The Top 50 Albums of 2018
R&B artist Josiah Wise has created a kaleidoscopic listening experience with his debut album soil. The project’s distinct blend of Wise’s roots as a classical/gospel singer with distorted instrumentation is enigmatic, spiraling around lyrics dealing with love, religion, and sexuality (“I get to devote my life to him, I get to sing like the cherubim”).
Standout Tracks: Cherubim, Bless Ur Heart, Messy
#49) Vessel-Queen of the Golden Dogs
Bristol producer Sebastian Gainsborough/Vessel has created an exceptionally mysterious electronica project. Dogs was conceived and recorded “over eighteen months of solitude in rural Wales”, as shown through its erratic and unpredictable passages. Throughout the album plucky elements of chamber music such as harpsichords and violins appear seemingly at random, constantly being cycled out for ambient buildups and unprovoked flurries of harsh noise.
Standout Tracks: Argo, Paplu, Arcanum
#48) Jorja Smith-Lost & Found
Jorja Smith, who rose to prominence in 2016 after her breakout single “Blue Lights”, has the makings of a R&B superstar. Lost & Found, her debut album, is a passionate collection of dialogues on romance, self worth, and economic insecurity, strung together by quiet and loungelike instrumentals. Smith is a singer that oozes personality at every turn, thriving artistically despite clear influences like Amy Winehouse and Sade, and displaying maturity for her relatively young career.
Standout Tracks: Blue Lights, Lifeboats (Freestyle), February 3rd
Australian death metal outfit Portal is as terrifying as ever on Ion, flooding each track with restless guitarwork and dredging vocals. The project is one of the most creative metal endeavors of the year, with each moment striking a balance between cryptic dread and heaviness.
Standout Tracks: Spores, Husk, Olde Guarde
#46) WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA-GALAPAGOS
Galapagos was my first introduction to Wednesday Campanella, a Japanese music duo who has been releasing some of the most interesting EDM fusions in recent memory. The sound palette of Galapagos is rich and maximal, characterized by spastic EDM production and lead singer KOM_I’s subdued vocals. The group also does an excellent job of paying homage to traditional elements of Japanese culture, such as the references to folklore in “The Bamboo Princess” or the relation of “Melos” to a classic 1940 short story.
Standout Tracks: Melos, Picasso, Matryoshka
#45) Clarence Clarity-Think: Peace
English singer/producer Clarence Clarity’s latest release Think: Peace is a fantastic glitch-pop experience. The production is a complete anomaly throughout, channeling elements of late 80s vapor-wave aesthetic, Britpop, and EDM into a sonic melting pot. Clarity’s passionate vocals also add to the record’s sensory overload quality, mainly revolving around the topic of internet love.
Standout Tracks: W€ CHANG£, Next Best Thing, Naysayer Magick Obeyer
#44) Snail’s House-Snö
Tokyo-based producer Ujico (Snail’s House) utilizes whimsical and atmospheric production across Snö for a unique, videogame-esque result. The album touches on a plethora of genres from the quiet incorporation of jazz piano and percussion on “Fluttering” to the flurry of vocaloid singing, chimes, and bells on “Whiteout”.
Standout Tracks: Covered in White, Fluttering, Whiteout
#43) City Morgue-CITY MORGUE VOL 1
NY underground rappers Zillakami and SosMula link for the most brutal hip-hop album of the year, embracing blown-out production and uncompromising energy throughout.
Standout Tracks: 33rd Blakk Glass, Arson, Gravehop187
#42) Kacey Musgraves-Golden Hour
Golden Hour is an intriguing follow-up to Kacey Musgraves’ last few releases, innovating on past ideas with brazen genre-experimentation. It’s not the complete renovation of the country genre, but it incorporates elements of pop and disco to keep her style exciting. Hour may also be her most mature album yet, addressing leaving a small-town lifestyle, relationship struggles, and loneliness.
Standout Tracks: High Horse, Space Cowboy, Butterflies
#41) Porches-The House
Aaron Maine’s latest album as Porches is a cavern of electro-pop expression, blending addictive hooks with personal sentiments and layered experimentation.
