It’s been a turbulent and triumphant year. 2018 will go down in the books as having more hardships and heartbreak, more small strides and small victories, and more utter confusion as to what the hell is going on.
But amidst all of this, there was great music released by a plethora of amazing artists. Some valiant veterans dropped their first new songs in decades, and even more exciting, bedroom acts and unlikely underdogs put their voices out into the world and shook us to the core.
It’s true, even in the darkest times, there is still beauty to be found. Sometimes, all it takes is closing your eyes and opening your ears.
50. Let’s Eat Grandma- I’m All Ears
Witty, biting, poppy, emotional. Let’s Eat Grandma has it all going on. They manage to make impossibly catchy jams out of bluntly bleak moments that are all too relevant to all of us. It’s going to be exciting to see what these girls do in 2019.
49. Kurt Vile- Bottle It In
Kurt Vile makes the kind of music you’d want to listen to while cruising around in the summer with the windows down. He’s the literal human personification of Long Hair, Don’t Care. Bottle It In is just another continuation onto his already stellar catalog. Definitely go see him at a music festival for optimal results.
48. Arctic Monkeys- Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
This is easily the most pretentious album on this list- and that’s including an album by The 1975! Arctic Monkeys have had my love and support since their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. They’ve taken some twists and turns down their artistic path, and some albums have been less than great- but I happen to like this turn. It’s equal parts sleazy and cool, spacey and vintage. I think they knew they had suckers like me who would listen to anything they released, so they got weird with it. Good on you, gents!
47. boygenius- boygenius EP
Here’s the conundrum, is this an EP or an album. 6 songs, 21 minutes. There’s a discussion to be had here. But what is not up for discussion is how singularly fucking awesome this supergroup is. Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and the unstoppable Julien Baker come together to make some palpable and prolific music that will rip your heart out.
46. Anderson. Paak- Oxnard
YES LAWD! If there’s a dude having more fun than Anderson Paak, show me that dude. Having a ball should always sound like this. Jazzy, funky, vibrant hip hop.
45. Travis Scott- Astroworld
Watch Out! Travis Scott is just beginning his reign supreme. He’s had people jumping out the balconies of his concerts for years now. He’s incited riots. He’s been that guy for a while now. But thanks to Astroworld and Sicko Mode (shoutout Drake), he’s truly astronomical.
44. Thom Yorke- Suspiria OST
One of my favorite quotes is by Eli Roth. He said. “If you don’t want to be scared in a horror film, don’t close your eyes. Close your ears.”
I hate horror movies. There are maybe 2 horror movies I can watch, (The Shining, and, wait, maybe that’s the only one) and I still squirm the entire time. However, when Thom Yorke was announced to write the music for Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, I was actually considering going. But that movie looks terrifying as hell. Luckily, the score is so absolutely hauntingly beautiful, I can just listen to it and get the point.
43. Drake- Scorpion
Has anyone ever heard of this guy Drake?! He’s really good! If you haven’t heard his music yet, you probably should. I think he’s gonna be famous one day.
42.MGMT- Little Dark Age
MGMT still has it! They can still write super catchy songs, and still weird people out at the same time! Since “Kids” and “Time to Pretend,” we all watched these two dudes get high and take to the cosmos with their music, but they got a little far out there. Now it seems like they’re back in the atmosphere and making some of their best music.
41. Greta Van Fleet- Anthem of the Peaceful Army
These kids ROCK. And they’re all brothers! And they sound like Led Zeppelin. Check ’em out, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
40. Death Grips- Year of the Snitch
Death Grips is not for the faint-hearted. This is HEAVY. H E A V Y music. When Death Grips emerged, people had no idea what to make of this harsh, industrial rap. But over the years, they’ve gone further into their arsenal, taken up guitars, turntables, and some tricks, and are making some of the wildest music you’ll ever hear. Also, the guy who destroyed Trump’s Hollywood star was listening to Death Grips while he took a pickaxe to that shit. Just to give you an idea what this music does to people.
