Every year since I started this blog, I’ve intended to put together one these lists and finally, I’ve managed to get my act together and actually do it.
2018 was a great year for music, honestly, and I had a tough time putting this list together. The fact that so many of the albums featured on here were not actually reviewed on Sound Mind just goes to show how many good albums there were. (It also highlights how flaky I’ve been with updating this blog, but whatever…)
At the end of last year, I resolved to try and expand my music taste a bit more, but the lack of genre diversity here shows that I kind of failed with that. Most of my music listening still boils down to indie rock and pop, which has always sorta been my comfort zone.
Anywho, enough with the preamble. Here are the 25 albums I enjoyed listening to most released in 2018.
25. The Internet – Hive Mind
Though never a big fan of The Internet in the past, I found myself coming back to Hive Mind again and again throughout the year. Featuring some heavy soul and funk influences, the album is filled with slick grooves that are hard not to get caught up in.
Listen to ‘Roll (Burbank Funk)’
24. Christine and the Queens – Chris
Boasting a stronger sense of attitude than her much-lauded debut, the second album from Héloïse Letissier takes a few more risks. The songs here are punchy and poppy in the best way possible, without a single lowlight in sight.
Listen to ‘Doesn’t Matter’
23. Julia Holter – Aviary
Abstract and obtuse, Aviary presents itself as a puzzle. This 90-minute epic is filled with lush sonic layers, impenetrable lyrics and song structures that gleefully throw every musical rulebook out of the window. And it’s all the better for it – the perfect album to lose yourself in.
Listen to ‘I Shall Love 2’
22. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Swapping out straightforward rock for sleazy lounge music, Arctic Monkeys’ latest was bold in a way that probably shouldn’t have paid off. While Alex Turner may have alienated a few fans through the shift in style, the album succeeds in crafting a unique world that’s hard not to admire.
Listen to ‘Four Out Of Five’
21. Jeff Tweedy – Warm
The first solo album from the Wilco frontman is exactly what its title suggests it: warm. Though Tweedy addresses some of his most painful experiences – such as his struggle with drug addiction on ‘Having Been Is No Way To Be’ – as a whole, the album is beautifully life-affirming.
Listen to ‘I Know What It’s Like’
20. U.S. Girls – A Poem Unlimited
The sixth full-length from Meghan Remy is perhaps her best yet. Combining danceable, disco-infused instrumentals with sharp lyrics on gender equality, In A Poem Unlimited is an album that works on multiple levels. From sinister rocker ‘Incidental Boogie’ to the Talking Heads-esque funk-out ‘Time’, it’s nothing less than stunning.
Listen to ‘Rosebud’
19. Shame – Songs of Praise
Perhaps 2018’s first great release, the debut album from Shame shows that British punk is alive and kicking. Songs of Praise features just the right amount of variety, from the almost anthemic ‘One Rizla’ to unhinged slow-burner ‘The Lick’. (Read the full review)
Listen to ‘One Rizla’
18. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
Jon Hopkins is one of the most respected names in electronic music today and for a good reason. Singularity, his first release in five years, is all kinds of gorgeous. It excels in its energetic moments – such as the stuttering lead ‘Emerald Rush’ – as well as its more tender ones, such as on the subdued closer ‘Recovery’.
Listen to ‘Emerald Rush’
17. Robyn – Honey
I am, and always will be, a sucker for a good pop song. Luckily, Honey has nine of ’em. The latest release from Robyn is just fantastic pop music from start to finish, featuring zero low points in its runtime. While love has been sung about in thousands of songs before, Robyn has a knack for making it sound like she’s the only one who’s ever experienced it.
Listen to ‘Honey’
16. MGMT – Little Dark Age
Following up their divisive self-titled album, in many ways, it feels like MGMT have gone back to basics on this release. And it works. Each of the songs featured on Little Dark Age radiates its own sense of personality, from the darkly gothic title track to the smartphone-critiquing ‘TSLAMP’. (Read the full review)
Listen to ‘Little Dark Age’
15. Low – Double Negative
How often does a band drop an album as good as this one over 25 years into their career? Double Negative conjures up its own little world, blending the band’s usual repertoire of instruments with some fuzzed-out and often tense electronics. It has a dazed, weary quality to it – like wandering through a lucid dream.
Listen to ‘Always Trying to Work It Out’
14. LUMP – LUMP
Somehow Laura Marling just seems to get better with every project. Last year’s Semper Femina was one of my favourite releases of 2017, but LUMP – a collaborative album with Mike Lindsay of Tunng – might be even better. The album is more playful and eclectic than anything she’s released before, both musically and lyrically. Each of its six tracks is gorgeously strange in its own way.
