2018 has been a huge year for music, with iconic releases from major artists like Metric, Mother Mother, Florence + The Machine, and more. There were also tons of outstanding new records from breakout indie artists like Snail Mail, Noname, and Soccer Mommy.
Check out our favourite albums from this year in no particular order below.
Tokyo Police Club – TPC
Newmarket, Ontario-bred indie rockers Tokyo Police Club have released their first album in four years with the arrival of their hooky new record, TPC. The album features frontman Dave Monks exploring themes of using what you’ve learned from your lowest moments to grow.
Mother Mother – Dance And Cry
Earlier this year, Canadian alt-rockers Mother Mother released their most recent album Dance and Cry, which moves back toward an organic, stripped down sound. The new tracks reflect on their past material while they explore themes like survival, self-reflection, sorrow, and happiness. Frontman Ryan Guldemond says that he only wanted to pursue songs that would make him want to dance, cry, or both.
Metric – Art of Doubt
Metric have returned with their seventh full-length studio LP, Art of Doubt. The latest from Emily Haines and Co. was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen, whose credits include work with M83, Beck and Nine Inch Nails. With powerful, vulnerable lyrics like “I change by staying the same” from “Dark Saturday,” and punchy, precise melodies, you’re going to want to play this album on repeat.
Arkells – Rally Cry
The Arkells have pushed themselves to take more risks on their latest release Rally Cry, but they’ve also preserved the sound from their early days in music. From Motown/Daptone tracks to tunes that are backed by a gospel choir, the album features melodies from multiple different genres.
Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Mitski’s latest is 14 songs that explore the complexities of relationships, accentuated by her ability to hit brooding depths and explosive heights. Themes of love, loss, confrontation, and apologies run deep on the New York-based singer-songwriter’s fifth studio LP.
The Internet – Hive Mind
The Internet released their fourth album, Hive Mind, this year, which combined and complimented the group members’ individual skills perfectly. The R&B collective simplified and honed their sound on this record, with soft blues, extensive arrangements, and smooth grooves.
Sloan – 12
Understandably, 12 is the twelfth studio album from Sloan. They’ve been actively releasing music for nearly 30 years, and their mark on Canadian music is unprecedented. This album serves as a reminder that the band is still around, and they still have that sound you’ve always loved.
Dear Rouge – PHASES
After Dear Rouge received a Juno in 2016 for “Best Breakthrough Artist,” people have been anticipating the band’s next move. The release of PHASES is the result of this. The album sounds almost alive, and with lots of catchy synth and bass, it’s impossible not to dance along.
Frank Turner – Be More Kind
English folk-rock singer-songwriter Frank Turner returned with his seventh studio album, Be More Kind. It’s an album that stands as a statement on the times we currently live in, with Turner flexing his storytelling ability over the course of 13 songs.
Florence + the Machine – High As Hope
It’s been four years since the Florence Welch and her amazing band graced us with an album. This record is more minimalist than the last, and has a more stripped-down approach to its sound. In an interview, Welch revealed that she wrote the songs while grieving her grandmother, who had recently committed suicide.
U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
This album is politically charged and filled with female rage in the best way. There are tracks critiquing abuse of powerful men in religion, sexism and violence, and even terrorism. There are also over a dozen collaborations with other artists on this album, most notably Slim Twig and Rich Morel.
Robyn – Honey
Robyn finally came back in 2018 after releasing her first new album in eight years, Honey. The long-awaited follow up record to 2010’s Body Talk series is an unapologetically pop album featuring more emotional vulnerability than we’ve ever seen from the Swedish star. The tracks are a surge of synth and strings with dance-inducing, euphoric tracks that take on difficult themes like grief, uncertainty, and hopelessness.
Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy
Cardi B’s iconic debut album Invasion of Privacy has quickly brought her to the top of modern rap and hip hop. The album is a sort of strong-willed response to friction against women in rap, with showy, forward lyrics and catchy hooks, it has both moments of curiosity and vulnerability.
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
Dirty Computer is only the third studio album from Janelle Monáe, but the way her music stays with you, you’d think she was around forever. This pop-funk record is all about being empowered: whether that’s because of your sexual orientation, or your skin colour, or both.
T.D.E./Kendrick Lamar – Black Panther: The Album
Black Panther: The Album is a compilation of music from and inspired by the 2018 Marvel film of the same name. The album has authentic African elements throughout. Kendrick Lamar was praised for his lyrics and overall production of the record. First musical aspects were being created as soon as early drafts of the movie’s script was being written.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
Kacey Musgrave’s latest album offers a unique complexity, and stands up among other country artists. This album weaves seamlessly between celebrations (“Butterflies”), and sadness (“Lonely Weekend”). Golden Hour seems to be a reflection on how that beautiful moment after the sun sets can be gone just as fast as it arrives.
Beach House – 7
Beach House has a special way of making you feel like you’re daydreaming while actually dreaming. Each album creates a strange sensory experience. With 7, you have tracks that flow effortlessly. Songs are just as intense as they are intimate. But this album has darker touches as well, with gentle drumming changing the feeling of certain songs.
