What a year 2018 has been! With highs that would mount the top of Everest and lows that would plunge into the 8th ring of Dante’s Inferno, 2018 has sure left its mark on history. Kanye said slavery was a choice, vinyl sales outsold digital, Beyonce’s Coachella performance had the ENTIRE world captivated, Warp Tour ran its final run, Azealia Banks beefed with practically everyone, Drake forced his substandard album Scorpio on us (anyone remember that U2 album?), Cardi B became a household name, Kendrick won the Pulitzer Prize, Pussy Riot charged the field at the World Cup, Ariana Grande was engaged to Pete Davidson and then wasn’t, hip-hop officially beat out rock as the most dominant genre, Tyler, the Creator came out as gay, Rihanna turned down the Super Bowl, Pitbull committed the unthinkable by making a pitiful (get it?) cover of Toto’s “Africa,” and Donald Trump is still our president. We saw multiple bands breakup, due to allegations of sexual misconduct and sadly, we lost some of the world’s most talented artists to natural and unnatural causes.
And while this year proved to be a fast swinging political and emotional pendulum, one thing remained constant: a steady release of top-quality music. So in no particular order, here are some of Lullavie’s favorite releases from 2018:
Wide Awake! — Parquet Courts
To be completely honest, when I first heard Danger Mouse would be producing Parquet Courts’ next album Wide Awake!, I was a tad nervous. As an avid fan of the band, I was not sure how Danger Mouse’s colorful, elaborate, wall-of-sound production would pair with Parquet Courts’ brute, gritty, unpolished, and sparse lo-fi sound. Boy was I wrong. Wide Awake! has proved to be one of the stand out rock albums of the year, revealing a more mature Parquet Courts and leaving fans begging for more.
Slide — George Clanton
We’ve been long time fans of George Clanton here at Lullavie. It’s about time that everyone else is now starting to catch up. On his 3rd full length album Slide, George hones in on his hazy, colorful vaporwave influenced soundscape. But what sets George apart from other artists in the genre is his intuitive ability to write pop hooks that you can sing back to him. It’s by far his most ambitious project and all the risks have paid off, earning him critical acclaim from big, trusted music names like Pitchfork and Anthony Fantano who finally have given him the acknowledgment he deserves.
Care For Me — Saba
In a genre dominated by party-ready singles, this year Chicago rapper Saba brought hip-hop heads a beautiful, elegant and introspective concept album. In Care For Me, Saba copes with the murder of his cousin Walter, generational poverty, what it means to be a young black man in America, and the emotional toll and consequences that entails. Care For Me is truly a gorgeous album, which along with an unbelievable Tiny Desk performance, forecasts Saba to be among the next wave of greats to follow Kendrick. Don’t sleep on him.
Isolation — Kali Uchis
Kali Uchis’ Isolation is another one of 2018’s strongest debut albums. A hearty mix of pop, R&B, hip-hop, latin jazz and reggaeton, Isolation has something on it for everyone. In fact, it’s been my number one go-to when I’m handed the aux cord to play music for a crowd I don’t know. It almost never disappoints.
Transangelic Exodus — Ezra Furman
On his fourth album Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furman exploits the anthemic style and characteristics of classic American music (think the likes of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”) by exploring the uniquely American experience of isolated destitution through an unapologetic queer lens. Transangelic Exodus is a bold, abrasive and beautiful masterpiece that questions and reclaims what it truly means to be an American in 2018.
Iridescence — BROCKHAMPTON
There’s not much we could say about iridescence that hasn’t already been said. It’s BROCKHAMPTON; it’s fire.
Songs of Praise — Shame
With possibly the strongest debut album of the year, Shame’s Songs Of Praise has not only catapulted the band onto the covers of NME and DIY Mag, but has also put South London’s rock scene on the map. The band, who are so young that they missed their prom to go on tour, are a rambunctious bunch who deliver invigorating and praiseworthy punk with refreshingly self-aware lyrics. Lead singer Charlie Steen, is a mini Iggy Pop and a master of the rock-god performance. And although he is a natural rock-god, he’s critical of that title. “I think the idea of the leather jacket-wearing, womanizing, drug-fueled rock star should be burned,” Steen told The Guardian earlier this year. It’s that kind of self-awareness coupled with an incredible live show that make Shame the band not to miss. We are eager to see what’s next for them.
Fear and Celebration — Blood Wine Or Honey
If it was announced that the world would end in 24 hours and to usher in the apocalypse, someone was hosting the party of all parties, Fear and Celebration is what would be blasting on the speakers. Favoring dissonance and polyrhythm, Fear and Celebration is a dance-crazed, frantic and manic electronic album. It’s a collage of musical styles from around the world culminating in a bizarre album that seems to be suffering from multiple personality disorder. We mean that in the best way possible. At first listen, Fear and Celebration is overstimulating and requires a focused ear, but it’s tracks like “Anxious Party People,” make that extra work well worth it. It’s a really sick album for those who are open and willing to let it just unfold.
Conexão — Amber Mark (EP)
A follow up to her 2017 critically acclaimed debut EP 3:33am, Amber Mark’s second EP Conexão is just as strong of a statement. Only totaling 17 minutes, Conexão is a concise sexy little EP. Its four tracks mix soul, R&B, bossa nova and pop, but still manage to seamlessly transition into each other. Conexão makes it very clear that Amber Mark is one of the artists to watch in 2019.
Believe — Amen Dunes
Discovered buried under a thick layer of dust and jammed into a milk carton at some small dingy record store in the middle of nowhere, Amen Dunes’ fifth album Believe is like a relic from another time. Damon McMahon’s silvery vocals paired with psychedelic gothic folk form a unique sound that sounds fresh and familiar. It’s a beautifully sad album that I’ve listened to religiously throughout the year.
Swimming — Mac Miller
Released only one month prior to his untimely death, Swimming is a haunting portrait of an artist stepping face to face with his demons. Mac was just beginning to tap into his full potential– a scratch at the surface of the stunning work he’ll never get the chance to make.
Collapse — Aphex Twin (EP)
Let’s keep this short: Aphex Twin never disappoints and Collapse is no exception. As one of the best EPs of the year, our only critique is we wish Collapse was longer.
Activity Oriented Meditation — Sun Not Yellow
Up and coming Pennsylvania DIY band Sun Not Yellow are like Bombay Bicycle Club with sharper claws. Their strong debut album Activity Oriented Meditation converted us into fans, which is no easy feat for a brand new band. Check out the album’s standout track “It’s Getting Hot in Here, So Take Off All Your Skin.”
DiCaprio 2 — JID
After his stunning debut album The Never Story and receiving early comparisons to Kendrick, the bar was set pretty high for JID’s next album. However with DiCaprio 2, not only did JID avoid falling into the sophomore slump trap, but he also solidified himself as the artist next in line to wear Kendrick’s crown. Name a 2018 release that bangs harder than “Off Deez.” We’ll wait.
Invasion of Privacy — Cardi B
Although Invasion of Privacy is nowhere near the best album of the year, it would be irresponsible to not include it on this list. There is no denying the magnitude and influence the album and Cardi B herself had on 2018. Invasion of Privacy was inescapable and just for that reason alone, we had to put it on this list. OKURRRR!
Negro Swan — Blood Orange
Trans Rights activist Janet Mock’s narration acts as a thesis and framing device for Blood Orange’s fourth album Negro Swan. “So like my favorite images are the ones where someone who isn’t supposed to be there, is like in a space– a space where we were not ever welcomed in; we were not invited. Yet we walk in and we show all the way up. People try to put us down by saying ‘She’s doing the most’ or ‘He’s doing way too much,’ but like why would be want to do the least?” she asks the listener. An expose on queerness and black freedom and self expression, Negro Swan is a brilliant work of art and a critical artistic statement. It’s absolutely one of the most impressive albums of the year.
Room 25 — Noname
Dripping in neo-soul and jazz, Chicago rapper Noname delivers more of what made us fall in love with her in the first place on Room 25. However, this time she’s not afraid to flex her lyrical prowess to those who may have doubted her skill. “Fucked the rapper homie now his ass is making better music / My pussy teaches ninth-grade English / My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism / In conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus / Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap huh?” Noname has solidified her unique sound– a sound we’d like to hear a lot more of.
Family Portrait — Ross from Friends
“You make me nostalgic for lives I’ve never lived” a Youtuber writes in the comment section of Ross From Friends’ music video “Pale Blue Dot”. This is exactly what UK producer, Felix Clary, Weatherall, accomplishes with his album, Family Portrait. His 90s influenced name might throw you off with its irony but that should not matter. His versatile lo-fi production will take you into a dream-like state as if you’re in the universe’s womb. Family Portrait is inspired by his parents’ first bond to dance music and how they started dating by hopping across Europe for spontaneous parties. With washy synths, hints of sax, ethereal whispering, and multicultural samples from the 70s, 80s, and 90s by artists like Crash Course in Science, Hiroshi Yoshimura, and Naheed Akhtar, Ross’ tracks give a sense of breathtaking escapism.
Year of the Snitch — Death Grips
It’s hard to perfectly describe Death Grips to someone who has never heard their music. It’s no secret that they’re not for everyone. Year of the Snitch is a blend of experimental hip-hop, screaming, and chaotic, yet cohesive electropunk. The Sacramento trio always deliver something interesting and distinctly them. MC Ride shares morbid and dark fantasies while referencing The Rolling Stones, Linda Kasabian (a member of the Manson Family),Twin Peaks, and tennis player Maria Sharapova. Fast-paced, psychedelic, and humorous references float around Year of the Snitch making it hard to forget.
Virtue — The Voidz
Julian Casablancas, you cool ass motherfucker. You did it again, not with The Strokes this time, but in The Voidz. Virtue features Julian’s autotuned voice, some weirdness, and incredibly crafted melodies. I go from feeling like I’m riding a motorcycle and breaking the speed limit while listening to “Pyramid of Bones” or sinking deep into my eerie thoughts with “Permanent High School.”
Time ‘n’ Place — Kero Kero Bonito
Quoting my boyfriend who firmly believes Time ‘n’ Place belongs to AOTY: “There are some songs on Time ‘n’ Place that make me want to make an anime show just so I could have it as a soundtrack.” With a full band sound paired with Sarah Midori Perry’s saccharine and sometimes distorted vocals, this album ROCKS! “Only Acting” sounds like Weezer trying to eat pop music and their other upbeat sounding songs explore more melancholic themes like the death of her parakeet.
U.S. Girls — In a Poem Unlimited
In a Poem Unlimited is Meghan Remy’s most focused and cohesive album. It’s an eclectic mixed bag of influences ranging from jazz to pop to house to hip-hop to reggae that culminates into a really enjoyable and cool album. Favorite songs include “Rage of Plastics,” “M.A.H.,” “L-Over” and “Pearly Gates.”
Salt — Mr Twin Sister
Long Island band, Mr Twin Sister, is still underrated even after their track “Meet the Frownies” was famously sampled by Dr. Dre on Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 hit, “The Recipe.” Album to album, their music is amorphous with funk, jazz, R&B, techno, house, and dream pop. Andrea Estella’s breathy and sensual voice, reminding us of Bjork, glides over groovy instrumentation and our favorite tracks are the first two– “Keep on Mixing” and “Alien FM.”
Streams of Thought, Vol. 1+2 — Black Thought
Tariq Luqmaan Trotter aka Black Thought is a legend and delivers nothing short of mastery on both Streams of Thought, Vol. 1 and Streams of Thought, Vol. 2.
Janelle Monae — Dirty Computer
A Sci-Fi concept album with consideration for women, people of color and various sexual identities, Dirty Computer is Janelle Monáne’s third studio album. With contributions from musical genius Brian Wilson serving backup vocals on opening track “Dirty Computer” and a Prince co-write on “Make Me Feel,” Dirty Computer is a hodgepodge of pop history’s best music. “I am not America’s nightmare; I AM THE AMERICAN DREAM,” Janelle sings in “Crazy, Classic Life.” And it’s hard not to joyously join Janelle and Zoë Kravitz in “Screwed’s” chorus as she declares “LET’S GET SCREWED!” Janelle Monae is as sensually vulnerable as ever (even boldly releasing “PYNK”, an ode to vaginas) and without a doubt, in her peak.
Black Dresses — HELL IS REAL (EP)
HELL IS REAL is one of my favorite Bandcamp discoveries of the year. Sounding like a love child between Death Grips and Sleigh Bells, this abrasive EP is not for the faint of heart. Favorite track: “HELL IS REAL.”