The 31 Best Albums of 2018 So Far

Treble staff

Every year around this time, we take a moment to reflect on the highlights of the year’s first six months of music. Inevitably, there will be a lot of favorites, some that we’ll still end up loving come December (about half of last year’s mid-year best made our Top 50) and some that will have to be sacrificed for the surprises of the second half of the year. But for the time being, what we’ve seen has been a pretty spectacular several months of music, which we narrowed down to 31. Wait, 31?! Guess we ended up with an extra. Think of it like a bonus track. If anything’s going to get us through the rest of the year, it’s going to be the music, and these records are providing us the joy, catharsis and therapy-through-dancing that we needed most. Enjoy our list of the Best Albums of 2018 So Far.


Against All Logic 2012-2017 reviewA.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012-2017

(Other People)

Nicolas Jaar has made a name for himself as being one of the most versatile producers of the past decade, as well as one most likely to carve out a new niche with seemingly every project he introduces. Following the spacious psych of Darkside and the buzzy electronic pop under his own name, A.A.L. finds Jaar in prime position to rock dancefloors via more sample-based house and techno productions. On some level, 2012-2017 represents his most fun and lighthearted music to date. On another, it’s more mystique and artful atmosphere from an artist that never stops moving or evolving. Released with little fanfare or promotion to speak of, this album maybe wasn’t meant to be a big deal. But given the level of artistry and scope of sound throughout its 11 tracks, it most certainly is. – Jeff Terich


Agrimonia Awaken review Album of the WeekAgrimonia – Awaken

(Southern Lord)

Calling Agrimonia’s Awaken a crust album is a little bit like saying The Clash was a punk band. Sure, it’s true on the most basic level, but it also says little to nothing about what the actual experience of hearing it is like. On the Swedish band’s fourth album, they redraw metal and hardcore boundary lines into cubist shapes, making heavy music into an emotionally wrenching and transcendent experience via lengthy, melody heavy pieces. Their songwriting is as immediate as it is ambitious, packing more ideas into one track than many metal bands ever touch during the course of their careers. If a comparison is necessary, their closest analogue is probably Neurosis, but it’s a parallel in scope more than sound. Agrimonia operate on their own darkly affecting wavelength.  – Jeff Terich


Bambara Shadow on Everything review Album of the WeekBambara – Shadow On Everything

(Wharf Cat)

Bambara are an intense group. Pairing the meat-punching post-punk impact of The Birthday Party with an American Gothic narrative style, the band reached a new peak in 2018 with Shadow On Everything, their third album and best to date, not to mention their eeriest. Where before their songs were all jagged edges and blunt force, there’s a ghostly atmosphere permeating these still-relentless punk-blues bursts. It’s a sharp and intense album, a dynamic set of songs that offer a great deal of nuance and intricacy amid narratives of existential black holes swallowing its residents whole. Shadow On Everything is always haunting even when the band is firing on all cylinder, weaving a thread of terror that’s somehow brilliantly accessible. – Jeff Terich


Beach House 7 review Album of the WeekBeach House – 7

(Sub Pop)

Beach House are one of the most reliable bands in indie rock. That sounds backhanded, I know—there’s nothing all that exciting about knowing you can count on something, but then again Beach House have always been more about subtle comforts more than immediate gratification. Which is why it’s all the more remarkable that the Baltimore duo continue to grow and deliver an album’s worth of haunting, mesmerizing sonic surprises with their seventh album, simply titled 7. It’s darker, a little grimier than their past handful of albums, a late-night record that edges ever closer to a more dangerous part of town. It still sounds like Beach House, or some slightly more sinister version of them anyway, decked in black and singing lullabies for vampires. – Jeff Terich


Leon Bridges Good Thing reviewLeon Bridges – Good Thing

(Columbia)

Not long after Leon Bridges released his debut album Coming Home, he began to push back a little against the idea of being a classic soul crooner in the tradition of Sam Cooke. Not that he wasn’t excellent at that, but with the release of his sophomore album Good Thing, it appeared that there was a lot more to his sound than what’s spinning in a vintage diner jukebox. Good Thing is in essence Bridges’ neo-soul album, a set of songs that bridges Marvin Gaye and Maxwell and Anderson .Paak, with a little bit of Prince in its sexier funk grooves. “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” or “Bad Bad News” don’t so much sound like a totally different artist, just an already strong songwriter becoming a great one right before our eyes. – Jeff Terich


best albums of 2018 so far Car Seat HeadrestCar Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

