Editor’s Picks: Top Albums of 2018 (10-6)

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)

7

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)

Room 25

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)

Negro swan

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)

Beyondless

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)
Be the cowboy

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

 

Click here to check out albums 5-1

 

Editor’s Picks: Top Albums of 2018 (5-1)

BY STEPHEN ATKINSON

5. iridescence – BROCKHAMPTON (Rap)

iridescence

America’s favorite boy band since One Direction delivers an emotion-packed mosaic of styles in their major label debut. Kevin Abstract’s delicate sensitivity, Joba’s angst, and Merlyn Wood’s humor shine in this first record since Ameer Vann’s departure (he was dismissed after accusations of sexual abuse). Between the “sadboi” songs and bangers, iridescence has so much raw energy and weirdness—goofy sound and voice effects are scattered throughout—that it’s simply irresistible.

Recommended Track: WEIGHT

 

4. Isolation – Kali Uchis (Pop/R&B)

Isolation

On Isolation, her first proper album (after numerous collaborations with the likes of Snoop Dogg and Tyler the Creator), Kali Uchis reaches and even surpasses the level of some of her influences. She incorporates Brazilian bossa nova, Dancehall reggae, and 90s R&B to create a night-time record with a confident, seductive tone. All of the songs are danceable and catchy, and finding a stand-out is a near-impossible task.

Recommended Track: Just a Stranger (feat. Steve Lacy)

 

3. In a Poem Unlimited – U.S. Girls (Pop/R&B)

In a poem

At first listen In a Poem Unlimited is a feminist statement made for the #MeToo era. And in many ways it is, but that doesn’t mean mainstream liberalism is off the hook. Case in point: the catchy disco centerpiece, “M.A.H.” (which stands for “Mad As Hell”), finds its target of anger in Barack Obama. On this danceable, funky record, U.S. Girls use allusions and witty wordplay to criticize the patriarchy in a smart, unique way—which, in a time of many musical attempts at feminism, is quite an accomplishment.

Recommended Track: Pearly Gates

 

2. Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae (Pop/R&B)

Dirty COmputer

After releasing two records critically-acclaimed for their experimental twists on R&B, Monae reaches outside her “alternative” label into a more “pure” pop on Dirty Computer. Prince-like 80s synths, trap beats, and glam rock guitars feature throughout overt political messages and personal stories. Sexual liberation is a common theme, yet in the end Monae’s message is positive and surprisingly family-friendly: self-love and acceptance conquer even the most oppressive regimes (as depicted in her—while not essential—captivating full-album visual on Youtube).

Recommended Track: Make Me Feel

 

1. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves (Folk/Country)

Golden Hour

Golden Hour is a beautifully produced escape into sun-soaked summer days. Musgraves borrows from radio pop, 70s soft rock, and traditional country in a magnificent forty-five minutes of music. The country clichés are sung winkingly, and the lyrics in all their simplicity paint an authentic portrait of a woman always on the edge between enjoying life and questioning it. Nostalgia runs current-like under bright acoustic guitars, banjos, and dreamy keyboards, and the result is a near-indescribable feeling: “happy and sad at the time.”

Recommended Track: Slow Burn

The Way-Too-Early 2020 Democratic Nomination Power Rankings

BY STEPHEN ATKINSON

 

While there are still another two years before the Democrats officially face-off with President Trump, hopeful Democratic politicians are already hitting the road in early primary states like New Hampshire and South Carolina. Here’s a ranking of potential nominees for the Democratic party and how their chances stack up for primary season.

 

  1. Beto O’Rourke

Beto O'Rourke

He’s said he’s not running, he lost his Texas Senate race, and he’s relatively inexperienced. So don’t expect O’Rourke to make his presidential bid in 2020. However, if he for some reason did, his viral popularity could carry him far, and crazier things have happened.

 

 

 

 

9. Sherrod Brown

Sherrod Brown

The gravelly-voiced Ohio senator has been one of the most liberal Democrats in recent years, but as 2020 hopefuls flock to the left, there will be less and less to distinguish him from the pack.

 

 

 

 

8. Julian Castro

Julian Castro

After a rousing speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Castro was considered by many to be the party’s biggest rising star. Since then, he hasn’t generated much publicity at all, but as a young hispanic politician from Texas, Castro is still a sound option for Democrats looking for the anti-Trump.

 

 

 

7. Michael Bloomberg

Michael Bloomber

This mega-billionaire and former New York City mayor has flirted with presidential runs many times before. His pro-business, socially liberal brand is unique in the Democratic field, which is good in a sense… but mostly bad. It’s hard to believe the same party that propelled Bernie Sanders to national prominence would elect a centrist who also happens to be the 11th wealthiest man in the world.

 

 

 

6. Cory Booker

Cory Booker

A couple years ago Booker—a charismatic New Jersey senator—was labelled the next “rising star” of the party, but that title has since been overtaken by Kamala Harris. Booker aligns with the centrist “New Democrat” movement of politicians like Bill Clinton and Joe Biden, and that’s not where excitement in the party base lies. He even expressed staunch support for “private equity” in a 2012 interview that will likely haunt his nomination chances.

 

 

 

5. Amy Klobuchar

Amy Klobuchar

Despite her low name recognition, Amy Klobuchar is a very logical pick. In the midterm elections she won reelection in Minnesota by over twenty points. (Remember that Donald Trump’s shocking victory was largely due to his success in the midwest.) As a woman, a moderate, and a Rust Belt politician with an uncontroversial personality, a Klobuchar ticket could be the perfect concoction for a single-term Trump presidency. But is she exciting enough to win primary season? At this point, probably not.

 

 

4. Joe Biden

Joe Biden

In a recent poll by CNN testing potential Democratic candidates, Biden came out on top by far, garnering 33% to second place Bernie Sanders’ 13%. It makes sense—he’s near-universally well-liked and well-known. But is a seventy-five-year-old politically moderate white man really what the Democratic party needs right now? And Joe Biden himself still seems unsure about running. He’s acknowledged that his age should be a factor voters consider, which doesn’t sound like the type of talk from a future nominee.

 

 

3. Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

It looks like #Feelthebern is fading. Based on the 2016 elections, Bernie Sanders should be the automatic favorite for the Democratic nomination, but his momentum is sliding. He’s old, white, and male. And while the Vermont senator’s progressive socialist message may be more inspiring to younger voters, there will likely be other more polished and diverse politicians who will compete for the same voting bloc, like Warren, Harris, Booker, and Gillibrand. If Sanders does find success, it’s through the message that, unlike many of his colleagues, he’s been devoted to the same policy stances for a whole lifetime.

 

 

2. Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren

After refusing pleas to run in 2016, Warren has kept herself in the news cycle; her active social media presence and openness to the press indicates she’s likely gearing up for a run in 2020. She’s an established member of the Democratic party’s progressive wing, which looks to be gaining the most momentum after the rise of Bernie Sanders. Plus, she’s a woman (a big advantage in the #Metoo era) and a polished public speaker, which could set her apart from ally Sanders.

 

 

1. Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris is the early favorite, but keep in mind: it’s still very early. At fifty-four, she’s relatively young. She’s a woman, a daughter of immigrants, a solid liberal, and a polished orator with a confident stage presence. That crosses off just about all the possible checkmarks Democrats are looking for. While her name recognition is lower than some of the veterans on this list, it has rapidly grown as her fiery Senate speeches and savvy tweets have gone viral. She still has some potential weaknesses—her time as a public prosecutor in California and her sudden (politically motivated?) shift to the left on many issues will certainly attract criticism—but overall, she maintains a slight advantage in what looks to be a very crowded 2020 field. So crowded, in fact, that who knows what surprises could be lurking outside of this list!