Half of 2018 is nearly in the bank. Of what we’ve seen, most would agree it’s been a bit of everything, some of which we could never have predicted: dazzling debuts, raucous returns, experimental episodes, political pushbacks, veterans avoiding the well, the proper hip-hop album bloat and shrink, several thrones ascended to, and, most importantly, substance and style seizing the day over spectacle.
As of now, these are the 25 albums we’re most thankful for so far in 2018. Will we still love them six months from now? That becomes the next daunting question and one whose answer will only come with time and more listening. They say that the heart’s a moving target, so agree with us or not, let’s plan on meeting back here come mid-November, and see how many of these albums still aim true.
25. Jack White – Boarding House Reach
Origin: Detroit, Michigan
The Gist: After all of these years, Jack White finally writes the freewheelin’ album of his dreams with Boarding House Reach. This isn’t surprising: Months before its release, the Third Man teased that it would be a “bizarre” outing, and the album is just that. It’s a freak train of sounds initially conceived on an ancient reel-to-reel while White tinkered about in a small Nashville apartment. The end result is anything but seclusive, though, and might just be the singer-songwriter’s most expansive effort yet.
Why It Rules: Well, it’s a mess, but the chaos is intriguing. That’s key, seeing how the Jack White brand was becoming a tad predictable. Ever since the guy went off by his lonesome, he’s been issuing songs that could either be filed under The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, or The Dead Weather. Boarding House Reach says to hell with all of that, carving out a new chapter for the Detroit bad boy, right down to the brilliantly effeminate album cover. Who knew the perfectionist stumbled perfectly. –Michael Roffman
24. Superorganism – Superorganism
Origin: London, UK
The Gist: This East London eight-member collective of Very Online musicians bring a fresh sense of lighthearted fun to their self-titled debut album, entwining sound effects and audio clips with danceable melodies and a razor-sharp attention to detail. Lead vocalist Orono Noguchi cites Stephen Malkmus and Pavement as influences on her songwriting and delivery, and it’s not hard to hear the distant strains of the ’90s running through this otherwise thoroughly modern-sounding album.
Why It Rules: Superorganism is as perfect a distillation of disparate influences into effortless indie pop as you’re bound to find this year. Equally perfect for a dance party with friends or one by yourself, songs like “Nobody Cares” — which manages to be both grunge-influenced and bouncing — and the meticulously crafted “Something for Your M.I.N.D.” envelop the listener in a sunny sonic world where all the choruses are singable, and nothing seems that bad. It’s all wrapped up in a bow of meticulous production and playful experimentation, charting a bold, new course for where indie pop might be headed in the next few years and beyond. –Katherine Flynn
23. Kanye West- ye
Origin: Chicago, Illinois
The Gist: As the second album in GOOD Music’s five-album May/June takeover, ye finds Kanye West plumbing his psyche and apparent bipolar diagnosis over just seven songs in 24(ish) minutes. Guest features are mostly relegated to the hooks, while the beats—no matter how warm—are in constant mutation, leaving West to spew his numerous contradictions in real time. He confesses thoughts of indiscriminate love and murder in the opening track (“I Thought About Killing You”), places a cringey yet infectious sex jam alongside a tribute to his wife (“All Mine” and “Wouldn’t Leave”), and—with some help from PARTYNEXTDOOR, Kid Cudi, and MVP newcomer 070 Shake—transforms mental anguish into freedom on “Ghost Town”.
Why It Rules: Upon first listen, ye felt somewhat slight—more of a surface-level observation about one’s own mental health than a full-on dissection. But with every spin, it becomes clear that it was never meant to be a dissection. It was never meant to be a dissertation. Instead, West simply documents his own thoughts and views as he’s having them. It’s that lack of curation that makes ye raw, authentic, and—with his best production since 2013’s Yeezus across less than a half hour—highly listenable. Granted, you have to be interested in Ye the man to get any kind of enjoyment out of ye the album. And yes, that means being willing to reconcile his political ignorance, astronomical ego, and problematic messaging with his greatness as an artist. He doesn’t offer answers for any of the more troubling aspects of his personality on ye. He just continues to experience them. –Dan Caffrey
22. Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin
Origin: Laguna Beach, California
The Gist: Another brilliant addition to a brilliant discography by this unnaturally talented rock artist. Freedom’s Goblin feels like listening to Ty Segall’s mp3 library on shuffle, as we hit on florid psychedelia, steaming garage rock, proto-metal, weepy folk, and R&B grooves. Is that the iTunes visualizer we see, or did he slip something into our drink?
Why It Rules: Never underestimate the power of having a great band at your disposal. With The Freedom Band in his corner — an all-star ensemble that includes bassist Mikal Cronin and Cairo Gang leader Emmett Kelly — Ty Segall can now truly go for broke in his songwriting and playing. And what comes from that power and flexibility is a downright indulgent collection of songs, like going for the popcorn upgrade at the snack counter because it’s only 50 cents more for a jumbo. This album is equally luxuriant and filling, with one of Segall’s most heartfelt ballads and his nastiest riffs nestled cozily together. –Robert Ham
21. Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer
Origin: Rockville, Maryland
The Gist: Josh Tillman’s alter ego, Father John Misty, set out to discover himself and scoff at the world at large on Pure Comedy, but in doing so, he almost lost the woman he won over throughout the course of I Love You, Honeybear, leaving him broken, manic, and lost as he attempts to find his way back home.
Why It Rules: Over his last three releases, the line has become more than blurred between Tillman and his alter ego, never more so than on God’s Favorite Customer, an extremely honest portrayal of Misty’s – and likely Tillman’s – marital problems. The end result sees Misty at his most desperate, heartbroken state, making a solid comedown record that doesn’t quite hit the profound highs of its predecessors, but gets carried quite a long way on the back of its honest songwriting. –Steven Edelstone