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.

13: Sweet Baboo – ‘The Vending Machine Project’

Sweet Baboo’s, or Stephen Black to use his given name, musical output is always interesting, never predictable and impressively prolific. Even by his own standards, latest album The Vending Machine Project, has a rather unusual back story.

He was contacted by Charcuterie Ltd, his favourite sausage manufacturers from Carmarthenshire, who were installing a vending machine full of farm produce from local producers whereby the the shopper was rewarded with a song after each purchase, and originally this was the the only way the music was available until teaming up with The Bubblewrap Collective. From the disco-inspired delight ‘Lost Out On The Floor’, beautiful tranquil escapism of ‘The Shipping Forecast’ and other instrumental gems ‘Barnyard Rhumba’, ‘Early Riser’ and the peculiar, joyfilled and jovial ‘TV Theme’ and super playful ‘Pannage Panic’, and the sweet earworm ‘The Acorn Drop’ which demonstrates his glorious gift for melody and hooks – these are the many facets to the treasure that both he, and this album is.

Listen in full here.

12: Accü – ‘Echo The Red’

Echo the Red was a long time coming, but the debut from Cardiff-based Accü (aka Angharad Van Rijswijk) feels like a record meticulously and painstakingly constructed. It is an album with a vision and one that displays a real craft, mastery and imagination. Echo The Red is beautiful, mysterious, delicate yet strident as Accü creates an otherworldly listening experience. Brooding electronics paint a world that is ethereal and warped, beautiful yet unnerving. This is a supremely imaginative psychedelic electronic-pop adventure that ebbs and flows, slowly taking shape before dissolving and captivating your attention completely. This is one of the finest debuts you will hear all year.

Listen in full here.

11: Whyte Horses – ‘Empty Words’

On their wonderfully uplifting and timeless second album Empty Words, Manchester psych-pop outfit Whyte Horses whisk us off to a land of blissful, dreamy psychedelia that sounds both familiar yet fresh. Simultaneously sounding like everything and nothing you’ve ever heard, it is filled with shimmery, wistful, ’60s pop hues, taking us on a swirling, kaleidoscopic journey through all lush psychedelic, hazy, dreamy melodies, guitar twangs and sweeping grandiose orchestral pop. A final and crowning touch of enigmatic beauty is provided by the vocals of Audrey Pic, and shared duties with La Roux, Leonore Wheatley (The Soundcarriers) and Mélanie Pain (formerly of Nouvelle Vague) – absolutely magical! This is a majestic record and one of faultless psychedelic pop genius.

Listen in full here.

10: Melody’s Echo Chamber – ‘Bon Voyage’

Six years (and one near fatal accident) on from releasing her sublime self-titled debut, French musician Melody Prochet celebrates returned (and thankfully recovered) with Bon Voyage; a gleeful, colourful explosion of imaginative psych-pop. The record is anything but straightforward. Sung in a mixture of English, French and Swedish, a wondrous, collage-style approach is a constant across the record. Songs are loose and filled with freeform experimentalism as they shift between styles, genres and pace, keeping the dull moments to a minimum. At times surreal and unsettling, it slides between more guitar-oriented spaces and an ambient, otherworldly psych-universe. Amid all the swirling sonic exploration there are some recurring traits; Prochet’s sweet, breathy voice, elegant melodies, extended psychedelic wigouts, Middle Eastern touches – creating for a far-reaching sonic experience. Brief as it may be (34 minutes), Bon Voyage is an album full of intrigue, experimentation and rich avant-garde pop and psychedelia; not without its challenges, it continues to deliver with each listen.

Listen in full here.

09: Drinks – ‘Hippo Lite’

Hippo Lite is the second album from Drinks – aka Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley (White Fence) – and it flows with the same sense of freedom as its predecessor Hermits on Holiday (2015), albeit a tad softer, less jarring and meandering but a similarly astounding. A record of peculiar grace and experimentation that come to life with playfulness, eccentricity and brilliant musicianship; where by madcap ideas, oddball humour, beautiful finger-picked balladry, clever melodies and playful tunes can simultaneous coexist. Hippo Lite is without a doubt one of the most unique albums released this year and one that granted, requires some time to crack but it is more charming with each spin. Simply put, it is a brilliant album.

Listen in full here.

08: The Orielles – ‘Silver Dollar Moment’

Halifax trio The Orielles’ – Sidonie B and Esmé Dee Hand Halford and best friend Henry Carlyle Wade – debut is a carefully crafted collection of songs, a distinctive amalgamation of uplifting and colourful sounds that sounds both familiar and fresh. Mixing it up between neon bright indie-disco, ’90s indie and swirling mid-60s psych/garage freak-outs, and their own unique oddness and idiosyncrasy to leave us with an exciting, eccentric and terrifically catchy album of pure indie-pop heaven.

Listen in full here.

07: Hippies Vs Ghosts – ‘No Left No Right’

Regular patrons of the blog will be well aware of the esteem in which Hippies Vs Ghosts is kept around these parts, having routinely blown us away again and again with his kaleidoscopic, Morricone meets krautrock sound and his latest album No Left No Right is no different. Under the careful stewardship of Owain Ginsberg, the project continues to develop, grow and deliver the goods, and it is a first record where his vocals make a prominent appearance. That signature sound is there throughout ‘Fade Out’, ‘Arth’, ‘II’ and ‘III'; exhilarating, unrelenting and somewhat manic. The kaleidoscopic pallet is expanded with the likes of ‘Tainted Century’, ‘Don’t Ever Think’ or ‘Turning Sand into Glass’, which offer a less frantic, fevered and frenetic side too, but it is still very much Hippies Vs Ghosts; albeit it a touch more melodic and a smidgen more conventional in construction. In short, on No Left No Right we bear witness to the evolution of a unique and enigmatic talent.

