TOP 10 AL­BUMS

NOW’s crit­ics voted on the best mu­sic of the year, and the re­sults are sur­pris­ingly eclec­tic

NOW Magazine - - MUSIC -

1 COURT­NEY BAR­NETT: TELL ME HOW YOU RE­ALLY FEEL (MOM+POP/MILK!)

Let’s face it: 2018 was an anx­ious year. That suits Bar­nett, the poet lau­re­ate of your rest­less thoughts. On her most in­tro­spec­tive al­bum yet, the Aus­tralian singer/song­writer turned her sharply ob­served song stud­ies both in­wards and out­wards, ram­bling witty tunes about crip­pling self-doubt and gen­eral lack of con­fi­dence (her words), the fear of be­ing a woman walk­ing alone at night and the anony­mous trolls who spit gross venom on­line. She told us how she re­ally feels, and we felt it too. RICHARD TRAPUNSKI

2 ROBYN: HONEY KONICHIWA/UNI­VER­SAL MU­SIC CANADA)

It’s a credit to Robyn’s ge­nius that the eight-year gap be­tween Body Talk and Honey never shook the foun­da­tion of her ca­reer. Robyn’s in­flu­ence on pop mu­sic is so ubiq­ui­tous it’s eas­ier to be­lieve she’s al­ways here, whether or not she is. Honey is a prod­uct of years-long reclu­sive­ness and self-ex­ca­va­tion af­ter heartache. Over some truly sparkling beats and gooey tones, Honey is a warm, ne­c­es­sary record – a sense of op­ti­mism that works through sharp, sear­ing ob­ser­va­tions of death and lone­li­ness. SARAH MAC­DON­ALD

3 MARIE DAVID­SON: WORK­ING CLASS WOMAN (NINJA TUNE)

The Mon­treal pro­ducer and vo­cal­ist has been club­land’s dead­pan com­men­ta­tor for a minute, but her fourth al­bum goes deeper into more uni­ver­sal themes while keep­ing up the droll ob­ser­va­tions on dance cul­ture. Over sharp ana­log pro­duc­tions – rang­ing from serenely am­bi­ent to ter­ri­fy­ingly chaotic – Work­ing Class Woman ex­cises per­sonal demons while hold­ing wider so­ci­etal forces, like con­sumerism, to ac­count. It’s an al­bum that makes us want to sweat – hot and cold.

KEVIN RITCHIE

4 PUSHA T: DAY­TONA (G.O.O.D. MU­SIC)

It was a pretty ob­scure sub­lim­i­nal diss on the last song of this al­bum that in­ten­si­fied a beef with Drake that ex­ploded at Danforth Mu­sic Hall a few weeks ago, but ev­ery­thing lead­ing up to it is a rel­a­tively un­flashy dis­til­la­tion of ev­ery­thing you’d want from a Pusha T record: lean and uni­fied Kanye West pro­duc­tion, gritty coke bars and a ton of “yugh!”s. The push-back against bloated stream­ing-era rap al­bums has fi­nally come, and this seven-song beast is its medal­lion. If you know, you know. RT

5 MIT­SKI: BE THE COW­BOY (DEAD OCEANS)

No one else in 2018 cap­tured the beauty of lone­li­ness and vul­ner­a­bil­ity like Ja­panese-Amer­i­can singer-song­writer, Mit­ski Miyawaki. Across 14 songs, her ex­plo­rations tra­verse dra­matic fuzzy drones, disco pop, de­cep­tively cheery coun­try and chill­ing slow-burn­ers. Mit­ski sings openly about a woman’s in­se­cu­ri­ties, in­fat­u­a­tions and im­per­fec­tions, and whether th­ese songs are au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal or a part of a larger the­atri­cal per­sona, Be The Cow­boy res­onated with many mil­len­nial women.

SA­MAN­THA EDWARDS

6 JANELLE MONÁE: DIRTY COM­PUTER (WON­DA­LAND/WARNER)

Just when we thought Monáe might be be­gin­ning to fo­cus on her movie ca­reer, Dirty Com­puter ar­rived to re­mind us she’s an ever-evolv­ing, multi-hy­phen­ate re­nais­sance woman. More com­fort­able than ever ex­plor­ing po­lit­i­cal and sex­ual themes in her mu­sic, Monáe deftly and def­er­en­tially chan­nels Prince, com­mand­ingly up­grades her rhyme skills and de­ploys self-af­fir­ma­tion an­thems with ease. It’s a fas­tid­i­ously cu­rated and flaw­lessly ex­e­cuted mis­sion state­ment.

DEL F. COWIE

7 NON­AME: ROOM 25 (IN­DE­PEN­DENT)

Chicago’s Non­ame makes good on the prom­ise of her de­but Tele­fone mix­tape with the re­mark­ably can­did and vul­ner­a­ble Room 25. Con­cep­tu­ally cen­tred around her move from the Windy City to Los An­ge­les and the dis­so­lu­tion of her first ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship, the rap­per’s off­beat, spo­ken word-in­flu­enced de­liv­ery is an­chored by ace col­lab­o­ra­tor Phoelix’s nim­ble live in­stru­men­ta­tion. Along­side Saba, Smino and crown prince Chance the Rap­per, Room 25 en­sconces Non­ame high in the cur­rent co­hort of Chicago’s ar­rest­ing hip-hop scene. DFC

8 BLOOD OR­ANGE: NE­GRO SWAN (DOMINO)

Self-love in the face of ha­tred is some­thing that had to be taught within the Black com­mu­nity as a means to sur­vive and thrive in in­hos­pitable con­di­tions. Ne­gro Swan is singer and pro­ducer Dev Hynes’s sound­track to that ex­pe­ri­ence. Each song is a lit­tle gem, jam-packed with hard truths and em­pow­ered voices. It’s an al­bum of real world lul­la­bies. It’s also a lovely ode to the flow­ers that grow be­tween cracks. CHAKA V. GRIER

9 MARIAH CAREY: CAU­TION (EPIC/SONY)

The quin­tes­sen­tial pop diva had us at “get the fuck out.” Carey’s 15th al­bum is her best in a decade and her most co­he­sive and R&B-fo­cused in a long time, and it’s putting her back on the radar of those who’ve fool­ishly writ­ten her off. On Cau­tion, she con­tin­ues to sharpen what she does best: play­ful, me­lan­choly and tricky word­play, beau­ti­fully lay­ered vo­cal pro­duc­tion and se­ri­ously sticky melodies. She’s still one of pop’s fun­ni­est (and shadi­est) song­writ­ers. If she stays this good, we’ll be spread out in lin­gerie on chaise lounges, lis­ten­ing for years to come. KR

10 SO­PHIE: OIL OF EV­ERY PEARL’S UN-IN­SIDES (MSMSMSM/FU­TURE CLAS­SIC)

When So­phie shared the video for It’s Okay To Cry, the first sin­gle from her de­but al­bum, many long­time fans were sur­prised to see who the star of the vis­ual was: the Bri­tish pro­ducer her­self. Af­ter build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as an elu­sive prankster known for mak­ing some of the most dis­ori­ent­ing, su­gar-rush elec­tronic pop in re­cent mem­ory, Oil lifted the cur­tain to fur­ther re­veal her song­writ­ing tal­ents, without sac­ri­fic­ing the warped tex­tures and syn­thetic melodies peo­ple have come to ex­pect from her. MAX MERTENS

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