Top Albums of 2018

Story posted December 30, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment by Arts Staff.

As 2018 wraps up, the CommRadio Arts Department will be taking a look back at the year in music. Here is the Arts Department’s top 20 albums of 2018.

20. Vince Staples - FM!

Vince Staples’ FM was full of trap, party beats and up-tempo music. This album had many great features as Staples approached this album as an artist who takes over the radio station and goes haywire. Songs such as “Feels Like Summer,” “Don’t Get Chipped” and “FUN!” highlight the mood that this album brings. With this being his third studio album, he seems to be getting better and better with every release.  He made sure this album would be something that would lift people up and make them want to dance. The project is only 11 tracks and it’s total runtime is 22  minutes. On the project, every song flows into the next and before listeners know it, they’re at the end. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful ride throughout. - Jibril Washington

Read our full FM! Review here.

19. Kali Uchis - Isolation

On her first studio album, Kali Uchis changed as a musician. Isolation is not just one genre, but incorporates multiple such as reggaeton, funk and contemporary R&B. Featured artists on this album includes BIA, Steve Lacy, Jorja Smith and Tyler The Creator. Kali Uchis compares her album to sex and the variety of positions. In her own words she explains, “This album is dedicated to the people who feel trapped in their position, in hope that the music will enable you to change it.”

This album is considered one of the best albums of the year due to the ability to change genres through the whole album, giving viewers a different experience through the 15-track album. One of the great qualities Kali Uchis has as an artist is her ability to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. For someone who lived in her car and made beats, to now having debuted her first studio album is an accomplishment indeed. - Rachel Miloscia

18. Deafheaven - Ordinary Corrupt Human Love

There was a trend amongst metal bands in 2018 that started with Deafheaven’s release of Ordinary Corrupt Human Love: metal that can be simultaneously brutal, but still feel relaxed. For a metal act, the instrumentation on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is lush and beautiful, painting a Deafheaven for new listeners as a very mellow, not at all metal band. Throughout though, the vocal harmonies that are to be expected on a metal album pop up and show the band’s unique ability to blend those whaling vocals with subdued instrumentation. The two should not work at all, but they somehow come together to showcase the evolution of one of the most critically acclaimed metal bands of this decade. There are times where Deafheaven is unmistakably metal, but the album shines its brightest when the lines are skewed. - David Arroyo

17. Car Seat Headrest - Twin Fantasy

Indie rock sensation, Car Seat Headrest, after going on to produce several great and innovative records, have taken a moment to look back and release a reworked version of the album that put them on the map, Twin Fantasy. While the original version of the album was able to prove Car Seat Headrest’s talents and potential, the 2011 release of this record had been produced with a very minimal acoustic set-up. This had led to a lot of the unique sounds and concepts of the album going unnoticed and underappreciated. Now far more established than they had been during the original recording of the record, Car Seat Headrest has taken it upon themselves to provide a far clearer and perfected version of the record. Their attempt was a complete success.

The re-recorded version of Twin Fantasy is in every way a superior version to the original record. Every track is given its chance to show its own respective sound, making each moment feel properly used and necessary while also seemingly sung through an effortless stream of consciousness. Songs such as “Bodys,” and “Beach Life-In-Death” have updated beats and grooves which are now far crisper and more enjoyable. The entire album, while seemingly meticulously planned and coordinated, is still able to capture that light hearted and carefree dance infectious spirit the original was able to achieve. In all ways a vast improvement to the original, Car Seat Headrest’s updated version of Twin Fantasy is still relevant and impressive, able to adopt and showcase the band’s budding style with ease. – Scott Perdue

Read our full Twin Fantasy review here.

16. Cardi B - Invasion of Privacy

Unapologetic and unfiltered, Cardi B’s debut studio album Invasion of Privacy is bold and an undeniable success. Providing 2018 with a staggering amount of hits, Invasion of Privacy took over the airways, proving Cardi B isn’t a one hit wonder. The album is able to move seamlessly between assertive and aggressive tracks such as “Get Up 10,” and the iconic “Bodak Yellow” and carefree light-hearted songs such as “I Like It” and “Best Life”. Delving into themes such as gang violence, drug use and stripping, Cardi is more than willing to tell and showcase her life story. While the album follows the common formula for any trap record, Cardi differentiates herself with her own unique personal flare. Alongside an impressive list of guest artists and an effective blend of rap, latin pop and hip-hop influences, Invasion of Privacy is an impressive and undisputed masterpiece. – Scott Perdue

Read our full Invasion of Privacy review here.

