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The best albums of 2018: Yahoo Entertainment staff picks

It’s that most wonderful time of the year, which means we’re making our lists and checking them twice — our year-end best album lists, that is.

Strong women dominated in 2018 in various genres, from country (Kacey Musgraves) to pop (Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe, Robyn) to hip-hop (Cardi B). Lady Gaga also wowed with A Star Is Born. But ultimately it was Kendrick Lamar — who topped our list last year with his solo album DAMN. and our 2015 list with To Pimp a Butterfly — who prevailed again with another soundtrack, his expertly curated Black Panther: The Album, which also just scooped up the most Grammy nominations.

Listen to our wide-ranging album picks below from our individual writers and editors, plus Yahoo Entertainment’s overall top 10.

Yahoo Entertainment Staff Overall Top 10

1. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
2. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
3. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
4. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
5. Robyn — Honey
6. Ariana Grande — Sweetener / Drake — Scorpion (TIE)
7. Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth
8. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born soundtrack
9. Jack White — Boarding House Reach
10. Ghost — Prequelle

Lyndsey Parker, Yahoo Entertainment Music Editor

1. The Struts — Young & Dangerous
2. Dreams — No One Defeats Us
3. Jake Shears — Jake Shears
4. Hanson — String Theory
5. Ghost — Prequelle
6. BØRNS — Blue Madonna
7. Fischerspooner — Sir
8. MNEK — Language
9. Shopping — The Official Body
10. Roger Joseph Manning Jr. — Glamping EP

It seems reports of rock ‘n’ roll’s death have been greatly exaggerated. On their Butch Walker-produced sophomore banger, Luke Spiller (the Struts’ spectacularly Zandra Rhodes-caped frontman, who could have easily played the lead in Bohemian Rhapsody if Rami Malek hadn’t been available) and his fellow British glam-rockers vamp and amp their way through the disco-rock euphoria of “Who Am I?” (think the Stones’ “Miss You” or Rod the Mod’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”), the Crowesy cowbell jam “Primadonna Like Me,” the hard-charging football terrace chant “Bulletproof Baby,” and the Victoria’s Secret fashion show themes “Body Talks” and “In Love With a Camera” with unbridled Jagger swagger. Dave Grohl, authority on all things rawk, declared the Struts the best opening act to ever tour with the Foo Fighters, but expect them to be headlining stadiums on their own in 2019. —LP

Ethan Alter, Yahoo Entertainment Senior Writer

1. Keegan DeWitt — Hearts Beat Loud soundtrack
2. The Coup — Sorry to Bother You soundtrack
3. Various Artists — Climax soundtrack
4. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper — A Star is Born soundtrack
5. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
6. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross — Mid90s soundtrack
7. Lorne Balfe — Mission: Impossible — Fallout soundtrack
8. John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies — Halloween soundtrack
9. Terence Blanchard — BlackKklansman soundtrack
10. Jóhann Jóhannsson — Mandy soundtrack

Much like Hustle & Flow over a decade ago, one of the joys of Brett Haley’s underseen drama — which stars Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons as a father and daughter who bond through music — is observing the creation of a great song beat by beat. The title track functions as the movie’s emotional climax but also stands alone as an infectious indie rock anthem in its own right. Since we’re not getting any more Parks & Rec any time soon, here’s to Offerman and Clemons hitting the road as a traveling band. —EA

Steve Baltin, Writer

1. Florence + The Machine — High as Hope
2. twenty one pilots — Trench
3. Alison Wonderland — Awake
4. Rod Stewart — Blood Red Roses
5. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born soundtrack
6. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
7. John Coltrane — Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
8. Paul Simon — In the Blue Light
9. Robyn — Honey
10. A$AP Rocky — Testing

Delivering an album that at its best calls to mind Joni Mitchell’s seminal Blue in its raw vulnerability, Florence Welch continued in 2018 to evolve into both a premier singer-songwriter and a stunning live act, making this album’s songs even more powerful in concert. —SB

Robert Burke, Writer

1. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever — Hope Downs
2. Courtney Barnett — Tell Me How You Really Feel
3. Judas Priest — Firepower
4. First Aid Kit — Ruins
5. Idles — Joy as an Act of Resistance
6. Spiritualized — And Nothing Hurt
7. Shame — Songs of Praise
8. The Orielles — Silver Dollar Moment
9. Young Fathers — Cocoa Sugar
10. Low — Double Negative

The full-length debut from the Melbourne quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is a jangle-pop masterpiece for 2018. The playing here is precise, within the width of a hair, yet still manages to sound loose, emotional and just plain fun. Consistently good, well-timed melody is the ornate detail that elevates Hope Downs to the winner’s circle. —RB

Dave DiMartino, Writer

1. The Aints — The Church of Simultaneous Existence
2. Papercuts — Parallel Universe Blues
3. Boz Scaggs — Out of the Blues
4. Momus — Pantaloon
5. The Goon Sax — We’re Not Talking
6. Beverley Martyn — Where the Good Times Are
7. Wye Oak — The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs
8. Soft Machine — Hidden Details
9. Kamasi Washington — Heaven & Earth
10. David Crosby — Here If You Listen

I enjoyed a notable surge of adrenalin upon first hearing The Church of Simultaneous Existence, the latest surfacing of Australia’s one-of-a-kind artist Ed Kuepper. Since emerging with the legendary Saints in the mid-’70s, Kuepper has left a trail of brilliant records behind him. I’m partial to his ’80s combo the Laughing Clowns, but this return in the form of his later band the Aints is equally dandy. He is so good. —DD

Jim Farber, Writer

1. Dawes — Passwords
2. Idles — Joy as an Act of Resistance
3. Tracey Thorn — Record
4. John Grant — Love Is Magic
5. Ssion — 0
6. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
7. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
8. Robyn — Honey
9. Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth
10. The Bad Plus — Never Stop II

Taylor Goldsmith, already the hands-down best lyricist of his generation, outdid himself on Dawes’s sixth album. Somehow, he managed to write about the two most overdiscussed topics of our time — our current political divide and the consequences of technology — in a way that makes them seem revelatory. More, the band boldly expanded its sound, from neo-Laurel Canyon folk-rock to a sleek modern answer to ’70s Steely Dan. —JF

Paul Grein, Writer

1. Camila Cabello — Camila
2. Ariana Grande — Sweetener
3. Drake — Scorpion
4. Leon Bridges — Good Thing
5. Panic! at the Disco — Pray for the Wicked
6. John Prine — The Tree of Forgiveness
7. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
8. Ella Mai — Ella Mai
9. Juice Wrld — Goodbye & Good Riddance
10. Troye Sivan — Bloom

Camila Cabello was a star in Fifth Harmony and became an even bigger star on her own. When’s the last time that happened? “Havana” was one of the year’s most striking singles. —PG

Magdalena Guillen, Yahoo Front Page Editor

1. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
2. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
3. Mumford & Sons — Delta
4. The Brummies — Eternal Reach
5. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
6. Brothers Osborne — Port Saint Joe
7. Greta Van Fleet — Anthem of the Peaceful Army
8. Leon Bridges — Good Thing
9. LANY — Malibu Nights
10. Lord Huron — Vide Noir

I’m so glad Kacey is finally having her moment. Golden Hour is all these things: euphoric, mystical, dazzling, happy and sad at the same time, and one of the most imaginative, genre-blurring releases of this year. Musgraves pushes boundaries to create the ultimate eclectic mix of pop, rooted in country with a dash of disco and a nod to folk, all while her vocals remain at the forefront of her songs. —MG

Joel Huerto, Yahoo Front Page Editor

1. Post Malone — Beerbongs & Bentleys
2. Drake — Scorpion
3. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
4. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
5. Travis Scott — Astroworld
6. Camila Cabello — Camila
7. Ella Mai — Ella Mai
8. BTS — Love Yourself: Answer
9. Migos — Culture II
10. Imagine Dragons — Origins

The success of Post Malone’s second studio album was largely driven by three monster tracks: “Rockstar,” “Psycho,” and “Better Now.” “Rockstar” and “Psycho” both peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and were extensions of Post Malone’s breakout hit “White Iverson.” But “Better Now,” the ninth track on Beerbongs, may have been the best song on the album for its pop appeal and clever lyrics. Any time you can squeeze in a Jonas Brothers reference in a rap song is genius. —JH

Billy Johnson Jr., Writer

1. J. Cole — KOD
2. Meek Mill — Championships
3. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
4. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
5. Eminem — Kamikaze
6. Lil Wayne — Tha Carter V
7. Logic — YSIV
8. Post Malone — Beerbongs & Bentleys
9. Teyana Taylor — K.T.S.E.
10. The Internet — Hive Mind

Cole is one of hip-hop’s most eloquent storytellers, and KOD is full of examples. A highlight is the brilliant “1985 (Intro to ‘The Fall Off’),” which offers frank advice to the genre’s rising generation of rappers. —BJ

Jen Kucsak, Yahoo Entertainment Senior Producer

1. Hanson — String Theory
2. Christina Aguilera — Liberation
3. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper — A Star Is Born soundtrack
4. Paul McCartney — Egypt Station
5. Ariana Grande — Sweetener
6. Justin Timberlake — Man of the Woods
7. Drake — Scorpion
8. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy
9. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
10. Robyn — Honey

