Generic Magazine’s Best Albums of 2018
As 2018 draws to a close, Shaun Ponsonby presents the top ten types of albums that will appear on every single end of year list produced by every other publication.
When I was six years old, I walked past a tree. The tree whistled in the wind and moved with grace above me.
That entire anecdote is totally meaningless, however it was a nice, pretentious way to open an article that tries to appear profound, but is actually just a list of random shit that we threw together.
I know you clicked on this article for said list, but first I would like to talk about myself at length. Nobody cares what I have to say, and frankly I’m not even liked enough to assume that they would. But nevertheless, that is what this site is really all about – me, the editor and creator.
This isn’t a personal blog, but I am going to treat it as such. And talk about ME. ME, ME, ME. My break ups, my new love, my time in Nursery and the people I went to primary school with. As a total narcissist, I’m completely oblivious to the fact that nobody cares – I’m going to tell you all about it, and then try some tenuous link as to why it is relevant to the bigger questions of the year 2018.
And what about 2018? It’s been a year of ups and downs. Sometimes it was up, sometimes it was down. Sometimes it was kinda in the middle. Sometimes it was about three quarters of the way up or down. It was like the Grand Old Juke Of York of years. If there’s anything we can take from these last 12 months, it is that they certainly existed, and things happened in them.
And so, after five punishing paragraphs, we move on to the reason you clicked on the article – the best albums of 2018.
These lists are generally published for two reasons. Firstly, it’s easy content and doesn’t take much effort. Secondly, for kudos. We assume that both artists and our readers give a shit what our favourite albums of the year are, but in fact precisely nobody has ever given a toss, with the exception of a few sycophants who are desperate to be a part of da bizz.
So we took the laziness of these articles to a whole new level – we didn’t even bother to name the albums. We just chose ten inevitable choices that will appear on the vast majority of lists that other publications will choose. The albums themselves are interchangeable, so why bother going to the extra effort of listening to them when we can just throw out a bunch of clichés?
In a way, that makes this the only list worth reading.
10. A soundtrack
2018 was the year of the soundtracks; The Greatest Showman, Mama Mia 2: Here We Go Again, A Star Is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody. They were everywhere. So we know we have to reflect that or we’ll look like absolute dickheads when people go back and search. But obviously we’re going to want to look cool, so we’ll include the Black Panther soundtrack and only the Black Panther soundtrack because we want that Kendrick cred. I mean, it is amazing to be fair, so we got lucky.
9. Jazz artist who is popular in jazz circles, but not all that known in the mainstream
This artist is an absolute superstar in jazz circles, so you’ll only know it if you can blag that you’re a total jazz head. But he has also worked extensively with [insert rapper or R&B star], which has brought him to a whole new audience.
The complex thingy is tuneful and intricate, leading to words on a page that make it sound like I know what I’m talking about, when in actual fact I just knocked this shit off in five minutes to meet a deadline.
8. Whoever won the BBC Sound of 2018 and/or BRITS Critic’s Choice Award
The industry voted on it. We probably picked the safest, least threatening choice possible so it was someone more likely to get a hit on the back of it. And as people who are either part of the industry or are desperate to be seen as part of the industry, we’re including it so we don’t look like we made a huge mistake, or so that we impress the people who picked it.
7. Old guy on a comeback who has made his best album since “XXXX”
When [insert artist] left [insert band] in [insert year], it seemed like the end of the road. Few could have imagined his latter day career would reinvigorate the adjectives we use to describe him in articles.
[Insert album] doesn’t exactly eclipse his influential work with [insert band], but what it does is prove that he is still very much an artist with something to say. Unlike me.
Over the last few years, grime became too big for boring old white people who run these publications to ignore, so we’re including a grime album because we don’t want to look like we’re as out of step with what da kidz are listening to as we are, even though it seems as though da sed kidz listened to considerably less grime this year.
