Best Albums of 2018
selected by William Griffith

Trip Fuel <BR> “Departure”

Trip Fuel

The up and coming hopefuls from Hefei don’t disappoint on their ambitious and tender ode to bittersweet love and pain. Released on Wuhan’s Wild Records, the band manages to cover quite a bit of ground – everything from twisty math rock to post rock intrigue, with splashes of shoegaze introversion and dream pop vulnerability thrown in for good measure. A promising debut that pays respect to our adolescent fragility and the volatile emotions that lurk just beneath the surface.

♪♫ Listen: Cloud Plains On Darjeeling + album stream

Trip Fuel on Douban, Spotify, Xiami, Facebook.

Fishdoll <BR> “Noonsense”


Beijing-based singer-songwriter and producer Fishdoll mesmerizes on her new beautifully realized LP – a piece of old-school jazztronica layered to the tee with inebriating flourishes, a tribute to soulful trip-hop that’s buoyant, lush, and rich with detail that plays out like a day trip to ‘90s era New York City through the lens of our increasingly globalized world. Put on Noonsense and what you get is a vibrant swirl of styles and grooves that overwhelms the senses and intoxicates.

♪♫ Listen: Rice Wine + album stream

Fishdoll on Facebook, Spotify, Bandcamp, Xiami.

Lonely Cookies 浪味仙贝 <BR> “East Lake Swimming” 东湖游泳

Lonely Cookies 浪味仙贝
“East Lake Swimming” 东湖游泳

Indie pop done right – equals parts heart and finesse that never manages to feel cheap or manufactured – Lonely Cookies out of Wuhan are the real deal. Catchy as all hell, with a keen sense of melody and harmony, there’s an effortlessness to how easily the band brings you into the fold, relishing late-night stops at convenience stores and wishing that aliens would just show already and take you away from your mundane existence.

♪♫ Listen: Midnight Santory + album stream

Lonely Cookies on Xiami, Douban, Youtube.

The Molds <BR> “Born Astride The Grave”

The Molds
“Born Astride The Grave”

The Molds bring their cult-like status to light on their rough and tumble, gangly and atmospheric debut Born Astride The Grave, out on Space Fruity Records. Surf rock strung out on methadone, psychedelic rock for those who prefer the company of tumbleweeds, what The Molds do first and foremost is strike a mood and submerge you in it. Thick as molasses, the band wisely takes their time with each rhythm and verse, allowing the dirt and humid air to seep into the pores of their well-being – so much that Liu Ge’s sounds like he’s wasting away in a bar in the desert and loving every second of it.

♪♫ Listen: Sad Honey Dreamer + album stream

The Molds on Facebook, Douban, Xiami.



Lush harmonies, coupled with brisk melody and beats that reach the softest corners of the listener’s heart, there’s something immediate and intimate about Jinan based electronic producer’s style here. A briskness and smooth fluidity between the electronic elements and the more organic sounds (strings, percussion) that recalls some of Four Tet’s more folk-laced tunes, one that paints the rich soundscapes with a seasonal shade, capturing the humidity and flow of the lakes and forests in summer and autumn.

♪♫ Listen: METROPOLIS + album stream

EASYEAST on Netease, Xiami.

Hedgehog <BR> “Sound of Life Towards…”

“Sound of Life Towards…”

While far from being the indie staple band’s most profound album, there’s no denying their continued knack for crafting lyrically-rich, melody-driven indie rock anthems that speak to an entire generation. In many ways, their latest is an encapsulation of the band’s many modes – from pop delights to grunge breakouts, enraged social critics, boisterous party animals, and for once, young adults who have found themselves on the other side of the mirror.

♪♫ Listen: Meng Ba La Na Xi + album stream

Hedgehog on Facebook, Youtube, Douban, Bandcamp, www.

Ruining <BR> “Eternity and a Day” 永恒和一日

“Eternity and a Day” 永恒和一日

Dalian musician, Ruining, former band member of the now-defunct Which Park, returns with the absorbing ambient album Eternity and a Day on Space Circle Records. Using every trick up his sleeve – from glitches to plucked strings, from piano chords to modular synth tomfoolery, he engulf listeners in a world that feels forgotten and lost. There’s a meditative ever melancholic spell that looms over the proceedings, giving each track a transcendent aura – and does what any great ambient artist does – freely explore abstract forms and the vast aural architecture within.

♪♫ Listen: Summer Night Breeze + album stream

Ruining on Bandcamp, Xiami.

Genome 6.66Mbp <BR> “Self Salvation Compilation”

Genome 6.66Mbp
“Self Salvation Compilation”

Genome 6.66Mbp, out of Shanghai, dabbles in a dark-minded, bombastic, artistically-elevating brand of electronica that is downright hypnotic. They also made some serious headway in 2017 and to celebrate, put out this delicious compilation chock-full of ‘forward-thinking weirdo club music’ from an array of talent from China (Hyph11e, Dirty K, RVE, Khemist, and Charity) and abroad. Genome 6.66Mbp’s music is both hauntingly mesmerizing and a firm reminder that the Chinese underground electronic scene is heading in exhilarating directions.

♪♫ Listen: Dirty K – Torment + album stream

Genome 6.66Mbp on Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Xiami.

The Hormones <BR> “The Hormones”

The Hormones
“The Hormones”

Amidst prominent lineup changes and their brush with mainstream stardom, it’s a relief that The Hormones (lead singer Zhu Mengdie pictured above), the all-female indie rock band out of Chengdu, have managed to retain their edge. More of a relief is just how catchy the band’s debut is – a tightly wound, expertly produced album of somber dance punk that finds the four-piece renewed with a newfound maturity.

♪♫ Listen: Rise With The Sun + album stream

The Hormones on Netease, Facebook, Xiami, Douban.

Lonely Leary <BR> “Through the Park, Almost There”

Lonely Leary
“Through the Park, Almost There”

Maybe Mars had a hell of a year – besides the hotly anticipated debut from Beijing’s Backspace, the independent label has overseen releases from street punk stalwarts Demerit and Chengdu post-punk trailblazers Hiperson. However, none have hit as hard as Lonely Leary’s blistering debut – a down and dirty cesspool of paranoid angst, cool-headed melodies, jagged edges, and pummelling post-punk mania that perfectly captures the band’s live raw energy.

♪♫ Listen: Stay Ugly + album stream

Lonely Leary on Facebook, Spotify, Xiami, Douban.

Zafka <BR> “The Wild Ark / The Abraham’s Machine”

“The Wild Ark / The Abraham’s Machine”

Zafka, aka Zhang Anding, the Beijing-based sound artist, experimental musician, and “youth culture expert” wowed us twice this year with two releases on Shanghai’s emerging play rec label, demonstrating the artist’s penchant for ‘playing outside the box’ and taking every opportunity to take a sound and twist it on its head all the while remaining something that keeps you earworms wiggling in delight. Strange, buoyant, and full of minimalistic wonders, it’s electronic music that’s not afraid to have a little anarchic fun on its way to the dancefloor.

♪♫ Listen: Sadness Prayers + album streams

Zafka on Facebook, Xiami, Netease, Douban.

Wang Wen 惘闻 <BR> “Invisible City” 看不见的城市

Wang Wen 惘闻
“Invisible City” 看不见的城市

With nearly 20 years of existence, the evolution of Wang Wen and surprises they still manage to throw at us is not unusual at this point. But on Invisible City, they seem to have tapped into something interplanetary – utilizing synths, ambient tones, and other electronic flourishes to create one of their most affecting and in some ways warm albums. The bombastic outpouring of melody is still present – no one knows how to build up to a rousing (and at times baroquely haunting) finish like these guys. However, the band seems more in tune than ever in setting the mood and letting the atmosphere fill the void. Another transcendent triumph from Wang Wen.

♪♫ Listen: Lost in Train Station + album stream

Wang Wen on Spotify, Xiami, Facebook, Instagram.

Li Wangnian 黎忘年 <BR> “Already Left” 出来了

Li Wangnian 黎忘年
“Already Left” 出来了

After the posthumous debut release from Hangzhou post-punk band Wisdom Teeth on Maybe Mars earlier this summer, lead singer and guitarist Li Wangnian comes swinging back with an exceptional solo release on Wuhan based label Sense Club Records that proves that Wisdom Teeth was no fluke and was just an inkling of what the multi-talented artist was capable of. From piano-led ballads to programmed drum beats over post-punk grooves, the album is brimming with ideas both musically and lyrically.

♪♫ Listen: 出租屋女孩 + album stream

Li Wangnian on Douban, Xiami.

Peach Illusion 桃子假象 <BR> “同名专辑”

Peach Illusion 桃子假象

The Xiamen dreamy synth pop duo made up of vocalist O.O and producer C.C (The White Tulips’ keyboardist). Full of hushed, gracefully delicate lyrics that would melt the even the coldest of hearts and jangly synth pop flavored arrangements chock full of boyish lo-fi charm and bubbly youthful energy, it’s a fully realized EP and one that immediately comes to life. Romantic wanderlust spiked with fizzy soda pop.

