The Round-Up: The Best Albums from April ’18

Grouper
“Grid of Points”
Yellow Electric
Though only 21 minutes, the haunting beauty of Liz Harris’ eleventh studio LP will linger for many years to come. Penned and recorded in just 10 days, “Grid of Points” feels like a moment suspended in time — a distant memory that you just can’t shake off. The arraignments predominantly consist of just piano, voice, and ambient sounds captured during recording, most notably the passing train that closes the record. The way she uses the train to slice through the disc’s most gorgeous moment is such a microcosm of what makes Harris’ music so true and so alive. Instead of giving us a fully-realized closing ballad, she reminds us how ephemeral and precious beauty is by highlighting the way life can cut it short when you least expect it.
Start Here: Just listen to the whole thing.

Card B
“Invasion of Privacy”
Atlantic
When Cardi B defiantly declares “My little 15 minutes lasting long as hell, huh?” on the final track of “Invasion of Privacy,” you really believe her. And it’s not because of her looks, magnetic personality, or any marketing bullshit. It’s because she just proved that she’s one hell of an artist.

On her major label debut, she shows herself a clever, flexible MC and an impressive writer, capable of dropping LOL punchlines right next to penetrating insights from a life dogged by struggle. Oh, and she can sing a little too. You don’t have to believe me, but if you give this record a real chance, she’ll make a believer out of you. One of the best rap records of the last five years.
Start Here: “Get Up 10,” “Ring (f/ Kehlani)

Elysia Crampton
Elysia Crampton
Break World
People will tell you that originality is in short supply in 2018. Those people obviously aren’t listening to Elysia Crampton. Though she’s been mostly nomadic, Crampton’s roots are in Bolivia and Chile, and her fourth LP is another beguiling collection that bridges the ancient sound of her ancestors with the modern, experimental feel of today. The result is a totally unique sound that lives in its own mystical space.
Start Here: Again, just listen to the whole thing.

Nines
“Crop Circle”
XL

Never one to follow trends, the London MC melds his city’s lyrically-focused roots with the modern generation’s melodic mastery. On “Crop Circle,” Nines pulls from a seemingly limitless arsenal of bars, pairing engaging storytelling with subtle melodies. Though it seems to be short on pure singles, the consistent project is sure to delight his growing legion of and fans and should continue growing his rep as one of the UK’s most underrated young stars.
Start Here: “I See You Shining” “Rubber Bands” (f/ RAY BLK, Skrapz)

Pale Waves
“All The Things I Never Said”
Dirty Hit

The 1975-cosigned Manchester quartet cranks up the goth-pop drama on their super promising debut EP. Lead vocalist Heather Baron-Gracie feels like a star in the making, lacing undeniable vocal melodies over glistening beds of synth and razor-sharp riffs. Standout track, “My Obsession,” is pure stadium laser and cigarette lighter magic, beautifully highlighting their ambitious sound and boundless potential.
Start Here: “My Obsession”

J Cole
“KOD”
Dreamville
Though it’s never been less cool to love J. Cole, to my ears, the North Carolina rapper’s fifth LP is his best to date. Though it’s still too preachy too often, the second half of the disc features some jazzy, To Pimp A Butterfly-esque production, solid storytelling, and some interesting insight on the way addiction has touched Cole’s life. It’s not a game-changer, but it’ll definitely make me take a look back at some of his other work that I’d previously ignored.
Start Here: “Once An Addict – Interlude” “FRIENDS” (f/ kiLL edward)

The Aces
“When My Heart Felt Volcanic”
Red Bull

The Provo quartet’s breakthrough LP is a sharp collection of hook-laden power pop. Vocalist Cristal Ramirez is the star of the show, slathering her breathy vocals all over the taut guitar melodies and her sister’s pounding drums. Frankly, I’m surprised this album hasn’t made more of a dent, but it certainly feels like they are on the path to something big.
Start Here: “Volcanic Love” “Stay”

Tink
“Pain & Pleasure”
Machine / Winter’s Diary

After three years in a Timbaland-led label hell, Chicago’s most promising young artists is finally free. And though it’s not the big, sweeping statement some hoped for — that will likely be reserved for the forthcoming Winter’s Diary 5 — it’s a down-tempo, low-stakes affair that leans on the sensual, R&B side of her sound. It may not be a classic, but hopefully it’s a sign of more to come from the 23 year-old.
Start Here: “Faded” “Get You Home”

The Weekend
“My Dear Melancholy”
Republic

Though it’s not of the same quality, Abel is certainly back on his “House of Balloons” shit on this surprise EP. The disc was penned in the wake of a painful break-up either with Selena Gomez or the Hadid sister who isn’t with Zayn Malik, and cuts like “Wasted Times” and “I Was Never There” certainly serve up a lot of same intoxicating misery that made H.O.B. such a classic.
Start Here: “Wasted Times” “I Was Never There”

Quando Rondo
“Life B4 Fame”
Self-Released
One of the most promising new voices in music, the Savanah, Georgia’s proper debut project is teaming with emotional, heartfelt street rap. Unwilling to be pigeonholed by a single sound, Rondo switches effortlessly from rapper to singer — sometimes in a single line — sharing his passion and pain over an exquisite collection of melodic beats that still knock. Keep an eye on this guy.
Start Here: “Paradise” “I Remember” (f/ Lil Baby)

Aisha Badru
Pedulum
Nettwerk Music Group

The New York native’s beautiful debut is a testament to crafting beauty our of sorrow. Though it’s probably an unfair comparison, there’s a little bit of Bjork on this project. Like the Icelander, Badru pulls maximum emotion out of her gentle voice by framing it with stirring arrangements that seamlessly meld analog and digital instrumentation.
Start Here: “Bridges” “Mind on Fire”

Ross From Friends
“Aphelion”
Brainfeeder
You wouldn’t expect dudes with names like DJ Seinfeld, DJ Boring, and Ross From Friends to be cranking out emotional, expertly-crafted dance music, but this is 2018 and nothing makes sense anymore. “Aphelion” is the latter’s most accomplished work yet, featuring four slabs of engulfing deep house magic. Though vocal samples are at a premium, the South Londoner wields them to perfection, injecting humanity into every track.
Start Here: “There’s a Hole In My Heart”

Anna Leone
“Wandered Away”
Half Awake

Not to be confused with Australian DJ/Apple Music radio host Anna Lunoe, the 24 year-old Swedish singer-songwriter’s debut EP is an stirring collection of heartfelt of modern folk. Powerhouse voices like Leone’s are usually reserved for festival-friendly pop in 2018, but her spare arrangements are a refreshing, unexpected match for her rare vocal talent.
Start Here: “I Never Really”

Saba
“Care For Me”
Saba Pivot
The nimble, talented Chicago rapper offers brutal and beautiful look at loss and life on this stunning project, penned in the aftermath of the murder of his beloved cousin and rising rapper, Walter “dinnerwithjohn” Long Jr. Though he’s racked with sorrow, Saba refuses to let Long’s tragic, senseless death define him, sharing the joy and light that he brought into Saba’s life.
Start Here: “PROM / KING” “HEAVEN ALL AROUND ME”

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