As 2018 comes to a close, we’re already psyching ourselves up for all the musical treats coming in the new year—but not before counting down our favourites. From guilty pleasures to standout debuts to tastebreakers, here are the records we couldn’t stop listening to.
When Shawn Mendes made his debut on the charts back in 2014, the 16-year-old continued the in the longstanding tradition of young pop stars singing about romantic love and devastating heartbreak before experiencing it for themselves. With the Canadian singer’s 2018 self-titled album, one thing is clear—Shawn Mendes has seen some shit. The now 20-year-old artist brings an authority to the subject matter of romance than has been missing in his previous work. His third studio album covers the relationship gambit, from the painful to the playful. Singing about the early stages of a relationship (“Lost In Japan” and “Nervous”) to the sting of one-night stands (“Where Were You In the Morning”), Mendes broadens his horizons beyond love and lust, including the introspective “In My Blood” and the Khalid co-signed rallying cry of “Youth.” Mendes’ admiration for John Mayer has its fingerprints all over the moody guitar rifts and breezy pop tracks, but the newly Grammy-nominated artist continues to craft his own sound, one that is more himself than fans have ever heard before.
-Allison Bowsher, Writer
If you needed any more confirmation that country had a huge year in 2018, look no further than the success of Yodeling Kid Mason Ramsey, the cowboy emoji, and Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour.
Through and through this is an album of love songs, but you won’t find any bleeding heart tracks about unrequited crushes or toxic relationships. The newly married, 30-year-old Musgraves presents a more mature, well-rounded version of love, one that’s complex and yet, uncomplicated.
Between sparkly disco bangers and piano-driven ballads, she shows us that she now knows how to let go of the things and people that no longer serve her and has realized the beauty of savouring the slow burn that our past, more naïve selves scorned.
Closing in on the ‘mid’ end of my twenties, I’m taking the sentiments of this album to heart and embodying what it really means to bask in warm light of my own golden hour—being old enough to accept the some things that are out of your control, but young enough to still revel in the things that make this world seem magical.
-Celina Torrijos, Producer
I didn’t want to admit that Charlie Puth’s Voicenotes was my favourite album of the year, but the fact that Puth was my second most-listened to artist of 2018 (according to Spotify Wrapped) makes that fact impossible to refute. Sure, Puth is the guy who brought us “See You Again” and maybe convinced your great aunt to watch a Fast and the Furious movie, but he’s also the guy who teamed up with Kehlani for the undeniably deny catchy “Done for Me.” And sure, he basically wrote an entire album of songs about all the women who have apparently wronged him, but when those songs are as danceable as “How Long,” and “Attention,” that transgression becomes exponentially more forgivable.
-Sara Cristiano, Producer
Toronto resident Meg Remy (whose solo act goes by the name U.S. Girls) has been churning out some of the most exquisite and heady pop tunes for well over a decade, but she somehow hasn’t managed to gain the monumental audience she deserves. That’s a shame for her, but delightful for me, because I get immense pleasure in introducing her prolifically eclectic oeuvre to fans of other brilliant, if more crowd-please-y, pop megastars like Lorde and Robyn.
Unlike most musicians who blow my mind right out of the gate, over the course of six albums, U.S. Girls has never shown signs of diminished returns. Things may sound a little more honed with each now record, but the level of craftsmanship and experimentation not only continues to channel some of the richest sounds in music history, but also never fails to bring something fresh to the table.
Remy’s greatest effort to date, In a Poem Unlimited arrived just weeks into 2018. Even then I knew nothing in the coming months could top its pop perfection and razor-sharp wit. It’s only a matter of time before everyone catches on and she’s selling out larger venues. I’ll be the bitter babe in the corner yelling at everyone for taking so long to fall in love with her.
-Neila Karassik, Senior Producer
Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would be one of my top albums of the year. Like I mean, “Bodak Yellow” certainly had its appeal…but I never would have guessed at the time that that single with its one hit wonder foreshadowing would have led the way for what has become the top grossing female hip hop album of 2018. Colour me embarrassed. In a year when hip hop seemed a bit mopey, Cardi’s willingness to feed our pop pleasure addiction was refreshing. This album is a neon-bomb of mass appeal that I could easily hear at a spin class or blasting in an Uber. “Us bad bitches is a gift from God.” Amen, Cardi. Check out “Drip,” “Bickenhead,” and “I Like It” for you new go-to pump up songs.
-Jen McLarty, Producer/Editor
After a seven-year hiatus, Irish rockers Snow Patrol returned with the release of their highly anticipated Wildness this May. The band has been a personal favourite of mine since being introduced to them in 2001. From there I had the pleasure of working on their major-label release, Final Straw, which ultimately became their big break.
This new album’s a reflective look at lead singer Gary Lightbody’s struggles with addiction and mental health. The lead track “Don’t Give In” is a direct call to action and admission of that theme. He’s not unlike other creatives who are somehow more prone to these traits…but luckily Lightbody caught it and sought help. His body of work and his ability to speak about it during interviews will and have no doubt already started to help others in their own struggles.
Standout tracks I recommend are “Empress,” “Don’t Give In,” and “What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get.” And don’t forget to watch “Soon,” their beautiful video that’s a nod to Lightbody’s father who’s suffering from dementia. Although the themes I’ve mentioned are pretty heavy and sometimes sad—I promise that the album as a whole is not.
– Gregg Stewart, Associate Director, Music Marketing Strategy
Lykke Li’s haunting vocals have been an emotional crutch to my playlists since her debut album Youth Novels came out in 2008. With a four-year gap between the release of her last album and this one I was seriously itching for more music to cry to, *but* was pleasantly surprised with release of So Sad So Sexy. Just as the title suggests, you’ll find Lykke shedding the tear-jerking themes of past albums like I Never Learn and serving up lo-fi dance hits and solemn trap that will have you putting on your patent leather boots just to show your ex how hot you still are. Another great treat with this album was the vertical music video released for “Deep End,” do yourself a favour and watch this on your iPhone 8 Plus right now.
– Cassidy Allan, Social Media Producer
Dan Carruthers – Marketing Co-ordinator: Rayland Baxter, Wide Awake
Hilary Allan – Producer: Tove Styrke, Sway
Alyssa Petru – Much Studios: Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour