It’s unusual, at the start of lists such as this one, to comment upon the quantity of great music which has been released, as if there’s an exact number of good albums which can be objectively quantified. However, whilst respectfully raising a glass to those who think that little of worth has been released since Peter Gabriel went solo… 2018 has been one hell of a year for music. You could argue that there were no all-time-greats in the vein of Skeleton Tree or To Pimp A Butterfly this time around, but there has instead been an astounding deluge of diverse, idiosyncratic and powerful music released within the last twelve months. Start listening to records halfway up this list, and you’ll find music great enough to fit snuggly aside those we chose as our top ten. This list instead is a celebration then, of new sounds and ideas which still cast long shadows, while major releases from once-dominant names like Drake and Niki Minaj flew by without a splash.
2018 was a year when new zeitgeists emerged, or were set in stone. Underground hip-hop locked into a new, chopped-and-screwed groove with the abrasive and glitchy beats of Earl Sweatshirt, Shirt and JPEGMAFIA, while mainstream hip-hop from the likes of Kids See Ghosts and Travis Scott radiated exciting, psychedelic palettes. After years of threatening, jazz has found a new voice and new ringleaders in the form of Kamasi Washington, Idris Ackamoor, Moses Boyd and Sons of Kemet; finally knocking the genre out of a decades-old naval-gazing slumber and revitalising it as something as electric and exciting as ever.
It’s a cliche to even remark upon: but politically, this year has seemed rough. In the wake of a rupturing 2016, old institutions and untoppleable powers continue to exist in turmoil, and the future remains shapeless and unpredictable. A new political edge within music was forseen, but often inaccurately as the foot-stomping, beatnik protest songs of old. Many of today’s talents are much smarter than that, and musicians like SOPHIE, IDLES, Janelle Monae and Gazelle Twin offer their politics through pop and electronic music, capturing many of todays sentiments and putting them inside the music, rather than offering diatribes and false solutions atop it. On the other end of the spectrum, joyous pop music from Troy Sivane, MGMT and Kali Uchis has kept us dancing, reminding of us all the joy which can be found even within a climate which can feel increasingly hostile and remote.
This list was compiled by two music fans with nothing better to do, based only the albums they heard this year, featuring bias and ignorance of critical consensus. It is instead based solely on the music which impacted us, and which we enjoyed and listened to the most. From top to bottom, we consider all of these albums to be produced by incredibly talented individuals whose music this year will provide pleasure and inspiration for many more to come.
100. A Whole F****ng Lifetime Of This – American Pleasure Club
99. Lala Belu – Hailu Mergia
98. Age Of – Oneohtrix Never