Hanson’s String Theory comprises their greatest hits and never-before-heard tracks backed by an orchestra and arranged by award-winning composer — and Beck’s dad — David Campbell. If you didn’t know any better, you might just think String Theory was the soundtrack to a Disney movie or even a Broadway show. —JK

Angela Kim, Yahoo Audience Development Manager

1. Mitski — Be the Cowboy
2. Death Cab for Cutie — Thank You for Today
3. Beach House — 7
4. Anderson Paak — Oxnard
5. Ólafur Arnalds — re:member
6. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
7. The Wombats — Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
8. Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth
9. Courtney Barnett — Tell Me How You Really Feel
10. The Decemberists — I’ll Be Your Girl

On her latest release, Mitski draws you in with her quiet voice. However, as the music progresses, her strength comes through. She embraces more synth than guitar, thus departing from the sound of her previous work, and the juxtaposition of her lyrics about loneliness and emptiness against the upbeat music translates into beautiful dream-pop with indie-rock vulnerability, à la St. Vincent and Alvvays. —AK

William Laws, Yahoo Front Page Editor

1. Lane 8 — Little by Little
2. Bob Moses — Battle Lines
3. Snail Mail — Lush
4. Against All Logic — 2012-2017
5. Hinds — I Don’t Run
6. Rufus Du Sol — Solace
7. Jon Hopkins — Singularity
8. Sofi Tukker — Treehouse
9. Soccer Mommy — Clean
10. Cardi B — Invasion of Privacy

Lane 8, aka Daniel Goldstein, caused somewhat of a stir in 2016 when he launched his “This Never Happened” tour, which asked attendees to focus on the music by placing opaque tape over their phone cameras upon entry. That’s asking a lot of young fans. But the gambit paid off for a producer whose second full-length album has totaled nearly 22 million Spotify streams and moved him up to headliner status at dance-focused music festivals. Little by Little represents the San Francisco native’s partial graduation from the self-described “dreamy backrub house” of his older material into more polished sonic landscapes that bring emotional depth to the dance floor. The highlight is “No Captain,” featuring haunting vocals from Poliça’s Channy Leaneagh, but the entire album boasts a soothing cohesiveness rarely found in melodic house music that could foretell even bigger things for Goldstein. —WL

Lina Lecaro, Writer

1. Jack White — Boarding House Reach
2. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
3. Charles Bradley — Black Velvet
4. Robyn — Honey
5. Lenny Kravitz — Raise Vibration
6. Greta Van Fleet — Anthem of the Peaceful Army
7. Ghost — Prequelle
8. Nine Inch Nails — Bad Witch
9. Drake — Scorpion
10. Andrew W.K. — You’re Not Alone

2018 was a tough year, and I think a lot of us craved new music that both soothed and challenged, that provided sounds and textures to get lost in. Jack White’s Boarding House Reach was just this sort of mixed bag, brimming with funky freakouts, cosmic blues jams, and eclectic escapism — not to mention the visceral joy of White’s famous live shows. —LL

Tristram Lozaw, Writer

1. Nordic Affect — H e (a) r
2. David Byrne — American Utopia
3. Yo La Tengo — There’s a Riot Going On
4. Kat Edmonson — Old Fashioned Gal
5. River Whyless – Kindness, a Rebel
6. Anderson .Paak — Oxnard
7. Spurv — Myra
8. Kelly Moran — Ultraviolet
9. Bettye LaVette — Things Have Changed
10. Idles — Joy As an Act of Resistance

Most of my top 10, plus a few dozen more, albums from 2018 offer comparable enjoyment. But Nordic Effect ‘s H e(a) r takes us to a different place altogether, a deep dream of comforting chills. With strings, harpsichord and voices, the Icelandic new-music quartet creates dimly resonant tonal landscapes, softly drifting and impeccably sounded (a BluRay disc is included to satisfy one’s hi-fi mojo). And the “he (a) r” speaking interludes land like odd little villages along this trip through quiet energies. —TL

Lori Majewski, Writer

1. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
2. Robyn — Honey
3. BØRNS — Blue Madonna
4. Steve Perry — Traces
5. Elvis Costello & the Imposters — Look Now
6. Ariana Grande — Sweetener
7. Pistol Annies — Interstate Gospel
8. Christine and the Queens — Chris
9. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
10. Jonathan Wilson — Rare Birds

It was love at first listen for Golden Hour — the exact opposite of the “slow burn” Musgraves so dreamily sings about on the album opener. In a bleak 2018, when nearly every news report, social-media post and podcast was an unsilenceable fire alarm blaring that the end of the world was nigh, this country outsider won the CMA for Album of the Year for a quiet yet life-affirming masterpiece. It gently but audaciously insists that humankind chill out, look on the bright side, marvel at rainbows, sunsets and butterflies, and revel in one’s own company. In our darkest hour, she gave us a golden one. —LW

