Best Albums of 2018
by Johannes Amble

Amanda Delara <BR> “Running Deep”

Amanda Delara
“Running Deep”

“Running Deep” is the second EP from one of Norway’s most promising pop acts, Amanda Delara.

The hype got a legit boost when her cover version of Norwegian hip-hop heavyweights Karpe’s “Gunerius” was used in the internationally acknowledged Norwegian, web-based series SKAM, and she definitely hasn’t withdrawn from there.

Combing woeful songwriting and a good amount of R&B attitude, the EP is very dynamic and an particularly good first listen. The first and last track “Running Deep” and “We Don’t Run From Anyone” really stand out.

♪♫ Listen: “We Don’t Run From Anyone” + album stream

Amanda Delara on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

AURORA “Infections of a Different Kind – Step 1”

AURORA “Infections of a Different Kind – Step 1”

For anyone following the nordic pop scene, AURORA’s name has been frequently recurring since her first single was released in 2014 with the following debut full-length “All My Demons Greeting Me As a Friend” two years later. Since then she has toured the world and not only has she gained a lot of attention in Europe, but also in South-America – consequently hitting tens of millions of streams with many of her distinctive and frosty sounding dark pop songs.

Her second album “Infections of a Different Kind – Step” 1 is more mature, a bit more quiet and somehow more classical. Her emotive and characteristic voice continues to capture the listener, offering both delicate and majestic lyrics. The soundscape is also very much “her”, relying heavily on dense vocal harmonies, folkesque ad-libs, elegant string arrangements, icy ambient textures and reverby percussive elements. Top tracks include “All Is Soft Inside” and “Churchyard”.

♪♫ Listen: “Churchyard” + album stream

AURORA on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Bendik HK <BR> “Depot”

Bendik HK

Bendik Hovik Kjeldsberg’s face is pretty well known for Norwegian concert goers as he’s playing drums with established artists such as Nils Bech, Pantha du Prince, Bendik, Marit Larsen, Ivan Ave, Charlotte Dos Santos and Hanne Hukkelberg. His rather recent solo project was initially teased with the two singles “Indigo Interceptor” (2017) and “Silver 912” (2018), with his debut EP “Depot” released this December.

Bendik HK’s take on techno is a breath of fresh air, as he incorporates distinct elements of ambient, electronica and jazz in a very tasteful way. The four compositions are highly melodic and harmonic, while at the same time maintaining a definite percussive focus with lots of interesting rhythmical details. In an interview Bendik reveals that all of the four tracks are titled after particular cars in his grandfather’s (and later his father’s) car museum – «Black Dino», «Glacier Blue Skylark», «Grey E» and «Dark Green 51».

He also recounts that he’s inspired by the balancing point between dream and reality, mentioned David Lynch, and the sensation of falling in and out of sleep in the backseat of a car, picking up fragments of conversations and sounds. Top track: Opener and ambient banger “Black Dino”.

♪♫ Listen: “Black Dino” + album stream

Bendik HK on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Boy Pablo <BR> “Soy Pablo”

Boy Pablo
“Soy Pablo”

“Soy Pablo” is chill indie-pop at its best.

Norwegian-Chilean 20-year-old Boy Pablo from Bergen (on Norway’s west coast) released his first single just two years ago, and he’s already hitting the big streaming numbers and is busy building a solid fan base both in Norway and internationally. It was recently announced that he’s booked for Coachella 2019, as the only Norwegian artist (!).

His seven-track debut record (two of the songs were teased as singles earlier in 2018) is pretty straight forward. It’s not exactly an emotional rollercoaster, but nevertheless a brilliantly executed collection of heartfelt and catchy songs. The arrangements are charmingly simple and it’s enjoyable to catch references to Mac DeMarco, King Krule and Two Door Cinema Club.

Boy Pablo definitely nails the persuasive “sentimental but pleasant” vibe of slacker/surf pop-rock, and top tracks include “Feeling Lonely”, “Limitado” and “Losing You”.

♪♫ Listen: “Losing You” + album stream

Boy Pablo on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Emilie Nicolas <BR> “Tranquille Emile”

Emilie Nicolas
“Tranquille Emile”

Emilie Nicolas emerged as a SoundCloud phenomenon in 2013 (which is somehow uncommon for the Norwegian pop scene). She had posted a few tracks that combined dark electronic pop and jazz elements in a way that caused people across the country to turn their heads and share her SoundCloud profile to all their friends. A year later she released her debut album, “Like I’m a Warrior”, which got excellent reviews by the press and captured both existing as well as lots of new fans.

After a long period of hype (resulting in heaps of festival headlines and international touring), followed by some time away from the spotlight, she returned with her second album “Tranquille Emile”. The overall vibe is somewhat warmer, brighter and more organic, but at the same time it’s more dynamic, mature and as always brilliantly combining the captivating and unsettling. Top tracks include opener “Higher Love”, as well as “Wild One”, “God Damn” and the beautifully heartripping closing track “Feel Fine”.

♪♫ Listen: “Wild One” + album stream

Emilie Nicolas on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Geir Sundstøl <BR> “Brødløs”

Geir Sundstøl

Being included in the 2016 edition of this top list, Oslo-based slide guitar maestro Geir Sundstøl returned with yet another instrumental gem of a record last year. Sundstøl is also a collector of instruments, which naturally affects his music, offering lots of interesting instrumental details and textures. His style can perhaps be described as a quiet, euphoric crossover between ambient music and country / Americana.

The eight-track record “Brødløs” is yet again a highly visualizing and cinematic selection of explorative compositions and soundscapes. The centerpiece track “Warszaw / Alabama” stands out, as it’s actually a pairing of John Coltrane’s “Alabama” and Brian Eno/David Bowie collaboration “Warszaw”. Top tracks besides this are “Waterloo” and opener “Snev”.

♪♫ Listen: “Waterloo” + album stream

Geir Sundstøl on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Great News <BR> “Wonderfault”

Great News

Daze-pop trio Great News have provided nostalgic pop-rock lovers with a steady flow of single releases since 2015, leading up to their debut album “Wonderfault” which was released in February 2018. Among their influences they list Fleetwood Mac and AC/DC, but the result is undoubtedly more in the direction of indie and bands like Tame Impala and Beach House comes to mind, although a little less lo-fi and scruffy.

The album is really well recorded and produced; it offers bright and occasionally cheerful vocal melodies, outstanding guitar and bass parts, vintage synths and punchy drums – all with distinct references to classic 80s and 90s sounds. Top tracks: “Sleep It Off”, “Wonderfault”, “Make Me Feel” and “Secrets”.

♪♫ Listen: “Secrets” + album stream

Great News on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

MRD <BR> “R.O.T”


MRD is the techno project from electro artist/producer Autolaser. It’s lo-fi, reverby and loud, and relies heavily on distorted synths with a desperate harmonic quality as well as blasting percussive elements. With high BPMs and lots of parts that could be mistaken for something off a Ostgut Ton release, it is refreshing to also hear references to hardcore, 80s electro and acid. This might strike you as a rather messy combination, yet the overall soundscape and vibe is brilliantly carried out.

It’s evident that MRD is an experienced and skilled producer, not necessarily from a high fidelity point of view (you can hear meters going into red all the time), but from the arrangements, the daredevil attitude and the overall feeling of getting punched in the face. Top tracks from “R.O.T” include “Nocturn”, “The Experiment”, “Flash From the Past”, “WALF”.

♪♫ Listen: “The Experiment” + album stream

MRD on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook, Instagram.

Okay Kaya <BR> “Both”

Okay Kaya

New York based, Norwegian-born Kaya Wilkins (aka Okay Kaya) recorded her debut album “Both” in her bedroom over the course of three years. As Pitchfork puts it; “[it’s] the soundtrack to a state of limbo where identity, feelings, and sexuality continually shapeshift”.

Her songs are quiet yet intense, soft-spoken yet pervasive, calm yet sarcastic and reclined yet truthful. Throughout the album, Kaya’s characteristic and effortless vocals are almost uncomfortably dry and up-close, with both fierce and intimate lyrics that captures the listener momentarily.

The instrumental parts are equally hypnotizing, including the beautiful lo-fi guitar strums, which can be heard throughout the record (reminding us of her recent collaborator King Krule), and laid-back 90s synth organ chords à la Crystal Waters. Top tracks are “Dance Like U”, “Habitual Love”, “Can U Not” and the Norwegian song “La meg”.

♪♫ Listen: “Dance Like U” + album stream

Okay Kaya on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.

Pasha <BR> “PARK.”


Pasha’s career has been one of the fastest evolving in the current Norwegian hip-hop scene. This might be thanks to his diversity and love for 90s nostalgic rap and hip-hop, presenting a broad range of fresh soundscapes in his latest album, “PARK.”

His decision to include six featured artist definitely also helped the cause, making the record a platform for other artists to promote themselves as well. Jimi Somewhere, RebMoe and Henrik the Artist are among the artists contributing on the album. A cool aspect of the record is the use of snippets from the rapper’s live performances, talking to and connecting with the audience, substituting the habitual hip-hop skits and tentatively erasing the gap between a concert and a studio album.

Pasha undoubtedly aces the nostalgic and feelgood hip-hop vibe, especially with banging tracks like “Purple Pudding”, “I Don’t Speak French” (with RebMoe, produced by Coucheron) and “Blaze” (featuring and produced by Henrik the Artist).

♪♫ Listen: “Purple Pudding” + album stream

Pasha on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Smerz <BR> “Have fun”

“Have fun”

Copenhagen-based electronic duo Smerz released their second EP in March, following their success debut from 2017.

This is top-of-the-line experimental electro-pop combining elements from industrial techno, ambient and R&B. It is lo-fi, unpolished and at times almost anti-catchy, yet having a brutally seductive quality that indirectly urges you to indulge in solitary hikes to industrial suburbs with dystopian environments.

Smerz has been headlining big festivals all over Europe (their first appearance on the line-up for Denmark’s Roskilde was in 2015) and are already touring the US. We are definitely excited for more industrial future-pop bangers and normcore music videos addressing existential issues. Must hear from the “Have fun” EP: “Worth It”, “Half life” and instrumental “Fitness”.

♪♫ Listen: “Worth it” + album stream

Smerz on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram.

Spurv <BR> “Myra”


Post-rock/post-metal band Spurv (meaning Sparrow) has been active for several years with a steady flow of singles and EPs (first release in 2012), but has gained more attention lately from playing lots of gigs in Scandinavia and Europe.

Their debut full-length, “Myra”, was released in June and received excellent reviews from press and music blogs both in Norway and abroad. The eight track record is perfect for any post-rock lover, with truly beautiful compositions and arrangements.

References that comes to mind are Jesu, Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and This Will Destroy You, as well as Gojira and ISIS (the band) as they demonstrate a good dynamic range – especially with closing track “Allting får sin ende, også natten” (“everything will end, also the night”).

♪♫ Listen: “Allting får sin ende, også natten” + album stream

Spurv on Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, www.