Under the Radar’s Top 100 Albums of 2018 | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Under the Radar’s Top 100 Albums of 2018

Dec 30, 2018
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And here we are, the end of another year. The last 12 months tried the patience of anyone who longed for civility in politics, with divisive policies and a president beloved by only his most ardent supporters. Both fueled a cable news cycle that's become one long panel show with continuous "breaking news" about the latest Washington scandal and investigation, none of which are likely to end the Trump presidency much sooner than the 2020 election (if then). As Macbeth once said, it's all "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Many would thus say that 2018's been a bad year, and sure there is much to worry about, including the threat of authoritarian rule across the globe, escalating trade wars, continued income inequality, government shutdowns, immigrant children in detention centers, and more dire unheeded warnings about global warming. But it could also be so much worse.

What of those newspaper music critics who might have wrapped up 1929's best albums, setting up a survey of the year's new music by Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and others with an intro about the recent stock market crash of October 29 and the beginning of The Great Depression? Or the critic writing about 1941's best new music from Lead Belly and Glenn Miller only weeks after the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor? History is littered with truly terrible years: 536, when an extreme weather event triggered by either an asteroid or an Icelandic volcano eruption led to an atmospheric dust veil that cooled the Earth and resulted in widespread famine and drought, 1347, when the Black Death pandemic hit Europe, 1914, when World War I began, 1918, when a flu pandemic began that killed 100 million people, and so on, and so on. 

But was 2018 a good or bad year for music? That's what we're really here to talk about. If you search hard enough can't you always find some worthy new music each year? Still, for me personally (and I've heard this from others too), there were a lot of albums I really liked in 2018 but few I fell head over heels for. My #1 album of 2018 could have just as easily been any of the albums in my Top 10, as I liked them all fairly equally. And if any of my second, third, fourth, or fifth favorite albums of 2017 had been released in 2018 then I think they would've surely topped my 2018 list as I liked them all more than any album released this year.

Under the Radar's Top 100 Albums of 2018 list, thankfully, doesn't just reflect my opinion; instead 27 of our writers and editors (including myself and my co-publisher/wife Wendy) each submitted a list of their favorite albums of the year and were encouraged to turn in at least a Top 45. All-in-all 473 different albums were submitted for the vote, but to make the Top 100 an album had to be picked by at least three or more separate writers (the Top 6, for example, were all picked by at least 20 or more of our writers). We then did a tiebreaker vote for our #1 album between the two at the top, to make sure we were all in agreement on our #1 (the vote was still close, so you could almost call it a tie for the top spot). Then we did another vote to determine the bottom three from a list of 17 albums that almost made the Top 100 (check out our list of Honorable Mentions for 36 albums that came close). For those of you who might complain that this is a very indie rock-centric list, well we are an indie rock-focused magazine and website after all. You wouldn't expect a hip-hop, metal, or dance music website to include albums by Father John Misty, Beach House, and Courtney Barnett on their favorite albums of 2018 list, would you? 

Barring a pandemic, world war, asteroid strike, or another disaster, hopefully 2019 will at least be another average year that's not the worst, but one we can dream is populated with truly classic albums. We'll have to see where we are at in December 2019. For now, here are our 100 favorite albums of 2018.

1.

Kamasi Washington

Heaven and Earth

Young Turks

While Kamasi Washington set a high bar for himself with 2015’s monumental The Epic, the three-hour Heaven and Earth is a stunning achievement that illustrates how the sax player/composer and his band crossed over this year to fans from outside of the jazz realm. At times stirring, complex, and moving, this is music for everyone. By Hays Davis

2.

Mitski

Be the Cowboy

Dead Oceans

“We nearly drowned for such a silly thing,” sings Mitski at the outset of “Old Friend,” the third track from her brilliant fifth album, Be the Cowboy. This lyric lies at the nucleus of Be the Cowboy’s soldier heart: across the album’s 14 ultra-compact, hyper-hooky songs, Mitski often comes close to succumbing.

On opener “Geyser,” Mitski gives herself to her pursuit of music as a career; on “A Pearl,” she falls victim to toxins that creep into her current relationship from a past one; on “Remember My Name,” she kneels at the altar of fame. Yet in none of these songs does she give up; across Be the Cowboy, she vividly depicts the ways in which the heart and mind can bounce back from even the lowest of troughs.

As subject matter goes, none of this is that new for Mitski. On Be the Cowboy, she refines these topics into her most clever, devastating portraits yet. Abetted by disco-like shuffles on “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” and “Nobody,” country balladry on “Lonesome Love,” and bleak sparsity on “Come Into the Water” and “A Horse Named Cold Air,” this generation’s most gifted songwriter has never sounded better, even when she can’t breathe. By Max Freedman

3.

boygenius

boygenius EP

Matador

A lot of groups are capable of harmonizing with each other, but very few are capable of being so finely tuned with one another that they trade roles and the original vision still maintains and even intensifies over the course of an album. Finding strength in shared trials, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers, and Julien Baker all blend their talents into a shared register that succinctly surmounts the looming isolation that lingers in the periphery of their lives. Brittle mandolin tones and slide guitars like wind combing a field sway and refract the cautionary movement of their imbricated voices. The sense of inspiration that is effused throughout will surely leave a legacy of bands that start in its wake. By Stephen Axeman

4.

