Top 50 Albums of 2018
By Drew Renner
1. Metric - Art of Doubt
The concept of forming doubt into art is already pretty sad before one even gets to the first song. Metric are known for being a space-rock type of band, but their spirits are very grounded here. Yet Emily and company find a way to lift us anyways, finding comfort in the idea that this doubt is shared across everyone. Rich, poor, weak, strong, famous, infamous, everyone has moments when they agonize over things in the past that could have gone better. To permanently see in reverse is a tough hole to get out of though, and Emily even thanks the fans for their kindness on albums end.
2. Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin
Ty is the type of guy who releases his magnum opus in January and then makes another four albums by the end of the year. He’s also the type of guy that can do whatever he wants while pleasing everyone. You want it classic? Ty’s got you. If you want it hard he’s got you. Trippy, saxophoney, how bout a cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Every1’s A Winner”? Ty does it all in this 75 minute masterpiece.
3. Parquett Courts - Wide Awake!
This once goofy punk band got woke this year, but weren’t quite sure how to channel their anger at all the injustice. But wait, is that DangerMouse’s music? The super producer came in and had the focus needed to harness this storm into something wonderful. Sometimes you need a muse to help reach your full potential. Though deep down they’d still rather avoid the fight and give everyone a fix of tenderness.
4. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour
Kacey claims that she took acid for the first time before writing this album. And even though it does stay to her country-pop roots, there is definitely a psychedelic twist in there that elevates it above her past material.
5. Black Panther
Disney wanted the best for its adaptation of Black Panther and went to the hottest name in hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar, to curate the soundtrack. Lamar put up 5 new originals and guest stars in a few by his hand picked Dora Milajae.
6. Pale Waves - My Mind Makes Noises
The highest ranking new artist stand out from the synth-rock pack by bringing an authenticity bought by personal tragedy. Everybody wants to be The Cute, but Pale Waves just live that kind of life.
7. Carrie Underwood - Cry Pretty
Carrie got sad for this record, leaning more towards R&B than her usual country. The result is that she spins both personal and public tragedy into relatable anthems for all.
8. Against the Current - Past Lives
Chrissie and her crew are known for their genre bending, bouncing from punk to pop without missing a step. On this album they mostly just blend the two together, heartbreak doesn’t give enough time for both, but prove they can make this more familiar style as well as anyone.
9. Vince Staples - Fm!
A very short visit by Vince Staples is still a welcome one. It may not show on the charts yet, but he is staking his claim as the present and future of hip-hop.
10. Screaming Females - All At Once
Marissa and her other non-female, non-screamers released their 7th, and best, album this year with a warning. Do not cross us, man or woman, or you will wind up on the bad side of an experience with a succubus or mantis.
11. Eric Church - Desperate Man
Church has been reigning over the country game for years because of how far he can veer away from it without losing himself. On this record, he is sharing heartbroken drinks with serpents, but later decides that he wants to be The Rolling Stones for a few songs and it works just as well.
12. The Carters - Everything Is Love
While this is billed as a cooperative effort, and Jay-Z is on every song, Beyonce is the one in the driver’s seat here. And she slays with a surprisingly great rhythm and while her lyrics are boastful, they are always inviting to their party instead of excluding.
13. Eminem - Kamikaze
Em released Revival back in December of 2017, and while some do love it, the album received the worst reviews of his career. Marshall Mathers does not take criticism well, but replacing that chip on his already accomplished shoulders apparently brings out some terrific song-writing (at the expense of many of his peers.)
14. Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel
Courtney’s sophomore effort with the Vileator was underwhelming to some, but for junior year she came back single and better than ever. Though, as she laments on some tracks, you can never be truly alone of you can’t take a vacation from yourself.
15. Fucked Up - Dose Your Dreams
This bluntly named punk band has been experimenting with rock operas for a few years, and this is their best one yet. It has many different sonic influences as it tells the story of a very bored man being shown, by the girl of his dreams, that a colorless world can actually be hiding a kaleidoscope.
16. Natalie Prass - The Future and the Past
This Cleveland native elevated her indie-pop sound with a heavy dose of jazz and funk fused into the production. While her first album was like taking a peak into her diary, The Future turns Nat’s thoughts into a bombastic stage show.
17. Jack White - Boarding House Reach
Jack got a little weird this time around, putting on interludes and instrumentals that make it sound like a 90s Beasties album. No fears though, there is still plenty of rockin on here.
18. Dr. Dog - Critical Equation
These psychedelic pop-rockers have developed a habit of releasing their new music without telling anybody. This is definitely worthy digging for though.
19. CHVRCHES - Love Is Dead
Chvrches, who normally produce their own music, worked with super producer Greg Kurstin this year, who has been known to split fan bases. They made it out mostly unscathed, even gaining some new fans along the way.
20. Beartooth - Disease
Beartooth returned without as much of the aggression they channeled so well in 2016, looking to cure the disease rather than embrace it. And while it is missed, they’ve shown they don’t really need it to make solid rock music.
21. The Blue Stones - Black Holes
These Canadians impress on their debut album by flipping their hard riffs into blues and spacey rock without blinking. Even more impressive considering there are only two members in the band.
22. The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
A look into modern day romance from a band that doesn’t want anything to do with rock. And while it has some cute love songs, the important part is that you have to swipe right on yourself before anyone else will.
23. A Perfect Circle - Eat the Elephant
This long awaited return was softer than most anticipated and didn’t make quite the impact that was expected. The good news is that Maynard James Keenan is such a good singer/song-writer than he can get away with delivering us stuff we didn’t order.
24. Cardi B - Invasion Of Privacy
Artists like Cardi are often overhyped, they check off a lot of boxes, but Cardi silenced these doubts as quickly as the opening track, if she gets knocked down nine times the only thing to do is get up ten. Instantly, she went from competing for the title of Best Woman Rapper to Best Rapper period (though she’s not there yet.)
