Presenters’ Picks – 2018

Phoenix FM presenters choose their favourite albums and tracks of the year …

Alan Johnson

Album: David Guetta – 7

As a lover of dance music I’ll remember 2018 not for its musical releases but the untimely death of the amazingly talented Avicii. So far as albums are concerned though, 7 is an obvious choice for me, including – as you’d expect from the superstar DJ – collaborations with some of the biggest names in the business, such as Bebe Rexha, Martin Garrix and Sia. One track that particularly stands out is that which heavily samples Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman’s classical hit Time to say goodbye – I can fully appreciate why some find Goodbye annoying but, like so many of Guetta’s productions, it’s incredibly catchy!

Track: The Weeknd & Kendrick Lamar – Pray For Me

The Weeknd is one of my favourite male vocalists of the past few years and his style blends perfectly with that of Kendrick Lamar, who produced this and the other songs in the Black Panther soundtrack. I’ve not seen the film but loved this song the first time I heard it, attracted by its strong melodies, a heightening sense of drama and the contrast between The Weeknd’s smooth and at times anguished vocals and Lamar’s intense rapping.

Antonia Jones

Album: Various Artists – The Greatest Showman: Reimagined

The Greatest Showman has got to be my favourite album of the year. Not only has it had the biggest sales, it hasn’t even left the top 5 of the album chart all year since its release. After watching the film I was amazed by the music from the cast production – in my opinion the songs truly reflect as quoted in the film ‘.. a celebration of diversity..’ because the performers symbolise each and everyone of us in the society we live in today!

Track: Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin – I Like It

I Like It by Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin has got to be my favourite track of the year. You’ll never find me trying to mimic the American rapper, but this catchy hit has got to be her best yet. Her charisma and quirky personality makes her one my favourite artists for 2018, especially with the fantastic collaborations she has had with the likes of Bruno Mars and Maroon 5.

Ben Simmons

Album: Various Artists – The Greatest Showman: Reimagined

Loved all the original songs but particularly like these with a twist, especially Years and Years and Jess Glynne’s version of Come Alive.

Track: George Ezra – Shotgun

Love the bass in this track.

Bob Simpson

Album: George Ezra – Staying at Tamara’s

I don’t buy much new music nowadays. My biggest delight this year was a great new album from Paul McCartney – Egypt Station, his best album for two decades, but rather than dwelling for too long in the past I thought I would choose George Ezra. Staying At Tamara’s is his second album and it’s even better than his first. Full of catchy songs and with his great distinctive voice I think this talented young man is going to be around for many years to come.

Track: James Manners – Hell On High Water

James is an unsigned artist from Newark on Trent. He draws his inspiration from a vivid cross section of artists. This soulful well crafted song deservedly made it on to the Phoenix FM A list in November and became an instant hit with me!

Brian Ager

Album: Kevin Gordon – Tilt & Shine

2018 has been another great year for new records, but when it came down to choosing my Album Of The Year, well, Kevin Gordon just does not record average records. Each one a brilliant piece of work in its own right, he’s produced yet another masterpiece. The man writes real songs with real stories ranging from folk to blues and beyond. Always beautifully played by his band, Kevin’s voice and guitar just floats above it all with serene beauty. Check out the first single Saint On A Chain and you’ll understand why Kevin Gordon is, in my opinion, the greatest songwriter you’ve never heard of.

Track: The Dreads – Know Your Name

The Dreads are a rock band from Belfast. They play 60s “garage rock & psychedelia” and sound so authentic to the era it’s a huge surprise they’re so young. A fantastic record I’ve played regularly on my show.

Chay Appleyard

Album: The Vaccines – Combat Sports

So as a general rule, I tend to splash my spare cash on CDs. This year has been different as I have moved out and my hard earned money has been spent on other things. So off the top of my head the only 2018 albums I’ve bought this year has been Arctic Monkeys, Asylums, The Vaccines, Foo Fighters, Pale Waves… I think that’s it. So I’m going for The Vaccines. I always felt they suffered from “second album syndrome” after the instant success of their first album “What Did You Expect From The…”. the second one I just felt didn’t quite catch the magic of the first, as what happens with a lot of artists. Third album “English Graffiti” brought them back to form, but I think “Combat Sports” puts Justin Young in the frame for being one of the best indie-pop writers in the country. The beauty for me is there is a simplicity to his writing. Maybe if I bought more I may have had a difference of opinion. A lot of the press would have gone for Arctic Monkeys, but I think The Vaccines have outdone themselves in 2018.

