Kyle Kohner’s top 50 albums of 2018: 10-1

Jeff Rosenstock

Jeff Rosenstock performs at the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles on Feb. 18, 2018. Photo: Kyle J. Kohner.

Would ya look at that? You’ve made it to the finale. If you are just joining us, please, don’t spoil the big reveal and go back to parts onetwo, three and four to catch up before diving in here.

Before you scroll down and explode with anger over your favorite album not making my top 50, take a deep breath. If you think I’ve missed all of your favorite albums of the year, let’s talk about it like 21st century adults—in the comments section.

It’s been a long journey and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

10. Mitski — Be The Cowboy

There’s good reason for the numerous appearances of Be The Cowboy at the top of so many lists. Though it is emotionally less explosive than Puberty 2, Be The Cowboy is Mitski’s most endearing work. With the level of cathartic release taken down a notch, listeners encounter Mitski at her most sullen—seeking comfort through quiet deliberation in place of the blooming crescendos and overt vocal delivery—both of which have become synonymous with the songstress’ image.

As Be The Cowboy embraces acoustic guitars, delicate keys and simple drumbeats, the album allows enough room for Mitski’s lacerating words and sonorous voice to echo deep into the mind. She once again substantiates herself as a truly incredible songwriter. Even though her third LP is incredibly brief, she imbues each track with a unique character through vivid portrayals of anxiety about remaining relevant—a sentiment that makes Be The Cowboy one of the more honest listening experiences of the year.

9. The 1975 — A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 is on a mission to tell you that the internet is a hopeless, hungry machine content with devouring those who seek solace in it. This album is not this generation’s OK Computer, nor does it touch the complexity of that masterpiece. Making such a comparison is unfair to Matty Healy and the gang, but that doesn’t mean A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships has no merits of its own. The band has finally found something important to say, offering a deep exploration of the futility and sheer coldness of the digital age.

Once again indulging the band in sweet synth-pop simplicity, the record is atmospheric and textured. Though it has created quite the stir within the band’s fans due to the lack of radio-friendly hits, it’s musically confident, an issue that plagued the band’s two records prior. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is not a perfect record, but it sees The 1975 finally tap into its immense potential for a conceptual dance rock remedy for the increasingly immersive digital age.

8. Yves Tumor — Safe in the Hands of Love

Considering the praise that followed the release of Safe in the Hands of Love, it seems that Yves Tumor emerged from out of nowhere. That’s hardly the case. Since releasing his debut album in 2015, Tumor has amassed quite the rapport as an electronic producer—an image that has been finely carved over the course of what is now four LPs. But with this otherworldly project, Tumor’s first release on Warp Records, the enigmatic talent crawls his way out of a secluded burrow of experimental darkness and dissonance and slithers his way into broad daylight.

While it’s not the most accessible album, Safe in the Hands of Love is an uncanny journey replete with an unnerving myriad of influences, samples and shrewd sonic alchemy. Overturning psych-rock melodies with distressing post-industrial soundscapes, the bizarrely innovative producer ministers a sensory overload both sensual and discomforting.

7. Kids See Ghosts — Kids See Ghosts

There’s no denying Kanye West’s MAGA-embracing politics may induce projectile vomiting, but his abilities as a rapper and his production remains impervious to criticism. With Kids See Ghosts, the delusional MC taps into his greatness once more with a collaborative, neo-psychedelic-tinged record packed with 30 minutes of experimental hip-hop zaniness.

Let’s not forget about the other half of this project—Kid Cudi. Teaming up with Kanye for this exhilarating effort, Kanye gives Cudi ample textural space and surreal beats to work with. This helps the humming crooner deliver his most complete performance since, well, ever. This combined effort from two men brought together by the common thread of being in a downward spiral lays the first stone of a path to renewal and clarity.

6. Daughters — You Won’t Get What You Want

It’s been almost 10 years since East Coast noise rock outfit Daughters released their last record, and it seems the time off has done wonders for the Rhode Island band’s reintroduction to the noise rock scene. Though its sound remains noise-filled and shrouded in shrapnel, it’s diverged considerably from its post-hardcore roots in favor of cataclysmic no-wave and industrial misanthropy. Ascending from the deepest, darkest unexplored crevices of the human mind, Daughters’ latest will shred what is left of your soul through a cacophonous display matched only by Michael Gira and Swans.

Conjuring a gruesome sound that grinds sanity into minced meat, the shrill guitars and plundering percussion of tracks like “Long Road, No Turns” and “The Flammable Man” are excruciatingly violent and manic. The album is capped off by the blood-curdling “Guest House,” which leaves listeners buried neck deep with questions—the most obvious being, “What in the hell was going through the minds of these men?” It’s beautifully disgusting. If there was ever a soundtrack to the apocalypse, Daughters’ You Won’t Get What You Want is definitively that.

5. Julia Holter — Aviary

Profoundly chaotic one minute, divinely blissful the next, Julia Holter’s Aviary is an unequivocal art-pop masterpiece. But it’s also one of the most challenging listening experience I’ve ever encountered. It’s almost impossible to “enjoy” through the first, second, third or even fourth listen. Aviary is a provocative, difficult but important record—one that reconsiders the way consumers listen to music in the first place.

With 90 minutes of extravagant weirdness to sift through, the first few spins hint at a splendor that does not reveal itself for a while. But Holter’s phantasmic world beckons for you to dive back in again and again—motivating you to seek with a clear mind instead of a critical eye. Eventually, you have to simply let go and allow the grandeur of Aviary to wash over. Once it hits home, you will be rewarded with unforgettable elation.

4. Jeff Rosenstock — POST-

Jeff Rosenstock rang in an inevitably torturous new year with a pulse of positivity and a fighting spirit. Rosenstock took it upon himself to sum up the stirring emotions of Trump’s first year in office with POST-. Overflowing with candid reflection, millennial war cries and rowdy pop-punk anthems, Rosenstock was sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Though the former Bomb The Music Industry frontman is nearing 40, his youthful charisma envelops the entirety of the album. With tracks like “Yr Throat,” “Powerlessness” and “TV Stars,” the unruly artist feverishly taps into the futility and doubt of 20- and 30s-somethings by tackling kindred topics like freedom of expression, or lack thereof, and the bigotry that consumes this country. Even though POST- is a manifestation of everything Rosenstock worried about with his prior release, feelings of faith and tenacity prevail in the face of post-election apathy.

3. Beach House — 7

Over the course of seven studio releases, Beach House has grown into one of the most imposing forces in independent pop music. That’s due, in large part, to its sincerity and compositional richness. Prior to 7, it was hard to imagine Beach House ever releasing a record as emotionally striking as 2012’s Bloom or the duo’s image-carving 2010 album, Teen Spirit. Somehow, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have done just that—7 is the enthralling apex to a ravishing catalog.

Beach House has reached the musical equivalent of seventh heaven. It has created what Disintegration was for The Cure or what Heaven or Las Vegas was to the Cocteau Twins. The record surpasses seemingly unreachable levels to while cementing Legrand and Scally as musical luminaries.

2. Denzel Curry — TA13OO

Denzel Curry, one of Florida’s most intriguing hip-hop prospects, has finally accessed his overfilling pool of unbridled ability with the most explosive and versatile rap album of the year. With TA13OO, Curry makes his bold jump into MC status. Featuring a devilish mix of Southern hip-hop, modern trap and even industrial production, Curry renders hip-hop gothic and introverted. Alongside Earl Sweatshirt’s Some Rap Songs, Curry’s aptly titled TA13OO is some of the darkest and most personal music you will hear from 2018.

With lyrics responsibly discussing sexual abuse, trauma and familial dysfunction (among other topics), Curry provides a haunting dynamic few MCs are capable of creating. This catapults the Florida rapper up the ranks and validates all of the unfulfilled hype that has surrounded him. Considering he’s only 23, Curry is on his way toward greatness.

1. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance

Ruthless U.K. outfit IDLES have injected the wow factor back into the generally melancholic punk scene. Joe Talbot and the gang continue to ride their eviscerating blend of downtrodden post-punk and post-hardcore with the raucous Joy as an Act of Resistance. Intelligent, political, funny—but above all—honest—the album is the yeoman’s catharsis against bigotry. Featuring tracks like the doom-sheathed opener Colossus, the ferocious “Never Fight a Man With a Perm” and the animalistic “Samaritans,” Talbot sings about “a disease in the brain called masculinity.”

The primitivist frontman pile-drives emotion into every line of each song, proving there is strength to be found in vulnerability. Musically, IDLES dabble with much of the same styles as before, but their sound is better-produced and ready-made for rowdy concert antics. With Joy’s throttling sonics, intelligent social commentary and cutting sincerity, IDLES have separated themselves from most contemporary punk acts with just two records. But this time, they’ve evolved into a necessary coping mechanism amid post-Brexit animosity and Trump’s destructive absurdism. That makes Joy as an Act of Resistance not only the most appropriate album of 2018, but the very best work overall.

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