Top Albums of 2018 (50-1)

2018 was weird as hell, so let’s just get that out of the way. As such it makes sense that some of this year’s best albums would be, well, weird as hell. So strap in for 100 fantastic albums that we all think are worth your time this year, while they are placed in a general order of where we believe they landed in the hierarchy of music this year, we’ve decided that a different approach was warranted. You’ll notice that there are groupings of albums, we believe that the albums within each group are of comparable quality with other albums in its group. So just because one album is higher in a group than another doesn’t mean we think one is better than the other. In any case, we’re sure you can figure it out and we hope you find it helpful. Well, you’d better get a move on, there’s 100 albums for you to listen to, and we’d suggest you get to it.

For brevity, we decided to publish the top 50 of our list (100-51) seperately here but make sure to check those out too because there was a lot of good music this year.

This list was compiled with the help and opinion of Natural Music contributors. We are always looking for more writers and people with big ideas. If you are interested, contact us here.


Top Half of the Top 100 Albums (#100-51, listed in relative order)

Yo La Tengo – There’s a Riot Going on

Ice Age – Beyondless

Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage

Dizzy Fae – Free Form Mixtape

Ariana Grande – Sweetener

Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest

Various Artists – 15 Years of the Bunker

Bjørn Torske – Byen

Elza – Deus e mulher

Amen Dunes –  Freedom

Natalia Lafourcade – Musas Vol. 2

700 Bliss – Spa 700

Of Two Minds – Of Two Minds

Daniel Avery – Song for Alpha

Eli Keszler – Stadium

George Clanton – Slide

Nathan Fake – Sunder EP

Devon Welsh – Dream Songs

Jonny Greenwood – Phantom Thread OST

Jeff Rosenstock – POST

Jean Grae, Quelle Chris – Everything’s Fine

Tess Roby – Beacons

Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

Kraus – Path

Gazelle Twin – Pastoral

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch

Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V

Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Laurel Halo – Raw Silk Uncut Wood

André 3000 – Look Ma No Hands EP

Amnesia Scanner – Another Life

Tomb Mold – The Manor of Infinite Forms

Ski Mask Tha Slump God – STOKELEY

Sleep – The Sciences

J.I.D. – DiCaprio 2

Anenon – Tongue

Avantdale Bowling Club – ST

Caroline Rose – LONER

The Caretaker – Everywhere at the End of Time – Stage 4 / 5

— GROUP C —

Grouper – Grid of Points

Ross From Friends – Family Portrait

Milo – budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies

Jenny Hval – The Long Sleep

Nils Frahm – All Melody

Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

Porches – The House

Smino – NOIR

Death Grips – Year of the Snitch

Freddie Gibbs/Curren$y/The Alchemist – Fetti


Group C (continued from our Top Albums #100-51)

Jack Stauber – HiLo

One look at Jack Stauber’s YouTube channel tells you pretty much all you need to know to get an idea about the kind of music you’ll find on HiLo. The channel is full of short, absurdist vignettes, and HiLo is in many ways the same.  Stauber’s brand of hypnagogic, indie pop blends influence from a number of genres and artists, chief among them Ariel Pink with a heavy dose of the kind of nonsensical, yet compelling experimentalism that John Maus revels in.  “Leopard” stands out as perhaps the best example of how well Stauber is at blending these influences together: in the track’s less than four and a half minutes, it shifts from a pop base to a jazz section, before upping the tempo, dragging it back down into a robotic third verse and finally ending with a psychedelic outro that wouldn’t be out of place on Sgt. Pepper. HiLo also shows the broad range of Stauber’s lyrical and conceptual abilities; “It’s Alright” is a standout moment emotional vulnerability packaged in an Animal Collective-esque freak folk structure, while on “Gettin’ My Mom On,” Stauber pokes fun at the stereotypical experience of being a middle-aged mother. HiLo, then, is Stauber at his best, and one of the most fun and enjoyable albums of 2018. [Aaron Kelley]

Suggested Track: Leopard


Interpol – Marauder

Coming off the back of a 15th anniversary tour of the seminal 2002 album Turn off the Bright Lights, Interpol released their sixth album, Marauder, in August.  Marauder is the second album released following the departure of bassist Carlos D and the first recorded with a producer (David Fridmann) in ten years.  The group’s previous effort, El Pintor, was in many places brighter than the sound that Interpol is known for, and while there are more upbeat, swing-y tracks on Marauder, like “Complications” and the album’s opener, “If You Really Love Nothing,” there are also call backs to the band’s trademark style, such the resemblance (particularly during the intro) of “Number 10” to “Stella was a diver and she was always down,” from the group’s debut.  Vocalist Paul Banks also began working with a vocal coach in the time between El Pintor and Marauder, and his vocal range throughout Marauder is much broader as a result. Banks’ lyrics throughout Marauder also connect thematically throughout much of the album, with the titular character of the marauder, described by Banks as a character of “unmitigated id,” featuring in many tracks.  Inspiration from Banks favorites Henry Miller and David Lynch add further color to the lyrical content of this album. There are some issues with Marauder, particularly in the mixing; the rhythm guitar and drums are pushed high in the mix giving many of the tracks a top-heavy feel.  Overall, though, Marauder shows Interpol’s ability to continue to produce solid and novel work amidst the group’s impressive discography. [Aaron Kelley]

Listen Here: Spotify / Youtube


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]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Robyn – Honey

This might just be the most fun album of 2018. There’s always been this incredible pop sensibility in Robyn but i’ve always felt like she was a singles artist, yet to make a fully complete record. Well she did it here. The blend of house and pop is effortless and the production sits just as high as her emotional vocal delivery. No other artist is able to turn heartbreak and emotional longing into dance floor bangers like this, it truly feels as if she needs these songs as a transcendental outlet: they exist beyond and wipe away all negative energy. [Nick DelGaudio]

