What a year. I start every year off promising I will keep up with all kinds of music throughout the year. The end of summer / beginning of fall was one of the hardest and lowest points in my life. A lot of released music around that time slipped my ears until very recently. It’s never fun playing catch up on music the final weeks of 2018, but alas, here I am. All these considered, this is another list for album of the year picks from my own musical ear bias. To all my friends and clients, thanks again for a lovely year! To any of the bands or artists below, thanks for making this one a memorable one. I think this list has a ton of diversity and flows well as a movement of color and rhythm that help encapsulate the year for me.
1. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog | Saddle Creek
Oh Hop Along. I’ve rarely loved a band as much for their imaginative story telling in lyrics. The presence of this band is unmatched live. The sonic dips and crescendos that bend with Frances Quinlan’s unique voice are wrapped with the tight knit, creatively paved playing of every other member. The woven strands of the bellowing bass, the purposefully patterned drums and the sliding guitar licks that provide harmonious silhouettes to each number, everything is arranged perfectly. Topping my most played songs of this year, the songs off of Bark Your Head Off, Dog have resonated differently throughout the adventure of 2018. I still find ways to collapse within the delicacy of the tunes, coming to a full stop every time “Prior Things” takes over my headspace. The violins flutter wonderfully, slightly discordant in their circular rhythms. The slight bounce to Quinlan’s delivery in the final refrain have never left me, winding to an end full of a vocal beckoning and past the flutter.
And when you finally go
When you choose to go
I resume my little lower road
And nobody needs to know
Will know that I was only holding your place on this
Your little lower road
2. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer | Atlantic Records, Bad Boy Records, Wondaland Arts Society
If I could describe the 2010’s in a record, this is it. Dirty Computer is a fantastic display of social justice, R&B, pop and incredible sonic landscapes WITH a visual emotion picture component. This record has been my go to for everything this year, and the thematic components prove that Janelle Monae really is the goat of the music world.
3. Half Waif – Lavender | Cascine
One of the best conversations about music I had this year was with Nandi of Half Waif. There’s a wave length transmitted within the lush sound of Lavender that speaks to the core emotions of humans. The range of sounds on this record range from warm atmospheres to didactic, eclectic jabs. On top is the wonderful vocal performance wrapped together into one of the heart warming records of 2018.
4. Foxing – Nearer My God | Triple Crown Records
I recommended this record to a complete stranger and they told me they thought it sounded sad as we listened to two songs. Nearer My God rips the ideals of humans apart. Whether jumping off a balcony to a jarring piano ballad or swooning through the abandoned heart of a mall, Foxing lend a relatable, sharp and pulsing record that captures a plethora of moods and sounds.
5. Doe Paoro – Soft Power | ANTI- Records
Where would I be without Doe Paoro in my life? Soft Power is a record full of soul and boasting with decadent, seductive melodies on top of expertly queued musical progressions. This record is a symphony dancing through the background of life, like a movie soundtrack. The vocals of Sonia Kreitzer are more direct on this release, effortlessly weaving through the landscapes of orchestrated musicals with vigor, grace and power.
6. mewithoutYou – [Untitled] | Run For Cover Records
I have a friend who says “Frenetic energy Aaron is the best Aaron” and they are absolutely correct. The urgency of this mewithoutYou record screams wonders to the depths of intricacy layered into it. Of course, this mainstay of musicians finds ways to intelligently tear emotions out of listeners with their moving sways of wonder and whim.
7. Turnstile – Time & Space | Roadrunner Records
In your face, in your ear and in your personality, Turnstile are the epitome of passion in music right now. Their live energy is insane, their record production booms, slaps, fucks, whatever people say. Time & Space is one of my favorite records to spur a jolt of energy in me in the morning.
8. The Story So Far – Proper Dose | Pure Noise Records
The Story So Far became the needed rally cry for my life this fall. The group found a beautiful way to wed the strained, high end vocals with more sonically impressive progressions. There are a lot of repeating melodies that are extremely memorable. The openness of Parker on this record finds this to be the most relatable. I still wake up and sing “Keep This Up” regularly. This record hit the spot this year.
9. Brockhampton – iridescence | Question Everything, RCA Records
iridescence is my favorite pure hip hop record of this year because of the wild spaces it reaches. Brockhampton really pushed the artistry on this record to a new level. Each song has a wild twist, turn and bend that keeps everyone on their toes and sparring with the headphone jack for more.
10. Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses | Sargent House
Emma Ruth Rundle has been a mainstay on my end of the year lists every year she releases a record. She always climbs up to the top ten as I start adventuring through the year again. There’s something wonderful about On Dark Horses that spurs from the clever spurts of drums in the record. It kicks off immediately with the slow tumble of “Fever Dreams” and keeps finding a way to balance Rundle’s poignant lyrics and amorphous vocals beautifully.
11. Mitski – Be The Cowboy | Dead Oceans
Be The Cowboy is such a thrill ride to listen to. It’s short and thematic. The record flows beautifully together and it really makes for a more engaging listen. Plus, Mitski has incredibly deep metaphors that speak to the issues right in front of our faces.
12. Drug Church – Cheer | Pure Noise Records
The combinations of fuzzy, guitar driven melodies with strained, anthemic vocals blasting together makes this record a guttural champion of punk for 2018. This record has pulsing themes of movements constantly running together and it makes the head bobbin’ memorable; allowing the tunes to really seep and sink into your ears.
13. Dessa – Chime | Doomtree Records
Chime is such an interesting record. Dessa here had her brain analyzed to erase the sensations of her ex with chimes (thus the record). Imagine being so over the top in love that this is the way you get over it, and then write an absolutely beautiful record to go along with it.
