Parquet Courts- Wide Awake!
In “Wide Awake!,” Brooklyn garage rock quartet Parquet Courts delivers its best, most thematic and most enjoyable project to date. Refining their guitar-heavy instrumentals and nasally vocals, the group crafts a record that is both unmistakably theirs and addictively listenable. A lo-fi feel still pervades across the album, but more cohesive production and thematic lyrics bridge the gap between strung-out and subversively coordinated, disorienting listeners from track to track, but keeping their heads nodding all the while.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS- Self-Titled
After nearly a decade of rumors about a collaboration between hip-hop giants Kanye West and Kid Cudi, the two finally released a collaborative project in the form of 2018’s KIDS SEE GHOSTS, a rock, psychedelic pop and R&B-influenced hip-hop outfit inspired by West and Cudi’s public and often violent struggles with mental health. If West’s previous 2018 release, “Ye,” began his exploration of mental health, “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” furthered the theme with more melodic, unexpected sounds, samples and lyrics across the record. While less commercially accessible than “Ye,” “KIDS SEE GHOSTS” offers an uncompromisingly unique and robust sound while giving listeners another fleeting, deranged look into the minds of two of hip-hop’s most tortured.
That’s a Girls Name EP- DRAM
At just three tracks, Big Baby DRAM’s “That’s a Girls Name” was one of the smallest and most impactful EP’s of 2018. Each track explores an entirely unique element of DRAM’s signature style, expanding on his rock, R&B and pop tendencies. Infectious beats and choruses litter this EP, making all nine minutes all but impossible to hear only once.
Orpheus vs. The Sirens- Hermit and the Recluse
Perhaps the most unexpectedly robust and powerful album of the year, the debut record two years in the making of rapper Ka and spacy, psychedelic producer Animoss brings together an unlikely pair: rap and Greek mythology. “Orpheus vs. The Sirens” exemplifies rapper and vocalist Ka’s upbringing and troubled adult life through the classical myth of Jason and the Argonauts, likening his own journey to that of Greece’s ancient hero and adventurer. With spacey, layered beats with infectious samples by Animoss, and even yet invigorating verses from Ka, Hermit and the Recluse delivers a deep, inescapable and unwaveringly beautiful record that continues to deliver after a dozen listens.
Oxnard- Anderson .Paak
Following his breakout underground hit “Malibu,” rapper, singer, musician, producer and dancer Anderson .Paak had astronomically high expectations to meet wi th his 2018 release “Oxnard.” Leaving behind the carefree, jazz house musicality of “Malibu,” .Paak finds solace in sparse, bass-heavy beats that showcase his raspy voice and dirty, vivacious lyricism and propensity for earworm choruses and album-arching storylines. Taking shots at anyone he can point a lyric at, .Paak uses his explosive rise to fame and visibility as a soapbox to discuss his feelings on America’s political landscape, his hometown and gun violence.
STOKELEY- Ski Mask the Slump God
Rounding out two years of charismatic EP’s with liquid-hot flows and mind-bending rhymes, SoundCloud veteran and XXL Magazine Freshman Ski Mask the Slump God proves his versatility on the mic and in the studio with his debut studio album “STOKELEY.” Ski Mask’s well-known underground trap rap style meets studio production and blends with elements of hard rock and mainstream rap, opening the rapper’s fan base to a wider, more radio-ready audience. A longtime collaborator of embattled rapper XXXTentacion, who was shot and killed in late June of 2018, Ski Mask’s work rounded off a dark year for fans of the duo, and intrigues fans of up-and-coming artist Juice WRLD, who delivers a shocking feature on “Nuketown.”
DiCaprio 2- JID
After his 2017 debut record “The Never Story” grabbed both critical and audience attention, Atlanta-based rapper JID brings his studio debut record “DiCaprio 2.” With a faster, more direct and more entertaining flow, JID uses his newfound record label fame, tapping Dreamville records executive J. Cole for a feature on the blistering “Off Deez” and a spattering of Grammy-quality producers across the record. JID enters “DiCaprio 2” with a new sense of style and glamour, putting his lyrical and performance talents in the spotlight, though perhaps foregoing elements of storytelling and musicality that drew audiences to JID with “The Never Story.”
You Won’t Get What You Want- Daughters
Ending an eight-year hiatus, noise rock outfit Daughters brings their darkest, most intense record yet. Brooding, layered and cacophonic, “You Won’t Get What You Want” offers a horrific, intense and unsettling listening experience, taking audiences on a mental journey through anguish and sadness. As tracks flow between each other, the grating guitars and synthetic sounds scream over the heavy drums, and lead singer Alexis Marshall’s voice caries a gritty, ear-bleeding performance. While undeniably unpleasant, each subsequent listen to the record opens new emotional and anxious channels that are impossible not to explore.