Best music of 2018
Spotify Wrapped is an amazing product that meticulously breaks down your year in music.
Spotify Wrapped is also a terrible product that meticulously breaks down your year in music.
On one hand you learn that you listened to 90+ hours of Kacey Musgraves this year.
On the other you learn that somehow you listened to Delicate enough to land Taylor Swift a spot in your top five artists.
But in using this incredible and vicious tool, I learned that I listened to 98, 604 minutes of music via Spotify.
(this doesn’t count YouTube and Soundcloud, so let’s go ahead and assume the grand total surpasses 100k.)
Using all that I learned from Rent, that’s nearly 19 percent of my year spent with music.
It’s an absolutely insane amount, but needing music for running, cooking, working, driving and almost every other aspect of my life does add up.
So I decided to make a list of my favorite albums and songs that came out this year.
My taste in music is … fine. But I miss writing, love year-end lists and thought the 11 people who will read this might enjoy it. So without further ado….
1. Golden Hour // Kacey Musgraves
I’ve been a card-carrying Kacey fan since her stunning debut Same Trailer, Different Park, which included one of the most poignantly written songs about small towns (Merry Go ‘Round) and a way too accurate reflection on a friend with benefits you aren’t into much but will do for a night (It Is What It Is).
Going into her third effort, especially with all the hype surrounding the record, I had high expectations, but was a tad worried. Would it be too pop? Would it be too commercial? Would her charm diminish?
No, no and hell no.
The first time I listened to the record straight through I was in Asheville with my family. I was so eager to listen to the album, I chose to drive to a park, and experienc the whole album full blast with my headphones.
Slow Burn, a meditation on her life so far, is a lush, 90-esque alternative indie paradise. By the time she begins the last verse with “old soul, waiting my turn, I know a few things but I still got a lot to learn”, she’s already done a better job telling a complete, fleshed-out story than most artists do over an entire album. Gag is, it’s only the opening track.
From there, we take a sonic journey through highs (Butterflies), lows (Space Cowboy) and wonderment (Oh, What a World). The style is hard to pinpoint, but the tracks fuse seamlessly, and showcase genres ranging from classic country, indie, stoner, experimental and, yes, pop.
On a personal note, this year has not been the kindest to me, or most people. We live in a terrifying political climate. I still feel like an outsider in a place I’ve lived for more than two years. I’ve slipped through episodes of intense loneliness and fear, and have felt hopelessly lost for a good portion of 2018.
When the fear creeps in (more like knocks down the door and strangles me, but hey) and tells me that I’m not where I “should” be in life, I listen to Slow Burn and remember there’s a reason God put me where I am, and that I still have plenty of time to grow.
When I’m afraid of what’s happening around the globe, I turn on Oh, What a World. I’m reminded that I live on a giant planet full of people who are fighting for what’s right. That’s full of creations that are meant to give and develop life, not take it away.
When I’m experiencing all my ~ feels ~ possible, and it feels like they are crushing my body, I listen to Happy & Sad and remember I’m not alone in navigating conflicting, confusing emotions.
And when I’m at the end of my rope, struggling against impossibly strong currents, I listen to Rainbow. (Often when it’s late and I’m in my car.)
The final verse:
Cause the sky is finally open, the rain and wind stopped blowin'
But you're stuck out in the same old storm again
Let go of your umbrella, darlin' I'm just tryin' to tell ya
That there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head
Yeah there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head
It'll all be alright
And for a minute, head against the steering wheel of my black Kia Soul, I actually believe that it might just all be alright.
(i try not to get so emo for the rest of this, lol)
ALSO IF THIS ALBUM FAILS TO WIN ALBUM OF THE YEAR AT THE GRAMMYS I WILL RIOT ok thx
2. boygenius // boygenius
I remember receiving a Spotify alert telling me that there was new music from a favorite of mine, Julien Baker. I was thrilled, having no idea she had a new project on the way.
Upon further investigation (aka I clicked a series of buttons on the internet), I discovered it was not a new solo effort, but a collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Darbus, two other indie artists.
A little bummed it wasn’t just my fave, I nonetheless listened. And…. wooooeoeoeoeoeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
^^^ literally my ears and emotional core for the entire six-track EP.
The harmonies. The lyrics. I was not prepared for the absolutely raw emotional intensity of this.
