From rising stars who speak to truth to power to powerhouse rock stars who are on track to become the biggest acts in the world, the last 12 months provided plenty of diversity in this year’s music scene. It was hard to narrow down a list of just 10 albums for this special year-end list that I had the joy of making. Here are my ten favorite albums of 2018.
10. Staying At Tamara’s, George Ezra
- Release Date: March 23
- Best Songs: Shotgun, All My Love, Don’t Matter Now
From Budapest to Blame It on Me now to Shotgun and All My Love, the bellow-voiced George Ezra knows how to craft an uplifting tune. The UK based singer-songwriter returned with his second album Staying at Tamara’s this year and the trend of happy songs returned with him. Almost every chorus gets stuck in your head immediately and the words will resonate in your mind for days.
9. Expectations, Hayley Kiyoko
- Release Date: March 30
- Best Songs: Under the Blue/Take Me In, Wanna Be Missed, Curious
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw Hayley Kiyoko when she opened Panic! At The Disco this summer. After watching the two girls in front of me *constantly (and annoyingly) film each other dancing to her set*, I was determined to listen to her album and see what was so special. Expectations was a treat of gigantic proportions. The record is one guaranteed pop anthem after another that will make you sit and listen to the whole thing just to know what comes next.
8. Dirty Computer, Janelle Monae
- Release Date: April 27
- Best Songs: Make Me Feel, Django Jane, Dirty Computer
If you found that Janelle Monae’s latest effort sounded like a posthumously released Prince record, you would not be alone in that thought. Dirty Computer allows Monae a chance to explore concepts like sexuality and politics in a way that feels new when its accompanied with the electric beats she’s set against her diverse vocals. From rap to more than a few pop anthems like Make Me Feel, Janelle Monae feels like she’s here to stay. And I’m here to listen.
7. Shawn Mendes, Shawn Mendes
- Release Date: May 25
- Best Songs: Lost In Japan, Queen, In My Blood
It’s really refreshing to see all of these rising male pop stars taking notes from Justin Timberlake’s early 2000s playbook. No one is doing this better than Shawn Mendes. Whether it’s the trickling falsetto on Particular Taste or the strong chest voice expressed in In My Blood, Mendes has made an album worth constantly revisiting. On this self-titled third studio album, he goes to new heights of musical maturity and appeal to make a record that can charm anyone who misses actual great songs dominating top 40 radio.
6. Entertainment, Waterparks
- Release Date: January 26
- Best Songs: We Need to Talk, Not Warriors, Lucky People
If you never completely grew out of the pop punk phase that all of us went through in the eighth grade, then Entertainment, the second full-length album from Houston-based band Waterparks, is for you. It’s full of pop punk anthems and even small-scale songs like Peach and Lucky People. Regardless of the instruments it’s set against, lead singer Awsten Knight provides the stellar vocals that tell the story of each track. This 10 song collection is both addictive and electrifying. Some songs are heavier than things I normally listen to, but everything about Entertainment is just purely… *pun here* entertaining.
5. Lush, Snail Mail
- Release Date: June 8
- Best Songs: Heat Wave, Full Control, Deep Sea
The sad soundtrack to the summer of my 25th year had to be Lush. 19-year-old Lindsey Jordan’s debut under the moniker Snail Mail is a strong start for the budding indie star that has stunned the music industry with her beautiful sounds and highly vulnerable lyrics. The record feels bittersweet and heartbreaking, all while giving a sense that there is still a chance for the love she’s singing about. It’s the perfect album for anyone who is experiencing their first taste of independence in the adult world.
4. Starcruiser, Vinyl Theatre
- Release Date: August 31
- Best Songs: Hold Me Down, Our Song, Done With These Days
I am always ready to board the Starcruiser, and any other spacecraft piloted by the men of Vinyl Theatre. This third studio album, the first one released without a label, feels like the record we’ve been waiting for this Milwaukee-based band to make. It’s ambitious, thoughtful and larger than life itself. I find myself constantly returning to the bridge of Hold Me Down for a bit of hope. I can’t wait to see these guys again live and see what they’re bringing to the table next.
3. Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
- Release Date: March 30
- Best Songs: Slow Burn, Velvet Elvis, Space Cowboy
Three albums deep into a budding career, Kacey Musgraves has more than hit her stride with this year’s Golden Hour. I wrote in my initial review that she created an acoustic daydream but months later, the dream is still something that feels alive in the music world. This album speaks to the heart and is easily one of the most relatable records of 2018. Country music has never been my personal cup of tea, but Golden Hour proves that the country genre can blend well with elements of pop, folk and even disco. I can’t applaud Kacey Musgraves enough for this record that I come back to on a regular basis.
2. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975
- Release Date: November 30
- Best Songs: Love It If We Made It, Inside Your Mind, I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
In the past year, Matty Healy has kicked a heroin addiction, opened up about rehab, and now he and the rest of the British alternative (arguably, genre-neutral) band The 1975 seek to tackle love in the digital age in A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. As a relatively new fan of The 1975, I’m glad I got to have my first album release experience be this record. It’s a complicated mix of indie pop, rock, acoustic, R&B and even a little jazz. The cinematic-style tracks will stay stuck in your head, not just with their sound but with what they say about today’s society.
1. Trench, Twenty One Pilots
- Release Date: October 5
- Best Songs: Jumpsuit, Pet Cheetah, Leave the City
Fans, including myself, speculated about the return of alternative kings Twenty One Pilots for the entire year that they were on a break creating this new record. Trench was more than worth the wait. Each song serves as a perfectly placed piece of the narrative that has been weaved into this concept record. In their fifth outing as a band, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun push beyond the bounds of expressing the thought of their own issues in order to experiment with new sounds, pump us up with new passion, and crush our spirits with new, hard-hitting lyrics that will inevitably adorn our bodies in tattoo form.
For more year-end content, along with my regularly scheduled programming, come back to this blog.