The Best Pop & Rock Albums Of 2018
Another year has come and passed, and as we reflect on all our favorite moments of 2018, let's look back on some of the best new music that came out this year. Our reviewers picked out their favorite albums of 2018, spanning all 12 months and a range of styles under the pop rock umbrella. From latin pop to Satanic Swedish metal, from electropop to the last standing grunge icon, these records represent artists new and old who are keeping great music alive.
Read on for our list of the 17 best albums of 2018. What do you think of our choices? Which amazing albums did we miss? Sound off in the comments below!
Camila Cabello - 'Camila'
Following a dramatic split from Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello's solo career was uncertain. But any doubts people had were swiftly washed away with her massive hit, "Havana." Her self-titled 2018 solo debut is brief, but it's pop gold. The songs blend genres, sometimes going more rock or more latin, but always offering up confessional lyrics. Camila is light and airy, and promises continued greatness in Camila's budding solo career. - Amanda
Top Songs: "She Loves Control," "Havana," "Consequences," and "Something's Gotta Give"
Fall Out Boy - 'M A N I A'
After their one-two punch revival with Save Rock And Roll and American Beauty/American Psycho, Fall Out Boy's latest album, M A N I A, has been more of a mixed bag, both in terms of styles and reception. After a polarizing start with "Young And Menace" in spring 2017, the band kept churning out singles, ranging from EDM to reggaeton to gospel. While some of their musical experiments have left fans confused, it's these very fearless pushes into new territory that provide the biggest highlights. M A N I A was ill-fated, with delays and scattered reviews, but it represents a turning point for Fall Out Boy. The songs are infectious and demand repeated listens, making M A N I A one of the early standouts of 2018. - Amanda
Top Songs: "HOLD ME TIGHT OR DON'T," "The Last Of The Real Ones," "Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)," and "Heaven's Gate."
Editors - 'Violence'
Editors have spent much of their career oscillating between two seemingly opposing sides: their rock beginnings versus their electronic side. Whether you prefer "Munich" or "Papillon," though, their latest album is a treat for all fans. Violence is Editors' first record to fully marry the two genres together, and this perfect balance leads to new territory and an exciting sound for the band. In spite of its name, the new album is also the cheeriest Editors have ever sounded, offering up a silver lining in the face of trouble and celebrating friendship in the darkest of times. Violence sounds modern and fresh, but it also reaffirms the two core foundations the make Editors so unique. It's a grower, but give it a few listens, and Violence earns its place as a top album of the year. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Cold," "Hallelujah (So Low)," "Counting Spooks," and "Belong"
The Longshot - 'Love Is For Losers'
Green Day's band members are no strangers to going rogue from time to time. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong's latest foray into other musical realms is with his side group, The Longshot. The new band dropped their self-titled debut EP in spring 2018, with their full-length debut following not long after. Love Is For Losers allows Billie and his new gang to let loose with fun, simple rock 'n' roll. The songs are short and straightforward, but while they don't reinvent the wheel, the familiar sound is a welcome return to Billie's roots. It's a grown-up version of Dookie, or a more clear-headed alternate to ¡Uno! and ¡Dos!, without the political overtones or grandiosity that have defined Green Day's later releases. If you're looking for some easy, charming rock tunes, Love Is For Losers is a clear winner. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Body Bag," "Love Is For Losers," "Soul Surrender," and "Turn Me Loose"
Kimbra - 'Primal Heart'
Ever eclectic and marching to the beat of her own drummer, Kimbra's third album, Primal Heart, showcases her skill for combining genres and imagining new sounds. Though not as much of a sonic rollercoaster as her last record, Primal Heart still highlights the unexpected, if in a more cohesive package. But don't think this album is simply an exploration into all things left-of-center. Kimbra also deftly shares her personal hardships and emotions beautifully, crafting songs that are as heart-wrenching as they are exciting to listen to. Primal Heart is bold and proof that Kimbra is at the top of her game. - Amanda
Top Songs: "The Good War," "Recovery," "Lightyears," "Black Sky," and "Past Love"
Janelle Monáe - 'Dirty Computer'
