For Your Consideration:


Before we dive into our full list of the Top 50 picks for 2018, we'd like to take a moment for a few albums that have been either neglected or rejected this year, but just as worthy of love (and perhaps a revisit).


Cypress Hill - Elephants on Acid

Back when I was a kid at primary school, someone smuggled in a tape of Black Sunday inside their shitty Aiwa Walkman. Before it was confiscated it had scandalized a whole year of Merseyside pre-teens who had never heard that kind of language, delivered in that register of poisonous, self-righteous disgust. Three observations that are entirely irrelevant to just good how Elephants on Acid is: any artist, Cypress Hill included, only get one first impression; rap isn’t punk any more; and weed is legal in ten states. Sex, violence and the precious herb aren’t shocking any more. Legends have to find a way to stay legendary that isn’t just by re-releasing their classic albums every couple of years in less and less ‘Limited’ Editions. Tracks like ‘Band of Gypsies’ and ‘Oh Na Na’ drag the classic Cypress Hill template into the 21st Century, while ‘Jesus Was A Stoner’ goes somewhere else entirely – almost into the territory of desert rock. With Muggs back on production, Cypress Hill feel vital again. -Nicholas Glover

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Hayley Kiyoko - Expectations

20-gay-teen is coming to a close and what a year it’s been for Hayley Kiyoko. Topped off with winning the Billboard rising star award recently lesbian Jesus has arrived and all signs point she’s here to stay. As well as her solid pop efforts she took the time to star in the Kerry Washington-produced Facebook show Five Points and has been snapping Insta-friendly shots of her with fans all across the states. As a card-carrying member of the queer ladies club it’s my duty to tell you all how indebted I am to Tegan and Sara, but Hayley Kiyoko is the gay pop-‘princess’ we all deserve. Excuse the overused pun, but Expectations gave a lot of us just those. -Lauren Mullineaux

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Eminem- Kamikaze

Our cloistered, stubborn little community has a hard time admitting it, but this was Eminem's year. Best selling album in pure sales? Check. Breaking records on YouTube? Check. Finding an audience with a younger generation? Sure, maybe it took firebombing half of them, but a big check. Critics, who'd taken more than a bit too much pleasure in writing Eminem off, were swift to declare, "grumpy old man", but such a knee-jerk read was both laughably lazy and plainly wrong. Try and say the guy goofily dabbing with Joyner Lucas in the 'Lucky You' video looks angry. Marshall is finally having fun again. Moreover, he knows full well his clock is running towards it toll: if he's going out, he's going out on some Kong shit, swinging. For the first time in years, it looks like Mr. Mathers might just be capable of taking the world with him when he goes. The real Slim Shady stood up, and showed out, in a big way in 2018. Get the hell over it. You might even enjoy yourself. -Chase McMullen

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And now, for your regular, painstakingly, scheduled programming...

The Rundown


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50. boygenius - boygenius

boygenius is the culmination of a world-expanding couple of years for its three creators; Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers have all released acclaimed and beloved albums in the last 15 months, and yet there is an argument to say that they saved their best for last. Starting out as merely a dream that Baker had, boygenius collided for a couple of days of inspirational writing and recording, each bringing parts of songs and helping each other to finish them. The resulting product does exactly what we always dream a collaborative effort like this would do: shows off each of their individual talents and also pushes them collectively into something new. It’s fair to say that the three young women have found in each other peers who are on a similar life trajectory, and that has helped them to augment their talent into six crystalline and dynamic tracks. Using their three distinct voices – Dacus’ earthy, Bridgers’ featherlight, Baker’s angsty – they tackle feelings of isolation, numbness and heartbreak from varied angles and poises. Each of the six songs on boygenius would be powerful gut-punches if on their solo work, but hearing these raw feelings coming at you from three distinct voices, before culminating in battering-ram harmonies, makes it feel all the more universal and, ultimately, redemptive. -Rob Hakimian

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49. Tomberlin - At Weddings

Sarah Beth Tomberlin's upbringing in a strict Baptist household and her eventual loss in the very faith that consumed every aspect of her childhood dominates much of her stunning debut At Weddings. Even if it isn't always directly addressed, the struggle of losing faith and having to fill the void left by the only constant in her life weighs heavily here. Having turned to music as a means of coping, her songs explore the added difficulty of transitioning into adulthood and also navigating the tricky world of adult love after spending most of her youth living an isolated life. The arrangements are mostly bare and intimate, and with the exception of the occasional use of strings, she's often accompanied by little more than a finger-picked acoustic fluttering beneath her startling and powerful voice as she offers candid accounts of her most personal experiences from struggling with self-doubt and her own shortcomings to being vulnerable and overcoming heartache and even abuse. A refreshingly honest and surprisingly hopeful portrait of survival and growth, At Weddings is the work of a truly remarkable and promising young artist. -Jeremy Monroe

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48. TWICE - Summer Nights

My ears might be lying to me, but I truly believe TWICE love each and every one of us. For a group that have embraced acceptance in every imaginable form since their inception, the K-pop group have made themselves all too easy to adore. Summer Nights, an expanded version of an EP released earlier in 2018, stands as perhaps their most irresistible work yet, allowing the concise nature of the original effort to breathe into an even stronger body of work. The title may feel too much of an easy reference at first glance, but every moment here fully embodies the joyful abandon of the best summer evenings to the letter, pure glee and goodwill seeping from each and every second. TWICE don’t mess around when it comes to hooks, and the likes of ‘Chillax’, ‘Dejavu’ and ‘Shot Thru the Heart’ are absolutely guaranteed to soak right into your pleasure centers, try as you might to resist their charms. You might as well give in and dance. It is inevitable. -Chase McMullen

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47. Reese LaFlare - Reese LaFlare

If there was any justice in the world, well, a lot of things would be different. But also, Reese LaFlare would be getting way more attention. Coming from Atlanta, a city immensely spoiled for rap stars, past and present, Reese’s gimmick is that he doesn’t have one. He’s a chameleon who sounds equally at home being affectionately corny as he does being tough. Even with high-profile guests like Pusha T and Young Thug, Reese never relinquishes control of his album. It’s the work of a talent who’s practically daring you to underestimate him. -Brody Kenny

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46. SUNMI - WARNING

“Who’s running the show?” Wonder Girls expat Sunmi asks on ‘Addict,’ the opening track to her Warning EP, before asserting that it is, in fact, she. That kind of confidence raises the question if she can deliver. The answer is beyond a resounding yes. Warning is 20 minutes of female empowerment that reminds you of how confidence is not a matter of not being afraid, but moving forward in spite of any trepidation, backed by production that’s both vibrant and intimate. Devotees of K-pop will avow that no country is producing better pop music. With music like this, it’s hard to disagree with them. -Brody Kenny

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45. Miya Folick - Premonitions

The album cover for Santa Ana singer-songwriter Miya Folick's extraordinary debut features her face pressed between those of her Russian father and Japanese mother, encapsulating several themes central to the album: community, the convergence of past, present and future, and the wonder to be found in the everyday. Folick and her production partners set out to make an album that, in her own words, feels like the mysterious details of our lives, all the massive and mundane glories. And whether it’s a horn-laden, party-ready stomper all about, well, leaving the party to get some alone time, or a funky new-wave number bemoaning a friend’s persistent boy trouble, Folick injects her songs with grounded details, a rich vein of humour, and a genuine sense of wonder. These may be songs that dwell on the small things, but they are huge-sounding. Folick isn’t afraid to push her remarkably dynamic vocals into 80s power ballad territory in service of crafting the perfect, irresistible belt-it-out-along moment. And when it’s called for, Folick doesn’t shy away from the big issues either: ‘Deadbody,’ for one, is the raging #MeToo anthem these times call for. In a year dominated by women making sophisticated, artful pop, Miya Folick managed to bring to mind some of the all-time greats (Sinead O’Connor, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Dolores O'Riordan, heck, even Celine Dion!) while also setting herself apart from the pack. -Andy Johnston

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44. Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs

Earl Sweatshirt is the completely masterful and all-manipulative dictator of every minute detail of Some Rap Songs. Every sample and warped beat, every hook and every syllable, seems firmly under his strict grasp; everything, that is, apart from the rawness of his emotional instincts. With its Shades of Blue-esque soul sample-searching production, the instrumentals of Some Rap Songs are an abstract, impenetrable listen, and the lyrics don’t prove any release from that. Earl’s capacity for potent one-liners and stream-of-consciousness-like flows make him one of the most distinctive voices in modern hip-hop. Some Rap Songs is a surreal and deliberately incoherent labyrinth of an album, but, even at under 25 minutes, somehow this is the exact dose of pioneering hip-hop that the genre needed in 2018, and a truly excellent, essential record. -Ed Cunningham

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43. Ichiko Aoba - qp

Ichiko Aoba exists of out time, out of place. More Vashti Bunyan than Julie Byrne, the still young 28-year-old Japanese singer-songwriter has quietly racked up six intimately impressive albums, not the least of which being her 2018 effort, qp. Her particularly serene brand of folk may bring to mind certain Western voices, but there’s something distinctly Japanese about her compassionate playing; one can easily hear the echoes of a lonely walk through Kyoto, her childhood home, in every note. Her classically influenced style speaks to a wide audience, boosting her latest album onto this year’s list of favorites (as of publishing, it sits comfortably at #31) on Rateyourmusic. It’s a belated, well-deserved bit of recognition, and we can only hope she continues to gently rise. -Chase McMullen

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42. Sons of Kemet - Your Queen Is A Reptile

