Music: Top 20 Albums of 2018

Chic – It’s About Time

The Nile Rodgers fronted disco icons return with their aptly titled new studio album – which arrives twenty-six years after their latest studio release. With collaborators including Lady Gaga and Craig David, It’s About Time is a slick collection of well-crafted disco grooves.

Bryan Ferry and His Orchestra – Bitter-Sweet

The smooth tones of Bryan Ferry were always going to be a winning combination with the craftmanship of classic jazz music – so it’s no surprise that Bitter-Sweet (which follows the same trajectory of his similarly-themed pop-to-jazz cover album, The Jazz Age) hits the spot. With echoes of Weimar Germany in these sometimes haunting, sometimes woozily decadent updates, Ferry showcases himself as one of the most enduring and exciting figures in the music world. 

Sugarland – Bigger

Country duo Sugarland – made up of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush – reunite for their first album in eight years. Blending country-pop hooks with emotive songwriting on tracks like Bigger, Babe and Mother, the album is a treat and welcome return for the much-loved duo.

Jane McDonald – Cruising

It wouldn’t be a Culture Fix end of year list without a bit of camp – and Jane McDonald delivers this by the er cruise ship load on this bawdy cover album. Jane’s theatrical vocals belting out numbers like the Gibson Brothers’ Cuba, Kylie’s Step Back in Time, and Let It Go – is iconic. 

Cher – Dancing Queen

Picking up after her scene-stealing role in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher releases her first batch of ABBA covers (with a second apparently coming in 2019). Whilst not topping the brilliance of the originals, Cher’s versions are enjoyable dancefloor fillers with some snazzy contemporary production featuring the star’s beloved autotuned vocals. 

Benjamin Ingrosso – Identification

The best album to come from 2018’s Eurovision entrants is Benjamin Ingrosso’s Identification. The Swedish star delivered one of the strongest male pop albums, lead by his excellent Dance You Off and the subtly brilliant I Wouldn’t Know.

Paul McCartney – Egypt Station

Paul McCartney returned with an enthusiastic blend of pop meets classic rock on Egypt Station. The album sees him pair with Ryan Tedder and Greg Kurstin for this eclectic collection lead by immediately hummable anthems like Fuh You, I Don’t Know and Come on to Me.

Brett Young – Ticket to LA

The country star shines with Ticket to LA a collection of bittersweet soft-pop and sweet country music. Young’s storytelling excels on tracks such as the title release, Here Tonight and Reason to Stay. This is a stellar release from Young.

Marianne Faithfull – Negative Capability

Faithfull’s searing, heartbreaking Negative Capability sees her team-up with collaborators Nick Cave and Ed Harcourt. This meditative release presents remixed versions of classic hits As Time Goes By, Witches’ Song and It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, breathing new meaning into this tracks with Faithfull’s vocal arrangement now reflecting a more experience musical palette. New tracks The Gypsy Faerie Queen, No Moon in Paris and They Come at Night continue to showcase Faithfull as a powerful songwriter. 

Bastian Baker – Bastian Baker

The Swiss pop star reveals his most impressive album yet. Baker has been introduced to audiences around the world thanks to his support slot on Shania Twain’s world tour. This marks this self-titled release as Baker’s most high profile and thanks to tracks like Stay, All Around Us and Stagefright – it’s a career high point.

Kim Wilde – Here Come the Aliens

Wilde’s first album in five years is a barnstorming return to pop form. Blending cool synthpop with impressive rock stylings. Tracks such as Kandy Krush, Stereo Shot, Birthday, and Addicted to You are immediate crowd-pleasers, whilst Wilde shines at showcasing a more sensitive side on emotive Solstice and Rosetta.

Sergey Lazarev – The One

Russia’s Sergey Lazarev stole our hearts in 2016 when he represented the nation at the Eurovision Song Contest. Continuing to release music in his native Russian, Sergey has also released a study number of English LPs such as 2018’s The One. This mix of high-octane euro dance pop shimmers through tracks like Stand By Me, Lucky Stranger and his Eurovision hit You Are the Only One. 

Dierks Bentley – The Mountain

Country star Dierks Bentley embraces a more roots-based sound on his latest LP, The Mountain. The set drops the country-pop sheen of his previous album Black, in favour of a soft-rock bluegrass sound. Songs like Goodbye in Telluride and Burning Man signal this is a good move.  

Kylie Minogue – Golden

Kylie departed the glossy electropop of her recent releases in favour of a Nashville-tinged sound for Golden. Whilst in no means a ‘country’ record, the genre’s influences are heard in the pop production and lyrics soaked in heartbreak. One of Kylie’s best.

Jake Shears – Jake Shears

The former Scissor Sisters frontman finally unveiled his debut solo album this year – and it was a Southern-fried good time. Soaked in New Orleans blues, Shears presents an unabashed good time from start to finish on tracks such as Big Bushy Moustache, Sad Song Backwards and Good Friends.

Saara Aalto – Wild Wild Wonderland

Despite underperforming at Eurovision, Aalto’s single Monsters shines as a slick slice of dancepop. Aalto’s ear for a good pop hook comes through again on Domino, whilst icy synths prevail on DANCE!!!, and the theatrical pageantry of Sirens lends further pop credibility to this full-length English LP.

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

You’d be hard pressed to find another song as poignant as Slow Burn on Kacey Musgraves’ third LP Golden Hour. Yet Musgraves’ exhibits a full range of versatility here, High Horse sees her head to the dancefloor, whilst Space Cowboy is a gorgeous depiction about the death of a relationship, and Velvet Elvis sees the singer dip into woozy seventies country.

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

The spirit of Prince is alive and well in Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe’s seminal slice of neo-soul. This album, a celebration of the ‘other’, sees Monáe at her most direct and blunt in these tracks with a dystopian edge. Whilst there is an impressive political and self-reflective edge to the album, it is also the singer’s most immediate in terms of listening appeal. 

Dita Von Teese – Dita Von Teese

File this under surprisingly delightful, Dita Von Teese’s collaboration with Sébastien Tellier delivered a stunning slice of psychedelic dream-pop.  

Tom Grennan – Lighting Matches

Singer-songwriter Tom Grennan released his first album this year. Grennan’s savvy songwriting and soulful voice helps produce a set of memorable tracks including the instantly catchy Sober and the nostalgic Barbed Wire.

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