I meant to write a mid-year one of these, but in all honesty I kind of forgot and now it is the end of the year. As far as my tastes are concerned 2018 has been fantastic for music, some of my favourite artists have returned with fantastic albums and I have discovered some new great ones too. I think numbering a list like this is completely pointless, I am comparing incredibly diverse albums and depending on how I am feeling any of these could be my favourite one day and not even make the list the next. A few years ago, when I was thinking about blogging my work, I did some arbitrary awards thing which I am going to revive because it allows me to explain why each album is great at what it is setting out to do.
Best Album at explaining pretty much every emotion I have under the sun
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
I fucking love Kacey. There is a cutting honesty to her lyrics that is refreshing and needed, especially in the current socio-political climate. Golden Hour marks a departure of sorts in that the lyricism is a lot less intricate and witty. However, what this album loses in wit it makes up for in emotional punch. Rainbow is the best at this, working as a beautiful ode to being yourself and accepting yourself for who you are, even when you don’t personally feel this way. Space Cowboy is one of the best break up songs of the year, ‘Night Shift’ just beats it in my opinion, dealing with the slow but painful realisation that a relationship just isn’t working for you partner and that, for their sake, it needs to end. But there is a joyousness to this album as well. The Disco Country (Is that even a thing?) of ‘High Horse’ is absolutely fantastic and the ode to her mother on ‘Mother’ is a beautiful take on the circularity of time.
Best Album at juggling being both a great political work and also a super fun and funky album
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
I genuinely believe that Janelle Monae is one of the best artists of this generation. Every album and track she has ever released has been consistently great, and in some cases absolutely exceptional. The two lead singles from this album, ‘Django Jane’ and ‘Make Me Feel’ are only a taster of the versatility of this album. The Madonna-esque spoken word parts on ‘Screwed’, the sexiness of the hook on ‘Take a Byte’ this album is nothing if not varied. However, for me at least, the crown jewel of this album is ‘Americans’, Monae’s cutting yet loving ode to her country. By reclaiming her own patriotism and what she believes it to be an ‘American’ Monae destroys the toxic ‘patriotism’ of Trump and his ilk.
Best Album at making me feel like I am asleep even though I am awake but in a good way
Hatchie – Sugar and Spice
I really love this project. Hatchie’s blend of dream pop feels almost acoustic at points and yet sonically I feel like I am in some beautiful hazy dream. Lyrically it’s catchy and calming with an innocence to the lyricism. I don’t really know what to write about this one, I’ve listened to it so many times. I guess it is just comforting.
Best Album at making me want to dance erratically like someone who can’t dance:
Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People
This album is fucking odd. It feels like someone is taking the piss but at the same time making some of the most joyous pop music I have heard in a while. A continuous theme to most of my picks this year is a sense of irony and nothing conveys that better than ‘COOL Party’ an ode to and from the atypical ‘Cool Kids.’ This is an album which is fun before anything else, and in a year of yet more political and social despair sometimes it is nice to just listen to something like this and have fun.
Best Album from someone who I really was not expecting to make a genuinely fantastic album but actually made a genuinely fantastic album:
Ariana Grande – Sweetener
I would never have thought that Ariana Grande would make one of my favourite albums of the year but here we are. ‘no tears left to cry’ is undoubtedly one of the songs of the year, ‘the light is coming’ is a surprisingly experimental track for a mainstream pop album. But these are just the singles, the ‘blazed’ is a fantastic pseudo opener and the almost annoying braggadocios of ‘successful’ is frustratingly catchy. If Grande’s upcoming EP builds on this and ‘thank u, next’ then will it even be a surprise if it is fantastic?
Best Album from last year that I only heard this year:
Alex Cameron – Forced Witness
This might end up being one of my favourite albums of the decade. Forced Witness is probably the album that I have listened to the most this year and I am still unsure if it is sincere or not. Cameron’s snide and sniping take on toxic masculinity works as he takes on the role of the most disgusting, and yet common, traits of modern masculinity. There is a bleak and dark humour to this record that not many can make work, and yet when it all feels like it might be getting too much Roy Malloy plays a bit of sax.
