2018 was a weird but good year for music where singles absolutely dominated the game whilst albums were quietly put on the back burner. Some artists decided to just release a bunch of tracks and EP’s whilst others led up to a big release with a whole lot of hype. Compared to last year, there were less albums that blew me away but the ones that did were extra special and dived into a place of raw vulnerability. With honourable mentions from Eves Karydas, Mitch James, Nicki Minaj, Rita Ora, Ball Park Music and James Bay, each album that features in my Top 10 are there for different reasons and with a varied selection, is your favourite album of the year in the list?
10. The 1975 – A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships
After a whole year of hype and mystery, The 1975 finally delivered their dynamic third studio album ‘A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships’ earlier this month. Ironically the album reflects mostly on the way social media has impacted the way we interact with others and they nail it perfectly with their interpretation. The singles ‘Give Yourself A Try’, ‘TooTimeTooTimeTooTime’, ‘Love It If We Made It’ and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ reintroduce that big cinematic sound their debut album revolved around. To the point where every tracks sounds like it be the soundtrack to a indie-film. Whilst they continue to serve the bold singalongs like ’I like America & America Likes Me’ they strip it back with a couple of slow rock ballads that will beautifully keep playing on your mind. Overall It’s an emotional and honest collection of tracks which continues what The 1975 have always succeeded in and that is authenticity. It’s a big and vibey listen which really needs to be consumed with headphones on before you take it for a drive in your car.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Give Yourself A Try’, ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, ‘Love It If We Made It’
9. Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy
She may have started off as a joke in the music industry with her carefree attitude and run of the mouth persona but Cardi B has truly claimed the throne as one of hip-hops biggest names. She topped the charts worldwide with “Bodak Yellow” and broke history as the first female hip-hop artist to go number one on the Billboard charts since Lauryn Hill. And her debut album “Invasion Of Privacy” didn’t disappoint one bit by continuing the autobiographical and honest delivery along with some playful and ridiculous moments. ‘I Like It’ is one of the album’s biggest growers with a funky and groovy beat that won’t leave your head. Whilst the rags to riches story of ‘Get Up 10’ is inspiring and impressive. This is a massive moment for Cardi B because she stamps her mark as an artist who has worked her way to the top independently and delivered a personal debut album without all the gimmicks.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘I Like It’, ‘Money Bag’, ‘Drip’
8. Florence + The Machine – High As Hope
When it comes to strong albums, you can always count on Florence + The Machine to deliver a memorable collection of pure emotion. And ‘High As Hope’ was no different. This short but sweet collection bounces between cinematic soundscapes, solemn vulnerable moments and ground thumping anthems. It almost has it all. This is a genuine and classic Florence + The Machine record. She’s not trying to be anyone she’s not and I love that. It embodies all the elements that you love about her and shows an incredible and raw vulnerability. I do wish this album was slightly longer and incorporated a few more ‘Hunger’ inspired anthems to empower us even further. But her magical vocals along with these intimate story lines will still have you captivated from start to finish.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘South London Forever’, ’Hunger’, ‘Grace’
7. Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
I used to think Shawn Mendes was a little overrated. The main words to notice in that sentence are “used to” because over the past year and a half he has matured as a singer, a songwriter and has impressed with his raw growth. His self titled third studio album is by far his strongest collection of material yet because it showcases just how far he has actually come. Lead single and opening track ‘In My Blood’ introduces the transformation with a bigger pop rock production that hears him holding onto his raw roots while injecting an arena ready Kings Of Leon inspired sound. ‘Lost In Japan’, ‘Nervous’ and ‘Particular Taste’ add a groovier synth production before the sassy ‘Queen’ hears him confronting a girl who is leading him on. But he’s always excelled in the more minimalistic moments and this record delivers some incredible ballads. ‘Where Were You In The Morning’, ‘Because I Had You’, ‘Why’ and ‘Fallin All In You’ are some of the strongest of these moments. his album is bigger than anything he’s done before and will hear him winning over a whole new legion of fans because not only are these songs catchy they are also heartfelt, honest and beautiful.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Where Were You In The Morning’, ‘Fallin All In You’, ‘In My Blood’
6. Troye Sivan – Bloom
From the opening lines of ‘Seventeen’, Troye Sivan re-confirms that his sophomore studio album ‘Bloom’ is going to be a memorable and honest affair. “I got these beliefs that I think you wanna break. Got something here to lose that I think you wanna take from me”. The authentic and brief collection of tracks address the moments before and after coming out and trying to fit into the LGBTQ+ community. It’s an authentic and eye opening collection of tracks which hears him shining the brightest during the albums most vulnerable moments like ‘The Good Side’ and ‘Animal’. The groovy natures of ‘Plum’, ‘Lucky Strike’ and ‘What A Heavenly Way To Die’ incorporates this new found confidence that he was still discovering on his debut album. His vocals have grown a lot and this album hears him trying a few different vocal runs as well as delivering stronger emotional moments. From a first listen I was very impressed and with each listen I somehow seem to keep falling in love with it more and more. It’s romantic, heartbreaking and very reflective.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Plum’, ‘Seventeen’, ‘What A Heavenly Way To Die’
5. Fickle Friends – You Are Someone Else
