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Top 50 Albums of 2018

Our staff's absolute favorite records from a wild and unpredictable year of music

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    Ten years ago this December, Consequence of Sound assembled our first-ever Annual Report and year-end lists. Some wisdom comes with a decade’s worth of doing anything. You see a lot of hype come and go, and a lot of talent emerge and put down roots. You learn to separate the passing fads from the actual next big things — that is, the ebbs from the evolution. You also learn — though you might never admit it in, say, the intro to a year-end list — that some years just produce far more exciting records than others.

    Luckily, 2018 had no problem holding our interest. Most would agree we’ve seen a bit of everything, some of which we could never have predicted: dazzling debuts, raucous returns, experimental episodes, political pushbacks, veterans avoiding the well, the proper hip-hop album bloat and shrink, several thrones ascended to, and, most importantly, substance and style largely seizing the day over spectacle and stupid, red hats. While it’s never easy closing the book on such a fascinating and unpredictable year, a part of us already anticipates what 2019 might have in store.

    But before any of that happens, here are our top 50 albums from 2018.

    –Matt Melis
    Editorial Director

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    50. Cat Power – Wanderer

    Cat Power - Wanderer

    Origin: Atlanta, Georgia

    The Gist: The long-awaited follow-up to 2012’s Sun chronicles Chan Marshall’s so-called “journey so far” — the failings and accomplishments, exits and new chapters, and various locales that have informed her storied, prolific career. Wanderer also marks her first full-length since becoming a mother and her first since 1996 not released through longtime label Matador, who outright rejected an initial draft of the album because of its supposed lack of commercial hits. All 11 tracks were produced by Marshall, including her collaboration with past tour mate Lana Del Rey (“Woman”) and her gorgeous reimagining of Rihanna smash “Stay”.

    Why It Rules: Although she’s 10 albums and more than two decades into her career, Marshall continues to prove why she’s still one of music’s most vital and insightful voices. She’s a wanderer by nature, but she’s offering us so much more than just Instagram wanderlust or restlessness when it comes to planting roots. While Marshall travels and pushes on in love, her work, and the in-between, she is constantly reflecting on and engaging with what she’s learning — no matter how ugly or painful — and translating it into lifeblood both for herself and us. The very existence of Wanderer — an album turned down by a once-supportive label — is a testament to the persistence of her “journey” and is perhaps best embodied by a line from “Woman”: “I’m a woman of my word, now you have heard/ My word’s the only thing I truly need.” –Lake Schatz

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    Essential Tracks: “Woman”, “Stay”, and “You Get”


    49. Superorganism – Superorganism

    Superorganism

    Origin: London, England

    The Gist: This eight-member collective of Very Online musicians bring a fresh sense of lighthearted fun to their self-titled debut, entwining sound effects and audio clips with danceable melodies and razor-sharp attention to detail. Lead vocalist Orono Noguchi cites Stephen Malkmus and Pavement as influences on her songwriting and delivery, and it’s not difficult to hear the distant strains of the ’90s running through this otherwise thoroughly modern-sounding record.

    Why It Rules: Superorganism is as perfect a distillation of disparate influences into effortless indie pop as you’re bound to find in 2018. Equally perfect for a dance party with friends or one by yourself, songs like “Nobody Cares” — which manages to be both grunge-influenced and bouncing — and the meticulously crafted “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” envelop the listener in a sunny sonic world where all the choruses are singable, and nothing seems that bad. It’s all wrapped up in a bow of meticulous production and playful experimentation, charting a bold, new course for where indie pop may be headed in the next few years and beyond. –Katherine Flynn

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    Essential Tracks: “Nobody Cares”, “Something for Your M.I.N.D.”, and “Everybody Wants to Be Famous”


    48. Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy

    Lykke Li - So Sad So Sexy

    Origin: Ystad, Skåne, Sweden

    The Gist: For her fourth studio effort, Lykke Li reinvents herself by putting a trap twist on her brand of Scandic sad pop. The follow-up to 2014’s dreamier and delicate I Never Learn brims with heavy doses of hip-hop heat and a brooding slinkiness. The reshaping of Li’s sound can partially be attributed to the album’s impressive list of veteran producers, which includes partner Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West), ex-Vampire Weekender Rostam, Malay (Frank Ocean), Emile Haynie (Bruno Mars), and DJ Dahi (Kendrick Lamar).

