Happy 2019! After a restful holiday break, I’m back with the conclusion to my year-end favorites. Here are eight albums that I loved in 2018 (as well as some musings on artists that made me cry and concerts that blew me away).
What were some new releases that inspired or excited you from 2018, and what are you anticipating in 2019?
Lush — Snail Mail
At this point, it’s no secret that Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan is taking over the world. At just 19 years old, she is writing some of the most emotionally honest and gut-punching indie pop. Her voice can transform from soft to biting, and Lush is grounded by Jordan’s melodic guitar playing.
Prom Queen — Beach Bunny
When Lili Trifilio began posting music online under the name Beach Bunny, it was just her voice and an acoustic guitar. Now, Trifilio has a full band behind her and a debut EP under her belt. Prom Queen is an EP of anthems about blazing your way past breakups, oppressive beauty standards, and the malaise of young adulthood, punctuated with jangling guitar riffs and Trifilio’s unwavering voice.
Be The Cowboy — Mitski
Over the past few years I’ve missed a handful of chances to see Mitski live. This year I finally got my act together and managed to see her perform, and I’m glad I made it for the Be The Cowboy tour. As an artist who has made a name for herself writing self-exposing indie pop songs, Mitski is taking an intentional step back on this album. While the album deals with topics like loss and messy love, the songs’ third-person narratives and Mitski’s detached stage choreography seemed to tell her audience that while she is vulnerable, she is also in control of how much of herself she shows to the world; art can be expository but an artist reclaims her power when she decides how much she wants to expose.
Chutes and Ladders — Ahem
This record embodies the energy that I want to project in 2019: youthful, optimistic, and curious. Chutes and Ladders is the second EP from Minneapolis trio Ahem. At just 15 minutes long, it is an infectiously upbeat collection of rock songs about exploring the outdoors and feeling like a kid again.
Common Blah — Weakened Friends
This year I heard few voices that excited and stuck with me as much as Sonia Sturino’s. As the principal songwriter of Weakened Friends, Sturino channels insecurities, anxieties, and frustrations into a visceral physical outlet. In the same breath, she validates those aches and incinerates them.
Boygenius — Boygenius
Boygenius was another live show that I’m so glad I made it to this year. It’s incredible enough to see Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus all perform in one night, but what excites me the most about the trio is the infallible support that they have for one another. Individually, they are songwriters who pull from experiences of feeling insecure or inadequate — but as a unit, they are blossoming and creating some of their most exciting work.
Historian — Lucy Dacus
This album broke my heart and then wiped my eyes dry. “Night Shift” made me cry over exes I’ve never had, while “The Shell” made me grieve for the times that I haven’t given myself the compassion that I give to others. Dacus is an efficient and precise songwriter; she can build an entire story in a single line. Each time I listen I discover a new metaphor or phrase to roll around in my head and hum around the house.
Clean — Soccer Mommy
Clean was another album to sweep year-end lists this year, and I think in part because so many listeners recognized something of themselves in this collection of songs. Sophie Allison writes from the precision of her individual experiences, but her lyrics are as universal as they are deeply personal.