The last 12 months in music can be labeled the year of the statement. In 2018, artists broke down their own personal barriers to share full-length declarations of love, loss and struggle – showing both depth and versatility. Upon weeks of reflection, and the start of the new year, here are 10 of the best albums of the year.

Room 25 by Noname

Room 25 is an extremely conscientious record where Noname toys with soulful sounds and finds a newfound elegance. She manages to find great power in nimble basslines and gentle string sections that support the exploration of her confidence as a young, black woman. The instrumentals are refined enough to create a wonderful flow, but not to the point where they lose their natural groove. This really is a soothing album that makes well-needed admissions to the struggles in creativity for rappers – which are often times brought upon by racial tension.

Die Lit by Playboi Carti

While it was largely overlooked by self-proclaimed hip-hop connoisseurs, Playboi Carti’s sophomore album Die Lit is a generational landmark in trap music. The rapper’s ingenious adlib repetition along with the hypnotic production is a high point in this a new wave of refined rap minimalism. Filled with countless bangers and trap lullabies, Die Lit garnered a subtle buzz from fans all year. It’s an addictive project, to say the least.

Sweetener by Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande is one of – if not the – biggest name in pop right now. Though she struggled with major tragedies and losses in love, she takes these moments and fuses them together to deliver a cohesive package of eccentric pop ballads. Beds of lavish and elegant strings serve to make Grande’s voice voluminous and powerful unlike ever before. A skilled hand from legendary producer Pharrell helps Grande convey her fragmented emotions through spectacular vocals.

Wide Awake! by Parquet Courts

Wide Awake! Is a testament to the music world that punk and underground hardcore are everlasting scenes, which can be just as powerful as they were in decades past. Parquet Courts shifts punk into a new gear and gives listeners a mixed bag of accentuated riffs alongside incredible bass lines that elevate the grunge aesthetic. The band uses hints of nostalgia in a true rock-and-roll fashion.

7 by Beach House

Dedicated to the indie population, 7 encapsulates Beach House’s best transcription of musical emotions. The duo spins dreamy synths and rock instrumentals to dazzle listeners from track to track, while the album progresses in an immaculate motion. Beach House comes through with a refreshing level of experimentation that sculpts together a new sound which establishes them as progressive innovators.

Daytona by Pusha T

G.O.O.D Music rapper Pusha T has had an eventful year, partly due to the fact that he has been in a back-and-forth battle with music industry Goliath, Drake. Nevertheless, his choice of battle is what makes Pusha T so undeniably addictive to listen to and in Daytona, an entirely Kanye West-produced project, Pusha T continues to prove just how ruthless he is. Throughout the seven-song tracklist Pusha T utilizes his nonstop arrogance in order to fine-tune a flow that makes his dark voice intoxicating. On Daytona, we are given unmerciful bars that solidify Pusha T as a menace of the rap game that should not be battled with.

Isolation by Kali Uchis

Following her well-rounded record Por Vida in 2015, centered around eclectic jams, Kali Uchis has delivered the quintessential pop fantasy album Isolation. Uchis takes listeners through a surreal rollercoaster that travels through some of the most luxurious and gloomiest of landscapes. The sensual singer unravels a variety of emotions that glide along effortlessly. Isolation consist of dreamy melodies that accents Uchis’s angelic vocals perfectly with a level of versatility that brings her into the spotlight.

Some Rap Songs by Earl Sweatshirt

Through excellent lyricism and a unique discography with complex wordplay, Odd Future native Earl Sweatshirt has earned himself a spot in the top list of current generation rappers. As his career progresses, his music takes a darker, lo-fi approach. This is exemplified throughout his flow in Some Rap Songs, which remains top tier as per usual but becomes much more experimental with jazzy, minimalistic production. Some Rap Songs is an inward-looking compilation of work, which allows listeners to explore just exactly what is going on through the mind of Earl Sweatshirt.

Kids See Ghosts by Kids See Ghosts 

After months of speculation and isolating himself in Wyoming, in a matter of two weeks, Kanye West provided a back-to-back delivery of two impeccable projects which continue to solidify his instinctive production and masterful flow. On Ye, we are given a version of Kanye unlike those of the past. He dabbles in a diabolical approach that taps into some of his innermost demons. West explores his relationship with himself, allowing us to see a more vulnerable side. On Kids See Ghosts, the self-titled collaborative effort between West and Kid Cudi, West brings out an energy from Cudi unlike any other. Both Cudi and West play over West’s production of monstrous samples with triumphant delivery – capturing yet another monumental project in the career of the two rappers.

Negro Swan by Blood Orange

Blood Orange is an artistic effort created by the singer-songwriter Devonté Hynes. On his most recent project, Negro Swan, we are given a side of Hynes that shows his multifaceted ability to tell complex narratives and reincarnate tender sounds which are culturally significant and impactful for the black community. Hynes has shined throughout the years by lending his songwriting abilities to big name artist such as Solange, FKA Twigs and even A$AP Rocky. This time, he has used his impeccable ear for pop and songwriting abilities to create a project of his own. Negro Swan works to give people a collection of beautiful harmonies and sensual grooves that define Hynes as a sonically driven artist.