The Alternative’s Top 50 Albums of 2018

Posted: by The Editor

Another great year of music is in the books. In 2018, The Alternative had a ton of big achievements that we are so proud of. We recorded our first live sessions, had a bunch of showcases, launched our Patreon (which is keeping our site alive, please support it), added some amazing new staff members, and most importantly, we recommended a ton of excellent music. While 2018 might not have had the one, stunning release that will always be remembered as a classic, it was one of the deeper years for good records in our site’s existence.

Every single album on this list, from #50 to #1, is great and deserves your time and attention. Every artist name links to their music. Check out any you might have missed, and revisit the ones you loved. There’s also a Spotify playlist with all 50 records at the end. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading our site in 2018. With your support, we are going to make 2019 even better. 



Much like the stylization of its title, MODERN FEMALE ROCKSTAR is the feminist uke rock that we didn’t know we so desperately needed. MFR is fraught with both frustration and inspiration, particularly in regards to the place of non-men in music as artists, patrons, and everything in between. Most relatable in “Title” with the lyric, “I don’t want to be your merch girl, I wanna be your goddamn idol / I don’t want to have to work twice as hard, for the same motherfucking title.” A sentiment that I, and many others, feel on a consistent basis. – Ellie H.

49. Stove – ‘s Favorite Friend

Stove’s Steve Hartlett is your favorite guitarist’s favorite guitarist, but he’s also one of my favorite songwriters. This made 2018 a blessing if you’re me. He released a record with his most well known band Ovlov that was a pure rock gem, and then he dropped a record for his other project Stove, which I think is even better. Stove has more of an indie bent sound, but it’s the guitars and warm vocals that make this album stand out. This isn’t a record that will grab you and shake you and tell you it’s awesome, but you’ll slowly realize that you’ve listened to it a few hundred times and you know every word and guitar tone. It’s worth the investment, there’s gold in these hills. – Henderson Cole

48. Travis Scott – Astroworld

I came into Astroworld with almost zero faith in Travis Scott. I know he’s been writing hits behind the scenes for a bit, but the Kardashian/Kanye connection had soured me on his prospects as a legit artist. He converted me with this record. This was a clear gem from the first listen. The booming beats are pure brain candy. The auto-tuned verses become a meditative trance. There isn’t much substance to Travis’s verses, but that doesn’t take away from the songs as pop hits. Honestly, I’ve never heard vocal warping used to such good effect. IT’S LIT. – Henderson Cole

47. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

In 2002 Shania Twain dropped her fourth studio album Up!, releasing three different versions of the album at the same time—a pop version, a country version, and an international version. The musical landscape in 2018 is a much different one, allowing an album like Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves pop-country masterpiece, not only to exist but also to find an audience. It’s an incredibly smart, well-polished, and star-making album for Musgraves, one that manages to be earnest, sharp-witted, pensive, and devastating unlike any other big-ticket album this year. Tracks like “Oh, What a World” and “Rainbow” would have felt like empty gestures in someone else’s hands, but Musgraves is able to turn them into anthems for groups that have largely been alienated by country music in the past, signaling a larger change in the culture itself. – Michael Brooks

46. Antartigo Vespucci – Love in the Time of E-mail

Made up of duo Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock, Love In the Time of E-mail expands on the group’s pop-rock sound with 80’s synths and an endless array of catchy, well-written lines. Upon first time listening to the record, I was convinced that this would be my favorite AV album just two tracks in and by the end of it, I was certain. As the title suggests, this release explores the difficulties of love in the digital age—questioning your choices and obsessing over the end as you see the other person live out their life, whether you really want to or not. – Lindsy

45. Hodera – Besides

In keeping with Hodera’s tradition of relatable nostalgia, this EP is filled with a balanced combination of pain and catharsis surrounding issues not easily tackled. In particular, the ballad-like “Hey Ana” is one of my favorite songs of the year—capturing the struggle of trying to stay healthy while processing the death of a friend. “Despite how good this year has been, well there’s always this fear / soon enough the times will change, the coast ain’t always clear,” hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard it, and has continued with every listen since. Besides feels like an emotional release, both for the audience and the band. – Ellie H