    Why It Rules: Rarely does a record deliver on its title, but here the Swedish singer offers up snapshots of collapsed, caved-in romances and gnarled, negative love that somehow still sound hot as fuck. Think of it like that last bedroom tryst before parting ways (‘cause you know you’re both so toxic for one another). It’s not all sweaty bodies and friction, though — there’s a good bit of time spent thinking about the space once inhabited by a person, literally and figuratively, and the empty void that will soon replace it. “Better alone than lonely here with you,” Li admits on standout track “better alone”, a realization that seems simple in theory but is actually deep enough that it eludes most of the dating population. –Lake Schatz

    Essential Tracks: “deep end”, “hard rain”, and “better alone”

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    47. U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited

    U.S. Girls - In a Poem Unlimited

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    Origin: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    The Gist: Over a decade into her career, Meghan Remy has never appeared more firmly established in her broad pop soundscape. Perhaps there’s an irony in the fact that it comes on an album featuring more collaborators than ever before (avant-jazz group The Cosmic Range, Michael Rault, producer Onakabazien, Remy’s husband Max Turnbull), but don’t let the credits detract from the most powerful U.S. Girls effort to date. All those new voices serve to elevate Remy’s innate experimentalism, leading to an album serving clear, unapologetic messages through a prismatic array of disco, glam, industrial, and jazzy sounds.

    Why It Rules: Leaving the bedroom has allowed the inherent pop potential of U.S. Girls to finally reach a peak and not a moment too soon. The cultural milieu has belatedly opened itself up to the sort of feminist themes Remy has long sung about, and presenting them in such defiantly sticky aural packages has made them ineluctable. Opening with righteous rage and finding a way towards musing hope, Poem is a thick narrative of intense intellectual value from both literary and gender perspectives. That makes it fiercely timely — and it’s fun as hell to boot. –Ben Kaye

    Essential Tracks: “Velvet 4 Sale”, “Rage of Plastics”, and “Pearly Gates”


    46. Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin

    Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin

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    Origin: Laguna Beach, California

    The Gist: Another brilliant addition to the sprawling discography by this unusually talented rock artist. Freedom’s Goblin feels like listening to Ty Segall’s mp3 library on shuffle, as we hit on florid psychedelia, steaming garage rock, proto-metal, weepy folk, and R&B grooves. Is that the iTunes visualizer we see, or did he slip something into our drink?

    Why It Rules: Never underestimate the power of having a great band at your disposal. With The Freedom Band in his corner — an all-star ensemble that includes bassist Mikal Cronin and Cairo Gang leader Emmett Kelly — Segall can truly go for broke in his songwriting and playing. And what comes from that power and flexibility is a downright indulgent collection of songs, like going for the popcorn upgrade at the snack counter because it’s only 50 cents more for a jumbo. This album is equally luxuriant and filling, with one of Segall’s most heartfelt ballads and his nastiest riffs nestled cozily together. –Robert Ham

    Essential Tracks: “Fanny Dog”, “When Mommy Kills You”, and “My Lady’s on Fire”


    45. Denzel Curry – TA13OO

    Denzel Curry TA1300 Light stream new album

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    Origin: Carol City, Florida

    The Gist: Denzel Curry is only 23, but he’s evolved more significantly than many rappers do in a whole lifetime. His third album to date, TA1300’s story unfolds through three separate acts — “Light”, “Gray”, and “Dark” — each its own mood piece and persuasive evidence of the Florida MC’s transformation into a more well-rounded artist. Assisting him throughout are special guests in Goldlink, J. Cole protege J.I.D., JPEGMAFIA, and rising pop star Billie Eilish.

    Why It Rules: Curry nearly mastered the art of the brusque, rapid-fire flow on past releases, such as the 2016 full-length, Imperial. While there’s certainly still plenty of heat on TA1300, the young rapper has wisely taken a step back to examine not just his approach to songwriting, but also his approach to simply being a human who deals with a lot of heaviness (i.e. topics like molestation, the presidential election, paranoia, revenge).

    “With that I learned how to become who I am because back then… I was so abrasive, so aggressive, so mean, so cold…,” he told Rolling Stone earlier this year. The result is an album that slaps in every sense of the word — we get Curry barking over shaking bass and crooning over soulful, synth-y production — and further sets him apart from his SoundCloud rap cohorts. –Lake Schatz

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    Essential Tracks: “PERCS | PERCZ”, “BLACK BALLOONS | 13LACK 13ALLOONS”, and “SUMO | ZUMO”


    44. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

    Stephen Malkmus - Sparkle Hard

    Origin: Stockton, California

    The Gist: Four long years after their last release, the deliciously titled Wig Out at Jagbags, Stephen Malkmus and his balmy Jicks return with an equally delicious follow-up. Spread across 11 tracks, the former Pavement frontman meditates on a changing world by changing with it, leaning on newer toys like an Auto-Tune and Mellotron. He even gets political without all the gimmicky trappings that traditionally come with being an aging white rocker trying to stand on a soapbox.

