Best Albums of 2018

A momentous thing occurred, I got my laptop back, I missed it so much. As a result I am finally getting around to my list of the best albums of 2018. As in previous years I have to have listened to them. Im sure there are a load of great albums out there that I just haven’t heard, but all those in the list below I have and, in most cases, own a copy of my own. Now you can just quickly scroll through if you like, I don’t mind, but there’s an accompanying track to listen to for each album, and they are worth a listen. Feel free to disagree or point out something I may have missed or that I really should be listening to.

37 – Poliça ft s t a r g a z e – Music for the Long Emergency

I’m a big fan of Poliça and have another collaboration of theirs that they did with s t a r g a z e, although it was an instrumental re-imagining of a Steve Reich piece. I prefer the tracks with the more aggressive distorted vocals than the cleaner more melodic vocal tracks but it’s a decent release. The track below is the more melodic side of things developing into a rather avant-garde instrumental.

36 – Jimi Hendrix – Both Sides Of The Sky

The Hendrix vault is surely now empty, but this is a rather good way to bring it to a close. His version of ‘Mannish Boy’ is fabulous and the production trickery that has been used to make the tracks sound somewhat more contemporary work very well indeed, and it’s
a previously unreleased recording which was the first ever studio session by the group Hendrix would christen as his Band Of Gypsys.

35 – Thom Yorke – Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film)

This is Yorke’s first full length film soundtrack and he decided it would be pointless to replicate or reference the soundtrack of the original Suspiria by Goblin, instead, he cited inspiration from the 1982 Blade Runner soundtrack, musique concrète artists such as Pierre Henry, modern electronic artists such as James Holden, and music from the film’s 1977 Berlin setting, including krautrock acts such as Faust and Can. There’s only one vocal performance on this soundtrack, but that is sort of what one would expect.

34 – Gabe Gurnsey – Physical

I have the 1200 limited Rough Trade copy of this, and I didn’t buy it by choice as such, it was part of the monthly record club subscription, but I really like it. This is his debut album and, supposedly, is meant to represent a night out in a club. I’m too bloody old to know if that works or not but the whole thing is very listenable while sitting in my armchair as well, so perhaps it doesn’t, who knows? Not me.

33 – Mogwai – Kin (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Another soundtrack, from a film I’ve never seen, but it’s Mogwai and I like Mogwai a lot, so not having seen the film isn’t really a problem for me.
KIN is a movie about a futuristic bazooka that can blast walls out of buildings and instantly turn people into dust, sounds fun, though the soundtrack is seemingly somewhat understated for that plot line. I can listen to Mogwai on a loop for days and for me this is just more of their music to listen to, which makes me happy.

32 – Ólafur Arnalds – re:member

Arnalds is the guy who did the music for the TV series, Broadchurch, which is quite marvellous. If you get a chance to watch the show listen out for his soundtrack. This album of 12 tracks is utterly beautiful to listen to and experience. It’s what classical music, so named I suppose for its timeless nature, is today, using electronic instruments and programming to create what is almost the bottled essence of beauty.

31 – Eels – The Deconstruction

I’ve been meaning to buy a copy of this for quite a while, though I’ve listened to it a lot. There’s a a double 10″ yellow vinyl in my local record store, soon it may be mine. This album reminds me a lot of ‘Daisies of the Galaxy’, which is probably my favourite Eels album, in that the songs are instantly likeable and, to quote pitchfork, “It feels like a career-straddling greatest hits collection in which all the ‘hits’ are brand new.”

30 – Suede – The Blue Hour

I came late to Suede, although I knew many of the earlier tracks from hearing them on the radio. My charity shop trawl for cheap CD’s have turned up 3 or 4 Suede CD’s and I’ve given them a good listen, and there was a good documentary on a couple of months ago as well. As a result I came at this album from a different angle than I previously would have. It’s an album of lush songs and quirky flourishes and it harks back to the past while remaining contemporary.

29 – David Byrne – American Utopia

An album that received mixed reviews on its release but I like it, it has plenty of Byrne oddness and some pretty good tunes as well. “Everybody’s coming to my house” with Brian Eno is a highlight but the whole thing hrks back to Talking Heads to a degree without actually being them.