25. Sloan - 12
For the last few album Sloan have embraced the White Album style of music-making, that each member of the band makes their own songs and they smush them all together at the end. These guys still like each other though, and shine as both lead and supporting figures.
26. Ariana Grande - Sweetener
Ariana had a whirlwind of a year with this smash hit album somehow only coming in the middle of it. All that drama, combined with ability to use trap beats (for the kids) as well as anyone in pop took her from pop stardom to superstardom.
27. Pusha T - Daytona
Formerly of Clipse, Pusha T was the vanguard of Kanye’s grand summer experiment, 5 albums in 5 weeks with only 7 songs each. While understandably nervous about being the guinea pig, he should be happy to know Daytona got most of the best material, and he got away with trying to bury the biggest name in the industry.
28. Jim James - Uniform Distortion
One can look at Jim James’ continuous solo efforts as a delay on the next My Morning Jacket album, or a guy getting his pop songs out of the way before making the next great rock record. But if the songs are good, who really cares?
29. Muse - Simulation Theory
Muse return by going all in on their hammy space-rock. This is what they do best , but the self-awareness is appreciated and keeps the lyrics fun instead of corny.
30. Camila Cabello - Camila
People thought she was nuts when the news broke that Camila was leaving Fifth Harmony. But this sultry and very intimate debut proved her right and her star shines brightest in a sky of its own.
31. Cloud Nothings - Last Burning Building
These Cleveland rockers have been consistently delivering quality angsty garage-punk for years and 2018 was no different.
32. Estrons - You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough
The debut album from this Welsh alternative-rock band comes packed with girl power, aggressive assertiveness from the female side of flirtation. This comes with a dark side though, knowing that everyone caught up in this inferno will walk away with burn marks at best
33. Laurel - DOGVIOLET
On an acoustic track, Laurel may sound a lot like an Adele-type of artist. The whole composition of the music is special for this new artist though, leaning more towards indie-festival rock than opera-pop.
34. The Interrupters - Fight The Good Fight
Tim Armstrong’s handpicked champions come ready to fight like title holders. They even got the whole Rancid band to appear on a song. Future tag team champions maybe?
35. Brian Fallon - Sleepwalkers
The former Gaslight Anthem singer paints a picture of drowning heartbreak at a jukebox bar. Torn between finding new love and memorializing old.
36. Bodega - Endless Scroll
They may come off as a goofy band at first, and it’s true that some of the songs are very funny. They are equally apt at social observation though, even being so bold as to wonder why you aren’t doing anything better than listening to their album.
37. Florence + The Machine - High As Hope
Welch is known for using her big voice over operatic music, and she definitely delivers on that front here. What’s different about Hope is the way she delivers her message, not so much in a story-telling way, but as if she is giving advice to a daughter or young fan.
38. Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today
Ben Gibbard lost his lead guitarist, Chris Walla, but decided to plunge on anyways. They sound … almost exactly the same, maybe not peak Death Cab but at least equivalent to where they’d be at this point anyways.
39. Mitski - Be The Cowboy
Japanese-American indie-rocker Mitski brings us into her world, completely exhausted but still welcoming. So it is no wonder this album has a dream-like quality to it, a geyser completely spent and off with the sandman.
40. Kim Petras - Turn Off The Light Vol. 1
This transgendered youngster knows how to throw a proper fright night. She welcomes us to embrace the dark with her, with all your fears having a well-worth-it payoff.
41. The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
These indie-rockers from New Zealand put on their first full length album in 2018. The good news about making mistakes when your young, at least you have a Future you to judge your own past.
42. Black Honey - Black Honey
This labelless rock piece out of England have some very impressive production values considering the resources. They bounce around between songs, chained to no genre just as their free spirits would indicate.
43. Marmozets - Knowing What You Know Now
The brit-rockers second album took awhile to come out due to Becca McIntyre’s hypermobility syndrome (which sounds awesome until you read the article). They came back hard though, even getting a theme song for a WWE special event.
44. Kali Uchis - Isolation
Kali sank her teeth into our necks with this sultry debut album after a few years of building buzz with her fun and funky Soul style. The music is old fashioned, the right kind of classic, but her attitude is 2018.
45. Rich The Kid - The World Is Yours
Rich might fit comfortably into the mumblerap masses if he didn’t come out so strong on this debut album. He gets off his ass and hustles, assisted by quite an impressive guest list.
46. Sophie - OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UNSIDES
While not the first major transformation in Sophie’s life, this one from producing in the shadows (she would actually mask her voice in interviews ala Scream, but worked with names like Charli XCX, Vince Staples and even Madonna) to producing and singing it all in the spotlight must have been difficult. The album going from strangely aggressive electronic to the bounciest of pop is not surprising because of this.
47. Gorillaz - The Now Now
Damon put out albums with two different bands this year, but his hip-pop project continues to be the best. The big difference this time is the lack of guest features, with Aubum mostly monkeying around by himself (the exception is a big one with the long awaited return of Snoop Dogg.)
48. The Dirty Nil - Master Volume
This Canadian band had a few lows on their debut album. But when their sky opens up they can hit some very high peaks, and that’s a major plus for all who still like to rock.
49. Emily Kinney - Oh Jonathan
A new indie-pop-rock artist that has such a pleasant voice that it’s difficult to not be in a better mood while listening to her sing. Shame on you Jon, what else do you need?
50. Franz Ferdinand - Always Ascending
While Franz Ferdinand were still putting out quality music, one could tell they were sick of their signature sound. They found a new spacier one and if it makes them happy and works just as well I’d say that is a major success.