    Why It Rules: For all those reasons and more, Malkmus arrives in top form on Sparkle Hard, sounding like a bona fide bard of his generation. Make no mistake, he still knows how to get silly, but it’s the type of silly one might attribute to whimsically clever authors like Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. Songs like “Bike Lane”, “Kite”, and especially “Shiggy” prove he still has his eye on the stage while deeper cuts like “Solid Silk” and “Middle America” hint that he’d just as happily stroll around the neighborhood. –Michael Roffman

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    Essential Tracks: “Shiggy”, “Bike Lane”, and “Kite”


    43. Elvis Costello & The Imposters – Look Now

    Elvis Costello Look Now artwork

    Origin: London, England

    The Gist: Elvis Costello might be one of the most dexterous and accomplished pop songwriters of the rock era, but he’s not above dipping back into his own well on occasion. The singer has spent a lot of time in recent years touring and performing 1982’s Imperial Bedroom, so it makes sense that his latest outing, Look Now, smacks of that record’s baroque pop flair. With The Imposters back in tow, Costello’s first record of new music in five years is an intricately detailed and meticulously crafted affair, one longer on arrangements and musicianship than rock and roll spit and vinegar.

    Why It Rules: A veritable jack of all musical trades, Costello has canvassed just about every genre imaginable over the course of his 40-year career. He can play the part of the crooning balladeer (“Look Now”, “Stripping Paper”, “Photographs Can Lie” ) just as easily as he can the fiery bandleader (“Mr. and Mrs. Hush”, “Unwanted Number”). Look Now boasts a little of both, but, generally speaking, the record is a relaxed hang defined much more by piano, strings, and winds than Costello’s rock and roll pedigree. But it’s hardly a snoozer, either. Subtlety might reign, but there’s a swanky, sophisticated cool coursing through Look Now that punches it up in even its hushest moments. –Ryan Bray

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    Essential Tracks: “Under Lime”, “Mr. and Mrs. Hush”, and “Stripping Paper”


    42. Beach House – 7

    beach house 7 album Top 50 Albums of 2018

    Origin: Baltimore, Maryland

    The Gist: Seven albums in, Baltimore-based Beach House have proven that they’re incredibly good at being themselves. Victoria Legrand’s smoky vocals and Alex Scally’s immersive instrumentals once again create an experience that is disorienting in the best way, documenting impressions and moments in a way that is both mysteriously obfuscated and immediately visceral. 7 finds the duo teaming up with producer Sonic Boom to create a heavier sound than the tinkling, dreamy melodies that made their name on early albums like Devotion.

    Why It Rules: Beach House are an endlessly creative, well-oiled machine, and 7 is the perfect exemplification of Legrand and Scally’s partnership. Songs like “Dive” begin slow and gradually introduce new elements like driving drumbeats, delivering listeners to a very different place than when the song began. Through a bevy of production tricks like shimmering fades and dissolves and the rich, booming quality of Legrand’s voice, it’s not hard for a listener to imagine themselves experiencing the music on some kind of timeless astral plane — the transformative journey that people have come to expect, and even depend on, when playing a new Beach House record for the first time. In this way, and many more, 7 delivers the goods. –Katherine Flynn

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    Essential Tracks: “Lemon Glow”, “Drunk in LA”, and “Pay No Mind”


    41. Joey Purp – Quarterthing

    joey purp - quarterthing

    Origin: Chicago, Illinois

    The Gist: In 2016, the Chicago rapper gave us iiidrops, a masterful mixtape featuring collaborations with SABA and Mick Jenkins and fellow Savemoney crew members Chance the Rapper and Vic Mensa. It would be easy to be at least a tad skeptical that Joey Purp could roll out a release on par with that ‘tape, especially so soon, but here we are with Quarterthing. Joey’s proper debut album, it finds him accompanied in the studio by RZA, Ravyn Lenae, and GZA and production masterminds such as Smoko Ono, Coloring Book’s Knox Fortune, DJ Khalil (Eminem), Thelonius Martin (Mac Miller), and Nate Fox of The Social Experiment.

