From a summer full of iconic hip-hop albums to artists who squeezed their albums into the last few weeks of the year, 2018 brought a lot to the table, musically. It’s hard to narrow a list down to the top 10, especially with artists still scheduled to release more new music before January rolls around. But without further ado, here are the best 10 albums of 2018.
10. “Clean” – Soccer Mommy
This album serves as the true groundbreaker for Sophie Allison, better known by her stage name, Soccer Mommy. Her lo-fi guitar mixed with her soft voice makes for a complete vibe of an album. This album is easy listening yet so much more. With songs reminiscent of the late ’90s music scene such as “Cool,” she shows her versatility by pushing her vocal range to its limits. This album also features what is quite possibly her best song yet, “Your Dog,” where Allison sings bada- – lyrics over an infectious guitar and bass line.
9. “The Now Now” – Gorillaz
After a long hiatus, Gorillaz released its 2017 album “Humanz” and regained the attention of listeners. After showing new sides with incredible features on that album, the band outdid itself with its 2018 album “The Now Now.” This album sounds unlike anything else by the band members, as they dip their toes in the water of a much more relaxed sound. The opening track “Humility” is a perfect kickstart for the album to let fans know that they’re exploring new sounds. Perhaps the best track on the album is “Sorcererz,” which unleashes the band’s ability to tap into its funk/psychedelic vibes.
8. “Thought Pool” – Verzache
One of the most underrated albums of the year comes from an equally underrated artist. Zach Farache, better known by his stage name “Verzache,” provides listeners with his own handcrafted aesthetic on this album. Songs like “Some things” and “Kick it” show the young producer’s ability to create atmospheric, calming sounds that are comparable to artists such as “Washed Out.” But these same songs that are calming are upbeat at the same time. Verzache’s sound is so unique because of his ukelele combined with his production skills and his voice which is somewhat similar to Joji or even Lil Peep. Verzache is definitely the sleeper pick of the year.
7. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” – Arctic Monkeys
After a long wait since their 2013 album AM, Alex Turner and his band the Arctic Monkeys threw their fans a curveball this year. “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” is not your typical Arctic Monkeys album. With this record, the group experiments with longer tracks and more improvisation. It also seems like they decided to trust frontman Turner’s voice more, which was a good idea because it carries the album. Turner has moments on this album where he sounds like a crooner or a ballroom jazz singer. One of the best songs on the album, “Four out of Five,” has Turner’s voice sounding so similar to David Bowie’s “Young Americans” that it’s uncanny.
6. “Ye” – Kanye West
With as much controversy as Kanye West caused in 2018, he might have made up for some of it with the music he released. The 2016 album “Life of Pablo” is undoubtedly a tough act to follow, but West proved his determination and then some throughout 2018 releasing “Ye,” as well as producing “Kids See Ghosts” with Kid Cudi and producing “Daytona” for Pusha T. “Ye” features seven tracks that flow perfectly one right after another. The opening track “I Thought About Killing You” serves as a tremendous opening for the album. Tracks two and three, “Yikes” and “All Mine,” were arguably the most successful while tracks four through seven show Kanye’s R&B side more than his rap roots. “Ye” served as a summer staple and will likely age well like the rest of his music.
5. “Vacation In Hell” – Flatbush Zombies
This rap trio is one of the most underrated groups in hip-hop. Its second full length album “Vacation in Hell” proves why the group deserves more attention. This massive, 19-song record has features from prominent rap artists like Joey Bada$$ and A$AP Twelvyy, yet it’s the group’s own members that make it one of the best albums of the year. Antonio Lewis, better known as Zombie Juice, and Erick Elliot, better known as The Architect, show their flows with supreme verses on “Vacation,” “Big Shrimp,” “Crown” and several other tracks. But what makes this band so unique is its third member, Dimitri Simms or Meechy Darko. Meechy’s voice is scratchy, rough and rugged, and his lyrics fit perfectly with his style. His talents are best shown on the track “Headstone,” where he raps the chorus as well as his own iconic verse that closes the song out.
4. “TESTING” – A$AP Rocky
At this point, Rakim Mayers, known as A$AP Rocky, has asserted his dominance in the hip-hop world. But his third studio album “TESTING” only solidified his role as one of the top rappers right now. The album yielded two massive hits in “Praise the Lord” and “A$AP Forever, which samples artist Moby’s “Porcelain” so tastefully while adding verses from Kid Cudi and Rocky for a unique sound. Rocky also shows his diversity with the track “Kids Turned Out Fine,” where he plays with voice distortion to complement his verses and his sing-songy voice which is so uncharacteristic of him. This 15-song album that ends with a beautiful feature from Frank Ocean is an immediate staple for the genre.
3. “Daytona” – Pusha T
In what many critics are calling his biggest year yet, Pusha T surpassed all expectations people had of him. And when Kanye West is producing your entire album, you’ve got a lot going for you already. But while Kanye’s production does not go unnoticed on this album, Pusha T’s flows and lyrics are truly what makes this album so great. Kanye’s sampling will always make for a good song, like in “Come Back Baby,” where West so stylistically utilizes George Jackson’s “I Can’t Do Without You.” But it’s tracks like “What Would Meek Do?” which Kanye also raps on that truly bring Pusha T to the spotlight and showcase his unmatched talents. The album also starts with a very upbeat “If You Know You Know,” which ended up being one of the most successful tracks of the summer. This album just has hit after hit and leaves everyone wanting more after the seventh song ends.
2. “Swimming” – Mac Miller
It is all too sad that Malcolm McCormick, better known as Mac Miller, passed away so young this year, especially because he left the world with one hell of a project. This album is perfect from beginning to end. Miller grabs the listener’s attention immediately with a track that is unlike anything he has released before. “Come Back to Earth” is peaceful and beautiful, and it tells the listener right off the bat that this isn’t the young frat boy rap that Mac Miller’s career was built on, but rather an experimental side that he is exploring. He basically sings the modern-day blues on the track saying, “My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send.” The rest of the album is just as experimental, yet it still features a beat that is nearly impossible not to latch onto. Two of the best songs on this album are completely different from each other, which further proves that Miller was just scratching the surface on a whole area of music he had yet to truly tap into. “Self Care” begins with a modern trap-like beat and classic rap flow yet transforms into an atmospheric aesthetic that again sounds like new territory for Miller. The album’s second to last song “2009” is a heartbreaking piano track infused with strings and Mac Miller’s true poetic side. He is in his rawest form on this track, and the artist even made it more raw shortly before his untimely death by performing a stripped down version of the track on NPR’s Tiny Desk segment.
1. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” – The 1975
After making its incredibly devoted fanbase wait more than two years for its third full album, fans of The 1975 will be the first to tell you that it was worth the wait. This album is not only the best, but the most timely album of the year. This album is an outlier from the group’s first two for a few reasons, but primarily it is unique because it is the first album following frontman Matty Healy’s recovery from a heroine addiction. Much of the album’s content relates to that, but the theme of the album is somewhat of an opposition to many modern aspects of society. Healy questions technology and what the future will hold with several of the tracks on this album. Track eight, “I Like America & America Likes Me,” revolves around the issue of gun control and features powerful lyrics from Healy about the topic such as “I’m scared of dying, it’s fine,” and “Kids don’t want rifles. They want Supreme,” referring to the popular brand. But the main reason that this album falls at the top of the list for the entire year is because it features the best song of the year, “Love it If We Made It.” This song was released as a single over the summer and its quick-paced witty lyrics mixed with the infectious sound of The 1975’s instruments make it unmatched for song of the year. The song builds with each verse and erupts after the second chorus into a full on power ballad. Each new line out of Healy’s mouth tops the one before it. He tackles so many pressing issues in society in not just this one song, but the entire album. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” makes for more than just an audibly enjoyable listen. Its content about drug use, politics and modern societal problems make it one of the more important albums to listen to.