The best of the best…
The intro to my album of the year lists are starting to read more like an existential crisis than an article about music. More than ever this year I find myself feeling like an old man that music has left behind. I don’t recognise festival headliners, end of year lists leave me cold and, worst of all, I am beginning to find standing up at gigs a great indignity for a man of my age.
So. Take this list with a pinch of salt. This is not a measured response from a music expert but rather an anguished howl from an increasingly irrelevant has-been. Let’s do this…
10. Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
Best Track: Lazy Boy
Still going strong after five critically acclaimed albums, Glasgow heroes Franz Ferdinand remain one of the most interesting and angular guitar bands on the British music scene.
The bombastic title track Always Ascending is a highlight but it is the ferocious Lazy Boy that takes the plaudits on an album that is pleasingly short but sweet.
For a live review of Franz Ferdinand 2018 show at Manchester Victoria Warehouse, click here.
9. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Best Track: Need A Little Time
After the slightly underwhelming collaboration with Kurt Vile on last year’s Lotta Sea Lice, Courtney Barnett came roaring back into form on her sophomore effort Tell Me How You Really Feel. Featuring the legendary Deal sisters Kim and Kelly and boasting some of the year’s best singles, Barnett’s second record finds her at her rambling, vibrant best, particularly on tracks such as Need A Little Time and Nameless, Faceless.
8. Frank Turner – Be More Kind
Best Track: 1933
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Make America Great Again is a dreadful, awful song. Now we have addressed it, lets put the elephant out of it’s misery and use it’s tusk to fashion an ivory club with which to beat Frank Turner with if he ever attempts to write such a dreadful, mawkish song again.
That abomination aside however, Be More Kind is one of the better late era Frank Turner albums and the Winchester Wizard sounds as vital as ever on the incendiary 1933. Elsewhere, the title track sees Turner channel his sentimentality in a way that isn’t embarrassing and 21st Century Survival Blues shows that his ear for a catchy melody remains undiminished.
For a review of Frank Turner’s 2018 show at Sheffield Academy, click here.
For every Frank Turner album ranked from worst to best, click here.
7. The Wonder Years – Sister Cities
Best Track: Raining in Kyoto
Still one of the most underrated guitar bands around, The Wonder Years are carrying the torch for the emo genre in an era where most of their peers have fallen by the wayside.
Sister Cities is the bands sixth album and is also their best since 2013’s The Greatest Generation. Raining in Kyoto showcases a lyrical maturity that ensures that Dan Campbell and his band of Philly legends remain as relevant and compelling as ever.
6. The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl
Best Track: Severed
Colin Meloy’s Decemberists are probably the best cult artist in the world and their eighth record is a synth-led delight with tracks like Severed and Once in My Life proving that the Portland band still know their way around a big chorus and a clever turn of phrase.
The Decemberists are a band that I came to late but have since become one of my favourites. If you have not yet taken the plunge into their world of melodic storytelling, pick any of their eight albums and become part of the Decemberists family.
For a live review of the Decemberists’ 2018 show at Leeds Academy, click here.
5. The Beths – Future Me Hates Me
Best Track: Little Death
Auckland three piece The Beths produced one of the best debut albums of the year with their sunshine infused indie pop gem Future Me Hates Me. The infectious Little Death is the highlight but there is quality throughout on an album that is assured and impossible to resist.
In Elizabeth Stokes, The Beths have a lead singer who has the potential to conquer the world. For now, they will have to make do with recording an album that could, and should, be enjoyed by everyone.
4. Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn
Best Track: Don’t Be Scared, I Love You
As well as being a founder member of The Coral and a sometime collaberator with the Arctic Monkeys, Bill Ryder-Jones has become a solo artist in his own right with the cinematic If… An assured debut that started a run of five albums that has culminated in 2018’s achingly beautiful Yawn.
Nobody quite does yearning like Ryder-Jones and Yawn is an album that drips in longing without being melodramatic. Don’t Be Scared, I Love You and Recover are some of the best constructed tracks of the year and prove again that Ryder-Jones is one of the UK’s most underrated songwriters.
3. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Best Track: Four Out of Five
One of the most talked about and controversial albums of the year, Tranqulity Base Hotel & Casino is at once the worst Arctic Monkeys album and yet one of the best albums of 2018. There are simply no other guitar bands working today who are capable of producing music that is as groundbreaking or as interesting as Alex Turner and his Sheffield cohorts.
Despite parts of the record being unlistenable, when it is good, it is really good. The title track is as dramatic as anything put out under the Last Shadow Puppets moniker, Four Out of Five is the banger that people claimed the album lacked and One Point Perspective is one of the tracks of the year.
For a more in-depth look at the Arctic Monkeys’ sixth album, click here.
For every Arctic Monkeys’ album ranked from worst to best, click here.
2. Boy Azooga – 1,2, Kung Fu!
Best Track: Losers in the Tomb
One of the few bands I have discovered after watching Later… with Jools Holland (again, I’ve reached the age now where this is a thing), Boy Azooga are a revelation. Debut album 1,2, Kung Fu! is packed full of ideas but more importantly it combines the type of melodies you would expect from Radiohead’s funkiest moments with the sort of lyrical word play that Alex Turner would be proud of.
Loner Boogie is the song that opened the door to Boy Azooga and their unique brand of madcap indie genius but Losers in the Tomb is the album’s highlight. A sweeping, majestic song that is impossible to ignore.
If you have come to this article to discover new music, this is the album I would recommend. You will not be disappointed. Well you might be. Life is a series of disappointments and defeats after all. Just listen to Boy Azooga for chrissakes.
1. Idles – Joy As An Act of Resistance
Best Track: Danny Nedelko
Not content with establishing themselves as one of the UK’s most exciting live acts, Idles released their second album to critical acclaim and a top 5 placing in the album charts.
Joy As An Act of Resistance is not as good as the band’s debut album Brutalism. I’m sorry but it just isn’t, no matter how much the narrative of the music press wants it to be. That being said it is still the most exciting and riveting listen of the year.
For a full article devoted to how much I love Idles, click here.
Soccer Mommy – Clean
The Wombats – Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
Blossoms – Cool Like You
Gaz Coombes – World’s Strongest Man
Eels – Deconstruction
Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
Interpol – Marauder
Eminem – Kamikaze
Suede – The Blue Hour
Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?
Estrons – You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough
Gengahr – Where Wildness Grows
Shame – Songs of Praise
Spring King – A Better Life
Teleman – A Family of Aliens
Viagra Boys – Street Worms