I released my 2017 version of this list on Dec. 15 last year. In early January, my Online Friend, comedian John Cullen, released his own list. At No. 1 on his list was Phoebe Bridgers’ Stranger in the Alps, a transcendently smart, painfully sad album that, were I to rewrite my own 2017 list now, would be the unquestioned No. 1. Except that I hadn’t heard about it until John’s list.
This changed the way I approached things a little bit for 2018. Intellectually, I understand that year-end lists are arbitrary cut-offs and that the calendar is only something we perceive, and that Boston Celtics’ prospect Robert Williams would laugh at us for even considering it. Music does not belong to the year it was released in. Not finding Bridgers’ 2017 album until 2018 did not make me enjoy it any less. All it meant was that it wasn’t on my list, which was a snapshot of my feelings on 2017 music at that point in time. It’s no different, really, than looking at my 2015 list and realizing how much I’d re-shuffle it as my personal tastes have changed.
Still, I wanted to make a concerted effort to cast a wider net this year. It wasn’t so much an “I can’t miss another Bridgers” as it was an interest in seeing what else is out there outside of my usual genres that I might enjoy. Last year, I occasionally asked people on Twitter what their favorite albums of the last while were. This year, I made that a quarterly exercise, and the responses were voluminous. The result was that I wound up checking out 145 albums this year, way up from 2017 and way too many in general.
I…think I’ll scale back moving forward. The exercise is still a lot of fun. Reaching out to readers for their favorites has led me to some unexpected finds, and it’s cool to know where the tastes of people I interact with a lot lie. At the same time, such a broad approach necessitated spending a little less time with the albums I really loved this year. There’s a trade-off between searching for anything you might like and really immersing in the things you know you love. There’s no right answer, obviously, but 2019 will probably see me hold back less when it comes to, say, listening to CHVRCHES front-to-back on every run for an entire week even though Pusha T, A$AP Rocky, Retirement Party, and Hoobastank all dropped that same week.
What follows are the albums I enjoyed most in 2018.