In one of the internet’s more beautiful ironies, the webpage that sets out to uncover just who wrote “If I had more time, I would’ve written a shorter letter” is itself way too long, so I still don’t know who the hell said it.
No matter. Regardless, it’s in that quote’s spirit that I excuse the shortest year-end wrap-up yet.
I was, uh, more concise—and therefore better—than usual. Yeah… that’s it.
In actual fact, I am not paid to write this article and, well, having discovered 52 albums I think are worth talking about in 2018, I opted for an easier route.
But it wasn’t easier! And I should’ve known, dammit. The hardest writing advice I ever got came from my boss, Megan, who challenged me in my first month as a new employee to correspond with her and my other colleagues in exclusively tweet-length missives.
Turns out I am an endlessly verbose idiot, and writing tweet-length anythings is hard. But I did it at work and I did it here.
The thirteen records vying for my Pazz & Jop ballot got full tweet-length capsules review (that is to say, each is no more than 280 characters).
The remaining 39 records are dispatched in even more aggressive terms: no more than ten words (allowing for the occasional &).
If, in the end, it seems like I spent my year falling in love with one album a week, and then played it until I got tired of it, well—maybe that’s what I did. Love in the time of Trump is easier to come by, I find.
On the other hand, my criteria for an A Level Record is pretty rigid, and not, if I do say so, the most easily-hurdled bar:
“Would I, in five years, play this record front to back again?” If the answer is a clear Yes, the record is a clear A. Not a small feat in an era with infinite, essentially-free music.
I encourage you to use the same metric. Life’s too short in the best of cases. Who knows what happens when Trump loses the next election and refuses to step down.
Enjoy (the playlist is immediately below, and the reviews are beneath that).
🤩 A+ Records
- Kids See Ghosts — Kids See Ghosts
By my count, this is the 7th time Kanye has made the best album of the year. But it’s no accident that this isn’t the 2018 record he put his name on, or that he needed a co-host to pull it off, or it’s impossible to remember a single word he says throughout — which, thank God.
2. Kali Uchis — Isolation
Shifting genre as effortlessly as she changes language, her obvious genius captures a mood that exists only at the yawning edges of a twilit Miami shoreline. And however real the power and sex at its core, they exist for you because she dreamt them up. She wants you to know that.
3. Old Man Saxon — The Pursuit
Fun fact: Saxon Kincy is a dad — like a real suburban one with diapers and those vice principal glasses. You might miss this because he bodies the first track then spends the next four proving he’s a production polymath. But pay attention: the only pill he pops is Viagra.
4. Denzel Curry — TA13OO
Prog was the last histrionic and shit-for-nothing genre to be held in the kind of mainstream regard Soundcloud rap enjoys — but, I guess they had Nixon and we have his fetid pighusk sequel, so I hardly judge. Thank Bob Mueller and Denzel Curry for a bridge to somewhere else.
😀 A Records
5. Kasey Musgraves — Golden Hour
Same Trailer, Different Park: weed Pageant Material: whiskey A Very Kacey Christmas: eggnog, but not enough Golden Hour: acid She can keep it up so long as she skips heroin. Nobody wants to hear: “Livin’ on a hope and a prayer / Sitting shootin’ dope in my granddaddy’s chair.”
6. Amber Mark — Conexão EP
In joining the shtick of two artists notably more major than she (borrowing Ariana’s belt and Noname’s biting chill), she makes a more-major statement than either in Conexão, the would-be breakup record of the year had Kanye not divorced reality. A novel in four songs.
7. Death Grips — Year of the Snitch
Just when you think the violence might subsume the fairer elements of their message — like, you know, the hatred — they go and release an album of 13 songs that appear to have no sonic relationship with each other. Which signals the only actual virtue: they’re genius inventors.
8. Ariana Grande — Sweetener
Where in “thank u, next” the world’s biggest musician comes right out to define a welcome new power dynamic for pop sexuality, she’s more subtle in the album. OK, maybe “God is a woman” isn’t subtle, but reducing the male voice to mere prop is. thank u, next.
