The 25 Best of Albums 2018

25. Hayley Kiyoko – Expectations

Image result for hayley kiyoko expectations

The debut album from Hayley was one of the strongest pop releases of the year – with consistently good tracks and a really coherent, flowing tracklist and clean, shimmery production.

24. Spring King – A Better Life

Image result for spring king a better life

Sadly now confirmed to be the last Spring King album, A Better Life is more of what made their first record great but with amped up production and more variety and experience in the songwriting, making for a great indie-rock record.

23. Chvrches – Love Is Dead

Image result for chvrches love is dead

Now on their 3rd album, Chvrches returned with their poppiest album yet, showing they can still knock out some really strong synth-pop bangers with strong melodies and catchy hooks.

22. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really FeelImage result for courtney barnett - tell me how you really feel

Courtney again proves herself to be one of the best singer-songwriters in the world (definitely the best in Australia) with this album, with witty poignant tracks and great guitar hooks abundant.

21. Panic! At The Disco – Pray For The Wicked

Image result for panic at the disco - pray for the wicked cover

Brendon Urie and co returned with an album full of massive hits with a big band flavour; brass and strings aplenty make this album feel like the biggest production they have ever had. The album almost sounds like a greatest hits collection with the amount of big singles on show.

20. MGMT – Little Dark Age

Image result for mgmt little dark age

The title track was one of the best songs to come out of 2017, and the rest of the album followed suit; quirky synth-pop tunes with lots of character and great melodies make this one of the catchiest albums of the year, and the relatable and relevant lyrics make it a great project, and revitalised MGMT.

19. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer

Image result for Father John Misty - God's Favourite Customer

Following on from last year’s Pure Comedy was always going to be difficult, and while GFC doesn’t quite match up to the conceptual heights of the last album, this is still a brilliant collection of moody, witty tracks with the likes of Mr.Tillman showing Josh’s songwriting at its very best.

18. Brockhampton – iridescence 

Image result for brockhampton iridescence

One of the strongest rap albums of the year, iridescence shows that Brockhampton are here to stay and really aren’t messing around. A varied but still coherent project that showcases all of the members of the best boyband on the planet.

17. Nick J D Hodgson – Tell Your Friends

Image result for Nick J D Hodgson - Tell Your Friends

The debut solo project from Ex-Kaiser Chief Nick is a brilliant first effort with a selection of tracks that showcase just how good of a songwriter he is, with tracks like ‘Tomorrow I Love You’ sounding like it could have been a hit in any of the past few decades.

16. Twenty One Pilots – Trench

Image result for twenty one pilots trench

Coming through with their strongest album yet both lyrically and sonically, Top have made a really thematically strong, coherent pop/rock/rap album and have perfected the sound that they have carved out for themselves over the past few years.

15. David Byrne – American Utopia

Image result for david byrne american utopia

With American Utopia, David Byrne has proved that he is as on the ball as he ever was, with hard hitting relevant themes matched to catchy, funky tracks full of his trademark wit and charm such as ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ and ‘Dog’s Mind’.

14. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears 

Image result for Let's Eat Grandma - I'm All Ears

Electro Duo Let’s Eat Grandma have really come through on their second album with a brilliantly produced project full of expansive, erratic but focused electronic pop songs. ‘Falling Into Me’ is an album highlight, it being an amazing progressive banger.

13. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Image result for the 1975 - a brief inquiry into online relationships

A really varied, well produced album with a multitude of influences used to deliver clever and relevant social commentary about the state of the world with references to mental health, immigration and social media is the best project from Matty Healy and co so far by far, and it’s great.

12. Ariana Grande – Sweetener 

Image result for Ariana Grande - Sweetener

Ariana really showed just how good she can be on Sweetener. The singles dropped from the album were consistently bettering the last, and the album did not dissapoint with amazing production from Pharrell on tracks like ‘R.E.M’ and those singles like ‘God is a Woman’ and ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ showcasing her amazing vocals and just general talent.

11. Pale Waves – My Mind Makes Noises

Image result for pale waves - my mind makes noises

Manchester goth-pop group Pale Waves have had one of the fastest rises in indie in recent years, and their debut album is testament to why they have shot up. Great, catchy songs with hard-hitting honest lyrics and 80’s inspired production and melodies that still manage to sound modern and cutting edge are bound to gain popularity. And it’s well deserved.

10. Gorillaz – The Now Now

Image result for gorillaz - the now now

Much more focused than 2017’s ‘Humanz’ album, ‘The Now Now’ is the best Gorillaz project in a long time, with tracks like ‘Tranz’ and ‘Hollywood’ (which has a great feature from Snoop Dogg) showing Damon can still write a great pop banger, and ‘Souk Eye’ being one of the most beautiful songs he has ever written.

