Albums Of The Year 2018

by | Dec 19, 2018 | Feature/Discovery

Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves has gone from the rebel of Nashville to its rising star to its Country Queen in just three records, quite an accomplishment for the 30-year-old. And third record Golden Hour isn’t more of the same from Musgraves its predecessor Pageant Material was seen as by many, but rather the record we’ve been waiting to hear from the Golden, Texas native.

It’s rich lushness washes over you like a summer evening while many of the themes that have resonated with her fan base and made her stand out from the crowd are still there – closer Rainbow is her ode to the LGBTQ+ community. Yes this is a Country record, but it’s appeal is far-reaching without trying to be a crossover record. 

Frankie Cosmos - Vessel

New York lo-fi soundtracks to your everyday world. This third album, Vessel, in the musical career of Greta Kline (daughter of actor Kevin) continues with that stripped back sound and makes it sound intentionally like a DIY affair recorded in the park, bathroom or on the top deck of a bus.

The songs are totally engaging and the performers vulnerability and hesitations in life are bought to the fore. Frankie Cosmos came to my attention because of the association with the Sub Pop label and the result is not quite what you would expect.

Dead Can Dance – Dionysus

One of 2018s more unconventional albums, not a collection of twelve songs three minutes in length designed to be sold as singles and toured to build to an encore…  nope.  Instead here is a thirty-minute album broken into two ‘Acts’.  This piece of musical theatre is the product of Avant-garde, art rocking Worldbeat musicians Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard

This album is the musical equivalent of a trip around the ancient world without ever straying into the territory of new age spa music.  The originals and the best at atmospheric, cinematic world fusion music Perry and Gerrard show their confidence on Dionysus.

Khruangbin - Con Todo El Mundo

Sometimes music takes you on a powerful journey. Sometimes, it delivers a powerful message.

Sometimes, it’s simply deliciously nice to relax and escape in.

The reverb drenched, instrumental music of Texan three-piece Khruangbin consistently delivers on the third of these and their 2018 sophomore album Con Todo El Mundo, delivers in spades.

Shame - Songs Of Praise

Shame have been around for about 4 years but for the last 18 months their rise has been meteoric. A proper gigging band who have learnt their stage craft and developed their huge sound by playing small festival stages to headlining a sell out Kentish Town Forum in December 2018.

Their album Songs Of Praise brings a mix of styles from prog to punk with epic guitar riffs and irreverent vocals. I don’t like saying this band sound like this or that…but imagine Magazine crossed with Rush and you might have an idea…but with a lot more swearing.

 

Colter Wall - Songs Of The Plains

Colter Wall‘s gift is not solely an extraordinary voice, but a wistful talent for storytelling. 

Songs Of The Plains is a more than a showcase album, it is a perfect snapshot of tradition and modernity which offers both romance and insight. 

Beyond all of these considerations, it’s also damn good music.

Jorja Smith - Lost & Found

Jorja Smith, Lost & Found is an R’n’B revelation, sensation and any other over the top term you wish to use to describe her. I’ve been waiting with baited breath for this body of work for a while and it didn’t disappoint. Jorja talks about her first crush in Teenage Fantasy and the internal battle to maintain a healthy relationship, The One, with a dash of advice, Blue Lights, for good measure.

She does this with a maturity in her voice that belies her 21 years. This album is contemplative, soulful,  emotionally expressive and playful. Comparative to Sade and encouraging reflection, I love Lost & Found, its hope in a jar that is immediately soothing. For me, it conjures relaxation and calm. 

Buck & Evans - Write A Better Day

It might have been a long time in coming and it might still only be available to a select number of people who helped fund it through a PledgeMusic campaign, but the debut full length album from Welsh ‘rock ‘n’ soul’ quartet Buck & Evans was certainly worth the wait.

Chris Buck is a virtuoso guitarist who whilst never derivative has the spirit of Knopfler, Gilmour and Hendrix in his fingers. Meanwhile Sally Ann Evans’s soaring vocals take ten beautifully crafted songs and elevate them to another level. If the full release falls in 2019, expect to find this paragraph around this time next year too.

