- Words Ryan Cahill
- Words Joey Crutchley
We hand-pick the best albums of the year.
2018 is drawing to a close, and what a year it’s been. We’ve been on the brink of Brexit, witnessed a Royal wedding and seen Azealia Banks almost ruin Elon Musk’s reputation via an unfruitful Grimes collab (aka the most gripping news story of the year). But what we’ve also seen is a lot of incredible musical talent worldwide making their mark on the biz, whether it was Spanish singer Rosalía’s frightfully good sophomore album or Cardi B claiming the crown as the undisputed Queen of Rap for Invasion of Privacy, it’s definitely been a year to remember.
To wrap up an epic year for music, we hand-pick our top ten albums that made the biggest impact on us (in no particular order!) – and you’re in for a few surprises.
SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides
By this point, SOPHIE needs no introduction. She’s a Grammy-nominated producer, she’s basically woman behind all of Charli XCX’s best tracks and has single-handedly changed the face of music with her seminal debut, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. It was provocative, transgressive and extremely experimental – just what 2018 had been lacking before it came along.
With her iconic look and her distinct count, it comes as no surprise that she’s nominated for a Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album of the year. She’s earned it!
Brockhampton – Iridescence
They claim to be the world’s biggest boyband since One Direction, and we think they’re right. Brockhampton were the LA-based collective that seemed to come from nowhere. Trailblazers of the LGBTQ community, openly-gay frontman Kevin Abstract has helped to deconstruct archaic beliefs that homosexuality doesn’t exist in rap music by openly spitting bars about his unconditional same-sex love and his open championing for gay equality. While most mainstream gay musicians shy away from using same-sex pronouns in their music, Brockhampton fully embrace and encourage it.
This year they released Iridescence, a self-produced album which was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London. Highlighting the hype surrounding them this year, the album peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Allegedly inspired by Radiohead’s Kid A, the 15-track album didn’t come easily to the collective. They allegedly binned two full albums that they’d made previously because they didn’t live up to the expectations that the lads were hoping to achieve.
Thom Yorke – Suspiria
Have you managed to see the film yet? If not, you should, it’s probably one of the most gruesome yet epic flicks of 2018. It’s moody, dark and delirious, with stellar performances from the likes of Mia Goth, Tilda Swinton and believe it or not, Dakota Johnson. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, Surpiria stands in start contrast to Call Me By Your Name, which earned him a Oscar nom for Best Director.
In a similar sense to CMBYN (which also had an Oscar nod for Best Original Song), Suspiria has made it the Academy Awards long list for the same accolade, this time for Thom Yorke’s haunting “Suspria” which is lifted off the overall soundtrack which Yorke himself scored and wrote. There seems no one more fitting the soundtrack the Suspiria remake than Yorke, whose melancholy and melodic musicality are central to all his work, both in Radiohead and via his solo career. For his Suspiria soundtrack album, he stuck to what he knew, with a similar sound to what we’ve heard before, but it was dark, demonic with weird joyous undertones, which was totally reflective of the film.
Lily Allen – No Shame
On her fourth album, No Shame, Brit pop star Lily Allen quite literally has No Shame. From divorce to depression to addiction, Lily fails to hold back; baring her soul on the 14 track album. While her first two albums were deliciously superlative pop accompanied with witty and colloquial lyricism, No Shame sees Allen again utilise on brutally honest lyrics while sonically housing delicate and soft production with skittering and flickering snares to cushion her pain and heartache.
Her raspy falsetto is at the forefront on haunting track Everything To Feel Something. Allen coos over a plodding bass line and glimmering electronic set up while Mark Ronson produced track Family Man sees Allen strip it back to just her voice and a guitar. The heartbreaking lyrics of My One are engulfed in a coat of shimmery and glorious synths while tracks such as Your Choice and Waste bring an element of colour to the somber album, as reggae influences bleed onto the track, Allen sings about unsatisfied love.
At 14 tracks and a running time of 51 Minutes. No Shame is both intense and honest. It’s a return to the ultra personal, blunt style of her debut album that catapulted her to fame and made her such an irresistible force nearly a decade ago, clearly Allen’s still got it. ~ Joey Crutchley
Tierra Whack – Whack World
On 30th May Philadelphia rapper and singer Tierra Whack dropped what she called a “visual auditory project.” Entitled Whack World the vibrant album / video is 15 tracks and 15 minutes long.
Each track is exactly one minute with the album flowing like espresso shots on a Monday morning, enriched with glorious hooks that unfortunately end abruptly as if somebody pressed skip on Spotify. The tracks shift from sassy to introspective to irritated to flirtatious. Some of them blend well together but the end result is you wanting more. The short and snappy tracks make it easier for you listen again and again and again, without ever getting bored.