Standout Tracks: Find Me, Now the Water, Goodbye
#40) J.I.D-Dicaprio 2
After years of relatively unknown projects and quiet appearances with fellow Atlanta artists Destin Route, aka J.I.D, finally got his well-deserved recognition last year with the breakout project The Never Story. J.I.D is only showing signs of improvement on his follow-up, Dicaprio 2, one of the strongest conscious rap offerings of the year. Blending cryptic southern rap with upbeat trap production, the album is carried by exuberant wordplay and lyricism, notable guest appearances, and J.I.D’s undeniable hungriness towards reaching the forefront of contemporary hip-hop. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Off Deez, Off da Zoinkyz, Workin Out
The self titled debut of London pop collective Superorganism feels familiar yet unique, packed to the brim with bouncy and sporadic production and an unshakable sense of youthful ambition. The soft vocals of lead singer Orono Noguchi (who was only 17 during the album’s making) mesh gorgeously with the whimsical nature of the project, discussing optimism towards the internet age and interconnectivity amidst zany samples and intricate details waiting to be unraveled with subsequent listens.
Standout Tracks: Something For Your M.I.N.D., Everybody Wants To Be Famous, SPRORGNSM
#38) Vince Staples-FM!
FM! may be the hardest album to place in Vince Staples’ discography yet due to both its trim run time (much like Kanye West’s Project Wyoming) and unique intent. Critics may immediately be drawing comparisons between this project and Summertime ’06 or complaining about the lack of Big Fish Theory-level experimentation, but FM! sees Vince lyrically sharp and as cognizant of his career as ever. Its an album free of expectations, assembled for one artist’s love of the West Coast rap scene that founded his career. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Outside!, FUN!, Don’t Get Chipped
#37) Blood Orange-Negro Swan
My major issue with the past work of Devonte Hynes has been his clear talent as a musician being weighed down by weak song structure and unfocused ideas. On Negro Swan, his most personal album yet, I feel like I’m finally beginning to understand his unique capabilities as a musician. Much like 2016’s Freetown Sound, Swan is a delicate display of Hyne’s experiences with sexuality and race (“No one wants to be the odd one out at times, No one wants to be the negro swan”). His dulcet singing drifts over the multifaceted yet simplistic production, characterized by lofty bass chords and throwback samples.The best part about Swan is that on top of his already matured artistic ideas, there’s still boundless room for improvement.
Standout Tracks: Charcoal Baby, Jewelry, Nappy Wonder
#36) Aphex Twin-Collapse EP
Electronic music pioneer Richard James presents a succinct yet meaningful listen on Collapse. In a much needed return-to-form to his earlier production style of the 90s, the album is pretty much the antithesis of 2016’s overblown Cheetah, carefully constructing complex arrangements that interplay dynamically rather than rise to an ephemeral payoff.
Standout Tracks: T69 Collapse, 1st 44, MT1 t29r2
#35) Car Seat Headrest-Twin Fantasy (Face 2 Face)
Car Seat Headrest has always been an ambitious band, fostered by its leadership under the immensely talented Will Toledo. This year’s re-recording/writing of 2011’s Twin Fantasy is possibly their most realized record to date, exemplified by renewed energy, uncompromising instrumentation, and overly relatable commentary on early adult life.
Standout Tracks: Cute Thing, Bodys, Beach Life-in-Death
In my opinion, Jpegmafia’s Veteran was the dominant rap album for the first quarter of 2018. His rapping style is frantic and politically-charged and when coupled with him being the sole producer on the project there’s a feeling of both eclecticism and devout focus. Veteran’s moments of pure lunacy like the claustrophobic clicks on “Thug Tears” and breakneck beat of “Baby I’m Bleeding” only add to Peggy’s dynamic artistry. His mix of macabre and black-comedy lyrics and cluttered production across the album is bound to turn heads in the industry sooner rather than later.
Standout Tracks: Baby I’m Bleeding, Macaulay Culkin, 1539 N. Calvert
#33) Hermit and the Recluse-Orpheus vs. the Sirens
Brooklyn underground savant Ka embarks on a new collaborative effort on Orpheus vs. the Sirens, working with Los Angeles producer Animoss. Its not nearly as cold-hearted as 2016’s Honor Killed the Samurai, trading in the predecessor’s sparse instrumentation for rich and sample-heavy beats. Ka also flexes his muscles as one of the most talented lyricists in the rap game, fluently blending allegories of Greek mythology with urban issues (“Romans feast, not known for peace, Never rest, forever quest, Golden Fleece”/”Inherited a ready-made plight, Was too heavy, not many made light”). Sirens is an album entangled with hidden details and meaning, forcing the patient listener’s attention to hang on every word.
