Favourite Albums of 2018
Dec 29, 2018 • Janelle Monáe Stan Matt Wang • ~ 11 minute read • 1989 words
As the end of the year approaches, it’s supposed to be a time for reflection. I love reflecting (hence the majority of the content of this blog), but I do want to take a break from boring you about details of my life. Instead, let’s reflect on my listening habits for my favourite genre of entertainment: music!
I’ll go over my favourite albums released in 2018, and two shortlists of albums that I discovered in 2018 (but were released earlier), and some songs released in 2018 that I enjoyed. Hopefully, it isn’t too long - I tend to ramble when I write about music!
a note on last.fm
I love looking at statistics, and I love music - but somehow, I never really tracked my music listening choices until a friend prodded me to get last.fm. I’ve only had it since November 2nd, but I love this website: it’s already given me some suprising insights on what kinds of music I listen to most.
For reference, here’s my last.fm account. However, since it hasn’t tracked my entire year yet, I won’t talk about it in this post - but I’m definitely going to analyze it at the end of next year!
Okay, now on to the actual list(s).
2018 fave releases
In this section, I’ll go over a few albums that were released in 2018 that I absolutely loved, and note some of my favourite tracks. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it short. And, they’re in no particular order.
Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe
Dirty Computer is nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys, and there’s no album that I think deserves that award more than Janelle Monáe’s latest masterpiece. I wrote about her in my Top Ten article, and I still believe what I said - so I’ll save myself some time here.
Dirty Computer is a socially-aware artistic masterpiece in a pop package. On it, Janelle homes in on her gender, sexual, and racial identity, considering them both as separate entities but also as part of a wider, intersectional worldview. She embraces each of these fragments of herself: the empowerment that she feels as a woman who’s stood on the shoulders of giants (“Django Jane”), her raw love and how nothing will stop her from expressing it (“I Like That” and “Make Me Feel”), and how America has mistreated and still continues to mistreat people (and androids) of all types (“Americans”). Dirty Computer achieves the rare feat of being both a stunning piece of introspection and an empowering social commentary. Each song being a bop (production-wise and Janelle’s amazing voice, plus her occasional rapping) is just another bonus.
If you love innovative pop, you’ll love Dirty Computer.
Standout tracks: Crazy Classic Life, Screwed, Django Jane, Make Me Feel, I Like That, I Got The Juice
iridescence by BROCKHAMPTON
After the SATURATION trilogy, BROCKHAMPTON has absolutely captured my attention. When they dropped three singles from their upcoming album “The Best Days of Our Lives”, I was absolutely amped - especially as their three singles were straight fire.
Unfortunately, The Best Days of Our Lives never came out: Ameer Vann, one of BROCKHAMPTON’s rappers, was accused of sexual misconduct and harassment by multiple women. As such, BROCKHAMPTON kicked him out of the group, and had to create another album without him.
That album was iridescence, their first major label release. All of this turbulence forced them to experiment with the BROCKHAMPTON formula, and I’m not entirely sure that it worked - there are some rough patches here that weren’t present in the SATURATION trilogy, though that’s to be expected. The group is still on the bleeding edge of rap, with innovative production, song structure, and a dynamism that can’t be matched by any other group in the genre. I especially love that we see more of bearface on this album, on soft ballads interspersed with emotional rap verses. Suffice it to say, the BROCKHAMPTON boys create yet another great piece of music.
If you enjoy rap music, you should definitely give iridescence a listen.
Standout tracks: NEW ORLEANS, WEIGHT, DISTRICT, J’OUVERT, VIVID, SAN MARCOS, TONYA
plum blossom by mxmtoon
According to mxmtoon’s TikTok page,
yes I am that girl who makes sad ass uke music
And to be honest, if I had to give a 2-second elevator pitch on her music, it’d sound something like that. mxmtoon makes sad ass ukelele music very well: you can hear and feel the emotion in her voice, the lyrics telling a sad story on unrequited love, silent crushes, or being a hopeless romantic, among other things. The songs have a barebones, raw feel, and convey their message with a beautiful simplicity; when I hear the first few strums of her ukelele, I’m already feeling the emotions that she lays bare in her words.
There are a few other dimensions to exactly why I love this album, one of them being mxmtoon’s personality. She’s my age (which is kinda nuts to me), and similar to me, she spends a lot of time on social media - I love following her Twitter account and seeing how she interacts with fans, and I even occasionally peep some of her TikToks (I know, disappointing). It adds a brand of authenticity to the music that she makes and adds value to the stories she tells through song.
If you enjoy bedroom pop or ukelele music, or want to feel sad about love, listen to plum blossom.
Standout tracks: cliché, i feel like chet, feelings are fatal, porcelain, i miss you
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975
It’s no secret that I like sugary-sweet pop and love songs, which makes The 1975’s latest album a natural fit for me. Admittedly, I didn’t listen to The 1975 before this album came out; but, after a friend showed me the light, I’ve fallen in love with this band. I think this album is extremely sonically coherent - very few pop albums tend to be these days - and matches that with an equally consistent and powerful lyrical theme, dripping with adorable and passionate love songs from front to back. Even though the album is on the long side, it didn’t feel like there was any filler nor a drop in quality: each song was just as enjoyable as the last.
Listening to this album has inspired me to take a deeper delve into The 1975’s catalogue, and if they can match the quality of this album, I’m going to be in for a treat.
Standout tracks: TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, Sincerity is Scary, I Like America & America Likes Me, Inside Your Mind, It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You), I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
Honourable Mentions: Releases
I liked these too, but I think you’d get bored if I wrote a bit too much.
- Amen by Rich Brian
- ASTROWORLD by Travis Scott
- aurora by Bea Miller
- Black Panther (Soundtrack)
- Bloom by Troye Sivan
- chapter 1 by girl in red
- DAYTONA by Pusha T
- East Atlanta Love Letter by 6LACK
- FM! by Vince Staples
- High As Hope by Florence + The Machine
- i am > i was by 21 Savage
- In Fina We Trust by Awkwafina
- Light of Mine by KYLE
- Lost & Found by Jorja Smith
- Milky Way by Bas
- Room 25 by Noname
- Shawn Mendes by Shawn Mendes
- Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (Soundtrack)
- Streams of Thought Vol. 1 by Black Thought
- Sunset Season by Conan Gray
- Sway by Tove Stryke
- Sweetener by Ariana Grande
- Swimming by Mac Miller
Honourable Mentions: Discoveries
Here are albums that didn’t come out in 2018, but ones that I discovered this year - and thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a shorter list - I don’t often listen to albums that haven’t just come out, which is a habit I plan to change.
- Apricot Princess by Rex Orange County
- Damaged Vol. 1 by bülow
- dont smile at me by Billie Eilish
- FREE 6LACK by 6LACK
- H.E.R. by H.E.R.
- Hope by Christian Leave
- How To Be A Human Being by Glass Animals
- Pyschopomp by Japanese Breakfast
- RINA by Rina Sawayama
- Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
- Since I Left You by The Avalanches
- SYRE by Jaden Smith
- Transistor Original Soundtrack by Darren Korb
Honourable Mentions: Songs
Here are some songs that came out this year that I loved that aren’t on albums previously mentioned. Still a fire rotation.
- 10 Freaky Girls by Metro Boomin
- 151 Rum by JID
- 1539 N. Calvert by JPEGMAFIA
- 1998 TRUMAN by BROCKHAMPTON
- 1999 by Charli XCX
- 1999 WILDFIRE by BROCKHAMPTON
- Bali by 88GLAM
- Bartier Cardi B by Cardi B
- Believer by Cyn
- Bubblin by Anderson .Paak
- Call Out My Name by The Weeknd
- Can’t Help Falling in Love by Kira Grannis (Crazy Rich Asians Cover)
- Everybody Dies by Logic
- Everybody Wants To Be Famous by Superorganism
- Four Out Of Five by the Arctic Monkeys
- I Like Me Better by Lauv
- I Might Need Security by Chance the Rapper
- ICY GRL by Saweetie
- JAPAN by Famous Dex
- LATATA by (G)I-DLE
- Learn How To Watch by Carnage
- Live Sheck Wes by Sheck Wes
- Lovesick by Chloe Gallardo
- Millideplhia by Meek Mill
- Mirror by Madison Ryann Ward
- Nice For What by Drake
- Only Acting by Kero Kero Bonito
- OSOM by Jay Rock
- Raw by Sigrid
- Rose In Harlem by Teyana Taylor
- sex money feelings die by Lykke Li
- Sin by Young Thug
- thank u, next by Ariana Grande
- the broken hearts club by gnash
- The Man Who Has Everything by Chance the Rapper
- This Is America by Childish Gambino
- Ultralight Beam by Naaz (Spotify Single Cover)
- Uproar by Lil Wayne
- Your Dog by Soccer Mommy
Just some disjointed thoughts:
As I went to UCLA, my music taste changed quite a bit: much less trap and rap in general, and more bedroom pop, R&B, and alt-rock. Most of this has to do with my friend group - not many of my friends at UCLA are big rap fans, and I always love getting recommended new types of music.
I think this year was a sub-par year for rap: imo, big names like Drake, Kanye, Eminem, J. Cole, and A$AP Rocky were mediocre or flat-out let-downs. Trap and mumble rap are definitely oversaturated, bloated fields (think the 24-track Culture II or the wildly underwhelming Lil Baby and Gunna tape), and I’m not personally a fan of the new wave of emo rap riding off of Juice WRLD, or the cult of personality garnered around (the late) XXXTENTACION.
Compared to last year, I’ve done a better job of listening through entire albums rather than just popular singles - which means that I find a few hidden gems every now and then. I’d like to do even more of that next year.
When people ask me who my favourite rappers are, I often don’t have a good answer (though I usually respond Kendrick). According to Spotify, the answers are Drake, Kanye, Kendrick, and Logic - a list that is much more mainstream than I thought. At least now I know.
I thoroughly enjoyed the process of making this list: I spent a few hours scrolling through all the songs I enjoyed throughout this year, thought critically about the choices that I could make, and wrote and re-wrote my final decisions.
But possibly most importantly, reviewing music is a proxy for looking back at my entire year, especially as I listen to music that I associate with different people, places, or time periods. It’s a nice trip down memory lane, and I’m excited as ever for more.
Next year, I’m excited to listen to even more music. Until next time!