SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2018


Photo: Getty Images

Another year down, another top albums list from yours truly rounding out the last week of January, right. on. schedule!

It’s been a year for the books, and by that I mean if you were reading books instead of listening to music in 2018, you were probably doing yourself a favor. Apart from a GENERATIONAL release from Cardi B, 2018 was a bit of a snoozefest for albums. I was a huge fan of all the records you’ll find below, but this year I was noticing a quality drop off around #5 that usually lands around #15.

I feel like I’ve said the same exact thing in lists past, but a quieter year for music gives me even more motivation to go through this process. In 2018, there weren’t a lot of truly great albums, but a plethora of truly good ones if you were willing to look. I’m proud to highlight some albums here that I didn’t find on anyone else’s lists, a lot of unheralded releases from super-talented young artists writing impeccable songs, if not reinventing the wheel.

A few random musings before we jump into it, including a long rant on Ariana Grande, so if you’re not interested, feel free to skip right to all the pretty album art below.

– Super thrilled to confirm that indie rock’s disappearing act in 2017 was an aberration. For those of you who sometimes grumble – this is not an all-hip-hop list. While it was a bit of a bummer to see hip-hop regress a bit to the mean after several years in a row stuffed with instant classics, 2018 felt a lot more equitable genre-wise. I was especially thrilled to hear some of my favorite bands like Sunflower Bean, Kero Kero Bonito, and Parquet Courts truly come into their own, as well as a smattering of brand new artists pumping new life into the genre. Oh, and Beach House still has it.

Two female rappers in the top ten – can we get off this Highlander shit once and for all?

– Will you all PLEASE listen to this Christina Aguilera album and explain to me why nobody else ranked it? This is no lie the best album of her career and nobody is talking about it.

I just turned 30 this month, and while everybody I know has been dismissing my fear that this makes me immediately uncool…. this year’s list includes albums from Albert Hammond, Jr., two arguably-Adult Contemporary records I’m really into (Molly Burch, Jorja Smith), and at least four ’90s divas (Xtina, Mariah, Beyonce via The Carters, and Robyn). So 🤷

To address the elephants in the room:

No Mitski. Be The Cowboy, kinda boring. Puberty 2 was so much better. This is a thing that I see happen in music frequently, where critics will feel so strongly that a talented artist hasn’t gotten their due that they shower their current, lackluster release with the praise and accolades they secretly wish they had given to a previous record. See also: Ariana Grande this year, tune-yards’s Nikki Nack, St. Vincent’s 2014 self-titled, etc etc.

No Janelle Monae. This might be a hot take, but Monae gets away with a LOT of corny ass shit by being so fabulous all the time. Just because she has impeccable taste in fashion and art, we let so much corny music slide! If someone half as cool as Monae had made Dirty Computer, we’d be laughing at it. This record is corny as fuck. (But she’s still ultra-talented, so when she chooses to write a hit, it’s a motherfucking hit — “Pynk”, “I Like That”, and “Don’t Judge Me” are all diamonds sticking out of a block of gouda.)

I alluded to it earlier, but no Ariana Grande. Some of you have heard this rant from me before, but allow me to immortalize it here for those who have not — I have long been a stan for Ariana. In 2014, I gave her the top spot in my albums list and my songs list, and I even made a separate post for the Top Ten Ariana Grande Songs of 2014. What dazzled me so much about Ariana then, and continued to dazzle me up until this year, was her unparalleled ability to make hits in quantity and quality. As a pop obsessive who knows how collaborative the process is, I like to study who’s behind the hits I love, and for Ariana, nearly every single song of hers that has made me jump out my skin was written and produced by some combination of super-producer Max Martin, American songwriter Savan Kotecha, and Swedish songwriter ILYA. “Problem”, “One Last Time”, “Break Free”, and “Love Me Harder” on 2014’s My Everything. Seven of the 11 tracks on 2016’s Dangerous Woman, including the title track, “Side By Side”, “Into You”, and “Let Me Love You”. And the trio were back to contribute on five tracks of this year’s Sweetener, including “God is a Woman”, “Breathin”, and my favorite, “no tears left to cry”.

For a pop star of the modern era to have such a consistent sound, a voice uniquely her own, is practically unheard of. And this is basically why – nobody does this. Nobody sticks with the same songwriting team for so long with such sustained success. Teams behind pop artists spend a great deal of energy trying to absorb what they see as the emerging trends, what’s hot right now, and then try to shoehorn it into this year’s version of whatever persona they’ve already built for their star. Very few will try to capture the sound of “now” themselves, and when they do, all of a sudden labels seem to have a hard time putting their records out (see Grimes, Charli XCX).

Thing is though, Ariana Grande et al have been doing it for years. So imagine my surprise and disappointment when five years after the release of My Everything, every music publication is congratulating Ariana for finally “coming into her own” and “finding her voice” on Sweetener…. by hiring the mega-trendy, unexpected comeback-producer-of-the-year Pharrell fucking Williams to turn a solid HALF of her new album into that shitty “bouncing around” Rihanna song from last year. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the Pharrell of the early 00s, but his current brand of bouncy percussion with the bubble pops and pitched-up bass drums is a veritable scourge on pop music and it cannot go away fast enough. Get your gross breath sounds off my Ariana record you old-ass, Marvin-lifting, dumb-hat-wearing motherfucker.

I’m hopeful this is a mere aberration for Ariana — and it seems to be, with the credits of 2019’s upcoming thank u, next appearing to be full of my favorite trio and devoid of Pharrell. It’s just extremely disappointing to see an old rich dude get credit for creating a “breakout” moment for a young woman who has been absolutely killing the game for half a decade without him (ESPECIALLY when the album’s biggest hits still had nothing to do with him). Oh, and I guess the point I was trying to get to is — Sweetener didn’t make the list. Awful production from Pharrell is the reason why.

That’s all the ranting I have for you today! On with the list. As always you can listen to the whole thing on Spotify here or stream below. Please argue with me on social media about what you think!


1. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy


2. Playboi Carti – Die Lit

die lit

3. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

golden hour kacey musgraves

4. Anna Burch – Quit the Curse

quit the curse


beyoncé, jay-z - everything is love

6. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

parquet courts_wide awake!

7. Her’s – Invitation to Her’s


8. Tierra Whack – Whack World

tierra whack_whack world ep

9. Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD


10. Beach House – 7

beach house_7

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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2018


Photo by Rozette Rago, digboston.com

Yes so late agaiiiiiiiiiiin here we are, wrapping up the best songs and albums of 2018. I’m your host and together we’ll be counting down those modern classics and bangers that helped prevent each and every one of us from murdering each other as we crawl further into this dystopian hellscape.

I’ll leave most of my reflections to the albums list, so for songs I’ll just say my only real rule is one-song-per-release and I broke that repeatedly this year, somewhat indiscriminately, including with #2 and #5. What can I say? Christina Aguilera released two absolutely essential songs this year, and you dumb idiots probably didn’t even realize it. That’s why I’m here. This is the service I’m providing. And sometimes rules have to be broken to fully achieve that.

I will say one thing about 2018, which is that while it felt like a down year from an album perspective, pop music has congealed into something pretty amazing. From 2017, what felt like a bevy of independent, exciting movements in pop around the world have been fed into the monoculture, and superstars from around the world jumping on each other’s tracks has gone from being an unexpected event to commonplace. As someone who once struggled to search for jams from around the world, it is a complete joy to see international, multilingual future pop widely accessible and in demand. Oh, and somehow as a byproduct of that, the 90s revival UK pop sound has taken over here in the U.S., and I’m all about that too.

Anyway – let me know what you think! As always you can listen to the full list on Spotify here or stream below:


1. JPEGMAFIA – “Thug Tears”


2. Christina Aguilera, Ty Dolla $ign, 2 Chainz – “Accelerate”


3. Drake – “Nice For What”


4. Calvin Harris, Dua Lipa – “One Kiss”


5. Christina Aguilera, GoldLink – “Like I Do”


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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2017


photo cred Chelsea Lauren/Rex

Welcome, welcome. Another year, another late set of year-end lists from ya boi FeedTheDog. At least it isn’t February.

