2018 has been a year full of emotional, empowering music. It feels like women were represented more than ever, and new sounds and ideas were ever-present. A lot of artists have come out of their hiatus, overcome struggle and freshly formed this year. Overall, there was more of a focus on honesty and individuality. The diversity in music this year is evident in our choices, with personal experiences shining through more than ever. We here at KCSU are proud of the multitude of voices emerging in the music industry and cannot wait for what the future holds.
Below are the top albums that our KCSU DJs and staff considered the best of 2018.
Music Director, Monty Daniel (DJ Monterey): (in no particular order)
How to Socialise & Make Friends – Camp Cope
I listened to this album relentlessly this year. It’s full of empowering anthems and sad songs alike. What makes it cooler is that they’re Australian! The first song on the album, aptly named “The Opener” discusses how oppressed they have felt within the music industry, with sarcastic lines such as “tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene” and “just get a female opener, that’ll fill the quota.” There are also sweet songs, such as “I’ve Got You”, talking about the lead singer’s father’s struggle, and eventual death, with cancer. Additionally, “The Omen”, which is one one my favorites on the album, looks both to the future as well as the past, with the desire to move away with her high school sweetheart.
boygenius – boygenius
I’ve been obsessing over this supergroup since they formed earlier this year. Boygenius is composed of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, a.k.a. the sad queens of indie rock. Each artist individually is beautiful and amazing, so their power together absolutely blew my mind. Although this is an EP, I felt the need for it to be on my list. When they come together in songs such as “Stay Down” and “Salt in the Wound”, the harmonies they share are incredible. I was so shaken up by how impactful this album was that I ended up crying at their concert, which you can read about here.
Lavender – Half Waif
Nandi Rose Plunkett from Pinegrove branched off to do this solo project and it’s absolutely beautiful. Her voice paired with the instrumentals are astonishing, and it’s so different from Pinegrove’s sound. Although, she still carries the meaning that they had/have with deeply personal lyrics. The synth pop sound of this album reminded me of Oh Wonder’s first album, which also meant a lot to me when it was released. The messages that are prevalent range from the death of her grandmother, to troubles in her relationships. It’s all incredibly relatable and gorgeous at the same time, I could listen to this album forever.
Be The Cowboy – Mitski
If you haven’t heard this album yet, I don’t know where you’ve been. Mitski has headlined multiple sold out shows this year, even visiting Fort Collins in June. Be The Cowboy is full of heart-wrenching, vulnerable tracks mixed with witty humor. The song “Two Slow Dancers” begins with the lines “does it smell like a school gymnasium in here?”, then goes into the toil two old lovers are going through and reliving their younger days. On the other hand, “Nobody” is a disco-inspired song where the lyrics completely contrast the sound. She sings about loneliness and how she just so badly wants somebody to share her thoughts and feelings with. The upbeat nature of this song makes you want to dance, but also makes you confused as to why you’re dancing to such a sad song.
Historian – Lucy Dacus
I seriously missed out on this artist for a while. I had heard of Lucy Dacus before, but didn’t really start listening to a lot of her music until boygenius was announced. My favorite song off the album is “Timefighter”, with its contrast from the rest of the album. Of course, I love the rest of the album as well, but this song took me by surprise. There are Santana-esque guitars, hard rock elements, with Dacus’ deep, raspy voice delicately laid over. The song is slow and impactful, and I love it. One of my other favorites is “Night Shift”, which discusses the aftermath of a failed relationship. There’s a unique awkwardness to this song that is ever-present in the rest of Dacus’ music; I find it both endearing and relatable.
Clean – Soccer Mommy
Sophie Allison has an energy in her music that I have never experienced before. It’s upbeat, but sad, but empowering and I love it all. On the most popular song on the album, “Your Dog”, Allison sings about how she doesn’t want to be controlled, evidenced by the line “I don’t wanna be your f*cking dog that you drag around.” The song is one you can dance to, but also makes you think about how women, and really everyone, should be treated in relationships, whether romantic or platonic. Allison’s voice is bittersweet, especially in songs such as “Scorpio Rising” and “Wildflowers”, with the pairing of simple, meaningful guitar licks. Overall, this album introduced me to a new side of indie rock, similar to Snail Mail’s album, Lush, also released this year.
The Lamb – Lala Lala
In her second album, Lillie West explores the process of becoming sober and the aftermath of bad decisions. This came off of her first album, Sleepyhead, which she has said multiple times was written when she was not yet sober, and does not remember writing most of the album. The Lamb has a lot of dark moments, shown in the songs “Moth” and “Scary Movie.” The single off the album, “Destroyer”, is an angsty recollection of the poor decisions she has made in her life, and trying to prevent herself from doing them again. West is very open about her life experiences through her music, and one of the things I appreciate most about the artists I look up to is their ability to be honest with their listeners.
St. Leonards – Slowly Slowly
“Song For Shae” off this album hit me really hard. It goes through the aftermath of the death of Ben Stewart’s partner’s little sister, and how he, as well as his partner’s family, grieved for her. I’ve never personally experienced a tragedy such as this, but I can only imagine. My little sister’s name is Shay, and I don’t even want to think about the emotional heartache my family and I would go through if we lost her. This whole album is very emotional and raw, some of my other favorite songs are “Dinosaurs” and “Christmas Lights.”
