Dr Dan’s Top Albums of 2018
Last year, by which I mean 2017, was utter shit. In my year end review I pointed to the Trump presidency and people like Harvey Weinstein as being catalysts for a certain urgency which wove its way through music. Now, one year later, I feel completely blank. So much has worn me down that I often feel numb and helpless, without being able to pinpoint any specific reason why. Maybe it’s the growing division between people, particularly online, in which the loudest voices are often the most uninformed. Maybe it was when my home Province of Ontario nominated a Trump-like leader in Doug Ford. Maybe it was slow release of gruesome details surrounding a serial killer in my neighbourhood. Maybe it’s watching my musical heroes drop at an alarming rate. I really don’t know but if I added everything up I would probably need a calculator. My friend Marc put it best when he said “I am on my last queer nerve, really”.
I’m not sure what happened this year but the way in which I listen to music has changed. Everything I listen to now is chosen to reflect the intersection of mood, weather and the time of day. I listen to genres like yacht rock and smooth jazz when the sun is setting. When the sun has set, i lean towards something a bit more aggressive and dancy. Late in the evening I warm up to old vocal jazz, ballads and exotica. I have music for warm days. Music for cloudy days. Music for rainy days. Music to bike to. Music to read to…. you get picture. I have even turned towards slower music more than I ever have in my life. The question is why? To answer that, I go back to that dulled sense of helplessness I have felt in 2018. The beauty of music is that the listener is always in control and you can romanticize that moment, whether positive or negative. For me, music has become a 1st class ticket to wherever I want to go; whether it’s a specific location, emotion or idea. For those who listen to my shows on Mixcloud, you will have noticed this idea has been changed in latest format change.
With this new approach to listening, I have found a lot of stuff I used to like has become irritating or irrelevant. There are very few rock/indie bands on my list this year. The whiny vocal affectation that has swept these genres sounds like the souls of you and all your closest friends being cut up by an infinite number of dull knives over an infinite period of time… I swear I am one gang vocal over a floor tom beat away from completely snapping. Even genres I used to listen to a lot more, like neo-psychedelia, are being plagued by this whiny affection. In a different way, I have turned away from hip-hop more than I ever have before. We have seen the same, almost exclusively male, names on year end lists for too long now. The ‘risks’ these artists take are starting to feel calculated. The freedom I associated with hip-hop has been homogenized a bit. I’m not saying there aren’t great hip-hop albums… it’s just that journey hasn’t been as fun as it has in the past. Trends have become all encompassing. Is it me or does this sound very similar to downfall of rock in the 90s?
Ok… it’s been a pretty tense intro so far but rest assured the list features a bunch of great new music that has made me very happy this year. It is the reflection of a more connected world that is changing rapidly. I do want to quickly note that lists are inherently problematic. Do I believe that my #1 is better than my #2 album? Hell no. Do I stand to gain anything from listing certain albums at certain positions? No. I am someone who simply runs a music blog/radio podcast for the pure enjoyment of it. I assure you I only heard a small fraction of what was released. So if you are surprised by what you see, just remember this is just my opinion. What I hope is that my list is like browsing records in a shop. You smile at the ones you know and pick out a few to listen to. Let that mystical musical spirit guide you… the same one that causes you to drop $35 on an album because of the artwork or the name of a song.
Before I get into specifics, I want to thank a few people because music is all about community. First off, the queen, Sheila B who hosts Sophisticated Boom Boom on WFMU. I beg you to listen to this show which promotes female fronted pop from past present and future. The show is so utterly personal and will change the way you hear and think about music. Andrew Jervis at Bandcamp Weekly puts together the most fresh, varied and up-to-date show that I think he time travels from the near future before every episode. To my Mixcloud friends, who I think you should check out, thanks for the inspiration. Particularly Georgy Girl of Lorihajitura, DJ Honey of Kiss! Kiss! Bang! Bang!, Patrick Foisy & Ben Shulman of Addicted to the Needle, Kitty & Mr C’s Enchanted Tiki Hut Show, and Steam’s Jukebox Shuffle. Big shout out to DJ Nico of the With It! soul night here in Toronto. If you ever find yourself in Toronto…. come get your groove on. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who continue to support and follow Not So Kwyet. To my most diehard supporters, look for a surprise in 2019!
TOP 50 ALBUMS OF 2018
|#50 The Midnight Hour: The Midnight Hour - Linear Labs
The Midnight Hour is a project founded by A Tribe Called Quest producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge. Together, the pair are most known for their work on the Luke Cage soundtrack. The Midnight Hour at times can be a bit disjointed; moving from Blaxploitation soundtrack bass lines to rich 60's soul string sections. While the overall album has purposefully retro vibe, something I generally stay clear of, there is also a richness to the compositions. This is hard to overlook due to the shear ability of the duo and overall ease of listening.
Recommended Track: It's You
|#49 Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio: Close But No Cigar - Colemine Records
Do you like Booker T & the M.G.'s? How about The Meters? If you answered yes, you will have no issue getting down to the first full studio album by the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio. Tracks like Little Booker T and Al Greenery clearly reference where the band draws their inspiration from. The group has not reinvented the wheel but rather put organ music back in the spotlight, with Close But No Cigar topping the Contemporary Jazz Charts this year.
Recommended Track: Close but No Cigar
|#48 Skinshape: Filoxiny - Lewis Recordings
Skinshape, a Will Dorey project, has always drawn inspiration from interesting sources. Compared to previous albums, Filoxiny represents a softer and more psychedelic side of Dorey, with lush string and horn arrangements. He describes the album as a 'mish mash of a huge variety of styles and sounds. The focus on this album was to make songs with a strong cinematic element using string and horn parts making up significant portions. I wanted to do this whilst still retaining a spacey 'psych' feel. As a result there are not many songs with lyrics, instead lots of mellow cinematic grooves that I feel are almost the soundtrack to an imaginary film'.
|#47 Kadhja Bonet: Childqueen - Fat Possum Records
L.A. artist Kadhja Bonet can do no wrong. This is evident on her sophomore album Childqueen, an album she arranged, performed, produced, and mixed alone. While Bonet is a classically trained musician, her music is anything but limited by traditionalism. Her music does require a keen ear and multiple listens to fully grasp the complexities of compositions. Instead of trying to put my reflections down a few mere sentences, I felt Bonet's own reflection on the track Mother Maybe provides just a hint of what to expect when listening to this album; "Mother Maybe’ isn’t about my mother, it’s about the mother I may be. It’s about a moment, a realization, in which I felt God, I felt like God… I remembered how powerful women are in this world, that we create life, and I felt strong".
