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My Top Ten Albums Of 2018

30 December 2018

A lot of the albums I've loved this year appear to follow the same format - artist tries something new, I listen, I'm hooked, I'm here for it. Many of the albums before you see indie artists take on a more pop approach, whilst pop artists broaden their own horizons. I can't say this has been my favourite year for music - one look at the singles charts (for the first half of the year anyway) is enough to fuel my depression further, though the absolute steam-roller also known as The Greatest Showman OST has been there to soothe things (unfortunately it came out last year technically, so it is unable to come in like a figurative wrecking ball for this list.)

There's still been many-a-great album though this year. I've also enjoyed Troye Sivan's debut effort, the Nile Rodgers and Chic revamped album, and some of Lily Allen's new album, but the 10 albums below are what have truly soundtracked my 2018...

10. Florence and the Machine - High As Hope

I won't lie, I was a little disappointed to find Florence and the Machine's latest album was only going to be 10 tracks, after being treated to monster Deluxe editions with previous efforts. 'High As Hope' is a little more subdued compared to the latest couple of albums, but is filled with some beautiful tracks that allows Florence to be a bit more open and personal with her lyrics.

'Sky Full Of Song' was the first track to be shared from the album, a track that starts a capella before building to a stunning chorus, with subtle guitar, whereas 'Hunger' gave us that punch I was waiting for, existing in a slightly abnormal song structure, shoving a chorus straight after the pre-chorus, which is most welcome and sits pretty as one of my favourite songs of the year for it's sheer sing-a-long-ability.

Opening track 'June' is hauntingly beautiful, the tempo kicks in with '100 Years.' whilst 'Big God' took a while to connect but we finally got there. Other favourites include 'Patricia,' an ode to Patti Smith, and the powerful final duo of 'The End of Love' and 'No Choir.' Overall, if you can get over the fact it's not as much of a punchy album, you can appreciate it for what it's worth.

Fave Five: Hunger, Patricia, Sky Full Of Song, June, The End Of Love

Fave Lyric: '


9. Shawn Mendes - Shawn Mendes

I feel like I'm always quietly rooting for Shawn Mendes. On paper, he's a guy with a guitar and wouldn't usually be my sort of thing, but in all honesty - the guy's had some absolute bops. Lead single 'In My Blood,' was a powerful piece that I and many others could relate to, about not giving up when things get a bit rough, whatever that may mean to you, and he continued to touch on this subject with Khalid collab 'Youth,' a look into dealing with the world at what feels like such a young age, and trying not to be too affected by it.

'Lost In Japan' was already a favourite, and a slightly mature, funkier sound from Shawn, but the Zedd remix elevated this greatly, giving the track the extra bit of life it needed - to in turn give me my life - whilst sort-of-single but I'm not sure at this point, 'Nervous' kept the similar funky guitar, alongside 'Where Were You In The Morning'.

The album itself it a very easy listen, a lot of the tracks allude to a break up, as will be quite a regular theme across many of these albums, which is surprising when I haven't even been through one myself, but album closer 'When You're Ready,' 'Queen' and 'Fallin' All In You' are all funky little numbers that are in no way life changing, but lovely enough to soundtrack my summer. Overall, a very strong follow up from Shawn, which has left me interested to see what he does next.

Fave Five: Lost In Japan, In My Blood, When You're Ready, Nervous, Youth

Fave Lyric: 'Looking through my phone again, I'm feeling anxious' - In My Blood


8. CHVRCHES - Love Is Dead

CHVRCHES returned to the scene with a much more commercial sound with latest album 'Love Is Dead,' - still complete with strong synths, and lead singer Lauren Mayberry's unforgettable vocal, throwing us straight into this evolved sound with lead single 'Get Out.' An instant favourite for me, the track is sort've what I wanted the Avril Lavigne comeback single to be - it has an erratic verse, moment of calm before a huge screamalong chorus, and potentially the best middle eight of 2018 followed by a great instrumental, which is repeated straight after the final chorus for yet another moment of sheer elation.

In an album full of big production with absolute bops such as 'Deliverance,' 'Graves' and 'God's Plan' which you'll be surprised to hear is not a Drake cover, things are pulled back a little with Matt Berninger collab 'My Enemy,' Matt's haunting deep vocals match perfectly with Lauren's shriller delivery in a track that's laidback but still has a lot of production going on behind it, and builds a little to a slightly more full-on chorus at the end.

