ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2018: 20-11

20. Albin Lee Meldau – ‘About You’


What We Said…

Having been a valued part of the Swedish music scene for the last couple of years, and releasing one stunning EP after another, Albin Lee Meldau has finally broken the first major milestone of his career by releasing his debut studio album. The new full-length 'About You' sees the frontman bring together much of his material from the last 12 months to this new release, as he delights us with modern take on the classic soul sound.

Channeling the spirit of classic singers such as Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye, 'About You' still manages to maintain a contemporary sound throughout. With clear influences that range from folk all the way through to trip-hop, this new record likes to flip back and forth between a progressive, growing sound and more traditional heartfelt ballads, giving it a truly multifaceted feel. His diverse approach to production has left this album feeling very eclectic as it plays, but still manages to retain a cohesive and succinct direction throughout.

Albin Lee Meldau may have been flying under the radar prior to this release, but now we can experience him in his full flow, we can truly see how underrated he has been all this time. An exciting and engaging record with all the hallmarks of an incredibly confident songwriter.

19. Snail Mail – ‘Lush’


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Over the years, the rise of the self-proclaimed "sad pop" artist has been met with near to complete universal acclaim. Acts like Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile and Mac DeMarco have tapped into the woozy and laid-back attitude of many despondent music fans and delivered something that really hits home. Now after making a grand impression with her debut EP 'Habit' back in 2016, Lindsey Jordan aka Snail Mail looks to follow in the footsteps of her contemporaries with the release of her first studio album, a record that really aims to make a mark.

While it has this really loose-around-the-edges style, the songwriting behind each of these tracks is certainly something to admire. With a proficient yet swooning attitude, Lindsey looks to seduce us in an almost nonchalant way, as if her serenades are meant to sooth rather than be enticed by. Her slack vocal style and brooding demeanour give us this sense of non-committal engagement, whereby the listener can either make the effort to listen or just sit back and enjoy the ride, making this a collection of songs that can be enjoyed in almost any situation.

'Lush' may have this raw, DIY quality to it, but lying under the surface is a brilliant selection of slacker anthems that manage to sooth the soul as much as anything else. Much like her brothers and sisters in this world of woozy indie-rock, she has made an instant connection with those around her and delivered something that will earn her the reputation she truly deserves.

18. Sunflower Bean – ‘Twenty Two In Blue’


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Since releasing their well-received debut album 'Human Ceremony' back in 2016, New York's Sunflower Bean were met with love and appreciation for their modern yet retro sound. Taking clear inspiration from the likes of Fleetwood Mac and other classic outfits, the band quickly became a huge name on the cult scene. And despite only two years passing since those days, their second studio LP 'Twenty Two In Blue' delivers far more confidence this time around.

Not to say they were any kind of wallflower on their debut, but it just seems that some time in the limelight and on the road has developed them so much as a group. While there are plenty of callbacks to the sound of their first record, this new release is also filled with a more experimental and diverse direction, showing that the band are not that comfortable sticking to their roots but wish to try new and exciting ideas.

It certainly is a very warm and welcoming return from the trio. While the first record may have more of a focus to it, 'Twenty Two In Blue' definitely feels like a point of growth for their sound and helps cement them as one of America's most exciting bands.

17. Blood Orange – ‘Negro Swan’


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Despite all the projects and incarnations Dev Hynes has been over the years, his current state of mind has led to his greatest work of his career so far. While his last album under the name Blood Orange, 'Freetown Sound', saw him adopting a more style towards his black heritage, he returns with his most politically-minded record to date as he explores the troubling world in which black people and the LBGT community are forced to live, while managing to pay homage to the musical influences of his past.

Similar to what Kendrick Lamar did on 'To Pimp A Butterfly', 'Negro Swan' is partly a callback to the nostalgic ideals of RnB and hip-hop, while also sending a strong message about the state of multiculturalism in the modern world. Opening with the bubbly 'Orlando', a track that looks to see us focus on the devastating nightclub shooting some years ago, the record then moves through various guises and influences, adopting elements of jazz, soul and RnB to produce a solid collection of ideas that all manage to gel incredibly well with one another.

While his Blood Orange project has always tried to push the envelope in places, 'Negro Swan' seems more concerned about its ideals than musical evolution, making for his most succinct release to date. It is a soulful and memorable album that shows that Hynes has now truly found his voice and place in the world.

16. Dirty Projectors – ‘Lamp Lit Prose’


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Over the years, the sound of Dirty Projectors has evolved and moved around so much that it can sometimes be hard to keep up. The experimental windings of chief Projector Dave Longstreth has at times delved too far into the self-indulgent pretence of creating something that makes you think rather than something you can enjoy. But returning just over a year since last year's brilliant self-titled full-length, the band aim to deliver far more joy and warmth on their eighth studio record.

From the start, 'Lamp Lit Prose' presents itself as a wonderfully upbeat release. With major keys a plenty and a light, fresh approach to production, the new album looks to do away with all the musical complexities of previous material and deliver something that just has a little more impact on the soul. We have obviously heard this uplifting style from the band before, but it just seems that this time they have really delved into it, producing a record full of heartwarming prose and a sense of spiritual wonder as it plays.

While much of their previous work has found itself quite a challenging listen, 'Lamp Lit Prose' is easily their most accessible record to date. A beautifully written wonder of modern originality that time and time again throws up something new and fascinating to get your head around.

