chaotic as opening track slash inspirational spark ‘Young & Menace’ suggests. Fall Out Boy are at home where the wild things roam.
From the whistling reggae dancehall of ‘Hold Me Tight (Or Don’t)’ to the soulful surrender of ‘Church’, ‘M A N I A’ draws influence from space and time. Rather than parody, repetition or tired checklist of theme weeks from the X Factor, the record takes each new, robust flavour and owns them.
Sure, ‘Champion’ sounds like Fall Out Boy of recent old but the lyrics are more pointed, more direct and less guarded. The idea that they’re the champion of the people who don’t believe in champions is stitched into sleeves and worn across chests.
Stepping further away from the arena rock that’s defined their post-hiatus output and attitude, this record sees the band once again exploring pastures, new, old and undiscovered. Impossible to peg down or box in, ‘M A N I A’ sounds like Fall Out Boy enjoying being Fall Out Boy, and taking full advantage of all the freedom that offers. Catch them if you can. Ali Shutler
After a five year break-up, Swearin’ have returned with a lo-fi delight of an album that may be their best yet. ‘Fall Into The Sun’ carries with it an air of someone looking back at their recent past and being surprised at how far they’ve come. By dialling the volume and angst down a notch or two, the American band (now a trio) have allowed space for a new sense of identity to shimmer to the surface. It is pure joy, forming a celebration of a band who have, somehow, survived against all the odds and emerged all the stronger for it. Jamie MacMillan
They said it would never happen, but here we are. It’s 2018 and there’s a new record from Underoath. Always unpredictable, ‘Erase Me’ takes years of growth, exploration and adventure and weaves it all together. There’s still bite, but rather than screaming into the darkness, the band make sure every grievance and moment of self-doubt is heard. The best thing about ‘Erase Me’ isn’t just the simple fact that it exists; it’s that it sounds like Underoath in 2018. No, no one knew what to expect, but now we’ve got it, it makes perfect sense. Ali Shutler
Against The Current know how to read a room. For their second album, the three-piece have added polish on top of their already sheenily finished exterior, lending further evidence to the theory than genre boundaries are all but dead. It’s beneath those external walls where the true heart of ‘Past Lives’ beats, though. In ‘Personal’ frontwoman Chrissy Costanza shows a rawness that turns that shimmer into a full blown shine. Dan Harrison
Chrissy Costanza has had a great year - here are her Top 5 highlights.
Releasing 'Past Lives' after keeping it a secret for so long. We poured so much of our souls into this record and held onto it for so long waiting for it to be ready. Learning to let go and put it in the hands of the fans was one of the biggest moments for us.
Getting to tour Latin America for the first time was incredible. We’ve been very lucky to have toured so many places before so whenever we get to tour somewhere new it’s so special.
Headlining our biggest UK/EU tour to date was a whirlwind. It still feels like yesterday that we played our first show at the Borderline in London so walking out onto stages like O2 Forum feels like a dream.
Opening up for Fall Out Boy was unbelievable. The crowds were amazing but on top of that being able to watch and learn from a band that made the same transition we’re making now from one space in music to another was inspiring and validating.
Hearing the masters of our album for the first time was very emotional. This album was quite a bit more raw than the last so hearing it in its final form after slaving away on it for the better part of a year was a rollercoaster of emotions.
Three albums in, and Trophy Eyes are a band with stuff to say. An album called 'The American Dream' by a bunch of Australians might seem like an oddity, but they pull it off with style. Springsteen-esque storytelling from the very top drawer, it's a record that strides confidently towards bigger horizons. 'Something Bigger Than This' punches the air with genuine spirit, while opener 'Autumn' recalls The Gaslight Anthem at their finest. You can't offer better praise than that. Dan Harrison
Five albums deep and California’s Joyce Manor remain wide-eyed protagonists of youthful exuberance. Sure, they’ve found a comfy niche of sorts – two-minute pop song bangers that dissect the human condition – but vocalist and lyricist Barry Johnson’s world-building and story-telling continue to elevate Joyce Manor to exceptional new highs. ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’ is no exception. Rob Mair
Labelled repeatedly as one of Britain’s most exciting new bands, punk rabble Shame make light work of living up to their reputation on a debut album that’s as becoming as it is impetuous. ‘Songs of Praise’ is a statement of identity, carving out a space free from the so-called South London scene, for the five-piece to deliver exactly what it is they have to say. Alex Cabré
Taken from the December 2018 / January 2019 edition of Upset. Order a copy below.
Featuring Black Peaks, Boston Manor, Creeper, Idles, Dream Wife and loads more.