    Why It Rules: Quarterthing extends the vision of iiidrops, as well as builds on it with exceptional execution. From start to finish, Joey not only speaks his conscience, reflecting on hardship, crime, and newfound fame with crisp precision and lyrical dexterity. He’s also able to thread together a thrilling tapestry of sounds whose textures bounce between percolating Chicago house and footwork, thunderous trap, and warm soul.

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    Perhaps the best quality of the album is an intangible X factor, one that happens to also make him a dynamic force onstage: A glowing magnetism that, no matter the bullshit of today, makes you still believe in tomorrow. “I’m still alive, yeah!” he sings on “24K Gold/Sanctified”, something of a counterpart to Chance’s “Blessings”, joy nearly bursting from his chest. –Lake Schatz

    Essential Tracks: “24K Gold/Sanctified”, “Elastic”, and “Bag Talk”


    40. Jeff Tweedy – WARM

    jeff tweedy-warm

    Origin: Belleville, Illinois

    The Gist: Where does Wilco end and Jeff Tweedy begin? Tough to decipher. Together at Last, released in 2017, was a solo record insofar as it was Tweedy performing Wilco songs all by his lonesome. And while the singer broke off to record Sukierae with his namesake group in 2014, the end result was still as close as one could get to a Wilco record without it actually being one. Although WARM is technically Tweedy’s second solo record, it’s, in fact, his first comprised completely of original music. Similar to its non-Wilco predecessors, the 11-track affair doesn’t do much to create dividers between the man and his long-running band, though it does tie in closer with some chapters of the band’s history than others.

    Why It Rules: Tweedy has long grown into his standing as one of rock music’s most innovative songwriters, which might make WARM’s more stripped-down and folksier approach somewhat surprising. But this isn’t the sound of regression. Instead, it’s the work of a seasoned songwriter proving that he’s as good at penning powerful, personal songs in a traditional vein as he is layering records with bells and whistles. WARM skews heavily toward the former, but fortunately Tweedy is a maverick as capable of breaking your heart with an acoustic guitar as he is bending musical styles to his own. –Ryan Bray

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    Essential Tracks: “Bombs Above”, “Don’t Forget”, and “I Know What It’s Like”

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    39. Oneohtrix Point Never – Age Of

    Oneohtrix Point Never - Age Of

    Origin: Wayland, Massachusetts

    The Gist: Like a guided tour through a Graceland-like mansion where every room has been designed and decorated using a computer-randomizing program, Daniel Lopatin invites you to explore the glittering weirdness and small pockets of absolute beauty contained within the walls of his latest record, Age Of.

    Why It Rules: Everything you need to know about how Lopatin has found the threads connecting high art and pop culture is captured on this album as he samples both a modern classical piece by Jocelyn Pook and a MAD TV skit. Apparently, nothing escapes his gaze, and his music is all the richer for it. Age Of was built by trial and error between Lopatin’s ceaseless production and soundtrack work. The album’s scattershot feel is, in that way, a feature, not a bug, keeping your attention centered as he goes from noisy fireworks to beautiful, Asian-inspired post-trap to futuristic R&B. –Robert Ham

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    Essential Tracks: “The Station”, “We’ll Take It”, and “Same”


    38. Lily Allen – No Shame

    Lily Allen releases new album No Shame

    Origin: Hammersmith, London, England

    The Gist: With No Shame, Lily Allen probes the highs and devastating lows in the wake of her divorce from husband Sam Cooper. Despite the album being her most polished effort to date, it’s an incredible exercise in vulnerability as she reflects on the pain of separation and the challenges of being a mother and a musician. In the past, her willingness to be blunt has led to divisive reactions – take, for instance, the backlash to her clapback on toxic hip-hop masculinity, “Hard Out Here” – but with No Shame, Allen finds a topic most benefiting of her forthright and frank modus operandi.

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    Why It Rules: Rather than worrying about radio play, Allen returned with an album that captures the mindset of an artist and a mother approaching a pivotal crossroads. There are hits on this thing – look no further than lead single “Trigger Bang”, featuring English rapper Giggs – but there’s also a more endearing purpose. With No Shame, Allen has eschewed the Irish goodbye from her days as a party girl and instead delivered a eulogy that gracefully buries the past while continuing to seek the sunshine of the future. –Zack Ruskin

    Essential Tracks: “Come On Then”, “Three”, and “Family Man”


    37. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

    Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

    Origin: Edinburgh, Scotland

    The Gist: Four years and two albums removed from winning the Mercury Prize, the Edinburgh trio continued to experiment with genre and expand their songwriting on the deeply entrancing Cocoa Sugar. Swirling together soul, rap, and gospel, Young Fathers further developed a signature sound both radical and inviting.

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    Why It Rules: Combining disparate elements like the hyper-kinetic groove of “Toy”, the swooning cacophony of “Turn”, and the wobbly bravado of “Border Girl” is impressive enough but doing so as part of a cohesive work that flows so well catapults the group to another level. Cocoa Sugar is the sound of an already promising band blossoming into their own. –David Sackllah

    Essential Tracks: “In My View”, “Toy”, and “Border Girl”


    36. Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want

    Daughters - You Won't Get What You Want

    Origin: Providence, Rhode Island

    The Gist: Eight years after their last release, post-hardcore experimentalists Daughters return with an LP that deconstructs their sound and reanimates it into a whole new sonic monster. Building off the groove and melody that informed their self-titled 2010 album, the four-piece expand and darken the tonality, utilizing guitar effects and keyboards that sound even more alien than before. Groove remains a common element, but many tracks eclipse five minutes with moderate tempos, minimalist industrial instrumentation, and punishing drum work. Vocalist Alexis SF Marshall adds an element of Nick Cave to a delivery that already echoes Jesus Lizard’s David Yow.

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    Why It Rules: “City Song” immediately announces You Won’t Get What You Want as unafraid to tread new ground. It’s slow, cold, and noisy, and it effectively sets up the clangorous, mid-tempo “Long Road, No Turns”. “Satan in the Wait” follows with more dissonance, a sludgy bass line, and a twist: a melodic passage that sounds like bells run through effects pedals. The band’s brand of whirring guitars and breakneck speed doesn’t make an appearance until the fourth track, “The Flammable Man”, but it hasn’t lost a step.

    “The Reason They Hate Me” is the most straight-ahead banger of the 10 songs, and “Daughter” delivers off-kilter, warbling, reverberating effects whose range is emblematic of the entire album. Fans hoping for a repeat of the accessibility and groove of the self-titled album or the spasticity and rawness of earlier albums might be disappointed, but You Won’t Get What You Want is a brave and excellent addition to Daughters’ discography. –Scott Morrow

    Essential Tracks: “Long Road, No Turns”, “Satan in the Wait”, and “The Reason They Hate Me”

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    35. Colin Stetson – Hereditary (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

    hereditary Top 50 Albums of 2018

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    Origin: Ann Arbor, Michigan

    The Gist: Name a musician and odds are you can tie them back to Colin Stetson. From Bon Iver to Arcade Fire, Tom Waits to Lou Reed, the Midwestern multi-instrumentalist has a CV that’s rare even in today’s era of constant collaborations. For the past decade, those talents have extended to film, where his lush soundscapes have appeared in a number of critical smashes, from Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave to Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s The War Show. With Hereditary, Stetson was given carte blanche to flex his muscles, and needless to say, he rose to the challenge, delivering some of his most accomplished works as both a musician and a film composer.

    Why It Rules: It’s not hyperbole to say that every facet of Hereditary is downright chilling. Ari Aster’s psychological thriller is a 127-minute anxiety attack with Toni Collette leading the chaos. Of course, chaos works in pieces, and Stetson’s hellish amalgamation of jazz, electronica, and drone is a major section of the unnerving puzzle. He’s as unpredictable as ever, building upon the ensuing darkness with a kind of dread that’s absolutely damning. Shadows chase each and every note, carrying with them a mystical terror that suggests this is music coming from a place that’s eternally miserable, that no matter how many times you turn it off, or stow it away, it’ll be right there … with you. –Michael Roffman

    Essential Tracks: “Aftermath”, “Leigh’s Things”, and “Party, Crash”


    34. Jeff Rosenstock – POST-

    Jeff Rosenstock - Post-

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    Origin: Long Island, New York

    The Gist: Traveled punk rocker Jeff Rosenstock released his third solo outing, POST-, on the very first day of 2018, a decision (intentional or not) that imbues the sprawling protest to follow with a couldn’t-wait-another-day sense of urgency. And given that most songs were written in response to the 2016 Presidential Election, we might wonder how Rosenstock sat on them for an entire year.

    Why It Rules: Hip-hop might be considered the genre where politics and injustice get addressed, but Rosenstock reminds us that few things sound more rebellious and feel more cathartic than a rock band blowing the windows out of a garage. But POST- runs so much deeper than just feeling pissed off over election results. “These songs are about losing hope in your country, yourself, and those around you,” explains Rosenstock.

