Hello everyone. Its been ages since I’ve written anything on here – I started a new job working as a reporter for a magazine publisher in June, and its taken up pretty much all of my time since. But the list of my favourite albums of the year is a fixture on this blog, which I’ve turned out every year since I started it.
So – lets jump straight in to the list. I’m going to fit it all into one post, moving to #1 in ascending order. Once we get to the top 20, as per usual, I’ll fill in a bit more detail on why I loved each album. Enjoy! Let me know your thoughts in the comments – did you agree or disagree with my picks?
#50 Nostrum Grocers – Nostrum Grocers (Abstract Hip-hop)
#49 Orbital – Monsters Exist (Acid House)
#48 Tim Hecker – Konoyo (Ambient, Experimental)
#47 The Field – Infinite Moment (Ambient Techno)
#46 Beach House – 7 (Dream Pop)
#45 Rayland Baxter – Wide Awake (Country, Indie Folk)
#44 Soccer Mommy – Clean (Indie Rock)
#43 Ovlov – TRU (Shoegaze, Indie Rock)
#42 Brockhampton – iridescence (Hip-hop)
#41 Kurt Vile – bottle it in (Psychedelic Folk, Indie Folk)
#40 Mick Jenkins – Pieces of a Man (Hip-hop)
#39 Aphex Twin – Collapse EP (IDM, Experimental)
#38 Mount Eerie – (after) (Indie Folk)
#37 DJ Koze – Knock Knock (House)
#36 Iglooghost – Clear Tamei / Steel Mogu EPs (Drum n Bass, IDM)
#35 Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile (Jazz)
#34 Clarence Clarity – THINK:PEACE (Alternative Pop)
#33 Robyn – Honey (Pop)
#32 Laurel Halo – Raw Silk Uncut Wood (Experimental, Ambient)
#31 Pusha T – DAYTONA (Hip-hop)
#30 Jeff Rosenstock – POST- (Pop-punk)
#29 Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace (Psychedelic Rock, Noise Rock)
#28 Denzel Curry – TA13OO (Hip-hop)
#27 Turnstile – Time & Space (Hardcore Punk)
#26 Death Grips – Year of the Snitch (Experimental Hip-hop)
#25 Kali Uchis – Isolation (Pop)
#24 HMLTD – Hate Music Last Time Delete EP (Glam Punk, Post-punk)
#23 Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog (Indie Rock)
#22 Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (Post-hardcore, Math Rock)
#21 Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer (Pop, R&B)
#20 Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs (Experimental Hip-hop)
Earl emerged from his underground bunker in 2018 with Some Rap Songs, his most introspective and intriguing release to date. Knotty and technical lyrics inside an anxious haze of weed-smoke, like you forgot to turn off Dilla’s Donuts before you went to bed, and then had a terrible nightmare.
#19 Kero Kero Bonito – Time n Place (Pop, Garage Rock)
Shapeshifting pop trio KKB transition from hyper-glossy J-pop to a blend of garage/noise/twee pop in their quest to be the most relentlessly fucking FUN band on the planet. Few artists could pull off such a range of styles, but KKB do it. ‘Sometimes’ was so disarmingly sweet it brought a tear to my eye on first listen.
#18 Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (Indie Rock, Post-punk)
Parquet Courts’ agressively wordy punk songs were wry, witty and woke. You could probably write a thesis about this album if you followed all the lyrics on Genius, but its to Wide Awake‘s credit that you could just as easily stick on the title track and shake your butt in blissful ignorance of all the world’s problems.
#17 Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want (Noise Rock)
A harrowing and highly tense album, somewhere at the crossroads of rock, industrial and noise music. Not background listening. YWGWYW inspires the kind of cathartic terror that a good horror movie does, and you’ll feel like you just barely made it out alive after breathless closer ‘Guest House’.
#16 Sleep – The Sciences (Stoner Metal)
A towering colossus of slow-motion powerchords and fuzzed out basslines. Sleep pick up where they left off, 15 years after their last album, with another stoner metal classic for the ages. Many bands in the genre could pull off the atmosphere, but almost none could achieve this sense of vertiginous size and scale. Big.
#15 Saba – Care For Me (Hip-hop)
Super-relatable Chicagoan Saba put together a melancholy breakout hip-hop record with Care For Me. The debt to Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper are clear, but the interest paid is generous. Grief, friendship and love are handled with a deft touch and luscious production. One to keep an eye on in 2019.
#14 IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance (Post-punk)
IDLES continue to fight the good fight against toxic masculinity, nationalism and general misery on their provocative sophomore album. Nobody could preach self-love and tolerance with such ferocity as frontman Joe Talbot, and nobody could release a punk album better than IDLES in 2018. I FEEL FREEEEEEEE!
#13 SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES (Alt Pop)
I suspect this one will only get better with time, too. SOPHIE’s experimental pop music was on the very cutting edge in 2018. Her fractured and unstable songs often deal with themes of trans- gender identity, but electric ballads like ‘Infatuation’ go straight for the heart, not the brain.
