Best Albums of 2018 (so far)

You’re running behind aren’t you? Standing in the dust clutching five Kanye West produced albums screaming “WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO LISTEN TO, SURELY THERE MUST BE MORE!!” To that I say, good god please stop screaming, of course there’s more music. “BUT WHERE?!” you exclaim “ALL I SEE ON SPOTIFY IS BEERBONGS & BENTLEYS.” I reiterate, the screaming is wildly unnecessary, but I assure you, dear reader that there are vast treasure troves of music that do not contain the smash hit “Rockstar.” That boundless treasure lies below on the greatest mid-year list ever composed, so read on, and enjoy Natural Music’s best albums of 2018 (so far).

Runner Ups

These albums may not be in our top 50 but they are still worth checking out. 

100. LUMP – LUMP

99. Vacations – Changes

98. S.Carey – Hundred Acres

97. Graham Lambkin – No Better No Worse (Vol. 1)

96. Crush – Sugarcoat

95. Halo Maud – Je Suis Une Ile

94. Rayvn Lenae – Crush EP

93. Gus Dapperton – You Think You’re A Comic!

92. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death in Meatspace

91. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It

90. Yellow Days – The Way Things Change

89. Winter – Ethereality

88. SIT – Invisibility Chapter I & II

87. Kaada – Closing Statements

86.1 Trait Danger – 1 Trait Danger

85. Hatchie (EP) – Sugar & Spice

84. Jamie Isaac – (4:30) Idler

83. SOB x RBE – GANGIN

82. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog

81. Good Morning – Prize // Reward

80. Albert Hammond, Jr. – Francis Trouble

79. The Weeknd – My Dear Melancholy,

78. Rhye – Blood

77. тпсб – Sekundenschlaf

76. Elza – Deus é mulher

75. Janusz Jurga – Duchy Rogowca

74. Peggy Gou – Once EP

73. Takecha – Deep Soundscapes

72. Prime Minister Of Doom ‎- Mudshadow Propaganda

71. Nathan Fake – Sunder EP

70. Post Animal – When I Think of You In a Castle

69. Rejjie Snow – Dear Annie

68. Soccer Mommy – Clean

67. SiR – NovemberJ-Cole – K.O.D.

66. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

65. The Body – I Have Fought Against It But I Can’t Any Longer

64. TV Girl – Death of a Party Girl

63. Flasher – Constant Image

62. Haley Henderickx – I Need to Start a Garden

61. De Lux – More Disco Songs About Love

60. Anemone – Baby Only You & I

59. Amen Dunes – Freedom

58. The Garden – Mirror Might Steal Your Children

57. A$AP Rocky – TESTING

56. Gas – Rausch

55. Ben Howard – Noonday Dream

54. Peder Mannerfelt – The 3D Printed Songbook

53. Preoccupations – New Material

52. Caroline Rose – LONER

51. NADINE – oh my

Top 50

50. Tess Roby – Beacons

I was immediately enamored by Tess Roby when she released her ballad 5 single last May. The way the track just flew over you, dripping emotion with delicate and sparse production that provided the ideal backdrop for Tess’ reverb soaked vocals. Dream Pop is a genre in which it is easy to fall into derivative territory: there are only so many combinations of hazy guitar tones and spacey drum hits; but Beacons remains fresh and doesn’t overstay its welcome, clocking in at just 32 minutes. Her careful synth layering and elegant guitar work, often teetering towards ambient pop and minimalism enable her voice to float effortlessly over these 8 tracks in a truly angelic manner. The pose she assumes in her album cover, lying peacefully on a bed of grass is a depiction of the ideal listening environment for this wonderful project. [Nick Delguadio]


49. Kumaal Williams – The Return

Yussef Kamaal, the duo formed by Williams and Yussef Dayes, released just one album, Black Focus, before splitting up.  Now on his own, keyboardist and band leader Kamaal Williams has followed up that excellent effort with The Return, a staggering and exhilarating fusion of jazz and funk.  The album, bearing similar cover artwork and musical themes, appears a follow up to Black Focus, but by no means does it crumble under the pressure.  Williams’ draws from London music culture and themes, and his work on the keyboard is superb.  Another highlight is the drumming, here by Josh “MckNasty” Mckenzie, which might actually surpass that of Dayes on Black Focus. Overall, The Return cements Williams’ place as a rising star of the London music scene and British jazz. [Aaron Kelley]


48. Jack White – Boarding House Reach

It’s not easy to create an album that has been as divisive as ‘Boarding House Reach’ has been. You’ve got one side bashing White for supposedly taking himself too seriously by tackling something he can’t handle and another side praising him for going beyond the normal conventions of rock. Whether you’re on either side, it’s impossible to not admire him for trying to take risks. The production and instrumentation choices are all over the place. It’s as if Jack White saw a synth and said, “How can we make this musical in the oddest way possible?” It’s a record that is unpredictable in nature and always has a new layer to unwrap with each listen. As unruly as some of the songs may seem, you can still count on White to ground everything with blues riffs and groovy rhythms. To put it bluntly, this record is a mess, but if you’re willing to accept that, then you’re in for a wild ride. [Andrew Tran]


47. Perel – Hermetica

The debut album of German DJ and producer Perel (Annegret Fiedler), Hermetica is a genre bending album that presents something new at every turn.  Drawing inspiration from techno, darkwave, house, and synth-pop, Perel’s work here feels as comfortable in its upbeat, danceable moments as it does in the expansive and ethereal ones.  Released on DFA Records, this is one of the label’s best efforts of the last few years. [Aaron Kelley]


46. Playboi Carti – Die Lit

A good friend recently asked me to explain to him what I liked about Die Lit because he found it vastly overrated. My response to him was as follows, “The thing with Die Lit is you can’t listen to it like a normal rap album. Just look at the cover, it’s the most punk album art possible. Don’t listen for lyrical profundity, or even a wide variety of production styles. This is a hazy drug-induced album. He pitches up his voice, and mumbles the same thing over and over again until it’s meaningless. He found a producer that perfectly compliments this style and it creates a totally whacked out listen. Just embrace the repetition and smoke fat”. [Nick Delguadio]


45. Nubya Garcia – When We Are

Nubya Garcia is a beautiful saxophone playing rising star within the burgeoning UK jazz scene, and for good reason. Her stage presence and live performance is truly a magical experience. At SXSW I was advised by one of the founders of Jazz Re:freshed to not miss her performance and luckily I took his advice because it ended up being my favorite performance of the whole week. Jazz Re:freshed is a music movement that started with a humble vision; to challenge the elitism and prejudice within the jazz community that had kept jazz on the sidelines far too long, whilst bringing the incredibly diverse, colourful, expressive and creative world that is jazz to the people – live, fun and affordable. This is exactly what I witnessed at Nubya’s explosive performance, a crowd of people losing their minds listening to a genre often dismissed as boring, this is party jazz. [Alek Prus]


44. Jean Grae, Quelle Chris – Everything’s Fine

Last year Quelle Chris released Being You Is Great I Wish I Could Be You More Often to minimal fanfare, silently sliding under the radar of most critics. This year, in a savvy team up album with Jean Grae, he has done much the same. Everything’s Fine is a cheeky, cynical look at the world, and each moment bursts with poignancy or hilarity over tightly crafted beats. In a world that is getting harder to laugh at every day, Jean Grae and Quelle Chris find plenty to poke fun at, while still managing to expose important truths. [Drew Pitt]


43. Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology

Metal often suffers from an overemphasis on technicality and image, but every so often an album bursts through that is so technically impressive that it cannot be denied. This year your favorite band that writes about evil slugs and multiverses delivers a chugging, brutal exploration of metal that never forgets to have just a little bit of fun. Anyone who is skeptical should check out “Crop Killer” if only to feel their brain melt out of their ears. Anyone who remains skeptical after the sonic lobotomy should be reminded that this band is predicated on music about evil slugs… so just ruminate on that as it melts your face. [Drew Pitt]


42. Kraus – Path

In 2013 Deafheaven’s Sunbather took the world by storm with its calculated combination of ear splitting black metal and soothing shoe gaze over post rock song structures. Earlier this year Kraus attempted the same between shoegaze and noise rock to great success. Path constantly toes the line between soothing and overwhelming, and does so with unexpected grace. Any given song could blow into a million screaming pieces at the drop of a hat and the combination of sheer force and soothingly whispered vocals is profoundly affecting. [Drew Pitt]


41. Anna Burch – Quit The Curse

Mixing 1960s pop ethos with catchy 1990s indie rock, Anna Burch has constructed an album that gets better with every listen.  The riffs on this album have such a nice texture that blends well with her translucent voice. Plus they are catchy as hell and fun to play. I looked up how to play “Tea-Soaked Letter” five minutes after I heard it. Anna finds herself in the painful position of longing for her ex. This is where she applies her 1960s pop influences. On the surface are the catchy riffs that get stuck in your head but below those is a deeper emotional impact that makes the album worthwhile. [Joey Elisar]