My Mind Makes Noises – Pale Waves
This reminds of The 1975’s first album (a.k.a. their best album). They are quite literally the female version of The 1975, but, in my opinion, this album is far better than their male predecessor’s most recent. Not saying that they are inferior in any way, I just prefer Pale Waves’ newest album compared to The 1975’s due to the more refined sound and lyrics that speak more to me. I obsessed over The 1975’s first album, so it was nice to be able to relive that time again, just in the current state-of-mind I am in. Pale Waves has the same indie pop sound, with a gothic appearance, which I found very intriguing. I’m excited to what else they produce in the future.
On Hold – Fenne Lily
I was taken by surprise by this album. It was very recently released, and is so meaningful and tragic. Her deep, sorrowful lyrics and darker folk sound remind me a lot of Daughter and Florence and the Machine. She is only in her early 20’s, but sounds so much more mature and wise. There’s an ethereal sound in her voice and the instruments, but it still manages to be relatable. Everytime I listen to “What’s Good” and “Three Oh Nine”, I get chills. This album overall is so very underrated, and I feel like more people need to appreciate it.
- On Loss – Lowfaith (Denver-based band, includes former KCSU Music Director, Danny Steiner!) (Favorite tracks: Saudade, Again, Again)
- Sister Cities – The Wonder Years (Favorite tracks: Pyramids of Salt, Flowers Where Your Face Should Be)
- Lush – Snail Mail (Favorite tracks: Heat Wave, Deep Sea)
- lovely (with Khalid) – Billie Eilish (just a single but WOW)
- Bad Things to Such Good People – Manchester Orchestra and Julien Baker (Also just a single but OH MY GOODNESS)
Music Director, David Slifka (DJ Paradox): (In no particular order)
DiCaprio 2 – J.I.D.
In his sophomore album DiCaprio 2, J.I.D. nicely follows up his previous 2017 release The Never Story. The album features 14 tracks which are not oversaturated with features. Some of the features on the album include A$AP Ferg, J. Cole, 6LACK & Ella Mai, Method Man & Joey Purp. Mixing together smoother lyrics and beats with fast flows and hard-hitting 808s, the album is one of my favorite rap albums of the year for casual listening and good vibes.
Elastic Days – J Mascis
The experimental-folk album Elastic Days by J Mascis, the frontman of Dinosaur Jr., provides a beautiful mixture of both acoustic instrumentation and J Mascis’ iconic voice. As a whole, the album is fairly medium-paced with sprinkled in guitar solos and all-around upbeat rhythm. I love driving in the mountains and throwing on Elastic Days.
Oxnard – Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak’s third studio album Oxnard was one of the most anticipated albums of the year for me. I could not get enough of his 2016 release Malibu and this music of his blends together rap and funk which has been extremely refreshing compared to the majority of rap that I have been listening to.
Tomorrow – The O’My’s
Tomorrow is The O’My’s third studio album they have released and oh lordy is it great. The R&B/Soul duo knows how to make real smooth rhythms and sprinkled in features. Both Saba and Chance the Rapper are featured on this 11-track album and they do not take away from the rest of their feature-less music. I personally recommend the track “Tomorrow” for it’s unexpected beat consisting of a smooth rhythm section and tasteful guitar. It’s a hands down bop.
Certain Kind of Magic – Rezz
I just personally hold Rezz near and dear to my heart and her most recent album Certain Kind of Magic continues to showcase her heavy bass and trippy aesthetic. The album only contains 8 songs and feature some of my favorite up and coming EDM artists. Both 1788-L and Fytche collaborated on this album. If you have not given this a listen, you’ve got something to look forward to.
Shape the Future – Nightmares on Wax
Shape the Future was the first album I reviewed as a DJ at KCSU last year. The album is packed with fresh funk and soul vibes. This album incorporates jazz, dub, soul, reggae elements along with the incorporation of a live brass band to really differentiate himself from other recent funk and soul artists.
Vacation in Hell – Flatbush Zombies
Oh what can I say about this album… This is by far my summer anthem and this album slaps! Vacation in Hell is the rap trio’s second studio album and showcases their East Coast rap sound. The trio hits hard with their strong vocals and bass-filled beats and continues to produce entertaining music. Their feature list includes artists from a wide range of musical genres and include artists such as Portugal. The Man, Dia, and Joey Bada$$.
Superorganism – Superorganism
Superorganism is a pop collective that consists of 8 members and is figure headed by a 17-year-old girl. Their self-titled album is packed with flowing guitar riffs, large choruses, and diversified sampling and rhythms. The band incorporates non-traditional sounds in their songs such as the opening of a cash register. Superorganism stretches the boundaries of pop and rock.
Tha Carter V – Lil Wayne
I have waited five years for Weezy to release another album and his music is extremely nostalgic to me. I grew up on Tha Carter series especially when I was skating a lot as a kid. This album was everything that I anticipated. Lil Wayne toned down his typical Auto-Tune and cocky lyrics. I have heard rumors that some of the tracks on this 23-track album were written and produced years ago and others just days before the album release. This enormous album is an emotional spectrum for Weezy as he gets soft and emotional in the track “Don’t Cry” with XXXTENTACION to going off on the track “Mona Lisa.” Tha Carter V hosts a great balance of R&B and rap with his various features and stylistic flows. This album slaps and brings me back to the good ol’ days.
