Everything Is Love
It’s a piece of a Jean-Michel state of mind, with Mona Lisa right behind. Embedded in a celebration of black love we are given the final piece to a love story that started with Beyoncé’s Lemonade and JAY-Z’s 4:44. Assembling succinctly as The Carters we see the world’s biggest power couple revel in their extravagance as they detail a memoir of their marriage. This masterpiece truly lives as a musical manifestation of their cultural sovereignty.
- Alex Mitcham
High As Hope
Florence and the Machine
What is Florence and the Machine if not grand? The theatre of their albums is something listeners have come to love and expect. In that sense, this album serves as another step along a well-established path of the band’s passionate and elegant method. Having said that, it would be a great shame to overlook the quieter, less familiar beauty this album radiates. Florence’s lyrics and vocals have always guided the band’s instrumentation. The especially daring, layered yet assured soundscapes presented here therefore make perfect sense. Where Florence’s openness has previously been an act of wearing her heart on her sleeve, this time, though equally thorough, immersive and lush, she gives us more by giving us less. That is to say, as well as her soul, she lets us hear her conscious dialogue with her soul, unaltered and unfiltered. Don’t mistake this for subtle or new: High As Hope is a sentimental optimist who you love, breaking down and proving to you that, beneath a thin but taut layer, they have always been just as self-aware, introspective and nuanced as you suspected. Being boldly timid without apologising for an innate hope and doing it flawlessly is what makes this album.
- Asad Raja
I’m All Ears
Let’s Eat Grandma
The second studio album from Let’s eat Grandma, a duo of precocious teenage girls from Norwich, runs the whole gamut of electro pop/rock. From the SOPHIE produced mechanised chaos of lead single ‘Hot Pink’, which gleefully plays both with concepts of femininity and chainsawesque synths, to the epic eleven minute closer ‘Donnie Darko’, this album is a kaleidoscopic gem. Indeed, the wondrously coruscating production throughout, coupled with the piercingly emotive lyrics makes this easily my favourite release of the year.
- Josh D’aeth
After a turbulent year for the “best boy band since one direction”, including the loss of a key member and a multi-million dollar record deal, Brockhampton finally delivered Iridescence. Packed with industrial-tinged bangers and shapeshifting, introspective gems, this album packs a serious punch. Production veers from visceral to glistening instantaneously, often both at once. By far the strangest album to top billboard this year.
- Miles Gulliford
In the eight years since Robyn released her seminal album Body Talk , her music has become something of a template for an entire generation of pop-writers. With their four-to-the-floor beats, catchy hooks, and emotionally-insightful lyrics, singles like ‘Dancing on my Own’ helped birth a new era of music appropriate for both the club and crying in your bedroom.
The expectation for follow-up Honey , therefore, was sky high. But Robyn delivered. She did so not, as many presumed, by continuing with the icy synth-pop of Body Talk , but instead by introducing a new warmth into her sound, while paying tribute to the club culture in which she has immersed herself.
Coming off the death of a close friend and the breakup of a long-term relationship, Honey acts as an aural balm, soothing our wounds while retaining a melancholy depth. While there is a clear link to her previous work, Honey marks Robyn out as a modern pop iconoclast, breaking out of a blueprint she created.
- Fred Fyles
Car Seat Headrest
While it may be a remake of the 2011 lo-fi original, the explosive reworking of this coming of age story make it enough of a new album to be included on this list. Angsty yet assertive, the album’s narrator details his hopeless longing for a nameless man who he recognises he can’t be with. It’s a tale of what-could-have-been-but-never-quite-was, told through both wit and sorrow. It’s musically dense, spanning classic indie rock instrumentals and screamed choruses, through to phase-shifted spoken word soundscapes, all drenched in Will Toledo’s signature anecdotal charm.
- Adrian LaMoury
Time ‘n’ Place
Kero Kero Bonito
On their debut LP Bonito Generation , KKB showcased their infectious brand of dance-pop filled with ebullient melodies and childlike lyricism. Despite this leading to quite the cult following, with Time ‘n’ Place they shed the computer-based beats and Japanese rapping in favour of noisy guitars and poignant lyrical subjects. What results is a fleshed-out, dreamy, nostalgic indie rock masterpiece which maintains the youthful optimism of their roots.