28 – Neneh Cherry – Broken Politics

Neneh Cherry has never really seemed to me to have been taken as a serious artist, in general terms at least, but her work with Four Tet on this, and her previous release, are a long way from her hits of the 80’s. There are some misses on the album but when it woeks it really works. Side note: Cherry sang the backing vocals on The The Slow Train To Dawn by THE THE in 1987.

27 – Idles – Joy As An Act of Resistance

I’ve had so much trouble deciding about this album. Do I get it? Do I actually like it, is it any good? Well here it is at number 27 in my albums of the year so the answer is self evident, sort of. It’s bullish, aggressive and angry but that is exactly the sort of thing I was listening to in the late 70’s, and since to be honest, though not exclusively. While I find Sleaford Mods somewhat one dimensional, and there is a fair comparison between them and Idles I think, this album is at least 2D, drifting occasionally into 3.

26 – Gorillaz – The Now Now

A surprise release really, so hot on the heels of Humanz. For this album there are less guest spots, limiting themselves to only two tracks this time, with opener ‘Humility’ containing the unmistakable guitar work of George Benson and Snoop Goog & Jamie Principle on ‘Hollywood’. There was soe criticism of Humanz for the number of guest spots but I was OK with it, on the other hand, this release works really well with jut a few.

25 – Here Lies Man – You Will Know Nothing

I have the Indie Stores release of You Will Know Nothing, and though I loved the previous debut album, this is even better than the debut. It has much more light and shade, much more variation between tracks to keep the listener interested and, perhaps, provide for more repeated listenings. The Indie Only release is a blue splatter vinyl, and very nice it is too. Officially it is, according to the record company:-  “very limited u.k ‘light blue clear’ exclusive indies only lp”. I’ve no idea how limited, they don’t say.

24 – Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile

This album was nominated for the 2018 Mercury prize and while I have nothing against winners ‘Wolf Alice’, this is a better album, and more relevant as it celebrates women of colour (their words not mine) who may not be all that well known, such as Nanny, queen of the Maroons, who presided over a spectacularly successful guerrilla force of escaped slaves, or Yaa Asantewaa, an Ashanti queen who resisted the white colonialists, Boudicca-style. It is also rather anti-monarchy, which is something I personally struggle with, seeing pros and cons of our current set up. Regardless, give it a listen, its really very good. Oh, and the album title is a reference to David Icke i think.

23 – The Shacks – Haze

I happen to be rather pre-disposed to a whispered female vocal so that was a plus from the start, think Stina Nordenstam if she was shouting, so very whisperery is she, and that is close to Wise’s vocal throughout the album. To make comparisons, or perhaps more bits that made me think of other bands, I felt bits of The SundaysThe Cranes and the aforementioned Stina Nordenstam. I’m also reminded of Death & Vanilla at times, and I love Death & Vanilla so there are elements of several bands/artists that I really like popping up throughout the tracks on this album.

22 – SRSQ – Unreality

This one is still fairly new to me having seen it mentioned on a youtube video I was watching a month ago, but I’ve listened to it an awful lot since then and that says a lot as if I thought it crap I wouldn’t. It’s fair to say that there are quite strong influences from early 4AD bands and I hear Cocteaus, This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance floating around, but I love them so I’m going to be predisposed to like this album.

21 – Poppy Ackroyd – Resolve

Neo Classical is a thing nowadays, which is fine by me, as a genre I like it. Poppy Ackroyd, who is also a member of Hidden Orchestra, uses piano and other instruments differently to most, using them as a percussive element and incorporating looping at times as well as other devices to produce some sublime music. I have all her solo work so I am completely biased, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong, listen for yourself.

20 – Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Prince comparisons will always be made for Monae, she’s got The Purple One’s punk, mad-scientist approach but creates a world all of her own with rap, soul, pop, R&B, space-rock and whatever the hell she wants really. This album pretty much dispenses with her alter ego and she presents songs as herself, and a very interesting self it is.

19 – Aphex Twin – Collapse EP

Technically an EP, by virtue of the fact that it is one, however, I’m including it anyway, because I can. There is an intricacy to the tracks that make them perhaps more interesting than some of his other recent releases and, I think it fair to say, he is in a class of one when it comes to this genre, to the point I’m not entirely sure what the genre is.

18 – Bodega – Endless Scroll / Witness Scroll

The band are from New York and the album was recorded and produced by Austin Brown of Parquet Courts and if you like them, you might well like this, although there are a 100 different influences seemingly informing the music, some I can’t quite identify, while others are easier to spot, such as The Fall or Wire. It’s an amalgamation of post punk, contemporary pop, hip-hop, krautrock, and folk-derived narrative songwriting which congeal into a rather pleasant mess, of sorts.

17 – The Future Sound Of London – My Kingdom Re-imagined

A re-release for record store day 2018, I have the original from 1996 and this is quite different even though it i the same. I’m aware that makes no sense but it’s true. A mini album more than a 12″ inch single, the tracks are updated, in both production and arrangement to give something recognisable but new, there, that makes more sense.

16 – Public Image Ltd – Concert: Live At The Brixton Academy 27.5.86

Another RSD 2018 release which I added to my now quite extensive P.I.L collection. As with any live album, it captures a moment in time and this particular moment was when P.I.L where actually impacting the singles charts with tracks like Rise, included in this set. I could be wrong, I could be right, I like it though.

15 – Daniel Blumberg – Minus

Blumberg is an English artist, musician, songwriter and composer who has released music under a variety of names, including Yuck, Hebronix, Oupa, Heb-Hex, and Guo, of which I have heard of exactly none. He has also collaborated with musicians including Low, Silver Jews, Lambchop, Neil Hagerty, Seymour Wright, Terry Day,  Jad Fair and Norman Blake, of whom I have heard of exactly some. This is an album of fingernails down the blackboard and tiny, fragile beauty, each perfectly placed. I saw the title track performed on Jools Holland, a wonderful performance, and it was rather nice knowing who the hell he was having already received and listened to the album.

14 – Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Black Times

I think it reasonable to state that if you hear a song and it makes you go out and buy the album it came from then you are on to something good. This is exactly what happened for me with this. Seun Kuti, youngest son of late and great Fela Kuti, if you don’t know him look him up, Fela died in 1997 and Seun, then only 14 years old, became the lead singer of Egypt 80, continuing his fathers human rights activism through music. This is his fourth album and I’m recommending it to everybody, even if I don’t think they will like it!

13 – Rosalía – El Mal Querer

I like modern flamenco, who knew? Not me for sure, until I was told what genre this actually fell into. Apparently the album is based on a Occitan novel from the 13th or 14th century and documents a toxic relationship where the mans jealousy drives him to imprison a woman. This was part of her degree thesis I believe and the whole album was under her complete control, delivered to the record company for distribution only. It is a triumph.

12 – The Amorphous Androgynous – The Isness (The Abbey Road Version)

This is not a choice based on sales as only 1000 copies were made for Record Store Day 2018 on 180 gram vinyl. I have one, hooray for me. This is basically The Future Sound of London again and the original of this is quite scarce and is relatively expensive because of it. This is a different version but still magnificent.

11 – Fever Ray – Plunge

Swedish singer Karin Dreijer is completely bonkers, which is why I like her. Previously best known as one half of The Knife, alongside her brother, Olof, Dreijer, she has changed quite dramatically from her first solo record, the one which contained the opening music to The Vikings, and this is much more in the pop spectrum at times while still retaining that certain something that shrouds everything in strangeness. It is no understatement to suggest that at some point in the future she will be talked about in the same way that Bjork has been up until now.

10 – Belle & Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems (Part 1 – 3)

Here we are at the top ten, which opens with an album that was released as three 12″ E.P’s, sold separately, or in a box all together. I didn’t know there was a box, I bought them individually which is lovely from a marketing perspective as they were £11 each, so £33 for the album, bit steep but I don’t have regrets. If you like witty, tuneful indie-pop then you will find it here.

9 – Suuns – Felt

I stumbled across Suuns quite by accident a few months after a record store day a couple of years ago. There was a remix album still in the racks so I streamed it in the record shop and bought it, because I liked it. I then bought their next album and then this one. There is something slightly off kilter and dark about Suuns that I can’t adequately articulate, but it makes me like them.

8 – Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

I’m not particularly a fan of Artic Monkeys, not that I dislike them, I just don’t normally pay them very much attention. Radio 6 played a track from this album that I heard in the car and that afternoon I saw it for sale in a supermarket, so I picked up a copy. As Tranquility Base Hotel is a lounge-pop concept record set in a casino piano bar on the moon I think I was quite right to be intrigued by it and though it has had mixed reviews, I salute their desire to try new directions and, personally, I think the songs on it are great.

