Our Favorite Albums from 2018

By Rhiannon Levengood

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M A N I A
and Lake Effect Kid by Fall Out Boy
These two records redefined Fall Out Boy’s sound entirely. The band entered 2018 by introducing a synthesized sound to their music and ultimately expanding their genre from punk rock to alternative pop/rock. In contrast to their previous albums, M A N I A has simpler lyrics, but still masterfully paints a beautiful picture of the emotions the quartet is portraying. While Lake Effect Kid is technically ten years old, the official release of the songs also brings to light FOB’s new sound by combining the vibe from frontman Patrick Stump’s solo record Soul Punk with a sound that’s bolder and louder than the band’s first six studio albums. Fall Out Boy’s musical development continues to impress their fans (even the die-hard pre-hiatus ones), so I’m excited to see what they produce in the coming years.

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Oh Jonathan
by Emily Kinney
Kinney’s third full length album was instrumentally experimental compared to her first two records, which primarily used acoustic instruments. Oh Jonathan introduced an electronic vibe to Emily’s repertoire, widening her audience to those who didn’t just know her as Beth Greene on The Walking Dead. This album tells her many stories of love, heartbreak, and her ever-growing self-confidence, and is easily her best lyrical work to date. Not only did she transform her studio sound, but she took her creative mind and a full band on tour this fall, and adapted a rock sound to Oh Jonathan, giving the sweet ballads an edgier tone. Emily Kinney balances her musical career with an active acting career, so her releases are few and far between, but always so worth the wait. To hear more from her, make sure to follow her duo band The Sweetheart Deal, too.

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Singular Act I by Sabrina Carpenter
With the release of her third studio album, Sabrina Carpenter continued her musical EVOLution by incorporating some R&B sounds to her record. For the first time, she featured another artist on one of her tracks. The addition of UHMEER on her song “Hold Tight” took her music to a whole new level and truly made Singular Act I stand out from her previous records. Carpenter experimented with different styles of mixing and synthesized production to create her own unique sound that still possesses elements of mainstream pop music. Along with her musical transformation, Sabrina is making a personal metamorphosis as she matures with her music and opens up about her desire to find love and intimacy. Singular Act II, to be released in early 2019, is sure to be just as stunning as Act I.

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Ten Years (Deluxe)
by Aly & AJ
After ten long years of waiting, fans of sister duo Aly & AJ were finally blessed with new music. The appropriately named record Ten Years features six brand new jams and two live recordings of their songs “Take Me” and “Promises”. Refreshed and rejuvenated, Aly & AJ are showcasing some drastic changes to their sound, which now not only utilizes piano synth, but some vocal effects as well. The sisters’ combined excitement over leaping back into the music scene definitely promises more iconic releases in the near future, despite these busy bees working on their separate TV shows iZombie and The Goldbergs.

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After Laughter
by Paramore
And finally, an album that still sits near and dear to me well over a year after its release is Paramore’s After Laughter. Even though lead singer Hayley Williams declared this era of Paramore officially over, this record will remain one of my favorites for years to come. It accurately portrays the many emotions that life has to offer, most namely sadness and depression, and normalizes those feelings. The lyrics connect with the fans on such a deep and personal level that they offer comfort and support when listeners are feeling lonely, scared, hopeless, and worthless. Paramore perfectly executed an instrumentally innovative and relatable record, and set themselves up for further success for their next album.

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By Paula Araujo

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Expectations
By Hayley Kiyoko
After appropriately dubbing this year as #TwentyGayteen, it was only right for Hayley Kiyoko to finally release a full length album. It’s no surprise that the album has had much success and lead her from selling out club venues to performing alongside Taylor Swift twice and scoring a VMA. Her debut record is so finely crafted and vulnerable making it easy for any listener to find each track incredibly relatable. From the catchy dance tracks like “Curious” to the big mood in “Feelings” this album definitely captures all the feels.

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Youngblood by 5 Seconds of Summer
The highly anticipated third studio album by these fellow Aussie’s did not disappoint. The record is incredibly captivating from beginning to end with an eclectic sound. This indie rock direction was the perfect move for them. The album radiates on every single level and takes risks while remaining completely authentic to both sound and lyrics The self-titled track is an anthem in itself while the rest of the album doesn’t fall far from that line either. It’s definitely work they should be proud
of.

