Best Albums of 2018: Staff Picks

Best Albums of 2018: Staff Picks

As we bid adieu to 2018 adieu, an incredible year for music, we look back at our personal favorite records of the year. Who knows, you may discover something incredible that you haven't heard yet. 

Clarence Chan, Founder

Tom Misch - Geography

Tom Misch happens to be the artist I listened to the most in 2018. Also getting the chance to watch him at Summer Sonic this year, and watching his genre bending approach to music got me further hooked. Tom very uniquely fuses inspiration from Hip Hop, Soul, Jazz, layered over electronic beats. Its great music for drives, dinner, and dates too (tried and tested). 

Notable tracks: 'South of the River' (as a keyboardist I especially appreciate the searing solo that sees out the track), 'Movie' (if you want to curl in bed and cry), 'It Runs Through Me' (if you need a pick-me-up), 'You’re on My Mind' (if you’re on a stroll) and 'Isn’t She Lovely' (who doesn’t like a jazz guitar take on this Stevie Wonder classic). 

Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth

The man of the moment in Jazz! Kamasi has always very masterfully been able to create this beautifully complex wall of sound of which his gritty saxophone cuts through like a graceful gritty chainsaw. Its like chomping into a huge sandwich and wondering what they put inside. Ok bad example, i’m just hungry. But yes, its a whirlwind, organised chaos, so wonderfully fun and musically complex, all in one bite! (I’m at it again). 

You have to watch his live show too. The energy and horsepower (breathpower) he puts through that small saxophone (compared to how big he is) is just tremendous. He gets this growl like a racecar that has its pedal to the metal. Simply delightful. Great energy and release, this is one Jazz record to treasure. 

Notable tracks: Everything. Haha. 

Charlie Lim – CHECK-HOOK 

The man of the moment in Singapore’s music space. This year has been a huge year for Charlie, working on our nation’s theme song, followed with his first album backed by Universal Music, and putting aside the guitar/piano singer-songwriter image that he’s been famed for, and putting his unique touch of musical intelligence on the electronic realm. 

This album meant more to me for a few reasons. Been blessed to witness first-hand Charlie’s journey through this album, how he dealt with creative process, the risks he took, and people he surrounded himself with to deliver this album in its entirety. The opening track, Welcome Home features plenty of delicious hooks that will make you reluctant to leave the door for the next track. 

‘Premonition’ was where light turned dark and Charlie delivered yet another fateful blow. This time featuring the haunting vocals of Singapore starlet Weish who took the song to whole nother’ level of night bliss. I count her and .gif as peers who started out in Singapore’s music scene around the same time- her and Din as artists, us as an aspiring media brand. We grew together, saw peaks and troughs, but hearing her here on record and live at Charlie’s recent headline show, she’s in her zone and better than ever, really proud of her.  

Lastly, Better Dead Than A Damsel is Charlie’s first ever track featuring a rap section, and boy was this a “check-hook” (boxing term). Found myself scrobbling back repeatedly to hear Fariz Jabba and Yung Raja going at it with great authenticity and purpose. These guys to me represent the new generation, and we need more like them for Singapore’s music scene to flourish- which is my personal dream and ours at Bandwagon. They aren’t afraid of keeping it authentic, know how to make good music, and connect with this brand a new breed of listeners. I’m hoping for more artists like these in 2019, come on, we’ve got this. 

Honourable Mentions: Against All Logic2012 - 2017 | Skee MaskCompro | Mac AyresSomething to Feel | Jacob CollierDjesse (Vol. 1) 

Marianne Chang, Head of Business 

落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster – Cassa Nova

After the release of Jinji Kikko in 2016, Cassa Nova comes back as a longer and much awaited release from Taiwan-based band, 落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster. It’s a fairly short album consisting of just 9 tracks over 35 minutes but this English album still presents 落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster’s signature melodic mix of dream-synth sounds. This time round, there’s less melancholy compared to their 2016 EP and more funk and groove. The album is a stronger nod to the 80s and is a great go-to on a rainy day when I need to amp the mood up with some easy-listening tunes. 

Tom Misch – Geography

Tom Misch’s latest work and debut album, Geography, is exceedingly smooth with the right bluesy notes and funk waves popped in for good measure. If you’re looking for a jazz-fusion, electronica experience, Geography hits all the right spots. “Lost in Paris” has got to be one of my favourite songs of the year and is probably the best evidence of how Misch has grown as a musician over the years; the music is tighter with a more complex mix of instruments and rhythms that you find in every song. Great album for a Friday night get-together or road trips with the wind in your hair. 

