It’s that time of the year again, year-end list time. Here’s the first of a few from me. My top 10 albums of 2018, this was honestly a mission to put together so many solid releases so before I jump into the list I’m going to give you a couple of honourable mentions.
10- Pale Waves- My mind makes noises
Starting off the list with ‘My Mind Makes Noises’ the debut studio album from Dirty Hit Alumni Pale Waves. While not a critics favourite it’s one that sports some pretty strong tracks. ‘Eighteen’ provides an opening cinematic kick with it’s slow synthy build and personal narrative. Heather and co have definitely built a trademark sound that becomes apparent very quickly and runs through the majority of the tracks here on My Mind Makes Noises. The trio of tracks ‘Red’, ‘Kiss’ and ‘Black’ towards the latter end is one that works particularly well, really strong back to back listenability. The more vulnerable and stripped back cuts on here come courtesy of ‘When Did I Lose It All’, ‘She’ and the tear-jerking ‘Karl’ they help to break up some of the bigger moments, offering a bit more in the understanding of Heather both a person and lyricist. This is a project I was anticipating for over a year so it was nice to finally have an album from them, I would have enjoyed a bit more of an experimental and varying sound here but I feel that’s all to come for them and I’m excited for some future releases.
Top Tracks: Red, One More Time
9- Estrons-You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough
Another that I’d been anticipating, Estrons with their album ‘You Say I’m Too Much I Say You’re Not Enough’ a concise 10 track collection kicking off with the power drenched ‘Lilac’ hitting you with sizzling guitar strike, while it sounds like a good time of a track lyrically it tells the story of a man who was trying to take advantage of a vulnerable woman on the street, showing that Estrons aren’t afraid to incorporate bigger and darker themes. While many of the tracks carry through the heavier sound it’s not all big riffs and raspy vocals some of the less explosive points on here are my favourites. ‘Strangers’ and ‘Cameras’ adopt a slight nasally twinge that really softens the sound, both optimistic sounding tracks that act as nice little breathers between the bigger cuts. A bit start for these guys.
Top Tracks: Lilac, Make A man
8- Blossoms- Cool Like You
Following the release of their massive debut back in 2016 Stockport lads Blossoms have hit back with their massive sophomore album ‘Cool Like You’. An album that many fans had questions about pre-announcement following a creative and looking back unbelievable PR stunt that involved frontman Toms refusal to eat Greggs sausage rolls and ability to travel in anything less than an Uber X. Moving away from the hilarity ‘Cool Like You’ sticks true to the bands indie roots while also incorporating some more commercial catchy lyricism lead moments on tracks like ‘I can’t stand it’ and carrying over into the retro Daft Puk vocal distortion on title track ‘Cool Like You’. A few floaty lighters in the air moments with ‘Love Talk’ and ‘Stranger Still’ both tracks that work really well in a live setting. Definitely a more mainstream-leaning release here from the guys but one that I have just kept coming back to.
Top Tracks: Love Talk, How Long Will This Last?
7- Slaves- Acts Of Fear And Love
Any album that starts with ‘OI!’ is one you know is gonna be a fun one and Local lads Slaves have well as truly delivered a gem with their third and arguably best album. This was probably my most anticipated of the year, both ‘Are You Satisfied’ and ‘Take Control’ blew me away so I had exceptionally high hopes for the duo. Unlike thier previous release ‘Take Control’ ‘Acts Of Fear and Love’ felt very to the point, cutting out all the little skits and interludes and coming in at just short of 30 mins, a project of just back to back solid tracks that flow perfectly. It’s a Slaves album so of course, it’s going to be loud, ‘Bugs’ is the most ferocious here with tracks like ‘Chokehold’ and ‘Cut and Run’ having that catchiness and charisma to them. The classic Slaves quirky brashness really comes into play on ‘Magnolia’ a track that starts off with a bit of trivia ‘Did you know 65% of UK homes contain one Magnolia wall?’ no, Issac, I didn’t but now I do and it’ll be impossible to forget. Stepping away from the big sounds we get something we haven’t really heard from Slaves before and that is some vulnerable touches on ‘Photo Opportunity’ and particularly ‘Daddy’ I love the backing vocals from Wolf Alice’s Elle on there, just helping to soften the track out a little as Issac does have a really abrasive style so they complement each other perfectly. It’s really clear that the guys have got a bit more confidence now to break through the loudness and show a bit more of a sensitive side, hopefully, we’ll get more of that from them in the future because it worked perfectly here.
Top Tracks: The Lives They Wish They Had, Bugs.
6-Isaac Gracie- Isaac Gracie
Isaac Gracies debut self-titled album is one that totally took me by storm with its warmth when it was released back in April. A really easy going yet depth filled collection of tracks that have been the soundtrack to many late night train journeys for me. An intricately put together sound that runs throughout the album here, loads of little touches like the heartbeat on opening track ‘Terrified’ that showcases Gracies astonishing attention to detail. ‘The Death Of You & I’ and ‘Running On Empty’ sitting together here is a really strong back to back, they’re the two most energetic tracks on the album and they bounce off each-other perfectly with thier heavy charismatic drive. The Warm strings intertwined with tinges of percussion show particularly well on tracks like ‘That Was Then’ and ‘Telescope’. In an oversaturated musical world this album shows what an acoustic guitar lead album should sound like.