40. Anna von Hausswolff – Dead Magic

It’s not every day that someone puts out 48 minutes of music that stands out as something totally unique. But when one of those days comes, we’re in a state of pure bliss. Anna von Hausswolff gave us one of those days. Von Hausswolff is able to combine neoclassical influences with more traditional rock instrumentation. Add that with von Hausswolff’s eerie vocals and the end result is a musical journey that is unlike any other album on this list. From 15 minute epic journeys to more conventional song lengths, this album brings us on a modern Medieval journey that isn’t often heard in 2018. [Francisco Martinez]


39. Jenny Hval – The Long Sleep EP

Jenny Hval is a genius. One of the most wholly original pop artists of the last few decades. She crafts this idyllic genre that is this perfect concoction of pop, ambient, and experimental that allows for captivating listen after captivating listen. In just a 23 minute EP, she conjures up a hazy yet cathartic journey. Beginning with a soothing pop piece that contains one of her catchiest choruses to date, then flowing into an angelic piano ballad, preparing you for the eponymous Long Sleep to come. She then proceeds to lay on you a 10 minute drone epic, with light vocals and the pitter-patter of sounds to make a true dreamscape. No project this year fits its title more aptly than this. [Nick Delguadio]


38. Scallops Hotel – Sovereign Nose of Your Arrogant Face

In a year filled with iconic hip-hop releases, it really is a testament to Milo’s talent that he can release what is basically a beat tape and have it land in our top albums of the year. I’ve loved everything Milo has released but there is something special about his Scallops Hotel projects. There’s an inherent rawness, that these are one takes, freestyles, quick snippets of ideas and yet by doing this it is so clear that he has an incredible knack for both beat making and wordplay. He doesn’t need much: just a fat kick and a four note upper register piano line to make a beat that rivals anything producers are doing today. [Nick Delguadio]

37. Ice Age – Beyondless

Who said that post-punk ever died? Certainly not this group of Danish boys. ‘Beyondless’ sees the group exploring new ways to write hard-hitting jams. They’ve continued the trend of ditching the short-and-to the-point structures of past albums and have switched that out for songs more churning, heavier songs that have an emphasis on making you willingfully struggle under the suspense of their tension-filled melodies. With the re-addition of horns and strings, it sees them venturing into new territories while still keeping to the punk ethos. This record serves to quite possibly be their sonically richest and deepest yet. [Andrew Tran]


36. Sleep – The Sciences

Sleep didn’t have to do this for us. The legends of doom and stoner metal could have simply wandered off into the vapor clouds of Dopesmoker. Yet here we are, with another stone(d) cold classic of metal on our hands. Riffs that carry the weight of generations are ever present on the record, and the surprisingly crisp drumming reminds you that doom metal doesn’t always have to be lo-fi and washed out. We should all thank the metal gods for this one. [Drew Pitt]


35. André 3000 – Look Ma No Hands

For what it’s worth, André 3000 was living the life of an essentially retired musician who’d occasionally contribute a guest verse here and there; we accepted his choices as a musician. But when Mother’s Day rolled around, we were greeted with a melodic 20 minutes of 3 Stack’s multi-genre talent. It’s not the first time André’s shown his versatility as a musician but the Atlanta rap legend goes full jazz in this EP, recruiting James Blake and Kevin Kendrick to accompany his bass clarinet. The end result is an extremely personal, jazz-tinted journey by one of modern music’s most introspective artists. [Francisco Martinez]


34. Lucy Dacus – Historian

It’s easy to compare Dacus with Julian Baker, who’s 2017 album “Turn Out The Lights” was one of our favorites of the year. Both are Matador artists, they happen to be friends, and both are exceptionally strong lyricists painting such vivid images of pain and depression. They differ in how they approach the world Julien’s music feels like a private affair looking inward while Lucy Dacus seems to survey the world first, then try to situate herself within it. Our favorite thing about both albums is how dynamic every single song is going from quiet and indie-folksy to ripping, cathartic peaks full of beefy guitars the artists voice floating perfectly above it all. [Alek Prus]


33. Flatbush Zombies – Vacation In Hell

Meechy Darko, Zombie Juice and Erick Arc Elliot flow well off each other and the banging instrumentals which makes Vacation in Hell an enjoyable album. 3001: A Laced Odessey, their first EP, was missing certain elements that would have made the album better. The New York trio’s sophomore album clocks in at a whopping 1 hour and 16 minutes. Listening to Vacation in Hell in one sitting becomes something of a marathon so it’s recommended that the album be split into chunks for listening. The album has entertaining qualities showcased in songs like “Headstone” and “Big Shrimp” that are just plain fun to blast. Flatbush will only get better with next album as they get more comfortable and I’m excited to see what they come up with next. [Joey Elisar]


