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.

Kids See Ghosts: Kids See Ghosts

It's been a long few years, full of more hopelessness in the news every day. But Kanye West and Kid Cudi's Kids See Ghosts seeks to change the narrative. It offers hope; it offers an escape from the stress and anxiety imposed on society daily. Whether you agree or not with West and Cudi's spiritual, loosely Christian, reliance on God to keep moving forward, seeking peace and salvation, the gospel message portrayed here is penetrating, much more penetrating than the majority of traditional gospel albums put out today. - Christopher Thiessen

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Seun Kuti & Egypt 80: Black Times

Even a brief, cursory listen of Black Times, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80's fourth and latest album, is proof that Fela's impassioned protests have been successfully passed on to the next generation. Co-produced by acclaimed jazz pianist Robert Glasper, Black Times is not just a funky, musically dense excursion; it's also chock-full of pointed statements opposing the corruption so prevalent in Seun's homeland. - Chris Ingalls

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Sarah Louise: Deeper Woods

Sarah Louise Henson is one with nature. As a musician, her ethereal offerings sound as if they are endorsed both by the Sierra Club and a roving band of mystics. And maybe the ghost of Ralph Waldo Emerson. The Asheville, North Carolina area creative ups the ante on her new LP, Deeper Woods, a transcendent journey through Mother Earth's majesty. - Michael Davis

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Brad Mehldau: After Bach

Brad Mehldau underscores his ability to make a Bach interpretation album without succumbing to the route of "jazzing it up". That is not to diminish the accomplishments of classical-jazz hybrid pianists such as Claude Bolling and Jacques Loussier; it's simply refreshing to hear Mehldau approach Bach's music with such a unique, uncompromising take. We share our turbulent world with Brad Mehldau, and while his work may not explain the turbulence, it goes a long way in helping to stave it off. - Chris Ingalls

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Migos: Culture II

To complain about Culture II's length is almost to miss its point of being. Last year Migos put themselves forth as the kings of hip-hop culture; representing it, caring about it, living it. On Culture II they're trying to take their ownership of that crown to the next level – expanding the Migos sound outward until it's taken over everything. This is their next imperial push, an amorphous one not based on innovation but sheer growth. - Dave Heaton

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Tom Misch: Geography

Geography feels like the start of something. It's not necessarily going to break big, at least not yet; there's no big pop single here, there's very little crossover potential. Nothing here is going to become ubiquitous. Even so, you can see it coming for Misch, maybe an album or two down the road. Misch has too much talent and too much charisma to stay bottled up for long. Don't you want to be able to say you knew him when? - Mike Schiller

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Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves is going to have a tremendous and meaningful year. On tour throughout the summer and opening for Harry Styles, Musgraves will have the chance to peddle her sound and gain new fans. Musgraves' veracity, which endeared fans to her previous albums, will certainly draw them back to Golden Hour. She centers Golden Hour on her individuality and creates a radical musical landscape. - Elisabeth Woronzoff

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William Parker: Voices Fall from the Sky

In a career full of lofty goals and incredible highs, William Parker has once again sculpted an album that will stand apart from the pack through beauty alone. Once you take into account Parker's ambitiousness and his strong sense of social obligation, Voices Fall from the Sky rests on even sturdier ground. This is an album to take with you into the next lifetime. - John Garratt

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Rival Consoles: Persona

Persona explores the places in between. The grey areas. The void between calm and chaos, light and dark and fixed and broken all framed around this exploration of the inner and outer persona. While based on an intellectual and relatively highbrow concept, musically Persona is Rival Consoles' most engaging and diverse album to date as he broadens his sonic palette to an extent that he hasn't before. It's bold, it's diverse, it's brilliant. - Paul Carr

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Jeff Rosenstock: POST-

On POST-, Rosenstock is disillusioned with the America he thought he knew. The album is a frustrating, yet important, journey into American society to be sure, but its eventual optimism makes it worth remembering in the current soundtrack of our country trying to make a change. - Christopher Thiessen

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