The Best Albums of April 2018

Treble staff
Hop Along summer tour

Now that we’re into the depths of spring, you’d think the chill of winter music would be behind us. But that’s not exactly the case. Our favorite albums of the past month include four different types of metal, some ambient folk, haunting art-pop and gloomy post-punk. In fact, if it weren’t for Janelle Monáe, this would be a surprisingly dark spring album entry. Regardless, there’s a lot of great music to hear that’s been released in the past 30 days. Our roundup of the Best Albums of April 2018 is a diverse offering. Read about them and hear each one below.


Ails The Unraveling review Album of the WeekAils – The Unraveling

(Flenser)

What We Said: All of the sounds on The Unraveling are made by guitars, bass, drums and vocals, and pretty loud ones at that. There’s an admirably old-school sensibility about the band’s approach, in that they use this opportunity to find new sounds and textures to explore within a familiar format rather than build something stranger and more foreign on top. There’s still time for that, but for now there’s a lot of excitement to be found in the crunch of “Dead Metaphors,” the muscular chug of “Any Spark of Life” and the harmonized riffs of “Mare Weighs Down.” Even “The Ruin,” while slight at a bit under three minutes, is surprisingly refreshing in how it finds the band shaving off any unnecessary twists, turns, intros or outros in an effort to distill black metal down to its most primal elements. – Jeff Terich

Bambara Shadow on Everything review Album of the WeekBambara – Shadow On Everything

(Wharf Cat)

What We Said: Seemingly every corner of the fictional town at the center of Shadow On Everything is splattered with blood and burned at the edges. It’s a place nobody gets out of alive—a metaphor for a feeling of hopelessness that can be ascribed to any town, perhaps, but in their version there’s a Lynchian level of depravity and menace that make the stakes feel much higher. The particulars of the plot isn’t always what’s most important, though. Bambara’s tense, brilliantly rendered post-punk score breathes a devilish life into these ill-fated figures and makes the landscape all the more unforgiving. They catalyze spine-chilling into breathtaking. – Jeff Terich

Grouper Grid of Points reviewGrouper – Grid of Points

(Kranky)

What We Said: The malleability of Harris’ voice and the inability to fully understand her lyrics make her work something like a blank canvas for emotions, or even a mirror. Approaching Grid of Points with a broken heart will result in a cocoon-like experience, digging yourself deep into the evocative echo of Harris’ aching chant. But listen to it with a heart full of love and you have an album that cracks open the heavens and shines harmonious light across everything it sees. – Wesley Whitacre

Half Waif Lavender reviewHalf Waif – Lavender

(Cascine)

What We Said: It’s difficult to call Half Waif’s third proper album a breakthrough, but at the very least it is a revelation. Nandi Rose Plunkett is a singular artist whose talent for precise, emotional lyricism is as strong as her control over percussive arrangements. After bearing witness to her Grandmother’s Lavender-boiling process that inspired the album’s title,Plunkett wrote that it struck her as a kind of magic. It must run in the family. – Wesley Whitacre

Hop Along Bark Your Head Off Dog reviewHop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog

(Saddle Creek)

What We Said: As part of the growing process the band have undergone, Hop Along offer a different sonic approach on Dog from its album predecessors in its styling. This time around, the band focuses heavily on the addition of strings (from Thin Lips’ Chrissy Tashjian), bellowing and presenting themselves momentously on tracks “Not Abel” and “How You Got Your Limp.” Flowing instrumental lines swing themselves between twangy guitar riffs, with the occasional whistle a la Andrew Bird fashion. Throughout Dog, a much more tender side of the band is displayed, taking stock in the heartache they’ve put on the line for listeners on previous albums. As per Hop Along’s usual approach, it’s hard to nail the band to one musical corner. – Virginia Croft

Janelle Monae Dirty Computer streamJanelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

(Badboy/Wondaland/Atlantic)