Track: Sigrid – Stangers

An odd choice for me. A few others I should mention: I like Clean Bandits recent output, that Rita Ora’s “Let You Love Me” has been stuck in my head for weeks, “Put It on A T-Shirt” by The Vaccines, “Four Out Of Five” Arctic Monkeys. I have embraced my pop this year. Mainly because of what we listen to at work, sometimes the democracy regarding the radio is not to my taste (WE SHOULD BE LISTENING TO PHOENIX FM, RIGHT?). This yeah I think I’ve embraced pop music alot more. I’ve always been a fan, I just lean towards guitar music. I’ve chosen this song because it’s bright, its got great dynamics between verse and chorus. It’s a great sing-a-long, just an out and out great pop song.

Chris Hood

Album: Dorja – Gemini

It felt like I had been waiting for this album for an age, but finally it was released back in the Summer thanks the help of a number of generous crowdfunders (myself included). Of course it would be nothing without the amazing ladies of Dorja and their individual and collective class. Each track on this album is a rock stunner, but the title track has to be my favourite.

And where can you get this album you ask…well, apart from gigs you’ll have to wait until the ladies get a distribution deal. Sorry, ’cause it really is that good.

Track: Lady Gaga – Always Remember Us This Way

Well, this will be a left field choice for anyone who has followed my selections over the past few years, but Gaga is a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me, and the film from which this song appears, A Star is Born, should be picking up multiple awards, it really is my film of the year.

An amazing, heartfelt song, showing another facet to Stefani Germanotta that you may not know from her main popular output, this is on constant rotation for me and buzzing around in my head the rest of the time.

Chris Stagg

Album: Suede – The Blue Hour

Suede’s latest offering, The Blue Hour, is a beautifully crafted concept album, unlike anything I have heard from them before. It’s not a happy album by any means, instead it explores the bleakness of loss and loneliness all to the backdrop of isolation in a rural setting. This album is stunning. Brett Anderson’s beautiful vocal is complimented by an array of musical soundscapes including monastic chanting, spoken word and what appears to be at least, on site live noise of the countryside. At times the music can be unsettling and there is a strong element of folk horror about the whole affair, but still there a flickers of a more mainstream past. The whole album needs to be listened to and studied in one go – preferably alone. Though if you must listen to individual tracks; As One, Wasteland, Chalk Circles, Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves you and The Invisibles will leave you wanting more. This is a highly mature and intelligent offering that shows off the musical ability of one of the UKs most overlooked bands. Here they are exploring further than they ever have before, and the result is simply breath taking.

Track: Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto

This year Tenacious D followed up their film The Pick of Destiny and last album; Rise of the Phoenix, with Post Apocalypto. A bizarre and hilarious YouTube cartoon, written, produced, voiced and drawn by Tenacious D themselves. The title theme is my song pick of the year, and is the lead track on their accompanying mini album which comprises songs and sketches from the series. The Post Apocalypto theme is pure Tenacious D at their best. Frantic and perhaps tantric, acoustic guitar playing from Kyle Gass and incredible vocals from Rawk-meister Jack Black. Powerful, mythical and believable dragon slaying music. The D are back.

Courtney-Lee Collins

Album: Various Artists – The Greatest Showman: Reimagined

I am a huge musical theatre fan so when the film came out at the beginning of this year and I heard that Pasek and Paul were composing the songs I knew that they would be good. Musical theatre with just enough pop sound to be relevant to people who don’t like musicals. However I was really excited when Reimagined dropped as some of my favourite pop stars put their own spin on the songs from my favourite film of the year.

I particularly loved Panic! At The Disco’s Version Of The Greatest Show, Pentatonix’s version of The Greatest Show, Pink’s Version Of A Million Dreams, Years and Years and Jess Glynne’s Version Of Come Alive, Craig David’s Version of Come Alive and James Arthur & Anne-Marie’s Version Of Rewrite The Stars. Overall, an amazing album that I think everyone on it should be proud of it.

Track: 5 Seconds of Summer – Youngblood

I’ve been a big fan of 5SOS since back in the days where they used to open for One Direction on tour and have loved them ever since and something about this song just stuck with me. It’s catchy, the perfect blend of slow and upbeat when the chorus kicks in and it’s also got a great beat behind it, one of my favourites to play on my show as it sounds great on air too. Definitely a song I want to sing along to every time I hear it, well done boys you did it again, they smashed it well and truly!

Gareth Williams

Album: Marmozets – Knowing What You Know

A band that hadn’t fully caught my attention until I saw them play a set at Standon Calling, which made me buy both of their albums to date. This years release is a fantastic mix of pop punk rock. Lead singer Becca McIntyre is an amazing front woman, ranging from shouty snarling vocals to melodic singing, over driving guitars and pounding drums, singles such as Play and Major System Error highlight the louder side, whilst album closer Run With The Rhythm has echoes of Florence & The Machine. Also my gig of the year for their October Kentish Town Forum headliner.

