It’s the most wonderful time… of the year. Time for the annual tradition of sharing my favorite albums of the year, just in time for your last-minute holiday shopping or possible targets for all the gift cards you might receive.
Meshell Ndegeocello – Ventriloquism
Beautiful collection of covers, re-imagined to perfection. The song selection is almost as masterful as the execution. Every song flipped on its head, and yet somehow more revealing than the originals. Deep grooves here, highly recommended.
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
Crazy rhythms and hypnotic jams.
Black Eyed Peas – Masters of the Sun
Yes, this is a real banger. I’ve disliked and dismissed the Black Eyed Peas for several years and albums, but gotta admit, this is a great album. Harkens back to 90s peak boom-bap hip-hop classics. Pleasant surprise.
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
The best Nirvana album in years.
Cypress Hill – Elephants on Acid
Classic hip-hop outfit delivers a superb master stroke, all killer no filler.
Jonathan Wilson – Rare Birds
There’s a reason this guy Jonathan Wilson makes by Best Albums of the Year list every single year he puts out an album. It’s because he makes great albums.
Pusha T – Daytona
Short and sweet. Seven tracks, 21 minutes. Less is more.
Foxing – Nearer My God
Can’t really describe this one. I guess at times it sounds like a cross between Dawes and Radiohead. It’s a grower.
Jeff The Brotherhood – Magick Songs
Floating between Floyd and Sabbath is a truly magical feat. One of those cool albums you get lost in and forget what you’re listening to.
Clutch – Book of Bad Decisions
These guys never make bad albums, and this one stands out with some funky punches and even a horn section in a few spots. Another monster of an album from the masters of crunchy riffs and big beats.
Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 1
Black Thought – Streams of Thought Vol. 2
Easily a Top 5 MC, one of the greatest rappers ever; an astounding lyricist on the mic. The Roots front man finally making some solo joints as further proof.
Amanda Shires – To The Sunset
If you built a bridge between 80s alt rock and the best of Nashville’s modern Americana, it would probably be one of those really, really long bridges that stretch for miles over a huge body of water and it ends up being strangely more fun to drive across than a regular bridge.
Jackie and the Treehorns – The J Album
Unknown/indie selection of the year. Rock is not dead. Google this or dial it up on your favorite streamer, you won’t be disappointed (and Jackie will make a 40th of a cent in streaming royalties!).
The Carters – Everything is Love
I don’t really care about their marriage or their unique and immense celebrity… but Beyonce and Jay-Z are still famous for making great jams, and this collaboration album is full of ‘em.
Black Panther Soundtrack Album – Kendrick Lamar and Various Artists
Kendrick even kills it as curator and co-host.
Paul McCartney – Egypt Station
Almost left this off the list. It’s not GREAT great, but it’s still pretty good and way better than expected. Just a couple of clunkers but most of it is really solid. And it’s great that Paul is still putting out new music, good stuff at that. The man is in his 70s.
Jack White – Boarding House Reach
Funny thing about this album. No, it’s certainly not his best, but I found the reaction to it fascinating. Since this album is a bit of a hodge-podge of more experimental tracks, the fawning fanbase of critics who’d spent the entirety of this century elevating Jack White to untouchable godlike status immediately reveled in “the new Jack White album sucks!” madness. Classic example of building someone up just so they can tear him down at the first sign of a misstep. I think the album is interesting and full of weirdness in a good way. A mixtape for rockers. While “I’d almost forgotten this album came out in 2018” isn’t a ringing endorsement, thought I’d include it here since approximately zero of the year-end albums lists included our boy Jack, the former critic’s darling who has finally pushed himself beyond their predictable reach.
Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – Live from the Ryman
John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once
Tom Petty – An American Treasure
The Beatles – White Album Super Deluxe 50th Anniversary Edition