The Best Local Albums of the Year 2018
These records rose to the top out of the city’s most impressive crop of music in recent memory.
10. Tech N9ne, Planet
To us in Kansas City, he’s a mogul to match Jay-Z and Dr. Dre. One of the most successful independent rappers in the world, Tech N9ne hit a milestone this year with his 20th studio album. It’s a celebration of everything that got him to the top: rapid Chopper flows over thick, industrial beats, with a little help from his Strange Music friends.
9. Daisy Buckët, Pansy
“Bow down kitties, I’m KC royalty!” Daisy Buckët declares just a few minutes into her debut album Pansy. The drag queen has long been a pillar of the city’s queer scene, and Pansy earns her this title. Miss Buckët’s music sounds like 1918, 1968, and 2018 in different parts, matching her timeless blend of camp and emotion throughout the album.
8. Mackenzie Nicole, The Edge
Strange Music long meant hip-hop, but no longer — Mackenzie Nicole’s debut ushered the label into radio-ready pop music. It’s clear that this beat-driven record comes from a rap label, and it’s complete with the requisite Tech N9ne feature. Nicole’s powerhouse vocals and emotional writing make The Edge stand out, though, from her labelmates and her pop counterparts.
7. The Get Up Kids, Kicker
Yes, it’s cliche, but The Kids have grown up, and they’re all right. On their first release in seven years, The Get Up Kids move away from the pop-punk sound they pioneered in Lawrence in the ‘90s to join the new world of “adult emo.” At just four songs, Kicker doesn’t let down for 13 minutes straight, drumming up excitement for a promised new full-length in 2019.
6. Other Americans, Other Americans
Local supergroup Other Americans doesn’t quite sound like any of their members’ previous projects, among them the Architects, The Latenight Callers and Radar State. Those groups continue to be some of the best music the city has to offer, and Other Americans joins them with dark, danceable, Midwestern rock. Most importantly, each member’s passion comes through loud as ever, from drums to vocals.
5. Shy Boys, Bell House
The city is embedded in this record, named after the West Plaza house a few band members shared in the early Shy Boys days. They’ve matured since then, signing to prominent indie label Polyvinyl, but the music is still playful as ever. Don’t mistake that for slacking — the guitar riffs are tight and the harmonies are precise, while the record feels like they recorded it right there in the Bell House.
4. Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, The Radio Winners
Give the most-improved award to this grandmother-grandson duo for their second Glassnote Records release, following up 2015’s Skeleton Crew and their breakout single “Silent Movies.” With fuller instrumentation and a wider variety of styles on this EP, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear have made one of the most listenable records of the year. It’s exactly the comfort you expect from grandma.
3. The Greeting Committee, This Is It
The Greeting Committee started when its members still went to Blue Valley High School, so of course This Is It, its debut full-length, is overflowing with youthful energy. The Harvest Records release is a long way from high school self-released music, but what the band gains in polish it doesn’t lose in spirit. Youthful also doesn’t mean naive — the lyrics are aware and mature, relatable across generations. Frontwoman Addie Sartino may have grown since the story of lead single “17,” but the shock still stands: “He says, my god, you’re only 17!”
2. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
Leaving behind the robotic narrative of the “Metropolis Suites” that influenced her previous albums, Janelle Monáe is singing about herself, in this world, on Dirty Computer. Not only does that make for one of the most personal records this year, but it’s also one of the only ones to successfully wrestle with the political moment. From hip-hop to rock (with a little bit of Prince’s touch), the sound holds up just as well. At the end of the record, she asks us to love her for who she is — and after meeting the fullest version of Monáe yet, it’s never been easier.
1. SSION, O
Cody Critcheloe is from Kentucky and lives in New York, but Kansas City is home for his multimedia art project SSION, which he started as a student at the Art Institute. The first new SSION album in seven years is exhibit A in why the city should proudly claim Critcheloe and his provocative, individual, entertaining art as our own. He transitions from dance to punk to pop, alternating the upbeat and the dissonant on optimistic anthems, feminist celebrations and a fantasy about Marc Jacobs. It may not seem that way at first, but it’s the most Kansas Citian music there could be — at the center of it all, drawing from all sides.