9. IDLES — Joy as an Act of Resistance
Given “June,” you can’t ding them for losing their sense of humor. Instead, question how the record was even made. That they can protest with (tempered) joy in spite of not just June but the larger horrors of their ire points to why they’re becoming the best band in the world.
10. Clown Core — Toilet
Turns out we had no need for their 2010 debut, with its startling conjecture on clown horn theatrics & jazz diarrhea. So these geniuses went into hiding — allegedly crafting soundtracks — until their message aligned with the times. My vote for funniest album in the universe.
11. John Maus — Addendum
Here I thought the bleak leftist who resurrected goth pop with Gregorian chant & an ARP Omni-2 couldn’t top making “Pussy is not a matter of fact” a danceable hook. Then he does the same thing with “They don’t know shit about outer space” and “Take that baby to the dump.”
12. Public Access T.V. — Street Safari
Not fashionable in the year we passed the bot Inversion, but maybe simulacrum can be good! Nope, not an original thought on this album, except I see no evidence that these songs are covers. Not even “Rough Boy,” which had me relistening to every Ramones record just to be sure.
13. Fire-Toolz — Skinless X-1
White people love to say that Kid A sounds like the ‘concept’ of the internet. Maybe they were right for a time — when the internet was the annoying dial up noise. But now the internet is an infinite shrieking void of malignant carnivalia and robots watching porn. Enter Fire-Toolz.
14. Prison Religion — O Fucc Im on the Wrong Planet
Death Grips on krokodil (in space [possibly also dead]).
15. Gift of Gab — Rejoice! Rappers Are Rapping Again!
thisfirstwordcanbeaslongasiwantittobeifisayitfastenough but seriously gentrification.
16. Snakehips — Stay At Home Tapes (= — __ — =)
If the Chainsmokers were good, they’d still wanna be Snakehips.
17. Troye Sivan — Bloom
Straddling the line between pop charts and actual intrigue perfectly.
18. Toni Braxton — Sex & Cigarettes
Um… you coming onto me or am I in trouble?
19. Pusha T — DAYTONA
Production so muted, you remember he’s rap’s best voice. Youuugghhh.
20. Young Fathers — Cocoa Sugar
Theory: they don’t have lyrics because They stole their Voices.
21. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
Who we thought Nicki Minaj was in 2007. Just better.
22. JPEGMAFIA — Veteran
Trap so trap it folds inward and becomes something else.
23. Vince Staples — FM!
Who knew. The least corny man in America has jokes!
24. No Age — Snares Like a Haircut
Title’s just more post-everything bullshit until you get the haircut.
25. Mall Grab — Alone EP
Dance music in 2018 should sound like shit.
26. Noname — Room 25
Gil Scott-Heron goes to grad school. A good thing, promise.
27. Burial/Kode9—30 Minute Mix on Radio 6
Not an album, but better than the one we got.
28. Car Seat Headrest — Twin Fantasy
Those grand, totally unformed visions you had at 19—realized.
29. Khalid — Suncity EP
The wet, confusing love you felt at 18—less gross.
30. Mall Grab — How The Dogs Chill, Vol. 1
Same shit, different dance record: lo-fi house.
31. Parquet Courts — Wide Awake!
White bands don’t have a bassist until (s)he learns funk.
32. Kanye West — ye
33. Yves Tumor — Safe in the Hands of Love
No discernible relationship to love, hands, safety, tumors, or genre.
34. Tierra Whack — Whack World
Gues. I’. Alon. Believin. Thes. Songs’. B. Bette. Ful. Lengt.
35. Courtney Barnett — Tell Me How You Really Feel
Her In Utero. So to say: better than her Nevermind.
36. Lil Wayne — Tha Carter V
Better than length, legend, XXXTentacion, and even Weezy himself suggest.
37. US Girls — In a Poem Unlimited
ABBA & Fleetwood get trapped in an attic, eat the men.
38. DJ Shadow — Live in Manchester: The Mountain Has Fallen Tour
Kind of a best-of comp. So Endtroducing… plus miscellaneous noises.
39. Ezra Furman — Transangelic Exodus
40. Nas — NASIR
Production finally matches his God Complex, y’all somehow hate it.