Track: Confidence Man – Out The Window

If there was any justice this song would have been everywhere during 2018s long hot summer, starting with a chilled dance vibe, the chorus turns this into a Screamadelica era Primal Scream style anthem, this should have been part of everyone’s summer soundtrack. Honourable mentions to exciting newcomer Isabelle Brown for Places, The Slow Readers Club for Supernatural and Janelle Monáe for Make Me Feel.

Graham Stannard

Album: Wychhound – Earth Orbiter

This was a very difficult choice as so many wonderful new albums were released this year, especially by bands in the UK scene, such as Oak, 1968, Green Lung and Cavalli. But I have been enjoying a lot of instrumental music and there have been some great, recent examples. London based Wychhound have been developing their sound and came up with a masterpiece in Earth Orbiter this year.

Track: Cloud – As The Dust Settles (Deus Ex Machina)

With the theme of instrumental music, I almost chose Deus Ex Machina as the album of the year, but I thought I would choose this as best song as it has been the soundtrack to many moments of my year since I first heard it.

Jon Good

Album: Take That – Odyssey

This album is a re-imagined greatest hits album that takes you on a journey through the last 28 years. For me, they just get better and better.

Track: Liv Lawrence – So Fine

Liv is only 13 years old when she released this track in August 2018 with Bad Influence Productions. The track is very uplifting and almost makes me feel young again. I play it in the car all the time, and I’m so pleased when it makes it into The Sunday Sessions Chart Show.

Jordan Gray

Album: Tekashi 6ix9ine – Dummy Boy

Genuinely my favourite album of 2018 because whenever I feel old for thinking modern music is vacuous ear-garbage, I listen to this and remember that I’m right.

Track: Tekashi 6ix9ine feat Nicki Minaj and Murda Beatz – Fefe

Proving the concept in triplicate: if you want something done right, don’t ask your famous friends to cameo. It won’t sound better. But it will sell. Lose-Lose.

Josh Fowler

Album: First Aid Kit – Ruins

It hasn’t been a stellar year of music for me, with the biggest disappointment being the Arctic Monkeys latest release. But a diamond in the rough was the latest released from First Aid Kit way back in January. I was lucky enough to see the Soderberg sisters in the summer and they were the highlight of my festival weekend. It’s A Shame and Fireworks are stand out tracks, but the whole thing is a folky dream. Perfect to kick back and dream of warmer days.

Track: Superorganism – Everybody Wants To Be Famous

This song has a euphoric feeling that I can’t help but be infected by. The group, a mish-mash of nationalities, are as unconventional as their musical techniques. A particular highlight in this song is the use of a fizzy drink being opened and poured – as well as the psychedelic use of slowing and speeding the vocals. If nothing else, I think this song should be classified as a legal high.

Matt Hines

Album: The Breeders – All Nerve

Sublime. Wait In The Car is a standout on a delightful album.

Track: Boy Azooga – Loner Boogie

Infectious, delicious and cool.

Michelle Ward

Album: José James: Lean On Me

A beautifully crafted album by an incredible vocalist who combines jazz, soul, drum’n’bass and spoken word.

Track: Rosie A Webb – Summertime

With so many tracks to pick from and an incredible amount of unsigned original talent I have picked Rosie A Webb with her track Summertime. Rosie is a local singer/songwriter who came in and blew my mind with her incredible soulful voice.

Rosie also talked about her work with Key Changes who provide music engagement and recovery services in hospitals and the community for young people and adults experiencing mental health problems.

Mike Jones

Album: Boxer Rebellion – Ghost Alive

A massive swerve in direction and some critics said this could easily have been a Nathan Nicholson solo album but this was a team effort . Raising awareness of loss with the haunting “Here I Am “and Suicide with “Love yourself” this is a departure from the usual swirling guitars which are replaced by strings and softer percussion. This album will grow in strength over the years as it’s gradually discovered. I crossed the ocean to hear it played live . Wonderful work.

Track: The Screens – Mirrorball

Tough to pick a track from the most original album of the last ten years but Mirrorball has it all. With wonderful vocals from Colin Wade and our very own Michelle Ward it’s a must-listen and deserves a huge audience. The band already have a massive following on Independent Radio across the world.

Mike Porter

Album: George Ezra – Staying At Tamara’s
Track: George Ezra – Shotgun

George Ezra is my favourite artist of 2018. Shotgun is great and his new album is fantastic.

