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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HAVVK – ‘Always The Same’

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Berlin-based Irish outfit HAVVK (formerly HAWK) are a formidable force of nature and self-evidently brilliant guitar band, and led by the charismatic Julie Hawk, they have a MASSIVE sound – this much is abundantly clear from the first few notes of new single ‘Always The Same’.

‘Always The Same’ is the first track lifted from HAVVK’s debut album – due out in the new year – and delivers an incredibly powerful and pulsating blast of vital, grunge-fueled indie-rock. Burning with frustration and fury, it thunders along hammering, bone-rattling percussion interspersed with sharp riffs, unrelenting guitar lines as Hawk’s stunning vocals enter the fray, rendering everything else secondary. The soaring power of Hawk’s vocal at its most intense charges to a cathartic climax that brings the house down around us. You can feel the frustration and the fury throughout – musically, lyrically and vocally – as the band expose female objectification by flipping it on its head, and in doing so deliver a fierce, uncompromising, pulsating and compelling tune.

You can listen to ‘Always The Same’ below and keep an eye out for the debut album come the new year.

Silverbacks – ‘Just In The Band’

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Over the past number of years, Silverbacks have excited at every given opportunity but with recent singles more singles ‘Just for a Better View’ and ‘Dunkirk’, they stepped it up a gear.

The Dublin-based outfit are back with a similarly excellent and exhilarating new single ‘Just In The Band’. Underpinned with a lingering sense of unease, ‘Just In The Band’ hares off at a frenetic pace and doesn’t relent. Propelled forward by galloping, taut drums and unrelenting bass, feedback soaked, shape-shifting guitars snap together as to work as one forceful sound with Daniel O’Kelly’s sing-speak delivery growing more agitated and frenzied to match the harassed rhythms.

Tracking the Silverbacks journey has been nothing short of thrilling. From their slanted, slacker Pavement inspired beginnings, their sound has evolved and expanded into a more groove-orientated post-punk/art-punk territory – a place where their origins and parts Talking Heads, Television, LCD Soundsystem and Gang of Four can all coexist and flourish. In short, Silverbacks are one of the finest bands to emerge from these shores in recent times and in my humble opinion, one of Ireland’s best kept secrets.

Fresh from Other Voices Silverbacks headline Whelans Upstairs, Dublin this Saturday (December 8) and having seen them play numerous times over the past 12 months, it will be a belter!

Tune into ‘Just In The Band’ 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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Nicolas Kluzek – ‘Dublin 6′

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Nicolas Kluzek is a Parisian born, Dublin-based artist and producer who’s sounds will, as we found out with previous single ’95to78′, delight – although not exclusively – the children of the night.

Kluzek’s preference and/or penchant is for flavours of a slower tempo, slumbering nocturnal electronic delicacies – as evidenced by the aforementioned previous single and new one, ‘Dublin 6′. Moving at a slumbering pace, it is a chilled and tranquil ode to his Irish home that gives on a reassuring aura of pure calm. Peaceful chimes mingle with flourishes of soft hip-hop beats, vocal samples, flute and washed out fiddle tune, ‘Dublin 6′ will leave you dreamily drifting in a state of blissful relaxation. Kluzek has served up yet another majestic track, one that washes over you with ease and leaves you all the better for making its acquaintance.

Listen to ‘Dublin 6′ below and if that is to your liking, there are more of that ilk right here.

The Innocent Bystander – ‘Neon Lights’

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The Innocent Bystander is a new project from Dublin-based producer/songwriter Mark Healy, which grew from an ambition to “make guitar music that takes nothing from the Blues” – and the result is an interesting and personal take on a classic indie sound.

The past 12 months or so saw The Innocent Bystander release a string of well received singles – ‘Waster’, ‘Electrocute’ and ‘The Complacency League’ – and latest offering ‘Neon Lights’ is of a similarly high quality. Shifting along a powerfully danceable groove. ‘Neon Lights’ is spiky slice of irresistible guitar-based electro pop, complete seductive synth-work and a ridiculously catchy, sing-a-long chorus that will worm its way into your psyche and tumble around your head all day. A sparkling delight of irresistible neon-bright sounds.

The Innocent Bystander are currently working on a debut album, There’s Music Still Left in These Streets, expected in 2019.

Introducing: Kneecap

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Regular patrons of the site will be aware of my fondness for music of Welsh origin, and especially that performed in their native tongue.

Given this predilection, it gave to wondering about Ireland’s own native language and the comparatively scarce amount of contemporary music performed as Gaeilge. Now, that is a topic for another day and deserving of more attention and further examination (thesis anyone?) but it did bring my attention to Kneecap; a satirical hip-hop trio from Belfast who perform in Irish.

The three members; Mo Chara, Móglaí Bap and DJ Provaí 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 skeptical to begin with will be easily won over, just press play on ‘Amach Anocht’, ‘Cearta’ or ‘Tá na Baggies ar an Talamh’ below.

You can listen to mixtape 3CAG in full here; and like mentioned above, it is one of the most unique homegrown records of 2018.

Kneecap have also announced an Irish tour for February 2019 – you can check the dates near you here.

Rosie Carney – ‘Orchid’

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‘Orchid’ is the latest single from Donegal-based singer-songwriter Rosie Carney, it is lifted from her forthcoming debut album Bare out in January next year; an apt title for Carney’s stripped-back and open musical style.

‘Orchid’ is a deeply moving and bittersweet ballad whose gloomy tone accentuated by Carney’s frosty and elegant vocal delivery. Opening with a lonely, soft guitar strum and beautifully ambient vocals, it drifts from this foundation of soft-centered balladry, gradually swelling into grand and emphatic climax of lush instrumentation. While cloaked with an air of melancholy, Carney brings her detailed lyrical vision to life as her beautifully heartstrung vocals hover gently above and adding, yet another layer of glowing allure. A beautifully crafted, wonderful and compelling four-minutes of heartstrung balladry.

Tune in to ‘Orchid’ below and keep your eyes peeled for debut album Bare, it’s coming on January 25 2019.

Conor Mason Announces New Album; Shares ‘We Watched The Sky Rotate’

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Derry musician and singer/songwriter Conor Mason is a longtime favourite around this parish. Mason’s three albums to date are treasure troves of musicianship and songwriting craft; his space on the musical landscape, conjuring the wistful wonderment of Elliott Smith, Grandaddy, Villagers and Matthew Jay.

The good news is, Mason will release his fourth record On The Surface on November 2 via Armellodie Records (Glasgow, Scotland). Conceived, developed and rendered into life over eighteen months in his hometown of Derry, 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.

With the album due out at the end of the week, he has shared new single ‘We Watched The Sky Rotate’; a great reminder of Mason’s delectable talents. A tender piano ballad, keys twinkle and waltz along a steady beat, as lush flowing melodies swell and swoon to illuminate his whispered introspective ponderings of the significance of our place in the universe. Fragile, tender and touching, there’s a sense of awe, wonderment to ‘We Watched The Sky Rotate’, while the dripping melody and glowing immediacy of his voice will leave a warm, fuzzy feeling. Passing gently by, amid a sea of hushed lilting vocals, whispering lyrical poeticisms and subtle instrumentation, once again, Mason proves a master of hook, harmony and heart.

Listen to ‘We Watched The Sky Rotate’ below. On The Surface will follow on Friday, 2 November.

The Comstocks – ’40ft’

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Newbridge natives The Comstocks – formerly Fresco Future – have returned with their second single ’40ft’.

The quartet may have a new handle but their penchant for hazy indie remains, thankfully, intact – as evidenced by ’40ft’. A hazy, warm slice of shimmering indie, laden with a sunny disposition, introspection and a quiet, understated confidence. Adorned with flourishes of jangley guitars, swift rhythms and basslines, ’40ft’ purrs into gear as the understated vocal rises to meet a chorus hook that you could hang your hat on and the gorgeous slide guitar parts in the latter half of the track. Complete with a mild dusting of fuzz, ’40ft’ will get inside your head and refuse to leave; a delightful wee gem.

You can listen to ’40ft’ below – photo by Eoghan Scally.