2018 in Review: Top 10 Prime Slices of the Year

Compiled in no particular order by Music Directors Erin Ober and Curtis Heimburger

Thirdstory – Cold Heart (soul pop)

This album is heart wrenching and painfully well thought out from start to finish. The lyrics are flawless in message and flow, and the vocals are simply insane. You will want to cry and dance and call your ex (maybe don’t act on that last one) upon hearing Thirdstory’s luxurious harmonies and consistent connection. They remind me of a more soulful and sensitive One Republic with a much heavier focus on lyrical content and storytelling.

Haley Blais – Let Yourself Go EP – (indie folk)

Haley Blais is an indie folk artist hailing from Vancouver, B.C. Let Yourself Go is her first release with Rumpus Room Records, engineered and mixed by Trevor Lang. The EP starts out slow and sweet with soft vocals and ukulele and quickly picks up to an almost ABBA inspired vibe. The record has a nice balance of Haley’s personal side of life and her natural ability to write a catchy song. Her style is easy to love and even easier to relax to.

The warm embrace of your favorite depression nap blanket is personified in Hayley Heynderickx’s sweet sweet voice. This album is chock-full of sadness veiled in stunning metaphor and chilling vocals. If you are feeling self reflective, or just plain sorry for yourself, this album will listen to your woes and allow you to just sit and bask in your feelings for a little while longer.

Middle Kids – Lost Friends – (pop rock)

I decided to listen to this album for the sole fact that I thought the album cover was cool, and thank god I did. This trio has a sound like a tidal wave that hits you at the chorus every time. Filled with reverb and a wall of instruments, this LP feels incredibly big. The band’s personal lives come out a lot throughout, whether it’s upbeat or slow. They talk about old friends and experiences they had in their youth with a theme that says they have unfinished business. The songs are catchy and full of interesting riffs and melodies.

Liza Anne is a really honest writer with a voice that just oozes personality. These songs are complicated emotionally, yet completely relatable and  upbeat enough to jam out alone in your room to. There are some serious hooks scattered throughout Fine But Dying,  so be prepared to be humming along all week.

Johnny Payne – Johnny  (pop indie rock)

When I heard Johnny Payne’s new EP, Johnny, it was like a breath of fresh air. Known previously as the co-frontman for The Shilohs, Payne has decided to pursue a career of his own. This release gives off feelings of hope as he discusses trying to find comfort in letting go of the past. Songs like “Lazy Love” and “Alice On the Other Side,” are great examples. To sum up Johnny’s sound, as described by himself, it’s chipped champagne glasses, smeared bathroom mirrors and a lone romantic standing under the disco ball waiting for a slow dance.

This collaboration was perhaps the only thing that made an aggressive amount of sense in the past year. Successful in their own careers individually, these three indie legends have come together to create an album that has shaken fans to their cores. Julien Baker’s echoey lullabies pull the audience into a trance, only to be soothed by Lucy Dacus’s deep honey vocals and brightened by the pure magic that is Phoebe Bridgers. If you haven’t heard this album, get on it ASAP!

WAAX – Wild & Weak EP – (Hard Rock)

Female-fronted hard rock band WAAX gave us a good start to the fall semester with their new EP, Wild & Weak. You get that excited feeling that happens when you first listen to something really good. And it happened for every song. The release holds so much energy in each track that it feels like you’re listening to a live show. The drums are well rounded and sound full, the guitars are punchy and tight, and the vocals are raw and in your face. None of these songs sound out of place or thrown in. they sound like they’ve been shedding these tunes for awhile and needless to say, it’s paid off.

Waves of overwhelming synths and intentional distortion carry you on a musical journey through Joji’s October release, BALLADS 1. His melodies remind me of a darker, more introspective Post Malone, but his layered vocals stand out completely on their own. These songs are instant bangers; one listen through and you will find yourself swaying along to Joji’s beats like its your job.
Not coming soon enough was Poppy’s third full length album. It was everything and nothing of what I expected at the same time. As always, the production is glamorous and the songs are, well, poppier than ever. This release really builds on the “thing” that is Poppy. Where it was created, it’s views on society, and whether it wants to be a boy or a girl. The songs range from being light hearted pop tunes like “Fashion After All” to the absurdly heavy opposite like “X.” This isn’t like anything you’ll have heard before and it really deserves a listen.