Listen here: Spotify / Soundcloud


Playboi Carti – Die Lit

Far to many people try to call ‘Die Lit’ a “guilty pleasure”, or make excuses as to why they could possibly enjoy a record that lacks so much in the lyrical department. This is bullshit. What Playboi Carti gave us in ‘Die Lit’  is a modern, swagged out take on punk rock, reducing trap rap to its core elements, allowing the beat and cadence to take the forefront of the tracks. On standout cuts like “RIP”, Carti’s longtime production counterpart, Pierre Bourne, crafts one of the most refreshing hip hop instrumentals of the year, little more than a sawtooth bass sidechained to a frantic bass drum rhythm, which rattles your brain while boasts over the track in a chant-like fashion, proudly claiming “bought my mama a crib off that mumbling shit”. Even on the more understated melodic cuts like “Love Hurts” and “Long Time”, Carti shows a knack for catchy, earworm melodies, treating his autotune slathered vocals as another piece of the instrumental.  ‘Die Lit’ is a forward-thinking punk-trap record that manages to excel by pushing style and aesthetic above all else, scratching a musical itch that few else can get to. No more excuses, this is a fantastic album, and we won’t be afraid to admit it. [Joey Hughes]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


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]

Listen here: Spotify / Soundcloud


Lets Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

For teenagers, the rules seem different.  Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that the rules seem like they just don’t apply.  For Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, the members of Norwich-based Let’s Eat Grandma, this seems particularly true.  Hollingworth and Walton were just 16 at the release of their debut, I, Gemini, an experimental folk/pop fusion that put the duo on the map as some of the youngest ones to watch in the indie world.  I’m All Ears presents Let’s Eat Grandma just two years on from I, Gemini, but the album feels light-years ahead of what was already a solid debut.  I’m All Ears still features the more experimental, wide-eyed leanings of Let’s Eat Grandma, but incorporates more art- and synth-pop to great effect.  “Hot Pink” the first single from the album, stands out; a feminist anthem that has a tech-y, metallic layer of percussion that would feel at home on a SOPHIE album—not a coincidence as SOPHIE co-produced this track and also contributed to “It’s Not Just Me.”  Hollingworth and Walton also slow it down on this album with two sweeping ballads, “Snakes & Ladders” and “Ava.” The former is a bit of a contradiction, sparse and expansive at once, and Let’s Eat Grandma shines in this space—their lyrical abilities and knack for kooky, yet compelling instrumentation perhaps exemplified best on that track.  On the back side of the album are two sprawling, nine-plus minute tracks: “Cool & Collected” and the closer, “Donnie Darko.” Both are slow burners that build to dramatic crescendos, the latter more effectively so than the former. Many tracks on I’m All Ears stand out, but the fault of this album is that few fit compellingly together.  The album is not a focused statement of concept, it is an exploration, in which Let’s Eat Grandma try on a number of different hats, and show that in their own way, they can pull almost all of them off. [Aaron Kelley]

Suggested Track: Hot Pink


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]

Listen here: Spotify


Blood Orange – Negro Swan

For his fourth studio album Devonte Hynes returns with a purpose-while past work of Blood Orange has not shied from political statement, Negro Swan stands out with its personal approach- Hynes sacrifices an intimate autobiography of adolescence in order to speak on the struggle of identity acceptance as a queer/black male in modern day, all while maintaining his familiar funk. Every detail of the album contributes to this discussion, the personal touches surface through the album’s artwork, the storied tracks, and the omnipresent voice of Janet Mock, an LGBTQ and African American activist providing multiple interludes. Negro Swan draws deep into the anxieties of these identities that have always been present and those that have emerged given our current social climate. Yet, it’s seamless jazzy undertones, chreshending synth chords, and unwavering funk familiar to any long-standing Blood Orange fan leaves the listener with a message of hope, confidence, and community. At Pitchfork, Chicago Blood Orange previewed two tracks, Charcoal Baby and Jewelry, as an attendee I was giddy and thrilled to put it lightly, but naive to the message. It’s full release a month later would piece this together, each of the 16 tracks contribute to a narrative that is vulnerable and moving, Hynes tells his story in a way that relates to those who share his identity and profoundly touches those who could never fully understand. It’s cross-genre production style explores the themes of hope and grief in this personal journey, songs such as Hope and Family more blatantly than others. It is a method that once recognized speaks to the human being in every listener. It is a record that explores present, pressing anxieties of the times, yet I believe has asserted itself as a timeless sentiment. [Morgan Kempf]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Choker – Honeybloom

This may be an unpopular opinion, but it doesn’t bother me the slightest bit when an artist is derivative, or wears their influences loud. Especially if they’re taking from an artist I adores. Frank Ocean’s Blond might be my favorite album of the past decade, and we may never get another R&B album with that level of emotional inwardness, and stark vulnerability. But when I heard that Choker was a Frank Ocean soundalike I was intrigued. Choker, a 22 year old Michigan native, doesn’t sound as emotionally mature as Frank is on Blond and i’m completely okay with that. This is pure raw talent of an artist still searching for his sound. He experiments with style, vocal delivery, production and it feels like a personal look into the journey of him discovering his artistry. This album doesn’t always hit, but when it does…ohhhhh boy. There are some moments of incredible beauty here. Rocket into Suzuki Peaches might be the best two song stretch of 2018 and both showcase his knack for crafting ethereal, woozy, experimental R&B tracks. [Nick DelGaudio]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Group B (some really solid records, #40-12)


