At the half, I can say with confidence that 2018 has been one of the strongest years in music I’ve experienced in a while, probably since 2015 or 2014. 2016 and 2017 were fine, but the amount of confidence I feel in my top 15 favorites on this list here is much deeper than those years. Lots of depth here, along with a lot of new names I haven’t seen on any other “toplists” of mine lately.
Of course Hop Along is holding the top spot right now, but don’t be surprised if U.S. Girls ends up taking it in the end. Also, 2018 is weird for being the year I have three major pop albums in my top 10, but no Beach House in my top 25. So it goes, I guess! Hope you enjoy + make sure to peep my top five favorite EPs of the year at the bottom of the post, too!
- HOP ALONG – BARK YOUR HEAD OFF, DOG [SADDLE CREEK]
Getting so deeply invested in your family’s old, nostalgic stories that you begin to interact with corporeal visions of familial times long past.
Unsure if there’s a band out there that has the power to contort my face along to the lyrics and contract my muscles to the instrumental cues like this band’s choruses do. Come for Frances Quinlan’s unreal voice, stay for the life-changing choruses.
- U.S. GIRLS – IN A POEM UNLIMITED [4AD]
A world-class spy is a sucker for karaoke.
The hardest-working band in 2018. Meg Remy is a songwriting genius. Layers upon layers of furious, unreal musicianship that reveal themselves more and more after each listen. They tap into a variety of retro sounds and inspirations, but this is potentially the most “2018-sounding” record out there. Like I said though, absolutely furious.
- SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES [FUTURE CLASSIC]
Getting trapped in a bright, LCD-covered room and being forced to find the key to exit by popping hundreds of balloons filled with sticky, pink goo.
SOPHIE pushes the envelope even further than I thought it could go with her signature latex-pop, making slow, balladic songs fit into her perfumed, ROM-hacked landscape and elevating the acceptable threshold of “pop banger” to new, unattainable heights.
- CAROLINE ROSE – LONER [NEW WEST]
A series of commercials where everyone is crying while advertising their products.
A near-perfect collection of fun indie pop songs. Each track is simple in its execution but do enough interesting things on their own to stand out from one another. Also catchy as all hell and like I said, just plain fun and satisfying to listen to. See them live!
- JANELLE MONAE – DIRTY COMPUTER [BAD BOY]
A deliciously funky sexual revolution for AI.
The stretch of “Crazy, Classic, Life” to “I Like That” is possibly the strongest series of songs on any record from this year. Important, relevant, but incredibly fun.
- KACEY MUSGRAVES – GOLDEN HOUR [MERCURY]
Plush sun & silky breezes caress your entire body, making you feel weightless.
Purely sublime country pop music. Incredibly charming and super easy to listen to. Another incredible stretch of songs “Love Is A Wild Thing” to “High Horse” – primo.
- SKEE MASK – COMPRO [ILIAN TAPE]
Like being strapped inside a metal box that has one small window to look out of and being pushed down a large, snowy mountain.
The SOUNDS. The DRUMS. The TEXTURES. I wanna get lost in this album like a dense forest. Expertly crafted and every time I think I have the whole thing figured out, I notice a little knot here or there that makes me reconsider everything I thought I had known about the record. Aphex Twin comparisons aren’t totally off-base here.
- KALI UCHIS – ISOLATION [REPRISE]
Sitting by a pool in a plush robe while the neighborhood burns behind you.
At first glance it sounds like it could be any other pop album out there, but it’s so much more than that. A range of brilliant production and stylistic choices. Just effortlessly cool and perfect to listen to in the summer. Gotta love music that makes you feel cool.
- DJ KOZE – KNOCK KNOCK [PAMPA]
Laying in the bed of a pickup truck, you watch the skies change hue, listen to different sounds coming out of passing cars, and feel the terrain changing around you as you make your way across the country to visit an old friend.
Instantly transports you to some sort of vacation dimension, one similar to The Avalanches’ Wildflower. Following the theme of many of my other top favorites – it’s just plain fun. Each song has something different and off the wall to comfort you with.
- SERPENTWITHFEET – SOIL [DEAD OCEANS]
A pyromancer delivers a harrowing sermon of love and loss through curling, vibrant, mourning flames.
Nothing like this is being made anywhere else. A totally singular talent that curates his production with expert taste. Lavish, gothic, brilliant, devotional, fiery, passionate.
- RENATA ZEIGUER – OLD GHOST [NORTHERN SPY]
A bed by the seaside held by an ornate brass frame is covered in a mixture of corn meal, sand, shell shards and sawdust.