44. Remember Sports – Slow Buzz

This year was an incredible one for Remember Sports. Their third full-length, Slow Buzz, is full of high energy and their most mature songwriting to date. From opener “Otherwise” to “Temporary Tattoo,” this album is stocked with dance-y punk sounds that pair so well with good vibes and ambition. With every song on the record marking a completely different sound than the last, Slow Buzz is as intricate as it is fun. For instance, the layered harmonies on “Pull Through” contrast the fast-paced “Making It Right,” but they both hold their own. My favorite track, album closer “Unwell,” shows how just how dynamic Remember Sports are; slipping from slow acoustic strums into punchy vocal melodies. Even though it was released in the summer, this is one of those records that doesn’t have a season attached to it, and I love that. Everyone deserves a good dance party, any time of the year, all year. – Kayla Karmichael

43. Save Face – Merci

A raw but precisely executed piece of art. Merci integrates the concepts of loss, drug abuse, and love with what can only be described as sick riffs. “Bad” starts the album off with emotional intensity with the line, “said you got it ‘bad’ / so you wrote it on your hands / so when your head is buried in ‘em / you won’t forget that you never had a chance.” Merci moves through lyrics like, “I need a crutch / I need a chemical with a name I can’t pronounce,” and, “there’s not a goddamn thing worth loving like the way that I love you;” but it seems unfair to separate the words from the music. Both the musical and lyrical progression of this LP, the band’s first, creates a specific narrative can so eloquently be applied to however it needs to fit into your life. Such a quality is rare, and a thorough listen is worth your goddamn time. I am confident that it will find a way to gather a meaning for you the way it has for me. Alongside the album, Save Face created videos for each of the 14 tracks, which you can find here. I’ve been told that vocalist/guitarist Tyler Povanda eats paint. (Warning: the videos use effects that may be triggering for people who have visual & light sensitivity.) – Ellie H

42. Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop

On the band’s third full length, following up 2016’s Tired of Tomorrow, Nothing stuck with what they knew best; a sleek blend of shoegaze, post-hardcore and grunge. The album is layered with the roaring guitar tones and airy vocals that Nothing fans, and all shoegaze fans for that matter have, come to expect. Though they’re not re-defining the genre or producing anything that is a departure from what they’re comfortable with, the album does bring an astounding emotional depth to their particular type of nihilism. – Steven Lalonde

41. Graduating Life – Grad Life

Grad Life redefines what a great punk album should sound like. The entire album is an anthem to anyone who ever had family issues, felt like they didn’t belong, or is flat out sick and tired of what their life is like at the moment. Bart Starr’s rough vocal quality layered atop orchestral arrangements that include sparkle-like synth parts are unlike anything coming out of this scene at the moment. It pushes the envelope on incorporating new sounds while keeping the aggression and punk attitude intact. Grad Life mixes relatable lyrics with some of the most intense songwriting, making every track feel like you’re riding a powerful music wave. – Sarah Knoll

40. Petal – Magic Gone

Petal’s sophomore album, Magic Gone, at once strips down and expands the band’s sound. Kylie Lotz’s voice at times seems as if she’s performing right in the room with you. At others, you can almost hear it filling a gigantic cathedral. These songs are an intimate and vulnerable look into Lotz’s life, dealing with identity, mental health, and relationships. The ebb and flow of Magic Gone is expertly paced, leading to the final swell of “Stardust,” which is a fitting culmination of all the album’s themes and sonic emotions. – Scott Fugger

39. awakebutstillinbed – what people call low self-esteem…

If you look up the lyrics to awakebutstillinbed’s debut LP on Bandcamp, you’ll see that they’re organized into paragraphs instead of lines. I think this is important. The songs on what people call low self-esteem… read like poetic personal essays, straight-from-the-chest confessionals with no holds barred. On songs like “Life,” Shannon Taylor gives these personal songs a special, unifying weight, her voice piercing and shredding with conviction as she screams, “I couldn’t get my life back” in the record’s catchiest moment. The production and the early Mineral vibes of what people call low self-esteem give the impression of a classic emo record, but the intense, raw honesty of these songs give them the air of something that will truly last. what people call low self-esteem is the kind of record that, like The Power of Failing or American Football, has the potential to be something that kids will pick up a decade from now and be introduced to a whole world of music, art, and community. – Jordan Walsh

38. Noname – Room 25

Without much need for an introduction, Noname quickly self-actualizes her own work on “Self” and then dives deeper into her artistic mission statement: exposing the lack of conscious American political figures claim to embody. Room 25 has jazz beats, thumping bass grooves and one powerful rapper tearing down the wall in “Wall Street.” The critical self of Room 25 is beyond just being inventive for an album’s sake, it is creative slander exposing the flaws in the views of society and the chastising mark that Noname is going to consistently make in the world. There are a lot of records on this list, but this is an absolute must hear. – Sean Gonzalez

37. Illuminati Hotties – Kiss Yr Frenemies

Dubbed by many as a veteran studio rat, Sarah Tudzin highlights just how versed she is in the production and engineering that brings Illuminati Hottie’s debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, to life. This dynamic background punctures the mold of traditional indie-pop artists in the scene, offering a boisterous vibe to the ambidextrous sound the record explores. Building off the theme of being a millennial in society, the almost whimsical nature of the brash noises, wacky guitars, and softened edges that frame every track resonate with the chaos of modern young-adulthood. But, like a born and bred millennial, Tudzin uses satirically comedic lyricism in between moments of emotional surrender to hit tough topics such as life and love in 2018. There’s a reason Kiss Yr Frenemies is featured on the Top 50 Albums of the Year. Sarah Tudzin is relatable. Her record is something any young person could quietly say “mood” to when taking a listen. It hits home. And, her delightful indie-pop sensibilities are more than enough to keep Kiss Yr Frenemies aging like fine wine. – Hope Ankney

36. Donovan Wolfington – WAVES

Donovan Wolfington combined punk, indie rock, and metal across their releases in a way that hasn’t been done since Sum 41, and I say that in the best way possible. Sadly this mixture proved to be unstable, and the band shattered into three great bands: PHONY, New Holland, and Pope (that’s how much talent we’re talking here). On their final album, D-Wolf kept up their end of the bargain, again displaying their versatility and creativity. Some of the lyrics have hung with me all year. I have a good feeling we’ll be hearing more from these dudes, and in the future people will look back on Donovan Wolfington asking why they weren’t playing stadiums. – Henderson Cole

35. Culture Abuse – Bay Dream

Culture Abuse’s 2016 debut, Peach, saw the band experience a skyrocket in popularity. The sound; ferociously raw, hazy, California punk rock was accelerated even harder by the speeding pace of the album itself. On this year’s release, Bay Dream, that sound took on a different form. More polished and groovier, Bay Dream is best described as an album you listen to on your way down to the beach on a hot summer’s day. Funny enough, that’s basically when I jammed to the album most, whilst beach-hopping around Croatia. Not to say that the album is all sunshine and cheesy hooks, but that  between the great hooks and still grungy aesthetic, a more personal lyrical approach is apparent. Bay Dream is another equally, yet differently, excellent Culture Abuse record. – Steven Lalonde

34. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs

Earl is not my name / the world is my domain, kid.” Listening to Some Rap Songs is a solitary experience, the kind of album that’s best consumed from laptop speakers at 3 AM, immersed in a haze of indica smoke as Earl burrows deeper into his psyche than ever before. It’s the kind of album that he was destined to make, shedding all the aspects that made up his polarizing debut Earl, and creating an entirely new lane for himself and his peers. The album’s blurry cover (which was shot on an iPhone) and unimaginative title are at complete odds with the rest of the album—Earl’s ability to stuff syllables and internal rhymes in places they don’t belong is unparalleled, and the album’s production is murky, disorienting, and intricate. It’s a record that blurs the line between accidental and purposeful. – Michael Brooks

33. Mom Jeans. – Puppy Love

Puppy Love continues to touch the breaking hearts and struggling minds of young adults. Eric Butler’s emotionally vulnerable and never sugar-coated lyrics are what make Mom Jeans so wholesome and accessible. The powerful guitar sound, supportive bass, and hard-hitting drums create, at times, an aggressive atmosphere for the lyrics to bounce off of. Tracks such as “PT 2”, “season 9, ep  2-3,” and “sponsor me tape” completely tear through the rest with an insistent tone. Shoutable lyrics about break ups, mental health, and entering new relationships are set above astonishing guitar parts and backing rhythm section that roars through every single note like butter. Puppy Love is beautifully vulnerable but also hits harder and heavier than their debut. – Sarah Knoll

32. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

One of the most interesting aspects of Wide Awake! is that it doesn’t even sound like a record Parquet Courts were always working toward. It’s their tightest and best-sounding album yet, as well as their most consistent and stylistically diverse. However, there was never any indication that they were interested in not just returning to, but kicking over, the punky fervor of their early material, while simultaneously making a convincing go at funk. The band sound highly focused, less stoned, and more invigorated than ever on the aptly titled Wide Awake!. And they honed that energy to write some of the most thoughtful, clever, and refreshingly direct protest songs of 2018. Even for one of the most reliable bands of the decade, Wide Awake! is an especially fine piece of rock ‘n’ roll handywork. – Eli Enis

31. Spanish Love SongsSchmaltz

Sometimes you need a little more punk in your pop-punk. Sometimes you need a little more depth in your lyrics. And sometimes you need a whole lot of energy. Luckily, Spanish Love Songs provide all of those things, along with strong melodies, emotional vocal takes, and self-awareness that can only come from aging within the punk community. Schmaltz is a memorable personal ride through anxiety, depression, and moving forward. – Scott Fugger

30. Pusha T – DAYTONA

It’s frustrating that DAYTONA has to be associated with Kanye West’s disastrous 2018. But he and Pusha T have undeniable chemistry, and the production on this record is magnificent—harkening back to an era when Kanye himself could rap over crisp soul samples with such composed ruthlessness. At this point in his career, there’s no reason why Push sounds as good as he does. However, the 41-year-old had a sterling year between bashing the kneecaps of the biggest rapper alive, and this 21-minute masterclass in whip-smart, sneering hip-hop. – Eli Enis

29. Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar

Burnt Sugar is anything but sweet. Its an album full of continuously aggressive chords and roaring, voice-shredding screams. Each song flows effortlessly into the next, leaving nary a moment to collect yourself between cuts. It’s a relentless and strenuous listen, just as many of the best hardcore punk records are. Angry lyrics about love and depression are blanketed with pure angst. The raw quality of the vocal delivery has a sensation that all of the lyrics are coming straight from the gut, like they need to be screamed out or god knows what will happen.  – Sarah Knoll

28. Mac Miller – Swimming

In retrospect, Swimming may be the most heartbreaking album of 2018—an record centered around recovery and getting better, and one that will always be clouded by the untimely passing of its maker. Swimming is Mac Miller’s best album because he’s functioning at the highest possible level in every single facet, featuring his best production, best bars, best singing, and most concise vision yet. On tracks like “Perfecto” and “Wings,” Miller describes the way in which the mistakes of our past linger within us, turning his isolation and self-examination into a guiding light, showing us a way to escape from the darkest thoughts in our mind. – Michael Brooks

27. Vein – Errorzone

The moment you hit play on Vein’s latest offering Errorzone, it’s like you’re instantly transported back to your couch in 2003 playing Need for Speed Underground. The band combats heavy, chugging guitars with industrial electronic beats that ring back to the true heyday of metalcore. Clocking in at just shy of 28 minutes, the debut LP hits the ground running with only a few brief moments for you to catch your breath. The technical onslaught wears its predecessors on its sleeve, giving nods to the band’s collective influences; Converge, Deftones, and Jeromes Dream, while still letting their ingenuity and knack for crafting something new and ambitious in a genre riddled with mimicry. – Chris Musser

26. Lucy Dacus – Historian

On Historian, Lucy Dacus reconciles with loss and relationships. Pushing her boundaries, Dacus adds new elements to her musical abilities, incorporating a mélange of strings, horns and different vocal effects that are not as prevalent on her previous works. Fuller guitar chords, soft and serene vocals, Dacus recounts stories of herself, her experiences and the people around her. Listening to this album is an experience. She sets a grandiose mood that few others can pull off quite like she does.  – Steven Lalonde