- Eren Akademir
Love Is Dead
CHVRCHES’ third album Love Is Dead sees them reach new heights as they continue to construct addictive melodies with clever, emotive lyrics. The album asks the question: is love dead? And explores themes surrounding it. In ‘Graves’, lead singer Lauren Mayberry, croons: “Leaving bodies in stairwells and washing up on shores”. This is a clear allusion to the tragedies that occurred in Grenfell as well as the current refugee crisis. Other songs explore the theme in terms of relationships and friendships, but each one can be enjoyed for its melody and its meaning.
- Eamon Akil Farhat
Joy As An Act Of Resistance
Following on from their eccentric first album, Idles dropped a punchy post-punk project for Brexit Britain. Politically charged from start to finish, Joy as an Act of Resistance tackles everything from male suicide rates to immigration, all with smirking lyrical flair. With production to back-up the sharp lyricism, the album can make you want to kick in a door and bawl your eyes out in consecutive tracks. A humorous, well-crafted release, Joy as an Act of Resistance is the perfect antidote to the depressing political landscape of 2018.
- Joe O’connell-Danes
Almost 30 years-worth of banging tunes and many, many memories; five working class men with the ambition and determination to work super hard for success; great motivation in the morning to face the day and escape on the way home. Though I do have restrain myself from performing the well-known dance moves on the Piccadilly line home!
- Catrin Davies
White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood
Of Montreal’s fifteenth studio album White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood is a paranoid electronic spin on the band’s usual work. It brings the focus on social commentary we have come to expect from the band’s lead Kevin Barnes, who sings in disbelief about the state of the world, citing social critics James Baldwin and Noam Chomsky as influences.
Barnes, in shock at the state of late capitalism and in anger at “toxic American White identity”, suggests reality really exists inside a simulation: in ‘Plateau Phase/No Careerism No Corruption’ he sings “If we put our ear to the ceiling / we can hear the government breathing / […] we can hear the simulation wheezing.”
His sharp anxiety soaks the complex lyrics in a pulsing drumbeat and elaborate instrumentals. This is perhaps one of the least accessible albums from the group, but its more electronic focus represents a new direction for them, and one I look forward to hearing more of.
- Josef Willsher
Bark Your Head Off, Dog
This album is 40 minutes of indie rock bliss. Every single song is gorgeous, catchy, and beautifully written. There are more incredible hooks than I know what to do with; some songs even have more than one. It sounds wistful, big-hearted and romantic, with vocals and lyrics that are so heartfelt you can’t help but be captivated.
- Alex Large
Phil Elverum aka Mount Eerie follows up on last year’s tragic A Crow Looked At Me , with a slightly sweeter, more free-form collection of songs, he leads us through the twists and turns of his life in the wake of his wife’s tragic death. While the instrumentals and vocals are fragile at times, Phil shows us again that dwelling on mortality and the fragility of life is what he does best.
- Miles Gulliford
Little Dark Age
MGMT’s Little Dark Age is their strongest release to date. That said, while it is a good, possibly even great, album, I was hesitant about whether it was album-of-the-year-worthy. But looking back on 2018, it is the best album that my unashamedly ignorant ears came across this year. The title track is an undeniable banger with its goth-synth-pop sound, and the musical and lyrical quirks throughout the record make for an engaging and amusing listen, especially on tracks ‘She Works Out Too Much’, ’When You Die’ and ‘TSLAMP’ (Time Spent Looking At My Phone). One can’t help but feel that MGMT have gleefully adopted a post-ironic stance on this album, and in my book that beats chart-oriented pop any day. LDA might not objectively be 2018’s best album, but as of now for me it is.
- Neel Le Penru
Carly Rae Jepsen
Well, she’s done it again folks. It may be hard to believe, but Ms. Carly Rae Jepsen – queen of modern pop, master of the break-up ballad, Canada’s number one producer of sad bops (sorry Drake) – has yet again obtained the top spot in this year’s album listings with E.MO.TION.
‘But wait!’ I hear you cry, ‘wasn’t E.MO.TION , Ms Jepsen’s wig-snatching, banger-stuffed, epic-for-our-times actually released in 2015?’ Yes, dear reader, you are indeed correct. But until another artist releases anything remotely era-defining as E.MO.TION I refuse to make Carly give up her throne. I mean, have you even listened to ‘Boy Problems’? I rest my case.
- Fred Fyles