#12 Milo – budding ornithologists… (Jazz Rap)
Milo followed up my AOTY for 2017 quickly, with a dreamier and more esoteric record than his last. budding ornithologists is equally fluent in moments of astral jazz-rap transcendence, but brings with it a a newfound sense of playfulness. Yes, there is a song called “thinking while eating a handful of almonds”.
#11 AAL – 2012-2017 (House)
Nicolas Jaar adopted a pseudonym to release his most explicitly danceable record yet, a deep/tech house excursion that proved an unlikely crossover hit in 2018. It yielded irresistible, ultra-modern singles at every turn, from the pulsating ‘Some Kind of Game’ to the euphoric ‘Know You’ and expansive closer ‘Rave on U’.
#10 Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears (Alternative Pop)
Perhaps the biggest surprise of 2018 was Let’s Eat Grandma, a young but prodigiously talented pop duo from Norwich. They turned away from the psychedelic quirkiness of their first album to drop the most chameleonic and exciting pop album of the year with I’m All Ears. Beautiful, abrasive, and oozing confidence.
#9 Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy (Indie Rock)
A re-recording of the lo-fi breakout album that Will Toledo first caught ears with, Twin Fantasy is a 70-minute prog epic of joyous, widescreen anxiety containing the catchiest goddamn indie rock songs of the year. Existential angst between moments of pure childish glee, like ‘Bodys’ and ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’.
#8 boygenius – boygenius (Indie Rock, Singer-songwriter)
Like-minded songwriters Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus came together to form a melancholy indie rock supergroup as boygenius. Together they were greater than the sum of their parts, crafting an agonisingly short but endlessly replayable set of bittersweet, intergalactic love songs. Please, please more.
#7 Choker – Honeybloom (Alternative R&B)
Another surprise – Choker went from being a Frank Ocean wannabe to releasing the most compelling R&B album of 2018. Honeybloom was an impressionistic collage of memories and sepia-tinted imagery, set to a series of dreamy R&B instrumentals. A revealing but mysterious album best listened to in its entirety.
#6 Pinegrove – Skylight (Indie Rock, Country, Emo)
Pinegrove’s thoughtful blend of emo, country and indie rock took a step forwards with Skylight. Its refined production and songwriting contained the perfect chemical combination of sadness and hope, which kept me coming back throughout 2018. Brief but beautiful, like so many of the best things are.
#5 Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (Atmospheric Black Metal, Post-rock)
An album sure to offend the metal purists even more than Sunbather did, on account of its melodic (and, admittedly, a bit melodramatic) post-rock interludes. But the dynamic interplay between those moments of cinematic prettiness and pure black metal savagery provided some of 2018s most thrilling music, to my ears. Just listen to the way the bridge at the 8 minute mark of ‘Canary Yellow’ portends the most utterly destructive riff of the year. Crushing.
#4 Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (Country, Pop)
The soundtrack to a long, hot Spring that preceded a long, hot Summer. Golden Hour oozes warmth and optimism from its every pore, even when Kacey’s heart-on-sleeve lyricism dips into the melancholy. I have a very distinct memory of listening to this record while walking alongside the route of the London Marathon in June, in perfect weather, feeling completely and utterly content with life. Few albums inspire such a strong and seasonal sense of peace.
#3 Anna Von Hauswolff – Dead Magic (Neoclassical, Ambient, Experimental)
A mythical missive from a dark age of necromancy and superstition. Dead Magic is an imposing neoclassical beast containing 16-minute songs that build to eye-widening climaxes of stomping rhythms and maniacal organs. The primal music of Swans – particularly To Be Kind – is a definite influence, but Dead Magic contains a degree of Gothic romance entirely its own. The only album of 2018 that could have been released in 1618, except Anna probably would have been burned at the stake for being a witch.
#2 Noname – Room 25 (Jazz Rap)
Room 25 plays like a kind of time capsule. A repository for poetic everyday wisdom you didn’t know you needed in your life until you heard it. Noname’s stunning sophomore record delivers clear-eyed meditations on love, race, family, death, fame and so much more with the deftest of touches. Her rap style, bordering on spoken word, bends language playfully and easily. Her live jazz-rap backing is vibrant and deliciously groovy. Combined, they propelled this dark horse contender to an easy pick for hip hop AOTY. Essential.
#1 Mount Eerie – Now Only (Indie Folk, Singer-songwriter)
Phil Elverum’s harrowing quest to find solace in music continued on Now Only, following the death of his wife to cancer. This record was a stream of consciousness from the very depth of human suffering, leading to a place just a little bit brighter, and a little bit more manageable. Now Only is one the most singular, complete and affecting expressions of grief you’ll find in any art form.
The climax of ‘Tintin in Tibet’, which tells, side by side, the stories of the day Elverum met his wife and the day he watched her die, is devastating. Even a year on. And yet – that tiny glimpse of light, of hope for a better future – is what makes Now Only worth enduring. To me, this is not a sad album. It’s an album that reminds me even the most complete and consuming sadness imaginable can be managed. And it’s my favourite album of 2018.