This year, my lists are being published following the 2017 Grammys, a pointless, forever-shitty circle jerk so trivial I immediately regret even invoking it by name — so I thought I’d center my lil preamble here around some reflections on inconsequential accolades and the idiots who award them. This may be a little longer than my usual intros, so if you’re only here for the inconsequential accolades themselves, scroll right past all these angry word boxes to the nice big picture squares below.

If you are one of the ~eleven special people who ever actually read these lists, you know what I typically write in this space – lamenting the insane amount of time I devote to putting these lists together and openly pondering why I dedicate myself to such a meaningless enterprise. You could argue that everyone who publishes these kinds of best-of lists are wasting their time, but at least when Pitchfork and Rolling Stone share their best albums of the year, people read them.

Most of the reasons I continue putting these lists together, despite the above, probably have to do with personal issues of fear (e.g. what if one day I forget all of this) or mental dysfunction (e.g. I don’t know how to stop doing things once I start doing them)…. but here’s an interesting one: in my heart of hearts and mind of minds, I know everyone else is wrong. Really wrong. Surely other people who look at year-end lists also recognize that everyone is wrong, but are still looking for a list that may be right to help them identify great music they’ve missed. Here, then, is such a list.

But let’s pause for a minute and talk about who is wrong, and why.

If you are a publication that writes about music, even only occasionally, then you publish year-end best-of lists. You can find a fairly complete list of those publications in places like Metacritic and AlbumoftheYear.org, and they tend to fall into one of a few sub-categories:

  • The Old Guard (e.g. Rolling Stone, Spin, NME) — household names who have been writing about music since the premise of Almost Famous seemed realistic
  • The New Guard (e.g. Pitchfork, Stereogum, The AV Club) — publications that established themselves as tastemakers in the Internet Age
  • Genre-Leaning Pubs (e.g. Complex, Decibel, American Songwriter) – magazines and blogs that openly skew towards a particular genre or style
  • News Orgs (e.g. NPR, USA Today, Interview Magazine) — publications that have no business sharing their opinions on music

It should go without saying why The Old Guard is going to be wrong when ranking music — they are out-of-touch writers and editors, writing for an out-of-touch audience, whose legitimacy rests solely in the legacy built by people who no longer work there operating within a music universe that no longer exists. Genre-leaning outlets are similarly unhelpful, as their known genre bias tends to present itself quite visibly. Also, many if not most of these types of publications are similarly old and out-of-touch. Dedicating yourself to a singular genre is itself an outdated way of listening to music. News sites – man, I have no idea why places like Time Magazine and ABC News feel the need to publish lists at all. They don’t even pretend to have music credibility.  If you’re turning to a place like this for music suggestions, you’re so lost I can’t help you.

There’s nothing new in what I describe above, so if you’re like me, you tend to rely on the last category of The New Guard for your music recommendations, year-end lists or otherwise. I look at everyone’s lists every year as part of my process. And interestingly (or not), despite identifying a few as my most trusted sources, their lists never look similar to mine. Not even close. And after my seventh (!!) year doing this, I’m ready to say it’s not me, it’s them. And I’ve concluded that there is one reason why no one publishes decent year-end lists, and that reason is white supremacy.

* * *

When I say white supremacy, what I mean is this – even among The New Guard, rock and folk music are considered precious and capable of more significant degrees of excellence than pop, hip hop, r&b, and electronic music. And before I get too far here — yes, black people are responsible for basically every genre of American music coming into existence, and race is in no way a limitation for what kind of music an artist can create. I’m also not claiming that music publications fail to give credit to black artists, either – I’m well aware of Kendrick’s domination this year, and Solange’s the year before that. What I’m saying is that, as in so many areas of society, we expect “black” music to work harder to achieve the same recognition afforded to lesser “white” music.