From the opening track making it clear there would be no prisoners taken (Bite the Hand) to the gorgeous stunner that’s the first track led by Julien (Souvenir) and finally the penultimate track that has the most I’m-slamming-everything-breakable-in-my-house-into-the-wall-and-will-revel-in-the-broken-bits energy I’ve perhaps ever listened to in a song (Salt in the Wound), this record is entirely unguarded. By the end, (with the spare and melancholy Ketchum, ID) boygenius has managed a pitch perfect debut. In six tracks, nonethless. No filler needed. Pretty genius, indeed.
3. Bloom // Troye Sivan
This album feels so special to me.
It might be the sad, gay teen that will always occupy a corner of my body, but I so wish I had this album in high school. Hell, I’d take it in college.
The standout for me is the opening track (Seventeen). Troye perfectly tells the story of how exciting, scary and dangerous dating can feel (and be) as a gay teenager. It’s hard enough being young and navigating love. But Troye perfectly puts into words how it feels like you are writing the rules as you are going. That it’s messy, and doesn’t make a lot of sense. And looking back, you probably did things you absolutely shouldn’t. But that somehow it's ok, now.
The rest of the album also goes off. The title track is a literal mainstream pop song about bottoming for the right boy and feels so… Sweet? Lucky Strike is a mega-earworm about a tenacious love affair with a semi-bad boy. And Good Side should have been in Call Me By Your Name — its an absolutely stunning ballad that shows off Troye's ear for production with a precious delivery.
4. sweetener // Ariana Grande
Although after her late releases this year it still feels like the best is yet to come, Ari’s 2018 LP still stands on its own. From brilliant tracks like God is a woman (fun fact: every time you listen to it a fragile masculinity ridden boy loses his privilege) to closer get well soon, an absolutely brilliant take on self care with a lovely nod to the Manchester terrorist attack, this album is by far Ari’s best. Well, until thank u, next lands.
Truthfully, I definitely played this album more than No. 2 and 3 put together. The only reason I rank it below is the album’s only weakness — it feels like a playlist of good Ari songs, not a complete album. Half the songs are Pharrell demos (literally blazed is just a Pharrell song featuring Ari) and the other half is full of her more typical Max Martin fare (everytime). I love the songs, but as an album…. It just doesn't flow.
5. Hive Mind // The Internet
Is there anything cuter than Syd crooning “Would you wanna be my girl?” on Wanna Be? No. But really, this entire record is stunning. And just feels so effortless. Also, It Gets Better (With Time) is basically a straight up Aaliyah song. So, perfect.
6. The High Road & 7. JoJo // JoJo
I fucking love JoJo.
The fact she literally rerecorded her first two albums because the fools at her old label refused to do anything with them, and somehow made them even better? A legend. Her mature vocals really enhance the tracks, and I swear they go even harder now. Also, listening to a confident, twenty-something JoJo belt The Way You Do Me, Like That and Good ‘Ole is so much more comfortable than listening to her 15 year-old self sing the incredibly provocative lyrics. Then again, I was bopping to all three of those on my iPod Nano as a 12-year-old….
But seriously, stream these albums. I’m constantly stunned at the amount of effort and passion JoJo oozes into every project. She didn’t have to do this and the fact she did, and did it so well, just proves again that she is a goddess and deserves the world. Also both albums go harder than most of the music released this year. Again, A GODDESS.
8. Evening Machines // Gregory Alan Isakov
Gregory Alan Isakov’s latest is similar in style to his previous offerings, but a little bit bigger and bolder in sound. It’s an absolutely stunning listen.
9. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships // The 1975
Of course this is on my top list.
I was so into the singles (we’ll get to those) that the entire album fell a bit flat to me.
The too long computer voiceover about an online troll who dates his computer?
I Love America and America Loves Me? Also not it.
I know they have ~deep~ meanings (right?), but the songs don't soar the way I thought they would.
But now the good!
Even with the negatives, it’s full of brilliant tracks. Mine is a home run. Heavily influenced by classic jazz, but with clever quips like “I fight crimes online sometimes”, it sounds like 2018’s version of a standard. And Inside Your Mind is the 1975 at their absolute best.
10. Be the Cowboy // Mitski
Truth be told, I finally listened to this album late in the year and am still digesting it, but am absolutely loving it. Probably getting the the lyrics from Lonesome Love and Washing Machine Heart tattooed on me soon.
