Year In Review: Ten Of The Best Albums Of 2018

on Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Words: Rajan Lakhani

Rajan here. It's been a tough ask to cut down my favourite albums of 2018, with excellent records by the likes of Beach House, Father John Misty, Janelle Monae, Jeff Tweedy and Boygenius just missing out on the top ten below. Tracks from these albums do however make it onto a Spotify playlist, alongside my other favourite songs of 2018, so check that out after you've read the list of ten of the best albums to come out last year below.

10. Israel Nash - 'Lifted'

'Lifted' is a truly apt name for the record, as it’s a collection of soaring, feel good anthems. Heavier than typical Americana records, its dense, textured sound create a sense of drama that works seamlessly with Nash’s joyful, almost celebratory stance.

9. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - 'Hope Downs'

Rolling Blackouts C.F. are the best band since Cut Copy to emerge from Australia. This is a fine debut album that doesn’t attempt to reinvent the prototype indie sound, replete with its jangly guitars. But while the band keeps it simple, the music is fun, carefree and addictive with toe-tapping melodies abound throughout the album.

8. Let’s Eat Grandma - 'I’m All Ears'

Let’s Eat Grandma are one of the most exciting British groups around. They explore different musical territory fearlessly and inventively, showcasing a songwriting ability way beyond their teenage age. This is a pop record at its heart, but the songs are never presented in a straight-forward way, constantly surprising the listener with their attention to detail and the varied dynamics in their sound.

7. Gruff Rhys - 'Babelsberg'

There has never been any doubt but Gruff Rhys’ songwriting capabilities. But there is such an archness and eccentricity about much of his output that it’s almost as if the joke is on you, which makes it much harder to create an emotional connection with his songs. While 'Babelsberg' is not fully devoid of pastiche, it’s arguably his most honest, uplifting album with a warmth that soothes the listener thanks to some brilliant orchestral arrangements and lovely lyrics.

6. Mark Peters - 'Innerland'

'Innerland' is the first solo record by the Engineers’ founder Mark Peters. It is a lovely, ambient paean to his home county. In a time when we all face more external pressures and competing distractions on our time than ever, a record as comforting and easy to get lost into like 'Innerland' is essential.

5. Kacey Musgraves - 'Golden Hour'

It’s a disservice to simply call Kacey Musgraves a ‘country artist’. While her music is clearly rooted in country influences, she embraces other genres, such as disco and RnB making this a crossover record. Despite the genre-hopping, the songs are assured throughout and form a truly cohesive, confident album. The wide-eyed and upbeat character of Musgraves’ lyrics mean you can’t but help root for her.

4. Mitski - 'Be The Cowboy'

'Be The Cowboy' saw Mitski go for a cleaner, more ambitious production without losing the charm of her previously lo-fi, DIY sounding releases. That’s the result of her lyrics being so personal and affecting - without becoming morose thanks to some clever, wry observations that intersperse the record throughout. Deliberately “reconnecting with her feelings”, Mitski has delivered her best record to date.

3. Albert Hammond Jr. - 'Francis Trouble'

'Francis Trouble' is the best thing that any Strokes member has been involved with since Albert Hammond Jr’s debut solo record, 'Yours To Keep' in 2006. Inspired by his lost twin who sadly passed away in a miscarriage, 'Francis Trouble' is full of bright, indie-dancefloor tunes despite the difficult, weighty subject matter behind the album. The record’s unfussy, tight and memorable guitar lines are a timely reminder of what made The Strokes such an addictive group initially.

2. Basement - 'Beside Myself'

I’d not heard of Basement before so it was some surprise when I saw that 'Beside Myself' is their fourth studio record. Maybe it’s the early noughties rock, emo-esque sound that recalls the bands (e.g. Jimmy Eat World) that I was listening to in my late teens via Kerrang compilations, but I absolutely fell for the record immediately. It’s a clever record too, with the songs arranged superbly so you don’t feel overwrought. Melodic throughout, 'Beside Myself' is full of anthems that belong in stadiums and should earn Basement a wider audience.

1. Suede - 'The Blue Hour'

'The Blue Hour' saw Suede secure their eighth top 10 album, a superb achievement. Building on the ambition of 'Night Thoughts', this is a record that can be spoken of in the same breath as the legendary 'Dog Man Star'.

In an era of Spotify and single-heavy playlists, Suede have yet again gone against the grain by delivering a thematic record that demands to be listen to in full. While some of the themes - love, loss, loneliness and escape - have been well-trodden by the band, the new setting of family and countryside give these themes a new, engaging perspective. This is underscored by a slightly unsettling vibe reminiscent of 'The Wicker Man' that’s particularly drawn out in the spoken interludes.

The album boasts some of the best songs of their career, in particular the soaring 'Life Is Golden' and the incredible closing one-two punch of 'The Invisibles' and 'Flytipping'. Suede were once labelled the ‘Best New Band In Britain’ before releasing a single. Now, they’re simply the best band in Britain.

Read a list of top albums of 2017 here. Find more top things from 2018 here.

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