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Harriet Willis' Best Albums of 2018

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This year, I’ve surprised myself with what I’ve ended up listening to and in turn, what’s become my most played.

Troye Sivan by Ted Eytan via Flikr

2018 has been an important year beyond music. Politics, internet culture, equality, feminism, racism, environment, sexuality – I could go on. The music that has been produced as a result of these societal topics have been a coping mechanism in a way.

Amidst all the serious topics that have hit me in the feels this year, a large proportion of my favourite albums are purely based on wanting to have a little dance and a sing to some good funky tunes.

1. Blood Orange – Negro Swan

Dev Hynes’ music project, Blood Orange, holds a special place in my heart since the first listen as part of Palo Alto’s soundtrack with ‘Champagne Coast’. Negro Swan is a fascinating insight into Dev’s exploration of black depression and the ongoing anxieties of queer people of colour. The album literally takes you a journey of his experiences. With a cocktail of collaborations with Janet Rock (transgender activist) and Puff Daddy, the album has a constant undertone of melancholy, flicking from jazz to hip-hop to 80’s chic and back again. Negro Swan is a truly sensational album in every single aspect.

2. Mac Miller – Swimming

Earlier this year, Mac Miller released his fifth album. Swimming addresses heartbreak and his mental state in a brutally honest way through lyrics and the music videos he released in conjunction. With just one month between the release and his death, Swimming holds even more emotion than it did initially and acts as a parting gift to the world. The album possesses everything you would have expected from Miller. His unique vocals are as defining as ever, the smooth transitions in verses and beats are what made his interpretation of rap music so addictive.

3. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

The adored Aussie stripped it back on this album compared to her debut; not in that it’s acoustic or mellow, but in that, it shows a vulnerable side, a much more personal side. Her debut album was certainly a statement for Barnett, it cemented her style and who she was and since then, she has switched it up. Since her collaborative album with Kurt Vile, Tell Me How You Really Feel couldn’t be a more accurate title. Her almost speak-sing vocal style and solid guitar riffs are everything we love about Courtney, she’s just letting us in a bit more this time.

4. Tom Misch – Geography

Tom Misch is the man of 2018 (in my eyes), the life and soul of every playlist and modern jazz genius; Geography is a clean and crisp version of all his prior work. Geography combines jazz with indie and hip-hop and includes his own funky spin. The music he makes is all feel-good - even the likes of ‘Movie’ still makes you feel warm inside. The lyrics are secondary with Tom’s music, with the primary focus being the funk and soul that has been injected into each individual track. Geography perfectly demonstrates every single musical talent of Tom Misch which is what makes it such a wonderful album of the year.

 

5. The Blinders – Columbia

This album is quite possibly my favourite debut release of the year. From a small mining town to Manchester to festival stages, The Blinders have truly found their place in the UK music scene. Columbia is a musical call to arms, its arrival came at a vital time in society with politics being at the forefront of our minds. With clever literature references and close ties between our world and that of 1984 by George Orwell, Columbia gets the cogs turning and conversations heated.

6. MØ – Forever Neverland

MØ’s second album focuses on her influences from previous collaborations, but at the same time, allows her to speak freely for herself and define the terms of her own album. With only two collaborations from Diplo and Charli XCX, Forever Neverland moves her away from the Major Lazer feature on ‘Lean On’ and shows what she’s really made of. The album is constantly funky and makes you want to clear the kitchen floor for designated dancing space.

7. Black Honey – Black Honey

The self-titled album was incredibly long-awaited from the Brighton four-piece. With a continuous stream of music videos that flow into each other, the creation of a narrative in with the album release made it all more exciting and inclusive. Izzy’s distinguishing vocals laid over a classic, rip-roaring indie composition is a constant through this album, and the overall aesthetic that has been present since day one still goes strong. The self-titled album is an important signifier of the band's identity in the music industry.

8. Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love

The duo from Kent released their third album earlier this year, almost two years since Take Control. After a couple years off with shoulder surgery, training a rat and raising a baby, Slaves hit back with ‘Cut and Run’, a gruelling, raw track with humorous lyrics and a video to match, proving that they still had it. Each release continues to cement their image whilst appearing cleaning each time. Acts of Fear and Love is all of the funny lovable aspects of Slaves with a teeny bit more maturity.

9. Tom Grennan – Lighting Matches

Tom Grennan has rocketed his way through the music industry. From tiny venues to sold-out academy dates, the Londoner has proved his place well and truly. Tom’s rough vocals, funky dress sense and endless lyrical talent are all that make you love him first and then you release, “damn, this is actually an incredible album”. The way you know an album is good is by how little you use the ‘next’ button; whether you’re driving in the car, working on an assignment or getting ready to go out, Lighting Matches literally suits every mood.

10. Troye Sivan – Bloom

From child actor to YouTube star to the brightest star in the world. Troye Sivan’s 2018 album has placed him on an entirely different level to before. Bloom shows Troye coming into his own, fully taking control of his identity and becoming a vital model in the LGBTQ+ community. He is in full bloom, tackling issues such as mental health, sexuality, femininity... You name it, Troye has taken it and turned into a floral music masterpiece.

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