The Triton’s Favorite Albums of 2018

From comebacks to breakthroughs and surprises, 2018 marked a great year for music. In no particular order (because ranked lists don’t make sense), here are some albums that our staff listened to and enjoyed this past year.

Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves
Released: March 30, 2018
For fans of: Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young

Image Courtesy of MCA Nashville.

Image Courtesy of MCA Nashville.

You wouldn’t expect a country album to be filled with disco pop jams or songs about tripping on acid, but on Kacey Musgraves’ third album, Golden Hour, she pushes the boundaries of what “normal” country music should sound like. The 13 songs ooze with synths and slow riffs, with a delivery so natural they sound just like experiencing the hazy sunlight during golden hour. Even on her most country songs, like “Space Cowboy” and “High Horse,” Musgraves demonstrates her skillful songwriting talent by turning cringey cliches into something more simple and meaningful. On the opening track, “Slow Burn”, Musgraves sings, “I’m all right with a slow burn / Taking my time, let the world turn.” The double entendre is about her learning to be in the moment, but also relaxing and smoking a joint. And this type of quiet discovery is what makes this album so powerful. Golden Hour is Kacey Musgraves’ most accomplished and accessible body of work. If you’re planning to listen to any country album this year, make sure it’s this one. – Sabira Parajuli

Room 25 by Noname
Released September 14, 2018
For fans of: Raury, Smino, Isaiah Rashad

Image by Chantal Anderson, courtesy of the artist.

Image by Chantal Anderson, courtesy of the artist.

Noname released music for the first time this year since her 2016 debut mixtape, Telefone. She was only 24 then, but having lived her life and gained new experiences over the past few years, Noname now exudes a new type of maturity in Room 25. She made this album knowing exactly what sound she wanted to produce, and she did it with the help of her friends Ravyn Lenae, Smino, Saba, and more. One could say this album covers just about everything: it’s about her growth, dealing with her recent fame as a rising Black female rapper; it’s about love, sex, religion, and it really is a commentary on politics and society. If there was one word to describe this album, and Noname herself, it would be real. It’s the perfect blend of upbeat and mellow, humorous and somber, and each verse perfectly straddles the line of serious commentary and casual banter. This thought-provoking album is definitely worth a listen. – Ej Bautista

Dirty Computer By Janelle Monae
Released: April 27th, 2018
For fans of: Solange, Miguel, Prince

Image courtesy of Wondaland Arts Society, Bad Boy Records and Atlantic Records.

Image courtesy of Wondaland Arts Society, Bad Boy Records and Atlantic Records.

Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer unapologetically plants her Neo-Soul/R&B composition into a music landscape much more welcoming to the new moody alternative R&B sound by SZA and Frank Ocean. And Thank The Sun God for that, because Dirty Computer is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The Moonlight actor begins her third album with the slow, titular track and hits the ground running from there until the end. Everyone will find a song that they enjoy on the record. There’s funk, there’s pop, there’s soul and R&B. All these different genres, and yet the album still manages to flow seamlessly from track to track. Dirty Computer dropped quietly in April like a leaf, but landed like a bomb. No review can do it justice; you’re just going to have to listen. –Tajairi Neuson

Childqueen by Kadhja Bonet
Released: June 8, 2018
For fans of: Moses Sumney, Enya, Nick Hakim

Image Courtesy of Kadhja Bonet.

Image Courtesy of Kadhja Bonet.

Encompassing, orchestral, ethereal. Kadhja Bonet’s sophomore album, Childqueen, floods the ears both instrumentally and lyrically. With a plethora of vocal harmonies melting into the strings against the staccato rhythm of the bass, this album takes us to unfamiliar landscapes. Bonet’s work is under the radar, but her insurmountable talent continues to push the boundaries of staying within one’s labelled genre. Bonet resists being called an artist at all, much less a musician or singer. Childqueen, and her debut album The Visitor, both exist on their own plane musically, influenced by her departure from her classical roots. One of my favorite tracks on Childqueen is “Delphine,” an intimate song confronting the growing separation between Bonet and a loved one. Bonet’s liquid voice sings to Delphine in a vulnerable and almost pleading manner, “This letter you wrote to me, does it read goodbye?” The emotionally charged message showcases the diversity of her musical style, which bleeds between blues, ambient music, and funk. Bonet ends the behemoth of an album with the song “…”, a wordless “la la la” over a medley of synthesizers, flutes, and bass. The enigmatic title of the song reflects the exact state of her growing career—it is to be continued. – Heather Lim

Be the Cowboy by Mitski
Released: August 17, 2018
For fans of: Japanese Breakfast, Frankie Cosmos, Alvvays

Image courtesy of Dead Oceans.

Image courtesy of Dead Oceans.

Mitski’s last two albums, Bury Me at Makeout Creek and Puberty 2, cemented her as one of the best singer-songwriters in the indie-rock genre. Her hooks and one liners manage to punch you in the heart while filling you with relief because someone found the right words to say what you’re feeling. With her fifth album, Be the Cowboy, Mitski is at her best. Her familiar heavy guitar and jarring synths are present, but she also experiments with disco and country. Mitski’s usual clear-cut writing follows this experimentation into narrative and fiction. From the aging elderly subjects in “Two Slow Dancers” to the despair of isolation in “Nobody,” she is larger than life in her songs. The success of Be the Cowboy and her genuine personality have catapulted her to a larger following, of which she has always deserved. – Sabira Parajuli

Swimming by Mac Miller
Released: August 3, 2018
For fans of: Tyler the Creator, The Internet

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.

Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc.

