Our Favourite Albums of 2018
2018 is nearly over and it's time for the yearly wrap up of albums released this year!
Many of our hosts have put together lists of their favourite albums of 2018, so check it out and maybe find some gems that you missed!
Gina Farrugia - host of Vitamin G, Mondays 12pm-2pm
In no particular order:
Laila Biali - Self Titled
Vitamin G listeners have probably heard every track on the show over the year - with George Koller on bass, Larnell Lewis and Ben Wittman on drums and a host of other talented musicians including Laila’s backup sisters from her Sting days, Lisa Fischer and Jo Lawry, this album recorded in Toronto and former home of Brooklyn is beautifully written, performed and produced. Her cover of Yellow (Coldplay) is a fan fave but I just love her version of Bowie’s Let’s Dance and her composition Serenbe.
Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop - Abundance
We were so lucky to have this supergroup come to Aeolian Hall this fall! Last album REV was up against some tough competition at the Junos last year, but I’m putting my money on Abundance for Junos 2019 London ON! It’s hard for the gal to pick a fave tune, but I’m partial to Tadd’s Delight.
The band: Joel Frahm on tenor sax, Adrean Farrugia on piano, Dan Loomis on bass and Cervini on drums, plus Tara Davidson on alto sax and William Carn on trombone.
Xavier Davis - Rise Up Detroit (Detroit Music Factory)
Maybe it’s because of the gorgeous string arrangements led by Regina Carter (I was a violinist first, after all!) or my love affair with all things Detroit, or just the fact that it’s beautifully conceived and produced - this album gets a lot of spins at my house.
Marie Goudy 12tet with Jocelyn Barth - The Bitter Suite
Two extremely talented young women, well thought out tunes and lyrics, a great band - this nightingale can’t stop singing it’s praises! If this album doesn’t get nominated for a Juno, then the nomination committee has tin ears. My favourite thing about the recording is the album’s cohesiveness as a whole despite the contrast in styles (Latin son to big band) - and the playing is so darn good! Jocelyn is a star just waiting to be discovered by a greater audience - the Toronto jazz community knows how special she is!
Leon Bridges - Good Thing
I know, I know - he’s mainstream, but I just can’t help it - I mean, come on, you can dance to it for goodness sake! So tight, yet just so loose in the groove at the same time. Jazz-like sounding anything on commercial radio is a good thing for the genre, so I’m not going to apologize for my choice. This one stays in the nest!
Collective Order - Vol. 3
There’s a little bit of ‘double dipping’ here — some musician sharing between this innovative group of young musicians and The Bitter Suite project, but, hey - young musicians, with an equal gender balance doing great work can never be over rewarded!
Let’s give the whole gang a shout out!
Chris Adriaanse - Bass, Julian Anderson-Bowes - Bass, Jocelyn Barth - Vocals, Mike Campbell - Drums, Belinda Corpuz - Vocals, Ewen Farncombe - Keys, Jon Foster - Drums, Marie Goudy - Trumpet, Murray Heaton - Saxophone, Joanna Majoko - Vocals, Andrew McAnsh - Trumpet
Andrew Miller - Drums, Liam Stanley - Guitar, Emily Steinwall - Saxophone, Laura Swankey - Vocals, Colin Story - Guitar, Sarah Thawer - Drums, Ethan Tilbury - Bass, Joel Visentin - Keys
Connor Walsh - Bass, Nebyu Yohannes - Trombone
This one came by me via a disgruntled country fan/friend that was expecting more Dirt Wheels on a Gravel Road and less Monk’s Mood, which is one of a few standards on this steel pedal tinged, bonafide jazz album. I love it - but y’all know the Nightingale loves her country!
Julian Lage - Modern Lore (Mack Avenue)
I’ve always thought that being a child prodigy would be a curse, but Julian Lage, who performed at the Grammy’s at the tender age of 12 and a faculty member at Stanford Jazz Workshop at 15 clearly keeps getting better and better. This album is so much fun to listen to and every tune a little gem.
Soul, funk and jazz - produced by Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Tracy Chapman), it’s how I’ve always wanted to hear this woman sing. It’s the album she’s wanted to make for years, and I’m so very glad it finally happened. It’s hard to choose a favourite tune, so I’ll just say that L.O.V.E. always gets me off my seat and on my feet in the studio - I’ve managed to get tangled up in my earphone cords more then once!
There are some honourable mentions:
Adrean Farrugia/Joel Frahm - Blued Dharma
Andrea Superstein - Worlds Apart
Kurt Elling - The Question
Sons of Kemet - Your Queen is a Reptile (the only time I’ve ever had to your the ‘curse’ button on my daytime jazz show!)
Diana Panton: Equinox/Solstice
Robi Botos - Old Souls
John Coltrane - Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
…and just under the 2018 wire, Allison Au Quartet - Wander Wonder
Clara Benedek - host of Kill Your Idols, Mondays 2pm-4pm
La Luz - Floating Features
Broncho - Bad Behavior
John Maus - Addendum
U.S. Girls - A Poem Unlimited
Yess Woah/Shhh - Quiet Beasts/32 Original Drawings
Kurt Vile - Bottle It In
Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt
MGMT - Little Dark Age
Cold Cave - You + Me + Infinity
Filip Bachorz - host of Your Favourite Worst Radio Show, Tuesdays 7am-9am
10. Against All Logic - 2012-2017
9. Sons of Kemet - Your Queen Is A Reptile
8. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake!
7. Mid-Air Thief - Crumbling
6. Hop Along - Bark Your Head Off Dog
5. Anna von Hauswolff - Dead Magic
4. Julia Holter - Aviary
3. Dirty Projectors - Lamp Lit Prose
2. IDLES - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
1. Natalia Lafourcade - Musas Vol. 2
Emily Chiarvesio - host of Wake Up Western, Tuesdays 9am-11am
Chase March - host of Word is Bond, Tuesdays 10pm-12am
You may not be familiar with the name Chris Orrick, but you have probably heard his music under the name of Red Pill. This year. he retired the moniker and decided to release music under his own name. As usual, his music is thought-provoking and he reps the Detroit hip-hop scene with pride.
17. OC & PF Cuttin - Opium
O.C. is a legend who has been dropping quality hip-hop since his debut appearance on an Organized Konfusion album in 1991. This year, he teamed up with producer, PF Cuttin, to drop another gem in an already stellar discography.
Gabriel Teodros drops positive music chopped full of messages that not only get your head nodding, but also make you think. This one has a Canadian connection too. It was entirely produced by Moka Only.
15. E-turn - Young World
E-turn is a name to look out for. She has quietly been dropping projects for the past six years. This year, she got signed to Fake Four Inc and dropped this amazing project full of Swamburger production.
Sometimes, nerd rap can get a little bit too nerdy. More or Les doesn't fall pray to that at all in his raps. He always manages to bring the funk and celebrate the pop culture he loves including Star Trek, Doctor Who, giant robots, comic books and more.
13. Solar C - Access to All Lanes
Solar C enlists the help of Rel McCoy to produce this album that "is a nod to the many directions that we can go in order to arrive at our destination. The many vehicles we choose to use to get to where we’re going and the sites that we encounter along the way."
12. DJ Hullewud & Chase March - The MIX(ed)TAPE 2
I know it's a little self-serving to put my own project in the year-end list, but I am every proud of The MIX(ed)TAPE 2 and how it turned out. And truthfully, only half of this is mine. Side B, this time around, is held down by the one and only DJ Hullewud. We hadn't planned for this to become a series, but are already looking ahead to a third volume. It's brand new and exclusive hip-hop tracks mixed by two deejays. What can be better than that?
This is the sophomore album from the Ottawa duo and it bangs from beginning to end. It's a shame that it just slightly missed the Top 10.
Black Thought is one of the best lyricists hip-hop has ever seen. It was really nice to finally get a solo project from him. This one is way too short though. I think he should have waited and released both volumes at the same time. That being said, this one is slightly better than Volume 2, in my humble opinion.
This was the year of seven track album. I am not sure why this became the trend in 2018. Anything this short used to be called an E.P. Maybe, it is the sound-bite culture we live in. People seem to prefer singles, playlists, and short albums. Whatever the case, the last two entries in this list prove that sometimes the length doesn't matter. Great music is great music.
Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan and Boston duo 7L & Esoteric form the super-group Czarface. When they team-up with the mysterious MF Doom, it's like a comic book on record and a lot of fun for the listener. This was one of the clear winners in Chase March Madness earlier this year.
Apollo Brown is a wizard and one of the best producers hip-hop has ever seen. This is the latest in a set of collaborations that sees him teaming up with some of the best wordsmiths in the game. Locksmith sounds great over these beats. There was no question, that this would be in the Top 10.
The only non-hip-hop offering this year goes to the Houston rock band, Waterparks. I had the fortune of seeing them play live last year and they absolutely blew me away. This sophomore album is just as good as their debut and shows that this band has what it takes to entertain the masses.
25 years ago, on the same day, Wu-Tang Clan dropped its debut album and A Tribe Called Quest release it's third. To celebrate these two classic and iconic records, DJ Filthy Rich mashed them together and created magic a third time. Wu-Tang rhymes over Tribe beats with cutting, scratching, and mixing. It's absolutely incredible how well this works.
4. Del & Amp Live - Gate 13
Del the Funky Homosapien teams up with Amp Live to create one of the best albums of the year. This was in heavy rotation for months this year.
3. Masta Ace & Marco Polo - A Breukelen Story
Masta Ace is a veteran in the game and one of my all-time favs. I love the story-concept albums that he has been dropping for the past ten years. This one focuses on the producer, Canadian veteran, Marco Polo. That was really cool to see. It shows how moving to New York has actually helped a few people in getting a music career going.
Evidence loves having weather related themes in his music. He has a laid back flow and is nice with the beats. This time, however, he hands over the production to the likes of Alchemist, Budgie, DJ Babu, DJ Premier, Nottz, Samiyam, and Twiz the Beat Pro. But he doesn't let them do it all. He produces a few joints on the album too. This is sure to be a future classic. It bangs from beginning to end.
Sadat X and El Da Sensei have been creating great music since the 1990s with their groups Brand Nubian and The Artifacts, respectfully. They have collaborated plenty of times over the years as well. But they finally decided to form a group and named it XL. This project lives up to the name. It is extra-large with great beats and hard rhymes. Definitely my favourite album of the year!
A Great Year for Music
2018 was a great year for music. Here are a few albums that I really liked this year that didn't quite make the cut but are, nonetheless, worth checking out.
Sareem Poems & Ess Be - Mind Over Matter
OKnice - imherebutimnot
Artson - Bravestar
Kool G. Rap x 38 SPESH - Son Of G Rap
Moses Rockwell - Subterranean Sweatpants
Skyzoo - In Celebration of Us
Dirt Disciples - Stand for Something
Cameron MacDonald - host of DBG Radio, Wednesdays 7am-9am
Matt Bernardinis - host of The Far Side, Wednesdays 2pm-4pm
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex and Food
Beach House – 7
Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Bon Voyage
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Julia Holter – Aviary
Dead Can Dance – Dionysus
James Gagnon - host of Small Starts & Big Names, Thursdays 7am-9am
Kurt Vile - Bottle it In
Mother Mother - Dance & Cry
Shakey Graves - Can't Wake Up
Preoccupations - New Material
Jeff Rosenstock - POST-
Frank Turner - Be More Kind
Basement Revolver - Heavy Eyes
Greta Van Fleet - Anthem of the Peaceful Party
Jesney - Yesterday's Memories
Okkervil River - In the Rainbow Rain
Ian Doig Phaneuf - Radio Western Music Director and host of A Person Disguised as People, Thursdays 2pm-4pm
Michelle Balderston - Radio Western Live to Air Coordinator and former host of Wake Up Western
For those who know me, this list will totally not come as a surprise, but hey. What am I if not consistent! In no particular oder, here are some of my favourite albums of 2018!
Foxwarren - Foxwarren
Andy Shauf is one of the sweetest Canadian music makers, and this debut by his new band Foxwarren definitely holds up! It's still undeniably Shauf-sounding, but that sound is just as infectious as always!
Pam Haasen - Radio Western Program Director and host of Radio Face, every other Friday 7am-9am
1. Kikagaku Moyo / 幾何学模様 - Masana Temples
According to Spotify, this is the album I listened to the most in 2018, as far as contemporary music goes, that makes me quite happy. This album was one of those that you just insert into conversation any time, no matter what the topic is.
“Are you aware of the amount of landfill mass created by improperly or thoughtlessly drying our hands using 2 paper towels when the US alone could eliminate over 5 million pounds of waste if we simply used a technique of shaking our hands and folding one paper towel once? It’s actually maddening to think how rushed we think our lives are when the more habitual our ignorance becomes the less time we have on this earth with air we can breathe and water we can drink.”