(Matador)

It’s a risky venture to find artists revisiting previously released music outside of the context of live performance. Having a relatively unproven artist take on that task, and recycling an entire album in the process, each make that venture exponentially less common. That Will Toledo transforms his 2011 LP Twin Fantasy into a clearer, clearly edgier meditation on failed love makes Car Seat Headrest a particular breed of musical unicorn. This re-envisioned album is jittery and sad, introverted and revelatory. It lets the band throw back to the gallows humor of yesteryear’s college rock and be fair representatives for indie rock’s modern insecurities. – Adam Blyweiss


the best albums of 2018 so far Elysia CramptonElysia Crampton – Elysia Crampton

(Break World)

In 2015 Elysia Crampton left behind her E+E moniker and started making music under her proper name. Since that time Crampton has released four studio albums that explore identity, anti-colonialism, colorism, and her Latina ancestry. No one could say her work isn’t heady, but a check list of themes doesn’t do the music justice. With her latest self-titled album Crampton’s aural aesthetic has expanded to include even more South American influence, drawing from Nueva cancion and cumbia in an effort to deconstruct the lineage of drum music. Crampton’s tireless quest to seek truth intersects with her budding interest in eclectic noise making an album that stimulates all the senses. – Wesley Whitacre


best albums of 2018 so far Sarah DavachiSarah Davachi – Let Night Come on Bells End the Day

(Recital)

It’s been less than five years since Sarah Davachi debuted her hodgepodge take on minimalism with 2013’s The Untuning Of the Sky. In that short time the Canadian has become a fixture in the experimental music world by creating LP after LP of confounding drone music. Let Night Come on Bells End the Day finds Davachi picking up right where she left off with 2017’s masterpiece All My Circles Run. Bells is her most eclectic offering to date, spanning shimmering ambience and electroacoustic strings with graceful ease. Davachi has established herself as a force, with her catalog now reading like a who’s who of the best experimental music labels in the world today – Recital, Students of Decay, Important Records, Constellation Tatsu. If you are at all interested in the blurred edges of music, run don’t walk to hear this. – Wesley Whitacre


best albums of 2018 so far father john mistyFather John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

(Sub Pop)

When you and your partner relate a little too much to “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)”, it’s understandable to become a little worried about Father John Misty’s domestic life. (He’s still making regular appearances on his wife Emma’s Instagram, just in case there’s any doubt on that front.) Josh Tillman wrote God’s Favorite Customer in the aftermath of spending several weeks hovering near self-destruct, and while he sounds that much stronger for having made it out the other end, he shows his scars without hesitation. There’s, in fact, a song called “Please Don’t Die,” which speaks volumes. But Tillman is never anything less than charming, funny and able to wield a fantastic melody throughout the album, a much more concise and personal offering than last year’s Pure Comedy. Whether Father John Misty is a persona or an extension of Tillman himself, God’s Favorite Customer offers a warts-and-all look behind the curtain with some of his best songs to date. Just because the honeymoon’s over doesn’t mean that love is dead. – Jeff Terich


Flasher Constant Image reviewFlasher – Constant Image

(Domino)

It’s likely no coincidence that while Washington, D.C. has long been synonymous with corruption, it’s also been a locale listeners have been able to trust when it comes to making some of the best punk rock in America. (Where there’s one, there’s bound to be the other as cathartic counterpoint.) Flasher are the latest in that long lineage of great DMV DIY, having recorded with Fugazi’s Brendan Canty and previously sharing a member with Priests. Constant Image, their debut full-length, is all taut, melodic and compact post-punk that’s overflowing with hooks while keeping its 10 songs to a lean half-hour. For all the agitation and frustration on display throughout the album, it’s ultimately one of the most fun records released in this half-over year, and compact enough to replay the whole thing that much sooner. – Jeff Terich

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