Favorite Records of 2018

It’s the end of 2018 and time to look back on another amazing year in music! Click the links below to see what were the favorite records in the WNUR community this year.

Safe In The Hands of Love by Yves Tumor – Ellise Shafer
Sonder by TesseracT – Isabelle Johnson
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack) by the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Cast – Jamie Lee
You Won’t Get What You Want by Daughters – Thomas Kikuchi
Twio by Walter Smith III – Paul Brown
Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves – Francisco Gumucio
Eternal Return by Windhand – Finn Hewes
ASTROWORLD by Travis Scott – Chloe Fourte
NTS Session 2 by Autechre – Nathan Salon
Lush by Snail Mail – Leah Dunlevy 
Deep Dark Trench by chris††† – Clay Mills
Opening for Steinbeck (Live) by John Craigie – Emily Pappin
See Without Eyes by The Glitch Mob – William Minor
Unfold by Gábor Lázár – John Williams
Negro Swan by Blood Orange – Zoë Huettl
2012-2017 by A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – Luke Cimarusti
Goat Girl by Goat Girl – Jessica Collins
The Book Room  by Kilchhofer – m50
Care for Me by Saba – Vishnu Vengopal
Mount Vision by Emily A. Sprague – Kevin Eisenstein
Chris by Christine and the Queens – Lydia Weir
Darkened Windows by Underfelt – DJ broken36
The Crossing by Alejandro Escovedo – Al Finley 
Grid Of Points by Grouper – Claire Fahey
Daytona by Pusha T – Ben Moskow
El Mal Querer by ROSALÍA – Isabella Soto
Now Only by Mount Eerie – Nick Rueth
Noire by VNV Nation – DJ Daki
Bambi by Hippo Campus – Nicholas Guiang
NOIR by Smino – Elizabeth Solleder
Mark Kozelek by Mark Kozelek – Brock Stuessi
Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett – Anna Laffrey
The Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine – Sue Kessell
Historian by Lucy Dacus – Maddy Ashmun
TA13OO by Denzel Curry – Beck Dengler 

Ellise Shafer, Sophomore, Rock Show/Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Safe In The Hands of Love by Yves Tumor

Safe In The Hands of Love surprised me in every way. Coming from experimental dance artist Yves Tumor, this record spills over way more into the alternative/indie genre than I expected. More so than Tumor’s 2016 album Serpent Music, it features Tumor’s vocals and a sound rooted in drums and bass guitar, evoking a sort of ‘90s nostalgia. Though electronica remains present, standout tracks “Honesty,” “Noid,” “Licking An Orchid” and “Lifetime” in the middle of the album provide beautiful commentary on love, mental illness, and self-awareness against a near cacophony of instrumentals. This album’s genre-bending quality blows my mind and makes me increasingly curious to hear what Tumor will do next. Being such an elusive artist, it is entirely unclear – and I am absolutely intrigued with the uncertainty of it all.

Isabelle Johnson, Junior, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Sonder by TesseracT

“Djent is love. Djent is life.” If you’re familiar with the heavy metal scene, you’ve probably heard of the subgenre known as “djent.” Generally, it is an onomatopoeia for a low pitch, palm muted technique on the guitar that creates a unique and incredibly pleasing sound.

TesseracT, a progressive metal band, falls under this subgenre and is one of the most well-known djent bands in the community. Their 2018 album Sonder features only seven songs, and even though it is markedly shorter than many of their previous albums it is by far my favorite of their releases.

Sonder combines the conventional, chugging riffs of djent with more melodic and celestial sounding vocals and rhythms. Lead singer Daniel Tompkins’ beautifully high-pitched voice perfectly complements the syncopated, 7-string guitars, and his poetic lyrics soar above the band’s down-tuned instruments and otherworldly backtracking effects. Even the names of songs are unique; softer tracks such as “Orbital” serve as a reprieve from unrelentingly heavy numbers such as “Luminary” and “Smile.”

In my opinion, the climax of this album comes when the incredible dynamic between the two extremes of melody and brutality culminate in a powerful, musical conversation in “King.” I think even nonmetalheads could enjoy a band like TesseracT, and Sonder would be an excellent introduction to metal that doesn’t totally throw gutturals and screaming into your face.

Jamie Lee, Community DJ, Freeform
Favorite album of 2018: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: Season 3 (Original Television Soundtrack) by the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Cast

Musical TV shows are rare, especially ones with original music. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has proved for three seasons (with a fourth currently airing) that it is much more than its title suggests. Clever, subversive and hilarious, these songs are also often deeply relatable, with an underlying story that may surprise those who just came for the humor.

If you want an R&B song about leaving the clubs, drugs, and women behind to go to the zoo, a Cabaret-inspired song about a therapist hoping her patient finally makes progress, or an inspirational pop song about poop, you can find it here! Written by the brilliant trio of Rachel Bloom (the show’s co-creator and star), Jack Dolgen and Adam Schlesinger, and sung by the show’s many talented cast members, these songs (including cut songs and demos) cover a massive array of genres. Some have two versions: a “clean” version that aired on TV, and an “explicit” version. Whether you watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend or not, these tracks will make you laugh, feel, and, inevitably, sing! The next time you’re grocery shopping, I dare you not to hum the joyful ABBA-style song about “seeing a man” for the first time.

Thomas Kikuchi, Sophomore, Rock Show/Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: You Won’t Get What You Want by Daughters

Daughters manages to capture the anxiety and fear and general unpleasantry that I’m experiencing currently.  Whether it’s their horrific guitar tones, their thundering drums, or Alexis Marshall’s equally jarring lyrics and delivery, this album managed to come to me at an oddly perfect time. It’s this kind of discomfort I look for in music like this, and personally it’s made the most impact outside of just musical influences for me.

Paul Brown, Sophomore, Jazz Show
Favorite album of 2018: Twio by Walter Smith III

Though this may be a record of primarily standards, it is far from generic. Walter Smith III thrives in the trio setting he has created for himself, effortlessly flowing through his unique and clever arrangements. Props to Harish Raghavan and Eric Harland for holding down the rhythm section so in-the-pocket that the lack of a piano is not felt at all, and special guests Joshua Redman and Christian McBride also shine. Twio is not just the refreshing take on trio jazz that we didn’t know we needed, it is also a wholly fantastic record, and tops my chart of best new jazz records of 2018.

Francisco Gumucio, Senior, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves

The music in this record just resonated with me in a way that very few releases can these days. Every song is meticulously produced and arranged and sounds just incredible, but it’s the fantastic songwriting that makes this my favorite album of the year. I am not a big country fan, but this is might be my favorite country album. If you usually love pop country, give this album a chance. If you usually dislike pop country like me, give this album a chance.

Finn Hewes, Sophomore, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Eternal Return by Windhand

This triumphant October release is the band’s fourth full-length studio recording, and combines a floatious, ethereal vibe with the heavy, intense, grease-ridden, earthy riffing for which the band is known. Lyrically, Windhand delivers an anguished, deeply personal account of their universe told through the lens of lead singer Dorthia Cotrell’s groveling voice. The band launched a full tour to promote their new album, and I caught them at Subterranean in November. You can read my review of the live show here.

Chloe Fourte, Senior, Jazz Show
Favorite album of 2018: ASTROWORLD by Travis Scott

This album was in the mouths of the masses, so it might come off as a basic answer, however I think the dynamism and ingenuity of Travis’s approach to hip-hop render this album a timeless classic. Travis proved himself a mainstay in the hip-hop world and really came of age weaving his signature computerized vocals, with hauntingly memorable lyrics and explosive beats. Paying homage to the history of hip-hop with tracks like “RIP Screw” and laying his heart on the line in “NC-17”  and the closer “Coffee Bean,” Scott sent a message to naysayers who think that hip-hop is all frenzy with no feeling. With ASTROWORLD, Travis Scott showed his full range of motion and as the mainstream crowd-pleaser “SICKO MODE” proved, that he’s an MC that is here to play and stay in the game. R.I.P. Screw and R.I.P. my heart because this album bangs forever.

Nathan Salon, Junior, Rock Show/Airplay
Favorite album of 2018: NTS Session 2 by Autechre

The greatest electronic outfit there ever was proves that they’re the greatest jam band of all time too.

Leah Dunlevy, Junior, Media Team
Favorite Record of 2018: Lush by Snail Mail

Lindsey Jordan is a singer and guitarist that records under the name Snail Mail. In June 2018, Snail Mail released its first album, Lush, with Matador Records. Lush is an iconic album in the indie-rock world for many reasons. Despite being Snail Mail’s first album, it is relatively comprehensive with 10 songs. Each song is dynamic, emotionally complex and provides unique musicality. Each song can easily stand alone, but put together, the tracks of the album retain their strength yet it functionally flows as a single musical story.

Jordan’s songwriting is intelligent beyond her 18 years, and her voice somehow feels incredibly relatable. Her almost disillusioned singing overlaid on top of an elevated musical backdrop, complete with bass, drums and of course more guitar, can fit any listener’s mood. Through Lush, Snail Mail captures an unparalleled emotional depth and range that easily comes across as genuine. There is no doubt that Snail Mail will quickly rise in the indie-rock world.

Clay Mills, Junior, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: Deep Dark Trench by chris†††

Deep Dark Trench is exactly what the title implies. It grabs your ankle and yanks you into the abyss that is the post-9/11 world, where the United States is dead yet its soul seems to live on in an international purgatory, exactly the same as the living world except more ridiculous. It’s perhaps the first album that can unironically be described as post-vaporwave. DDT’s samples hit cultural reference points that are neither nostalgic nor contemporary. They exist in a bizarre cultural uncanny valley, which only further disassociates the listener from the late stage capitalist hellscape that they’ve known their whole lives. Any sample that the listener manages to derive real nostalgia from simultaneously forces them to call into question that nostalgia: “how could I hold any warmth in my memory for something so stupid?” By the end of the album, it offers a terrifying proposition that could fill even the most ardent stoic with dread: that after September 11th, there was no real moment where the U.S. rose “from the ashes,” it’s simply been collapsing for so long that everyone has gotten used to the feeling of falling into a void.

Emily Pappin, Sophomore, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Opening for Steinbeck (Live) by John Craigie

John Craigie’s live shows are infamous for featuring his quick sense of humor, and Opening for Steinbeck is no exception. Half touching Americana lyrics and harmonica runs and half perfectly timed stand-up comedy, this record is something to keep coming back to whenever you might need a pick-me-up. His serious song efforts are beautiful and touching, as in the haunting “Resurrection Bay,” but those numbers are mostly kept to his studio albums. The real gems are his lighthearted tracks that show off his major songwriting talent in a humble, surprising manner. Craigie sings about messing up his own name, using the word “pants” in England, the Burning Man experience, the Apollo 11 mission, and a host of other seemingly random topics he weaves into a cohesive narrative. His storytelling skills are evident with “Presidential Silver Lining” in the way he takes our current political climate and spins it into anecdotes that carry a heavy weight but still get his audience laughing. He points out on this track that Republican presidents correlate with better music, and with the release of this album, along with the entire list of evidence he provides, joyously ripping on many famously bad acts, I believe him.

William Minor, Graduate student, Streetbeat
Favorite album of 2018: See Without Eyes by The Glitch Mob

This album exemplifies the Glitch Mob’s rhythmic and harmonious style, sitting somewhere between their last two albums in terms of intensity. It achieves a very cohesive and unique electronic sound that puts it above most other electronic albums of this year. Standout tracks include “Disintegrate Slowly” and “I Could Be Anything.”

John Williams, Senior, WNUR General Manager
Favorite album of 2018: Unfold by Gábor Lázár

There were only a few records released this year I find myself returning to or inserting into my mixes whenever I get the chance. Most are because the tracks are uniformly beautiful and emotive. Unfold, released on Presto!? however, was the only one I listened to cover to cover this year that was strictly off-kilter, nearly impossible-to-mix dance music. It doesn’t have the same emotive soundscapes or earworm melodies that tend to mark records I hold near and dear. Why is it my favorite release of the year, then?

Zoë Huettl, Sophomore, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Negro Swan by Blood Orange

Negro Swan manages to be many things at once. Devonté Hynes dives into the politicized lives of queer communities of color for his fourth record as Blood Orange. Blending genres like R&B, alt-pop and rap, it creates a distinctive sound both complementary to Hynes’ previous releases, though much less conventionally constructed. The record hopscotch-jumps around a landscape of anxiety and sadness, focusing on different angles and voices.  

While mixing R&B vocal runs with alternative beats, rapping, and spoken word, Hynes also cycles through describing different experiences of marginalization. The album features artists like Diddy, A$AP Rocky, and Tei Shi, but still holds together through Hynes’ vocals, an ethereal backup, and a consistent dreamy overtone. Despite spreading itself across many different topics, it doesn’t lose depth to do so. Hynes’ reflection on life as an ‘other’ is scattered, vulnerable, and stunning.

Luke Cimarusti, Junior, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: 2012-2017 by A.A.L. (Against All Logic)

Nicolas Jaar has been a longtime music crush of mine. Not only is he super hot, he’s been consistently pushing the boundaries of what it means to be a DJ. He runs Other People, a label putting out some great best electronic music, he’s a political activist, he does performance and sound art (look up his MoMA PS1 performance), and he makes just plain old incredible dance music with a twist only he can manage. So when “2012-2017” dropped without warning this year, you know I jumped on it immediately. And boy am I glad I did.

A “new” collection of tracks that Nico had been working on since 2012 under his Against All Logic moniker (or A.A.L.), the record is much more sample-based than Jaar’s previous work, and it’s by far his most fun. Every track has an undeniable groove, mixing house-inspired sounds with the oddball production Jaar is loved for. The ghostly-but-soulful voices floating throughout the mix lend the album the feel of a kind of post-apocalyptic disco. It’s one of those records that I listen to from beginning to end every time.

Optimal listening conditions: dark subterranean club where everyone came to dance alone.

Highlights: “I Never Dream,” “Know You,” and “Rave on You”

Jessica Collins, Senior, Continental Drift
Favorite album of 2018: Goat Girl by Goat Girl

Goat Girl’s self-titled debut is a well-rounded record spanning from trance beats and off-kilter riffs of the opener “Salty Sounds” to harmonious country twangs of “Viper Fish.” The south London band brings a new sound to the table in 2018, pointing out all that is wrong with modern society, with a gentle sneer. This record is not an easy listen, in fact it leaves you uneasy and a little queasy. And yet the trip around a dreary modern London is worth it.
Listen closely to the lyrics and you will notice this is an intensely political record dressed up with jokes (much like modern politics). Goat Girl is an ambitious first record, and should be listened to as an album, all the way through. It is representative of a wave of London rock bands that are shifting what guitar bands sound like, look like and talk about. The recording often has a DIY quality, so chaotic at points you wonder if they will hold the songs together, and yet out of the mist a discordant discontent erupts and refuses to be told to quiet down.

m50, Community DJ, etc radio
Favorite album of 2018: The Book Room by Kilchholfer

This fascinating full-length was my introduction to Benjamin Kilchhofer. It’s affective, airy, agile. It constantly shifts between tempos, the muted timbres effectively blur the lines between synthesized sound, acoustic instrumentation, and field recordings. Often, the short, playful tracks revel in polyrhythms, odd cadences, and a variety of melodic modes.
These are songs without vocals, without pop song structure; they tend to explore one mood or pattern through subtle variation before moving on. Their brevity seems to hint at a sketchbook-quality to the collection, but each is actually mindfully structured, composed; rarely does a song conclude with any impression of loose ends. They can come across as quite natural, even primitive and instinctual, and then in the next moment move to almost alien fragments of cobbled-together intercepted transmissions.
Songs occasionally hint at some contemporary dance, but they also suggest much earlier roots. The moody abstractions and melodrama are reminiscent of some of the futurism of Artificial Intelligence sounds. This contradiction puts Kilchhofer in the fine company of contemporaries Simon Pike, Geir Jenssen, and Stefan Schwander.  While the gentle touch and tonal palette this album tends to fall on the softer side, the intricate rhythmic content rules out a facile “ambient” classification.

Vishnu Venugopal, Graduate student, Streetbeat
Favorite album of 2018: Care For Me by Saba

Why: This record made me stop and think about hip-hop completely differently again. It’s not often that happens, and it’s especially not often that storytelling marries emotionality the way it does on this album. Saba is a talent we are so fortunate to have, and the wave of Chicago talent he’s a part of feels like an embarrassment of riches. Watching him and the rest of that group (which includes folx like Noname and Smino, who both had stellar records themselves this year) has already been so beautiful, but I’m so excited to see how they continue to grow and evolve.

Kevin Eisenstein, Junior, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: Mount Vision by Emily A. Sprague

Slow, deliberate synthesizer drones are reflected by simple piano compositions. Sprague uses Mount Vision as an unhurried detour into serenity and calmness.

Lydia Weir, Sophomore, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: Chris by Christine and the Queens  

With her 2018 record, Christine and the Queens, born Héloïse Letissier, debuts her newest iteration of herself– Chris (also the title of the album). Chris is a 23 track album, with the same 11 songs written in both English and French (as well as one bonus track in French!) that explores gender and sexuality through catchy pop tunes. With strong beats and hooks that will stick in your head all day, Chris is the new soundtrack to your gay dreams. (Now go watch her “5 dollars” music video and thank me later.)

DJ broken36, Community DJ, Hidden Forms Radio
Favorite album of 2018: Darkened Windows by Underfelt

In my ears, Réal T. Cardinal can do no wrong. I first encountered his work in 2009 under the project Comaduster and have had him in regular rotation on Hidden Forms with every new release, in whatever incarnation. His Underfelt debut this year, Darkened Windows, courtesy of Canadian label Smokey Crow Records, is an evolutionary heartbeat of Réal’s years in the Vancouver bass scene, with foundations calcified in time spent as a professional game sound designer and music composer. You might recognize his work bleeding through scoring he’s provided to some of your favorite video games – Anthem, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age, and Gears of War 4. Not surprisingly in this regard, his soundscapes are otherworldly.
From the opening track “K712,” a rhythmic, yet teasingly chaotic birth, to the haunting shudders of an awakening singularity in “Mother Is In There,” through the “Frictionless” finale of dystopian shadows in a future reminiscent of a Philip K. Dick novella, Darkened Windows is unbridled by genre with thick atmospheres and resonant timbre. Electronic alchemy give rise to a warm-blooded, sentient life-form to fear and embrace. Extend your Underfelt experience with two bonus tracks from netlabel Onset Audio, “The Depravity / The Observer Effect”.

Al Finley, Community DJ, BoTh KiNdS
Favorite album of 2018: The Crossing by Alejandro Escovedo

It’s hard to believe that a quarter of a century into his solo career, Alejandro Escovedo is delivering not only another career album, but also a potential personal best and his most timely album yet.  The Crossing is an old-fashioned album that gains power when you listen to it from beginning to end. Alejandro and his collaborator, Antonio Gramentieri, address the immigrant experience from the viewpoint of two young boys who are experiencing life and searching for their identities in America.  

Alejandro is backed by Gramentieri’s band, Don Antonio, that have been together since they were boys themselves.  The band may be from Italy; but they play American rock and roll with abandon and finesse that is enriched with Mexican and other Latino influences that permeate the southwest US.  It wasn’t surprising to find out that Gramentieri’s favorite band growing up was Los Lobos. The album also includes great guest appearances from MC5’s Wayne Kramer, the Stooges’ James Williamson, the Only Ones’ Peter Perrett and The Flatlanders’ Joe Ely, who contributes an especially poignant song.  All in all, it’s a breathtaking album that I find hard not to press play again as soon as it ends.

Claire Fahey, Junior, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: Grid Of Points by Grouper

Grouper really did it again with this emotional and sparse record. Upon first listen, I felt myself hanging onto every static-y word. It’s incredibly soothing and intimate. This album fills you up and digs deep. It’s only 22 minutes long and worth every second to take a breath and slow down in this hell-fire year of 2018.

Ben Moskow, Freshman, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Daytona by Pusha T

Earlier in 2018, Virginia Beach rapper Pusha T shook the rap game to its core with his Drake diss track “The Story of Adidon”. The track cemented Push’s name in the conversation for the greatest diss track of all time. “The Story of Adidon” garnered 1.7 million views on Genius and gave listeners a preview of what was to come on Daytona.
For those who still appreciate the craftiness it takes to construct impactful lyrics, Daytona is the indisputable Album of the Year. This is the type of album that makes you want to sprint for twenty straight minutes. Daytona is a great argument for the seven-track format, as the quality never drops throughout the crisp 21:10 running time.
Daytona is not fit for radio. It won’t get stuck in your head, but it will inspire awe for Pusha’s skills in alliteration, imagery and wordplay. Pusha is the antidote to mumble rap on this album, punctuating every last syllable. You can feel the emotion and the intensity in every line he delivers and every picture he paints. Push juxtaposes his drug-dealing past and his current lavish lifestyle throughout the album. On “If You Know You Know”, he takes us inside a trap house with the line “The trap door’s supposed to be awkward,” and on the very next song, he describes a luxurious spa treatment: “Caviar facials remove the toxins” (in “The Games We Play”).
Push’s signature style may not be what the mainstream wants to hear right now, as evident by the fact that Lil Pump currently has over 30 million monthly listeners and Pusha has fewer than 4 million. Yet this speaks more to the current priorities of hip-hop fans than Pusha’s skill. No matter what the masses have to say, Push is going to “believe in [him]self and the Coles and Kendricks” (Infrared) to deliver top-tier lyrical rap. Give DAYTONA a listen right away, it’s just 20 minutes of your time after all….

Isabella Soto, Senior, Rock Show
Favorite album of 2018: El Mal Querer by ROSALÍA

Explicitly influenced by her classical training in the Spanish vocal and dance tradition of Flamenco, ROSALÍA put out arguably my favorite album of the year and has found her way to the top of countless year-end lists by merit of her gorgeous, all-encompassing experimental-adjacent flamenco. I’m a sucker for albums with narratives or based on literature, and El Mal Querer (which translates to “the bad desire”) is based off the 13th-century Romance of Flamenca, whose author is unknown. Each song is meant to reflect one of the chapters of the romance, and though its original published language is no longer in use, ROSALÍA manages to translate its drama with stirring, sweeping orchestral arrangements, passionate handclaps, beautiful and skillfully deployed samples (Justin Timberlake! Arthur Russell!), tinges of electronic production that border on experimental, and of course, her commanding voice. Plus the girl can DANCE, and her equally stunning visuals that accompany these grandiose songs leave me no doubts that ROSALÍA is onto bigger things, El Mal Querer being our introduction.

Nick Rueth, Junior, Rock Show
Favorite record of 2018: Now Only by Mount Eerie

Phil Elverum sings, “To be still alive felt so absurd” on “Now Only”, the title track of the album. The album is, and has been called, a counterpart to 2017’s A Crow Looked At Me, a reflection on death and loss, though it reminds me equally of his work with The Microphones. And that is where the album’s beauty lies. It is an intersection of past and present, The Microphones and Mount Eerie, old relationships and new, past experiences and current reflections. On this album, the past is always present, just as much as the present.
The narratives Elverum reiterates through his lyrics contrast with the music that provide his current emotional meditation on those event’s effects. The steady strums of his familiar acoustic guitar and the tremble in his voice remind us that there is a man that has lived the stories he tells us, put to music so that we might understand the blunt realities he tells us, just as he has realized them.
The album’s last song, “Crow Pt. 2”, reminds us of death once again, and his now disassembled family. And we cannot help but feel that to be alive, without those we love, is absurd.

DJ Daki, Community DJ, Hidden Forms Radio
Favorite album of 2018: Noire by VNV Nation

This is my favorite new release from a founding member of the futurepop / dance industrial genre.  It’s easily the best work they have created since FuturePerfect landed back in 2002.  Noire is the perfect blend of dance beats and melodies that can be a gateway into a new style of music for people.

Nicholas Guiang, Freshman, Freeform  
Favorite album of 2018: Bambi by Hippo Campus

The release of Bambi by Hippo Campus was a huge step for this Minnesota band. In their sophomore album, they took a risk by moving away from the sound their fans had come to know and love, and it paid off. Moving away from the groovy picked guitar melodies and indie rock sound, they focused on melodies that were more indie pop than they had produced before. This album is different on so many levels. Emotionally, this album hit all the aspects you want. Hippo Campus never fails to create an album that not only seamlessly takes you on an emotional rollercoaster, but also feels fluid and cohesive. Hippo Campus has an amazing couple years ahead of them, and the release of Bambi in 2018 makes it clear they are headed in the right direction.

Elizabeth Solleder, Freshman, Rock Show/Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: NOIR by Smino

Smino began his rise to fame in 2017 with his release of blkswn, an album showcasing his unique beats and range of vocals and flow. Blkswn caught the attention of artists and producers like T-Pain and Mick Jenkins, elevating Smino to a level of production that set the stage for NOIR. Produced by Monte Booker, the 18-track album features artists like Dreezy, Jay2, Bari, and Ravyn Lenae.

As is usual with Monte Booker production, the unique, chilled-out beats on NOIR take a major spotlight. No song is the same; I’m never bored listening to this album. That being said, it’s obvious that Smino isn’t interested in producing the hard, bass-boosted songs Top 40 charts eat up. The focus is left instead to musicality: to quote Smino directly, “But I love chords. If you got those chords, but it bounce, people are like damn, what’s this?” He’s not wrong. That, combined with the surprising and frequent vocal harmonies and clever lyrics, make NOIR a truly individual piece, distinctive of Smino’s growth and rise as an artist. Seriously, just listen.

Brock Stuessi, Community DJ, Handpicked
Favorite album of 2018: Mark Kozelek by Mark Kozelek

The critical apparatus has largely given up on Kozelek, but I simply can’t. Koz continues truly experimenting in the guitar song-writing genre on this release, with songs that challenge a listening public of shorter and shorter attention spans:

“Then a sort of happiness overcame me as I began realizing
That for a connection I’ll never stop trying
Even if it results in my eyes crying
When I stop caring is when I’m dead inside
My heart was now reviving
My lips were now a-smiling
Then these words I began compiling
And a melody started forming”
From “My Love for You Is Undying”

Anna Laffrey, Junior, Rock Show/Freeform
Favorite album of 2018: Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett

In 2018 music releases, I found an eternal source of feminine force, from Janelle Monáe to boygenius to Courtney’s Tell Me How Your Really Feel. For me, Courtney led that charge. Her new tracks stray from the folksy lyricism that filled previous releases and brought a crazy sense of awareness (and in turn, anger) to idle listeners like me! I also got to see Courtney at the Chicago Cultural Center the day after the album’s release; it was magical.

Sue Kessell, Community DJ, Folk Show
Favorite album of 2018: The Tree of Forgiveness by John Prine

The first album in 13 years from this Illinois native with his classic songwriting, wit and knowing truths, reinforces why he’s a beloved songwriting icon.

Maddy Ashmun, Senior, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: Historian by Lucy Dacus

Lucy Dacus’ Historian is the kind of record you listen to while you’re driving around your hometown alone in the dark.  With orange street light and warm guitars washing over you, it forces you to contemplate all kinds of loss, from the passing of a family member to the loss of one’s religious beliefs.  
“Night Shift,” found on breakup Spotify playlists everywhere, is the record’s towering six-and-a-half minute opener.  An aching reflection on a past relationship, the track is grounded by Dacus’ resonant voice and uncomplicated guitar playing which gradually expand and distort as the song booms with increasing anger and urgency.
While critical consensus might suggest that “Night Shift” is the highlight of Historian, there are many other songs on the record that show Dacus’ stunning ability to distill deeply emotional ideas and moments into deceptively simple packages.  “You threw your books into the river / Told your Mom that you’re a non-believer / She says she wasn’t surprised but that doesn’t make it ok,” she sings in “Nonbeliever,” a soaring track that explores Dacus’ relationship to her small-town religious upbringing.  
Historian is a masterclass in effective songwriting and sparse instrumentation.  In a year of full of exciting releases from female artists like Mitski, Snail Mail, and Courtney Barnett, to name a few, Historian stands out as one that is strikingly raw and relatable.

Beck Dengler, Freshman, Media Team
Favorite album of 2018: TA13OO by Denzel Curry

An album of the year (aoty) cannot be merely a good sounding album. Neither can it be a great or outstanding sounding album. Denzel Curry’s consistently fast, catchy, addictive bars aren’t enough to earn him aoty. NEWS FLASH: lots of albums sound good; music is dope.
A true aoty needs that special sauce. Denzel Curry’s album TA13OO has the SAUCE!  
Ingredient List
1. Each track has a title in English followed by the same title written with seemingly random differences (ie. the tracks “BLACK BALLOONS | 13LACK 13ALLOONS” and “SUMO | ZUMO”).
2. Denzel Curry wears whiteface clown makeup on the album’s cover. It’s really weird and I love it.
3. Curry released the album in three separate parts, going light to dark thematically. Delaying the listening experience let each song sink in and AMPED ME UP.
4.  TA13OO features JPEGMAFIA and J.I.D, two amazing artists who each also dropped amazing albums this year.
5. The line, “They only know Denzel Curry, but they really don’t know Denzel,” hits me hard.  We all just want to be understood, right? Right?