Best of 2018: Noah Hardwick

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1. Brooke Annibale – Hold to the Light

Compiling a best of list for 2018 wasn’t easy. There were a lot of good releases this year but very few of them were great. Hold to the Light by Brooke Annibale is one those few though. In fact, Hold to the Light is so good it was the only album on this list I knew where to rank when I started. As you can see it is my album of the year for 2018. Why? Because it’s easily my most listened to album of the year. Because it’s among the few albums this year I cared enough about to buy a physical copy of. Because there are no tracks on the album I want to skip. Because really there is nothing I wish was different. That’s a rare sentiment in 2018.

Favorite songs: “Glow,” “We Were Not Ready,” “Either I”

2. Blank Books – EP1

If there’s another release from 2018 I’d give a rave review to it’s EP1 by Blank Books. Except it wasn’t released in 2018. EP1 made it’s debut on Bandcamp in November of 2017 only receiving a wider release to other platforms in January of 2018. Seeing as how it didn’t make my best of 2017 list though I think I’ll make an exception. My only complaint with EP1 is that it’s too short. But given the number of EPs on my list this year I really can’t hold even that against it. Which is why it earns the number two spot on my list this year.

Favorite songs: “Breathing Underwater,” “Thornhill”

3. Fleurie – Portals

Coming in at number three is Portals by Fleurie. I’ve been a fan of Fleurie since I first heard “Fire in My Bones” on Slospeak’s summer sampler back in 2015. And while her debut album strays from the cinematic sound I’ve come to know and love in favor of pop flair, it’s still very much her amazing vocals and lyrics driving the songs. Portals drags a little too much on the second half to be on par with Brooke Annibale and Blank Book’s outings, but it’s not far behind and certainly worthy of being in my top 3 albums of 2018.

Favorite songs: “Supersonic,” “Monarch,” “Chasing Stars”

4. Haiva ru – Wildflowers EP

Fleurie just barely edged out Haiva Ru to get my third spot though. In all actually it’s probably a tie, but I gave Portals the edge for being a full-length. While Wildflowers takes fourth place on my list, Haiva Ru is easily my favorite new artist of 2018. One of the things I love about this EP is the attention to small details like the piano that kicks in on the second verse of “Apple Trees” upon the mention of an upright. Combined with the short run-time of an EP that leaves little room for filler and you’ve got one of the most solid debut releases of the year right here.

Favorite songs: “Apple Trees,” “The Hunger”

5. Sarah Reeves – Easy Never Needed You

I’m sure Lauren Daigle will be remembered as the CCM queen of 2018 by most, but in my book that title goes to Sarah Reeves. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled onto “Feel the Waters” but didn’t really think much of it until I heard “Something About You.” That’s when I realized Sarah Reeves would probably be in my top 10 this year. And sure enough Easy Never Needed You turned out to be one of the best pop albums in Christian music this year. This album is just chock-full of radio hits. Almost to the point where I’d prefer to hear the songs shuffled into a playlist than on album together. But really, that’s not such a bad thing is it?

Favorite songs: “Something About You,” “Easy,” “Feel the Waters”

6. Faintheart – The Overview Effect EP

The Overview Effect is one of the real surprises of 2018. Faintheart definitely showed promise on their 2017 self- titled EP, but I really didn’t expect this much improvement in just a year. In a year where it seems like rock music was at a premium this EP was just what I needed.

Favorite songs: “90 Minutes,” “Chainbreaker”

7. The New Respects – Before the Sun Goes Down

I’ve been so excited about this album ever since hearing “Trouble” for the first time in 2016. But sadly Before the Sun Goes Down isn’t everything I hoped it would be. It’s not a bad album by any means, it’s just that I’ve heard almost every song on the album already. I guess that’s the hazard of releasing everything as a single first. Nonetheless, it’s still a solid album and I still say that The New Respects are the next big thing just waiting to happen.

Favorite songs: “Freedom,” “Something to Believe In,” “Trouble”

8. Lion of Judah – Treasure EP

Lion of Judah is my favorite worship artist of 2018. Treasure pairs thoughtful lyrics with synthy goodness, what’s not to like?

Favorite songs: “Treasure,” “I Am Jonah”

9. Luna Wave – Self-Titled EP

This marks Aaron Sprinkle’s second appearance on my list this year. I got to say, his production paired with Jessie Villa’s vocals are an excellent match. Which makes picking between the three Luna Wave EPs a bit of a challenge. But I decided on their self-titled release since it was my introduction to the group as well as the many other artists on SoundStripe.

Favorite songs: “New Generation,” “Oceans”

10. Levi Whalen – The Rough Edge EP

Rounding out my top ten  this year is Levi Whalen. The Rough Edge EP is the funnest EDM release I heard in 2018. I’m sorely disappointed that his Kickstarter for a new album wasn’t fully funded. I really hope that doesn’t keep him from continuing to make new music in 2019.

Favorite song: “Castles”

Honorable Mentions:

Hunger by Eikon
Not Trilled by Fine China
Multisensory Aesthetic Experience by Mae
Wintertime by Peter Poe
Human by Tree Giants
Trench by Twenty One Pilots

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I’ve been antecipating this list. Excellent choices!

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