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It’s been quite the year for album releases, so to mark the end of the year and to celebrate the achievement in music across all genres we’ve surveyed our Ticketmaster staff here in the UK to pull together a definitive list of our favourite records 2018. With staff living and breathing music, consistently working alongside some of the biggest players in the industry, here are the albums that have been soundtracking another mammoth year for live music and entertainment.
Elsewhere we’re also rounding up our favourite tracks of the year, complete with a huge playlist, and our ultimate live events and attractions of 2018.
Recently crowned Billboard’s Woman of the Year, Ariana Grande ends 2018 as one of – if not the – most celebrated musical artist. The turbulent year has seen her deal with the untimely passing of ex Mac Miller, the break up of her engagement with Pete Davidson, and address both on the global smash hit thank u, next. Yet pre-thank u and subsequent single imagine, Grande was demonstrating her resilience on the pop-perfect Sweetener, her fourth full length and one that propelled her headfirst into superstardom. Led by the mantra-defining No Tears Left To Cry, the record proved there was – and is – plenty of fight left in the Florida raised singer. With 2019 just around the corner, it’s already set to be Ariana’s year. [Find tickets]
French star Héloïse Letissier, the driving force behind Christine & The Queens, dominated 2018 with their sophomore release Chris, a thunderous critique on gender norms and misconceived identity. Introducing the world to their new guise of Chris, the album simultaneously reinvents Letissier (who became Christine during their time in London finding solace in the drag community) and finds them asserting their own character. Musically, Chris is a synth pop gem; one with a poignant message and a true heart. [Find tickets]
Five years since the release of their acclaimed AM, Artic Monkeys return with the swirling and unpredictable Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino in May 2018. Unexpectedly, the band follow up their rock opus with an album that all-but foregoes any sense of the genre. Instead Alex Turner leads a spacey sound that leans more towards progressive pop, in equal parts inspired by the experimental ’60s and ’70s sound and by the future hinted at in the album’s title. Most surprisingly typical hooks are few and far between, instead allowing Arctic Monkeys to build a world all their own.
At an hour and a half in length, Drake’s Scorpion is an unquestionable hip-hop opus. In a year that has seen Drizzy seemingly team up with every heavy hitter and rising star on the scene, it is his own album that has turned the most heads. Retaining his self-critical introspection, the 25 tracks offer a full spectrum of Drake’s many emotions. On his fifth studio album he takes on his well-documented beef with contemporaries Kanye West and Pusha T, discusses fatherhood, and ultimately drops the most “Drake” record Drake has created to date.
Finding early acclaim as the defining album of a generation, the third full-length by The 1975 – who promise a follow-up is imminent – is a deliberately inconsistent masterpiece. Tackling social and political injustice, the role of the press, and frontman Matty Healy’s battle with heroin addiction, the album ultimately focusses on the relationship between man and machine, most poignant in a Siri delivered spoken word interlude that splits the record in two. As has become standard for The 1975, the album jumps from huge hooks with serious undertones – Love It If We Made It – to soaring instrumental sections. Closer I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes), a massive nod to Britpop brilliance, is already destined to become a festival favourite come 2019. [Find tickets]
On Little Mix’s fifth studio album they join forces with the likes of Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj and Timbaland, pushing their sound into new pop territory but retaining the magic that has kept them on top seven years since graduating from The X Factor. Woman Like Me, their collaboration with Minaj and the album’s lead single, has proven to be a consistently massive dancefloor filler across the UK, whilst the quartet use the album to push self-acceptance, from the celebration of womanhood on Joan Of Arc to the body positivity of Strip. [Find tickets]
The sophomore release by Canadian trio The Dirty Nil is a rock and roll masterclass, harnessing the power of showmanship and the punk-rock ethos that underpinned their equally brilliant debut Higher Power. Fronted by enigmatic Luke Bentham – seemingly born to perform – the band clearly admire their forefathers whilst growing an edgy sound all their own. The suitably titled Master Volume is as loud and brash as it is carefully crafted, a celebration of all things rock and roll, and of electrifying craftmanship.
Spawning arguably the best pop song of the year – High Horse – as well as the utterly heart-wrenching Space Cowboy, Golden Hour is an emotional tour de force. Continuing the admirable crossover success that this year saw Kacey Musgraves take to the SSE Arena Wembley as part of her UK run, the album further reinvents the traditions of country, a journey started on her prior release Pageant Material. Golden Hour is as honest as it is optimistic, a true representation of life, love and heartbreak packaged in some truly enduring melodies.
Released right at the very start of 2018, Catharsis – the ninth studio album by Californian metal outfit Machine Head – is an intricate and deliberately challenging listen. “It would be really easy for us to coast and write some middle of the road s**t that won’t offend anybody,” frontman Robb Flynn said before unleashing the technically complex onslaught spanning the varying sounds of the band’s career. It’s testament to how, 24 years since their first release, Machine Head are still going strong.
The fifth studio album by Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots and follow-up to their crossover breakthrough Blurryface has been heralded as their best work to date. More cohesive and direct than what has come before the album spirals around the fictional world of Dema, yet in its concept hits on a newfound clarity. More mature and meaningful than their previous efforts, Trench further establishes Twenty One Pilots as a driving force in the alternative scene. [Find tickets]
We’re looking back at 2018 across Ticketmaster. Head here for more.