Top Tracks: The Death Of You & I, Running On Empty, Reverie.
5- The Wombats- Beautiful people will ruin your life
Coming in at number 5 is the soundtrack to the first half of my year The Wombats ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’. Thier 2007 debut firmly grounded them as one of UK indie legends and this album proves they’ve still got it. Ozzing coolness all over with tracks like opener ‘Cheetah tongue’ and the summer vibe drenched ‘Dip You In Honey’. ‘Lethal Combination’ is a massive standout moment here, hitting with a massive pompous opening before settling to a more subdued tambourine tinted soundscape underlining the You only live once Pro- party lyrics. Overall an overwhelmingly fun collection of tracks that have had me bopping along all year.
Top Tracks: Lemon to a Knife Fight, Out Of My Head.
4- Demob Happy- Holy Doom
B town Rockers Demob Happy are back with their second studio album ‘Holy Doom’ charting at number 4 here. Massive track ‘Liar In Your Head’ opens a Demob happy album the only way possible… LOUD, drenched in uninhibited and confident vocals and heavy riffs. ‘Be your man’ and ‘Fake Satan’ pull psych lead tendencies into play, building up a nice experimental spring. Some strikingly stylish points here with ‘Loosen It’ and ‘I Wanna Leave’ that just sail perfectly. ‘Running around’ is a strong point here and possibly my favourite track, a just short of 6 minutes long blend of shoegaze sensibilities and good ol’ rock and roll. A real journey of a track that works perfectly in the dynamic of the album as a whole. A rhythmically catchy album that still excites all these listens later.
Top tracks: Liar In Your Head, Spinning Out
3- Rory Wynne- Rory Wynne LP
The youngest artist on this list is 18-year-old Rory Wynne, an artist that I have been backing for a while now with his debut album ‘Rory Wynne LP’. An 8 track project created solely by Rory himself, recorded, mixed and mastered in his very own studio over a brief period of only two weeks. Despite its super fast turnaround you’d never be able to guess it from listening, it’s such a polished and exceptionally put together piece. Opening on my personal favourite track ‘Friends’ a real pacesetter for the album with its energetic guitar lead bounce framing the bittersweet lyricism of a one-sided crush. The dynamic here is really smooth between the deeper heavier cuts like ‘White Lines’ and ‘Enigma’ against the softer and more bubbly ones like ‘Little Miss Edgy’ and ‘Let’s have a Party’. There’s something here for every mood and I’m such a supporter of young artists, Rory shows a shed load of potential here and without a doubt 2019 is going to be his year, so get ready guys this is not the last of him you’ll be seeing here.
Top Tracks: Friends, White Lines
2- Black Honey- Black Honey
Just missing out on the top spot are Brighton babes Black Honey with their self-titled debut release. This was a long time in the making following a successful string of singles and EP’s. This album does not disappoint with each track being strikingly unique and different yet working in perfect harmony with each other. ‘Midnight’ is a real attention grabber, a retro disco track that it’s literally impossible not to move along to. Loads of other fun moments here courtesy of tracks like ‘Hello Today’ and ‘Baby’ that features a sweet acoustic start before turning into much more when the second verse hits. Some deep slow burners here ‘Dig’ was a real favourite for me pre the album’s release with its hollow gloomy atmospheric sound that paired along with the church bells on ‘Bad Friends’ and theatrical closing number ‘Wasting time’ adds a little mystery. Cuts like ‘Blue Romance’ and ‘Into The Nightmare’ have a very Tarantino soundtrack esque sound so there is a lot of variety all over this, a really interesting project and one I’m undoubtedly going to be coming back to for a while.
Top tracks: Midnight, Blue Romance
1- Florence And The Machine- High As Hope
We made it, finally here with my number one album of the year, Florence And The Machine and their stunning album ‘High As Hope’. From my first listen back in June I knew it was going to take this place, no other album even came close. what really draws this album is, of course, Welsh’s vocals her voice just seems to be getting better with age and ‘High As Hope’ shows her talent off to its full potential. I was drawn to giving the album a listen after falling for the lead single ‘Sky Full Of Song’ a true masterpiece that has a dreamy effortless bounce and sparkle to it that I just couldn’t let go of. ‘High As Hope’ as an album forms these beautifully minimalistic and organic soundscapes that manage to hold so much warmth and sit perfectly below Welsh’s vocals complementing them perfectly. Lyrically this album is one that hears Welsh open up and takes an extremely personal approach, the bold opening line on ‘Hunger’ ‘At seventeen I started to Starve myself’ is one that comes to mind along with the piano ballad ‘Grace’ a direct acknowledgement of her little sister of the same name and thier at points difficult relationship. On a lighter note, we get the stunning ode to her youth ‘South London forever’ an autobiographical track that you just feel this connection on, you feel like you are really stepping into her mind here, without a doubt one of my top tracks. Another moment where the vocals are left to lead the way is on the acapella opening of ‘No choir’ a track that really contextualises the whole album and brings it to a steady stop. A journey of an album that if you haven’t already heard you need to because it’s going to become a timeless classic, not only in my collection but for many.
Top tracks: South London Forever, Grace, Patricia