Swimming, Miller’s last album before his unexpected death, demonstrated both how much he had grown as an artist and how much he had left to grow. Miller’s genre-bending  instrumentals and soulful melodies are a far cry from the bubble-rap anthems that shot him into stardom (“Best Day Ever” and “Knock Knock”). His meditative and intensely self-aware lyrics resemble the style of his last project GOOD:AM, but are accompanied by a wider variety of sound-production and influenced by jazz, R&B, and classical music. The result is an experience fit for any fan of experimental hip-hop or meaningful songwriting. – Rishabh Singhal

EVERYTHING IS LOVE by The Carters
Released: June 16, 2018
For fans of: Cardi B, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole

Image Courtesy of Parkwood/ Roc Nation/ Sony.

Image Courtesy of Parkwood/ Roc Nation/ Sony.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z dropped their collaborative album during the middle of their tour this summer, and it did not fail to meet expectations. Heralded as the conclusion of the musical trilogy that started with Beyoncé’s Lemonade in 2016 and then followed up by Jay-Z’s 4:44 in 2017, this album fills in some of the gaps of the story of their relationship. They discuss Jay-Z’s infidelity (in the track “LoveHappy” they actually have a conversation), Beyoncé’s decision to not put Lemonade on Spotify, and Jay-Z’s thoughts about not winning any of the Grammy Awards he was nominated for last year (“Tell the Grammy’s fuck that 0 for 8 shit”).  In terms of musical style, they fluctuate through hip-hop, rap, and R&B as well as each of them trading off on the main part of each song. In the tracks “Nice” and “Apeshit,” Beyoncé surprises with her rapping skills and complements Jay-Z incredibly well. The couple keep the album concise and crisp with only nine songs, something that can’t be said of a lot of new albums out these days (looking at a particular hip-hop album that also came out this summer). Only time will tell if they’re going to have to drop another album if the Grammy’s ignore them, again, next year.  – Arun Dhingra

Daytona by Pusha T.
Released: May 25, 2018
For fans of: Nas, Kanye West

Image Courtesy of Def Jam Records.

Image Courtesy of Def Jam Records.

An album that marked the comeback of rap veterans Kanye West and Pusha T, Daytona made waves for more than its role as a launching pad for 2018’s most-discussed rap beef. Despite a total length of 21 minutes and 8 seconds, Daytona feels anything but lacking. Pusha’s hard-hitting lyrics are delivered with precision over instrumentals that remind one of Kanye’s College Dropout-era artistry—a surgical mix of soul/funk samples and modern hip-hop production. Pusha takes issue with rap superstar Drake’s alleged use of ghostwriters on his standout track “Infrared”, signaling the start of a brutal campaign of diss tracks between the artists. Notably, the beef culminated with the revelation of Drake’s fatherhood and brought attention to the illness of his longtime collaborator Noah “40” Shebib, who has multiple sclerosis. However you feel about the back-and-forth between the two rappers, Daytona and its legendary fallout will reflect the state of rap in 2018 for decades to come. – Rishabh Singhal

Ready by Ruel
Released: June 15, 2018
For fans of: Lauv, Jeremy Zucker, Chelsea Cutler

Image Courtesy of RCA Records.

Image Courtesy of RCA Records.

The 16-year-old Australian phenom released his debut EP earlier this summer. With soulful and heartfelt music and lyrics, Ruel impresses at the start of his young career. The most impressive part about him though is his voice, as he has a beautiful timbre that sounds fitting for a much more mature artist. Highlights of the EP are “Younger” and “Dazed and Confused,” which see Ruel discussing the nostalgia of past friendships and the alluring, yet dangerous nature of other relationships. Ruel is making a crossover into American music with a remix of “Not Thinking ‘Bout You,” featuring the rapper Goldlink. Keep an eye out for Ruel and expect to see his name pop up a lot in the future. – Arun Dhingra

Lush by Snail Mail
Released: May 25, 2018
For fans of: Soccer Mommy, Mitski, Beach Bunny

Image Courtesy of Matador Records.

Image Courtesy of Matador Records.

Lush is the long-anticipated debut album of Baltimore-based artist Lindsey Jordan’s solo project, Snail Mail. At 19, Jordan has produced an album that embodies being young, heartbroken, and full of anxiety. Snail Mail feels like a focal point for a new generation of indie rock that accepts and revels in the difficulties of youth instead of bemoaning them. Tracks like “Pristine” and “Heat Wave” deal with summer love and heartache. Her music was my summer heartbreak soundtrack, and it will be good company throughout your winter blues. –Mohamed Al Elew

Other Albums to Consider:
Whack World by Tierra Whack // For fans of Ravyn Lenae, Saba, Kari Faux
Caution by Mariah Carey // For fans of Mary J. Blige, Solange, Kelly Rowland
mothe by Kilo Kish // For fans of Kelela, Empress Of, Rina Sawayama
Nasty By Rico Nasty // For fans of Junglepussy, Tommy Genesis, BbyMutha
FM! By Vince Staples // For fans of Anderson .Paak, A$AP Rocky, Ty Dolla $ign
7 by Beach House // For fans of Perfume Genius, Real Estate, DIIV
Ephorize by cupcakKe // For fans of Leikeli47, Lizzo, Le1f
Some Rap Songs by Earl Sweatshirt // For fans of Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis
Honey by Robyn // For fans of Lykke Li, Kim Petras, Carly Rae Jepsen
Masana Temples by Kikagaku Moyo // For fans of Ty Segall, 落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster, BADBADNOTGOOD
Sweetener by Ariana Grande // For fans of Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes, Jessie J
Isolation by Kali Uchis // For fans of Cuco, Daniel Caesar, Jorja Smith

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