“Mm hmm, mmm hmm, I CANNOT stop listening to Masana Temples. It’s sooooo good! Let me play it for you one more time."
KM are from Tokyo Japan. Their sound is mathy, gentle, up beat, avant-pop and drone rock. From song to song on Masana Temples they fluidly morph between genres with the common thread being quirky rhythms, beautiful guitar tones and soft, Seteolab-esque vocals sung in Japanese. Seriously! What doesn’t sound amazing about that?
Stand out tracks:
2. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - BOTH IC-01 Hanoi and Sex & Food
Before Sex & Food I really didn’t know who UMO was. Unknown Mortal Orchestra is Ruban Nielson, who, like any good weirdo, recorded his music alone in his bedroom in Auckland New Zealand and posted songs anonymously online.
Fat possum signed him in 2011 and he released his first self titled album under the name UMO.
Since then he has continued to create music that is derived from personal experience and human existence on earth. Sex & Food is fun, kinda broken psych-pop music that drags just a little bit but I’d like to compare it to a southern drawl rather than “slow music”. I’d dance my face off to it if a DJ were to play this as the music in between sets at a live show.
IC-01 Hanoi is a slightly different beast. The songs are a bit faster, more erratic and fuzzed out than S&F which produced a sound that leaned closer to a polished sound whereas Hanoi is like jagged and more like a Velvet Underground jam session. Two thumbs up!
Stand out tracks:
A God Called Hubris
Not In Love We’re Just High
Gitkin is super-fun, desert road driving music. Stop at a roadside and take a selfie at a phone booth. Try a malted but don’t move too quick, or the heat’ll get cha. Gitkin is label-described as “international twang dub music”. Try not to think too long about the minutia of any of those genres as the melange of Gitkin’s 5 Star Motel certainly will dub your twang, tap your tow, and get the smoke rollin.
This is Gitkin’s bio: Gitkin sold guitars. To be precise, he re-branded, sold and traded knock-off Gibsons. A lone, travelling salesman, he toted his counterfeit wares to guitar stores and music emporiums. His trade took him to most corners of the USA, passing through big, smoggy cities and nowheresville small towns. His nights were spent at not-so-salubrious motels. It was at those nocturnal stop-offs that he’d often cross paths with newcomers to the States. His fellow travellers were mostly immigrants, newly-arrived, from places like Ethiopia, Mexico, Indonesia.
Stand out tracks:
4. Rosalia - El Mal Querer
Oh me, oh my this album gets a lot of play in my car and apartment. I bring it out to move to. Rosalia is a Spanish singer/songwriter, young poet, and tale-weaver. El Mal Querer (bad loving) Presented as experimental and conceptual, revolving around a toxic relationship, the album was inspired by the anonymous 13th-century Occitan novel Flamenca. (Look ma, I can Wiki things!)
This album flows between flamenco rhythm with AM-radio tinny vocals to angelic dance tunes!
Stand out tracks:
Di Aqui No Salas
5. US Girls - In A Poem Unlimited
Big fan. Huge. Love this album, love everything she’s done up to this point. Everyone should like Meg Remy. She’s political, outspoken, feminist, funny, old fashioned, and makes exciting and beautiful music! In A Poem Unlimited is no different. Listen to this album start to finish while walking briskly or running full tilt while you work out your aggressions from the week.
Stand out tracks:
Dirty Computer [An Emotion Picture] is Janelle Monae’s AV opus for 2018 and we, the unwashed masses, lapped it up. If you haven’t watched it, do it!
I love me some throw-back 60s pop beach to city sweetness from New York. The Sha La Das are brothers from Brooklyn and revisted (not re-imagined, re-vamped, re-vised) the sounds of the 60s. Daptone Records picked it up and the rest is history!
9. Robyn - Honey
A friend of mine said “thank god for this new Robyn album or I wouldn’t have a reason to live this week”. There are like, 3 stinkers on this album (that just come off as lame) but “hey Robyn, how you doin?” No one said you had to bat 1000!
10. Shoobies - Nevermind the Hardcore, Here Comes The Shoobies!
I love the Shoobies. These kooks picked up where Shadowy Men on A Shadowy Planet left off and I tip my hat to them. Catch these locals at any show they play!
DJ Hullewud - host of Break North Radio, Saturday 10pm - 12am
Check out the playlist of songs from all the albums our hosts loved this year! More than 7 hours of tunes for your enjoyment!!