Naomi Sayers

Album: Nile Rodgers and Chic – It’s About Time

It’s About Time is Chic’s eighth studio album, written and conducted by Rodgers. Twelve years after their last album release A Night in Amsterdam, It’s About Time brings what we know and love from Chic and Nile (orchestral disco with those unmistakeable basslines) right up to date. Stand out tracks for me are the brilliant collaboration of Craig David, Stefflon Don and Chic on Sober, plus there’s a killer re-working of I Want Your Love featuring none other than Lady Gaga on vocals. I hope it’s introduced a whole new audience to Chic.

Track: Roger Martin feat Maurice – Found Love

For me 2018 will be the year of the long, hot summer so my track of the year had to be a summer banger! Sampling Now That We Found Love by Heavy D & the Boyz, it brings that riff bang up to date, with the addition of some big, low horns and a beat that, for me, is on just the right side of laid-back. Boosted by sound-tracking the trailer to THE BIGGEST TV show of the year – Love Island – on paper it’s a recipe for a house classic. In reality it’s pool party perfection.

Nick Field

Album: Jodie Abacus – Take This And Grow Flowers

I saw Mr Abacus live at Standon Calling last year and love how he embraces funk and electronica without it drowning out his soulful vocals. After a strong of EPs, this album is full of thoughtful and life-affirming tunes.

Track: The Interrupters – She’s Kerosene

A reminder of why I love 2 Tone, ska and punk, the energy and positive message from this LA foursome is impossible not to get jaunty to!

Nigel Fitzmaurice

Album: Jeffrey Osborne – Worth It All

Such a splendid album with soul and uptempo tunes and his usual style of 80s soul.

Track: Calvin Harris and Sam Smith – Promises

An unusual pairing but an infectious tune – I love it!

Nikki Mills

Album: Anne-Marie – Speak Your Mind

Essex girl Anne Marie’s track 2002 was a contestant for my presenter pick and it features on this album along side; Friends, Alarm and Ciao Adios. All number 1 hits for Anne Marie and tracks I enjoy listening, dancing and singing to.

Track: Jonas Blue ft Liam Payne and Lennon Stella – Polaroid

Featuring on the Phoenix FM A list, I had heard this song once before they performed it on X Factor and since then I now love hearing it whenever it comes on the radio. It’s one of them songs you want to learn the words to, and their lyric music video helped to do that!

Olly Harvey

Album: J Cole – K O D

J Cole uses the format of hip hop to convey positive social messages and intellectual criticisms of modern America to an audience that, particularly in this day and age, needs to hear them. This refreshingly contradicts the negative stigma and output that has become synonymous with this genre of music, and motivates people instead.

Track: Childish Gambino – Feels Like Summer

My track of the year is Feels Like Summer … because it really does! It’s not only one of the best R&B songs of the year, and my personal favourite, but one of the best of the last few decades. It has a relaxing and positive vibe and also has a few things to say about the world we’re in today, which I think is what music is, and should be, all about.

Patrick Sherring

Album: Will Hoge – My American Dream

Nashville’s Will released an album full of songs protesting at the way American society has developed. Every contemporary issue is addressed in hard-edged lyrics within a musical style critics have labelled rock-country. I saw Will preforming this year with a set that pulled no punches. This album will certainly keep your attention and challenge you to think about how you view 2018 America.

Track: Sophie Griffiths – Maybe

Ingatestone’s own Sophie released this soulful single in 2018. Sophie has come into Phoenix FM to sing solo and also as part of the band Breaking 3. This track demonstrates her unique vocal talent and the ways she is able to portray emotion. With a stylish backing, this track is a highlight of the year.

Paul Golder

Album: Dream Wife – Dream Wife

Debut album from the Anglo-Icelandic trio which came out in January and has just about fought off allcomers! It’s a great album in the tradition of old school punk with pop music sensibilities, albeit with very 21st century subject matter. They’re an amazing live draw too – not to be missed if you get the chance to see them on stage.

Track: Salad – The Selfishness Of Love

A comeback track from a band who had some success in the 1990s on the coat-tails of Britpop, and who we’ve featured a lot over the last couple of years as they build their way back to regular touring and recording again. It has a quirky, angular feel which wouldn’t be out of place on their top 20 album Drink Me, and that’s no bad thing.

Rob Harvey

Album: Promenade Cinema – Living Ghosts

I have to say I couldn’t wait to hear this album after the first few singles from Promenade Cinema, and this debut delivered. The warm dramatic stories and heart felt lyrics, were spotlights shine though the brooding melodies and dynamic soaring synths. Each song had its own character from Polaroid Stranger to widescreen emotional masterpiece that is Norway; I have to admit that track always brings a tear at it’s very intro. This debut album is a firm favourite for me and feels like it has been made by two Timelords, who fell in love at a gothic cinema, where Lady Gaga sold ice creams in the interval as John Foxx shone a torch to seat spirits, as they muse at the dramatic mystery of the Living Ghosts.

