Best Of 2018: Music

Best Of 2018: Music

Photo by Kiki Vassilakis


“We were all bit by a radioactive orangutan in 1999,” Dark Honey’s Jimi Woodul says when asked about the indie group’s origin story. The band of brothers, along with childhood friend Daniel DeKalb, have been playing music together under different band names (The Blind Pilots, Why We Fight, and most recently One Red Martian) for about 13 years. They took their tunes from Newport, NY to Dallas, TX and ultimately landed right here in the Capital Region.

“We needed a place that would be a brand new start,” he said. “Anything to move forward. I’m glad, because I feel like the last four years that we’ve been here, it’s been a really good incubation chamber.” The band has been bunkering down in their studio, learning the ropes of recording and mastering their work and reconfiguring their creative process from a DIY angle. “You’re not as ready as you think you are to do this. You have to grow up a little,” he added. “Just because it’s real and cathartic–all the beautiful things about making music, doesn’t matter. What matters is the way you’re able to connect to an audience.”

Dark Honey has been slowly releasing singles like “Stinging Nettle,” “Harlequin Blue” and upcoming track “The Moon” in the meantime and Woodul expects a new album to come together by the summer of 2019. It will be their first since the group’s debut album in 2009.

“We’re evolving,” he laughed. “Getting stronger…I think.”
2nd place Pony in the Pancake
3rd place TIE: Super 400, The LateShift

Photo by Beth Mickalonis at Flyer Squad Photography

BEST FOLK: Zan & the Winter Folk

If you were to judge Zan Strumfeld solely by her lyrics, “you would think that I was a very sad, lonely, heartbroken, just like desperate-ish person,” the Troy-based singer-songwriter said in a recent interview.

That’s not actually the case, Strumfeld says. She just tends to write at a “very typical, clichéd songwriting time”: amid heartbreak.

Though seemingly at peace with this truth about her creative process, she’s grown tired of being the “girl sitting in the corner playing acoustic sad songs,” she says. Now set to record a demo, or maybe a series of demos, with a band she formed almost a year ago, Strumfeld’s lyrics are still sad, but the music “is so much more upbeat”—a welcome change that she connects to her three (sometimes four) bandmates’ fairly disparate tastes.

Zan and the band—Mike Jenkins (upright bass), Michael Gregg (banjo), Will Brown (lead guitar), and Brendan Tompkins (drums)—also intend to tour this fall. She describes their sound as a mix of folk, indie, bluegrass, and blues but says she’s “still waiting for someone to describe it better.”

Critics, take note: The band is playing (with Rechorduroys and Joan Kelsey) Aug. 3 at 7:30 P.M. at Elixir 16 in Troy and on Aug. 16 at 6 P.M. at Round Lake Auditorium.
2nd place The Sea The Sea
3rd place Blue Ranger


“My plan is to gig, and gig, and gig some more. And then gig some more. And oh yeah, gig,”

Arielle O’Keefe told The Alt in her cover feature that graced our first issue back in November of 2016. Since then O’Keefe has taken the Capital Region and the internet by storm. While her recordings won her major attention and millions of streams, it’s her live performances that have earned her a place among of the pantheon of great area performers.
2nd place Robert Flynn (Pony in the Pancake)
3rd place The Age

BEST MC: Ozymandias AKA (OHZHE)

It has been quite a year for this young MC. He dropped a new epic album Godly, filmed a few videos, and debuted a live show featuring full instrumentation. We can’t wait for his next project.

2nd place JB AKA Dirty Moses
3rd place Clear Mind

BEST DJ: Trumastr

Was there any question that the area’s most popular, prominent and omnipresent Trumastr would win this category? Trumastr is a true Capital Region staple.
2nd place DJ Dread
3rd place DJ Hollywood

Photo by Richard Lovrich

BEST FUNK BAND: Front Business

The folks that make up this four-piece might be the nicest dudes in the area. The likes of Peter Lavery, Erik Pravel, Raurri Jennings, or Josh Potter would give you the shirts off their backs if they were wearing shirts at the moment you happened to need one. Knowing Jennings, a librarian by trade, and Potter, a spokesperson for RPI’s EMPAC, you might think they play bookish, nuanced, thoughtful, quiet indie tunes. You’d be dead wrong. If you need to start a party, you need Front Business.
2nd place Wurliday
3rd place Funk Evolution

BEST PUNK BAND: Viewpoints

This Albany-based quartet produces sugary-sweet emo-punk strong enough to put anyone into a diabetic coma. Their new album Nothing Against You comes out on Sept 7. You can catch them at Chrome in Waterford this Friday night with Dark Honey and Girl Blue.

2nd place Girth Control
3rd place Prince Daddy & The Hyena

BEST WORLD BAND: Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde

Asili won Best Band (overall) and Best World Group in our 2017 Readers’ Poll after taking the Women’s March on Washington by storm. This year her output as a musician and an advocate has been relentless. You can catch Taina and her band next in Saratoga at The Tang’s Upbeat on the Roof series on August 2.
2nd place Mixed Roots
3rd place Ferriday


This hard-working act has been winning accolades as the area’s best country act since a good portion of our readers were in grade school. You can catch them this Thursday at The Crossings in Colonie, on Friday at the Saratoga County Fair and Saturday at the Smoke Eaters Jamboree in Warrensburg.


This Albany band filters its version of hardcore through a lens tinted with The Cramps and The Damned. Their tunes are both catchy and well crafted. They’ve got atmosphere and hooks for days. Check out their 2018 Promo on Bandcamp; you’ll be happy you did regardless of whether you fancy yourself a fan of the genre.
2nd place Modern Psychics

Photo by Bryan Lasky


These hard-working dudes have a knack for combining sludgy riffs with a hardcore-style percussion. Guitarist Ryan Slowey has made his name as a producer and all around music enabler. The group should have a new album out this year.
2nd place Hush

BEST REGGAE BAND: Dr. Jah and the Love Prophets

They have been indoctrinating locals for 20 years. If you’re a Capital Region resident and haven’t seen them live you probably don’t get out much.
2nd place Mixed Roots

BEST JAM BAND: Let’s Be Leonard

Let’s Be Leonard are just a bunch of fun-loving jam dudes from Saratoga. They’ll be releasing their second album Static on July 27th at The Park Theater in Glens Falls. Preceding the concert the band will screen a film they worked on with local comedian Nick Wilsey.
2nd place Wurliday
3rd place Pony in the Pancake


Formed by a merger of sorts between Folding Sky and Right Coast, this blues band features local activist and New York Blues Hall of Fame inductee Mark Emanation.


The dynamic duo Jeff Nania and Lecco Morris sweep the category for a second year in a row. #powercouple
2nd place Brian Patneaude Trio
3rd Bryan Brundige Trio

BEST CLASSICAL ENSEMBLE: Albany Symphony Orchestra

This well-respected group of Capital Region musicians seems to get more creative and adventurous with each passing year. From last year’s Water Music series to their flash guitar mob in Troy’s Riverfront Park, the orchestra has become adept at capturing not only brilliant performances but also the public’s imagination.
2nd place Musicians of Ma’alwyck


He’s an expert at improvisation, and he puts that talent to use with some of the area’s most accomplished jazz musicians. Working with local and international greats Tani Tabbal, Pete Seeger and Dick Oatts and performing from the Capital Region to NYC, Adam’s exploration of the sonic potential of the alto saxophone has won over The Alt’s listeners.
2nd place Jeff Nania
3rd place Brad Monkell

Photo by Kiki Vassilakis

BEST CLUB: The Hollow

Featuring up-and-coming national acts and the best local musicians, The Hollow has earned its place as a favorite of our readers. This year The Hollow hosted Wolf Alice, Matt & Kim, Black Pistol Fire, Making Movies and Mt. Joy.
2nd place Waterworks
3rd place The Low Beat


It was extremely close but the underdog pulled off the upset win against SPAC. The Hollow is a great place to get a craft beer, eat a decent meal and rock like there is no tomorrow.
2nd place SPAC
3rd place The Palace


SPAC’s idyllic setting makes it the perfect place to see a summer concert. From the seemingly annual visits by Dave Matthews, and this year’s Kendrick Lamar concert brought in by Live Nation, to the New York City Ballet and Jazz Festival there isn’t a more vibrant place to be during the summer months.
2nd place Brewery Ommegang
3rd place Tanglewood


If Tess Collins is involved, you know there is going to be a great open mic night. Under her stewardship McGeary’s open mic night has blossomed. Albany is better for it.
2nd place Caffe Lena
3rd place Troy Kitchen


Kendrick was called out specifically from the Championship tour that blew through SPAC in June featuring Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and more. When you walk onstage with a backdrop reading “Pulitzer Kenny,” what more could you expect? On top of crowd-roaring hits off of his Pulitzer winning Damn. the artist ran through an expansive set with songs from Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (bless him) and To Pimp A Butterfly. Kendrick himself admitted the show was something extraordinary.

BEST COLLECTIVE: Five Kill Records

Take the most hard working, notorious recording companies and DIY collectives from Troy and Albany (B3nson Recording Company, Swordpaw Collective, Collar City Records, The Rev Records, and Bee Side Cassettes), put them all in a room together and bam! You get the best music collective of 2018. These champs have even better artists under their wings, including The Parlor, Rechorduroys, Onlyness, Bear Grass, and Blue Ranger. They’re so hot right now.
2nd place Just Pretend Records
3rd place Bee Side Cassettes


WCDB and WEXT put up a fight, but in the end WEQX took home a sturdy victory—deservedly so. The station has remained independent since 1984 and continues to break and support a number of national and local acts. They’re also responsible for some of the biggest area shows and festivals. So do your part and thank an EQX DJ.
2nd place WCDB
3rd place WEXT

BEST RADIO DJ: Dan Maddalone

Make no mistake, this was a contest solely between WEQX DJs. Maddalone, who hosts Going Underground, is responsible for the station’s House Sessions video series, and is an integral part of Albany’s DIY house show scene, won handily. He displaced last year’s winner Jeff Morad and Shea, who took third.
2nd place Jeff Morad
3rd place Shea

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