Alternatively Pop’s Top 10 Albums of 2018

As the dawn of a new year begins, the world takes a moment to reflect on the year gone by. Here at Alternatively Pop, we take that as our chance to reflect on the music released this year. Without further ado, here are Alternatively Pop’s Top 10 Albums of 2018.

1. Dirty Computer – Janelle Monaé

dirty computerAfter topping our Top Tracks of 2018 list, Janelle Monaé proves once again as she takes the top spot here as well. An immaculate collection of fun, fierce and fabulous pop-funk-R&B magic layers itself over heartfelt, raw and pure lyricism, Monaé’s Dirty Computer perfectly captures the unique experience and outlook of Monaé, as a queer WOC in a culture that puts up walls against her. Dirty Computer isn’t just an album, it’s an experience, and only after you are done will you realize the masterpiece that Monaé has created.

2. Look Up Child – Lauren Daigle

220px-look_up_child_(official_album_cover)_by_lauren_daigleA stunning ode to the power of not only faith but pure belief, Lauren Daigle’s Look Up Child is an otherworldly set that doesn’t get bogged down in its desire to be overtly Christian. This, allows the album to serve multiple purposes, as an expression of Daigle’s own religious beliefs, as well as just a fabulous album about passion and faith for those who don’t practice. Look Up Child is a gorgeous album that showcases a voice that deserves to be heard.

3. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

golden hourCountry’s reigning queen of acclaim truly did it again with Golden Hour. With what may well be her crowning achievement, and is by far her most accomplished effort thus far, Musgraves has created an emotional knockout, a cohesive record full of heartbreak, healing and attempts to capture the beauty of life that picks you up, takes you in its arms and hugs you for 45 minutes before setting you gently down.

4. The Kids Are Alright – Chloe x Halle

the kids are alrightA mature debut from one of R&B’s most promising acts swings in many directions. From bangers to ballads, from catchy to pure experimental, the sister duo does it all and somehow retain cohesion. The album makes for a perfect breakthrough album that showcases the gorgeously diverse vocal ranges of the pair, and their ability to coin a lyric or two. If The Kids Are Alright is anything to go by, Chloe x Halle is a duo to watch.

5. Palo Santo – Years & Years

palo santoOne of the LGBTQ+ community’s most prominent acts, Years & Years have been producing great music for a while now. Palo Santo builds on that. A bare it all album, Palo Santo is pure pop escapism that aptly captures the experiences of the queer community. The record is sexy, intimate and vibrant from its get-go, and the band never second guess themselves, going all in with their explorations of sexuality and it’s complexities.

6. Expectations – Hayley Kiyoko

expectations2018 was a great year for Hayley Kiyoko and one of her crowning achievements is the release of her debut album. Expectations is a gorgeous and catchy walk through pop perfection as Kiyoko rolls out bangers and ballads across the album’s 14 tracks, perfectly painting her feelings across the lyrics and beats for an intimate debut.

 

7. LM5 – Little Mix

lm5With their final album as a SYCO act, Little Mix left the generic beat drops and trend attempts in their Glory Days. With LM5, Little Mix embraced experimentation and went all in with the album. The result is the quartet’s greatest and most importantly authentic album of their careers. It’s by no means perfect, but songs like ‘Wasabi’, ‘Joan of Arc’ and ‘The National Manthem’ finally crack the potential this band has had since day one, and hints at the brilliance they could finally achieve now they are free of SYCO.

8. No Shame – Lily Allen

no shameLily Allen has had a hard life, but she ain’t afraid to sing about it. No Shame truly lives up to its title as Allen spills her guts on subjects like drugs, divorce and motherhood. The album is a wonderfully unique record that is so acutely specific and detailed but together creates a marvellous story of a woman’s life.

 

9. Bloom – Troye Sivan

bloomTroye Sivan can be added to the history books as he becomes one of the few artists who have avoided the sophomore slump. 2018’s Bloom was anything but a slump, instead, it is full of vibrant life as Sivan meanders through the past and the present exploring the modern experience of being gay. The album is unapologetic, and deliciously positive, the perfect follow-up to Sivan’s Bloom.

10. By The Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile

by the way i forgive youA gorgeous delve into Americana, Carlile’s By The Way, I Forgive You puts her signature vocals to the test as she soars from high pitches to the lowest of whispers in the space of the words. The record is full of delicate acoustic and crashing drums back up Carlile as she beautifully and emotionally discusses hope and forgiveness in a rare, but a fabulously positive move for the singer.

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ALBUM REVIEW: ‘LM5’ – Little Mix

Little_Mix_–_LM5Little Mix are a rare thing. A girl group that actually succeeds. A group that are equal parts of the group. A group that make meaningful and, more importantly, good music. The quartet’s fifth album, LM5, comes after their most successful era to date. Glory Days truly lived up to its name and brought Little Mix their fourth U.K. number one single and their first U.K. number one album. The album, however, wasn’t completely Little Mix. Glory Days may have been their most successful era thus far, but LM5 may be their most authentic. Because like Little Mix, LM5 is a rare thing. LM5 is experimental. LM5 is full of confidence.  LM5 is a near perfect album.