41. A.A.L (Against All Logic) — 2012–2017
The Avalanches die and go to hell, or 2016.
42. slowthai — RUNT EP
A single, grimey middle finger peeking up from the Bush.
43. Rae Sremmurd — SR3MM
Kids call this a #vibe, not an album. Plus “Powerglide.”
44. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks — Sparkle Hard
Same incomprehensibility, same guitar ennui. Now with more dad!
45. Lily Allen — No Shame
Gimme “Tiger Bang” over “Paper Planes” anytime. Oh, and Ambien.
46. Robyn — Honey
Speaking of Ambien.
47. Wussy — What Heaven Is Like
No, that’d be Attica! But this’ll do fine Sunday afternoon.
48. Joey Purp — QUARTERTHING
About two records away from stringing together thirteen straight “Elastics.”
49. Superorganism — Superorganism
Orono is Nico for the generation that doesn’t have sex.
50. Anderson .paak — Oxnard
Wish he had less sex and, lawd, focused on singles.
51. Duckwrth — XTRA UUGLY Mixtape
If Blond was, uh, music as conventionally understood.
52. Jeff Rosenstock — POST-
Terrified white man (not Trump) hides, watches TV until 2020.
😊 A- Records (alphabetical)
53. Adam’s House Cat — Town Burned Down
54. Amanda Shires — To The Sunset
55. And Nothing Hurt — Spiritualized
56. Arin Ray — Platinum Fire
57. Art Brut — Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock out!
58. Big Freedia — 3rd Ward Bounce EP
59. BTS — Love Yourself, ‘Tear’
60. Channel Tres — Channel Tres
61. Daniel Avery — Song for Alpha
62. Del the Funky Homosapien + Amp Live — Gate 13
63. Diali Cissokho & Karia Ba — Routes
64. Dick Stusso — Dick Stusso in Heaven
65. Diplo — California
66. DJ Koze — Knock Knock
67. Eminem — Kamikaze
68. Falside — Relentless and Unforgiving
69. Frank Sinatra — Standing Room Only
70. Fucked Up — Dose Your Dreams
71. Gaika — Basic Volume
72. Ghostface Killah — Ghost Files — Bronze Tape
73. Homeboy Sandman / Edan — Humble Pi
74. Hookworms — Microshift
75. Hop Along — Bark Your Head Off, Dog
76. Hot Snakes — Jericho Sirens
77. Ian Isiah — Shugga Sextape Vol. 1
78. Iglooghost — Clear Tamei
79. Jaden Smith — The Sunset Tapes: A Cool Tape Story
80. Joey Bada$$ — 1999
81. Karajishi — Realm EP
82. Lupe Fiasco — DROGAS WAVE
83. Lyrics Born — Quite a Life
84. Methodist Hospital — Giants
85. MGMT — Little Dark Age
86. Milo — budding ornithologists are weary of tired analogies
87. Mitski — Be the Cowboy
88. New Optimism — Amazon To LeFrak
89. Nothing — Dance on the Blacktop
90. Of Montreal — White Is Relic/Irrealis Mood
91. Oneohtrix Point Never — Age Of
92. Oneohtrix Point Never — The Station
93. Paul White — Rejuvenate
94. Peggy Gou — Once EP
95. Pistol Annies — Interstate Gospel
96. Prefuse 73 — Sacrifices
97. Project Pablo — There’s Always More at the Store
98. Rich Krueger — Nowthen
99. Rich Krueger — Life Ain’t That Long
100. Rival Consoles — Persona
101. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Hope Downs
102. Rolo Tomassi — Time Will Die And Love Will Bury It
103. Ross from Friends — Family Portrait
104. Shame — Songs of Praise
105. Shopping — The Official Body
106. SOPHIE — OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
107. Steven Julien, Funkineven — Bloodline
108. Teyana Taylor — K.T.S.E.
109. The Blaze — DANCEHALL
110. The Ex — 27 Passports
111. The Soft Moon — Criminal
112. Travis Scott — Astroworld
113. Tune-yards — I can feel you creeping into my private life
114. Turnstile — Time & Space
115. TV Girl — Death of a Party Girl
116. Zeal & Ardor — Stranger Fruit