The journey to Fickle Friends’ debut album has been a long one, but in the end it was well worth the wait. After a string of EP’s and singles the UK five piece finally delivered sixteen infectious pop-rock tracks that showcased polished hooks and groovy baselines. Album opener ‘Wake Me Up’ is a vibrant and infectious track which perfectly rolls into fellow singles ‘Glue’, ‘Hard To Be Myself’, ‘Say No More’ and the breakthrough hit ‘Swim’ which was re-released for the theatrical release of Pitch Perfect 3. The rest of the album is single worthy with quotable lyrics and big singalong hooks that you will want to witness live. But even when you strip all the gimmicks away, they still impress on the ballad ‘Midnight’ which is a rare and sweet moment. The band play to their strengths on this record and deliver big synth-pop tracks that reconfirm why they are becoming one of the most talked about live acts in the UK. I can’t fault the production or the catchy hooks which will have your heart bursting, breaking and repairing all at once
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Bite’, ‘Lovesick’, ‘Swim’
4. A Star Is Born Soundtrack
It’s not often that an all-original soundtrack securely sits within the top 5 of a end of year list but the 2018 adaption of A Star Is Born is not your normal film. Through the voices of Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga they take you on an emotional journey of love, addiction and heartbreak. And with the majority of the songs written by Lady Gaga, it’s no surprise that they are all hits in their own right. The pop tracks ‘Heal Me’ and ‘Why Did You Do That’ deserve to top the charts whilst the country-rock moment ‘Shallow’ rightfully remains at the top of the charts after winning over listeners with it’s progressive emotion. But what did surprise listeners was just how good of a vocalist Bradley Cooper is. You would easily mistake ‘Black Eyes’ and ‘Maybe It’s Time’ as songs from one of America’s biggest selling country artists of right now. And that’s a true testament to Bradley Coopers role on and off the camera. But lets be honest, it’s the Lady Gaga ballad ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ which will leave you an emotional mess and make you question if you can ever watch the movie again. The whole soundtrack has been perfectly put together and takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions that perfectly resonate with the storyline.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Shallow’, ‘I’ll Never Love Again’, ‘Heal Me’
3. George Ezra – Staying At Tamara’s
Ever since releasing his debut album in 2013, I’ve always known that George Ezra was super talented, but to be honest I never really understood all the hype. 2018 saw me completely changing that stance and jumping on board the bandwagon with his incredibly strong sophomore record ‘Staying At Tamara’s’. This bold and impressive collection of tracks hears him experimenting with a edgier and increasingly upbeat production. Lead single ‘Paradise’ perfectly sets the tone with its euphoric pop hook which will be instantly stuck in your head and have you running around with the biggest smile on your face. ‘Pretty Shining People’ and ‘Don’t Matter No’ continue that sound with big hooks while ‘Shotgun’ quickly became an instant fan favourite and is now dominating the charts. But it wouldn’t be a George Ezra album without some heartbreaking ballads and he has three of them for you. ‘All Of My Love’ has a doo-woop meets folk-pop production while ‘The Beautiful Dream’ is (excuse the pun) dreamy and cinematic. But ‘Only Human’ will steal your heart and break it in two with its reflective storyline of self evaluation. This record is definitely a lot more mainstream directed than his debut but it sees him reaching towards a more fulfilled and arena ready sound. His vocals are as strong, soulful and raspy as ever and will have your heart racing and breaking at the same time.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Pretty Shining People’, ‘Paradise’, ‘Hold My Girl’
2. Amy Shark – Love Monster
There are just some albums that were destined to be heard and Amy Shark’s ‘Love Monster’ is one of those records. Over the last year and a half the Gold Coast singer-songwriter has had a rapid rise to fame thanks to the release of her breakthrough single ‘Adore’. But her debut album sees her securing herself as not just a one hit wonder with a whole album full of soundtrack worthy hits. ‘Love Monster’ is an honest collection of 14 tracks that reflect on past and present relationships, friendships, heartbreak, confusion and everything in between. From the first listen you will be captivated and hooked but her raw honesty and unique storytelling that puts you in the middle of these experiences. It perfectly embodies every aspect of her as an artist and will leave you feeling like you know her personally with the candid autobiographical lyrics. The production hears her showcasing so many different moods and sounds while delivering constantly strong and memorable hooks. It’s angsty and emotional delivery gives me nostalgic Avril Lavigne ‘Let Go’ vibes. Not only will this become a soundtrack to a lot of peoples life but it is also undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year and why it confidently sits at number 2.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘You Think I Think I Sound Like God’, ’Middle Of The Night’, ‘All Loved Up’
1. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Kacey Musgraves is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she one of Country music’s most talked about singer-songwriters she is also creating quite the buzz in the pop world. Her fourth studio album hears her covering all bases and continues to grow her arena ready country-pop which has seen her share stages with Katy Perry, Harry Styles and Lady Antebellum. ‘Golden Hour’ is her boldest, strongest and most cohesive record yet. She has truly found her sound and mixed together raw emotion with vulnerability, euphoric hooks and a polished pop production that hears her remaining truthful to her country roots. Album opener ‘Slow Burn’ is a intimate and honest moment that hears her delivering an autobiographical track that reflects on the path she has paved so far in life. And from there the pop influences start to shine through with ‘Lonely Weekend’, ‘Oh, What A World’ and ‘Butterflies’. But it’s ‘High Horse’ that has received the most hype. This disco meets country track is absolutely flawless. It’s so shiny and great and will have you dancing and singing along to it’s catchy hook immediately. It’s the perfect step over the line into the pop world that will open a lot of doors for her. The whole record is an impressive collection of raw emotion and polished production where she doesn’t sacrifice the country sound she’s established but instead hears her growing and evolving as an artist.
Must Listen Tracks; ‘Slow Burn’, ‘Happy & Sad’, ‘High Horse’