Track: Strange Eyes – Black Heart

A simply beautiful debut with all the fine drama and mystery of a classic horror love story, set as a time travelling seductive vendetta, a track dripping in lush haunting synths and an etherial dark hearted lyric. This spellbinding song kept me emotionally connected; add to this, a stunning video that delivers on the story that will draws you to the light.

Spencer Carter

Album: Judie Tzuke, Beverley Craven and Julia Fordham – Woman To Woman

The standout album of the year for me. Bringing together these three powerhouses behind some of the most lyrically blessed tracks over the past 40 (yes, you heard right, 40) years is a stroke of genius.

From Judy’s career spanning back catalogue, to Beverly’s emotional and poignant songs (made even more powerful by her current health struggles) to Julia’s intricate song writing and vocal interpretations, this album is a masterpiece in musicality.

The first single – Safe – takes you to a place that is comforting, emotive, warm and, well, safe. You would have to be made of stone to fail to be moved by the sentiment and emotion behind it. Other standout tracks include “A Photo Every Christmas” and “If (when you go)”.

If you haven’t bought it yet – do so. And if you have, then play, play and play again.

Track: Kylie Minogue – Dancing

Tough choice, as there has been some superb music out this year. I could pick at least five or six tracks that immediately spring to mind (Johnny Marr, Everything But The Girl, The Fizz) but a stand out single for me is “Dancing” by the rather awesome Kylie.

Constantly reinventing herself, taking the country music route was always going to be a risk but I think she pulled it off with great aplomb, bringing what could be described as a dated genre (don’t shoot me Nashville fans!) kicking and screaming into today’s music seen with edgy basslines, sparingly eclectic guitar solos and breathy vocals. All done to a disco beat which is no mean feat.

As you enter your 51st year Miss Minogue, and your 30th in your recording career, take a bow.

Steve Davis

Album: Magma – Marquee Londres 17 mars 1974
Track: Magma – Köhntarkösz

A live album released in August 2018 of the French prog band’s seminal 70s show.

Steve Robertson

Album: Chvrches – Love is Dead

Going by the album I’ve listened to the most this year, the third LP from the Glasgow-based band has to be my choice for 2018.

Track: Sam Fender – Leave Fast

After seeing him play at this year’s Standon Calling, I’ve been listening to a lot of the BPI Critics’ Choice Award winner. Just over three minutes long, this single has a simple acoustic feel and carries a message for these times.

Stuart Jay

Album: Rod Stewart – Blood Red Roses

Whilst I love a wide range of music, I tire of hearing pop and sampled music. Listening to a great band and singer whilst relaxing with a drink is usually a good sign for me and I enjoyed this from Rod Stewart.

Track: George Ezra – Shotgun

The song talks about a mountain that will be there when you need it. For me touching on the need to unwind and get away from the norm. A message to us all maybe, about the need to unwind.

Tony Smith

Album: Cardi B – Invasion Of Privacy

We were also up to our ears in film soundtracks this year, with songs from The Greatest Showman dominating the charts like no album since Adele’s. It spent almost half the year at number one in the UK, was released again with new versions of the songs by the likes of Pink and Kelly Clarkson, and was joined in the top five at one point by the soundtracks to films Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born.

But according to Spotify, rap ruled in 2018 – so for me the artist who cemented her place among Rap’s elite and has my vote for the best album of the year is Invasion Of Privacy by Cardi B.

Track: Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

Another big year for a lot of the top artists, but the best stand out single for me was the infectious dance track Make Me Feel from Janelle Monáe. There’s such an ease and a fluidity to the song, just like Monáe’s public persona. A perfect blend of smart, sensual lyrics and physicality that can’t do anything but make you feel … good!

Xanthe Bearman

Album: Sheridan Smith – A Northern Soul

I admit to being a huge Sheridan Smith fan ever since I saw her in Legally Blonde and Funny Girl, both in the West End. This album seems to me to have really honest songs – co-written by Sheridan, I especially like “Priceless” which was released as a single in September. She sings “I’m priceless, one of a kind. Pack your bags, boy, wait out of line”. You go girl!

Track: Kylie Minogue and Jack Savoretti – Music’s Too Sad Without You

A lovely pop style ballad, that puts you in a nice place. It makes me smile when I hear it, and I want to stop what I’m doing and just listen. Always good to take a moment to just stop!

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