Uke Hunt’s 2018 Ukulele Favourites

It’s award season and time to hand out the most coveted of them all The UkeHunties.

Ukulele Record of 2018: Zoë Bestel – Transience

In this post a year ago I mentioned the three albums I was most anticipating this year were from Arctic Monkeys, Kanye West and Zoe Bestel. As it happens, only one of those was able to both release and fabulous album and refrain from claiming slavery was a choice.

Transience is an absolute joy. Every element is beautifully put together and the production is top notch. You have to give it a listen.

Runners Up
João Tostes – naturæ
Bud Sugar – Vampire
Marlowe – Moments
Choan Gálvez – 10 minutos
Phredd – Ukulele One Man Band

Ukulele Song of 2018: I’m With Her – See You Around

Their name may have been hijacked but the singer-songwriter supergroup of Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan released a fantastic collection of tunes this year. With the ukulele-heavy title track See You Around providing the highlight.

This year also saw the release of the best Twenty One Pilots record and the rise of hip hop ukulele that isn’t a cringefest. Most notably Einer Bankz’s collabs with every hot rapper, Tobe Nwigwe’s Wavy and Marlowe’s collboration with Jay Hollywood.

Runners Up
The Helmsmen – Alright
Twenty One Pilots – Nico and the Niners
Dustbowl Revival – Call My Name
Zoë Bestel – Eye For An Eye
Jay Hollywood x MARLOWE – Connected
Mt. Joy – Dirty Love
La Familia de Ukeleles – Hurry Up

Instrumental Performance of 2018: Paul Hemmings – Caravan

This category is always the hardest for me to pick a winner in. There are so many talented and inspiring players out there and I learn new stuff and crib ideas from them all the time. I have to give a shoutout to the amazing Brazilian players Aline Kelly, João Tostes and (last year’s winner in this category) Vinícius Vivas who have been putting out consistently great music all year.

But the winner is a late entry from Paul Hemmings who has just started putting up his collection of arrangements of Duke Ellington tunes from an upcoming tab book.

Runners Up
Marlowe – Battle Royale
Joao Tostes – Danca Devenir
Professor Ogma – Thunderer
Aline Kelly – Estudo V
FengE – Silence in the Storm
Jake Shimabukuro and Jerry Douglas – If 6 Was 9
João Tostes & Vinícius Vivas – Brasileirinho
Jonathan Lewis – The Princess Royal
Natasha Ghosh – Fake Love / I Need U

Ukulele Cover 2018: Max De Bernardi & Veronica Sbergia – Foggy River

I’ve loved this Italian revivalist duo since I first heard them on the UKEit compilations CD in 2008 and they keep blasting them out.

Runners Up
Jim Boggia – Born in the USA
The Ladybugs – Save The Bones For Henry Jones
Guido Heistek – I Can't Give You Anything But Love
EmiSunshine – Wide River to Cross

Most Lusted After Ukulele of 2018: Kanile’a 2018 Platinum

The most nebulous category. I don’t try out enough ukes to know which is actually the best so I go with the one I lust after most and can’t afford. And with a $4k price tag I’m never going to get a Kanile’a 2018 Platinum but it looks and sounds incredible.

Runners Up
Rebel No. 6
Murray Kuun Ghia
Pelem mango exotic
RIGuitars Lemmy Bass

Favourite Song Chorded: Aretha Franklin – I Say a Little Prayer

It really does seem like I’ve had to do far more tribute posts the last few years than I did in the early days of the blog. This year saw the deaths of Mark E Smith, Dolores O’Riordan, Pete Shelley, Hugh Masakela and (the one I took hardest) Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit. But the biggest loss was Aretha Franklin who has to be the greatest singer of my lifetime. Even in the field of soul music where a vocalist’s ability to convey emotion is so highly (and correctly) valued she stood above everyone.

Runners Up

The Pogues – Waxies’ Dargle
Luis Fonsi – Despacito
Billy Bragg – Between the Wars
Father John Misty – Mr Tillman
Lou Reed – Perfect Day

Favourite Song Tabbed: George Gershwin – Summertime

I still regard myself as too dumb to play jazz properly. But I’m working on it. And I really enjoyed using this tune as a springboard for some soloing. The tune is so strong and airy that it’s very open to (and forgiving of) fretboard meandering.

Runners Up
Rodgers and Hammerstein – You’ll Never Walk Alone
St Vincent – New York
Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You
The Beatles – Hey Jude
Charli XCX – Boys
Edith Piaf – La Vie en Rose
Bob Dylan/Adele – To Make You Feel My Love

Best Non-Ukulele Record of 2018: Tierra Whack – Whack World

Having an album of songs all exactly a minute long seems like a cheap gimmick. But Whack World is put together with such a sense of fun and creativity it’s immediately charming. And paired with the 16 minute video of the entire album was my favourite musical experience of 2018.

I know from the comments I get that rap isn’t to the taste of all Uke Hunt readers. For those people I recommend checking out the John Fahey-influenced fingerpicking of Gwenifer Raymond and virtuoso funk of Vulfpeck offshoot Fearless Flyers.

Runners Up
Gwenifer Raymond – You Never Were Much of a Dancer
Fearless Flyers – Fearless Flyers
L’Orange & Solemn Brigham – Marlowe
Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer

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