Yeah, I know most of these lists are released before 2018 actually ends, but cut me some slack, I’m a busy med student.
All the major music journalism publications have released their lists of the best songs and albums of the year. But mainstream music journalism is pretentious garbage and in my opinion, my thoughts on music are all that matter and everyone else is wrong (I’m JOKING).
I’m going to go on the record and say that 2018 was a down year for music. While the year did deliver on some unforgettable hits, I felt that there was a major lack of top-to-bottom impressive albums. Even worse, the best albums of the year were largely ignored. All the big dogs in music journalism were trying so hard to be cool and hip by anointing average records as classics. In fact, you won’t find the best album of the year (which I’ll get to) topping any of big name lists.
While the media latched on to lame corporate pop hits and the flannel-clad hipsters tried to act like every run of the mill indie artist was the next big thing, some truly incredible music was released this year if you knew where to look.
(Disclaimer: Please don’t take me too seriously)
Without further adieu, let’s say peace to 2018 and review the year’s music.
Most Surprisingly Awesome Song by an Average & Boring Artist
“Nobody” by Mitski
Seems as if every time Mitski drops an album, she’s always in the conversation for best album of the year. Not sure why, tho. It’s your generic sad-girl/boy-with-a-guitar indie crap. She’s boring. But “Nobody”, off of her recent output, Be the Cowboy, is not boring. The rest of the album is, but this song is three minutes and thirteen seconds of indie-disco celestial beauty. This is the song I turn on max volume on night drives. It’s a jam.
Most Annoying Song of the Year
“Mine” by Bazzi
I would rather listen to someone chew with their mouth open for one hour straight than hear 30 seconds of this song. It sounds like something meant to be playing at a middle school dance. Like something that should be playing in Forever 21 in 2009. Or playing at a poorly acted dramatic moment in some D-list straight to Netflix rom-com with a ludicrous premise. Same goes for every song by this guy. Honorable mention goes to “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5. That song sounds like the generic tune playing in the background of a commercial for an all-inclusive family resort in the Caribbean. I mean that in the worst way possible. More HMs go to any song with Ariana Grande and “God’s Plan” by Drake.
Most Likable Album of the Year
Kids See Ghosts by Kids See Ghosts
While Ye was a bit of a let-down, Kids See Ghosts more than makes up for it. From Kanye’s maniacal barking on “Feel the Love” to Cudi’s nostalgia-inducing croons on “Reborn” to the emo-rap of “lord shine your light on me, save me please” on the closer, Kids See Ghost is full of incredible moments that remind us why we loved these two artists in the first place. Of all the music talk this year, it seems that one thing everyone could agree on was this album. We only wish it were longer.
Love him or hate him, everyone was talking about Kanye in 2018. Yeezy made waves early on with a particular red hat, stirred up a media frenzy, secluded himself in Montana, then came back in the summer with new music. And a lot of it. Afterwards, he quickly cemented his villain status with a well-publicized meeting at the Whitehouse, sparking outrage, hate, and many to say he was “cancelled”. No matter your stance on the issue, no musician drew as much ire from the public as Kanye West in 2018, which is probably how he likes it. “As soon as they like you, make ’em unlike you”. Hey, he’s a man of his word.
Most Likely to Make Kids Say “I Was Born in the Wrong Generation“
Greta Van Fleet
I mean, they’re a pretty tight tribute band. Something you wouldn’t mind hearing while you’re having a beer and shooting pool at a dive bar with your friends. No more, no less.
Song Most Likely to Make You Say, Wait a Minute – They’ve Still Got It:
“If You Really Love Nothing” by Interpol
After a string of disappointing albums, Interpol comes back with their best song since 2004. “If You Really Love Nothing”, the lead single off the latest album, Marauder, is so good that it would’ve not only fit in, but it would’ve been a standout on Antics. Paul Banks crooning, “So it’s probably a kiss gooodbyeeee thennn”, is vintage Interpol magic. Icy and elegant. Detached yet compelling. One of my favorite tracks of the year.
