It is that time of the year. 2018 was a terrific year for music, as I said in my Top 50 songs of the year list. But this was really a year for a diverse list of tremendous albums. So many, in fact, that I needed to at least mention 20.
I won’t waste your time with a longer intro than that, so here we go, my 20 best albums of 2018.
20.) Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt
19.) Swimming – Mac Miller
18.) Negro Swan – Blood Orange
17.) CARE FOR ME – Saba
16.) Room 25 – Noname
15.) Black Panther: The Album – Various Artists
14.) Double Negative – Low
13.) You Won’t Get What You Want – Daughters
12.) Veteran – JPEGMAFIA
11.) DAYTONA – Pusha T
10.) ASTROWORLD – Travis Scott
Travis Scott is one of the biggest names in rap music, and “ASTROWORLD” has been his most anticipated album by far. Luckily, it’s also his best, with Travis doing everything that has made him so great in the trap rap game. Being both an orchestrator and an impressive performer on the project, Travis brings together some of hip-hop’s biggest names in this excellently-produced, star-studded release.
9.) Trench – twenty one pilots
Coming off the duo’s least exciting project to date, “Blurryface,” my expectations were low when I first heard about this one. And man, were my expectations blown out of the water. “Trench” is the most cohesive, well-produced album Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun have made yet, with every song fitting beautifully into this deep backstory the pair has made. Even without the context, the songs are all incredibly catchy and the performances are excellent, making this one of the most accessible albums I heard this year.
8.) Cocoa Sugar – Young Fathers
A favorite of mine from early in the year, the Scottish group made an album that fails to exist in any genre. From the R&B “In My View” to the more in-your-face “Holy Ghost,” this album has tons of sounds to offer, and is a truly unique listening experience worth embarking on. You never really know where the group is going to go with their next song on this album, but rest assured, the direction is always something that pays off for them.
7.) Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae
Though this album came out all the way back in April, I never get it a fair listen until these past few months. And man, am I glad I did. “Dirty Computer” is an outstanding record from Janelle Monae, with gorgeous production to match her stunning vocals and impressive verses. Monae is great at pretty much everything she does, and when it comes to her music, this may just be her most impressive album yet, just from the amount of versatility she is able to put into the project from start to finish.
6.) Joy as an Act of Resistance. – IDLES
Punk rock is not known to be all that prevalent nowadays. IDLES might change that. “Joy as an Act of Resistance.” is as visceral and as exciting a listen of anything all year, and will get the blood flowing and the people revolting with enough listens. Starting with the slow build of “Colossus” and moving into absolute bangers with “I’m Scum” and “Danny Nedelko,” this project is full of the life and energy it needed to be. 10 points to Gryffindor, indeed.
5.) KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
Kanye West had his hands in quite a few albums this year, but none matched the heights he reached with Kid Cudi on the duo’s first collaborative project. As with all of Kanye’s albums in 2018, it is only seven songs, and lasts 24 minutes, but “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” feels anything but rushed. The production is dense and precise, and the performances from both Cudi and Kanye are some of the best the two have crafted in years. Every single song on this album is fantastic in its own way, and the ability for the duo to make an album like this that is so out of left field, yet so impressive, just shows the ability and chemistry that they both share late into their respective careers.
4.) A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975
I should note that this top four was unbelievably close, and I feel any of them are worthy of the top spot. But, in the order I ended up going with, The 1975’s best and most cohesive project lands at No. 4. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” isn’t simply impressive just because nearly every song on it is amazing, which is true. No, it goes past that, as this album showed just how many sounds and styles the band can move into and succeed in. From a trap-rap influenced cut to a jazz song toward the end, this is a bold move to a band so previously set in their ways, and it all worked for the better.
Matty Healy really impresses on the album, especially on both “Love It If We Made It,” which was one of the best songs of 2018, and “It’s Not Living,” which his first grand entrance to talking about his previous heroin addiction. The 1975 absolutely go for it on this record, and they are left with a masterful effort because of that.
3.) iridescence – BROCKHAMPTON
It was left to be seen how well America’s best boy band would hold up after losing core member Ameer Vann following his accusations. It turns out, they are better than ever, as “iridescence” could just be their best project to date. The Saturation trilogy is something that will hold forever as one of the most impressive six-month spans of any artist in recent memory, but to lose a major member and come back just as strong is incredibly impressive, and BROCKHAMPTON did that and more. The production takes a new, but improved look, and the lyrics are impressive from every core member. Merlyn Wood makes a huge jump to potentially become the group’s strongest member, and songs like “J’OUVERT,” “TONYA” and “NEW ORLEANS” all show the wide, WIDE range of sounds this group has just masterfully perfected in this album.
“iridescence” is a thrill ride that constantly surprises but consistently amazed, and it shows the group’s huge step forward following a controversial summer that could have caused a major regression.
2.) Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
Just coming short of the top spot is an album I would have never expected to be here. But that is simply how good Kacey Musgraves’ masterpiece album is. Moving in more of a pop direction than her previous country-focused efforts, and the result is one of the most fun listens of the year. There is something to be said about an album that just puts a smile on your face from start to finish, and that’s exactly what Musgraves pulls off here.
The acoustic instrumentals are terrific, but it is Musgraves’ innocence in her vocals and lyrics that really sell it all. This is especially prevalent in “Slow Burn,” “Butterflies” and my self-proclaimed bop of the year, “High Horse.” As far as solid albums from front to back, “Golden Hour” is that, and truly swept me off my feet on every listen since the first one.
1.) TA13OO – Denzel Curry
It just had to be Denzel Curry. For an artist whose other album I heard one time then forgot about, I wouldn’t have predicted we’d be here, but there’s no album more consistent, more ambitious and with more of a payoff than “TA1300.” This three-part album that falls more and more into darkness is 13 songs of pure genius on display.
The instrumentals are either hype or demented, whichever the song needs at a particular time, and Curry’s flows only improve as the project continues. The features all add to the album’s excellence, and for Curry to come up with a creative concept to surround these picture-perfect tracks only makes it better.
“CLOUT COBAIN” is the ultimate highlight, bringing both the impressive flow and dark, impressive lyricism from Curry, while tracks like “SUMO” and “PERCS” show how aggressive he can be when needed. Curry separates himself from all other artists with his mix of aggression with conscious lyrics, and with a style that is absolutely his own. This was the album I revisited the most, and the one I grew more in love with as the year went on.
It wasn’t an easy choice, but for consistency, passion and originality, “TA1300” was absolutely the right choice for the best album of 2018.