Here are my 15 Favorite Albums of 2018. There were other good albums this year, but these 15 stood out.
Bahamas - Earthtones
This is without a doubt my favorite album of the year. It didn’t seem to get enough press, but Sweet Jesus! It's so good! Saw Afie Jurvanen and crew at The Neptune in Seattle and it was one of those amazing shows where the live set out-does the album—and the album has Pino Palladino and James Gadson! The live band really opened it up with some great extended guitar work from both Afie and regular touring guitar player Christine Bougie (her lap steel stuff is amazing) as well as the usual great backup singing from Felicity Williams. I also bought the (white) vinyl edition of Earthtones and it's got some slight variation in the song selection from the digital version—always good! Get it. And check out this version of No Wrong. Oh yeah, what kind of music is this? I don't know, Yacht Rock? Who cares, it’s great. And it’s Canadian.
Soccer Mommy - Clean
Sophie Allison is probably my favorite new artist of the year (new to me anyway). Hadn't heard of her before 2018. Great mix of lyric and melody and a real stripped-down mix-tape sound with a vibe that reminds of early Liz Phair. She's going to do great things in the next few years. Here’s Your Dog, a favorite track.
Rhye - Blood
Mike Milosh is a long time favorite and so is this album. I had been following him early on under the band name "Milosh" but the stuff he's been making for the last few years under the name Rhye is really quite amazing. Check out "Waste" from really great live set at the Charles de Gaulle Airport to get a good feel for the whole album. This particular lineup is stellar. See you at The Neptune this February…
Noname - Room 25
If I had a second favorite new artist of the year it would be NoName—new to me anyway. Neosoul/Hiphop from Chicago which reminds me of early Jill Scott. Noname's rapping has that poetic feel to it, but the "real" band really makes it stand out—and great songwriting and lyrics. Really great album. And, Blaxploitation has the best bass line of 2018. Grab her first album Telefone if you haven’t already as well.
Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer
There's been more than enough written about this album already. It's really, really good. So funky. So smooth. Janelle is the shit. "I Like That" is probably my favorite song, but you can't beat Make Me Feel for the top groove of 2018. Prince had a hand in this song before he died, and it's really something.
Damien Jurado - The Horizon Just Laughed
I've enjoyed a lot of Damien Jurado's music over the last decade or so, but I've never really found any one album that stood out as complete. Until now. This is the one. Maybe it helps to live in the Pacific Northwest (as this feels like an actual soundtrack to Washington state) but the album is really strong lyrically and the music just flows. So nice. So good. Also, I think I met his sister at a party once.
Phosphorescent - C'est La Vie
This is one of those albums I didn't expect to like as much as I did. Great pedal steel guitar, great lyrics, and that bittersweet heaviness that I am always drawn to. This is a probably good place to start if you are unfamiliar with Matthew Houck’s music.
Blood Orange - Negro Swan
Dev Hynes has made one of my previous year end lists as well—he's really, really good. And it's a brilliant mix of downtempo, alt-R&B—never quite sure what the genre is, actually—which is great. It definitely feels like it's from London (which it is). I like this album a lot. Start with Charcoal Baby.
Kali Uchis - Isolation
Yet another new artist for me this year (I think it's her debut). Solid Pop/Hiphop/R&B stuff from the Columbian/American singer—her voice is really amazing. Tyler The Creator and Bootsy Collins show up on a track as does The Internet's Steve Lacy. It's just a solid summer album, I'm looking forward to more from Kali Uchis.
The Internet - Hive Mind
Speaking of The Internet…I think this album could probably use a bit of editing, but that's not enough to knock it off my list. Groovy and funky and guitar that reminds me of George Benson (these guys are associated with Odd Future as well). It's one of those albums that came around during the summer at just the right moment (right when the sunroof started staying open at night). And for that, I think it's worth the props. Come Over is the song that first grabbed my ear.
Kiefer - Happysad
Hiphop meets jazz piano—really good jazz piano. Kiefer has also made one of my previous lists. I really like what Kiefer Shackleford has been doing. He's worked with Kaytranada, Anderson .Paak and Moses Sumney, but this this album and his previous are uniquely his. Watch this live version of Upwards.
Villagers - The Art of Pretending To Swim
These guys (or guy, Conor O'Brien) have their roots in "folk" but they are so much more. On this album, there's a lot more synth and percussion than previous efforts, which I really like. Nice mix of analog and digital. My favorite Villagers album so far. Here's a sample.
Tom Misch - Geography
More electronic grooves and R&B from The UK. I found this one late in the year but it has grown on me quite a bit. Guest appearance from De La Soul on my favorite track It Runs Through Me.
Khruangbin - Todo El Mundo
Been following these guys for a while now. I was originally drawn to the chilled out versions of old Thai funk on previous efforts, but this one has branched out into new areas of the world (as the title suggests) but the same atmospheric/psychedelic vibe holds strong. Check out Maria También live on KEXP.
Anderson .Paak - Oxnard
And finally, this L.A. funk/rap hybrid album from Anderson .Paak rounds out the Top 15. Guest appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Q-Tip, Snoop and more. Here’s Tints.
There’s always that one album that I missed from a previous year that I discovered this year. This time around it was Phoebe Bridger’s Stranger In The Alps. This would be in the Top 5 without fail if it came out in 2018. Check out Smoke Signals live on KEXP. The keyboard player is even using an OP-1 from Teenage Engineering!