My Favorite Albums of 2018

I did not participate in any year-end album lists this year, but that doesn’t mean that I made my own personal list that no one except maybe my dad cares about! Instead of making a numbered list, I chose to follow what my former professor, Ben Ratliff, wrote about last year, recommending that we alphabetize lists like these. I was also having trouble choosing just 10 albums (a first for me! I usually only got through and LOVED around 5 albums of a year. This year was closer to 13.) My solution to this was to think about if I could truly write a paragraph about what I loved so much about each of my “favorite” albums. I fell upon these 10 and I decided to actually write those paragraphs. Enjoy!

Note: Honorable mentions go to Future Me Hates Me by The Beths and Historian by Lucy Dacus, both of which I listened to because they were praised so much on year-end lists. If I had given them this amount of time and attention when they were released, and carried them with me until this month, they would probably appear here somewhere. I suppose the original, more wholesome point of year-end lists is to provide people with new music they never had the chance to listen to, but I do regret not giving these albums a chance when they came out. The 1975 almost appeared on this list (If this list was numbered, it would probably be #11), but I was so excited by the prospect that my list was about to be all women musicians that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Some other bands who released stuff I really loved this year that I’m still trying to stop myself from adding to this list (I’ll admit I just don’t want to write MORE paragraphs right now): Hop Along, Free Cake for Every Creature, Frankie Cosmos, Petal.

I also made a playlist of my favorite songs of the year that includes all of these bands and more! Check it out here.

Boygenius, Boygenius

I already reviewed this one, so I’m keeping it short! I love these artists separately so much (I would not have listened to Lucy Dacus if it weren’t for them, to be honest!) and the chemistry and camaraderie they have together is what magic looks and sounds like. “Me & My Dog” is one of my favorites, if not my favorite song of the year. I could write 6 pages on the line “I cried at your show with the teenagers” alone (which I pitched out, btw). However, now that I’ve heard it live and have watched their performance of it on Seth Meyers, I’m starting to love the live version more!

Fave tracks: Me & My Dog; Souvenir

Camp Cope, How To Socialize and Make Friends

Camp Cope is my favorite band. I almost feel like I’m doing them less justice by saying that, as if saying that reduces them to a symptom of the biases of a young woman’s fandom. But I’ve learned recently that when I love a band this much, it’s usually because they’re doing something very right! “The Opener” makes me cry every time I listen to it hard enough and it came out in 2017. To have a song about the lack of women in a music scene is something I never imagined, and I turn to it all the time. To have “Face of God,” a song about sexual assault in words I understand and empathize with so much is so powerful that I actually limit how often I listen to it. Georgia Maq’s voice made me believe that I was capable of loving music more than life itself all over again. It’s corny but true! Her voice is raw and soothing and painful and passionate all at once. She exercises it more than ever on this album, especially on “Animal & Real.” I could quote every single line from every single song and rave about each of Kelly's higher frequency bass lines, but every time I try to write about Camp Cope, what I write simply does not feel like enough. Instead I’ll just urge you to listen to it and think about why it does or does not impact you, and why it would possibly, so deeply impact someone else.

Fave tracks: The Opener; Animal & Real; Face of God; The Omen

Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel

I also reviewed this so please check that out! “Need A Little Time” was one of Obama’s favorite songs of the year, so I think this lady is onto something. I used to love Courtney Barnett because of her anecdotal songs about the mundanity of everyday life and its sparks of joy and sadness and anxiety. This album was different and taught me to love her for other reasons. She cares a lot about the world as a whole and became less interested in writing about being in her garden or touring Australian real estate.

Fave tracks: Nameless, Faceless; Sunday Roast

Kasey Musgraves, Golden Hour

If you told me last year that Kacey Musgraves would make one of my favorite albums of the year, I wouldn’t have believed you. And here we are! This album is truly how a golden hour feels. It’s an album of warmth and sunshine and allowing yourself to forget about the horrors of the world for 45 minutes. It’s about only seeing the positive and looking at the glass half full, and thinking that that should feel so corny and awkward, but it doesn’t feel that way at all! I would like to take this time to also point out the most underrated song of the album, “Lonely Weekend.” This is one of the best written songs I’ve heard all year. “Monday I was gone and Tuesday you were working late / Wednesday went to hell and Thursday kinda had to wait.” HELLO!!!! That’s perfect, simple songwriting and that song deserves respect.

Fave tracks: Lonely Weekend; Slow Burn; Happy & Sad; Space Cowboy

King Princess, Make My Bed

King Princess was the best thing to come out of “20gayteen,” and I find her SO exciting as a person and as an artist. At 19 years old, Mikaela Straus has compiled an EP of perfect pop that paints a sapphic world of love and heartbreak. “Talia” was the song that made me fall in love with the EP (I like to pretend it’s called “Natalia”), but “Holy” ended up being the song I played on repeat for at least one month straight. On “Holy,” Straus uses religious imagery to describe an encounter with a fellow female lover, making demands as a ruling figure such as, “Honey, on your knees when you look at me/ I’m dressed like a fucking queen / And you’re begging, ‘please.’”  Young audiences have spent years listening to R&B-infused pop tracks by men dictating narratives that demand from women. It is refreshing to hear King Princess’s own sensual celebrations, using the same 808s and falsettos that artists like Justin Timberlake and Usher used to sell sex, only on Make My Bed, women are the givers and the receivers, the objectified and the objectifiers. King Princess has reminded me of the revolutionary powers of a pop song and I think she’s going to dominate pop in 2019.

Fave tracks: Talia; Holy

Let’s Eat Grandma, I’m All Ears

This album was also a big surprise for me, and I probably would not have listened to it if it weren’t for working in a record store where one of my co-workers put it on. Much like boygenius, I feel so happy to see young women making really cool shit together. Rosa and Jenny are TEENS. I’m normally not a huge fan of electronic music unless it has many pop elements, and these girls mix the two so beautifully and effortlessly. They challenge what I thought my taste in music was by adding in sounds and techniques I’ve never heard before. It’s really exciting to find yourself asking, “I love this…but why?” And that’s what this album is to me. I’m also a big fan of the theatrics of the album and how they are able to make some more experimental songs (Whitewater, Missed Call (1)) more accessible by sandwiching them in between the pop tracks!

Fave tracks: It’s Not Just Me; Waiting For You

Mitski, Be the Cowboy

What can I say about this album that hasn’t already been said? This album makes me think about taking on a persona as a female artist. Nothing on this album has Mitski saying anything about cowboys or being one, but it’s in your mind throughout the album. What does it mean to “be THE cowboy?” I think about Janelle Monae’s alter-ego and cyborg feminism and even the book I Love Dick that I’ve been reading recently that brought up who the cowboy is in a particular sexual relationship. It’s all about finding objects and ideas that at least begin to define our existences and what they mean to us. My favorite song on this album that is kind of underrated to me is “Me & My Husband” because of how tongue-in-cheek and almost sarcastic the whole song sounds to me! I can’t listen to it without smiling.

Fave tracks: Geyser; Nobody; Me & My Husband

Sidney Gish, No Dogs Allowed

Technically this album came out exactly one year ago on December 31, 2017, but it still deserves all the 2018 love! I first learned of Sidney Gish when she opened for Petal and Camp Cope, and her set honestly brought tears to my eyes. She writes the kind of songs that I wish I would write if I was a musician myself. “Mouth Log” is basically a Virgo anthem for me. “Sin Triangle” is so well-produced and its chorus “Two-faced bitches never lie and therefore I never lie” is a line I will never forget. “Persephone” is the song that almost made me cry live, and it sounds like the soul of an awkward and insecure but extremely intelligent girl. It all sounds like the product of so much effort and love with no real interest in trying to impress anyone else, and that’s why it deserves all recognition it can get!

Fave tracks: Sin Triangle, Mouth Log, Persephone

Snail Mail, Lush

I love an album with one cohesive mood that can lead you into a trance for a little while, and Lush does that for me. Each song feels like a dream that you wake up from but almost remember entirely. And then a song like “Heat Wave” does mention dreaming of someone! Lindsey Jordan has a kind of sleepy voice that’s still so sweet and almost optimistic in its tone. Therefore love she feels and mentions in each song is hopeful and still hopeless. And not to talk about her music only in this context, but a young woman writing rock love songs about young women will always feel refreshing.

Snail Mail: Heat Wave; Pristine; Full Control

Soccer Mommy, Clean

I fell in love with Soccer Mommy last year with Collection, but on this album she has refined every strength to make something so strong and professional. She is so clearly no longer producing out of a bedroom (not that that is ever a bad thing). My favorite thing about her lyrics is how willing she is to be honest about insecurities and jealousy and anxiety. I feel like when young women compare ourselves to each other or wonder what’s wrong with us to make a guy choose someone else, others invalidate our feelings and put us down for feeling that way. She makes music that reminds you that we all feel that way at certain moments. “Scorpio Rising” is another one of my favorite songs of the year, because it tackles insecurity (stemming from boys’ stupidity) so wholeheartedly and vulnerably. To say “I’m just a victim of changing planets/ A Scorpio rising and my parents” is such an intense thing—to curse your genetic makeup and the stars for everything you feel insecure about.

Fave Tracks: Still Clean; Scorpio Rising; Last Girl; Wildflowers

Natalia Barr