Following my month-by-month musical guide to 2018, here’s a link to the final Top 50 for the year that I’ve compiled. Enjoy exploring it!
As we head towards the end of the year, we enter a bit of a deadzone in terms of new music releases. There were still a few interesting pieces out there, but it really was slim pickings.
Top of the list was Aliment, with a blistering set of punk-rock anthems to counter the onslaught of Christmas cheese. Equally Ty Segall’s sixth album release of 2018 – this time with wife Denee Segall – also has some interesting moments of discordant rock.
Earl Sweatshirt and Brockhampton provide us with an RnB outro to 2018 and Beans on Toast’s tribute to becoming a father (and the dangers of having an omnipresent listening device in your house) also provides a lighter, folky touch to the month.
Overall, 2018 was a fantastic year for new music. Unfortunately December just wants a great representation of it.
1: Aliment – Brother
Standout track: Flesh and Gold
2: The c.i.a. – The c.i.a.
Standout track: Fear
3: Amor – Sinking into a Miracle
Standout track: Phantoms of the Sun
4: Selling – On Reflection
Standout track: Keeping Txme
5: Sophie – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-insides
Standout track: Immaterial
6: Beans on Toast – A Bird in the Hand
Standout track: Alexa
7: Steve Kilbey – Sydney Rococo
Standout track: Sydney Rococo
8: Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
Standout track: Shattered Dreams
9: Willard Grant Conspiracy – Untethered
Standout track: All We Have Left
10: Brockhampton – Idridescence
Standout track: Berlin
Some unusual and intriguing releases in November. Let’s start with Thought Gang, the jazz project of Twin Peaks collaborators David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti. It’s as messed up as you would expect from these two but there’s just enough narrative in the music to keep it together (just).
Sun Kil Moon‘s jazz-blues-folk-rock effort This is My Dinner also sees vocalist Mark Kozelek employing a stream of consciousness approach throughout the tracks, which is for the most part, very enjoyable.
Most interesting of all was Slovenian industro avant-garde band Laibach‘s take on The Sound of Music (yes, that one). What could easily be dismissed as a novelty actually has some very interesting reworks of the very familiar tunes, and then suddenly goes off on a tangent about North Korea halfway through Maria/Korea from which it never returns. Still hugely entertaining.
A quick mention for The Prodigy. New album No Tourists doesn’t see them push any boundaries beyond the punk-rave genre they invented, but when it’s this good, who really cares.
Top pick this month, really shouldn’t be there. When I was compiling this review I had committed to making it about original albums. No live shows, no compliations, no reissues etc. But Robert Hood‘s DJ Kicks mix is just so damn good that it couldn’t be ignored. This is a classic slice of Detroit Techno that pushes all my buttons. As soon as you stick it on you’re transported to a sweaty all-night (possibly illegal) rave and you just don’t ever want it to stop. For me, this was everything that was joyous and hedonistic about music in my youth and I am clearly still mad for it.
Top 10 November 2018
1: Robert Hood – DJ Kicks
Standout track: Just listen to it all
2: Laibach – The Sound of Music
Standout track: My Favorite Things
3: Cuts – A Gradual Decline
Standout track: A Gradual Decline
4: The Prodigy – No Tourists
Standout track: Tomebomb Zone
5: Thought Gang – Thought Gang
Standout track: One Dog Bark
6: Big Lad – Pro Rock
Standout track: Eating Food and Fighting Wizards
7: audiobooks – Now! (in a minute)
Standout track: Dance Your Life Away
8: Big Joanie – Sistahs
Standout track: Fall Asleep
9: The Limiñanas – I’ve Got Trouble In Mind Vol. 2
Standout track: The Mirror (feat. Kirk Lake)
10: Sun Kil Moon – This Is My Dinner
Standout track: This Is Not Possible
As we entered October I was most excited by the upcoming release from Canadian punk outfit Fucked Up, who I have been an avid fan of for some time and treated me to what was probably my favourite gig of all time.
Their new work Dose Your Dreams saw them branch of in several different directions, including a bit of electronica, though it was still their out and out punk numbers which hit the hardest.
I also very much enjoyed the laid-back country-esque drawl of Tess Parks backed by the muscial genius that is The Brian Jonestown Masscare’s main man Anton Newcombe. Very pleaseant.