32. Rival Consoles – Persona

Rival Consoles refuses to play by the rules of modern music. Persona sees his unique penchant for IDM inspired classical formats evolve into something even more vibey than before. While some tracks nearly border on ambient, others are bass laden groove fests that would net them a nice billing on a DJ Koze or Jon Hopkins record. His soft touch when it comes to incorporating vocals helps the record stand out in a genre that often suffers from monotony. His excellent effort this year only signifies greater things to come.


31. Jeff Rosenstock – POST

In 2016, Rosenstock’s highly acclaimed album ‘WORRY.’ became the anthemic record for a modern generation of indie punk rockers. In a little over a year, he comes back with a project that’s even more ambitious than before. There’s a wide variety of styles ranging from piano ballads to aggressive pop songs to progressive rock epics. It all comes delivered on a platter of infectiously catchy riffs and vocal melodies shrouded by a theme of rebellion and a can-do attitude. It may not be the type of punk some people may be looking for, but don’t misjudge it’s poppy hooks, ‘POST-’ can pack quite a punch. [Andrew Tran]


30. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

Courtney Barnett seems to have mastered making indie rock songs that make you bop around while thinking about what makes you anxious. The Australian indie rocker’s first EP, Sometimes I Sit and Think…., was laced with topics like pesticides and self doubt. However, at times it felt empty and I wanted more depth than what the three chord songs provided. Courtney has vastly improved with Tell Me How You Really Feel as she matured as a songwriter and as a musician. The song construction is more sophisticated but she doesn’t lose the charm of her three chord songs. Her emotional range grew too. Sometimes I Sit and Think felt like one giant blob of melancholy but Courtney seems to have found her edge. Pure anger, a side of her I have not seen before, is on full display “I’m not Your Mother, I’m not Your Bitch”. It has a definite Metz sound and is a fun punk song. Courtney has grown as a musician beyond my wildest imagination and made a solid album. Be warned, it’s difficult to stop listening to this album once you start. [Joey Elisar]


29. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food

Unknown Mortal Orchestra has created a wonderful reputation for themselves with as being a laid back yet psych-poppy band that combines not only easy-on-the-ear sounds but also well-written lyrics and on their new LP, they continue this trend. Sex & Food gives listeners a whole dynamic of songs to choose from while at the same time giving you the token UMO layered breathy vocals and poppy synths. Tracks like Hunnybee really show the strength that UMO has. This track is innovative, creative, and an earworm that will make you play it over and over. But then again, this LP also gives you tracks like Chronos Feasts On His Children where the album takes almost an acoustic turn, showing that UMO doesn’t have just one sound but better yet they have so much more to offer. And overall, I think UMO showed that they’re more than just a little Psych Rock band from New Zealand, and that much greater is to come. [Ethan Rosen]


28. Tierra Whack – Whack World

Whack World is a small package of 15 pleasant 1 minute mini alternative R&B/ pop-rap tracks. This release is a nice little gem for anyone looking for a quick groove. The female vocals backed by eclectic instrumentals and melodies made for a great listen. The format of this release has its pros and cons, however. Many listeners will be left wanting more and imagining what these mini tracks could have been had they been drawn out. Regardless, listening to this is like eating a piece of candy, quick but sweet. [Zane Truesdell]


27. Porches – The House

A departure from the dreamy atmospheres of Porches’ 2016 album Pool. The House, Aaron Maine’s third album as Porches, is a somber portrayal of love and regret, decay and change. With a sound that flows between darkwave and dance pop at times embracing tenets of experimental sound. Maine shows more interest in reimagining stylistic boundaries than expanding or eliminating them. [Alek Prus]


26. Kali Uchis – Isolation

Kali Uchis brings a Latin twist to pop music that Camila Cabello only dreams of. Her long-anticipated debut album blends the melodic and soothing rhythms of Latin pop and bossa nova to create a soulful album that hits every checkmark. Her performance on this album overshadows the likes of Damon Albarn, Tyler the Creator and Steve Lacy, who make excellent contributions to the album. Isolation is a wonderful window into the world of Kali Uchis and is a journey that you’ll find yourself enjoying and experiencing along the way. If Uchis continues to put out music like this, she’ll become pop music’s next household name. [Francisco Martinez]