Best Album at having a completely devastating opener and being relatively depressing for the whole album but being raw and beautiful.
Lucy Dacus – Historian
I’ll admit it, the majority of my love for this album comes from the opener ‘Night Shift.’ When I first heard this song it broke me, it is the best break up song I think I have ever heard. Dacus paints a devastating picture of avoidance and pain that is relatable and yet haunting. The rest of the album is great, the build on ‘The Shell’ to a soaring crescendo is a highlight and the album does tail off at the end, but the high points of this album are so impressive that It is one of my favourites of the year.
Best album that I picked up on a whim on Record Store Day because I thought it was something else and it ended up being a strange industrial album with sex sounds.
Colour Ciimaxxx – Colour Climaxxx
So, I thought this was going to be 70’s porn music which to me is that stereotypical funky stuff that is usually pretty good. Having a whole album of it would have been good for instrumental background music. Instead what I got was an industrial tinged piece of insanity that actually uses sounds from pornography. There is something incredibly interesting about it, there are sounds from bestiality which are unsettling. It’s not something I listen too often, but it is a cool curio.
Best Album that is jazz and doesn’t feel like I have to put aside most of a day to listen to.
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
Kamasi Washington released an album this year and as much as I love all of his works it feels like I have to dedicate time to listen to them, and as such I don’t come back to them too often. Sons of Kemet on the other hand have made an album which is something I can listen to in smaller bursts. This feels like a Jazz album for Brexit Britain. Not only in the lyrics on the stand out first track ‘My Queen is Ada Eastman’ but through the urban laced jazz that is so beautifully constructed by Sons of Kemet.
Best Album of being the clichéd crying on the dancefloor
Robyn – Honey
It has taken me almost an entire other decade to realise it, but ‘Dancing on my Own’ is probably the best pop song since the turn of the millennium. There is nothing out there that is as catchy, moody and devastating as this one song. The return of Robyn on Honey shows that she can still create incredible pop. ‘Missing U’ is a brilliant return to what Robyn does best, depressing pop music about how much you miss someone. Typecasting Robyn as a depressing pop songstress would be unfair. ‘Ever Again’ is a much happier song that declares ‘I’m only going to sing about love ever again.’
Best Album from the Best Film of the year
Cast of Mamma Mia 2 – Mamma Mia 2
Mamma Mia 2 is the best film ever made. I cried, I laughed, I sang. It has Piers Brosnan singing SOS in a depressed reprise. It is a masterpiece. The soundtrack is also fantastic. An eccentric mix of people who can sing and can’t sing Mamma Mia 2 is exactly what I want from an album. I want the people singing to be having a great time. I want it to be as camp as anything. I basically want this.
Best Album I listened to once
Mount Eerie – Now Only
I’m not going to write much about this one. It’s spectacular but it takes me to mental places I don’t really want to go to. One of the best of the year, but more as a piece of art than something to listen to.
(Albums that I loved but didn’t want to write about)
Best Album about sucking dick
CupcakKe – Ephorize
Best Album that is great but isn’t as good as her last one so I’m not really sure why critics are going mental for it in a way they weren’t about the last one
Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Best Album from someone with a trash stage name
Soccer Mommy – Clean
Best Album which is incredible seeing as how young they are
Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
Best Album from someone who I loved as a feature artist and their debut is even better
Kali Uchis – Isolation
Best Album to come from that Kanye Wyoming thing
Pusha T – Daytona
Best Album that came out near the start of the year so I almost forgot about it
US Girls – In A Poem Untitled
This time next year I will probably be sitting here and thinking, if I had listened to that ‘Low’ or ‘Julia Holter’ album a bit more I would have loved to write about it. But that is the nature of modern music, there is so much out there and so much good stuff. The albums I’ve listed here aren’t comprehensive of what I have listened to this year, otherwise there would be a lot of the Twin Peaks soundtrack and Disco/Funk/Soul stuff. But it is an idea of what new music I listened to this year, what I loved and what really stuck with me. There is so much good music these days that this list will probably be defunct within a month. But ultimately 2018 was super good and I got to see Janelle live again which is pretty much all that matters.