16. OMBIIGIZI – Sewn Back Together

OMBIIGIZI – pronounced om-BEE-ga-ZAY, meaning ‘this is noisy’ – is a collaboration between Zoon (Daniel Monkman) and Status/Non-Status (Adam Sturgeon), Anishnaabe artists who explore their cultural histories through sound.

Anishinaabe People Description

The Anishinaabeg are a group of culturally related Indigenous peoples present in the Great Lakes region of Canada and the United States. They include the Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi, Mississaugas, Nipissing and Algonquin peoples.

I don’t know what to think of this record. At times I think it’s a Christian/Spiritual band overachieving. Their approach brings back memories of the first Stone Roses record.

And some of the instrumentation actually takes me back to artists like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. And I love that. In the end I don’t know how to describe this record and I don’t even know who they are but they are worth your time.

17. Ben Harper – Bloodline Maintenance – Ben Harper is a sleeper. Someday I think we will look back at his discography with awe for radio was never ready for his vibe. He crosses so many genres and no genre fanbase locked into him. Ben dropped a record a couple years ago with Charlie Musselwhite and it was incredible. Definitely the blues album of 2018. Check this session from that album.

But, here, could Bloodline Maintenance be his What’s Going On moment? I don’t know Ben’s works well enough to say this with confidence, but it sure feels like his What’s Going On moment. This album is bathed  in relevant importance, lyrical context for current times, and in a deep traditional R&B sound. Dig in.

18. Wilma Vritra – Grotto

More unique than most rap. Funky, melodic, jazzy, spoken word. The jazz violin on “One Under” sounds like Noel Pointer came back to life.  Actually the whole album plays like a smooth jazz rap album. Would love to sell this at the old RTO.

The second album from the transatlantic duo Wilma Vritra is richly orchestrated, replete with references to faith, mythology, and the cosmos, its 11 tracks grapple with themes of self-preservation and refuge from the world, even as they edge their way to a sort of redemption. 

Grotto is the work of two musicians separated by an ocean but undoubtedly operating on a shared wavelength. One is Will Archer, a Newcastle-born but London-based multi-instrumentalist and composer who today records as Wilma Archer, but who you might also know for his writing and production for artists like Celeste, Nilufer Yanya and Jessie Ware. Wilma Archer’s debut solo album A Western Circular, featured guest spots from the late MF DOOM, Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring, Sudan Archives and Laura Grove. The other is Hal Donell Williams Jr, aka VRITRA – a Los Angeles-based rapper whose tales of graft and grind are often couched in spiritual or cosmic terms. VRITRA has previously collaborated with Matt Martians via The Jet Age of Tomorrow, Pink Siifu and YUNGMORPHEUS. 

Grotto’s striking cover image is by Swampy, an enigmatic Californian street artist whose itinerant lifestyle – tales of squatting and train-hopping across North America – have made him a demi-mythical figure. A playful image, but it communicates the album’s themes – of a voyage through darkness, and the promise of light at the end of the tunnel. – From Wilma Vritra Bandcamp page

19. Lupe Fiasco – Drill Music in Zion – Great vibe, music, flow. Revolutionary, not so much. It is so listenable  it might very well be the rap album I return to most from this year. 

Lupe Fiasco: Drill Music in Zion

Sometime after 2011’s , Lupe Fiasco the ornery scholar overtook Lupe Fiasco the musician. Instead of the high-concept, accessible lyricism of his early days, the rapper ditched attempts at mainstream palatability, a result of fatigue from Chicago violence, label battles, and artistic compromises. Beginning with 2012’s Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt.

Lupe’s Ms. Mural. What a song!

20. Gabriels – Angels and Queens Part 1. Retro R&B at its greatest. Somehow an American Idol alum alwyay finds its way onto my list. Call it nostalgia or call it talent, I don’t care. One of my faves was Jacob Lusk who finished fifth on Season 10. That was the year Scotty McCreery beat out Lauren Alaina. Jacob is the lead singer in The Gabriels. I am praying the masses discover this band. 

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