“MODERNITY has failed us”, claimed the 1975 on their world-beating ‘Love It If We Made It’, one of 2018’s most recognisably of-the-times songs.

It’s a fashionable view to take in 2018 – that art has routinely suffered from the mass influx of music that streaming and the internet offers, and that it’s more difficult for music to exist out of this concentration than ever and truly be heard.

This list, and the hours of music within it, is a worthy riposte to this type of thinking.

While 2018 arguably lacked a DAMN. or Currents or other year-defining records, it more than made up for this with an exceedingly long congregation of great records in several different genres.

From the stunning indie-rock of Snail Mail, Mitski and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever to a banner year for hip-hop with Denzel Curry, Pusha T and BROCKHAMPTON, here are the albums that defined 2018, unranked and presented in alphabetical order.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975

We wouldn’t let any other band get away with this. Self-titling all three of their album openers. Mouthing off Gallagher-style in interviews. Naming an album I Like It When You Sleep, For You blah blah blah. Why invest in The 1975? Easy: High risk, high reward. The Manchester natives had a huge 2018 even before Brief Inquiry dropped, becoming responsible for five (!) of its best pop singles. As it turned out, those worked even better within the context of the LP itself – a versatile sci-fi pop symphony, fearless in its stylistic jumps and forthright in its lyricism. Its late November release meant this was, for many, the last new album they heard in 2018. Talk about a final-round knockout. – David James Young

Freedom

Amen Dunes

The 11 songs on Freedom sparkle with nostalgia and empathy, as New York songwriter Damon McMahon uses differing characters to explore masculine identity and his own relationship with it. The men in Freedom’s songs are repressed, primitive beings obsessed primarily with themselves, but his lens never becomes judgemental or condescending. From the watery ‘Miki Dora’ to the scope and slowly unfurling expanse of ‘Believe’, Freedom is a bold and often beautiful step forward from a musician previously content to shroud his music in layers of haze and fog. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: Amen Dunes Has Made The Mid-Career Masterpiece Of 2018

Future Me Hates Me

The Beths

Consider Future Me Hates Me as somewhat of a musical Trojan horse. The Auckland band arrive in a bright, sunny procession of power-pop guitar and barbershop harmonies that immediately get their hooks in and set the mood just right. The lyrics, however, paint a very different picture – vocalist Liz Stokes sings of instant regret, uncontrollable feelings, self-doubt and all sides of heartbreak. It’s disorienting at first, but it ends up making Future Me Hates Me all the more enticing of a listen. Inherently relatable and simultaneously accessible, The Beths present themselves as a layered, thought-provoking band that nails millennial discomfort just as well as they nail those higher thirds. – David James Young

Negro Swan

Blood Orange

Negro Swan is Dev Hynes reckoning with his school days and childhood in East London, a complex exploration of the ways trauma can affect in several different ways. It’s less joyous, vibrant and immediate than 2016’s Freetown Sound, but Negro Swan is a worthy sequel and a further look into Hynes’ singular world of R&B driven pop. Look no further than the spiky guitars of ‘Charcoal Baby’ or the Steve Lacy-assisted ‘Out Of Your League’ for proof of his polymathic musical ability and moving lyrical vignettes. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: Does Dev Hynes Make His Best Work For Other Artists?

boygenius EP

boygenius

Between the underwhelming KIDS SEE GHOSTS (Kanye and Cudi) and even more underwhelming LSD (Labrinth, Sia, Diplo) projects from this year, the beginning of 2018 was more hit than miss when it came to supergroups – but then came boygenius, the equivalent of One Direction for all twenty-something-year-old sad indie rock fans. Through a mere six songs, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus – who have each separately release some of the most beautifully poignant solo records over the past two years – manage to effortlessly craft songs around each woman’s unique artistry. – Missy Scheinberg