Album Most Likely to Make You Dance
Solace by Rüfüs Du Sol
Yo, I can see it now. It’s two in the morning. You’re outside in an open grass field at a festival or something feeling a cool summer’s breeze. Rüfüs Du Sol takes the stage. They start playing this record. It’s kinda cheesy but it’s fun. Vibrant, technicolor lights bounce around the sky. You start moving. First it’s a head bob. Then your shoulders start to groove. You feel the rhythm. You never usually dance. But now you’re dancing. You catch the attention of a cutie next to you. You two dance. Pause for a moment, look into each others’ eyes and kiss for the first time under the moonlight. You fall in love. Ten years later you’re married. You still talk about that concert to this day.
Most Overrated Artist
Everything this girl says, and does, is an attempt to be cool. She’s a Disney-level popstar trying to be edgy. Her corporate record label overlords saw huge opportunity with Mac Miller’s death and her breakup with that one dude, so they decided to cash in, made her a song, threw her in the studio to record it, and people ate it up. Girl can sing and may be a fantastic person in real life, but she’s corny and her music is trash. Don’t @ me.
Most Likely to Get the Party Going
“Mo Bamba” by Sheck Wes
You couldn’t run from it. You couldn’t hide. You just had to embrace it. That intro sets in, everybody looks at each other in total understanding, then the bass hits and everybody’s jumping around screaming “I GOT HOOEEESSSS”. Im sure this song will be forgotten soon, but it was a good time. Really got the people going.
Most Likely to Be Inspired By Opiate-Riddled Depression
Some Rap Songs by Earl Sweatshirt
“Mainline, Underneath the skin of the grape-vines, Save time, serpent, no need to hiss, Found a reason to live, doubt can be in abyss”. Hope ur doing okay Earl. While this one has been described as his Madvillainly, it doesn’t quite hit those highs. Cool record tho.
Most WTF Song (and video) of the Year that You Grow to Love
“Qyurryus” by The Voidz
I didn’t think The Voidz could possibly create a song weirder than any on their debut album, Tyranny. But I was wrong. Qyurryus starts with this menacing, bouncing beat before Casablancas squeals incomprehensible nonsense over nuclear-power-plant-meltdown guitar riffs. Then a dramatic guitar solo transitions the song into a Soviet Russia punk band in the 80’s coupled with Yeezus-era Kanye grandiosity. And it’s straight up glorious. I don’t even know what to call it. Acid-drenched-80s-post-punk-power-pop. Whatever it is, I love it. Watch the video here.
Best New Artist
I don’t care what kind of music you like. This Australian treasure is so damn talented that you have to respect it. In fact, her breakout began last year as a viral sensation when she posted homemade videos of herself playing in her living room. In August, she released her debut album, Flow State. It’s got this jazzy reggae Neo-soul vibe. Groovy. Check out this video to see what I’m talking about.
Song Most Likely to be Making Fun of Its Listeners
“TSLAMP” by MGMT
“TSLAMP” actually stands for “Time Spent Looking at My Phone”. In the catchy, introspective synth jam, Andrew VanWyngarden makes fun of our society’s phone addiction, social media obsession, and dating app culture — “nothing can compete with the first time you saw her, passing strangers in the street… staring at their phones” = two people walked past each other while matching on Tinder or something. Lmao.
Artist I Desperately Wanted to Hate, But I Can’t
The rainbow hair. The “69” tattoos all over his face. I thought it was a joke. It was the worst thing I’d ever heard. So then his debut album comes out. Kanye’s on it. I thought, why would the most acclaimed rapper of the last decade want to work with this talentless cartoon character? I listened, entirely expecting to hate it. I wanted to hate it. I listened to “Kanga” and “Mama”. I listened to them again. And again. Like wait, this is… catchy? Do I actually like this? A month later, the answer is: Yes. I do. The colorful, over-the-top, thunderous beats. His rabid, nonsensical yelling. It just works. I don’t know why but it does. His Hispanic flare and IDGAF-feral-dog scream-rap is actually refreshing in an industry of clones. It’s just infectious and fun.
“SHE WANT ME IANT WANT HER OOOOH”
Banger of the Year
“Sicko Mode” by Travis Scott
I think Travis Scott and Astroworld are stupidly overrated. But Sicko Mode is just… yeah. It’s that song this year. Turning every function into Bonnaroo.
