Caveats:

  • I do not assert that these are the best albums of 2018. Just that I found them good and/or interesting to listen to.
  • I'm sure there's lots of stuff I omitted
  • I've made no effort to differentiate between full albums and EPs. I don't know if that's a thing one is supposed to do?
  • There's probably stuff in here that wasn't really put out in 2018. I mainly went by Tidal's listed release dates, which are definitely unreliable.
  • Lots of this stuff may be problematic, so heads up. Specific content warnings for domestic violence, sexual assault, related content on Lingua Ignota, US Girls, and Stella Donnelly.

I've included Spotify playlists with a selection of tracks from the albums listed here. (Except quoniam facta sum vilis, which is not on Spotify. Check that one out on Bandcamp.)

The Short List

  • Sons of Kemet / Your Queen is a Reptile
  • Black Belt Eagle Scout / Mother of My Children
  • Neko Case / Hell-On
  • Liza Anne / Fine But Dying
  • JPEGMAFIA / Veteran
  • Mitski / Be The Cowboy
  • U.S. Girls / In a Poem Unlimited
  • Coping Skills / Worst New Music
  • Superorganism / Superorganism
  • Blinky Bill / Everyone's Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales
  • Jessie Reyez / Being Human in Public
  • Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus / boygenius
  • Lingua Ignota / All Bitches Die (Reissue)

The Slightly Longer List

  • Kelly Moran / Ultraviolet
  • Stella Donnelly / Thrush Metal
  • duendita / direct line to My Creator
  • Us, Today / Computant
  • Young Jesus / The Whole Thing is Just There
  • Exploded View / Obey
  • Sudan Archives / Sink
  • Dyan / Absence
  • Vessel / Queen of Golden Dogs
  • Kilo Kish / mothe
  • CupcakKe / Ephorize
  • Michele Mercure / Beside Herself
  • Lea Bertucci / Metal Aether
  • Brandon Lopez / quoniam facta sum vilis
  • SOPHIE / Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
  • Jacob Banks / Village
  • Mark Lanegan, Duke Garwood / With Animals
  • Mirah, Understanding
  • Vera Sola / Shades
  • Amaro Freitas / Rasif
  • ANMLPLNET / Fall Asleep
  • Deacon / Cotton Wolf
  • Daniele Roccato, Ludus Gravis Ensemble / Scodanibbio: Alisei
  • Dopplereffeckt / Athanatos
  • Shad / A Short Story About A War
  • Neighbor Lady / Maybe Later
  • St. Vincent / MassEducation
  • Odetta Hartman / Old Rockhounds Never Die
  • Makaya McCraven / Where We Come From
  • Ben Lamar Gay / Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun
  • Tony Allen, Jeff Mills / Tomorrow Comes The Harvest
  • Planningtorock / Powerhouse
  • Seattle Symphony Orchestra / The Unchanging Sea

Some notes

I considered trying to provide a brief explainer text for each album listed, but I don't know shit about music, so in probably the majority of these cases, it would not be helpful for me try to do that. But here are a couple of notes anyway:

I know I said these aren't ordered lists, but Your Queen is a Reptile and Mother of My Children are my hardest recommendations. Absolutely everyone should listen to Mother of My Children, I think it's fucking wonderful. And everyone should listen to Your Queen is a Reptile unless you have zero tolerance for jazz, in which case I guess you're excused. And Your Queen is a Reptile is a double plus recommend to the tuba fans.

Liza Anne's Fine But Dying is the fucking queen of the 2018 moods. There's a whole-ass song that's just a phenomenological breakdown of the experience of having a panic attack. It's grand. Also, I saw her live at The Chapel and it was a really excellent performance. Total command of the material, polished, but also heartfelt and intimate. It's also impressive to see someone whose work is clearly steeped in severe anxiety just, you know, belt that shit.

I also got to see US Girls tour In a Poem Unlimited and that was a fucking journey for me, man. US Girls (which is actually one (1) Canadian) has in the past done a lot of weird experimental lo-fi shit. In a Poem Unlimited isn't radically discontinuous with her previous work, but it's a pronounced turn towards a more pop (and somewhat disco?) sound. What binds it all together either way is an approach to gender that is both playful and razor-edged. In my head she's filed more with Cindy Sherman than she is with other musicians.

In a Poem Unlimited is a good fuckin' album, but I really wish there was a live version, because the touring band she brought to SF was fucking amazing. It was a triple-bill show and both opening acts were (a) not enjoyable for me and (b) tonally complete mismatches for US Girls. She didn't go on until around 11:00PM, which ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME??

But when US Girls and that incredible touring band took the stage, it was immediately magical, exuberant, sweaty, subversive, and just fucking wonderful. The best live performance I've ever seen, probably, and took me from "remind me to never go to a concert again" to absolutely believing in the transformative power of live music in an hour and a half.

So, it's a shame I can't recommend that to you. The album in its released form is good, but it is nowhere near as good as that performance. Daaaamn. And, well, sorry.

The self-titled Superorganism and Blinky Bill's Everyone's Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales are both well outside my normal wheelhouse, if for no other reason than they're pretty fucking cheerful and normally I listen to mostly downer-ass shit. But they're both very infections and I have listened to them many, many times.

boygenius is cool b/c it's a baby supergroup and I really like two of the three artists involved (Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus). Julien Baker is fucking amazing and if you like being depressed you should listen to all of her music, all the time. Lucy Dacus's oeuvre is not as strong yet, but she's a really, really fuckin good singer. She actually has a solo album out in 2018 also, overall I don't know how strong a recommendation it is, but go listen to "Night Shift" if you haven't already.

I don't know if Lingua Ignota's All Bitches Die should technically be included here, because it's a reissue. But far be it from me to pass up a chance to encourage people to check out Lingua Ignota. I stan classically trained terrifying rage demons.

St. Vincent's MassEducation, which is basically a demake of an album she just put out, with a jokey self-deprecating title, is extremely funny to me. I wonder if it's a byproduct of her working out how to turn Masseduction into something she can perform with a band. I saw her touring on it at the beginning of this year, and it was a wildly awkward experience. Masseduction received a really aggressive Jack Antonoff pop over-production, and while I wouldn't say there's anything wrong with the resulting album, it seemed like she struggled with a live execution of it. She performed the entire thing solo IIRC with everything other than her voice and guitar pre-recorded. The visuals were impressive, and she was very good, but I think it underscored the artificiality of this production style in a way that was ultimately unflattering to the material.

(It didn't help that her opening act in SF was Tuck & Patti, her uncle and aunt, who are these absolutely adorable new age folk gnomes. No greater contrast could possibly exist between them and the Masseduction version of St. Vincent -- and it feels almost like MassEducation is her reaction to that same dissonance, unraveling the heavy-handed production of Masseduction into something more organic and personal.)

Appendix: My 2018 in Live Music

  • January: St. Vincent
  • March: Liza Anne, Julia Bullock, US Girls
  • May: Felix Hell
  • November: Big Freedia, Tank and the Bangas, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers
  • December: Neko Case