READ MORE: boygenius – The Making Of An Indie Supergroup

iridescence

BROCKHAMPTON

Numbering 13 members, hip-hop collective BROCKHAMPTON draw some easy comparisons to Odd Future with Kevin Abstract as their Tyler, The Creator-like ringleader. But while Abstract may have the most well known solo career of the group, iridescence had each of the 13 members equally take the floor and showcase their strengths on their most hard-hitting, party-starting effort yet. More likely to start a mosh pit than most of this year’s straight-up punk releases. – Missy Scheinberg

How to Socialise and Make Friends

Camp Cope

Although seemingly on separate musical paths – power-chord guitar, fret-lapping bass, boom-thwack drums – the way Camp Cope tessellate and intertwine presents a concoction of indie-rock that is unmatched and quintessential. That’s never been more apparent than on their second album, which was belted out in a matter of days and still hits as raw a nerve as the day it came out. The trio makes no bones about their targets and the autobiographical nature of each song. It’s as forthright and as real as music got in 2018. – David James Young

READ MORE: Camp Cope Still Don’t Care What You Think

Wanderer

Cat Power

Wanderer is the sound of Chan Marshall’s generous, seeking, empathetic spirit flowering into full expression. There is a pursuit of emotional truth and deeper meanings which runs beneath these songs like a steadfast undercurrent; carried by Marshall’s honeyed, whiskeyed voice as she embodies and transcends the folk/blues/jazz/soul vernacular that’s always given voice to her muses. A wistful and composed album by an artist at peace with, and attuned to, her own essence. – Sophie Miles

READ MORE: The Wonderment Of Cat Power

Last Building Burning

Cloud Nothings

Every few years, Dylan Baldi snaps. After the pleasant jangle of Cloud Nothings’ debut LP, he roped in Steve Albini and literally smokebombed the band we once knew a year later with Attack on Memory – which literally opens with a song called ‘No Future/No Past.’ As such, Last Building Burning arrives as an equal and opposite reaction to 2017’s Life Without Sound; a record that, while incredibly catchy, also felt somewhat safe. No such feeling here – every track is volatile, propulsive and relentless in its execution. It’s the hardest Cloud Nothings have gone since … well, since the last time Dylan Baldi snapped. – David James Young

Tell Me How You Really Feel

Courtney Barnett

What’s Courtney Barnett been up to lately? She’s been reading Margaret Atwood, hanging out with the Deal sisters and reflecting on how her life has changed in the years following her game-changer debut album. Oh, she’s also been reading some of the shit you people have said about her – and she’s not too happy about it. If it doesn’t show on ‘Nameless, Faceless’, it sure as hell shows on ‘I’m Not Your Mother’ – a song that makes ‘Pedestrian at Best’ sound like her Kurt Vile collab ‘Continental Breakfast’. A record that simultaneously rocks harder and thinks deeper than its predecessor, Tell Me is Courtney figuring out the next step in real time. After years of sitting, Barnett has stood firmly to attention. – David James Young

READ MORE: The In-Between Moments Of Courtney Barnett

American Utopia

David Byrne

While many of his contemporaries lean on their hits of yore and revel in the nostaglia market, David Byrne has always made a point of remaining firmly lodged in the present. Consider him like the great white shark – if he stops moving, he dies. With this, Byrne swims into his 17th solo album with a grand conceptual vision – of science, suburbia, evolution and Trump-era fears – that bled over into his critically-acclaimed live tour. While some fans use new songs as an opportune toilet break, the grandiose ‘Here’ and the sax-driven paranoia of ‘Everybody’s Coming to My House’ provide listeners with some of the most intriguing songs Byrne has worked on in years. Same as it ever was. – David James Young

READ MORE: The Story Of David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Label

Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

Deafheaven

On Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven continue to subvert the normative ideas of genre within black metal. Slide guitar, piano arpeggios and frontman George Clarke actually singing all appear on the spectral, pronounced opener ‘You Without End’ – and it only continues to expand from there. They’re a band unafraid to express ambition, in both the rumble and sturm-und-drang of album bookends ‘Canary Yellow’ and ‘Honeycomb’ and Clarke’s dense, vignette-driven lyrics. Whereas past Deafheaven records seethed with uninhibited anger and sadness, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love instead aims for a more open emotional palette. It’s the sound of a band restlessly searching and an unbridled creative spirit. – Dom O’Connor