Recommended Track: Mother Maybe
|#46 Johann Johannson: Mandy OST - Lakeshore Records
In early 2018, the world lost a composer it was just starting to get to know. Unless we somehow get a release of his soundtrack for Blade Runner 2049, which was replaced by a Hans Zimmer soundtrack just before release, Mandy represents his last ever score. I typically hate horror movies but was coaxed into watching it because I like Nicholas Cage a bit too much. Luckily it turned out to be more of a revenge flick than an all out horror movie. The soundtrack may not be something you put on over dinner but I highly recommended checking out the film, followed by listening to the soundtrack. While Johansson is no stranger to space and slow moving melodies, he also employs driving King Crimson like guitar and the simple repeating synth of John Carpenter. When you hear this soundtrack, you will instantly know what a huge loss Johann is to film music.
Recommended Track: Forging the Beast
|#45 Matheus Torreão: Disco de Estreia - Sagitta Records
I'm not even sure where I came across Disco de Estreia by Rio De Janeiro based artist Matheus Torreão. He has a mere 2355 followers on Facebook and there is little written about him. I did manage to translate the following from a website but I'm unsure if this is is the basis of a concept album or his actual story; "a debut album by a young Recife man who won a reality show, moved to the Independent Republic of Bossa Nova, did a decidedly irrelevant academic master's degree, had his unstable talent for comedy hired by the sitcom industry and used all the money he earned so far to record nine songs". Either way, Disco de Estreia is arguably the happiest album on my list, wonderfully sunny and airy like Torreão's home.
Recommended Track: Baião do Apocalipse
|#44 Insólito UniVerso: La Candela del Río - Olindo Records
Have you ever wondered what a Paris-based Venezuelan band would sound like? Insólito UniVerso has the answer with their first album La Candela del Rio. Malcolm Catto, drummer of the Heliocentrics, helped produce the album which blends traditional Venezuelan styles, such as joropo and merengue, with synth driven psychedelia and jazz. The best moments on the album occur when these lines are blurred, on tracks like Tonada del Guante and Lloviendo en Guatire. Hopefully the band continues to pursue this direction in future albums.
Recommended Track: Lloviendo en Guatire
|#43 Aaron Parks: Little Big - Ropeadope Records
Aaron Parks 2008 release, Invisible Cinema, had a profound affect on my friends and I while we studied jazz music in university. The band featured modern jazz giants Matt Penman. Eric Harland and Mike Moreno. Since then, Parks has mostly released music as a guest or co-leader. Little Big, his first return as band leader since Invisible Cinema, features a similar sound but with an entirely new lineup. He continues to develop his hyper-melodic sound that, for casual or non-jazz fans, is incredibly approachable and easy to listen to.
Recommended Track: Kid
|#42 Hinds: I don't Run - Lucky Number
Madrid-based all-female garage rock band Hinds have released their sophomore record Lucky Number. Their first record, Leave Me Alone, was my #2 album of 2016. There is something so sun-drenched about their brand of garage rock. I have always described their music as sounding like an insanely hot day, which is only made somewhat manageable by hanging out with your friends and drinking beer. While Lucky Number builds on their 2016 release, it is evident that the band has been put through the rigours of touring the world. They have sharpened their skills, resulting in an another fantastic album.
Recommended Track: New For You
|#41 Daniel Brandt: Channels - Erased Tapes Records
A percussive drum beat kicks off the opening track Flamingo, shortly followed by arpeggios by a synth. Then a simple treble piano line comes in, reminiscent of prepared piano master Hauschka or Chilly Gonzales. Throw in some EDM builds, spotted with electronic brass. All of a sudden you have no idea what you are listening to. With obvious nods to Steve Reich, Tangerine Dream and electronic music from his native Germany, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is happening on Channels. At the core of the album are beautifully layered synths over intricate percussion that are engaging and accessible.
Recommended Track: Flamingo
|#40 Blood Wine or Honey: Fear & Celebration - Do Right! Music
Blood Wine or Honey, a band out of Hong Kong, is comprised of two Americans and a Brit. If that sounds a bit odd, wait till you hear the music. Imagine a Jackson Pollock painting where each colour is some drastically different source of inspiration. It is mind blowing to think that the songs are the product of only 3 musicians. What I appreciate most are the risks taken the band, risks that a lot of the mid 2000 electronic bands like LCD Soundsystem are no longer willing to take. The trio, composed of synths, sax and drums, are able to move from weird danceable tracks to delicate compositions without pretension.
Recommended Track: Fear & Celebration
|#39 Maria Beraldo: Cavala - Risco
While this is the first solo album for São Paulo musician Maria Beraldo, she is no stranger to the music scene. She plays clarinet and sings in Arrigo Barnabé's band and is a member of the group Quartabê, On her own, Beraldo has created an incredibly powerful yet personally intimate album in which, according to her Bandcamp page, 'Her music shouts out the freedom of a lesbian woman'. Beraldo has a unique approach to composition while still maintaining some pop sensibility. Her vocals melodies are often sung in unison with her clarinet or done in impressive multilayer harmonies.
Recommended Track: Cavala
|#38 Waajeed: From The Dirt LP - Dirt Tech Reck
I always hear about Detroit as being a current hotbed of creativity due to the cheap cost of living. Artists are flocking to a city that boasts a musical legacy that cannot be topped. For Detroit-born Waajeed, that history is not something he has latched on to, rather it flows through his veins. I'll be the first to admit I do not know a lot about house-music but From The Dirt feels both familiar and new. Tracks which feature vocalists feel incredibly crisp and of time, while still referencing a wide range of music like jazz and soul. It is this crossover factor that make this album so listenable and perfect for those who are looking to dip their toes in in the waters of house-music.
Recommended Track: Things About You
|#37 Ariana Grande: Sweetener - Republic Records
Ariana Grande has made headlines around the world, unfortunately mostly due to her rocky relationship. If you are typically not willing to give an album like this a chance, don't expect expect Sweetener to catalyze some grand realization. The best tracks on the album are produced by Swedish producers Max Martin and Ilya, who have both had their hands in some of the biggest hits of the past 20 years. Grande is given enough space to soar over the tracks, with a vocal range that is not to be believed. She also co-wrote 10 out of the 15 songs, which directly goes against typical criticisms of pop stars. #GodIsAWoman
Recommended Track: God Is A Woman
|#36 La Luz: Floating Features - Hardly Art
I have heard Floating Features described as surf noir. If you google that term, it won't yield any concrete results but hot damn does it feel accurate. I have always described the all-female Seattle based band as desert surf, which is surprising as the band hails from rainy Seattle. I first heard La Luz on a KEXP broadcast from Airwaves in Iceland. I was immediately drawn to the drumming of Marian Li-Pino, who I went on to write an article about. However, it is not just the drumming that is great about this group, every element sounds as though it has been meticulously thought over. While I was big fan of Weirdo Shrine, the band is at their most cohesive on this 3rd release. If you like twangy guitar solos, dreamy harmonies and killer album covers, check out La Luz, the best surf noir band in the game.
Recommended Track: Cicada
|#35 Hilary Woods: Colt - Night Time Stories Ltd.
