50 Favorite Albums & EPs of 2018

Carl Wilson began this year’s entry of Slate’s Music Club (a fun music roundtable, always a treat) by saying “2018 was the year everything had already changed.” The sprawling and insightful panel discussion covers a lot of ground, and they hit on the phenomenon that has most affected my own listening habits: playlists. 

I’ve become of a bit of a playlist fiend, and I don’t know if I mean this critically or not. I start with a huge playlist, boil that down to weekly playlists, favorites playlists, need-to-explore playlists, etc. etc. Playlists within playlists within playlists. The obvious downside, of course, is that making them means listening to them, which means NOT listening to An Album in full, at one time, as god intended. This is especially true if the record is a grower and takes time to settle into.

And yet, despite this new reality, I fell in love with a lot of Albums in 2018. Here’s a mix of 50 that were all enjoyed in full, usually with a smile on my face, often while air drumming in the car or rollerblading around the city. I was pulled in a lot of different directions, but most of what you’ll find is poppy, or at least high-energy. There’s addictive pop earworms that haunted me for weeks. A handful of old friends returned in force, transformed a bit by their time away, ready to share new emotional insights. And if you’re a fan of mid-tempo emo-rock, our menu features a wide variety of angst, accents, irony levels, soloing abilities, floor tom intensity, and so much more!

Here’s the list, ranked in descending order. Hope you find something new to play LOUD!!!

(Um, as a final bit of playlist blasphemy, here’s a link to a Spotify playlist that contains my favorite songs from these albums. If it’s ranked #50 – #25 it gets two songs, #25 – #1 gets three. Is nothing sacred.)



50 – 25: Albums

50. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

50 wonder years

Rec. If You Like:
working out so hard you cry, a dreary winter

“Raining in Kyoto”
“Sister Cities”

49. Elder Brother – Stay Inside

49 elder brother

Rec. If You Like:
thinking a lot about your (ex)girlfriend, an increased heart rate, drums

“You & Me Forever”
“I Don’t Miss You”

48. Gulfer – Dog Bless

48 gulfer

Rec. If You Like:
gravely singing voices, pantsing your friends

“Fading”
“Judy Froster”

47. Antarctigo Vespucci – Love in the Time of Email

47 antarctigo

Rec. If You Like:
chris farren, jeff rosenstock, threadless t-shirts

“White Noise”
“Freakin’ U Out”

46. Forth Wanderers – Forth Wanderers

46 forth wanderers

Rec. If You Like:
jaunty indie-rock, sticking around when its hard, windy days

“Company”
“New Face”

45. Caroline Rose – LONER

45 caroline rose

Rec. If You Like:
upbeat pop-rock, knock-knock jokes, self-deprecation

“Cry!”
“Soul No. 5”

44. Rhye – Blood

44 rye

Rec. If You Like:
public displays of affection (aka pda), that michael jackson dance move where he grabs his crotch, putting your girlfriend on your album cover

“Taste”
“Phoenix”

43. Lucy Dacus – Historian

43 lucy dacus

Rec. If You Like:
throwback rock, getting *deep* after a few glasses of wine, people watching

“Night Shift”
“Addictions”

42. Barely March – Marely Barch

42 barely march

Rec. If You Like:
lovable diy production, breaking your dad’s speakers, high school

“Thinking Emoji”
“Bonus Oceans”

40. Boy Rex – Live! From the Far-Away

41 boy rex

Rec. If You Like:
singers that sound like ben gibbard, self-reflection

“Olympia”
“Master Plan”

40. Shame – Songs of Praise

40 shame

Rec. If You Like:
describing yourself as a ‘ruffian,’ raucus, brit-rock

“One Rizla”
“Tasteless”

39. Empress Of – US

39 empress of

Rec. If You Like:
doing what you love, big dick energy, smoking weed

“I Don’t Even Smoke Weed”
“When I’m With Him”

38. Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

38 deafheaven

Rec. If You Like:
heavy metal shoegaze, cave diving, long songs, convincing your friends that ugly animals are actually adorable