Spitting in the face of the blinkeredly-nostalgic and crucially unrepresentative establishment, the Shabaka Hutchings-led London jazz quartet Sons of Kemet's third record offers a voice to thousands in an aggressive, essential call-to-arms. Two drummers, a tuba and a sax don’t make for the most conventional jazz quartet, but the result is a kind of ultra-polyrhythmic collection of beats and catchy, forthright melodies. Your Queen is a Reptile is potent, antagonistic spiritual jazz for the modern age, an exhilarating offering from the genre’s most important contemporary scene. -Ed Cunningham

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41. Half Waif - Lavender

She may not quite have gotten the recognition to equal the feat, but make no mistake, Nandi Rose Plunkett released her best work to date this year. Returning with Half Waif, she drew inspiration from the inevitable, approaching death of her grandmother, as well as the general disarray of our world, to craft Lavender. It’s an album for the in between, beauty before it fades, incense prior to burning out, peace just before it’s shattered. Her own words on ‘Salt Candy’ put it best: “I was once a thousand other things. Now I’m not.” Lavender will heal a broken heart, only to shatter it again. -Chase McMullen

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40. Body Void - I Live Inside A Burning House

In a grim coincidence, the title of Bay Area sludge/doom/crust trio Body Void's album conjures the image of much of their home state of California being aflame this year. Regardless of any literal fires, inner turmoil, the kind that Body Void deals in, can feel like it’s perpetually ready to ignite or get worse. Like all the best metal, I Live Inside A Burning House exorcizes your demons and tells them you won’t go down without a fight. -Brody Kenny

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39. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!

The fact that Parquet Courts can still expand their palette is amazing, but Wide Awake! is easily their most open record to date. The buoyancy of the bassy tracks against the anger of the lyrics make this aggression easy to delight and revel in. The sound of a band who are at the height of their creativity. -Lauren Mullineaux

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38. BoA - WOMAN

BoA did not take no for a goddamn answer in 2018. For an arena that ostensibly celebrates girl power harder than perhaps any scene worldwide (just see the recent wave, whether Red Velvet, TWICE, or BLACKPINK), K-pop is an absurdly tricky balancing act for artists with X chromosomes. Be sexy, but don’t be too powerful. Attract that male gaze, but don’t you dare show too much skin. Be funny and charming, but don’t you be too clever, lest you make those male hosts feel inferior. No less, the genre is notoriously unkind to its stars as they age. BoA may just be 32, but she released her first album in 2000. Both of these facts are enough to threaten her with extinction in the mile per minute speed of K-pop, with younger girls dropping into the scene seemingly every other minute. So how did BoA approach her nineteenth damn album? By beating that sexist nonsense over the head with the best fucking Korean pop album of the year. The tellingly titled WOMAN makes one thing clear: those caps are no mistake. BoA is here to stay, thank you very much. -Chase McMullen

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37. Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

Equally despised as they are adored, Deafheaven has always existed as the most polarizing presence within the black metal scene. Though Deafheaven’s fusion of post-rock and blackgaze has pushed metalheads away with albums like Sunbather and the far more gritty New Bermuda, they decided to reinvent themselves and slow things down by taking a deeply melodic posture with Ordinary Corrupt Human Love—arguably Deafheaven’s boldest offering to date. Even though the band’s sad and softer leanings continue to aggravate and alienate “true” black metal enthusiasts, they’ve progressed their sound into a serviceable realm for most to enjoy. Naysayers aside, it’s refreshing to hear Deafheaven voyage into purely shoegaze-y territory and hauntingly surreal extremes with tracks like 'Near' and 'Canary Yellow'—the latter, which submerges listeners into 12 minutes of emotional peaks and valleys, pulled directly from a reverb-drenched dream—pins the band as one of the absolute best metal bands to reconcile introspective melancholy with unadulterated aggression. -Kyle Kohner

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36. Kathryn Joseph - From When I Wake The Want Is

Scottish singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph, in order to purge and tell a history with a profound level of intimacy, endured a period of agonizing heartbreak. From When I Wake The Want Is, her sophomore album, has become, since its release in August, one of the strongest testimonials of human strength, solely relying on its brutal, beautiful honesty, simplicity and, most importantly, sending a message of perseverance to those who seek solace. -Francisco Silva

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35. Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy

After the huge success of ‘Bodak Yellow’ in 2017, the pressure was on Cardi B to deliver a standout debut in 2018 to prove that she was more than just a one-hit wonder. Invasion Of Privacy is, fortunately, a confident debut that really showcases Cardi’s wit and skill as a rapper. From the cinematic opener of ‘Get Up 10’, to the sensational salsa-sampling ‘I Like It’, and the moody SZA-featuring ‘I Do’, Invasion of Privacy is an album with a surprising amount of range and scope that suggests Cardi B has plenty more to show us yet. -Robert Whitfield