Ballads 1 – Joji
Joji’s first full-length album Ballads 1 helps to culminate his artistic vision. The 12-track album is filled with spacey and slow rhythms that accompany Joji’s emotional R&B/Pop vocals. His music is typically focused on breakups and sad topics, but this album features brighter rhythms compared to his previous work.
- 1 beat a day – J.Folk (I could not include a top albums of 2018 list without at least mentioning this project by J.Folk. 1 beat a day is a 12-day project where Norwegian electronic artist J.Folk also known as Jerry Folk released a new track that he made each day. The quality of production is not the best, but for 12 tracks from scratch in 12 days, some of these electronic songs really blow me away and they are all great to dance to.)
- Ringos Desert – Zhu (I couldn’t help but mention this album even though it is not in my top 10. Zhu has always been one of my favorite dance artists, but this album takes on a different side of him that I have not been exposed to. The album is full of his classic dancey bass and synth rhythms, but the lyrics touch on heartbreak and darker themes than his previous work. I recommend the tracks “Love that Hurts,” “My Life,” “Light it Up” and “Still Want U.”)
- California – Diplo (I would like to mention California, Diplo’s newest album. Traditionally known for producing dance music, this album steps away with a sad and down overlying feeling with the slower tempos and killer feature list. With only 8 tracks in the album, some of the featured artists include Santigold, DRAM, Trippie Redd, and Goldlink. Although every track has a featured artists, each piece contains original Diplo production and is different that the majority of his other work.)
- Czarface Meets Metal Face – MF DOOM & CZARFACE (I intentionally put together my top albums in no particular order to hide biases, but it is hard for me to not express how MF DOOM is my favorite rapper of all time. It really does not matter what he releases, I will listen to it and love it. His flows are smooth and I think his articulation is refreshing compared to many artists in the industry. Also, if you didn’t know, CZARFACE’s frontman is Inspectah Deck from Wu-Tang Clan. These two artists work together beautifully with their similar styles and choice of beats. If you do not know about either of these guys, educate yourselves.)
Former Video Director, Sam Bulkley (DJ Squid):
1. Nearer My God – Foxing
This album is revolutionary for Foxing. Their third LP, Nearer My God takes the already unique emo group to a different territory when it comes to trying to slap a genre label onto them. This album really covers it all. Created as a reaction to the state of the world today, Foxing birthed a fully magnificent and downright beautiful album. Every song has its place. Every second sounds different. Every note created is purposeful. This is the most complete and thought out album that I have heard in a long time and is genuinely a masterpiece. Take your time to sit down and listen in whole to this album.
2. Grad Life – Graduating Life
Emo has come to its 4th wave and Graduating Life is right at the helm of it. Led by Bart Starr who tours and plays with Mom Jeans, Just Friends, and probably any new emo group coming out of California, Graduating Life combines elements of classic rock, hair metal, and emo to concoct a heart wrenching and aboveboard album. Grad Life deals with the struggles that the younger generation faces as we grow up in a seemingly bleak world. I think this album hit home for me a little too much, but it brings back fond nostalgia of the energy that veteran bands like Motion City Soundtrack and Say Anything were able to create. Grad Life is the most fulfilling emotional rollercoaster in 2018.
3. Little Dark Age –MGMT
Psychedelic indie-pop veterans, MGMT, return with their fourth full length album after a 5 year break since their off-putting and generally weird self titled album. The duo comes back to recognize the space between their tripped out fantasy songs that lacked serious depth and their instant hits like “Kids” or “Time To Pretend” that came off their first release. Little Dark Age turns that around. Filled with dark yet vibrant tones from electronic synths and hard cut 80’s influences, Little Dark Age captures the weird quirky side of MGMT that can leave you feeling uncomfortable and asking yourself what is happening… But all of the songs are straight up great. MGMT managed to find the space between being weird outcasts of the music world and creating sonically gorgeous, yet unsettling music.
4. How to: Friend, Love, Freefall – Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Moody, energetic, cathartic, distinctive, and awe-inspiring are all viable descriptors for How to: Friend, Love, Freefall. Rainbow Kitten Surprise combine chilling harmonies containing poignant lyrics that speak on a range of issues with purposeful arrangements of their instrumentation. The sporadic shifts from comfort and closeness to sudden uncertainty drives the album. I love how creative this group is and their approach at combining indie elements similar to Modest Mouse or Phoenix with impressive lyrics and flow like Schoolboy Q. This album is truly jaw dropping for me.
5. Cheer – Drug Church
I am glad I found this album so soon after it was released. I had only listened to Drug Church, a hardcore band hailing from New York, a handful of times before this album. But Cheer brought a raucous yet poisonously catchy sound that I couldn’t get a way from. The no-nonsense lyricism and blunt in-your-face aggression of the vocals reigns through the album as the heavy, crashing guitars and drums fill in the rest. This album is polished to a T and was a gem among many that I found this year.
6. Clean – Soccer Mommy
There’s not much I can say about this album this year that hasn’t been said yet other than it comes from a truly talented musician. Soccer Mommy’s first studio album Clean proves that a new generation of musicians are making their mark in the industry. At only 20 years old, Soccer Mommy may have created the most powerful melancholy album yet.
7. Happiness Hours – The Sidekicks
This album makes me think of summer. Specifically the happy times in summer that get brought by a strange remembrance of sitting outside and feeling the warmth of the sun and just being… content. This album takes the good times and acknowledges how you got to them. Every song on Happiness Hours reflects the name of the title and in the best way possible.
