Arguably 2018 was one of the best years for music in recent memory, yielding lots of bold and beautiful statements from a variety of artists.
9. Noname – Room 25
One of the most interesting fusions of hip-hop and R&B came from the talented Noname with this breakout record chronicling injustice, insecurities, and growing into oneself in a changing world. Its sound is so unique and gorgeous; Noname’s flows and lyrics soar over this minimalist, yet powerful project.
8. Against All Logic (A.A.L.) – 2012-2017
Earlier this year, Nicolas Jaar quietly dropped this compilation of songs without his name attached, perhaps not expecting for it to be his most acclaimed record to date. Despite not having as grandiose visions as other Jaar records, it is the most chilling and interesting. A reinvention of house music and a reminder of the electronic music’s possibilities, 2012-2017 is much more than a compilation: it is an unmissable experience.
7. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Be the Cowboy sees Mitski growing from simply a talented and outspoken young artist, into one with a true voice and mature presence. Despite their brevity, each song presents unique ideas and experiences and paints a bold portrait of Mitski as an artist growing up and accepting the unromantic aspects of life, while still longing for her place in it. Easily her most well-developed and powerful work, this is her finest statement to date.
6. SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
SOPHIE has been the producer behind some great singles, but her debut solo LP sees her presenting her own voice. Maximalist, angry, and insanely glitzy, no album sounds like this and this is the most unique album of 2018. Going from emotional ballads to angry noise anthems, SOPHIE redefines what production can be and is a powerful statement for trans musicians everywhere as to how production and voice modulation blurs the lines of gender and sexuality just as much as music.
5. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Speaking of angry, maximalist albums, the noise-rock gurus Daughters reunited to put out a similarly bold and intense album this year. Passionate and experimental, Daughters push their sound to new heights with tight, noisy hooks, incredible production and some of the best, honest songwriting I have ever heard. It is an incredible experience, though maybe not for
those who want their music a little lighter.
4. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Earl Sweatshirt has long stood out to me as the most withdrawn talent of Odd Future, and despite dropping personal, raw projects in the past, Some Rap Songs is his first where he seems to have realized his potential. Harkening back to classics like Madvillainy, this album is short, utilizes obscure samples, and is a powerful vision of who Earl is and the depression that plagues him. It’s brutal and experimental, yet a bold artistic statement not to be missed.
3. Beach House – 7
For years, Beach House have put out great singles, yet this may be the first album of theirs which is consistent as a full album experience. Front to back, 7 is an instant classic, featuring their best production, and atmospheric, trippy songs that flow into each other all with fantastic melodies and ideas. It’s a haunting experience to listen to and easily the group’s finest statement as if all their work has been building to this.
2. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
Though this album has been longadmired in its original Bandcamp state, Will Toledo’s reinterpretation of Twin Fantasy transforms the charming original into a masterpiece. An incredible journey through love and growth in adolescence, it is the sound of youth and it is beautiful to see the shaggy fragments I had sung along to through high school transformed into grand, orchestral masterpieces without losing their passionate and honest origins of a kid falling in love.
1. Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Kanye West is an asshole, but he’s a human like all of us and nowhere is that expressed better on the brief, yet incredible Kids See Ghosts. In 24 minutes the album discusses freedom and the search for stability in life through some of the best performances both Cudi and Kanye have ever given. It has been incredibly cathartic and important to me and many in trying to find happiness and to move forward, a haunting and beautiful expression of what life is and where we’re going in it and has become arguably the best album of the year.
Image: Seher Sikandar, Pieter-Jannick dijkstra, coughingcookieheart via wikimedia commons