With Whack World, Whack successfully challenges the idea of what an album is. Bringing forward – what albeit could be deemed confusing and infuriating – a different concept for an album. We’re in a climate of music where albums can be made by pretty much anybody; curated on streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud, all enriched with hand-picked specific singles. Whack however is seen to throw her middle finger in the air when it comes to defining what exactly her music is and how it should be perceived, and we can’t wait to see whats next. ~ Joey Crutchley
Mitski – Be The Cowboy
On her fifth studio album, Be My Cowboy, Japanese-American singer-songwriter Mitski strayed away from the extremely personal lyrics and distorted guitars that were evident on her last release; instead she created an album based entirely on narration, with Mitski adapting a persona of a, “very controlled icy repressed woman who is starting to unravel.”
Throughout the album, Mitski’s voice remains as hauntingly evocative, with the tracks tinged with themes of loneliness and nostalgia all while floating in a melancholic ambiance. Gnarly and gritty guitar riffs contrast with the nimble voice of the songstress herself. There are upbeat numbers, infused with disco elements as well as delicate piano ballads with just her soft vocals cooing throughout. Underneath the intricately beautiful melodies there hides an essence of rage and anger. Personal confessions of toxic and unrequited love are heard on tracks like “A Pearl” and “Old Friend”
With fourteen tracks complied into a mere 33 minutes (most of the tracks are in the two-minute rage) Be My Cowboy is short, sweet and snappy. It grasps the listener and plunges them into a world of contrasting emotions. It can be said that Mitski’s appeal is her emotionally driven lyricism and ability to tug at the heart strings. However with this album its much more than sadness and longing, it’s a story about hope, self-discovery and resilience. Even on the quietest moments on the record, Mitski has never sounded so loud, taking a strong ownership in her own identity. ~ Joey Crutchley
Florence + The Machine – High As Hope
For Florence’s fourth outing, the South London musician took a bit more of an adult contemporary approach to her iconic sound. High As Hope offers a stark contrast to her previous releases, with more frantic lyricism compared to her tight rhymes and riffs. It’s evident that her ever-burgeoning dedication to poetry was a key influence on the album – something which she cemented with the release of her very own poetry book, Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry.
The release of High as Hope also acts as a monumental moment for the band, bookmarking 10 years since the bands formation. It also allows for fans to look back and see the progression and different mindsets that Florence and Isabella have been in over the course of their career. While their debut Lungs was telling of the crazy and haphazard lifestyle that they were living at the time, High as Hope offers a sense of clarity and calm.
Joji – Ballads 1
For his debut album Japanese-Australian artist George Miller aka Joji allows listeners to take a ride with him as his soulful and emotion driven vocals ascend across lush yet grimy beats, seamlessly creating a fusion of folk, trap and electronic music. Though his sound is often regarded as bleak and emotional there are a few effective moments on the album that showcase Joji’s ability to not only write for those with broken hearts, but to those who want to dance away the pain. Can’t Get Over You is a brash and bright track, embedding funky guitar flicks and strings.
With the album entitled Ballads 1, the album lives up to the name. Feasting on slow and melancholic themes with spacious and eerie production, Joji’s soothing yet impactful vocals soar across the the 12 track album like a kite in the wind and we’re down for it. ~ Joey Crutchley
Kali Uchis – Isolation
Columbian-American artist Kali Uchis fully delivered with her eclectic and polished debut album Isolation. The album sees Uchis embark on a musical journey as she seamlessly fuses through R&B and Latin-tinged pop alongside her cleverly sophisticated songwriting. While Uchis has been lingering outside of mainstream music for a while now, collaborations with an array of artists such as Katyranda, Tyler The Creator, Snoop Dog and The Gorillaz enabled Uchis to garner fans worldwide and release a few standalone singles as well as a nine-track EP.
Her debut album however cements Uchis as one of the most prominent and fresh voices in music today. The album utilizes on memorable bass lines and sticky hooks all encompassed with witty and intelligent lyricism. At 15 tracks and a running time of 46 minutes, Uchis’ craft for songwriting, sound and the regularly underrated art of album sequencing is evident. Like the album title states, Kali Uchis is definitely in her own lane in what can be deemed an exciting musical journey ahead. ~ Joey Crutchley
Cardi B – “Invasion of Privacy”
The Cardi hype had been building for quite a few months before she dropped her debut. After “Bodak Yellow” topped to Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for three weeks (making Cardi B only the 5th female rapper to achieve this), she was a firm favourite for Grammy success. The track eventually went on to be nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the Grammys.
The hype leading up to the release of her debut has been pretty much unrivalled this year – and it didn’t disappoint. Standout tracks “I Like It” and “Be Careful” helped to become a rap classic and solidified Cardi’s status as the new Queen of Rap, arguably de-throning Nicki Minaj to become the world’s most famous female rapper right now. It made history as the most streamed album by a female rap artist in it’s first week by amassing over 100 million streams. By the end of April, the Billboard Hot 100 chart included 13 of Cardi’s songs, claiming the record from Beyoncé.