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34. Tirzah - Devotion

Tirzah's debut album is packed full of fractured sounds and melodies which echo the fragile lyrical subject matter of unrequited love and isolation. Produced by Mica Levi, the 11 songs on Devotion share an off-kilter, skewed idea of post-R&B song structure and have a genuine feeling of intimacy, vulnerability and imminent collapse. Tirzah Mastin’s voice is a powerful tool which is, quite brilliantly, used in a restrained and modest way on this album and further serves to reinforce the unsettling tone, narrative and mood of the tracks. Many of the album’s songs feel arrhythmic yet they perfectly sync with the tenderness and open wounds nature of the subject matter at hand. This is confessional, private music and is some of the best eavesdropping you could wish for. -Todd Dedman

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33. Aseul - Asobi

To listen to Asobi is to spend a day and night in Seoul: a living, breathing evening, with all its ups and downs. If you’re not a fan, forget the glossy joy of K-pop. Aseul is a proud member of a ragtag bunch of kids determined to find a new voice in Korean pop. From Neon Bunny to Yeseo, they’re far more interested in the reality of growing up in such a miniaturized metropolis, a country with one of the fastest growing GDPs in the world, bottled up into a land mass seven times smaller than Texas. Delving into electropop, Aseul’s world is decidedly more personable than the Korean hits you’re used to hearing; wistful youth and melancholy through a decidedly Korean lens. ‘Sand Castles’ feels big, lost in the city, ‘Always with You’ delves into the sweeter side of romance, while ‘Room’ finds our heroine isolated and alone; a true hidden pleasure, waiting to be unearthed. -Chase McMullen

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32. Vince Staples - FM!

After composing one of the most urgently political rap albums of the decade as well as the most decadently bassy, Vince Staples is perfectly entitled to have some fun. His innate snark and ironic wit, previously shackled to an extent by his prerogative to Make Important Music, is gloriously unhinged on FM!, teasing and pinching, promising dense hooks with his ‘earl sweatshirt interlude’ before abruptly cutting to languid trap in ‘Run The Bands’. He doesn’t let you down though, the beats are trippy, the bass is leaden, and the bars are ingenious. There’s nothing vindictive here, just good times. -Kieran Devlin

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31. Hana Vu - How Many Times Have You Driven By

Hana Vu has no interest in what’s expected of her. Her debut LP guised as EP, How Many Times Have You Driven By, was presented to the press as 6 songs to make an unknown artist feel easily digestible, but Vu was only interested in recording by the LP, and convinced her new label to put together 10 songs and just, well, not tell anyone. What resulted is easily one of the best debuts from any artist in 2018, a swelling, bruised, and brave walk through the life of a young woman growing up in the bizzaro archipelago of LA. Not convinced? She’ll have you in 2 songs: vibe to ‘Cool’ and catch feels to ‘Afternoon’. For my money, the most exciting brand new voice to hit record stores this year. -Chase McMullen

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30. Vessel - Queen Of Golden Dogs

From the opening bars of screaming electric violin, it was clear that Vessel had moved onto a whole different plane of existence on their (formerly, his) latest long player. Queen of Golden Dogs is a quantum leap forward; a pounding, delirious mass of bleeding edge beats and classical dissonance that skips between genres, gleefully lashing out at with noise and mathematical baroque ‘n’ bass. ‘Paplu (Love That Moves the Sun)’ is nearly ten minutes of stop-start acid house and often beat-less mutations, while ‘Arcanum (For Christalla)’ is a neo-classical chamber piece. Like the album artwork, Queen of Golden Dogs is extraordinary, and impossible to pigeonhole. -Nicholas Glover

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29. Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth

Kamasi Washington's second album, somehow manages to be a bigger and bolder endeavour than that of his debut, The Epic, but also surprisingly accessible. Washington and his band adopt big band jazz, bebop and cosmic jazz stylings to create a record that manages to be both powerful and personal in equal measure. Standout tracks include the righteous opening track ‘Fists of Fury’ the funky ‘Street Fighter Mas’ and the emotional, heart-rending ‘Will You Sing?’ -Robert Whitfield

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28. Marie Davidson - Working Class Woman

Marie Davidson's fourth album, Working Class Woman, is as thrilling as it is terrifying. Written on tour and road tested as part of a show called “Bullshit Threshold,” it’s a savagely satirical and incredible captivating listen. A trip into a capitalist hell becomes a thumping party anthem on 'Work It', while 'The Tunnel' turns breaking the glass ceiling into a claustrophobic horror film. Yet the paralysing subject matter begets Davidson’s evocative work to date. Working Class Woman is an adrenaline-rush of a record, shot through with the darkest humour, creating a tragicomedy of the clubbing scene that’s so immensely catchy. -Chris Taylor

