So here it is, my top albums of the (last) year. 2018 was a great year for the music industry with pop music hitting the road with all 4 wheels and punk making a huge comeback, probably due to the incredibly dire state of the world.
10. Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears
This album didn't actually make the top 10 until I listened to it a few days ago and really appreciated it for the work of art that it is. One of the most under appreciated albums of the year, how it wasn't up for the Mercury Prize baffles me. The 2 women from Norwich have made one of the greatest explorations of love, the mind and life and that's not even taking into account the lyrics, I wish I'd had my epiphany sooner. Also, if you get chance go and see them live, it really is a spectacle!
9. The Magic Gang - S/T
I got into The Magic Gang quite late really, but I'm really glad I did because their indie-rock mixed with some American surf-rock vibes is just as great as it sounds. And whilst they aren't producing party bangers this album contains some of the catchiest tunes I've heard all year with tracks such as "All This Way" and "Oh Saki" being personal highlights alongside the fantastic "Jasmine". There's not a single bad song on this album!
8. The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
It's not quite what they hyped it up to be is it? I'm sure if you spoke to Matt Healy he'd tell you this is the most important album of the last decade, but in reality it's just a slightly experimental pop album with some career defining bangers. Songs such as "Love It If We Made It" and "Give Yourself A Try" have some of the most innovative, jaw-droppingly great production I've ever heard along with Matt Healy using his charisma to good use. But there's some filler here which kills the album... this really could have been number 1...
7. The Blinders - Columbia
Oh Blinders. I was hoping this album this album would sit higher up my list but 8th isn't shabby at all. Whilst we'd heard the bulk of the album in singles released prior I still think there's a lot more juiciness in the album and potentially a few more singles. And whilst Blinders are perfect in their post-punk-face-painted glory it's the last track "Salmon of Alaska" that really captivated me and made this album feel like it was special in so many ways, and fine tuning the album into a concept album of sorts was a genius move!
6. Boy Azooga - 1, 2, Kung-Fu
I've been following Boy Azooga for what feels like an eternity now but in fact it's only been just over a year and in that time they've gone from making it impossible to find their music online to a debut album and sold out shows up and down the country. And there's a reason for this, it's because their music is pure bliss. Tracks such as "Breakfast Epiphany" and "Waitin" only whet your appetite for huge stormers "Face Behind Her Cigarette" and "Loner Boogie", this album is a mind trip across a full soundscape. And if you get chance go and see them live because they truly are brilliant!
5. Christine & The Queens - Chris
I can't say I was the biggest of Chaleur Humaine, I felt like it kept slowing the pace down for no reason. So when "Doesn't Matter" was released my interest was reignited and this ended up being one of my most anticipated releases of the year. It far exceeded my expectation with an hour of what can only be described as a pop extravaganza that explored issues with love, identity and loss whilst maintaining a theme throughout.
4. Slaves - Acts of Fear and Love
Slaves make your favourite band look boring. Slaves are the single greatest double act of all time and I'm not going to debate that with anyone because it's fact. Now on their third album there's a deeper sense of maturity amongst the duo from Kent and a greater knack for creating more meaningful and thoughtful songs. "Photo Opportunity" could possibly be the most beautiful and yet sparse song of the year, with a constant wait running through the song waiting for it to kick in and whilst it does get heavier Laurie and Isaac hold back on this one and instead unleash their all into tracks like "Bugs" and "The Lives They Wish They Had". A much more refined and musically superior album from Slaves. They even created their own dance for christs sake, it's like the other bands aren't even trying.
3. IDLES - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
IDLES are undoubtedly one of the most important bands of our generation, their fist album was good but this is bloody glorious. Throughout the course of it's tracklist "Joy As An Act of Resistance" deals with toxic masculinity, mental health and... men with perms. But in all seriousness I saw IDLES on their last tour and it was genuinely like witnessing a sermon, a sweaty one with lots of mosh pits though. A personal favourite is "Colossus" but I think that's just because I'm a sucker for a song that builds up and then crashes in itself and just goes mental.