8. Be The Cowboy – Mitski
Could anybody be surprised about the success of Be The Cowboy? Mitksi returned this year and broke records with this perilously inventive album (one of them being the longest topping album in college radio charts). Being vulnerable is the key to her throughout this album and I think she uses her juxtaposing upbeat instrumentation with explicit sadness in her lyrics perfectly.
9. Smell Smoke – Vundabar
Smell Smoke is an album written about grief and death but meant to be fun. Doesn’t make much sense, right? Vundabar is probably one of a handful of bands that could accomplish such a task. On top of that, it’s an inherently political album, making jabs at the american political culture and healthcare system. With absolutely unexpected and jarring song structure, Smell Smoke keeps you on your toes on what to expect for the remainder on any of its songs.
10. Bay Dream – Culture Abuse
Culture Abuse matured their sound on Bay Dream. Their previous album Peach was a hazy and post-hardcore ensemble that’s meant to be played loud. Bay Dream sways more towards surf-rock and a well touched-up production that makes most of the songs irresistible on the first listen. I think this is some of the best punk rock lyricism I’ve seen from a band in a while. Play this album on the sunny days.
- Being So Normal – Peach Pit
- On Loss – Lowfaith
- The Pact – Slothrust
- Lush – Snail Mail
- Nothing But Love – Just Friends
- Post- – Jeff Rosenstock
- Time & Space – Turnstile
- Sister Cities – The Wonder Years
- Year of the Rat – Rat Kid Cool
- Wide Awake! – Parquet Courts
Production Director, Ave Martin (Ave):
CARE FOR ME – Saba
2018 has been a YEAR for Saba. The Chicago artist (formerly) best known for his features on Chance the Rapper tracks, has not only made a name for himself, but has crafted a masterpiece out of his grief. Every all-caps track on CARE FOR ME invites you into Saba’s mournful turned triumphant world. Sonically, this album feels like watching a black-and-white photo gain color. Saba’s up next. Long Live John Walt.
Top Tracks: LIFE, SMILE, LOGOUT
FM! – Vince Staples
After Big Fish Theory, an LP filled with futuristic, experimental West Coast bops, Long Beach MC and king of Twitter Vince Staples reintroduces his audience to modernity with FM!. If you’re unfamiliar with Southern California, Vince Staples will give you a good ass Costco style sampler of what the Coast is like by recruiting LA radio legend Big Boy as the liaison between you and the music, as if you’re listening to “Big Boy’s Neighborhood” on Real 92.3. The album is terse, replayable, anthemic, and authentically Vince.
Top Tracks: FUN!, New earlsweatshirt (Interlude), No Bleedin
Hive Mind – The Internet
Syd, Matt and the Internet crew are back with a full-length album that combines the wide-ranging artistic talents of the LA R&B outfit. In 2017, each of the band’s members dropped solo EP’s (my favorite of which were Steve Lacy’s Steve Lacy Demo and Matt Martian’s Drum Chord Theory, though they were all excellent in their own regard). While it is normal for one stand-out artist of the group to go solo, every member went solo, illustrating just how great each of them are alone. However, Hive Mind shows that they are even better as a collective hive.
Top Tracks: La Di Da, It Gets Better With Time, Wanna Be
Easter EP – Ashley Henry & the RE:Ensemble
Good Lord above is this some good jazz. I discovered this lyrical pianist on Bandcamp a while back, forgot about him, then rediscovered him with this EP. I am very glad I rediscovered Ashley Henry because, I hate to be redundant, but this is some good jazz. Not too smooth, not too hard, not too much bop, just pure jazz ya dig?
Top Tracks: The World Is Yours, St. Mary’s (Remix), Bunny
Moodie EP – Yuno
The new Sub Pop signee surprised me with this one. Moodie mixes punk, hip-hop, Passion Pit/Tame Impala-esque synth pop, and R&B in such an effortless, sunny manner. Every track is infectious – this man knows how to write melodies, for real. If this six-track EP gives us any inclination of what to expect from the dreadlocked multi-instrumentalist, then we should be impatiently waiting for the next project from Yuno.
Top Tracks: Amber, No Going Back, So Slow
Collagically Speaking – R+R=Now
This is the best jazz super-group since Kind of Blue. I may or may not be exaggerating. Let’s just say good things happen when you put Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, and Christian Scott on the same album. Black Excellence. Oh, shoutout to Omari Hardwick for harkening back into his spoken word days, by the way. That man is a legend.
Top Tracks: The Night in Question (feat. Terry Crews), Needed You Still (feat. Omari Hardwick), Awake to You
Self-Titled – August Greene
Speaking of super-groups and Black Excellence…Common, Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins make some stellar music alone, so together imagine what these dudes create. Yes, superultra-stellar music. This is an album of empowerment, self-awareness, beautiful piano, powerful drums, hard-hitting lyrics, and an excellent supporting cast. Samora Pinderhughes’ raspy, jazzy vocals lowkey stole the show on a couple of tracks. And Brandy, keep being you.
Top Tracks: Black Kennedy, Optimistic, Practice.
Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt
EARLY MAN IS BACK. After years of grief, losing his father, poet Keorapetse Kgositsile, and his friend Mac Miller, loyal fans cared more about Earl / Thebe Kgositsile’s mental health rather than some new music. 2018, as Earl tweeted, was a tough year. But our guy persevered and brought us, well, some rap songs. Some good rap songs, I might add. The lyricist doesn’t just ride the beats when he raps, he resides in them. Earl is a good rapper, a good producer, and the helmsman of a rap renaissance.
Top Tracks: Ontheway!, The Mint, Riot!
Pieces of a Man – Mick Jenkins
Speaking of rap renaissance… Mick Jenkins is a good lyricist with a good ear for instrumentals. Mick poetically cruises on these oceanic beats. This is his best effort since The Water(S). I can’t say much else about this album, other than the fact that it’s solid. Drink some water to this.
Top Tracks: U Turn, Understood, Pull Up
Summer Pack – Childish Gambino
If Childish Gambino releases any music in or near a year, it’s bound to make my top 10 list. I included Awaken, My Love on my top ten lists of 2016 and 2017. Bino gets exceptions, he deserves them. So it goes. The two tracks in the Summer Pack made me appreciate summer, and I went ahead and threw in This is America as well, because why not.
Top Tracks: Feels Like Summer, Summertime Magic, This is America
Station Manager, Julia Battagliese (DJ Silent g)
1. Nearer My God – Foxing
The hardest decision was decided that Foxing’s album was better than Jeff Rosenstock’s…but I had to because I’ve basically listened to it constantly in the last couple weeks. I have had some serious emotional connection with this album and it got me through a ton of weird internalized thought processes this year. Also the production on this album was so damn cool and I regretted waiting a few months to really get into this album. I’ve recommended it constantly on my show the last few weeks because the songs “Nearer My God” and “Lich Prince” and a few others are just so well done.
2. POST- – Jeff Rosenstock
It lowkey hurt me to put this as second but no matter, Jeff Rosenstock is still killing it and POST- was one of those albums I listened to on repeat this year. “USA” was actually my top song of the year and can’t count how many times I played it on my show this year. There’s a nice combination of hardcore bangers and nice bops that I was really able to listen to it in any mood. Jeff has the lyrics and the production to make some of the most killer albums and that’s the main reason why POST- was my top album of the year.
3. On Loss – Lowfaith
Haven’t heard of Lowfaith? Well you should take a listen because this album is beautiful. I was a big fan of “Saudade” and “Frail Pose” but the rest of the tracks come on and I’m headbanging along pretty easily. I was excited to hear their album before it was released and knew I absolutely loved it in my first listen through and for that reason it gets my #3. Check them out, or try and catch them at a show! (They’re from Denver so give ‘em some love for the local tunes).
4. Love in the Time of E-mail – Antarctigo Vespucci
Of course Antarctigo Vespucci (Jeff Rosenstock’s side project with Chris Farren) would be #4. They made a cool album, not my absolute favorite by them but still has some awesome relatable indie punk tunes about relationships that I could get behind. Favorite tracks on this album are probably “Kimmy”, “Do It Over” and “Freakin’ U Out.” Chris Farren has a really earnest approach to music and it’s sweet and with Jeff on board the production is always pretty flawless in my opinion.
5. How to Socialise & Make Friends – Camp Cope
I almost completely forgot this album even came out this year, but there’s a few songs on here that definitely spoke to me. “The Opener” was obviously a really kickass track on this album because the lead singer, Maq, really called out the inequalities in the music industry for women. That song was really great to hear this year and other tracks on the album like “The Omen” and “How to Socialise & Make Friends” were awesome as well.
6. Meta, Meta, Etc. – Brick + Mortar
Love me some Brick + Mortar, and not just cause there are only two of them and they’re also from my home state. I think their new album this year really took me by surprise with the sound they had, but it was really, really good. “Saturday Night” was one of my favorite tracks off this album and I’m glad I could still get behind this album even though it was a bit of a different route than I was expecting them to go in!
7. Year of the Rat – Rat Kid Cool
I can’t tell you how many times Rat Kid Cool’s song “Back To Bed” was stuck in my head. Their music is sad and relatable and I really got into them more a few months ago. This album felt like explaining the pain that comes with transitioning into adulthood or just dealing with change in general. 10/10 would recommend.
8. Chosen Family – Thin Lips
Over the summer we got Chosen Family sent into KCSU and I listened to the first track and was immediately captured. This album has some really powerful anecdotes and I have a lot of respect for Thin Lips and what they’ve created. It was honestly such a masterpiece of an album with some really awesome punk jams and some slower indie bops. They’re kickass and their message in their music is relatable and comes from a really honest place and I appreciated that a lot. Chosen Family gets #8 on my list for that reason!
9. Smell Smoke by Vundabar
I have missed Vundabar in concert twice now and I’m pretty sad about it but the one thing I take solace in is that Smell Smoke was a kickass album. A few songs were a bit strange when I first heard it but they all grew on me and “Acetone” is an absolute banger. Plus the song “Diver” makes me feel like I’m underwater in the best possible way, I suggest taking a listen for sure.
10. Somewhat Literate by Retirement Party
I just recently stumbled upon this album by Retirement Party and absolutely loved it. I just started listening to it a few weeks ago otherwise I would put it farther up on my list, but it’s still an album that definitely deserves a listen. They’re a great female fronted band with some fun upbeat tunes for the kids. Definitely check them out!