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Living Proof  by State Champs
New York natives State Champs delivered on their latest album. This record showed a lot of growth on the band’s front musically, vocally and lyrically. Any listener becomes hooked as the record starts with these lyrics, “So what’s it mean, when every dream I haves about you now?” The sound is amplified much throughout this record and contains all the elements for a great pop punk record. It’s Living Proof that pop punk is still good.   

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Thank You For Today by Death Cab for Cutie
With the release of lead single “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” it was clear that this record was going to be filled with the essence that old school fans have always loved while also sounding refreshing.  To maintain their essence after all these years is truly impressive. Overall, the album has the classic mellow sound they’re known for while also containing a beautiful calming cinematic vibe. There is growth, warmth, and nostalgia all over this. Seth Cohen would love this record.

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Pray for the Wicked
by Panic! at the Disco
Just when you thought things couldn’t get better after the epic album that was Death of A Bachelor, Brendon Urie knocked it out of the park with this one. After his stint on Broadway in Kinky Boots, this album is filled with theatrical elements and each note is jam packed. This record thrives on catchy tunes, cheeky lyrics and powerhouse vocals. You’re filthy as charged, Urie.

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Lovely Little Lonely
by The Maine
A year late on this train and I’m glad I finally found it, or better yet, it found me. This is a brilliantly cohesive record. It’s beautiful, honest, and vivid. It hits you in the feels and you easily get ‘Lost in Nostalgia’ while also somehow accurately capturing ‘The Sound of Reverie.’ I don’t know how they did it so damn well, but they hit the bullseye with this entire record. 

Sabrina Carpenter Radiates in Singular:Act I

By Rhiannon Levengood

Sabrina Carpenter continues her musical evolution with the debut of her third, full length record Singular Act I. This album features 8 brand new songs that refine Carpenter’s ever-changing sound. Through Act I, she takes you on a journey to Paris and Le Louvre, proclaims her desire for intense love and affection, and shows off her confidence with two show-stopping numbers. Sabrina takes risks she’s never taken before, tells about parts of her life she’s never explicitly told before, and ultimately breaks out of her Disney Channel shell. Singular Act I as a whole is a coming-of-age album and should be treated just like a precious diamond.

Act I opens with the very first single off this record, “Almost Love.” This anthem introduces an edgier side of Sabrina’s craft. While her sound is still relatively pop, there’s a taste of R&B shining through in this song, and in the rest of the album. “Almost Love” tells a story of restlessness and excitement, and perfectly sets the vibe for the rest of Act I. There are elements of desire and uncertainty strewn across the lyrics as Carpenter decides once and for all she’s done waiting around for love to slowly blossom. Falling in love makes her nervous and antsy, the exact same way she feels before hitting the stage to start a show, but that sort of exhilaration is what she craves most in a relationship.

However, sometimes Sabrina isn’t always aware of the love she already has. “Paris” describes her inability to see the love that is waiting for her at home in Los Angeles. When trying to find love in the romantic city of Paris, France, she realizes her mistake and through the native language, she professes her love for this boy back in SoCal:

“Je ne voulais pas trouver l’amour (I did not want to find love)
Mais Paris a quelque chose (But Paris has something)
Qui donne envie d’aimer, d’aimer passionément (That makes you want to love, to love passionately)
Mon coeur est à toi pour toujours (My heart is yours forever)
You will always have my heart”

“Hold Tight” is Carpenter’s first song to feature the vocals of another artist, and flawlessly showcases the maturity of both herself and her music. She pleads for an intimate love that’s a little more private, a little more stay-at-home, and subtly expresses her sensuality. UHMEER’s appearance takes “Hold Tight” to another level and could successfully bring it to mainstream radio. Instrumentally, this track bounces back and forth between having a rhythmic, slow grind, to having a quicker, staccato beat. In fact, Carpenter’s friend Joey King perfectly described the feel of this song.

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Sabrina breaks away from the sappy romance stories to bring us a love ballad for herself. “Sue Me” is an empowering song about moving on from a previous relationship without losing sight of oneself. It teaches self-love in the sassiest way possible, and makes for a great jam to sing to in the car. The track is heavy with synthesized production and has common themes with Demi Lovato’s own vengeful song “Sorry Not Sorry,” but still stands alone as Sabrina’s unique, contemporary R&B sound.