“You Without End”
“Canary Yellow”

37. Public Access T.V. – Street Safari

37 public access tv

Rec. If You Like:
throwback rock music, back to the future

“Your God And Mine”
“Ain’t No Friend of Mine”

36. IDLES – Joy as an Act Of Resistance.

36 idles

Rec. If You Like:
being sweaty in a suit, being sweaty in general, getting sweaty while listening to music, snide political commentary, donkey kong

“Never Fight a Man With a Perm”
“Samaritans”

35. The Sidekicks – Happiness Hours

35 sidekicks

Rec. If You Like:
nostalgic rock music, summer cocktails, reminiscing

“Twin’s Twist”
“Medium in the Middle”

34. Mom Jeans. – Puppy Love

34 mom jeans

Rec. If You Like:
having the same best friends since high-school, jam band virtuosity, walking around in your boxer shorts

“near deat fail comp (must watch til end)”
“season 9 ep 2-3”

33. Kississippi – Sunset Blush

33 kississippi

Rec. If You Like:
emotional honesty, clever vocal delivery, wearing your clothes right out of the dryer

“Cut Yr Teeth”
“Mirror Kisser”

32. Young Gun Silver Fox – AM Waves

32 young gun

Rec. If You Like:
your dad’s yacht-rock, planning a soundtrack to your day

“Lenny”
“The Underdog”

31. boygenius – boygenius

31 boygenius

Rec. If You Like:
your friends, crying in the car

“Me & My Dog”
“Salt In The Wound”

30. Snail Mail – Lush

30 snail mail

Rec. If You Like:
soccer mommy, your cool little sister, being really great at guitar 

“Pristine”
“Heat Wave”

29. Soccer Mommy – Clean

29 soccer mommy

Rec. If You Like:
snail mail, your cool little sister’s cooler friend

“Cool”
“Your Dog”

28. Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

28 pale waves

Rec. If You Like:
mascara, tim burton movies, dancing when you’re angry

“Noises”
“Kiss”

27. Animal Flag – Void Ripper 

27 animal flag

Rec. If You Like:
heavy music, clear vocals, breaking bad, noticing indignities

“Void Ripper”
“Candace”

26. Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain 

26 okkervil river

Rec. If You Like:
being a beacon of hope, rock-n-roll, analog photography

“Love Somebody”
“Don’t Move Back To L.A.”



25 – 16: Albums

25. joan – porta 

25 joan

Rec. If You Like:
normcore electro-pop, growing up fast, the 80s

“take me on”
“i loved you first”
“love somebody like you”

24. Robyn – Honey

24 robyn

Rec. If You Like:
dancing on your own, mental wellness, confidence

“Missing U”
“Because It’s In The Music”
“Ever Again”

23. Save Face – Merci

23 save face

Rec. If You Like:
pop-punk, palm muted guitars, floor toms, muggy weather

“Bad”
“Plans”
“Love”

22. Pianos Become The Teeth – Wait For Love

22 pianos become

Rec. If You Like:
post rock, post hardcore, stoicism, versatility, the fucking drums

“Fake Lightning”
“Bitter Red”
“Forever Sound”

21. The Dirty Nil – Master Volume

21 the dirty nil

Rec. If You Like:
john ford, hitting the gas, gee-tar music, being invited to someone’s house for thanksgiving dinner 

“Bathed In Light”
“Pain of Infinity”
“Super 8”

20. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

20 lets eat grandma

Rec. If You Like:
fierce angelic pop music, sofia coppola movies, pc-music if it was less abrasive

“Hot Pink”
“It’s Not Just Me”
“I Will Be Waiting”

19. world’s greatest dad – Get Well Soon

19 worlds greatest dad

Rec. If You Like:
mid-tempo rock, matter-of-fact desperation, coming of age movies

“A Song for Mogis”
“Dad Jeans”
“Liminal Space”

18. Hatchie – Sugar & Spice

18 hatchie

Rec. If You Like:
atmospheric guitar pop, golden hour, sun rooms, bisexual lighting

“Sure”
“Sleep”
“Try”

17. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

17 the 1975

Rec. If You Like:
stadium pop, big personalities, memes, artisanal ice cream

“TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME”
“Love It If We Made It”
“It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)”

16. Teenage Wrist – Chrome Neon Jesus

16 teenage wrist

Rec. If You Like:
beer, the 90s, low slung guitars, big amps, hoodies

“Dweeb”
“Stoned, Alone”
“Rollerblades”



15 – 1: Albums + Ramblings

15. Twin Shadow – Caer

twin shadow caer

Brace (feat. Rainsford)”
“Saturdays (feat. HAIM)”
“Obvious People”

“Caer” is Twin Shadow’s fourth album, and it signals his fourth musical reinvention.  This newest personality is a little bit Prince, and little bit James Blake, a little bit The XX. It’s been so fun watching George Lewis Jr. evolve over his career, anticipating each new release, and I’m always amazed by how well he manages to absorb influences, slowly shifting into different genres as he does, while still retaining his unique identity. This is his most somber, contemplative, star-studded record yet, I can only guess where he’s going to go from here. 

14. Retirement Party – Somewhat Literate

retirement party somewhat literate

“Shoulder It”
“Passion Fruit Tea”
“Are You My Mother?”

Although Retirement Party’s “Somewhat Literate” is probably better categorized as a “pop-punk” record, its desperation and energy makes it feel so much more like a PUNK record. It sounds like the band needs to play it to survive. A 30-minute run time is jam-packed with youthful anxiety, emotional rawness, and a general “fuck-you” mentality that sweeps me up every time I listen. Avery Springer’s lyrics are personal and self-aware, but there’s so much to relate to in her twisty phrases about general fears, student debt, being stuck in your own head, the intensity of life.   

13. Speak Low If You Speak Love – Nearsighted

speak low nearsighted

“Enough”
“Contrasting Colors”
“Mystery’s Gone”

Musical collaboration can be a special form of alchemy, and here, the resulting record was gold. “Nearsighted” is what happens when you combine Ryan Scott Graham’s pop-punk / singer-songwriter background (he’s in State Champs), with Aaron Marsh of Copeland-fame’s ethereal instincts. It’s a rich, sprawling, gold nugget of a record that mixes genres and instruments, but never loses sight of its emotional intensity.

12. Kevin Krauter – Toss Up

kevin krauter toss up

“Rollerskate”
“Suddenly”
“Keep Falling In Love”

Kevin Krauter, the bassist of indie-rock band Hoops, steps away from that band’s lo-fi, guitar-driven approach with his wonderful, lush solo album “Toss Up.” The music is smoother, richer, and although there’s still guitar licks aplenty, this album really thrives because of its inventive, playful musical arrangements and.

11. Wild Nothing – Indigo

wild nothing indigo

“Letting Go”
“Wheel of Misfortune”
“Shallow Water”

Jack Tatum has become such a reliable presence in my musical orbit, and I hope he never leaves. “Indigo” feels like his most polished, hi-fi record yet, and he really maximizes the opportunity, creating a dense musical document that you can spend hours digging through (believe me, I’ve done it). It’s hard not to be buoyed by it’s optimistic perspective on life, relationships, emotions, all while dancing along to the 80s rhythm and absorbing instrumental passages. 

10. Muncie Girls – Fixed Ideals

muncie girls fixed

“Jeremy”
“Falling Down”
“Family of Four ”

I can’t totally pinpoint why, but Muncie Girl’s second full length feels like a huge step forward from a debut album I was pretty obsessed with. The high-energy formula is still addicting — big, propulsive drums, snarky, insightful lyrics, a playful vibe that still gets deep. Each song is simple, but always a little more surprising than you’d expect (this seems like the platonic ideal for any three piece rock band).