Standout Tracks: Fate, Orpheus, Golden Fleece
#32) Jean Grae & Quelle Chris-Everything’s Fine
Everything’s Fine is a weirdo-rap match made in heaven, with Jean Grae and Quelle Chris utilizing complex lyricism, unexpected features, and off-the-wall instrumentals to portray painfully relatable themes circumventing modern society. Like the musical equivalent to Office Space, the magnetism of an album this bizarre yet realized is a rare occurrence.
Standout Tracks: Gold Purple Orange, Ohsh, Scoop of Dirt
#31) Janelle Monae-Dirty Computer
Singer, songwriter, and actress extraordinaire Janelle Monae’s third album is likely her most colorful yet. Dirty Computer is an eclectic collage of art pop, funk, and hip-hop that incorporates meaningful discussions on contemporary politics and feminism (“We fem the future, don’t make it worse, You want the world? Well, what’s it worth?”). Its just as thematic a project (labeled an “emotion picture”) as her past works like The ArchAndroid, as well as incorporating rich instrumentation and brazen statements on individuality and love that solidify Monae’s importance as an artist.
Standout Tracks: Django Jane, Pynk, Screwed
#30) Nine Inch Nails-Bad Witch
After years of random EP releases Nine Inch Nails have returned to the industrial rock spotlight with their ninth studio album Bad Witch. Its an inherently aggressive album, channeling relentless energy over tracks like opener “Sh*t Mirror” and building with distorted jazz instrumentation on cuts like “Play the Goddamned Part” and “God Break Down the Door”. Although Witch is the band’s most succinct album to date, it stands as one of their most complex.
Standout Tracks: God Break Down the Door, Ahead of Ourselves, Sh*t Mirror
#29) Anderson .Paak-Oxnard
While Oxnard isn’t the long-awaited magnum opus that fans expected from uber-talented singer/multi instrumentalist Paak, its still an immensely enjoyable listening experience. By doubling down on the West Coast style of mentors like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Paak feels more focused and less self-congratulatory than on his 2016 project Malibu. His vocal delivery is varied and plays to his strengths, fluidly switching between R&B, soul, and trap; while the instrumentals on the album feel polished and complimentary with the slew of excellent guest features (Pusha T, Q Tip, Kendrick Lamar to name a few).
Standout Tracks: Brother’s Keeper, Tints, 6 Summers
#28) MGMT-Little Dark Age
Little Dark Age is a contemplative departure from MGMT’s early electro-pop material. While the band was once characterized by quirky radio-friendly tunes, Age mixes the dark humor of vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden with grainy and washed out instrumentals. There’s also a noticeable sense of sadness spurred from modern politics running throughout, meshing greatly with the slow-climax electronica peppered throughout.
Standout Tracks: Little Dark Age, Me and Michael, She Works Out Too Much
Danish post-punk outfit Iceage keep their momentum going at a dreary yet expressive pace on Beyondless. The project builds on 2014’s excellent Plowing Into the Field Of Love by utilizing apocalyptic instrumentation and gravely lyricism from lead singer Elias Rønnenfelt. There’s a noticeably live music feel to the project, ranging from blaring horns on “The Day the Music Dies” to slowcore guitarwork on “Catch It”, adding up to one of the most unique punk projects of the year.
Standout Tracks: Under the sun, Hurrah, Pain Killer
#26) Playboi Carti-Die Lit
Die Lit is a massive improvement from Playboi Carti’s self-titled debut project, utilizing some of the most creative trap production and rapping styles I’ve heard all year. Executive producer Pi’erre Bourne’s instrumentals, with standouts including the windy “Right Now”, blown-out “RIP”, and shimmering “Foreign” add to the album’s psychedelic feel. Carti complements these top-shelf beats perfectly by weaving in-and-out of focus, interjecting ad-libs and memorable features as needed for an encapsulating listen.
Standout Tracks: Shoota, Choppa Won’t Miss, Poke It Out
#25) Beach House-7
Dream pop duo Beach House reinvent themselves on their latest project, adding to their typically lucid sound with more noticeable backing instrumentals and vocals. While earlier projects such as Teen Dream and Bloom embraced a more ambient slowcore approach, 7 is filled with dynamic song structures and lyricism. The album is easily one of the most lushly produced in recent memory, seen in highlights like the morose and pondering “Drunk In LA” to the quiet fervor of “Dark Spring”. 7 strikes the complex balance of expression and aloofness that few records in the contemporary dream pop genre attain, on top of showing much-needed experimentation from the band.
