Here it is, the big one. The best albums (and some EPs) of this year, as stated by us.
Carefully curated, allowing some EP’s in because they were just that good and now here they are all in one place for you to enjoy.
20. Childcare – Luckyucker
We’ve had Childcare on our radar from the beginning. So, naturally, when they dropped this EP we were overjoyed. Is there a bigger banger with a more emotional crescendo than in ‘Put Down Your Pen’? We dare you to find one, but we promise you, you won’t. Also, we’re just really impressed that they slipped an interlude into an EP? Revolutionary. Samantha Daly
19. Grouper – Grid of Points
Sorry Kanye, you had a good few attempts, but the best seven track album recorded in Wyoming this year is Grouper’s. Grid of Points is more of an experience than an album. It’s spacious, immersive and organic. It’s 21 minutes, but it feels like the purest serenity and emotion time can buy.
Song-wise, it’s one of her strongest records to date, unnaturally good even. When she whispers “I am magic” at the start of ‘Driving’, you believe it. But Grouper has never been just about song-writing, the Liz Harris’ project is all about the atmosphere; the gaps, the silences, the pauses, the missing pieces. It’s not the note, but the emphasis of its decay.
Before it became a cliché, use of the phrase “hauntingly beautiful” was reserved for Liz Harris alone. ‘Birthday Song’ sounds exactly how you’d imagine a gaggle of ghosts singing together at a haunted house party, dancing with notes overlapping, elongated breathy and beautiful vocals and fading piano; their decay and survival as echoes and vibrations long after. Creating feelings from its own negative space, Grid of Points is that haunting throughout. Tobias Pugh
18. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
Following up on 2017’s critically acclaimed Pure Comedy was never going to be a particularly easy. The album was lauded for Josh Tillman’s unconventional song structures and the subtle witticisms buried within its uncompromising writing style. On his follow up he took a rather different approach but got similarly spectacular results. Gone were the 13 minute, chorus-less tracks and in their place was some of the most introspective, and thought provoking work of his career.While relatively light-hearted compared to its predecessor, the album is brutally intimate and honest. It’s the same profound Father John Misty sound that we have grown accustomed to, what he excels in is keeping in touch with his signature indie folk sound and pushing it gently into different avenues to create unique and fresh work. Another triumph. Kieran Rogers
17. Florence and the Machine – High As Hope
Florence lays herself bare on this record. She’s open and honest in her lyrics – even divulging details on her teenage eating disorder – and you can hear the emotion and honestly throughout her vocals. Although High as Hope has a more stripped back tone compared to previous anthem packed albums Lungs, Ceremonials and How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Florence’s ever powerful pipes continue to do all the talking, however part of the beauty of the album is that they’ve tried to create something different and shown a vulnerable and raw style. Harriet Evans
16. Superorganism – Superorganism
Superorganism are a refreshingly modern band that have successfully put their own creative twist on light-hearted, modern pop. Their self-titled debut album creates an expansive soundscape through rising guitar riffs, synths, huge choruses and an endless assortment of samples and effects. Their wacky, experimental style gives them a truly unique edge. Superorganism is an ambitious and playful first album that sets the band apart from the crowd. HE
15. Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
The Wyoming Sessions of Kanye West have received their fair amount of mixed reviews, but nonetheless showed ambition, creativity and a vision towards the future. Kids See Ghosts – the collaboration of Kanye West and Kid Cudi – is arguably the best of them. Blending psychedelic, heart-bursting rock riffs and old-school sensibilities, Kids See Ghosts is not just a phenomenal record, but the conclusion of a redemption arc. Kid Cudi seemed to have hit a musical nadir with Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven, but here he managed to take his admittedly well-intentioned ideas from that record and spin some gold. It’s also genuinely baffling that Kanye has been involved with tracks like ’Freeee’ and ‘Feel The Love’, but also put out ‘I Love It’ and ‘Lift Yourself’ into the world in the same year. That’s one… diverse man. Molly Forsyth
14. CHVRCHES – Love Is Dead
Ahh, Chvrches. They’re solid bringers of synthy goodness, so obviously we eagerly awaited Love Is Dead with childlike anticipation. We weren’t disappointed either, seeing them work with outside producers for the very first time there was a distinct change in their direction, taking a much more poppier vibe. Proving that there is always room for progression, even when you arguably reached perfection on your debut album… SD
13. boygenius – boygenius EP
Supergroups are normally shit. Underwhelming, forgettable messes that aim to grab headlines, with members more interested in jostling for power than creating anything meaningful. But when three of the most exciting singer-songwriters of recent times headed out on tour together, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker decided to make something special, to remind us all why collaboration can be brilliant.
Individually all three radiate almost transcendental levels of hope and sadness with what should be once in a generation songwriting, all delivered through supernaturally emotive voices. Though each artist is heard in their own right, as boygenius it’s their chemistry that takes the spotlight. Together, their goosebump-inducing opener ‘Bite The Hand’ kicks off an EP of near perfect escapism (“I wish I was on a spaceship, just me and my dog and an impossible view”), solemn dissociation (‘Stay Down’) and gritty powerhouses like ‘Salt in the Wound’ with a cool ease.
The fact one of the most flawless, beautiful and electrifying EPs this year was put together in just days is almost infuriating, if not for the fact it’s so exhilarating, so comforting and so hopeful what could come next. The record is a testament not only to how great music can be but also how collaboration can create something more than the sum of its parts. The only drawback is simply that you’re left desperate for more. TP
12. Dolores Haze – Play Hard, Fuck Hard, Love Hard
There’s been a lot of weird pop on this list but let’s be honest, it’s the best kind, right? If you’re digging that stuff, then Dolores Haze are your new favourite band: FACT. With one album already to their name (2015’s grunge-fuelled The Haze Is Forever) the Swedish trio made an unignorable comeback with Play Hard, Fuck Hard, Love Hard’s lead single ‘Banana’, a playfully sardonic hot take of #MeToo culture, consent and unsolicited pics that saw them eschew their angsty guitar rock for emotive and experimental electro-pop. ‘The Final Show’ reveals their softer side but by-the-large PHFHLH sees Dolores Haze lose none of their bark – or their bite. Check ‘FLIP’, ‘Suck On My Ego’ and the title track to be initiated. Kayleigh Watson
11. SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides
Associated with London’s hyper-pop collective, and with production credits for Charli XCX and Madonna(!), SOPHIE has to be one of the most in-demand creators in pop music right now and for good reason. Originally preferring to stay an enigma, SOPHIE emerged from the shadows on Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, and beyond exceeded expectations. The heavily experimental record delved deep into SOPHIE’s interests in physical material sounds, deftly contrasting them with notions of identity politics and the search for an identity in the Internet era. From the chainsaw screeches on ‘Ponyboy’, the elastic snaps on ‘Immaterial’ and the glistening calm of ‘It’s Okay To Cry’, this is an album of artistic excellence. MF
10. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
After nearly eight years out in the wilderness, noise rock band Daughters returned to our airwaves with their with their fourth album, ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’. Now, that introduction to this album is as plain as can be. With many rock outfits, a return back to the world of music is normally motivated by a nostalgia pull, an attempt to garner as much money as possible from people’s good will, playing upon the music world’s love and affection for a band’s music. In many cases, returning after such a long time feels like a corporate exercise in lining the pocket’s of a few people high up at the top of the food chain. This is not so for Daughters.
This album is a masterclass in noise rock and industrial music. ‘You Won’t Get What You Want’ garnered critical acclaim on its initial release, and for good reason. This is a whirling tornado of despair, music which burrows into the mind and soul of its listener. Daughters seemed to have decided to wait for the perfect year, the perfect moment to release one of the most nihilistic albums ever released, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Want to wail into a pit of hopelessness while experience one of the best noise rock and industrial records ever made? Listen to Daughters’ latest album. Charlie Leach
9. Noname – Room 25
After a prolonged absence, Noname finally dropped her long-awaited album, Room 25, immediately distinguishable by its honesty and reversion to soulful, laidback beats in contrast to the aggressive styles of her contemporaries. Rapping on ‘Blaxploitation’ about the need to bring meaning back to the genre (Write a think piece in the rap song/the new age covenant), Noname fully shows her lyrical abilities across the entire record, delivered with an ease and cadence that cannot be taught. So calming and eloquent is her flow, the blend from one track to another makes Room 25 a calming experience that everybody should try. MF
8. MGMT – Little Dark Age
This album has been my most listened to of the whole of 2018, and after seeing MGMT live on Sunday this synth-pop masterpiece has been firmly cemented in its place. The band have managed to pull back their unique sound that made their debut album Oracular Spectacular so infectious, combining off-the-wall samples, synths, 80s inspired electro-pop and off-key notes to form immensely catchy tracks such as ‘Me and Michael’ and ‘When You Die’. Having a debut album as successful as theirs can be hard to top, however, with Little Dark Age MGMT have managed to do it. HE
7. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
When Let’s Eat Grandma wrote the oddball songs that would later become their debut album I, Gemini, it’s unlikely they ever thought that anyone other than the two of them would hear it. However, the naive, left-field creativity of early bops such as ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’ caught the ear and imaginations of Transgressive Records and catapulted them forth onto festival stages and more.
