In music, the theme of the year is clear: asserting one’s identity. It defines Camila Cabello’s solo album, Shawn Mendes’ self-titled turn into adult music, and Cardi B’s debut a statement of success — and skill. And these are just a few of the many breakouts released in the first half of this year. Here are our picks for the best new albums that have intrigued us from start to finish so far in 2018.
Camille Cabello, Camille
After parting ways with girl group Fifth Harmony in 2016, Cabello experimented with a few different single singles — some clubby, some rap-heavy — before landing on the simpler pop sound of her debut solo album. While her Latin hit “Havana” may have the streaming numbers, it’s the range of slow-burning emotions she displays over the course of Camille which gives this album its consistency. From the breathy, percussive drive of “Never Be the Same” to the understated acoustic ballad of “Real Friends,” Cabello’s groove is in simple songwriting and melodies that play well with his flexible voice.
Kacey Musgraves, golden hour
Country’s latest crossover darling Kacey Musgraves followed her Grammy-winning album in 2013 Same trailer Different fleet and 2015 Historical re-enactment equipment with this year’s Golden hour. From bittersweet farewell antics like “Space Cowboy” to bubbly, layered love songs like “Butterflies,” Musgraves has an easy way to draw listeners in and bring them into his luminous world of warm chords and relatable storytelling.
The weekend, My dear Melancholy,
Fresh off of two breakups, The Weeknd already made his mark in 2018 with My dear melancholy, a six-track EP that sounds as moody and raw as the Canadian singer has ever produced. Abel Tesfaye’s strength has often resided in his echoing falsetto voices, which he stretches here over inventive rhythms to imitate the pain and illusion of a failed romance. “Call Out My Name” and “Hurt You” also feel deeply personal and specific in their lyrics, making his work resonate on deeper levels than ever before.
Cardi B, Privacy breach
From “I Like It” to “Be Careful” and beyond, Cardi B made sure her debut album lived up to the hype of 2017 releases like “Bodak Yellow.” Assists from artists like SZA, J Balvin and Chance the Rapper give her a veritable feast of hip-hop’s best vocals, while the beats – often dark and heavy – provide an eerily effective baseline on which Cardi delivers her songs. propulsive and confident raps. With Privacy breachit proves that his first success was no accident.
Chloe x Halle, The kids are fine
Beyoncé’s proteges Chloe and Halle Bailey have the Queen’s approval for a reason. On their debut album The kids are finethe sisters are proving they’ve earned their place among the best songwriters and producers of their generation, thanks to the deeply infectious melodies of songs like “Grown” (the soundtrack to the TV show Cultivated) and the brooding hip-hop of “Hi Lo” with rapper GoldLink. On lyrics that probe the uncertainties of youth and the pressures of adolescence, their angelic voices rise and intertwine. They write all their music, which is perhaps why their unique sound stands out.
Shawn Mendes, Shawn Mendes
Mendes, soon to be 20, is making 2018 his year. The spring release of her self-titled album kicked off with a double whammy of singles: “In My Blood,” a catchy, emotionally resonant pop-rock track that swaps the power (and pain) of anxiety, and “Lost In Japan,” an R&B slow jam that shows off his sweet tenor. Mendes’ greatest strength lies in his ability to harness sensibility for maximum pop pull – and through savvy collaborations with artists of the moment like Julia Michaels and Khalid, as well as his idol John Mayer, this album does just that, balancing painful acoustic moments and stadium-ready guitar.
Sofi Tucker, Tree house
Electronic duo Sofi Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern may have an Ivy League background, but on their debut album Tree house, the energetic pair go wild with the soundtrack of a high-energy party. Highlights include “Best Friend” (which Apple tapped into for an ad campaign), the irresistibly bright “Energia” sung in Portuguese, and the confident anthem “Baby I’m A Queen.” Working with unusual instruments (like the Bolivian charango), sonic notes (excerpts from birdsong), and cultural references (like Brazilian poet Paulo Leminski), it’s a promising start that refuses to play in the lines of standard EDM. They’re way more fun than that.
Ssion, real name Cody Critcheloe, is a New York-based artist who has been an underground pop punk favorite for years. On O, Ssion blends scintillating production with grunge sensibility and tongue-in-cheek lyrics, producing a body of work that doesn’t want to pander to traditional standards. It’s a vibrant, expansive collection that refuses to be categorised: the sweet chorus of ‘Let Me Down Like U’ is bubblegum pop with quirky undertones, while ‘1980-99’ with Sky Ferreira and Hole’s Patty Schemel finds a retro rock ‘n’. rolling groove with attitude. Guests like Róisín Murphy and Devendra Banhart further help Ssion explore his singular vision, transforming O on a winding journey through the mind of an alt-pop master.
J Balvin isn’t Colombia’s first musical superstar export; that honor could go to Shakira or Juanes. But unlike his previous pop-adjacent predecessors, J Balvin crossed into the global mainstream on his own terms. Vibes is primarily a reggaeton album, seeing J Balvin riffing on the Puerto Rican answer to hip-hop. It is fully recorded in Spanish. And it’s a smart, unmistakable set of danceable beats from every Latin genre, like on the sultry, chime-filled “Cuando Tú Quieras” or the melodic, understated “Noches Pasadas.” Her biggest hit, “Mi Gente” with Willy William, received the blessing of a remix from Beyoncé last year, helping her establish herself even further in the pop consciousness. But it’s the first version that appears on the album – and it already has all the power it needs.
soccer mom, To do the housework
Soccer Mommy is not really a soccer mom. In fact, singer-songwriter Sophie Allison is only 20 years old. But on his early indie rock debut To do the housework, Allison shows maturity beyond her years, finding raw poetry in the grief and frustration of youth – sometimes with others, sometimes with herself. His guitar is precise and efficient, oscillating from tender to shrill throughout the album. “Last Girl” is classic indie rock ear candy, while ballad “Blossom (Wasting All My Time)” is lush with acoustic strums and her intimate vocals, her vocals close to breaking on the edges. That’s its appeal: a certain raw candor that, packed into an album with a strong sense of melody, becomes intensely relatable.
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