After a few years away from music - and key roles in two acclaimed films - Janelle Monáe made her triumphant return with Dirty Computer in spring 2018. The new album is more personal and real than her prior records, but it's also a bigger statement socially, politically, and internally. Indeed, the tracks on Dirty Computer celebrate love in all its forms and people of all kinds. They tackle the issues that have been all-too-present in the United States and the world at large. Janelle is using her voice with confidence and assurance, and packaging it in music that is compelling and primed for endless replays. It's no wonder Dirty Computer is up for Album of the Year at the upcoming 2019 Grammys. It's a deserving contender and a major highlight of 2018. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Take A Byte," "Screwed," "Make Me Feel," "Don't Judge Me," and "Americans"
CHVRCHES - 'Love Is Dead'
On their third record, CHVRCHES switched up their sound just enough to keep things fresh. They've always been synth-pop, but on Love Is Dead, CHVRCHES emphasized the sugary pop more than ever before. Frontwoman Lauren Mayberry's voice is as delicate and youthful as ever, a perfect match for the airy production, but belying the heavy lyrical themes. The combination is mesmerizing, and Love Is Dead offers up a welcome soundscape for 2018. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Graffiti," "Never Say Die," "Miracle," "Heaven/Hell," and "Wonderland"
Hoobastank - 'Push Pull'
It had been six years since Hoobastank's last album, 2012's Fight Or Flight, when they finally announced Push Pull. In that long wait, Hoobastank made some significant stylistic changes, reemerging with a sound not heard since their 1990s origins (see: They Sure Don't Make Basketball Shorts Like They Used To). Instead of the hard rock they leaned towards in much of the 2000s, Push Pull reminded fans of Hoobastank's funkier roots. The album is the most melodic Hoobastank has been since The Reason in 2003; the music is lighter, but no less punchy. It may not have garnered press or even a proper music video, but Push Pull is a hidden gem in 2018's music scene. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Push Pull," "More Beautiful," "Better Left Unsaid," and "Buzzkill (Before You Say Goodbye)"
Ghost - 'Prequelle'
After Meliora and their Popestar EP, many Ghost fans were worried about the band's future when the Nameless Ghouls left in a flurry of drama and revealed identities. But even though we now know the people behind the masks, Ghost is just as fearsome and haunting as ever. On their new album, Prequelle - now led by Cardinal Copia instead of Papa Emeritus - the band prove they still have it, albeit with some flashier, more poppy nuances. It highlights a mixture between ’70s and ’80s hard, progressive, and psychedelic rock, with the added darkness that only Ghost can provide without falling in the black metal category. It earned its nomination for Best Rock Album at the 2019 Grammys, and has been a universal standout among rock fans. - A Ghoul Reviewer
Top Songs: "Rats," “Witch Image,” and “Helvetesfönster”
Panic! At The Disco - 'Pray For The Wicked'
On their sixth album, Panic! At The Disco refine their alternative pop rock sound. Pray For The Wicked shows off the best of their jazzy, baroque, and left-of-center style, while also throwing in a bit more Broadway-inspired bombast and tons of horns. It's seamless yet eclectic, with all the fun and theatrics we've come to expect from Panic! At The Disco. It's no surprise that its latest single, "High Hopes," has become their biggest hit since "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" way back in 2006, even exceeding it on the radio charts. Pray For The Wicked is an irresistible album. - Amanda
Top Songs: "High Hopes," "Roaring 20s," "Dancing's Not A Crime," "Old Fashioned," and "Dying In LA"
Florence + The Machine - 'High As Hope'
Florence + The Machine’s fourth album, High As Hope, is a marvel. It is the most effective album at making you feel like you’re learning ancient knowledge since Vanessa Carlton’s Rabbits On The Run (2011). High As Hope is as cohesive and driven as it is whimsical and vulnerable. But don’t let the otherworldly sounds fool you – Florence Welch is speaking to substantial topics and experiences. Hence, the ancient knowledge. Choosing a top few songs seems like a fool’s errand as every song is as good as the last, but below is my attempt. - Rachel
Top Songs: "Hunger," "Patricia," and "The End Of Love"
Ariana Grande - 'Sweetener'
Ariana Grande has always had a stunning voice, but her music has continued to evolve dramatically with each album. On her fourth record, Sweetener, Ariana proves she isn't afraid of musical experimentation, crooning and belting songs that show more maturity and confidence. While there are a few missteps, overall, Sweetener is an incredible album that pushes pop and R&B forward. And although it's a standout of 2018 - or perhaps because of that - Ariana is already working on a followup, led by her newest single and title track, "thank u, next." - Amanda
Top Songs: "God is a woman," "successful," "no tears left to cry," "borderline" (featuring Missy Elliott), and "get well soon"
Alice In Chains - 'Rainier Fog'
Alice In Chains is back this year with Rainier Fog, a clear tribute to their Seattle hometown. Highlights in the album include “The One You Know,” the record’s first single, with a slow, heavy, and dissonant riff that continues throughout the whole song. This combination of raw sound and dissonance is reminiscent of their 1992 record, Dirt, which will surely delight fans. "Rainier Fog” is mid-tempo, uplifting, and melodic, a sound that is easy on the ears, especially with the band’s trademark dual voice harmonization. “Red Giant” sounds like it could have easily fit on their 1995 eponymous album - it’s slow, sludgy, and melodic at the same time. “Maybe” captures the band’s acoustic side at its best and gives a bit of a break between the album’s heavy songs. “So Far Under” is probably the album’s heaviest track, with crushing palm muting riffs and featuring some of Jerry’s lowest vocals on the record. Nothing better than Alice In Chains sounding like Alice In Chans. - A Ghoul Reviewer
Top Songs: "The One You Know," "Rainier Fog," "Red Giant," "Maybe," and "So Far Under"
Elle King - 'Shake The Spirit'
Elle King emerged with a surprise hit with "Ex's & Oh's," taken from her 2015 debut album, Love Stuff. Since then, Elle got married and divorced, battled drug and alcohol abuse, and worked through depression and PTSD. The tumultuous years inspired her sophomore album, Shake The Spirit. Like her debut, the new record highlights Elle's raspy, old-school voice against blues rock, indie, and dashes of classic country and Americana. However, there's less pop this time around, and the songs are rawer, more emotional, and more confessional than before. It's an honest album that dives into all the dark places, but ultimately, Shake The Spirit ends with hope and courage. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Talk Of The Town," "Naturally Pretty Girls," "Runaway," "It Girl," and "Little Bit Of Lovin'"
Muse - 'Simulation Theory'
Muse's 2015 album, Drones, was a welcome return to the rock energy exemplified on their early record, Absolution. With their newest album, Simulation Theory, Muse takes it a few steps further by showing off the best of what has defined their full career. The new record has heavy Origin Of Symmetry influences, but it also includes tracks that would fit right in on Black Holes & Revelations or The Resistance. The songs here are spacey and grandiose, but they also fearlessly try on new styles - see the eclectic genre-bending of "Propaganda" or "Break It To Me," or the overt pop anthem, "Get Up And Fight." Simulation Theory is thoroughly impressive, an homage to what Muse stands for as well as a confident step into new territory. It's undeniably one of the best albums of 2018. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Algorithm," "The Dark Side," "Break It To Me," "Thought Contagion," and "Blockades"
Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness - 'Upside Down Flowers'
Only one year after his sophomore album under this moniker, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness is back with his third record, Upside Down Flowers. Andrew's whirlwind inspiration paid off here, as each song is a nostalgic gem that peeks into the defining moments of the past. He revisits his childhood, the early years of his first band, Something Corporate, and the years surrounding his battle with Leukemia. He takes it to present day here and there, then paints stories that could be adapted into movies with a timeless soundtrack. Upside Down Flowers is both a diverse and a cohesive album, and one of the singular releases of the year. - Amanda
Top Songs: "Blue Vacation," "Monday Flowers," "House In The Trees," and "Careless"
Alessia Cara - 'The Pains Of Growing'
Bringing a strumming, casual tone Alessia Cara’s sophomore album, The Pains Of Growing, feels less polished in the most authentic way. It is acutely attached to the singer’s perspective on her new life while still showing deep connections to her past. From the clever and upbeat “Trust My Lonely” to the honest “A Little More,” Cara keeps some of her vocal style from her previous album, Know-It-All (2015), while working with a different sound. Perhaps not as mainstream pop as Know-It-All, The Pains Of Growing’s strength lies in the genuine perspective Cara offers on her life. - Francesca
Top Songs: "All We Know," "Girl Next Door," "Growing Pains," and "My Kind"
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