KSDB’s Top Alternative Albums of 2018

This year in music has taken us on many emotional twists and turns, carving into our souls with new relatable stories told by the wonderful world of college alternative music. Boy did it produce some gems. Below are KSDB’s top 10 alternative albums of 2018.

10. No Magic: In Cocoon

This November, Lawrence local No Magic released his first full length album, In Cocoon. Multiple years in the making and the end product of this wonderful album has greatly satisfied.

An absolute beautiful classic, “While I Got You,” started this album off on such an elevated level. Then a v cool turn in sound from what we expect from No Magic with “Backspin,” accompanied with a goddamn sax.

But the heart of this album lies in the sweet songs like “Firefly,” touching on childhood, and “Apart,” with the soul lifting transition three minutes into the song. This album is a local gem and deserves all the love we can give it.


9. Ty Segall: Freedom’s Goblin

Ty Segall has released a fat three albums this year, as his genera seems to love to do, (@Thee Oh Sees). But it was Freedom’s Goblin that really was the gem of the year.

A shift from just raw rocking and almost a folk (yes folk,) sound was taken with instant-hits like “My Lady’s On Fire.” I even got hints of Radiohead inspo in this album from slower songs like “Rain.”

Then a slight pattern of 70’s inspired sounds with some on this album like “Despoiler of Cadaver,” and his cover of Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner” with a monstrous guitar playing that ever-classic riff. After hearing those in a line up, it just proved that Segall still has his versatility and ability to put out a ton of quality shit in a single year.  


8. Soccer Mommy: Clean 

My femmes were awoken this year with wonderful fire releasing music so raw and personal it is shaping an era. Soccer Mommy released this album spring of this year, helping ourselves wiggle our toes awake from the winter.

“Still Clean” is that perfect start introducing an album that is vulnerable, singing, “only what you wanted for a little while,” as a mono drops and the tempo is shifted in the middle of the song. Showing that this album is going to be sappy but damn it, it’s not going to be sad, its going to low-key rock. And she did, and we ate it up. 

7. Parquet Courts: Wide Awake!

This album was very on brand for Parquet Courts. That is said not to take away, but to highlight that this album carried several instant PC classics.

They straight up fucking rocked in this album, with no holding back. They really gave us “Almost Had to Start a Fight,” “Freebird II,” and “Normalization” back to back to back.

In the mix some nice chant-along songs, all making seeing a Parquet Courts show seem oh so appealing. But, even if that doesn’t happen, you can feel their energy straight off of this album. 


6. Courtney Barnett: Tell Me How You Really Feel

My dear Courtney has a name for herself singing about mundane life problems over folky tunes. But with Tell Me How You Really Feel, she has explored some topics that revert towards her pre-Kurt Vile years, reflecting her first album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit. 

She touches on sexism and depression with a more powerful sound to get herself out of a slightly formed “box.” She takes darker sounds at points with “Hopefulessness,” and “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.” But then gives us a taste of what is a forming classic Barnett sound with, “Walkin’ On Eggshells.”

She has developed herself professionally, and with a level of maturity with this album. And what a perfect year to do with with so many dom women all doing the same.  

5. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Sex & Food

UMO has a beautifully successful pattern of creating albums with a single giant hit, waiting a couple of years, and producing another album with a single giant hit. And in a way that I am not too upset about, they have done it again with Sex & Food.

They single handedly gave me a new life by bringing the song “Hunnybee,” into my world. That song alone deserves its own review, and spot on this chart.

But beyond that beaut, this album also gave some groovy songs that digs deep into the soul like “Ministry of Alienation.” This album ran the summer in the background of the foreground, and deserves this recognition now. 


4. CS Luxem: Symptoms

What a year for local music, and what a treat hearing some of our most loved local artist release some of their first full length albums. CS Luxem from Lawrence Kansas, was one of those artist this year.

Symptoms has the perfect range of slow-soul-hitting songs like “Goat Ghost” to songs that make you feel like you are living a real life movie scene like “Where Are You Going.”

CS Luxem’s most classic songs that we’ve heard live many times here at KSDB like “Let Me Go On,” and “Feed the Dogs,” produced and with a full band on a cohesive album, in the end, was the greatest gift of the year


3. Snail Mail: Lush

This album by Snail Mail’s 19 year old, Lindsey Jordan, has gained her an indefinite respected position as an alternative artist. This is her first full length album and what a powerful entrance it is.

We got a good taste of what she was made of with Habit and the charmers that came off of that EP like “Static Buzz.”

But Lush has brought a level of maturity and vulnerability to her music that has elevated her tenfold with songs like “Pristine,” and “Heat Wave.” With such a distinctive sound in her guitar playing, it has become an identity of a femme genera she is carving and leading the trail in. 


2. Shy Boys: Bell House

Oh sweet, sweet Shy Boys. The local Kansas City band released a new album this summer with Polyvinyl Records and all our hearts at KSDB exploded from excitement.

Seeing the love they are getting from across the country as they tour with Frankie Cosmos and La Luz, made us sit and remember the times we made Shy Boys play in a cramped sweaty basement here in Manhattan.

Instant beauts on this album include “Something Sweet,” and a KSDB favorite, “Take the Doggie.” This album, with it’s abundance of harmonizing vocals, at times introspective lyrics, and its uplifting tunes created a serious yet easy-to-listen to summer album that our DJ’s and local music fans ate right up.


1. Mitski: Be The Cowboy

Looking back at this year of political, emotional and for-the-heart music that has been released, it is was Mitski that nailed what we were all craving. Be The Cowboy was jam packed with writing so specific to our generation.

She was shamelessly poetic, forcing every lyric to hit you deep and quickly. She discussed being overworked and finding a balance in life, with “Geyser.” Then the loneliness in “Nobody,” that she projected over a disco pop sound that when stripped away you realize how soul crushing it truly is.

But she got these messages to us, spoon-fed, with a sound so nice that you forget your thinking about why you can’t love, such as in “A Pearl.” She did it in a way no other artist could do so effortlessly. Earning her a top spot as KSDB’s favorite album of 2018.

By Sara Wallace 

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