Before I look back at my favourite (and least favourite) music from the past 12 months, I first of all want to apologise for the lack of posts in 2018. I haven’t posted nearly as much as I had hoped to, but I want 2019 to be different! The absence of content doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening to new music though. There’s been some fantastic releases this year, both from up-and-coming and established artists. I feel like a lot of artists went into 2018 with a point to prove, and this was shown through the music they released. Whether it be a lack of success from the previous album, changing musical direction to avoid being categorised as a one-trick-pony or falling into obscurity, or dealing with personal issues behind the scenes, a lot of the best music this year has had clear purpose and determination behind it. It’s been difficult to narrow down my favourite albums and tracks of the year, but without further ado here is my review of 2018:
Top 5 Albums of the Year
- Skylight – Pinegrove: Having postponed the release of the album and disappearing for most of 2018 following allegations of sexual coercion against lead singer Evan Stephens Hall, Pinegrove eventually released the long-anticipated Skylight in September shortly after a Pitchfork article explaining the band’s hiatus. Despite being released under the radar, Skylight really is a brilliant album from start to finish. The songwriting, the emotion, the originality of Pinegrove’s sound, and the growth of the band as musicians. Tracks to look out for: Rings, Darkness
- Delta – Mumford & Sons: No one knew what to expect from Mumford & Sons’ fourth album after they ditched the folk and waistcoats for American Rock with their third album, Wilder Mind. With Delta the four piece have moved in another direction once again – and it’s worked! They’ve brought back the acoustic instruments but introduced an interesting mix of synths, orchestras, electronic percussion and R&B-style rhythms. Mumford’s vocals are flawless as always, and the mixture of acoustic-ballads and upbeat synth-pop really exposes the band’s strengths. Tracks to look out for: Delta, Slip Away
- Kamikaze – Eminem: Without doubt the surprise of the year, Eminem dropped Kamikaze out of nowhere in September and captured the full attention of the hip-hop world with an abundance of controversial disses and a satisfying reminder of how ruthless Slim can be. Having only released the critically-shunned Revival at the end of 2017, backlash from the critics coupled with the staggering rise of ‘mumble rap’ provided the motivation and rage Em needed to write and release a high-calibre record in just nine months. The ‘beef’ that followed between Eminem and MGK was quite entertaining too! Tracks to look out for: Lucky You (feat. Joyner Lucas) and Fall
- Defy – Of Mice & Men: Following the release of Unbreakable and Back to Me, the impressive first two singles from the album and the first tracks to be released following the departure of screamer Austin Carlile at the end of 2016, Defy offers a solid, consistent collection of hard-rock anthems and gives promise to the future of the band with Aaron Pauley at the helm. Tracks to look out for: Forever YDG’n, Warzone
- Malibu Nights – LANY: Californian synth-pop group LANY released their sophomore album Malibu Nights less than 18 months after their debut self-titled album, continuing the extraordinary momentum they have created since breaking onto the commercial scene. Whilst only 9 tracks long, Malibu Nights offers more of the classic LANY sound, but with slicker production and more heartfelt lyrics. Tracks to look out for: If You See Her, Thick and Thin
Top 5 Songs of the Year
- Rings (Pinegrove) – Rings has had a big impact on me since the first time I heard it. Not only is it a brilliantly written song, but Rings is the opening track on Skylight and so was the first new song I’d heard from my favourite band following a hiatus which I thought might not end. It marked the return of what I believe to be the greatest band of recent years. Rings is simple yet effective, upbeat yet heartfelt, catchy yet intriguing. It’s Pinegrove doing what they do best. To hear an entire crowd cheer and sing along when they opened with it in Amsterdam gave the song a whole new meaning too.
- Golden Embers (Mandolin Orange) – the second single from the forthcoming album Tides of a Teardrop, due for release in February 2019, Golden Embers is an incredibly emotional song about the pain and heartbreak lead singer Andrew Marlin suffered following the death of his mother. The chemistry between Andrew and Emily is as strong as ever, and the harmonies, riff, breakdown and violin all play off each other perfectly to produce a Mandolin Orange classic.
- Lake Effect Kid (Fall Out Boy) – since ending their hiatus in 2013, FOB have felt like a different band to me. I’m all for ‘maturity’, but their music has become more and more difficult to listen to as the years go by. Except for one song…Lake Effect Kid. This track could easily have been from Infinity on High or From Under The Cork Tree and is so damn good. It was released as part of the Lake Effect Kid EP in August, and although perhaps just a one-off reminder of the glory days, I’m glad Fall Out Boy decided to share this piece of gold with the world!
- Maybe It’s Time (Bradley Cooper) – written by Americana singer-songwriter Jason Isbell, Maybe It’s Time is featured in the critically acclaimed film A Star Is Born and is performed fantastically well by the film’s lead actor Bradley Cooper. A stripped-back acoustic number about change within oneself, Maybe It’s Time is a highlight of the film and soundtrack.
- Fractured and Dazed (The Kooks) – I was torn between this, All The Time and No Pressure, all taken from The Kooks’ 2018 album Let’s Go Sunshine, which was close to making my top 5 of the year. Fractured and Dazed takes the edge though, with the catchiest chorus, strongest vocal performance, and really showing above all the others that The Kooks are back to their best and mean business.
Highlight of the year
Mumford & Sons/National Geographic present Delta – on the evening before the release of Delta, I was fortunate enough to have won tickets to a screening of the new Mumford & Sons album at The Vaults theatre in London. Not only was this an opportunity to hear Delta before its release date, but the band had teamed up with National Geographic to produce an incredible film to go alongside the music. The footage perfectly encapsulated the emotion in each song and is vivid in my head whenever I listen to the album. An innovative idea and an unforgettable experience! The footage is now on YouTube as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qz-8UGgdT0&list=PLKLvY5HlozhLcl2IqrcVaYG2lVMnREkzO
Disappointment of the year
Tenacious D in Post-Apocalypto – it pains me to have to put one of my favourite bands in this category, but I felt very let down with Post-Apocalypto, Tenacious D’s fourth album and the soundtrack to their animated mini-series of the same name. The songwriting is lazy, the humour is nowhere near as clever as previous efforts, and the songs are forgettable. Not to mention that there are only a handful of actual songs on the album when you exclude the skits, and the average length-time of a song is a meagre 2 minutes. ‘Hope’ and the last 30 seconds of Robot are the highlights for me; the rest was not up to the D’s usual high standards.
Other notable releases
Rather than ending on a bad note with the ‘disappointment of the year’, I want to list other great releases from this year that deserve a mention:
- Architects – Holy Hell (top tracks: Doomsday, Hereafter, Royal Beggars)
- The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (top tracks: I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes), Sincerity is Scary, Love It If We Made It)
- Honne – Love Me/Love Me Not (top tracks: Day 1, Me & You, Crying Over You)
- WSTR – Identity Crisis (top tracks: Promiscuous, Crisis, Fling)
- SHVPES – Greater Than (top tracks: War, Calloused Hands, Afterlife)
- Moose Blood – I Don’t Think I Can Do This Anymore (top tracks: Just Outside, Can We Stay Like This, It’s Too Much)
- State Champs – Living Proof (top tracks: Crystal Ball, Lightning, Criminal)
- You Me At Six – VI (top tracks: Straight To My Head, Miracle in the Mourning, Pray For Me)
- The Wild Feathers – Greetings from the New Frontier (top tracks: Big Sky, Wildfire, Stand By You)
- Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Four Out Of Five, Star Treatment, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino)
- As It Is – The Great Depression (The Handwritten Letter; The Wounded World; The Fire, The Dark)
- Black Stone Cherry – Family Tree (Bad Habit, Burnin’, Ain’t Nobody)
- Blossoms – Cool Like You (I Can’t Stand It, There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls), How Long Will This Last?)
- John Mayer – New Light
- Slipknot – All Out Life
- Homesafe – Run
- Gorillaz – Humility (feat. George Benson)
- Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga – Shallow
- Ben Howard – Nica Libres At Dusk
- The Kooks – Four Leaf Clover
- Noah Gundersen – Wrong Side
- As December Falls – Ride
- Oscar and the Wolf – On Fire
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my favourite releases of the year! I’ve put them all into a Spotify Playlist (AS4S 2018) if you want to check them out. It would be great to hear about your favourite songs/albums of 2018 too!