I probably say this with every year of music, but 2018 has been a fantastic year so far. There have been so many great albums that have released from both old and new artists. And really, if the first half of this year has truly said anything, it is that there is so much to look forward to in the next half.
Jon Hopkins – Singularity [Electronic / Experimental]
This album itself is the definition of why I like electronic music. It is so interesting, varied, challenging, conceptual, beautiful… It’s really everything one could ask of an electronic album.
It is clear Jonathan is a master of his craft. This album is just so confident in itself, it sets out to do what it intended to do and because of this works so well. Some tracks make you feel on edge, made possible by expert sound design and production, whilst others make you feel at ease. It is an album that works as an album, instead of acting as just a collection of released material.
If you’ve ever listened to Jonathan’s past works, that be his 2013 record ‘Immunity’, or his jaw dropping remix of Disclosure’s Magnets, you’ll without a doubt love this album.
Featured Tracks: Singularity, Emerald Rush, Neon PatternDrum, and Luminous Beings.
Jorja Smith – Lost & Found [R&B / Soul]
In her first album outing, Jorja Smith solidifies her position as one of R&B’s leading musical talents. Since opening the year with a gripping feature on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Black Panther’ album, Jorja has returned with ‘Lost & Found’, a record that elicits influences from R&B greats of the likes of Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Amy Winehouse.
Honestly, Jorja’s effortless vocals are enough to lure anyone into falling for this album’s beauty (they are so so smooth). She sings with both power, and at the same time, with ease. Her voice never forces itself in your face, and at the same time, never disregards your attention. Each track flows so well into the next. It is a perfect listen, that be for any family dinner occasion, a rainy bus ride home, or a chilled evening on the beach. Really, it works anywhere (except maybe Defqon 1).
Featured Tracks: Tomorrow, Wandering Romance, The One and February 3rd.
The DMA’S – For Now [Indie Rock]
Here is another example of a record full of such nice vocals. I mean really, they’re just so damn nice. Whilst this is not the only reason why The DMA’S second record is so good. Take it the instrumentation, 90’s rock influences, expert song writing, the album works; and it does so really well.
I love the classic/ psych rock influences that scatter themselves amongst the record. That be the highly reverbed guitar melodies, the ambient 80’s synth lines, or (again) Johnny Took’s harmonious vocals. The album almost takes you to this alien like place. It is psychedelic Aussie rock at its absolute finest. Hockey Dad, Sticky Fingers, Lime Cordiale, Methyl Ethel or even Tame Impala fans would thoroughly enjoy this record; that saying, you would most likely have already heard it.
Featured Tracks: Emily Whyte, Do I Need You Know?, Warsaw, The End and Dawning.
Tove Styrke – Sway [Pop / Electronic]
Yes Tove Styrke, a former feature artist on 2RRR, this is a record full of fun. So confident in itself, the album is like a bubble bath full of floating ducks, sparkling lights, and tweeting birds. It is the definition of youthful innocence. It doesn’t care about anything other than eliminating boredom and allowing you to let loose and have fun!
Filled with vibey electro-production, the album will most likely get stuck in your head; but for good reasons. As it is not a generic, radio tamed, electronically produced, pop album that has been forced out by labels to back up the few popular singles that have been released over the past year and a half. No, not at all. It is what Lorde’s album ‘Melodrama’ achieved last year, it challenges the pop-scene. It does something different and exciting. Like her sister Euro-pop queens Charlie XCX, Icona Pop and Tove Lo; Tove Styrke rules with ‘Sway’, she rules with an iron fist; and most likely will do so years into the future.
Featured Tracks: Sway, Say My Name, Mistakes, Changed My Mind and I Lied.
ZHU – RINGOS DESERT PT.1 [Electronic]
“There’s a snake in my boot!”. As the man Woody said so himself, ZHU’s latest album strikes ferociously into your ears with its bass grooves, punchy kicks, and deadly vocals. Been given the status as a ‘phantom artist’, ZHU is mysterious, unpredictable and very creative. ‘RINGOS DESERT PT.1’ encapsulates all these qualities. It has a distinct personality that makes you feel lost and isolated; like there is a lurking creature following you around that you’re pretty sure it is there, but can’t be too sure of. That creature is ZHU, and he is now a cowboy of the Wild Wild West.