Crystal & Runnin' Wild - The Midnight Creature

 Hailing from Belgium, Crystal & Runnin’ Wild are fronted by the gorgeous Crystal. The band has travelled across Europe many times over these past couple of years, and became a sensation everywhere they went!

We love Crystal’s versatile and powerful voice, the traditional rockabilly sounds mixed with 60s garage twists, and the dark and deep universe she brings us in. Recently signed to Rhythm Records, Crystal & Runnin’ Wild are a promising band that will soon rise to fame and win hearts all

Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance

Thumping, stomping, shouty excellence from the Bristolians, a worthy narrative of our modern times. Plus, extra kudos for the cover image, doing Solomon Burke their way and for writing a track entitled Never Fight A Man with A Perm.

A masterpiece from start to finish, that will build you up before breaking you down when you hear June. One of the most heartbreaking songs ever. 

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs

With a sound oxymoronically described as ‘tough pop/soft punk’, Hope Downs began as my heatwave summer soundtrack and became one for all seasons.

Surfy-punk, wistful lyrics and passionate guitar pop with a little country thrown in makes for infectious listening.

Frank Turner - Be More Kind

 Frank Turner released the perfect antidote to the division and rise of plain nastiness I have feel has developed globally in 2018. It is a more diverse album than his previous releases and has some truly beautiful songs on it, especially There She Is.

Frank has a large back catalogue, and in my view has never released a mediocre album. This is one of his best!

James - Living In Extraordinary Times

Four decades and 15 albums into their career, James have no right to sound so vital. They bring classic pop melodies and age-old themes (love, war, religion, sex, family) bang up to date with cutting-edge production, pointed lyrics, and impassioned performances from the entire band. Tim Booth, especially, sounds like he has something to prove (he doesn’t) and something to say (he does).

Whether he’s tackling US politics head on in the vitriolic Hank or coming to terms with the heartache of being a father on the road in the tender Coming Home (Pt. 2), the singer’s all-in. And, judging by the bonus songs on the deluxe edition (every bit as good as those on the standard album), the well’s far from dry.

Editors - Violence

After two albums that saw them compared (usually unfavourably) to Joy Division, Editors hit back with an exceptional retro-synth reinvention, 2009’s In This Light And On This Evening. After two listless follow ups, they’ve done it again. Blending dark, pulsing electronica (courtesy of producer Blanck Mass), angular guitars, and singer Tom Smith’sminor piano chords, this is the most alive the band have sounded in a decade.

Highlights? Magazine stands back for nobody. The imposing Counting Spooks updates icy 80s synth ballads (sidestepping the cheesiness dripping off Muse’s latest). And the title track is disco despair: throbbing beats colliding with emotional trauma.

David Eugene Edwards and Alexander Hacke – Risha

This album sees the first collaboration for David Eugene Edwards since Sixteen Horsepower, on Risha, he teamed up with former Einstürzende Neubauten bassist Alexander Hacke.  Hacke brought the means to extrapolate the electronic post-punk sound of Edwards last Wovenhand solo project and develop it into multi-dimensional soundscapes with songs layered over the top. 

There are haunting songs like album opener Triptych and the pacy industrial-tinged All in the Palm.  With flavours of world music, alt-country and dark Americana this album is a musical exploration and a deeper cut for Wovenhand fans.

Black Peaks - All That Divides

Their live shows are incredible, and the high energy performances are put across perfectly on this album.

Black Peaks’ second album had been a long time coming and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 

Killing Fever – Sarah Vista

 A superb mix of Country and Western music, yes they are separate genres, with a handful of rock n’ roll thrown in.

Not home on the range, these are songs with a dark edge, conjouring up images of an avenging woman sharpshooter in a spaghetti western.

Sons of Kemet - Your Queen is a Reptile

The London jazz quartet have produced a furiously happy album which seamlessly displays their ingenuity – jazz, yes, but also soca, Afrobeat and reggae rhythms throughout.

Each track crowns its own queen; inspirational black women from history. A deserving Mercury Prize nominee.

Wynona Bleach Choose Their Albums Of The Year

 Jeff Tweedy – Warm

In our opinion Jeff Tweedy is one of the best songwriters alive today and this is my favourite work of his since the mid/late 90s – early 2000s Wilco albums, which were huge reasons I wanted to start playing guitar and be in a band in the first place. The album is packed full of delicate, stripped back songs, that showcase how great a lyricist Jeff is.

Soccer Mommy – Clean

Lyrically this album really resonated with us as it deals with a lot of the same subject matter that we try to tackle. It was a real step up from their earlier lo-fi bedroom recordings, which is also something we know all too well.


Superorganism – Superorganism

A phenomenal debut with the coolest pop production tricks ever. It’s packed to the brim with perfect noises and indie pop lyrics, which somehow translates amazingly well live too!

 Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop

A really solid follow up to their previous release, Guilty of Everything, which was a super important record to us. Its much more lo-fi and raw, but it holds some really honest sounding songs with serious guitar parts and thick, fat chord progressions that makes us smile.

Our album of the year would be Ordinary Corrupt Human Love by Deafhaven. The best way to describe it is a wall of beautiful sounds hitting you all at once. Discovered a few years ago when they released Sunbather and it blew us away. We listen to this album every day and love everything about from the high fast paced blast beats to the ambient guitar sounds. Recommended tracks are Canary Yellow and Near to get an idea of the range they play

 

 

Babyteeth Make Their Albums Of The Year Choice.

 Slaves -Acts of Fear and Love

We love everything about Slaves, and what they’re doing for British punk music at the moment. Awesome catchy riffs and they’re always honest and hilarious lyrically. This album is all about the f*****g energy! Go for an extremely fast drive with Cut And Run on.

Courtney Barnett -Tell Me How You Really Feel

Brilliant writing. Hit songs with clever angry feminist lyrics. The coolest mega chill vocal delivery. That Margaret Atwood quote. What’s not to like about this album?

Soccer Mommy – Clean

Sugary sweet vocals but lyrics with attitude. She’s a great guitarist too. We really dig its simplicity. Sounds like sunshine mixed with teen angst.

 

Ty Segall -Fudge Sandwich

Barely recognisable covers, from a weird screaming riffy John Lennon cover to country psych. We didn’t even know most of the songs in their original form but have had this album on repeat.

 

Yonaka -Teach Me to Fight

Badass live band with a sick front woman. Even though it’s only an EP we thought we’d sneak it in. Check out the bass on Waves. Ooft!

 

Fantastic Negrito - Please Don't Be Dead

Fantastic Negrito creates a really interesting take on blues music by blending soul
and funk into the mix.
The album is a statement on modern America from a fathers eyes.
A father who has lived through adversity and come out at the other side, only to find out that the world has gone stark raving nuts.

Fire Dream – J D Wilkes

The frontman of  the legendary Shack Shakers steps out of the band to cherry pick guest performers for his songs. A potent mix of Cajun, blues and Southern gothic, a DIY feel to the production that makes it intimate and powerful.

This is the Shack Shakers without the rockabilly drive and bombast, which allows JD Wilkes’ strange and melancholic charm to be explored.

Children of Zeus - Travel Light

Children of Zeus, Travel Light should be listened to repeatedly.

Still early enough to say you were there at the beginning with this UK based soulful hip-hop duo. Think Common crossed with Kaytranada and a touch D’Angelo

Angelique Kidjo - Remain In Light

On Remain In Light, Talking Heads experimented with African polyrhythms and this album became one of Angelique Kidjo’s biggest musical influences. She took the album full circle with a track-by-track re-imagination incorporating authentic African music.

 Even if you are not a fan of World music, or even of Talking Heads’, you cannot fail but to appreciate this re-aligning of one of the most iconic albums of the 80s.

In many ways this reworking is more authentic and dare I say, better than the one that Angelique was so taken by in Paris, back in 1983. 

The covers album of the year!

 

Black Foxxes - Reiði

2016s I’m Not Well was an astonishing debut from Exeter three-piece Black Foxxes and the follow up Reiði continues the momentum. Conceived by front man Mark Holley amid the incredible vistas of Icelend, Reiði (the Norse word for ‘rage’) is every bit as dramatic as the landscape that inspired it.

Some of the finest crafted indie art rock you’ll ever hear, this is what might have happened if James Dean Bradfield, Eddie Vedder and Thom Yorke had met at primary school. If Black Foxxes continue the current trajectory; the names of Holley, Tristan Jane (bass) and Ant Thornton (drums) should be considered alongside same exalted company in years to come.

The Zipheads -Prehistoric Beat

 Following the release of their second album Z2 : Rampage!, the St Albans trio reissued their debut album Prehistoric Beat.The 2013 record was an instant success, and the 2018 got even better! It has everything we loved back then, their psychobilly riffs in Unrequited Love, the reggae sounds of Manslaughter, classics Dinosaur Rock and Call Of The Wild and we get two new bonus tracks : Prevenge and their very own cover of You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two” from the classic musical Oliver!

Whether you want it on cd or coloured vinyl, Bomber Music has everything you need to complete your Zipheads collection. An excellent rock’n’roll stocking stuffer. The reissue of the year!

Fickle Friends – You Are Someone Else

Fickle Friends’ massive debut album You Are Someone Else finally quenches the thirst followers of the Brightonian five-piece have been feeling for many years. Just the right blend of 80’s retro synthpop, indie guitars, and catchy lyrics make this the 2018 pop record you really need to get your hooks into. Natassja Shiner’s distinctive vocals let you know Fickle Friends are a British band without overdoing it across a 16 absolute indie-pop bangers.

From album opener Wake Me Up and total earworm chaser Glue this is a record of hits. Slow-burn, vocoder-infused In My Head serves as a welcome breather from the beats before the likes of RotationParis and Brooklyn bring back the pace. You Are Someone Else cements the sentiment that “pop is not a dirty word”.

 

Lo Moon – Lo Moon

Los Angeles-based indie rockers Lo Moon’seponymous debut effort is a wonder to behold. It’s slow-drive, synth-led guitar-based sound may be on the more chilled side, but is so incredibly atmospheric, it’s hard not to be caught up listening to this record start to finish.

The Matt Lowell-led four-piece deliver song after song of perfectly balanced indie-rock, from mind-blowing This Is It, sweeping debut single Loveless and soaring highs of The Right Thing to the chill sparseness felt in My Money, the Talk Talk influence is felt (and often referenced) but here is a record that stands completely on its own merits.

The Bad Flowers - Starting Gun

There seems to be a growing blues driven rock scene, and there are a lot of established bands in this genre.

 The three piece band, The Bad Flowers, from deep in the Black Country had been performing live since 2014 and waited a long time to release their debut, and I have not heard many debut albums as strong as Starting Gun and had it marked down as one of the albums of the year back in February.

 They have a lot of endorsements and have been heavily promoted by Planet Rock too.

 

The Blood Tub Orchestra – The Seven Curses Of The Music Hall

Tim Whelan of Transglobal Underground has taken a group of performers to re-imagine a string of Victorian and Edwardian music hall songs and given them a lo-fi punk edge.

The songs are by turns both funny and surprisingly relevant to these troubled times. One for reflection and drunken bawdy sing along.

Spellbound - New Blood

Spellbound are Dublin’s very own psychobilly legends. They’ve been around since 1986 and never disappoint. A new album this year titled New Blood sees them be faithful to themselves. Spellbound are back with gritty psychobilly sounds, infused with rock’n’roll and punk.

They know how to make us shake, and we get the proof as soon as the album starts playing Then, we get the psychobilly with some darker tracks, and I bet those will be amazing to sing along to at their next gigs! 

The Urban Voodoo Machine – 15 Shots From The Urban Voodoo Machine

The Urban Voodoo Machine have been treading the boards for 15 years, this album is a romp through the singles and B sides from their career.

A really live feel to the recording showcases the heady mix of gypsy, blues, jazz, rock n’ roll and more, defying categorisation, that you could imagine being performed in a sleazy side show tent in a travelling carnival. Neck some Bourbon, laugh, cry and sing along.

Tom Misch - Geography

Tom Misch, Geography feels like it’s been around for awhile and yet still sounds fresh when the trippy nuggets we’ve been fed by Tom are brought together in this beat-laden delight. 

Trans Global Underground – Destination Overground

The originators of world and dance music fusion released a compilation album this year with some new and refreshed tracks to celebrate 25 years in the business.

 

Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth

Pure magic from jazz saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington, which has been defined as ‘Afro-Futurism’ and is split into two cosmic sequences.

Stellar compositions and a unique take on the jazz tradition.

Lord Huron– Vide Noir

Vide Noir marks the L.A. via Michigan band’s major label debut following the release of two well-received independent albums including the record they need to break away from, the possible pigeonhole of hit background music single The Night We Met.

This time around, quirky Ben Schneider and his merry (read melancholy) men embark on a “an epic odyssey through the city [L.A.], across dimensions, and out into the cosmos” – as described by the frontman.

And so Vide Noir takes us through the astral plane via The Balancer’s Eye while sorrowful songs that evoke deep emotions such as doo-wopper Wait By The River are mixed with the likes of oddly upbeat Moonbeam and surging rockers Ancient Names (Parts I & II) to make this an eclectic collection of songs indeed.

Muse - Simulation Theory

It’s easy to pigeonhole Muse into the category of electronic rock and now eight albums in, it might even seem unlikely for them to innovate. But that is just what they seem to be able to do, record after record. And their eighth effort Simulation Theory is no different in that respect but equally different from what has come before.

Perhaps a contradiction, the record is so classically Muse but yet removed a step further from the early days of Showbiz or Absolution. It’s 1980’s-themed album cover might be late to the party in the current era of Stranger Things and Drive (not surprising as the man behind the former’s design – Kyle Lambert – was recruited for this sleeve), but is a prelude to the synth throwback the record communicates in.

This is, by frontman Matt Bellamy’s own admission, a 50/50 blend of programming and live instrumentation. But it shines in all of its nostalgic glory with Bellamy giving his best Prince-styled falsetto on Propaganda while the likes of PressureThought Contagion and Get up And Fight glow in a pink neon hue.

Christine & the Queens - Chris

Christine & the QueensChris is all the things that I have loved about music this year. The sound is intriguing and the lyrics thought-provoking and catchy. It doesn’t really matter whether you listen to the French or English-speaking version, it is brilliant. It is impossible not to trip over the 80’s electronic beats and get lost in a sound that makes you want to want to unashamedly move your shoulders in time with the steady beats and a well-placed symbol. The album is ground-breaking, nostalgic,  edge-pushing and non-apologetic.

The cursed tricky 2nd album, this is not. The singles released so far, 5 Dollars and Girlfriend have proved as popular if not more so than any track on Chaleur Humaine (2014), the debut. Chris opener Comme Si, sounds like it could have been written for Haim. While Doesn’t Matter could be homage to 80’s Michael Jackson, and yet is almost choral at the same time.

If you want an album that’s just as good for dancing around your kitchen as going for a run, this is it.

Contributions from Kalpesh Patel, Nils van der Linden, Simon Reed, Sarah Sievers, Nicola Greenbrook, Simon Jay Price, Sharmayne Robinson, Pauline Di Silvestro, Paul Lyme, Tony Creek, Simon Partington

By Rockshot

Music Photography Magazine that looks forward to covering live gigs, discovering new artists and putting on the odd night or two of music.

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