Review

2018 In Review: Day 3 – Album Of The Year

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2018 In Review

1. Introduction + Best Album Art
2. Song of the Year
3. Album of the Year
4. R&B and Soul
5. Rock and Alternative
6. Rap and Hip-hop
7. Dance and Electronic
8. Pop and Ballad
9. Folk and Country
10. Jazz and Blues
11. Crossover and World
12. Best Collaborative Work
13. Rookie Artist of the Year
14. Artist of the Year
15. Other Recognition
16. Concluding Remarks

We continue the series with a look at the best overall albums of 2018. Starting tomorrow, we’ll delve into eight days of genre-specific discussions before resurfacing on Day 12 with Best Collaborative Work.

Album of the Year is perhaps our most important distinction, recognizing the best overall body of work held in a coherent collection of songs. We think these albums were some of 2018’s most ambitious, important, and enjoyable; many are lesser-known, but no less deserving.

Note that there’s no rank-ordering of the next-best ten this year, to avoid genre category spoilers. Alphabetical order instead!

Album of the Year 2018

XXX – Language
Produced by FRNK and Kim Ximya

It’s hard to know what to compare Language to, because it was so unlike anything else in recent memory. Kim Ximya put down an albumful of directed vitriol, with pointed criticism for the hip-hop industry and artistry; in addition to the lyrical fireworks, what was interesting is how intensely personal this cynicism became, as he fought detractors, flexed on peers (…and listeners), and explored his place in the world. The grinding industrial-electronic beats further set the album apart, with FRNK stacking layer upon layer of intricate sound into visceral satisfaction and unpredictable anticipation. It was the best-produced and best-rapped album of the year, but Language also managed to do something that few others (rap or not) ever do: make us feel that literally anything could happen next.

Runner-up Album of the Year 2018

Jang Pil-soon – Soony Eight: 소길花 (Sogil Flower)
Produced by Jo Dong-ik and Jang Pil-soon; additional production credits to Jo Dong-jin, Jo Dong-hee, Park Yong-jun, Cori, Bae Young-gil, Lee Sang-soon, Lee Juck, Lee Kyung

The album is Jang Pil-soon’s, but Soony Eight was touched by many hands around the Penicillium Music group and the Jeju neighborhood of Sogil-ri. Its twelve tracks – many previously released as part of the Sogil series – are appropriately varied in genre, but the ambient folk, synthpop (!) and everything in between all share the same warmth and serenity. Jang sings of longing and belonging in her trademark airiness. The melodies are gorgeous, the arrangements panoramic. Soony Eight was written on life in Jeju, life in community, life in gentle motion; all of it was captured in this album, real enough that we listeners might take a piece for ourselves.

The Next-Best Ten

Asian Chairshot – Ignite
Produced by Asian Chairshot

Bassagong – 탕아 (Tang-A)
Produced by Bassagong; additional production and performing credits to Sultan of the Disco, J-Tong, Code Kunst, Kid Milli, iDeal, Jayho, Ahn Shin-ae, Authentic, Paloalto, Kimparkchella, Blnk-Time, 0CD, Park Jong-kwon

Hyangni – 2 (read our review)
Produced by Hyangni

Kirara – Sarah (read our review)
Produced by Kirara

Lee Gwon-hyeong – 교회가 있는 풍경 (The Local Church)
Produced by Lee Gwon-hyeong; additional production and performing credits to Jo Beom-cheon, Seo Jun-ho, Yeram, Kim Da-jung, Zoe Yungmi Blank

Lulileela – Rise from the Ashes
Produced by Lulileela

Mid-Air Thief – 무너지기 (Crumbling)
Produced by Mid-Air Thief; additional writing and performing credits to Summer Soul

Naul – Sound Doctrine
Produced by Naul; additional production credits to Jeon Hong-jun, Kang Hwa-seong, Song Sung-kyung

Solah – Beautiful Imperfection
Produced by Solah; additional production and performing credits to Lee Bo-kyung, Jeon Chang-min, Seo Joo-young, Song Ha-chul, Bu Gang-hyeon, Ahn Joong-jae, Cho Ah-reum, Son Ji-hye, Yang Hye-kyung, Ahn Seong-pil, King Jin-yong, Lee Hoon-hyung

Sumin – Your Home (read our review)
Produced by Sumin; additional production and performing credits to Xin Seha, Khundi Panda, Viann, Pomrad


Lyric translations by author. Artist profile and album cover images from Bugs Music.

Read our past series:

2017 In Review

2016 In Review

2015 In Review

2014 In Review

2013 In Review

2012 In Review