Each year, we reflect on the local albums we listened to throughout the last 12 months, and collect our favorites. Read below to read the 2018 releases that stood out most to our team: Aubrey Haddard, Blue Part It’s hard not to compare Aubrey Haddard to London’s vocal powerhouse Lianne La Havas. Haddard’s Adult Lullabies swirled with the same lo-fi softness and raw honesty found on Is Your Love Big Enough? Now, Haddard presents a welcome expansion in sound that mirrors the multi-dimensionality of La Havas’ follow-up, Blood. There’s an electrifying sprightliness to Blue Part, as her minimal sound makes room for pops of percussion (and crickets) and the driving, soul-pop flavor of her other musical projects, local band The New Review. —Knar B. Highlight: “I Should Know Better” Anjimile, Colors Anjimile’s latest conglomeration of an album deserves its name. Rather than exhausting the play on words between colors and the theme of race, Anjimile uses the album’s title as a vehicle to chronicle and elaborate on different types of change. Physical, emotional, mental—Colors references the experiences and travesties that decorate people’s pasts. Various styles strung together by warm, passionate vocals paint a portrait not only of the queer transgender identity, but also of youthful, ignorant bliss—most apparent on the opening track “Ipswich.” —Nicole C. Highlight: “Ipswich” TEGA, Body Self-care holds deeper meaning on TEGA’s Body: exquisite jazz-pop arrangements serve as a balm to ailments both literal and figurative. When Joseph Ewatuya deftly sings “aloe vera lotion with Vitamin E” on “Scars,” he’s not only prescribing an important nutrient for your mind and body—he’s recommending medicine to sooth your soul. —David P. Highlight: “Scars” The Maxims: Rock City The Maxims’ debut full-length album, Rock City, is a time capsule of a record, transporting listeners back to the beginnings of punk rock. It’s danceable protest music—elbows out, hair swinging side to side. For times when we felt like we just couldn’t sit still last year, Rock City delivered. —Jon S. Highlight: “Choppa Choppa” Ripe, Joy in the Wild Unknown Bombastic, bright, and buoyant, Boston’s funk favorites Ripe celebrate looking inward with debut full-length Wild Unknown. Melodies are masterfully shared between vocals and horns and despite the introspection standout numbers like “Downward” prove the band is only moving in one direction: up and up. —Knar B. Highlight: “Downward” Gretchen and the Pickpockets, Falling Rising Welcome to the jazzy beat of summer. Guitar tremolos simulate hazy heat, trumpet riffs drift through like cool breezes, and keyboard chords are as smooth as soft grass. The soul-inspired instrumental arrangements and Gretchen Klempa’s wavering howls don’t just give us the feeling of a live album—they give the feeling that this is an album to live by. In other words: put this record on and get dancing. —Knar B. Highlight: “Let Me Do My Thing” Justin Clancy: The Color Blue “If you put positive energy into the world, you’re going to get it back tenfold,” Justin Clancy told The Boston Globe in July. Revere native Justin Clancy’s 2018 debut album, The Color Blue, is a wave of hope sprung from an earthquake of turmoil. Drawing from his past— Clancy is a recovering heroin addict and high school dropout—The Color Blue is an acutely personal album, full to the brim with determination and fiercely passionate bars. —Jon S. Highlight: “TV Dinner” Photocomfort, Understudy Justine Bowe (aka Photocomfort) has been a staple of the Boston music scene for a few years now, consistently releasing some of the area’s best-written and produced electropop, ever since 2015’s blog-friendly “Not Love.” 2018’s Understudy EP is her most inventive and mature work to date. Musically, she softens her crystalline electronic sound with psychedelic guitars and real drums, while lyrically exploring the relationship between screens and reality. —Mikey E. Highlight: “Trash” Jill McCracken, Shake Me Up Motown-inspired soul singer Jill McCracken brings us honest explorations of love, heartbreak, and self discovery with Shake Me Up. Despite the album’s roots in 70s pop, McCracken and band proudly display fresh twists of modernity in their grooving guitar riffs and bass lines and lyrical themes. What really sets this album apart, however, is all the positivity. McCracken isn’t apologizing for her inner conflicts in these songs—she’s accepting what she wants and who she is, not wasting time being untrue to herself. —Mario E. Highlight: “Lovesick Woman” SeeFour, Mature Brockton rapper SeeFour dropped his debut album in November 2018. A collection of jazzy, soulful, and unsettling tracks, Mature portrays a young man with all the odds stacked against him. “Standing on two sides of the grass, and neither side is greener / Live life strong because everything has a meaning” SeeFour sings on “Passing Me By.” A flow reminiscent of early J. Cole mixed with sharp lyrics makes this 2018 album a must-listen. —Jon S. 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