As a musician, I find it most difficult to give space and breath; overplaying is simple. On her first solo record, Hilary Woods has managed to do something that so many musicians, including myself, struggle to do. While this is not her first time at the rodeo for the Irish singer, who toured extensively with JJ72, Woods has displayed a maturity in solitude worth listening to. Often slower ethereal albums rely on the sum of all the parts, whereas on Colt the tracks stand alone on themselves. Jesus Said, a perfect example of a standalone track, has a two line second verse "When Jesus said he loved me, All I could feel" which dissolves into a glittering yet haunting synth part over simple programmed drums. I don't care for analogies to describe records but I honestly feel that this record is like being 3 feet under water and watching light penetrate the surface.
Recommended Track: Jesus Said
|#34 Khruangbin: Con Todo El Mundo - Night Time Stories Ltd.
Con Todo El Mundo, which translates to “with all the world’, is the most appropriate phrase possible for this very cool, sensual, brilliant gem of an album. It encapsulates so much musically, hidden under seemingly simple grooves, with a plethora of references to Middle Eastern, Western and innumerable other influences. Every instrument, from the prominent bass of Laura Lee, the soulful, majestic, intricate, world hopping guitar of Mark Speers to the well placed beat-like drums of Donald Ray DJ Johnson Jr., intertwine to create a funk, disco, jazz, psychedelic pre revolutionary Iranian stew of unbridled sublime, transcendent and danceable, Sufi inspired joy. This recording, by the Texas trio, whose Thai name translates as ‘flying engine’, is still as fresh almost a year later. The studio space feels intimate and ever present in the recording, which is best heard on a pair of headphones. Also, bassist Laura Lee creates playlists of influences on Spotify and I would highly recommend checking out Flight 428 to Tehran.
Recommended Track: Evan Finds the Third Room
|#33 Joan As Police Woman: Damned Devotion - Play It Again Sam
After every Sophisticated Boom Boom show on WFMU, my friend Sam and I text each with our standout tracks. We both agreed on What Was It Like from the latest Joan As Police Woman album. Joan Wasser always sounded like a mix of the great British singers of the past 25 years, which is odd for a musician from New York City. On Damned Devotion, she has slowed down and truly found her own voice. Overly aggressive vocal and drum tracks have been replaced with hypermelodic synth melodies and a more vulnerable Wasser. Hopefully this is a direction Wasser continues to develop and follow on her next album.
Recommended Track; Steed (for Jean Genet)
|#32 Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids: An Angel Fell - Strut
The Pyramids, led by saxophonist Idris Ackamoor, reemerged in 2016 with their album We Be All Africans after a 30+ year hiatus. Mentored by pianist Cecil Taylor, Ackamoor carries the cosmic jazz torch into the future on An Angel Fell. Beyond his adventurous and groovy band, Ackamoor carries the sound of Sun Ra in his soul while continuously paying homage to his contemporary Pharaoh Sanders. When I studied jazz, we always talked about form. Whether it was in regards to a solo or the shape of an entire piece of music or album. An Angel Fell is a masterclass in form, with long pieces jumping morphing from free improvised jazz to pounding cosmic jazz. Violinist Sandra Poindexter gives a standout performance in this progressive yet intensely beautiful and community driven album.
Recommended Track: Message To My People
|#31 The Du-Rites: Gamma Ray Jones - Old Maid Entertainment
I am a J-Zone fanboy. Anything he touches seems to make my year end playlists. The MC turned drummer has turned out another gem with bandmate Pablo Martin. Their previous two releases were straight up greasy funk, which could be mistaken for the rarest of rare funk 45s. Gamma Jones is a departure from this formula in which The Du-Rites explore a sound very much inspired by Blaxploitatian films of the 70s and artists like Isaac Hayes. It is less frantic in approach, with themes developing slower and deeper than before. So jump in your big ol' Cadillac, turn up the volume and prepare to groove.
Recommended Track: Gamma Ray Funk
|#30 Bettye Lavette: Things Have Changed - Verve Records
There is no question that Bob Dylan is both a brilliant lyricist and songwriter. This recording of his works, however, focuses entirely on Lavette and what she does with the words; both those written by Dylan and what she adds to make them undisputedly her own. In listening to her 1962 single ‘My Man- He’s a Lovin’ Man’, Bettye’s maturity as an interpreter and singer has only improved. If Lavette had a soulful power in ’62, rest assured, she is a full force gale of passion, soul and incomparable sharpness today. The brilliance of the musicians on this Steve Jordan produced gem, allow her the space to imbue each word, phrase and intense growl with heart rending intensity and wit to make you smile or even laugh. Most astounding is that even with the few major works by Dylan presented here, the author is forgotten. Perhaps, admittedly, it is my love of the female voice in music; where Dylan’s voice in ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’, seems defiant, Lavette, instead, tears the heart asunder with her strength. Similarly, her interpretation of ‘Don’t Fall Apart On Me Tonight’, is a personification of the power and strength of the feminine and I defy any listener to hear what she does with one word, ‘please’, and and not feel it resonate within your soul. Contrary to the lyrics, Bettye Lavette, you are the one we are looking for.
Recommended Track; It Ain't Me Babe
|#29 Natalie Prass: The Future and the Past - ATO Records
Natalie Prass wrote of a complete set of songs for her 2nd album. After Trump's win in 2016, they simply did not feel right. Thus she began a journey very similar to my own experience that I outlined at the beginning of this article. After the initial burst of passionately angry post-inaugural albums, a dulled sense of dread set in. Immediate change is nowhere to be found but rather people slowly mobilizing hand-in-hand with marginalized communities. While I enjoy this album for reflecting my own 2018, I also feel it is a solid pop with a lot to offer listeners.
Recommended Track: Short Court Style
|#28 Charlotte Dos Santos: Cleo - Fresh Selects
I have played Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay many times in jazz bands. It's one of those pieces that, as a drummer, you look over and smile at the bass player when you lock into the groove. When I heard Dos Santos's smoky take on the Hubbard track, I was immediately hooked. This reinterpretation comes as no surprise from the Norwegian singer as she studied jazz and music production at the Berklee School of Music. While she draws on music from all around the world, her studies in jazz have given her the ability to intertwine complex vocal tracks that come off effortlessly. The title track Cleo, the only one written in 3rd person narrative, is an honest introspective look at the person Dos Santos wants to become. It is no surprise that there is a certain pain to her music, as the musics in which she derives inspiration are fueled by that very same thing.
Recommended Track: Red Clay
|#27 Calypso Valois: Cannibale - [PIAS] Le Label
Calypso Valois is an unknown to me. She sings in French, a language I only understand un peu. There is even less written about her her online. Listening to the album, I am filled with the same joy as I was listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg's Rest from 2017. It is an album that exists as another moment in a long history of French music. Some moments sound like the songs of France Gall and other girls of the ye-ye movement. Other moments sound like Lizzy Mercier Descloux or electronic band Air. No matter how mysterious this album, there is a richness and depth to the synth and drum driven tracks that keeps pulling me back in.