Standout Tracks: Drunk In LA, L’lnconnue, Dark Spring
#24) Mitski-Be the Cowboy
While Be the Cowboy doesn’t feel quite as experimental as Mitski’s past works like Puberty 2, it excels just as strongly an effort due to its heightened lyrical maturity and condensed thematic ideas. Mitski Miyawaki remains a true gem in the indie scene due to both her skill as a songwriter with reinterpreting done-to-death topics in an innovative fashion and her impressive vocal ability to blend competing emotions into a singular one (“Venus, planet of love
Was destroyed by global warming, Did its people want too much too?”). Cowboy is a memorable addition to her discography, as well as one of the year’s strongest indie rock offerings. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Nobody, Washing Machine Heart, Two Slow Dancers
#23) Black Thought-Streams of Thought Volumes 1 & 2
Famed The Roots emcee Black Thought’s two EP releases of the year are brief yet densely-packed showcases of his raw talent as a lyricist. Volume 1 enlists legendary producer 9th Wonder for a unapologetic boom-bap feel, while the the second taps industry veteran Salaam Remi for a jazzier and more organic approach. Thought’s expert straddling between scathing critiques of contemporary politics and thoughtful discussions on urban decay never seems to falter, only growing with increased fervor and shrewdness (“I heard murder ran this vast, deserted land/Since back when Burning Man was blacks in Birmingham, Before the presidential election diversion scam”).
Standout Tracks: Twofifteen, 9th vs. Thought, Fentanyl
#22) U.S. Girls-In A Poem Unlimited
Meghan Remy has been quietly putting out music under the U.S. Girls name for over a decade with little-to-no acknowledgment. On In A Poem Unlimited, she’s put out her most realized project yet and gained some much-needed recognition. Her vocals resonate throughout each track with an ethereal quality, feeling aloof yet razor-sharp in her discussions on issues facing modern women (sexual misconduct, workplace expectations, political disconnect). The instrumental palette is another rich highlight, with standouts including the vintage record scratching and an angelic chorus on “Pearly Gates” and flamboyant saxophone on “Rage of Plastics”.
Standout Tracks: Velvet 4 Sale, Rage of Plastics, Pearly Gates
#21) Yves Tumor-Safe In The Hands Of Love
The music of Sean Bowie/Yves Tumor has always been an experimental mix of art pop and ambient electronic, but Safe In the Hands Of Love seems like his most progressive endeavor yet. The record is entirely unpredictable throughout, utilizing obscure samples, terrifying vocals, and random pop cuts (seriously, just try to compare “Noid” to the rest of the tracklist) erratically strung together by underlying messages on conflict and self-identity.
Standout Tracks: Noid, Licking An Orchid, Let the Lioness in You Flow Freely
#20) Travis Scott-ASTROWORLD
After years of hype and raised expectations, ASTROWORLD doesn’t quite reach the heights of 2015’s Rodeo but still showcases Travis’ exuberant potential on his path to hip-hop superstardom. Tracks like “SICKO MODE” (which has had an insane rise in the months following its release), STARGAZING, and 5% TINT sound intensely foreboding for the mainstream rap world, on top of being infinitely replayable. Scott’s grappling with fame and newfound fatherhood also sounds especially genuine on cuts like “COFFEE BEAN” and “HOUSTONFORNICATION”, while the star-studded feature list (Stevie Wonder, The Weeknd, Tame Impala) brings the album’s quieter passages to the next level.
Standout Tracks: SICKO MODE, STARGAZING, 5% TINT
#19) Melody’s Echo Chamber-Bon Voyage
After facing serious health concerns just last year, Melody Prochet’s long-awaited sophomore album is a whimsical return. The soundscape of Bon Voyage is lush and psychedelic, building upon her rather lofty 2012 debut and adding unique personality with gorgeous bilingual tracks such as “Quand Les Larmes” and “Var Har Du Vart?”.
Standout Tracks: Desert Horse, Breathe In, Breathe Out, Var Har Du Vart?