9. Anderson. Paak -Oxnard

Image result for oxnard cover

A really smooth, catchy funky album from Andy here is a late entry into this list, but with glistening tracks like ‘Tints’ with Kendrick and the amazing flows and production shown on tracks like ‘Who R U?’ means this is Anderson’s finest album so far, and one of the best of the year.

8.Christine & The Queens – Chris

Image result for Christine & The Queens - Chris

What difficult second album? Chris levelled up with a collection of sleekly produced groovy pop tunes that built upon the themes of her debut in every way, becoming more confident and explicit while still maintaining that charm that drew everyone to her in the first place.

7. The Orielles – Silver Dollar Moment

Image result for the orielles - silver dollar moment

Perhaps the grooviest album of the year, Silver Dollar Moment is full of great, funky tracks with great story-telling lyrics and a real sense of fun throughout. ’48 Percent’ is one of the happiest, catchiest tracks of the year, and ‘Blue Suitcase (Disco Wrist)’ has potentially the best bassline. Nice.

6. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Image result for arctic monkeys tranquility base hotel & casino album cover

I’m so glad they decided to go off on one on their latest album, because it really worked. Alex took the Arctic Monkeys to the moon, with a concept album about a Hotel and Casino that proves that sometimes being as outlandish as possible does work. He did what he wanted, and it showed just how brilliant he can be.

5. Kero Kero Bonito – Time n Place

Image result for kero kero bonito time n place

Changing your sound after a breakout album will always be risky, but KKB made the right choice here on ‘Time n Place’, building on their original sound added even more layers to their personality, and matching the clever, upbeat tracks that tell great little stories with the more complicated production really makes this album stand out from their previous.

 

4. Teleman – Family Of Aliens

Image result for teleman family of aliens

At this point I just expect Teleman to be great, and thankfully they were. Bettering themselves yet again with their best album so far, ‘Family of Aliens’ is an album full of grooves and great melodies with really thoughtful lyrics full of heart that really get better with each listen. ‘Cactus’ is an absolute banger too.

3. Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer

Image result for Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

As soon as I heard ‘Make Me Feel’ from this album, I knew that Janelle was going to release one of the best projects of the year, and I was right, with ‘Dirty Computer’ being her strongest to date. The run of tracks from ‘Django Jane’ to ‘I Like That’ is incredible.

2. Kali Uchis – Isolation

Image result for kali uchis isolation album cover

‘Isolation’ is Kali’s debut full studio album and in my opinion no other debut has shown as much promise. A cohesive, flowing album full of varied, lively tracks with great vocal performances and featured producers make ‘Isolation’ one of the strongest albums of the year.

1. The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land 

Image result for good bad queen merrie land

‘Merrie Land’ was the album that hit closest to home for me this year with its messages and themes; pairing that with the consistently brilliant songwriting from Damon Albarn and the great musicianship from the likes of Paul Simonon and Tony Allen, this album couldn’t have come at a better time.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land review

It has been 11 years since the last album by The Good, The Bad & The Queen, and a lot has changed since then. Thankfully TGTB&TQ have not, and are as on the ball as they were back in 2007. 

Title track and opener ‘Merrie Land’ sets a haunting scene of a picturesque but broken Britain that is worth fighting for while at the same time asking if it’s worth the bother, with Albarn sounding already defeated.  ‘Gun To The Head’ is an album highlight for me, sounding like Parklife-era Blur mixed with Madness with its chanty chorus and oompa beat, but the melancholy undertone is still present despite the upbeat brass. 

‘The Last Man To Leave’ is one of the most inventive, intense and simply brilliant tracks on the album, and that Damon has ever done; Damon’s vocals sounding like a crazed preacher shouting about not wanting to leave and ‘liking the bed we’ve made to lie in’ while still carrying real, heartbreaking emotion.

The whole album plays out like a sad but hopeful love letter to the UK. The lyrics to ‘Nineteen Seventeen’ perhaps most directly hint at Brexit woes; ‘I see myself moving backwards in time today from a place we can’t remain … My heart is heavy because it looks just like my home.’ with other tracks referring to lines on maps and Windrush.

While this may seem a bit too in your face and preachy when written down, rest assured the whole project has that beautiful sad echo throughout it that only Damon at his best can bring, with his truly great songwriting helped come to life even further by the stellar line-up of Paul Simonon on Bass, Tony Allen on Drums and Simon Tong on guitar.