Listen to ‘Curse of the Contemporary’
13.Ty Segall –Freedom’s Goblin
In terms of artists who released a prolific amount of albums in 2018, this year belonged to Ty Segall. Of the five albums he dropped through the year, Freedom’s Goblin is my favourite. Almost his White Album, it dives into a wide variety of genres and styles across its hour-plus runtime (with colossal 12-minute closer ‘And, Goodnight’) and yet it all fits together so well. A collection of experiments where just about all of them pay off. (Read the full review)
Listen to ‘My Lady’s On Fire’
12. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts have been around for a little while now, but it feels like they’re only just getting the recognition they deserve with Wide Awake! The album is stacked with great songs, blending clever political lyrics with the band’s usual slacker-rock sound.
While I loved many of the band’s previous albums, everything just feels that little bit sharper here. The band feel like they’re at the top of their game on Wide Awake! and it’s going to be exciting to see where they go next.
Listen to ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience’
11. Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
Ezra Furman has quietly been delivering killer album after killer album over the past ten years or so, and Transangelic Exodus might be his most impressive project yet. An allegorical concept album, focusing on Furman and his (literal) angel lover going on the run from the government, it’s bursting with personality and cleverness.
The songs here are all fantastic on there own – from punchy opener ‘Suck the Blood from My Wound’ to the joyfully lighthearted closer ‘I Lost My Innocence’ – but together they form something much more powerful. It’s a bold and creative celebration of queerness as well as a plain-good rock album.
Listen to ‘Suck the Blood From My Wound’
10. Pusha T – DAYTONA
The buzz surrounding DAYTONA when it was released was inescapable. The first album released as part of Kanye West’s GOOD Summer series, it’s also the best one. While Kanye seemingly becomes more unlikeable with every public appearance, here he excels behind the scenes as a producer, his production matching perfectly with Pusha T’s hard-hitting lyrics.
With its brief runtime of 21 minutes, there’s no room for filler on it and every track absolutely pops. DAYTONA is truly an album for the digital age – encouraging you to put it on loop, listening to it again and again and again.
Listen to ‘If You Know You Know’
9. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
The opposite of DAYTONA in terms of length, Bottle It In is every bit as impressive. While Kurt Vile’s signature laid-back indie-folk sound hangs over the album as a whole, he delves into a number of different styles throughout it. There are straight-up rockers like ‘Loading Zones’ and ‘Check Baby’ and more tender, vulnerable songs like ‘Mutinies’.
Where the album succeeds most though is its longer, hazier moments like ‘Bassackwards’ and the title track. With their looping instrumentation and simple yet evocative lyrics, they’re the sort of songs you can’t help but lose yourself in. (Read the full review)
Listen to ‘Bassackwards’
8. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
What can I say about Mitski that hasn’t already been said? In a discography full of stunning releases (check out Puberty 2 if you haven’t already) Be the Cowboy feels like the artist’s most powerful statement yet.
The album is filled with short but striking tracks, each of them conjuring up a sketch of a troubled relationship. ‘Washing Machine Heart’ and ‘A Pearl’ each build themselves around brilliant central metaphors, ‘Geyser’ explodes with as much emotion as its title suggests and ‘Nobody’ is the perfect loneliness anthem. Each of these songs is filled with more emotion than some full albums are, and that’s a mighty achievement.
Listen to ‘Nobody’
7. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
A remake of the most iconic album from Will Toledo’s vast Bandcamp back catalogue, Twin Fantasy is not technically made up of new songs… But they’re overhauled heavily enough that I think it should count as a new release.
On it, Car Seat Headrest continue to make a strong argument for why indie rock is very much not dead. Tracks like ‘Sober to Death’ and ‘Bodys’ show off Toledo as a singular voice, with his lyrics being incredibly honest and revealing. The album’s most striking moments though are the two behemoth songs that sit at its beginning and end – ‘Beach Life-In-Death’ and ‘Famous Prophets (Stars)’. Each shifting through multiple phases during its runtime, these are the sorts of songs that Toledo truly excels at crafting. (Read the full review)
Listen to ‘Bodys’
6. Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance.
While Idles’ 2017 release Brutalism was a fantastic punk album, Joy as an Act of Resistance. definitely feels like something more significant. The band blend together some truly crushing instrumentals with the central theme of self-love. Songs like ‘Great’ and ‘Television’ tell the listener to accept themselves for who they are: ‘If someone talked to you the way you talked to you, I’d put their teeth through’.
