TOP 5 RECORDS OF 2018
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
This is how you make a comeback record. Easily one of the best comebacks since Swans reformed and morphed into a new uncompromising creature.
So much ground is covered on this album and yet it is so cohesive in it’s lyrical themes and insanity of it’s content.
I must have listened to this 10-15 times all the way through since it was released and I still keep going back for more.
Daughters held off making a new album (even throwing away an albums worth of material) until it worked and I (and so many others) are very glad they did.
The Armed – Only Love
Ever the mysterious, mischievous and elusive – The Armed stand out in a crowded hardcore/metalcore scene with their numerous antics and tricks.
Some of these include releasing a live record made up of guerilla gigs at gas stations, parking lots amongst others, never revealing their identity by wearing costumes on-stage, getting random friends to do their photoshoots and gear video rundowns, as well as releasing an infamous Stone Temple Pilots vocal audition video.
I was introduced to The Armed via their blistering “Untitled” record and was very intrigued to give this new album a go.
Rather than reinventing “Untitled”, they took what they had done before and fussed it with other more pop/melodic/up beat influences such as Andrew W.K, to make (in their own words) “the sell out record that no major label wanted”!
The record features Converge drummer Ben Koller who they apparently tricked to play on the record?!… (who knows if that’s true) and also used outtakes of Converge songs to form some of the tracks. They also recorded with Kurt Ballou, took the recording sessions and completely morphed them in to a glitchy nightmare then sent them back to be remixed.
Anyways, enough words already, go listen:
SUMAC – Love in Shadow
One of best metals bands with some of metals best band members pushing themselves further and making longer form, more experimental and epic music… Do I need to say anything else?…
Birds in Row – We Already Lost the World
I’ve been aware of Birds in Row for a while but never got hooked until this showed up.
It incorporates even more post-hardcore elements and is by their most dynamic and mature record to date (well in my opinion at least).
The song “15-38” in particular sounds like nothing they have done before and it’s one of my favourites.
Baptists – Beacon of Faith
Another highly anticipated album that didn’t disappoint. Baptists return with more mind bending hardcore, pushing the limits of drums, guitars and tempo (mostly down to the incredible sticksman Nick Yacyshyn, also on the SUMAC record mentioned above) with potent social/politically charged lyrics by a front man who is also on the front line of Vancouver’s poverty underbelly working as a social worker (check out this great interview here for more on that.
The Hyena Kill – Spun
Bloodbath – The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn
Orbital Junction – Orbital Junction
Svalbard – It’s Hard To Have Hope
Black Peaks – All That Divides
Blimey! What a year for so much beautiful amazing new music! And I feel like I’m just scratching the surface here! Picking just five albums to rave about has been a hard task, in truth there are near on thirty albums I could talk about without having to stop and think, all
deserve the attention, and all could be an album of the year!
Of course, there’s one album more than any other that has taken my time and attention this year; Jo Quail’s incredible fourth album ‘Exsolve’. Having been closely involved with this album through its writing and development and then recording I’ve got to know it inside out and still each playing sends shivers down my spine! As Jo’s manager I would say that though (!) but please don’t take my word, the reviews have been fantastic!
This list though is about the music that has grabbed my attention and my time and money through 2018 and got me as excited about music as I’ve ever been and I’m gonna to be delighted if you find something new that excites you too out of this lot!
SubRosa – Subdued (Live at Roadburn 2017)
Ok technically this was a 2017 release but came too late for last year’s lists and, anyway, the vinyl came out in January so it’s in! Couldn’t not be for this is something truly special. Recorded live in ‘the church’ at Roadburn 2017, this was SubRosa’s second performance of
the festival. This is the ‘other’ SubRosa, one rarely glimpsed, stripped back, bare, intimate – not acoustic nor, dare I say it, ‘unplugged’ – Subdued. The band reworked and reimagined songs going right back to the beginning with thought, it seems to me, of bringing out all of their emotive power. The resulting performance, and this album, are as a private invitation into the deeply personal heart of these songs; somewhere sacred.
And that one word – sacred – seems to say it all for me. For this is a realisation (if I really needed it) that I am privileged to hear this work and worship at this particular altar. All this might make it sound that this is a heavy going, it’s not even if I can’t listen without
shedding some tears!
SubRosa ‘Subdued’ – the power of ‘less is (so much) more’. Truly immersive, beautiful.
The Ocean – Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic
The long wait is forgotten and, eight albums in, it feels as if The Ocean are just getting into their stride. Part one of a two part release, Phanerozoic II is due in 2020, and there is more than enough here to spend eons listening to for this is an album that will reward you for
your time. More than anything it is truly a work that has been crafted, I can imagine the hours put into every detail and, much like Jo Quail’s Exsolve, there is so much detail to enthral (it’s another incredible headphone experience too!) and absorb. I can imagine too it
will take time for its scope and breadth to be completely appreciated but be in no doubt what The Ocean have brought forth is nothing short of a masterpiece of a sonic journey, and a masterclass of a ‘modern’ record. Breath taking, and Album Of the Year!
