Music review: The 20 best albums of 2018...so far

Our list of the 20 best albums of 2018 so far, updated at regular intervals, to keep you up to date with the latest releases out there.


                            Music review: The 20 best albums of 2018...so far
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A quarter of the way into the musically promising year that has been 2018, we're curating a list of the top 20 albums of the year so far. Spread across a range of genres, the list is updated regularly, to keep you up to date with the latest in the world of music. 

1. Boarding House Reach - Jack White

Genre: Alternative / Experimental

Jack White seems to be in complete creative control of his solo career as is evident on his third solo studio album, 'Boarding House Reach.' White is at his most playful, experimental best on the album, tinkering with a range of genres ranging from gospel to hip hop, to country to funk to electro-jazz to even brief spells of spoken-word poetry. We even see White attempt rap on the track 'Ice Station Zebra,' which apparently was a product of White's collaboration with Jay-Z, which never saw the day of light. Almost two decades into his career, White still keeps things fresh as ever, as he sounds comfortable in his own skin throughout the album. 

Best Tracks: 'Over and Over and Over'; 'Ice Station Zebra'; 'Hypermisophoniac'

Check out our full review of the album here.

Release Date: March 23

Record Label: Third Man / Columbia / XL

 

2. Superorganism - Superorganism

Genre: Indie Pop

For an indie pop outfit from all across the world that had only met over the internet and never in real life until they decided to rent a house in London last year, Superorganism's self-titled debut album is surprisingly tight, sounding as though it's been made by bandmates that have known each other for ages. Last year, they previewed the heady, addictive lead single 'Something for your M.I.N.D.' That was just a taste of the maximalist sound that bridges chilled-out dream pop and crisp, upbeat psychedelic jams to create an undeniably hooky album that transports you to summer, no matter what the weather is like outside!

Best Tacks: 'Something for your M.I.N.D.'; 'Everybody Wants to be Famous'; 'Reflections on the Screen'

Release Date: March 2

Record Label: Domino Recording Company

3. Always Ascending - Franz Ferdinand

Genre: Alternative / Indie

Franz Ferdinand's first album after the departure of their guitarist Nick McCarthy sees the band go through a major sonic shift. They have traded their signature indie rock anthems for heavily synth driven disco-rock, courtesy of latest member Julian Corrie (better known by his stage name "Miaoux Miaoux"). The music is packed with clever references, both sonically as well as lyrically. Alex Kapranos' distinct vocals breathe life into crisp lyrics about the American healthcare crisis ('Huck and Jim'), the self-serving side of altruism ('Lois Lane') and the estrangement of living in the selfie era ('Academy Award'). Approaching the peak of their maturity in their career, it looks like Franz Ferdinand has no plans of slowing down any time soon.

Check out our review for Franz Ferdinand's latest album here.

Best Tracks: 'Always Ascending'; 'Feel the Love Go'; 'Slow Don't Kill Me Slow'

Release Date: February 9

Record Label: Domino Recording Company

4. Culture II - Migos

Genre: Trap

Album art for Migos' Culture II. (Image Source: Capital Records)

The follow up to last year's breakthrough sophomore record 'Culture', the sequel to the album, which arrives in less than a year after, sees Migos emphatically re-establish the fact that they are three of the most influential voices in modern day rap. Sprawling over an hour and 45 minutes with a staggering 24 tracks, the album boasts a string of A-list collaborations, including the likes of Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, Drake, Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, 21 Savage, Gucci Mane, Ty Dolla Sign and Post Malone. Production credits include Murda Beatz, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West, among others. With a lineup that massive, and a sound that incorporates party anthems and soulful melodies effortlessly, the aptly named 'Culture II' is like a crisp summary of the hip-hop scene in 2018.

Best Tracks: 'Walk It Talk It (ft. Drake)'; 'BBO (Bad Bitches Only) [ft. 21 Savage]'; Stir Fry

Release Date: January 26

Record Label: Capital Records

5. What a Time to Be Alive - Superchunk

Genre: Alternative / Indie

Almost three decades into the game, the precursors of American indie-rock, Superchunk, returns with a sound full of poppy punk vitriol. Objectively, the album is very different from their usual affair and might be hard to place. But in the context of the fact that it was written in a flurry of angry, cathartic creativity right after the 2016 presidential elections, you can truly appreciate the urgency with which Superchunk makes its political statement. As their outrage and artistry collide with gutsy glory, the band remind us again of the power of art and its place in tumultuous socio-political times.

