Year in Review: Atlas Artist Group’s top albums of 2018
As with every year, 2018 gave us a lot of music—more than there was enough time to listen to, it seemed. Between exploring the albums that were critically acclaimed and cheering on artists already near and dear to us, we were overloaded in the best way.
Everyone on the Atlas team has a different list, showcasing the best of different genres and the highlights that didn’t always receive much attention. The lists are a mix of the albums we couldn’t stop listening to and the projects that stopped us in our tracks and stuck with us through the end of the year.
2018 was a wild ride, and we’re just getting started. From covering our first major festivals to hosting our own, it was a huge year for Atlas Artist Group. We can’t wait to see what 2019 holds.
Until then, here are our Top 9 of 2018.
Fall Out Boy – MA N I A
FOB came roaring back in 2018 with their most sonically unique album in years. After scrapping all of their previously-recorded material, they returned with a series of chaotic singles before the album was released. The result is everything we’ve come to expect from this band- which is to say that they’ve once again subverted expectations. Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz are still emo’s dynamic duo, but MANIA is more proof that FOB have broken their own mold and will likely continue to do so.
Panic! At the Disco – Pray for the Wicked
Just when it seemed that singer (and only remaining original member) Brendon Urie couldn’t reach any higher, he gave us this album. Urie is unabashedly showy and the album is chock-full of breathtaking vocals and a cacophony of wild instrumentation. Urie even continues to channel his inner Sinatra with his old-school dandy vibe. Pray for the Wicked is a stadium record, one that translates beautifully to the live show and promises perhaps a loftier sound for what has become Urie’s long standing passion project.
Nothing,nowhere – ruiner
Joe Mulherin has been an Atlas favorite for a minute, and his debut full-length did not disappoint. Mulherin is brimming with self-loathing and hubris and they war with each other on this decidedly melancholy record. In a world of Soundcloud rappers turned superstars, it is nothing,nowhere that stands above them all. His music is depressing, but the beats slap and the message is so relatable that the kids can’t help but sing along.
Bohnes – 206
After years of waiting, former The Cab singer Alex DeLeon, aka Bohnes, finally released his solo album into the world. An epic in two parts, 206 is a masterpiece of rock, pop, R&B and everything in between. Inspired by his years of travel and his now-fiance, DeLeon draws on every self-professed influence from Justin Timberlake to grunge and heavy metal sounds. His bicoastal release parties are now the stuff of scene legend. One thing is absolutely certain- 206 is a result of a massive amount of creative energy and was well worth the wait.
George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s
It’s nearly impossible to not fall in love with George Ezra’s silky smooth baritone or his earnest charm. His debut album was a juggernaut, propelling him to a sold-out world tour before he disappeared for awhile to make this stellar sophomore record. Choosing Spain as his landing point, he spent the better part of two years traveling and writing- and completely avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump. Staying at Tamara’s is introspective and hopeful, with an outward message of finding all of life’s silver linings.
Troye Sivan – Bloom
From shy YouTuber to international pop icon, Troye Sivan has had quite a whirlwind few years. Bloom is the Aussie’s second album and this LGBT superstar is ready to shine. A stellar effort brimming with equal parts dance anthems and pensive ballads, Sivan has truly come into his own as an artist. Here he gets to show the world that he’s living his best life and honey, we are here for it.
YUNGBLUD – 21st Century Liability
Dominic Harrison, aka YUNGBLUD, is ready to blow up your stereo Joker-style. The British rocker released his debut album in 2018 with the aim to shock and awe. While 21st Century Liability comes off as cheeky pop, the live show translation is all you need to know about this year’s craziest performer. Harrison is chaos personified- unashamed, unafraid and entirely himself- and he extends a not-so-polite middle finger to the haters. This debut is the tip of the iceberg his flamboyant creativity, with a promise to follow up in 2019.
Boston Manor – Welcome to the Neighbourhood
In my opinion, Boston Manor’s latest album is also this year’s biggest surprise. After scrapping a session’s worth of material, Boston Manor delivered a departure from their first album’s heavier sound and became a much stronger band for it. They are a solidly planted rock group now, writing music that begs to be sung along to. Singer Henry Cox has already confirmed more Boston Manor in 2019 and we’ll be excited to see where this moment takes the band.
Grandson – A Modern Tragedy Vol. 1*
*Disclaimer- this is technically an EP but it’s so good that it had to be included.
As you can probably tell from our coverage, grandson is an Atlas favorite. 2018 was his year- signing to Fueled by Ramen, releasing his first body of work and embarking on a seemingly endless string of tours and shows. A Modern Tragedy is an extended EP collection of starkly honest, emboldened tracks discussing everything from drug dependence to maybe possibly overthrowing a corrupt government. Grandson is unapologetic in his distaste for the system, preferring to subvert rather than attack. If his very first EP was this fantastic, he can only continue to climb- and you can be sure that if you didn’t know, now you know.
