To close out 2018, I’m rounding up some of my favorite albums from the year. Because I couldn’t limit myself, this list is coming to you in three parts — you can check out part one if you haven’t already! What were some new gems that you discovered this year?
Room 25 — Noname
Room 25 is only Noname’s second album, but Fatimah Warner blazes through the record’s brief 34 minutes with the ease and confidence of an artist well-rooted in her sense of self and musical expression. She showcases her whip-smart verses, distinctive delivery, and range of influences from jazz to R&B.
Tell No One — Bad Moves
This album was my number one feel-good release of 2018. Many of the songs on the DC-based quartet’s debut album clock in just over two minutes long — each one like a short burst of barreling enthusiasm, a loud confession of adrenaline-infused optimism.
Sweetener — Ariana Grande
Sweetener evokes ‘90s nostalgia while keeping it current, explores key modulations and tempo changes, and of course, demonstrates Ariana Grande’s unbelievable vocal prowess. But rather than just flaunting her musical abilities, Grande bolsters her self-assurance despite backlash, shrugs at the subtweets, and says “thank u, next” to the ghosts in her past.
Tell Me How You Really Feel — Courtney Barnett
Writing vulnerable material may not be a trend tied to any specific time period, but this year seemed to inspire particularly confessional albums, including Courtney Barnett’s Tell Me How You Really Feel. As always, Barnett strikes a balance between vulnerability and sharp humor through a collection of cathartic rock.
The Future And The Past — Natalie Prass
There’s certainly no shortage of politically inclined albums from this past year, but what makes The Future And The Past stand out to me is its overwhelming yet almost nonchalant attitude of joy. Natalie Prass effortlessly blends R&B, funk, disco, and pop on this record as she dances through chaos; listening to this record feels like dancing in the rain and smiling in the middle of the storm.
Premonitions — Miya Folick
Premonitions almost doesn’t seem like an album from 2018 — it feels like a record from the future for its abundance of different timbres, ranging from twinkling bells and synthesizers to brash horns or plucky guitars. Like the instrumentation, Folick’s chameleonic voice takes on a myriad of colors, painting a multi-dimensional self-portrait through the album.
Phantastic Ferniture — Phantastic Ferniture
I discovered this album, and band, late into 2018, but it quickly became a favorite. The Australian trio’s debut album is laced with crunchy guitar riffs and reverb-soaked vocals that evoke a sort of classic rock nostalgia, paired with wry lyrics and inventive songwriting.
Sunset Blush — Kississippi
Zoë Reynolds has been writing music under the name Kississippi for years, but the Philadelphia-based project just released its debut full-length record this year. Sunset Blush is filled with tactile guitar riffs, glittering synth lines, and piercing one-liners. A personal favorite for listening to on public transportation or humming around the house.