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27. Iceage - Beyondless

The easiest jumping-off place for Iceage used to be their age, given their being a bunch of Danish teenagers, none of whom were past the age of 19, who were making punk so knowingly sullen and bratty, it could only come from people who were wise beyond their years. Their fourth album, Beyondless, marks the end of their longest break between albums yet, but instead of them showing their (relative) age, their pastiche of art-punk inspiration has only grown more nuanced. It also keeps up their tradition of breakneck-pace albums that sound like they’re the first and the last things they’ll ever record. -Brody Kenny

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26. Rae Morris - Someone Out There

Where Rae Morris’ debut, Unguarded, felt like an artist still searching for their own voice, Someone Out There marks the moment she finds it, by taking the pure pop impulses and electronic music touchstones that sat below the surface on her debut and propelling them both front and center, delivering hook after hook across indelibly upbeat tracks like 'Atletico,’ 'Do It’ and 'Dip My Toe.’ Morris’ clear, accomplished vocals are equally adept at selling these as they are when set against the sparse but affecting opener, or the dramatic backdrop of 'Physical Form,’ which achieves Homogenic levels of tectonic grandness. There's a lot of Björk in Morris’ vocal delivery at times, but even more in her ability to artfully skew the pop music form to reflect her own personality. Morris and her chief collaborators, Fryars and My Riot, crafted a sonically diverse, perfectly sequenced record all about love, its myriad guises, and the experience of simply being happy, that, to its credit, doesn’t shy away from veering into weird or awkward territory. It culminates in ‘Dancing with Character,’ a breathtaking final track that describes a widower dancing with the memory of his wife. Like the rest of Someone Out There, it’s an act of boundless empathy and generosity, and we ought to be thankful to have received it. -Andy Johnston

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25. Mount Eerie - Now Only

Further reflecting on the death of his wife, Phil Elverum (aka Mount Eerie) once again wrenches out every tear from his listeners with Now Only. Written almost immediately after the release of last year’s A Crow Looked At Me, Elverum’s grief feels naturally less imminent, but more composed and finely drawn. Though it lacks the rawness of Crow, Now Only offers a vivid, almost voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of Phil and Geneviève. With images ranging from hospital beds, Jack Kerouac’s deadbeat tendencies as a father, to those of embalmed dead bodies and shard pieces of Geneviève’s skull, Now Only serves as a profound collage of memories and stark images aimed toward healing. Though sadness certainly consumes both Elverum and the listener once more, a sense of hope and clarity prevail—marking Now Only as a logical and beautiful progression amidst the gruelling process of mourning. -Kyle Kohner

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24. Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

When the high scores started to roll out for Daughters' first album in eight years, it seemed a little too good to be true. But, nothing prepares you for that first listen of 'City Song'. Over the death knell of an 808 synth comes a bone-breaking snare hit, and one of the darkest beats of the decade rises from post punk’s robbed grave. Although there’s heavy influence from experimental hip-hop and power electronics, Daughters deal mostly in the hardcore punk realm, effortlessly swaying from anti-corporate vitriol on 'The Reason They Hate Me' to the wandering squalor of a diseased mind on 'Less Sex'. But, it’s in the heaviest moments that Daughters bury the coffins of their softer contemporaries. 'Ocean Song' is pulverizing and dark, but beautiful as you try to piece together just how much energy it took to make something so cathartic. -Michael Cyrs

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23. Travis Scott - ASTROWORLD

Lil Wayne may be the guy who rapped, “this is my theme park”, but as of 2018, we’re pretty sure it's under new management. ASTROWORLD finally did what Travis Scott had always threatened to: enthrall the game with a year-defining moment. Ever since Days Before Rodeo showed such promise, Scott had half succeeded with mixed bag albums, but his work as a showman, at last, found its equal across an LP in ‘18. In truth, ASTROWORLD still isn’t flawless, losing momentum occasionally, but when the peaks on the coaster go so high as ‘Sicko Mode’ and ‘Stop Trying to Be God’, when the guests show out as fully as they did here, it hardly matters. We got what we came for and more. -Chase McMullen

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22. Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo

It’s apt that the Texan trio Khruangbin’s second album translates to “With All The World.” Con Todo El Mundo is a melting pot of styles and influences from all across the globe. Thai funk rubs up against Middle Eastern groove to make something full of soul, even if its energy is somewhat restrained. It’s the musical equivalent of a hall of mirrors; Western sounds influencing music all over the world then being reflected back to the West. Here the global appeal of music comes full circle in an album packed with funk-laden rhythms. -Chris Taylor

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21. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

At such a tumultuous period of history, it pays to search in every corner for those little pockets of hope. For those places were you can still be awed by the majesty of the world around us, no matter how small. Throughout Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves swaps the barbed ripostes for something that feels almost transcendent. Tracks like 'Slow Burn' feel like a weight being lifted off your shoulders, uncovering rich veins of beautiful (though often fleeting) moments like gold nuggets. Golden Hour is love at its smallest and its most grand; gentle, warm and full of marvel. -Chris Taylor