2. Shame - Songs of Praise
Any other year and this would have been sitting pretty at numero uno, but it's going to have to settle for second. Post-punk has made a glorious comeback in the last few years and us listeners are reaping the rewards, with Shame we get one of the most energetic, charismatic and talented bands I've ever witnessed. Songs of Praise contains in it a group of songs to go mental and punch each other to, with tracks such as "Tasteless" and "One Rizla" being the most accessible amongst the track list but the band really come into their own on tracks such as "Angie" and "Concrete". This is as beautiful and rough as post-punk can get and I'm living for it.
1. Our Girl - Stranger Today
And here it is, my album of the year. Ultimately, this is one of the greatest albums I've ever heard. Soph Nathan's guitar playing is awe inspiring to say the least on songs such as "Two Life" and "Boring" and the driving bass of Josh Tyler pushes the songs forward to surround them in such a way that is truly unmatched. And all of this is captivated with the drumming of Lauren Wilson who also shines on "Two Life" (Which you can probably tell is my favourite song on the album). This album just makes me want to jump around with it's grunge-like guitars at times and Soph Nathan's incredibly melodic and yet, at times, heavy vocals. The fact that this is only their debut album blows my mind.
A$AP Rocky is probably one of my favourites out right now, some of the most intriguing and incomparable use of producers and production value. Not only that but his sometimes laidback flow can be switched at any moment and whilst sometimes the subject matter is just plain or repetitive I do think he's one of the most creative out there. However, there are some duffers on here which just drop it down to 20th. 19. Rae Morris - Someone Out There
Rae Morris is insanely talented and under appreciated. One of the best songwriters of our generation she has the ability to craft songs about love that are so personal and yet so relateable at the same time that it really is a wonder. From this point on in the list these really are faultless albums and Rae's mixture of pop with elements of R&B and a variety of other genres is a wonder to the ears. 18. Kids See Ghosts - S/T
The amount of 10's I've seen this album given is crazy, and whilst I do think it's as innovative and explosive as I wanted it to be... I'm just not a fan of Kid CuDi. His singing does grind me a little bit which is unfortunate but Kanye is as great as ever, and whilst it's a tough time to be a Kanye fan you just can't deny this mans genius from the production to his flow. Kid CuDi and Kanye is a dream duo, but not quite the Eric B and Rakim we'd hoped for. 17. Estrons - You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough
I've been following Estrons' career ever since I saw them support Slaves at The Cookie. Lead singer's Tali one of the best frontwomen I've ever seen with her phenomenal voice coupled together with songs that not only blow your ears off but will make you stop and think. Songs such as "Cameras" are genuinely really emotional. 16. Cabbage - Nihilistic Glamour Shots
Cabbage are one of my favourite bands, and their collection of EP's "Young, Dumb & Full of" has helped them to avoid the dodgy second album syndrome which not only gives me incredible hope for their future but hails them as the future of post-punk. NGS has some of the most raucous and loud punk tracks of the year with "Postmodernist Caligula" and "Arms of Pleonexia", this is a must listen album of the year. 15. The Wombats - Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
Bit of a controversial one here with The Wombats' latest album, however this is one of the most fun and well-produced pop albums of the year. And I know it's not necessarily cool to like their music all that much but if you look at tunes like "Lemon To A Knife Fight" and "Turn" then you've got some of the bangers of the year and it's their off the wall unorthodox lyrics that keep me coming back for more. It's a fun, enjoyable album and sometimes music is supposed to be fun, right? 14. Pusha T - Daytona
One of the best rap albums of the past few years and yet not even the best rap album of the year. Pusha T's Daytona was part of Kanye's Wyoming album series and it contained some of the greatest production I've ever heard, and that came to the forefront on this phenomenal piece of work, with a harsher and deadlier flow than ever it has helped King Push make 7 tracks that are each better than any he has ever made before. 13. Gaz Coombes - World's Strongest Man
Former Supergrass frontman, Gaz Coombes, is as insanely talented as any other person in the music industry. Just before the release of this album I saw him do a one man show in Leicester and it was truly magical. And this is his greatest album yet with the surprisingly dark and airy soundscape and yet a very accessible sound. This is a phenomenal piece of work, and shows some real growth as an artist. 12. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
I think it shows some real talent if your debut album scores this highly on the list, and especially if that band consists of young people making some of the most progressive, technically perfect and overall fantastic music. This album is filled with all sorts of melding from techno to pop to R&B and what came from it was an album that I've grown to truly love. Lead singer, Esme, is the shining star though with her lowkey and yet soothing and somewhat powerful voice it lifts the music to the next level. Magical is the best word to describe this album. 11. Kanye West - YE
Oh Kanye. I love you so much but you make it so damn hard for me. On one hand he's going crazy and saying things like "Slavery's A Choice", quite frankly the stupidest thing I've ever heard but then he goes an intimate, open and mindblowing piece of work like this. A piece of work that explores his mental health issues, his worries about his family and his trials & tribulations with love, this narrowly misses out on the top 10 purely because of replay value and find myself waiting to get to "Ghost Town" which is one of the greatest songs I've ever heard, a truly fantastic piece of work.
