Features

Grab your headphones for this read. Photo: Courtesy of REMember Music Records.

The Fulcrum picks our favourite albums of 2018

1) Swimming, Mac Miller (August 2018)

Losing Pittsburgh-born rapper Mac Miller was tough, and his final album, Swimming, doesn’t make it any easier.

On Swimming, intertwined with lyrical depth and ambient and jazzy instrumentals, many fans agreed that Miller was finally reaching all that he had aspired to be. Written in the aftermath of his break up with pop star Ariana Grande, the album emerges as a beautifully detailed self-reflection, a tour of Mac’s head or a look inside his diary, if you will. While Mac may be gone, he left us with an album that will help him live on for years to come.

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

2) Daytona, Pusha T (May 2018)

The American rap and hip-hop scene was set for a hallmark year in 2018. Migos were poised to open the year strong with Culture II while hall-of-famers Drake, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Pusha T promised albums. Unfortunately nearly all these rap releases fell short. That is, except for Pusha T’s Daytona.

Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, the album is certainly short, but that’s one of its major strengths, showcasing the precise and meticulous skill set of Pusha T—he manages to pack in an almost obscene amount of cunning raps and rhymes, rhyming back-and-forth with Rick Ross on the standout, “Hard Piano.” Kanye West’s innovative production, mingling and mixing samples with ease, doesn’t hurt either.

—Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

3) Sweetener, Ariana Grande (August 2018)

Ariana Grande has undoubtedly had a difficult year but she hasn’t let that take away her sweetness, and she showcases this fact in her fourth studio album, appropriately titled Sweetener.

The album has a more mature vibe than its predecessor, Dangerous Woman, while maintaining Grande’s signature pop sound. She sings about everything from the Manchester terror attack, to women’s sexual liberation, and overcoming anxiety, using her experiences to craft an album that reflects her coming more fully into herself. Grande even pays tribute to her then-fiancé, Pete Davidson, on a one-minute thirteen-second track. Short and sweet, the song lasts about as long as their relationship did.

Graham Robertson, Fulcrum Alumnus.

4) Astroworld, Travis Scott (August 2018)

One of Astroworld’s greatest strengths is Scott’s ear for curation: he knows exactly where to fit in each of the close to 20 guests in his fun house to take advantage of the best of their abilities.

On “Sicko Mode,” featuring three switch-ups mid song and Drake and Swae Lee, Scott shows off as the circus ringmaster. Scott, The Weeknd and Pharrell Williams team up with Tame Impala to create “Skeletons,” one of the album’s strongest tracks. Astroworld makes it perfectly clear that no other rapper has the capacity to put together a thrilling, roller coaster-ride of an album quite like Travis Scott.

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor

5) Isolation, Kali Uchis (April 2018)

Colombian-American singer Kali Uchis’ debut studio album, Isolation, blew the music world away, and for good reason. At only 23-years-old, Uchis sings as strongly (if not more strongly) as the most seasoned pop stars, commanding an orchestra of different sounds and ushering in a broad spectrum of collaborators effortlessly.

On “Just A Stranger” with up-and-comer Steve Lacy the two click perfectly. Meanwhile, “Tomorrow” catches Uchis navigating a crisp Tame Impala instrumental. “After the Storm” with Tyler, The Creator and Bootsy Collins emerges as the best of the album, with an equally as great music video worth checking out.

—Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

6) Staying at Tamara’s, George Ezra (March 2018)

Even though George Ezra might be best known for his 2013 hit, “Budapest,” this year marked another milestone for the 25-year-old singer: the release of his second-ever album: Staying at Tamara’s.

The album isn’t really a unified set of songs that are based around a theme, but more of a selection for listeners to choose from based off of their mood. So, this album has been the perfect accompaniment for all of this year’s ups-and-downs. If you’re sad, then you’re more than welcome to cry along to “Hold my Girl,” or if you’re happy, then “Don’t Matter Now” is right there with you.

—Iain Sellers, Arts & Culture Editor.

7) Testing, A$AP Rocky (May 2018)

After five very long years, A$AP Rocky fans were finally gifted with a new album, and it did not disappoint. Testing is the result of A$AP experimenting with writing and rapping at the intersection of different genres, samples and collaborators, and the result is spectacular. The list of collaborators ranges from acclaimed electronic artist Moby to the great Frank Ocean.

Some critics chastised the album for its lack of the bangers that dominated A$AP’s previous releases, but the change of pace is refreshing and a signal of necessary growth. If you need just one song to get you into the album, check out “Purity” with Frank Ocean, which samples Ms. Lauryn Hill.

Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.

8) Rally Cry, Arkells (October 2018)

The fifth studio album from the Hamilton band Arkells, this album marked a continuation of the poppy motown rock sound the Arkells experienced with on their previous album Morning Report. A sound born from what seems to be the Hamilton/Niagara region of southern Ontario, many bands such as the Glorious Sons with similar sounds blew up this year from this region but nobody has quite perfected the sound like the Arkells.

Songs on this album that stand out include “Relentless,” an ode to late Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie’s last tour, “People’s Champ,” a song about the Charlatan in the White House, and “Eyes On the Prize,” a song from the perspective of an evangelist. However, I think the best description of this album can be summarized by the chorus of the song “Relentless.” Relentless like a dog on a bone/we’ve got gas in the tank to go all night long.

—Charley Dutil, Associate Sports Editor.

9) Boarding House Reach, Jack White (March 2018)

With Boarding House Reach, Jack White breaks from his typical minimalist style to collaborate with at least 15 musicians on his most recent and most glitchy album. White experiments with synthesizers and triggers for the first time in his career, and abruptly cycles back and forth between ideas, settled by his  recognizable blues-guitar-rock base.

“Corporation” is one of the album’s most notable tracks. The introduction starts with steady drums and guitar, builds with organ sounds, then erratically shifts between glitchy sound effects. Finally, it settles back into its firm drums and guitar. Boarding House Reach is admittedly not easy listening, but it showcases a mid-career musician willing to take stylistic risks that result in a captivating and experimental album.

—Sarah Crookall, News Editor.

10) Kids See Ghost, Kids See Ghost (June 2018)

When Kanye West announced he’d be putting out not one, but two albums this year fans were ecstatic. His solo album, Ye, didn’t come close to living up to his previous few releases, but his project with Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghost, redeemed him.

The two have collaborated in the past, but seeing them work together for a whole seven songs just underlines why this couldn’t have happened sooner. Cudi emerges as the top dog, humming and rapping his way across Kanye’s always clean and creative production with ease. They even managed to snag a Kurt Cobain sample on “Cudi Montage,” undoubtedly the strongest track of the album.  

—Matt Gergyek, Features Editor.