At this point, you are probably overwhelmed with all of the year-end lists. Thankfully, this year, people seemed to have held off on putting them out until the beginning of December, but they have come thick and fast throughout the month. There have been a few constants in many lists, though in a year of great music, a lot of differing opinions on where an album should rank or if it should be in a top 10, 25 or 50.
We have taken a crack at it, limiting ourselves to just 20 albums all year and not just electronic records, but in indie, hip-hop and more. There was so much amazing music all year, so this wasn't easy and a lot of great albums just didn't make the cut. We chose records from the likes of Jon Hopkins, Robyn, SOPHIE, Mitski, Leon Vynehall, Pusha T and others who all deservedly put out incredible music that stood the test of time in 2018 and beyond.
Important to note that these are in no particular order. These are just the best 20. Take it or leave it.
1. Jon Hopkins - Singularity:
Jon Hopkins took his time with this album, exploring psychedelics and himself after the release of his celebrated 2013 record Immunity. After little build up, Singularity comes five years and it shattered expectations of what fans might expect from Hopkins. The album is haunting, powerful and beautiful as the British producer crafts a carefully produced blend of ambient electronica and techno that is both danceable and soothing. From its release it was clear, this was going to be one of the best records of 2018 and it has stood the test of time to the end of the year.
2. Pusha T – Daytona:
Your rapper’s favorite rapper, Pusha T hit his peak on Daytona, taking his brand of luxurious drug rap to the next level. It is “all killer and no filler” as he has said, hitting fans with a powerful burst of seven songs that last only 21 minutes. In an era where many rappers are trying to game the system by putting out 20+ song albums to get more streams and give themselves better chart position, Pusha did the opposite with relentless quality control. Kanye West helped him on production with heavy sampling that fit Pusha’s style and also pushed him to explore new variations of his flow throughout the record.
3. DJ Koze – Knock Knock
DJ Koze built a world for the listener to get lost in with Knock Knock. He mixes psychedelic, funk, disco, a dash of hip-hop and afro beat rhythms together all on this one record that takes many different turns, yet still seems to have one summary focus. It covers so much ground, but remains a powerful message to how a diverse electronic music album should come together. Hits like “Pick Up” have gotten a lot of the plaudits come year-end, but throughout the record there are moments of pure brilliance as melodies intertwine with sublime and surprising vocal snippets and percussion to make this clearly one of the best albums of the year.
4. Peggy Gou – Once
Yes I know this isn’t an album, but it was one of the best projects of the year, from an artist who was unstoppable. Peggy Gou was everywhere and this project was a large part of why. It helped capture the type of dancefloor energy that she brings to her DJ sets. Even within three songs, there is a remarkable diversity in sound that is grounded a song bassline with tribal rhythms, acid, some spacey, jazzy melodies and breaks. Lending her own voice on “Han Jan” adds one more element to the EP that already finds a way to take you through many different twists and turns in just three songs.
5. SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
SOPHIE has been a leader of the new wave of bubble gum pop that seemingly every big pop star has wanted to get a piece of over the past several years. With several singles and EPs over the past few years, not to mention countless collaborations, her influence on pop music has been hard to measure. OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES is her debut album and captures some of that sugary brand of pop music, but expands on it with darker, more aggressive tracks that show just how innovative a writer and producer SOPHIE really is. A lot of pop music can be designed to accumulate as many streams as possible, but SOPHIE eschews that once again with songs that come far afield and will likely continue to set trends.
6. Anderson .Paak – Oxnard:
Funk is back in hip-hop and Anderson .Paak is among those doing it the best. Oxnard is not just a love letter to his hometown in Southern California, but also California in general – its music, the culture and the artists that have shaped him. He works with names like Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and of course Dr. Dre. Oxnard also expands his world as well from Malibu with deft lyricism and a variety of production that range from upbeat songs to smooth jams that blend laidback funk or gospel into crisp hip-hop drums. As one of the most unique voices in hip-hop who can sing, rap, produce and drum, Anderson .Paak continues to grow on Oxnard and become one of the best in genre.
7. Leon Vynehall – Nothing Is Still:
Leon Vynehall managed to put out one of the most beautiful electronic music records of the year with Nothing Is Still. The title would suggest potentially something much more upbeat or dancefloor friendly, but instead it is subtler than that. Using swirling strings and tense builds, Vynehall brings orchestral arrangements into his ambient electronica that flows over the occasional bassline and percussion. Nothing Is Still with Leon Vynehall who creates one of the more emotional, tender and re-listenable albums of the year.
8. Robyn – Honey:
After an eight year wait, Robyn made her powerful return to the music world with Honey. The record was slower and more contemplative than her past work, but it still had the fuel for her dancefloor exploits. Robyn bucked the trend on many pop records to pack as many bangers as they can into an album, regardless of if they fit together. She tells a story of longing and sensuality on Honey that is woven together by her excellent songwriting, diverse production and of course that inimitable voice. This is as clean a full listen as you will get in pop music today.
9. Ólafur Arnalds - re:member:
Ólafur Arnalds released one of the more underrated records of the year with re:member. It is beautiful and powerful all the way through. It is held together by soft piano that seems to float out of your speakers. Arnalds builds each record with more including soft vocals, strings and the occasional light percussion to create one of the most memorable orchestral records of this type in years.
10. Louie Vega – NYC Disco
Louie Vega wants to keep you dancing with his new 2018 album NYC Disco. Reviving and remixing old disco classics with a new twist and putting out new records of his own, Vega went all out with this record. He worked with names like The Martinez Brothers, Blaze's Josh Milan, and the vocalists Rochelle Fleming and Barbara Tucker, while making sure to rework classics from power vocalists like Luther Vandross. Vega keeps an authentic New York disco sound, bridging the 1970s and 80s with the type of industry he would put out under Master’s Of Work and his modern day production.
11. RÜFÜS DU SOL – Solace
The Australian trio broke out to the world with their sophomore album Bloom at the turn of 2016 and soon began a breakneck pace of touring and festival gigs that took them to heights that surprised just about everyone. There was pressure on RÜFÜS DU SOL to follow up with their next album and Solace managed to match and even surpass them. Solace was recorded in a Los Angeles and reflected a somewhat darker sound than their sunnier and brighter first two records. Solace takes the listener through the emotional steps of a breakup from the initial pain to eventual acceptance that it won’t work. They explore new instrumentals, using deeper, stronger basslines that seem to have been influenced by their years on the road. With more time touring and having seen the show already, we can attest the records like “Underwater” and No Place” are no joke.
12. Nils Frahm - All Melody:
Nils Frahm has always been known as a master of orchestral ambient music, but on All Melody he takes his mastery to a new level. The album is more than just slow piano ballads or string compositions, but rather tie them together on records. He also brings in soft trumpets and vocals on others like “Human Range” and “A Place,” which makes this not only a very relaxing album that flies by, but doesn’t become sleepy or easily ignorable.
13. Mac Miller - Swimming:
Listening back to Swimming takes on a totally different meaning now ever since Mac Miller tragically died in August from a drug overdose. Mac Miller is as honest as ever about his heartbreak and his mental state, something that listens back as a chilling foreshadowing of what was potentially to come. He doesn’t dwell on the sadness, instead keeping things light and fun at times with jazzy and funky beats or some smooth chill instrumentals that have been a part of his repertoire since the early mixtape days.
14. REZZ – Certain Kind Of Magic:
There are few electronic artists who have had the type of rise in the past few years that REZZ has had. The cult of REZZ is one of the most powerful fan bases in electronic music and helps propel her to headlining heights. The alien mom released her debut album last year and followed it up with Certain Type Of Magic this year, collaborating with some fresh up-and-comers, steering them along on her mid-tempo ride of glitchy electronic music that blends electro, dubstep and a hint of techno. The haunting melodies combine with hard basslines and give us one of the more unique sounding albums of the year from an artist who has become a leader, though often imitated.
15. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be:
George Fitzgerald may have gone a little under the radar with All That Must Be this year, but the record was one of the best this year. The record takes the listener down many different paths like the tender “Roll Back” with Lil Silva or the soothing “Outgrown” with Bonobo or the deep and proggy “The Echo Never Forgets.” It manages to keep an identity to his strong melodies that make this an album that flows together effortlessly and lends itself to many listens.
16. Moby – Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt
Moby’s star shined the brightest in the late 90s and early 2000s and today he is sometimes as well known for his activism as for his music, but Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt shows that he still hasn’t lost a step creatively with his music 15 albums in. There are tender moments and others where Moby reflects on his long and winding life. It is personal, powerful and well produced.
17. Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Five albums in, Mitski is at the height of her creative powers with Be The Cowboy. Unlike any other album this year, she was able to capture the awkwardness and harshness of modern love, all through the complex lens of a modern person and their anxiety and sadness. She never overstays her welcome on each song, keeping them between one minute and three minutes. The songwriting is irresistible and as strong as you will hear on any record this year, that pulls on the heartstrings and tear ducts. Seriously, go to one of her concerts and look around.
18. G Jones - The Effable Truth:
In a time where dubstep and bass music has started to dominate the mainstream EDM scene in the United States, it becomes even more imperative that interesting, different and eclectic songs and projects start to become heard. G Jones’ The Ineffable Truth carried that mantle in 2018, a late edition to lists for album of the year, but an album that seemed to surprise with every twist and song selection. It weaves its way through dubstep, drum and bass, some hard two-stepping electro and even softer electronica to give your mind, body and soul a short respite in between. Many albums that experiment with a lot of different genres seem to ping-pong randomly between them, but G Jones binds them together impressively – even more so since this is his debut LP.
19. Brockhampton – iridescence:
The 14-member group labels themselves a boy band, but they are nothing like many of the industry machine-created pop groups of the 2000s to now. Brockhampton take on all roles with iridescence, rapping, signing, producing and all of the art around it. Kevin Abstract may be the public leader and the line that keeps the album moving, but Matt Champion, Meryln Wood, Bearface, Joba, Dom McLennon and others make sure to keep you on your toes. They all offer their own perspectives and experiences on the same or similar ideas. The record incorporates gospel, soul, bits of electronic and rock in between hip-hop beats. The album is personal, touching on topics like fame, the trappings of the music business, sexuality and love.
20. A.A.L (Against All Logic) – 2012 – 2017:
Against All Logic an alias of Nicolas Jaar’s, which was unexpectedly and somewhat clandestinely was revived in 2018 with the release of a new album 2012-2017. A compilation of sorts, but very much an album and his debut under this alias, Jaar takes a different approach from his cerebral and dystopian techno for more sample-heavy disco and house. The songs groove and glide with piano flourishes, easy danceable beats that vary from song to song and strong, meticulous production that you expect from Jaar. The album seemingly came out of nowhere, but it ended up being on of the strongest of the year.