25. Grouper – Grid of Points

Grouper exists in a strange place in music. Never quite ambient enough to drift away, but too soft to demand a detailed first listen. Grid of Points takes a step back from the shimmering beauty of Paradise Valley and again buries it beneath whispers and static. Each song calls you in to listen closer, then drifts away in a sea of massaging fuzz, amounting to one of the most luxuriously relaxing albums of the year. Still, in that relaxation, there is sadness, poignance and pained poetry, listen closely through the static, just be careful you don’t fall into the sea. [Drew Pitt]


24. Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of

Wonky harpsichords; an autotuned demo for Usher; the guttural screams of Prurient; ANOHNI’s distinctive voice chopped up; percussion so low-pitched that I can only hear them on my studio headphones; snaps that don’t totally lock in on two and four; kotos and synthesizers dueting on similar melodic runs; samples from Moog-guru Gil Trythall; live drums coexisting with synth drums until the two are one.  Age Of pushes past the conventional boundaries of genre and taste into uncharted territory, equal parts pop, avant-garde, classical and ambient.  It’s a wild ride, but if you’re a certain kind of listener there’s a real joy in listening to an absolute master of his medium guiding us through a collection of some of his favorite sounds.  For fans of Oneohtrix Point Never, there’s not much else you could ask for. [Marcus Michelen]


23. Dj Healer – Nothing to Loose

There’s usually something gimmicky about an artist who chooses to remain anonymous, that they are doing it as a PR move or to boost ticket sales. This is not the case with Traumprinz AKA DJ Metatron AKA Prince of Denmark AKA Prime Minister of Doom AKA DJ Healer. He rarely performs live, dishes out tracks to friends, artists, and fellow DJs to use in their own sets and consistently puts out stunning electronic music that transcends the name he puts it out under. Nothing to Loose is a beautiful and emotional collection of well composed ambient pieces and grandiose ambient house tracks. This is an electronic album carrying serious emotional weight: there are religious overtones, personal stories, and just a general theme of soul searching that feels so incredibly genuine. [Nick Delguadio]

Listen here: Youtube


22. Janelle Monaé – Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae is cooler than all of us, but you probably already knew that.  Dirty Computer—the artist’s third album, accompanied by an “emotion picture”—is the bold and sleek statement we knew was in her all along.  By digging deeper into her pop side, Monae has brought us a set of catchy, funk-infused tracks with economic racially- and sexually-pointed lyrics.  Few others could pull off a lyric like “War is old, so is sex, let’s play God, you go next” without inducing an ocean of eye-rolls. But that’s the greatest charm here: these lyrics don’t feel like pandering or like an explicitly performative version of wokeness; they fit these pop songs beautifully and tailor them to our chaotic political moment.  As her famous-purple-mentor knew best: if the world is about to end, we might as well have a dance party. [Marcus Michelen]


21. Snail Mail – Lush

The fanfare around this record in the indie community cannot be overstated, with many fans preemptively declaring her the new big thing in the genre. Lush capitalizes on all the hype and more with its excellent storytelling and simplistic instrumentation. As a comparison the emotional content is similar in impact to last years Turn Out The Lights, and its ability to devastate listeners this year is matched exclusively to Now Only. Snail Mail is well on her way to become an indie rock mainstay with this record, and absolutely earns her title as “the next big thing in indie.” [Drew Pitt]


20. serpentwithfeet – Soil

In no uncertain terms Soil establishes serpentwithfeet as one of the most important artists in music today. His vocal acrobatics exceed his contemporaries in every facet and his ear for arrangements is almost unmatched. “Seedless,” “Cherub,” and “Whisper” exhibit incredible songwriting coupled with technical prowess. Delving even further down the rabbit hole you’ll be quick to find quotables and cutting lyrics sprinkled generously across the record, many of which waste no time cutting to the heart of the matter. There’s too much to love about this record, as far as I’m concerned it’s already steps away from a classic. [Drew Pitt]


19. Saba – Care for Me

At just 41 minutes its incredible how many idea Chicago native Saba is able articulate through the course of the album. He wrote the album after his cousin was stabbed on a Chicago subway and this grief and raw emotion are present throughout. The production is lush and funky which is refreshing given the state of hip hop today. [Alek Prus]


