It's time to give 2018 the "thank u, next" treatment. From the resurgence of the entire Queen catalog to the "Cash Me Outside" girl's debut, it's been a wacky year in music. We took a trip to Astroworld and newcomer Mitski taught us that girls make the best cowboys. While rock took a backseat to Soundcloud rap, and sad-dad indie made some major strides, a few indie babes redefined the term "supergroup" and movies had their ear to the ground with some incredibly pleasing (and disturbing) scores. Above all else, 2018 reminded us to expect the unexpected, okkkkurttt?
It could be argued that the term "supergroup" has some pretty hefty requirements. When it comes to Boygenius, indie singer-songwriters Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus do more than heavy lifting — they delivered the best indie surprise of 2018. Each one leaning into their respective strengths, Boygenius is rooted by stunning harmonies and a shared penchant for achingly relatable musings about self-torment and relationships. More than the rolling melancholy and emotional transparency of the group's debut collaboration, it's the collaborative common ground on which they meander that makes Boygenius the supergroup we need now.
Listen to: "Me and My Dog"
Text this lyric to your Fortnite-obsessed ex-bae: "I look at you and you look at a screen/ I'm in the back seat of my body/ I'm just steering my life in the video game."
Some may find it unnerving that a horror film soundtrack made the cut, but this creepy, crawly, hauntingly beautiful opus by Radiohead visionary Thom Yorke is exactly what the doctor ordered. Following in the footsteps of Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood, Yorke's foray into film-scoring is totally fucking eerie and on-brand. Yorke enlisted the London Contemporary Orchestra and Choir (as well as his son Noah, on drums) for what ended up being 80-minutes of loops and discordance. Yorke's approach to the witchy remake of the 1977 Italian cult classic? Spells and sorcery, which might explain why his score debut feels more like a conjuring than a pulsing Radiohead-esque prophecy.
Listen to: "Unmade"
Put this lyric on your headstone: "Is the darkness ours to take?/ Bathed in lightness, bathed in heat/ All is well, as long as we keep spinning."
It would be a disservice to allow drama, tabloids, and the oversaturation of all things Cardi B to overshadow her incredible and unsuspecting debut album, Invasion of Privacy. Banger after banger after "Bodak Yellow" friggin' banger, Invasion of Privacy is intimate, self-aware, and savagely clever — and at times, it's even laugh-out-loud funny. Cardi's journey "from rags to riches" and "WIC to lit" is documented here, where she flexes, avenges, and rises above the album's revolving door of cheating lovers, haters, and misconceptions about her past life as a stripper. Nothing is off limits, as Cardi ironically invades her own privacy and resets the bar for rappers across the board.
Listen to: "Thru Your Phone"
Caption a hot Instagram selfie with this if you had a baby with a two-timing rapper: "I could've did what you did to me to you a few times/ But if I did decide to slide, find a nigga/ Fuck him, suck his dick, you would've been pissed/ But that's not my M.O., I'm not that type of bitch/ And karma for you is gon' be who you end up with."
Some may find it unnerving that a second soundtrack made the list — this one for the fourth remake of A Star Is Born, featuring Lady Gaga as a karaoke singer-turned-pop star and Bradley Cooper as a drunk country sensation — but goddamn is it good. Cooper's gruff country vocals paired with Gaga's genre-bending prowess and some emotional songwriting makes for a belt-in-your-car worthy album. While the soundtrack may be most appreciated by those who saw the musical drama — as it is composed of 19 songs as well as 15 dialogue tracks from the movie — A Star Is Born is a curious collection of pop, country, and unparalleled balladry that aims to satisfy everyone from showtune lovers to half-dead cynics.
Listen to: "Shallow"
Add this lyric to your wedding vows: "I want you/ At the end of my life/ I wanna see your face when I fall with grace/ At the moment I die/ Is that alright?"
Andy Warhol said some shit about 15 minutes of fame, but what Philadelphia's Tierra Whack did with 15 minutes is pretty unbelievable. Her unconventionally formatted and highly visual debut Whack World is composed of 15 one-minute songs, each of which was released as its own independent video on her Instagram. In her follow-up to 2017's "Mumbo Jumbo," Whack World finds the alternative rapper teaching a lesson in restraint and directness. Her flow is akin to slow-changing mood ring as she spouts an inner dialogue about coping with death, relationships, identity, and chicken wings.
Listen to: The whole damn thing, it's only 15 minutes. Better yet, watch it.
Text this lyric to your commitment phobic s/o: "Get on your knees, baby/ Copy of the keys, baby/ Lovin' your steez, baby/ Brushin' off fleas, baby/ I don't really wanna have to ask you twice/ Yeah, I'll be your girl if you ask me nice."
Father John Misty, God's Favorite Customer
Snail Mail, Lush
Drake, God's Plan
Ariana Grande, Sweetener
Noname, Room 25
Part opera, part space sermon, and part rebirth, saajtak's Hectic packs a lot into just two songs. Layers upon layers upon layers, glitched-out keys, incessant drums, and the soaring and angelic howling of vocalist Alex Koi makes for the most stirring art-pop release out of Detroit this year.
Detroit's most elusive act is also behind one of the loudest, most complex releases of the year. The band that may or may not be a band, composed of people that may or may not be in the band (see our May cover story), the Armed dropped its third LP earlier this year, a hardcore cacophony that gets deeper and more purposeful with each listen. Only Love is a rock record tailor-made to disrupt the age of the algorithm.
A long-standing fixture in Michigan's indie music landscape, songwriter and producer Fred Thomas released his third record in an unofficial trilogy of sprawling observational musings. From post-election despair, alcohol poisoning, and the isolation of stumbling around a foreign city, Thomas continues to do anything but shy away from his experiences. While he may cite feelings of isolation as the backbone of Aftering, the conversational tone he has adopted to express his experiences is inviting. You know, in the same way feeling alone in a room full of people is inviting.
Do you ever wonder what would have happened if Lil' Kim got an invitation to join the Spice Girls for a Busta Rhymes-produced track? Well, you might get the snarling, gnarly stylings of Tiny Jag and her latest mixtape, Polly. Jillian Graham aka Tiny Jaguar aka Tiny Jag is what happens when goth meets athleisure. "I swear to god/ I'm fucking done riding/ Rather throw a curse on a bitch in the lightning," Jag whispers on "Riding." The ever-versatile Polly flirts with the softer side of Jag — only in fleeting moments — before pouncing on her gruff voice-manipulations. Think Nicki Minaj's spotlight-stealing verse on "Monster."
A Detroit hip-hop supergroup emerged from shared grief and, as it stands, Forever Golden may have dropped the most hype EP of the year. A late addition to the 2018 round-up (as it was released in December) the unsung hero of Gold is its homegrown production. Comprised of Jay Squared, Curtis Roach, Santana Davinci, Whyandotte, and B-Free, together as Forever Golden the group tag-teams rapid-fire rhymes about "Parking Lot Pimping" and moving, spoken-word eulogies. The six-song EP has grind-worthy jams like "Muenster" and finds Roach channeling Scorpian-era Drake on radio-ready "Wristbands."
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