Pretty much every song on the album lands, and it’s remarkable just how good it is considering Brutalism was only released last year. From slow-burning opener ‘Colossus’ to pro-immigration anthem ‘Danny Nedelko’, Joy as an Act of Resistance. is filled with moments that will stick with me for a while to come.
Listen to ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’
5. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy was arguably one of the most talked about albums of last year. It was a gargantuan, sprawling album in which the singer-songwriter pondered on politics, religion, technology, society and just about every other big topic. It ended up being divisive and, in my opinion, a bit too much. While there are some fantastic songs buried in Pure Comedy, the whole thing was too self-indulgent for its own good.
God’s Favourite Customer, in comparison, is a breath of fresh air. It’s received much less fanfare than Tillman’s last album, but it’s stronger in just about every way. Instead of looking outward, it’s much more introspective, focusing on his estrangement from his wife as well as his struggles with depression. Half the length of Pure Comedy, it’s more concise and every track shines.
Listen to ‘Please Don’t Die’
4. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
Pop music doesn’t get much better than I’m All Ears.
The second album from pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma is full of songs that twist, transform and challenge the listener. Take lead single ‘Falling Into Me’. Incorporating prog elements, the song forgoes the typical verse-chorus-verse structure, constantly shifting and changing as it moves along. The song must go through at least four or five phases in its six minutes, but they all fit together seamlessly.
The other great moments on I’m All Ears act similarly. The album’s two longest tracks – ‘Cool & Collected’ and ‘Donnie Darko’ – which sit at its end are particularly stunning, extrapolating what ‘Falling Into Me’ does into ten-minute lengths. It’s difficult to pull off a long song that doesn’t get dull halfway through but Let’s Eat Grandma manage it effortlessly. It’s impossible not to get excited about where these two are going to go next.
Listen to ‘Falling Into Me’
3. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
Following a pair of killer EPs released in 2016 and 2017, Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever’s debut album doesn’t disappoint.
I mentioned earlier than I’m a sucker for a good pop song and, well, the same is true for a straight-up indie rock album. The band manage to do everything right on Hope Downs – the songs are punchy and energetic, and the lyrics shine with their own sense of personality. The album hits the ground running with ‘An Air Conditioned Man’ and doesn’t really slip up once from there.
Rolling Blackouts don’t really reinvent the wheel, but not every album has to. I’ve heard plenty of albums this year that have strived for a similar sound to this one – many from bands that have been around for a while – and it’s just great to hear an act get it right. As with Let’s Eat Grandma, it’ll be interesting to see where these guys go next, but I’m more than happy for them to keep doing they do on Hope Downs.
Listen to ‘Talking Straight’
2. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
Narrowing this list down to just 25 albums was difficult in itself, but choosing an order was even harder. In the end, I decided it made sense to put the albums I had on repeat most throughout 2018 at the top… And yeah, Dirty Computer was one of those albums.
The first half of this album, in particular, is immaculate. Every song flows into the next one seamlessly and yet each one has its own distinct personality, from the Prince-inspired ‘Make Me Feel’ to the feminism-infused ‘Pynk’ and ‘Django Jane’, which features some fantastic rapping from the singer/actress. It shows off Monáe as a stunning jack-of-all-trades, able to shift into any genre she chooses.
Dirty Computer is just a great pop album through-and-through. Listening to it, it’s not surprising that Prince had a hand in the album, with it tight, consistent quality reminding me of some his best albums (Purple Rain, Sign ‘O’ The Times, etc.) The album may not be particularly boundary pushing, but it succeeds so well at everything it tries its hand at that it’s impossible not to love.
Listen to ‘Pynk’
1. Beach House – 7
It’s been a running joke with Beach House for a while that they never really change up their sound. Across their first six albums, they hovered around the same dream pop style, making small tweaks here and there… And it was never really a problem because they were just so good at that sound.
All that said though, it’s the fact that they have switched things up that makes 7 so fantastic. Songs like ‘Dark Spring’ and ‘Dive’ show the band pushing out of their comfort zone further than they ever have before, experimenting with new sounds and styles. Even when the band play it safe, the results are nothing less than gorgeous; tracks like ‘Pay No Mind’ and ‘Lose Your Smile’ could easily slip onto Bloom or Depression Cherry.
The album is also just so damn consistent. While Beach House has long been one of my favourite bands, this might be the first album they’ve released where every track is a stunner. Songs like ‘Lemon Glow’ and ‘Drunk in LA’ sit among their best, painting moods unlike any other band I know is capable of.
7 is the best album that Beach House have released so far, and that’s saying something for a band with such an impeccable discography. I can’t think of any other artist who’s been so consistently good for so long.
Listen to ‘Drunk in LA’