#18) Idles-Joy as an Act of Resistance
English punk rock outfit Idles seems more focused than ever on their sophomore project Resistance. The raspy tone of lead vocalist Joe Talbot is easily the most intriguing part of the record, passionately addressing social issues such as toxic masculinity and xenophobia (“My best friend is an alien, My best friend is a citizen”). The raucous guitar and drums throughout the record also adds to the frenzied importance of the band’s effort, adding up to a beautifully aware and uniquely assembled punk album.
Standout Tracks: Danny Nedelko, Never Fight A Man With A Perm, Samaritans
#17) SOPHIE-OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
Transgender producer SOPHIE’s debut album is a brazen and forward-thinking take on electronic pop which utilizes claustrophobic production and warped vocals for an otherworldly impression. At no point does OOEPUI feel like a uniform listen, with SOPHIE instead showcasing her impressively diverse production styles. Ranging from distorted club bangers like “Ponyboy” and “Faceshopping” to airy and emotional cuts like “Is It Cold In The Water?” and “Whole New World”, the project’s take on the house and ambient genres is a radical necessity in the contemporary electronic field.
Standout Tracks: Faceshopping, Whole New World, Ponyboy
#16) Pusha T-DAYTONA
After three years of radio silence since King Push: Darkest Before Dawn, DAYTONA is a trimmed-back victory lap for current G.O.O.D. Music president Pusha T. Unlike most artists in his field, Push doesn’t need to rap to make money (he’s got plenty of that), instead providing blunt discussions on luxury lifestyles and celebrity culture. He’s been covering the same material for nearly a decade since his prominent Clipse days, but it still feels expertly done and even revitalized through executive producer Kanye West’s gorgeously sampled production. Of course the crowning jewel to emerge from DAYTONA’s release was the brutal “Story Of Adidion” diss track directed towards hip-hop’s golden boy Drake, a scalding exposé that forced the latter to apologize publicly and address his previously unknown child.
Standout Tracks: Come Back Baby, What Would Meek Do?, Infared
#15) Mount Eerie-Now Only
Now Only is just as difficult and overly relatable a listen as last year’s A Crow Looked At Me, yet has Phil Elverum conveying loss in an entirely different manner. Both records share a central focus of grief over loved ones, lost artists, and the passage of time; but while Crow wallows in the immediate aftermath of these ideas, Only has a shimmer of optimism waiting just underneath. Its a musical representation of the“end of the tunnel” awaiting the final months of the healing process undertaken by those engulfed in personal tragedy. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Now Only, Two Paintings by Nikolai Astrup, Tintin in Tibet
#14) Father John Misty-God’s Favorite Customer
God’s Favorite Customer is perhaps the most personal Father John Misty record to date, providing necessary insight into the mental hurdles that fast-rising musicians face. Hearing an artist normally as collected and sharp as Misty in this depressing light is difficult at times, but never overbearing or uninteresting. While the instrumentation on the record is mysterious and haunting (a twisted blend of the blissful honeymoon phase of Honeybear and quiet orchestration of Comedy), it complements Tillman’s standard rambling and ever-experimenting vocals. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: God’s Favorite Customer, Hangout at the Gallows, Mr. Tillman
#13) Haru Nemuri-harutosyura
J pop newcomer/poet Haru Nemuri’s debut album is an exceptionally creative and forward thinking project. Harutosyura bounces around a myriad of genres in a relatively short time runtime, kicking off the project with the breathless garage rock track “MAKE MORE NOISE OF YOU” and the absolute earworm “narashite”, which grows into a frenzy amidst her cries of “Distortion! Distortion! Distortion!”. Every track on the project seems to have hundreds of ideas flowing simultaneously, utilizing busy electronic beats, repurposed indie rock ideas, and Nemuri’s continually impactful delivery.
Standout Tracks: Sekaiwotorikaeshiteokure, Narashite, Make More Noise Of You
#12) Kali Uchis-Isolation
Colombian R&B artist Kali Uchis has been in and out of the spotlight for the better part of this decade, dropping celebrated mixtapes like Drunken Babble and Por Vida, and collaborating with the likes of Gorillaz and Tyler the Creator. Her long-awaited debut album Isolation is just as sultry and brazen as her past material, lamenting over heartbreak and contemporary feminism with the enlistment of lush instrumentation provided by eclectic producers like Thundercat, BadBadNotGood, and Romil Hemnani. Uchis’ performance on the project channels a unique blend of her Latin American roots and early 2000s pop, on top of being some of the best of her career so far.
Standout Tracks: Just A Stranger, After the Storm, Dead To Me
#11) Denzel Curry-TA1300
While Curry’s earlier projects Imperial and 32 Zel showcased the early talent and artistic identity of the South Florida rap scene newcomer, TA13OO emanates of unapologetic ambition towards something greater. Its easily one of the strongest hip-hop albums of 2018: demonstrating the inner workings of Curry’s psyche, enlisting a slew of memorable features, and juggling a myriad of styles in just over 40 minutes. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Vengeance, Switch It Up, Sirens
#10) Noname-Room 25
For an artist that makes self-proclaimed “lullaby rap”, Noname has created a follow-up to her breakout project that feels more comfortable, pronounced, and important. Instead of drawing on the jazz stylings and contemporary Chicago lyricism of her previous effort Telefone, Room 25 identifies as an intimate experience that begs the listener to pay attention; its a rare and much-appreciated choice during an age of blatant self-promotion. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Blaxploitation, Montego Bae, Don’t Forget About Me
#9) Daughters-You Won’t Get What You Want
Providence noise rock group Daughters unleash hell on their first album since 2010, throwing terrifying growls, droning industrial rock, and hypnotizing riffs into a project that emanates pure dread. You Won’t Get What You Want does an expert job of lulling the listener into a false sense of security with opener “City Song”, a slower cut where the vocals of frontman Alexis Marshall drift passively along the static-like instrumental (reminiscent of Nick Cave’s ambient Skeleton Tree). Afterwards the tracklist never seems to take a breather, suffocating with a flood of haunting noise rock that fills every inch of your speaker system. The pure energy conveyed on “The Flammable Man” is indescribably destructive, while closer “Guest House” sounds like an insane breakdown into an holy sanctuary (“I’ve been knocking and knocking and knocking and knocking…Let me in!”). Want is utterly insatiable at every turn, cementing itself as the heaviest noise rock releases of the year.
Standout Tracks: The Flammable Man, Less Sex, Guest House
#8) Kero Kero Bonito-Time ‘n’ Place
Time ’n’ Place is the sophomore album of indie trio Kero Kero Bonito, a band previously defined by a whimsical take on J-pop (see “Flamingo” or “Break”). On Place, the group departs from their fundamentals in exchange for heavier guitarwork and busier electronic themes while preserving the carefree vocals of frontwoman Sarah Midori Perry. Tracks like “Only Acting” and “Outside” bounce between pop-punk and new wave, while cuts like “Dear Future Self” and “Flyaway” are both inspirational and deceptively depressing, weighing into the stress of growing older and accepting the resulting responsibilities. The project is a much more mature outing then Bonito’s breakout material, preserving hints of their original sound and shedding the rest for a more dynamic result.
Standout Tracks: Only Acting, Flyaway, Time Today
#7) Against All Logic-2012–2017
Up-and-coming producer Nicolas Jaar has followed up his ambitious 2017 project Sirens with an excellent electronic album under the pseudonym A.A.L.. 2012–2017 is a tireless collection of ambitious sampling ranging from vintage soul cuts to Yeezus, accoutrement-like distortion, and seamless transitions branching into layered house constructions. Jaar’s ability to repurpose these ideas is astounding, with the blend of ambient grain and 70’s jazz fusion on “This Old House” and the upbeat mix of piano and drums on “Cityfade” being key examples.
Standout Tracks: Know You, Cityfade, This Old House Is All I Have
While BROCKHAMPTON could have easily returned to the hook-verse-hook formula that founded their career on last year’s SATURATION trilogy, their fourth album was an unpredictable change of pace for fans and critics alike. The production is easily some of the most unique in recent memory, tapping into dynamic inspirations like Outkast’s Aquemini and The Talking Heads, while each group member feels expertly used and driven to some of their finest performances to date… (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: NEW ORLEANS, J’OUVERT, VIVID
#5) Parquet Courts-Wide Awake!
While Parquet Courts have always been a consistent post-punk outfit defined by tight playing and humorous lyrics, Wide Awake! may be their best album to date. With the band enlisting production from the legendary Danger Mouse, the instrumentals feel simultaneously crisp and garage-quality. Lead vocalist Savage’s vocals play off this change for better, adding to the weight of his consistently excellent lyricism throughout the project (“Those who find discomfort in your goals of liberation will be issued no apology!”/”I’m in the chaos dimension, Reason’s eclipsed by tension”). Awake! is far and away the best punk project of the year, spitting out some of the smartest social commentary since Pure Comedy while maintaining a high-quality and unavoidably catchy garage rock style throughout the record.
