Top 25 albums of 2018

I spent a lot of this year thinking the album output was quite crap, but actually 2018 came good in the end, didn’t it? Comparing it to last year, anyway.

For reference, here are the albums I’ve put at the top of these year-end slogs in the past:
2010: Lights – Ellie Goulding
2011: 21 – Adele
2012: Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
2013: Salute – Little Mix
2014: 1989 – Taylor Swift
2015: Breathe In Breathe Out – Hilary Duff (blog)
2016: Lemonade – Beyonce (blog)
2017: About U – MUNA (blog)

Aaaaand here’s this year’s lot. And if you missed it yesterday, my Top 50 singles of the year are here.

25. A Star Is Born Soundtrack – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

Best track: Hair Body Face

The “without dialogue” edition, obviously. Not that a 13-second clip of Alec Baldwin introducing Ally shouldn’t be its own 99p track. Stream on Spotify

24. Liberation – Christina Aguilera

Best track: Masochist

The Bop Count is quite low here, but it’s nice to hear Christina making the kind of thing she wants to make; and Liberation is a cohesive, engaging record with a lot to offer. Including that subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-bollocks Demi Lovato duet. Stream on Spotify

23. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) – Various

Best track: Angel Eyes

Look, they’re all ABBA songs, and the cast includes Christine Baranski and Julie Walters – of course this is great. Stream on Spotify

22. ULTRAVIOLET – Justine Skye

Best track: Push Ya

There was a long, long drought at the beginning of the year when this was one of, like, three good albums that had been released in 2018. And actually I haven’t seen enough people talking about it. Stream on Spotify

21. Singular Act I – Sabrina Carpenter

Best track: Paris

I have no idea what really separates an album, a mixtape and a “long EP” these days – this is only 8 tracks long, but it’s officially an album? Okay!! It’s all fresh though, and Paris would make a great Britney song. Stream on Spotify

20. Expectations – Hayley Kiyoko

Best track: What I Need

Being released in the same week as Kacey Musgraves made this record fly under the radar a bit with The Gays, I feel, but go back to it now – it’s great. Stream on Spotify

19. Someone Out There – Rae Morris

Best track: Reborn

Now I don’t know why, but – much as I love this album!!!! – I don’t feel like it really, truly cOnNeCtEd with me as much as it did with other people? But I guess that’s art, folks! And anyway I still think it’s brill. Stream on Spotify

18. When My Heart Felt Volcanic – The Aces

Best track: Fake Nice

Baby Who failing to make the final tracklisting is a  HATE CRIME but luckily everything that’s left is tip-top. I feel like everyone who loves The Aces spends their life banging on about how slept-on they are, and I… will not be the one to break that: *clears throat, switches on megaphone* THEY’RE SLEPT ON, FIX IT!! Stream on Spotify

17. Bloom – Troye Sivan

Best track: Lucky Strike

I LOVED Blue Neighbourhood for its more restrained moments, but I did think Bloom would feel a bit… bigger? Especially after My My My!. I don’t know. But anyway, what is here is mostly great: a couple of tracks are a little on the boring side, but there’s stellar stuff in the likes of Lucky Strike, Bloom and Ariana duet Dance To This. I know it’s frustrating for some that this twinky white guy is getting more mainstream adoration than many other LGBTQ+ artists, which is fair – and it is true that queer artists of colour aren’t getting the same fanfare. But I also don’t want to take too much away from Troye himself; who seems to have his head screwed on and is proving to be a great little popstar in his own right. Plus to hear from teachers that kids are fawning over him – an out gay artist – is heartening, and something that I can’t imagine happening ten years ago. Stream on Spotify

16. Love Is Dead – CHVRCHES

Best track: Graffiti

I love this album but I also forgot about it fairly quickly. Maybe that’s because a lot of it is kinda… the same? But! That copy-and-paste sound is one I love, and when I revisited this record earlier this month I realised how much of it I really do like. I’m seeing them  for the first time in early 2k19 and I think a lot of it will suit the Live Environment very well. Stream on Spotify

15. Phoenix – Rita Ora

Best track: Anywhere

Six years on from its predecessor, it finally came! The album many of us didn’t seriously think would ever materialise!! And while it’s a shame that most of its tracks had already been released ahead of the album, they are mostly all great: New Look and Only Want You are the best of the previously unheard bits; while Girls is (‘imo’) the only flat-out bad song here. Stream on Spotify

14. Sweetener – Ariana Grande

Best track: no tears left to cry

Pharrell lets the album down, I reckon, but when this  is good, it’s great. no tears left to cry is the obvious highlight, with breathin and goodnight n go (God these lower-case titles are making me twitch) also 10/10s. Oh, and better off. And everytime. Stream on Spotify

13. Testament – All Saints

Best track: After All

Shaznay Lewis needs some kind of achievement award for, like, services to music, doesn’t she? Is it too late to get her on the New Year Honours List or something?? Cos she is on form here. Still!! Stream on Spotify

12. Caution – Mariah Carey

Best track: The Distance

Now do not come for me, but I… struggle to connect with Mariah as well as other gays do. Y’know? When I properly give her music a spin, I appreciate it, and obviously there’s no denying the voice. But on an emotional level? I am often COLD. But Caution might just be what fully wins me over. It’s cohesive, it’s exciting, it’s slick… in a period in which the younger popstars are struggling to find their footing, here’s someone 15 albums deep and still getting better. Stream on Spotify

11. Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

Best track: Talk Fast

When this beat the Beyonce and Jay-Z album to No1 in the US I… wasn’t mad? The thing with 5SOS is I keep forgetting how good they are, and then they release new music and I’m out here like a pubescent megafan trying to get their streaming numbers up. On Youngblood the lads add a dancey sheen to their usual brand of pop-punk and it really, really works – it’s a natural progression without losing what’s always made them great. Stream on Spotify

10. LM5 – Little Mix

Best track: The Cure

The thing with LM5 is it’s not as armed with Big Pop Hits as the likes of Glory Days – it’s a little more #cuttingedge than that; a little more adventurous. Which means it takes a bit longer to settle in, but the payoff is great. Artistically this is probably their second-best album behind Salute??? Highlights are the irresistible Strip and Wasabi, presumed second single Think About Us and the Sisquo(!)-sampling Love A Girl Right. Bonus track Forget You Not is a 10 as well, and The Cure is one of my favourite songs they’ve ever recorded. As far as singles are concerned… I doubt this will be their most commercially successful era? But it’s worth it to hear them sounding as assured as they do here. Stream on Spotify

09. Language – MNEK

Best track: Body

Now nobody gets more frustrated by iNtErLuDeS than me, but on this album – I really like them and think they add to the experience!!! This album manages to both be a cohesive beginning-to-end triumph as a #bodyofwork, AND have plenty of hits you can cherry-pick if you so choose. This is a great mix of POINTS BEING MADE and BOPS GOING OFF. Tongue! Correct! Body! It felt like this album was a long time coming; the culmination of a lot of years of hard work. And the wait was completely worth it. Stream on Spotify

08. No Shame – Lily Allen

Best track: Lost My Mind

That Mercury nomination was such a pleasant surprise: to see Lily really diving deep on her new material and  being justly rewarded for it was fab, even if the deliberate turn away from chart-chasing boppery dented the sales a little bit. Her honesty has always been her strongest asset, and here she’s used it to craft some of her most arresting, moving material to date. (Although – sidebar – I will never throw Sheezus under the bus!! I know it had its weak points but it also had HIGHS!) Stream on Spotify

07. Chris – Christine and the Queens

Best track: 5 dollars

I know Girlfriend is widely thought of as a masterpiece but as a lead single it… didn’t really do much for me?? But Doesn’t matter recaptured my attention and 5 dollars sent me directly to THE STARS. Chris is such a captivating artist on record and in performance, and there are some really, really amazing songs on here – FYI if I ever see Make Some Sense live, I might peacefully pass away on the spot. Stream on Spotify

