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Albums You Need to Listen to in 2018

U.S. Girls, Kids See Ghosts, and Janelle Monáe are just some of the artists who made albums you need to listen to in 2018.

By Ben KharakhPublished 6 years ago 8 min read

There are a lot of albums you need to listen to in 2018, which is great news! There have been great releases in hip-hop, pop, country-pop, R&B, and even rock. There have been first-time releases that were strong out of the gate and long-time artists putting out some of the best releases of their careers. That's a lot of music to get all giddy about with friends and strangers!

This album is insane! IT'S NOTHING BUT HITS! Every time I hear SZA sing, "This may be the night that my dreams might let me know/All the stars are closer," I get the feels. And then instead of pushing me deeper into a place of anxiety, the album lifts me up with, "X" and I'm in a party mood. Then I'm dimming the lights down low for romance with "The Ways," getting pumped with "Opps," and then just getting a great R&B track from Jorja Smith on "I Am."

I can keep going, but I won't. You know you have one of the best albums of 2018 when you've got something to say about every track! And there were so many people to talk to about this album! I would just catch people listening to the Black Panther: The Album when people would just have one headphone dangling out of their ears. It was great to feel on the same page with so many people about something at the same time! Black Panther the movie lived up to the hype too.

Okay, one last thing, "Pray for Me" gave me the feels big. When Kendrick Lamar raps, "It's all prophecy and if I gotta be sacrificed for the greater good, then that's what it gotta be," it's like, "Woof." And when that outro comes in, "Just in case my faith go, I live by my own law," it's so good I have to catch my breath.

Meghan Remy's U.S. Girls has managed to craft experimental bedroom pop that touches genres as diverse as doo-wop, glam, rock, funk, and IDM. In a Poem Unlimited is the follow up to her excellent 2015 release Half Free. This is an album where every track is good, which is rare. Usually, you got to pick and choose, but every one of these tracks ensnares you from the first 10 seconds and just doesn't let go. It's one of the albums you need to listen to in 2018.

"Velvet 4 Sale" starts with minimalist percussion and Remy's breathy vocalizations before she's joined by a rhythm section. By the time Remy begins to sing, you've realized you're listening to a producer who knows how to express the feelings inside of her so well that you need to grab someone by the shoulder and say, "LISTEN TO THIS NOW!"

That feeling lasts the whole album, until the closing track "Time" kicks in with drums, a funky bass, and a guitar lick that recalls Television's "Marquee Moon." "When there is nothing, there is still time." As time stretches before us, punctuated by doubt, fear, and anticipation in the face of the unknown, at the very least we have great music like In a Poem Unlimited to fill the space.

The closest I get to listening to a country album is Wilco, so not very close at all. But when singer songwriter Kacey Musgrave's guitar work kicks in and she sings, "Born in a hurry, always late/ Haven't been early since '88," her voice is too rich with emotion for me to not keep listening. This album feels too good to not listen on repeat, especially if you're a romantic who's, "alright with a slow burn." When December rolls around, Golden Hour will be on a lot of people's "Albums you need to listen before 2018 ends" lists.

This album is full of tracks that you'd put on a mixtape for your crush. "Butterflies," is a bouncy ditty that perfectly captures the feeling of being caught off guard by someone you've just met. "Oh, What a World," positions the mystery of love alongside the mysteries of life itself. And "Wonder Woman" takes the flip side, with Musgraves singing, "I know I ain't Wonder Woman/I don't know how to lasso the love out of you," but she does know how. She's been doing it the whole album! Euch, "High Horse" kicks in right after "Wonder Woman" and it's hard to not just keep listening because this track is classic honky-tonk. A solid release!

I never cared for The Strokes or for Julian Casablancas' solo work outside of "The 11th Dimension," but Virtue is an album I like so much that I'm going to revisit the rest of Casablanca's output. Yeah, I like it that much! It's like Casablancas listened to a bunch of industrial staples like Ministry, My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, and even Nine Inch Nails and used that as his filter for an album. Dancy beats, crunchy guitars, piano accents, etc. It's just fun and refreshing to hear the tropes of a genre so effectively folded into an album. It's a surprising addition to the list of album you need to listen to in 2018.

I think Janelle Monáe is great; duh. Where have you been if you think Janelle Monáe isn't great?! What is surprising is how an artist as good as Monáe was able to produce an album that's as good as all of her previous work while also transcending her previous work.