Janelle Monáe’s third album is one of the last projects that Prince worked on “before he passed on to another frequency,” Monáe said in a BBC interview. That alone would make the album worth a spin. And indeed, Monáe peppers the album with references to the late music legend. But that’s just one small slice of the complex network of dystopian themes, self-love, empowerment and joy that can be heard throughout Dirty Computer. While no less steeped in conceptual threads than her previous two albums, Dirty Computer finds Janelle Monáe making a pop album that’s less clouded in metaphor, instead offering up a celebration of intersectional identity that not only feels vital but therapeutic in an age fraught with hate, anger and division. – Jeff Terich

Kacey Musgraves Golden Hour reviewKacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

(MCA Nashville)

What We Said: Starting out of the gate with the molasses-folk “Slow Burn,” the Golden, Texas native makes her intentions crystal clear. “I’m alright with a slow burn / Taking my time, let the world turn.” For those fearing an album that resembled the shift between Taylor Swift’s Red and 1989, tensions were eased right there. What other pop artist would jumpstart her “crossover” record with an acoustic jaunt that not only takes its sweet time but is an ode to doing so? The unique pacing of Golden Hour speaks to its genius as a whole. The distance between the dance floor and the front porch were measured expertly and tracked back and forth with enough grace to enjoy both. – Wesley Whitacre

best albums of April 2018 PanopticonPanopticon – The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness Parts I and II

(Nordvis)

What We Said: The Scars of Man is presented in two parts, and while I’m already highly tempted to call it the best metal album I’ve heard this year, it’s also only about half metal. The other half (or about 40 percent or so, mixed with some drone and post-rock sounds) is folk and bluegrass, which continues a hybrid of sounds that Lunn’s been innovating for quite a few years now through albums such as Autumn Eternal and Kentucky. But this is the first time he’s filled two full sides of vinyl with acoustic, folky and bluesy sounds, and they’re ragged, soulful anthems. Some of it’s kind of punk rock (“Echoes in the Snow”), some of it’s kind of shoegaze (“A Cross Abandoned”), and the breathtaking “The Moss Beneath the Snow” is an instrumental saga on the level of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But it’s an interesting counterpoint to the actual metal portion of the album, which is uniformly fantastic. – Jeff Terich

best albums of April 2018 Pharaoh OverlordPharaoh Overlord – Zero

(Ektro/Hydra Head)

Pharaoh Overlord is something of a Finnish supergroup, featuring members of both prolific, ever-changing psychedelic collective Circle and iconic death metal outfit Demilich. And that combination is certainly an unconventional one. Yet the merger of death metal vocals and an overall furiousness merges surprisingly harminously with these sometimes lengthy psych odysseys. The songs on Zero are consistently thrilling and expansive, finding effortless grooves in alien space. It’s a hallucinatory album that’s unexpectedly intense, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.  – Jeff Terich

Sleep The Sciences reviewSleep – The Sciences

(Third Man)

What We Said: The question of whether or not this lives up to such a dramatic wait is a difficult one to answer. However, The Sciences does impressively pick up where Sleep left off. Now older and wiser, Sleep cement their legacy alongside the likes of Kyuss in the smoky halls of stoner metal royalty. This may or may not go down as the heaviest album of the year, but Sleep still end up showing imitators how its done. – Wil Lewellyn

 

best albums of april 2018 war on womenWar on Women – Capture the Flag

(Bridge Nine)

Baltimore’s War on Women have been cranking out politically and socially charged metal-punk rippers since 2012’s Improvised Weapons, but their first Trump-era release is especially fiery, refusing to hold back any punches in the face of America’s new fascist regime. Capture the Flag is especially direct, as Shawna Potter’s words ring blunt and true on each track, covering gender politics on “Divisive Shit,” mass shootings on opener “Lone Wolves” and our spineless “Predator in Chief.” War on Women’s latest will be one of the most relentless and lyrically accurate releases of 2018, a breakneck assault on America’s regressive sociopolitical climate. – Patrick Pilch

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