Best Alternative Albums of 2018
selected by Ziad Nawfal

Calamita <BR> “Calamita”


Calamita is a free-rock powerhouse trio of Lebanese guitarist Sharif Sehnaoui, Lebanese bassist Tony Elieh and Italian drummer Davide Zolli. In 2018, they unleashed their first album for the Lebanese indie label Ruptured. It features an impressive tribute to departed experimental violinist Tony Conrad.

♪♫ Listen: “FTC” + album stream

Calamita on Bandcamp.

Cosmic Analog Ensemble <BR> “Une Vie Cent Detours”

Cosmic Analog Ensemble
“Une Vie Cent Detours”

The latest from the tenebrous mastermind of the Hisstology label, Charif Megarbane, finds him in fine form on an album that combines soulful funk, gentle exotica and freeform pop.

♪♫ Listen: “Phoenician Rose” + album stream

Cosmic Analog Ensemble on Facebook, Discogs.

El Rass <BR> “Baadelhazimeh”

El Rass

Incendiary prose and razor-sharp beats from hiphop artist Mazen el-Sayed aka El Rass, on an album recorded in Tripoli (North Lebanon) and featuring fine contributions from a host of likeminded artists, including Mehrak and Darwish.

♪♫ Listen: “Rokiya” + album stream

El Rass on Facebook, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Instagram.

Good Luck in Death “They Promised Us a Bright Future, We Were Content with an Obscure Past”

Good Luck in Death “They Promised Us a Bright Future, We Were Content with an Obscure Past”

The duo of Parisian electronic producer Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf) and Lebanese artist and drone performer Charbel Haber (The Bunny Tylers) met in Spring 2017 when they joined French free rock collective Oiseaux-Tempête for their AL-‘AN! tour. Charbel and Paul begun to improvise during breaks from the residency, with resulting sounds growing and developing into the four brilliantly amorphous, ambient drone compositions included on this debut album.

♪♫ Listen: “Mystery Malaise And Eternal Spleen” + album stream

Good Luck in Death on Bandcamp.

Interbellum <BR> “Dead Pets Old Griefs”

“Dead Pets Old Griefs”

Interbellum is the musical project of Lebanese singer-songwriter Karl Mattar, formerly known as Charlie Rayne. Formed in 2015, Interbellum sees him working alongside producer Fadi Tabbal and other musicians from the Beirut music scene, including members of rock bands Postcards and Kozo.

“Dead Pets, Old Griefs” is the band’s second full-length album, and features 10 songs that revolve around themes of memory, time, childhood, and loss, amidst generous washes of electric guitars and keyboards.

♪♫ Listen: “Another Day” + album stream

Interbellum on Bandcamp, Facebook, Soundcloud, Instagram.

Jerusalem In My Heart <BR> “Daqa’iq Tudaiq”

Jerusalem In My Heart
“Daqa’iq Tudaiq”

The third full-length album from the Montréal-Beirut contemporary Arabic audio-visual duo sees composer-producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh realize his long-held dream of recording a modern orchestral version of Egyptian classic “Ya Garat Al Wadi” by legendary composer Mohammad Abdel Wahab. Not content with the daring task of assembling a 15-piece orchestra in Beirut, JIMH also enlisted renowned Montréal-Cairo musician/composer Sam Shalabi (Land Of Kush), as arranger and musical director for the sessions.

♪♫ Listen: “Bein-ithnein” + album stream

Jerusalem In My Heart on Bandcamp, Discogs, Facebook.

Khoum <BR> “Sérm”


Armenian-Lebanese musicians Hovsep Aghjian and Haig Gragian created the project Khoum in Beirut in 2015. The material on the duo’s first album showcases influences garnered in equal measure from Armenian folk tradition, the musicians’ fieldwork in Lebanon, and modern studio techniques.

The end result reflects these various strands, blending in a seamless manner traditional melodies, leftfield experimentation and electronic processes.

♪♫ Listen: “” + album stream

Khoum on Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram, Soundcloud.

Kid Fourteen <BR> “Blood Thick Silence”

Kid Fourteen
“Blood Thick Silence”

Known for his intense live performances, Khodor Ellaik evolved his solo moniker Kid Fourteen into a 2-piece duo with Karim Shamseddine, once his partner in famed Lebanese punk band Beirut Scum Society. Comparisons to American notorious electronic-noise duo Suicide are inevitable, and well-deserved in the case of recent album “Blood Thick Silence”. The record mines an impressive vein of art-punk, noise-pop and synth-pop, reminiscent of recent releases from like-minded artists Xiu Xiu and Last Lizard.

♪♫ Listen: “Ice In My Eyes” + album stream

Kid Fourteen on Bandcamp, Facebook, Soundcloud, Instagram.

Stephanie Merchak <BR> “Eine Frage”

Stephanie Merchak
“Eine Frage”

Hard-hitting techno from this intensely talented female artist, who’s been operating on the fringes of the Lebanese electronic scene for the best part of the last decade. An accomplished drone practitioner, this album showcases the industrial, urban side of Merchak’s electronic tendencies.

♪♫ Listen: “und-meine-antwort-war-nein” + album stream

Stephanie Merchak on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud.