Vic’s Top 5 Albums of 2018

This one is for the music junkies out there.

Speaking personally, 2018 has been a tough year. For as long as I can remember, music has been my escape from reality, and this year I found myself needing that more than ever. Sometimes, life gets so busy that I forget the profound effect music can have on me and my mood. I disappointed myself this year by casting aside my passion for music because I “didn’t have time,” but my goal for 2019 is to remember to set time aside for myself to run a hot bath, light some candles and listen to something I’ve never heard before at least once a week.

All the same, there were a few albums that stuck out for me this year, for a variety of reasons. My musical taste is pretty chameleonic. The artist or album I choose to listen to at any given moment depends entirely on how I’m feeling.

No matter your taste, I can guarantee the following albums will make you feel something, and if 2018 has been as draining for you as it was for me, perhaps a case of the “feels” is exactly what we need.

5. High As Hope
Florence + The Machine

Grab me by my ankles, I’ve been flying for too long
I couldn’t hide from the thunder in a sky full of song
And I want you so badly, but you could be anyone
I couldn’t hide from the thunder in a sky full of song

Vic’s Jam: Sky Full of Song

Released on June 29, High As Hope was everything we’ve come to expect from Florence + The Machine and so much more. Their fourth studio album, HAH is stripped down and overwhelmingly emotional.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Florence Welsh is the Stevie Nicks of this generation. Her music pulses with an ethereal sense of intimacy that wraps my heart in a warm hug. I tend to listen to Florence + The Machine when I wish I could be drawn out of my body and led away into a foggy glade in the woods to dance with fairies. It can be an acquired taste, but I mean it when I say Lana Del Rey and Sia are shaking in their boots.

The new album spends a lot of time boasting Florence’s naked vocals, punching you in the gut with its forthcoming subject matter while simultaneously lulling you into a trance like a siren song. In Hunger, Florence reflects on her experience with an eating disorder and in South London Forever, she brings us along on an ecstasy-fueled night of youthful hi-jinks.

4. Blue in the Dark

I’ve got glass stuck in my feet
From the words that drown these capital streets
Just show me how to live right
Cause I’m blinded by the bright light

Vic’s Jam: Beautiful Places

For a former “scene queen” who has lived in Ottawa for most of my adult life, I feel like I kind of missed the train when it came to getting into this band. Better late than never, right? Blue in the Dark was released in October, when I was right in the middle of discovering what I’d been missing before I knew this band.

This album’s place on my Top 5 list is a homage to my pop punk roots. As someone who grew up during the genre’s hey-day, Blue in the Dark took me on a nostalgic trip back to my high school days while staying fresh and modern. Bearings recently toured with Less Than Jake and Four Year Strong. They burst onto the scene with their first EP in 2015, just in time for a pop punk revival that had emo kids of all ages scrambling for their black eyeliner. Blue in the Dark is Bearings’ second album with California-based record label Pure Noise Records.

For me, this album was reminiscent of old-school Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World, with a contemporary twist. The vocals are clever and inventive throughout, and although a few of the songs felt a little too “safe” for me, there were plenty of moments when the punk vibes really shone through.

After hearing this album for the first time, I feel a little twinge of pride that these guys are from my city.

3. Springsteen on Broadway
Bruce Springsteen

If Pa’s eyes were windows into a world so deadly and true
You couldn’t stop me from looking
But you kept me from crawlin’ through
And if it’s a funny old world, Mama,
Where a little boy’s wishes come true
Well I got a few in my pocket and a special one just for you

Vic’s Jam: The Wish

I know, I know. Technically Springsteen on Broadway had its first run in 2017, but due to its wild popularity (and issues with scalpers) the show was extended into December 2018 and the official soundtrack album was released on December 14 of this year. It counts, okay?

I didn’t get to hear this until it was released on Netflix. I wanted to wait until I could set time aside to watch the whole thing in top quality in one sitting, because how else does one listen to Bruce Springsteen? To say it was worth the wait would be an understatement.

When I saw Bruce and the E Street Band in Toronto in 2016, I remember thinking to myself “I could be sitting here just watching Bruce with his guitar, and it would still be the best concert I’ve ever been to.” Now I can officially say that I was right. This is a stripped down, raw adaptation of some of Springsteen’s biggest hits, with some of his lesser-known but equally soul-quenching tunes sprinkled throughout. It marries the typical ‘Born to Run’ rocker vibe with a more reserved sense of self-reflection that many Springsteen newbies wouldn’t expect.

This is the type of album you have to pause every so often to allow yourself to digest what you just heard. It’s the type of album that makes you want to jump in your car and just drive and drive, leaving your whole life in the rear-view mirror.

2. A Star Is Born (Soundtrack)
Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in
I’ll never meet the ground
Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us
We’re far from the shallow now

Vic’s Jam: Shallow

As if we needed any more reasons to love Lady Gaga or Bradley Cooper, am I right? And yet, here we are. A Star Is Born was Cooper’s directorial debut and the soundtrack alone was a showstopper.

Since apparently I live under a rock, I didn’t have the slightest idea that Bradley Cooper had any musical talent until I watched this movie. Needless to say I was streaming the soundtrack on Spotify before the credits had a chance to roll. Cooper and Gaga are like peanut butter and jelly – great on their own, but even better together. Their voices meld together seamlessly and each song tells a story that you can hear without even seeing the movie.

Songs like I’ll Never Love Again and Maybe It’s Time showcase each artist brilliantly on an individual level, but Shallow is what makes this album truly stand out. Something about their chemistry and the way they sound together sends chills down my spine. It’s a tantalizing mix of country and pop that you can dance and cry to.

If you haven’t seen this movie yet, what are you even doing with your life?

1. Evolution

You stay in my head
Like an uninvited guest, uninvited guest
You still haunt my heart
Guess you haven’t left it yet, haven’t left it yet
Oh, like an uninvited guest

Vic’s Jam: Uninvited Guest

Disturbed has always been one of those bands I forget about every few months or so, then something happens that makes me rediscover them and my infatuation is reignited once more. Since their haunting rendition of The Sound of Silence in 2015, Disturbed has maintained their spot at the forefront of my mind (and at the top of many of my playlists).

The band quietly dropped this gem at the end of October, an event that would have gone unnoticed had I not received a torrent of messages from a friend gushing about how awesome it was. Uninvited Guest was the first song I heard and I was instantly reminded of David Draiman’s vocal prowess. As much as I can appreciate the heavy, “nu metal” Disturbed sound we all know and love from The Sickness days, I have a soft spot for the softer, more melodic tracks that show off Draiman’s incredible range.

The thing I loved most about Evolution was how well it balanced those two elements. It was heavy when it needed to be, and hypnotically vulnerable at other times. True to its name, this album really showcases Disturbed’s growth as a band. Placing more docile songs like Hold On to Memories next to classic Disturbed bangers like Saviour of Nothing keeps you on your toes.

This, however, might also be the reason this album never reached number one. Evolution is the first album not to top the charts since The Sickness in 2000, and many reviews are blaming the band for being too “ballad happy” this time around.

Whether or not you’re a fan of this new side of Disturbed, the album is definitely worth a listen. It has a little bit of something for everyone, and serves as a great introduction for anyone who wants to ease into the metal genre.