Exclaim!'s Top 10 Underrated Records 2018 in Lists
Published Dec 13, 2018Just beyond the cut-off line for consensus "best" albums of the year are the records that meant the world to us but didn't quite make the cut. Here are the 10 most underrated records of 2018, in alphabetical order.
Wanna see what did make the cut? Head to our Best Albums of 2018.
Top 10 Underrated Albums of 2018:
Harlan & Alondra
Encapsulating the feeling of watching waves crashing on a California beach is hard to do without a picture, but Compton rapper Buddy has done just that with Harlan & Alondra. Though the soulful album vibrates with warm chords and G-funk grooves, lyrically, Buddy re-contextualizes race, power, politics and wealth. At its best, Harlan & Alondra sounds like an old soul trapped in a young body, filled with timeless wisdom worthy of being obsessed over.
Quit the Curse
Anna Burch's debut solo album received generally positive reviews, but it never made a huge splash. Quit the Curse's nine pop-rock songs are humble and straightforward, their appeal lying in clever chord changes and graceful melodic turns rather than anything flashy. Touching on fuzzy slacker rock ("Asking 4 a Friend"), pedal steel-flecked country ("Belle Isle") and poignant pop classicism ("What I Want"), Quit the Curse is a lovely, low-key delight.
An aerial shot of Chicago covers DJ Rashad's landmark 2013 LP Double Cup, and it isn't hard to envision DJ Taye speeding through those streets in the car that covers Still Trippin'. Not unlike that of the late Teklife founder, Taye's major label debut sees him plant one foot in footwork's unmistakable rhythmic energy while pushing experimentation with the other, incorporating his own raps, different song structures and sounds. The crew's youngest member remains one of its brightest — and most unsung.
Kiss Yr Frenemies
Even in a year rife with well-crafted indie pop albums, Illuminati Hotties' Kiss Yr Frenemies stood out brilliantly. Project mastermind Sarah Tudzin's production flourishes throughout — walls of guitar sludge on "Cuff," cosmic phaser on "Pressed 2 Death" — only serve to complement her expert songwriting and resonant lyrics about the day-to-day difficulties of life in one's 20s. This cult favourite should only pick up steam between now and her next LP.
Order of Torment
Order of Torment was the first flash of old-school death metal brilliance in a banner year for the subgenre. An incessant schedule of shining and hyped releases caused a strobe effect, so you might have missed Genocide Pact's groovy, less is more take on the genre. With a "Hammer Smashed Face" nod on "Pain Reprisal," the band proved their dedication to death metal's history; the least we can do is cement their place in this year's.
Insecurities in Being
(Wildlife Sanctuary Sound)
Composer and producer Lisa Conway (L CON) thought about quitting music before she made Insecurities in Being. Throughout her record, Conway shares the fears and anxieties that accompanied her creative struggles, but does so amidst lush, avant-pop soundscapes. Under this sonic covering, Conway's songs feel comforting, so when she sings, "Lately, I've been trying to find the answer to being alright," on the moody "Cogs Awry," it feels like she's found the answers that we're seeking, too.
There's a confidence and sophistication to Masego's debut album Lady Lady that belies his age (25) and his time in the spotlight. But Masego (real name Micah Davis) was born ready. With a defined style he terms 'TrapHouseJazz,' he goes all in on mixing up elements of jazz, hip-hop, dance to create a thing that's fully his own — and for the people. Those sleeping on Lady Lady are the ones that were never going to wake up in the first place.
Ryan B. Patrick
Fixed Ideals finds English indie rock trio Muncie Girls digging in their heels and doubling down on everything that made their 2016 debut such a righteous blast. Fuzzy guitars, hooky melodies and propulsive rhythms buoy singer-guitarist Lande Hekt's diaristic, plainspoken lyrics that tackle hypocrisy, broken promises, feminist ideals and mental health struggles. The result is an uproarious and deeply layered album that finds the sweet spot between the personal and the political.
Having been a mere pup when grime was in its heyday, Proc Fiskal is of a generation that's cherry-picking elements from the genre and planting them way out on the fringes. With Insula, he took something that was... well, grimy, and doused it in colour, to the point where it's playful, thoughtful — emotional, even. Add this evolution to some 8-bit chirps that often border on IDM, and you've got something wholly unique while remaining familiar.
Nigerian-American duo VanJess quietly owned the summer with their first full-length effort, Silk Canvas. On this luscious debut, the siblings deliver a luxurious collection of grooves that embody the best of the '90s without getting stuck in the past. Touches of jazz and house blend with tight harmonies and smoky vocals to take the pair from wide-eyed YouTube stars to forces in their own right. Silk Canvas was a memorable introduction — don't let it fly under your radar.