THESE ALBUMS ARE NOT america’s next top model,
but were still v good
No Shame // Lily Allen
Uneven, but the beginning is pitch perfect. 3 will wreck you. This was so close to the top 10, but the back half just doesn’t hold up.
A Star is Born // Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s beard
Good! Would be great without the horrific pop songs, that are there just to make the point that pop music is mindless dribble, which it isn’t!!! I’m sorry, but in no world are Why Would You Do That? or Hair Body Face bops.
Geography // Tom Hisch
Lovely in the morning with a cup of coffee.
Turn Off the Light Vol. I // Kim Petras
Kim Petras is to Halloween as Mariah Carey is to Christmas. The EP for those wanting to live in a gay horror movie.
(I won’t go into detail on songs I’ve already raved about above, because this is my blog that no one reads AND I MAKE THE RULES. But a rule I did actually make was one song per artist, otherwise this would be the tracklist for Golden Hour lol)
1. Slow Burn // Kacey Musgraves
2. Seventeen // Troye Sivan
3. It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You // The 1975
This shit. Is fucking brilliant.
It’s a neo-gospel song.
About a heroin addiction.
But is also depressing as shit.
Matty stays brilliant.
But could do better on albums.
4. goodnight ‘n go // Ariana Grande
Have you ever wanted to live in a song? The production on this Imogen Heap trap remake is just divine. By far most played song of the year. And Ari nails the delivery of both the Imogen lyrics and her playful additions. Her quick little rap at the end is perfection. Also this song is my actual life. So I guess I do live in it!
5. Me & My Dog // boygenius
I never knew I needed a song about how I want to retreat into a hole everytime I make myself emotionally available to the wrong person, knowing it will end with me feeling small and useless, but I DID need it and now have it, so thx boygenius.
6. Heart to Break // Kim Petras
Pop perfection. Except that Dr. Luke produced it. That’s disgusting. So almost perfection.
But Kim Petras should be America’s next big pop star. Total package. And ugh this song is so good. Like the PERFECT summer anthem.
But fuck Dr. Luke.
7. Wanna Be // The Internet
I already talked about this one but more queer songs like this in 2019 PLZ.
8. Party For One // Carly Rae Jepsen
Does this song reach the heights Carly Rae scaled on EMOTION? No. But it’s still really good, and so fun! I want to dance to it in a gay bar after a few bourbon gingers, so mission accomplished St. Carly Rae.
(Come harder with the album tho, love you! <3)
9. Chun-Li // NIckI Minaj
This song is a certified bop but also hysterical. I love how many times she checks it’s King Kong. It’s like me checking my door is locked before driving away for vacation. I know it’s locked, but I still check six times. Nicki, it’s King Kong!!!
(On the real, Nicki has had a bad year and should maybe listen to Golden Hour and stop dating a literal rapist and working with a child molester, but this song is another problematic fave and I will always dance to it. Also stop with the filler shit on albums, and maybe Queen will make this VERY coveted list.)
10. Higher // Lily Allen
Lily Allen has had a rough year (I keep saying this, has anyone had a good 2018?) but this song is her at her absolute best. Sly, clever, witty. Her album deserved a lot more hype than it got, and this is the standout.
Sashay, away (but you were still good so good job)
Focus // Charli XCX
Charli is the present and future of pop, and honestly just excites me. And this goes off and is so fun!! JUST FOCUS ON MY LOOIOIOIIOIIIIIVE
The Joke // Brandi Carlile
People have tried very hard to do this type of song well, but Brandi absolutely nailed it. The queer pain oozes out and I stan.
literally the entire Golden Hour tracklist
imagine // Ariana Grande
John Lennon who?
thank u, next // still Ari
this song literally reinvented pop but I still like her Imogen cover better lol
Lucky Strike // Troye Sivan
Sincerity Is Scary // The 1975
Too clever for its own good, so a solid 1975 song
Feeling of Falling // Kim Petras
Dr. Luke is not associated with this song! It’s still not as good as Heart to Break, but it’s a bop.
Always Remember Us This Way // Lady Gaga
I’ve decided this is my favorite from A Star Is Born. Have I mentioned how much I despised how the film treated pop music? In this essay I will...