2018 was yet another year in which pop's broad beauty fought back against the label-led oppressors that threatened to return it to the comatose state it awoke from when The Strokes rebirthed it in 2001.
The early-2010s were sorely lacking in experimentation, instead relying on excess from producers keen to make good on the elimination of choruses and chords. But a musical revolution steered by global uncertainty has seen pop bite back with statements both grandiose and gritty. Ariana Grande's 2017 may have been defined by terror, but her 2018 brought hope via sh*thot singles and record-smashing YouTube views. Childish Gambino unleashed shock, awe and cogent social commentary on the mainstream. Kate Nash - fabulously reinvented as an exceptional character actor on Netflix' GLOW - meshed garage punk with her pop origins to give others just like her inspiration to do the same.
As evidenced within this very list, it was an awesome year for instrumentation. Guitars were no longer the preserve of the greying middle class, regardless of local radio's attempt to maintain the status quo. Keys unlocked ventures remarkably still untold for synth-pop. Saxophones haven't been this well deployed since Rip, Rig & Panic were tearing up sitcom sets.
These are the 10 best records of the year, but it was a race well ran by a genre no longer on life support. Though the global future remains uncertain, these long-players popped the boys, empowered the girls, and dared to give youth back to the young.
10. Mitski - Be The Cowboy
There was a lot that could have gone wrong with Mitski's latest album. After breaking through to the mainstream with her last couple of releases, "Be the Cowboy" is the first LP to fully embrace the larger, more refined production style that's been creeping its way into the artist's music for years now.
Fortunately, this ground-up stylistic revamp has only liberated Mitski from a creative standpoint, leaving listeners with an album that's home to some of the peppiest pop arrangements of the year, but all of which serve to leave you a haunted, emotional wreck. That's partly because Mitski's endearing perspective is still at the heart of each track, once again unafraid to revel in genuine feelings rather than hide behind layers of irony and wit.
From the nervous grandiosity of opener Geyser to the intimate, personal longing of closer Two Slow Dancers, "Be the Coyboy" is nothing short of an uneasy emotional journey that makes you feel like you're being noticed in a large crowd, for better or worse.