As the year winds down, Music Unlabeled is revisiting albums from all genres. To do this, Music Unlabeled founder Anna Fair teamed up with Joe Kowalski of PogieJoe Productions to talk the surprises, favorites and game changers of 2018.
Making our shortlist of must-listen-to music includes releases from Kendrick Lamar to Muse. Listen to the entire commentary in the video below, or scroll down to skim through the favorites. In addition, we’ve put together a playlist so you can remember 2018 on repeat into the new year.
Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober Pt 2
Lil Peep’s long awaited posthumous album Come Over When You’re Sober Pt. 2 lives up to the hype. The new effort pays tribute to both the classic grungy Lil Peep style fans have come to expect along with the growth the musician always sought. Come Over When You’re Sober captures the artistry that the emo-rap front runner possessed, making it one of Fair’s top favorites of 2018.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
“I’m not really, typically a country person, but…” Joe said, introducing the album. That statement seems to be the motto for Kacey Musgraves’ latest album. The album’s title becomes a great descriptor for it as it bends genres and captures attention with ease. Although still a country album at the core, Golden Hour is a departure from the norm of the genre and addresses topics that aren’t normally found in country music. Which makes it a perfect album for people who aren’t typically country people.
The Sonder Bombs – Modern Female Rockstar
Cleveland natives The Sonder Bombs’ debut album Modern Female Rockstar is a complete game changer. Tackling things like sexism in the music industry as well as sexual assault and mental illness with a bubbly, pop-punk sound, the Sonder Bombs hold back no punches. With Modern Female Rockstar, the Sonder Bombs and frontwoman Willow Hawks are changing what it means to be a female rockstar.
Poppy – Am I A Girl?
Am I A Girl? has a harder edge compared to Poppy’s debut. Kowalski is a big fan of the Poppy-verse and the entire rabbit hole accompanying it. Featuring unexpected heavy metal features with artists such as Grimes, Am I A Girl is the perfect mix of genres with a captivating concept./a
Muse – Simulation Theory
A favorite of both Music Unlabeled founders, Simulation Theory feels like a culmination of everything Muse strived to do with their last few albums. The album combines multiple genres to sound like a rock n roll video game soundtrack, pushing the boundaries of what we’ve come to expect from Muse.
Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts
Kids See Ghosts is a collaboration between Kanye West (“Who’s not on Santa’s Good List right now, nor mine,” Kowalski commented) and Kid Cudi. Both talented musicians, the sound they coax out working together is absolutely legendary. The shorter album flows incredibly well, with Cudi and West’s combined talents making it a strong project.
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
Janelle Monae’s newest album Dirty Computer is ear catching and lyrically captivating. Dirty Computer offers an empathetic and powerful look at life and society through Monae’s experiences. Monae’s talent shines through and creates an album that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
Falling under the trend of shorter albums, Bad Witch left a strong impression on Kowalski. Every track on the album hits you and drags you on a journey into the next track and the next. Bad Witch has the classic heavy metal sound of a Nine Inch Nails album with a David Bowie Blackstar feel].
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino easily carves its own space in the hearts of Arctic Monkeys fans. While completely different from 2013’s AM, Tranquility Based Hotel & Casinos poetic and spoken word vibes grew on Fair over the course of 2018. Bold and brave, the album also takes inspiration from David Bowie.
Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
Touted by Kowalski as an album he thinks will become an instant classic, Transangelic Exodus tells a dramatic love story between two individuals. One of Kowalski’s favorite artists, Ezra Furman uses his powerful and unique voice to create a powerful storyline and a positively divine album.
Panic! at the Disco – Pray For The Wicked
Pray For the Wicked is very reflective lyrically. It’s packed with songs that address fame, belief, and Brendon Urie’s relationship with music. A whirlwind from start to finish, Pray For The Wicked may not be initially labeled as a concept album, but the overall experience from start to finish has the feel of one in Fair’s opinion.
Noname – Room 25
Room 25 is the debut album from the poet and hip-hop artist known as Noname. Noname has an incredibly interesting delivery and often crafts incredibly intimate songs. An easy stand out among the world of hip hop with a style that is more meek than braggadocious, Noname is certainly an artist that will not be easily forgotten.
Halestorm – Vicious
Halestorm is a group with the remarkable ability to grab your attention and never let it wander. A powerful example of female led rock, Vicious delivers a multitude of heavy hitting songs that easily create an intimate and suggestive air. True to form, Halestorm’s latest album is filled with tracks that touches on self identity and sexual independence.
Death Grips – Year of the Snitch
Kowalski cites Year of the Snitch as an excellent introduction to Death Grips. An eclectic and odd sound that is often aggressive on the ears, Death Grips like to be experimental with their hiphop sound.. Year of the Snitch incorporates a lot of rock elements to the sound to create an incredibly unique experience.
Twenty One Pilots – Trench
A very popular release for the year, Trench incorporates a lot of unique sounds, including examples of R&B. The rap-rock duo crafted a very interesting and complex story to go along with the album. In addition, Trench’s heavily introspective songs held up to the expectations created by mysterious teasers ahead of the album’s announcement.
Yungblud – 21st Century Liability
Inspired by Twenty One Pilots, Yungblud is an alternative rock artist that fans of the group should be paying attention to. His debut album is incredibly politically charged and suggests that while the artist is young on the scene, there will be much more exciting work from him in the years to come.
They Might Be Giants – I Like Fun
They Might Be Giants release music just about every other year, but I Like Fun made a strong impression on Kowalski. The alternative rock album was filled with dark songs and bright lyrics, which created a very cohesive experience that is incredibly interesting.
Various – Black Panther
A favorite of both Fair and Kowalski, Black Panther is a cohesive collaboration between Kendrick Lamar and other powerful artists from Top Dawg Entertainment. It’s incredibly well put together, flowing very well from start to finish. The songs are all incredibly powerful and catchy, including the standout single “All The Stars.”