Hippo Campus – Bambi
After last year’s release of Landmark to the highest praises, Minnesota-based Hippo Campus established themselves as alt/indie darlings who have mastered the art of atmosphere. The anticipation for their sophomore album was electric, and the band delivered. With musings on love and loss, divorce and death, Hippo Campus’ second full-length features melodic hooks and a greater utilization of lead vocalist Jake Luppen’s falsetto. Just like Landmark, the timing was impeccable, as its release came in the summer-to-fall transition that feels as surreal as the album’s tracks.
Trophy Eyes – The American Dream
What started as a review assignment turned into a deep dive of an album that proved to be one of this year’s strongest. Trophy Eyes took a risk with this big-time departure from their familiar punk style and softened the edges for a record that’s equal parts new perspective (this past year, frontman John Floreani moved from Australia to Texas to live with his girlfriend) and nostalgia. What didn’t change, though, is the highly emotional and boisterous energy that Trophy Eyes fans have come to love and expect.
Alison Wonderland – Awake
If there is one massive genre that’s always left out of the Best Of lists, it’s electronic albums that aren’t released by Daft Punk, but Alison Wonderland powered through the “sophomore slump” with this record that fucked me up (on a spiritual level.) Awake opens with a kind of manic energy that sets a self-searching tone while trap style basslines tie the album together. The self-made Australian producer has a background ranging from classical to indie to electropop, and they manifested throughout the album. Her collaborators have Grammy nominations under their belts, and well-placed rappers bring different elements to dreamscape instrumentals.
George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s
2018 was the year of the cliche-defying sophomore albums, with Staying at Tamara’s not only a great George Ezra album but a great album in general. It helps that the guy is just so damn likeable with his bold, baritone voice and delightful anecdotes about drunken escapades all over the world. After coasting on the success of debut Wanted on Voyage, he crafted a set of songs that tell stories as well as he does during a live show. There are some shifts in tone (“Hold My Girl” and “Only a Human” notably) but the overall mood is cheerful, catchy and easy listening—over and over again.
MØ – Forever Neverland
As with any electronically-inclined artist, it seems as though there are more projects that feature MØ than showcase her own work. This year, however, we were blessed with a full-length from the Danish singer/songwriter/producer with a number of of-the-moment collaborations like Charli XCX, Diplo, and Empress Of. Sure, it’s an amalgamation of roughly a dozen producers and you can find pop, rap, and electro-leaning styles. But the familiar voices of other artists in that space, combined with lyrical simplicity reflecting on youth, allow the album to shimmer whether it’s playing in the car or the club.
Bohnes – 206
When The Cab split, lead vocalist Alex DeLeon spent three years traveling, gathering inspiration and creating, eventually inviting family and friends to listening parties for his brand new project: Bohnes. The music was released in two sections, Act I and Act II, both introspective as DeLeon worked through the kind of music he wanted to release as a solo artist. I won’t pretend to know much about The Cab and DeLeon, but this album was another suggestion for this year’s best releases, and it’s a beautiful listen.
Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
This album has been almost ten years in the making: Monáe revealed that she knew she had to make it roughly a decade ago, before publicly identifying as pansexual and before she even had a part in the modern musicscape. The title, a play on all the ways society could say she’s “dirty,” is also a nod to her very vocal acknowledgement and acceptance of all people. But that’s just scratching the surface. Dirty Computer really is her “coming out” album, and not for the way it sounds at first. What came out was a fully-fledged artist finally creating with sensuality and self-love.
The Struts – Young & Dangerous
Always extravagant and dazzling, The Struts build songs and albums with a reliable method that doesn’t fail. It doesn’t allow for much experimentation and stylistic departure, but it’s guaranteed to be fun, good-old-fashioned rock & roll. Front man Luke Spiller grew up watching Michael Jackson and evokes that same performer energy—he often gets compared to Freddie Mercury—in recognizable vocals and flamboyant detail. You can question this entry all you want, but see The Struts perform its material and then try to disagree.
Robyn – Honey
They say the best art is supposed to make you feel something, and this album from Robyn made me feel like I was transported back to the 90s in the best way possible. In an era where pop queens can all blur together, Robyn remains iconic for being edgy, independent, and memorable. And on Honey, her first album in nearly a decade, she muses on heartbreak and reconciliation with a new lens that comes from life experience. In the background are the dancefloor elements that have hooked listeners for fifteen years now. All the pieces of the puzzle are there, and the hype is deserved.
Mac Miller – Swimming
Various Artists – A Star is Born (Soundtrack)
Various Artists – The Greatest Showman (Soundtrack)
Beartooth – Disease
Bohnes – 206
Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
Panic! at the Disco – Pray for the Wicked
Katastro – Washed
Jon Bellion – Glory Sound Prep