Members of our Saint Audio team picked their favorite songs and albums from 2018. Check out our Spotify playlist with selections from the best of the year!
- “Drippy” – IAMDDB
- “leo season” – Chynna
- “Through Enough (feat. GoldLink)” – VanJess
- “Whipped Cream” – Ari Lennox
- “casablanco freestyle (feat Sango)” – Armani White
- “imagine” – Ariana Grande
- “Tep Tep” – Baauer
- “What Did I Say?” – Arlissa
- “Dead To Me” – Kali Uchis
- “I Wish I Missed My Ex” – Mahalia
- Conexão – Amber Mark
- Seasons – Mahalia
- I’m Not Here. This Isn’t Happening. – Chynna
- Fever Focus – Jacques Greene
- A Girl Cried Red – Princess Nokia
- Swimming – Mac Miller: An intimate, introspective album that showed the lengths of Mac’s growth from Blue Slide Park to Divine Feminine to Swimming. I can’t find a single track that I would skip over on this record. At first listen, I gravitated towards “Ladders” and “2009,” as the former is a straight up jam with that bass and catchy lyrics. The string intro in the latter track is gorgeous and ultimately what pulled me in, but the lyrics showed pure vulnerability and maturity from Mac. Each song showed off a different facet of Mac’s endless talent and promise as an artist. For me, it’s a bittersweet album – Swimming proved to us that he was getting to a better mental state and finding his way as an individual and as an artist, just to have that ripped away.
- Lost & Found – Jorja Smith: The singer ventures to explore her own identity in this personal debut album. My two favourite tracks have to be “Don’t Watch Me Cry” for the piano and the emotional lyrics, and “Teenage Fantasy.” The vocals are strong and strikingly beautiful and they almost blend into the music in such a harmonious way. Each track offers an insight into the singer’s mind and an exploration into how she makes sense of her feelings. The freestyle track is really unique in its sound and criticises the inequality and ignorance of social classes. The record is impressively mature for a 20-year-old in terms of both lyrics and sound.
- so sad so sexy – Lykke Le: I think I had this album on repeat for a straight month, no exaggeration. The melodies and vocals on each track are flawless. “two nights” featuring Amine is by far my favourite, there’s no real reason except it’s catchy as hell. The trap inspired beats throughout the record significantly contrast the overall feel of her last album. so sad so sexy has a consistent low-key sound and explores the landscape of synth-pop, a new venture for the artist. In my opinion, it has proven to be a successful shift from her earlier work.
- sweetener – Ariana Grande: This album feels like a hug; the melodies are bubbly and happy and listening to this record makes me so happy, I can’t describe it. Despite the lighthearted, catchy beats, Grande’s lyrics are deeply personal, giving the listener a closer view into her life and the past year. This record shows off the candid side of Grande, especially compared to Dangerous Woman. Her cover of Imogen Heap’s “goodnight n go” is probably my favourite track off the album, closely followed by “get well soon” and “everytime”. And as always, her vocals are insane.
- Room 25 – Noname: : The neo-soul and jazzy vibes of this record paired with the quick, fluid spoken word keeps you listening track after track. Each song is different and dynamic from the previous one, yet they all flow together. The raw honesty and the delicate vocals give the record a soothing, organic feel.
1. “My Sex” – Brooke Candy, Mykki Blanco, Pussy Riot, MNDR
2. “Défiler” – Stromae
3. “The Unforgotten” – Iskwé
4. “Boys” – Lizzo
5. “Track About Good Cop” – Pussy Riot
6. “Time is Up” – Poppy and Diplo
7. “Nobody” – Mitski
8. “We Appreciate Power” – Grimes
9. “Young” – Xiuhtezcatl and Nahko
10. “Hunger” – Florence + the Machine
1. [+ +] – LOOΠΔ: After a multi-year release unknown to the Korean Music industry, LOOΠΔ do not disappoint when the full group is finally together.
2. Boygenius – Boygenius: Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus combine their powers of emotive queer girl power to create a folk EP. Where’s that cover of “Goodbye, Earl”, though?
3. SQUARE UP – BLACKPINK: The K-Pop group return with four club bangers that make others sound like lullabies.
4. Liminal – Sigur Rós and others: Sigur Rós explore new territory in a “living playlist” with longtime collaborators.
5. 90s & NEW REVIVAL – Various Artists: Japan looks to a retrofuturistic vision from the 90s, with several J-Pop names recording covers from this decade. Things seemed so safe back then. No wonder we keep trying to recover that innocence, from fashion to music.
- El Mal Querer – Rosalia: Deeply vested tradition melds with modern urbanity in an album that heralds a revival of flamenco.
- Age Of – Oneohtrix Point Never: Nostalgia grips you as chaos disarms in a challenging, yet oddly accessible, album.
- Turn Off The Lights – Julien Baker: Baker’s sophomore album incorporates more texture and instruments while maintaining all the heartbreaking energy we have come to expect from her. Listen carefully and with many tissues.
- Selva Oscura – William Basinski & Lawrence English: Transformation dominates this album, with an end that is never quite reached. Growth is inescapable, as is stagnation.
- Dirty Computer – Janelle Monáe: In her poppiest release to date, Monáe writes a love letter to the new America. The world may be ending, but we can still change it through dancing and remembering to find that happiness. Without joy, for what do we fight?
- Tired All The Time – K.I.D.: Released on 4/20, this Canadian stoner pop duo romanticise and vilify the struggle of coping with a mental illness with sugary sweet suburban beats.
- Honey – Robyn: After an eight year hiatus, Robyn returns, shedding the heavy club sounds for an album of saccharine, sexy muzak. Pain of the heart marks us as human.
- Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides – SOPHIE: The Scottish visionary creates a textured soundscape at place both in nightmares and the dance floor.
- High As Hope – Florence + The Machine: Florence Welch loses the depression in a confessional, intimate album where happiness, though uneventful, is home.
- I’m All Ears – Let’s Eat Grandma: The wunderkind duo’s sophomore album explores more electronic regions, the patriarchy, film, and organs.
- “SICKO MODE” – Travis Scott
- “BLACK BALLOONS (feat. Twelve’Len & GoldLInk)” – Denzel Curry
- “Vibrant (feat. Pell)” – Brasstracks
- “Call Out My Name” – The Weeknd
- “Tomorrow” – Jorja Smith
- “Room 27 (feat. Dana Williams)” – Rejjie Snow
- “Cheers (feat. Q-Tip)” – Anderson .Paak
- “Fantasy (feat. P-Lo)” – Falcons & B. Lewis
- “Skrawberries (feat BJ the Chicago boy)” – JID
- “Switch” – 6LACK
- Care For Me – Saba: After a strong debut project, Saba infuses masterful storytelling and mellow production on Care for Me. His introspective approach to the album assists in unpacking the emotion embedded within and makes it a fresh listen every time upon return.
- Isolation – Kali Uchis.: Fresh off the buzz from her features on “See You Again” by Tyler the Creator and “Get You” by Daniel Caesar, Kali Uchis makes a case for breakout artist of the year with her major label debut Isolation. Her versatility on multiple genres, such as neo-soul, catapults her in the conversation with the likes of Amy Winehouse.
- DAYTONA – Pusha T: Although the album is short in length, Pusha T’s highly anticipated return does not disappoint with its soulful and sample-based production. The allure of a “mob boss” mentality is glamorized with witty punchlines and direct bars related to Pusha’s background. DAYTONA is a prime example of the “less is more” mantra and forces listeners to keep the project in frequent rotation.
- Lost & Found – Jorja Smith.: After peeking at a glimpse of her talent on Drake’s More Life, Jorja Smith returns with a proper debut in Lost & Found. The UK songstress croons on minimal production that creates a moody ambiance that befits the slow winter months ahead.
- Dear Annie – Rejjie Snow: As a newcomer on the scene, Dublin-based hip hop artist Rejjie Snow tries to carve out a creative niche with Dear Annie. Similar to Tyler the Creator, somber tones in his deep voice offset the scintillating bursts of energy in production. Although lengthy in nature, Rejjie Snow takes you on a lyrical journey through the thematic dichotomy of positive and negative emotions.
- The Color Of You – Alina Baraz: In the midst of a resurgence of R&B and soul, Alina Baraz differentiates herself from the fray with her silky voice that cuts through hypnotic instrumentation. The incorporation of an electric guitar in The Color of You is a prominent feature that complements Alina’s vocal prowess.
- Astroworld – Travis Scott: As one of his critically-acclaimed albums to date, Travis Scott takes listeners on an imaginative roller coaster ride through his mind in Astroworld. The album’s beat switches and transitions are analogous to different points of a roller coaster. Although hip hop is saturated with autotune and mumble rap, Travis showcases his songwriting ability on a plethora of trap and glitchy beats.