That description right there is really a summation of this record. It is such a cool and engaging listen from start to finish. It makes you wonder, what is in store for ‘RINGOS DESERT PT.2’, how long will it be till we find out? Well, one can only guess. But knowing what ZHU is like, in all his mysteriousness, we could either find out tomorrow or in a few years time.
Featured Tracks: Guilty Love, Still Want U (feat. Karnaval Blues) and Save Me (feat. Herizen).
The Carters – EVERYTHING IS LOVE [Hip-Hop / R&B]
The Beyonce and JAY Z team-up that everyone was so keen for this year arrived (confusingly) mid-June, and despite the fact that it went under the radar for a while, it was honestly worth the wait. This album, more than any this year, has dominated the music world. Not only did it roast Spotify and cause it to refuse to promote its release until nearly two weeks after it came out, it also ended the near five week 7-track album streak of Kanye West and Def Jam Recordings with ‘DAYTONA’, ‘ye’, ‘KIDS SEE GHOSTS’, ‘NASIR’ and ‘K.T.S.E.’
The song that leads with these roasting’s is the fourth track NICE. It was this line alone from Beyonce that sparked the Spotify feud, it reads: “Patiently waiting for my demise, ‘Cause my success can’t be quantified, If I gave two f*’s, two f*’s about streaming numbers, Would have put Lemonade up on Spotify”. Everything from the songwriting, to the production, to the music videos are all exceptional. This album is really, two masters delivering their most masterful work.
Featured Tracks: SUMMER, APESH*T, BOSS,NICE and HEARD ABOUT US.
Leon Vynehall – Nothing Is Still [Experimental / Electronic]
Now this is what I call a conceptual album. Dedicated to Vynehall’s grandparents, the record tells the story of their emigration from South East U.K. to New York City during the 1960’s. Starting from their seven-day journey via. boat from Southampton to Brooklyn, the album sails into what one could only describe as a breathtaking adventure full of twists and turns, beauty and love, sadness and grief.
This is an album that asks you to lie down, close your eyes and allow yourself to be taken into another world. First you hear the sounds of sea gulls chirping at a dock, then you are welcomed into the family home during what seems to be a dinner party. From there you find yourself in the middle of this wild chase that leaves you vulnerable and worried, until at last, you’re at home, as the sounds of birds and tender strings ease you into an eternity of peace. This is honestly what all album’s should strive to be, a compelling work of musical storytelling.
Featured Tracks: From The Sea/It Looms (Chapters I & II), Envelopes (Chapter VI) and Ice Cream (Chapter VIII).
LANKS – twentyseven [Electronic / Pop]
This is another album that carries with it an important message. It talks about achievement, and realising that, in the words of Will (aka. LANKS) himself, that “everyone achieves their dreams in their own time”. Reaching the age of twenty-seven signified an important milestone for Will; it was the age where his idols Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Kobain and others had achieved success. Hence, this date daunted upon him as almost a deadline for him to reach ‘greatness’.
This record explores Will’s struggle and discusses the series of realisations about life and accomplishment that followed. Coupled with engaging electronic production, clever songwriting and fun collaborations with the likes of Ngaiire and Akouo, the record excels in all regards. It is LANKS at his most personal, and at his most confident.
Featured Tracks: twentyseven, Something in the Water, Comfortable, My Own Mystery (feat. Ngaiire) and Reticent.
Hockey Dad – Blend Inn [Indie Rock / Grunge]
Arguably, Hockey Dad don’t blend-in as your average rock band, more so they stand-out as one of Australia’s best. ‘Blend Inn’ is yet again, proof of this. Following 2016’s killer ‘Boronia’, the album smashes with its grunge infused Aussie-rock vibes. It is powerful, warm, comforting and an instant classic.
The songwriting on the record is on point as always. I especially love the album’s third track I Wanna Be Everybody. Telling the story of Zach’s deep anxieties and insecurities, it details his struggle to accept being himself instead of trying to be like everybody else by blending in.
Another stand out track is the lead single Homely Feeling. It depicts a feeling all of us have felt at least some stage in our life; the desire to be at home on the couch in our ugg boots…
Featured Tracks: Homely Feeling, I Wanna Be Everybody, Danny, and Disappoint Me.