Soccer Mommy – Clean
With plainspoken lyrics, singer Sophie Allison describes heartbreak, anguish, self loathing, and empowerment all together. Soft melodies are often paired with grim lyrics, like in the opener, “Still Clean.” Soccer Mommy’s debut album is one you’ll remember.
Snail Mail – Lush
Teenage musician Lindsey Jordan released her debut album under the alias Snail Mail just this year, and it’s already being praised worldwide. Her songs about chaotic adolescence ring familiar but are still unique; as Pitchfork noted: Snail Mail “does not whine or wallow; she transcends.”
The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
In November, British pop-rock band The 1975 released their third full length album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The new LP primarily revolves around Matty Healy’s struggle with heroin, his recovery, and the impacts of social media and the digital landscape. “I don’t have things that I want to write about that aren’t exactly what I feel day by day,” Healy told Billboard. “The problem I have now is that this is my truth, and I feel like I can’t negotiate properly with the world if I can’t tell the truth.”
Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
If you read this and just got hit with a bit of déjà vu, don’t worry. This album is a re-release of the band’s 2011 album. In this version of Twin Fantasy, all songs were re-recorded and remastered. The original has been retitled to Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror), while the current release is officially called Twin Fantasy (Face to Face).
Sleep – The Sciences
Released on 4/20 with little warning, Sleep’s fourth studio album The Sciences marks their first full-length release since 2003’s Dopesmoker. It’s hard to find a band that does stoner-metal better than Sleep. The album has everything to love about Sleep: it’s loud, slow, and hypnotic. These riffs are so dank you get high just listening to them.
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Released in May, the latest album from Arctic Monkeys was unlike any of their other music. Listeners were surprised when they first heard this record, it was a lot more psychedelic and glam rock than their previous album in 2013, which was all rock with a notable bass.
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Courtney Barnett’s second studio album seems to more introspective than her first, with lyrics reflecting on herself, anxiety, self worth, and self loathing. Pay attention to the lyrics in “Nameless Faceless,” and you’ll notice she quotes an anonymous hater: “He said, ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you,’/But you didn’t,”
Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
It is impossible to put lead singer Frances Quinlan in a box; her voice seems to switch around a hundred times in a hundred different ways. This album was self-produced, but you wouldn’t be able to tell, it’s just that engineered. There also also a few criticisms of patriarchy and power, if you listen close enough.
MGMT – Little Dark Age
Many reviewers said that one thing great about Little Dark Age was a return to their classic, synth-psychedelic pop that fans loved ever since the band first release, Oracular Spectacular. With five years between this album and the last, it was highly anticipated by fans all around.
Mount Eerie – Now Only
This album was a companion piece to A Crow Looked at Me, Mount Eerie’s release from the year before. But Now Only is very different and the music follows a nonlinear narrative. The record only has six songs, concluding with “Crow, P.2.” Both albums go hand in hand, a cathartic expression of disorganized emotions after the death of a loved one.
Cancer Bats – The Spark That Moves
The latest offering from Toronto’s Cancer Bats saw the band return to its punk roots. The Spark That Moves stands as Cancer Bats’ most melodic record, with guest spots from Mobina Galore’s Jenna Priestner and Chris Hannah of Propagandhi. The local lords of heavy have delivered what’s perhaps the greatest work of their run so far.
Vince Staples – FM!
Vince Staples cares not for criticisms that his work can be too out there for popular consumption. Staples served a 22-minute record that features just eight legitimate songs, which doubles as a middle finger of sorts to those who dared to tell him how to make music. It’s pure genius, not to mention the source of one of the best videos of the year with Staples’ Google Street View-inspired “Fun” clip.
The Dirty Nil – Master Volume
Hamilton, Ontario-based trio The Dirty Nil have spent the last eight years honing their craft as one of the tightest acts this country’s produced. While the band has long been categorized a punk band, their sophomore full-length record Master Volume serves as statement that their sound is far too substantial to wear just one label.
Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
Can a Fucked Up record still be a Fucked Up record when Damian Abraham is not as involved in the process as past efforts? Fucked Up effectively answer that question by delivering their most ambitious album yet. There are a lot of questions about where the band goes next, thankfully there’s more than enough to unpack with Dose Your Dreams‘s genre-hopping construction.
Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Bristol punk outfit Idles are all about loving everyone. While inclusion is a central theme in Joy as an Act of Resistance, Idles do not pull any punches in their approach. Not many bands can effectively pull off lyrics like “I’m like Stone Cold Steve Austin / I put homophobes in coffins,” but Idles does it with an air of ease.
Dan Mangan – More Or Less
Dan Mangan’s powerful new album, More or Less revolves around witnessing birth and the process of rebirth, and explores all of the unanswerable questions in life. “More sparce. Less meticulous,” Mangan explains in a statement. “More kids. Less time. More direct. Less metaphor. More discovery. Less youth. More warmth. Less chaos.”