Low

Double Negative

Sub Pop

Twelve studio albums and 25 years in, you’d expect a band or artist has no right releasing not just one of the album’s of the year but arguably their best ever, totally shifting their already well-regarded discography. But, that’s exactly what Low, the Duluth, Minnesota slowcore band, did on Double Negative, an album, which as the title suggests, turns itself inside out to provide an incredible aural experience. This album’s power lies in its duality; it is both familiar and recognisable as a Low album given it’s a sound they’ve crafted for themselves for a quarter of a century, but the production by BJ Burton (Bon Iver) sucks the music through a vacuum to create an unsettling experience. Consequentially, this is a pure piece of contemporary art. Double Negative is tinged with the most seething anger of any Low release to date, albeit in their own, subtle way. The opening triptych of “Quorum,” “Dancing and Blood,” and “Fly” introduces us into this terrifying new world, and the mood never really lets up until closer “Disarray” save for a brief moment on the gorgeous “Dancing and Fire”—the only track to remain unscathed in the wreckage. By Adam Turner-Heffer

5.

Courtney Barnett

Tell Me How You Really Feel

Mom + Pop/Marathon Artists/Milk!

On her second studio album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, Courtney Barnett continues to build upon her reputation as one of the most unique singer/songwriters in the business today. She addresses current political and social ordeals (sexual assault, misuses of power, the nature of free will, hatred), shares anecdotes and quotes it seems she has overheard on the street—all while maintaining her signature witty delivery and almost lightheartedly punk aesthetic. By Ben Jardine

6.

Beach House

7

Sub Pop

Beach House added a new dimension to their sound on their seventh studio album, the aptly titled 7. The Baltimore band’s signature dream-pop blend of airy guitars, hushed indie-rock beats, and ethereal vocals feels sharper and more energized than past efforts and is augmented with softly soaring guitar riffs and catchy beats. The lush melodies are as shimmering as ever, only with a little less polish and bit more grit, and Victoria Legrand’s vocals provide an artfully cool resonance, making 7 one of the year’s more stimulating aural experiences. By Matt the Raven

7.

Father John Misty

God’s Favorite Customer

Sub Pop

With God’s Favorite Customer, Father John Misty (aka Josh Tillman), has crafted a stunning album that glistens with sorrow and regret—regret for his messy marriage, regret for the stuffy, intellectual jargon on Pure Comedy, and regret for the public persona of the navel-gazing philosophical bro that stained his image. But are we really that cruel in these modern times? A misstep here, a misstep there, and Tillman comes forth with the heartaching, explosive God’s Favorite Customer, where the piano-balladeering has been precisely edited to pull the finest elements of his first three studio albums with an end result that brushes the dirt off of the indie rock artifact that is Tillman’s true talent—songwriting. Politics, personas, and trolling aside, God’s Favorite Customer is a highlight of regretful rock music that reminds us of the most forgettable fact of life in a world full of transient, self-indulgent bullshit: we’re all human, even Father John Misty. By Timothy Michalik

8.

Parquet Courts

Wide Awake!

Rough Trade

For a band that has consistently released solid album after solid album, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the sixth studio album from NYC’s Parquet Courts would reflect anything less than fine-tuned art punk perfection. Wide Awake! is by far the band’s best set of songs, with a mix of ’70s funk-punk (“Violence”) and incredibly accessible indie rock (“Freebird II” and “Mardi Gras Beads”) being represented on the album. By Ben Jardine

9.

Kurt Vile

Bottle It In

Matador

The lethargic and pungent slacker rock on Kurt Vile’s eighth studio album, Bottle It In, epitomizes the hyperbolic Americana all-star’s already storied career. But where Vile typically comes off as jovial, goofy, and just downright leftfield, Bottle It In finds Vile a more paranoid and thoughtful man, penning songs about his daughters and his place in the universe. Vile zapped the fun out of his usual highway-rock witticisms and instead falls into the form of a more serious artist, crafting lengthy, guitar-virtuoso burners (“Check Baby,” “Bottle It In”), dark, cognizant theme-songs of existential dread (“Cold Was the Wind”), and an ace cover of Charlie Rich’s supremely underrated pop-hit “Rollin With the Flow.” But it’s not the mood on Bottle It In that makes it such a convincing artistic statement, but the mastery outside and inwards that constantly floats around. By Timothy Michalik

10.

Julia Holter

Aviary

Domino

Over the course of 90 minutes, Holter explores the links between Buddhist chants, contorted art-pop, and Blade Runner soundscapes, while meditating obliquely on compassion and memory. Aviary is an album that asks for patience from its listener but rewards them in spades. From the stirring “I Shall Love 2” to the shape-shifting grooves of “Underneath the Moon” and the intimate beauty of “Words I Heard,” it offers some of 2018’s most astonishing music. By Conrad Duncan

11.

Young Fathers

Cocoa Sugar

Ninja Tune

Increasingly, as this decade has descended, it feels like we don’t deserve a band like Young Fathers. They strike a balance between the personal and the political unlike anyone else currently in the game, providing tracks full of fear and anger but also hope and love. On “In My View” they created one of the singles of the year—a heartfelt tribute to life and love itself in our muddy times—while elsewhere tracks like “Lord” and “Wow” show the sheer depth and breadth of their sound. To boot, the band are arguably the most exhilarating live act currently active in pop, and this album’s artwork is one of the most striking images of the year. The Edinburgh hip-hop (though they’re so much more than that) trio keep appearing to remind us how fucked we all are, but reminding us that as long as we have love to counterbalance, we can at least dance during the impending apocalypse. By Adam Turner-Heffer

12.