Skee Mask – Compro

Released under the Ilian Tape label, the Munich producer finds an admirable balance between manipulating sounds from the past and innovating them towards the future. From the start of Skee Mask’s latest album, it is evidently clear that he is evolving. Opening track “Cerroverb” is filled with lush soundscapes and guitar notes that echo through the air. It stands as is a precursor to the ambient interludes found throughout the track list as Skee Mask decides to strip back from the 90’s breakbeat and raucous drum patterns he’s known for. Skee Mask performs these tracks with restraint and patience. However, Compro still manages to excite with a healthy mix of fluttering drum & bass rhythms, and colorful synth melodies like those found on the melancholic “Soundboy Ext.” and the dazzling “Flyby VFR”. Compro is a promising album from one of the most talented producers in the game, reassuring us all that Skee Mask is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Suggested Track: “Flyby VFR”

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Clau Aniz – Filha de mil mulheres

The Fortaleza native artist burst onto the scene this year with her foray into the darker side of Brazilian music with her debut album. Aniz’s blend of slower melodies and tempos with more upbeat rhythms and tropical melodies is a recipe for a unique listen through and through. Filha de mil mulheres is, at its core, a mystical art rock adventure with MPB, dark jazz and post-rock influences that showcases one of Brazil’s most promising artists. From tracks like “Romana” that have a twinge of Godspeed You! Black Emperor to the more funky and rhythmic “Erere,” this album beautifully displays its versatility and the creativity of Aniz. If things keep up, we may have a legend in the making. The sky’s the limit for Clau. [Francisco Martinez]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Lydia Kepinski – Premier Juin

On her debut album Premier Juin (June First), Lydia Képinski sings about love and death with stunning poetry and aplomb (we’ve read, we can’t actually understand French). Somewhere between “chanson française”, prog-rock and synth-pop, the singer-songwriter offers an eclectic and rich musical direction. Kepinski sits somewhere between Stromae and Age of Adz era Sufjan Stevens and despite not understanding a word she says I found myself returning to this album almost weekly. Halfway through album opener ‘Les Routes Indolores’ Kepinski lays on huge bouncy bass before stripping everything back to finish the song with an eerie flute section reminiscent of Chromatics and the music of Twin Peaks. The album doubles as a visual album featuring engrossing videos for each song on Youtube. [Alek Prus]

Listen here: Youtube / Spotify / Bandcamp


Snail Mail – Lush

The fanfare around this record in the indie community cannot be overstated, with many fans preemptively declaring the 19 year-old Lindsey Jordan the next big thing in the genre. The striking debut album is emotionally wise, musically clear and bombastically cathartic on songs like ‘Pristine’ and ‘Heatwave’.

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Marie Davidson – Working Class Women

Working Class Woman is spoken-word techno star Marie Davidson’s career high-point to date. Working Class Women is a scathing narrative of the electronic music scene set to thumping, sparse techno. The opener “Your Biggest Fan” finds Marie Davidson occupying the space of a clueless fan asking questions to no one while simultaneously descending into a sort of self-reflection on the isolation of being a touring female DJ. The album It’s both a sharply humorous club album and a depressingly accurate reflection of Western society in 2018. “I don’t need a VR headset to feel emotion,” she says. “Reality is disgusting enough, and we all have to deal with it.”

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Ty Segall – Freedom’s 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]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth

Aptly titled, Kamasi Washington’s latest release, Heaven and Earth is a far-reaching, maximalist whirlwind, the length of which is fully justified by Washington’s burgeoning talent as not only the leading jazz saxophonist of our time, but also as a bandleader capable of orchestrating and executing such an ambitious album.  The double LP, which conceptually explores, as Washington puts it, “outwardly, the world I am a part of… [and] the world as I see it inwardly,” is split into two parts that correspond to the album’s title, each over an hour long. As has come to be expected, Washington’s own performance throughout the album stands out; his solos are dizzying, at times frantic, at others soothing, and always extraordinary.  But Washington’s abilities as a bandleader also stand out on Heaven and Earth.  Washington clearly revels in those moments when he takes over the songs with his own solos, but band members Dontae Winslow (trumpet), Ryan Porter (trombone), Cameron Graves (piano), and Ronald Bruner, Jr. (drums) all have their moments to shine on Heaven and Earth, and they do not disappoint.  Along with the core band, Washington makes use of a backing choir and orchestra throughout the album to fit his conceptual statement.  Together, this album almost two and a half hours long, not including the bonus EP (The Choice) included in the packaging of the LP (which brings the total runtime to over three hours).  However, even with the massive undertaking that this album is to listen to, there is rarely a moment of boredom, never a moment repeated.  Heaven and Earth is like a chameleon, shifting and changing with each track, in many cases within tracks as well.  Kamasi Washington has been possibly the most hyped name in the jazz world since his debut in 2015, and on, Heaven and Earth, Washington proves that this hype is most certainly justified. [Aaron Kelley]

Listen here: Spotify


Tierra Whack – Whack World

Tierra Whack. Talk about an artist that simultaneously breaks genre norms, gender norms, and bringing the best out of her music in the most unique way. Whack’s “Whack World” solidified her as not only an extremely talented artist but a rapper with bars, a singer with a gorgeous voice, and a daring creative genius crafting her debut album as a conceptual visual album. The 15 1-minute songs often leave you wanting more, sometimes cutting off mid-sentence. We are excited to see what Tierra Whack will do next, maybe songs longer than 1 minute (we can hope). [Alek Prus]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Leon Vynehall – Nothing is Still

Nothing is Still is a record about connecting to the people we love, as hard as that sometimes may be. Leon Vynehall emotionally challenges himself even further, constructing a musical bridge between the living and the dead. After the passing of his grandfather, he sought to tell the tale of his grandparents emigration from the south east U.K. to New York City in the 1960s in the only way he knows how: a vivid collection of soundscapes and sonic vignettes. A formative journey must consist of joyous moments, hardships, periods of mundanity, grandiose episodes. These are all captured perfectly. Leon seems to carefully curate a series of stories that feel ever so genuine, without feeling like their gravity is forced. The deep swelling soundscapes accompanying the transatlantic voyage on “From the Sea/It Looms (Chapters I & II)” counterbalanced by the lush, dream-like elegance of sharing a dessert with the one you love on “Ice Cream (Chapter VIII)”. No part of this tale feels unimportant, tribulations are had, arrivals are celebrated, but most importantly, love is shared. His sense control over the tension in the album as it rises and falls is incredible; it always feels as if he is an orchestra conductor perfectly in command of each sound-producing cog in the machine, comprehending their symbiosis in an unthinkable manner. [Nick DelGaudio]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Dj Healer – Nothing to Loose / DJ Metatron / Prime Minister of Doom

Whoever this person is, they exist on a higher plane. It feels so beyond human to care as little they do about the public spotlight and fame to truly satiate oneself solely with the beauty of electronic music. Enigmatic (enigmatic is an understatement) composer DJ Healer AKA DJ Metatron AKA Prime Minister of Doom AKA Prince of Denmark AKA Traumprinz put out quite a bit of music this year. A wonderful mix under DJ Metatron and Traumprinz, a tribal-tinged deep house record as Prime Minister of Doom, a spiritual ambient house record as DJ Healer, and my personal favorite, a 3 hour mix of original music also under DJ Healer (Planet Lonely). An output of this magnitude in such a short length of time is nothing shy of incredible; and it’s not that it feels effortless, it more so feels like a religion. That this discipline is for ascetic purposes, that each release is a piece of this mysterious figure being released into the world, and they are soon approaching complete transcendence. [Nick Delgaudio]

Listen here: DJ Healer / DJ Metatron / Planet Lonely / Prime Minister of Doom


Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance

As much as I’d suggest you start your hypothetical next album with a barn burner, I’m not saying it should be the best song of your career, or even the best on your album. It tends to amp expectations just a little too high, making the rest of the album prone to fall flat. Idles decided my advice wasn’t worth listening too, and after seeing the final results I wouldn’t have listened to me either. Joy as an Act of Resistance is a nuclear warhead of an album. It’s easily the best punk album released this year, if not the best released in the past decade, and the opening track “Colossus” gives more than enough evidence in its favor. At first listen you feel as though they traded the unrelenting pace of last years excellent Brutalism for slower, more plodding tracks. In a sense they have cooled down, at least in terms of pure musical violence, but they haven’t abandoned that ferocity. Where Brutalism is a carpet bombing of aggression, washing over everything in it’s way, Joy is a tactical nuke that saves its greatest intensity for the most effective moments, whether that be the heart pumping build and catharsis of “Colossus,” the chorus of “Never Fight a Man With A Perm,” or basically all of “Rottweiler.” Joy shows Idles as a band capable of incredible evolution using their powers to tackle important social issues in a flagrant and aggressive manner that never feels played out. – Drew Pitt

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


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]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


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. [Drew Pitt]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


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 a song I have trouble not bouncing to 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]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of

Listen to any Daniel Lopatin-helmed effort, from his recent film score (2017’s “Good Time”) to the microgenre he’s responsible for spawning (the Internet’s own Vaporwave), and you’ll notice he’s fixated on stretching the possibilities of a computer’s role in the music-making process. But it’s his solo output as Oneohtrix Point Never—the name being a riff on Magic 106.7, a soft-rock radio station in Boston—through which he consistently makes the strongest case for this. Having attended his sprawling “Myriad” performance three times this year on two separate coasts, it became clear that the music on AGE OF, his third release on Warp and first which sees his own vocals being a factor, was best fit for a grand setting. Making the abrupt jump from cramped festival tents to historic concert halls equipped with a full ensemble was a testament to the intended scope of the project. Even in places of prestige, though, he kept things as deliciously disorienting as the music on the record. There’s a sense that this uncharacteristic level of spectacle is not necessarily the new standard for OPN, but rather another stretch—or in this case, a leap—for this particular moment in his career. Above all else, AGE OF serves as a realization that the cyberspace-obsessed kid from Wayland, Massachusetts eventually got so bored at his desk that the only desirable step forward was that of most artists you might hear on your FM dial: bringing human voice to the forefront (yielding a more accessible product) and showcasing the widescreen vision of the waveforms on his computer screen he probably had all along. [Mike G.]

Listen here: Spotify


Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

On their third studio album, Cocoa Sugar, Edinburgh trio Young Fathers have made a record that’s messy and restless, depressing and enlightening at the same time. Cocoa Sugar is a fleeting album about life, faith, and self-realization. The timing of a release often effects your perception of the music and Cocoa Sugar was released the week before I left for SXSW, a time of anxiety surrounding the present and especially the future. Cocoa Sugar provided me a chaotic and anthemic soundtrack to bike around the hilly city, sometimes screaming the lyrics as a powered up hills after long, overwhelming days of networking. The beauty of Cocoa Sugar is in its overflowing energy with songs like IN MY VIEW and WOW reaching pure peaks of catharsis. Cocoa Sugar defies genre flowing between hip-hop, electronica, gospel and more ultimately culminating in one of the most creative yet accessible albums of the year. [Alek Prus]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Mitski – Be Your Cowboy

Be Your Cowboy carries an emotional wallop with Mitski’s lyrical skill being the most impactful aspect of this album. Her ability to impart her feelings of doubt and hurt to the listener so clearly in her songs is powerful. Her voice is smooth and silky and delivers the lyrics so fiercely while maintaining a feeling of soft trepidation. Mitski explores what means to love and lose and it’s hard to keep dry eyes listening to Be Your Cowboy. [Joey Elisar]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Tirzah – Devotion

When I first listened to Devotion, I was in an airplane with a low-grade fever.  I try not to listen to new stuff in noisy environments but made an exception for Tirzah in my shitty headspace.  I expected a relaxing, gentle R&B-meets-electronic album, and for the first track that’s exactly what Devotion delivered.  But slowly the album fell off-kilter; the thick fog that producer Mica Levi put over the mix teamed up with the plane’s engine noises and I could only make out Tirzah’s asymmetric vocal lines and the loudest pieces of percussion behind it.  There was a bizarre feedback loop between my feverish mind and the woozy pop songs competing with the ambient noise. It sounded, above all else, like chaos.