♪♫ Listen: 3:00 AM + album stream

Peach Illusion on Spotify, iTunes, Xiami.

Zhaoze 沼泽 <BR> “Birds Contending” 争鸣

Zhaoze 沼泽
“Birds Contending” 争鸣

Recorded in a forest in Belgium (your ears may even detect birds chirping in the background) the Guangzhou post rock band’s may not seem like much on the surface – in fact, it’s only one track that stretches out over forty minutes. But within you’ll be treated to one of the finest paced tracks of the year – one that takes the band’s signature sound of guqin-laced post rock and ups the ante, finding new avenues to explore whilst providing spellbinding intervals that can stir your soul before plundering head first into the abyss.

♪♫ Listen: Birds Contending + album stream

Zhaoze on Facebook, Douban, Youtube, www.

Endless White 白百 <BR> “Flow West to You” 白河夜船

Endless White 白百
“Flow West to You” 白河夜船

Xi’an’s Endless White has over the years become one of the shoegaze scene’s spotlight bands. They make good on the hype with their exceptional debut. Named after the novel Asleep by Japanese author Yoshimoto Banana, the album plays with the idea of lonely souls bewitched by spiritual sleep. An apt metaphor for depression, Endless White’s music, led by the wispy vocals of singer Zhang Wanyi, feels in many ways like an inescapable daydream – one that’s full of jangly guitar work and sublime walls of sound that engulfs you. Nevertheless, the quartet manages to inject rays of light as the album unfolds, with the band particularly brimming with life by the closing track ‘Hit By Me’. Shoegaze with abundances of emotional heft, Endless White have a winner on their hands here.

♪♫ Listen: Hit by Me + album stream

Endless White on Facebook, Xiami, Instagram.

Zoogazer 动物园钉子户 <BR> “Zoogazer”

Zoogazer 动物园钉子户

While shoegaze has been seeping into the nation’s consciousness for quite some time, there’s hasn’t been a band to break through as boldly as Zoogazer has done with their full-length via Qiii Snacks Records. Hailing from Xuzhou, Jiangsu, the band has crafted a collection of infectious sun-drenched pop songs that reverberate with a heady scraping of noise bolstered by the crackling of youthful energy. This is dream pop to fall punch-drunk in love with.

♪♫ Listen: 大大大大大象 + album stream

Zoogazer on Douban, Xiami.

Baishui 白水 <BR> “Their Paradise” 儿童乐园

Baishui 白水
“Their Paradise” 儿童乐园

The latest from the Sichuan-raised composer, multi-instrumentalist, and sound artist Baishui is a multi-faceted ambitious ensemble that finds the artist expanding upon his musical eccentricities all the while retaining and sharpening his intimate and affectionate signature. A spirited, kinetic, electroacoustic song-oriented album that finds the musician honing his singing chops with additional help from electronic musician Yao Chunyang and Chengdu singer Yuan Tian.

♪♫ Listen: The 31st Love Letter + album stream

Baishui on Facebook, Douban, Spotify, www.

Moxizishi 莫西子诗 <BR> “Moonlight Is Very White”月光白得很

Moxizishi 莫西子诗
“Moonlight Is Very White”月光白得很

Southwestern Sichuan musician Moxizishi, who utilizes the rhythm and vocal stylings of traditional Yi minority music and injects it with an experimental even improvisational energy once again mesmerizes on ‘Moonlight Is Very White’ which finds the artist taking refuge in the pine forests and mountains where he grew up all the while playing on a larger canvas sonically. It’s a dizzying concoction of world music influences, spearheaded by the singer’s soaring voice, with just enough psychedelic allure, reggae funk pop momentum, and indie rock aplomb to get the weariest of listeners intrigued.

♪♫ Listen: We Are All + album stream

Moxizishi on Spotify, Xiami, Douban, Facebook.

P.K.14 “What We Talk About When We Talk About His Name”

P.K.14 “What We Talk About When We Talk About His Name”

The esteemed post-punk godfathers of China, P.K.14, returned with their seventh full-length LP – their boldest and arguably most accessible album yet and one that feels larger than life – both an accumulation of the band’s output over the years as well as a challenge to bands across China. The band has once again raised the bar, creating an album that feels urgent, thrilling, and musically lush with detail and poetic prose. A masterpiece of lyricism and atmosphere that echoes across the new world order and resonates deep in your consciousness.

♪♫ Listen: The Taste of Falling Rain + album stream

P.K.14 on Facebook, Douban, Netease, Spotify.