U.S. Girls

In a Poem Unlimited

4AD

Although “Rage of Plastics” and “M.A.H. (Mad as Hell)” appear in sequence on In a Poem Unlimited, U.S. Girls’ magnum opus is only subtly angry. Meg Remy’s anti-imperialist tales mask ire with irony, and over her cocktails of disco, rock, and girl group styles, her indignation yields offbeat singalongs for the disenchanted. By Max Freedman

13.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Hope Downs

Sub Pop

For a debut album, Hope Downs is as impressive as it is ambitious. A mix of jangly indie rock and coolness, all in the face of a relentlessly warm Australian summer, Hope Downs is immediately one of the more engaging indie rock releases of the year. In many ways, Hope Downs manages to transform the bleakness of suburban life into a shining groove. The jamming guitars, which create lyrics outside of any spoken words delivered, and the sly lyrics themselves combine to create an album that’s both flawlessly unique: shamelessly outgoing and catchy, but centered on some higher level introspection. By Ben Jardine

14.

LUMP

LUMP

Dead Oceans

When it was announced that Laura Marling and Tuung’s Mike Lindsay would be working on a collaborative project, not much was disclosed about the soon-to-be titled LUMP album. The music on LUMP and the pair of Marling and Lindsay (and an imaginary yeti-like creature) that make up LUMP are all collectively shrouded in mythology. A seamlessly sober release, LUMP manages to harness some of the sparseness Marling’s fans might be used to, but with some added prickliness. From “Curse of the Contemporary” to “Hand Hold Hero,” the tracks on this album are both unique and eerily familiar. By Ben Jardine

15.

Natalie Prass

The Future and the Past

ATO

It’s fitting how Natalie Prass began her career as a keyboardist for Jenny Lewis. Both singer/songwriters are glorious, and they both play guitar. However, Prass is a decade younger than Lewis, which gives the Virginia native time to progress as an essential liberator of minor dance masterpieces. Prass’ sophomore album is a jubilant groove with triumphant air. The Future and the Past is an insightful portrait of the times (the initial version of the album was scrapped when Trump won the 2016 election and “Sisters” is something of a #MeToo anthem), but musicially it touches on the past with influences that include Sly and the Family Stone, Esther Phillips, Rose Royce, Alice Coltrane, ESG, Dorothy Norwood, and Sheila Chandra. By Jordan J. Michael

16.

Loma

Loma

Sub Pop

Loma doesn’t exactly fit the definition of a supergroup. The trio consists of members of two Austin-based bands: Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater plus Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski from Cross Record. Hardly marquee names, sadly. Loma’s debut combines the world-building aural qualities that make Shearwater and Cross Record each so unique. The trio’s art-rock chamber music is as textured as the album’s blend of Musique concrète sounds from outside the studio in rural Texas. A rainstorm creates a maracas-like effect during “White Glass.” Parakeets and macaws contribute avian harmonies on “Sun Dogs.” During “Shadow Relief,” a dog snarls in the distance. What elevates Duszynski’s organic soundscapes is the way in which Cross’s naturalistic voice interprets Meiburg’s most direct and open-hearted lyrics to date. On songs such as “Joy” and “I Don’t Want Children,” Cross’ emotions well up from the deepest core of her being. Words are made flesh in an act of musical consecration. Perhaps Loma is a supergroup after all. By Stephen Humphries

17.

MGMT

Little Dark Age

Columbia

Casting aside their forays into the more nebulous terrain of free-form psychedelia, the merry pranksters return with an album that is their most decidedly pop forward and direct since their debut, 2007’s Oracular Spectacular. The band hits on familiar themes of paranoia of technology and the duality of growth and decay, but does so in a refreshingly approachable way that never compromises the esoteric side of things. The song structures are never obvious but are always familiar, slipping in tongue-in-cheek absurdity beneath the level of conscious awareness that ensures that your usually musically unadventurous friend gets exposed to some pretty weird stuff. The duo’s faith in pop as a means of transcendence from the indignities of reality has never been more infectious or convincing. By Stephen Axeman

18

Let’s Eat Grandma

I’m All Ears

Transgressive

It’s not every day that two teenage girls from the humble city of Norwich, England come and take the indie world by storm, but that is exactly Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton has done with their sophomore record, I’m All Ears. Over 11 tracks, the duo touch upon electronic house music, indie-pop, and even prog-rock in a stunning 50 minutes of pure joy. By Adam Turner-Heffer

19

Wild Nothing

Indigo

Captured Tracks

Jack Tatum (aka Wild Nothing) is Captured Tracks’ golden boy. Wild Nothing’s synth-laced rock had a good start on 2010’s Gemini, making various notable end of the year lists. Tatum’s follow up, Nocturne, was our #1 album of 2012. After trying on some Philly soul on 2016’s Life of Pause, Wild Nothing returns with a perfect soundtrack for letting go. With its clear ’80s influences, Indigo can put you inside an episode of Halt and Catch Fire. Tatum has the ability to make “a turn at the wheel of misfortune” positive. By Jordan J. Michael

20.

IDLES

Joy as an Act of Resistance

Joy as an Act of Resistance

Every now and then, a band comes along and taps into the zeitgeist subconsciously or otherwise. 2018 belonged to IDLES and their socially aware, politically charged anthems that tackled racism (“Danny Nedelko”), toxic masculinity (“Samaritans”), and the right wing press (“Rottweiler”), among other things. It’s also uneasy listening in places, the traumatic “June” in particular, a song that was written about the death of singer Joe Talbot’s daughter last summer. Nevertheless, the Bristol-based five-piece have gone and made arguably the most relevant yet gut wrenching album of the year which hasn’t just united music lovers across the world, but also created a community of their own thanks to the online AF Gang forum created by a group of the band’s devoted hardcore fans. By Dom Gourlay

21.