Song Most Likely to Make You Say, “Damn”, Then You Never Listen to it Again
“Night Shift” by Lucy Dacus
This sounds like something you hear while sipping a Budweiser in a dimly lit dive bar on open mic night. You’re a little tipsy and laughing with your buddies, but the slow-guitar driven intimacy and barstool croons command your attention. You’re in the middle of a conversation, but you forget what you were going to say. You stop and watch. And you think to yourself, damn. This is like, really tight. I’m feeling something. I don’t know what it is, but I’m feeling something. What are they called? Do they have a record out? I never find out. And I never listen to them again.
Best Electronic Song of the Year
“Emerald Rush” by Jon Hopkins
I’m not a fan of electronic-EDM-brostep-wubb-wubb-bass type stuff like Bassnectar and Skrillex and whatnot. But I LOVE Jon Hopkins, Caribou, Four Tet, etc. Whatever category those dudes fall into. Back to the point – “Emerald Rush” is the embodiment of musical talent and vision manifested in electronic recording. It’s cinematic, towering and atmospheric. A glitchy electronic orchestra. Makes me feel like something truly epic is happening. Even if I’m just driving to the hospital or cleaning my apartment.
Overrated Boring Indie-Pop Band of the Year
People who love the 1975 are the types to wait in line outside of Urban Outfitters on national record store day.
Corniest Song Lyric-Turned-Instagram-Caption of the Year
“Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande
This song isn’t good. A generic, boring cash grab. And now it’s every girl’s motto when their relationship/fling/hookup/texting friend didn’t work out. Or their motto for literally anything. Trying to find solace after a breakup? Thank u, next. End of semester? Thank u, next. Finished your mimosa? Thank u, next. Take a selfie and a witty caption to pair it with for Instagram? Thank u, next.
Please stop. It’s corny. Thanks.
Most Mature Album
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by the Arctic Monkeys
The Arctic Monkeys are like that one friend in college who used to be fun but spent a semester studying abroad in France or wherever and won’t stop talking about how much it changed them. They’re worldly now – cultured. They now want to go to a jazz lounge instead of a college bar. They order San Pellegrino at dinner. They say, “this one time in Europe” at any possible opportunity. Just to flex. What happened dude? I mean, we all still like you. But you’ve lost your edge. Good record, though. “Four out of five” is a jam.
Most Likely to Be Made for the 15-17 Year Old Girl Demographic
Scorpion by Drake
We’re on to you, Drake.
Most Overlooked & Forgotten Album of the Year
Little Dark Age by MGMT
Hating MGMT has been the cool thing to do for the pretentious idiots who make their living as music critics. As it turns out, the guys of MGMT are actually incredibly talented and their musical prowess expands far beyond college party classics. Congratulations is a top ten album of the decade, but their 2013 self-titled record really turned people off, despite being brilliant at times (“I Love You Too, Death”!!). Their return, Little Dark Age, is effing fantastic and a top 5 album of 2018. The title track is like a 2018 version of The Cure. “When You Die” is top tier existential psychedelia. Anyways, I could rave on about most songs on this album, but I’ll leave you with this – MGMT’s flame has somewhat died down and Little Dark Age isn’t anywhere near topping charts in 2018, but I can count the number of 2018 albums better than LDA on one hand. And I don’t need all five fingers.
Best Rap Song You Probably Didn’t Hear
“E. Coli” by Alchemist & Earl Sweatshirt
No, it has nothing to do with romaine lettuce. The soulful, warm instrumental conjures up images of peacefully snowfall and city lights. Earl, disaffected and poetic as ever, raps:
“My thoughts, dreams, plots and my schemes
that’s what’s on my mind when I toss in my sleep
my heart like my pen when I jot and it bleed
My cart full of sin, when I shop it’s a spree”
Like, damn. This song is so soulful, frustrated and angry. Yet somehow comforting, and dare I say… beautiful. One of my favorite tracks of the year.
Most Disappointing Album
Tangerine Reef by Animal Collective
Animal Collective is one of my favorite groups, ever. Tangerine Reef is still Animal Collective – the entrancing soundscapes, offbeat experimentation, Avey Tare’s acid-trip-the-jungle vocals… but it’s just.. flat. There’s no fun like “My Girls” or “Summertime Clothes” or even the recent “Floridada”. There’s no gripping emotional catharsis like “Banshee Beat”. There’s no wild psychedelic freakout like the early “Alvin Row”. It just meanders in sonic emptiness. So sad.