An album that coheres in a way other Ariana Grande albums don't, which means Sweetener is something of a double triumph: she's come through a tough time stronger and better than before.
More than anything, Sparrow is sharply constructed as an album, setting a mood with its first song and then finding variations on this lush, enveloping sound. It's a record designed for late nights, whether those nights are lonely or romantic.
Negro Swan sonically is as fluid as it is fragmented, synthesizing and bounding between bedsit post-punk, desolate dream pop, chillwave-coated quiet storm, and low-profile hip-hop soul.
As she examines what masculinity, femininity, strength, and vulnerability mean to her, Christine has never sounded more exposed -- or in control. A triumph, Chris reaffirms just how masterfully she engages minds, hearts, and bodies.
Profoundly authentic, nostalgic, and graceful throughout, The Horizon Just Laughed does nothing less than reaffirm that Jurado is one of the best songwriters in the business.
It's rare for a band so far into its career to make an album that can still surprise listeners as the group gleefully makes its way from beginning to end. Field Music are masters of that neat trick, and Open Here is no exception. It stands with their best work -- some songs would no doubt end up on a greatest-hits collection -- and in that regard is some of the best pop music anyone could hope to hear in 2018 or any time after.
On Prequelle, Ghost deliver fully on the promises of earlier records. Their strengths --including one for imitation -- are fully assembled and focused in an exercise of irresistible arena rock excess without sounding like a pastiche.
While this is easily the most loaded Monáe album in terms of guests ... there's no doubt that it's a Wondaland product. It demonstrates that artful resistance and pop music are not mutually exclusive.
As striking as Immunity was, Singularity feels more developed, and it's ultimately a tough call as to which album is more exciting.
On Aviary, Holter answers the chaos of 21st century life by following her bliss; the results are a constellation of moments that celebrate the fullness of her music and, as always, make for fascinating listening.
Previously, her cleverness was her strong suit, but on Golden Hour, she benefits from being direct, especially since this frankness anchors an album that sounds sweetly blissful, turning this record the best kind of comfort: it soothes but is also a source of sustenance.
Childqueen is a substantial accomplishment for Bonet, a cut above her debut, exceptional for 2018 or whatever year in which it takes place.
Heaven and Earth is more a refinement of the ideas expressed on The Epic than an entirely new paradigm.
Kids See Ghosts is everything Ye wasn't, delivering a worthwhile listen in spite of the extended PR disaster that preceded its release. With Cudi as the yang to West's yin, the pair inch closer to finding peace and a light in the darkness.
She's made giant leaps as a singer, songwriter, and musical director, and Bon Voyage shows that Melody's Echo Chamber is far from being just a Kevin Parker creation. Prochet's vision is her own, and it's strong enough here to fly free of any and all constraints.
In the end, rather than being a disappointment, Be the Cowboy's point of view provides a brilliant twist, one that channels all the unease, unpredictability, and intuitiveness of Mitski's previous work -- even for those who don't take in the lyrics.
While Elverum maintains A Crow Looked at Me's stripped-down, vérité style of singing and playing, his artistry is more apparent on Now Only.
With Hell-On, Case has once again given herself an ideal showcase for her talents as a vocalist, songwriter, and producer; it's lush but intimate, and one of the strongest and most satisfying records she's delivered to date. Which, given her catalog, says a great deal.
The immaculately crafted Room 25 is highly mature and immensely enjoyable. Simply remarkable.
Even if its point is to defy easy categorization, it's not difficult to call an album as multi-layered and fascinating as Age Of a landmark work.
Ovlov started strong with Am; with TRU they have made good on all that promise and released the kind of breathtakingly great record most bands can only dream about making.
The eight years between Body Talk and this album would be a lifetime for almost any artist, and several lifetimes for a female pop star, whose career longevity isn't usually measured in decades. However, Robyn continues to make the trends instead of following them, and with Honey, she enters her forties with some of her most emotionally satisfying and musically innovative music.
There is as much subtlety in both the compositions and production as there is drama, all of it imbued with restless soul via Rosalía's singular voice that marries the folk lineage of flamenco to 21st century styles and sounds, making El Mal Querer not only a provocative and original offering, but a magnificent one as well.
In the hands of queer artists of color like Shopping, post-punk's outsider status is much more than an aesthetic choice, and The Official Body is a frequently dazzling example of how resistance can be fortifying and even fun.
Your Queen Is a Reptile is easily Sons of Kemet's most compelling outing. It offers inspired stylistic contrasts, canny improvisation, and killer charts. It's tight, furious, joyous, and inspirational.
While SOPHIE's music has never been simple, Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides' complexities and transformations make it a remarkable debut album that reveals more with each listen.
What a Time to Be Alive is the work of a vital band making music that needs to be made right now. They wrap their hard-won wisdom in urgent punk anthems and deliver their pop songs with an electric punch. It is desperate, important, and powerful music and it might just be the best album they've ever made.
Despite the somewhat cluttered and freewheeling exterior, it's clear that Superorganism know exactly what they are doing at all times, slicing and dicing like master chefs, then reassembling the bits and bobs of pop ephemera into a concoction that has a sugary kick sweeter and fizzier than an ice-cold cola.
Silver Dollar Moment is a stunning debut, and if it doesn't quite reinvent the wheel the way that The Stone Roses did, it does have a uniquely sweet spirit and lighthearted beauty all its own.
Astroworld undoubtedly feels more like a spectacle than did Birds in the Trap.
Despite FM!'s brevity, Staples jams so much into every bar that it fully satiates, all while still managing to end so abruptly that it comes as a surprise. The electrifying thrill of FM! is a triumph for the rapper who remains at the top of his game.
Equally soothing and exciting, heartfelt and innovative, Ecstatic Arrow is Virginia Wing's finest work yet.
Dirt is a gem that defies simple genre categorization, a peak in the Yamantaka // Sonic Titan catalog that is not to be missed.