My Top 18 Albums of 2018

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While all of the big outlets have already shared their Top Albums lists, I’ve been sifting through my own picks trying to order them as best as I can. I found this process to be a lot easier last year, but it was also a lot harder to choose a top 5 since there was so much amazing music that came out last year. This year was definitely not as good for music (in my opinion) but there’s still a ridiculous amount of amazing tunes that came out this year.

Below are My Top 18 Albums of 2018. 50 is way too many for me to sift through (and quite honestly, I’m only one person and probably did not even hear 50 albums that I love this year) and I like doing the play on numbers (17 in 2017, 18 in 2018, etc). Enjoy!

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Release Date – August 17
Metacritic Rating – 87

The mystique of Mitski has been one that has intrigued me from the moment I first heard her music. Be The Cowboy is an ode to living your life the way a white male cowboy would in an old western tv show – Mitski’s words (paraphrased), not mine. Only 32 minutes long, Be The Cowboy is full of emotional turmoil, self-reflection and loneliness – she didn’t leave herself time to be anything but. Be The Cowboy is full of contradictions: we see and hear Mitski at her most vulnerable though she is showcasing her emotions through a character role that consumes the sound of the album. Complicated, audacious and intriguing – Mitski’s Be The Cowboy is my number one album of the year.

Read my show review here.

Favorite songs – “Nobody,” “Remember My Name,” “Washing Machine Heart”

 

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Release Date – April 27
Metacritic Rating – 87

I had a hard time going back and forth between Dirty Computer and Be The Cowboy when determining what would be my pick for AOTY. Dirty Computer comes in an extremely close second behind, BTC and for good reason. An album full of colorful anthems, Dirty Computer became a voice for marginalized humans looking for hope in a very dim year – and that hope came in a shiny neo soul package filled with contributions from Brian Wilson, Pharrell, Grimes and Zoë Kravitz. By combining styles and sounds of the 80s with Monáe’s flair for a catchy tune paired with political charge, she managed to craft the album of her career.

Favorite songs – “Make Me Feel,” “Crazy Classic Life,” “Screwed”

 

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Release Date – November 9
Metacritic Ranking – 84

While my music taste is constantly all over the place, one thing that I will always have is my reliance on sad girl music. When I first heard the news that Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Briders & Julian Baker were forming their own group and releasing music as well as touring together, my sad girl vibes spiked immediately. Phoebe Bridgers is one of my favorite musicians I’ve discovered over the past year, I’ve always known a handful of Baker’s songs, and Dacus is another up and coming artist who was receiving a ton of buzz. With just six songs, it’s a shame that we don’t get to hear more from boygenius, but maybe that’s the point – enjoy what these three amazingly talented individuals have created for us (they recorded everything in the studio in just four days) and let your emo flag fly.

Read my show review here.

Favorite songs – “Me & My Dog,” “Bite The Hand,” “Souvenir”

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Release Date – January 19
Metacritic Rating – 76

I can remember so vividly the first time I heard FAK – it was back in the day when iTunes would give away songs for free and their song “Emmylou” was the feature that week. Fast forward to 2018 and the Swedish sisters released their fourth album (first one in four years)  – and “Ruins” became an album I heavily listened to on repeat. It’s impressive that the earliest released album on this list stuck it out all year long and still remained one of my favorites. Perhaps this album was so high up on my list because it’s a bit more refined folk-pop than their previous releases (I walk the line with folk music) – but what really gets me is the album’s ability to be incredibly sad but still offering the listener a glimmer of hope that everything’s going to be okay.

Read my show review here.

Favorite Songs – “Rebel Heart,” “To Live A Life,” “Fireworks”

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Release Date – April 6
Metacritic Rating – 75

As we all know, I’m a sucker for a good girl group, and The Aces are the best of the best. If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you know that I’ve been following The Aces ride to success for quite literally years, and their debut album from Red Bull Records (Albert Hammond Jr, AWOLNATION) was absolutely not a disappointment. With 80s sounding guitar synths, catchy riffs and songs about love and fake friends completely solidify what it’s like to be a young twenty-something female growing up in 2018. The Aces’ point of view is refreshing, feminist and relatable.

Favorite Songs – “Bad Love,” “Lovin’ Is Bible,” “Waiting For You”

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Release Date – November 30
Metacritic Rating – 87

Let me preface this first by saying I was NOT impressed with this album the first time I heard it in its entirety and I still have mixed feelings on it – but the songs I love are just so incredible and have influenced my year so much. The singles on this album are easily my favorite songs The 1975 has ever done and even if I’m unsure on the album as a whole body of work, it’s grown on me immensely with every listen. I’m a sucker for a perfectly cohesive album in terms of concept, and The 1975 absolutely nailed it in that regard. This is the most vulnerable and self-aware we’ve ever seen Matty Healy, and I have to say it’s the version of him I prefer the most.

Favorite Songs – “Give Yourself A Try,” “Love It If We Made It,” “It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You”

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Release Date – March 30
Metacritic Rating – 89

Some of you may be confused with this album being apart of my top 18 because I am constantly talking about how I don’t like country music, but that’s because the majority of popular country music has horribly written lyrics and is very degrading to women. There are a small, small fraction of country musicians that I do consistently support (like The Dixie Chicks) and Kacey Musgraves. I was familiar with a handful of her previous songs but didn’t become a full fledged fan until Golden Hour – an album full of gorgeous self reflection and love. I’m really curious to see if she nabs AOTY at the Grammy’s in February.

Favorite Tracks – “Space Cowboy,” “High Horse,” Happy & Sad”

 

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Release Date – April 6
Metacritic Rating – 84

What’s crazier than me having a country album on my list? Having not one, but TWO rap albums included! I’ve been fascinated by Cardi’s rise to fame and how her journey could have (and would have) been completely different if it weren’t for social media and had no idea I would actually enjoy her debut album as much as I did. It definitely took time to grow on me, but every song is just so unbelievably catchy, tongue-in-cheek and relevant to the times we live in – I can’t help but include it for those reasons as well as Cardi’s influence on the year. There are definitely songs on the album I don’t prefer, but so many that I really do love.

Favorite Tracks – “Be Careful,” “Get Up 10,” “I Like That”

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Release Date – September 28
Metacritic Rating – N/A

I was surprised that I loved HC’s second album as much as I did. I really enjoyed their first album, but wasn’t sure where they would take their sound for this release. The singles were fantastic build-ups to the rest of the album and there really isn’t a song on this album that I dislike – which is a very impressive feat since it’s very rare for me to like every single song on an album. I would say that this isn’t any higher up on my release because I feel like it’s a little more of a “safe” release and I would like to see Hippo Campus branch out a little bit more in terms of sound.

Favorite Tracks – “Anxious,” “Bambi,” “Golden”

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Release Date – May 18
Metacritic Rating – N/A

Now, Now’s song “SGL” was my fourth highest played song of 2018. It’s the kind of song that instantly made me a fan of the group as I anxiously anticipated their newest album release, which was their first after a SIX year break. The album is full of emo pop jams that make me wish Carly Rae Jepsen would just get a little dark every now and again: the same vibes are present between the two artist’s sounds in terms of production and lyrical content: Now, Now is just a little bit “edgier.” Now, Now’s strong suit is their ability to describe the mundane moments of a relationship and making them sound cool, effortless and relatable.

Read my show review here.

Favorite Songs – “SGL,” “Knowme,” “Set It Free”

 

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Release Date – April 6
Metacritic Rating – 87

Kali Uchis surprised me. For one, she seemed to come out of nowhere and landed on my Spotify homepage with a new album release. I had heard a few of her songs before and knew her name because she had been on some rap features, but nothing quite drew me in as much as my first listen to her debut album. Uchis has a unique take on contemporary pop, R&B, reggae and neo soul  music that makes her stand apart from everyone she’s competing with. Spanish lyrics and influences from her childhood growing up in South America blend seamlessly throughout the album, making bilingual superstars seem like the new normal (as they should be).

Read my show review here.

Favorite Songs – “Your Teeth In My Neck,” “Just A Stranger,” “Dreams”

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Release Date – March 9
Metacritic Rating – N/A

Similar with my thoughts on First Aid Kit’s album, this one lasted a long time on my favorites of 2018 even though March feels like eons ago. I’ve found Liza Anne’s previous releases to be enjoyable enough, but nothing ever stuck with me quite as much as this album did (and still does). While preparing my Top 18 list, I revisited this album and realized how much I loved it from start to finish and it’s nice to go back to an album you’ve shelved for awhile when you remember you love it as much as you did the first few listens. Fine, But Dying is emotionally raw as she breaks down the feelings that many of us are embarrassed to admit (“Paranoia, Closest To Me”) and is self-deprecating enough before it feels too whiny or insincere. Plus for all you Kacey Musgraves fans, Liza is opening for her on her tour early next year.

Favorite Songs – “Paranoia,” “Socks,” “I Love You But I Need Another Year”

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Release Date – June 8
Metacritic Rating – 80

It seems like every year, we see young musicians, particularly female musicians, breakout into the scene for their own take on adolescence. We’ve had Lorde, Alessia Cara  and arguably Taylor Swift way, way back in the day (when she was still singing about #relatable things). 2018 was crafted perfectly for Lindsey Jordan – the brains behind bedroom indie rock group Snail Mail. At just 19 years old, Jordan managed to perfectly encapsulate this theme that seems to, again and again, relate to that year’s crop of indie kids. Jordan’s thoughts are entirely her own, which is something I would say we need in an era of Vine celebs getting record deals.

Read my show review here.

Snail Mail will be back in Chicago in January – apart of the local festival “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Favorite Songs – “Pristine,” “Golden Dreams,” “Speaking Terms”

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Release Date – October 19
Metacritic Rating – 74

If you’re able to successfully release a cover of a Lana Del Rey song and make it sound nothing like a Lana Del Rey song, you have my seal of approval. This is exactly what Lorely Rodriguez managed to do with her 2017 release of “Love” featuring DJDS – and she’s held my attention ever since. “Us” is an album made of simplistic love songs, and metaphors about reincarnation – and “less emotionally isolating” per Rodriguez in a Pitchfork interview. Us features collaborations from an impressive list of people, ranging from Dev Hynes of Blood Orange, producer DJDS (Kanye West, Khalid, Kacey Hill). Alt-pop R&B needs another voice so Khalid can take a break: I nominate Empress Of.

Favorite Songs – “Just The Same,” “When I’m With Him,” “Again”

 

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Release Date – October 19
Metacritic Rating – N/A

While writing this, I’ve realized that I’ve included three female musicians who sing in english and spanish consistently in their music, which is something really cool to see. Jessie Reyez’ 7-song EP, Being Human in Public, is one of the reasons I decided to include EPs in this list: it’s so phenomenal from start to end I absolutely had to include it. As I recently alluded to in my review of her live show a few weeks back, one of the things I love the most about Reyez is her ability to be versatile in her songwriting: one minute she’s begging for love, one minute she’s yelling at you to stop being a f*** boy, another she’s rapping in the bridge of her own song about being on top (I would definitely call this a double entendre).

Read my show review here.

Favorite Songs – “Apple Juice,” “Dear Yessie,” “Saint Nobody”

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Release Date – October 26
Metacritic Rating – 84

Does anything surprise us anymore? Living in the digital age, it seems as though we’ve lost our ability to let something actually happen to us on accident. This is how I feel about stumbling across Miya Folick: I learned about her work around this time last year when she was playing a show with Mitski in Chicago. Since then, I’ve been keeping up with her releases. Though I definitely understood her style and sound of music, Premonitions was such a joyous surprise of an album – Folick’s voice is truly like something I haven’t heard before. Her ability to climb notes with ease is unparalleled to anything I’ve heard released this year, the production is spot on and every song sounds like a self-empowerment anthem that deserves an entire choir as backup vocalists. What more could I ask for from an artist?