39. Robyn- Honey
Robyn fucking rules. Her music is sugary sweet and sticky in your mind, which probably makes “Honey” the most apt name ever. But these dancey disco tracks have deep meaning in them. So when you’re dancing, your heart will be crying. That’s my SHIT!
38. Yves Tumor- Safe in the Hands of Love
The production alone on this Yves Tumor project is enough to earn him a spot on this list, but the lyricism is the cherry right on top. It’s definitely an album to give some time to. If you don’t know this guy, get on it!
37. Soccer Mommy- Clean
I’ve been doing this music reviewing thing for a while, and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a year with so many powerful women making so much profoundly powerful music. This album slaps and Soccer Mommy is going to be a huge deal. If she, Snail Mail, and Boygenius ever go on tour together, that will be a can’t miss event. Why don’t they just start Lilith Fair back up?
36. Brockhampton- Iridescence
Brockhampton had a crazy 2 year stretch. Last year, they put out 3 superb albums and had the entire music industry in disarray. Then perhaps their strongest rapper, Ameer Van, got caught up in sexual abuse and was immediately kicked out the group. The group, who do a fantastic job of representing all people, had to produce an album while in complete disarray themselves. Luckily, they are all extremely talented kids, and made a pretty great album. It’s just not a dream anymore, it’s real life.
35. Teyana Taylor- K.T.S.E
Teyana Taylor put out maybe the most polished album this year. This thing sounds like it has been worked and worked and worked on. She’s clearly an incredibly talented singer and she has kind of been waiting for her moment to show off. KTSE is that moment. She’s a star, not an afterthought.
34. Tierra Whack- Whack World
Tierra Whack’s Whack World is 15 songs, in 15 minutes. She actually put out 15 one minute tracks on an album which I think is fucking BRILLIANT. Literally every single song, I was left wanting more. Craving more. It’s like she wrote catchy jingles for commercials. They get stuck in my head and leave me singing along all day. This was one of those albums I didn’t want to end.
33. Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel
One of the world’s finest songwriters, Courtney Barnett, makes great songs. Who knew?! And on Tell Me How You Really Feel, she’s a certified rockstar. She’s still making amazing songs, but now she doesn’t give a shit what you think. And Nameless, Faceless is her tell off to all the trolls out there. Love it.
32. Blood Orange- Negro Swan
I have a favor. Don’t read anything about this album. Don’t even read this. Just go listen to it. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
31. Low- Double Negative
Alternative rock veterans Low have been making music since 1994. They’ve been producing interesting and captivating mood music for 24 years. That’s incredible. Their latest album, Double Negative, is one of their best.
30. Father John Misty- God’s Favorite Customer
Everyone’s favorite well-spoken asshole is back! Father John Misty put his narcissism front and center on last year’s Pure Comedy, and now on God’s Favorite Customer, it’s more like comical cynicism. Either way, the dude makes hits. And it’s the kind of stuff you feel smarter after listening to. Like reading but without the actual, you know, reading part.
29. Saba- CARE FOR ME
The story behind this one is important to know before listening. Last year, Saba’s cousin, who was also a musician, named dinnerwithjohn, was stabbed to death in Chicago. The killer even trailed him for half a block before running off, just to ensure he was dead. Saba takes in all this pain, this anger, this confusion, these heavy thoughts, and produces a completely beautiful and captivating album. It’s the kind of album that makes you hug your loved ones just a little bit closer after hearing.
28. Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of
Oneohtrix Point Never takes listeners on an acid trip on deep and distant ambient electronic music. It never stays in one place, and it never sounds like a walk in the park. It’s eerie and distorted, yet beautiful and symbolic. There’s really nothing quite like it. The glitchiness, the guitars, the singing, it’s all very melodic and dramatic. This is really superb album.
27. A.A.L (Against All Logic)- 2012 – 2017
A.A.L. is Nicholas Jaar making some of his best music in years. It’s dancey, it’s dubsteppy, it’s fun, it’s cool, it’s electrifying, it’s sample-filled, it’s just perfect.
26. Kali Uchis- Isolation
If there’s one song that got me through darker times this year, it’s After the Storm. Kali Uchis is a terrific song writer and sultry singer. If this was her breakout year, 2019 and 2020 already belong to her.
25. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
This album is like listening to a movie with your eyes closed. It’s so cinematic and full of action. You can almost see the scenes taking place in front of your eyes, and Jon Hopkins makes his intentions clear- keeping the listener on their toes and glued to their seat.
24. Iceage- Beyondless
Iceage have been around for a while now, but they’ve never made music this fun. It’s always been a bleak, blood-letting experience. But on Beyondless, they’re coming into a new punk persona, sounding more and more like Refused by the day.
23. Beach House- 7
Beach House can really do no wrong. They’ve truly gone 7 for 7 on great albums. Every offering they put out is lush, cinematic, enigmatic, and beautiful. All of their songs are just supremely gorgeous. Perfect looking at the stars music, perfect sunny or cloudy day music, just perfect music in general.
22. U.S. Girls- In a Poem Unlimited
In a year where turbulence and pain were the headlines, and the unfair and requested abuse of women was so apparent, to see women kicking ass and taking names, it feels pretty awesome to see. U.S. Girls, have been around for quite some time, this is their 7th album, but it’s the one that is going to take them to the next level, finally. It’s also filled to the brim with catchy pop punk jams.
21. Denzel Curry- TA1300
Denzel Curry has infinite talent. He’s one of these artists that can really do anything. He can rap like nobody’s business, he can make beautiful art, and he can tell stories. TA1300 is a 3 part saga. He actually released it as 3 parts in 3 separate weeks, which I thought was insanely cool. On top of all of that though, it’s just a fantastic project.
20. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Listen to Freebird 2 and tell me these guys aren’t for real. They’ve always been about making great music that has great lyrics and makes you feel something profound, so why would this year’s Wide Awake! be any different?
19. Ariana Grande- Sweetener
How does Ariana Grande do it? She has endured so much, she’s been dealing with hurt beyond anyone’s conscious understanding for so long, and yet she’s still able to make undeniably terrific pop music. Let’s just take a moment to realize what a national treasure Ariana is. If she ever needs a kidney, I’ll be first in line to give her mine. And the boldness to put “God is a Woman” and “Breathin” on the same album?! That’s too generous Ariana.
18. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
I love Janelle Monae so much. She’s absolutely not afraid to say what she feels and on Dirty Computer, she tackles so many topics- love, sex, trust, feminism, I could go on for days. So I’ll leave it to the talented Ms. Monae to do the talking.
17. NoName- Room 25
This is an album that deserves a lyric print-out along with it. You shouldn’t be able to stream it without first pulling up the Genius page to read along to NoName’s stellar rapping. She really is an incredible talent, and on Room 25, it’s her official statement piece.
16. Kamasi Washington- Heaven and Earth
If you haven’t hear Kamasi Washington before, just know that he’s a prodigy level saxophonist, who is able to transform songs into new worlds, and teleport listeners to these unique lands, using only his instruments. When he released The Epic, it was exactly that. 3 hours of epicness. Heaven and Earth is a little bit more focused. It plays along the two themes very well, and it’s a really solid release by a true talent.
15. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
I think they’ll end up writing college courses around the 1975’s albums. They’re so lyrically and metaphorically dense, but at the same time, so catchy and accessible. So I’ll just say this, they have more than 6 bangers on this album, so it’s definitely worth a listen. Great guitars, awesome musicianship, and just a little eye-rolling lyricism from Matty Healy.
14. Car Seat Headrest- Twin Fantasy
Car Seat Headrest took something old and made it new. What I mean by that is that Twin Fantasy was originally released in 2011, but it was a little unpolished, it was lacking the rightful work it deserves. After years of steady touring and becoming one of the most consistent indie bands in the world, Car Seat was ready to revisit Twin Fantasy and perfect it. Now, I can safely say, it’s perfect, and it soars!
13. Kids See Ghosts- Kids See Ghosts
I have my opinions on Kanye. And they are oh so complex. So if we’re just talking about Kids See Ghosts as a standalone project, it’s great. All the songs are tight and in their right place. They all serve purpose and it’s great to see him and Cudi on the same page again. Plus, Reborn is a perfect song, no matter what. Still though, can you wash the image of him in the MAGA hat out of your mind? Cause I can’t.
12. IDLES- Joy as an Act of Resistance
HEAVY MUSIC! BONE CRUSHING MUSIC! Post-punk at it’s finest. IDLES have made something special here.
11. Lucy Dacus- Historian
Lucy Dacus is part of the new wave of intensely talented female singers, capable of writing just outstandingly impressive riffs combined with the most heart-breaking lyrics. Historian is getting a lot of buzz this year, and if you hear Night Shift at any point, you’ll know why. It’s so good.
10. Kacey Musgraves- Golden Hour
Kacey Musgraves, man. Wow. I really don’t have the words to summarize how fucking great she is. And High Horse?! That song’s perfect. Next.
9. Earl Sweatshirt- Some Rap Songs
Earl’s back! The thing that makes this album amazing is that Earl doesn’t compromise artistic vision even one molecule. He basically raps over beats that aren’t beats. He puts his voice behind all these layers of lush music, and still sounds prolific. It’s absolutely extraordinary how good he is at rapping.
8. Mitski- Be the Cowboy
Is there anyone out there who doesn’t love Mitski? If so, please show them the way. She’s just the best. After putting out 2 perfect albums, she’s made it 3 for 3. She creates emotionally bracing music soundscapes that everybody can relate to, and she does so in the catchiest fashion ever.
7. Mac Miller- Swimming
This is honestly so fucked. Mac made probably his best album the same year he passed away. Sonically, the album combines all the influences he’s always loved and touched on. Lyrically, he’s tight, succinct, and brilliant. It’s an especially tough loss losing such a bright light, but knowing how much more he had to give the music world hurts just as much. The beat switch-up on Self Care still gets me.
6. Vince Staples – FM!
Vince Staples is a singular voice in hip hop. His style, his voice, his persona, it all gives off this dangerous vibe. When I cruise in the whip and I’m feeling myself, I’m probably listening to Vince.
5. Snail Mail- Lush
Snail Mail made my favorite emo song this year, and that’s saying something! Look at this list!! It’s full of emo music. But Lush is a profoundly good album. It has everything a music fan could want- great guitars, perfect bass licks, and stellar lyrics. Snail Mail is for real.
4. Pusha T- Daytona
Pusha T wins 2018. He bodied Drake, he put out a crazy album, and somehow survived all that Kanye craziness. He deserves 2018. It’s his. Good for him! Let’s hope for more dope music in 2019, because 7 songs on Daytona just wasn’t enough. I want to listen to more music about cocaine while folding my laundry.
3. Hop Along- Bark Your Head Off, Dog
Hop Along got me, hook line and sinker. The catchiness, the emotionality, the reliability. I was profoundly invested in Bark Your Head Off, Dog when it came out, and I’ve listened to it countless times since. It still gets me. I’m all in, Hop Along.
2. Cardi B- Invasion of Privacy
Only one person in the world could put out an album like Invasion of Privacy, and that person is Cardi motherfucking B! She is the BRONX QUEEN! She’s honestly running things so hard right now and doing it her way. She’s strong, independent, talented, funny, creative, and the proud owner of about 15 bangers, most of which are owning the Charts. Besides maybe Ariana, she’s the biggest name in music right now.
1. JPEGMAFIA- Veteran
The amount of hours I’ve spent with this album is insane. The adlibs, the lyrics, the beats, the sheer audacity JPEG brings to this tape, is just stupid. JPEGMAFIA is in a very, very limited class of musicians willing to speak directly from the hip. He will CALL. YOU. OUT. White Supremacists, Donald Trump, KellyAnne Conway, Lena Dunham, John Lennon, everyone’s getting a talking to. Then you find out that he’s actually a Veteran, which gives his words about gun ownership, military service, “real hard gangsters” and sexual abusers so much weight. I would elect Peggy as president tomorrow, and he’d probably say less crazy shit than Trump. The only difference is that I would follow JPEG anywhere.