Recommended Track: Le Jour
|#26 Juliana Hatfield: Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John
Juliana Hatfield has been a mainstay in music since the 90s, playing in bands like the Blake Babies, The Juliana Hatfield Three, Some Girls, The Lemonheads and releasing 13 solo records. More and more we are seeing musicians reference artists who have been overlooked in music history, mostly due to their extreme popularity. On this album, Hatfield takes on Olivia Newton John in a very loving way, covering popular tunes like Physical and Xanadu, but also delving deeper into the catalogue with tracks like Dancin’ Round and Round. The tracks are near recreations of the originals. While some might suggest the lack of interpretation is detrimental to the record, I honestly feel it really puts the focus on the quality of Olivia Newton John's music, which I believe Hatfield was trying to do. It also features one of the most beautiful album covers of 2018.
Recommended Track: Magic
|#25 Altın Gün: On - Les Disques Bongo Joe
I fairly regularly fantasize about winning the lottery. When I do so, I always imagine what it would be like to go digging for records in places like Turkey, Morocco, or India, with a seemingly unlimited supply of money. For Jasper Verhulst, record shopping in Instanbul was inspirational enough for him to start a band. Jasper, who at the time was on tour with Jacco Gardener, immediately fell in love with 70s Turkish artists like Barış Manço, Selda, and Erika Koray. He enlisted the help of a few of the members of Jacco's band, as well as musicians from Turkey. Using Anatolian rock songs, which have now essentially become standards, the band employed a modern psychedelic backdrop over crisp production. The interplay between the drums and bass is exceptional.
Recommended Track: Tatli Dile Guler Yuze
|#24 Lena Raine: Celeste OST - Radical Dreamland
I often find myself drawn into video game walkthroughs that my roommate has put on. They are thoroughly enjoyable to watch but even more heart warming to listen to. Video games have a unique history, with soundtracks limited to the capabilities of the system. The critically acclaimed Celeste is very similar to classic sidescrollers like Mario or Megaman. Therefore it is is no surprised then, that the soundtrack calls back to 8-bit sound. Many songs build from simple melodies into complex soundscapes, with pieces timing in at almost 10 minutes long. Raine, an avid gamer herself, has created a soundtrack that successfully merges modern sounds with nostalgic forms. Even if you aren't particularly a fan of video game music, this album will feel familiar in all the right ways.
Recommended Track: Resurrections
|#23 Anemone: Baby Only You & I - Luminelle Records
In Western culture, the flowering anemone is associated with the return of warm spring breezes and this definitely sprang to mind on a warm, early June night when seeing Anemone opening for another Montreal based band, Men I Trust. The evening, the weather and the time of year was the perfect setting for the dream pop elements of Anemone. They are a band that have crafted an album, written by singer/keyboardist, Chloé Soldevila, that is unique, while referencing numerous styles of decades of music. Both the album and live performance were pure entrancing sunshine pop at its best. Anemone fuses early 60’s pop and girl groups, late 60’s and early 70s gentle hints of psychedelia, with a skilled and tight musicianship. The live performance, which I highly recommended has elements of jamming held together by tight drums and bass, fluid guitar, loping keyboards and of course, Chloé’s expressive and melodic voice, in both official Canadian languages. If the styles of music mentioned above, are not to your taste, rest assured, the sum of Anemone is far greater than its parts.
Recommended Track: Bout De Toi
|#22 Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings
Chicago based drummer and producer Makaya McCraven is just another of the many jazz musicians expanding what we thought possible with jazz. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said 'Maybe music doesn’t need to be watered down to be accessible. Maybe you can be provocative, and that actually gives you more of an opportunity to move people'. Perhaps that is why he did not water down his own process, which required recording artists all around the world. Drawing on musicians like Flying Lotus and Madlib, McCraven spliced and cut up the material into something both limitless yet cohesive. The album even intentionally features female artists on every single track, including standout Brandee Younger on harp. The material is often sourced from live, heavily improvised gigs, which give it a wonderfully human sound. I have always believed that if you aren't taking risks then you will never access your full potentially. This album, start to finish, walks that delicate line, resulting in truly fantastic music.
Recommended Track: Holy Lands
|#21 Bixiga 70: Quebra-Cabeça - Glitterbeat
The neighbourhood of Bixiga, located in the heart of Sao Paolo, is known for it's diverse population. It is no surprise then, that the band, who's diversity is at the core of their sound, got their name from this area. While the 10 piece band has been releasing records for nearly a decade, nothing until this point has been nearly as boisterous and full. A true standout in Afro-Brazilian music. You can just picture the beads of sweat dripping off the horn players in a sweaty small underground club in Sao Paolo. In Portuguese 'quebra-cabeça' literally translates to 'break head' but in references to a puzzle. While I am putting a lot of faith in Google with that last statement, I can confidently say this album will break your head in the best way possible.
Recommended Track: Quebra Cabeça
|#20 Daxuva & Nina Miranda: Le Jardin. Not On Label
For everyone complaining about the cost of Massive Attack tickets on their upcoming Mezzanine tour, screw it... buy this album instead. Le Jardin is the first release from a collaboration between Brazilian singer Nina Miranda and Portuguese producer DAXUVA. Just last year Miranda released Freedom of Movement, a much more upbeat record showcasing her Brazilian heritage front and center. On Le Jardin, however, DAXUVA has tapped Miranda into something much more dark, airy and downtempo. In listening to the album, it is safe to assume Miranda was heavily influenced by the British Tryp Hip scene of the 90s, which would have been prominent during her 20s. The music conjures up rich visuals, which probably accounts for the 3 beautiful companion videos for Exist, Hummingbird and The Scent. The result of the collaboration is stunning, from the dreamy stripped down Bicycle to the pounding bass/synth/sax driven Gonna Make the World Better.
Recommended Track: Exist
|#19 Szun Waves: New Hymn To Freedom - Leaf
Szun Waves are just another example of quality music coming out of the London UK jazz scene. The trio is comprised of Luke Abbos on synths, saxaphonist Jack Wyllie and drummer Laurence Pike. At points, the album can be overwhelming with a sound that seems well beyond just 3 players. On top of that, the tracks are both improvised and unedited. For me, jazz, in its simplest form, is music based on improvisation. Today, jazz musicians do not simply live in some jazz-only bubble but rather have access to more music than any other generation. It's bursting through the music at full force. In the case of Szun Waves, it is synth driven psych over improvised music. Embracing these non-jazz genres and forms have provided a much needed sense of urgency to the genre. It is why the jazz fan base is growing more rapidly than it has for years.
Recommended Tracks: Constellation
|#18 Ssion: O - Dero Arcade
Queer doesn't even begin to describe Cody Critcheloe, aka Ssion. In a look right out of the Castro district in the 70's, Ssion is often seen wearing perfectly fitting acid wash jeans and a tight white t-shirt. For more than a decade he has been releasing his own music and directing music videos for artists like Robyn, Kylie Minogue, Perfume Genius and Peaches. There have even been hints dropped on Instagram that he will be involved in the upcoming Madonna album, which is fitting as this album definitely draws inspiration from Erotica. In the video for At Least the Sky is Blue, the first single, Ssion appears as Liza Minnelli, while featured artist Ariel Pink pulls off a convincing Elizabeth Taylor. In describing the video he said 'I wanted to make a narrative music video that felt akin to cult gay movies I grew up worshipping but with a modern twist and modern accessories'. The character of Ssion, like the album itself, is glossy, with an over the top narrative leading to delicate self-aware moments. When we listen to this album, my friends and I always sing out the line "diet coke and ketamine". This perfectly represents the vice ridden imagery that fuel his songs. It resonates with us because these images often make us laugh or uncomfortably exist in all of us just below the surface.
Recommended Track: At Least The Sky Is Blue
|#17 Flavien Berger: Contre-Temps - Pan European Recording
Contre-Temps is not an album that will garner a lot of attention on 2018 year end lists. Like many artists on here, Berger is simply victim of not being well known outside of France. He has been touring with French electronic outfit Agar Agar, who are contemporaries in sound and derivations of inspiration. The album jumps from beautifully spacious compositions to pounding electroclash. A Reculons, the standout track from the album, features the only guest on the album, singer Julia Lanoë.
Suggested Track: A Reculons
| #16 Kendrick Lamar: Black Panther OST - Top Dawg Entertainment
It only took Black Panther 26 days to surpass the billion dollar mark at the box office. The release was marred by pathetic lowlife racists furious at the predominantly Black cast, however, when I saw it in theatres, the crowd was electric. It felt like one of the cultural moments we will recall later in life. With so much on the line, the soundtrack was handed over to Kendrick Lamar, the most prolific hip-hop artist of the greater part of the decade. What he brought to the table was a soundtrack that was effortlessly woven into the movie, featuring some of the biggest names in hip-hop including SZA, The Weeknd, Vince Staples and Schoolboy Q, The soundtrack, like the movie, is a defining marker of where we will be heading in the near future and if we get more tracks like Pray For Me, I am all for it.
Recommended Track: Pray For Me
|#15 Marianne Faithfull: Negative Capability - Panta Rei, BMG
This year I read Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. I was struck by how eloquently he wrote about the profoundness of Joni's later music. I think we have been conditioned to take the later works of musicians with a grain of salt. That no matter how good it is, it always exists in a space outside their greatest musical outputs. When I finally heard Negative Capability, I was stopped in my tracks. Her husky voice reflects a life filled with dizzying highs and sorrowful lows; from dating Mick Jagger and being a UK pop darling to living on the streets and heroin addition. Much like Joni Mitchell, Faithfull's songs are incredibly personal and vulnerable. Yet these observations, particularly at 71 years old, are so astute that the listener is immediately connected to singer. While you may feel incredibly small, lonely and mortal after a single listen, it is worth the heartache. As with her past albums, Faithfull has called on the best musicians in the business, adding to the already haunting nature of the album.
Recommended Track: In My Own Particular Way
|#14 Dan Mason: Void - Business Casual
I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be so passionate and hopeful about vaporwave. A genre that is soaked in neon colours, downtempo beats, 90s internet culture and primarily available online from producers working under quirky pseudonyms. After listening to my fair share of smooth music this year, the often calming chill sounds of vaporwave was welcomed over so much of the awful music being released. While the genre often gets lost in referencing cheesy pop songs, Dan Mason's Void is a standout that deserves accolades. The tracks slowly melt into each other, as if someone fed the band Cut Copy a boat load of quaaludes. So as the night grows old, turn on your most colourful moving lights, indulge in your favourite vice(s) and listen to Void.
Recommended Track: Pain Reliever
|#13 Angelique Kidjo: Remain In Light - Kravenworks
Angélique Kidjo seems determined to remind listeners that Remain In Light, released by Talking Heads in 1980, owed everything to the polyrhythms of Afrobeat. That she and the musicians, specifically drummer Tony Allen, succeed so spectacularly is no surprise. Recording since 1981, Benin’s Kidjo has received the endless accolades befitting an artist, activist and woman of her stature. Her musical career alone has been diverse but returning Remain In Light back to Africa seems an act of both love and cultural reassertion. Her vocal delivery places an emphasis on each word, while the subjects of alienation, appearance, violence and retaliation for cultural attacks seem as authentic as if she had written them. Perhaps she inhabits them more fully. The revelation, and there are many, is her treatment of the slower second side of the original. It is a far more powerful, passionate, intense and harrowing experience in her hands. How, I frequently asked myself, did she manage to make the brilliance of Remain In Light technicolour? Possibly by simply being Angélique Kidjo.
Recommended Track: Houses in Motion
|#12 Nicolas Godin: Au Service de la France - Because Music
I became obsessed with 60s spy movies this year for many reasons; sleek suits, mid century design, exotic locations, cool gadgets and overtly sexually charged scenes. It was often randomly coming across the soundtracks that caused me to seek out some relatively obscure titles. I am confident, however, that the strength of Godin's soundtrack transcends my recent interest in spy music and is deserving of much praise. Nicolas Godin is best known for being one half of French electronic duo Air. In regards to making the album, Godin was quoted as saying 'This kind of music was often composed and recorded with jazz musicians who had also a strong knowledge of classical music. For this project, I reached out to French musicians with such background. They had, like me, the same love for legendary original soundtracks'. While the soundtrack obviously draws on the great spy soundtracks of the 60's, it does not come across being mere pastiche but rather an album full of modern energy.
Recommended Track: Au Service de la France
|#11 Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is A Reptile - Impulse!
Sons of Kemet is led by saxophonist extraordinaire Shabaka Hutchings, who has had his hand in many of the projects that have made London UK one of the most exciting and talked about jazz scenes in the world. This includes the groups Comet Is Coming and Shabaka and the Ancestors. The album features drummers Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner, Theon Cross on Tuba and appearances by poet Josh Idehen and toaster Congo Natty. All the song titles refer to strong Black woman throughout history such as Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Yaa Asantewaa and Doreen Lawrence. It is often believed that the further away you get from the major American jazz epicenters, the more water downed the jazz becomes. You often hear the term 'classical approach' when discussing European jazz. Not being from NYC, or any other the major American jazz city, has forced Hutchings to create his own equally valid narrative that embraces his roots. He said 'not being from the place that jazz is born from means that I don’t feel any ultimate reverence to it. It’s just about finding ways of reinterpreting how we’re thinking about the music'. As a result the band brings their own histories to this urgent and politically charged album.
Recommended Track: My Queen Is Doreen Lawrence
|#10 Pat Van Dyke: Hello, Summer - Cotter Records
I came across this album via Dj Supermarkt, the mastermind behind the incredible Too Slow To Disco yacht rock compilation series. The quality of these compilations gave me good reason to inherently trust his taste in music, As someone who lives in a country with a challenging winter season, the upbeat yet chill sound of Pat Van Dyke's latest album is exactly what I'd expect from an album called Hello, Summer. Van Dyke is obviously an obsessive collector of music, with a wealth of musical references at his disposal. The brilliance of the album, is his ability to not let the tracks get too bogged down and over produced. The tracks remain incredibly funky, with delicate and groovy touches added by live musicians. It's an album that will have you obsessing over the sources of the sounds while simultaneously wanting to drink margaritas with all your friends before sunset.
Recommended Track: Lotus
|#9 Eleanor Friedberger: Rebound - Frenchkiss Records
The biggest supporter of Not So Kwyet has without a doubt been my friend Sam, who has been there from day one. He's definitely a musical soulmate. We obsess over albums together and are constantly talking about standout tracks from Sheila B's show Sophisticated Boom Boom. One of these standouts for Sam was Eleanor Friedberger, who is most known for work in the brother-sister duo The Fiery Furnaces. The cover of Rebound, which is arguably my favourite album artwork of the year, directly references Friedberger's Greek heritage. As i look at this cover, I can't help but think that her album is like a piece of ancient Greek mosaic or piece of pottery. There are fragments missing. The internal emotional landscape is not fully complete. However, these missing pieces, over the dark 80's pop sound, just generate more interest for the listener. The 'indie pop' landscape has become increasingly homogenous, which is why Rebound is a much needed breath of fresh air.
Recommended Tracks: Are We Good?
|#8 Bon Voyage Organisation: Jungle? Quelle Jungle? - Columbia
Adrien Durand is a Parasian producer and mastermind behind Bon Voyage Organisation. In discussing the album, Durand said 'I tried to continue the musical expedition between dystopian Science-Fiction Haunted Africa - plus Haitian Vaudou on Soleil Dieu - and futuristic Asia. Addressing, in a double entendre manner, some of the political issues that I am sensitive to'. As the name may or may not suggest, it is truly a voyage from style to style. This is much in thanks to the wide variety of fantastic musicians he accesses through his work. While the album is a melting pot of styles, it is the overall form of the album which piques my interest. The album kicks off with the track L'heure C'est L'heure, which features smooth harmonies, pounding congas and disco-fied flute over a sexy bass line. The song dissolves into what I can only describe as a modern dystopic take of space age music with an underlying jazz beat. The rest of the album slowly dissolves from disco-drenched tunes into something more eerie, yet dreamy. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what is going on but obsessing over the details is not the point; just give in to the journey through space and time.
Recommended Track: Si d'aventure
|#7 Kassin: Relax - Luaka Bop
With a career spanning over two decades, Alexandre Kassin is one of the most accomplished Brazilian musicians and producers of his time. He has worked with the likes of Caetano Veloso, Marisa Monte, Bebel Gilberto, and Erasmo Carlos. However, in many parts of the world he is relatively unknown. I only came across this record recently but i can't put it down. The album mixes Brazilian genres, such as Tropicalia, Jovem Garda and Bossa Nova, with pop elements such as disco and funk. The album is often lighthearted and cheeky, however, it is the stark shifts to darker melodies that make this such a unique listening experience. In particular, I find myself constantly listening to the the hauntingly beautiful organ parts on the songs Estricnina and A Paisagem Morta.
Recommended Track: Estricnina
|#6 Young Gun Silver Fox: AM Waves - Feat Beats Records
This summer, I somehow biked almost 2000km. Much of this was done at a place in Toronto called The Leslie Spit, where the sun shimmers over Lake Ontario. What better place to listen to an album that sounds right out of the smooth and cocaine fueled LA scene of the 70's, which we is now lovingly referred to as Yacht Rock. The band features 'young gun' Andy Platts, who had another release in 2018, called Golden Days, with his band Mamas Gun. The second half of the group is long-haired 'silver fox' Shawn Lee, who is an award winning video game composer and leader of the Ping Pong Orchestra. While some may see this release as nothing but an exercise in nostalgia, I couldn't turn away from the stunning harmonies, top-notch musicianship and lyrics that will conjure up many images in your hear. If you don't know what to listen to with your friends, toss this on and you'll be cheering for the underdog and asking your friend Lenny to pour one for the road 😉
Recommended Track: Midnight In Richmond
|#5 Connan Mockasin: Jassbusters - Mexican Summer
The first time I heard Connan Mockasin album, I enjoyed it but generally dismissed it. However, my friend Sam was incredibly passionate about it. As I was walking home late at night, I gave it a second chance. The albums brilliance became immediately clear to me. On his third album Mockasin, who hails from New Zealand, delivers a performance that is foggy, delicate and haunting. One that sounds as good being played from a crappy phone speaker in your pocket as it does on hi-fi system. This is probably why I have fallen asleep to it for the past two months. The track Last Night perfectly exemplifies why Jassbusters is as an intimate album for intimate moments.
Recommended Track: Last Night
|#4 Cecile McLorin Salvant: The Window - Mack Avenue Records
As a typically instrumental jazz musician, I never fully appreciated vocal jazz because it felt like the musicians always took a backseat to the vocalist. Over the past 3 years, however, my opinion has changed drastically. Late at night, I am usually found listening to vocalists like Blossom Dearie, Johnny Hartman or Carmen McRae. McLorin, who is only 29 years old, won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2010 and has been praised by both critics and fellow musicians. Wynton Marsalis was quoted as saying 'You get a singer like this once in a generation or two'. The album is essentially a duet between McLorin and pianist Sullivan Fortner, with a brief yet powerful appearance by Melissa Aldana on Tenor sax. While she sings a variety of standards, from Nat King Cole to Stevie Wonder, McLorin has the ability to make it her own. However, the standout of this record is the way in which McLorin and pianist Sullivan Fortner work seamlessly together. It's not so much McLorin being accompanied, as it is a duet between equally assertive musicians. I honestly haven't heard anything like this in my life before.
Recommended Track: Wild Is LoveWild Is Love
|#3 Hollie Cook: Vessel of Love - Merge Records
To say Hollie Cook comes from a musical family is an understatement. Her father Paul Cook, was the drummer in a little band called The Sex Pistols and her mother Jeni was a backing singer in The Culture Club. I mean... her godfather is Boy George (one can only dream). Beyond that, Hollie was also a backing vocalist in the seminal all-female post-punk band The Slits from 2005-2010. She describes her album Vessel of Love, which features rich production by Youth of The Killing Joke, as 'Tropical Pop'. When you listen to her lyrics, it is no evident she draws her influence from the queens of Lovers Rock, a style of hyper-romantic reggae from the mid 70's. The album is lush, tropical, nuanced, beautiful and there is even a limited edition translucent hot pink vinyl.
Recommended Track: Freefalling
|#2 - Janelle Monae: Dirty Computer - Bad Boy Records
Janelle Monae has been on the cusp of superstardom for many years. Although I absolutely adore her albums The Electric Lady and The ArchAndroid, I have no hesitation in saying that Dirty Computer represents her first true masterpiece. An album that will be talked about for many years to come. The album is a mix of Janelle exerting her freedom, particularly in regards to her recently divulged pansexuality, and a harsh yet personal critique of the state of things from the prospective of an incredibly strong Black woman. My expectations were incredibly high for her Dirty Computer tour and somehow she still managed to shatter them. Every time I hear the album I am taken back by how good every single track on the album is. I honestly can listen to her sing 'Young, black, wild and free, Naked on a limousine, Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh' over... and over... and over.
Recommended Track: Crazy, Classic Life
|#1 - U.S. Girls: A Poem Unlimited - 4AD
When I saw US Girls live, I leaned over to my friends and said 'we are watching the Arcade Fire become irrelevant'. I actually love AF, who I targeted only because they are a top act, but I honestly can't remember the last time I saw a band like this have so much... fun! So much popular music has become cold, calculated and obsessively crafted in the studio. Yet with U.S. Girls you never know who is going to be on stage that night and songs never sound the same. Their live shows are groovy, sweaty. riddled with jaw dropping solos, all while Meg peers into the deepest part of your soul from the stage. The album represents Remy's most collaborative effort to date resulting in a dark, often dreamy synth pop that is laced with disco and jazz touches. Remy's rage and cynicism are perfectly captured in the complex narratives of albums, If you haven't listened to the album, please do and get ready to be completely spent by the end of the last song Time. The track Incidental Boogie perfectly represents this album; a disco-inspired dance track with raw and emotionally charged lyrics about domestic abuse. I want to leave you with one of the verses from this album, a small example of why this album tops my list.
I still do what I want
And I still do what I like
But now, I got this man to show me that I'm all wrong
He hits me left, he hits me right
All the time, but no marks
No marks, no evidence to see
Don't you know these days I feel so lucky?
To be brutalized means you don't have to think
And life is easy when there is only pain to compete, life is easy
Recommended Track: Incidental Boogie
TOP 20 COMPILATIONS/REISSUES OF 2018
|Martin Freeman & Eddie Piller: Jazz On The Corner - Acid Jazz Records
Acid Jazz co-founder Eddie Piller asked British actor Martin Freeman, aka Bilbo Baggins, to curate a jazz radio show together. The overwhelming response has resulted in Jazz On The Corner, most likely named as a nod to trumpeter Miles Davis. Piller dives deep into the ancestry of acid jazz while Freeman pulls out some gems from both classic and modern jazz musicians, including Art Blakey, Mose Allison, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith, Blossom Dearie and Kamasi Washington.
Recommended Track: Charles Williams - Trees and Grass and Things Charles Williams - Trees and Grass and Things
|Paradise: The Sound Of Ivor Raymonde - Strut
You may not know British musician Ivor Raymonde but you probably know songs he has written, artists he has arranged for, or even songs he has sung on. He decided on the orchestration and backing vocals, chose the instruments and determined what was heard on the radio – and what record buyers bought. The compilation features songs by David Bowie, Dusty Springfield, Helen Shapiro, Tom Jones and even Ian Dury. No matter the style of the song, his detailed, clear and deliberate insight is present. Hopefully this will help establish Raymonde as premier composer within music history.
Recommended Track: Helen Shapiro - He Knows How To Love Me
|A New Life, Vol. 2: Jazzman Records
With so much focus on the explosive London Jazz today, Jazzman Records has reached back into British jazz music which was overshadowed by the giants of American jazz. Curators Francis Gooding and Duncan Brooker have stayed true to the labels motto 'We Dig Deeper' with an impressive 2nd volume in the series first introduced 3 years ago. A wide variety of styles are on display, including cosmic jazz, funk, fusion, standard jazz, vocal-jazz, and much more.
Recommended Track: Billy Jenkins - Pharoah Sanders
|Unusual Sounds - Anthology Recordings
Many people have never even heard the term Library Music, yet it is one of the most sought after and difficult to find genres for record collectors. Prominent in the 60s and 70s, Library Music was stock music owned by various labels. Composers would write and then record
the tracks, often with full orchestras, that then could be used for a variety scenarios. Movie makers or television producers would simply go and find a series of pieces that would reflect the mood they were looking for and make a choice. With such high demand for music, it was almost like the fast food of the music world. This compilation is a companion piece to David Hollander's book Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music and features a wide variety of tracks for specific moments and places; from a posh outdoor beach bar to the dark alleyways of a strange town.
Recommended Track: Stringtronics - Tropicola
|Britxotica Goes Wild! - Trunk Records
Jonny trunk, founder of Trunk records, is no stranger to oddball records and it came at no surprise that he was one of the featured collectors in book Dust and Grooves. Britxotica Goes Wild! is the 5th album in the ever expanding wacky Britxotica series. The compilation features percussion driven British exotica recordings with track names like Voom-Va-Voom, Vaba-Ba-Boom, Taboo, Mambo For Latin Lovers and House of Bamboo. There is even a cover of Harry Belafonte's Jump In the Line, done in a slowed down brass dominated
Recommended Track: Frank Holder - Jump In The Line
|The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr: Jazz, Jazz, Jazz - Habibi Funk
Habibi Funk does not appear to be slowing down any time soon, releasing both Kamal Keila as well as this rare gem from The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr in 2018. This highly specialized label focuses on Arabic music from the Middle East and Africa. Co-founder Jannis Stürtz typically travels to a specific locale and digs up as much information about that scene as possible. After coming up with a particular focus, he tends to contact the musicians or, if they have passed, their families. From there they beautifully curate either some type of compilation or release previously unheard material that the artist has held on to. In this case, Habibi Funk have delved into their first reissue with the ultra rare Jazz, Jazz, Jazz, an album by a band who appeared as a mere footnote in the history of Sudanese music. As with other Habibi Funk releases, Jazz, Jazz, Jazz is incredibly upbeat and danceable, mixing local and western genres.
Recommended Track: Shaikan Music
|#13 Something Weird Greatest Hits! - Modern Harmonic
I'm not one to run out with the crowd on Record Store Day but this was definitely the one release that caught my attention. Something Weird Video, founded in 1990 by Mike Vraney in Seattle, specializes in bizarre and often lost exploitation/sexploitation films of the 1930s through the 1970s. Similar in approach to the many of the vinyl reissue labels. The comp features oddball soundbites and even odder tracks from the deep corners of the 60s and 70s. This comp begs to be listened to as it is impossible to describe it as anything but something weird.
Recommended Track: Lee Dowell - Black Belt
|#12 Turkish Ladies. Female Singers from Turkey 1974 - 1988 - Epic Istanbul
This compilation was in heavy rotation on Sophisticated Boom Boom, including an interview with compiler Kornelia Binicewicz on the March 3 show. In 2017, Binicewicz previously release the compilation Uzelli Psychedelic Anadolu on the Uzelli Kaset label, which also featured Turkish Musicians. However, this latest release solely featured Turkish women from the mid 70s to the late 80s. The album highlights the experience of Turkish women, who were often shunned for pursuing music, but also challenges that women face in the music industry throughout the world.
Recommended Track: Gönül Yazar - Sen Bir Yana
|#11 Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs: Paris In The Spring - Ace Records
Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, two thirds of Saint Etienne, have again teamed up with Ace Records to produce another great compilation. Last year the duo released English Weather, which featured early British prog music. On their latest comp, the two record fanatics have turned to late 60s France, a time marked by riots, sexual revolution and fantastic msuic. The sound is very different than English Weather drawing upon French chanson, yé-yé, jazz, funk and British chamber pop. The comp features classic French artists like Gainsbourg, Dutronc, Hardy and Birkin while simultaneously exploring some incredibly rare gems.
Recommended Track: Triangle - Litanies
|#10 We Out Here - Brownswood Recordings
As reflected in my top albums above, something great is happening in the London jazz scene. Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings teamed up with Gilles Peterson to curate a three day recording session that focused on collaboration within the London jazz Scene. With the famous collabs of Blue Note and Impulse in mind, Hutchings gathered artists like Moses Boyd, Nubya Garcia, Theon Cross and Joe Armon-Jones. The result is not a celebration of past music but rather a timestamp of what is going on right at at this moment.
Recommended Track: Maisha - Inside the Acorn
|#9 Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie In 1980s South Africa - Soundway
Gumba Fire Compiled by Miles Cleret of Soundway Recods and DJ Okapi of Afrosynth Records, captures an interesting moment in South African music. Loaded with dance inducing bass lines, sensual harmonies and electronic percussion for days, the comp focuses on a period that was both influenced by American genres of the 70s, like jazz and soul, while moving towards Kwaito and eventually house-music. These rare tracks are probably unlike anything you have heard, which is probably why the compilation has been dubbed one of the best of the year.
Recommended Track: Zoom - Wayawaya
|#9 Brian Eno: Music For Installations
There is no other artist like Brian Eno on this planet. His concepts are timeless, in that they have career long relevance. He is not someone who constantly redefines himself on every album, a trait we tend to praise amongst our favourite artists. Rather, his concepts are a study in minimalism; changing at an almost indistinguishable pace. This was my most listened to album on Spotify this year, partially due to the fact that I fell asleep to it many many nights. Until I researched more about the album, I was under the impression that this was just a new Eno album. However, some tracks go back as far as 1985. The album intensely long, being sold in boxsets of 9LP's or 6CD''s. If you are a fan of Eno's sound, or have an open mind, it is incredible listen.
Recommended Track Kazakhstan
|#8 Agnes Obel : LateNightTales - LateNightTales
The LateNightTales series features some of the most interesting names in music curating playlists that include their own music. As the name suggests, this album is perfect for late nights, a perfectly intimate album for when you have lost track of time. This beautifully dark and slow burning comp will transport you, most likely, if you are like me, to investigate Obel's music further. Obel chose an incredibly wide range of music including songs by Henry Mancini, Eden Ahbez, Lee Hazelwood, the Bulgarian Folklore Choir, Ray Davies and Nina Simone.
Recommended Track: Lee Hazelwood - The Nights
|#7 Spider-Jazz - Trunk Records
I'm not usually one for superhero related things but I do adore the original Spiderman cartoon series. A big reason for that was always the music. While some people have criticized the release for not featuring the most well known tracks from the show, including the infamous theme, that is without a doubt the strength of this release. It features some of the most notable names in library music including Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, David Lindup, Bill Martin and Phil Coulter. If you are lucky, you may even land a copy of the half blue half red colour variant LP. Get your Spidey senses tingling, spin a web and fly through this comp.
Recommended Track: Syd Dale - The Hellraisers
|#6 Basement Beehive: The Girl Group Underground - Numero Group
This is one of two compilations to make my list by the Numero Group, who are also celebrating a grammy nomination for their Jackie Shane comp Any Other Way from 2017. It features many rare and often unpolished recordings the sweetest part of the girl group era. However, like the leather clad model sporting a beehive hairdo, this comp does have a bit of an edge to it. The 2LP vinyl release does miss some of the gems found on the cd release but at the end of the day it's all smiles and hairspray.
Recommended Track: Judy & The Affections - Dum,Dum, De Dip
|#5 Disques Debs International Volume 1: An Island Story: Biguine, Afro Latin & Musique Antillaise 1960-1972 - Strut
A compilation which celebrates one the best French Caribbean labels, Disques Debs out of Guadeloupe was set up by Henri Debs during the late ‘50s. Over a storied history, the label has releases over 300 7” singles and 200 LPs, covering styles varying from early biguine and bolero to zouk and reggae.
Recommended Track: Dolor Et Les Diables Du Rythme - Salvana
|#4 John Coltrane: Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album - Impulse!
The story behind The Lost Album is not to be believed. The recordings were only recently found in the possession of the family of Coltrane's first wife Naima (yes... the Naima who inspired the beautiful track on Giant Steps). The recordings feature Coltrane's classic quartet with McCoy Tyner on keys, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums. It is equally important to recognize that these were all engineered by Rudy Van Gelder, the man who shaped the sound of jazz. It is unsure whether this was intended to be an actual album at the time. Even if it wasn't, it is unbelievable to unearth recordings like this by arguably the greatest jazz musician of all time.
Recommended Track: Nature Boy
|#3 Ed Motta: Too Slow To Disco Brasil - How Do You Are?
I feel like I talk about the Too Slow To Disco comps on almost every single Not So Kwyet mix. After releasing four compilations, dj Supermarkt turned to Brazilian musician extraordinaire Ed Motta to compile some grooviest tracks Brazil has to offer. This compilation is so smooth you will forget how rare some of the offerings are.
Recommended Track: Cassiano – Rio Best-Seller
|#2 Uneven Paths: Deviant Pop From Europe 1980-1991 - Music From Memory
The first time I heard this I was barely awake on an early morning foggy train ride. It was the perfect setting to draw me into this comp by Jamie Tiller, which features some of the most unusual, experimental, cult pop music produced in Europe at the time. Wonderfully dark, melodic, moody and filled with all the electronic drums you could ever want.
Recommended Track: Nightfall In Camp - Cada Día
|#1 Technicolor Paradise: Rhum Rhapsodies & Other Exotic Delights - Numero Group
The cover for Technicolor Paradise immediately draws you in and perfectly represents what you should expect to hear from this spectacular Numero Group comp. I have listened to an absurd amount of Exotica in 2018 and I assure you that this is not to be missed. This comp features smaller exotica groups, which is opposite of the most known exotica artists like Les Baxter, Esquivel or Martin Denny. It features a variety of instrumental and vocal tracks, ranging from delicate ethereal tracks to cathartic surf quartets. This 3LP comp comes with a full 12x12 booklet filled with information and fantastic pictures.
Recommended Track: Akim with the Hank Levine Orchestra - Voodoo Drums
Thank you making it to the end! If you have any comments, I’d love to hear from you.
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Have a safe and healthy 2019