14. Noname – Room 25 | Self-released
The rhymes, the flow and the jazz inspired beats really keep this record moving through my ears as 2018 comes to a close. The exhaustive spill out of Noname on this wonderful release tackle social issues, personal selves and trying to find an appeal in this world. Luckily, Room 25 is the only place I want to be most days.
15. Greyhaven – Empty Black | Equal Vision Records
Take an amalgamation of the best sounds and items of metallic hardcore and think. Sit there, close your eyes, let your pal start spinning Empty Black by Greyhaven.
16. CHVRCHES – Love Is Dead | Glassnote Entertainment Group LLC
I adore this record. At a time I really did not want to listen to music this record came sprawling through tripped out 80s big synths and pushed me on my feet. Not all of the songs are the absolute best, hell this may not even be the best CHVRCHES record, but it’s their most fun, memorable and approachable for me over and over. There’s something about the confidence in the movements, the simple plays on love and the warm sound that really brings me back.
17. Petal – Magic Gone | Run For Cover Records
Magic Gone is an emotional listen every single time. “Stardust” is a top 10 song of the year to really break down and cry to. Petal has always pushed my thinking in being self-reflective, and Magic Gone continues that streak. With a sweep of lovely bouncing music, this is one to remember forever. Thank you Petal.
18. Henry Green – Shift | Akira Records
I found this record from the show Sharp Objects. I remember being exhausted of listening to the same shit over and over and wanted to feel that gritty, raw black hole of emotions that the show previewed, but in music. This record is the exact opposite. It’s the kind of record that nothing else has to be going on to find yourself somewhere distant. I love getting away from my head to Henry Green. Definitely check this out.
19. Jon Hopkins – Singularity | Domino Recording Co ltd.
I remember exactly where I was when this album gripped me with its beautiful pop. The movements on Singularity are seismic. This could very well be the very record the sun puts on everyday to rise to a new day.
20. Tierra Whack – Whack World | Self-Released
15 songs. 15 minutes. Pure artistry. The video really helps capture the sound in a more complimentary visual way.
21. Laurel – DOGVIOLET | Counter Records
The more and more I listen to this record the more I find myself thinking this could be a sleeper hit for every person in the world. Its melodies collide beautifully and grab the listener in an emphatic way. The smooth vocals and the slight jazz pulses “Life Worth Living” & “South Coast” are constantly running with my fast paced, overly busy life and bringing me back down to earth to check myself. Is everything okay? Am I breathing? Is this an essential spot for my wellness?
22. Miya Folick – Premonitions | Interscope Records
The gripping, bouncing beats of Miya Folick combined with the severity of tender, carnal emotions is everything I wanted from a pop centric record. It’s not entirely bubbly, but the dissonance embedded with the ever watching lyrics is a wonderful distraught sense of human beauty.
23. Various Artists (Kendrick Lamar) – Black Panther Soundtrack | Aftermath Records, Interscope Records
One of the biggest movies of 2018. The biggest movie franchise of all time (Iron Man #17). The biggest names in hip-hop & R&B of all time. All on one soundtrack tying into the movie. Count me in. “All The Stars” is a phenomenal tune with a damned right catchy refrain that will not leave a top chart for a few years.
24. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs | Columbia Records
Earl has always provided me some sincere joy with the cryptic, introverted messages seeping through the poeticism. Always taking a bit of time to really unlock the different levels of deep thought, the more I revisit Some Rap Songs the more I think I understand where Earl is coming from, and that’s wild. This record is imaginatively witty.
25. Plini – Sunhead | Self-Released
This is the only record on here that is not a full length, but Plini always pushes my love for music outward in an extreme way. Watching the instrumentalist perform live brought me such joy earlier this year. It was an experience and I hear each note drip with a dazzling passion that I rarely hear in other projects similar to this.
26. Liza Anne – Fine But Dying | Arts & Crafts Productions
A record that details the experiences of living in Liza Anne’s body, this might be the most human record on this list. From the mental talks of living through panic attacks to the deep distraught presence of finding a way to love another, Liza Anne boldly wrote one of the most shockingly relatable records of 2018.
27. Black Thought – Streams Of Thought Vol. 2 | Passyunk Productions
Recommended by my mentor teacher this year, this hip hop record has it all. It has incredulous lyrics, thick beats and a masterful stance that feels enigmatic. Plus, Black Thought has been providing intellectually for two decades now.
28. Meg Myers – Take Me To The Disco | 300 Entertainment
Meg Myers has this knack for creating the most memorable hooks. Ever since Sorry was released in 2015 I have been extremely appreciative of the brutal honesty provided by this individual. She’s a dazzling grace live and rocks her own style of focused, cutting tunes with a confident poise. She also has an extreme knack of creating tracks that are incredibly, incredibly fucking dark.
29. Haley Heynderickx – I Need to Start A Garden | Mama Bird Recording Co.
I’m pretty sure I stumbled onto this album accidentally early this year. The quiet yet quick to move chord structures of this record leap through different settings like a picture book. “The Bug Collector” is the perfect entry into this project and full of melodious aspects of the garden swarming the senses.
30. Cult Leader – A Patient Man | Deathwish Inc.
I’ve been a big fan of Cult Leader since the first EP to drop in 2014. Watching this heavy act blossom and find new ways to continue creating thoughtfully destructive art within wretched soundscapes earns an entry on the list for a continued consistency.
Honorable Mentions: Annihilation Soundtrack – Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow; Historian – Lucy Dacus; Mental Knife – Hail The Sun, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love – Deafheaven, Wait For Live – Pianos Become The Teeth