Other notable releases include a collaborative solo effort from former Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello, some dreamy, synth-based shoegaze from The KVB and the discordant folk-rock of Kristin Hersh.
Top of the tree for October though was TVAM. Not a collaboration from Nick Frost and Anne Diamond unfortunately, but Wigan’s Joe Oxley, who blends elements of rave, 80’s synth, indie and shoegaze into an epic work. Well worth a listen.
Top 10 October 2018
1: TVAM – Psychic Data
Standout track: Total Immersion
2: Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
Standout track: Raise Your Voice Joyce
3: Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe – Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe
Standout track: Right On
4: Kristin Hersh – Possible Dust Clouds
Standout track: LAX
5: Estrons – You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough
Standout track: Make a Man
6: The KVB – Only Now Forever
Standout track: Above Us
7: The Lucid Dream – Actualisation
Standout track: Alone in Fear
8: Donny McCaslin – Blow.
Standout track: What About The Body
9: Tom Morello – The Atlas Underground
Standout track: How Long (feat. Steve Aoki & Tim McIlwrath)
10: Petite Noir – La Maison Noir/The Black House
Standout track: Beach
A couple of my old favourites made an appearance in September. Firstly rave veterans Orbital produced another solid piece after reforming for the second time. Still not close to the absolute genius that is the Brown Album, but then again what is?
The kind of loops The Field also returned for a fifth slice of perfectly pitched, slow building ambient dance tracks that lull you into a trace-like state without you even realising it.
Other notable releases include Low, with their 18th album taking them in a new direction while simultaneously turning out to be one of their best. Leeds-based Menace Beach combination of indie and 60’s beach rock also impressed.
However it was Canadian alt-rock group Dilly Dally who tickled my fancy the most in September, with a strong slab of indie-pop and grunge coupled with the gravelly vocals of Katie Monk. Very nice indeed.
Top 10 September 2018
1: Dilly Dally – Heaven
Standout track: I Feel Free
2: Low – Double Negative
Standout track: Disarray
3: Menace Beach – Black Rainbow Sounds
Standout track: Hypnotiser Keeps the Ball Rolling
4: The Field – Infinite Moment
Standout track: Divide Now
5: Gazelle Twin – Pastoral
Standout track: Better in My Day
6: Orbital – Monsters Exist
Standout track: There Will Come a Time (feat. Prof. Brian Cox)
7: Black Honey – Black Honey
Standout track: I Only Hurt the Ones I Love
8: Beak> – >>>
Standout track: Allé Sauvage
9: Chris Liebing – Burn Slow
Standout track: And All Went Dark (feat. Polly Scattergood)
10: Bob Moses – Battle Lines
Standout track: Battle Lines
As summer hits its stride (though I do recall the weather starting to get worse at this point) there were some top album releases, and plenty to make you jump about.
First, the quieter moments were provided by the likes of Kathryn Joseph whose delicate album of heartfelt songs had an ethereal quality to them. There was also an impressive reworking of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons by Anna Meredith. Rather than messing too much with Vivaldi’s composition she provided a rich framework around the pieces, interpsersing her own works that gave the originals space to breath and added a new layer of experience to this classic piece.
Interpol‘s latest album Marauder, didn’t really pull up and trees, but it was competent enough and their musical approach always pleases me.
Nothing flew the shoegaze flag this month while female trio Our Girl provided the indie-pop fix. Warm Drag‘s excellent debut album added a 60s go-go feel to dubby synth with a dash of indie rock thrown in to the mix as well.
Justice’s live-not-live album was also a welcome reminder of just how good this electro-dance band are when playing to a crowd – even when there’s not one there.
A strong showing from punk this month too, with Slaves and Right Shitty producing some excellent moments on their respective albums. And it was punk that also provided the album of the month.
It was never really in any doubt that IDLES would be my top album of the month. Their debut album Brutalism was probably my favourite of 2017, and Joy as an Act of Resistance built on that magnificent start with a series of hugely infectious riffs coupled with Joe Talbots’s brilliantly simple lyrical style. Their awesomeness was brought home when they played a small venue in Brighton as part of their album launch. It was an amazing experience and I suspect we will never see them playing such a small venue again. They are destined for great things.