7 – Lump – Lump

Lump are Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (founding member of Tunng) and they may, or may not, release another album as Lump, but this one record they’ve put out I absolutely love. It came as part of a Rough Trade subscription so it was a complete surprise but I’ve played it, and enjoyed it a lot since it arrived and that, I think, is the best way to decide if an album is actually any good or not. Decide for yourself.

6 – Jack White – Boarding House Reach

As I have all the White Stripes Albums, plus some Dead Weather the Raconteurs and some Jack White solo albums there was a pretty good chance I was going to like this album, and I do. It’s not all hits, ‘Why Walk a Dog/’ leaves me a little cold but otherwise it’s solid. ‘Over & Over’ must have been, to my ears, influenced by Frank Zappa because I hear him all over & over it.

5 – S U R V I V E – RR7400

This was a Record Store Day release 2018 and limited to 1600 copies (I have one). Apparently, according to the hype sticker ‘S U R V I V E pays homage to the Peel Sessions with nine new studio recordings of songs from their live set. In case you aren’t aware 2 of the guys from S U R V I V E created the Stranger Things soundtrack. So, for complete transparency, I absolutely love S U R V I V E, not just the music but becasue of all the analogue synths they use and how, even though it is quite creepy at times, I find it comforting.

4 – Mogwai – Ten Rapid (Collected Recordings 1996-1997)

Another RSD 2018 release, and the last on this 2018 list. Limited to 2000 copies (yes, I do have one) and technically a re-release, although it’s never been easy to get. I do love Mogwai, and they appear in this list twice as a result. This one is a compilation originally released in 1997 that brings together various songs recorded and released between 1996 and 1997. “Tuner”, for example, is a rerecorded version of the band’s March 1996 debut double A-sided single, “Angels versus Aliens” is a rerecorded version of the July 1996 split single with Dweeb. “A Place for Parks” was given away free to attendees of a show in Camden. “I Am Not Batman” was given away free to attendees of the Ten Day Weekend Festival in Glasgow, so none of these are tracks that would easily be found and when I first played it I hadn’t heard them so it is just like a new album to me.

3 – Kamasi Washington – Heaven And Earth

In many ways this album is ridiculous, 5 discs, one of which is hidden, 10 sides of music. Fortunately, it is great music. It can be a little overwhelming as a package but it gives the whole thing longevity when there is so much to discover. Some traditionalists consider his sound derivative, but almost everything is in some way and it feels like elitist crap to me to suggest it. The one true measure of whether music is good or not is made by the individual listening to it, if they like it they like it. And I, and many others, love this album. Opening with ‘Fists Of Fury’, a cover from the soundtrack of the Bruce Lee film is just brilliant, and referencing the video game Street Fighter (video below) is somthing I’m pretty sure traditionalists wouldn’t approve of, but who cares? Not me. It’s an expensive package on vinyl, but get CD’s, stream it, listen and love it.

2 – Solomon Grey – Human Music

I stumbled across Solomon Grey quite by accident when browsing in a record store and finding their debut album, a double, discounted to £6, I took a chance and it paid off massively. Sometimes there a artists who just speak to you and through repeated listenings they just somehow get into your bones, Solomon Grey are one of these artists for me.

Many of the tracks have a cinematic quality, listen to Clouds for example, it really is quite beautiful. I think CultureFly sum it up in this sentence: symphonic electronic indie that sits somewhere between M83, Damien Rice and the Stranger Things soundtrack. If you like your jams as cool and hefty as an iceberg, this is the music for you.

1 – Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

And here we are at my number 1 album of 2018. I’m always excited at a new Spiritualized release and this time i got the special edition, which comes in a 2-piece card box containing: Orange 140g vinyl, 24 page book & download card. I can’t remember when I last used a download card though. Jason Pierce is Spiritualized and this album is his eighth under that name, but he claims it is the last, if so it’s a damn fine album to end on.

I did see Spiritualized a couple of years ago and it was equally unlistenable and beautiful, 7 minutes of dissonance followed by 7 minutes of joy, and so it went on. It made the overall experience less than satisfactory, unlike this album, which has track after track of greatness. The sognwriting seems to have improved over the course of his career and there is a fragile tenderness evident which tells more than perhaps was intended. Just go and buy it.