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20. MØL - Jord

Pioneered by the likes of Alcest and given crossover exposure by the sound’s de facto poster boys, Deafheaven, by the end of last year it was widely felt that “blackgaze” - the fusion of black metal's stark, icy ferocity with shoegaze's heavy and warm ethereality - had more or less run its course. But, to prove there was life in the (actually relatively young) dog yet, the Danish quintet, MØL, unleashed their stunning debut via the Holy Roar label (whose roster had an astonishing year), and made their claim for the crown. And yet the Blackgaze label diminishes their achievement. Jord is an album of fascinating, jarring contrasts, informed by a mastery of a diverse array of metal’s copious subgenres, from death to hardcore to post-, while also being indebted to some of the biggest names in shoegaze and even dream pop. The band can turn on a dime from passages of Slowdive-invoking prettiness to pummeling blast beats or chugging hardcore, and vice versa, to the point where you constantly feel like the floor's being pulled out from under you, imparting a sense of life-affirming weightlessness. The likes of 'Penumbra’, 'Ligament’ and the title track consistently seek out the pleasure centre of the brain that’s normally reserved for the best that pop music has to offer and are purpose-built to evoke awe through their sheer sonic scale. And yet, MØL are still capable of covering more ground in six minutes than the likes of Deafheaven do in double the time. Perhaps it’s high time to anoint some new poster boys. -Andy Johnston

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19. Black Milk - FEVER

After his last two records dealt in the darkness of America, Black Milk (aka Curtis Cross) wanted to create something lighter and brighter for Fever. That’s certainly in evidence in the album’s instrumentals, which adopt and re-interpret the breezy sound of West Coast hip-hop, but Cross’ lyrics are unable to escape the state of America in 2018. Police brutality, social media’s influence, societal ills and the US government are all topics of conversation, and Cross raps with an urgency that suggests these are ideas he’s been wrestling with over the last few years. While Cross has undoubtedly grown as an emcee, it’s in the instrumentals that Fever truly shines, a bright facade obscuring horrific truths. -Rob Whitfield

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18. Yves Tumor - Safe In The Hands Of Love

My outline for the Future of Pop. Safe In The Hands Of Love adopts some of the more recent, more outcast, genre offshoots – emo rap, neo-soul, deconstructed club music – and crystallises them into something indefatigable. Novelty is hollow without purpose however, and each track, from the musky horns on ‘Faith In Nothing Except Salvation’ to the apocalyptic, roaring drone of ‘Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely’, is purporting an ominousness. While Yves Tumor alludes to fears as distorted as police brutality and identitylessness, there’s a confidence in its disorienting, perverse beauty that’s oddly hopeful above all else. -Kieran Devlin

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17. Gaye Su Akyol - İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir

Native from a country with questionable political fronts, Gaye Su Akyol has progressively become a reference among the Turkish art and music scene. On her third album İstikrarlı Hayal Hakikattir, the first release on Glitterbeat Records, the Istanbul-based singer dwells on the idea of fantasy as a reality while merging rock n’ roll, punk and 1970’s Turkish psychedelic rock with a strong message of resistance. This may be the first taste of international success but her voice is soon to represent a generation. -Francisco Silva

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16. Mac Miller - Swimming

I’ve seen a saddening amount of “he died for this” remarks about Swimming in recent months. It’s tempting, after all - easy, arbitrary - but this was, and is, an album about survival. Mac left us far too soon, far too young, and there’s nothing that’s ever truly going to make that feel any less shit. Yet Swimming stands firm, an unmoving obelisk to perseverance. I still can’t help but hear the heartbreak in it, a forlorn love letter, something Miller himself firmly denied, but ultimately? It just doesn't matter. Mac Miller, on his fifth album, made the best record of his career. How often does that happen? No less, an album that manages to mean something deeply personal for just about everyone who hears it. He worked like hell for it, and you can hear every bead of sweat in the world-weary, yet resilient masterpiece that will sadly stand as his last gift to us. He might not have made it, but Swimming will eternally ensure so many others will. - Chase McMullen

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15. Blood Orange - Negro Swan

Dev Hynes’ third album as Blood Orange, Negro Swan, continues his exploration of black culture in diverse and perceptive ways. Whereas 2016’s Freetown Sound was a celebration, Negro Swan is an inquisition into the psychological implications of being black in the modern day. As such, it is not so stuffed with delectable pop songs but is more of a soulful, sometimes jazzy, collage of songs that blend into one glorious treatise. The list of voices and collaborators on the album is longer than your arm, meaning that sometimes it feels more like Hynes is just hovering over the music in a curatorial role, allowing his friends and musical partners express their feelings on the broad and deep topic. The result is an album that further pushes forwards Hynes’ reputation as an artist and thinker, while also just being a damn glorious listen. -Rob Hakimian

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14. Low - Double Negative

One of the most textured and expansive albums of 2018, Low’s latest is a broad, airtight exploration of ambient glitch. Double Negative utilises space and emptiness to swallow its listener in a vacuum of sunken, sparse sonic landscapes; ranging from anthemic, furious post-industrial and ambient music (‘Dancing and Blood’, ‘Tempest’) to more slowcore, throbbing and undulating downtempo numbers (‘Quorum’, ‘Fly’). Low’s range of intensities are as impressive as is their capacity for worming their way into your ears: Double Negative isn’t just isolating and immersive but riddled with subtle motifs and catchy niches, offering glimpses of optimistic dream pop beneath the overriding swathes of dystopic, droning ambience. Their most experimental and compelling work in years, Double Negative proves that Low’s ability to engross hasn’t dwindled, and they remain fully capable of producing that special breed of record that captures the entirety of one’s attention in one thought-provoking, seemingly effortless sweep of grace. -Ed Cunningham

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13. Hermit and the Recluse - Orpheus vs. The Sirens

The union of MC/firefighter Ka and producer Animoss is either a gritty street chronicle as Greek myth or Greek myth as a gritty street chronicle. The tales of legendary figures like Orpheus and Atlas show their universality through re-contextualization, regardless of any continental or millennial differences. Against Animoss’ transportive beats, which simultaneously feel like they’re taking you to the heart of Brooklyn and the River Styx, Ka assures us that no matter how many identities he may appear to take on, he finds the most strength in himself. “They comme ci, comme ça. Want a world of superlatives? come see Ka.” -Brody Kenny

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12. Park Jiha - Communion

Music has always been about the instruments; otherwise, a capella groups would be way more en vogue. But it’s rare to find an album that acts as a showcase for instruments quite like Communion. It helps that Park Jiha favours traditional Korean ones like the piri, saenghwang, and yanggeum and that they’re often emphasized individually with no apparent post-recording cleanup in the studio. With Communion, issued locally in 2016, but discovered by an enthralled audience worldwide with its international release this year, what you hear is what you get, and what you hear are sounds you want to follow to the ends of the earth and back again. -Brody Kenny

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11. IDLES - Joy As An Act Of Resistance

Joy As An Act Of Resistance as a title might suggest it is a statement of intent for the Bristol based punks. Rather, IDLES have created a whiplash inducing bar-brawl of a record that makes you want to throw yourself around in a mixture of ecstasy and agony. This mixture is most potent in Joe Talbot’s lyrics, which call out for community at a time when it’s needed most. Absolutely essential listening. -Lauren Mullineaux

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10. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited

For In A Poem Unlimited, Meg Remy, aka U.S. Girls flipped the polarity on her wonderfully dreary 2015 album Half Free. Instead of wallowing in a wash of soul samples and distant electronics, she now deftly employs a full cast of musicians and a shiny, modern production. Each piece is a master class in its genre like the post-punk propulsion of 'Time' or the slow burn soul of 'Rage of Plastics'. But what remains the cornerstone of the project is Remy’s songwriting, which has also undergone a metamorphosis. She’s inspired, angry, insightful and hopeful all at once. Even when things seem calm and cool on 'Velvet 4 Sale', Remy details a rape-revenge fantasy that explodes with pop candour at its chorus. “It’s all just fiction!” she screams while demanding that society redirect its misplaced morality. -Michael Cyrs

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9. Against All Logic - 2012-2017

Returning to Nicolas Jaar’s Against All Logic record after months away is oddly startling, like going for drinks with pals you haven’t seen in years but it feeling so immediately, pleasantly familiar. That sense of comfortable assuredness and degree of timelessness permeates the record, Jaar conjuring a cavalcade of decades-spanning house music motifs and fashioning them into these satisfyingly individualistic – if not weird enough to be idiosyncratic – bangers. It’s lazy to sum up the album as a master utilitarian craftsman at work, but, well, it’s also damn true. -Kieran Devlin

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8. Kadhja Bonet - Childqueen

The best new love is the one that comes unexpectedly. I knew absolutely nothing about Kadhja Bonet before 'Mother Maybe' suddenly hit me in the head like a bag full of bricks — yes, that dizzying and fatal. The song played in the back of my head for days on end as it had been branded with fire, and when Childqueen finally arrived it felt like the second fucking coming. Bonet's High Priestess-like sweetness echoes throughout this delicious and — dare I say it? — timeless piece of musical soul food that will send you up to the stars with every single listen. -Ana Leorne

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7. JPEGMAFIA - Veteran

'My Thoughts on Neogaf Dying' is more than just a goofy song title. “I don’t care,” says JPEGMAFIA over a beat hazy enough for Some Rap Songs. He repeats the line over and over until it becomes clear that he’s talking about not just one scandal, but about a litany of news stories he’d rather not have to read about. In this way Veteran takes on a modern grace without attempting to care about everything all the time. What else do you expect from a rapper that takes shots at every social group from Soundcloud rappers to YouTube reviewers? Like an American Sleaford Mods, no one is safe from Peggy’s jabs. The beats wonderfully follow suit, never conforming to one established production style or another. This is hip-hop that asks for zero apologies and somehow gives even fewer. -Michael Cyrs

