Best Albums of 2018
selected by Raivis Spalvēns

Arturs Skutelis un Tvērumi <BR> “Nekad nekur”

Arturs Skutelis un Tvērumi
“Nekad nekur”

Hip-hop artist Arturs Skutelis and his group Tvērumi have delivered intriguing conceptual album “Nekad nekur” (Never Nowhere) that is a modern take on a Biblical story about prodigal son. It is a clever story about protagonist Alexander who inherits money and leaves home but returns after spending it. This is a story about modern time dilemmas and looking for meaning of life told through a powerful sound of jazz.

♪♫ Listen: “1 000 000. Uvertīra” + album stream

Arturs Skutelis un Tvērumi on Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube, www.

Domenique Dumont  <BR> “Miniatures de auto rhythm”

Domenique Dumont
“Miniatures de auto rhythm”

Psychedelic pop music duo Domenique Dumont released their debut EP “Comme ca” in 2015 and made impression that this is some enigmatic French musician. Turned out that Domenique Dumont is not a person, but two Latvian musicians. Duo takes listener into a joyous and wonderful world of light, playful and melancholic retro pop music that gives a shelter from dullness and absurdity of everyday life.

♪♫ Listen: “Le soleil dans le monde” + album stream

Domenique Dumont on Soundcloud, Twitter.

Dzeltenie pastnieki <BR> “Nepieklājīgā meitene”

Dzeltenie pastnieki
“Nepieklājīgā meitene”

New wave is still very much alive and feels so contemporary. This is the first thing that comes in mind while listening to 1980s cult bands` Dzeltenie pastnieki (Yellow Postmen) latest album “Nepieklājīgā meitene” (Impolite Girl). Dzeltenie pastnieki was in avant-garde in 1980s and band is considered as one of the pioneers of new wave in Soviet Union. Their previous album was released 16 years ago but this year band made comeback with new album that is based on unfinished tracks created in mid 1980s. Even if these tracks have been polished and finished in 21st century whole album still sounds like something from the past. But the music is so fresh that it resonates even today.

♪♫ Listen: “Vilcieni naktīs” + album stream

Dzeltenie pastnieki on Facebook, Bandcamp.

Evija Vēbere <BR> “Sirdsbūt”

Evija Vēbere

Musician and singer Evija Vēbere has recorded wonderful and magical experimental pop music album of modern lullabies “Sirdsbūt” (To Heartbe). This is a very cohesive record in every sense – starting from the colorful sound and distinguished voice to detailed story and characters that opens up imagination.

Record feels like a modern fairy-tale shown through 3D glasses where anything that is happening happens for good.

♪♫ Listen: “Mīlniekiem un visādiem citiem” + album stream

Evija Vēbere on Soundcloud, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube.

Grupa Sigma <BR> “Mitoloģijas”

Grupa Sigma

Indie bands` Grupa Sigma second album “Mitoloģijas” (Mythologies) is a remarkable conceptual record where lyrics based on contemporary Latvian poetry play crucial part, but also the music is of great importance. Their previous album “Sazaroto taku dārzs” was more lyrical and lighter, but “Mitoloģijas” has more temper, rhythm and emotion. This album perfectly shows the musicality of Latvian poetry and language.

♪♫ Listen: “Aiz naida” + album stream

Grupa Sigma on Youtube, Bandcamp, Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter.

Imants Daksis <BR> “Ass/Self-Destructive”

Imants Daksis

A bard with a powerful voice and guitar is Imants Daksis that his admirers know. With his latest album “Ass/Self-Destruction” and use of full instrumentation Daksis surprisingly has changed the aesthetics of sound and has turned to more vibrant and expressive psych-rock.

These changes seem like the right choice in order to tell the story that would resonate to a wider audience. Musicians` poetic and dark reflection on self-destruction offers listener a gripping and fascinating experience.

♪♫ Listen: “Idiots” + album stream

Imants Daksis on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube.

Jāņa Ruņģa klātbūtne <BR> “Ārpus prātus”

Jāņa Ruņģa klātbūtne
“Ārpus prātus”

“Ārpus prātus” (“Beyond Mind”) is a debut album of one of the most skilled Latvian guitar players Jānis Ruņģis. Musician have collaborated with jazz, academic, pop and indie musicians and this professional background is one of the qualities of “Ārpus prātus” – here you can enjoy his delicate, gripping and expressive guitar play combined with poetic melodies and steady voice. The album is balanced, polished and smart reflection of personal struggles that eventually leads to reconciliation.

♪♫ Listen: “Dies`” + album stream

Jāņa Ruņģa klātbūtne on Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube.