NIKI – Zephyr

NIKI has got to be the year’s standout artist for me especially with the her debut EP, Zephyr. I rarely make it through entire albums but there’s something about NIKI’s music with its 90s R&B groove that makes it extremely easy to listen to. While it’s impressive how she sings with a maturity beyond her years, I’m looking forward to the day there’s a stronger depth in her music that infuses more of her personality and emotions, which I believe will come with age and life experiences. Vintage is definitely a standout track for me and I love how the entire album flows from track to track - can’t wait for more! 

Indran P, Editor


This is not about Drake; this is not about drugs; this is not about “the streets” – this is about what it means to receive an album of sabre-point, for-the-jugular, precision-engineered-to-make-you-look-over-your-shoulder rap at a time when the purists’ credo that rap is lyrically dead is bandied about the Internet like a truism. Wanting all the smoke has made Pusha T a controversial figure but his adversarial stance is matched by a pen that is mercilessly and spellbindingly lethal.

Then, there are the beats. Kanye did a lot this year but where his name amounted the most was as the producer of Daytona. He saw to it that Pusha’s words had the most impeccably realised sounds through which to take their targets down.

Kali Uchis – Isolation

Isolation’s cast of characters includes personalities such as Jorja Smith and Tyler, The Creator but its main attraction is its 24-year-old author-protagonist Kali Uchis. ‘Sexy’ and ‘sensual’ are her most obvious veneers but the allure of her strut emanates from how much she enriches their twinned lexicons. Her voice is the force that animates her culture-genre-language-transcending enterprise – every coo, every coiled sigh, every note-stretching accent is coated with intent. It nestles in earthy, silken splendour within folds of voluptuous pop, soul, funk and R&B, blossoming into space with a serrated edge. In her crucible, love, sex, pain, yearning and that hope that fuels every subsequent thought that makes life a forward-destined proposition, are distilled into sublime, lushly tangible impulses that issue from the throbbing depths of the body and beam out into the world via the soul.

Travis Scott – Astroworld

“Who put this shit together? I’m the glue”, Travis Scott non-rhetorically asks and answers on ‘SICKO MODE’, one of 2018’s best and most inescapable tracks. With Astroworld, Scott’s act of impersonating Kanye West is complete. This is his beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy; his magnum opus that makes good on the years of goodwill he’s received from a culture accommodating to his turbocharged trap ethos. Like the theme park it’s christened after, Astroworld is a resplendently cavernous and colouristic world. Its songs shift phases and moods, boasting compositional hairpin turns that no other artist of Scott’s class has dared attempt before. Verily, it is the shape of (t)rap to come. The bystanders will be inspired to follow suit.

Honourable Mentions: Vince StaplesFM! Playboi Carti Die Lit | Jeremih and Ty Dolla $ignMihTy | Blood OrangeNegro Swan | Anderson .PaakOxnard

Surej Singh, Staff Writer

Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love 

On Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven scales back on the brutality that featured heavily on 2015’s New Bermuda, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as Bermuda was written during an extremely dark time in the band’s career, complete with excessive substance abuse. With Ordinary, the band trades in the brutality for beautiful, breath-taking melodies, that chronicle the band’s rebirth and sobriety, inciting a new era for Deafheaven. Make no mistake, the band can still get down and dirty, but there’s something that has to be said about the beauty and vulnerability of the band on this record. The band puts its maturity and musicality on full display and the end result is an album that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. 

Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit

Devil Is Fine made gargantuan waves two years ago with its surprising blend of African American spirituals, black metal, and electronica, but the gimmicky nature of the sound meant that pressure on the follow-up would be great to maintain interest. After the release of Devil Is Fine, the expectations surrounding Zeal's next release were sky-high and yet, Stranger Fruit shattered these expectations. Zeal & Ardor has created 13 songs that flawlessly integrates the band’s doleful disposition and phonic soul with instrumental ferocity. As familiar as much of Stranger Fruit will sound to Devil is Fine fans, the new album has plenty of experimentation to offer. The opening to 'Row Row' is as purely bluesy as Zeal has ever been, while 'Stranger Fruit' is masterfully foreboding with a single piano key leading you through a wicked sonic-scape. By the time Stranger Fruit closes with 'Built on Ashes', you’ve been put through the ringer, but Zeal rewards the listener’s dedication with a vocal performance that can only be described as stunning. Stranger Fruit is undoubtedly Zeal & Ardor realizing the visions he created to its full capacity. Trust me when I say: You've never heard anything like this before. 

San Holo – album1

As we look out at the sea of EDM artists and albums that have surfaced in 2018, we’re forced to realise that maybe, just maybe we’re stuck in a bit of a rut. Everything sounds the same. Everything feels the same. And despite a few standout tracks, dance music in 2018 has been largely forgettable. At least, that was the case until San Holo released his debut record, album1. A breath of fresh air, San Holo incorporates his classic sounds of future-bass and trap with his childhood love for guitar-driven music. On album1, San Holo explores unchartered territory and comes out shining, proving that you aren’t limited to a computer and midi keyboards to create dance music. From the soft twangs of a single open string to a barrage of power chords set against expertly-crafted electronic beats, San Holo stakes his claim as one of the best songwriters in 2018. album1 is new, it’s emotionally-driven, it’s exciting. 

Honourable Mentions: GhostPrequelle | High On FireElectric Messiah | Judas Priest - Firepower | Brockhampton – iridescence | SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL'S UN-INSIDES | PoppyAm I A Girl? | Marijannah – Till Marijannah | Code Error S/T | DaughtersYou Won't Get What You Want | Kids See GhostsKids See Ghosts | Anderson .PaakOxnard | Ariana GrandeSweetener Kamasi Washington Heaven and Earth | Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer | Tommy GenesisTommy Genesis | Author & PunisherBeastland | At The GatesTo Drink From The Night Itself  

Nicholas Wong, Events Manager

Fearing – Black Sand

On rainy days, I wear all black and listen to Fearing. It rained a lot this year, so I listened to a lot of Fearing, a perfect mixture of gloom and etherealisation. Topping “A Life Of None” seemed impossible at first, but this goth outfit has managed to meet their debut at the top level with this sophomore effort.

Doldrey – Doldrey

Usually when I feel like listening to Mammoth Grinder or Abolition A.D., I’ll listen to Mammoth Grinder or Abolition A.D. Now when I feel like listening to Mammoth Grinder or Abolition A.D., I listen to Doldrey. The band’s crushing death metal riffs help them stand out from a sea of contemporary hardcore punk bands with vocal reverb turned up to 11 and an “all-go-no-slow” approach to the genre.

Long Live The Empire – Underbite

Since their last release in 2016, LLTE probably haven’t matured at all as human beings, but these meme lovers’ sophomore effort “Underbite” would argue against that. With superior instrumentation, the band shows off their impressive musical range within a genre thats rarely able to. Track 3 might be kinda meh, but the other 4 songs are strong enough compositions to make “Underbite” my favourite emo/pop-punk record of the year.

Honourable Mentions: Drug Church – Cheer | Soft Kill – Savior | American Nightmare – American NightmareChurch of The Cosmic Skull – Science Fiction | TimeCop1983 – Night Drive | Sleep – The Sciences | Gost – Possessor

Elizabeth Low, Assistant Project Manager

Janelle MonáeDirty Computer

Janelle Monáe is unapologetically herself in this album and it’s amazing. It is an album of contrasts - it is confident yet vulnerable, contemporary yet draws inspiration from the likes of Bowie and Prince. It is a very personal album, yet addresses extensively the various issues (race, gender, sexuality) that plague society today, exemplifying how the personal is indeed political. This album is great because it does not exist in isolation. It is part of the movement calling for freedom, empowerment and equality in our world. Her authenticity shines through and it never seems opportunistic or cliche. Plus, the music videos are phenomenal. 

Hilary Hahn – Hilary Hahn Plays Bach: Violin Sonatas No. 1 and 2, Partita No. 1

I grew up playing the violin, and like any classical music lover, I was always aware of Hilary Hahn’s prowess at playing Bach. Her first ‘Hilary Hahn Plays Bach’ album came out way back in 1997 and put her on the map as one of the most promising violinists of our time. Now 21 years later, after establishing herself as one of the most respected classical musicians in the world, she has finally recorded the remaining of Bach’s sonatas and partitas, and it is sublime. Her technical proficiency, musicality and Bach’s timeless music makes it a joy to listen to. 