Listen in full here.

06: Amber Arcades – ‘European Heartbreak’

Given the current political climate in the UK, it is tough not to view Amber Arcades‘ (aka Annelotte de Graaf) second album without using the prism of Brexit. Imbued with a mournful and haunted air, most of European Heartbreak is comprised of songs of break-up but the continental question looms large with the likes of ‘Goodnight Europe’ and ‘Oh My Love What Have We Done’. There’s also more of a polished and comfortable feel to it to her debut Fading Lines – the reverb and drone elements are gone and replaced by with lilting indie-pop, swelling with trumpets, string sections and a sense of wistfulness, and a more languid, relaxed feel. European Heartbreak sounds nostalgic for a dream that has passed but it has a lovely, human optimism, and leaves a warm wistful glow and a feeling that all things – good, bad or indifferent – eventually pass.

Listen in full here.

05: Adwaith – ‘Melyn’

The debut from Adwaith, an experimental post punk trio from Carmarthenshire, is one of the finest debut albums in recent memory. Powerful, beautiful and very special indeed, Melyn is a post punk delight, filled with fearless, compelling and dark sounds that instinctively forge a direct emotional connection with the listener. Delivered in Welsh, it is powerful, ferocious and proud. It is warm, inviting, heartfelt and vulnerable. There is melancholy, wistfulness and smouldering emotion, and there is beauty, honesty and burning sense of defiance as it draws you in under its intoxicating spell. Intense, compelling and wholly unique; Melyn is a colossus, and one deserving of so much attention.

Listen in full here.

04: Czarface / MF DOOM – ‘Czarface Meets Metal Face’

Given both’s affinity for hip-hop and comic-book culture, this comic-book crossover between MF DOOM & Czarface (Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck, and Boston duo 7L & Esoteric) was a collaboration written in the stars, it had to happen – and we sure are glad it come to fruition. Backed by 7L’s super-rugged boom bap production, Doom’s distinctive blocked-nose burr is a welcome addition to Esoteric’s cheeky symmetrical metaphors and Inspectah Deck powerful and scornful put downs. There is much to love, it is unapologetic old-school hip-hop built around those clattering boom-bap beats, crammed tight with colourful pop-culture references (old and modern) and as is their way, woven through with a self-contained narrative inspired by superhero comics. This is magnificent, escapist fun, and like the others in the Czarface series, worthy of inclusion is any record collection.

Listen in full here.

03: Boy Azooga – ‘1, 2 Kung Fu’

Boy Azooga’s debut album, 1, 2 Kung Fu, is a multifarious musical mission, navigated by Davey Newington and friends Daf Davies, Dylan Morgan and Sam Barnes. The record is a diverse yet cohesive collection of jovial, harmonious tunes, as we embark on a sonic adventure, traversing the genres at will over 35 minutes. From the swooning psych-pop of opener ‘Breakfast Epiphany’, to the frenetic burst of garage-soul of ‘Loner Boogie’ and mammoth riffs, twitchy synth and splashy harmonies of ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’ and disco-tinged, Tame Impala-esque ‘Taxi To Your Head’ – it is a gorgeous cocktail, bound together by an irresistible charm and emphatic dynamism. Given the remarkable list of genres, influences and sonic echoes, the greatest achievement of 1, 2 Kung Fu! is that every giddy gear change and transition feels perfectly natural and effortless, making for a refreshing, exhilarating and imaginative journey. It is a fun, beautiful, and accomplished reminder of the joy of discovery.

Listen in full here.

02: Seazoo – ‘TRUNKS’

Since 2013, Seazoo have been one of the finest purveyors of indie-pop on the planet, consistently conjuring up majestic slices of smile inducing indie-pop bursting with exuberance, fizzing with energy – and 2018 saw the Wrexham outfit release their debut album TRUNKS. It is a charming and a colourful encounter that whizzes and fizzes by chock full of their unrivalled fizzy, smile inducing and quirky tendencies; driving guitars, splashes of synth, infectious vocals beautiful harmonies and wonky keys.Be it playful jaunty, sweetly melodic or melancholic moments, TRUNKS is perfectly primed pop perfection, rarely, if ever, has indie-pop sounded so good.

Listen in full here.

01: Martha Ffionn – ‘Sunday Best’

March 2018 saw Irish-born, Glasgow-based singer-songwriter, Martha Ffion release her long-awaited debut LP Sunday Best; and it was most certainly worth the wait.

‘Sunday Best’ is full of gleaming guitar-pop, wistful-ballads, swooning sixties inspired indie-pop and touches of folk & country; with Ffion’s staggeringly beautiful honeyed vocals bringing this detailed lyrical vision to life. There are sometimes stark differences lyrical content and soft-centered balladry and lush instrumentation as the complexities of life are laid out with a personal honesty, warmth and often times a sharp tongue. Insightful, personal and bittersweet, all with a underlying sense of hope bubbling away.

A marvelous debut that flourishes with a underlying sense of hope bubbling away beneath candid and bittersweet lyrics and of course, swooning sounds.

Listen in full here.

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