Best Tracks: 'What a Time to Be Alive'; 'Reagan Youth'; 'I Got Cut'

Read our full review of the album here.

Release Date: February 16

Record Label: Merge Records

6. All At Once - Screaming Females

Genre: Alternative / Indie

Screaming Females' 2015 LP 'Rose Mountain' felt like the band was holding something back and wasn't quite unleashing their full potential. All that is gone in the New Jersey rockers' sixth album 'All At Once'. As the name aptly suggests, the album is a perfect reflection of Screaming Females' compositional approach. Easily their most expansive and imaginative work to date, 'All At Once' is a double LP that swings between surreal miniatures and solo-heavy sprawl, abandoning concision to make way for experimentation that emulates the band's energy and spontaneity in their live shows.

Best Tracks: 'I'll Make You Sorry'; 'Soft Domination'

Release Date: February 23

Record Label: Don Giovanni Records

7. Camila - Camila Cabello

Genre: Pop

Spearheaded by the bittersweet smash hit 'Havana', featuring Young Thug, the solo debut album from ex-Fifth Harmony singer Camila Cabello is deceptively candid, often disguising her soul-baring confessionals as irresistible, slow jams. Providing different perspectives on the turmoil of love, the album opens with the powerful electro-pop opener 'Never Be The Same' and closes with a plea for emotional intimacy on the moody, brooding R&B anthem, 'Into It'. Packed between these two tracks are some soulful piano ballads and a surprisingly tropical flavored pledge of devotion in the form of 'Inside Out', all of which add some delicious pop flavors to the album.

Best Tracks: 'Never Be The Same'; 'Havana'; 'Into It'

Release Date: January 12

Record Label(s): Epic / Syco / Sony

8. American Utopia - David Byrne

Genre: Alternative / Indie

American Utopia has to be the most unique politically charged album of the decade. And as we all know, there is absolutely no shortage of those today. Instead of ranting about the yoke of the times and fueling the dumpster fire of negativity that's been the underlying theme of most political albums of the modern age, Byrne, in his inimitable style, flips the perspective upside down in this genuinely funny album. The album, which sees a string of A-list collaborators, takes scenes from everyday life and adds a unique spin on the narrative. The song 'Gasoline And Dirty Sheets' examines the proliferation of advertising, fast food and crazy consumption as seen through the eyes of a refugee. The song 'Every Day Is A Miracle' looks at the world not through human eyes but through the eyes of a chicken, a tongue and a cockroach. What Byrne ultimately achieves to do is to provide a sense of hope, one that stares back at all the doom and misery and takes a heartly laugh at it all.

Best Tracks: 'This is That'; 'Gasoline and Dirty Sheets'; 'Every Day Is A Miracle'

Release Date: March 9

Record Label: Nonesuch Records Inc.

9. By the Way, I Forgive You - Brandi Carlile

Genre: Americana

After experimenting with guitar driven rock and country, Brandi Carlile returns with her sixth studio album to do what she does best - soul-stirring Americana, a blend of all traditional American genres that is driven by her crackling croon. Finding a fragile balance between estrangement, alienation, healing and hope, the album is chock full of ballads about suicide ('Fulton Country Jane Doe'), addiction ('Sugartooth'), heartbreak ('Everytime I Hear That Song') and new beginnings ('Harder to Forgive'). But underneath the bitter truths lies a note of hope and optimism. It is arguably her most moving and earnest work and is one that'll surely stand the test of time over the years.

Best Tracks: 'Every Time I Hear That Song'; 'The Joke'; 'Sugartooth'

Release Date: February 16

Record Label: Low Country Sound / Elektra

10. Twin Fantasy - Car Seat Headrest

Genre: Alternative / Indie

Crafted on a cheap laptop in 2011, Twin Fantasy attained a cult status on Bandcamp upon its initial preview, cementing Will Toledo's status as an indie rock visionary. Seven years later, in the nostalgia-peddling times of today, Toledo recreates his teenage masterpiece and secures its cult status. While we still get a glimpse of the crackling lo-fi sound of the original, there is no mistaking that Twin Fantasy has gone through a top quality studio polish. Early fanboys (and fangirls) will cherish this revamped tribute, while new listeners will be inspired to delve deeper into the eclectic curiosities that Car Seat Headrest's catalogue provides.

Best Tracks: 'My Boy (Twin Fantasy)'; 'Nervous Young Inhumans'; 'Bodys'

Release Date: February 16

Record Label: Matador

11. My Dear Melancholy, - The Weeknd

Genre: R&B / Soul

Released as a surprise album that dropped out of nowhere, The Weeknd's latest album is a jarring break-up album which sees the Starboy return to his unfiltered, art-house roots. With a sound that is a stark contrast to his previous album, the new release strikes an extremely personal, almost confessional tone, with gauzy production courtesy of gothic electro legend Gesaffelstein (Yeezus). With R-rated lyrics about love, sex and drugs, The Weeknd paints a gloomy, dark account of his recent past, underlined by blaring synths and fuzzy echoes that is reminiscent of his early mixtapes at the turn of the decade.

Best Tracks: 'Call Out My Name', 'I Was Never There'

Release Date: March 30 

Record Label: XO / Republic

12. In a Poem Unlimited - U.S. Girls

Genre: Alternative / Art Pop

In her sixth studio effort, Meg Rhemy, through her solo project U.S. Girls, is at her most mature, charged by a sense of uncontrollable immediacy. The genres she flits through are as diverse as the themes she addresses. She dips her toes into groovy disco ('M.A.H'; 'Incidental Boogie'), soul ('Velvet 4 Sale') and symphonic pop ('Rosebud') as she tackles heavy themes ranging from abuse of power, domestic violence and even U.S foreign policy. Although highly politically charged, it's the delivery that sets it apart. At no point does Rhemy preach her message, choosing instead to let the allegories percolate slowly, intertwined between her soulful melodies.

Best Tacks: 'Velvet 4 Sale'; 'Rosebud'; 'Incidental Boogie'

Release Date: February 16

Record Label: 4AD

13. Gangin - SOB X RBE

Genre: Hip Hop / Rap

After collaborating with Kendrick Lamar, the modern godfather of hip-hop on the soundtrack of what would become the greatest hit of the year, the Bay Area's SOB X RBE continued their momentum as they bared their gold-covered fangs. Their groovy banger 'Paramedic!' from 'Black Panther: The Album' is the embodiment of the sound that catapulted the crew into the right set of ears. As Pitchfork aptly puts it, with their self-declared studio album 'Gangin', SOB X RBE "delivers a breathless, irresistible, and highly defined record that hits your gut and your shoulders at the same time." The album paves the way for the first taste of mainstream success for the underground crew, and it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

Bet Tracks: 'Antisocial'; 'On Me'

Release Date: February 23

Record Label: Empire

14. Marble Skies - Django Django

Genre: Alternative

With their third studio effort, Django Django takes yet another meandering journey of exploration through a host of genres. On 'Marble Skies', the pop quartet maintains its signature style, while simultaneously flitting from rockabilly ('Tic Tac Toe') to dancehall ('Surface to Air') to acid house ('Real Gone') to 70's jazz fusion ('Sundials'). With graceful counterpoints to busy, compelling rhythms, Django Django pushes the boundaries of their experimental approach, weaving disparate elements together with rigor and precision, that come together to form a mesmerizing whole.

Best Tracks: 'Marble Skies', 'Tic Tac Toe', 'In Your Beat'

Release Date: January 26

Record Label: Because Music

15. Now Only - Mount Eerie

Genre: Alternative

Phil Elverum's latest studio album under his project Mount Eerie follows 2017's critically acclaimed LP, 'A Crow Looked at Me', not only chronologically but thematically as well. The six-track effort finds Elverum continuing to intimately address the loss of his late wife, Geneviève Castrée, with a directness and specificity that instantly grips your heart. The new album dives further into Elverum's stream-of-consciousness delivery, while arranging the chaos of everyday life into simple folk structures. The themes addressed in the album are eclectic. From Jack Kerouac and the weight of fatherhood ('Distortion') to an evening on Skrillex's tour bus ('Now Only') and the expression of grief through art ('Two Paintings by Nikolai Astrup'), the wandering narrative of the album lets you peek into Elverum's strange and wonderful mind.

