We are just about halfway through 2018 and there has already been a plethora of amazing music released. Here are my 10 personal favorite records that have come out so far at the halfway mark of the year.
- Tell Me What You Really Think – Courtney Barnett
For years now, Australian artists like Gang of Youths, Middle Kids, and Courtney Barnett have been proving that rock is not in fact dead. Tell Me What You Really Think follows Barnett’s critically acclaimed 2015 debut album Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Songs like “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” and “Crippling Self Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence” feature scathing lyrics and a darker introspection from Barnett. Sonically, this album is a nice step forward for Barnett, and lyrically its a fascinating evolution. It’s a terrific album that shows a very different side of Barnett than what we saw on her more upbeat debut.
- Bark Your Head Off, Dog – Hop Along
Philadelphia is in the midst of a musical renaissance. The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, Sheer Mag, Japanese Breakfast, and Hop Along are just some of the incredible artists from the City of Brotherly Love who are currently putting out fantastic records. On Bark Your Head Off, Dog, their sophomore record, Hop Along makes a gigantic leap forward as a band in every sense of the word and, in the process, have crafted one of the year’s best records. The real highlight on this record is front-women Frances Quinlan’s vocals, which are otherworldly.
- Lost Friends – Middle Kids
Like Courtney Barnett, Middle Kids are a big part of the Australian rock scene that is making huge waves here in America. The singles “Edge of Town” and “Mistake” are both fantastic, but other songs like “Maryland” prove that their debut full length record doesn’t have too much by the way of filler. Watch out for this band in the next couple of years.
- Twentytwo in Blue – Sunflower Bean
Sunflower Bean have been indie darlings for a while now, following the release of their self-titled debut record back in 2016. This year they are back with their sophomore album Twentytwo in Blue. It’s an album on which the band fully embraces their influences, with everything from punk rock to softer pop ballads, all while crafting their own sound.
- Francis Trouble – Albert Hammond Jr.
Albert Hammond Jr. is probably best known as the rhythm guitarist for The Strokes, one of the most beloved bands of the 21st century. Francis Trouble, is Hammond Jr.’s fourth solo album, and it far surpasses anything The Strokes have put out in over a decade. It’s also an album inspired by the death of Hammond Jr.’s twin brother, who died in utero. It’s a fantastically bizarre concept that makes the story behind the record just as interesting as the music on the record. The singles like “Far Away Truths” and “Muted Beatings” show that he still knows how to play super catchy riffs.
- Sleepwalkers – Brian Fallon
What a year for Brian Fallon. He gets to spend 2018 celebrating the 10th anniversary of his band The Gaslight Anthem’s seminal album The 59 Sound, and he’s released his best work since that album. Songs like “Forget Me Not” and “If Your Prayers Don’t Get to Heaven” show that Fallon can still write catchy as hell songs like he did with The Gaslight Anthem. However, it’s the more tender moments on the albums, like the closer “I’ll See You On the Other Side,” that show just how much heart the album has, cementing it in its place as top 5 on my album list.
- God’s Favorite Customer – Father John Misty
Compared to the album release cycle for Father John Misty’s excellent 2017 album Pure Comedy, this year’s God’s Favorite Customer is surprisingly low key. Whereas Pure Comedy succeeded on the sarcastic wit and wisdom of Josh Tillman, AKA Father John Misty, God’s Favorite Customer thrives off of the honesty and vulnerability of a heartbroken man losing his mind in a hotel room. A song like the lead single “Mr. Tillman” shows that Father John Misty still hasn’t lost his sarcastic edge, but sets the stage appropriately for the dark turn the album takes, especially on a standout track like “Please Don’t Die.”
- Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino – Arctic Monkeys
The Arctic Monkeys latest album reminds me a lot of Vitalogy and No Code Era Pearl Jam. Similar to mid-90s Pearl Jam, Arctic Monkeys were walking into this album, their sixth, at the peak of their popularity. Instead of giving fans more of the same, safe, stadium-ready rock, Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino is a purposeful and masterful attempt to test and quite possibly even shrink their audience. They conquered the world with 2013’s instant classic AM and easily could have played it safe. But, anyone expecting another album of guitar-heavy riffs ready to take on a stadium, like the song “R U Mine?” will be woefully disappointed from the opening track, and that is just the beginning. It’s a dark and fascinating concept album that sounds like nothing else that’s been released this year. “Four out of Five” is the only song that even remotely sounds like a single. Album opener “Star Treatment” is the perfect dip into an album that feels both like the future and the past all at once.
- Heaven and Earth – Kamasi Washington
Best known for his collaborations with rapper Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington is the best jazz musician on the planet right now. Honestly, it isn’t even close at this point. Washington’s second full-length solo album, Heaven and Earth, is engrossing and complex, revealing more to the listener every time they listen. Songs like “Street Fighter Mas,” album opener “Fists of Fury”, and “Can You Hear Him?” showcase Washington at his peak. The arrangements throughout this album are elaborate and beautiful. Jazz as a genre hasn’t felt this alive since the days of Coltrane, Davis, and Hancock.
- Boarding House Reach- Jack White
Jack White had already perfected the blues and garage rock. His years in the White Stripes and as a solo artist have cemented him as one of rock’s all-time great guitarists. Almost two decades into his career he needed to evolve and do something different. Enter Boarding House Reach, easily the most inaccessible album released by a major or mainstream artist this year. On it, White managed to make more than just an album that sounded like nothing he had previously released. There’s synth, pro tools (shocking for anyone who really knows Jack White), and even spoken word. It’s delightfully bizarre, almost having more in common with an album like Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica than it does The White Stripes’ White Blood Cells or his solo album Blunderbuss. The album still has a classic Jack White rocker in its standout single “Over and Over,” but the true strength of this album lies in some of its most outlandish moments, like in songs such as “Everything You Ever Learned.” As a whole, Boarding House Reach is White’s best work since The White Stripes, and it’s certainly the most bizarre. It’s a nice mid-career gem from one of rock music’s last titans.
Tyrany – The Voidz
NASIR – Nas
The Now Now – Gorillaz
High as Hope – Florence + the Machine
Love is for Losers– The Longshot
So what were your favorite albums of 2018? Drop a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!