Rob O’Connor, Writer

1. Damien Jurado — The Horizon Just Laughed
2. Will Oldham — Songs of Love & Horror
3. David Berkeley — The Faded Red and Blue
4. Songs: Ohia — Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions
5. Neil Young — Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live
6. Advance Base — Animal Companionship
7. King Brothers — Wasteland
8. The Decemberists — I’ll Be Your Girl
9. Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis — Wild! Wild! Wild!
10. Bob Dylan — More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 14

With Damien Jurado’s music appearing in the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country, his music will hopefully find an audience that realizes how much it needs him. Few artists have a catalog as deep and emotionally involving. The Horizon Just Laughed, his 13th studio album, positively slays — with “The Last Great Washington State” serving as the album’s centerpiece and core. —RO

Kevin Polowy, Yahoo Entertainment Senior Correspondent

1. Marlowe — Marlowe
2. Various Artists — Black Panther: The Album
3. Dem Atlas — Bad Actress
4. Black Thought — Streams of Thought Vol. 1 & Vol. 2
5. Amerigo Gazaway — Nina Simone and Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Eunice Waymon
6. Kooley High — Never Come Down
7. Eligh — Last House on the Block
8. Nickodemus — A Long Engagement
9. Awon & Phoniks — The Actual Proof
10. Anderson .Paak — Oxnard

I’ll admit I’d never heard of the Wilmington, N.C. emcee Solemn Brigham before getting put on to his pairing with L’Orange to form Marlowe for a self-titled album that channels the famous film noir case-cracker. And I still don’t know much about Solemn Brigham, given he’s got a scant digital footprint beyond Marlowe. But he might be my favorite new emcee — an infinitely listenable wordsmith who breathlessly and forcefully drops pensive poetics in the same vein as the increasingly idolized Oddisee. And whom, also like Oddisee, you could listen to over any beat because you know his flow is going to elevate the f*** out of it. Luckily here the beats here are served fresh and clean by the sample-master L’Orange, who continues to forge fruitful collaborations with the game’s sharpest minds (Mr. Lif, Blu, etc.). An instant indie rap classic. —KP

Craig Rosen, Writer

1. Janelle Monáe — Dirty Computer
2. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
3. Arthur Buck – Arthur Buck
4. Parquet Courts — Wild Awake!
5. Rhett Miller — The Messenger
6. Jack White — Boarding House Reach
7. Kali Uchis — Isolation
8. Papercuts — Parallel Universe Blues
9. Paul McCartney — Egypt Station
10. Kamasi Washington — Heaven and Earth

In an age of streaming and playlisting, the concept of the album has become less relevant, but apparently no one told Janelle Monáe. With Dirty Computer, she delivered a gem that not only looked back with nods to the Beach Boys, Prince and Stevie Wonder, but was here and now and pointing toward the future with a bold mix of modern pop and female empowerment. —CR

Jon Wiederhorn, Writer

1. Zeal & Ardor — Stranger Fruit
2. Deafheaven — Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
3. Street Sects — The Kicking Mule
4. Ghost — Prequelle
5. Nine Inch Nails — Bad Witch
6. Mythic Sunship — Upheaval
7. Watain — Trident Wolf Eclipse
8. Sleep — The Sciences
9. Low — Double Negative
10. Pig Destroyer — Head Cage

With 2016’s Devil Is Fine, Swiss-African-American Manuel Gagneux (using the name Zeal & Ardor) mixed black spirituals with black metal and unearthed a catacomb of creativity from two disparate sources of pain and rage. Gagneux’s follow-up, Stranger Fruit, proves that the original concept was no one-shot novelty. Zeal & Ardor dig further into the histories of both genres, using sound and imagery to create a world in which slaves were raised as Satanists instead of Christians and the sounds of Darkthrone are just as resonant as the tones of Billie Holiday and the historical tapes of Alan Lomax. —JW

Chris Willman, Variety Editor/Veteran Yahoo Freelancer

1. Elvis Costello & the Imposters — Look Now
2. Lucius — Nudes
3. Brandi Carlile — By the Way, I Forgive You
4. Father John Misty — God’s Favorite Customer
5. Pistol Annies — Interstate Gospel
6. Kacey Musgraves — Golden Hour
7. Jack White — Boarding House Reach
8. Ariana Grande — Sweetener
9. Lily Allen — No Shame
10. Cecile McLoran Salvant — The Window

Costello and most of the band who made “Pump It Up” have spent 40 years learning how to dial it down, and they masterfully augment some of the most sophisticated and empathetic writing they’ve ever done on a record that combines swinging, Dionne Warwick-esque ‘60s pop; sophisticated musical theater; and just the tiniest bit of residual rock swagger. — CW

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