- I Don’t Know How to Explain it – Michael Cera Palin (What a weird band, they are awesome and their cover of “If It Makes You Happy” is sick)
- Nothing But Love – Just Friends (Saw them in concert and have never seen a crowd get so excited for an opening act, really wish I listened to their album more this year)
- Hi– Little Junior (We had them in rotation and they have some lovely bops and bangers about being in your 20’s and being lazy…it’s great)
Henry Netherland (DJ CJ)
Kids See Ghosts by Kids See Ghosts
A truly underrated release from Kid Cudi and Kanye West. This thing is a blissful psychedelic burst of energy that doesn’t wear out its welcome. The unique samples and numerous effects create an experience unlike anything else in music.
Ta13oo by Denzel Curry
Curry improves on every aspect from his last album, Imperial. The bangers are harder and the slower cuts are more melodic than ever. Curry truly explores the highs and lows of himself and society at large.
Joy as an Act of Resistance. by IDLES
Without a doubt the nastiest punk album I have heard all year. This record brings back the original gruff that punk had in its heyday while still staying modern.
Astroworld by Travis Scott
Wasn’t sure how this would have turned out considering his last album, Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight was such an underwhelming experience, however, this thing is amazing. Scott returns with his psychedelic approach to trap music with almost as many sugary earworms as “Rodeo.”
Die Lit by Playboi Carti
I was not expecting to enjoy a Playboi Carti as much as I did. Carti’s repetitive bars continue to be a part of his brand, however, he brings on some incredible producers to turn his formulaic sound into a hypnotizing experience.
Local Music Director/Local News Reporter, Mia Sawaya (DJ Danish)
Whack World- Tierra Whack
This is hands down the most creative album I’ve discovered this year. Each song is strictly one minute long and has a completely different vibe from the previous one. From an upbeat song about a pet cemetary to a chill song about the importance of dieting, Tierra Whack gives the music scene a much needed variety. I’m easily bored by love songs and Whack World serves my creative wishes with its sporadic lyrics and unexpectedly cohesive sound.
Favorite Lyric: “It goes like ABC (all boys cry), MTV (men touch v**inas), BET (b**ches eat tacos).”
Pretty is the best word to describe this EP. There are only five songs, but they’re pretty much perfect, so I’m not complaining. Jaunt released these songs this April which is fitting for their Spring sound. It’s hard to explain, but this album makes me think of flowers blooming and warm sunlight.
Favorite Lyric: “It feels so good, the new moon.”
Like a Baby- Jerry Paper
This is my favorite album lyrically as it incorporates philosophical and psychological concepts I think about daily. Throughout the album, Jerry Paper questions our concept of freedom while discussing consumerism. He thinks that we buy things to get compliments and to satisfy the desires of our “self.” He explains that our true “self” is only visible if we strip away our fashionable clothes and socially constructed opinions. This album addresses the immense influence of psychology in advertisements and explains that being in the moment, without any influences, is a true definition of freedom. However, if lyrics aren’t interesting to you, the chill Southern California sound is worth checking out.
Favorite Lyric: “I heard that living is jazz, you can play it how you like. I play mine free as I can.”
I’m a Dream- Seinabo Sey
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of love songs, but Seinabo Sey is the exception. She is a Swedish singer with Gambian roots whose captivating voice has made me a permanent fan. She’s known for her singles “Hard Time” and “Younger,” and this album keeps the expectations high for future projects. Some of the songs are about self love, some are about her personal lover, and they’re all lovely to listen to.
Favorite Lyric: “Nothing can be loved into something.”
ONEPOINTFIVE starts with a man (Ricky Thompson) encouraging self confidence in a flamboyant manner that adds a recurring sense of humor to the album. Then the song transitions to a serious conversation between Aminé and an imaginary therapist. The entire album is like this- a balanced blend of humorous and insightful lyrics.
“Who has nice hair? Me.
Who can touch my hair? Not you.
Did you think this was a petting zoo?”
KOD- J. Cole
J. Cole is essential to my soul. His music always has a purpose and rarely has features- something he has become known for. This album is different in that there is a feature, but it’s his alter ego- kiLL edward. The album is about addiction in different forms (drugs, attention, money, fame), and kiLL edward adds a second perspective in certain songs. If for some reason you aren’t looking for poetically perfect and intelligent lyrics, KOD’s polished sound makes it worthy of your radar.
Favorite Lyric: “One thing about your demons, they bound to catch up one day. I’d rather see you stand up and face them than run away.”
Every aspect of this album is original. The lyrics, the sounds, even the way it was promoted. Saveus created a digital scavenger hunt on Spotify titled, “your mind is filled with codes and signs,” to promote Neuro. Throughout the scavenger hunt, there are videos introducing themes of the album and sneak peaks of songs. It touches on the power of influence and addictive cycles which ties nicely into the philosophical album. The message throughout Neuro is extremely interesting yet subjective making the album a very personal experience.
Favorite Lyric: “Fear is something that you will keep on fighting. You will continue to forge different weapons to fight it, create bridges in your mind to hide it. First you start blaming the world for your misery, but it will not help.”
Forever Neverland- MØ
MØ has become a powerhouse in terms of features as she has been on hits like “Lean On” and “Cold Water,” but her own music also accurately displays her immense talent. Forever Neverland took four years to produce, and it details the Danish artist’s transition to Hollywood life. This album is a story. The songs tie into each other and they all offer a different perspective of her cultural transition in a beautiful way.