John Grant

Love Is Magic

Partisan

Dip into the neon-tinted discotheque under Love Is Magic’s feathered cover, and you might think OG songwriter John Grant has pulled a big joke. But while there are lots of crazy characters and cheesy synths to laugh at, our protagonist also reminds us that everyday life can be even wilder. And though the album’s title sounds like a tongue-in-cheek cliché, Grant’s only half joking, as he moves from embracing his own sexuality to admiring the beauty in others. By Lee Adcock

22.

Tracyanne & Danny

Tracyanne & Danny

Merge

Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campell returns on an album of warm duets and a new partnership with Danny Coughlan (aka Cry Baby), in the wake of band mate Carey Lander’s 2015 passing. A quick listen to the shimmery “It Can’t Be Love Unless It Hurts” and you’re smitten. Crisp and clear guitar pop, it recalls the best of ’60s doo-wops with euphoric strings, as they ruminate on unrequited love. On opener “Home & Dry” Campbell’s indelible vocals play with tambourine and alternating distant horns and woodwinds, joined only when needed by Coughlan’s deep timbre. He takes the lead on “Cellophane Girl,” a one-sided doomed romance that doesn’t stop the lovesick fool from pleading: “Uh oh/Forget tomorrow and love me tonight,” in the prettiest of jangly melodies. By Celine Teo-Blockey

23.

Wye Oak

The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs

Merge

Any Wye Oak album not named Civilian is slept on. Since that 2011 accomplishment, Wye Oak has been making music while residing in different states—Andy Stack in Texas and Jenn Wasner in North Carolina. Working infrequently has caused the duo to be more unapologetic, less prone for second judgement. The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs is transcendent, a triumphant explosion. The pulsating energy could stick to your back. Louder proves that life is all about the effort. By Jordan J. Michael

24.

Mount Eerie

Now Only

P.W. Elverum & Sun

Phil Elverum’s Now Only was a unique offering this year—an atmospheric and moving step on from the stark tragedy of 2017’s A Crow Looked At Me, this record found him attempting to find a way to move on after the 2016 death of his first wife, musician/illustrator Geneviève Castrée. Songs like “Tintin in Tibet” and “Earth” depicted an artist in turmoil—but always in control of their incredible art as well as, somehow, being ready to look to the future after such a traumatic past. By Michael Hall

25.

Snail Mail

Lush

Matador

With Snail Mail, Lindsey Jordan joined an incredible crop of female-fronted, guitar-centric projects this year. From the purposeful down strums to the fuzzed-out riffs and hammer-offs, her debut LP, Lush, shuts up any detractors in 2018 who try to say that the thrall of this electric instrument is becoming obsolete in modern music. While much can be made of Jordan’s young age of 19 and the debt she owes to her label Matador’s storied 1990s acts (Liz Phair, Cat Power, etc.), this singer/songwriter holds enough of her own to create achingly relatable songs about personal relationships that transcend any referenced decade. “Don’t you like me for me?” Jordan asks in standout single “Pristine.” Yes, we do, and we hope to for many years and albums to come. By Chris Davidson

26.

Jon Hopkins

Singularity

Domino

With a formal education in classical piano and experience in electronic music production, Jon Hopkins is quickly becoming one of music’s most expressive minds. His 2018 release, Singularity, effortlessly builds upon 2013’s Immunity with even more sweeping soundscapes and engaging instrumentation—but where Immunity sped through some of these elements, Hopkins’s new album lingers there. “Emerald Rush” conjures images of a desert sunrise before it evolves into a late-night electronic groove while “Everything Connected” coalesces into a solemn dance floor track. By Ben Jardine

27.

Caroline Rose

LONER

New West

We’ve seen several 180 shifts in direction this year, but few artists have swapped out personas quite like Caroline Rose. Through LONER, the former vagabond ditches the steel guitars and struts into the modern world, with cheeky bangers that touch on topics like the gig economy, single mothers, and catcalling. Above all, though, Rose stands with weary outsiders everywhere, as she takes jabs at the industry and the straight world at large. By Lee Adcock

28.

Gaz Coombes

World’s Strongest Man

Hot Fruit/Caroline

The third solo album by the former frontman of Supergrass shows Gaz Coombes has just about perfected his formula of nuanced pop rock. World’s Strongest Man is recognizable with timeless rock influences and memorable with slap-happy beats, short guitar riffs, and smart and sassy melodies. The tracks are a stylish mix of tone and texture, and a winning combination of clever pop rock with seductive grooves that demand repeated plays. By Matt the Raven

29.

Spiritualized

And Nothing Hurt

Fat Possum

Some things are worth waiting for, and Spiritualized’s first LP in six years definitely falls into that category. While the aborted sessions with original producer Youth have been well documented, Jason Pierce went back to the drawing board and took on the mantle himself to create a masterpiece that ranks highly alongside his finest works to date. The album was deeply autobiographical in places, with the likes of “Let’s Dance” and “The Morning After” among some of the most personal compositions Pierce has ever written. And Nothing Hurt touched both nerves and heartstrings in equal measures, whilst simultaneously reaffirming Pierce and Spiritualized as luminaries of their craft. By Dom Gourlay

30.

Janelle Monáe

Dirty Computer

Wondaland/Bad Boy/Atlantic

There’s no escaping the Prince worship on Janelle Monáe’s third album, but there are many moments of original insight among the pastiche. Although the sound of Dirty Computer is retro, its themes are urgently relevant. Monae tackles Black Lives Matter, gender fluidity, and America’s fraught political moment with playful charisma. Crucially, she also has songs fit for a star—just skip ahead to the trio of “Django Jane,” “Pynk,” and “Make Me Feel” for proof. By Conrad Duncan

31.

Shame

Songs of Praise

Dead Oceans

London punks Shame had a hell of a year with their live show going from strength to strength and new-found support across the British radio and music industry; the reason? This jackknife of an album—humorous, heartfelt, brutish, and beautiful—arena-ready but packed with attitude and style. Praise be. By Michael Hall

32.

Christine and the Queens

Chris

Because Music

Héloïse Letissier’s Chris persona is a great addition to pop’s androgynous canon—part-macho Madonna, part-member of West Side Story’s Sharks gang. But Chris the album takes you closer to the artist behind the character than ever before. It’s all blood, sweat, and tears backed by muscular ’80s funk, updated and redesigned for 2018. Alongside it, Letissier asks questions which range from the spiritual to the carnal. It’s a profound and electrifying smart pop record. By Conrad Duncan

33.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Sparkle Hard

Matador

“Men are scum, I won’t deny,” a highlight from “Middle America” on Sparkle Hard, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks’ seventh album, goes to prove that Malkmus is still socially conscious in 2018. A founding father of indie rock, Malkmus’ energy is channeled specifically and thoroughly on Sparkle Hard, where he jumps from twangy Americana (“Middle America”) to elder guitar-god (“Kite”) to left-field folk (“Brethren”) all in a matter of 44 minutes. Malkmus’ riff-rock hijinks aren’t so much the centerpiece of Sparkle Hard as they are a reoccurring inside joke, an overtly meta approach that plays heavily in Malkmus’ favor, making for one of his finest albums in the past two decades. By Timothy Michalik

34.

Arctic Monkeys

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Domino

On their sixth album, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Arctic Monkeys travel to the moon. Here, they are hurried into adulthood, one where their characteristic pop-punk anthems are traded for David Bowie-channeled, science fiction/horror film soundtrack-style, space-lounge compositions. Central songwriter Alex Turner’s trade of guitar for the piano is the main reason for this turn in the group’s sound. And such a great turn it is. From his lunar vantage point, Turner’s irrepressible, razor-sharp humorous lyrics on the minutiae of humankind hit new heights. Having this set in an eerie, retro-futuristic, cosmic sonic sphere makes this Arctic-led trip to the moon all the better. By Lily Moayeri

35.

Soccer Mommy

Clean

Fat Possum

Earlier this year, Fender released a study that concluded that 50% of new guitar players are women. In 2018, the future of the guitar was definitely female. The expressive power of Telecasters, Jazzmasters, and Stratocasters were front and center of acclaimed albums by Lucy Dacus, Snail Mail, and Soccer Mommy (the artistic nom de plume of Nashville’s Sophie Allison). Soccer Mommy’s debut starts with gentle plucking on “Still Clean,” but the songwriter’s strumming becomes more insistent as she reflects on a boy’s bitter betrayal. Allison’s songs circle around relatable themes: Guys take her for granted and drift away, often attracted to the most desirable girls that she wishes she could emulate. On “Cool”—one of the year’s best melodies—Allison unleashes her frustration at being a perpetual outsider with overdriven grunge-pop guitar. The outro solo disintegrates like an old cassette tape getting mangled in the player. No less catchy, “Your Dog” employs a familiar indie-rock jangle, but it’s elevated by Allison’s sweet-and-sour vocal in which she defiantly proclaims, “I don’t want to be your fucking dog/that you drag around.” Soccer Mommy’s tuneful debut effectively uses six strings to tug on our heartstrings. It’s sure to inspire other girls to plug in and play. By Stephen Humphries

36.

Hatchie

Sugar & Spice EP

Double Double Whammy

On Hatchie’s debut EP, Sugar and Spice, the Australian singer/songwriter brings the ecstatic surrender of radio friendly dream pop in balance with the depth and texture of shoegaze. Purring legato lines are embroidered by loping vocal melodies that convey a sense of restfulness in a frenzied swirl of activity. Most of the songs deal with uncertainties in romantic love rather than the bliss of communion, but this uneasy sense of intoxication is at the heart of the rapture that Hatchie so easily evokes. Across the EP’s five tracks, the nostalgic abandon woos and charms like a new crush you’d been waiting for. By Stephen Axeman

37.

Gwenno

Le Kov

Heavenly

Even if you can’t understand a word of Cornish, Gwenno Saunders can take you to the fabled sunken city of Le Kov. The Welsh polyglot breathes new life into Cornwall’s ancient language, illuminating traditional tales and sayings with lush psychedelia. With Gwenno’s help, the magic of Le Kov unfolds into the present, with a blue-eyed ode to computers, a sunny romp about standstill traffic, and a joyous salute to cheese. By Lee Adcock

38.

Phosphorescent

C’est La Vie

Dead Oceans

Despite the five long years since Muchacho, Phosphorescent returned this year stronger than ever, with a nine-song set somehow both more expansive and more concise than that heralded album. Singer/songwriter Matthew Houck’s range has expanded, delivering the humble simplicity of “C’est La Vie No. 2” and the Spiritualized-made-country grandeur of “Around the Horn” with equal fervor and sensitivity. Every song is necessary; the instrumental intro and stirring, expanded outro succeed even without Houck’s delicate vocals. The best of them is “Christmas Down Under.” This song exemplifies how Phosphorescent makes old country aesthetics sound so fresh, mixing in vocal processing and synths in with organic guitar sounds. And as always, from the beginning of C’est La Vie to the end, the music’s emotional impact is front and center. By Scott Dransfield

39.

Blood Orange

Negro Swan

Domino

Triumphantly fusing together a baroque funk sensibility with an indomitable sense of tenderness, Blood Orange’s Negro Swan finds common ground amidst dislocation. The album is a conspicuously collaborative effort, unexpectedly bringing together voices as disparate as Puff Daddy and Janet Mock to document the traumas and shared struggles of black depression and self-creation. Filled with lyrical reassurances and intercut with candid interview segments that miraculously cohere behind a unified voice, Dev Hynes documents his personal battles with finding space for himself alongside a chorus of support. It is both a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of romance and a gentle nudge to keep falling, standing taller each time you rise. By Stephen Axeman

40.

Iceage

Beyondless

Matador

Right from their incendiary introduction to the world, the snot-nosed Danish punks Iceage made an instant impact as a band with ideas above their station. While their first two records were, for some, impenetrable noise, there were secret hooks laden all over those tracks, suggesting there was way more to come from this band. In some respects, they began to show this regard more openly with their crossover record, 2014’s Plowing Into the Field of Love, but they hadn’t yet quite mastered their more “mature” sound, even if they landed themselves with something of a hit in “The Lord’s Favorite.” But with Beyondless the band have finally cashed in on all that potential they had been saving up for the past decade of their existence, creating one of the year’s true standouts in the process. Everything is bigger, better, and more realized than anything previous, both in the band’s musicianship and frontman Elias Rønnenfelt’s lyricism and vocal range a wider scope version of their previously narrowly filtered punk, to create a tightly packed 10 tracks of pure brilliance. Here, Iceage finally proved to the world why anyone cared in the first place. By Adam Turner-Heffer

41.

Ought

Room Inside the World

Merge

No doubt, the world is a huge and scary place, especially for anyone who’s not a man. That said, the four blokes of Ought are still men we can trust—and Room Inside the World, their decisively gentle treatise from February, extends a welcome olive branch. Blue-eyed ballads and nuanced layers wash out the frantic monologues of old; granted, our protagonists have always searched for grace in the mundane, but in Room, those seeds finally blossom. By Lee Adcock

42.

Anna Calvi

Hunter

Domino

The exuberantly sultry third album from Anna Calvi finds her newly reckoning with her queer identity in a way that aligns with the zeitgeist and upends traditional gender norms. Deriving from her concept of a hunter as a primordial force that exists in everyone, she imagines a world where women’s pleasure is as openly negotiated as men’s. Creating a lusty cabaret sound that veers into theatrical grandeur à la Twin Peaks, Calvi bends and distorts her guitar to animalistic extremes that achieves an androgynous beauty that is both genderless and sensitively assertive. The album succeeds in creating a space for surrender that empowers you to be more unapologetically assertive. By Stephen Axeman

43.

Lucy Dacus

Historian

Matador

I had one of those moments with Lucy Dacus’ Historian. Or more particularly with “Nightshift,” the opening track and gateway into this marvellous album, whilst cycling through the podcast of a well-known national U.S. radio institution’s music department. Something about this song just grabbed me. It rocked. Pretty surprisingly hard for what seemed like an indie singer/songwriter. It also contained the rarest of things, a lyrical narrative that actually drew you in and made you care. By the song’s end, I knew that I wanted to hear the rest of the record, and I was concerned for Lucy Dacus. You’ll know if you've heard the rest of it that Historian is a mature piece of work. Muscular at some times and tender at others, it showcases a songwriter of real breadth and class. The fact that Dacus also contributed to the brilliant boygenius EP later in the year serves only to underline the fact that we have a real talent on our hands here. The fantastic mix by John Congleton really helps the tracks to shine, but it’s the songs themselves that stand out most strongly. By Haydon Spenceley

44.

Fucked Up

Dose Your Dreams

Merge

Wildly ambitious right from its opening piano coda, the Toronto sextet prog-punks Fucked Up created an incredible return to form in 2018—just as people had begun to write them off. Yes, the dynamic has changed somewhat now (guitarist Mike Haliechuk more or less runs the show completely while lead vocalist Damian Abraham has taken a step aside from being front-and-center) but the Canadian band proved they are still able to surprise, shock, entertain, and move over the course of their second double-album “rock opera.” While it may seem gimmicky, Dose Your Dreams manages to find time and space to improve on the already pretty incredible David Comes to Life by seamlessly weaving all sorts of genres and sounds and voices into one collective unit, as opposed to David’s constant singularity. While the first half of the record, with rockers such as “Normal People,” is brilliant, it is in the album’s second half where it becomes transcendent, announced from “I Don’t Wanna Live In This World Anymore” right through to the absolutely stunning finale “Joy Stops Time.” Despite what you heard, this incredible band are not done just yet. By Adam Turner-Heffer

45.

Neneh Cherry

Broken Politics

Smalltown Supersound

Neneh Cherry understood that it was a “woman’s world” back in 1996, on her album Man and its single “Woman.” After that, the Stockholm-born singer took a decade-long cool down from music until making 2006’s LayLow, with her then-new band CirKus. Since then she has been more active, including 2014’s solo album, Blank Project, produced by Four Tet (aka Kieran Hebden). The chill, yet exuberant Broken Politics finds her reuniting with Hebden. There was not a more appropriate titled album in 2018; the political system is broken, and has been for a while. By Jordan J. Michael

46.

