Releases

Albums of 2018

A tardy retrospective on a bland year.

With a new year comes new music, so what better time to reflect upon 2018’s best albums than early January 2019, after the hangovers have subsided and your favourite snobs begin to consider atoning for their festive hedonism (no spoilers, we imagine, in divulging that John was the most hedonistic over the end-of-year season – at one point, we thought he was having a heart attack).

Our favourite 10 albums are presented in no particular order other than to try and sequence our track picks nicely, but represent what we collectively believe were the year’s strongest records via collective agreement. It is worth noting that all of your beloved snobs still have albums, released in 2018, that we did not get round to listening to yet (blame the money treadmills), and which we may retrospectively wish we could have included (contenders include Kali Uchis’ catchy Latino-infused pop record, Illusion, and Lykke Li’s return with so sad so sexy). Nevertheless, time keeps marching on; we’re already a week into 2019 and most reputable music publications decided their top 50 albums of the year last month (with little differentiation between any of them, but that’s a tale for another post) – we wouldn’t want you to think us sloppy, dear reader.

Our methodology was simple: we each came up with our individual top 10, and the albums chosen were those with the most overlap. Simple enough? In theory, yes (perhaps too simple), but we also all noted that the exercise proved surprisingly challenging. We suspected 2018 was not a particularly great year for the LP – NIN releasing an EP disguised as an LP is the poster child of this sad reality (and yes, we know it was part of a triptych), made graver for having come from a hero, unsure of how to navigate today’s distribution environment and yet still hungry for his art to be heard. The more we discussed 2018, the more we realised that its lacklustre selection of contenders for a “great” album accolade is yet another symptom of a deeper (and more tragic) trend.

While much is written regarding the decay of music en masse of late, the tale of the death of the feature length album as a medium is treated as old news – as though it were a fait accompli. It should not be. The death of the album is one of the primary drivers behind the aforementioned degradation in the long-term value of music. An album is a piece of art – just as an artist produces paintings, musicians produce albums. Good albums are coherent and yet refreshing. Few releases in 2018 even came close these two basic necessities, with far too many “albums” optimised for streaming (read: devalued and disingenuous artistic endeavours; see also: Drake’s Scorpion), and that’s before you get to the subjective elements.

The name of the music game has changed too arbitrarily, driven by an industry stabbing in the dark for what might work as it is dragged into the digital age. Here’s an Audio Snobbery pro tip: Streaming will do to the Music industry what Facebook did to the press – unless the Music Industry wakes up to the game these companies play.

With that rant in mind, do not grossly misunderstand us: there are fantastic contemporary and rising acts to look out for and indeed see live, but the pressure for ‘singles over albums’ continues to reign supreme, casting a shadow over many an artist’s output. We hope that 2019 grants our persnickety ears better albums than 2018, at least.

In the meantime, here are 10 of our favourite tracks from 10 albums we thought differentiated over the last 12 months. We have consciously not written a write-up––that’s a lie, actually, the festive season rather ran away with us––nonetheless, do listen to these tracks, which are intended to serve as gateways into the albums, having been picked precisely because they are not necessarily the lead single from the album (before anyone yells “If You Know You Know!” at us regarding Pusha T – yes, that song is a fucking belter, but the album is good too). We hope that you spend time with these records, buy them on vinyl (if you like them), and look into the artists that made them: where they came from and what makes them tick. Understand their art and it will resonate more deeply with each listen. Perhaps you may find yourself agreeing with us that these were 10 albums that stood out ahead of many others last year – or better yet, becoming a serious fan of one of these artists.

Happy New Year.

Cuzomano contenders:

Easy C contenders:

El Mascarado contenders:

John contenders:

Otacon contenders: