John Preston has revisited the abundance of amazing music that was released over the last 12-months and picks what he considers to be the very best 10 albums of 2018. (For numbers 5-1, please see part two.)
Numbers 10 to 6
10. Sudan – Archives Sink
The young violinist and singer-rapper’s second EP is a work of considerable beauty, where disparate elements are stitched together to form a kind of divine, musical clarity.
A stringed instrument will frequently leap out, often a fiddle as might be expected, and establish an insistent and immediate melody early on whilst other components rattle and thump, building up and dropping in and out of the mix.
But this is also hip-hop music and the bass is ever prominent, beats flit and pulsate whilst Sudan’s coolly detached swag is never in doubt. Sink is music for the future but which also has its staggeringly diverse roots connected very much to a rich, musical past.
9. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
One of the best trip-ups of the year was the premature declaration that Mitski has gone full disco and pop. This was subsequently followed by the arrival of her fourth album, Be the Cowboy, and the realisation that the sui generis singer-songwriter refuses to be conveniently categorised.
Admittedly, early single ‘Nobody’ shares DNA with The Cardigan’s prancing ‘Lovefool’ but the uncomfortable rawness and rage of ‘A Pearl’ sitting beside the desperation of heteronormative relationships in ‘Me and My Husband’ jars and confounds magnificently. There is still no-one else that comes close to the thrillingly unpredictable soundscape of Mitski.
8. Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner have been leading up to the wonderfully bright and luscious synthesisers that recall the golden-age of electro-pop for some time now and on The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs they have also assembled an album full of nuanced and melody driven songs to match them.
The theme of Wye Oak’s sixth album is not unique; an always connected world but at what cost? The duo have been immersed in a disconnected state for a long time (they recorded the album separately for the most part and in different states in the US) and bring their personal experience to the fore making songs like ‘Say Hello’ so deeply satisfying.
7. Lily Allen – No Shame
I was one of many who had kind of given up on Lily Allen circa 2014’s Sheezus: sloppy songwriting, tired production and no longer a reliable and sharp narrator of all things pop cultural. No Shame marks a return to form then that sees Allen wonderfully proving us all wrong.
At the album’s core there is a run of tracks that represents some of the strongest, and most devastating, music that you will hear this year. Exceptional, nuanced songwriting that Allen performs with a new found ability to express emotions and feelings that many would prefer to bury.
Alongside the other funnier and contemporary tracks, No Shame adds up to Lily Allen’s finest hour.
6. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
In a year where the biggest pop stars either didn’t release a record or put something out that delivered what was expected and not a scrap more, Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer had a real sense of occasion and bigness about it.
Following a career that saw the singer literally presented in constant black and white, Dirty Computer was Monae’s rainbow flag celebration of being out and finally embracing the pop life that was always tucked inside her sometimes more indulgent and high-concept discography.
With at least five solid gold pop tunes of the highest quality, Janelle’s third album was a riotous blast of funk and fun.