Year in Review: Joel Oliphint's top five local albums of 2018

Joel Oliphint

We're spoiled for great music in Columbus. There's plenty more to explore, but here's a sampling of some of my favorite albums and EPs released in our city this year.

1. Saintseneca,Pillar of Na (Anti-)

As we explored in an August cover story, Zac Little's fourth Saintseneca record was long in the making, but the painstaking patience and persistence paid off on Pillar of Na. A taut pop song like “Ladder to the Sun” harks back to the band's early Monster House days, while the mysterious, nearly nine-minute title track — quite possibly the best song Little has written — takes listeners on a journey full of in-season strawberries, infinite serpents and radio requests for “I Will Always Love You.”

2. The Sidekicks,Happiness Hours (Epitaph)

“I wanted to make a record that would feel good to put on when you're with friends hanging out or just driving in your car,” said Sidekicks frontman Steve Ciolek (who also moonlights as a Saintseneca singer/guitarist) this past summer. Mission accomplished. Happiness Hours is chock full of sunny, sing-along melodies, even when Ciolek writes about heartbreak or a euthanized cat.

3. The Bascinets,378 Vol. 1andVol. 2 (self-released)

It was about 18 months ago that the Bascinets released its promising debut, Always Want to Be Your Friend, and since then the songwriting team of Tristan Huygen and Nick Wellman has turned into one of the best indie-pop collabs in the city. There's not one stinker on these two five-song EPs the band released in 2018. I used to say, “Fans of Belle & Sebastian and Elliott Smith will love the Bascinets,” but really, anybody who appreciates a good pop song will dig this band.

4. Blueprint,Two-Headed Monster (Weightless)

“I fear becoming the artist I might have been disappointed in. … I don't want a catalog that sounds like all one thing,” Al “Blueprint” Shepard told me back in May. Turns out 'Print has nothing to worry about. Two-Headed Monster, which features some of the rapper's best rhymes and beats in a highlight-filled career, still sounds fresh.

5. Jay Swifa,Enigma (Fresh Produce)

Former Fly Union rapper Jay Swifa has been making beats since he was an 11-year-old kid in North Linden, taking inspiration from local elders like Daymond Dodson, J. Rawls and Rashad. Not to mention touring the country with Fly Union. All that experience paid off on Enigma, Swifa's superb solo debut. “People love me for my production, but I can rap, too,” he said earlier this year. Indeed he can.

  1. Natural Sway, sacred as you make it pt. 1 and Pre Sacred (self-released)
  2. The 3rd Power, Attack of the Drum (Act 1) (Elev8)
  3. Grunge Dad (RIP), Fame Horse (self-released)
  4. Kashis Keyz, Young + Restless (Day Dreaming Music)
  5. didi, Like Memory Foam (Damnably)

Five more to spin