In 2018, I had the pleasure to come on board at Riffs and Rhymes and give my opinion about multiple artists and styles of music. With that being said, 2018 was such a great year for music! The amount of music that was covered this year was very constant and diverse. No matter what week of the year it was, an icon was coming out with a new album or single. There was also rap beef, exciting collaborations, and multiple cross-genre works.
Because my musical background ranges more toward electronic music and hip-hop, on my list you will see a lot of breakthrough albums that really changed this year for me on a personal level. The albums that I will be presenting to you today are the albums that I feel were the worthiest in their respected category of music. Yes, there are albums in here that are pop-friendly, but honestly where would the music world be if we didn’t have the great pop albums that impact entire generations? These albums moved the charts, gained mass followings, and blew my mind on first listen.
When determining if an album is worthy for my personal stamp of approval, I look for 3 qualities: the album must make me feel multiple emotions, must have a good storyline or background, and lastly, the artist must genuinely mean what they are saying or writing. Nothing turns me off quicker than seeing artists make music strictly for popularity. In my own opinion, the reason why an artist gets to a specific level of stardom is because the listeners can empathize with what an artist is feeling from their music. If an album you think deserves to be on this list isn’t present, don’t be offended. There are so many artists that have poured blood, sweat, and tears into their works of art, and have gained global recognition from others around. Please enjoy my top 10 albums of 2018.
10. Mija – HOW TO MEASURE THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOVERS
It’s always a strange change of pace when a commercially successful DJ creates an album that is far off from their other successes. Mija didn’t want to create what every other EDM artist is creating right now – songs structured with a simple intro, breakdown, buildup, drop- but instead, the Arizona native wanted to create a personal album that reflected the feelings she wanted to evoke in her listeners. Mija travels from European trance in songs such as “5AM in Paris,” and breaks genres in tracks like “Bad For U.” My utmost respect for Mija transcribes through her dedication on breaking musical barriers for listeners. The producer even created a brand called “Fk A Genre” which has been supported by artists like A-Trak and Joey Purp. Mija’s album is a very personal, close-to-home album that seeps emotions into your ears at every listen.
9. Diplo – California
California has beautiful production and features a lineup of star-studded artists that usually do not work with people such as Diplo. This album is on my top 10 list is for two reasons:
- Half of Diplo’s songs were featured on the Billboard charts for pretty much the whole summer (“Wish,” “Colorblind,” “Get it Right”)
- Diplo dives back into his sad production vibes that not a lot of listeners have heard
Long ago when Diplo was pretty irrelevant, he released another state-themed album titled Florida. In this album, Diplo expresses his sadness in multiple songs. Listening to California, it is apparent that Diplo isn’t afraid to go back in time and revisit different styles of music that he hasn’t shown in a while. Diplo also tries to accelerate artists Lil Xan and Trippie Red into the spotlight, both of whom thrive in their appearances. At the end of the day, one of the fathers of modern electronic music still amazes me by adapting his production to relevant music in the current industry.
8. Rezz – Certain Kind of Magic
Rezz’s sophomore album is a defining moment for the Canadian artist. The down tempo producer explained earlier this year that none of her friends supported her, insisting the music she made was “too slow for the normal ear.” When first listening to this album, you can understand that this is not the normal electronic music most people listen to on a daily basis. Rezz’ use of experimental synthesizers bring out the darkness in all of her listeners. This year, the artist has been featured on multiple main stages, and continues to collaborate with new artists that share similar tastes with her.
7. Kayzo – OVERLOAD
Kayzo is a classic EDM producer who has emerged from a background of punk rock and heavy metal. OVERLOAD is a sentiment to his love for rock music, as he tries to find the perfect mix between heavy dubstep and grungy punk rock. Songs such as “NEVER ALONE” and “OVERLOAD” make you want to get out of your chair and start head banging. Kayzo has had a crazy year and is starting to get attention in the rock world as he starts collaborating with artists such as Underoath, xo sad, and Gammer. He even got permission to rework the popular Papa Roach song “Last Resort.” All together, OVERLOAD is a reflection on what makes Kayzo different from every other artist. His niche is relating to the people that want more rock in their lives.