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer [R&B / Soul]
Miss Monáe is just, well, super talented. One look at her bio and that’s all you’ll need to realise her true craft for art, it reads: “Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, and actor”. Yeah, you heard that right, she is also an actor that starred in 2016’s critically acclaimed drama ‘Hidden Figures’.
Even doing all this, she still manages to produce exceptional records, and 2018’s ‘Dirty Computer’ is really just that; exceptional. Being almost five years since her last record ‘The Electric Lady’, Janelle has placed a large amount of time and effort into carefully crafting, what she has called, an “emotion picture”.
Accompanied by a 46-minute narrative film, the album “is about embracing those [bugs and viruses of our personalities] even if it makes others uncomfortable”. Janelle likens human beings to dirty computers; they are unique, interesting, odd and worth exploring. The album is really this; it’s human, and complete with personality, heart, and charm.
Featured Tracks: Crazy, Classic, Life, Screwed (feat. Zoe Kravitz), Make Me Feel and Don’t Judge Me.
Cosmo’s Midnight – What Comes Next [Electronic]
What comes next on this list of 2018’s best albums, is some groovy Aussie-born and Aussie-breed electro-bangers. Cosmo’s Midnight’s debut-record ‘What Comes Next’ is ambitious, colourful, exciting and a blast to listen from start to finish. Ranging from Anderson Paak. styled hip-hop bangers, to funky bass guitar driven Touch Sensitive styled bangers, the album accommodates for a diverse range of banger tastes.
But what makes this record really exciting is its experimentation with natural instrumentation. I mean, the third track Montego has a flute bass drop! A flute! It’s so cool! And I haven’t even begun mentioning the multiple guests that make appearances across the record. We have Woodes, Panama, Tove Styrke, Winston Surfshirt and more. Each bring their own unique spin and flare to the record; a record which serves as another prime example of the diversity of craft in the Aussie electronic music scene.
Featured Tracks: Lowkey (feat. Buddy & Jay Prince), With U (feat. Panama), Get To Know (feat. Winston Surfshirt), and Where U Been (feat. Boogie).
A$AP Rocky – TESTING [Hip-Hop / Electronic]
After teasing the album with the Moby collaboration A$AP Forever, A$AP Rocky’s third record ‘TESTING’ is one of the most refreshing and experimental hip-hop albums I’ve heard in a while. With hip-hop production seeming to now follow a simple formula of 808 basslines, 808 kicks, quick hi-hat rhythmic successions and ambient pad noises, it is great to see A$AP Rocky incorporating some really interesting production elements into this album outing.
The long list album credentials go to show the sheer amount of work and effort A$AP Rocky has made to make this record one of the year’s most anticipated musical releases. Each song brings something new to the table, that be through its sample usage, non-conventional musical progression, guest collaboration and more. It is really, as the name suggests, A$AP Rocky ‘testing’ with new sounds; and because of this, is worth a listen.
Featured Tracks: A$AP Forever (feat. Moby), Tony Tone, OG Beeper, Hun43rd and Changes.
What So Not – Not All The Beautiful Things [EDM]
This is what I call a dance-ready and made album. What So Not has been at the electronic game for quite a few years now, with prior releases such as the ‘Gemini EP’ and ‘Divide & Conquer EP’ being very well received throughout the music industry. However, after Flume departed the project in 2015, I’m not gonna lie, people had their doubts. Could Chris take helm of the What So Not project all by himself? Well, the answer is a flat out YES!
Not All The Beautiful things just works so well. The record is filled with those synth-driven, woobly-bass bangers that we have all come to expect from Chris in his music. But surprisingly, the record shines brightest in its down-tempo tracks like Us (feat. Daniels), Demons (feat. Rome Fortune & Tommy Swisher) and Same Mistakes (feat. Daniel Johns). That is not even to mention the fact that Toto features on this record! Yeah! The same group that rhymed ‘Kilimanjaro’ with ‘Serengeti’ back in the 1980’s. I mean, if that’s not enough to make you want to listen to this record, I’m not sure what else would.
Featured Tracks: Warlord (feat. SLUMBERJACK), We Keep On Running (feat. Toto) and Us (feat. Daniels).
Notable Mentions: Alice Skye – Friends With Feelings [Indie/ Folk], Ashe – The Rabbit Hole [Indie/ Pop], Gurrumul – Djarimirri [Orchestral], Middle Kids – Lost Friends [Indie Rock] and Skee Mask – Compro [Electronic].