From its outset, Little Mix are clearly in their element on LM5.  The album opener, a beautiful acapella harmony moment titled ‘The National Manthem’, only has one negative, which is, at thirty seconds, it is much too beautiful to be that short. From there, the girls move their way through what seems like every genre under the sun, which for some reason works. From a sonic point of view, the album is a cohesive mess. Going from reggae to EDM to acoustic, the album never really makes up its mind where it wants to exist. However, that fact never seems a problem when listening to the album, because the Little Mix girls so wholeheartedly believe in the sound they are producing. It is them that makes the album cohesive – their lyrics, their feelings, their vocals. That’s the beauty of LM5. It is not the product of one cohesive voice, but instead is the convergence of different voices, different sounds and different hearts.

The record is a real step up from the band’s previous efforts. Vocally, the girls seem to have truly found their groove, each having their stand out moments. Edwards remains consistent for the group, providing her strong, full vocals everywhere they’re needed. Nelson and Pinnock truly come into their own on this album, with Nelson’s sultry vocal suiting nearly every track on the album and Pinnock deciding to explore her lower register and providing some fabulous speak-singing and some great adlibs on a number of cuts. As for Thirwall, LM5 allows her to flirt with everything. Sometimes she’s joining Edwards way up in the rafters, sometimes she’s dropping it low with Nelson and Pinnock and sometimes, she’s existing somewhere in between. Thirlwall, while providing fabulous backup for her fellow members, is somehow never the standout and somehow always the standout. Except for ‘Wasabi’. One of the more experimental tracks on the album, ‘Wasabi’ switches between a sparse trap track to an R&B-pop fusion track stuck together with a guitar-tinged middle-eight. Here, Thirlwall’s voice is firmly in the spotlight. She settles into a sassy uninterested rap that even the most determined Little Mix detractor would be scathed by.

The album’s sound lives up to what the girl’s promised. It is much more mature, with some songs breaking new ground for the group, while some offering a more updated version of previous sounds. Tracks like the aforementioned ‘Wasabi’ as well as feminist anthems ‘Joan Of Arc’ and ‘Strip (ft. Sharaya J)’ offer a more experimental trap sound for the group, while lead single ‘Woman Like Me (ft. Nicki Minaj)’ sees the quartet take a stab at reggae-pop-R&B hybrid. Of the collaborations, ‘More Than Words (ft. Kamille)’ comes out on top. The electronic power ballad harkens back to Get Weird deep cuts like ‘Lightining’ but fits thematically into the album. The album’s themes largely surround around feminism, self-love and friendship. There are a number of tracks about love and boys, but those tracks don’t feel as authentic. Not that they’re bad. In fact tracks like ‘Monster In Me’ (which is a mature version of a track from their debut DNA), ‘American Boy’ and ‘Motivate’ are some of the groups finest love-orientated tracks to date. However, it is tracks like the acoustic ‘Told You So’, which the girl’s say “defines Little Mix”, and the self-love closer ‘The Cure’ where the girls really sound like they’re singing their own words. The album has little filler. Really it is only ‘ Love A Girl Right’ that lets the set down, but considering the track samples Sisqó’s ‘Thong Song’, it’s a miracle the song isn’t worse than it is.

LM5 isn’t a perfect album. In fact, it wouldn’t be near-perfect if it wasn’t for the girls who hold every track together. The girls of Little Mix are rare. Four people destined to find each other. They fill the role that the other can’t. Together, they are a well-oiled machine. But even well-oiled machines aren’t perfect, and its that fact that makes LM5 special. It isn’t trying to be a perfect album. It’s trying to be authentic. This record is Little Mix accepting that they can’t be perfect, and deciding they’d rather just be themselves. And that is as close as perfect you can get.

LM5, the latest from Little Mix, is available everywhere now. Stream the album on Spotify below:

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Joan of Arc’ – Little Mix

After the release of the first track from LM5, ‘Woman Like Me’, the self-proclaimed pure feminist message of Little Mix’s upcoming album seemed questionable. But with the release of ‘Joan of Arc’, they get back on track in the most perfect way.

The latest track is a fabulous feisty feminist anthem. The track blends urban-trap and R&B and is perfectly structured to showcase the best of the girls vocals. Jesy and Leigh-Anne speak-sing over the slinky verses and chorus while Perrie bring power to the pre-chorus. Lyrically, the track leaves no question on the feminist angle of LM5 as the quartet proudly proclaim “Hell Yeah I Am” when asked if they’re on that “feminist tip”. Production wise ‘Joan of Arc’ is a blend of the group’s 2016 release ‘Down & Dirty’ and Ariana Grande’s Nicki Minaj collab ‘The Light is Coming’ from 2017’s ‘Sweetener’. In fact the latest LM5 cut has a lot of similarities from the Grande-Minaj track. Both are ridiculously repetitive and it works for both. The repetition on ‘Joan of Arc’ is just as annoyingly catchy as ‘The Light is Coming’ and it works even better as the girls ooze confidence and sass.

All in all, Little Mix’s ‘Joan of Arc’ has their feminist message for LM5 well and truly back on track while sacrificing none of the musical quality that ‘Woman Like Me’ established.