- GROUPER – GRID OF POINTS [KRANKY]
After a hard, summer rain, steam rises from a clearing that’s been ravaged by wildfires.
- PALM – ROCK ISLAND [CARPARK]
A local community center where gamelan and steel drum ensembles practice is faxed a corrupted picture of the Beach Boys with the faces of Animal Collective photoshopped on by an unknown party.
- A.A.L. (AGAINST ALL LOGIC) – 2012 – 2017 [OTHER PEOPLE]
A house is constantly tearing down and rebuilding its own walls with materials that vary in historical significance.
- NATALIE PRASS – THE FUTURE AND THE PAST [ATO]
The fastest way to get home is to cut through a bunch of empty film sets, where our main character usually stops alone and re-enacts scenes from their favorite movies.
- HALEY HEYNDERICKX – I NEED TO START A GARDEN [MAMA BIRD]
Laying in bed at twilight and being cordially greeted by passerby bugs, birds and balloons from a big bay window.
- KADHJA BONET – CHILDQUEEN [FAT POSSUM]
Merging heirlooms into a painter’s canvas to make portraits of fictional characters from your family tree.
- JPEGMAFIA – VETERAN [DEATHBOMB ARC]
You said something stupid in an internet forum and now there’s someone at your door trying to kill you, or at least torment you until you tone it down online a bit, dude.
- BERNICE – PUFF LP: IN THE AIR WITHOUT A SHAPE [ARTS & CRAFTS]
A conductor stands atop a tall hill and directs the graceful movement of passing clouds.
- DUSK – DUSK [DON GIOVANNI]
Seeing some of the same old, charming items (fridge magnets, plastic cups, fake plants, plastic tablecloth) from your grandparents’ house in a thrift store, miles & miles away.
- CAROLINE SAYS – NO FOOL LIKE AN OLD FOOL [WESTERN VINYL]
A child wandering through the forest hears a calming voice coming from underneath a mossy rock and finds the source to be a gentle jet of steam.
- MØL – JORD [HOLY ROAR RECORDS]
Playfully shooting at a star in the sky causes it to actually start falling to Earth, pulling the planet into immediate crisis.
- ANENON – TONGUE [FRIENDS OF FRIENDS]
Holed up in a small cave during a thunderstorm, a pair of hikers uncover a tiny, bioluminescent community of self-sufficient fungus people.
- MARY LATTIMORE – HUNDREDS OF DAYS [GHOSTLY]
At a sacred spot deep in the forest, hundreds of little butterflies will peacefully roost upon your tired frame.
- GANG GANG DANCE – KAZUASHITA [4AD]
Like laying in the tall grass and letting the Earth slowly consume you, allowing electricity-like travel throughout the ecosystem.
- SMERZ – HAVE FUN [XL]
Across a foggy, strobe-lit room, a dancer stares at you intimidatingly.
- HATCHIE – SUGAR & SPICE [DOUBLE DOUBLE WHAMMY]
Like acquiring the Midas Touch but instead of gold, everything you touch turns to Valentine’s Day heart candies.
- RAVYN LENAE – CRUSH [ATLANTIC]
A treehouse decked out with floor-to-ceiling red shag carpet and a disco ball.
- JENNY HVAL – THE LONG SLEEP [SACRED BONES]
A magical elixir, allowing one to reap the benefits of sleeping and dreaming while retaining full consciousness, may cause some to become stuck in this dreaming state.
- ANEMONE – BABY ONLY YOU AND I [LUMINELLE]
The billowing, flower-patterned pants you bought at a thrift store keeps throwing you surprise parties when you come back from work.
- Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
- U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
- SOPHIE – Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides
- Caroline Rose – Loner
- Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
- Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
- Skee Mask – Compro
- Kali Uchis – Isolation
- DJ Koze – Knock Knock
- serpentwithfeet – soil
- Renata Zeiguer – Old Ghost
- Grouper – Grid Of Points
- Palm – Rock Island
- A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012 – 2017
- Natalie Prass – The Future And The Past
- Haley Heynderickx – I Need To Start A Garden
- Kadhja Bonet – Childqueen
- JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
- Bernice – Puff LP: In the air without a shape
- Dusk – Dusk
- Caroline Says – No Fool Like An Old Fool
- møl – JORD
- Anenon – Tongue
- Mary Lattimore – Hundreds Of Days
- Gang Gang Dance – Kazuashita