Ever heard of an album before? Well, it’s like a group of songs put together into one long, cohesive thing. Here are the Emerald’s picks for the top five albums that were released in 2018.
5. Death Grips — “Year of the Snitch”
In the past, the experimental hip-hop act Death Grips has sampled Charles Manson and put an erect penis on an album cover (that link is obviously NSFW). By now, it seems like the band should have devolved into some kind of novelty act. But with six studio albums under its belt, Death Grips remains just as chaotic and boundary-pushing as it was from the start. From the rave-ready opener, “Death Grips is Online,” to “Disappointed,” the album’s disorienting closer, “Year of the Snitch” proves to be one of the group’s strongest and most cohesive records to date.
4. Mount Eerie — “Now Only”
“People get cancer and die / People get hit by trucks die / People just living their lives get erased for no reason with the rest of us watching from the side,” Phil Elverum sings on the ironically upbeat title-track from his ninth solo album, “Now Only.” Building on the minimal compositions of 2017’s “A Crow Looked At Me,” Elverum continues to process the death of his wife through introspective lyrics and carefully-crafted acoustic guitar. The album is able to translate Elverum’s suffering into an emotional work of art. It’s another Mount Eerie masterstroke.
3. Mitski — “Be the Cowboy”
On her fifth studio album, “Be the Cowboy,” Mitski turns loneliness into an art form with a collection of succinct yet intricate indie pop anthems. Building on the guitar-based sound of her previous record, the New York-based singer songwriter effectively combines the sad nights at home with melancholic, synth-driven dance parties. The album’s thematic centerpiece, “Nobody,” molds a danceable hit single out of an emotional breakdown — made complete with dramatic key changes and a four-on-the-floor disco beat.
2. Kanye West — “Ye”
Kanye West reportedly crafted the album artwork for “Ye” on his way to the album’s invite-only listening party. Scribbled in green text, on top of an iphone picture of the mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are the words “I hate being Bi-Polar / its awesome.” It may be a cheesy joke, but the artwork accurately represents the candid depictions of mental health issues found all throughout the album. West reflects on suicidal thoughts, depression and drug abuse over minimalistic production, often reaching manic and euphoric highs through the music. At only 24 minutes long, “Ye” is simple and understated, but even with a less extravagant approach, West remains surprisingly impactful.
1. “Some Rap Songs” — Earl Sweatshirt
The third studio album from the former Odd Future prodigy Earl Sweatshirt is a difficult listen, both aesthetically and emotionally. “Some Rap Songs,” the album’s dispassionate title, downplays the artistic ambition. With a signature lethargic flow, Sweatshirt dives deeper into the topics of misanthropy and depression, over top jazzy and experimental hip-hop instrumentals — the majority of which are self-produced. But the music also works to push past conventional structures, often moving into more conceptual realms. “Playing Possum” functions as a conciliatory spoken word collage, while the instrumental closing track “Riot!” takes on a significant symbolic weight through the connections to Sweatshirt’s late father. As usual, Sweatshirt also displays striking lyricism. “Blood in the water, I was walking in my sleep / Blood on my father, I forgot another dream,” he raps on the track “Red Water.” The album represents a maturation in Sweatshirt’s music that is both bold and emotionally authentic.