Favorite Lyric: “Eternal youth. We all want it. We all want it. We all want it. You know we all want it, so what is a girl to do?”
I Need to Start a Garden- Haley Heynderickx
The hippie in me is obsessed with this album. Haley’s calm voice mixes with the melody to give the album a peaceful feel. I Need to Start a Garden manages to be relaxing without being boring by highlighting the honest lyrics. If there was stargazing music, this album would qualify. It just makes you want to be in a trance and absorb the amazing sounds.
Favorite Lyric: “If you don’t go outside, well nothing’s gonna happen.”
This Is It – The Greeting Committee
Reminiscent and relatable, this album turns teenage angst into a thoughtful yet energetic album. This Is It is a coming of age album with personal lyrics and a fun energy. It’s The Greeting Committee’s first album, and I’m obsessed with the new band. Their unique blend of trumpets and strings throughout the album help them stand out in the alternative genre.
Favorite Lyric: “A snide remark left unread, my passiveness is never met.”
Haley Justino – Former Local Music Director/ DJ TBD: A few albums that impacted me this year
Room25 – Noname
Noname is one of the best rappers in the game. Fullstop. This album is creative and groundbreaking in its flow and beat, she really pushes the boundaries of musicality to create something absolutely unique within the genre. While I may be more emotionally attached to her first release, Telefone, I cannot and would not deny the impressive feats of technical skill she displays in this album, especially in tracks like “Blaxploitation” and “Prayer Song.” Noname tackles topics of race, sexuality, mental health, religion and vegan food, all in her poetic, stream of consciousness style that breathes life into all her songs.
Supergiant – Valley Queen
It is so rare for me to find an album where I love every single track from beginning to end, so I was ecstatic to come across this debut release from Valley Queen. Each song builds dynamically in its instrumental lines, and the airy, yet powerful lead vocals from Natalie Carol lend to a cohesive, engaging sound that I have played all the way through countless times now.
Nina Cried Power EP & Movement – Hozier
No one writes about love like Hozier does. In an interview about NWFMB, my favorite track off the EP, he writes about, “a terrifyingly strong person.” He explains that he, “wanted to subvert the idea of being in love with somebody and feeling like you must be the protector…. In this it’s, ‘you can’t be harmed and it’s nothing to do with me.’ This person is just genuinely terrifying and you love them for it.” The overall sound stays true to his folk/blues roots while experimenting with elements of gospel and more classic rock. I am beyond overjoyed that he’s back with new music.
Hugh Feldmann (DJ Pity Party): (In order)
10. FM! – Vince Staples
Vince Staples’ third album is short and solid. The album has a radio theme (hence the title) and keeps the West Coast-summertime (despite being released in November) style Vince is known for. Featuring production primarily from Kenny Beats, the album is consistent and quite enjoyable, proving that an album can be great without being overly long or ambitious.
9. Pinned – A Place to Bury Strangers
The noise-rock band’s latest album is dark, distorted, and pretty good.
8. Lil Boat 2 – Lil Yachty
I’ve been a Lil Yachty fan since I first heard the song “Minnesota” in 2016, and I instantly loved his goofy, sometimes ridiculous take on trap music. The first Lil Boat was surprisingly great, a nearly perfectly constructed project and one of the best of this decade (to me). Lil Boat 2 is a lot different from that – Yachty ditches his old bubblegum trap sound for a more mainstream style of trap. However, he does it better than most, with plenty of short and fun songs.
7. Year of the Snitch – Death Grips
Death Grips continues to impress with their experimental hip hop music, or whatever genre you consider them.
6. Iridescence – Brockhampton
With Iridescence, Brockhampton had to prove themselves again: that they could stay original after releasing three albums in 2017, and that they would still make good music without one of their key members – Ameer Vann. They succeeded in both areas. All of the group’s members contribute differently with their individual talents, creating some of the best rap music out right now.
5. 7 – Beach House
After over a decade, the dream pop duo continues to deliver with some amazing and hypnotic music.
4. Double Negative – Low
I’ve been familiar with Low for a while – however, I probably wouldn’t have even listened to this album if it we didn’t have it at KCSU. It barely resembles their earliest music from the 90s, or even the 00s. Double Negative is a weird album. Vaguely, it resembles alternative music, but often is heavily distorted, slow, and sometimes just turns completely into ambient or drone music. It’s fantastic.
3. Ye – Kanye West
Kanye West’s eighth solo album is polarizing, much like the man himself or his bipolar disorder referenced on the cover. One of five albums to come from the so-called “Wyoming Sessions,” Ye is short, at only seven songs long. We also don’t hear anything particularly ambitious or experimental, like many previous Kanye West albums. In fact, the songs on this album wouldn’t have sounded out of place on West’s previous album, The Life of Pablo. Some of this made a disappointing album to some people. To me, however, Ye is understated, personal, and beautiful.
2. Daytona – Pusha T
Pusha T is a hip hop legend. Once part of the group Clipse with his brother, he has been a solo artist for years now. However, it hasn’t been until this year that Pusha T released the masterpiece that was bound to come in his post-Clipse career. Sure, his last two albums were good, but Daytona is on another level. Another seven track Wyoming album, it is produced almost entirely by Kanye West, who once again proves himself as the top-tier producer he became famous for. It’s the same sort of music Pusha T has always made, but it’s impossible to complain when he does it so well.
