BY STEPHEN ATKINSON
2018 saw many artists incorporating eclectic soundscapes–even pop hits took a turn for the experimental through the likes of Ariana Grande and Janelle Monae. Below, I’ve compiled a list of albums that, for one, I appreciate personally, and second, I see as ground-breaking, genre-bending, and fit for the year 2018.
10. 7 – Beach House (Rock)
This dream pop duo can’t seem to miss. They’ve released seven great albums in twelve years, each one of them different yet distinctly Beach House. On 7, you hear what defines them—reverb-drenched guitars, fuzzy synths, and mid-tempo melodies—but on a new level: the sounds darker and more confident than ever. As the title indicates, this album isn’t about anything—rather, it transports the listener into another realm, another atmosphere, where unnamed dreams and hopes blend into walls of sound.
Recommended Track: Dive
9. Room 25 – Noname (Rap)
Fatima Nyeema Warner grew up in Chicago, where, while pursuing slam poetry and freestyle rapping, she befriended local artists Chance the Rapper and Saba, even gaining a feature on the former’s popular mixtape Coloring Book. Since then, under the moniker Noname Warner has pioneered her own take on rap music, combing neo-soul and jazz with referential, thought-provoking verses. On Room 25, her second album, Noname manages to sound self-assured and soothing throughout references to “the Reagan administration,” “globalization,” and radio rappers “wearing adult diapers.”
Recommended Track: Self
8. Negro Swan – Blood Orange (Pop/R&B)
With the release of Negro Swan, Devonte Hynes (aka Blood Orange) continues his progression to more experimental R&B. With touches of funk and 80s sophisti-pop, this record’s sound is minimalist, full of synths and sax riffs, and carried by Hynes’ soulful voice. Spoken word interludes praise “doing too much,” but vulnerable scenes from Hynes’ life (“Dagenham Dream” in particular relays a crushing story of merciless bullying) prove that the route to self-acceptance is never easy.
Recommended Track: Saint
7. Beyondless – Iceage (Rock)
The fourth release from Danish rock band Iceage is prime post-punk revival. It’s full of energy, scratchy guitar noises, and haunting vocals (think The Strokes, but darker and heavier), and yet it’s not without pop appeal. Nearly all of the ten songs are catchy, with a head-nodding angst that effortlessly propels the listener along.
Recommended Track: Hurrah
6. Be The Cowboy – Mitski (Rock)
To some, Mitski’s music is an acquired taste. It’s musically complex, sometimes jarring, and often tackles the awkward, less fun parts of love. But Be the Cowboy is polished and poppy, jumping to new sounds on each vignette-like song (the average length is 2:17 minutes), making it a more accessible introduction to the Japanese-American artist. While the melodies are still never quite what you expect, or even want them to be, once you finally catch on to them you feel the full catharsis of Mitski’s ever-lonesome love.
Recommended Track: Nobody