What a year it’s been for music. Compiling a list of my favorite albums of 2018 was a difficult task, here we are. It felt like I listened to more music this year than any other, but I guess that comes with this site growing steadily. One of the best perks is getting albums a couple months ahead of their release date, and a number of these albums I fell in love with before they hit the street.
I don’t like to use the word “Best” when putting together my own list, because it would be impossible for me to have heard every worthwhile album this year. Instead, these are what I call my favorite albums of the year. The records I kept coming back to and indulging in. Without further ado, here we go.
Standout Songs: “Nica Libres at Dusk”, “A Boat To An Island On The Wall”, “Towing The Line”
One thing I appreciated about Ben Howard’s latest record was that he was at a crossroads and he took the road less traveled. Seven of the ten tracks on the record are at least 4:54 long. In the past he’s shown an ability to write quick singer-songwriter ballads that make it onto everyone’s sadgirl/boy playlists. But this album takes a cinematic approach and Howard allows the tunes to breathe and go places that he takes many of his songs in his live show. Noonday Dream is an album that begs to be listened to front-to-back and one that allows you to discover something new with each listen.
Standout Songs: “Holding On”, “Coming for You”, “O.M.G. (I’m All Over It)”
Formerly known as Jenn Ghetto and S, the rebrand of Jenn Champion wasn’t just in name only. Previous projects were more guitar-driven and Single Rider saw Champion go full bore into synth pop with remarkable results. The dance-floor banger “O.M.G. (I’m All Over It)” was the first single and did a great job representing this new sound of hers. If you heard her previous material, it would have more likely made you sob than dance, so this was a complete 180-degree turn.
Standout Songs: “August 10”, “Friday Morning”, “Maria Tambien”
The Houston instrumental psych-rock trio first came to my attention with a mesmerizing set at Desert Daze 2017 and I haven’t looked back since. If you’re a Thievery Corporation fan, this seems like an extension of that and this album nails the aesthetic wonderfully. It’s the kind of album that can accompany you to the beach or to the desert. The deep grooves the trio sets on this pleasant sounding record is guaranteed to have you dancing and moving.
Standout Songs: “Ancient Names (Part I)”, “Never Ever”, “Wait by the River”
This album got a bit overlooked when it dropped, and I struggle to understand why. It feels like it has more depth and texture than their previous work and shows an alternate timeline where they could’ve been The Killers if they didn’t go the folk route (especially on “Never Ever”). The sound of the record is also more psychedelic than we’ve ever come to expect from the band, no doubt thanks to mixer Dave Fridmann (MGMT, Flaming Lips). The guitar riffs in”Ancient Names (Part I)” will have your head bopping. It’s a departure from their previous work and signifies the kind of growth you hope for out of a band’s third album.
Standout Songs: “After the Storm” ft. Tyler, the Creator & Bootsy Collins, “Tyrant” ft. Jorja Smith, “Just A Stranger” ft. Steve Lacy
Few debut albums were as anticipated as Kali Uchis and she delivered in a big way. The record features a wide range of collaborators, a sign at just how many people wanted to work with the Colombian R&B and neo-soul and pop singer. Production credits from Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), BADBADNOTGOOD, Greg Kurstin (Sia), and Thundercat, as well as Damon Albarn, Tyler, the Creator, Jorja Smith, and Steve Lacy features show how diverse the record is. It’s amazing to have that many all-star collaborators and still shine and stand out as the brightest — which is what Kali Uchis does.