1. Kids See Ghosts (Self-Titled)
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Kanye West/Kid Cudi collaboration album. Even as a fan of both artists, I wasn’t particularly excited. Apparently, I was very wrong to doubt either. Kids See Ghosts is incredible, better than anyone could have expected from the two rappers in 2018. Kid Cudi is at the best he has been since the start of his career, after years of underwhelming music. Both artists are lyrically as good as they’ve ever been. The rappers worked to produce on the album as well, with contributions from long time collaborators like Mike Dean, Plain Pat, and Dot da Genius. The result is weird, creative, and very enjoyable. If people wanted a more innovative Kanye West on Ye, they certainly got what they were looking for with this album.
Asher Korn (M.C. Asher) (No Particular Order)
A Safety Meeting – Manwolves
Top Track: Shkleepy
Their warm vocals over old school sounds makes them stand out. Manwolves are known for a wide range a genre fusions such as rock, hip hop, ska, and soul, which are highlighted best in this album.
Isolation – Kali Uchis
Top Track: After the Storm (feat. Tyler the Creator & Bootsy Collins)
Kali amazingly combines 60s psychedelic style with modern R&B. This album is incredibly satisfying on many different levels and is great to relax with.
Sex and Food – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Top Track: Hunneybee
Another incredibly satisfying album showcasing many different styles at once. It flows through hard electric distortion, to sweet indie vibes, to heavy rock, and closes with heartfelt electric soul.
Damaged Vol. 2 – bülow
Top Track: You & Jennifer
A sequel to Damaged Vol. 1, bülow manages to bring you back to the days of teenage angst, heartbreak, stress, and betrayal. Her album focuses less on style, as that changes per song, but more on the message behind her words, which focus on a personal struggle to find acceptance in herself and with those around her.
Eden – cupcakKe
Top Track: Cereal and Water
If you are familiar with cupcakKe, you will understand why I included her on this list. She is a STRONG female rapper with OVERLY explicit lyrics delivered in a campy, old school, but distinctive and unique style. She doesn’t only write songs about sex and this album proves her versatility with tackling difficult to talk about topics such as Autism, sexuality, and female empowerment through the lense of amazing yet ridiculous lyrics.
TA13OO – Denzel Curry
Top Track: SWITCH IT UP | ZWITCH 1T UP
Do you really know Denzel? His style has branched out into its own distinct realm. He brings soundcloud rap to the mainstage of music and he showcases emotion incredibly well. This album unfolds as you listen to Denzel’s life story in unapologetic detail.
Swimming – Mac Miller
Top Track: Come Back to Earth
Rest in Peace Mac. This is the last album to be produced under Mac Miller’s name and it is a rhapsody unto itself. This act as the culmination of the story of his life, his struggles, heartbreak, and legal repercussions. This is one of the most peaceful rap albums I have heard in a long time and if you want to feel all the emotions I suggest you give it a listen.
sixteen – Pluko
Top Track: asleep (feat. MOONZz)
EDM is back baby! Another peaceful album, but given through the lense of music and sound. This album is filled with nostalgia but also youthful excitement for the future.
Evil Spirits – The Damned
Top Track: Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow
In a word; punk! This album acts as a reactionary political statement to current events but is incredibly subtle about that. This is second to the guitar and classic early rock style that this draws heavy influence from. This is the first album The Damned have published in a decade and I for one am glad to see their return into the mainstream.
The Other – King Tuff
Top Track: Raindrop Blue
Garage rock has had a huge revival in recent years and King Tuff brings a fresh take on the genre. He is always great about blending psychedelic rock, funk, and synthesizers. This time he included deep meaning lyrics caring about environmental change, death, and dependency on technology.
GUN – Kai Straw
Top Track: Cherry Corvette
Shockingly soulful, GUN brings a level of happy pop sound with downbeat R&B influence. Kai Straw started out reciting explicit poetry delivered over simple beats, usually talking about political or socio-economic problems. This album feels more like a passion project in expressing found happiness and creativity in electro-R&B style.
The Nude Party (Self Titled)
Top Track: Paper Trail (Money)
The first album of Nude Party makes me incredibly excited for their future and subsequent releases. They blend classic 60s rock flawlessly with western influence in the modern era. The album feels like a soundtrack to a 60’s movie.
Puppy Love – Mom Jeans.
Top Track: near death fail comp (must watch til end)
I love this because it brings me back to my emo roots. The heavy guitar over angry vocals really brings home the nostalgia and pack the album full of raw emotion that grips the listener and makes the album relatable in any context.
How to: Friend, Love, Freefall – Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Top Track: Fever Pitch
This band truly came out of nowhere and had a major surge in popularity this year. This album truly captures poetry in motion fusing stylistic drums, strong vocals, indie experimental sounds, and a wide range of genre influences. RKS is downright just plain beautiful to listen to.
The Art of Pretending to Swim – Villagers
Top Track: Hold Me Down
The intimacy of the sound really sells the album for me. In a word; delicate. The deliberate stylistic choices really make listening to this album worthwhile and make both your skin crawl and your eardrums happy. This album showcases musical arrangement in a way that is not common in a lot of modern music. It draws from soulful basslines, heavy synths, and a worldly influence.