In writing this year’s follow up, it was clear that the same tricks wouldn’t stick, but how to progress as songwriters and musicians without losing any of their wide-eyed affectations? Somehow, they managed to strike the fine balance, making the leap from novelty territory to electro-pop powerhouses in their own right. I’m All Ears sees the pair channel the bright synth sound of CHVRCHES, the abrasive clatter and stomp of SOPHIE (who co-produced ‘Hot Pink’ along side The Horrors’ Farid Badwan) and the lucid ambience of Purity Ring culminating in a concoction that is somehow still original and unequivocally them. KW
6. Christine and the Queens – Chris
For those outlets in the blogosphere that have already aired their loves of the year, Christine and the Queens’ sophomore effort Chris has been a much-deserved main stay. Bringing a disco-funk edge to her sophisticated brand of pop, Héloïse Letissier has been busy exploring themes of gender and sexuality in the time since her debut album Chaleur Humane. Growing weary of the weight of the male and media gaze as a female performer who doesn’t necessarily comply with such expectations of femininity, Letissier found herself being drawn to more masculine archetypes and consequences of such. From non-binary depictions of lust in lead single ‘Girlfriend’ to suicidal thoughts laced into the bittersweet stomp of ‘Doesn’t Matter’, Letissier’s stance as a non-binary artist makes her a pivotal voice in mainstream music today. That her compositions make you want to lose yourself and dance in carefree euphoria, isn’t bad either. KW
5. Architects – Holy Hell
Holy Hell is an emotional juggernaut of an album. The bands first release since the tragic passing of founding member Tom Searle following a brave fight with cancer is among their most poignant and intense. The attention to detail on this record is immaculate, its intricacy and honesty is a testament to a band who have clearly done all they can to craft such an admirable and powerful tribute to their late brother. With some of the late remnants of Tom Searle’s writing intertwined with newer work of the band, primarily that of Searle’s twin brother Dan, the album is a shining example of what incredible art can be born out of adversity. Ferociously heavy, unwaveringly honest and often devastatingly powerful, Holy Hell is the cathartic release that everybody hoped for and then some. KR
4. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
It takes a real special talent to craft a sound that is 100% indistinguishable to one individual act. Yet, Young Fathers are here and they’ve done it. A multi-textural sonic experience that is unavoidable and inexcusable should you not have listened to it. An album seemingly built upon emotion, namely frustration it seems, the result is unfathomably brilliant. SD
3. Pizzagirl – An Extended Play EP
An entry that might surprise you. But, this EP – especially for a debut – has really blown us away. A lot of people try to harness the much adored sounds of the 80’s, however none really commit in the way that Pizzagirl has. Even to the point of sampling barking dogs in a true 80’s style. The revolution is coming and it’s all pizza. SD
2. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
Though it probably would have been without the bizarre information surrounding it, the announcement of Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino made it the most talked about album of the year before it even came out. Titles like ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’, lyrics about wanting to “be one of The Strokes” and the fact that Alex Turner wrote the album alone, locked in a room building a model of a lunar hotel from cardboard and crafting songs to soundtrack its lounge and wider political context.
The lyrics, the delivery, the ideas behind it are all very Alex Turner, obscuring hidden meanings in flowery, strange phrases; its fun, clever, romantic, but with a huge sense of humour about the whole concept. Turner’s unique mind and the absurdity of modern life cross over at just the right point to craft songs like ‘She Looks Like Fun’, possibly the most scathing critique of social media with yelps of “cheeeeeeessseebburrgers” and “Snoooowboooarrddiing” you’ll ever hear.
For all its obscurity, Turner lays out his intent for the album in plainly in ‘Science Fiction’ with “I want to make a simple point about peace and love, but in a sexy way where it’s not obvious, highlight dangers and send out hidden messages the way some science fiction does”. Like sci-fi, it’s densely political, satirising our dystopian present in jazz-like stream of consciousness outbursts about Theresa May’s ‘Magic Money Tree’ or the oxymoronic “leader of the free world” and a wealth of bizarre and brilliant one liners to dig deep into or just maniacally laugh/sing along to. Truly, the only form of political commentary from a rich person you should ever listen to is Alex Turner crooning about facetiming god, dancing in his underpants and VR fights in parliament.
Since their debut – the biggest selling in British music history – Arctic Monkeys have rebelled against their own identity constantly, reinventing their entire sound and look almost yearly, succeeding with whatever they try. After a five year break, the UK’s biggest band returned with the only thing that makes sense; a concept album about a hotel on the moon. And it works. TP
1. IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance
2018 was the year punk came back, but instead of being motivated by anger, it’s motivated by love. IDLES came in, swinging a ten-tonne wrecking ball at the notion of traditional masculinity, Brexit-bred divisions and austerity. It’s been a while since an album has fully embodied its title so accurately, but Joy As An Act of Resistance does. From the hug-it-out resolution to a conflict with Love Island rejects on ‘Never Fight A Man With A Perm’, to the snarling sardonic takedown of the appropriation of the working classes on ‘I’m Scum’, to the embracing of immigrants as blood brothers on the deeply affecting ‘Danny Nedelko’ (it’s namesake being the lead singer of Heavy Lungs, and a real life friend of the band), IDLES are here to unite us while destroying your assumptions of your neighbour. Sublime. MF