- TA1300 – Denzel Curry: Based in the Florida hip hop scene, Denzel Curry tackles the state of hip hop and society with his commentary on TA13OO. He masks dense content in three sections that correlate to different soundscapes. As the album’s standout, the head-nodding rhythms in the first section juxtaposes the darker and grittier production in the last two sections.
- DiCaprio 2 – JID: As a late addition, JID throws a curveball to year-end lists with his second full-length project DiCaprio 2. An ode to the Oscar-winning actor of the same name, the Dreamville artist assumes a similar underdog mentality with his lyrical ability and flow showcase on jagged production. His vocal cadences capture the listener’s attention with tonal shifts and intricate flows.
- East Atlanta Love Letter – 6LACK: As a continuation from his major label debut FREE 6LACK, 6LACK is back with his sophomore effort East Atlanta Love Letter that addresses his supporters, critics, past relationships, and most importantly, his daughter Syx. The album takes on a vibe-driven journey through 6LACK’s mind that forces listeners to latch onto his raw emotion and vulnerability.
- “Boo’d Up” – Ella Mai
- “thank u, next” – Ariana Grande
- “My, My, My!” – Troye Sivan
- “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” – Mitski
- “Malamente” – Rosalia
- “I Got Love” – Don Diablo
- “OTW (feat. 6lack and Ty Dolla $ign)” – Khalid
- “Space Cowboy” – Kacey Musgraves
- “Life” – Saba
- “Nice For What” – Drake
- Care For Me – Saba: Saba’s sophomore album is one that came out pretty early in the calendar year, but I just keep going back to it. Any hip hop detractors (if they even exist anymore) really need to listen to this to hear how emotional and powerful the artform can be. Saba is very obviously processing the death of his cousin, and the majority of the tracks are just dripping with the sorrow and rage that comes from that loss. There are few obvious singles, which actually help the album as a whole, and I personally cannot wait to hear what comes next.
- El Mal Querer – Rosalia: Rosalia is proof of the transcendence of music. I haven’t picked up any more Spanish than I learned in high school, but this album immediately wormed its way into my head upon first listen. There really is a little bit of everything here as far as style. Yes, it is obviously influenced heavily by flamenco, but there are definitely pop and hip hop sensibilities on display here, as well. Rosalia’s hypnotic voice will take you over beginning with the first track, and she never lets up.
- sweetener – Ariana Grande: Look, I get it. Ariana Grande is insanely popular and some of you might be rolling your eyes already. But honestly, it is hard damn work to create any strong pop album. And sweetener is way beyond strong. There is a reason she stands out from the crowd. She is not just another pop star, she is not your expectations. Most pop stars will shy away from difficult topics, whether it be sexuality or loss. Not so here. Despite the pop star package, Ariana Grande has true talent and showcases it here without holding a single thing back.
- Astroworld – Travis Scott: Travis Scott had a big year, with not only this album but an appearance on five tracks on Metro Boomin’s album Not All Heroes Wear Capes. But Astroworld stands out from this and his previous work by expanding the scope of his creativity. Travis Scott took a real risk here with the numerous guest lyricists featured on the album. But he never takes a backseat and you can constantly feel his presence regardless of who is heard at the moment. Astroworld never lets the listener get comfortable, constantly changing styles and aspects of the sound, which will keep you coming back to listen again and again.
- Be The Cowboy – Mitski: If anything, this is one of Mitski’s most stripped down albums. It takes some real guts to just be alone with your voice on a solo album. There are no tricks here, just some serious power. And the courage she shows in this recording rewards the listener with some of the best music of the year. This is an album you will likely see on many Best of lists, and for damn good reason.
- Room 25 – Noname: On her debut album, Noname seriously brings it. Although this is not an album that dominated the charts, she probably has more skill in her pinky finger than many at the top (but let’s not name names). The fact that she can do so much with ease might actually be holding her back, popularity wise. Save for tracks like “Blaxploitation” and “Ace,” it feels like she’s not even breaking a sweat. That smoothness can sometimes hide some complex lyricism and I hope people take more notice before her next album drops.
- Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves: Look, if you knew me, this would probably be a surprise. I don’t mind country music, but on a Top 10 list? But here we are. This is an album that definitely transcends the genre. Musgraves really toes an interesting line here. Most country albums will either be about getting your heart broken or being above that particular feeling. Golden Hour exists somewhere between the two. “Lonely Weekend” focuses on the need to connect and how hard that can be without that special someone. On the other hand, “Butterflies” is a sugary sweet (in a good way) ode to falling, and falling hard. Golden Hour, even if you don’t love the genre, will steal your heart.
- Whack World – Tierra Whack: This might be the hardest album on this list to talk about. It is an odd concoction. This debut album has 15 tracks and each is exactly one minute long. I’m kind of stunned at the amount of editing and planning that must have required. But it’s not just an experiment, it’s actually really good. It’s fun, irreverent, and musically complex. Instead of listening to me, go check out the album. Even if you disagree with me, it’s 15 minutes of your time!
- Swimming – Mac Miller: I have to admit, it makes me sad to even write about this album. But Mac Miller’s untimely death does not overshadow not only the quality of this work, but the leap he was taking. The loss of life is tragic, and so is the loss of the art we were sure to experience. Swimming gave us an introspective journey through love, loss, and just a hint of desperation. Mac Miller seemed like he was not content to simply show off lyrically, but was also exploring new styles in terms of the actual music he was creating. The pure emotion oozes out in tracks like “Come Back To Earth” and “Self Care.” Whether or not “Self Care” was about his failed relationship, he was clearly trying to move forward. Take advantage of this album, because although it is a tragic loss, he left us with something great, too.
- The Nature of Imitation – Dorian Concept: So, I have to be brutally honest here. I almost didn’t place this album in my Top 10. I was just introduced to it recently by our EIC. And it feels odd to include it after hearing it a week ago. But I can’t stop listening to it. If I had heard this earlier, it might have climbed even higher. It has been a long time since I have heard music that is quite this layered and complicated. From the opening track, “Promises,” I was immediately blown away. It is one of the few albums that I feel like I can just put on and let it take me away. Despite it being mostly instrumental (which is not my norm), I can’t imagine ever being bored by it. There is pure talent on display here, and I’m glad I got to experience it before the year’s end.
- “Raised By Wolves” – DJ Existential Crisis
- “Move Out Of My Way” – Dennis Quin and Shermanology
- “Bloom” – Troye Sivan
- “Potential” – Kllo
- “Womp Womp (feat. Jeremih)” – Valee
- “Work It” – Marie Davidson
- “1997 DIANA” – Brockhampton
- “Lady” – CVIRO and GXNXVS
- “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” – Leon Bridges
- “Back To You” – Selena Gomez
- Free Brittnee – Bbymutha
- GOOD Job, You Found Me – Valee
- Vanishing Points – Manuel Troller
- Now You Know – CVIRO & GXNXVS
- Sagas – Sunareht
- The Nature Of Imitation – Dorian Concept: In a year where I really didn’t want to make my brain work at all, Dorian Concept’s music pushed me to use it in a new way.
- Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves: This album reminds me of my ex and cleaning my house and feeling hopeful that someone could love me.
- Beach House 3 (Deluxe) – Ty Dolla $ign: I deny myself pleasure for the sake of presentation so often. When I like something that is in the mainstream, I beat myself up and wonder how my enjoyment of that thing will affect how others perceive me. I discovered Beach House 3 in 2018, not knowing there’d been a 2017 release of it with fewer songs. Ty Dolla $ign brought me great joy this year, and I’m going to stop apologizing for it. He’s a brilliant musician and one hell of a performer.
- Singularity – Jon Hopkins: Music rarely brings me to tears. This is an exception.
- sweetener – Ariana Grande: Okay, another exception.
- Skinless X-1 – Firetoolz: Thank you to Bandcamp’s end of year list for introducing me to Firetoolz. Skinless X-1 is risky and weird. It’s exactly what I want from electronic music going forward.
- Black Panther: The Album – Various Artists: Holy shit. We got a Black Panther movie this year, and a revolutionary soundtrack to match it.
- Harlan & Alondra – Buddy: This album reminds me of my sister and seeing that good things can grow from the bad.
- Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides – SOPHIE: I was really proud of our wine pairing album review for SOPHIE‘s masterpiece, and I think you should read it if you haven’t already.
- 13th Month – Kelman Duran: Something I actually went back and re-listened to several times to feel like I really got it. Even now, I’m listening and hearing new pieces. I guess that’s a metaphor for life, huh?