From the grand returns of Janelle Monáe and Neko Case to the compelling storytelling of Mitski and Alejandro Escovedo to the exuberance of Kids See Ghosts and Low Cut Connie, 2018 gave us a tremendous amount of attention-worthy music to explore. We begin with our overall best-of list, and will explore a different genre each weekday until the new year.
• Our editors compiled their top 60 albums of the year
• Whether it was the wild ambitions of DJ Koze, Oneohtrix Point Never, and Fire-Toolz, or more traditionally-satisfying work from Geotic, Thomas Fehlmann, and Rival Consoles, there was no shortage of quality electronic music to discover.
• In between keeping up with all of the feuds, drama and tragedies that dogged hip-hop in 2018, there was still time to enjoy numerous top-tier records, including Cardi B’s wild debut, Lil Wayne’s long-awaited Tha Carter V, and Vince Staples’ electrifying FM!.
• The jazz world remained unpredictable and fascinating as ever in 2018, including the virtuosic, meticulously-edited latest from Makaya McCraven, drummer Jamison Ross’ nuanced sophomore release, and the unveiling of a lost album from John Coltrane.
• Classical instrumental recordings harkened back to the past with new interpretations of Bach, Stravinsky, Schubert and Strauss, while also pushing forward with Jonny Greenwood’s elegant and dissonant score to Phantom Thread and the fresh guitar compositions found on Duo Noire’s Night Triptych.
• 2018 made for a fascinating year in pop: it was the year BTS conquered America, the year we saw the emergence of queer stars in the making like Troye Sivan and Christine and the Queens, and witnessed the returns of Robyn, Rae Morris, and Rita Ora.
• R&B’s past and present came together to make for some outstanding records in 2018. Up and comers like Jorja Smith, serpentwithfeet, and Simulator Jones stood strong alongside genre stalwarts Bettye LaVette, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Toni Braxton.
• The best in Indie rock and pop includes the return of Cat Power, Beach House’s highlight-packed 7, and the debuts of Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail, and the Orielles. Additionally, albums by Superchunk, tUnE-yArDs, Julia Holter, and Thalia Zedek sought to reckon with the strange state of the world.
• It’s easy to limit one’s attention to familiar Western sounds, but that would deny the pleasures of this year’s best Latin and world albums, including Angélique Kidjo’s reimagining of the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, the return of Ethio-jazz icon Hailu Mergia, and the latest from Tuareg guitar master Bombino.
• From collaborative outfits like The Gift Band, I’m With Her, and Luluc, to more solitary offerings from Amy Ray, Caroline Rose, and Alexander Tucker, there was much to enjoy about folk and Americana music in 2018.
• The comforting cacophony of metal rang throughout 2018, featuring standout albums from Thou, YOB, and Voivod, as well as the long-awaited return of stoner icons Sleep.
• Some of the best country albums of the year pushed the genre’s boundaries, including releases from Kane Brown, Ashley McBryde, and Lindi Ortega. But there was still plenty of room for more traditionally-minded and equally outstanding work from Frank Foster, Shooter Jennings, and Joshua Hedley.
• We already shared our editors’ favorite classical instrumental recordings of the year, and now it’s time to delve into the world of classical music with vocal accompaniment, including a celebratory take on the works of Guillaume Dufay, an exploration of Handel’s lesser-known arias, and a study of the minimalist compositions of Andrew Hamilton.
• In the midst of all the new music of 2018, there was plenty of opportunity to plumb the archives and examine numerous compilations and reissues, such as a collection of rare demos from the Louvin Brothers, a gem from Prince’s storied vault, and a rollicking collection from the glory days of outlaw country.
• There was plenty to feel blue about in 2018, and those sentiments were best expressed by the likes of Shawn Amos, Sue Foley, and Fantastic Negrito. Newcomers to the genre also received an exceptional welcome mat, Confessin’ the Blues, curated by the Rolling Stones.
• The voices of iconic singer/songwriters like John Prine, David Crosby, and John Hiatt continued to shine brightly in 2018, alongside albums from relative newcomers including Natlie Prass, Ari Roar, and Anna Burch.
• Now that we live in a world of aggregated content, box sets have become music’s version of a long read. This year’s best box sets include a fascinating deep dive into Blood on the Tracks, the best Fleetwood Mac collection to date, and an incredible live document of Charles Mingus’ 1973 Detroit residency.
Coming Monday: Favorite Rock Albums