Staff Picks: The Best Releases of 2018 (The 1975, Troye Sivan, Leoniden + More)

2018 has gone by fast - but not fast enough for our staff to miss the best releases of the year. Keep scrolling to find out everyone's top pick.

Alexandra Thomas

Jena Rose - Reasons

Young Texas based singer-songwriter Jena Rose released her first EP Reasons at the end of March.  I listen to it all the time while I work or in the car on the way to a concert.  Every song on the EP tells a story and you can hear the emotion in her vocals.  I've had the pleasure of photographing Jena in concert many times this year and at every show, even when the audience isn't familiar with her music, she's able to get them dancing and singing along to songs off of the EP like “Sweet Love" and “Selfish,” and she brings people to tears with her song “Boy with the Balloon.”  I love that each song is so different.  Being able to not just sing so beautifully, but to also write such amazing and emotional songs at only 17 is insane. Definitely go support this girl. Jena is talented beyond her years and that shows in this EP.

Drew Martin

Tash Sultana - Flow State

Australian based singer Tash Sultana finally released their debut album Flow State this year and it was nothing short of a masterpiece. Tash came out with some heavy hitting sounds and emotion induced music that really proved to their fan base and all critics that they were much more than just a talented looper. Flow State felt like a stripped back version of their previous EP Notion. Tash shed their "Jungle" sound and gave us pure talent proving that they are one of the most talented performers and artists out today. Notable songs include "Pink Moon" and "Harvest Love" which leave you feeling an array of emotions. Flow State was an all around great work of art and I can't wait to see what Tash comes up with next. It's evident that the world is paying attention to Tash with show after show selling out across the world. Tash is one of those artists people should definitely keep an eye out for. There are no limits to what Tash can do, and Flow State is proof of that.

Bethany Camp

Dayglow - Fuzzybrain

Dayglow, the Austin based indie pop project of Sloan Struble, released their debut album this September. Struble wrote, recorded, and produced this whole album by himself in his room and the amount of care that was put into this record definitely comes through. He even sculpted and photographed the cover art, which complements the album perfectly. This album has a nostalgic feeling, where the instrumentals remind me of summers spent outside hanging out with friends. The lyrics focus on the challenges of dealing with change and growing up. The thoughtful lyrics coupled with the upbeat instrumentals makes this one of those albums that you can listen to on repeat and get something new out of it each time.

Brett Wodon

Ice Nine Kills - The Silver Scream

This album came out of nowhere for me. I didn't like Ice Nine Kills for a while up until I decided to check out the lead single to this album "The American Nightmare" when it dropped over the summer. I liked it a lot, and from there on I started listening to more INK, starting with their Warped Tour setlist. I saw them twice over the summer, and they soon became a favorite of mine in the scene. I was HIGHLY anticipating the release of this album, and when October 5th finally came around, I was so ready. It dropped the same day as the new Behemoth record, so I was happy that I didn't get 2 letdowns in one day. This album took some time to grow on me. There are some songs ("Savages", "Freak Flag", "Love Bites") that I still find aren't top tier, but they are catchy and still show off the talents of Spencer, to say the least. The rest of the album, however, is top tier modern metalcore with an incredible spin. Each song on the album is based on a different horror movie (using that term sort of lightly since Jaws and Edward Scissorhands are included). I don't know what it is about this album, but the more I listen to it, the more I love it. Also, I have been watching all of the movies that the songs are based on, and that enhances the album even more. I don't know what else to say about this album other than it is hands down the best release of the year.

Karoline Wechselberger

Leoniden - Again

2018 has been a remarkable year for Leoniden: they've been touring through Germany, Austria and Switzerland, playing at various festivals but also kicking off a tour on their own. In October the five of them released their sophomore album Again. Listeners of the album are able to explore Leoniden's mixture of various genres: combining classic indie instrumentals with elements of soul and punk music. As a long time fan I am able to say that this album did not let me down and that it is an impeccable successor to their self-titled debut album. It perfectly showcases Leoniden's musical variety while still staying true to their roots. The highlights of the album are without a doubt the singles "Kids" and "People",  and a personal favourite of mine would have to be "Not Enough".

Kylee Grimwood

Brother Moses - Magnolia

Brother Moses is one of the most insanely talented indie rock bands that I can think of right now, and almost no one is giving them the credit that they deserve. Magnolia is full of catchy lead lines, massive instrumental breaks, and lyrics that are equal parts clever and vulnerable. Each song provides space for the band members to flex their respective skills, but for me personally I’ve just been absolutely floored by the lyrics. The songs tell such specific stories, but stay relateable anyway. James can sing about getting drunk and crashing an ex’s party, or about his father’s time in the hospital, but every single time it’s accessible for the listener. Listening to Brother Moses is like sitting down at 3am at Waffle House to talk to your best friends. You question love, death, existence, and at the end of your time together, you might not have come up with any answers at all. But you’re not alone. For now, that’s enough.

Molly McCaul

Bad Bad Hats - Lightning Round

I've been following BBH since they dropped their first album, Psychic Reader, in 2015. There was a lot of hype for Lightning Round, and it delivers on a lot of really big points that are often ignored in sophomore efforts. Instead of creating a follow-up that caters to what their fanbase expected, Bad Bad Hats just made an honest album that reflects what the band is now. It's immensely personal, addressing the highs and lows of love and personal growth, and the emotional charge isn't lost on listeners. Strong examples of the band's ability to weave in emotional value include "Makes Me Nervous," which explores the vulnerability of a relationship via spotty cell reception, the sharp-witted bittersweetness of "Nothing Gets Me High," and "Talk With Your Hands"'s longing for the feeling of being on the edge of something big. Musically, the album sounds both bright and somewhat reserved, to outstanding effect. Pointed production and a simplified focus on strong guitar riffs make it confident-sounding without being flashy; consistent instrumentation keeps each song fresh while creating a coherent album. All in all, it's a work that I have yet to get tired of, even five months after its release, and one that proves Bad Bad Hats to be among not only my top albums of 2018, but my top artists as well.

Preston Thurler

Tiny Little Houses - Idiot Proverbs

Idiot Proverbs was the only album in recent memory where I truly felt like I was getting to know the songwriter on a personal level more and more with each listen. Taking influence from indie darlings like Pavement and Modest Mouse, Tiny Little Houses twist their influences downward to deliver a slew of indie-emo (indiemo?) anthems. The song topics are tried and true for the genre, such as feeling out of place at parties on the strikingly minor-key "Short Hair" and even the meme-able topic of wishing to leave your hometown (on prom night, at that) on "Nowhere, Sa." What sets this record apart is the particular charisma that shines throughout every facet of the album, from the lyrics to the song structure to the instrumentation. These tracks are begging to be blasted in your childhood bedroom (which is basically just a glorified guest room now) while you're home from college.

Silvia Pellegrino

The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 have proven once again to be the most versatile and sly band of the past decade. With 15 tracks they were able to experiment with many genres: pop, alternative rock, trap, and even jazz, without ever losing the main theme: Modernity has failed us. This album's highlights are for sure "Love It If We Made It", "Inside Your Mind", "I Like America & America Likes Me" and "I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)". This LP sees Matty Healy's best vocals so far, with introspective and tormented lyrics about commitment, love, and even death. On the first listen, it might appear as a confused album, and perhaps it is; but if listened to thoroughly, it carries deeper meanings and sounds that only an attentive ear can perceive. It is, with no doubt, the most mature record by the band from Manchester, a glorious conclusion to the trilogy that sees as protagonists the self-titled album, I Like It When You Sleep..., and A Brief Inquiry... . Healy asks existential questions, questions that only he can answer, after all he has been through. This record is a nice painting of what goes on inside Matty's mind, and it made me even more curious of what the future holds for my favorite band. "If I don't get to see the beauty of the end of culture; then at least I've seen the culture of the end of beauty."

Taylor Brielle

Twenty One Pilots - Trench

Trench was easily one of the best, if not, THE BEST alternative-rock album in 2018 and by far Twenty One Pilot's greatest work since the release of Blurryface. The concept of this album relates to mental health issues in today's society, as well as suicide, doubt, and depression. After releasing four singles, "Jumpsuit", "Nico and the Niners", "Levitate", and "My Blood", Twenty One Pilots announced a world tour to promote the new album. The Bandito Tour was scheduled to run from October of 2018 all the way up until June of 2019. Trench received an enormous buzz from fans and music critics across the globe. After many conversations about this album, many were indifferent on how to feel about it. I explained to them that this is an album you have to listen to from start to finish. You can't just expect to like the album based off of one singular song, but if I had to pick a personal favorite, it would have to be "Chlorine." Something about this song makes me want to listen on repeat.

Victoria Hamersky


Cosmic. Just like it’s title, this album will blow your mind and take you into a “cosmic state of being”. Bazzi released his debut 16 track album on April 12th, 2018, which peaked number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Having watched him on Vine as Andrew Bazzi, I got to see him grow from a kid from Michigan to this superstar. This album reflects him so perfectly.... there’s not a single track that you want to skip. It’s filled with songs that range from pop, R&B, to those sensual songs that get you in your feelings. While listening to the album from start to finish you are engrossed in this story of a fantasy love. Each song title is only one word, which he states is a part of his lyrical aesthetic. 2018 has been an incredible year for Bazzi, with one of the singles off the album called "Mine" becoming one of the most popular radio hits of the year. Bazzi was destined for greatness, and as a kid his dad even had a dream about him selling out Madison Square Garden, and that was the inspiration for a track off the album called "Dreams." I have nothing else to say other than I’m so proud of Bazzi and all his accomplishments, and Cosmic will forever be my favorite album/tour and I’ll cherish this era of Bazzi forever and ever.

Alexis Queen

Troye Sivan - Bloom

I was absolutely obsessing over the singles that Troye released prior to this full album, so by the time it came out, I knew there were two possibilities: The full album either wouldn't live up to the singles, or it would blow them out of the water. Luckily,  the latter happened. Songs like "The Good Side" and "What a Heavenly Way to Die" were raw and immediate contenders for relaxing playlists. His more pop-centric songs like "Dance to This" (ft. Ariana Grande) and "Lucky Strike" were gems that were more in line with his debut album Blue Neighborhood.  The lyrics were young and set over disco pop and piano beats indicative of some serious aging by Sivan since his first album, and if this is the trend, I can't wait to see what his next releases will bring.

Sandra Garcia

Bastille - Other People's Heartache (Part 4)

There were a number of different records I loved this year, but I chose Bastille’s mixtape especially because of the impact the band has had on me for so long. Still, never mind that they’re my favorite band, OPH4 is remarkably good. My favorite thing about Bastille is the way that they’re unafraid of doing things outside the musical norm;  a fan of different types of music, they’re influenced by what they listen to, and they’ve been doing covers forever. OPH4 is fantastic because it features collaborations we wouldn’t hear otherwise (Craig David, Rationale, and Jacob Banks, among others), and everything fits together perfectly. The songs covered are 90s and early 2000s jams that everyone has heard at some point or another (the way Sweet Female Attitude’s "Flowers" is a British phenomenon)—but rather than just cover the songs as they are, Bastille reinvent them in a way that changes the pace and general notion of the songs themselves. And my favorite part of the EP comes at the very end: “The Descent,” which was previously released as a B-side to one of the Wild World singles releases, finishes in a slowed down cover of an unreleased track off of Doom Days. It’s heartbreaking and haunting, and it leads into an equally heartbreaking version of “Warmth,” which features nothing but Smith’s vocals laid over a distorted robotic-sounding backing. It’s a different kind of experience that still manages to fit that so-called “depressing Bastille sound” we all know and love. On the whole, it’s easy to listen to and a lot of fun, and it’s probably my favorite out of all of the Other People’s Heartache mixes.

Ian Bledsoe

Denzel Curry - TA13OO

It’s safe to say that 2018 was a year embodied by intense and erratic events, with everything being connected under a certain gracelessness all while 2018 struggled to find its own identity. As attention spans grew shorter, and streaming numbers became more sought after, it seemed the world of music (specifically hip hop/rap) had started to outsize itself, and numbers/headlines had become more important to artists than the music behind it. While there’s something to say about the evolving trend of minimalism in hip-hop, with the best showcase easily being Playboi Carti’s Die Lit, and its worst examples being more akin to Migos’ 2 hour long cashgrab Culture II, the best records in the realm of hip-hop were the records that went above and beyond to defy these trends. While JPEGMAFIA’s Veteran offered that exactly defiant aura, my pick has to go to the conscious (yet cynical) concept-piece that is Taboo (stylized TA13OO) by Denzel Curry. TA13OO presents itself in 3 different chapters, with Light, Gray, and Dark being the 3 varying acts that comprise the record together seamlessly as easily the most coherent hip-hop album this year. Denzel jumps from the intro title-track “TA13OO,” with its smooth singing and ethereal production, all the way to the closer “BLACK METAL TERRORIST” seemingly without effort, while its airy death sentences of “Finish ‘em Zel” repeat throughout the track’s bipolar production and explosive verses, just for it to loop back around with nothing but grace.

Gabrielle Miranda

LANY - Malibu Nights

Indie-pop band LANY from Los Angeles curated their sophomore album that came out in October in a short amount of time. Malibu Nights is filled with love, pain, and overall so much emotion. LANY’s lead singer Paul Klein spent his time writing this album and putting his broken heart into an album and made one of the best “breakup” and overall albums of 2018. It seemed to be a hard year for LANY but also a really great year for their careers.

Alex Music

Hippo Campus - Bambi

Before this year, I had never followed Hippo Campus too closely. This album, however, made me wonder why I wasn't paying more attention to them. From the echo-y and atmospheric "Mistakes" to the sudden crescendo of "Bubbles," every song on the record is impactful and leaves a lasting impression on the listener. For me, this is an album I can throw on in the car, while studying, or just while lounging around. It was one of the albums that defined my 2018 dynamically, and for that reason I completely recommend giving it a listen.


Instagram Feed