15. Dream Wife – ‘Dream Wife’


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After a 2017 which saw them release one incredible single after another, indie-rock trio Dream Wife have now kicked off their new year in style with the release of their highly-anticipated, self-titled debut album. Featuring the majority of tracks that were released throughout most of last year, 'Dream Wife' is less of a compilation of work so far and more of an intent of who they see themselves as and what they represent.

Opening up with the ball-busting 'Let's Make Out' gives a real indication of what to expect on this new full-length. After that we are treated to a mix of swooning indie jams and foot-stomping, dancefloor-ready anthems that create a real flow within the record. With dull moments rarely found on here, 'Dream Wife' is one of the most exciting debut albums we have heard in years, giving us all the confidence that this band will soon be everyone's talking point later in the year.

It is very rare that a band comes along and simply sweeps everyone off their feet, but Dream Wife were that band and this album just cements everyone's belief in them. A stunning debut with all the hallmarks of a band with far more to offer.

14. Father John Misty – ‘God’s Favourite Customer’


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Since becoming Father John Misty, frontman Josh Tillman has proven himself to be one of the most engaging and thought-provoking songwriters of our time. His last full-length 'Pure Comedy', released only last year, was one of the wittiest and most compelling releases of his career so far, and obviously still remaining very much in the momentum of that record, he has returned to share his fourth Father John LP 'God's Favourite Customer'; another album that follows the religiously cynical theme of his last.

From the start, it seems clear that this is an almost sequel to his last full-length. While 'Pure Comedy' took pride in mocking religious sensibilities and ideals, it seems that 'God's Favourite Customer' looks to be more of a reflective position, pointing out the controversy his previous album inevitably caused and now appears to seek redemption for it. Obviously it plays with the same sense of irony, but this new material is just as engaging as his last and shows that when you are onto something good, you can milk it as far as it will go.

While all his albums usually come with a loose theme, this one definitely appears to be more cohesive than most. 'God's Favourite Customer' will no doubt become just as admired as 'Pure Comedy', and cements Father John Misty as one of today's greatest frontmen.

13. Bodega – ‘Endless Scroll’


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Over the last few months, Brooklyn's Bodega have quickly become one of the most talked about new bands in the world. Described as an LCD Soundsystem that never went clubbing, the nihilistic attitude of their DIY-sound has been permeating the global indie scene ever since the band became the toast of SXSW earlier this year, and have now cemented the hype surrounding them with the release of their stunning debut album 'Endless Scroll'.

From the start, it is clear that this is meant to be a satire-filled release that hones itself on the more contemporary issues in the world. Rather than simply take on the various political and environmental problems facing the planet, the band choose to focus themselves on the simple, day-to-day frustrations that we can all relate to. Stretched over this minimal yet very well-produced post-punk backdrop, the group are already reminiscent of The Moldy Peaches in style and aesthetic, but manage to keep themselves from falling too far into that woozy, self-obsessed attitude.

Despite its relatively consistent pace, 'Endless Scroll' is a fascinating and wonderful debut release from a band that have already managed to find and hone their own sound. It may still be early days for Bodega, but with material this good, they'll definitely find themselves atop a many music fan's highlights of the year lists.

12. Various Artists – ‘Black Panther OST’


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After we first heard the news that Kendrick Lamar would be curating the soundtrack to the forthcoming Marvel Studios film Black Panther, we knew that the result would be something very special. And once hearing his collaborations with SZA, The Weeknd, James Blake and more emerging from the list, it was clear to hear that this was more than just another film soundtrack but something that looks to emulate the progression of both black cinema and black music.

Much like the casting of Black Panther itself, the artists that feature on this release are predominantly black, and while there is clearly a sense of pride within Lamar's choices, the music itself doesn't look to characterise itself racially. Instead we are treated to a blend of hip-hop, RnB and ethereal ambience that aim to not only paint a picture of what to expect from this new film, but stand alone as a symbolic reminder that black musicians are very much part of the commercial sound the world over.

At times you truly forget that this record was only produced for a film as Kendrick Lamar puts just as much heart and soul into this as he does all his other work. The 'Black Panther OST' is a solid, well-produced release that would have been just as impressive if it wasn't attached to a major Hollywood movie.

11. Superorganism – ‘Superorganism’


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For almost a year now, we have been captivated by the alt-pop sound of Superorganism. Since releasing their brilliantly catchy debut single 'Something For Your M.I.N.D.' early last year, the London-based eight-piece have been sharing psychedelic and mind-bending singles ever since, all leading to this, their highly-anticipated self-titled debut album. And for those that have been following them, you'll be glad to hear that they definitely live up to the hype.

Opening up with the glitchy, electronic-led track 'It's All Good', the band are certainly looking to make a grand impression with this new record. From there, we are treated to a cacophony of swooning beats and a diverse approach to production, which at times leads to comparisons to the likes of Beck and The Flaming Lips. The result is this wonderfully engaging release that seems to please all of our tastes and expectations simultaneously.

In all, the only way to explain how good this record is is to experience it for yourself. You'll be drawn in by its truly unique sound and left in a dizzying, hypnotic daze by the time it's finished. It's one hell of a ride that you'll come back for again and again.

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