And just like that, it’s already December 2018, with 2019 literally knocking at our doors. Who would have thought the year would fly by so quickly like it did, especially considering how long January seemed to go on for. Most importantly, I pray 2018 was all that you wanted it to be and much more, but even if it wasn’t, I hope you can take the last few days of the year to reset and recalibrate and come back even bigger in 2019. WE GO AGAIN!
As is now customary for us, for the seventh year in a row, December can only mean one thing, in music terms of course, and that is our definitive ‘Albums of the Year’ list. This year has brought some exceptional and exciting new music, and it’s always a privilege being able to bring you the best of the best of the countless records that have been released this year. Enjoy the list, dissect it, argue it, but more relevant, add these records to your music library!
As for my usual year-in-music round-up, here goes – Bruno Mars swept the GRAMMYs, Cardi B took the throne from Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne finally released Tha Carter V, Dave took UK rap to the top of the charts, Spice Girls got back together without Victoria Beckham, and Tekashi 6ix9ine ended up in prison. Rest in Peace to Aretha Franklin and Mac Miller. WAKANDA forever.
Thanks to AJ Banjo, Arthur Coppens, Jay Tijani, Libby Beacham, Nancy Chalkopoulou, Nicole Russell and Qurat-ul-anne Sikander, who have taken time out of their Christmas schedule to join me Ayo Adepoju, in curating our list of the best albums of the year. Without further ado, here are our 50 best albums of 2018!
50. Mount Eerie – Now Only
Released back in March, Now Only was the ninth studio album from Phil Elverum’s solo project Mount Eerie, and the follow up to his 2017 album A Crow Looked At Me, which was written about the death of his wife, cartoonist and musician Geneviève Castrée. This album Now Only continues in that same vein and that same reflection of Elverum’s loss and grief, but just a little bit gentler than A Crow Looked At Me.
Just like its predecessor, Now Only is overwhelming, heartbreaking, brutally honest, and even makes for heart wrenching listening at times. However, this record is a bit more hopeful than A Crow Looked At Me, and it also suggests, albeit briefly, that Elverum might be coming to terms with the tragic loss of his wife. At the best of times on this album, there is comfort and redemption, and at the worst of times, there is a quiet acceptance of his bitter truth.
49. Architects – Holy Hell
Holy Hell came just over two years after the death of Architect founding member and songwriter Tom Searle, who passed away in August 2016, after a 3-year battle with skin cancer. The band’s drummer and Tom’s brother, Dan Searle, took over a large portion of the songwriting duties on this new record, along with Sylosis guitarist Josh Middleton, however several songs on the album were derived from songwriting and music Tom Searle had provided before his death.
As one would imagine after losing a brother and a best friend, Holy Hell is centered around pain – how the band are processing it, how they are coping with it, and how they are trying to live with it, but more hopeful than that, the album is very much cathartic and a fitting tribute to Tom. Critically, the lyrics are brutally honest, the music is beautifully crafted and unlike anything else coming out of the metalcore scene this year. A worthy addition to this list.
48. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It
Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It was the very welcomed return to form for British experimental band Rolo Tomassi, following their critically panned and underwhelming 2015 album Grievances. This record, released at the beginning of March, sheds off all the dullness and monochromaticity of its predecessor, and sees the band indulging more in their experimental nature, to not only deliver a creatively forward thinking project but also a hugely satisfying body of work.
It is safe to say that Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It is the most complete and most accomplished record from Rolo Tomassi, and you could go as far as to crown it the best one in their 5-album discography so far. The record is as expansive as ever, and hard to fit into any genre box, it flows from post-rock to dream-pop to shoegaze to hardcore, and back again, rather excellently. Even if you discount the Metal side of this record, there is plenty elsewhere to land it in any end-of-year list!
47. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
Scottish rap band and 2014 Mercury Prize winners Young Fathers make an appearance on our ‘Best Albums of the Year’ list for the second time in four years with their third studio album Cocoa Sugar. Announced with the excellent “In My View” single, Cocoa Sugar feels more experimental than its predecessor, but it was also more accessible to the masses, and that is probably why it became their highest charting album in the UK Album Charts.
Even though Cocoa Sugar is accessible, Young Fathers have not diluted their sound, and as expected, this album sees the Scottish trio as political, impassioned and emotive as ever, as they chop down against nationalism and toxic masculinity, among other world issues of 2018, even though their chop down is not explicit as other bands’ this year. Sonically, this record feels exhilarating and invigorating from start to finish, and overall it’s one of the best of 2018!
46. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
We have seen some weird and wonderful stuff from The 1975 in recent years (who remembers their BRIT Awards performance where everyone thought their TVs were getting hacked). A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was slowly revealed to us through single releases, including the upbeat track “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME”, and is a worthy addition to their portfolio. “The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme” is super weird though.
The whole album turned out to be a huge surprise for many, with its well-refined texture and the ambitious fusion of sub-genres. From a millennial perspective and Matty Healy’s personal experience, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships addresses issues related to depression, drug addiction, isolation, politics and technology in the modern society, and ultimately becomes the voice of Millennials.