Kanisaifa <BR> “Atdzīvinot vēju”

“Atdzīvinot vēju”

The debut album of world music project Kanisaifa “Atdzīvinot vēju” (Reviving the Wind) is inventive record and also a great example of inexhaustible possibilities of world music, its creative potential and ability to speak in a language everyone understands.

Kanisaifa describes their music as a journey across all around the world, creating a space where the traditional and healing African, Australian, American, Asian and European sound merges with local original Latvian vibrations.

♪♫ Listen: “Wolf Dance” + album stream

Kanisaifa on Youtube, Soundcloud, Facebook, www.

Kārlis Auziņš, Matīss Čudars & Ivars Arutyunyan  ”Baltic”

Kārlis Auziņš, Matīss Čudars & Ivars Arutyunyan ”Baltic”

Jazz trio – saxophone player Kārlis Auziņš, guitar player Matīss Čudars and drummer Ivars Arutyunyan – in their album “Baltic” have collected atmospheric and conceptual compositions. Each track is almost like a short movie – there are gray and rainy scenes of countryside, empty urban landscapes, even lively observation of a donkey. “Baltic” is well structured, its intonation is balanced and it has all the qualities of a contemporary music album.

♪♫ Listen: “Purvciema epifānija” + album stream

Kārlis Auziņš, Matīss Čudars & Ivars Arutyunyan on Bandcamp.

Kashuks <BR> “Mood”


Electronic music composer Kashuks after critically acclaimed album “Fiction” (2016) with EP “Mood” pushes his music towards simplicity and purity.

Although “Mood” can be seen as follow up of “Fiction”, but EPs steady beats and floating harmonies makes this record more contemplative and musically deeper.

♪♫ Listen: “Tales” + album stream

Kashuks on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube.

Kaspars Kurdeko, Rudolfs Macats, Kaspars Vizulis  “KlusiKlusi”

Kaspars Kurdeko, Rudolfs Macats, Kaspars Vizulis “KlusiKlusi”

The album of drummer and percussionist Kaspars Kurdeko, pianist Rudolfs Macats and guitarist Kaspars Vizulis is promoted as “a bright Latvian experimental jazz record that organically fits in the Nordic jazz scene”. And it is quite true, but apart from jazz compositions they also have ambient and smooth electronic vibes. “KlusiKlusi” (SilentlySilently) is full of abstract but profound compositions that capture the movement of thought while making music.

♪♫ Listen: “II” + album stream

Kaspars Kurdeko, Rudolfs Macats, Kaspars Vizulis on Bandcamp.

Kristīne Prauliņa <BR> “A Warmer October”

Kristīne Prauliņa
“A Warmer October”

At last on of the most powerful Latvian jazz voices Kristīne Prauliņa has released a proper record for her voice. Previously she has taken part in different music projects and it felt like the potential of her voice did not express fully. But EP “A Warmer October” seems like a game changer and her voice has blossomed beautifully.

This EP is full of pleasant and easy listening music for lazy moments, but still – record is unforgivably short.

♪♫ Listen: “Home” + album stream

Kristīne Prauliņa on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube.

Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava, Mārtiņš Brauns “Daugava”

Latvian Radio Choir, Sigvards Kļava, Mārtiņš Brauns “Daugava”

Although composer Mārtiņš Brauns composed his opus “Daugava” at the end of 1980s for a theater production there is one song from the opus that still resonates to Latvian people – “Sun, Thunder, river Daugava”. Originally the song was performed by a theater actor but in a few years it became a choir song. This year Latvia celebrates centenary and this song in a national vote was chosen as the best Latvian song composed in past hundred years. Nonetheless the whole opus is a masterpiece and thankfully this year Latvian Radio Choir recorded opus of 18 songs with a composer by the piano and made one of the most important musical works accessible to a wider audience.

♪♫ Listen: “Saule, Pērkons, Daugava” + album stream

MMMM  <BR> “Faking albums”

“Faking albums”

Rude electro pop band MMMM is one of the most promising and creative acts on Latvian music scene. Their debut album “Faking albums” (Fucking albums) is beautiful in its absurdity and sense of irony. This is a nice example of self expression through music by not giving a damn of what someone will think about you.

“Faking albums” is full of joyful, provocative and crazy tunes but they never go tasteless.

♪♫ Listen: “Ko tu faking dari?” + album stream

MMMM on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp.