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat

Riddles

Carpark

Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, the Baltimore duo of Ed Schrader and Devlin Rice, probe the possibilities of rock music with Riddles, and it is a game-changer. Titillating opener “Dunce” falls into the snapping fingers and bass solo of “Seagull” until the song explodes into paranoia. Then it is further down the rabbit hole from there. Blistering noise can be wonderful (but the album has softer surprises, too). By Jordan J. Michael

47.

Yo La Tengo

There’s a Riot Going On

Matador

Yo La Tengo’s fifteenth studio album, There’s a Riot Going On, moves, breathes, and pulsates at its own pace; throughout the album’s 15 songs, the band dips its fingers into each definitive trait found on a Yo La Tengo record: brooding, hypnotic vocals, twee-pop melodies, droning instrumentals. There’s a Riot Going On isn’t so much an album as it is a mood, the spark of a lighter casting shadows on the walls. By Timothy Michalik

48.

Gruff Rhys

Babelsberg

Rough Trade

Some of the best records ever made sound immediately timeless and yet invite the audience to push the boundaries of their musical expectations. Named after a city sign he glimpsed on tour and recorded in a studio that was demolished soon after completing his sessions, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals fame took his time with Babelsberg, his first full-length solo record in four years, and the efforts were well worth the wait. While his collaboration with a 72-piece orchestra and composer Stephen McNeff yielded a series of tracks that would fit nicely on a ’70s or ’80s AM pop station (“Frontier Man” and “The Club” are just two examples), Rhys was not without his own far-out, futuristic musical turn as well as the inclusion of an observed phenomenon (“Selfies in the Sunset”) that plants the record firmly in the 21st century. By Chris Davidson

49.

Ezra Furman

Transangelic Exodus

Bella Union

Gender-queer troubador Ezra Furman always knew how to spin a good yarn. However, Transangelic Exodus is more than just a story. With spliced electronics and distorted horns, the celebrated rocker shares the highway odyssey of two lovers in exile, in a world where the government hunts down people who are transforming into angels. Given how our real government has tried to erase trans folks this year, Furman’s knuckle-biting paranoia still burns hot. By Lee Adcock

50.

Superorganism

Superorganism

Domino

These multi-continental wunderkinds had heightened expectations for their debut LP with hit after hit, particularly the ultra-infectious “Everybody Wants to Be Famous” which called back to the funky, ’90s alt-pop experimentation of Beck and Stereolab. The record ultimately hung on the strength of its singles, but those were enough to earn it a spot among this year’s favorites. By Austin Trunick

51.

Belle and Sebastian

How to Solve Our Human Problems

Matador

Some bands epitomise consistency. Over the course of the past two decades, standards have rarely slipped for Belle and Sebastian and album number 10, How to Solve Our Human Problems, was another worthy addition to an already impressive canon. Initially released at the start of the year as three separate EPs, How to Solve Our Human Problems is continuation of their impeccable knack at crafting songs built around insatiable melodies and provocative plays on words. By Dom Gourlay

52.

Noname

Room 25

Self-Released

On Room 25, Chicago rapper/poet Noname (aka Fatimah Nyeema Warner) spits lightning-fast rhymes over drum-, guitar-, and string-instrumentation so damn smooth it affirms jazz influences, as if the voices of Nina Simone and Andre 3000 have collided. Lyrically, Warner makes no apologies for her sexuality (“my pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism;” “I knew you never loved me but I fucked you anyway”). “You thought a bitch can’t rap, huh?” Warner proclaims at the beginning of Room 25, and throughout the rest of the album she proves the doubters wrong. By Jordan J. Michael

53.

Marlon Williams

Make Way for Love

Dead Oceans

If the last 12 months broke your heart in any way, then it’s likely your misery loved the company of Marlon Williams’ latest LP, Make Way for Love. The New Zealand native captured the pitiful pining, the difficult questions, the deep craters left after relational worlds collided and drifted apart—the general devastation left in the wake of his breakup with fellow artist Aldous Harding. Musical pain is often communicated in the most straightforward ways, but Williams turns such conventions on their heads in the hopes of wringing more for the listener. By Matt Conner

54.

Adrianne Lenker

abysskiss

Saddle Creek

Over the past half-decade, Adrianne Lenker has been quietly proving herself as one of the brightest young songwriters of this current generation. Her band Big Thief released one of the albums of last year in Capacity, which is a modern classic that could potentially rank high on some end of the decade lists next year. Not willing to rest on her laurels, Lenker quickly followed up that masterpiece with yet another set of stunners in abysskiss, a vividly intimate solo song set where Lenker is equally happy playing incredibly complex, tuneful pieces (“symbol”) to minimal tearjerkers (“blue and red horses”) from track to track. By Adam Turner-Heffer

55.

Amen Dunes

Freedom

Sacred Bones

While his mother battled terminal cancer, with Freedom Amen Dunes (aka Damon McMahon) reflected on fantasy and reality: drugs, family, ghosts, vampires, surfing, thugs, Jesus, Jews, himself, and his masculinity. But all that tough shit is filtered through ’70s vibes and a list of instrument descriptions never before read off a record sleeve: “A.I. Voice,” “Strawberry Funk Guitar,” “Naples Hooligans,” “Dancing Past Gas Lamps on Dark Night Guitars,” “Business Solos,” “Hollywood Fire Moan,” “Nighttime Airplane Keyboard,” and “I Care Because You Do Percussion.” By Jordan J. Michael

56.

