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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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.

mxmtoon – ‘porcelain’

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We were introduced to the delectable talents of mxmtoon – the work of Oakland-based Maia – with charming, breezy and bewitching single ‘i feel like chet’ just last month.

The 18-year-old Oakland artist is back with ‘porcelain’ another beautiful single; a tender and moving piece of enchanting bedroom-folk. ‘Porcelain’ thrives and flourishes with its stripped-back approach, pairing a gentle ukulele with beautifully breezy vocal and heartfelt lyricism, all dripping in melody. It is a rich and heartfelt sound creating an atmosphere of real beauty, you cannot help but be captivated by her music or resist its powerful emotional pull.

Give mxmtoon’s ‘porcelain’ a spin below and if you like what you hear, it is lifted from the new Plum Blossom EP, which you can listen to here.

Jesse Jo Stark – ‘Mystery’

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We were introduced to Jesse Jo Stark‘s Gothic coated world of gently psychedelic 1960’s pop and garage, and spooky indie folk, earlier in the year with singles ‘Rot Away’ and ‘Wish I Was Dead’.

The LA-based artist is back with another brooding sliver of compelling, guitar-noir in the shape of new single ‘Mystery’. It offers us an introduction to the a different, softer and woozier side to Stark’s music. ‘Mystery’ combines her predilection for the spooky with a mellow but eerie country/bluesy tone, creating a beguiling waltz, perfectly polished off by Stark’s seductively smoky delivery. Another wonderfully compelling tune – also, the pick of recent releases too.

You can listen to ‘Mystery’ below now:

Loyal Lobos – ‘Burn’

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Colombia-born singer/songwriter Andrea Silva, otherwise known as Loyal Lobos, has finally released her debut EP under this moniker, The Fall.

Now based in Los Angeles, Silva crafts compelling, alt-pop songs – with more than a hint of folk/Americana – imbued with a hazy melancholy and rich melodic purr that makes you privy to every iota of emotion. ‘Burn’ is the latest single lifted from the aforementioned EP and captures heart-achingly beautiful and intimacy that runs through the record. ‘Burn’ is a dreamy journey through transfixing hazy textures and moody, dreamy and somewhat gloomy atmospheres as we’re treated to Silva’s intimate, poetic lyricism which are delivered with stirring and commanding craft. ‘Burn’ is all kinds of wonderful – it captivates, evokes emotion and thrills in equal measure.

Listen to ‘Burn’ below – and you can listen to the EP here.

Mxmtoon – ‘I Feel Like Chet’

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Armed with just a ukulele and her voice, mxmtoon – the work of Oakland-based Maia – has been winning hearts and turning heads with her enchanting bedroom-folk sounds since 2017.

Latest single “i feel like chet” is cut from the same cloth; gifting a charming, breezy and bewitching ode to legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Bake. The 18-year-old Oakland artist gifts us a moving, sincere and simplistic gem with her gentle ukulele and glockenspiel playing, folk-enriched style bringing a personal story to life. This stripped-back approach allows for her nonchalant, yet vulnerable voice to fill the space beautifully, rendering the listener powerless to resist its powerful emotional pull.

Give mxmtoon’s “i feel like chet” a first listen below.

Incoming: A Quick Chat with Badhands

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Badhands is the musical project of Dublin songwriter and musician Dan Fitzpatrick.

Badhands began as a collaborative project with producer and bass player Tom Cosgrave (The Minutes), then quickly evolved and expanded with the enlistment of multi-instrumentalist Aoife Ruth, drummer Ken Mooney, and engineer Chris Barry.

Following a couple of beautiful singles – ‘Waves’ & ‘Let Me In’ – Badhands released stunning debut album Predictable Boy earlier this month. A captivating collection of vivid, textured songs that range in tone between dark and brooding to frantic and energetic, with moments of stirring euphoria weaved in to the mix. With a strong focus on lyrics and vocals the album echoes at times the likes of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Leonard Cohen, and Villagers. A beautifully intimate record that captures the imagination and enthralls the listener.

As part of the album’s tour, Badhands will be playing a Broken Home show on Saturday, November 25 in Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow. Tickets are €5 and limited so please secure in advance (A return bus will be organised from Newbridge to Dunlavin for anyone interested). Details / Tickets are here.

Ahead of the weekend’s show I caught up with Dan, to chat about the project, touring and all things music.

Tell us a little bit about ‘Badhands’. How did it come about? And what is the inspiration/focus of the new project?

The project began a couple of years ago when I started doing some recording with Tom Cosgrave, who produced this record and plays bass in the band. I had plenty of songs but no real plan. So It started out fairly aimlessly at the beginning, recording a few solo tracks sporadically with just me and a guitar. But after a while we began to feel like we were hitting on something interesting. We gradually started working towards an album, building up the sound more and more with the involvement of Aoife Ruth, Ken Mooney and Chris Barry and the operation sort of took off fairly organically from there. We wanted to make something really textured, atmospheric and interesting sounding, but still trying to incorporate the energy of a rock n roll band.

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Toledo – ‘Bath’

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Revolving around Brooklyn-based pair Dan Alvarez and Jordan Dunn, Toledo have shared a brand new single called ‘Bath’.

‘Bath’ will take its place on Toledo’s debut EP, HotStuff, penned in for release early in the New Year, and follows a similarly mellow, undulating trajectory as previous single ‘Hot Stuff’. It is laid-back, dreamy and melodic folk augmented by gently chiming guitar, bubbling synth and flourishes of soft drums that bring us to a spellbinding world of elegant, melodic and crystalline indie-folk tones. The hushed, somewhat sombre vocals grow as it progresses, bringing with it a warmth that a swells brighter until the end. This is a mellow, atmospheric and wonderful world of folky allure – an absolute treasure. Enjoy!

Listen to ‘Bath’ below now and keep an eye out for the EP in the near future.

Victoria Bigelow – ‘Blame’

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Nashville/upstate NY-based singer-songwriter Victoria Bigelow has shared a new single ‘Blame’, which is lifted from her forthcoming EP Going Blue and penned for release in early 2019.

‘Blame’ is a stunning, profoundly moving and melancholic yet beautiful piece of heart-aching indie-pop. Bigelow’s hushed, smokey voice strikes a reflective tone, channelling her deepest emotions as she details freeing herself from a toxic relationship. Stripped-back guitars, soft beat, steady shaker, the warm glowing organ hum and seductive 60s-esque melodies collude to create a hazy, floating veneer. This provides a perfect underbelly for Bigelow’s vocals to swell, growing in power, strength and defiance as ‘Blame’ progresses. Deeply touching and utterly captivating, ‘Blame’ ushers us into to the realm of something profoundly honest, beautiful and rather special.

Listen to ‘Blame’ below.

Adam Lempel ft. Amanda Glasser – ‘Echo’

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New York-based singer-songwriter Adam Lempel has joined forces with Purrer frontwoman Amanda Glasser for new single ‘Echo’, with beguiling results.

‘Echo’ is a gloriously haunting indie-folk serenade that will have your heart fawning from the first note. A flourishing folk tune that has you under its spell from the first note as a stomping drumbeat pushes ‘Echo’ onward amid the haunting by beautiful atmosphere set by the rough guitar that bubbles/buzzes and the faint but warm, glowing organ hum. Complimented by this backdrop and Lempel’s own vocals, the star of the show is Glasser’s commanding and bewitching vocal performance. Characteristically eerie, ‘Echo’ flickers between beauty and darkness, creating a suitably haunting ambience for Glasser’s stunning vocals to beguile us completely.

Listen to ‘Echo’ below – it does not disappoint.