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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Joy Downer – ‘Plastic Wrap’

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Los Angeles-based Joy Downer aka husband and wife duo Joy and Jeff Downer have been building a rep for cooking up all manner of gorgeous indie-pop.

The creative chemistry between the pair is electric, as evidenced by buoyant, breezy and grooving previous single ‘Stranger Places’. The good news is, Joy Downer are back with a new track and it is just as incredibly addicting and deeply infectious as anything that has gone before it. A catchy-as-hell chorus, mesmerizing melody, seductive groove, lush synths, rhythmic guitars, and pulsing drum machines converge to leave us with a earworm piece of synthy indie-pop perfection. The vocals from Joy meanwhile are like a cool breeze on a hot day, cool, alluring and refreshing.

You’ll find yourself powerless to the infectious feel good vibes and be putting it on “repeat, repeat, repeat.” Get acquainted with ‘Plastic Wrap’ below:

Vanity Fairy – ‘Loverman’

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The cleverly named Vanity Fairy – musical alter-ego of Daisy Capri – has shared new single ‘Loverman’, the second offering from Capri’s forthcoming Lust For Dust EP.

In much a similar vein to debut single ‘He Can Be Your Lady’, we are ushered to an offbeat exploration of imaginative, off-kilter sounds – albeit with less of a disco-danceable vibe. The latter’s aesthetic maybe scrubbed somewhat but ‘Loverman’ glides along a slinking synth line with a glowing intensity as her eccentric and trembling vocals seep into every corner and cranny of the lush backdrop provided by her ethereal slo-mo disco-influenced sound. Suffice to say, it’s a catchy, fun, and just a little bit peculiar, in the best way possible.

Check it out for yourself below, and stay tuned for more from Vanity Fairy soon; a debut EP is expected before the close of 2018, or early in 2019.

 

Blank & Jones – ‘Grown Minds’

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German duo Blank & Jones‘ career stretches back to the late ’90s and since then, they have carved out a rep for their non-conformist electronic sounds.

For their latest release ‘Grown Minds’, Blank & Jones have teamed up with Berlin-based British vocalist (and longtime BarryGruff favourite) David Harks to create a haunting yet beautiful and addictive electronic pop song. It is a cinematic masterpiece that marries their dark electronic sound design of glacial tones, warm piano chords, hushed drums, and a goosebumps inducing atmosphere to Harks’ melancholic, plaintive vocal. ‘Grown Minds’ is an introspective, dusky and melancholic slice of magical electronic pop, with a twist of the Balearic fizzing through it. Enjoy!

Listen to ‘Grown Minds’ below:

Jouska – ‘Glitter Chaser’

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Jouska is the Oslo-based musical duo consisting of Marit Othilie Thorvik and Hans Olav Settem.

To date the pair have impressed with an intriguing and inventive array of singles and debut EP Frog Fiction, as they explore some of the more leftfield, out-there reaches of electronica. Brand new single ‘Glitter Chaser’ takes on a similarly stellar expedition to the realms of their imagination. Tempered by an airy/spacey atmosphere ‘Glitter Chaser’ sets forth in a sea of kaleidoscopic colour, brimming with divine harmonies and packed with crunchy beats and groovy synths which coalesce to create a super smooth, playful yet dreamy piece of cosmic electronica. Amid the alluring dreamy soundscape a final touch of bewitching beauty is provided by the heavenly vocals.

Jouska’s music is refreshingly inventive and exploratory, qualities marked out by both this and their aforementioned previous EP.

Listen to ‘Glitter Chaser’ below now – and you can tune into their debut EP Frog Fiction right here.

O Future – ‘Smell You’

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O Future consists of Katherine Mills Rymer from South Africa and Jens Bjornkjaer originally from Denmark both now living in Los Angeles.

Working under the previous moniker of OOFJ, the synth-pop pairing released two albums, but ‘Smell You’ marks the latest in a string of singles under their new handle. Together, the pair create 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.

Tune into ‘Smell You’ below:

Safetalk – ‘Static’

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Anglo-French trio Safetalk – comprised of two Parisian producers Hugues Tonnet and Thomas Desnoyers and Berlin-based British vocalist, David Harks – have released a stellar new single ‘Static’.

It is the title track from their debut EP which collates previous singles, ‘Universal’, ‘Gold of the Highest’ and ‘Mimic’ into a nice, neat package of cosmic electronic-pop. Brooding gloom-pop with murky electronic production, ‘Static’ is a hypnotic fusion of pulsating electronic rhythms, radiant synths and tender vocals combining to create interstellar psych-electronic music brimming with an abundance of heart and soul. The continental trio have delivered yet another compelling and transfixing electronic excursion that will leave an indelible mark on ones soul.

Listen to ‘Static’ below and Safetalk’s EP shall be with us in mid-November.

Vanity Fairy – ‘He Can Be Your Lady’

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The cleverly named Vanity Fairy – a new project from Daisy Capri – has shared debut single ‘He Can Be Your Lady’, the first offering from Capri’s Lust For Dust EP out later in the year.

Co-produced alongside collaborators Sammy Yamaha and Simon Byrt, ‘He Can Be Your Lady’ ushers us into an offbeat exploration of imaginative, off-kilter sounds. A wonky, weird and wonderfully otherworldly slice of enticing electronica, fueled by a disco groove and gurgling synth, ‘He Can Be Your Lady’ drifts in and out of a space that recalls everyone from early Kate Bush to Hot Chip, Bat For Lashes or Metronomy. Of course, for all the eccentric tendencies, it’s also remarkably catchy and Capri’s smooth, trembling vocals are stunning.

The Vanity Fairy debut EP Lust For Dust will be out before the close of 2018, for now, get yourself acquainted with ‘He Can Be Your Lady’ below. Tune in now.

Mayfly – ‘Breathe’

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London’s Mayfly conjures up deceptively sad magical electronic pop songs that captivate and transfix.

Debut track ‘Losing You’ was a breathtaking introduction to Mayfly’s abilities and returning with her stunning new single ‘Breathe’, confirms it was not a one off. Written, produced and performed by Mayfly, ‘Breathe’ moves cautiously forward, quivering along a minimalist melodic synth-line before unearthing a powerful inner strength summoning a rising tide of choppy synths and soaring textures, before steadily returning to a sea of calm. As dramatic and compelling as the music is, it is the space afforded in between which seals the deal and allowing for the stupendous vocals to breathe to mesmerise. Written in an attempt to portray the experience of living with anxiety and panic attacks on a daily basis, and finally overcoming them – it certainly does that and more.

An absolutely stunning and absorbing piece of electronic pop. Take a listen for yourself below.

Accü – ‘Crash To Kill’

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Cardiff-based artist Accü aka Angharad Van Rijswijk will be releasing her long awaited and much anticipated debut album Echo The Red at the end of October.

With Accü’s debut on the horizon, she has shared ‘Crash To Kill’, the third single lifted from the record, out October 19. It is a gentle whirl of beautiful imaginative ideas and colourful, kaleidoscopic sounds bound together in hypnotic majesty. It’s an eccentric Technicolor pop adventure of playfully experimental arrangements and sounds. Waltzing along a steady beat and playful synth, an off-kilter, peculiar ambiance is joined by an undercurrent of mildly ominous tones. Van Rijswijk’s haunting voice slinks its way through ‘Crash To Kill’, which fizzes and flickers with light as a peppering of frayed, frazzled electronics emerge from the swirling atmospherics. ‘Crash To Kill’ is supreme electronic pop, and one that manages to display a fun, playful side while at the same time captivating your attention completely.

Listen to ‘Crash To Kill’ below – and keep an eye out for debut album Echo The Red at the end of October.