Another song given the single treatment was 'Miracle,' a song that doesn't sound too dissimilar to Imagine Dragons in production, complete with heavy drums, and actually holds a writing credit by Steve Mac. Another favourite from the year, the song is asking their partner to just show them that they love them, whilst a lot of the remaining songs appear with what appears to be a messy break-up, questioning the relationship on tracks such as 'Heaven/Hell' and regretting getting so angry 'Forever.'

Overall, a big, bold album, still reminiscent enough of their old material, but in what may be a reach of a statement, is something I could see the Pet Shop Boys recording.

Fave Five: Get Out, Miracle, Deliverance, My Enemy, Forever

Fave Lyric: 'You are a kaleidoscope' - Get Out


7. Kylie Minogue - Golden

Kylie Minogue released a county album this year. Not a sentence I would've expected to write at the start of the year, but it happened, and it was great. 'Golden,' perhaps a reference to Kylie's 50th birthday, though moreso a true reflection of her remarkable career, is a respectable nod to Nashville, where Kylie ran off to have her Dolly Parton moment after a breakup, and came back with a surprisingly great blend of southern guitar and radio friendly beats.

Following lead single 'Dancing,' a fun balls-out feel-good track tinged with the casual sadness of mortality, none of the following singles seemed to stick unfortunately, though that may be down to the label pushing different songs as singles what felt like every month or two. 'Stop Me From Falling' and 'A Lifetime To Repair' are cute little ditty tracks complete with hard-to-resist singalong post-choruses that will leave you both smiling, and gutted at the fact that every time you attempt a high note it's, quite frankly, shite, whilst the more toned down material, such as 'Radio On' and a personal favourite 'Music's Too Sad Without You' are beautiful pieces, the latter feeling like a timeless classic perfect for this wintry weather.

Long time Kylie lovers longing for the big pop tunes may find themselves drawn to songs like 'Raining Glitter' and 'Every Little Part Of Me' - both leaning more towards the pop side of the spectrum, whereas if you're looking for some more warmth, feel-good tracks such as title track 'Golden' and 'Love', though most of the album does find itself under the unfortunate umbrella of a breakup. Overall, very cute, very easy to listen to if you're used to Kylie's more shriller vocals. A lovely surprise.

Fave Five: Dancing, Music's Too Sad Without You, Lost Without You, Stop Me From Falling, A Lifetime To Repair

Fave Lyric: 'When I go out I wanna go out dancing' - Dancing
(Honestly, probably the best way to go...)


6. Years and Years - Palo Santo

Years and Years' debut album was going to be hard to top, spanning some incredible singles that put them firmly on the map, and they returned with concept album Palo Santo, a look into a sort-of-dystopian world, .

'Sanctify,' the first song we heard off the album, was a little different to what we had heard before - it was less uptempo, religious in parts and the imagery was a little more complex as we were introduced to the world of Palo Santo. 'If You're Over Me' continued the story visually, but was a little more of a relatable story of a break up - complete with plinky production and infectious chorus. 'All For You' continues this break up story, complete with disco-like production most similar to that of previous singles, and remains one of my personal favourites. We then start to get an idea of what 'Palo Santo' is to lead singer Olly Alexander, as he reflects on a cheating partner and the darkness he holds over him.

'Hypnotised' is a beautiful number, stripped back, showcasing Olly's unique vocals, before the tempo is picked up for the more experimental 'Rendesvouz.' The production behind 'Lucky Escape' almost doesn't do the anger in the lyrics justice, but the production comes back in for album closer 'Up In Flames,' probably my favourite track on the album.,

The Deluxe edition of the album also now includes Jax Jones collaboration 'Play' which is worth nothing is an absolute bop. Overall, a great album that is a nod to their debut but takes them in a more artistic direction that let's see us see more directly into Olly Alexander's head.

Fave Five: Up In Flames, All For You, Hallelujah, Hypnotised, If You're Over Me

Fave Lyric: 'My past is going up in flames, my future can be arranged' - Up In Flames


5. Ariana Grande - Sweetener

Following the devastating attack during her concert in Manchester last year, all eyes were going to be on Ariana's comeback single and album. 'No Tears Left To Cry' was the uplifting anthem not many were expecting, and teamed with it's world-bending imagery, it became an instant hit with me and, let's be honest, most people in the world, probably. Followed up with the semi-questionable 'The Light Is Coming,' where Nicki Minaj pops in for a minute then scurries off, we're treated to some great moments, and are faced with some not-so-great moments and Pharrell samples the same guy he did on Lemon, I think.