15. BROCKHAMPTON - iridescence

BROCKHAMPTON, also known as “the best boyband since One Direction,” leaped into the music scene last year and has remained relevant ever since. On their first album since being signed by RCA, BROCKHAMPTON opens up about their lives since being in the spotlight.

Iridescence provides a fresh sound for the band after the departure of Ameer Van due to abuse allegations. However, the band only grows from his absence by allowing more members to shine in different ways. Two members in particular stand out on this record. They are bear face and Joba. Each one individually plays a heavy role on the majority of songs.

Iridescence not only focuses on more people within BROCKHAMPTON, but it also supports the band’s positive reputation with incredible production throughout. With 2018 coming to a close, BROCKHAMPTON fans are waiting to hear more from the band in the new year. - Jenna Minnig

Read our full iridesence review here

14. Denzel Curry - Ta13oo

Denzel Curry proved himself to be bigger than just a Soundcloud rapper on his third album. Taboo, stylized as Ta13oo as a three-act album divided between light, gray and dark. Curry proved to be one of the best at wordplay and creativity on this album, which drew a lot of inspiration from his personal life. He wrote each of the three parts when he was at that point in his life, dark especially came from a dark place. The album has many themes and many styles, and the one consistency that makes the album work is Denzel at the top of his game, lyrically and technically.

“Clout Cobain” covers much darker themes then the more comedic “Sumo” yet both show the maturity and craftsmanship of Curry. There are ballads next to bangers and Denzel flexes his knowledge of pop-culture with references to all things entertainment, showing a comedic side that meshes well with the darker themes in creating the descent into darkness. Curry proved his staying power with Ta13oo, and will be able to continue evolving as he breaks further into the mainstream community. - Owen Paiva

Read our full Ta13oo review here.

13. Amen Dunes - Freedom

On his fifth album, Amen Dunes dials back the psychedelic folk of his past for a much warmer and introspective look in life on Freedom. The minimalist production allows Dunes beautiful and unique voice to come through. Production is as strong as ever, accompanied on most songs by a light guitar and drums. Dunes is able to craft an album that seamlessly flows from track-to-track, while also changing his typical production choices to make for a relaxed and more neo-psychedelic album. - David Arroyo

12. KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS

KIDS SEE GHOSTS self-titled debut sees Kanye West and Kid Cudi at their most vulnerable, and their most creatively explorative. A collaborative project between the two artists has been rumored and pleaded for by fans for years, and Kids See Ghosts doesn’t disappoint. Both West and Cudi have dealt and are dealing with mental health issues, which is explored across the albums seven tracks. In just 23 minutes of music, the duo has moments of raw emotion, defiance, introspection, and most importantly acceptance. These themes are further perpetuated by the excellent instrumentals. Each track is unique, switching from heavy samples on songs like “Fire,” and “4th Dimension,” to slower melodic tracks like “Reborn,” and “Cudi Montage.” One of Kids See Ghosts greatest strengths is variety, making its short run time worth multiple listens from start to finish. Kids See Ghosts is a great first project from Kanye West and Kid Cudi as a duo and shows a lot of potential for future collaborations. - Zach Hall

Read our full Kids See Ghosts review here.

11. JPEGMAFIA - Veteran

Baltimore native JPEGMAFIA struck a nerve on his latest project Veteran. The album is both socially conscious and extremely meta, set to the backdrop of glitchy off kilter beats that are easily some of the most unique of the year. Impressively enough, JPEGMAFIA is responsible for producing the entirety of the album. Veteran has moments of sharp social commentary speaking on real issues, but is conveyed with a sense of levity that makes each track a joy to listen to. JPEGMAFIA’s eclectic delivery and personality permeates the entire album, with each track having an added layer of enthusiasm that help keep the sometimes dark tones on the album more upbeat. There is also no shortage of variety on the project. 47 minutes over 19 tracks is never a bore to listen to. Each track offers something different and the wide variety of instrumental detours keeps everything fresh. Veteran is a solid project that shouldn’t be missed. - Zach Hall

10. Jack Stauber - HiLo

Hailing from Pittsburgh, Jack Stauber is an experimental indie musician and filmmaker. Known for his bizarre yet charming YouTube channel and a unique style of music, Stauber showed his chops on his fourth album, HiLo. The synth pop album isn’t your normal in the genre, more avant-garde and experimental than the typical synth pop outing, but Stauber shows his brilliance as a musician. He incorporates some unexpected sounds and will change his style multiple times on a song, “Leopard” being a prime example, as he continues to push the boundaries of normal.