18. Jon Hopkins – Singularity

An old adage states that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Immunity was a masterpiece. Jon Hopkins was able to create an incredibly personal ambient techno record that was one of the few of its genre to deliver true storytelling. While Immunity uses pulsing techno and beautiful ambient pieces to tell a humanized tale of a single night out, Singularity uses those same tools to tell a tale of cosmic proportion. The tracks hit just as hard: both on an emotional scale and with their booming kicks. This is cinematic electronic music at it’s finest. [Nick Delguadio]


17. DJ Koze – Knock Knock

It’s a good sign when the first word you associate to an album is “colorful.” Speaking in synesthetic or cinematic terms suggests that the album transcends the confines of an .mp3 file and breaks through to something bigger, more tactile; it suggests that the album so varied and beautiful—filled both with ecstatic warm colors and somber cooler ones—that the language of music fails to describe it.  For an artist like DJ Koze, the word colorful gets thrown around so often that it’s practically a critical cliche to describe him as such, but on Knock Knock, all my other words fail me: this album is a feast of color. [Marcus Michelen]


16. Ty Segall – Freedoms Goblin

No one is surprised that Ty Segall released another album since it feels like he has something new dropping every couple of months with one of the numerous side projects he’s involved with. It’s enjoyable to have an artist who is able to produce such a great volume of music but the question arises whether or not his/her style becomes stale. I find this happens especially with psych rock bands like Thee Oh Sees who’s albums blend together. Ty Segall succeeds in creating an album that has his characteristic fuzz but steps outside of his normal sonic comfort zone. It’s really enjoyable to hear the great range on this album. “Rain” sounds like it is straight off of a Radiohead while the next song, “Every 1’s a winner” is a cover from the funky year of 1978. However, crazy Segall is still found on songs like “She” and “5 ft. tall”. Freedom Goblin is a great showcase of Segall’s talents and his ability to experiment. [Joey Elisar]


15. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

The beauty of Cocoa Sugar is it’s perfect balance between experimentation and accessibility. Cocoa Sugar is chaotic but sleek, a streamlined presentation of the singular style Young Fathers have crafted. Young Fathers leave behind the blatant politicism present on previous projects for a cathartic sound that grabs your attention from the first listen. The 5 song run from “In My View” through “Wow” is a roller coaster of emotion and among the best of the year. Beyond all that praise, the jarring but lush production on the album is what really takes it to a new level. [Alek Prus]


14. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

Political. That’s probably the best word that can be used to describe Parquet Courts’ sixth album. It fits in perfectly with many other political punk records, with bashing the status quo and calling for the workers to the world to unite against the troublemakers at the top (“Total Football”) and mocking the woke culture many people like to claim people are apart of (“Wide Awake”). The unabashed punk spirit contrasts to the Danger Mouse touch that’s all over this album and gives it a crisp and well-packaged aura, keeping the music simple and fun, while remaining extremely engaging and thought-provoking. Even in this ever changing world, the optimism shown by A. Savage, Austin Brown, Sean Yeaton and Max Savage gives a sense of hope that maybe everything’s going to work out just fine, even to life’s most steadfast cynic. [Francisco Martinez]


13. A.A.L. (All Against Logic) – 2012 – 2017

Rarely does an album release from such a critically acclaimed artist manage to have as little fanfare surrounding it as did 2012-2017 when it was released by Nicolas Jaar under the moniker A.A.L. (Against All Logic).  Heavily leaning on samples to create a rich sonic backdrop, Jaar makes a foray into house music here less experimental than his past work but just as compelling.  More up-tempo than most of Jaar’s previous releases, 2012-2017 relishes in funk and soul samples and influences that give it a sound both unlike anything Jaar has done before yet quintessentially his. [Aaron Kelley]


12. Half Waif – Lavender

Last year one of my favorite albums of the year was Julien Baker’s Turn Out the Lights. I was introduced to this album by the incredible review written by Nandi Rose Plunkett, professionally known as Half Waif. Now everything has come full circle. With ‘Lavender’ Half Waif has crafted the 2018 equivalent to Turn Out The Lights. The musical stylings of these albums, while different, feel interwoven in their emotional prowess. Plunkett’s voice is the clear centerpiece of the album, but beneath the words Lavender ripples with the most expansive, experimental production recorded under the Half Waif moniker. And while themes of love, familial legacy, and the inevitable decay of human life weigh heavily upon Lavender it always leaves room to somehow exude joy. Album highlight “Back in Brooklyn” almost made me cry the first time I heard it, while standout “Lilac House” filled me with energy and desire to dance with its jittery synth line and interesting percussion. [Alek Prus]


