The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 50 Albums of 2018

  1. Dirty Projectors – Lamp Lit Prose (Domino)

After releasing one of the most bitter and emotionally harrowing post-break up albums this past decade in the form of their self-titled effort just last year, David Longstreth somehow managed a complete emotional 180. With an actual backing band assembled once more, Lamp Lit Prose retains all the song-writing characteristics that made Dirty Projectors a critical success, to construct a statement on new love, hope, and the consequential good energy that helps one navigate a world that’s straight up crumbling around you. (Ellie Wolf) (LISTEN)

  1. MGMT – Little Dark Age (Columbia)

After debuting in 2008 with what was essentially a parody of then popular music trends, Oracular Spectacular, MGMT, by some self-fulfilling prophecy, had stumbled upon three chart-slaying hits that actually came to be emblematic of indie at that stage. Not wanting to adhere to imposed fan/radio/record label expectations following such success, their subsequent records tended to purposefully, almost fearfully, veer away from anything even resembling a catchy hook or a hit. Little Dark Age, however, seems to finally have done away with whatever internal fight that Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden had in them, with the result that they finally sounded like they were having fun again. The album’s mix of weird synthesizers, sardonic lyrics, and catchy hooks (!!!) result in the best possible comeback for MGMT. (EW) (LISTEN)

  1. Bodega – Endless Scroll (What’s Your Rupture?)

Crashing into our consciousness by unleashing sardonic and satirical barbs at the in-built alienation of life as we experience it in 2018, Bodega’s punishing work ethic and constant touring helped them bring their debut album Endless Scroll to much-deserved prominence. Ben Hozie and Nikki Belfiglio barked and muttered their lyrics with the discipline of boxers over a ruthlessly economical post-punk sound to make for one of the year’s most compelling and essential indie releases. (EB) (LISTEN)

  1. Death Grips – Year Of The Snitch (Harvest / Third Worlds)

The Death Grips experience is pretty much summed up by the artwork for their sixth album The Year Of The Snitch. It’s disgusting, it’s indecipherable, yet somehow you can’t look away from it. While this was their most conventional release to date (if you could ever use such a word for a band like Death Grips), they still showed no signs of burnout. Many tracks actually have identifiable choruses, rock guitar samples, and vaguely catchy and regular beats – especially ‘Streaky’ and ‘Death Grips Is Online’ – but everything is still just as jarring and compelling as before, and MC Ride’s trademark babbling, raging raps were punctuated by unsettling spoken-word asides. As such, it made sense within their general back catalogue of noise terrorism, and ensures Death Grips are still the ringleaders of music’s most repulsive travelling freakshow. (LM) (LISTEN)

  1. Florence + The Machine – High As Hope (Virgin EMI / Republic)

After having releasing three mystified albums said to represent different forces of nature and navigating Florence Welch’s torrential emotional states, she brought something a bit different to the table with the fourth Florence + The Machine effort. High As Hope immediately felt a lot more subdued and specific, in its personal themes of disassociation from reality, eating disorders and sibling love. Ironically for a record tited High As Hope, the character Welch embodied here felt a lot more down to earth, and is about floating up high and trying to tether oneself back to reality. From running around in a forest, drowning in deep black water and setting off on an almost pilgrimage chasing the big blue sky, it’s almost as if we find Florence just calmly singing out odes to her youth. (AS) (LISTEN)


As far back as 2008 and the groundbreaking release of 808s & Heartbreak, the seeds for a Kanye West and Kid Cudi collaborative project were sown, as their musical chemistry was undeniable. A whole decade of artistic tension culminated in KIDS SEE GHOSTS, a volatile, invigorating mini-album riddled with obscure samples and left-field beats. Standing out even among the five other Kanye-produced albums that dropped in consecutive weeks at the start of the summer, it was versatile and accessible, and one that raises the bar for other collaborative releases in years to come. (Benita Barden) (LISTEN)

  1. Lucy Dacus – Historian (Matador)

Lucy Dacus quickly made an impression on the indie-rock scene with her debut No Burden in 2016, yet it’s her sophomore record that allowed her true potential to surface. Once again, Dacus proved to be a gifted songwriter and a charismatic, sincere performer. Historian is unique in its personal approach to music, with each song on the record being inspired by Dacus’ intimate experiences and filled with observations of the world around her. It’s also highly dynamic, filled with tunes simultaneously tender and vigorous, evolving from one end of the spectrum to the other in a matter of minutes. Yet, the true strength of Historian lies in those purposefully intense moments, that grab the listener tightly and in a way that is really hard to forget, even months after hearing them for the first time. (Alicja Rutkowska) (LISTEN)

