Ten Tracks of 2018

2018

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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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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Va Banque – ‘Transformer’

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Va Banque is a music collective from Cologne & Hamburg in Germany with a penchant for the synthesizing sound of the ’70s and early ’80s

Working from their hideaway studio of solitude in Hamburg City, Va Banque produce a gripping cocktail of dark yet hopeful, electronica underpinned by krautrock and post-punk vibes. Following a series of EPs, Va Banque released their self-titled debut album in 2011 and are now following that up with new LP, Va Banque in Einzelteilen and to give you an idea of what to expect, we have ‘Transformer’; the first single lifted from the record. Propelled by dark drums and rumbling raw basslines that are joined by winding guitar lines, modular synths and electronics hisses and oddities; ‘Transformer’ sounds a lot like what a Joy Division and John Carpenter collaboration might have turned out. A warped and thrilling ride, it is a sprawling five minute long dark yet optimistic voyage that expands beyond the crunching rhythms, climaxing with an enveloping bright, blissed-out burst of light.

You can listen to ‘Transformer’ below and Va Banque’s new album Va Banque in Einzelteilen is out now (listen to it here).

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.

The Asteroid Shop – ‘Vanished’

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The Asteroid Shop are Los Angeles-based psych-rock outfit, the brainchild of frontman Eric Brendo and ably assisted by Norm Block (drums), Phil Cobb (guitar) and Brandon Graham (bass).

Drawing heavily from a love of ethereal tones, fuzz, reverberation and all things psychedelic, together they deliver a heady sonic brew of something approaching an exploration of parts Spiritualized, Spacemen 3, The Verve, Standing at the Sky’s Edge-era Richard Hawley and Flowers-era Echo & The Bunnymen. A mesh of spacey tones and warm, hazy atmospherics, punctuated by percussion, burning guitars and soaring, singalong chorus with irresistible hooks. ‘Vanished’ is a melodic, meandering and hypnotic psych-rock excursion that is simultaneously dreamy yet stirring, rousing – by the time the wall of guitars takes over at around the two-and-a-half-minute mark, you will be blissfully in awe.

Listen to ‘Vanished’ below now:

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:

NANCY – ‘I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)’

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NANCY is mysterious, reclusive post-punk outfit hailing from the North East of England.

Self-described as “Sgt. Peppers for degenerates”, little is known about the outfit aside from the fact NANCY have a propensity for furious, jerky and brilliantly mind blowing art-rock meets post-punk sounds – as the recently released EP The Mysterious Visions is testament to.

Lead track ‘I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)’ is addictive, ambling forward with a raucous, powerful purpose but skittish energy. Jerky, hyperactive machine-gun guitars combine with a furious barrage of barreling drums and frenzied vocals to protrude through the swathes of lo-fi fuzz and distortion. A vital whirlwind assault of brusque noise delivered at breakneck speed as lyrically it is an honest assessment detailing how easy it is to fade into substance abuse while being afraid to admit it.

‘I’m Not Getting Sober, I’m Just Getting Older (Helluva Guy)’ is but one of many on the recently released EP – utterly thrilling and electrifying tunes!

The Mysterious Visions EP is out now on B3SCI Records and Cannibal Hymns – tune in here.

Listen to the single below.

Thumper – ‘(You’re Bringing Me) Down’

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‘(You’re Bringing Me) Down’ is the second single – following ‘AFL‘ – lifted from THUMPER‘s forthcoming EP Out of Body Auto-Message, due out in November.

The Dublin five-piece deliver a thrilling (sort of oddball) seven minutes of spiraling effects, psych fuzz, repetition and tension. Hyperactive guitar riffs saw their way through the fuzz and fueled by a steady, rock solid drum beat as frontman Oisin Leahy Furlong screams, demanding your attention. It’s a bit of slacker noise-pop, a bit power-pop, a bit psych but a whole lot of magnificent. Not for the faint of heart, it is thrilling trip that spirals out of control in the final moments. It’s not often that a song of seven minutes will ebb and flow to such a degree as to keep you on the edge of your seat guessing where it will charge to next but ‘(You’re Bringing Me) Down’ does, and at a frenetic pace. A raucous, seven-minutes of irresistible noise-pop loaded with contagious energy and loaded with purpose that is all kinds of brilliant.

Tune into ‘(You’re Bringing Me) Down’ below now & keep an eye out for the forthcoming EP, & THUMPER play a late show on Friday, November 30 in the Workmans, Dublin.

Whenyoung – ‘Given Up’

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We’ve been keeping tabs on London-based Irish trio, whenyoung – Aoife Power (Vocals/Bass), Niall Burns (Guitar) and Andrew Flood (Drums) – for a while now and they have charmed us at every given opportunity thus far.

Following a string of sublime singles, the trio will release their debut EP on November 9 – entitled Given Up, it is preceded by the title-track. ‘Given Up’ is pristine, irresistibly hooky indie pop of the highest order – their most instantaneously lovable release yet, and that’s saying something. A rumbling bassline, quickfire rolling drumbeats, post-punk-edged guitar and shimmering choruses conspire to create a sweetly infectious three-minutes of gold. Powers’ vocals meanwhile, are, as always the pièce de résistance, sweet, yet punchy vocals bristling defiance leaving you utterly powerless in their wake. Sweet, melodic and pristine it might be, but it packs plenty of punch too.

Jump below to listen to ‘Given Up’ – which is out now. The EP will be with us on November 9th

They’ve a very busy close to 2018 with pile of live dates incl. a wee tour of Ireland in November; Dublin, The Workman’s Club on November 2nd, Limerick, Dolan’s on the 3rd & Cork, Cyprus Avenue on the 4th.

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Strange Cages – ‘False Prophet Death Waltz’

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Madcap Brighton trio Strange Cages introduced themselves and their frantic psych/garage rock sound with a series of stellar singles and EP last year.

The trio are at it again, returning with another six-track EP, entitled Silver Queen, and is expected on September 28th, 2018 on Vallance Records. The EP’s concept centres around the story of a fictional cult leader of the same name, and is previewed by the completely off-the-wall, ‘False Prophet Death Waltz’. It is a scintillating psych-rock odyssey that opens with a frenzied barrage of garage noise and continues on its merry madcap way at breakneck speed, unleashing an outlandish energy and wiry, psychedelic wig out. A multi-faceted three and a half minutes of melodic mayhem and psychedelic rock explosion, it will truly take your breathe away.

Listen to ‘False Prophet Death Waltz’ below now and check out the equally memorable and wild video, and of course, keep your eyes peeled for the new EP later this month.