Various Artists – A Star Is Born OST

It’s been a while since a movie soundtrack has made me this emotional (‘I’ll Never Love Again’ was especially heartbreaking). The vulnerability and raw quality of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s voices were very effective and blended well in their duets. It is evident that this soundtrack played an integral part in the entire experience of the film, both in its narrative and emotional value. This quote from the film also really resonated: “Music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It's the same story told over and over. All the artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes.” 

Michelle Arteche, Editorial Intern

boygenius – boygenius

Soul-crushing harmonies. That is the result from three of America’s vocally endearing female singers getting together and working on a project so close to their hearts. The delightfully crafted EP, boygenius. When Phoebe Bridges, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker announced that they will release an EP together, I was bouncing with excitement. Three women, who are at the top of their game, banding together, and writing music.

From the starting note of ‘Bite The Hand’ to the last strum of ‘Ketchum ID’, every essence of the three musicians’ masterful capabilities are heard. The trio successfully blended every one’s strengths in their different genres, while highlighting the individual strength of each. It is a testament to the power of a supergroup, and a guideline of how it should be done. Six tracks that will arrest the senses and nudge your soul, just a little bit.

Ex:Re – Ex:Re

Heavily laced with deep bass and slow drum rhythms, this project from Elena Tonra, the front woman of British indie folk band, Daughter, is not for listeners who look at life through rose-coloured glasses. It is instead, for the broken, and abashed lover, whom gone through a tumultuous relationship. Under the moniker, Ex:Re, this eponymous debut album is a journal of all her thoughts and painful memories of a recent breakup.

Her hauntingly beautiful vocals echoes throughout all the tracks, and it floats on elongated notes from the cello. The lyrics are honest and sometimes, too frank, but that’s what she wanted to get across. She wasn’t ashamed of the emotions that came up, and this was apparent in the emotions she carries through all her tracks. It really makes you wonder about the fragility of the human heart.

Lucius – NUDES

The latest acoustic LP, NUDES, contains reimagining of hits such as Tame Impala’s ‘Eventually’, Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Right Down The Line’, it’s very own ‘Something About You’, ‘Tempest’, ‘Until We Get There’ and other original compositions. The idea of this project came when lead vocalists, Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, were on tour with Pink Floyd’s bassist, Roger Waters, whom the band worked with on the production of this LP.

The duo saw it fit to step away from the band’s usual dance heavy tracks, and shine the spotlight on the vocal range of the quartet. And they did the right thing. The 10-track project is a beautiful avenue for the band to put aside the synthesizers and play an with acoustics. The reimaginations of the songs aren’t too over the top. It was just enough to show a different dimension. And it allowed Lucius to be a little more intimate with its fans.

Honourable Mentions: AURORA – Infections Of A Different Kind - Step 1 | First Aid Kit – Ruins Lucy Dacus – Historian

Shalini Pillai, Social Media Intern

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Rated TIME Magazine’s album of the year, I can definitely vouch why it’s one of my top albums of 2018. When I first heard ‘Bodak Yellow’, it became my go-to anthem whenever I wanted to feel like I’m on top of the world. And Cardi didn’t stop there. Everyone knows her as the funny, ratchet and loud rapper, but this queen brought her A game. With a variety of rap-pop and R&B, Cardi weaved her personality into every song, be it her lyrics, tone or accent. She brought the attitude – a hustler who doesn’t stop at nothing, she has definitely proven that her efforts have paid off with this debut.

Travis Scott – Astroworld

Honestly, I’ve never heard a hip-hop album with so much energy ever. Travis built a whole new world surrounding ‘Astroworld’, like it literally gets you feeling as if you’re tripping the whole time, almost like being in a kaleidoscope. The collaborations & production on this album – 10/10. Astroworld is an experience – Have a look at Travis’ tour videos. I’ve always found his older albums just alright, but this time you can definitely tell Travis didn’t come here to play, he has started a whole new game.

The Weeknd – My Dear Melancholy 

What I loved about this album? 2015 Abel was back. When he first released Starboy, I was like “where did Abel go? This isn’t the guy singing about heartbreak, drugs or sex anymore”. This 6-track EP was raw & dark – an album for the brokenhearted, just like his mixtapes. Abel’s vocals are insane, and I felt that I’ve not heard it at its potential in a while, so thank you Abel for delivering a taste of what it used to be and hopefully, more of such great musics to come.

Check out our curated playlist featuring a track off each of our favourite albums below.