NeimoM <BR> “Juku gadi”

“Juku gadi”

Debut album “Juku gadi” (Years of Confusion) of indie band NeimoM with smooth and gentle tunes is quite honest attempt to reflect on the absurdity of the past and make sense of the future. Musically the story is told in a slow motion and obscure voice of soloist Mārtiņš Neimanis strengthens the feeling of alienation. But in the end there is always light that shines upon despair.

♪♫ Listen: “On My Way” + album stream

NeimoM on Soundcloud, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube.

Oceanpath <BR> “Elementi”


Folk metal band Oceanpath with their EP “Elementi” (Elements) uses Latvian folksongs and magic words in order to create musically grand and almost symphonic look on the past and its reflection today. There are only five compositions in EP but heavy guitar playing along with powerful voice of academically trained soloist Laima Krīgere creates intriguing soundscape of traditional and modern melodies.

♪♫ Listen: “Ūdens vārdi” + album stream

Oceanpath on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp, www.

Plenērs <BR> “Bezmiegs”


“Bezmiegs” (Insomnia) is splendid, nicely polished and well written debut album of postpunk band Plenērs. Vigorous, energetic rhythms and easygoing vocal is covered with youth maximalism, apparent anger and impudence. But at the same time something fair and jovial shines out of the record. “Bezmiegs” is full of life affirming compositions covered with a mask of indifference.

♪♫ Listen: “Elles” + album stream

Plenērs on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp.

Polifauna <BR> “You Look Like a Lost Soul”

“You Look Like a Lost Soul”

Early December can be considered as the start of music award season in Latvia. This is the time when music critics handed their award Austras balva (award for best Latvian record in 2018, similar to Mercury Prize and Polaris Music Prize) to psychedelic pop band Polifauna for their debut album “You Look Like a Lost Soul”. It is a monolith record full of dreamy, contemplating and beautifully written compositions that reflects the state of mind of a confused person.

♪♫ Listen: “Last Days of Summer” + album stream

Polifauna on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp.

Puffin <BR> “Home”


In times of uncertainty electronic music seems to be one of the most effective ways how to draw attention to the state we are in. In such context DJ and electronic music composer Puffin has released very interesting album “Home” with loads of dark, sinister and warning sounds that could easily be seen as musicians’ commentary on problems of modern world. All the compositions shake up listener and try to give some dynamics to our lives.

♪♫ Listen: “Eclecticism” + album stream

Puffin on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook.

Rāva <BR> “Rāva”


Dark folk bands` self titled album Rāva (Marsh Water) draws gloomy and murky side of perception of war. In the record Latvian war folksongs are transformed into eerie and weird chants that speak about gruesome and terrifying side of the war and violence. This is quite impressive reminder of consequences caused by cruelty.

♪♫ Listen: “Bāliņš” + album stream

Rāva on Facebook, Youtube.

Tautumeitas <BR> “Tautumeitas”


World music ensemble Tautumeitas in their self titled album have wisely chosen specific folksongs that opens up the inner and outer world of women. With their traditional way of singing, powerful voices and candid lyrics one can live through a story of a freethinking girl who not only teases and plays tricks, but also suffers. Tautumeitas are turning to the values of the past in order to secure self assurance and confidence in modern world.

♪♫ Listen: “Pāde” + album stream

Tautumeitas on Soundcloud, Facebook, www.

The Bad Tones <BR> “Bad Tunes”

The Bad Tones
“Bad Tunes”

Psych-rock band The Bad Tones (previously known as The Pink Elephant) ironically has named their EP “Bad Tunes” without a single bad tune. It is easy listening EP with loads of beautiful and gentle psych-rock melodies knitted together with smooth vocals, moderate guitar play and exquisite rhythms.

Let`s hope that this EP is just a nicely written introduction to some bigger masterpiece.

♪♫ Listen: “Reflections” + album stream

The Bad Tones on Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp.

The Coco’nuts <BR> “No Other Way Out”

The Coco’nuts
“No Other Way Out”

The second album of blues-rock band The Coco’nuts “No Other Way Out” is quite easygoing and careless like a pleasant summer day. Besides blues and rock the music has also elements of jazz that gives the feeling of freedom and easiness.

♪♫ Listen: “Go Go Go” + album stream

The Coco’nuts on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp.

The Sound Poets <BR> “Trīs”

The Sound Poets

Alternative popmusic band The Sound Poets in album “Trīs” (Three) strengthens their specific signature sound – impressive symphonic take on compositions, voice that spreads hope and the overall feeling that there are no borders one couldn`t cross. In “Trīs” the band stays loyal to their musical aesthetics, but comparing to their previous albums this one sounds more mature and consistent.

♪♫ Listen: “Mums ir ko zaudēt” + album stream

The Sound Poets on Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook.