In a year filled with high profile flops and music made to be meme’d there were fewer full-length projects that were truly considered great from start to finish, but today I think we’ve got the 40 most scrumptious and Tasty! albums of the year.
So without further ado, here are The 40 Best Albums of 2018:
40. Anderson. Paak – Oxnard39. Superorganism – Superorganism38. Nick Dorian – Planet Stardom37. SiR – November36. Denzel Curry – TA130035. Two Feet – A 20 Something Fuck34. Various Artists – Black Panther: The Album33. Two Another – Another Tape32. Aminé – ONEPOINTFIVE31. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs30. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino29. JID – Dicaprio 28. Travis Scott – Astroworld27. MUTO. – Arcane26. Gorillaz – The Now Now25. Maségo – Lady Lady24. Yves Tumor – Safe in the Hands of Love23. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence22. MGMT – Little Dark Age21. J. Cole – KOD20. Tierra Whack – Whack World19. Mitski – Be The Cowboy18. A$AP Rocky – Testing17. The Internet – Hive Mind16. Kanye West – Ye15. Beach House – 714. Saba – CARE FOR ME13. Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt12. Vince Staples – FM!11. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
10. Joji – BALLADS 1
For someone who was once known as the ever insane Filthy Frank, credited for inventing the viral Harlem Shake, and frequently seen donning a pink full-body onesie, the transition into “Joji” wasn’t exactly guaranteed to work. But on his debut album George Miller takes you through his dark world of downtempo Trap music, rhythmically mumbling his way from each track to the next, burying his past and transforming into Joji during the process.
The heavy distortion on the album’s opener, the properly named “ATTENTION”, sets the tone for the eleven tracks that follow it. BALLADS 1 wasn’t made for the happy-go-lucky people of this world, frequently playing off of themes of loneliness and depression, Joji capitalizes on his own inner demons. Taking clear inspiration from artists like Lil Peep and Corbin (FKA Spooky Black), the album’s darkness, much like Joji’s own, is inescapable.
9. Vacationer – Mindset
Music aside, 2018 was, frankly, pretty shitty, so I felt a little Vacationer was well needed. This album doesn’t ask to be analyzed or meticulously studied, just enjoyed. That being said, it doesn’t mean we can’t analyze it just a little.
From start to finish Vacationer sets out to take you on a trip. With graceful, fairy-like synths acting as the bedrock throughout many of the songs you’ll get that lifted, floating feeling while listening. The album isn’t all breezy, easy listening though, at the halfway point on “Turning” the song completely flips on its head, surely sending any psychedelically “enhanced” listeners turning with it. The musical intricacy is clear but refined, giving the listener a sense of simplicity in the music without sacrificing the experimental nature of psychedelic music. It makes it that much more impressive how Vacationer is able to keep such a calm and relaxed feel throughout the album whilst also abruptly shifting tempo and taking risks within their musical experimentation.
8. Ben Khan – Ben Khan
Ben Khan’s self-titled debut album is an experimental journey through sound. Khan, who’s drawn many comparisons to Jai Paul and his Paul Institute, utilizes a unique, show stopping sound that you just don’t hear very often. Ben Khan has an intentionally unfinished feel to it, like on “ruby1strecording”, which is literally just a shortened early version of another song on the album. His vocals are often whisper-like against the hard backdrop of the heavy bass he has extended throughout the vast majority of songs on the album, and it works — it all works.
The pounding sound of the drums on every track is almost overwhelming but without it the songs would sound somewhat parse with nothing but a pulsating synth to carry the rhythm. And while Khan’s debut may not be on the same level as his counterpart’s infamous and, supposedly, leaked self-titled debut in 2013 just the fact that he’s drawing comparisons to Jai Paul at all is a cosign on his skill.
