2018 was of course another really good year for music (as they all are), so (as last year) here are some short thoughts on my musical highlights of the year.
Albums of the year
My top 5 albums of the year are (probably):
Lithics: Mating Surfaces (second album from the Portland, Oregon band – this year’s finest work of angular, scratchy post-punk)
The Chills: Snow Bound (sixth studio album proper from the Kiwi indie popsters who are still at the top of their game)
Gigs of the year
Paul McCartney at the soon-to-be-renamed Echo Arena – my fifth time seeing Macca, whose voice is not what it once was, but still delivers a top, top show. Letting Go and Let Me Roll It were my highlights. Reviewed here.
Kurt Vile & The Violators at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – one of three London gigs I got to in 2018, and my first time seeing the slacker icon, in support of this year’s fine Bottle It In. Read more here.
Belle And Sebastian at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall – having seen them at Liverpool Sound City in May 2015 (as reviewed here), it was great to see them perform their own, indoor show. Read more here.
I only got to fifteen gigs this year due to changing work circumstances, but other notable ones were The Blank Tapes at the Shacklewell Arms (see here), a brief set from The Tuts at 93 Feet East, also in London (reviewed here), and getting to hear New Rose and Neat Neat Neat by The Damned at the O2 Academy, as reviewed here.
Songs of the year
Every year I compile a ‘best of’ CD for friends. I set a few rules – only one song per band/singer, and only songs released that year. If you want a copy, give me a shout.
This year’s track listing is:
- Camp Cope – The Opener. An aptly titled first track, an angry rant about sexism in the music industry (but with a tune!). One of a few bands on this disc discovered through the great The Ledge) podcast.
- The Chills – Snow Bound. Title track of only their sixth studio album since they first emerged more than three decades ago. A typically top tune.
- Half Man Half Biscuit – Man Of Constant Sorrow (With A Garage In Constant Use). Possibly the most tuneful number on the wonderfully-titled No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut.
- Dropkick – It’s Still Raining. More Scottish indie-ish power pop, off Longwave. One of several records bought this year as a result of hearing them on the fine The Big Takeover podcast.
- The Blank Tapes – It’s In My Mind. A band I initially found through The Rider podcast, this is a typical sixties-inspired low-key track.
- Blue Orchids – The Lad That Time Forgot. One of many highlights off the album.
- Say Sue Me – Old Town. Current holders of the hotly-contested mantle of best surf-pop inspired South Korean band out there, to these ears.
- Seazoo – Shoreline. Starts off all Dot Dash by Wire, but then turns into something quite Belle And Sebastian.
- Laura Veirs – Watch Fire. Fairly subtly featuring the guest vocals of Sufjan Stevens, this is a folky interlude among what I realise is a bit of an indie-heavy best of the year.
- Kurt Vile – Loading Zones. Probably the best song about parking I’ve ever heard. Feel free to point me towards a better one.
- Wreckless Eric – The World Revolved Around Me. A mellow, woozy highlight from Construction Time And Demolition, only his fourth album since 1980.
- The Spook School – Best Of Intentions. Reminds me a lot of Los Campesinos! and the best of late eighties twee.
- Phobophobes – Where Is My Owner?. Slightly doomy psych from the South Londoners who apparently pinched a swab from Abbey Road’s oldest microphone
- King Of The Slums – Crow Syndrome. Smoother than their 1989-1991 heyday but still uniquely KOTS.
- The Coral – Reaching Out For A Friend. They’re back as good as ever, if not perhaps even better than before.
- Goat Girl – Cracker Drool. Great slightly angular post punk, which perhaps should have been placed further away from track nineteen, in retrospect.
- The Aints! – The Church Of Simultaneous Existence. The title track off my album of the year. Nuff said.
- Courtney Barnett – Im Not Your Mother, Im Not Your Bitch. She seems to have been around for ages now, but this is off only her second full-length solo album, and is one of the rockiest numbers.
- Lithics – Excuse Generator. Probably the band on this CD I’d most like to see live.
- Oskar’s Drum – Nailing Her Hands. Off the second album by the duo featuring Patrick Fitzgerald of forgotten proto-shoegazers Kitchens Of Distinction.
- Buffalo Tom – All Be Gone. Another kind-of comeback of a band from my younger days, as they released their first album since 2011, and only their third of this millennium.
- The Goon Sax – Make Time 4 Love. Sung by Louis (son of Robert) Forster.
- Nathan Hall & The Sinister Locals – Glacial Glare. More quirky psych-y Welshness from the Soft Hearted Scientists offshoot.
- The Love-Birds – Hit My Head. Just decent indie pop from the San Franciscans’ debut album.
- Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Bellarine. Hope Downs is an album that featured in many end-of-year best of lists, and for good reason. A band who’ve clearly listened to a few records by The Go-Betweens, which is no bad thing.
- The Decemberists – I’ll Be Your Girl. They keep putting out albums every three years or so, and they’re always worth a listen. Folkier, with less synth elements than much of the rest of the album of the same name.
Again, only a few of these artists have featured on my Best Of CD’s in the recent past – Nathan Hall was on last year’s, The Goon Sax in 2016, with both The Chills and Courtney Barnett appearing a year earlier. HMHB were last on a CD in 2014, while The Blank Tapes were on in 2013, Kurt Vile in 2011, Laura Veirs in 2007 and The Decemberists in 2005.
Event of 2018
Sadly this was a death – the perhaps unsurprisingly early, but still much-lamented loss of the great Mark E. Smith of The Fall, my all-time favourite active band, so I now have a vacancy for that role. Two more legends in Pete Shelley of Buzzcocks and Aretha Franklin shuffled off this mortal coil in 2018.
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Here is my 2018 CD on Spotify: