This was a good year in music for me. For the first time in recent memory, my favorite album was not a rap album. Hands down, no question, my pick is Aïsha Devi’s DNA Feelings. It feels to me like a futuristic pagan ritual, which is exactly my taste. The other big one was of course Both Directions at Once, though it’s not really fair to count that as a 2018 album.
For R&B, I was extremely fond of SiR’s November. My favorite pop album was SOPHIE’s OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, followed by Kali Uchis’s Isolation and Robyn’s Honey.
For most of the year my favorite metal album was Chrch’s Light Will Consume Us All, which is an excellent doom metal release. Just recently I discovered a couple other metal albums I really like: Toronto death metal outfit Tomb Mold’s Manor of Infinite Forms and Head Cage, a grindcore album from Pig Destroyer.
I listened to quite a bit of electronic music this year. After Aïsha Devi, my favorites were Jlin’s Autobiography, Aphex Twin’s Collapse EP, Jon Hopkins’ Singularity, Pauline Anna Strom’s Trans-Millennia Music, The Field’s Infinite Moment, and Skee Mask’s Compro (thanks, Dru).
I don’t listen to much rock music, but someone recommended I check out Zola Jesus (thanks, Catharine) and I loved her release Okovi: Additions, which consists of unreleased tracks and remixes from last year’s Okovi. There’s a Wolves in the Throne Room track! She reminds me of Florence and the Machine, except good.
The one country album I got really into was Colter Wall’s Songs of the Plains (thanks, John). I also saw him perform live and it was excellent, though (predictably) compromised by bad audience behavior.
I listened through some of the other big critical favorites that I’m seeing on end of the year lists. I didn’t find much that really interests me, except Low’s Double Negative, which I need to spend some more time with. I actively dislike the Noname and DJ Koze albums, and I find Mitski irredeemably boring and I have no idea why critics are so into her.
Now, the main event. Top ten rap albums:
1) Earl Sweatshirt- Some Rap Songs
Dense, dark, and innovative.
2) Freddie Gibbs, Curren$y, and The Alchemist – Fetti
The menacing beats and gritty storytelling make for a welcome reboot of the 90’s east coast sound. This stood out against the sea of uptempo trap.
3) SOB X RBE– Gangin and Gangin II
According to Spotify, SOB X RBE was my most-listened to artist of 2018. It’s because they released not one, but two albums that I totally loved. The four-part ensemble west coast sound is raucous, with Yhung T.O. at the center channeling the sort of gangsta-badassery-expressed-through-soulful-melody feel that we associate with Akon and Nate Dogg.
4) Pusha T- Daytona
Way too short but basically perfect within its constraints.
5) Ski Mask the Slump God- Beware the Book of Eli
I love the crazy Ski Mask creative energy. His more recent studio release isn’t as good but this shit is lit. While other rappers are still talking about guns, Ski Mask’s signature threat is to drown you in a river of lost souls.
6) Joey Purp- Quarterthing
He spans basically every style of contemporary rap here and hits them all out of the park. This is a tight album.
7) Cardi B– Invasion of Privacy
I was a little disappointed at first by how overproduced this turned out to be, but it grew on me steadily and I’m still listening to it regularly. I do prefer Cardi’s rawer tracks but she’s pretty much always fantastic.
8) Lil Wayne- The Carter V
!!! I went to see Lil Wayne live a couple years ago purely for the nostalgia and was relieved that it wasn’t terrible. I certainly didn’t think he’d ever release a good album again. This is about twice as long as it should be and there are many mediocre tracks but the high points are extremely high and I love seeing Wayne shut the haters up.
9) BlocBoy JB- Simi
Rude, brash, offensive, and unrelentingly fun. He’s got a strong Memphis sound, in the vein of Young Dolph but more dynamic. He creates a vivid, richly detailed world rather than just rattling off the standard boasts.
10) Kodak Black- Heart Break Kodak
This blew my mind when I first heard it but I wore it out relatively quickly. I want to acknowledge it though as a very unique and timely mixtape (much better than the album he recently released). At a point when everyone is going full autotune, he released one of the most emo, out of key, raw, underproduced, brutally honest tapes in recent memory (alongside Boosie’s In My Feelings…).
Honorable mention: 21 Savage is my favorite rapper right now but I thought his album (just released last week) was a little uneven. I thought the Gucci Mane album, the JID album, the Metro Boomin mixtape and the Jay Rock album were excellent. I like the minimalism of the Quavo solo album. There were a lot of not-very-distinct but enjoyable trap albums this year. My favorites were Playboi Carti, Young Nudy, and Lil Baby with Gunna. It’s a little boring but I appreciate the professional polish of The Carters’ EVERYTHING IS LOVE, and the video for “APESHIT” is all time.