Now we start moving the albums into the territory of what you should most definitely listen to. I'd recommend all of these albums and I think most people would enjoy a lot of them - so without further ado...
So I think it's safe to say this definitely isn't going to be their most revered album ever. In fact it may be the most hated album of the past year but there's strikes of genius here if you can move past the insufferable stroking of Alex Turner's ego throughout. The idea and story of the album keeps you involved throughout a whole listen and songs like "The Ultracheese" and "Star Treatment" have flashes of what could have been a truly amazing album... it's just not Arctic Monkeys.
29. Everything Is Recorded - S/T
A well produced album can cover over a lot of cracks. Richard Russel's Everything Is Recorded is one of the most riveting and interesting listens of the past year due to some of the most well rounded and vibing beats. Coating in features from the likes of Sampha and Giggs makes this album one of the most important British albums of the year. However, there's no signal or direction for the album and some of the songs don't flow into each other.
28. Goat Girl - S/T
Goat Girl are one of the most important female bands of our era, whether it be their punk-infused dark rock which explores the problems with the patriarchy or whether it's their pop-laden bangers which get the crowd going. The strangest thing about the album though is that at circa 22 tracks it really isn't that long at all. Most of the tracks sit at around 2 minutes which means you can never really get your teeth into them and many interludes cover the tracklist. 27. The Vaccines - Combat Sports
A sort of return to form for The Vaccines despite their last album not really hitting the general masses, they released some great singles prior to this albums drop including "I Can't Quit" and "Your Love Is My Favourite Band" and the rest of the album did sort of live up to those but there was no real direction and diversification on the album.
26. Peace - Kindness Is The New Rock 'N' Roll
Peace are one of the most polarising bands of recent years. Like the Marmite of the indie scene, I personally love them but I know of a few people who despise them. I love the lead singers voice coupled along with the catchiness of their rock 'n' roll infused bangers and this album is unlike anything they've made before.
25. Breathe Panel - S/T
Lo-Fi at it's very best. There aren't many albums on this list that captivated me quite as much as Breathe Panel's. Which probably leaves you wondering why it's so low, well I haven't had chance to digest it as much as I have the others on this list which means I'm spending the beginning of 2019 over consuming it. Can't wait to pick this up on vinyl.
24. Tim Burgess - As I Was Now
Charlatans frontman, bestselling author, solo man, label owner etc... the list goes on with Tim Burgess' talents. This album doesn't appease the Charlatans fans out there and I like that, it's Tim proving there is a different side to him which proves to be a little more experimental than The Charlatans' iconic sound. The story of this album being lost for 10 years just makes me sad because I would have loved to have had it for longer. 23. Anna Burch - Quit The Curse
I saw Anna Burch live in Leicester in mid-2018 and she captivated me there and then. Her folk-like indie rock drifts swiftly through your ears leaving you with some truly beautifully written love songs and an album that is full to the brim with cheerful anthems that will leave you with a huge smile on your face after a listen. A must-listen for fans of the likes of St. Vincent and Marika Hackman.
It's truly criminal that I only discovered these alt-rock gods this year and it's mostly thanks to this being the incredible album that it is. Easily one of the most unique and intriguing bands of the past 20 years, despite frontmans Billy Corgan's insistence on trying to make everyone hate him it hasn't quite worked yet. This album takes everything that Smashing Pumpkins do so well and multiplies it tenfold, which is no mean feat.
21. James - Living In Extraordinary Times
I went to see James at the end of 2018 and they produced a circa 2 hour set that was full of songs from this album and I have to say, I think they stood out a lot more than some of the older ones for the right reasons. "Hank" has some of the most pounding drums to be laid (no pun intended) on a track in the past year, not to mention the soon-to-be iconic outro of "Many Faces" which is incredibly powerful when sung by an entire audience.
So here we kick off the top albums list, with the first ten that scrape into the top 50 list. It's been a long year dominated by the mess of the politics of the world, but in turn that only brings out the best of the musical world. Let's get started right away then, at nuuuuumber fifty...
50. Gabe Gurnsey - Physical
I discovered Gabe Gurnsey's music through the reccomendation of Rough Trade and boy am I glad that I did. His drumming over experimental synths and samples leads to a soundscape that is unmatched in anything I've ever heard but the songs also work as individual pieces. The 12" of Eyes Over is a representation of this. A great electronic album.
49. Bernhoft & The Fashion Bruises - Humanoid
I went to see Bernhoft live last month and he was absolutely brilliant. It made me enjoy this album all that much more. The title track is a clear hit with it's electronic sampling mixing with Bernhoft's R&B style provides the blueprint for the rest of the album with a much pop-ier undertone.
48. J. Cole - K.O.D.
Born Sinner is one of my favourite albums of all time, and I do feel like J. Cole hasn't quite reached the peak of that album again. However, 4 Your Eyez Only was a low point in his discography in my opinion and this album is a slight rise. The album deals with the ideas of addiction and the harsh realities of a lot of peoples lives. The main problem is that its just meh for the most part.
47. Here Lies Man - You Will Know Nothing
Not a band that I feel I should like but I really enjoy Here Lies Man's guitar driven noise alt-rock which not only provides you with a plethora of sounds but gives you a soundscape you can just get lost in. Whilst it does get repetitive in some places I do feel that this album will stand the test of time very well, alt-rock at its finest.
46. Spring King - A Better Life
Unfortunately, Spring King split up a few months ago and that has left a gaping hole in the indie scene that they once filled. Their drum driven, noisy tracks were much more refined on this second album and it really feels like they were starting to carve out what could be a long-term residency in the indie scene.
45. Chvrches - Love Is Dead
I always think I really like Chvrches but then I listen to their music and realise that it's very average. Whilst Love Is Dead contained some particularly great singles, the rest of the album felt more like fillers than killers and that's always been Chvrches' problem. But then there's the fact that the singles are so damn good that it elevates this album beyond its boundaries.
44. Eminem - Kamikaze
When this album surprise dropped around august time I thought it was brilliant, but then upon further listens and inspection you find that Eminem is still slotting in some of his corny lines and that "Venom" song at the end of the album is just unforgivable. But Eminem is half back... in some sort of way. There are some decent tracks on here and it does work as an album
43. Nas - Nasir
As part of Kanye's Wyoming series he produced Nas' newest album, which at only 7 songs deep must have made it hard to cut the album.It also means there was no place for any sort of filler in the album tracks. And we did get some of that here. Whilst Nas' flow and the production is the best that it has been for years songs like "Cops Shot The Kid" just gets annoying after a little while.
42. Laurel - Dogviolet
Singer songwriter Laurel released her debut album this year and it's a great R&B infused pop album with some slight tinges of trip hop beats. But what really shines is her phenomenal vocals which not only elevate the album entirely but they drive every song forward and make the songs that little bit more sumptuous.