Nils Frahm

All Melody

Erased Tapes

adquartered at Berlin’s Funkhaus studio, Nils Frahm is trying to touch the entire world through his unconventional piano music. He makes classical music for the dance age. Part quiet reflection, part walloping rhythm, Frahm’s hour-plus imaginative excursion that is All Melody has intimate control. Purely organic, it’s hard to tell if the album was recorded in one take or edited thereafter. And it doesn’t matter; All Melody fits nicely next to Frahm’s other long motifs, scores, and published music books. By Jordan J. Michael

57.

Florence + the Machine

High As Hope

Republic

While High As Hope doesn’t necessarily offer the stadium-sized delights of previous Florence + the Machine records, what it does have is poetry, insight, and honesty in spades. Florence Welch’s voice soars, as ever, an instrument of rare grace, offering the album an uncommon depth that demands not only repeated listens but proper attention. Seek out songs such as “The End of Love” and “Grace” to summarily have one’s heart torn by their beauty. By Michael Hall

58.

Jeff Rosenstock

POST-

Polyvinyl

If ever a wake-up call was needed in America after a traumatic 2017, Jeff Rosenstock was more than happy to provide when he released his third “solo” record on bandcamp for free on New Years Day 2018. The album’s opener, “USA,” is about as literal of a call-to-arms as one could hope for from the New York state punk rock virtuoso, shaking the cobwebs off the past year and welcoming us all to a new one. From there, Rosenstock hones his incredibly consistent songwriting ability into a thrilling 40-minutes of balls-to-the-wall punk rock that provided an excellent and handy guide through navigating 2018. By Adam Turner-Heffer

59.

Still Corners

Slow Air

Wrecking Light

The duo of Greg Hughes and vocalist Tessa Murray seem to have perfected their craft of constructing smart, atmospheric pop-rock tunes. Similar to Cocteau Twins and Beach House, Still Corners have a knack for combining blithe synth washes and crisp, vibrant beats, into multi-layered songs that have a textural edge to them without being overbearing. Slow Air is fantastically entertaining with a sublime mix of airy guitars, hushed indie-rock beats, and ethereal vocals that is rich and full and can be enjoyed at low volume as soothing morning music or as engaging rock music blasted at full volume. By Matt the Raven

60.

Franz Ferdinand

Always Ascending

Domino

Scottish indie rockers Franz Ferdinand re-captured the mojo that made them a global sensation in 2004 with a modernized version of their vibrant swagger and their signature sharp-edged electro-pop. Only this time out they created a super-charged mix of bouncy synth rhythms and playful hypnotic beats that fits as comfortably on the dance floor as it does in the rock arena. Always Ascending is a tasty concoction of frothy melodies richly layered with fluid electronic textures, surging guitar riffs and catchy refrains. By Matt the Raven

61.

Tune-Yards

I can feel you creep into my private life

4AD

62.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen

Merrie Land

Studio 13

63.

Neko Case

Hell-On

ANTI-

64.

Lala Lala

The Lamb

Hardly Art

65.

Sons of Kemet

Your Queen Is a Reptile

Impulse!

66.

Black Belt Eagle Scout

Mother of My Children

Saddle Creek

67.

serpentwithfeet

soil

Secretly Canadian

68.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Sex and Food

Jagjaguwar

69.

Robyn

Honey

Konichiwa/Interscope

70.

Ryley Walker

Deafman Glance

Dead Oceans

71.

Mastersystem

Dance Music

Physical Education

72.

Beak>

>>>

Temporary Residence

73.

Madeline Kenney

Perfect Shapes

Carpark

74.

Jess Williamson

Cosmic Wink

Mexican Summer

75.

Moonface

This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet

Jagjaguwar

76.

Cat Power

Wanderer

Domino

77.

Flasher

Constant Image

Domino

78.

Field Music

Open Here

Memphis Industries

79.

Suede

The Blue Hour

Rhino

80.

Frontperson

Frontrunner

Oscar St.

81.

Eleanor Friedberger

Rebound

Frenchkiss

82.

Parcels

Parcels

Kitsuné/Because Music

83.

Hop Along

Bark Your Head Off, Dog

Saddle Creek

84.

Anna Von Hausswolff

Dead Magic

City Slang

85.

Thom Yorke

Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film)

XL

86.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

The More I Sleep the Less I Dream

Self-Released

87.

CHVRCHES

Love Is Dead

Glassnote

88.

of Montreal

White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood

Polyvinyl

89.

Young Jesus

The Whole Thing Is Just There

Saddle Creek

90.

Melody’s Echo Chamber

Bon Voyage

Fat Possum

91.

Jaakko Eino Kalevi

Out of Touch

Weird World

92.

The Goon Sax

We’re Not Talking

Wichita

93.

Anna Burch

Quit the Curse

Polyvinyl

94.

Django Django

Marble Skies

Ribbon Music

95.

Goat Girl

Goat Girl

Rough Trade

96.

Tim Hecker

Konoyo

Kranky

97.

Deafheaven

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

ANTI-

98.

The Beths

Future Me Hates Me

Carpark

99.

Tunng

Songs You Make At Night

Full Time Hobby

100

Villagers

The Art of Pretending to Swim

Domino

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Markus
January 1st 2019
4:58pm

Great list. I like listen it.

erdost
January 5th 2019
11:33am

great list!

you can check out songs from top 100 albums in spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/user/11132226736/playlist/14gBWVo2q58fxrsWai2GSX?si=dGcCNe_uTnCkOJe7SRz_vw

Painter O'Fallon MO
January 12th 2019
6:56pm

This is a great list of songs. I’m glad someone took the time to compile this.

bandung
June 9th 2019
6:53am

bandung

ponorogo
June 10th 2019
6:17am

ponorogo