6. RL Grime – NOVA
At one point in time, RL seemed afraid to break his style of trap music, releasing aggressive bangers every other month. On the album NOVA, we see a different sign of the LA based artist that still resonates with his true persona. This album is straight up beautiful to listen to. The intro song, “Feel Free,” sets the stage for a powerful album that brings plenty of raw emotion to the mix. With featured artists ranging from Julia Michaels to Chief Keef, this album is sure to quench the thirst of all his listeners. RL also includes a beautiful interlude, “Run For Your Life,” that transitions into his hit song “I Wanna Know.” The amount of diversity in this album is unreal and for that, I applaud RL Grime.
5. Post Malone – beerbongs & bentleys
Post Malone has been trying to prove himself as a professional artist ever since the release of his 2015 debut single “White Iverson.” Since then, Post has successfully dropped two full length albums while gaining a mass following for his sincere and emotional singing. Post’s vocals show significant improvement, while still giving the listener raw, unchained emotions that Malone staples. Songs such as “Psycho,” “Stay,” and “Rockstar” are the main singles on the album, although songs such as “Otherside,” “Over Now,” and “Zack And Codeine” still provide significant contributions to this album. This album is driving Post Malone to the top of the charts and provided him with a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
4. Twenty One Pilots – Trench
One of the main reasons I really enjoyed this album wasn’t necessarily because the production of the rock duo. Before Trench was released, Twenty One Pilots was planting their seed for what the plot of the album was to be. If you want to go really in depth about what this amazing band has done, you can look up in-depth videos on YouTube about what DEMA is and what it represents. The story that underlines this album is about Tyler’s internal struggle with mental illness. In the album you can hear how he tries to escape, but wants to bring as many people as he can with him. Twenty One Pilots are aware that people listening to their music may feel alone, and because of this struggle, the band had an idea to have every TOP fan follow their clues in order to decode the puzzle of the album all together. Their fans working together reflects that no one is really alone if you enjoy the same ideas and perspectives of others. Trench is an album that talks heavily on mental illness and shares the bands perspectives on suicide, loneliness, and solitude. Altogether, the album is not just about the band, but both the band and the followers they have.
3. Alison Wonderland – Awake
Australian electronic artist Alison Wonderland is very vocal on social media and has stated multiple times that her new album Awake was created to help her cope with her anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Through the healing power of music, Alison created an album that signifies who she wants to be surrounded with, how she wants to be treated as a human being, and how she gets through everyday life while struggling with problems of her own. This album is filled with tracks full of multiple emotions. You can hear aggressive tones in songs “Here 4 U,” “Good Enough,” and “Good Girls Bad Boys,” while also experiencing the saddened moods of songs like “Easy,” “Church,” and “Cry.” Overall, Alison Wonderland has created a very well balanced album that appeals to many different audiences.
2. BROCKHAMPTON – iridescence
Brockhampton’s iridescence was the album that surprised me the most in 2018. To be completely honest, I’m a little late to the Brockhampton party, but listening to this album and how honest they are around each other is very beautiful to me. On “WEIGHT,” all members of the boyband give their take on how commercial fame and success has changed their views on relationships and future plans. The group’s vulnerability coupled with the unique production shows great potential for BROCKHAMPTON’s years to come, especially when considering this was their first album that reached No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Top 200.
1. Virtual Self – Virtual Self
Listening to electronic music can sometimes be very repetitive. At the time this album was created, many artists had found the formula of a great “festival banger,” which usually consists of a heavy drop and vibrant baselines. Porter Robinson saw this type of subcategory as toxic by putting a stereotypical brand of what electronic music has the potential to be. Because of this reason, Porter had the idea to “reset” what music had become for the genre. With this in mind, Porter created Virtual Self, a persona that listeners weren’t used to hearing in this day in age. Virtual Self’s genre takes you into the early 2000’s, when Dance Dance Revolution was taking over the video game industry – a game that was a huge inspiration to Porter and his creative aspirations. Robinson was seeing the same formula of music reoccurring in 2017, and wanted both listeners and major producers to know that it was okay to make different subgenres of electronic music even though it didn’t appeal to every listeners’ ear. Virtual Self has since skyrocketed, and has received acclaim as one of the best dance albums of the year. Porter did not intend for this persona to gain success in the electronic community, but this goes to show that if the job is done right and passionately, it will pay off in the end.