Folick will be performing in Chicago in February.

Favorite Songs – “Cost Your Love,” “Stock Image,” “Leave The Party”

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Release Date – September 21
Metacritic Rating – 85

Like I alluded to in a couple paragraphs above, music that hits me the most is music that allows you to feel all the feelings – sometimes I want to jam while I’m on the treadmill at the gym and sometimes I want to hear a bunch of dudes sing about emotional issues. Where can you find this? In Brockhampton! This album is definitely my favorite release from them, as I personally see it as their most vulnerable release, the biggest opportunity for them to showcase a different side of their storytelling. If Brockhampton’s music continues to offer as much as diversity as their fan group does, I’m sure I’ll continue to be a fan of what they are doing.

Read my show review here.

Favorite Songs – “Honey,” “New Orleans,” “Fabric”

 

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Release Date – June 15
Metacritic Rating – N/A

Nothing seems more timely than music that’s political. While we’ve had politically charged music for decades, nothing felt more fitting to 2018 than Grandson’s debut EP, A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1. With just five songs, Grandson (named Jordan Edward Benjamin),  his debut EP under Fueled By Ramen has gotten him noticed. The opening track of the EP, “Blood // Water,” has charted on several Billboard Charts and is about to hit 45 million streams on Spotify. I’m not entirely drawn to rock music because I tend to prefer something a little softer, but this music is so incredibly personal, touching on difficult subjects like America’s gun violence, corruption in our government and more that there was no question that it’d be included in my best of list.

Favorite Tracks – Blood // Water, Stick Up, Overdose

Honorary mentions:

Meg Myers, Take Me To The Disco
Thirdstory, Cold Heart
Tom MischGeography
Sunflower BeanTwenty Two In Bloom

Most disappointing releases:

Lany, Malibu Nights – I really haven’t enjoyed anything Lany has released since before their debut album was out, but I still like to get involved in current events enough to give this album a listen. For starters – I never knew that Paul Klein would actually write and release an entire album about Dua Lipa – but folks, he did. And it sounds like one big long sad whiny song about being dumped over. and over. and over. again. There’s nothing else to explore on this album, no extra themes to unpack. A whole lot of BORING.

Mumford & Sons, Delta – Each Mumford & Sons album has progressively gotten worse (in my opinion) so I’m not quite sure why I expected to love this album. Their first two were far superior than their most recent two, and it seems like critics agree with me. Overall the album is extremely cheesy and cliché and feels like they were trying to cater to a more mainstream audience with this release.

Robyn, Honey – definitely a handful of songs on the album that I really enjoyed, but most of it was forgetful and honestly annoying to me. Really upset that I think that because she’s truly an icon and I’ll always love her – but was hoping for something different. It didn’t stop me from buying a ticket to see her in Chicago next year. (!!!!)

Young The Giant, Mirror Master – YTG has been one of my favorite bands for years, as I’ve always found them to release consistently solid music. Unfortunately this was not the case with Mirror Master – a lot of it just seemed rushed to me in terms of ideas and songwriting, and there are sadly only a couple songs from the album that I truly enjoy.

Thanks for reading – if you’re still here. I just managed to crank out 3000 words and I’m super excited to share this post. Did any of your favorites make the list? Anything obvious that I left out? I’d love for you to let me know in a comment below.

Here’s to another great year for music!

Check out my Best of 2018 playlist here.

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2 Comments

  1. Ty Haisten

    Love this list. Your list is so estrogenized that I think I may go home after work, kick my feet up, sip from a glass of rosé, and read Tina Fey’s autobiography. Also, women just kick ass at music and you did a hell of a job of covering different genres and themes.

    Like

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