41. Blossoms - Cool Like You
Oh Blossoms. The first album was soooo good, it stayed in my headphones for so long and then what they've decided to do is just remake that album but with different lyrics. Literally some of the songs even have the same beats and keyboards - it's crazy. But I did still enjoy the catchiness of the songs coupled together with Tom Ogden's great voice that helped dig out some salvation for this album - if the first album wasn't so good then this album probably would have missed out on the list.
Bernhoft is a grammy nominated R&B artist, someone who came to my attention this year and blew me away with his album Humanoid, an album that almost edged on the side of pop, taking a large step forward and slightly away from a very traditional R&B setting. So when he stopped by Birmingham on his short rendezvous through Blighty.
First up were Lawrence, a 7 (I think) piece jazz-pop band that I only caught towards the en of their set but what I saw made me wish I'd seen it all, a fantastic rendition of Sean Paul lit the room up incredibly, immediately having me hooked in their set. The songs that followed were each as joyful as the next and contained some of the best contemporary jazz infused music I've heard in ages!
Bernhoft swaggered onto the stage with the Fashion Bruises in tow and blew the roof off the O2 Academy as he ran through a set that began with the title track of his latest record, dancing and performing to songs he loved just as much as the crowd screaming it back at him. The atmosphere like a cauldron, the whole audience singing their lungs out to every song. And Bernhoft himself was genuinely funny in between songs - telling stories of his childhood and being forced to attend choir practice with his mother and father.
The songs from the new album went down a treat, even bringing Gracie Lawrence back on stage to perform "Buried Gold" which worked incredibly (I kind of wish she was on the recorded version now). After a set which spanned nearly 2 hours you would think crowd fatigue would begin to set in, yet when the band went off stage they demanded an encore, clapping and chatting in uproar to which Bernhoft duly replied and came back on and performed a phenomenal rendition of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy", a truly beautiful rendition of the song that saw Jarle Bernhoft perform solo and utilise his loops and pedals to their maximum ability.
I seriously hope that he releases a live album from this tour because I'd buy it tomorrow.
Our Girl are probably my favourite band around at the moment, their debut album "Stranger Today" is one of very few to ever receive a 10/10 from us which I think it fully deserves and it's been in constant rotation for me ever since. The dynamics on the album which perfectly utilise lead singer and guitarist, Soph Nathan's soft, harmonic vocals but also give her the opportunity to really stretch herself into a grungier, heavy rock voice which expertly intertwine with the phenomenal tunes like "Level", "Being Around" and "Boring".
The band announced on Twitter the day before the gig that they were doing a free instore show at Paul Smith in The Mailbox so obviously I had to go along to that... which also meant missing one of my lectures but hey, what's more important here? The band set up along some chairs in the shop and played an acoustic set containing songs like "I Really Like It", "Two Life" and "In My Head" all of which were so perfect acoustically I honestly could have stood there all day and listened to them, and Paul Smith were giving out free beer as well so that made it even better. And the band were kind enough to sign a few records for me as well so that just rounded off an amazing afternoon.
Then it was over to the Sunflower Lounge for the main event, and it was packed to the rafters. Which makes me so happy to see a band I've been following for such a long time to finally gain some of the recognition that they deserve for being one of the best guitar bands in the country right now. Jheeeeeze what a show as well. "Two Life" is my favourite Our Girl song so it's always nice to see that and bask in it's heaviness as Lauren (Drummer) throws her head around so much from behind the drum kit that I'm surprised she hasn't caused herself some sort of damage so far!
And despite one kn*bhead asking for Big Moon songs, it didn't dampen the mood of the people all around me as they were jumping and dancing along to every song - there was just a very good vibe in the crowd and I think that resonated on stage as it appeared that Soph couldn't stop smiling throughout the entire performance and Josh (Bassist) looked to be having a great time on stage - it's so important to go out and support bands such as Our Girl to keep the music scene and independent venues alive - it also helps when you're watching the best band around.