Best Of 2018: The Music

Here’s what moved me in 2018. What got my toes tapping, my head bobbing, my fingers drumming, my lips humming. As in years past, I’ve got my Best Ofs, then a list of honourable mentions. There was a lot to enjoy in music this year. A lot I’m looking forward to

Album Of The Year

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

It’s hyper-ambitious to rock a full concept album in R&B, and Janelle just lands it. It’s the perfect album for 2018, with the artist fully and unabashedly owning and celebrating her identity. Monáe’s third album feels as much as a statement of her musicality as it is a statement of her as a person. Finding out after the fact that Prince himself had a hand in crafting the album is a telling factoid that only enhances my enjoyment of the album.

Song of the Year

Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

I’ll just let the song speak for itself

Musical Piece of Art

Childish Gambino – This Is America

It didn’t feel right putting this in Song of the Year. This Is America is at its most effective as a cohesive piece of art, song and video. Neither is bad on its own. But the full impact is felt when taken as a singular piece of art

Country Album of the Year

Lindi Ortega – Liberty

Like last year, between Nikki Lane and Jason Isbell, the difference between “best” and “second best” was nigh negligible. Insignificant. Practically a tie. And as much as I loved Kacey Musgraves’ wild, psychedelic, both genre-defining and genre-bending album Golden Hour, it was Lindi Ortega’s gorgeous, sweeping, epic concept album Liberty that takes best-in-genre. Both are certainly worth your time. But just sit with Liberty. Drink it in like a glass of whiskey. It’s an album that just lives in your soul.

Rock Album of the Year

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

What a wonderful rock record this turned out to be. It’s definitely a rock album for the modern era, but they sound as if they’ve always been here. Always part of our collective musical experience. It fits right in, but not in a way that makes it sound like every other indie-rock album that drops into our Spotify on Friday morning. It just hits the right notes, so to speak.

Rap Album of the Year

Black Panther Soundtrack

It feels like I’m cheating, going with a collaborative soundtrack for this. But the Kendrick Lamar curated album is the soundtrack it needed to be, the soundtrack the movie needed it to be. It’s a wonderful statement of heritage and what it means to the artist.

Pop Album of the Year

Camila Cabello – Camila

Debut Album was a stacked category this year, with a lot of strong newcomers. I felt Cabello’s resume as a member of Fifth Harmony, while not DQ-ing her from Debut, gave her a strong push to have a great pop album. She had the polish and confidence of a tried and true star, while still just getting her feet wet as a solo star.

Debut Album of the Year

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

There was some good rock to drop into our laps this year, especially from new, emerging artists. Greta Van Fleet couldn’t quite pull me in, but I was really digging what Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever had to offer, despite their mouthful of a name. They sound like a band who have a good handle on what they’re doing, and what they’re trying to say. I really dug this album, and look forward to their future efforts.

Legacy Album of the Year

Kylie Minogue – Golden

Kylie is every bit the pop queen she’s unfortunately not fully recognized as. She’s an icon who never stopped putting out quality hits. Was it always great? No. But there was

Score of the Year

Justin Hurwitz – First Man

First Man really does stand as an intense look at the early days of space travel. It’s almost unnerving. Hurwitz’ score puts some tension into the proceedings. He eschews some of the more traditional rousing anthemic sounds to create this air of unease that puts the film and you firmly on the edge of your seat.

Soundtrack of the Year

A Star Is Born

If you’re going to do a film about musicians, it better have some damn good music. Lady Gaga lending her talents was a given, but Bradley Cooper enlisted some additional top-tier talent, including Jason Isbell, to craft the music for his vision for the cinematic equivalent of a pop standard. These tracks definitely feel they could stand on their own merit, absent their attachment to the film.

Best of the Rest

Leon Bridges – Good Thing

Elle King – Shake The Spirit

Vince Staples – FM

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – Tearing At The Seams

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

The Carters – Everything Is Love

Pistol Annies – Insterstate Gospel

The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl

Eric Church – Desperate Man

Florence + the Machine – High As Hope

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Sting & Shaggy – 44/876

Ashley McBryde – Girl Going Nowhere

Greta Van Fleet – Anthem of a Peaceful Army


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