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6. Tim Hecker - Konoyo

Combine a gagaku orchestra, with all its potential for tortured, billowing and melancholic melodies, with Tim Hecker's signature droning, noisy style of ambient electronic music, and the result is Konoyo: a vastly picturesque and wholly distinctive record unlike anything in his back catalogue. From the soaring, tense ‘This life’ to the scratched strings of ‘Keyed out’; from the orchestrally mighty ‘In mother earth phase’ to the billowing, roaring waves of noise in fifteen-minute closer ‘Across to Anoyo’; Hecker’s arrangements play out like one, long, haunted epic. Konoyo stands well apart from any other electronic releases this year, a pioneering and organic work that as much demonstrates Hecker’s underlying brilliance as it throws the door wide open for greater inclusion of non-Western instrumentation in Western popular music. -Ed Cunningham

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5. Noname - Room 25 (Original artwork interpretation by Jin-hee Song)

Not even a minute into her debut album and Noname has already broken the fourth wall. “Maybe this the album you listen to in your car when you driving home late at night, really questioning every god, religion, Kanye, bitches.” What you do with it is your business, because Room 25 is a “warts and all” piece of expression regarding what it means to be a black woman in 2018 that reveals deeper shades with each listen. Fatimah Warner makes every part of the creative process seem effortless, from her introspective lyrics to her smooth-as-butter flow that marks her as one of hip-hop’s premier conversationalists. Her moniker may imply anonymity, but her music does anything but. -Brody Kenny

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4. Oneohtrix Point Never - Age Of

In releasing what's quite possibly his most exploratory record as Oneohtrix Point Never to date, Daniel Lopatin took us away from the soundscapes of darker, grungier Garden of Delete. From its opening notes, resembling something like the music of King Arthur's court filtered through an acid trip, we had never heard anything quite like Age Of. Rather than Cobain and co., Lopatin had found influence in future pop, right on down to its gleaming, goofy cover art. Not entirely unlike Another Green World filtered through a paranoid, sinister lens, Age Of presents a falsified sense of harmony, a stagnant peace in a disturbed world. Just dive in to 'The Station' for a few moments, and hope like hell you make it back out again. A bizarrely underappreciated, inscrutable gem. -Chase McMullen

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3. Mitski - Be The Cowboy

Mitski’s Be The Cowboy begins with the most directly personal in the collection, the seismic opener ‘Geyser’, a song that seems like a straightforward devotional to a cherished one, but is actually about Mitski’s relationship to music: “I just can’t be without you.” What follows is a set of short and sharp vignettes, each populated by an equally histrionic character, resulting in an album that plays out like a short story collection about people more or less unlucky in love. Each one takes a different musical approach, but they're all tightly bound together by Mitski’s singular passion and perspective. There’s the former couple with a jealous past in ‘Old Friend’; the woman who finds herself unsettled by the lack of conflict with her partner in ‘A Pearl’; the woman who determines to stick by her man despite the fading feelings in ‘Me and My Husband’; the former flames who open up a wormhole to the past in the closing ‘Two Slow Dancers’, just to name a few. Each of the 14 tracks on Be The Cowboy is a world and a life in itself, each as emotionally engrossing and musically thrilling as the next. -Rob Hakimian

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2. SOPHIE - Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides

My outline for the Future of Pop, Part 2. Oil Of Every Pearl's Un-Insides flaunts a seamless marriage between sonics and theme, a reciprocity between the crunch and razor of SOPHIE's compositions and her perpetual struggle to get the world to accept, not merely tolerate, who she is. Beyond her brilliantly belligerent but heartbreaking dossier of imagery, and her synthesiser electromagnetics, is an astute use of space and emptiness, a memoir of silence that articulates everything it needs to. To convey such parallel poise and vulnerability intimates a strength of character most of us can’t even comprehend. -Kieran Devlin

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1. Pusha T - DAYTONA

Push said it himself: Album of the Year. Was he wrong? Forget dropping the best hip-hop album of the year, Pusha T left 2018 in damn shambles. Succeeding where so many have failed, he knocked our soap opera chart king down (quite) a few notches. However brutally, he had Drake living a real life Degrassi hell, and nothing in ‘18 entertained more. As for the music itself, Push made that run of GOOD Music albums work. Before DAYTONA (hell, when it dropped) rap fans balked at the idea of a sub-25 minute, seven song rap album. After? There was just no denying it, every beat vacuum tight, every bar unimpeachable. We can split hairs about the MAGA-ing Kanye verse (sigh), but for that zip tight production? We’ll take it. - Chase McMullen