7. Cautious Clay – Blood Type
Cautious Clay burst onto the scene in 2017 with his single “Cold War” which carried its success all the way through 2018 and undoubtedly, based on how often it’s on the radio still, into 2019. In February he quietly released this seven song project to little fan fair but I certainly took note. Clocking in at just twenty minutes, Clay manages to express a variety of different emotions in the short time. The themes are heavy, talking about one’s self identity, balancing relationships, and mental health, to name a few, but Clay’s music never feels “dark”, just emotional.
His angelic voice beckons through the sky on songs like “Joshua Tree,” which will certainly have you feeling some type of way. The drawn out holds before the crash, which seem to have already become a staple for Clay, provide a perfectly sparse background for him to belt out a note, and he knows this, taking full advantage of each break in the noise. There’s often very little going on in each of his songs but sonically it feels overpowering and direct. His voice has this presence to it that makes his music feel like it was made for royalty, godly even. His grace is undeniable, I mean, not just anybody can use a pitched-down cowbell as the driving force behind a radio smash like “Cold War” but Cautious Clay managed to do just that.
6. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
In a year full of turmoil and scandal for Kanye West he still managed to have the most productive summer I’ve ever seen. He, mostly singlehandedly, released five albums, several singles, and countless features over the course of three months — even BROCKHAMPTON can’t match that. Of all of his releases the most heavily anticipated was, by far, his collaborative project with Kid Cudi, titled KIDS SEE GHOSTS.
The album was third in line of Kanye’s other G.O.O.D. Summer releases, following Pusha T’s DAYTONA and Kanye’s own Ye. Pusha, not Kanye or Cudi, takes the lead on the intro before Kanye comes in with his now signature baby-gargle noises and shockingly hard hitting drums. The record plays as more of a Cudi album with it’s gloomy and existential tones, ending on the appropriately titled “Cudi Montage.” But Kanye’s production work is not overshadowed here as he’s at his absolute best on songs like “Freeee” and the title track “Kids See Ghosts.” Unfortunately, the album, and most of Kanye’s music from this year, were overshadowed by Kanye’s other antics, like the TMZ interview and meeting with Trump, resulting in many leaving it off their year-end lists entirely. It is interesting though how quickly people are able to “cancel” a man with self-acknowledged mental issues, picking and choosing when it is beneficial for them to like or dislike a certain individual purely based on social pressure and online headlines. Yet, still, many of those same people, who just months before declared Kanye “cancelled”, joined me for KIDS SEE GHOSTS’ debut performance at Camp Flog Gnaw, discussing their recent emergence of disdain as the set time approached and the decision to forgo their rage to see Kanye and Cudi on stage together again and, hopefully, “Feel The Love.”
5. Matt DiMona – JUNO
Matt DiMona is a man trying to break out of his own head. On JUNO he takes us on an emotional journey through his mind, showing off some of his most intricate and personal memories. The project is presented in a very nonchalant way, embracing the personal feel by having the track list read as if it were written in a journal, varying between proper capitalization, all lower case lettering and all capitalized type. Even the visual companion to the album is also just VHS-like handheld shots from across Malibu, furthering the homemade presence of JUNO.
Opening with “Depressed In LA” the lo-fi yet upbeat feel of the song, as well as the title, sets the tone for the album to follow. The events DiMona describes occurring on JUNO are almost entirely within his own mind and could take place throughout the course of a single day. The album does tell a story of growth in ways; Matt says fuck it all on “I DON’T EVEN CARE ANYMORE” but does a complete about-face by the end of the album, closing out with “the beauty of it all.” He is constantly fighting with himself, like on “come down!” when he says “How’d I get so high?/ But I feel so low/ At the same damn time” he’s forever in a battle with his own feelings. Overall, the homemade, lo-fi, yet still incredibly catchy and repeatably playable album displays the thought-invoking journey of a day in the life of a depressed musician living in the city of broken dreams.