    Songs like “USA”, “Yr Throat”, and “All This Useless Energy” perfectly capture the overwhelming feelings of trying to find balance among people we thought we knew in a country we no longer recognize. Rosenstock is one of the few songwriters to truly tap into the wide range of complex emotions that Americans have been wrestling with during this administration. Hearing your mind and heart shout-sung back at you makes it all the more clear that this cannot become our new normal. –Matt Melis

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    Essential Tracks: “USA”, “Yr Throat”, and “Let Them Win”


    33. Tash Sultana – Flow State

    Tash Sultana Flow State Album Artwork Cover

    Origin: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

    The Gist: “D.I.Y.” is a term that a lot of artists pay lip service to, but few live out the philosophy quite like Tash Sultana. Flow State, the Aussie-born singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s hotly anticipated debut, is so completely self-made that calling it D.I.Y. somehow feels like an understatement. Every sound, be it skittering guitars, languid flutes, saxophones, strings, loops, or vocals, has the 23-year-old Sultana’s soulful fingerprints on it.

    Why It Rules: Sultana’s prodigious work ethic warrants praise by itself, but it wouldn’t mean much if Flow State’s end results didn’t deliver. No worries there. Having steadily built up a grassroots fan base, we finally have a record that lives up to all the promise and hype. Sultana has crafted a soulful, eclectic, and moodily evocative debut effort that cross-pollinates styles as varied as reggae, R&B, calypso, and Joe Satriani-esque guitar heroism, making for something that’s both accessible and truly their own.

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    Lyrically, the record also carries the weight of a scorned heart. “I don’t  need your loving for my salvation”, they sing over the seductive pop of “Salvation”. It’s the kind of lyric that only further cements Sultana’s bone-bred independence. This is great pop music with an edge, a record full of good vibes and bad attitude that somehow manages to work everything out splendidly. –Ryan Bray

    Essential Tracks: “Big Smoke”, Murder to the Mind”, and “Salvation”


    32. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

    twin fantasy 2018 version new album Top 50 Albums of 2018

    Origin: Leesburg, Virginia

    The Gist: “Hi, my name is Will Toledo. I’m that kid you hated in grade school who could just fly by the seat of his pants and get those gold stars you spent mornings and nights pining over. Want proof? I just took an old album of mine and managed to deliver one of this year’s better rock albums. It’s okay if you hate my guts for being naturally prolific because you’ll absolutely love my music. See you around, folks.” Yeah, that pretty much sums up Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).

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    Why It Rules: All joking aside, Toledo is the type of singer-songwriter that critics used to champion on the regular during the glory days of ’80s college rock. He’s like a young Gordon Gano, kicking out sprawling songs like the nearly 14-minute epic “Beach Life-in-Death” or the 16-minute saga of “Famous Prophets (Stars)” that reach for the stars without having to stand up and strain. Again, that may irritate you, but those hooks demand nothing but love. Hey, at the end of the day, we’re all just nervous young humans. –Michael Roffman

    Essential Tracks: “Beach Life-in-Death”, “Cute Thing”, and “Nervous Young Inhumans”


    31. Aphex Twin – Collapse

    Aphex Twin - Collapse

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    Origin: Lanner, Cornwall, England

    The Gist: The latest release from the reclusive and prolific Aphex Twin finds the producer moving away from the more straightforward approach he had been dabbling in on recent work, turning up the heat on his slippery, electronic anthems, bringing them from a simmer to a rolling boil.

    Why It Rules: The music on Collapse takes hard turns and shape-shifts with the frequency we’ve come to expect from Richard David James. But his firm hand at the controls can be felt just as acutely. Much like the EP’s artwork, there are recognizable signatures at the center of the entropic sound that seem to be coming apart in real time. Often those bits of purchase he allows us are his own, like the lullaby melodies of “MT1 t29r2” or the video game soundtrack squiggle that dominates that same song’s first half.

    Elsewhere, he peels back the curtain even further to reveal samples that will surely be catnip to the many crate diggers in his fan base, like the bit of turntablism and the snippet of The Specials’ live version of “Guns of Navarone” that pop up on “1st 44”. Collapse is another entry in a remarkable run of work that Aphex Twin has been releasing since his return from a long and clearly necessary hiatus. It may feel like he is on cruise control a bit, but even James coasting is absolutely something to behold. –Robert Ham

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    Essential Tracks: “1st 44”, “MT1 t29r2”, and “abundance10edit [2 R8’s, Fz20m & a 909]”


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