06. A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975

Best track: It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)

Clever, witty, profound without being pretentious – The 1975 produced their best work to date on this album, complete with a featured guest vocal from noted queen of pop Siri. A couple of tracks lost me, to be honest, but the good stuff is SO fucking good. It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You), Love It If We Made It, TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME and I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) are my personal #picks. Stream on Spotify

05. Palo Santo – Years & Years

Best track: Palo Santo

Spirituality plays a key role in Years & Years’ second set, which took a couple of listens to properly settle in with me, but is completely brilliant. It feels like, although the potential radio hits are slightly harder to locate compared with Communion, the songwriting and artistry have really gone up a notch?? Olly’s firing on all cylinders, the production is DIVINE (Lucky Escape in particular sounds A++++) and – for those who just want an excellent shimmery bop – the likes of All For You (that middle-8!) and If You’re Over Me (that outro!) have you more than covered. Stream on Spotify

04. Wild Wild Wonderland – Saara Aalto

Best track: Sirens

There’s a lot to be said about an album that wants nothing more than to keep you entertained with TUNE after TUNE after TUNE. Saara’s LP is stuffed with top-drawer pop music: Xenomania chaos-banger My Touch, the exquisitely titled DANCE!!!, the pensive and brilliant Sirens, under-valued Eurovision masterpiece Monsters, semi-ballad Domino… it’s (almost) all sparkly, solid-gay thrills; and I really hope its chart success in Finland was enough to warrant a follow-up. Stream on Spotify

03. Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae

Best track: Make Me Feel

After releasing a perfect song as the lead single, there was a lot of expectation on Dirty Computer – maybe Janelle’s most anticipated album to date. And even though nothing quite stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Make Me Feel, it’s still a world-class record: whether she’s fiery on Django Jane or a little breezier on Screwed, she’s got POINTS TO MAKE, and she makes them with a tight, expertly crafted record that keeps her at the very top of her game. Stream on Spotify

Also a moment please for the fact that five of these Top 10 albums are by openly queer artists (MNEK, Chris, Years & Years, Saara, Janelle)! 20gayteen really did deliver!!

02. Golden – Kylie Minogue

Best track: Lost Without You

It’s been said that Golden is a bit My First Country Album in places, and I don’t disagree, but I also do not care. This is such a great listen – Kylie’s baring her soul but having a lot of fun in the process; from the euphoria of Stop Me From Falling to the sadness of Sincerely Yours, with big choruses (Lifetime To Repair? Hook it to my veins!!!), tear-stained optimism (Radio On? Stick it on a rom-com!!!) and relatable introspection (the middle-8 of Golden? Engrave it on my tombstone!!!). And then there’s Lost Without You, potentially one of the best songs she’s ever recorded: tacked on as a bonus track because it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the collection, but it’s too fucking amazing to go unheard. I was apprehensive when this era first started but ladies, I continue to stan into eternity. Stream on Spotify

01. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

Best track: Space Cowboy

I’ll be honest! First time I heard Golden Hour I was pretty much that clip of Jayne on Big Brother screaming “I’M BOOOOORED SHITLESS!”. However! I just had to let the initial hype settle a little and then dig in properly without the weight of expectation working against it. Because restraint and subtlety aren’t usually things I go for in pop – I’m an impatient fucker, give me overwrought emotion and glass-shattering vocals, or give me death!

But crikey, Golden Hour is really, really beautiful. I’m so glad I persevered with it. It’s a record of gorgeous love songs: falling into it, getting hurt by it, moving on from it. It’s country-pop, but not in the Taylor Swift sense. It’s more… epic than that; more subtle, more emotive in its restraint. And it’s one of very few albums I will almost always play beginning to end; I very rarely single out just the one or two songs. The pain of Space Cowboy, the romance of Butterflies, the trepidation of Happy And Sad – Kacey holds you in the palm of her hand the whole time, and rewards you with all the ~fEeLiNgS~ music releases when it’s done just right. Stream on Spotify

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