“Dead Weight” shows the struggles that a creative introvert may face over a light and happy backing track. The accompanying video adds to the juxtaposition. “Coconut Ranger” is an ode to a special person, masquerading as a love song to Stauber’s favorite cookie. Stauber is able to craft nonsensical songs that have deeper meanings than they seem on the surface level. Stauber’s passion for making art shines through on this album, showing a creativity and freshness that the majority of the entertainment industry is lacking. Armed with a synth and an 80’s VHS aesthetic, Stauber is steadily carving out his niche. - Owen Paiva

Read our full HiLo review here.

9. SOPHIE - OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES

On her debut, SOPHIE uses both the beauty and the brutality of music to translate her life as a transgender individual. On tracks like “PonyBoy” and “Faceshopping,” listenings will be faulted into a chaotic world of heavy bass and icy synths, but they never stray too far from the identity of SOPHIE as a producer. The album is unlike anything to be heard in 2018, operating a such a grey area of music it can be off-putting to most who try. But they ability to have such a powerful album, while also pushing the furthest reaches of experimentation in music should be commended. No one took a bigger risk musically in 2018 and had as great of payoffs as SOPHIE. - David Arroyo

8. Beach House - 7

Dream pop is a hazy, beautiful genre that has been almost perfectly defined by the band Beach House for close to 15 years. Within their musical career, they’ve kept a steady and original sound of trippy, dreamy and unique experiments while maintaining to come up with gorgeous new songs and musical methods. Their seventh studio album, titled 7, came out in May of this year and proved that Beach House is still a prominent name in the music industry that deserves to be heard. This album is the first after the bands departure from their long-time producer and collaborating with Sonic Boom, and not having a traditional producer. With this process came a lengthy amount of time for new ideas and give the duo time to put out what is being called Beach House’s greatest album. 7 stays true to the band's signature sound while maintaining a new consistency of originality that will no doubt be absorbed beautifully. - Lilly Adams

7. Saba – Care For Me

Throughout the course of Care For Me, listeners will be exposed to a young man who based on his surroundings and what has been said about people like him should be numb to the pain of loss. But this project rejections that monolithic notion, on this album, Saba mourns the loss of his cousin, Walter “John Walt” Long Jr. Throughout the project Saba confronts the harsh reality that is death, internal and external fights, and societal issues. Saba’s most impressive quality throughout the project is his songwriting and storytelling, both qualities that have improved since 2016 project, Bucket List Project. Some of the greatest examples of his improved storytelling are on display on the tracks “Prom/King” and “Fighter”. Care For Me is one of the most emotionally driven hip-hop projects this year and listeners should be eager to see what Saba has in store for his next release. - Jerome Taylor

6. Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

Country music often gets a bad reputation these days. However, Kacey Musgraves is here to prove that the genre can be fun. Golden Hour is the third, and arguably the best best album from the singer. She combines pop and country music in an exciting way. Although there are many artists who have done the same thing, Musgraves succeeded in her attempts with her memorable voice and catchy beats. The record explores relationship struggles, and other topics that aren’t extremely complex. Yet, that simplicity is what drives this record to its peak. With bangers like “High Horse,” Golden Hour deserves every mention it received in 2018. - Jenna Minnig

5. Field Music - Open Here

In the trying times of 2018, politics were a heavy topic, especially among musical artists. For many, their music and reputation began to fall due to its overly political content. For Field Music, however, this year’s ups and downs only benefited their sound. Brothers Peter and David Brewis used their platform positively by drawing attention in their music to the controversial topic of Brexit in England. While this drove much of the lyrical content on Open Here, the brothers also use their personal experiences in fatherhood to form meaningful songs. While the subject matter on this album focuses on a serious issue, Field Music lightens the mood with fun sounds throughout. Open Here leaves listeners with a fresh take on music in 2018. - Jenna Minnig

Read our full Open Here review here.

4. Mitski - Be the Cowboy

There is no question that Mitski has been creating outstanding music for many years. However, 2018 was the year she shined in all aspects of her work. The singer-songwriter has focused on the topic of love in most of her music. Rather than make a song that appeals to the mainstream audience, Mitski writes from her heart with only her own thoughts in mind, and that is exactly what she did on Be the Cowboy. This record explores the deepest feelings of love and heartbreak at its core. With lyrics that are often far too real, Mitski digs deeper with her chilling and beautiful voice. Although much of the artist’s past work is mostly slow and somber, Be the Cowboy holds many upbeat tracks while continuing to be a deep reflection on love. There is zero doubt that Mitski will continue to shine into the new year after her stellar year in 2018. - Jenna Minnig