Top 10 August 2018
1: IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Standout track: Never Fight A Man With A Perm
2: Justice – Woman Worldwide
Standout track: Chrous (WWW)
3: Anna Meredith & Antonio Vivaldi – ANNO: Four Seasons
Standout track: Thunder – Summer
4: Warm Drag – Warm Drag
Standout track: Cave Crawl
5: Slaves – Acts of Fear and Love
Standout track: Photo Opportunity
6: Right Shitty – Bachelor of Arts
Standout track: Best Buzz
7: Our Girl – Stranger Today
Standout track: Our Girl
8: Interpol – Marauder
Standout track: The Rover
9: Nothing – Dance On The Blacktop
Standout track: Blue Line Baby
10: Kathryn Joseph – From When I Wake The Want Is
Standout track: Mouths Full Of Blood
July was a relatively quiet month compared to some of the stonkers that have gone before it, but there were still some delights to be had.
We had girl-punk from Negative Scanner, whose album Nose Picker wins my special award for most unpleasant cover of the month. A mention also has to be made of Ross From Friends. The artists house- flavoured album is almost as impressive and the band name
here was also some great indie-rock to be had from the likes of Talons, Asylums and Bodega. My pick of the guitar-based albums came from Breathe Panel. Their lighter, dreamier take on the genre suited the mood of a balmy summer down to a tee.
I’ll happily admit that Jamaican Dancehall had largely passed me by as a musical area of interest, but K.O. by Miss Red is an album of truly epic proportions and one to really break out of a pigeon hole.
Top 10 July 2018
1: Miss Red – K.O.
Standout track: Come Slay
2: Breathe Panel – Breathe Panel
Standout track: On My way
3: Bodega – Endless Scroll
Standout track: Jack in Titanic
4: Ross From Friends – FamilyPortrait
Standout track: Project Cybersyn
5: Asylums – Alien Human Emotions
Standout track: When We Wake Up
6: Talons – We All Know
Standout track: The Drowning
7: Negative Scanner – Nose Picker
Standout track: History Lesson
8: Tanukichan – Sundays
Standout track: Perfect
9: Ben Chatwin – Staccato Signals
Standout track: Silver Pit
10: Deaf Wish – Lithium Zion
Standout track: FFS
A varied bag during June with some new artists, some bringing back styles of days gone by and the reemergence of some old stalwarts.
First to Mike Shinoda. The Linkin Park rapper has put on tape what is essentially his grieving process following the suicide of former bandmate Chester Bennington. It’s raw to listen to at times but the emotion gives it a real depth that is often missing in this genre.
Floex and Tom Hodge‘s mix of orchestral beauty and electronica would be the top album of fused styles this month, if it wasn’t for the release of the third album from my favourite gospel/death metal crossover act Zeal & Ardor. Stranger Fruit perhaps doesn’t reach the heights of it’s predecessor but is still a mighty impressive set of songs.
Here Lies Man’s second album once again revives the afrobeat-meets-Black-Sabbath vibe to great effect while Sink Ya Teeth draw heavily on 80’s synth-pop on their debut album.
My top album of the month though is one of my perennial favourites. The Orb was the act that got me into electronic music in the first place. Alex Patterson has, in the past, tended to drift into meandering prog-style twiddling interspersed with dub-electronica. Fortunately No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds is a tight collection of house-dub that would be at home in a club – or at least during the late night opening of a micro-brewery.
Top 10 June 2018
1: The Orb – No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds
Standout track: Other Blue Worlds
2: Zeal & Ardor – Stranger Fruit
Standout track: You Ain’t Coming Back
3: Fantastic Negrito – Please Don’t Be Dead
Standout track: The Duffler
4: Johnny Marr – Call the Comet
Standout track: The Tracers
5: Here Lies Man – You Will Know Nothing
Standout track: Animal Noises
6: Sink Ya Teeth – Sink Ya Teeth
Standout track: Control
7 : Warmduscher – Whale City
Standout track: I Got Friends
8: Floex and Tom Hodge – A Portrait of John Doe
Standout track: Wednesday (Is The New Friday)
9: Mike Shinoda – Post Traumatic
Standout track: Over Again
10: Martyn – Voids
Standout track: World Gate
A mixed bag in my choices for May. There’s some absolutely banging dance floor fillers, very loud guitars, some lighter pop moments and something truly unique.
First to the elephant in the room. Despite my great excitement over its release (coming as it did on my birthday) there’s no place for Arctic Monkeys in the list. It’s divisive album. I know many people that love it and its won a fair few awards but I just didn’t get on with it. To be honest, I thought it was a bit boring. Not only had it lost a lot of the spikier side of the monkeys, but also it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. I should probably give it another chance, but with so much good music around it’s hard to find the time.
On to those that did make the list. There was dreamy 60’s style Beach Boys-inspired girl-band La Luz, a strong outing from former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes and some Franco-pop from Halo Maud.
Putting my dance hat on we had an outstanding floor filler from Head Technician (Pye Corner Audio) while Jon Hopkins‘ Singularity moved seamlessly from all out dance classics to beautiful piano solos. It’s an album that starts with a bang before slowly fading to almost nothing – in the most beautiful way.
The fifth solo-not-solo effort from Future of the Left and Mclusky frontman Andrew Falkous, Christian Fitness adds further depth to his work with the addition of distorted strings on top of his tradenark super fuzzy guitars. Another nice effort from one of my all-time favourite artists.
It’s really quite hard to describe exactly what my top album of May is. I’ve heard the phrase heavy music bandied about, but I’m still not quite sure the cuts it. Certainly The Body has a spiritual cousin with the of the darker aspects of heavy/death metal, but this is cut from an entirely different cloth. All at once it is a beautiful, distressing, joyous and downright put-your-head-in-the-oven depressing album. I guarantee it won’t be to everyone’s taste, but kudos to those prepared to give it a go. It’s so intriguing that I keep coming back to it, despite it feeling at time like you are in someone else’s nightmare.
Top 10 May 2018
1: The Body – I Have Fought Against It But I Can’t Any Longer
Standout track: Nothing Stirs
2: Head Technician – Profane Architecture
Standout track: Beton Brut
3: Christian Fitness – Nuance: The Musical
Standout track: Full Morrisey
4: Jon Hopkins – Singularity
Standout track: Everything Connected
5: Gaz Coombes – World’s Strongest Man
Standout track: Deep Pockets
6: Halo Maud – Je Suis Une île
Standout track: Des bras
7: Daniel Blumberg
Standout track: Minus
8: Surgeon – Luminosity Device
Standout track: The Primary Clear Light
9: Sleep – The Sciences
Standout track: Giza Butler
10 : La Luz – Floating Features
Standout track: Loose Teeth
My pick of top albums from April was very much dominated by girl-powered guitars and retro dance music.
Take, for instance, the highly rated post-punk outfit Goat Girl. This London all-girl band have seen their star rise sharply in 2018, and it’s no surprise with some finely crafted tunes on their eponymous debut album.
Also catching my ear this month were Blackwater Holylight. This female foursome from Oregon’s blend of drone rock and psychadelia ticked a lot of boxes.
Welsh singer-songwriter Bryde also managed to light up the month with her slightly heavier take on the traditional relationship-based crooning of her contemporaries.
On the electronic side of things, we had some head nodding, hands in the air moments from the like of Makeness, SCB (a.k.a. Scuba) and Daniel Avery – the latter pulling off the trick of bringing back the vibes of Aphex Twin and Plastikman while remaining rooted in the 21st century.
Elsewhere there were a couple of guilty pleasures to be had. Cosmo Sheldrake‘s use of woodwind throughout his album gives it a very whimsical feel – almost like visiting the circus.
Confidence Man‘s effort is something to behold and utterly irresistable. It revels in its high camp pop while laying on some serious 90’s style acid house grooves. Glorious – a top guilty pleasure.
Top of the tree this month was German outfit Die Nerven, whose mix of shoegaze and indie/post-punk kept me enthralled, even though I didn’t have a clue what they were going on about. Not sure they were a very happy bunch though.
Top 10 April 2018
1: Die Nerven – Fake
Standout track: Neue Wellen
2: Confidence Man – Confident Music for Confident People
Standout track: Don’t You Know I’m In a Band
3: Daniel Avery – Song for Alpha
Standout track: Clear
4: Cosmo Sheldrake – The Much Much How How and I
Standout track: Come Along
5: Rival Consoles – Persona
Standout track: Hidden
6: Goat Girl – Goat Girl
Standout track: The Man
7: Makeness – Loud Patterns
Standout track: Gold Star
8: Blackwater Holylight – Blackwater Holylight
Standout track: Willow
9: Bryde – Like and Island
Standout track: To Be Brave
10: SCB – Caibu
Standout track: Five Degrees – Caibu Adjustment