News of Pharrell playing a heavy part in production for the album then became a bit of an amber alert - an album produced by both some of her previous collaborators, but mostly Pharrell Williams, was always going to be interesting mix, and it's not surprising that most of the fan favourites are the former. 'Breathin' is a very relatable song about dealing with mental health, complete with a cool, slightly retro production and a perfect guitar solo during the middle eight, whilst 'God Is A Woman' is an ultra-empowering sensual song, complete with an incredible visual including Ariana fingering a tornado.

Album opener, 'Raindrops,' is a short piece for those lost in the attacks, complete with stunning vocals, and the tongue-in-cheek 'Successful' is a look into the world of being 'young and beautiful and so successful.' In contrast to me shitting on Pharrell a little earlier, many of his tracks on 'Sweetener' have great production behind them, and shows a much more mature/sensual side of Ariana, such as title track 'Sweetener,' which alludes to someone (let's say a partner due to the innuendo in the song) making things better, more than likely with sex. The chorus is a surprise boppy moment after what is quite a cute pre-chorus, whilst tracks such as 'R.E.M.' and even 'Pete Davidson' take on a more sweeter (lol) approach. There's also a great Missy Elliott feature which I will always appreciate. Overall, a great album, though I'm not sure it will age as well as her last two efforts - I mean even Ariana seems to want to move on from this era already.

Fave Five: Breathing, No Tears Left To Cry, Successful, Sweetener, God Is A Woman.

Fave Lyric: The day you left me, an angel cried - Raindrops


4. Little Mix - LM5

Somehow, Little Mix are on their fifth album. Fifth. Through each album release they've gone in slightly different directions, but remained predominantly in the pop-realm, though LM5 is the most experimental they've been by a long shot. The majority of the album has a very heavy urban influence, and sees the girls try things they've only really dabbled in with prior efforts. There's a lot more rapping (or let's go with fast-talking), interesting melodies, vocal layering, and choppy production almost in vain of Girls Aloud, where songs feel like 3 different songs shoved together but work very, very well. We've seen urban influences with a lot of Salute, and the various rap features they've had shoe-horned in to single releases, but LM5 seems like a complete switch-up. From interviews, this feels like the album most reflective of their own personal tastes, constantly dropping the cliche that 'this is the album we really wanted to make,' but on to the songs...

Lead single 'Woman Like Me' saw Little Mix finally team up with Nicki Minaj after 7 bloody years of begging, and gave the girls a strong opening for what is a very female-empowering album. Future anthems such as 'Joan Of Arc,' 'Strip,' 'Woman's World' and opener 'The National Manthem' fit the mark perfectly, spanning the areas of relationships, body image and the gender gap, sending out the strong classic inspirational Little Mix messages of being yourself, not needing a man and standing up for what you believe in. This is also present in 'Wasabi,' a sassy little number that says that they're frankly just fed up of the negativity, against an array of production, including a cowbell and random yet perfect rock part that lasts about 7 seconds. There are also nods to friendship ("the key to a successful girl group") with cute guitar-led 'Told You So,' and 'More Than Words,' that appears to be more of a love song to collaborator Kamille, known for writing many of their huge hits, and by the sounds of it, listening to all their woes. Teamed with interesting vocal production, a booming chorus, and some very cute visuals it's become a personal favourite, along with classic LM ballad, the incredible 'Monster In Me,' which I hope becomes their next 'Secret Love Song.' 'Think About Us,' the next single, is slowly growing on me.

There's also a heavy Sisqo sample in 'Love A Girl Right,' and a track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Fifty Shades soundtrack, 'Notice.' Overall, the album didn't grab me instantly like it's predecessors, but with the help of some simple yet effective visuals and many-a-relisten, it's all grown on me and now I just can't get enough.

Fave Five: Joan Of Arc, Wasabi, Monster In Me, More Than Words, Strip

Fave Lyric: 'I Put My Own Rock On My Hand' - Joan Of Arc


3. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born OST

Let's be real, as soon as the trailer dropped for 'A Star Is Born' and we were met with this incredible chalk and cheese of a subtle yet heavily gruff tone of Bradley Cooper, and the ultimate powerhouse of Lady Gaga (or L. Gaga as I will forever call her) coming through with a note bigger than my future (that even with a LOT of practice, me and my friends still can't nail) - I knew this was going to be something great. These songs turned out to be 'Maybe It's Time' and 'Shallow,' the movie's breakout song, that builds and builds to an epic final chorus showcasing L. Gaga's incredible vocal.