3. Noname – Room 25

On Room 25, Noname perfectly ties together jazz and hip-hop. The Chicago MC’s soft-spoken but powerful spoken word delivery meshes perfectly with the jazzy production on the project. Noname explores introspective concepts such as black consciousness, heartbreak and sexuality while also keeping in touch with the outside world when she provides commentary on politics. She also showcases her gift with the pen constructing impressive alliterations, such as, “Penny proud, penny petty, pissing off Betty the Boop.”  The project also contains one of the most underrated collaborations this year, “Ace,” which features budding stars and fellow Chicago natives Smino and Saba. When you add Noname’s sharp lyricism and attention commanding delivery with her choice of meaningful content and jazzy production, it is no surprise that she finishes the year with one of the best and most enjoyable projects. – Jerome Taylor

2. Pusha-T – Daytona

Over the course of seven tracks Pusha-T showcases he is one of the last remaining “rap superheroes.” With each lyric the listener wants to see how many ways Push can flex his lyrical prowess. Pusha’s content on the project is on par with most of the work he’s done over the course of his illustrious career; King Push raps about selling drugs and what he has bought with the profits, and now as an elder statesman in hip-hop he gives his view on the current state of the industry. The thing that sets this project a part from other hip-hop albums is the hand and glove fit of Pusha’s lyrics and flow with Kanye West’s production.

Ye produced on every track on the album showcasing just how good he can be when he’s “back chopping.” Songs like, “The Games We Play” which samples “Heart 'N Soul” by Booker T Averheart  showcases the legendary ability of Kanye the crate digger and how he can create dark, head-nod inducing beats that perfectly complement Pusha T’s street lyricism. The album’s short run time makes listeners want to replay it repeatedly. The project also served as the platform for the initial shot of feud between Pusha T and Kanye West versus Drake that dominated the headlines since the first person heard the outro of the album, “Infrared.” - Jerome Taylor

Read our full Daytona review here.

1. U.S. Girls - In A Poem Unlimited

If there were two words used to describe 2018, they would be GIRL POWER. Meghan Remy, who goes by the name of U.S. Girls, created one of the most compelling and contagious albums of the year. In A Poem Unlimited is female empowerment at its peak. With topics ranging from sexual harassment, to the incredible comeback of women, there is never a dull moment on this record. If the lyrical content wasn’t enough, the musical elements on this album are fresh and exciting. The funky, upbeat music paired with Remy’s unique voice is sure to leave listeners in awe. While U.S. Girls is certainly not a well known name now, there is no doubt that it will be after 2018. In A Poem Unlimited is not only the top album of the year, but it will remain a hit for years to come with its ability to explore different genres all while providing genuinely good sounding music. - Jenna Minnig

 

Jibril Washington is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in theatre arts. To contact him, email jibrilwashington@gmail.com.

Rachel Miloscia is a Junior majoring in telecommunications. To contact her, email rmiloscia34@gmail.com.

David Arroyo is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email arroyodavid01@gmail.com.

Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.

Owen Paiva is a Sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email owenpaiva@sbcglobal.net.

Zach Hall is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu.

Lilly Adams is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact her, email lillyadams11@gmail.com.    

Jerome Taylor is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jerometaylor91697@gmail.com.

Jenna Minnig is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email jennaminnigx@gmail.com.

About the Contributors

David Arroyo's photo

David Arroyo

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

David Arroyo currently serves as one of two General Managers for CommRadio. David is a former arts & entertainment director, social media director and editor for the station. He has produced for multiple Penn State sports while in CommRadio, has done play by play for Penn State sporting events such as football, basketball and volleyball and co-hosted and produced his own talk show. During the fall of 2017, David was an anchor, producer and reporter for the Centre County Report. David most recently interned at WPVI-TV, 6abc in Philadelphia during the summer of 2018. While at 6abc he was a programing intern and helped in the production of their weekly show “FYI Philly.” David has interned at B94.5 (State College) and Center City Film and Video (Philadelphia). Follow him on Twitter (@_arroyodavid) or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jenna Minnig's photo

Jenna Minnig

Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism

Jenna Minnig is a junior from Hershey, Pennsylvania. She is a General Manager of CommRadio where she manages the student radio station. In addition to CommRadio, Jenna has interned for Philadelphia Magazine, Happy Valley Improv, Nittany Entertainment and Young Hollywood. To contact Jenna, email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Jerome Taylor's photo

Jerome Taylor

Senior / Broadcast Journalism

Jerome Taylor currently serves as one of two Arts & Entertainment Managers for CommRadio. He currently serves as a host for the department’s flagship radio show, “The Nittany Record Club.” He has also written several album reviews and has contributed to several lists that the department has produced. Jerome has also served as a beat writer and producer for several Penn State sports including, lacrosse, volleyball, and basketball. After graduation Jerome hopes to work in the broadcast journalism field covering sports or entertainment. Follow him on twitter (@ThatGuy_Rome) or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).