City and Colour – Guide Me Back Home (Live)
City and Colour’s Guide Me Back Home marks the first release off of frontman Dallas Green’s own label, Still Records. The LP was recorded last year during City and Colour’s cross-country tour, and you can see it as more than just a live record, Green hopes it will be interpreted as a love letter to Canada.
Anderson .Paak – Oxnard
Oxnard, Anderson .Paak’s follow up to his 2016 breakthrough album Malibu, is filled with an elaborate mix of singing, rapping, and catchy beats that takes on the funk genre from the perspective of a rap artist. The record is distinct and serves as a curious blend of silky textures and versatile vocals.
Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth
Tenor saxophonist, bandleader, and composer Kamasi Washington has slowly climbed to the likes of a low-level pop star with his second full length album, Heaven and Earth. The album marks the strongest musical statement of his career, as the Earth side of the album explores the world as Washington sees it outwardly, whereas the Heaven side look at his inward world that is sort of a part of him.
Noname – Room 25
Chicago rapper Noname’s second album pulls from her experience growing up in Chicago and plying her trade in the spoken word community, and turning that into what’s going to be a staple in the coming year-end “best of 2018” lists. Elements of jazz, soul, and poetry come together for a deeply personal, yet entirely accessible effort.
Neko Case – Hell-On
Neko Case’s blaring vocals have long been her calling card, and on Hell-On she’s at her near-best. Case channels anger at the patriarchy, explores religious themes, and wades through tales of love all through perfectly executed folk-rock lens.
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
New York-based rockers Parquet Courts enlisted Danger Mouse to helm production duties on their fourth full-length record. It’s the rare type of record that would sound perfectly at home if it were released at any point in the last 40 years. It’s punk rock, garage rock, and it’s oblique yet danceable.
Dilly Dally – Heaven
Relentless touring amid the changing political landscape in the United States nearly killed off Toronto-based noise rockers Dilly Dally. The band hit the road in support of their outstanding debut LP Sore in 2015, and when they wrapped touring in 2016 the band was drained emotionally. Thankfully, frontwoman Katie Monks, guitarist Liz Ball, bassist Jimmy Tony, and drummer Benjamin Reinhartz found the strength to keep it together. They have returned with Heaven, an unforgiving yet hopeful foray into the depths of fuzz-rock.
Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin
If you want to start listening to Ty Segall but are feeling overwhelmed by his huge discography (over 20 albums and over 30 EPs), check out Freedom’s Goblin. Segall just got married over a year ago, and this record is full of songs that reflect the freshness of a new love. But it’s also about artistic freedoms and expressions of self.
Leon Bridges – Good Thing
Texas soul singer Leon Bridges combines the nostalgia of ’90s style R&B with a modern twist on his elaborate melodies and unique songwriting. Although Good Thing is undoubtedly retro, the timing and beats of his genre-breaking tunes make them more modern and elastic, as they flex and fit to distinctive instrumentals and boisterous tracks.
Born Ruffians – Uncle, Duke & Chief
Fans will be happy to know that original drummer Steve Hamelin has now returned, and that certainly reflects in the music. With the original line up back, the new album brings a level of comfort fans will recognize. But lyrically, this record is also darker than the last, with mentions of death in a few different tracks.
Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
This is the second album from Khruangbin, a Houston-based instrumental trio. Full of psychedelic music influences by the funk scene in Thailand, this album is one you’ll want to listen to over and over. The album also touches on politics, with “Maria También” addressing women’s rights.
Superorganism – Superorgansim
The debut album from Superorganism stunned audiences worldwide, and made themselves known as one of the most intriguing bands on the scene. This London-based collective is a sprawling mix of genres, led by singer and primary songwriter Orono Noguchi. The album touches on their disgust towards the hate and corruption that has plagued modern society, as highlighted in “Prawn Song” where Noguchi talks about leaving the human race to become a Prawn. The album’s second single “Everybody Wants To Be Famous” points out people’s obsession with social media and how it has made people thirst for fame.
Yukon Blonde – Critical Hit
With its release just a earlier this year, this album is sure to be on everyone’s summer playlist. Critical Hit is very personal, and looks into different difficulties surrounding love and relationships in such a digital age. These messages are amplified through the use of synthesizers and pop melodies.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard
Stephen Malkmus has created music very separate from that of his days in 90’s alt-rock band Pavement. Sparkle Hard is his seventh album, and it experiments with vocalizers and touches of auto-tune, not heard in his previous works. In this record, Malkmus sounds so self-assured, its almost as if he’s directly speaking to you.
Gorillaz – The Now Now
As usual, the latest Gorillaz album has been met with positive reviews. The Now Now has a bit of a stripped-down feel, compared to their last release, Humanz. This album feels fresh and all the songs flow well together. It also debuted at number four on the US Billboard Top 200 chart.
Chromeo – Head Over Heels
Chromeo has been giving us catchy electro-funk for the last 15 years. This Montreal-based duo has never disappointed before, and their latest album is no different. That album has a bit less electronic aspects than their previous records, but it’s clear that the group love their funk roots. The album has a definite nostalgia to early 70s funk, and fans have been loving it.