I returned to Devotion a few days later—this time on solid ground—and the wooziness remained.  It had its immediate charms (Levi’s always-moving and thickly textured production frames Tirzah’s commanding voice beautifully), but the overwhelming sensation was that of disorientation.  Devotion feels feverish even without the fever, somehow feeling both relaxed and agitated at the same time. What makes it all work is the fact Devotion is still fundamentally a pop album. Its off-kilter aesthetic allows Tirzah to construct hooks, however elliptical they might be, that begin to sound straight-up anthemic after a few listens.  In lesser hands, the sing-songy-but-vaguely-atonal hook of “Holding On” would be too wispy to stick, but here it sounds triumphant. Sitting high above snares that sound more like static than drums and slightly detuned synths, it all comes together to create an idiosyncratic vision of what pop music can be. [Marcus Michelan]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited

If you haven’t heard of Meg Remy by now, then you are in for one hell of a treat. After spending most of her career releasing experimental recordings and tape music, this album is Remy’s most refined and polished work yet. This album showcases Remy’s talents as a songwriter, effortlessly transitioning from disco to 60’s pop to rock in the same song. It is this musical diversity throughout In a Poem Unlimited that helps carry the project, with shades of Kylie Minogue and Nate Dogg (among many other influences that would take forever to list) that strengthen this album’s appeal. Even more inspiring are the messages found throughout the album, tackling consumerism and criticizing the male-driven society. This album, summed up, is an album for the woman who can’t be silent anymore. A woman who, if you couldn’t tell, is mad as hell. It is an album that will serve as a time marker in the years to come, with its infectious grooves complementing lyrical content that is representative of our modern day society. Come for the jam, stay for the message behind it. [Francisco Martinez]

Listen here: Spotify / Soundcloud


Noname – Room 25

Noname’s follow up to her 2016 album ‘Telefone’ an album self described as “lullaby rap”. Room 25 is a masterwork of artsy, hushed hip hop that relies on jumpy, jazz influenced compositions. Noname’s roots in poetry shine in her sharp, witty bars on everything from love and sexual liberation to oppressive politics. The album is Chicago to the core, with standout features from peers Smino, Raven Lenae, and Saba, who delivers a show-stopping verse with a lightening speed delivery that one would expect from a Kendrick or JID. [Joey Hughes]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Denzel Curry – TA13OO

Let’s be real for a second: it’s not often that a 23-year-old rapper is held to such high expectations for their next album to be as good as their last. Then again, not every rapper is Denzel Curry, either. And just like how not every rapper can follow through on these high expectations, Denzel Curry is not your average rapper, either. In what might be his most sonically cohesive album yet, Curry explores topics such as abuse, fame and family in differing ways that make this album feel fresh. Split up into three acts, TA13OO offers an insight into the mind of the Carol City, Fla. rapper and his upbringing and is delivered in such a way that only a Denzel Curry project can do. From lush production found on the album’s standout track “Black Balloons,” to the abrasive noise in the closer “Black Metal Terrorist,” each song goes to show how good of an artist Denzel Curry is. And to put out an album of this quality at the age of 23, there’s no telling where the limit is going to be. All we know is that he exceeds expectations yet again. [Francisco Martinez]

Listen here: Spotify


Vince Staples – FM!

Vince Staples continues his unbroken pattern of delivering a fantastic project every year since he emerged onto the scene as an affiliate, though not official member, of the Odd Future collective.  The album excels in brevity and consistency, made possible in part by nearly front to back production from the fastest rising producer in hip hop, Kenny Beats, who delivers an unrelenting barrage of bouncy, forward thinking trap style production that frequently flows seamlessly from track to track.  The whole project is presented as a commute length block of the iconic west coast radio show, Big Boy’s neighborhood, featuring chatter between the hosts, a call in game show, and most notably, short snippets of unreleased music from Tyga and Earl Sweatshirt, a novel idea that seems to have been unexplored up to this point.

Some highlights of the album include the Kehlani assisted Tweakin”, a moody track that explores the tragedies caused by violence between the youth and police, and FUN!, a 808 heavy west coast anthem that features the godfather of bay area hip hop himself, E40.  While the project seems to end as soon as it begins, Vince manages to pack an unbelievable amount of quality content into an a little over 20 minutes, allowing it to be repeatedly enjoyed in full, a refreshing pattern that has resonated across many important hip hop releases this year.  On FM!, Vince continues to walk a thin line between dense, conscious lyricism and festival ready bangers, proving himself to be one of the most talented and fascinating artists in hip-hop today. – Joey Hughes

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

I present you with the album that perfectly encapsulates the surreal, painful and angry feeling of being politically aware in 2018. Wide Awake! By Parquet Courts is full of biting cynicism and a provoking blend of punk and art rock. “Total Football”, the opening track on the album, starts the album off with an angry riff that morphs into a fast-paced punk tune that has you itching for a mosh. The song tackles the issue of Kaepernick and standing for an anthem that “drowns out the roar of oppression”. “Before the Water Gets Too High” expresses the anguish of a generation that sees the imminent destruction of our world by global warming caused by the ignorance of our parent’s generation.  We know we’ll be the ones paying the price for their destruction of our planet. On the complete other end of the spectrum, “Wide Awake” is a groovy dance tune that could have been on a Talking Heads album. The song is a tongue-in-cheek tease of people being “woke” in 2018 and displays the range in sound on this album. The past couple years have been infuriating for many people who have seen the image of America they thought they knew become polluted and this album is comforting. Comforting in the knowledge that other people are experiencing the same frustration of living in a country where such pressing problems like global warming are partisan issues. “Wide Awake!” confronts the issues addressing America in 2018 and has rightfully vaulted Parquet Courts into critical and popular acclaim. [Joey Elisar]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Mid-Air Thief – Crumbling

As someone who listens to an absurd amount of music, I find it strange how difficult it is for me to internalize lyrics. As a result, I think there’s a comfort in listening to music in a language other than english, I feel less guilty about indulging straight in the music…and oh is the music so incredibly beautiful here. South Korean outfit Mid-Air Thief are able to conjure up such a complex yet soothing atmosphere. An inundation of ideas and instrumental tones wash over you as their idyllic harmonies poke through. A complementary relationship forms between the psychedelic electronic experimentation and the acoustic guitar strums reminiscent of Yellow House era Grizzly Bear. The eight tracks present here lack any filler and each one is filled with an absolute trip of ideas, carrying you through countless scenic journeys throughout the course of 44 minutes. The album is serene and gentle when it needs to be, yet retains an emphatic and uplifting pulse of pure energy. This is a cerebral album meant to be unpacked over multiple listens. There are enough ideas here for 50+ songs, and I’d be gloriously satisfied if they stuck around for another few albums of psychedelic goodness.

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


serpentwithfeet – Soil

This type of music is barely supposed to be made, much less popularized. In fact this is so shocking I feel the need to breakdown why. Firstly, serpentwithfeet, being a queer POC is one of the more marginalized groups on the planet, but he’s using gospel music to tell the stories of his love. I love the reversal taking place here, and that narrative alone would be enough to make this album important, quite frankly this is the type of story where the music should be a tertiary element, and yet, here it is front and center. Soul and gospel have never really gotten their due, at least not in modern music, and serpentwithfeet isn’t likely to change that, but he’s pushing the genre farther forward than any had ever dared. His poetic lyrics and quivering vibrato turn these experimental songs into aching love songs poised to pierce any and all listeners through the heart, regardless of the attractions they feel. This is an album built to speak to you, and it speaks loud. – Drew Pitt

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


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

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


MGMT – Little Dark Age

“Little Dark Age” is a haunting synth pop album that thrives on multiple levels. The album has an overarching ghoulish aesthetic that succeeds in building a tense feeling while listening. Yet, through the unsettling sensations comes catchy synth pop that belongs on an 80s prom dance floor. It’s special talent to make music that feels twisted and morose but is too catchy not to dance to. I have never had a musical experience before where I was gaily dancing while shamelessly screaming “I’m ready, ready, ready to blow my brains out”. This album came out last February which I think has hurt it in other people’s year end lists, but for me it hasn’t gotten stale. The music feels complex enough that with every listen comes a new sound that I previously did not appreciate. This album feels like MGMT hit exactly what they were striving for and I am glad that we are all here to reap the benefits. [Joey Elisar]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

My biggest disappointment of 2018 was the measured public response to Twin Fantasy.  To my ears, this album is a milestone that gains immediate entry in the depressingly small canon of queer indie rock masterpieces.  It’s rewarding to peel back the layers of Will Toledo’s lyrics—try catching all the references to dualities, or all the perspective shifts—but that doesn’t do the album justice.  The full spectrum of human emotion comes through Will Toledo’s typically-limited voice: the desperate wails on “Beach Life-in-Death” are mirrored by the shaky falsetto on a new section of “Famous Prophets (Minds).” This is an album that I can’t overhype; it’s an album so special to me that I’ve forgotten how to talk to people about it.  I love this album the way I love my partner: I have no illusions of perfection, but I can’t imagine a future without it. [Marcus Michelen]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Group A (imperative listening, best of the best)


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]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES

Say it a few times fast and hear it transform: Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides turns into “I love every person’s insides.”  It’s harder to think of a more concise way of describing SOPHIE’s debut (non-compilation) album; Oil of… has a sleek, occasionally abrasive, and heady exterior that coats a pop album deeply steeped in positivity.  In lesser hands, “Immaterial” would be an eye-roll-inducing examination of the transient nature of (gender) identity. But SOPHIE is smarter than that; she makes her case for identity existing outside her body: “without my legs or my hair… where do I live?  Tell me, where do I exist?” but takes it to full on liberation, ending with chanted vocals of “I can be anything I want” rising beneath the chorus. Even better, the track slaps. For all her talk of Mind/Body separation, SOPHIE is the rare artist that makes music for both.  [Marcus]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want

For fifty minutes, this album goes through Dante’s Inferno—nine circles and all—and back. And I couldn’t get enough of how terrifying this album is. For someone who had no expectations of what this album was going to be like, listening to it for the first time was one of the most thrilling experiences I have EVER had as a music fan. Daughters’ most recent studio album, while a departure from the rapid-fire and high octane songs that put these Rhode Islanders on the map, is a masterclass in noise rock. In a music scene filled with carbon copy after carbon copy, You Won’t Get What You Want is a fresh breath of Alexis Marshall’s vocals on this album go from a deep, almost Trent Reznor-like croon in “Less Sex” that blows away with its simplicity, while the drums and sirens on “Satan in the Wait” show the band at their most artistic, combining the harsh abrasiveness from previous works with lush guitar strings to create one of this album’s standout tracks. Don’t let that fool you, because Daughters will take you to hell and back on this album. The journey through it all, though, is 100 percent worth it. [Francisco Martinez]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love