Singular Act I slows down and mellows out with “prfct,” another song revealing Carpenter’s need to feel something more than just love. She wants lust and heartbreak, anger and pain. She doesn’t want a perfect relationship; she wants a prfctly imperfect one that sits on the edge of being scandalous and distressful. The most compelling part of this track is Carpenter’s use of vocal layering, which gives the song a fractured vibe. There are pieces of lyrics echoing around the chorus and bridge, like fragments of thoughts trying to fit into a cohesive sentence. The production of the song presents itself as imperfect and scattered, like the kind of love and intimacy that Sabrina yearns for.

The third single release from Singular is “Bad Time,” another saucy and savage song where Sabrina seeks her revenge on a boy who constantly rejected her in the past. She promises that if he ever contacts her again, she’ll be using his favorite line “it’s a bad time for a good time” against him. The song itself is poppy and fun to sing along to, bringing the album back up to a dancy tempo before jumping into “Mona Lisa.”

Much like the actual painting, Sabrina has her eyes set on someone who isn’t making the first move. She’s waiting patiently for him to introduce himself, tell her she’s beautiful, give her attention, and then take her home, but she senses some hesitation from him. Again, this song exhibits very rhythmic, staccato-like vocals that give it the R&B feel. “Mona Lisa” contrasts with “Paris” by flipping the plot and putting the ball in the other person’s court. The songs have common themes and even take place in the same city, but Sabrina plays opposite roles in each song. “Mona Lisa” could almost be a prequel to “Paris” because at first she’s trying to find love in Paris, and then she realizes she has love in Los Angeles.

And finally, Act I comes to an extravagant and dramatic close with “Diamonds Are Forever.” With this track, Sabrina Carpenter confidently declares that she doesn’t just give away her love. She compares herself and her love to a diamond, meaning that she’s precious and timeless, and no amount of money could buy her time and affection. The vibe of this song is similar to Rihanna because of how huge the vocals are. The sound is big, well-rounded, and a perfect finale piece to Singular Act I.

Lucky for us, Singular Act II will be released in early 2019, so this little intermission won’t be too long for the Carpenters.

Catch Sabrina as a part of iHeartRadio’s annual Jingle Ball tour for the holidays. For a full list of tour dates, please visit www.sabrinacarpenter.com.

Emily Kinney Enchants Philadelphia

By Rhiannon Levengood

Photo by Zack Knudsen

Emily Kinney never fails to put absolutely every fiber of her being into each and every show, and a small venue in Philadelphia doesn’t change her energy one bit. On Friday, October 12, Kinney brought her A-game back to the Milkboy with a packed set list, featuring the entirety of her newest album Oh Jonathan and a few throwbacks for her older fans. Along with her own songs, she performed a cover of Waxahatchee’s “Be Good” and sang a duet called “Figure You Out” with her sweetheart, Paul McDonald.
Kinney’s Same Mistakes tour kicks off with a small acoustic set performed by the hilariously charming Paul McDonald, who is almost a full band all on his own. Despite standing alone with a guitar and his powerful vocal range, McDonald filled the upstairs room with relatable and transparent lyrics, a strong stage presence, and a few mighty stomps here and there to build his sound. His charisma not only captivates his audience, but keeps them focused on him as he gets them pumped for Emily. McDonald ended his set with an unplugged version of his song “Come On” before snagging a picture with the vivacious crowd.

The Same Mistakes tour feels like a story from beginning to end. Emily takes you on an emotional journey through love, heartache, and revenge. Like a mermaid, Kinney reels you into her world and captures your heart as she sweetly sings to you her stories of faraway lands such as Los Angeles and New York City, and the boys she fell in love with there. She paints a masterpiece of skyscrapers and sunsets, and hot nights at the cusp of summer and autumn. You laugh with her as she reminisces about the has-beens she used to love and the dumb girl named “Julie”, who’s with the man that she wants. And when Emily serenades you with her final song, you almost forget that you’re on the outskirts of Chinatown in the heart of Philadelphia.
If you haven’t seen Emily Kinney on tour yet, try to catch at one of her last shows this fall! It’s a show you definitely do not want to miss.
Thursday, October 18 – Chicago, IL, SPACE
Sunday, October 28 – Atlanta, Georgia, Eddie’s Attic
Tuesday, November 13 – Los Angeles, California, Teragram
Thursday, November 15 – Sacramento, California, Goldfield
Friday, November 16 – San Francisco, California, Café Du Nord
Sunday, November 18 – Carmel-by-the-sea, California, Folktale Winery and Vineyards