Best Tracks: 'Distortion', 'Now Only'

Release Date: March 16

Record Label: P.W.Elverum & Sun

16. All Nerve - The Breeders

Genre: Alternative Rock / Post Punk

After 15 years, the familiar garage-band spearheaded by twins Kim and Kelley Deal, returns with their original line-up to ruffle the feathers of the rock world again. Just like the double entendre in the title, 'All Nerve' maintains a finely balanced dichotomy between blasts of noise and moments of contemplative bliss as the lyrics evoke sheer isolation and frustration. Balancing rave-ups like 'Nervous Mary' and 'Get in the Car' with slow and steady ballads ('All Nerve', 'Dawn: Makingan Effort'), the album reminds fans of the Breeders' ability to take the mundane and transform into something cutting-edge.

Best Tracks: 'Nervous Mary', 'All Nerve', 'Get in the Car'

Release Date: March 2 

Record Label: 4AD

17. Virtue - The Voidz

Genre: Alternative

Virtue sees the return of Julian Casablancas' side project, The Voidz. With his main act The Strokes attaining middle-age status as a band on temporary hiatus, Casablancas finds a new outlet for all the crazy experimentation and sonic exploration that is otherwise subdued by the boundaries of The Strokes' signature sound. Although the opening track 'Leave it in my Dreams' is instantly relatable with the sound and feel of The Strokes, the rest of the album is a far reach from it. Embracing the weirdness, the album has a diverse range. From the psychedelic comic horror of 'Pyramid of Bones' to the bizarre existential breakdowns of 'ALieNNation' and 'All Wordz Are Made Up', the new album flits through themes like philosophy, politics and metaphysics in the typical style of post-Strokes Casablancas.

Best Tracks: 'Pyramid of Bones', 'QYURRYUS', 'All Wordz Are Made Up' 

Release Date: March 30

Record Label: RCA Records

18. The Golden Hour - Kacey Musgraves

Genre: Country

On her latest release, Kacey Musgraves continues her quest to broaden the horizons of country music, but with a radical shift that deviates from her previous sound. With strings, vocoders and electronic beats, she introduces sounds unfamiliar to the genre, including Bee-Gees style disco beats ('High Horse') and pop synth hooks ('Velvet Elvis'). The result is Musgraves’ most accessible record and her most ambitious, culmination of her pop and country instincts. And it's all done with such grace that even the toughest of country purists will find themselves grooving along, making the album a deft crossover between two disparate genres.

Best Tracks: 'Slow Burn', 'Butterflies', 'High Horse'

Release Date: March 30

Record Label: Mercury Records

19. Stupid People / Happy Days - Moviestar

Genre: Indie Rock

Already building quite a reputation across their native Norway for their memorable and explosive live performances, Moviestar transcends genre and all expectations with 'Stupid People / Happy Days.' Kicking off with the scuzzy hooks and whirring beats of ‘Stupid People’, the album instantly hits you with Moviestar’s unique, vibrant energy and electro-punk vibes. From the sugary punk-pop of the likes of ‘Ronny’ and the jangly, uptempo cacophony of ‘Technology’, to the brass-filled melodies of album closer ‘Happy Days’, Moviestar's latest offering takes you by surprise at every turn.

Best Tracks: Stupid People, Chosen Ones, Trip to Mars

Release Date: February 9

Record Label: OhYeah! Records

20. Wrong Creatures - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Genre: Alternative / Indie Rock

Dark rock n roll meets bluesy psych on BRMC's latest record, 'Wrong Creatures. Their first album in 5 years takes the band is clawing back to re-affirm their legacy, as they find new directions that take a detour from their former projects like the acoustic album 'Howl' and the hardly accessible noise-rock effort, 'The Effects Of 333.' From the dark synth blasts of 'King of Bones' to the Velvet Underground inspired 'Echo' to fuzzy shoegaze on the mysterious 'Ninth Configuration', the latest album is a strange, yet delightful culmination of diverse melodies.

Best Tracks: 'Haunt', 'Ninth Configuration', 'Little Thing Gone Wild'

Release Date: January 12

Record Label: Vagrant Records