In what might be the biggest artistic leap for any musician this year, Yves Tumor released a practically unclassifiable album — one that’s too weird to be called pop but too catchy to be called experimental; too jazzy to be called electronic but too glitchy to be called rock. SAFE IN THE HANDS OF LOVE and the enigmatic figure behind it take on many different molds during the record’s runtime; just when you think you have them nailed down, they shapeshift into something even more gripping than before. It’s so easy to get lost in the sonics that listeners might forget about the biting social commentary included throughout. But the album’s biggest surprise of all might be that each creative direction it takes, no matter how ambitious, actually works. By the end of it you realize that any sort of genre discussion is unimportant, and that it would do the album more justice to simply sum it up as radical. It’s the only viable way to describe music that effectively attacks both the system AND the rulebook.

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Beach House – 7

The dream pop duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have been a force to reckon with in the indie scene for a long time now. With moments such as Beyonce and Jay-Z going to see them live or with The Chainsmokers recently releasing a song that is quite literally about listening to Beach House songs, it’s hard not to see the influence the group has on the music industry. Here we are with the release of ‘7’, three years after their previous records, ‘Depression Cherry’ and ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’, and it is one of their best to date. This record embodies everything I want to see in a dream pop project. They still maintain the lush and ethereal nature that has become to be expected of them, but this time they find a way to change that dynamic and freshen up their sound a bit. They even incorporate shoegaze-like aesthetics that they’ve teased on past albums. The warm and fuzzy synth tones accompanied by Victoria’s soothing vocals lulls you into a state of soft comfort. In the end, you are swallowed whole in a swirling serenity of sound. The only thing holding it back is the fact that maybe they didn’t push enough since at the end of the day it is still a Beach House record. Evolution of their sound going forward will be a challenge for them, but if they can find a way to keep progressing as they have with ‘7’, then the sky’s the limit for this talented duo. [Andrew Tran – @trandrew20]

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


Julia Holter – Aviary

To make a truly remarkable album, there always exists this delicate balance between comfortable accessibility and adventurous experimentation. Julia Holter has always been toying with this line and with Aviary she has finally found this perfect relationship. As someone with a relatively short attention span, I usually struggle to make it through any project over an hour in length, but this album is just so transportive; I am carried away to a foreign yet quant land for its 90 minute duration. Its ability to do so many things, carry so many emotions, present so many ideas, all with an inherent naturalness without clutter is remarkable. This is a magnum opus, an album of lush arrangements, veteran songwriting and perfectly esoteric lyrics. She is no longer satisfied confining herself to any semblance of traditional pop song structure or notions of what an album should be. If anyone was fooled by her pop leaning writing on 2015’s Have You in My Wilderness, this will surely throw them for a loop. An album that simultaneously feels like it exists in a state hundreds of years in the past and hundreds of years in the future; A timeless collection of extraordinary songs. If you aren’t brought to tears or at least remotely emotionally moved by “Words I Heard”, I can’t save you.

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


JPEGMAFIA – Veteran

Few people can say that they’ve had a more explosive year than Jpegmafia aka Peggy. When his record Veteran dropped at the beginning of the year, nobody could have predicted the success that it would have garnered but here he is today turning heads with his unconventional production and rap style. It’s hard not to appreciate the level of energy that Peggy brings to the table especially on tracks such as ‘Baby I’m Bleeding’ which uses vocal loops to slowly build up tension only to have the climax be that much more rewarding when he finally goes off. This is also true on ‘Real Nega’ where he yells his head off behind an already wild and uncontrollable beat. What really seals the entire project is the fact that he isn’t afraid to take risks and be his own man. You can see this very evidently with his raw, unabiding lyrics that are usually politically charged or include personal vendettas (like a certain former ‘The Smiths’ member). It may not be entirely consistent at times, but each track has its merits nonetheless as you are constantly bombarded with banger after banger. I can safely say that all of us here are very excited to see what Jpegmafia has in store for us in the future. [Andrew Tran – @trandrew20]

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Mount Eerie – Now Only

I’m choosing to believe you all know the story preceding this album and last year’s devastating A Crow Looked at Me, but the short version is that Phil Elverum’s wife tragically passed away, leaving him and his newborn child standing in the wreckage. Both this album and Crow center on that monumental life event. It is deeply upsetting to me that this album has seemingly fallen of the radar instead of encouraging the same level of discussion that Crow rightfully earned last year. It seems that the collective consciousness can only withstand emotional destruction once per year, and that Now Only was not the album they chose this year (they chose something far less artful I presume, but that is neither here nor there). In any case, this album is an improvement upon Crow in nearly every way. The lyrics are close, if not equal, each song delivers at least one ruinous line, for example he recounts finding chunks of Genvieve’s bones where he dumped her ashes in the front yard while he’s playing with their daughter. Instrumentally the album is far less raw, which works to its advantage, allowing it to craft an emotional narrative without the use of words. This is not a simple retread of last year’s material, it is an ever expanding and comprehensive dissection of grieving and moving on, if this album isn’t relevant to you now, it will (sadly) be someday. Listening to it is reading an instructional, and every second of it is crushing and beautiful.