  1. Shame – Songs Of Praise (Dead Oceans)

There’s been a lot to complain about in 2018, but not many have done rage and disgust as eloquently as South London post-punk revivalists Shame. Whether it’s the urgency of ‘Concrete’ or the pointed ‘The Lick’, Songs Of Praise is an album which grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. Yet, for all the aggression shown throughout, the frantically pop-centric ‘One Rizla’ is the quintessential definition of just why Shame have become so popular. It’s been a tremendous year for post-punk (as you’ll see later) but in Songs Of Praise, we have the strongest debut across the genre – a magnificent feat. (JT) (LISTEN)

  1. Christine & The Queens – Chris (Because Music)

Heloise Letissier had quite a job on her hands following the slow-burn success story of her first Christine & The Queens album, Chaleur Humaine, but this stylistic shift was beautifully executed. Adopting a slightly tweaking persona with the record’s titular character and leading off with one of the singles of the year in ‘Girlfriend’, Chris was a double-LP with the same batch of songs recorded in both English and French. She sounded both exposed and in control, examining what masculinity, femininity, strength, and vulnerability mean to her, managing a bold and aggressive expansion upon all the elements that had made her debut so compelling. (EB) (LISTEN)

  1. Jon Hopkins – Singularity (Domino)

Throughout his career, Jon Hopkins has always managed to craft intelligent dance music, as perfect for the dancefloor as it is that 3am moment of isolation. Pulsating rhythms (‘Everything Connected’/ ‘Emerald Rush’) are contrasted by drone heavy sounds (‘Singularity’/ ‘Neon Patterned Drum’) creating spellbinding contrasts which show a producer at the very top of his game. Built around post-minimalism, Singularity is a delightful and invigorating record which celebrates the importance of textures and changing dynamics in music. (JT) (LISTEN)

  1. Neko Case – Hell-On (Anti-)

In the five years since her last solo album, Neko Case had been through enough hardship to crush most individuals. She lost her grandmother, with whom she was very close, both of her parents, battled with depression and, on top of that, endured the loss of her house to a fire. You would expect, therefore, that Hell-On would be rendered in various shades of gloom alongside violent, punchy, yet humanistic lyrics. Yet the mood was bright, defiant and sonically diverse, representing an eclectic and coherent victory for female storytelling in modern music. (EB) (LISTEN)

  1. Blood Orange – Negro Swan (Domino)

Nobody quite makes R&B like Dev Hynes. On the back of the genre-defining Freetown SoundNegro Swan builds upon its predecessor by removing all innocence and instead focusing on the mission statement to “always do too much”. Negro Swan never allows itself to rest on its laurels; whether it be ‘Saint’ – which develops from jazz, into soul, into R&B – or the scintillatingly sexual ‘Chewing Gum’ which sees A$AP Rocky deliver one of his best features over 808s and warm neo-R&B textures. It’s almost to be expected by this point, but in Negro Swan, Hynes has managed to create one of the most delicately potent and switched-on records of the year. (JT) (LISTEN)

  1. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel (Milk! / Mom + Pop / Marathon)

Having been arguably the most compelling break-out personality in indie over the last five years, Tell Me How You Really Feel saw Courtney Barnett aim for a richer, darker and more harrowing sound for her sophomore effort, and it felt like a completely natural musical evolution. On ‘City Looks Pretty’, she does self-help in a brilliantly original way that never lapses into bland platitudes, but the righteous fury in the face of egotistic male violence on ‘Nameless, Faceless’ and the eye-rolling snark of the punky ‘I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch’ are the real revelation. Barnett’s mastery of incisive observational continues to expand into new areas. (EB) (LISTEN)

  1. Jorja Smith – Lost & Found (FAMM)

Unlike so many of those ‘Ones To Watch’ predictions that happen every January that end up touting the next bland British major-label hope, Jorja Smith actually had soul and personality – borne out by the likes of Drake and Stormzy queuing up to work with her. The diversity of styles on Lost & Found showcased her incredible vocal and lyrical capabilities, making for a powerful and reflective album that spun tales of finding yourself and the changes that we all know too well around growing up. Promising a brilliant future, Lost & Found was one of the best British pop debuts in recent memory. (RC) (LISTEN)

  1. Robyn – Honey (Island / Universal / Konichiwa)

Let’s be honest, was there even a shadow of a doubt about Robyn’s first album in eight years being anything other than excellent? Not a chance. Even though the Swedish star has seen the pop music landscape change hugely during her self-imposed absence, Honey met with excitement, adoration and a universal feeling of bliss. It’s another record proving that she is one of the very best in her genre, and without a doubt can be regarded as one of the biggest inspirations for other contemporary pop artists. What makes Honey so special is its intensely emotional undertone, soaked with melancholy and almost palpable portrayal of the artist’s spiritual and existential reflections and experiences. On top of that, Honey is also a venture into a fresh and invigorating sound of modern synth-pop, dance and electronic music that once again will give a new direction and impetus for those who will come after Robyn. (AR) (LISTEN)

  1. Dream Wife – Dream Wife (Lucky Number)

The opening weeks of 2018 saw the release of Dream Wife’s incredible debut, a record that sounds like it could have come from any point in the last 25 years. The album grounds itself with an unmistakeable riot grrrl ethos whilst bringing a long overdue fresh sound into the feminist punk canon – explosive and entirely fun from the outset, giving it an unmistakable radio appeal, but is also not afraid to delve into more difficult and transgressive topics. Politics, righteousness and amazing tunes freighted with force and melody, Dream Wife is everything you could possibly want from a debut album. (JC) (LISTEN)

  1. Frankie Cosmos – Vessel (Sub Pop)

For years a beacon for bedroom artists with her vast galaxy of Bandcamp mini-albums she’s been assembling since she was a teenager, Greta Kline’s Frankie Cosmos was at last, deservedly, detected by the traditional release networks. Her lyricism relies on vulnerability and honesty, a refreshing quality among the clean-cut, Instagram-friendly majority of bands that seemingly constitute most indie in 2018. Although Kline’s minimalist, claggy instrumentalism escaped the confines of Bandcamp, Vessel absolutely retained the independent DIY attitude that had characterised her success until now. She seamlessly bent the rules with 18 brisk miniature tracks, rarely running for over three minutes but unfailingly penetrating the heart and soul. (BB) (LISTEN)

  1. Superorganism – Superorganism (Domino)

Having been the subject of countless articles of speculation on indie sites, having initially formed as a trans-continental internet-based collaboration, the release of Superorganism’s highly anticipated debut album was one of the most hyped events of 2018. A short and sweet record, but packed with enjoyable and catchy tunes that reflected the band’s eclectic nature, Superorganism was the audio equivalent of a sugar rush. Although there are certain well-trodden references from indie and electronica that can be heard throughout, it was the band’s innovative sense of arrangement and presentation that really put them into a league of their own. (JC) (LISTEN)

  1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)

Easily one of 2018’s stand-out moments, Parquet Courts’ fifth album Wide Awake! is a political album done right! Where some political albums of recent times became too self-obsessed and preachy, Parquets Courts managed to convey their fervent beliefs, but in a way that didn’t feel unnecessarily over-the-top. More importantly, the Brooklynites never forgot about the music that surrounded their message, drawing influences from eighties post-punk and New wave music as well as funk. Danger Mouse’s production on this album was uncluttered and precise, the guitars were crunchy and powerful in some places (‘Total Football’, ‘Normalization’ and ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience’) whilst calm and angelic in others (‘Mardi Gras Beads’ and ‘Freebird II’). But it was genius lyrical moments like on the opening track ‘Total Football’ with “Collectivism and autonomy are not mutually exclusive / Those who find discomfort in your goals of liberation will be issued no apology / And fuck Tom Brady!” and the groovy follow-up track ‘Violence’ (“This is why we cannot afford to close an open casket / You protect no one by obscuring the mirror that reflects our own problematic reality”) that made Wide Awake! a unique and meaningful political experience that made you think rather than just merely listen. (HB) (LISTEN)

  1. Snail Mail – Lush (Matador)

Breathlessly heralded as one of the most promising albums of 2018 several months before it even came out, Lush pushed Lindsey Jordan into the big time, having already cultivated a frenzy of fans. Instantly relatable for anyone young and confused, it was intensely detailed and preoccupied with the fluctuating fortunes of love, life and growing up. Unlike the mass of indie-rock bands that barely deserve to be called Jordan’s peers, Snail Mail songs are never whiney, being far too direct and disarming for that. With the 19 year old singer balancing on the precipice of adulthood herself, this record spoke with an authoritative and calming voice you know you can trust. (RC) (LISTEN)

READ MORE: In conversation with Snail Mail

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