Sadly, because this entire industry is a glorified circle jerk – or a bukake with the audience in the middle, if you will – we don’t know that much about it. Consequently, the write up will concentrate more on the success and recent re-breakthrough of grime than it will the music itself.
5. Pop album to prove we’re not total snobs, but not so high that you think we like it all that much
We often get accused of snobbery here at Generic Magazine, and we are heading you off at the pass by putting very successful pop albums on the list. Because we can’t be accused of snobbery if they’re on there. But we equally don’t want people to think that we like that kind of populist crap that people actually listen to, so we’re not putting it too far up the list. That would be preposterous.
Needless to say, whatshisname truly surprised us this year with this album that did all the things that the press release we got said it did. It catapulted them to new heights, both artistically and commercially. A genuine surprise.
4. World Music
We’re just so motherfucking bloody cultured that we even listen to music from different continents, d’ya dig?
3. Acknowledgment of queer artist that we admire but don’t “get” as much as we think we do
The world of music criticism has been so full of straight white men for so long that it genuinely took us by surprise when we discovered that queer people also have interesting life experiences that can make compelling music.
Janelle Monae tricked us. She lulled us into a false sense of security by pretending she was just a bit of an eccentric sci-fi nerd. Then she had to go and come out and we had to pretend we like queer music, even though we have been needlessly critical about queer music for decades, so that we didn’t look like dickheads for liking her in the first place.
Then, of course, we listened to the album and realised she was still actually brilliant. So, we did what we always do – made sure it was only straight white men reviewing her because if anyone can articulate the significance of a queer black woman’s artistic expression about being a queer black woman, it’s Paddy McGee from Milton Keynes. I mean what did you expect us to do? Reach out and employ more women, queer people and people of colour for their perspectives? AND LOSE OUR MONOPOLY?!
2. Radiohead, even though they didn’t release an album this year
As music critics, we’ve been wanking ourselves silly over every move Thom Yorke and the other ones make, because music critics and people who take everything too seriously are the only people who really like Radiohead all that much. This is evidenced by the fact that we were all frothing when they were announced as Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees last week, even though everyone else was talking about Janet Jackson, which still lets us cry like little bitches and bemoan that people have inferior tastes in music. Last year’s Glastonbury performance was so incredible that I genuinely considered fatally wounding myself directly afterwards as nothing in life – not family, friends, children, career or general achievement – could possibly top standing in a field for over two hours listening to Thom Yorke be a miserable bastard.
They didn’t release an album this year, but if they had it would have been better than 30 simultaneous orgasms, and we would have put it at number one. Even last year’s 20th anniversary edition of OK Computer was superior to anything else that was released that year, despite the fact that nobody has ever been able to explain why the album is so good without using words that normal people need a thesaurus to understand. You know, cos Radiohead fans are cleverererer and shit, yeah?
But obviously Radiohead are no longer a band. They’re a state of mind. And although we might not be able to place Radiohead in this list, there are millions of Radiohead-type bands that we can include, keeping the space warm for when Thom “God” Yorke finally releases yet more dross.
This year’s Radiohead album is that God awful Arctic Monkeys thing that everyone hated, but we’re pretending to like because we’re assuming that the reason nobody likes it is because they’re not smart enough.
1. The most obscure album we could possibly think of to prove that we like music more than you
[Artist] is so obscure that there isn’t even a picture of them in existence on the internet. The only people who have heard this album is the kind of bozo who listens to music for point scoring rather than actual enjoyment. We say we listened to and truly loved hundreds of albums in 2018, but actually it was pretty impossible for us to fully immerse ourselves and engage with said albums as much as we claim we did. Like, just on the basis of time. Literally impossible.
It’s these people who claim to hold this album in esteem. But not because it is any good. Lord, no. Because it actually isn’t all that good. In fact it’s worse than Metal Machine Music. It’s just pretentious and people who want to seem clever pretend to like it.
It is completely obscure and wholly uncommercial. And for that reason, and that reason alone, it is our top album of 2018.