We recently concluded the grand countdown of Albumism’s 50 Best Albums of 2018 overall, and now it’s time to showcase our talented team of writers’ respective picks for their five favorite albums of the year. Even the most cursory scan of the selections presented below reveals just how unique and varied our staff’s musical tastes are, which certainly shines through all of our articles throughout the year.
Check out our choices and let us know what your favorite albums of 2018 are in the comments below!
Justin Chadwick (Albumism Founder & Editor-in-Chief)
An exquisitely configured paean to love and the vicissitudes that invariably come with it, Golden Hour finds the multidimensionally gifted Musgraves offering ample proof that her songwriting—and penchant for memorable melodies—is among the finest to behold across the expanse of contemporary music.
I’ve always felt most at ease with the world and my place within it during dawn and dusk, and now I’ve found the perfect soundtrack to further illuminate these golden hours of the day.
Arriving exactly when it was needed, Dirty Computer oozes pop sensibility, allied to a compelling and powerful critique of the state of the world. From the iconic swagger of “Django Jane” to the Princely strut of “Make Me Feel” via the euphoric, “fuck the world better” glee of “Screwed,” it made resistance sound fun and vital. The power of pop music to change the world writ large.
While there were incredibly great albums released in 2018, Dirty Computer was one that also felt like a true artistic triumph. Very few musicians have the massive imagination and song writing talent of Janelle Monáe, and she used these talents to create an entire universe of funk and soul with wild tales about gender, race, and sexuality. Monáe is a once in a century talent, and this album is another exciting world that she has created.
2. Dizzy Sunfist | Dreams Never End | Buy
3. Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers | Bought to Rot | Buy | Listen
4. Marmozets | Knowing What You Know Now | Buy | Listen
5. The Hell Yeah Babies | All the Things That You Believe | Buy | Listen
We’re in the second full year of the disastrous reign of Drumf, and with Everything’s Fine, Jean Grae and Quelle Chris capture these often troubling times perfectly. Through their raps, they convey equal parts despair, reflection, and humor when considering the dumpster fire that human existence has devolved into. But even while staring into the abyss, they champion the message of fighting against apathy and complacency.
2. Phonte | No News Is Good News | Buy | Listen
3. Jericho Jackson | Khrysis & Elzhi Are Jericho Jackson | Buy | Listen
4. Roc Marciano | Behold a Dark Horse | Buy | Listen
5. Blueprint | Two-Headed Monster | Buy | Listen
Often, Culture Club’s commercial prowess has been touted ahead of their actual skills as writers and musicians. With Life, the group proves that their success was far from an incidental fluke. Lyrically vital and musically vivid—all of it anchored by Boy George’s ever-soulful singing—Life allows the quartet to stand tall amid the rabble of today’s fickle popular music landscape.
Can an album released with a month to go in 2018 be called album of the year? It can when it is a brilliantly crafted genre-hopping exploration of guilt, addiction, love, recovery and modernity. Tune in. Download. Log off.
Royce bares his soul on his latest LP, giving fans the clearest view yet of the man behind the bars. He manages to tell compelling stories without sacrificing the elements of his music that have drawn in fans in the past. Royce's evolution after two decades in hip-hop is truly remarkable.
On the opening track of Tell Me How You Really Feel, Barnett sings the popular adage, “take your broken heart, turn it into art.” An apt sentiment for 2018, Barnett crafts flippant, feminist anthems with her signature bone-dry lyrics and killer guitar riffs.
Seductively lush and dripping with ‘80s-evoking synthpop romance, Infinity Mirror offers luminous accompaniment to dark glacial nights. If you don’t know Ryan James, the synesthetic mastermind behind Man Without Country, this breathtaking record is the perfect place to start.
Sadly, it’s now impossible to extricate this album from its creator’s passing, only one month after its release. But for anyone, like me, who may have previously given short-shrift to Malcolm “Mac Miller” McCormick’s music, his—and 2018’s—best album is a parting gift displaying what we’ll miss. “It is what it is, till it ain’t.”
Pusha T, Vince Staples, Cardi B, and Noname keep getting all the mainstream praise in hip-hop, but Lecrae continues to move the needle on his latest effort with Atlanta’s trap maestro, Zaytoven. The most groundbreaking quality about Let the Trap Say Amen is that it’s too church for the hood, but it’s too hood for the church.
So, for all the critics who say faith-based rap is “too preachy” and “one-dimensional,” you’re gonna have to search for new nits to pick if Lecrae keeps whipping up bangers like “Get Back Right,” “Only God Can Judge Me,” and “Blue Strips.”
2. Andy Mineo | Chapter 1: The Arrow EP | Buy
3. The Internet | Hive Mind | Buy | Listen
4. Kids See Ghosts (Kanye West & Kid Cudi) | Kids See Ghosts | Buy | Listen
5. Kamasi Washington | Heaven and Earth | Buy | Listen
The great thing about good music is that it can touch on completely universal sentiments, in this case, Be The Cowboy touches on the different love stories we experience, the different heartbreaks, those moments that make our hearts swell, each unique in their own way and development of course, but also so similar--each love story is someone new and another chance to reflect on ourselves and to grow, whether that’s with that new person, or within ourselves.
Mitski proves she’s a top-tier songwriter in Be The Cowboy, with her lyrics being simple, yet sharp; poetic and sincere; raw and generous--all of this is then tied together with fuzzy, distorted guitars, bubblegum dance beats and all of this, is brilliant.
2. Parquet Courts | Wide Awake! | Buy | Listen
3. Courtney Barnett | Tell Me How You Really Feel | Buy | Listen
4. The Decemberists | I’ll Be Your Girl | Buy | Listen
5. Interpol | Marauder | Buy | Listen
Marco Polo sets out to reestablish the traditional sound of the rugged New York City borough of Brooklyn, by scoring the brilliant storytelling of the revered lyricist Masta Ace. Together, the duo craft the most compelling audio drama of the year.
2. Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge | The Midnight Hour | Buy | Listen
3. Apollo Brown & Joell Ortiz | Mona Lisa | Buy | Listen
4. Skyzoo | In Celebration of Us | Buy | Listen
5. Ella Mai | Ella Mai | Buy | Listen
By no means is this a lifetime achievement pick. Bettye LaVette's voice screams of experience and a soulfulness you rarely hear today. In 2018, the world needs more of this. I sure do.
2. Tracey Thorn | Record | Buy | Listen
3. Neneh Cherry | Broken Politics | Buy | Listen
4. Santigold | I Don't Want: The Gold Fire Sessions | Buy | Listen
5. Janelle Monáe | Dirty Computer | Buy | Listen
I listen to a lot of blues and there are great performances, great songs, and interesting takes on a well-known genre, but rarely does a modern album have all three. Let It Go sounds contemporary without deviating too far from the blues. I've been playing it for most of 2018 and suspect it'll still spin in 2019.
2. Shemekia Copeland | America’s Child | Buy | Listen
3. Soccer Mommy | Clean | Buy | Listen
4. Shlomo Franklin | Don’t Love Anybody EP | Buy | Listen
5. Bob Corritore & Friends | Don’t Let the Devil Ride! | Buy | Listen
Mac Miller died at the age of 26 one month and four days after the release of his sixth LP Swimming. The production and melodies jump genres as he sings and raps effortlessly, finding a groove with himself and all the sounds he wanted to explore. I loved many records this year, but I love this one the most simply because it’s his last, it’s so fantastic, and everyone else gets another chance. RIP Mac.
2. tUnE-yArDs | I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life | Buy | Listen
3. Noname | Room 25 | Buy | Listen
4. Caroline Rose | LONER | Buy | Listen
5. Father John Misty | God’s Favorite Customer | Buy | Listen
Heartfelt, honest, and just simply dope. Plus, it includes this incredible verse: "Walking in the rain off the Jim Beam / Dreams broken on the boulevard, Jim Dean / Get a grip for bars like a gym beam / Eyes redder than the rastas on the swim team."
2. Roc Marciano | RR2: The Bitter Dose | Buy | Listen
3. Masta Ace & Marco Polo | A Breukelen Story | Buy | Listen
4. Czarface & MF DOOM | Czarface Meets Metal Face | Buy | Listen
5. Black Thought | Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 (EP) | Buy | Listen
Pop excellence and the greatest achievement this year for any artist. This is the most focused project put together by the Atlanta-based singer-songwriter to date, in which she was able to perform modern anthems for a timeless audience with brilliant production and arrangements. Black female superhero music for sure.
Storytelling is a hallmark of Canadian music, and when its vessel is a voice as magnificent and singular as Jim Cuddy's, it becomes legend. Constellation is the kind of album that results from the seamless meshing of emotion and expertise, beautifully constructed by an artist that keeps rightful company with the country's very short list of hall-of-famers.
2. Juliana Hatfield | Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John | Buy | Listen
3. Steven Page | Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt. II | Buy | Listen
4. KT Tunstall | WAX | Buy | Listen
5. Paul Simon | In The Blue Light | Buy | Listen