It happens at this time of the year. We start seeing the “Best of” lists, so lets start with NPR’s 50 Best Albums of 2018. NPR’s list is probably the most diverse including pop, hip hop, country, classical, a bit of jazz, some gospel, alternative, world and singer-song writers. If you want to expand your musical world, start by reviewing all of NPR’s top 50 for 2018. I’m listening to Dreamers by Magos Herrera and Brooklyn Rider as I write this piece – Spanish and Portuguese, Brazilian bossa nova and Chilean folk. And you can’t argue with the number one choice Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer.
On to Billbaord. A pretty eclectic mix here too. Personally, I’m not feeling Ariana Grande’s Sweetener should land on top of the pile, but Billboard didn’t ask me did they. I’d like to see Brockhampton, Iridescence higher than 35, but that may be in part because of their back story and Kevin Abstract’s videos. Like all of these lists, there is some overlap and lots of great music to take you into the new year.
Pitchfork is one of the most recognized music review sources, so no discussion of the best is complete without the Pitchfork Top 50 Albums of 2018. Mitski Be the Cowboy landed on top of the Pitchfork list and is well represented on most other lists. I was happy to see Jon Hopkins included by Pitchfork. It blends some great ambient with EDM – nice choice. I’m a huge fan of Kali Uchis, so I was glad to see her on this list (and others) but feel that Isolation merits more than 38 out of 50. The nicest surprise (because I hadn’t listened to this album yet) was Neneh Cherry Broken Politics. It gave me some Kate Bush vibes.
Spin Magazine put The 1975 A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships at number one. Another new one to me. Gave it a listen and there’s lots to like here. Very up tempo. Lots of auto-tune, but not too much for my taste. The first cut reminded me of Bon Iver. Definitely going to be listening to this one more than once. The top half of Spin’s Top 51 list has lots of over lap with the other list with Cardi B, Mitski, Ariana Grande and Kali Uchis.
Album of the Year takes a meta data approach by aggregating critic’s scores to come up with Sigh Heir To Despair. Unfortunately, this is based on only five critic’s reviews. But in fairness to AOTY, they don’t say “best”, just “highest rated albums of 2018”.
Toronto’s NOW Magazine keeps it succinct with a list of the top 10 albums. All great selections and you’ve got to love the fact that Mariah Carey’s 15th album can land even on a top 100 list.
Planet of Sound is my go to shop for quality audio equipment here in Ottawa, so I’ve got to include their list. It’s in no order, but all selections are on vinyl. A couple of nice discoveries for me from this list – Marisa Anderson – Cloud Corner and Bahamas – Earthtone. Both will be on my Boxing Day shopping list.
And check out Steve Hoffman’s list of best reissues.