4. Jerry Folk – Leisure Tapes
Technically this is an EP, but in the year of seven-song albums I’d say Jerry Folk’s Leisure Tapes makes the cut to be considered for this list. He just has a special way with sounds. He’s able to do things with sound that you’d probably normally find annoying but on Leisure Tapes seem magical. Each song feels tied together yet drastically different from one another and when the album (EP, whatever) reaches its halfway point it hits a mood transition that brings the energy down and gets intrapersonal.
It’s a quick yet cohesive project that asks you to do nothing but follow the guidelines of the final track and just “Give In.” Folk creates a vibe that, whilst calming and peaceful, is also unpredictable and erratic, resulting in some crazy tracks that some may find overwhelming, others, incredible. The repetition on “Bakers” challenges you to stay invested in the music and the fuzzy, 70’s synths that carry on throughout the record only work when countered with the rest of Folk’s production and overall presence.
3. Pusha T – DAYTONA
“Rap album of the year”, a phrase commonly heard exclaimed by Push in 2018, and, rightfully so. In a year of massively high-profile releases from the likes of Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, JAY Z and Beyoncé, Cardi B, Post Malone, Eminem, and his mentor and DAYTONA’s producer Kanye West, King Push managed to glide above them all.
The album seamlessly flows from one song to the next and Ye proves that his production skills are still second to nome. The album’s short runtime begs for repeated listens and it’s well deserved, I named it the best of Kanye’s five albums from his G.O.O.D. Summer releases.
If DAYTONA was the main course then “The Story of Adidon” was the fucking crème brûlée. The album, “Adidon”, and the rap beef with Drake that followed it, was an aggressive about-face from the long, overdrawn, and otherwise safe and boring records of 2018 that all played as cannon fodder for Pusha.
2. Verzache – Thought Pool
There seems to be this unwritten rule that “Best Album” lists can’t include non-commercial releases. Well, fuck that; Verzache made something magnificent and it needs its due praise.
On Thought Pool he effortlessly blends together genres to create something that could be best described as a brand of Acoustic Trap. He’ll trick you into thinking you’re listening to James Bay before suddenly dropping in a beat fit for a Travis Scott song. His music brings a sleepy mood with it but never ceases to feel energized throughout the quick 26 minute runtime. It’s clear that each song is meticulously crafted, with decadent amounts of vocal layering, ambient, overpowering bass, and a clean-cut acoustic guitar or ukulele on top of it all, you’ll be surprised how well Verzache manages to blend it all together. I could spend hours talking about Thought Pool but, seriously, just go listen to it and get lost in your own sea of thought.
1. Mac Miller – Swimming
Yeah, and don’t you dare say it’s just because he died. It’s my favorite album of the year, context aside. I haven’t been able to bring myself to listen that often since his passing but Swimming was an everyday endeavor for me throughout the month of September.
Mac showed immeasurable growth on this album that only made his passing that much harder. Each track on the record is packed with emotion and Mac’s sincerity is undeniable. His lyricism creates vivid imagery of a man stuck inside his own head and paints an even eerier picture knowing how it all played out. The downtempo, sparse and minimalistic feel of the album truly frames Mac as if it’s him against the world as his scraggly voice weaves through John Mayer’s solos and Thundercat’s slaps. Mac was never known for his singing but he sings more on this album than he’s ever done before, only further demonstrating his maturity as an artist. Opening with the now prophetic “Come Back to Earth” Mac starts off the album by singing over an ambient and continuously building string ensemble with hints of funk tossed in before coming right in with the counter-punch that is “Hurt Feelings.” It’s almost as if Mac is telling you “I’m not going to do what you expect me to do” before taking another left turn and breaking into the vibe-filled funk single that is “What’s The Use?.” From start to finish the album rewards you with surprises as Mac stretches and mashes genres together so often that referring to him as simply a “rapper” becomes an insult.
He loved music, he loved making music, and this album was the epitome of that; the musical representation of throwing away the bad vibes, politics, beefs, relationships, addictions, and just swimming through it all.