Although for most people this year has been one full of many ups and downs, a lot of great music came out of this year and that makes my heart smile. This is by no means an all-inclusive list and it was pretty hard to narrow it down to just 10 albums. Anyway, without further ado...
Various Artists - Black Panther: The Album
Arguably the best Marvel movie to be released this year (I'd say definitely better than Infinity War), Black Panther also delivered one of the best soundtracks of the year. The album was produced and curated by Kendrick Lamar and was released shortly after his chart topping and Pulitzer Prize winning album Damn. Lamar delivers some bumping collaborations with other major stars such as SZA in "All the Stars", or Jay Rock, Future and James Blake in "Kings Dead". If you have been unsure about checking out what the fuss was about Kendrick Lamar's rap style, this would definitely be a great introduction to his work. He is my favorite current rapper and I would designate this my favorite album of the 2018, hands down.
Snail Mail - Lush
2018 has been a memorable year for amazing breakthrough female artists. The first that I believe should receive honorable mention is Snail Mail. Fronted by 19-year-old guitarist, Lindsey Jordan, the band delivers a sound that is grunge fueled but also contains elements of pop and catchy chorus effect driven guitar riffs. "Pristine" was the first single to be released and is a heartbreak anthem like many of her tracks on the album. The second single, "Heat Wave", might be touted as the fan favorite and brings along with it a music video where Jordan kicks some major ass in what I can only describe as a "hockey fight fantasy?" I have a feeling this band is just getting started...
Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
Pronounced "Par-kay Quarts", the band hails from New York City and, quite frankly, is bound to rock your face off. The band has been active since 2010 yet their latest album, Wide Awake!, will be what puts them on the map (in addition to an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show). I had the pleasure of seeing them live at Austin City Limits earlier this year and they did not disappoint. The band has somehow acquired the ability to not get pegged into any one specific genre by simply mastering multiple. The title track is their most popular song and a total dance-fest that also sounds like it should be the soundtrack to a soccer match. Other notable tracks include "Total Football" and "Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience" that each display their definite punk influences (I hear the Clash and Devo in some of their work). Check this album out, and then check out their earlier stuff.
Leon Bridges - Good Thing
The follow up to Bridges' 2015 breakthrough album Coming Home provides a bit of a divergence from his previous MoTown/Sam Cooke-ish sound of before. Bridges lays the R&B on heavy with elements of jazz, funk and soul sprinkled throughout. Bridges has also matured with his lyric writing as evidenced by "Bad Bad News" (which also showcases amazing backing jazz guitar riffs.) and "Forgive You". You could definitely file both of his albums as "baby making music" and if you are not a fan of at least one of his albums there is probably something seriously wrong with you.
Mitski - Be the Cowboy
Next on the list of amazing 2018 female artists is Mitski Maiyawaki. The artist, who goes by Mitski for short, has actually been around for several years yet I am just getting to know her now. Her music is a bit difficult to describe but can be likened to such awesome acts as St. Vincent or Florence and the Machine. My personal favorite track is "Nobody" which is a great demonstration of the haunting effect of her vocals can have on you and it literally gives me chills. I feel like that track in particular it is very reminiscent of an old Cardigans track. Her music makes a cameo in the independent film Hearts Beat Loud, another 2018 hidden gem that I would highly recommend that stars Nick Offerman as a record store owner who starts a band with his daughter on vocals.
Childish Gambino - This is America (single)
Though not exactly a full album per se, 2018 saw the release of the highly controversial Childish Gambino single, "This is America". The lyrics are meant to highlight what its like to be a young successful black man during times of great divide and fear of police brutality. The music video is perhaps more controversial than the actual song itself and it begins with Gambino executing an elderly black man (followed by an entire black choir later in the video). The video was ballsy in a time of increased fears of gun and racial violence. Altogether I can only sum it up as pretty fucking crazy and brilliant at the same time. Gambino has recently mentioned he may be stepping back from music to focus more on his acting career so appreciate what you can of his music for now.
Thom Yorke - Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino film)
Another great soundtrack from 2018 was produced by none other than Radiohead front man, Thom Yorke. The movie is a remake of the 1977 Dario Argento movie of the same name and though I did not get a chance to catch it while it was in theaters this past fall, the original was scary as hell. The soundtrack is over 80 minutes long and includes both eerie instrumentals and occasional vocal backed tracks intermixed. "Suspirium" was the first track to be released and could easily be mistaken for a Radiohead B-side. At the very least, the album would make great Halloween party background music. Although this is Yorke's first feature film soundtrack, this is not the first time a Radiohead member has scored a major motion picture. Guitarist, Jonny Greenwood, composed the soundtrack to the 2007 film There Will Be Blood.
Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer
My embarrassing admission: before last year I did not know much about the work of Josh Tillman (AKA Father John Misty). All I knew were that the ladies loved him based off an episode of Master of None. The 2017 album, Pure Comedy, was my introduction and I remember thinking "holy shit this guy is dark and witty". He continues much of the same on God's Favorite Customer. I affirmed my love for FJM by watching him live twice this year including at the massive Sub Pop 30th Anniversary Party that took place at Alki Beach in Seattle, Washington. I am not sure why but he has some songs that somehow seem to remind me of the Beatles at times.
The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
My favorite new band of 2018, New Zealand's The Beths delivered an amazing pop punk masterpiece this year. I stumbled upon their song "Happy Unhappy" this summer on a random iTunes radio station prior to the release of the full album. I immediately fell in love, yet I was also left waiting and wanting more. The full album eventually was released and did not disappoint. The title track has a catchy chorus that has a tendency to get stuck in your head for the remainder of the day. Come to think of it, every song on this album seems to have the same effect. Elizabeth "Beth" Stokes plays rhythm guitar and offers some catchy vocal hooks. She is also extremely sweet and goofy in person.
Yuno - Moodie
I decided to round out my 2018 picks with a new artist who I felt deserves more recognition than he has received. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, Yuno signed to Sub Pop early this year and successfully blends sounds of emo, synth pop and hip-hop into one unique sound. The single "No Going Back" is catchy as hell and could easily be a radio hit if given the chance. The song "So Slow" sounds like the singer of Taking Back Sunday or a similar band might have sung it in a different life. Yuno not only bridges boundaries between musical genres but also of time periods (namely high school me vs. current me).
There you have it. There were definitely other great contenders out there but these albums in particular had heavy rotation on my headphones. Check them out if you have the time. What were some of your favorite albums that came out of this year?
Written by: Danny Zamora