Monáe manages not to sacrifice her proclivity for genre experimentation but does imbue Dirty Computer with a sonic consistency that's very satisfying (on previous works I felt that Monáe's experimentation led to too many jarrings shifts in tone).

As her career goes on, the comparisons to Prince are more and more fitting. Monáe is a fashion trendsetter, challenges assumptions about sexuality, and she's a multi-instrumentalist who knows how to shape music into an unadulterated expression of her personality. Plus, this album has Prince level hooks and plenty of funk.

Chloe x Halle caught the attention of Beyoncé after posting a cover of "Pretty Hurts" on YouTube. This was after the sister duo won "Radio Disney's Next BIG Thing" competition. Beyoncé had Chloe x Halle open for her on the European leg of The Formation World Tour, and Beyoncé also released their debut album The Kids are Alright on her label Parkwood Entertainment.

The Kids are Alright is a solid R&B release with great hooks and great harmonies. You can pick and choose your favorite tracks from "The Kids are Alright," "Grown," " Hi Lo," "Everywhere," "Down," "Warrior," which are highlights—or just let it play on repeat because Chloe x Halle have a soothing, placating quality about them even though they dish plenty of wisdom. Don't sleep on Chloe x Halle! Theirs is one of the albums you need to listen to in 2018.

Happy Ending is a solid goth record that recalls such bands as The Cure and The Siouxsie and the Banshees, as well as alternative rock acts from the UK like the Jesus and Mary Chain, Mansun, and early work by The Manic Street Preachers. You get great hooks, guitar runs, and lines like, "Bury your head beside the truth / It's the only way to kill the pain," off the track "Too Late." If you have a goth itch in 2018, Happy Ending should be your first pick.

Anticipation for Cardi B's first LP began to grow immediately after she exploded in popularity with "Bodak Yellow" and made herself the next princess of rap. The most important thing was that she be paired with producers who can play to her strengths and that the release not be bloated with filler tracks. Invasion of Privacy was one of the albums you had to listen to in 2018 before it ever even came out. And it delivered everything that fans wanted and everything Cardi needed! Cardi showcases her killer flow, earned her title as the queen of swag, and even showed emotional vulnerability on tracks like "Be Careful."

Kali Uchis's Isolation is too good to fear a sophomore slump. The genre-hopping vocalist's voice recalls the smooth, sensual croon of Jennifer Charles of Elysian Fields and Lovage. Uchis excels in every style she appears. R&B, neo soul, bossa nova, reggaeton, hop-hop, funk, and bedroom pop. It's a disservice to Uchis to suggest tracks like "Miami," "Just a Stranger," "Dead to Me," "After the Storm," and "Feel Like a Fool" as standouts because part of the album's success is how well it works as a whole.

We listened to 10 Pusha T songs to get pumped for his next album, and here it is at last. 7 tracks totaling to 21 minutes might sound like an underwhelming release, but when we're talking a Pusha T album produced by Kanye West, 21 minutes equals potency. King Push is a master of swag, trap, and tight takedowns of foes like Drake or the US government. Daytona is a victory lap for an artist who's always been the pace car. We'd all be lucky to get a Daytona from Push every couple of years, but given his perfectionist nature who knows when the next album from Push will come. For now, we'll just have to accept Daytona as one of the best albums in 2018.

The Kanye/Kid Cudi collaboration is a melding of minds and styles; psychedelia meets souls. The album begins with Pusha T setting the scene. Kanye and Cudi don't need to fear any other emcees; they're the emcees others must fear. It's perfect table dressing for one of the albums you need to listen to in 2018. It takes true swagger to delve into territory as emotionally vulnerable as mental illness.

To declare that you can still, "Feel the love," is a rallying cry for people who've felt alienated and dragged down to the greatest depths of despair and madness thanks to their own brain chemistry. "Freeee (Ghost Town Pt. 2)" captures the rapture of mania as well as the relief of release from its grip. And on "Reborn," Cudi delivers a prayer of sorts, "I’m so reborn, I'm movin' forward." It's an attempt to own and overcome one's mental illness; that's hard to do with an awareness of just how easily symptoms can return.

The album ends with Cudi and Ye reaching toward Christianity for support. "Stay strong; save me, Lord," "Lord shine your light on me, save me, please." For anyone who suffers from mental illness, it's a familiar feeling; a cry for help in the darkest of times, when one barely has the strength to cry just crying can be enough to keep movin' forward.

album reviews

About the Creator

Ben Kharakh

Manic pixie dream goth. With appearances in Fortune, Vice, Gothamist, and McSweeney's.@benkharakh

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