11. The Voidz – Virtue

Following their initial release, Tyranny, the Voidz truly spread their wings with their sophomore album, Virtue. Tyranny is a punk oriented album which almost reminds me of a more rock heavy Chemical Brothers album whereas Virtue almost feels like a Strokes release with a twist. This album runs so many different genres which shouldn’t work together to make a cohesive album but somehow it manages to work without a hitch. As soon as “Leave It In My Dreams” begins you can instantly tell you’re in for a ride with Casablancas, it begins with a small guitar rift before dropping directly into a very Strokes’ey song complete with indecipherable words from Julien and a catchy beat with light and airy guitars. I would’ve been happy with just an album full of songs like this but the instant the second song starts, it is obvious that The Voidz are trying to step out of their comfort zone. The second song, “QYURRYUS” is a heavy rock song bordering on the edge of metal with heavy Arabian influence. Despite the huge distinction between these two songs it still feels completely natural when they change genres completely. Instead of light guitars “QYURRYUS” is heavy and intense from the instant it starts. Other highlights on this album include: Permanent High School with its lo fi feeling production and catchy guitar riffs,”Pink Ocean’s bassline is also notable and I have trouble not bouncing whenever I listen to it. This album overall has songs that any Strokes fan will feel familiar with and really enjoy but it also has songs that will make them raise an eyebrow, but not in a bad way. It feels like they are trying to step outside the box, but only with one foot. They aren’t yet ready to fully immerse themselves in one new genre so they seem to be testing the waters with a bunch of different genres and seeing what they enjoy. [Nick Prus]


10. Pusha T – DAYTONA

No, you don’t deserve to be forgiven for forgetting about Pusha T. He’s always lingering on the outskirts of conversations regarding generational greats, and he absolutely should be one of the first names. DAYTONA takes all the disrespect and casually tosses it into the garbage disposal. Push doesn’t care if you forget about him, he doesn’t care if you wanted him to release this faster, shit, he doesn’t care if the biggest rapper in the world comes clapping at him. No matter the stakes Push is calm, and DAYTONA takes his cold stoic delivery and lays it out in the wild west of hip hop. Every second of this record drips ice or malice, and it’ll flip on a dime, so keep your ears locked tight on this one because in a world that has passed him by, Pusha T has never felt more at home. [Drew Pitt]


9. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

With Will Toledo being dubbed the poster boy for Indie Rock, people began to wonder how he would follow up his incredible 2016 album, ‘Teens of Denial.’ He did so by recreating his 2011 old fan-favorite album, Twin Fantasy (mirror to mirror) from the ground up. He’s replaced the reverb drenched vocals, raw instrumentals, and hazy low-fi production for a cleaner and more calculated approach to it all. By retaining the catchy songwriting, emotional singing, and relatable (and updated) lyrical content, Will still manages to capture the essence of depression and vulnerability that the original was built on. By making this, he gets to own up to his past and close a personal chapter of his life. If you’ve been reluctant to give this record a listen, I only have one question for you, “Do you have something against dogs?” [Andrew Tran]


8. Kanye West – ye

To call Kanye West anything less than an iconoclast would be a massive disservice to his legacy. Each record he makes reshapes both his image and the world of hip-hop. Yet because of this his albums often have a feeling of Stockholm syndrome to them, each listen brings you closer into the insanity of his own creation. Each record of West’s seems to exist within its own narrative or structure, in this way Ye is no different. The record is by far Kanye’s shortest record, and perhaps his most focused, but almost certainly his most confessional, surpassing even 808’s and Heartbreak. Musically this album effortlessly tiptoes along his discography. Yeezus comes out in “Yikes” and “All Mine” but hints of 808’s and Heartbreak break through on “Ghost Town.” It feels like the first time that West has ever really began to retread on his own history since Late Registration. Some tracks, like “Wouldn’t Leave” and “Violent Crimes” break into the soulful, almost gospel territory that he began to explore with The Life of Pablo, taking it further and exploring greater emotional depth. Turning to the emotional core of the album, Kanye seems to have reclaimed his focus, at least to some degree since The Life of Pablo, a record that had an equal number of hits and filler. Lyrically, ye suffers from the same weaknesses that have always plagued Kanye as a rapper, in terms of flow and verse construction, he continues to just skirt along, yet his lyrics still seem to cut to the core of the issues he is discussing. [Andrew Pitt]


