How people listen to music has always been changing and evolving, and streaming has made listening to entire albums repeatedly, rarer and rarer, for me. In late 2016, I got a Spotify subscription—something that, to an extent, I actively avoided before. I liked the work involved in finding new music and artists, and listening to entire albums that I downloaded, because I couldn’t stand having loose, un-listened tracks on my iTunes.
In the space between being a preteen in the 90s and an employed adult, I controlled the music. I had headphones, CD players, iPods, AUX cables, speakers – as I still do—and my focus, then, was to listen to only what I wanted. I didn’t listen to the radio, and hardly to anyone else’s music. Music was less social and danceable, and the equivalent of getting lost in a good book—my own auditory world. Now, I still like to control the music, but this year more music has come to me, rather than me finding or seeking it.
Through the combined ease of streaming and having less free time to dedicate to music research, I have:
- made and listened to more playlists with individual tracks I randomly encounter, or like, or get introduced to by either a person, radio or film,
- listened to fewer albums in their entirety, and
- been listening to more mainstream radio pop music, which mostly means reggaeton.
All of the above resulted in me having difficulty in choosing ten albums that I’ve heard repeatedly and through completion for this list. Also, when I think of some of the choices I will list next, I think: how did I get here? I have always liked pop music, but Ariana Grande? That is new. And not because she wasn’t always an incredibly talented singer, but probably because I have relinquished some control over the music and been inundated with hers, as with Ozuna’s and J. Balvin’s.
I like all of the aforementioned artists, but if this list were about music recommendations, I’d rather point you to other years (like 2016), or my playlists at the end of this post, or maybe to my favorite psychedelic rock artist on this list: Tash Sultana. Yet, making these lists is valuable in helping map the changes and the circumstances that have led to my year’s album choices. For me, it’s integrating into life in Latin America, it’s pop music and reggaeton everywhere, it’s using Spotify, it’s watching more movies.
While the circumstances may differ since I first started making these lists, as always, it compiles 10 albums that have stood out for me—no matter the release date—and are listed in the order I encountered them in the year. It is not an attempt to rank the albums. So here it is:
1. Ozuna – Odisea (2017)
Favorite tracks: “Quiero Repetir” feat. J. Balvin, “Siguelo Bailando”
2. J. Balvin – Vibras (2018)
Favorite tracks: “Mi Gente” feat. Willy William, “Ambiente”, “No Es Justo” feat. Zion y Lennox, “Ahora”, “Machika”
3. Kids See Ghosts – Kids See Ghosts (2018)
Favorite tracks: “4th Dimension”, “Reborn”
4. Tash Sultana – Notion EP (2016)
Favorite tracks: “Synergy”, “Notion”, “Jungle”
5. El Búho – Cenotes EP (2015)
Favorite track: “Mañana Tepotzlan”
6. Chancha Vía Circuito – Bienaventuranza (2018)
Favorite tracks: “Los Pastores”, “Ilaló” feat. Mateo Kingman, “La Victoria” feat. Lido Pimienta & Manu Ranks, “Alegria”
7. Ariana Grande – Sweetner (2018)
Favorite tracks: “successful”, “God is a woman”, “breathin”, “goodnight n go”
8. Tash Sultana – Flow State (2018)
Favorite tracks: “Big Smoke”, “Seven”, “Salvation”, “Pink Moon”, “Harvest Love”
9. Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – A Star is Born Soundtrack (2018)
Favorite tracks: “Shallow”, “Always Remembers Us This Way”
10. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (The Original Soundtrack)Actually, I didn’t listen to this album this year, but thanks to this movie, I—and the rest of the world—listened to a lot of Queen. I mostly listened to the top hits included in the movie – and this album represents that. The earliest music memories I have are of listening to Queen (and boleros) on tape while taking road trips in my parents’ car as a kid. I guess it’s another time of my life when I didn’t have much control over the music, but– no matter how pop, mainstream or overplayed– I will always love Queen.
Favorite tracks: all songs, but to pick two I’ll say “Radio Ga Ga” and “Under Pressure”.
Other albums that almost made the list, mostly because I didn’t make a list last year, and got a lot of play this year still:
- Odesza – A Moment Apart (2017)
- Bomba Estéreo – Elegancia Tropical (2013)
- Cultura Profética – Dulzura (2010)
- Various Artists – The Greatest Showman Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2017)
- Jorge Drexler – Salvavidas de Hielo (2017)
- Florence and the Machine – High As Hope (2018)
- Shallou – Souls (2018)
- Lady Gaga – Joanne (2016)
Peace, love and music always. Happy new year!