The simplest way to recognize that is in simple genre representation, rock vs hip hop. I don’t feel like pulling a bunch of stats to back this up, but if you’ve been paying any attention to popular music, you know that hip hop has been taking over rock for years, in every important category. And why not? Growth in art has always and will always come from what is exciting and accessible to young people. In the modern era, if you’re a young person who wants to start making music, you can download free software and start making beats in seconds. No bandmates, no physical instruments, no lessons required. The freedom of modern recording is subsequently giving us some of the most inventive hip hop as scenes pop up around the world and then find each other online. Popular music now reflects and reinforces this as well – better hip hop on the radio means more people are inspired to make that sort of music themselves. Iron sharpens iron, and all that.

Music publications, however, have some strange resistance to acknowledging this shift. I’m old enough to remember the days (around 10 years ago) when Pitchfork was considered bold for writing about pop and hip hop to begin with. Writing a review for a Beyonce album was a statement. And despite the fact that we now identify Kanye West as a “Pitchfork artist”, we shouldn’t forget that The New Guard claimed their original legitimacy on the cult of “indie” and a certain breed of snobbery that turned its nose towards any music considered mainstream, instead heralding a collection of emerging scenes of independent music. Those scenes of music, it turned out, were primarily collectives of white rock musicians. Not to say that underground, predominantly black and brown music scenes weren’t thriving concurrently – there just wasn’t the same push being made by music publications to highlight them.

Despite the change of culture since, particularly the rise of the “poptimist” (i.e. snobs intellectualizing pop music), these lists haven’t changed much. While a wider range of genres may be represented, they simply are not being treated equally. Looking at Album of the Year’s aggregated 2017 lists — which grades albums based on the spots they claim on critic lists — 9 of the top 50 albums are hip hop by my count. Genres can be a little blurry, but I’d count 21 rock albums in the same top 50. After digging through all of this year’s releases to compile these lists, this ratio isn’t just off, it’s absurd.

Notably, some of the hip hop records that top my list — Young Thug, GoldLink, Gucci Mane, 2 Chainz, Mura Masa – were unanimously lauded in reviews by the same critics declining to recognize them at the end of the year. This frequently leads me to ask the question, what makes a record worthy of “Best New Music” type accolades, but not worthy of a year-end list? To me, calling a record one of the best of the year isn’t all that different from calling it a 9 or a 10 – if there’s any additional criteria for best-ofs, I’d say it’s the record carrying some kind of cultural significance or breaking new ground. But looking at the typical year end list, that clearly is not the differentiator for music publications, unless someone wants to explains the cultural significance of another boring Julien Baker album to me. If anything, it seems like the unfortunate differentiator for other publications is something like “meaning”, the legitimacy of which ultimately being tied to arbitrary moralizing and again, white supremacy. White people singing about being lonely will always be given more credit than black people singing about fucking.

Let’s look at what is actually happening in rock and in hip hop in 2017. Hip hop for starters…. has never been better. Artists like Young Thug, Migos, Playboi Carti, and Lil Yachty are inventing new subgenres, making music that sounds like nothing that has ever existed before while building legions of followers and copycats. Competing creative forces in hip hop are pushing artists to take greater risks and elevating everyone’s game. Even freaking Jay Z just dropped an art album, his best in like fifteen years, as his latest Sprint-Tidal content product. Jay hasn’t made interesting music since Kanye West was best known as a producer, he’s designed a business model that guarantees any album he “releases” will “sell” no matter the quality, and somehow we still got The Story of O.J. in 2017. The Culture made him do it.

Rock music? Like the rest of the world, I’ve been listening to more and more pop and hip hop and less and less rock, but this year is something else. The well has gone dry. Even if you think I’m missing something, look at the rock records topping critics lists this year – LCD Soundsystem, The War on Drugs, The National, St. Vincent. None of these artists are breaking compelling new creative ground, even within the context of their own work. None of which represent a sound that is exciting or new. None of which represent a thriving, young music scene. All of which are boring.

* * *

There’s something I can’t relate to among many people my age (late 20s/early 30s) where they seem to settle into a listening rotation of music that is only nostalgic, and while they may continue to pick up the latest releases of their favorite artists, they aren’t interested in any new music beyond that. In time, they begin to hold the music of their youth as precious, and somehow more meaningful than anything that could come after it. And they do crazy things like spend money to see Weezer live in 2018 (oh wait). I remember the moment in my childhood where I realized that’s all Rolling Stone and Spin were ever doing – aging out of relating to new music, while exhaustively cherishing the glory days of rock and roll. They were more interested in making sure I, a young audiophile, understood how important Elvis and B.B. King were, and how useless I would be as a music fan without this education. Otherwise, why would I give a shit about who the 100 greatest guitarists of all time were?

I’m realizing now that the publications I trusted most growing up – Pitchfork, Stereogum – have reached the same age in 2017. And as soon as it becomes more important to tell your audience that, hey, LCD Soundsystem is really important!, as opposed to introducing them to new directions in music that are changing the world, your year-end lists are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing, you’re not highlighting the best of the best and you aren’t sharing what is exciting about new music. You might as well be USA Today.

End rant. And with that, I give you the (actual) best albums of 2017. It was a great fucking year and I’ve never been more excited to be a music fan. As always, you can find all my top albums and my top songs on Spotify.

1. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

2. Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti

3. Migos – Culture

4. Young Thug – Beautiful Thugger Girls

5. GoldLink – At What Cost



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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2017


Whew! I’m goin’ in! 2017 let’s go!

This was a tough year for ranking songs. More good music exists than ever before and it’s gotten harder for me to stay on top of it, even as I get better at finding things.

Along with the typical smattering of American, Canadian, and English artists, this list includes bangers from all over the world — Jamaica, Cuba, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Korea, China, and Japan. This was a year where I was perpetually discovering and rediscovering dance music scenes around the world. I fell in love with the Afro Beat sound, which has evolved into this beautiful melancholy of moody chords, minimal beats, and autotune. I caught the return of the dance movements of my college days in Brazilian baile funk and U.K. bassline. I checked in on the big year K-PoP is having and discovered some insane stuff coming out of China and Japan. Oh, and one Justin Bieber co-sign later, and we have ourselves a veritable raggaeton revival.

On top of that, rap continues to dominate – more on this in my Top Albums intro. There is nothing more exciting than Atlanta hip hop right now and I am terrified for the end of this bubble. Kids, please give us something better than Lil Pump to inherit the future.

Here goes — as always, you can find the complete list on Spotify as well.

1. Lil Uzi Vert – “XO TOUR Llif3”

2. Starrah & Diplo – “You Know It”

3. Migos – “T-Shirt”

4. SZA feat. Travis Scott – “Love Galore”

5. Demi Lovato – “Sorry Not Sorry”

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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Albums of 2016

Well, here we are. Publishing these lists very late every year, as I always do, sucks for a lot of reasons. People care less about this stuff in January. It puts me in the position of, in the case of this year for example, having that shitty feeling of missing a deadline drag  on for 25 DAYS. HOWEVER! I always get about an extra month of hindsight that the major music publishers don’t get.

Case in point: isn’t it cute that every 2016 wrap-up list you read in December tried to contextualize itself around the universally-agreed-upon prognosis that 2016 was the “worst ever”? Only about a week into Trump’s administration, I feel pretty confident the the future’s historians will agree it got a lot worse from there.

On the other hand, the prevailing themes that A) 2016 was an incredible year for music and B) great art is born from dark times couldn’t be more accurate. A few years ago on this blog, I made a big deal about pop artists like Britney Spears making great albums that weren’t just a handful of radio hits plus filler, which for most of my lifetime was the only expectation. In 2016, every pop star is an album artist, and we saw some of the most artistically ambitious projects from the biggest names in the game, from Beyonce to Rihanna to Chance the Rapper. In a campaign year, we got brilliant, politically-charged efforts from the most unlikely candidates (Ty Dolla $ign, YG) to the most woke (A Tribe Called Quest, Run the Jewels). Groundbreaking, innovative music has become the status quo in hip hop, with weirdos like Lil Yachty and Young Thug operating as household names.

There’s a lot about the future of our country and our planet that fills me with fear and dread, but if I can pull a silver lining here, it’s that we have some phenomenal artists who will continue to lift us and inspire us as we’re gearing up to fight the biggest fights of our lives. Look no further than the phenomenal output of black artists in 2016 – it is clear to me that in the light of police killings, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and false narratives being pushed by conservative media to villianize that community, we are seeing artists inspired to communicate their cultural experiences and their truth through their art. This is the most valuable art, that which seeks to express and preserve culture and our shared humanity. The more we see politicians attempt to challenge the humanity of various marginalized groups of people, the more I expect we will see art being created to reaffirm it.

On that note, in the words of the poet YG, FUCK DONALD TRUMP. When he is dead and nothing more than brittle bones and decaying Cheeto dust, these records will live on. Let’s keep making art, let’s keep reaffirming our humanity, and let there be a new generation of fight songs to soundtrack the takedown of fascism in America. BOOM BAP.

As always, this entire list can be streamed from Spotify here. Two amazing records from Beyonce and LIZ are the only exceptions, as they are not on Spotify. You can find Beyonce on iTunes and Tidal, and LIZ’s mixtape can be streamed here.

RIP Phife Dawg, this one’s for you.

1. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

2. Solange – A Seat at the Table

3. Rihanna – ANTI

4. Beyonce – Lemonade

5. Whitney – Light Upon the Lake

6. Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo

7. Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – A Man Alive

8. Hinds – Leave Me Alone

9. Travis Scott – Birds In The Trap Sing McKnight

10. Young Thug – I’m Up / Slime Season 3

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SPECIAL: Feed The Dog’s Top Songs of 2016


I’ll save most of my thoughts for the albums post – but it’s been a pretty great year for songs. Pop, hip hop and dance music are all peaking right now. My top two songs this year are top songs of the decade as far as I’m concerned.

My rules: one song per release (not artist). You can stream the whole list on Spotify here. Typically, this is where I’d mention that there are a number of songs that aren’t on Spotify and therefore not on the list, but I haven’t really been keeping up with my soundcloud artists this year, and all my favorite rappers released real albums this year (even though mixtapes all end up on Spotify now anyway)… so only two tracks on the top list are left out (Beyonce and LIZ).


1. Young Thug & Travis Scott feat. Quavo – pick up the phone

2. Rihanna feat. Drake – Work

3. Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

4. AlunaGeorge – I Remember

5. Post Malone feat. Justin Bieber – Deja Vu

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SPECIAL: What I Missed in 2015


Hi everyone! Happy late list release moment. I hope you’re all as excited as I am to be finished with 2016. 2017 is already off to a terrible start. Let’s get started.

For the uninitiated, every year I attempt to rank my top albums and songs, a process that I put an extremely unreasonable amount of effort into for unfathomable motivations, with the final product serving as little more than a slowly-growing time capsule of my personal taste. Nobody likes time capsules. Nobody reads these lists, either, this blog isn’t real, for years these have been the only types of posts I made. I don’t even write blurbs for the songs and albums any more because I’m tired and I’m finished.

So why do I do it? A sick compulsion, perhaps. But for better or for worse, this is how I digest music now, and I rely on my yearly review to confirm I’m digging through all the garbage and pulling out the greatest songs and albums of the year. As much as it can feel like an endless timesuck, I always end up falling in love with a handful of records I likely wouldn’t have ever listened to, and this year is no different.

Before we get to all that great stuff though, I like to acknowledge what I missed in 2015. Here are the notable 2015 releases that I didn’t discover until this year.

Basenji – Trackpad EP

I got pretty obsessed with this EP this year. Minimalist, bouncy, & extremely catchy “future bass”.








George Clanton – 100% Electronica

Image result for george clanton 100 electronica

Weird, goth dance pop from a Skylar Spence contemporary. The kids call it “vaporwave”.








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