When I consider ranking albums, it’s always pretty difficult for me to assign numbers to them. I love albums because of what the music does to me, what the music brings to my life. It’s very personal, which is why I always find Top 10/Best-Of lists written by a select group of critics difficult to relate to. Those lists aren’t ranked by some sort of data, it’s subjective to what is popular. For example, many publications keep leaving Mariah Carey’s Caution out of the Top-10 lists though it’s been critically acclaimed; one of the best reviewed albums of the year. I know, it’s exhausting, I’m a Mariah fan… but it’s not an invalid point. Therefore, I bring you this list… this is the list of the albums that brought me the most joy, make me think, brought the most emotion into my life this year. And yes, I will label one of my “Favorite Album” of the year.
Mariah Carey – Caution
Mariah is on top of her game and I can’t get enough of this album. So many layers of greatness. Thought and passion was put into the making of this album. My review says it all, but I will leave you with a few thoughts: How successful would this album have been if one proper single was promoted? How successful would this album have been if she wasn’t labeled a “legacy act” or if ageism didn’t plague popular culture?
Best Tracks: The Distance, GTFO, Giving Me Life, Caution
Kylie Minogue – Golden
Kylie’s Golden is an album based on introspection after a broken heart and turning the golden age of 50. Golden is also the country-pop album Kylie made after recording and being inspired by Nashville and Country music. Somehow it all works! The joy heard in Stop Me From Falling is palpable. The album took her back to the top of the charts in England as an INDIE artist, and brought her much acclaim.
Best Tracks: Dancing, Stop Me From Falling, Lost Without You, Shelby 68
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
As I stated in my comparison of Kacey’s Golden Hour and Mandy’s Wild Hope, this album feels familiar. It reminds me of a more polished and accessible Wild Hope. It’s more immediate, it includes a country-disco ditty (High Horse), but it all feels like Wild Hope. Both albums are pensive, both albums are internal glimpses into the artist’s soul. Golden Hour is much stronger and thus has received critical acclaim. It’s been at the top of many “best-of” lists for 2018.
Best Tracks: Slow Burn, Lonely Weekend, High Horse, Space Cowboy
Carrie Underwood – Cry Pretty
My favorite Carrie Underwood album. The best country album of the year. She discusses guns, prejudice and love, and does it extremely well.
Best: Ghosts on the Stereo, Backsliding, Low, The Bullet.
The Knocks – New York Narcotic
The only males on this list come in the form of NYC DJ duo The Knocks. A staple in my life since their Magic EP released in 2011. The Knocks have raised their profile within the pop scene. They’ve produced remixes for many popular artists, have featured talented indie-artists on their albums and somehow manage to blend pop and hip-hop masterfully throughout their releases.
Best Tracks: Ride or Die, Brazilian Soul, Goodbyes
Lily Allen – No Shame
I’ve always been partial to Lily. I enjoy her lyricism, the unique production and the concepts of her album. After releasing Sheezus, an album she openly discusses despising, she went introspective and released an album chock-full of personal insights into her failed marriage, motherhood and her public persona. The album was nominated for a Mercury Prize in 2018.
Best Tracks: Come On Then, Trigger Bang, Three, Family Man
Christina Aguilera – Liberation
This release bothers me terribly. This should’ve been more successful than it was. I believe that similarly to Caution by Mariah, this album didn’t really have a single. Many songs were released at the same time, and promotion was spotty. Christina has stated that this album was personal, needed to be released and she finally felt she could produce and release music the way she wanted too. I believe Liberation is exactly what she wanted it to be. Is it extremely cohesive, no; but the album stands as a confident body of work. She didn’t try to get a “hit”, she created an album she loved.
Best Tracks: Maria, Right Moves, Deserve
My personal favorite album of 2018? Mariah’s Caution. After years of rough publicity and the Lambily’s general concern about her state of being, it’s amazing to see Mariah really pulling through and most importantly, DELIVERING. She’s on tour, she’s taking stock in her brand. It seems like she cares again… so refreshing. It shows in the music too. The Distance is one of the best songs she’s released in YEARS. It feels familiar to the passionate Mariah that wanted to and became a global superstar, but is also matured and strongly evolved.