Standout Tracks: Before the Water Gets Too High, Almost Had to Start a Fight, Total Football
#4) Rosalia-El Mal Querer
Spanish flamenco singer/songwriter Rosalía's sophomore album shows a refined blending of experimental pop and traditional folk. Improving on her desolate debut album Los ángeles which dropped last year, Rosalía invests in a swathe of ideas and does each magnificently. From the synthetic bite of tracks like “MALAMENTE” and “DE AQUI NO SALES” to the emotional highlight “PIENSO EN TU MIRA”, El Mal Querer pushes expectations of the contemporary pop field.
Standout Tracks: MALAMENTE, PIENSO EN TU MIRA, DI MI NOMBRE
#3) Death Grips-Year of the Snitch
Due to its seemingly endless thematic ideas, multifaceted production and instrumental choices, and cultic background, Year of the Snitch remains an incredibly difficult album to dissect. Some fans have already labeled the project “Death Grips’ Trout Mask Replica”, a surprisingly accurate description for such a unique album coming from a band both impossible to replicate and predict. Past ideas from the group’s discography are sprinkled throughout Snitch, such as the heavy production from The Powers That B and synthetic chords of The Money Store, but the end result is unprecedented and unhinged. (Full Review)
Standout Tracks: Death Grips Is Online, Hahaha, Black Paint
#2) Earl Sweatshirt-Some Rap Songs
Much like composer William Basinski’s famed Disintegration Loops, Some Rap Songs is a dredging menagerie of cryptic sampling that constantly winds down into a depressing rabbit hole. Earl Sweatshirt, once a prodigal member of the infamous music collective Odd Future, has created a beautifully sad album that taps the listener into his grapples with depression, the loss of his father, and a sense of estrangement to the contemporary hip-hop field. The project’s short playtime creates a sense of urgency that’s never actually acted upon, instead being lost in a maze of unpredictable loops and buried vocals that takes influence from underground New York contemporaries such as MIKE and Black Noi$e. Sweatshirt’s delivery style has also doubled down on the depressive drone birthed from his sophomore album, IDLSIDGO, letting his lyricism do the work as the vocals melt into the layered atmosphere. Some Rap Songs is an excellent showcase of experimentation from an artist now in an entirely different career path, a simultaneously ultra personal and aloof coping with grief and the remnants of one’s artistic foundation.
Standout Tracks: Ontheway!, The Mint, The Bends
#1) Kids See Ghosts-Kids See Ghosts
I’ll be honest, Kids See Ghosts didn’t click instantly for me. Coming just a week after Kanye’s most personal and stripped-back album to date ye, Ghosts felt maximal in an almost off-putting fashion. It’s a listening experience filled with exotic samples and strange detours ranging from psychedelic rock passages to haunting social commentary. The project’s opener “Feel The Love” immediately signals the majestic scope of the album, giving us an effortlessly cool Pusha T verse, a matured Kid Cudi hook, and one of Ye’s most spastic and entertaining performances to date (“Grrrat-gat! Gat-gat, gat!”). “4th Dimension”, easily my favorite song of the year, is impossibly infectious due to its ghostly Louis Prima sample and dominant drum loops in addition to pertinent discussions on materialism and depression. Meanwhile “Freee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)” emanates of boundless positivity through the duos’ carefree deliveries, angelic backing vocals and blaring guitar riffs; while “Reborn” follows as a reference point for those struggling with mental health issues (“Ain’t no stress on me Lord, I’m movin’ forward, Keep movin’ forward, keep movin’ forward”).
Kids See Ghosts is a stylistic labyrinth of a project that deserves more than a handful of listens to unpack. Over a tight seven song tracklist Kanye and Cudi bring some of their most boundary-pushing ideas to date while channeling themes of paranoia, fear, and societal cynicism. I’m certain the album is not only the strongest of the G.O.O.D. Music Wyoming Project, but of the entirety of 2018.
Standout Tracks: 4th Dimension, Reborn, Freee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)
Thanks for reading, this was my longest article to date! Here’s to an even better 2019!