With streaming services fully taking hold of the music industry in 2018, it's been an interesting time for the album format.
The number of LPs dropping every Friday seems to be increasing, along with the number of tracks per record, but the time we have to consume them decreases. Musically, there has been a lot to talk about, with new favourite songs, and exciting new artists popping up almost daily.
This also means that our Album Of The Year debates have been more competitive than ever, with no unanimous winner. Through much deliberation – including sticky notes, whiteboards, and hundreds of increasingly hostile emails – we've finally arrived at an incredibly diverse and exciting list of the best albums 2018 sent our way.
Here's the first instalment…
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40. Migos – Culture II // INTERVIEW
‘Culture II’ was [Migos] second Number One album, and spawned three more Top 10 singles – including ‘Stir Fry’, which was named the official song of the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. Today, asked to define “culture”, Quavo responds like the pop star he deserves to be: “It’s our fans. It’s the world. It’s about changing the world. It’s about perfecting the world. It’s about leading them to the right path, and the right music with my lyrics.”
39. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence // REVIEW
The Brockhampton magic is still present on 'Iridescence', the bad is that this project feels less of an evolution than the ‘Saturation’ trilogy. That isn't to say that the project isn't sonically interesting, the group are still light years ahead of their contemporaries in terms of musical experimentation. But whereas the the previous albums took new directions with each project – 'Iridescence' doubles down on the strongest elements of their original trilogy.
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38. Magic Gang – Magic Gang // REVIEW
The Magic Gang’s highly anticipated debut follows those charming EPs, and those helplessly endearing live shows across the land. Taking their time, the hopeless romantics have shaped and perfected their musical signature before venturing into the album format. Following a string of releases, the Magic Gang manifesto takes their distinct 60s sunshine sound to new, refined, heights.
Aurora Henni Krogh
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37. Thom Yorke – Suspiria // NEWS
The Radiohead songwriter chairs the soundtrack for Luca Guadagnino's re-working of the Italian horror classic ‘Suspiria’. Yorke responded with 25 new pieces of music, ranging from oblique analogue synth belches through to some uniquely affecting songwriting.
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36. St. Vincent – MassEducation // REVIEW
Twelve months on from ‘Masseduction’, does anyone need a piano-and-vocal version of that same record? ‘Masseduction’ arrived in a glitter cannon of engaging PR stunts, sleek imagery and a record built on a maximalism previously unheard in Clark’s previous four records – all sweaty, steroid choruses and Moroder synths. It will be fascinating to see where Clark goes next, but in the meantime ‘Masseducation’ is better than it needs to be, and an interesting reflection on a career defining record.
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35. Nao – Saturn // REVIEW
Nao is entirely galactic on this record – there is an omnipresent sensation of otherness throughout the album. Whether it be in the trademark effluvient vocal or in the consistently atmospheric and glistening instrumental, ‘Saturn’ is spacial.
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34. Black Panther The Album // REVIEW
Such is the weight of expectation on Kendrick as a solo artist, this project feels very liberating for the Compton rapper, as he can curate an album that isn’t expected to be particularly meaningful. That isn’t to say there aren’t layers and depth to this album, but it can be more easily digested than Lamar’s previous projects. Black Panther: The Album is an instantly enjoyable project that allows its featured artists to shine under the watchful eyes and ears of Kendrick Lamar.
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33. The Good The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land // REVIEW
We may not hear from them often, but The Good, The Bad & The Queen are a rare treat and an unlikely, unusual and, at times, unsettling proposition. Albarn on Britain is a proven formula, but Simonon, Allen and Simon Tong combine to craft curious twenty-first century folk about curious twenty-first century folk.
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32. Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics // REVIEW
Neneh Cherry first made mainstream waves in the 80s and 90s with cross-genre smash-hits such as ‘Buffalo Stance’ from award-winning debut ‘Raw Like Sushi’. In the decades since, Cherry’s diverse projects and collaborations have continued to surprise and delight… A slow burn of an album, ‘Broken Politics’ artfully cuts through a turbulent, noisy world.
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31. Murkage Dave – Murkage Dave Changed My Life
From champion of the UK underground club scene, to one of the country's most unexpected breakout acts of the year, 2018 really has changed Murkage Dave's life. His debut studio album is a love letter to the sounds and scenes that made him who he is today, as a performer, a poet and an everyman philosopher.
Taking in gospel, soul and pirate radio, the beautifully idiosyncratic 'Murkage Dave Changed My Life' is sceptical of the industry that birthed it, nostalgic of the heroes that influenced it, and optimistic of its own transcendent potential. It is one of the most unique and deeply personal records of the year, and time will only see it celebrated further.
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30. Lil Wayne – Tha Carter V // REVIEW
Going into this album Wayne felt like an underdog again: to live up to the varying expectations that were weighted behind this album he had to to pull off an acrobatic feat. ‘Tha Carter V’ was never going to be flawlessly executed – the odds were too stacked against it – but it certainly gives the audience the thrill we were hoping for. It’s a return to form, and a triumphant return for one of the greatest of all time.
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29. Troye Sivan – Bloom // INTERVIEW
Standing at just 10 tracks, ‘Bloom’ is a short record in comparison to industry-wide 20-track behemoths produced by his contemporaries. It’s a purposeful move from the pop star; Sivan hopes to cultivate a world for his fans and present a “direct perspective that I want to communicate with nothing to water that down.” Because ultimately that’s why he’s creating the music that he is. “I hope people will listen to this album when they’re falling in love for the first time or if they’re on some road trip. I want someone to listen to it again in the future and for it to take them right back to that place.”
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28. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer // REVIEW
It would be overly simplistic to call ‘God’s Favourite Customer’ just a breakup album and doing so would be a huge disservice to the music. The ride to its exciting core may not be easy, exploring some dark territory along the way, but by dialling down on the bombast and refining his craft further, Josh Tillman has also made his most personal record yet. It’s another marvellous addition to the Father John Misty catalogue, delivered from a songwriter that surely now deserves to be recognised as one of, if not the greatest, of this decade.
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27. Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile // INTERVIEW
His latest project takes on loftier ambitions than just jazz though, it is a scathing critique of the monarchy we live under: ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’. Recorded with his Sons of Kemet group, featuring the tuba of ‘We Out Here’’s Theon Cross and the double drums of Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford, Hutchings combines the lassitude of dub with a propulsive swing in putting forward his vision of ‘alternative queens’ to replace our own.
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26. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships // REVIEW
'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships' has been a success. It captures the de-sensitivity that a lot of us feel surrounding the content available to us on the web and projects it onto us to highlight all of our shortcomings. It’s romantic, existential, frantic, and disorganised, and that ultimately strange mix of tones, genres, and production all adds into a singular aesthetic.
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