A few songs do sound very similar to each other and a bit one-note, with ‘The Great Fire’ being a bit of a low point for me, but these tracks are in the minority and the album still flows fairly well.

The themes in this album will hit home for those in the UK at the moment, but the messages of drifting apart and regret leave a lot to the imagination, and the meticulously crafted songs can be enjoyed by anyone. This is the perfect album for 2018.

98%

Track Review: The Good, The Bad & The Queen – Merrie Land

Another project from the man who never stops making music, Damon Albarn, is on the Horizon, with the second The Good, The Bad & The Queen releasing in November. ‘Merrie Land’ is the title track, and the first new music from the group since 2007.

Sounding halfway between early Blur and The Magic Whip, this first glimpse of the album is a very promising one. Melancholy lyrics about the state of post-brexit UK set to a carnival-esque instrumental. No idea how he had the time to make something this good whilst being on tour non-stop for the past few years.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen have been gone a long while, but they came back at the right time.

90%

You can pre-order Merrie Land here.

They have some upcoming UK dates in December, on sale Friday:

Dec 1st – The North Pier, Blackpool
https://www.seetickets.com/event/the-good-the-bad-the-queen/north-pier/1272677
Dec 2nd – SWG3, Glasgow
http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/3600554FD1925A60
Dec 4th – Hackney Arts Centre, London
https://www.seetickets.com/event/the-good-the-bad-the-queen/earth-hackney-arts-centre-/1272679
Dec 5th – Hackney Arts Centre, London
https://www.seetickets.com/event/the-good-the-bad-the-queen/earth-hackney-arts-centre-/1272681
Dec 6th – Hackney Arts Centre, London
https://www.seetickets.com/event/the-good-the-bad-the-queen/earth-hackney-arts-centre-/1272682

Gorillaz – The Now Now Review

I was quite worried when I heard that a new Gorillaz album would be coming so soon after the last, with the collab-heavy Humanz being released just over a year ago in April 2017. There was no need to worry.

A lot has changed since 2017 in the world of Gorillaz, with Murdoc currently in Jail and temporarily replaced by Ace, ex-traumatiser of the Powerpuff Girls. This has left 2D in charge of the music, and with the album we have got out of it I wouldn’t rush to free Murdoc.

Opening track and lead single Humility is a lovely, bouncy, summery song that features George Benson and is very catchy indeed; the song’s slick, shimmery production continues throughout the album and the quality of the tracks is consistently brilliant.

Second track Tranz is an album highlight, a complete contrast to the breezy Humility, it is a dark, groovy synth track that shows how varied and interesting a Gorillaz project can be without the need for an onslaught of features.  Hollywood is another groovy cut, featuring Humanz staple Jamie Principle and a great verse from Snoop that elevates the track. The half spoken/sung chorus really works well with the instrumental here as it’s not too over the top.

Another highlight on the album for me is Idaho. A country ballad of sorts, the track sounds amazingly peaceful and grand without being at all bland, being very simple on the surface, but with each listen you notice another little layer there.

Usually i’m not a fan of instrumental tracks, especially in an album context. Lake Zurich is just too much of a bop to ignore though, and instantly becoming one of the most memorable songs off the album.

The album closes with a trio of slower songs, each managing to sound different to the next, with One Percent sounding like a sad distress call from space and Souk Eye’s slow fade out xylophone giving me the feeling of the end of a great movie or gig that you don’t want to end.

This is the best Damon project since 2010’s Plastic Beach, and he has massively topped Humanz, which while I still enjoyed really doesn’t compare much to this.

96%

Best Three: Tranz, Idaho, Souk Eye

Kali Uchis – Isolation Review

While the debut album from Colombia-American artist Kali Uchis boasts many impressive features from the likes of Tyler The Creator, Damon Albarn & Jorja Smith, it’s Kali’s vision that shines through.

The singles leading up to the album’s release, like ‘After The Storm’ and ‘Tyrant’ were all brilliant, with each of them having distinct different vibes while still showcasing Kali’s charm. This quality and variety carries through the whole project.

Standout tracks like the irresistibly groovy ‘Your Teeth In My Neck’ and the upbeat Gorillaz-esque ‘In My Dreams’ further showcase her incredible songwriting ability and just how good a performer she is.

Yet another effortless genre-hop comes in the form of the Tame Impala collab ‘Tomorrow’. There isn’t a single track that feels forced or out of place on in the tracklist. Every feature actually adds something to their track rather than just being there for the sake of it.

This debut album proves that Kali is here to stay, and we should all just embrace it.

96%