The movie opens with Bradley Cooper solo 'Black Eyes,' only elevated by the performance in the movie, complete with heavy guitar and an incredible vocal delivery. Later down the line we get L. Gaga's beautiful cover of 'La Vie En Rose,' and a beautiful original 'Always Remember Us This Way.,' not too dissimilar to some of the big ballads she released during her first couple of albums. It's similar to 'You and I,' 'Speechless' and even part of her last album, 'Joanne.' During a portion of the film, we are given more of a pop sound with tracks 'Heal Me,' 'Hair Body Face,' and 'Why Did You Do That To Me?' where L. Gaga, whilst playing a character, still reminds us why she's one of the greatest artists of our generation.

Many of the standout moments come from the beautiful duets between the two, including 'I Don't Know What Love Is' and 'Music To My Eyes,' but it's the final song in the film that is the true home run - 'I'll Never Love Again.' L. Gaga to perform this at the Oscars please. Overall, an incredible soundtrack for an incredible film - well done all.

Fave Five: I'll Never Love Again, Shallow, Always Remember Us This Way, Heal Me, Black Eyes



2. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae is an artist who unfortunately always seemed to slip under my radar, but as soon as I heard 'Make Me Feel' - a funky Prince-esque sexual awakening anthem, which is now a very strong contender for my favourite song of the year - I was ready to take notice. Following this with a string of releases, including the incredible 'Pynk' featuring Grimes - a cute little ode to cunnilingus, complete with a video featuring trousers that look a bit like vaginas - and cheeky album track 'Take A Byte,' Janelle Monae has come out in potentially the best possible way.

'Dirty Computer', an album paired with unapologetically honest visuals in the vain of 'Lemonade,' sees Janelle acknowledging and celebrating her sexuality and position as a black woman in a society that is always watching, and may not necessarily welcome this combo, across an impressive collection of songs spanning the genres of funk and R'n'B, including ballsy Zoe Kravitz collab 'Screwed,' and the retro, retrospective 'Crazy, Classic, Life.'. Album closer 'Americans' - an honest matter-of-fact look at the state of the country at the moment saying 'I'm not crazy baby, I'm American' whilst 'Django Jane' shows her success despite what may be perceived as an unorthodox, or for some, undesirable background. Fair play, Janelle - fair play.

Janelle contrasts the confident self-awareness towards the end of the album by alluding to her insecurities and fears to love in the sultry laid-back 'Don't Judge Me' and 'So Afraid' - a beautiful song that builds and builds to an epic chorus complete with strong guitar, before closing with a minute of stunning instrumental. Overall, a feisty, self-assured collection that I couldn't get enough of.

Fave Five - Make Me Feel, Pynk, Screwed, So Afraid, Americans

Fave Lyric - 'Let the vagina have a monologue' - Django Jane


1. The 1975 - A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 have slowly made the transition from NME credible indie-rockers to making fully fledged pop anthems, still with their trademark blend of Matt Healy vocals, slightly erratic melodies and unique matter-of-fact storytelling. Their 2nd album saw an introduction to this, as songs like 'The Sound' saw them dabble in a more classic pop delivery, and outright reference to pop-critics in the process via the music video, including reviews set against soft pink background in-between shots - way to put the point across, lads.

We were treated to a whole bunch of insta-grat songs prior to the album's release including personal favourites 'TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME' and 'It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)', and the more experimental 'Give Yourself A Try' - the first song we heard from this era. The track initially grated on me as a sort of noisy, busy mess, and didn't give me much hope for the album, but it slowly grew on me, maybe more due to the self-affirming lyrics and now I love the production. Imagery for the album teased that this album would be more experimental in parts, and upon the first listen, standout tracks included 'The Man Who Married A Robot,' a spoken piece about an individual addicted to the internet set to a delicate piano instrumental, which leads into a beautiful orchestral piece before booming into the simple yet effective 'Inside Your Mind.' 'How To Draw / Petrichor' is another track with minimal vocals that transforms from a haunting piece into, sort of, garage?

'Love It If We Made It' boasts strong, almost shouty vocals whilst 'I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)' is a hard-hitting honest piece that closes the album with another strong orchestral piece, and is very self-reflective alongside the stripped back 'Be My Mistake.' Overall, a very cleverly made album; touching on relationships both online and offline, loving and platonic, and even living and not living (substances, internet etc.) and full of an array of individual tracks I will find myself constantly coming back to.

Fave Five: TOOTIME, I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes), Be My Mistake, It's Not Living, Give Yourself A Try

Fave Lyric: 'Fuck your feelings, truth is only hear say' - Love It If We Made It


So there we go - is there anything I've missed that you've loved this year?

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