9. Foxing – Nearer My God

foxing nearer my god

“Grand Paradise”
“Nearer My God”
“Bastardizer”

The most intricate, hypnotizing record of the year, and I hope more emo-rock bands approach their work with this level of ambition. Catchy choruses explode out of a haze, guitar solos shriek to the heavens, it’s all huge and primal and chaotic in the best way. The music is anchored by the operatic, possessed delivery of lead singer Conor Murphy, creating a listening experience that is totally fresh.

8. The Beths – Future Me Hates Me

the beths future me

“Great No One”
“Not Running”
“River Run: Lvl 1”

This album had me hooked from the first lick, and there were many more jolting moments of excitement as I continued listening. It’s such a fun full-band effort, with every element working hard to be the biggest, loudest, most memorable of the bunch. I love the way vocal harmonies add an extra layer to most tracks, and the huge pop-rock choruses are almost impossible not to sing along to.

7. Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog 

hop along bark

“How Simple”
“The Fox In Motion”
“Prior Things”

Hop Along’s “Bark Your Head Off, Dog” is a dense, enthralling, indie-rock masterpiece. Frances Quinn’s singular, powerful voice is a standout (as expected), and the instrumentation is always confident and nimble in its ability to pivot from a complicated riff to a groovy bridge to a chorus that is so POPPY . Everything is virtuosic, the sick drum patterns, the huge call and responses, the intricate string arrangements of the slower tracks. It lives in the small moments and blows your head off (,dog) with the big ones.

6. Wild Pink – Yolk In The Fur

wild pink yolk

“Lake Eerie”
“There Is A Ledger”
“All Some Frenchmen’s Joke”

My pick for the most comforting album of the year, I’m still amazed at how easily Wild Pink’s “Yolk in the Fur” envelops you and keeps you floating above the clouds with its powerful song construction. It’s a perfectly paced rock album, with each song transitioning seamlessly into the next, providing a constant, heavenly soundtrack. The lyrics match this perspective, taking time to dwell on small narrative specifics before pulling back to a place of omniscient storytelling.

5. Chelsea Jade – Personal Best

chelsea jade personal best

“Life Of The Party”
“Colour Sum”
“Laugh It Off”

This coy, addicting record is a total wavelength pick for me; it just gets me. I love (and even aspire to) its understated rhythm, its intelligence, the entire, charming facade of it. Chelsea Jade approached this album with the intensity of a performance artist, and every lyric, every delivery, is perfectly chosen for effect. The effect is a joyous, loveable electro-pop record that constantly sneaks up on you with an amazing turn of phrase, a killer melody, the way it makes you break into dance.

4. The Dangerous Summer – The Dangerous Summer

dangerous summer

“This Is Life”
“Fire”
“Ghosts”

Every review I’ve read for this record begins with the writer flashing back to how much The Dangerous Summer’s debut meant to them, how their music has been the soundtrack to countless important life moments, blah blah blah, and as much as I’d like to buck this trend…this is absolutely true for me too And I only point this out to help contextualize what a weird year 2018 was for me and this damn band.

It started off strong; thanks to a prime January release date, this Self-Titled album was my first favorite of the year. My beloved emo-rock band had returned from a 5-year hiatus and an extensive lineup change with something familiar but exciting. Singer AJ Perdomo’s angst had been sanded down by age and fatherhood and his writing had a much deeper perspective. The music was as propulsive as ever, providing the perfect atmosphere for themes of life, death, ghosts of loved ones, dreams of the past. The magic was back.

Then it started going south. We saw the band live in February (for the first time!) and thanks to a lousy, overcrowded venue it was the worst concert I’d been to in a while. And I know this is the dumbest shit, but I started following their drummer on social media only to uhhhh be so annoyed by him. Flash to the end of the year for the final straw, when these guys were randomly my most-listened to artist on my 2018 Spotify Wrapped. This wouldn’t be a big deal except the accompanying promo photo was THE SILLIEST BAND PHOTO I’D EVER SEEN!! (You’ll notice I didn’t share my wrapped breakdown, something I generally live for).

And yet. AND YET! This album is so good for meee. I love that in a genre where relevance is hard to retain, these guys managed to turn their maturity into an asset. The band survived the heartache and uncertainty chronicled on early records, and now they’re able to look backwards and recollect the moments of joy that made the past bearable. Uncertainty definitely remains, but now it’s concerned with what kind of person your daughter will grow into, if you’ll ever see your old friends again, if you can recapture the emotions of your youth.

3. Tove Styrke – Sway

tove styrke sway

“Say My Name”
“Mistakes”
“On a Level”

Listening to Tove Styrke’s “Sway” is like getting a transmission from the future…and not just the future of pop music (although I’d be shocked if this doesn’t blow the minds of popstars-to-come). The album’s energetic approach to romance and human connection is so matter-of-fact that you become convinced we’ll actually evolve into a more youthful, optimistic species. Human emotion, as embodied by these massive songs, is simply too big, too magnetic for any other outcome. Tove speaks of romance as an all-powerful force, a “vibe,” a shared experience between two people, and it can break through life’s bullshit as long as you jump in with both feet. Her love songs are about navigating uncertain moments with honesty so you can, you know, get to the good stuff. Sometimes jumping in feels like a mistake, sometimes you fall out of sync, but when it works “you don’t need a break cause we feel like vacation.” I love this optimism.

Themes aside, just wait till you hear the damn thing. It’s certainly the loudest album of the year, and there’s not a moment in “Sway’s” sub-30-minute run time that doesn’t demand your interest and attention. The production flows effortlessly from massive moment to massive moment, while still somehow remembering that silence can be the loudest instrument available. Several of the best songs drop out the sound entirely, creating a bubble of anticipation that explodes when the music floods back in (ex: the chorus of ‘On a Level’). Tove’s vocal delivery never sits still, and her constantly shifting cadence is the perfect accompaniment for these imaginative moments. 

2. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Golden hour Kacey Musgraves

“Lonely Weekend”
“On A Level”
“Lonely Weekend”

I always loved this adage about intelligence: there’s smart people who make complicated things sound very simple, and smart people who make simple things sound very complicated. If this can apply to music as well, Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” indicates that she may be the smartest songwriter ever. Sure, this may be the most easily digestible record on this list, but through its rhinestoned doors is a 13-track assembly line of hyper-focused, transcendent pop-machinery. Each song is simple in a way that feels eternal, like they’ve always existed. Everything just…clicks.

Ultimately, I think it’s this simplicity that gives the record its power. Small moments, like a pause between “space” and “cowboy” or switching octaves at the end of a song, can (and has) reduced me to tears. Kacey’s lyrics are as vibrant as ever here and another of the album’s great joys is simply living in her witty world for a bit. She sings about complex emotions (like feeling happy and sad at the same time or managing your expectations of life) with a rich understanding, usually offering empathy instead of prescribing answers. This album is a gift and I’m so happy to have it around.

1. Now, Now – Saved

now now saved

“SGL”
“Yours”
“Knowme”

Far and away my favorite album of the year, Now Now’s “Saved” is one of those special records where every track was my favorite track for at least a day. It’s a concept album of youthful melancholy and angst, one that returns to the same narrative settings to give you a range of feelings as the story evolves. It feels like every song takes place inside a car or on a front lawn, and the subtle variations in these scene take on a profound importance.

EX: Are the windows up or down // are you free of worry or restricted by your emotions. Are you on the lawn waiting for your love to sweep you away // or are you wiping away tears after a shitty night.

And even though the album is rather reserved musically, it manages to be melodramatic in the best way. It’s raw, moody, setting up a world where emotions torture you in your sleep just as often as they force you to embark on some shotgun adventure. 

The music of “Saved” manages to be both wide and intimate at the same time and KC Dalager’s subtle voice thrives at both extremes. The entire album is a hypnotic mixture of guitar driven, pop-focused singles and more atmospheric, electronic tracks that capture your imagination even if they don’t jump out at you at first glance. This album has the ability to transport you somewhere true, and I hope you let it.



Music is the best, I’m so excited for 2019

Oh and here’s a LINK TO THE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST AGAIN



 

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