Yep. The first half of the year has been and gone. When it comes to music, all that will be remembered from the first half of 2018 is Kanye’s hijacking of all media attention. In part due to his production of five records in as many weeks – one of them his own and another a collab with Kid Cudi – but mostly due to his controversial tweets and interviews.
But while Kanye season has taken over recently, there’s been a raft of incredible albums released in 2018 so far. It’s important to reflect on the year at this stage, as some of those great albums may be forgotten.
Find out who made the cut below…
15. Middle Kids – Lost Friends
Middle Kids‘ debut album, Lost Friends, has everything expected of it. The anthemic indie-rock, skilful song-writing and lush production makes it one of the best debuts in Australian music. The record isn’t trailblazing. It doesn’t push any boundaries. It doesn’t rewrite the rules. But the familiarity of Lost Friends is what makes it so good. The moment the guitar strumming begins on album opener ‘Bought It’, an odd sense of nostalgia rushes over and continues until the epic piano-led, stadium-ready closer ‘So Long Farewell I’m Gone’.
14. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be
Englishman George FitzGerald is an intelligent person. While intelligence isn’t generally associated with electronic music, it can be felt all throughout the producer’s brilliant sophomore album, All That Must Be. How is it felt? The compositions evoke emotions that are rarely manipulated through instrumental exclusive music. Only a handful of producers are capable of this act, and George is among them. However, there’s still tunes to get down to on All That Must Be. Lead single and the opus of the album, ‘Burns’, is a club-ready banger.
13. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS
When Kanye announced a collab album with Kid Cudi as KIDS SEE GHOSTS, fans were understandably wary. Though Cudi’s last album, Passion Pain & Demon Slayin’, was a return to form, prior to that he’d been struggling to produce a decent project. And as for Kanye… his issues are well-publicised. Although it can be messy at times, the duo exceeds expectations on KIDS SEE GHOSTS. Unbelievably, Cudi overshadows Kanye on the project, as his rap crooning and characteristic hums shine on highlights ‘Reborn’ and ‘Cudi Monatage’.
12. City Calm Down – Echoes In Blue
Last year, Gang of Youths set the bar for grandiose rock with Go Farther In Lightness. In 2018, City Calm Down have taken over the mantle. On the band’s sophomore effort, Echoes In Blue, the four-piece broaden their brand of climactic rock. Unlike other bands, the Melbourne group aren’t one-dimensional. They’re more than meets the eye. City Calm Down can produce energetic singalongs like ‘In This Modern Land’, but also construct slow-burning tracks with huge crescendos like ‘Joan, I’m Disappearing’. City Calm Down are more than just indie-rock.
11. Kanye West – ye
Kanye West’s eighth studio album, ye, isn’t his best. It won’t go down as a classic. But it’s still a solid addition to his now extensive catalogue. Over the seven tracks on ye, Kanye delivers tracks that will be added to his extensive list of hits, particularly ‘Ghost Town’. There’s insight into his mental health and relationships on ‘Yikes’ and ‘Wouldn’t Leave’. ‘All Mine’ provides the comical and quotable verses, while the suicide-addressing opener ‘I Thought About Killing You’ is straight-up bizarre. Kanye doesn’t waste a moment, and only he could make a 23-mintue record sprawling.
10. A$AP Rocky – TESTING
On A$AP Rocky’s most ambitious project yet, the Harlem rapper combines eclectic samples, unique production techniques and his characteristic egocentric rapping to create TESTING. Rocky attempted to integrate as many new and bold sounds into the record, inspiring the title. And the rapper does a pretty handy job of it. The pan-flute led Skepta collab, ‘Praise The Lord’, is the most minimal song on TESTING, yet the most effective. ‘Hun34rd’ is the pinnacle of psychedelic hip-hop, and ‘A$AP Forever’ feeds off Moby’s trip-hop anthem ‘Porcelain’ with great success.
9. DJ Koze – Knock Knock
DJ Koze’s wide-ranging taste has seen the producer dabble in abrasive deep-house, unorthodox hip-hop and recently, cyclic disco. The German producer’s 2015 single ‘XTC’ provided a blueprint for what would be most successful on Knock Knock, displaying similar upbeat house characteristics to the album’s best moments. The best of Knock Knock’s collection of dance-friendly tunes is Side C starter ‘Pick Up’. ‘Seeing Aliens’ and ‘Moving In A Liquid’ are of the same disco-inspired fabric. Apart from those obvious highlights, Knock Knock is a genre-blurring journey through Koze’s extensive background.
8. MGMT – Little Dark Age
Little Dark Age’s blend of synth-pop and psychedelia motions a return to form for MGMT. The duo’s fourth record is as close to Oracular Spectacular’s youthful pop bangers that are still party favourites today. On Little Dark Age, MGMT have found a happy medium between pop and the psychedelic expeditions that have dominated their previous two albums. Little Dark Age’s second single, ‘When You Die’, is the most obvious psych-pop track on the record. It’s also extremely impressionable, showing MGMT haven’t lost their ability to write catchy hooks. And of course, ‘Little Dark Age’ is a banger, recalling MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular with… a little dark edge.
7. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Who would’ve foreseen Arctic Monkey’s producing a sci-fi lounge record? Better yet, who would’ve thought they could actually make it work? Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, sees the Alex Turner-led band swap the arena-sized riffs for the hotel lobby piano – a switch-up that has divided fans and critics. The record takes place in the distant future, a time where mankind has “gentrified” the moon. Many will fall victim to the premature evaluation – one rotation without unpacking what’s really happening. TBH&C needs dissecting. Turner’s lyrics are witty and more adventurous than ever before. The instrumentation is psychedelic, with a Bowie glam-rock nostalgia that remains unique.
6. Against All Logic – 2012 – 2017
When this album dropped, nobody knew who Against All Logic was. But everyone wanted to know, because 2012 – 2017 is so damn groovy. After much speculation, AAL was revealed as Nicholas Jaar’s side-project. It makes sense – the record is the product of an experienced artist. Jaar’s music under his own name is experimental and challenging, favouring unexpected twists. However, his first full-length under AAL is the most accessible album of his career. Dominated by soulful ‘70s samples, 2012 – 2017 is full of dusty and danceable house bangers. The trajectory of the album ebbs and flows, due to its dense layering and explosive house rhythms, like on ‘This Old House Is All I Have’.
5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
Unknown Mortal Orchestra mastermind Ruban Nielson expands and explores various genres on the Portland-via-New Zealand band’s fourth album, Sex & Food. From heavy fuzz-rock on ‘Major League Chemicals’, warping folk on ‘The Internet of Love (That Way)’, plummeting psych-funk on ‘You’re Going To Break Yourself’ and acid synth-pop on ‘Not in Love We’re Just High’, it’s a sprawling kaleidoscope of sounds. ‘Hunnybee’ – a love song to Nielson’s daughter – is the perfect UMO song. The boppy track also represents Nielson’s underlying anxiety of the modern world – the “age of paranoia.” Nielson further dissects society’s behaviour on ‘Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays’, a song about everyone expecting the end to be near. Neilson even tries his hand at reviving rock on ‘American Guilt’.
4. GUM – The Underdog
On The Underdog, GUM – solo project of Jay Watson – continues his foray into electronica. The psych-pop genius has always dabbled strongly with synths, but on The Underdog, GUM’s beats are mechanical and rhythmic, resembling disco and house. One of two lead singles, ‘S.I.A’ prepared GUM fanatics for what was to dominate The Underdog. The track will transcend you onto a dirty dancefloor in a small, dark club. For the psych lovers, there’s still plenty on offer. ‘The Blue Marble’, the best track on the album, sees Watson forget his underdog anxieties and realise he is all but an insignificant body on ‘The Blue Marble’ we call Earth. GUM could have stuck to his guns and churned out another collection of electronic-infused psych-pop tunes, but the change revitalises two sounds that have been continuously tapped – disco and psych.
3. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Courtney Barnett is one of those artists people either love or hate. On Tell Me How You Really Feel, the Melbourne musician would have surely won over a few of those haters. While her debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit, was divisive due to Courtney’s slacker – at times spoken-word – vocals, her sophomore has more pace. Lead single ‘Nameless, Faceless’, a song that was already relevant but now has added meaning due to the rape and murder of Eurydice Dixon, represents the extra urgency. The instrumentation is rollicking and non-stop, while Courtney sings “I hold my keys between my fingers.” It’s a catchier and more political Courtney.
2. DMA’S – For Now
With The Presets’ Kim Moyes on board to produce DMA’S sophomore record, most were unsure what to expect. Following singles ‘Dawning’ and ‘In The Air’, any worries were put aside. The two lead singles symbolise the two moods of For Now: ‘Dawning’ is straight-up barnstorming and, contrastingly, ‘In The Air’ is gentle. The Sydney band have always created tracks for these moods, like ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Delete’, two songs off their instant-classic debut Hills End. There was no need for the trio to undergo a massive change on For Now – their songs are timeless and immediate as is. Moyes adds some electronic flair to some tracks, noticeably on ‘Time & Money’ and ‘The End’. Following their debut, For Now is another outstanding collection of tracks from DMA’S.
1. Beach House – 7
Beach House – the American band consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally – is a rare beast. Existing for more than 10 years, they’re still growing with each album. The aptly titled 7 is the dream-pop duo’s seventh record and is remarkably their best yet. The album is Beach House’s first since 2010’s Teen Dream without producer Chris Coady, as the pair opted to work with Sonic Boom. As a result, 7’s psychedelic sheen makes it Beach House’s dreamiest album yet. Two of the singles, ‘Lemon Glow’ and ‘Black Car’, are the duo’s most electronic-infused songs to date and are among Beach House’s best tracks. However, the remainder of the album doesn’t follow the electronic influence of these two tracks, but it’s no blight whatsoever. ‘L’Inconnue’ and ‘Dive’ are slow-building, climactic experiences. ‘Lose Your Smile’ is a sun-soaked psych-pop gem. There’s no weak moments on 7. Each song stands up on its own. It’s a near-perfect album.