Johnny Fenney’s Albums of 2018

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Aside from compiling my own end of year lists, I always look forward to checking out other people’s take on the year and none more so than that of Johnny Feeney.

A reliably insightful musical sage, Johnny’s guest appearances are always interesting and add an extra flavour to the blog and I look forward to reading – of which, surely I’m not alone?

A massive thanks to Johnny for taking time out to compile this list, and on that note, I’ll leave you with his Mr. Feeney’s favourite records of 2018.

10: Parquet Courts – ‘Wide Awake!’

New York City garage-rock outfit Parquet Courts enlisted the help of Danger Mouse on production duties for their sixth full-length studio album, with a more polished sound evident throughout. The band’s trademark spiky guitars are joined intermittently by keyboards, cowbells and whistles to create a highly entertaining and fun record.

Listen in full here

9: Django Django – ‘Marble Skies’

The kaleidoscopic third album from Django Django is a veritable smorgasbord ranging from the group’s distinctive, jangling Beach Boys-style surf rock to lilting dancehall to electronic club bangers. Although there are some slower moments of real beauty present, the high points are when the Djangos speed things up such as on ‘In Your Beat’.

Listen in full here

8: IDLES – ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’

The Bristol punk-rock quintet go from strength to strength with their second album, following up from last year’s brilliant debut Brutalism. The album’s twelve tracks of pummelling, angry punk are a furious state-of-the-nation address to post-Brexit Britain, with moments of lacerating wit thrown in for good measure by formidable lead singer Joe Talbot. Powerful.

Listen in full here

7: Dream Wife – ‘Dream Wife’

The debut album from this London-based all-female trio is punk-rock at the other end of the spectrum from IDLES but is nonetheless a fantastically good listen. Dream Wife specialise in melodic, (mostly) radio-friendly pop-punk with incredibly catchy hooks, lots of attitude and feminist undertones that may not become too apparent until you see the band live.

Listen in full here

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Ten Tracks of 2018

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Whittling down your favourite tracks of any year is an arduous task and this year, a particularly good one musically, has proven equally if not more difficult.

That said, in the interest of posterity, I condensed it down to ten and there is a nice extended 30-track playlist below too.

So, in no particular order, here are my favourite ten (then 30 below) tracks of 2018. Enjoy!

Omaloma – ‘Bubblegum’

Welsh artist Omaloma aka George Amor (Serol Serol & Sen Segur) has carved out special space on the musical landscape with a series of blissful, spacey psych-pop singles; ‘Ha Ha Haf’, ‘Aros O Gwmpas’ and ‘Eniwe’ in recent years.

This year, Omaloma added ‘Bubblegum’ to this burgeoning list of stellar singles. A first on vinyl, released as a 7″ single, ‘Bubblegum’ is utterly divine and marks the pinnacle of the project thus far. Sung in English and Welsh, ‘Bubblegum’ is a four-minute sojourn to a spellbinding interstellar paradise. It coolly swaggers as it moves on by, leaving us in a dream-like state, with an alluring blend of slinky, synth-pop with psych brush strokes, woozy synth lines and Amor’s soft, soothing bilingual vocals. Instantly lovable, it breezes gracefully by with a seductive soulful underbelly and charm to woo you.

ilu – ‘Graffiti Hen Ewrop’

Dividing their time recording between Tallinn, Estonia and rural Wales, Ilu are a Welsh Psych/Krautrock outfit crafting epic, spacey, interstellar hymns – of Spiritualized proportions. Backing up these lofty claims is stunning debut single ‘Graffiti Hen Ewrop’. Propelled along Krautrock, motoric grooves ‘Graffiti Hen Ewrop’, spacey synths and heavenly harmonies envelop spiky post-punk guitars and bass rumbles which coalesces into one coherent, unstoppable sound. Sizzling danceable grooves are woven tightly into their mammoth tones and grinding churn, which is all punctuated with a beautiful yet melancholic sense of longing. As far as debut singles go, they don’t come much bigger or better than ‘Graffiti Hen Ewrop'; an immaculate palate of sonics, sounds and textures.

Accü – ‘Did You Count Your Eyes?’

Accü is the multifaceted, genre blending solo project of Cardiff-based musician and producer Angharad Van Rijswijk. Accü’s debut album Echo The Red is one of 2018’s very best and lead single ‘Did You Count Your Eyes?’ is quite something. An offbeat exploration of imaginative experimentation and colourful, kaleidoscopic sounds, ‘Did You Count Your Eyes?’ is a spellbinding cosmic sojourn to psychedelic space. Fusing elements of frayed electronics, squelchy synths, soft-edged psych-pop it tips along a tidy drum beat with reverb-laced vocals swaying through a cascading sequence of crackling, frazzled electronics. Moving with a dreamlike, otherworldly aura; ‘Did You Count Your Eyes?’ is colourful, imaginative and fearlessly exploratory off-kilter pop.

Silverbacks – ‘Dunkirk’

Dublin-based outfit Silverbacks have delighted and excited at every turn thus far and none more so than with ‘Dunkirk’. A sprawling three-minutes of post-punk underpinned by an insistent, nagging bassline and increasingly manic, winding guitar lines, metronomic drumbeat and Gang of Four calibre bass lines. It is the ideal backdrop for Daniel O’Kelly’s stream of conscious musings of a dystopian future where Dunkirk, despite its history, has become a built-up holiday destination for young families. ‘Dunkirk’ is Silverbacks at their finest and signals strongest their evolution beyond their early Pavement-esque beginnings, to a coveted plain where parts Talking Heads, Television, LCD Soundsystem and Gang of Four can all coexist and flourish.

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Eoin Dolan – ‘Quiet Christmas’

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Anytime Eoin Dolan pops up with new material, it is a good day and a short four months since the release of the superb, sci-fi-tinged Superior Fiction EP, the Galway musician / singer-songwriter is back a brilliant festive flavoured single, ‘Quiet Christmas';

With ‘Quiet Christmas’ we find Dolan in his usual fine form. It is a bouncy wee tune that sees Dolan’s knack for crafting sci-fi-tinged surf pop that finds a space where sadness and beauty can coexist simultaneously. Melodic and catchy, ‘Quiet Christmas’ blends a jolly, jaunty and heady indie-pop energy with woozy, sinuous melodies and twinkling effects with sleigh bells and festive feels. And as per usual, it is a marvellous tune, a Christmas cracker if you will…..

Get acquainted with ‘Quiet Christmas’ below:

Caoilfhionn Rose – ‘Awaken’

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Caoilfhionn Rose is a singer, songwriter and producer from Manchester.

Drawing from a deep well of folk, psychedelia and subtle electronica influences, ranging from The Mummers, to Rachel Sermanni, Melody’s Echo Chamber and Broadcast, she produces her own unique brand of beautiful, expansive, fragile and experimental psych-folk; something born out across her exquisite 13-track debut album Awaken, released back in October. As an introduction to both Rose and the LP, album opener and title-track ‘Awaken’ is perfect.

‘Awaken’ is a languid psych-folk daydreamer that whisks us away on a dreamy meditative journey. Swirling layers of vocal harmony gently unfurl an essence of pastoral warmth, as it meanders along a blissful groove and swirling, rhythmic psychedelia, and splashes of electronics complete the mesmeric backdrop for Rose’s bewitching atmospheric tones to entrance the listener completely. An elegant, awe-inspiring and charming blend of shimmering pastoral psych-folk – A hazy, soothing and altogether wonderful song.

Listen to ‘Awaken’ below and the album is just as beautiful an affair – listen to it here.

Ten Fé – ‘Echo Park’

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London outfit Ten Fé will release their second record Future Perfect, Present Tense in March 2019 and having teased the record with ‘Not Tonight’, ‘Won’t Happen’ and ‘No Night Lasts Forever’, they are signing off on 2018 with ‘Echo Park’.

‘Echo Park’ is a lush blend of woozy dreampop and sultry Tennis-esque groove as bright and breezy chords chime over laid-back beats, as it slinks along its bassline groove and winding synth with a carefree air. Now a fully-fledged five-piece with Rob Shipley (bass); Johnny Drain (Keys) and Alex Hammond (drums) coming on-board full-time last year, the chemistry between songwriters Ben Moorhouse and Leo Duncan – evident throughout their debut – continues to shine bright in this latest offering. ‘Echo Park’ is a fine addition to the Ten Fé collection and it certainly bodes well for the forthcoming new record.

Listen to ‘Echo Park’ below – Future Perfect, Present Tense is set for release on March 8th via Some Kinda Love/PIAS.

Altvater – ‘Quietly, The Sea’

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Throughout 2018, producer Altvater proved a more than reliable source of downtempo electronica; a fusion of cinematic electronica, trip hop, and dark synthwave.

Hailing from Columbia, South Carolina, Altvater’s style is marked by an ability to blend colour and warmth to a glacial but imperious ambience, as evidenced by his Walking Creatures EP, and single ‘Moonbird’, and with the release of latest single ‘Quietly, The Sea. Really’, he is insuring he is finishing the year on a high note. Inspired by a picture his grandfather took in the Bahamas in the 80s; one of the sea in its calm, serene state and Altvater set about creating an instrumental interpretation. ‘Quietly, The Sea’ is a beautiful, smooth and chilled out slice of tranquil downtempo electronica. It flourishes with sultry piano and guitar arrangement, driven by a steady drums and seductive melody, all wrapped up by smooth saxophone lines and soulful vocal sample. ‘Quietly, The Sea’ is beautiful, calm and rather easy-on-the-ear while capturing how pensive and meditating the sea can be.

Listen to ‘Quietly, The Sea’ below:

Albums of the Year 2018

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Yes, it’s that time of year again, lists, lists and well, more lists – and from every angle possible. That said, drawing up a list of my favourite records from throughout the year is one of the most enjoyable aspects to the blog.

There was lots of great music in 2018 (as is the case every year) but here are 18 of my favourite records from the year – 18 for 18 if you will.

Without further ado, here are my favourite records from 2018. Enjoy!

18: Conor Mason – ‘On The Surface’

Conceived, developed and rendered into life over eighteen months in his hometown of Derry, Conor Mason’s fourth album is a treasure trove of musicianship and songwriting craft and is very assured in his musical landscape, conjuring the wistful wonderment of Elliott Smith, Grandaddy, Villagers and Matthew Jay. In essence, it is an exploration living life with uncertainty; the highs and lows, curiosity and change, and significance, or insignificance, of humans in the universe. Flowing gently by, amid a sea of hushed lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation, Mason reveals himself master of hook, harmony and heart. At times fragile, tender and touching, his songs are paradoxically permeated by an air of richness and comforting warmth, yet shrouded in melancholy, and draped in Mason’s intuitive song writing and storytelling abilities. A beautiful record.

Listen in full here.

17: The Coral – ‘Move Through The Dawn’

The Coral returned with their ninth studio album in 2018 and their prolific work rate and flair for psychedelic folk and classy pop songs shows no signs of abating. Move Through The Dawn glides along serenely, laden with seductive, sweet melodies and lush string arrangements, with the likes of ‘Reaching Out For a Friend’ and ‘Sweet Release’ bouncing around your head all day. While ‘Outside My Window’ and ‘Stormbreaker’ remind us on The Coral’s other side (and the closest relations to 2016’s Distance Inbetween); heavier riffs, jagged guitars and general air of menace. It is another wonderful and solid record from one of Britain’s most enduring and lovable bands.

Listen in full here.

16: Kneecap – ‘3CAG’

Comprised of Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí, Kneecap are a satirical hip-hop trio from Belfast who perform in Irish. The trio combine a fluency in Irish with an amazing delivery and a wry sense of humour to produce one of the most unique homegrown records of 2018. Over eight tracks, their mixtape 3CAG offers a satirical take on life for young people, with a particular west Belfast slant. If like me, your command of Irish leaves a lot to be desired, it doesn’t matter a jot. The beats are superb and so infectious, and the flow and lyrical skill on show is second to none, with plenty of laughs thrown in for good measure – anyone who might be sceptical to begin with will be easily won over, just press play.

Listen in full here.

15: Gwenno – ‘Le Kov’

Gwenno’s debut, 2015’s Y Dydd Olaf, was almost all in Welsh; Le Kov, sung in Cornish is just as stunning and serene a sonic dream. The music continues in a retro-futuristic psych-pop vein, but Le Kov is even more expansive sounding than Y Dydd Olaf. Gwenno’s calm, precise and often reverbed vocals navigate a whirlwind of electronic noise, intricately weaved mixture of moods, textures and pulsations, and soaring strings.The record feels alive, vital and organic, like a luminous dream, it is a place playfulness, shimmering beauty, mythology and modernity that are all interwoven with freeflowing ideas, synth-lines and electronic blips, and an undercurrent of poetical dissent. A stunning record – inviting and bubbling with creative ideas, energy and possibilities – from a unique talent.

Listen in full here.

14: Half Man Half Biscuit – ‘No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut’

Album number 14 from Half Man Half Biscuit sees Nigel Blackwell and company in top form with a collection of great, cheerful, upbeat tunes combined with witty, sardonic lyrics. Musically it picks up where Urge for Offal left off, a rocky, brash and pretty loud post-punk indie backdrop for sardonic but never cynical takes on everyday life. In short, it’s got what a HMHB LP always has; the irresistible wordplay, varying cultural references, surreal and improbable surreal tales, and the most quotable lyrics in the world. A real treasure.

Listen in full here.

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Patchwork Guilt – ‘Dreamer, shimmer away’

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Patchwork Guilt – the work of Bristolian songwriter Phoenix Mundy – has been winning hearts and turning heads with her enchanting bedroom-psych-pop sounds since 2014.

Now based in Manchester, following a stint in Liverpool, these late-night musical tinkerings have given rise to two albums (2014’s Punch Bowl and 2015’s Dreaming on the Internet) and three EPs and a new single ‘Dreamer, shimmer away’. A hazy, dreamy piece of intimate psych-pop with an ethereal quality, ‘Dreamer, shimmer away’ drifts along at its own languid pace amid a hushed, intimate and nocturnal vibe. A plinking piano twinkles through the layers of guitars, synths and undulating mellowness, as Mundy’s rich, smokey (and somewhat haunting) vocals make their mark with hypnotic effect. A pensive, introspective late-night jam that is resolutely laid-back and beautiful.

Listen to ‘Dreamer, shimmer away’ below – and if that is to your liking, there is plenty more where that came from here.

O Future – ‘Smell You’

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O Future is the pairing of Katherine Mills Rymer from South Africa and Jens Bjornkjaer originally from Denmark, who both now reside in Los Angeles.

Working under the previous moniker of OOFJ, the synth-pop duo released two albums, but ‘Smell You’ the latest in a string of singles under their new handle – and is one of the finest and memorable of 2018.

Together, the pair cultivate colourful, imaginative and ethereal electronica that will get firmly lodged in your head, as evidenced by latest single. ‘Smell You’ draws you in with a deep magnetic rumble and disco-esque percussion as Bjornkjaer’s illuminating production dances with Rymer’s heavenly harmonies. Undeniably dreamy but energetic, lush strings a la ’60s James Bond movie scores emerge to add a final alluring touch of cinematic class and sweeping grandeur.

A stunning and seductive single that is made all the more palatable by its recently released visual companion. Inspired by Leos Carax, the video is about obsession, the ecstasy of expectation and denying yourself pleasure, for pleasure’s sake with a touch of the alien and spousal murder mystery – and was filmed, directed, and photographed by O Future themselves.

Check out ‘Smell You’ below:

Pi Ja Ma – ‘Family’

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You might remember Pi Ja Ma, the moniker of French artist and singer Pauline de Tarragon, who crafts rather addicting alt-pop, as evidenced by 2016 debut EP Radio Girl.

Anyway, Pi Ja Ma is back with a festive flavoured gem that is just as alluring a proposition as she attempts to combat Christmas loneliness with imagination. ‘Family’ is an elegant, melancholic electro-pop song that glides by with a dreamlike aura. It oscillates between graceful and playful moving along a bubbling bassline and twinkling synth, as ‘Family’ shimmers and glistens majestically. The dreamy instrumentation lays a perfect setting for de Tarragon’s crisp and beautiful vocals to flourish and delight. This is a beautiful, super catchy and playful piece of alluring electro-pop and the video compliments the song perfectly, the boredom and loneliness is beaten back by the power if her imagination, creating a wonderfully world of escapism where she is quickly joined by crazy characters: a ranger, a bear and a living tree in sitting around a campfire in a forest. Surely there is always room for some pitch perfect pop perfection in our lives?

‘Family’ is lifted from Pi Ja Ma’s debut album, Nice to meet U, which is expected on January 18 2019.