2018 gave us one of the best years for alternative and indie music yet. It was a year full of new definitions of rock and revolutionary girl groups. And as the year draws to a close, it’s time to round up the best of the best. So, here’s The Alternative Feed’s list of the top 10 best indie and alternative albums of the year.
10.“Boygenius EP” Boygenius
Put together from the minds of indie-rockers Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers, Boygenius is one of the best new groups to come out of 2018. The girl group may have only released the six-song EP, but their tender sound makes the album approachable and easy listening.
While all three women have successful solo careers, having them on the same album polishes their already established sounds, meshing them together in the best way. The indie group proves that this year was really a year for women, whether in indie and alternative, country (Kacey Musgraves), rap (Cardi B) or any genre in between. Boygenius have set the precedence for girl groups to come and made this year in music the year of women in music.
9.“God’s Favorite Customer” Father John Misty
It’s the fourth album coming from Josh Tillman (Father John Misty), but he still remains witty and possibly more vulnerable. It may not be the most experimental album of the year, but sometimes simplicity is better. And in the case of “God’s Favorite Customer,” it works.
Tillman has spent much of his musical career as Father John Misty, a self-centered musician who talks about himself more often than not. But now it seems that Tillman is spending some time out of body, finding a more empathetic way to sing about his experiences. It hits as one of the more emotionally sound albums of the year, and it’s easy to listen to, making it approachable and setting it apart form albums that try too hard.
8.“7” Beach House
Aptly named “7” as it’s their seventh album, Beach House return with a refined dream-pop sound. Their album is familiar, their sound settling under a shroud of distortion, but still remaining clear with their concepts and ideas.
“7” is darker than past albums, but also more intimate. It’s easy to lose yourself listening to the shadow-like sounds. It’s dreamy, the perfect album for someone looking to find an escape route. Their use of loud and quiet contrast makes for an album that remains unique and interesting from beginning to end.
7.“Tell Me How You Really Feel” Courtney Barnett
Indie-rocker Courtney Barnett released her second album “Tell Me How You Really Feel” this year. And while her sound stayed the same, her lyrical quirkiness has only gotten more humorous. Barnett’s ever-present pissed-off-ness is only amplified on this album.
Tracks like “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch” are angsty and angry. “Nameless, Faceless” is downright pop-y, but still critical of how society treats women as she belts “Men are scared that women will laugh at them/ I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them.” Barnett’s ability to be accessible while also channeling her anger translates well into a sound that people who want change can really lean on.
6.“High As Hope” Florence + The Machine
What seems to be one of the more looked over albums of the year, “High As Hope” still lands high on our list. Florence Welch has taken her fairy-like, whimsical aesthetic and made it exponentially more honest and vulnerable.
Welch relies heavily on her dominating vocals in most of her music. She came on to the scene with a force on her debut album, “Lungs.” Since then, she’s toned it down. While her vocals are commanding as ever on “High As Hope,” she isn’t so reliant on grand music. And she doesn’t need it. On “No Choir” Welch sings acapella, and on “Big God” Welch drones on in a heavy tone. Each song showcases something different from Welch, keeping it interesting and sincere.
5.“Wide Awake!” Parquet Courts
Parquet Courts find a sort of home in alternative music influenced by their traditional brash punk sound and subtle pop music. “Wide Awake!” explores finding the idea of individuality. It’s their fifth album in the band’s career and it sticks on the better end of their releases.
Their take on working together and then alone is critical. “Those who find discomfort / In your goals of liberation / Will be issued / No apology / And fuck Tom Brady,” is crooned on track “Total Football.” This brash take on how society runs today is the frank and refreshing perspective that sets this album apart from others.
4.“Lush” Snail Mail
What makes “Lush” remarkable is that it stems from 19-year-old Lindsey Jordan. At the time of the album release, the singer-songwriter was only 18. On “Lush” her maturity flows through. While she still croons on about heartbreak and teenage drama, her youthful take on indie rock is refreshing and engaging.
This album remains melodic, though emotionally-driven. Unlike other indie rock albums, there is no hiding behind the over-used loud guitar and cymbal bashing, Snail Mail’s music remains honeyed and easy to listen to. “Lush” has all the makings of a teenager who has already reached the musical maturity that typically comes at a later age. It’ll be exciting to see how Snail Mail can top this, and we look forward to listening to it.
3.“Historian” Lucy Dacus
Hailing from Norfolk, Virginia, Dacus released her second album “Historian” back in March. Her traditional indie-folk sound has transformed into something broader, and Dacus includes more horns and strings to expand her sound into something more modern.
At the forefront of “Historian” is heartbreak, personal and universal. Dealing with breakups and death, Dacus is purely raw on the album. She writes about what it means to have a place in this world, how people deal with their heartbreak. This universal view has “Historian” as one of the more sincere and narrative albums of the year.
2.“A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” The 1975
What could possibly be The 1975’s best album yet, “A Brief Inquiry...” showcases the band’s ability to bend the rules of rock. No longer conforming to the indie noise they established on their debut album, The 1975 explore what a modern rock album really sounds like. It’s experimental, critical and, of course, sad.
Matty Healy delves into the reality of modern life on this album. Criticizing the use of the internet, how we interact with each other, and how society has ultimately adapted to the digital age. His refreshing perspective on modernity and the band’s daring perspective on rock music solidifies this album as one of the best of the year, and the most likely best of The 1975’s career.
1.“Be The Cowbowy” Mitski
Vulnerability, honesty and clever quirks are what make up the best album of the year. “Be The Cowboy” is Mitski’s fifth album, and while she still is leaning more towards the indie rock sound, she’s ditched the distortion from “Puberty 2” and explores the idea of quiet and loud.
While the album runs at 14 songs long, most tracks don’t ever hit three minutes long. While each track hits quick, they all leave something behind. The album, as a whole, feels more refined and complete. A cohesive collection of indie, pop, rock and even elements of disco, “Be The Cowboy” never feels sporadic, but complete and honest.
Article by Lindsey Lanham