The Shotgun Seat’s Top 15 Albums of 2018

Welcome to The Shotgun Seat’s annual year-end features! We’ll recap the year’s best singles and albums, ending with the latter in our top 15 albums list. Four of our writers—Annie Dineen, Markus Meyer, Lydia Simonetti, and Amanda Walsh—to rank their 15 favorite albums, resulting in the list below. Let us know what your favorite music from 2018 was, and here’s to a great year in 2019!



Lori McKenna – The Tree

Individual Rankings: #5 – Markus

Subtle poignancy delivered with a raw sense of humanity in a way that only McKenna could. Her powerful vocal drives home the hard-hitting sentiments of tracks like “People Get Old” and “The Lot Behind St. Mary’s,” while sparse acoustic arrangements drive home the overarching atmosphere. Tremendous stuff. – Markus Meyer



Ruston Kelly – Dying Star

Individual Rankings: #4 – Markus

Ruston Kelly delivered one of 2018’s best projects using atmospheric arrangements and a unique sonic palette. A variety of emotions, from the crushing regret of “Blackout” to the escapism of “Cover My Tracks,” make the album a diverse yet cohesive listen. Dying Star establishes Kelly as a talent to watch on the country and Americana music scene. – MM



Lucie Silvas – E.G.O

Individual Rankings: #4 – Annie

If you ask me, anything with Silvas’ standout smoky vocals is worthy of a long listen, and her album E.G.O. delivers vocally and beyond. Take “Change My Mind,” which simultaneously presents quavering vulnerability and cathedral-like expanse. Or “Kite,” which dexterously plays with a swaggering groove and a high-flying metaphor. – AD



Morgan Evans – Things That We Drink To

Individual Rankings: #3 – Amanda

Celebrating life and love and everything in between, Morgan Evans shares his musical journey from Australia to Nashville through the 11 expressive tracks featured on his first American released album, and not a single one disappoints. One listen all the way through and it’s easy to hear which songs were obviously inspired by the singer’s now wife and fellow country music peer, Kelsea Ballerini. Particularly on the opening track of the album, appropriately titled, “American,” the Aussie native describes how falling in love with Ballerini has made his world better by comparing her many attributes to various parts of the U.S. and the widely popular elements that make the country so unique. His vibrant use of the exploratory comparisons is incredibly effective and the energy Evans maintains throughout the song is felt throughout the entire album. 

Whether it’s the sweet, gentle harmonies on “Dance With Me,” which finds Evans and Ballerini pairing up for one of the album’s standout tracks, or the soul-stirring emotions triggered on the title track as the buoyant singer pays tribute to his late friend and manager, Rob Potts, or the anthemic youthfulness sung about in the album’s closing track, “Young,” Evans’ lively spirit is heard loud and clear on Things That We Drink To and each track serves as a fantastic reminder of all that’s worth celebrating in this crazy journey we call life. – Amanda Walsh



Ryan Kinder – The Road

Individual Rankings: #1 – Amanda

Seldom can an artist paint an accurate picture of who they are with only a three song EP, but Ryan Kinder did just that when he released The Road in May of 2018. The three song project features soulful songwriting and musical depth as limitless as bottomless mimosas. Wrapped in the Muscle Shoals influence of his Alabama upbringing are the singer’s alt-rock, pop infused vocal stylings blending effortlessly with blues inspired guitar riffs to create a sound that’s so magically distinct, it can’t be pigeon-holed into one genre. – AW



Devin Dawson – Dark Horse

Individual Rankings: #5 – Annie; #8 – Lydia

Don’t let the black attire fool you, underneath the tough looking exterior that you initially see with Devin Dawson is an artist full of passion.  His debut album has it’s infectious songs like “All On Me” as well as sexy and emotionally gripping tracks as well.  “Secondhand Hurt” is one of the standout tracks and really highlights his strengths as a songwriter.  He is a beautiful songwriter and storyteller who’s definitely got a lot more to share with the world. – Lydia Simonetti


Kenny Chesney – Songs for the Saints

Individual Rankings: #2 – Annie; #9 – Lydia

Inspired by the devastation of Hurricane Irma, Kenny Chesney used what he does best to share his emotions.  That’s the beautiful thing about music, it’s one of the best outlets available.  Songs for the Saints is perhaps one of this year’s best examples.  As one of our writers said, “From start to finish, Chesney takes the listener on a personal and emotional journey.” – AD



Kip Moore – Room to Spare: The Acoustic Sessions

Individual Rankings: #2 – Lydia; #7 – Markus

Kip Moore really shows his strengths as an artist on this project.  Fans have been begging for an acoustic project for years, and Room to Spare answered their requests.  The album shows how far he’s come from songs like “Truck” and “Beer Money”.  The depth in his music is striking and he continuously stays true to himself releasing music that’s important to him to even if not commercially successful.  His craft is on display for the world to see with this album and he does not disappoint. – LS



Brett Young – Ticket to L.A.

Individual Rankings: #5 – Lydia; #8 – Annie; #13 – Amanda

Brett Young’s sophomore album Ticket to L.A proves he’s sticking around and has a lot more to share with us. After finding incredible success with his debut album, he broadens his horizons by collaborating with some of Music City’s best songwriters. While his debut portrayed his seemingly perfect understanding of heartbreak, this new album is both reflective and optimistic. The project is the perfect example of how an artist evolves.



Jordan Davis – Home State

Individual Rankings: #2 – Amanda; #6 – Lydia; #12 – Markus

Watching the Louisiana native’s career really take off in 2018 was definitely a highlight for me as a music journalist. The charismatic singer saw his first Number One thanks to the success of his debut smash, “Singles You Up,” and released what I think is unquestionably one of the best debut albums by a new artist. Featuring 12 tracks all co-written by Davis himself, Home State is full of memorable melodies, attractive lyrics, and a highly contagious energy that stick around long after the album is over. While big, vibrant production and vivid storytelling are the foundation of which the album was built on, it’s the charming and engaging character that Davis brings to each song that makes the album really come alive. Offering everything from Sam Hunt inspired anthemic vibes to those dreamy slow jams that might make even Brett Young a little envious, Home State is from start to finish both refreshing and captivating, making it easy to keep hitting that repeat button. And while there isn’t a single skip worthy song on the album, standout tracks include: “More Than I Know,” “Slow Dancing in a Parking Lot,” “Selfish,” “Made That Way,” and “Leaving New Orleans.” – AW



Brothers Osborne – Port Saint Joe

Individual Rankings: #1 – Annie; #3 – Lydia

Brothers Osborne casually host a rocking, rootsy party on Port Saint Joe. It’s sometimes poignant, sometimes witty, and always boasting fresh perspectives and fresher guitarwork. – AD



Ashley McBryde – Girl Goin’ Nowhere

Individual Rankings: #4 – Amanda; #6 – Markus; #7 – Lydia

After spending 11 years in dive bars, biker bars, and trucker bars, 35 year-old McBryde is finally seeing all of that hard work and dedication start to pay off. Signed to a major record label, her first full-length album a success, and her first Grammy nomination under her belt, the Arkansas native had quite the year in 2018, and if anyone was deserving of it all, it’s definitely Ashley McBryde. If there’s one thing that Girl Going Nowhere does better than anything else, it’s highlight the resilient singer’s songwriting strengths, as she wrote each one of the 11 tracks featured on her major label debut. There are moments on the album where McBryde is at her most vulnerable, sharing her deepest insecurities with us, while at other times she’s a pillar of confidence whose composure never wavers. And as she takes us through each compelling story, it’s as if peering into a different window of the gifted singer-songwriter’s soul. Every song is equally as honest and authentic as the next one that follows, with McBryde’s powerful vocals pulling you deeper in with one heartfelt note after another. Everything from the songwriting to the musicality on Girl Going Nowhere screams of an artist who knows exactly who she is and where she’s going. – AW



Dierks Bentley – The Mountain

Individual Rankings: #2 – Markus; #4 – Lydia; #12 – Amanda

For every fan Dierks Bentley irritated with his foray into R&B-tinged country with Black, he likely won them back and then some with The Mountain. It’s an impressive crossroads between a more modern sound, and his bluegrass tendencies, and the results are impressive. The rocking hit “Burning Man” emphasizes a strong intensity, while “Travellin’ Light” highlights a lighter, rootsier sound. It’s a cohesive and tightly written album that allows Bentley to highlight what made him so popular to begin with. – MM



Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Individual Rankings: #1 – Markus; #3 – Annie; #10 – Lydia

The marked shift from Musgraves’ past work to Golden Hour lies in the change in focus from lyrical perspective to sonic diversity, and she pulls it off with just as much heft as before. This isn’t to say that the songwriting is second class—it bears the same cleverness and engaging perspective Musgraves is known for—but this time she pulls it off with airier and more atmospheric arrangements. It allows her vocals to soar, and she puts in performance after performance of melancholy, bitterness, escapism, and reflection. “Space Cowboy” and “Lonely Weekend” highlight her affinity for hooks, as well as the broader quality of captivating melodies. Golden Hour is a wonderful and wholly fulfilling project that demonstrates both artistic growth, and a further emphasis on her best-known talents. – MM


Eric Church – Desperate Man

Individual Rankings: #1 – Lydia; #3 – Markus; #6 – Annie

Here he is at the top of our list, as he should be.  Eric Church just does not disappoint.  Desperate Man embodies what many may describe as the perfect album. He’s got a classic sound, doesn’t conform to industry trends, follows his passion, and says whatever the hell he wants to say via his music—and it works! While he may never become a consistent mainstream award winner, he’s so much more than that as an artist. He commands attention with his music and writing. He makes art, and Desperate Man may be his most powerful work yet. The album is full of soul, blues, rock, and country, showcasing just how diverse his sound can be. Just when you think Eric Church had already released his best, he did it again. Bravo, Chief. – LS

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