Music

The 50 Best Albums of 2018 So Far

As we head into a brief summer publication break to enjoy the summer sun for a few days, it's the perfect time to take stock of the year in music so far.

As we head into a brief summer publication break to enjoy the summer sun for a few days, it's the perfect time to take stock of the year in music so far. 2018 is shaping up to be a year of ground-breaking, cross-genre pollination, much of it underpinned by a keen awareness and aversion to rising racism, xenophobia, and populism. These are 50 albums that cut across the musical landscape, highlighting the impressive diversity of great music in 2018.

Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet: Landfall

Landfall is an album as much as it is a documentation of devastation and loss. Inspired by Laurie Anderson's experience with Hurricane Sandy, it develops its narrative through haunting acoustic music, ethereal electronics, and the gravity of Anderson's unmistakable voice. The record evokes a beautiful sense of unease and confusion that retains a modern nuance and complexity over its episodic 30 tracks. - Andy Jurik

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Anna & Elizabeth: The Invisible Comes to Us

Few young folk artists today show such reverence and such overwhelming love for the primary sources. And when Anna & Elizabeth apply effects -- the hissing, buzzing and droning -- that push the songs out of a comfort zone, they still show incredible respect for the original songs. Noise does not signal distance. If anything, the sonic hums and moans convey an appreciation -- they draw increased attention to these long-living words. - Michael Davis

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Arctic Monkeys: Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino

Arctic Monkeys' Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino is a loose concept record structured around driving piano, subdued guitar, determinate drums and percussion, and a crooning set of lounge vocals by Alex Turner. The first listen may be surprising, but repeated listens illuminate that Arctic Monkeys remain progressive and energetic even when style and mood shift dramatically. - Richard Driver

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Daniel Avery: Song For Alpha

Song For Avery once again shows Daniel Avery deconstructing his various influences and welding them together to achieve something remarkable. The result is a sweeping, majestic album that sends the listener soaring above mountainous peaks or gently brushing the canyon floor, often during the space of a single track. - Paul Carr

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Sami Baha: Free For All

For someone who has not been around for that long, Sami Baha displays an uncanny ability for grasping the abstract concepts that surround different musical genres. Free For All feels for the most part as a brilliant hip-hop record and can be experienced as one, but, there is also so much information running beneath the surface. - Spyros Stasis

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Benin City: Last Night

Benin City's second album Last Night is anything but a downbeat, elegy for the death of the club scene. Vocalists Joshua Idehen, Shanaz Dorsett, and multi-instrumentalist, Tom Leaper offer a celebration of all that the clubs have given. This is a paean to the nightclub in all its lager stained, sticky-floored, sweaty glory. It's also one of the most accomplished, hook-laden, musically diverse albums of the year. - Paul Carr

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Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen

It behooves us not to think of Kadhja Bonet's sophomore release Childqueen in simplifying terms. There are retro elements to it, hints of gentle psychedelia and jaunts into 1970s funk and soul, but comparing Bonet and her artistic output to anything else misses the point of Childqueen: that Bonet not only is one of a kind but knows exactly how to show it. Her music is incomparable by its nature, and aspirationally so in that its eschewing of rigid schemas and genre conformity allows it to tell us about the extraordinary mind of its maker. - Adriane Pontecorvo

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The Breeders: All Nerve

The Breeders' All Nerve possesses all of the mysterious tones of Title TK, and the execution is by the same group of musicians that enjoyed mainstream success with the multiple single-spawning Last Splash. One could call it the best of both worlds, but under Kim Deal's guiding vision, it's all one world. This album is another confident step into that world. In a year when the Recording Academy President said women must "step up" if they want to be visible in the music industry, the Breeders have released the rock album of the year so far. - Thomas Britt

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Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy

On Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B combines the uncompromising confidence of "Bodak Yellow" with just enough pop appeal to create a no-filler collection that will undoubtedly have a lasting impact. Each track offers something emotionally, lyrically, or musically that would allow it to stand as an individual track, or even better as part of the whole. - Christopher Thiessen

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Kyle Craft: Full Circle Nightmare

Where Kyle Craft appears most comfortable, obviously, is in a musical timeframe a good 15 to 20 years before he was born. There isn't a synthesizer, programmed beat or overly processed electric guitar anywhere near Full Circle Nightmare. Kyle Craft – one of the most interesting and talented new artists of the last several years - makes that kind of retro/analog musical journey seem natural and not the least bit contrived. - Chris Ingalls

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