Inspired by and experimenting with alt-rock to neo-jazz to glitchy electronica, the album shapes the vulnerability and sensitivity of modern individuals, under a dystopian situation but with an optimistic attitude. Ultimately, it may not be the best album of 2018, but it is definitely a game-changing record that will influence the music industry for a long while to come.
45. Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands Of Love
With Safe In The Hands Of Love, the third studio album from Yves Tumor, it is clear that the experimental pop musician and producer is at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of pop music, not just sonically and aesthetically, but also in fluidity, emotional depth and forward-thinking songwriting. It isn’t just that Yves Tumor is pushing the envelope when it comes to pop music, it is how effortless and excellent he does it on this album.
While it is extremely difficult to categorise this record as any one genre and reductive even to just box it in as experimental, some musical styles stand out, from ambient electronic music and dream pop to 90’s R&B and alt-rock to bass and soul music, to great effect. What stands out more than this though, is the emotive purpose, both lyrically and sonically, that is seeping throughout Safe In The Hands Of Love. A must listen.
44. Eminem – Kamikaze
Coming out of nowhere, Eminem made a huge comeback this year with Kamikaze. With his traditional celeb-slamming lyrics, he pulled off his best album in years, after his previous album Revival was universally panned by critics. Instead of accepting that criticism, he returned to take shots at those who didn’t like the Revival album, reminding everyone that he’s still got it.
Featuring new rap artist Joyner Lucas on hit song “Lucky You”, Eminem also reminds the rap landscape not to neglect new talent simply because they are ‘new’. Lucas, to his credit, holds his own alongside Eminem and make a stand to those who refused to listen to him. The album also features Jessie Reyez and frequent collaborator Royce da 5’9”, who first worked with Eminem on “Bad Meets Evil” from The Slim Shady LP.
Kamikaze sees Eminem at his most impassioned and most enraged in almost a decade, and it also serves as a much-needed reintroduction of his Slim Shady moniker. With Kamikaze, Eminem shows that he is one of the best technical rappers ever and he is still great at what he does.
43. Dvtch Norris – I’m Sad, I Wanna Make It
If you’ve ever seen this Belgian country boy live, you’d know he’s a real entertainer. With his debut EP I’m Sad, I Wanna Make It, Dvtch Norris proves to be more than just an incredible performer. A songwriter, a rapper, a singer, you might even be tempted to call him the real deal. With the music video for the EP’s lead single “Toothpick” hitting almost 1.5 million views on Youtube, Dvtch Norris is levelling up and is ready to take over the world.
From its rousing opening number “Antwerp CountryBoy” to the more subtle and introspective “Sleepless For Days” to the defiant “SickOfAllThis”, there is a high level of craftsmanship, versatility, pure rap skills and lyricism throughout I’m Sad, I Wanna Make It that is seldom found on many other rap records released this year. Even though it is barely 20 minutes long, it leaves a lasting impression on you, that it would be a travesty not to highlight this record.
42. M.I Abaga – Rendezvous
Billed as a playlist, in the same vein as Drake’s More Life, M.I Abaga released his fourth studio album Rendezvous early in the year and it goes down as one of best of 2018. M.I does himself a disservice by referring to this record as a playlist, we know why he did and why other artists do it (so they can minimize its importance in their discography if the audience don’t like it), but it was not needed as this record is a masterpiece.
His first album in four years, Rendezvous is easily one of M.I Abaga’s best projects, and it is considerably better than the other album he released in 2018, Yxng Dxnzl, and that is not to slate the latter in any way, it’s just that Rendezvous feels different class. M.I’s creativity is transcendent on this record, you can literally taste the hunger in his belly throughout the project, and what’s more, he expands his musical palette, to great effect.
After having to defend his credentials in interviews and podcasts for the most part of 2017, against the often misplaced criticism that he had lost his way as a rapper and as a record executive, M.I Abaga shows and proves on Rendezvous, which conceptually is meant to represent the soundtrack to your evening out in Lagos. In that sense, it succeeds in being a fitting playlist to accompany your Lagos living, but more than that, it’s a brilliant album!
41. Weathers – Kids In The Night
A relatively new band on the scene, Weathers released their debut album this year, a wonderful gift to the world in the current atmosphere. Kids In The Night, the culmination of two EPs of the same name, is the album that every single person needs to have in their music playlist. With songs such as “I’m Not Ok” and “Shallow Water”, the band dig deep about mental health, depression and just a general state of melancholy.
Kids In The Night is an exceptional first album, which pulls at every emotion imaginable and allows the listener witness the band’s authenticity that permeates the album. For a band that has only been in the game for a few short years, this album as their first step into the music industry is outstanding and has the world waiting with bated breath for their future endeavours.
Click HERE for a full list of our Top 50 Albums of 2018!
Words by AJ Banjo, Arthur Coppens, Jay Tijani, Libby Beacham, Nancy Chalkopoulou, Nicole Russell, Qurat-ul-anne Sikander and Ayo Adepoju.