7. U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited

For most of Meg Remy’s time working under the U.S. Girls name, you could tell she had this innate talent to craft killer pop music but wasn’t crafting it at maximum potential. If her previous releases, GEM and Half Free, were steps in the right the right direction, then In a Poem Unlimited was everything finally coming together. From politically-charged disco targeting Barack Obama in “M.A.H.” to Nate Dogg-influenced hooks in “Pearly Gates,” this album is all over the place in every right way possible. Based on those two tracks, and the rest of the genre-jumping the album goes through, this is a pop album that should not work. It does anyways. Not to mention, the Minogue-esque vocals Remy channels is the cherry on top on what is a seal-tight work of pop. [Francisco Martinez]


6. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

On the back of last year’s Pure Comedy, Father John Misty returns with God’s Favorite Customer. Bearing the usual hallmarks of his music, Josh Tillman delivers another strong effort, but where Pure Comedy was at times drawn out and at times wandering, God’s Favorite Customer is focused and cutting.  Written in a six-week span following what Tillman described as a period when his life was blowing up, this album is perhaps the most intimate portrait of himself that Tillman has created yet.  And when God’s Favorite Customer’s 38 minutes are up, Tillman is left the worst off, giving the rest of us a work of art to marvel at. [Aaron Kelley]


5. Mount Eerie – Now Only

Those looking for an escape in their music should turn away before the title track. This album is just as deep and cutting as last years equally excellent A Crow Looked At Me, but where that felt like a purge, this feels as though it was created for us. The album is bursting at the seams with wonderful, varied instrumentation, and the storytelling is just as devastatingly poetic. Whatever Mount Eerie is doing now is something that will go down in the history of indie music, and Now Only is a somber, welcome addition to the legend unfolding before us. [Drew Pitt]


4. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran

It’s a perfect time to revisit Peggy’s excellent project from earlier this year with a Death Grips project freshly released. While Death Grips has always been great at pushing the boundaries of experimental hip-hop, it is incredibly refreshing for JPEGMAFIA to come in and prove his ability to walk that fine line between abrasiveness and accessibility. His noisy sample-based production compliments his catchy cooks as he teeters between poking fun at others, demonstrating his video game knowledge, or rattling off obscure pop culture references. I guess this is what happens when you spend a few years in the Air Force making beats on your laptop. [Nick Delguadio]


3. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Many of us almost lost faith. Not just in Kanye, or in Cudi but in ourselves, in our ambitions and desires. If you’ve tiptoed the line of losing it all, this is your album. In a stunning exploration of loss and perseverance, Kanye and Cudi deliver one of the most well thought out, genre bending releases of their respective careers. The album fluctuates wildly between genres and tones, with moments of somber rock hiding within triumphant drums. In a world that is uncertain and unsteady this album stands out as uniquely of its time. Not a single moment is safe from either Kanye shouting gun adlibs across the track, or the 1930’s Christmas song sample that forms the backbone of “4th Dimension.” KIDS SEE GHOSTS is a journey that is bound to be deeply meaningful to anyone who has followed Kanye and Cudi’s careers, and even more meaningful to those who have wallowed in the darkness and come out reborn. [Drew Pitt]

2. MGMT – Little Dark Age

MGMT’s fourth album, Little Dark Age finds Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser making the music it sounds like they’ve always wanted to make.  After spending their last two albums trying to get fans to forget about their debut, Oracular Spectacular, and its three decade- and genre- defining hits, the Connecticut duo have found their sweet spot, delivering a cohesive synth-pop album that manages to finally strike a balance between the mainstream pop that that MGMT satirized with their early work and deeper psychedelic and 80’s influences they always seemed drawn to.  The album title is apt, on Little Dark Age, MGMT finally emerge from theirs, creating an album worthy of their time and that of their fans. [Aaron Kelley]


1. Beach House – 7

Beach House’s 7 caught all of us by surprise, enough so to earn its spot as No. 1. This truly belongs in the dream pop canon, incorporating neo-psychedelia influences to create an ethereal dream-like atmosphere that will swallow you whole. The opening track almost sounds like a Candy Claws release, floating on a beautiful shoegaze-like melody. This melodic density is maintained throughout the entire release, reaching its peak on tracks such as Lemon Glow, L’Inconnue and Black Car. We loved this release enough to deem it worthy of the best release of 2018 so far, and we’re excited to see who will compete for this spot later in the year. [Zane Truesdell] 


You may have noticed that we didn’t include some albums released in the past two weeks that you loved. You know, the noisy bubblegum pop one, and the wildly long jazz epic. I assure you we did not hate them and just decided the cutoff should be June 14th, smack in the middle of the year. So look out for those in the year end and best of June lists. If you enjoyed this list make sure to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for daily music content. Natural Music started on social media and continues to thrive there.