Ta13oo

Denzel Curry

While 2018 was a stellar year for hip-hop all around, no one created an opus this year quite like Denzel Curry with his three-part album TA13OO. On his third proper studio offering, the Florida rapper did the impossible, seamlessly flitting from the dark, classic-leaning rap of ‘BLACK BALLOONS’ and ‘CLOUT COBAIN’ to even darker lo-fi tracks like ‘VENGEANCE’ and ‘BLACK METAL TERRORIST’, while remaining cohesive throughout. – Missy Scheinberg

READ MORE: The Duality Of Denzel Curry

Some Rap Songs

Earl Sweatshirt

Some Rap Songs is everything rap records in 2018 aren’t supposed to be: low-key, impenetrably dense lyrically, muddy to a point of almost not-mastered, mostly produced by the man himself, and with no big name features. There’s barely a chorus on the whole thing, and the loop-based production is as minimal as it comes. But Earl has never sounded better than he does here; jaded from the last eight years in the public eye, wounded from the loss of his dad Keorapetse Kgositsile (and uncle Hugh Masekela) but still with a laser-guided focus, an auteur’s ear for collaboration and a subtlety and brevity to the whole thing (it is called Some Rap Songs after all). – Dom O’Connor

Lilac Everything

Emma Louise

In the final days of recording third album Lilac Everything, Emma Louise made a decision few singer-songwriters would ever contemplate. She pitch-shifted the entire record down, giving rise to a honeyed, more “masculine” version of her own voice named Joseph. In simple terms it was the equivalent of an artist recasting a completed work in an entirely different palette of paint. But this was no gimmick. Joseph gave the record a unique character, rendering a transformative album about love, loss and new beginnings in Mexico in a completely different hue. – Darren Levin

READ MORE: How Emma Louise Found Her True Voice – And Called it Joseph

Evelyn Ida Morris

Evelyn Ida Morris

If you’ve been around  a while, you probably remember Evelyn Morris from their time at the helm of experimental pop project Pikelet. If you’ve been around even longer, you might even remember Morris behind the kit for the perennially-underrated art-rockers Baseball. Whatever your entry point, you’re aware of Morris’ acute eye for music that lies outside of convention – they’re anything but ordinary, no matter what they’re working on. So it goes for their debut album, primarily set at the piano with distant vocals intervening on a sporadic timeframe. Atmospheric and almost dreamlike, Morris has entered the next phase of their musical career with a bold, slow-mo leap into the great unknown. – David James Young

READ MORE: Art, Identity & Evelyn Ida Morris

 

High as Hope

Florence + The Machine

Celebrated as one of the great celestial powerhouses of the 21st- century, Florence Welch employed high theatrics and sweeping arrangements that had not been seen since the likes of Kate Bush and Enya reigned supreme. Her fourth album, however, painted a very different picture – once a fierce battle-born firebrand, now a vulnerable, lorn and pensive figure. It’s the least fantastical and the most honest Welch has ever sounded, but rather than a loss of her edge it’s a gain of her humanity. Grounded by piano, minimal flourishes and a smaller sonic palette, High as Hope reveals a new side to an artist one assumed we’d had all figured out. – David James Young

Joy As An Act Of Resistance

IDLES

What’s in a name? A hell of a lot if you’re literally going to name your album Joy as an Act of Resistance and title its opening number ‘Colossus’. The second album from these Bristol post-punks – who are so post-punk they don’t even like being called a punk band – is a call to arms for anyone who is struggling in the current political climate. There’s fury within these songs, but also positivity – see ‘Danny Nedelko’, which literally spells out both the word “community” and the phrase “fuck you” in its bridge. With IDLES, resistance is no longer futile. Rise up. – David James Young

Singularity

Jon Hopkins

A panoramic album from brilliant electronic music composer Jon Hopkins, Singularity is inspired by the shifts in consciousness which arise in meditative or ecstatic states. One of the most heady pleasures of the year, Singularity is at once gigantic and intimate, colliding the worlds of dance music and new age with seemingly effortless grace. A truly transcendental album, whether you’re on the yoga mat or the dance floor. – Sophie Miles