Listen here: Spotify / Bandcamp


Pusha T – DAYTONA

Pusha T has accomplished a great deal in his 20+ years in the industry. In the late 90’s/early 00’s, as one half of the legendary duo, Clipse, he became the first signee to the Neptunes’ fledgeling Star Trak label, scored features with Kelis and Justin Timberlake, and became one of the first true internet hip-hop trailblazers, with an iconic run of online mixtapes, which was, at the time, still a novel idea.  He later went on to sign with Kanye West’s GOOD Music label as a solo artist and crafted a few albums and mixtapes that, while reaching stellar high points and receiving generally favorable acclaim from critics, never managed to catapult him to the household status held by label mates like Big Sean, John Legend, and West himself. While beloved in his own right, it seemed as if Push was incapable of channeling his full potential into a singular moment.  This is why, when the now president of GOOD Music announced the release of his long delayed King Push project, retitled as Daytona, few other than die hard fans seemed to think much of it. What we did receive, however, was a cold blooded, calculated, and to-the-point record, spanning a brief seven tracks, and featuring wall-to-wall production from Kanye West himself. A fitting opener, ‘If You Know You Know’ is one of the most exciting hip-hop tracks to come out in years. Beginning with only high hats and a solid dose of old school coke bars, then finally exploding onto your speakers with a rush of bass and creaky synths, the track feels like midnight in Miami, setting the tone and letting the listener know exactly what they’re getting into. The rest of Daytona is one track after another of anecdotes and reflections on drug dealing, women, dead friends, and the sad realities of crime, concluding with a diss-track that served as the culmination of a 10+ year beef between Pusha’s Re-Up gang and Lil Wayne’s Cash Money Records, this time targeted at Wayne’s one time prodigee and arguably the biggest artist on the planet, Drake. The song resulted in one of the most exciting back-and-fourths of the decade between the two artists, which ended up leaving a permanent scar against Drake’s career and reputation, who had previously been seen as indestructible. This album owes much of it’s merit to it’s short length and sonic consistency, allowing it to be easily digested in its full length, time after time. With fantastically idiosyncratic production and a convincingly sinister delivery from a veteran MC, all while outselling A$AP Rocky in first week sales, Pusha T has redefined the the definition of a hit record, serving as a reminder for artists young and old to put nothing in between them and their craft. Daytona is, by most definitions, a traditional rap record, yet it still manages to feel like the future, and after a longer run in the industry than most could ever hope to have, Pusha T has finally earned his moment. [Joey Hughes]

Listen here: Spotify


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

For those who want to know why this album managed to blow up this year and how Nicolas Jaar got the most accolades on a different project, we can turn to this album’s own artwork on the back of the album’s vinyl release: “If you don’t know jack about house, then you’ll love this!” Needless to say, house fans and non-house fans can love everything Jaar has to offer on this project. His soulful sampling and deep house direction on this album was a departure from his more microhouse and IDM heavy works that Jaar put out under his own name that further proves why this album is the talk of the town. It is easy to tell how meticulously crafted this album is, with no single drum beat or sample going wasted and no sample too foreign either, as heard on “Cityfade” with its vocals coming from German poet Rainer Rilke over a looped piano riff that just sounds so damn good. 2012 – 2017 is the soundtrack for today’s dancefloor, and Jaar just put out an open invite for you to make your way onto it.

Listen here: Spotify / Youtube


KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

Let’s all collectively choose to ignore the general antics of Kanye West for the purposes of this particular discussion. With that out of the way, holy shit. This album just goes, it’s a perfect exploration of both of the men making it. At times that may make the album feel a bit like a rollercoaster, but even so it maintains a more consistent throughline than any non DAYTONA album from the Wyoming era. With that being said, every moment of this album shines, be it the manic gun ad libs Kanye delivers on album opener “Feel the Love” or the excellent use of a Christmas sample on “4th Dimension.” More importantly each instant of this moment feels calculated and crafted to carry forward an image, narrative, or feeling. “Fire” feels like marching into down on a conquerors horse with hundreds of fierce opponents trampled upon the ground, “Reborn” shows Cudi as the possessor of the most interesting redemption arc taking place in hip-hop, while Cudi montage is nearly beyond words when it comes to the sheer beauty. All of this is tied together with the gorgeous album art by Takeshi Murakami who breathes life, meaning, and narration into what is often a simple afterthought. There hasn’t been a project this ambitious since Watch the Throne and it’s extremely likely we never see something this ambitious be executed for at least another five years. So cling to this record, Santa brought the heat this year.

Listen here: Spotify


Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

Our album of the year for 2018 goes to Earl Sweatshirt’s experimental, lo-fi, and psychedelic masterpiece, Some Rap Songs. Tackling topics like depression, drug addiction and the death of his father, Earl paints a troubled yet triumphant picture. With a newfound deadpan delivery and straight forward rhyme schemes, Earl’s songwriting takes a more direct approach than ever before. The instrumental pallet has also shifted drastically, influenced largely in part by newfound collaborators and friends such as experimental New York rapper MIKE and the Standing on the Corner collective, as well as modern sample gurus like Alchemist, Knxwledge, and Harry Fraud. The beats on Some Rap Songs are consistently dusty and noisy, a hodge-podge that consists of soulful passages, mutilated vocal samples, ambient drones and vinyl crackle, all of which seem to be hidden under a thick layer of smoke. While the lyrical content contains many of the melancholy sentiments typical to Earl’s work, this album to carries a much more triumphant tone than we’ve heard before. Earl faces his demons head-on, from tackling drug addiction in “The Mint”, stating that, while he hasn’t entirely given up his drug habits, he’s at a place where they’re under control.  The album explores some of Earl’s darkest moments put to record, but as a whole, leaves a confident and reassuring message. Earl continues to be haunted by many of the same demons we’ve grown familiar with, he seems to have found his peace, and for us to have the privilege to see this firsthand is nothing short of astounding.

Listen here: Spotify

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