LISTEN: The Witching Hour Podcast #2: Jon Hopkins

Lost & Found

Jorja Smith

Nineties R&B came back in a big way this year, and no one brought it to the stratosphere quite like Jorja Smith. Her 12-track debut offering proved that she could stand on her own beyond her Drake and Kendrick co-signs. On Lost & Found, the English singer perfectly fused soul, jazz, and even trip-hop to create a classic-yet-current new take on R&B that has her rising the ranks towards greatness. – Missy Scheinberg

Million Dollars To Kill Me

Joyce Manor

Million Dollars To Kill Me successfully positions Joyce Manor as modern guitar music’s answer to Guided By Voices, churning out likeable blasts of power-pop as quickly as possible and doing it at a remarkably consistent rate. On their fifth album, frontman Barry Johnson has mastered the simple affectations in his lyrics made to be scrawled in teen diaries. Elsewhere, ‘Silly Games’ transposes a yearning Roy Orbison-like melody to a modern indie rock band and ‘Fighting Kangaroo’ is a constant crescendo of an opener. On ‘Million Dollars To Kill Me’, Joyce Manor exist as a primordial example of a band growing up gracefully. – Dom O’Connor

Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves

There’s an old saying in country, “All hat and no cattle.” It’s often directed at artists with an aesthetic down to the T, where it’s painfully obvious what a costume it is – and it’s far from lived-in. Similar sledges have been misguidedly hurled at Kacey Musgraves, who has spent the last five years working tirelessly to hit the bullseye in the middle of the pop/country Venn diagram. Make no mistake about it: Musgraves is the real deal. All cattle everything. Her third album may be her best, striking emotive chords and showcasing her phenomenal sense of heavens-high melody. She might do it with a bit more polish than your average artist, but Golden Hour has more conviction in its nail-painted pinky than most country bros do in their entire back-road bodies. – David James Young

Isolation

Kali Uchis

Kali Uchis’ Isolation is the inverse of most major label pop albums – engaging in an original way, political in an unsentimental way and overtly feminist in a pronounced way. There’s a fierceness and confidence to Isolation that belies the album’s status as her debut, and a comfort in cross-pollinating as many genres as she can successfully. It’s often hard to pin down exactly what Uchis is influenced by, and she comes across as a genre polymath on Isolation, unafraid to meld latin rhythms with indie-rock production and her own dreamy, escapist lyricism. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: Kali Uchis Marries Nihilism & Pop Like Few Before Her

Heaven and Earth

Kamasi Washington

One of modern jazz’s great innovators, West Coast saxophonist Kamasi Washington returned with an even more sprawling collection of music than 2015’s aptly titled The Epic, connecting the dots between jazz, soul, funk, martial arts, choral music, outer-space and spirituality in ways only he could perceive. As a bandleader, Kamasi pushed the limits of creativity among his players – and that’s saying a lot for a record featuring fellow jazz provocateurs Terrace Martin, Thundercat, and Miles Mosley. – Darren Levin

WATCH: Kamasi Washington x Sampa The Great 

Con Todo El Mundo

Khruangbin

No one quite made an unexpected leap this year like Khruangbin who went from a somewhat obscure Texan trio to most recently selling almost 4000 tickets in Brooklyn over a two-night span. And deservedly so. On their Dead Oceans debut, the three-piece modernised ‘60s-inspired Thai funk, building their signature guitar tone (throw on Maribou State’s ‘Feel Good’, and you’ll be able to tell who’s playing guitar) and funky bass lines over a brand of psychedelic dub you didn’t think was even possible. – Missy Scheinberg

Devotion

Laura Jean

Over a decade on from the rustic folk of her debut, Laura Jean is borderline unrecognisable as she approaches the Casio on her fifth studio album. Never once, however, do you pine for the Laura Jean of old when listening to Devotion. The transition into cloudy, 80s-tinged pop isn’t forced or painful. In fact, it’s quite beautiful; a testament to how far this true gem of Australian songwriting has come. – David James Young

READ MORE: The Story Of Laura Jean In 5 Songs

Swimming

Mac Miller

There was tragedy between the lines of Swimming well before what happened happened. Swimming is a portrait of the artist as a broken man, doing everything within his power to rebuild and to better himself. Miller came to a lot of stark realisations on his fifth album, and did more self-reflection at 26 than most men are capable of well into their 40s. Bathed in resplendent production and with a stunning ensemble of musicians backing him, Miller made sure that every last moment on Swimming hit home. After he was gone, it hit even harder. – David James Young

Little Dark Age

MGMT

Little Dark Age starts like a rocket, with four of the best songs MGMT have ever written – the bouncy, upbeat ‘She Works Out Too Much’, the bad-vibes post-disco of the title track, the ace Ariel Pink-assisted ‘When You Die’ and the halcyon synths of ‘Me and Michael’. Considering the different genre explorations, it’s a miracle how cohesive and downright fun it is. Little Dark Age finds MGMT existing beyond the margins of post-‘Electric Feel’ success and sounding reinvigorated as a band. – Dom O’Connor

Phase

Mildlife

Phase kickstarted a breakout year for one of Melbourne’s worst kept best secrets. Seemingly dropped down to earth perfectly formed from a parallel universe, Mildlife had a stellar 2018, bookended by two important milestones. In March, they were touted “my new favourite Australian band” by influential English selector Gilles Peterson, while December saw a sundown set for the ages at Victoria’s much loved Meredith Music Festival. Debut album Phase is in many ways a representation of Melbourne in 2018; a city where on any given weekend you can hear DJs throwing down eclectic, worldly sets spanning African grooves, krautrock, disco and spiritual jazz. Except they did it live, and with their own unique spin. – Darren Levin

WATCH: Mildlife x LNWY Team Up For Record Store Day

Be The Cowboy

Mitski

Following up a critically acclaimed record is never easy. Often the follow-up either comes too close to its predecessor without offering anything new, or the new music strays too far from what fans initially fell in love with. But Mitski’s follow-up to 2016 standout Puberty 2 managed to walk this fine line, signalling major strides in growth for the singer-songwriter while maintaining her artistic essence. Be The Cowboy demonstrated a natural shift from the bass wielding acoustic nature of her last offering towards an art-pop narrative that can fit snugly between Angel Olsen and St Vincent. – Missy Scheinberg

Wide Awake!

Parquet Courts

On their fourth album, Parquet Courts find solace from the desolation of modern life the only way they know – by celebrating humanity and the collective spirit imbued within. Elsewhere, new producer Danger Mouse brings the jittery funk on ‘BeforeThe Water Gets Too High’ and the title track, and the sincerity of ‘Mardi Gras Beads’ and ‘Tenderness’ is matched by a band operating at the height of their powers. Wide Awake is proof enough that music can be aimed at your brain as well as your hips. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: The Art Of Andrew Savage

Phantastic Ferniture

Phantastic Ferniture

Like its name (a phonetic joke about a discount furniture brand) suggests, Phantastic Ferniture began life as a bit of a lark but has since become an outlet for its members to make music that sits outside their more folksy and – dare we say it – serious main gigs. That’s probably what makes their debut so spirited and refreshingly carefree. A big part of the appeal is the interplay between Liz Hughes’ jangly guitar and biting leads and Julia Jacklin, who gets to ditch her signature Tele and live out her rock’n’roll frontwoman dreams. – Darren Levin

READ MORE: Album Walkthrough – Phantastic Ferniture

Skylight

Pinegrove

“I draw a line in my life/Saying, ‘This is the way I behave now.’” Although ‘Rings’ – and by extension, Skylight, the album it opens – was written and completed before the events of 2017, one can’t help but see this as prophetic. Maybe even a little sliver of hope for those that may have lost faith. Released through a mediation process and with all proceeds going to select charities, Skylight is easy to shovel context onto. At its crux, however, are a collection of songs that further explore the band’s love of lo-fi emo, alt-country and slowcore indie. In any case, Skylight finds a way forward. There is a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in. – David James Young

HI VIZ

The Presets

The Presets were born out of a thriving nightlife and a neon-tinged Sydney at the turn of the century. They returned in 2018 to very different surrounds. With this context, one can frame HI VIZ as one of the more defiant releases in Australian music for the year. The title is all-caps brightness to counteract the darkness, and it boasts mantra-like lyrics like, “It feels better when you do what you want” and “You won’t ever have to feel alone again.” It bursts at the seams with energy and vitality, from its glitchy opening moments to its joy-fantastic close. Everyone from Alison Wonderland to Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears is at the party, and not a single lockout law is going to stop it. – David James Young

Daytona

Pusha T

King Push returned in 2018, and Daytona was a true coronation- a flawless 22 minutes of shit-talk and cocaine metaphors from the type of rapper that’d sound good reading the phone book. The chopped, soul sample heavy production (courtesy of Kanye West) gives songs like ‘Come Back Baby’ and ‘The Games We Play’ an extra level of bravado, while ‘Infrared’ was the first shot in a long-dormant war with Drake that almost eventually out-shined Daytona’s release. ‘Daytona’ didn’t re-invent the wheel or break the mould, but there’s not many rap albums as satisfying as it in 2018. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: The Best 21 Minutes Of Rap You’ll Hear In 2018?

Hope Downs

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

An instant classic, it didn’t take long for the 10 songs on Hope Downs to take their rightful place in the wider pantheon of Australian indie rock. The band’s rhythm section of Joe Russo and Marcel Tussie are the album’s secret weapon; a constantly driving weapon of forward momentum that gives the band’s songs an urgency and power often missing in this genre. The album’s highs are stunning- ‘Talking Straight’, ‘Time In Common’, ‘Mainland’, ‘Sister’s Jeans’ all shimmer with the confidence of a band having three excellent songwriters and locking in as a compact unit. In Hope Downs, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have raised the bar for guitar music in this country with a consistently excellent record that’s endlessly re-listenable. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: All 5 Members Of RBCF On ‘Hope Downs’

Songs Of Praise

Shame

Around this time last year South London’s indie rock scene started making waves around the world thanks to the likes of Dream Wife, Sorry, Goat Girl, and HMLTD – but no one from that region managed to break out globally in 2018 quite like five-piece Shame. On their debut record, Shame channel their famed raucous live shows into 38 minutes of youthful chest pounding punk rock with a near impossible melodic twist. Still some of the juiciest hooks you’ll hear on a punk rock record from now, or any era really. – Missy Scheinberg

WATCH: Post Match Report – Shame

My Own Mess

Skegss

Underestimate Skegss at your peril. The Mullumbimby-based three-piece often come across as loose proteges of big bro band Dune Rats, who made them the first signings of their Ratbag Records label in 2015. And that’s true to an extent. But if Dunies are the guys at the party with the kegs on their shoulders, Skegss are the introspective kids in the corner sussing everyone out. “I might not ever work things out,” Benny Reed singers on the album’s opening track ‘Up In The Clouds’; his voice sounding like he’s been up all night smashing cans and punching darts. Even the most hedonistic moments on My Own Mess are tempered with an existential takeout: that all this partying comes with a price. – Darren Levin

READ MORE: Deep Inside The Cult Of Skegss

Lush

Snail Mail

Lush has nuance, subtlety and detail in every corner of the record but let’s get one thing out of the way early: Snail Mail head honcho Lindsay Jordan is a shredder, through and through. The guitar playing here is some of the finest heard on a record in recent years, adding a fiery, virtuosic counterpoint to the achingly pretty and heartfelt indie rock on display. On future anthems like ‘Full Control’ and ‘Heat Wave’, Jordan and her band display a precociousness beyond their years. Lush is a record that displays a keen sense of empathy for its listener, and it’s Jordan’s conciseness as a lyricist and incredible guitar playing that elevates it as one of 2018’s finest debuts. – Dom O’Connor

Superorganism

Superorganism

The internet-born origin of Superorganism has already become a winning bit of self mythology for the London-based eight-piece, fronted by a teenager from Japan. The cross-pollinating of the band’s disparate, often clashing musical influences gives their self-titled debut album its intoxicating, retro-futurist sheen. You probably won’t hear another record this year that combines slide guitar, Tony Robbins samples, warped clarion-call synths and group-chant choruses – and that’s a big part of what makes it such a likeable, endearing listen. – Dom O’Connor

READ MORE: Superorganism Is The Shock To The System Pop Needs

Whack World

Tierra Whack

On paper, it sounds like a gimmick: A 15-minute album, comprised of 15 songs that all go for exactly one minute. It sounds like a hugely misguided ploy to lure in curious listeners and promptly kill the proverbial cat. After spending 15 minutes with 23-year-old Tierra Whack, however, it’s exceptionally clear that she knows exactly what she’s doing. Whack World is a technicolor paint splatter of ideas across R&B, pop and rap that boasts – among other things – odes to insect allergy and dead dogs. There truly was nothing quite like Whack World from this year – or any other, for that matter. Most artists create a buzz with their debut album. Here, Whack created an entire universe unto itself. – David James Young

Kill The Lights

Tony Molina

“I’ve always written short songs. It’s just easier, I guess,” Tony Molina told Spin in 2013. The 10 songs on Kill The Lights are all sub two minutes, but this belies the care and finesse in Molina’s pop-classicist songwriting and the astonishing guitar playing from the Bay Area lifer. The lovelorn harmonies of Big Star turn up on ‘Now That She’s Gone’, ‘Wrong Town’ aches with the delicate, pained intimacy of Elliott Smith’s finest and ‘Jasper’s Theme’ has the gentle sway of Teenage Fanclub. On Kill The Lights, Molina has made a pastoral-folk masterpiece; a transient gem of a record where every second feels perfectly laboured over. – Dom O’Connor

A Laughing Death in Meatspace

Tropical Fuck Storm

When Gareth Liddiard ended The Drones in 2016, it wasn’t out of spite. It was to wipe the slate clean. TFS formed as a mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar – his partner Fiona Kitschin, old touring friend Erica Dunn and a loose acquaintance/friend-of-a-friend in Lauren Hammel. Within a year, they’d written Meatspace – a wild, weird LP that thrives on high tension (not that High Tension) and indelible friction between instruments. ‘You Let My Tyres Down’ feels like a spiritual successor to The Drones’ ‘Shark Fin Blues’, while ‘Soft Power’ and ‘The Future of History’ see all four members exploring the outer reaches of their sonic potential. Expectations be damned – on Meatspace, Gaz and co. are feelin’ kinda free. – David James Young

READ MORE: The Disaster Artists

Sex & Food

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

After exposing his personal life to some unwanted attention around the release of 2015’s Multi-Love, chief protagonist Ruban Nielson invited his brother Kody back into the fold and embarked on a global songwriting adventure that took him to Hanoi, Reykjavik, Mexico City, his native Auckland, and beyond. There was a purpose to all this globetrotting though. America’s political climate had worn Ruban down creatively, and the album provided a good excuse to not only leave his Portland basement, but interrogate the purpose of his music without distraction. On Sex & Food, he celebrates rock’s reckless spirit, recognising music’s value as a safe space that can’t be touched by Trump, Putin or Kim Jong-un. – Darren Levin

READ MORE: Around The World With UMO

Safe in the Hands of Love

Yves Tumour

No album summed up 2018’s permeating and constant sense of dread like Safe In The Hands Of Love; a noisy, imperfect document for ugly times. While drums clatter with an industrial menace, and harsh synths beat the listener into submission, Tumor’s vocals carry the entire record. They’re a calming through-line between the album’s radical symbiosis of pop and noise. Safe In The Hands Of Love is a cathartic expression of one’s inner-self, and a perfect summation of the constant noise of modern life. – Dom O’Connor

Something Else