Jessica Moss – Entanglement
Pools Of Light very firmly planted the flag for Jessica Moss as a solo artist and yet Entanglement is on an entirely higher level; a ‘quiet’ album but a huge and deeply powerful one. I am certainly not going to utter the ‘A’ word and to describe this work as drone would
be to do this record a massive disservice even though that genre would be thrilled to call this album its own! There’s a narrative here, especially on the 22-minutes of the thrillingly epic ‘Particles’, of science and nature, of what’s out ‘there’ in all our ‘unknowns’ and yet
there’s humility and frailty too. For this wonderful album is very much human, in the warmth and richness and the way Jessica allows the work to breath and take on life of its own. Magnificent.
Mythic Sunship – Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music
Jazz! Psychedelia!! A joyful, near chance discovery earlier this year and I’ve not stopped listening since! Someone described Mythic Sunship’s sound as “the ethos of free jazz in a doom setting” which might give a clue! The Obelisk described this as sounding like Earthless
ripping into ‘Bitches Brew’ and I don’t think I can top that! What I do know is that despite repeated listening each time I play Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music I’m hit with the same thrill as hearing it for the first time! Absorbing, surprising and gorgeous.
Boss Keloid – Melted On The Inch
Heavy as you like and absolutely massive, and that’s just for starters! Boss Keloid refine and mature their sound and push their craft to a whole different level, the roots of their heavy big sound are all here and correct but this album goes way beyond all that and shows
they’re not at all afraid to step out of their comfort zone! There is so much going on in this album though and the guys realise each delicious moment with total conviction. The otherworldly atmospherics, the light and shade, the amazing vocals enhance the brilliant
song writing and take every advantage of the fantastic, shimmering production. Melted On The Inch demands to be devoured whole and in one sitting! What on earth will they come up with next? Stunning.
The Honourable Mentions:
Windhand – Eternal Return
Slow Crush – Aurora
Conan – Existential Void Guardian
MØL – Jord
A-Sun Amissa – Ceremony in the Stillness
Black Helium – Primitive Fuck
Bismuth – The Slow Dying Of The Great Barrier Reef
Ancient Lights – Ancient Lights
Yob – Our Raw Heart
Earth Ship – Resonant Sun
Grave Lines – Fed Into The Nihilist Engine
Wolvennest – Void
Arabrot – Who Do You Love
Mother Crone – Awakening
Dead Space Chamber Music – Dead Space Chamber Music
Famyne – Famyne
Jessica Moss – Entanglement
Bast – Nanoångström
ZU & Mats Gustafsson – How To Raise An Ox
Wart Biter – Wart Biter
Sectioned – Annihilated
TOP 5 GIGS OF 2018
8 Years of Chaos – The Brewhouse
Biased I know, but this was one of the best festivals of the year and one of my favourite Wren shows of the year too. Perfect setting to go between the two rooms and experience all sorts of weird and wonderful music. Looking forward to 9 years!
Smash It Out V – The Windmill
Another local festival classic by the amazing Cosmic Carnage (now relocated to Cardiff) and Sonic Grave (now on hiatus) promoters at Brixton’s best dive venue, The Windmill.
Bong meditated, Petbrick destroyed, Torpor crushed, Warren Schoenbright amazed – these are of my personal highlights.
Lightning Bolt – The Black Heart
I was pretty sad when I spent 15 minutes refreshing the ticket page (prior and post the ticket release) to find that it was completely sold out.
I was very happy when through other means (not through the black market or breaking and entering) I managed to get in and experienced one of my favourite bands ever at one of my favourite London venues.
They absolutely destroyed, as they always do, at all 8 of the shows I’ve seen them play!
ArcTanGent – Fernhill Farm
One of the UK’s best festivals delivers another year of incredible music with Shellac, Part Chimp, Glassjaw, Pijn & Conjurer and Alcest being some of my highlights.
I also got to play this great festival with my band Wren, which will be one of my personal highlights of the year.
Eli Keszler – Café Oto
One of the drum world’s most innovative players with crazy technique and feel.
Eli released a brand new album this year and performed some of this at Cafe Oto, as well as doing a improvised set with John Butcher.
Never seen a drummer with such wild technique and dynamics. He always suggests a beat… but never actually plays one! Amazing.
GOLD – The Black Heart, London
Grave Lines – Boston Music Room, London
Sepultura – KOKO, London
The Creepshow – The Underworld, London
9000 John Doe – Pumpehuset, Copenhagen
Tides Of Ire – The Unicorn, London
Blood Command – Scala, London
Orange Goblin – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
The Hyena Kill – Oslo Hackney, London
Fight The Fight – 229 The Venue, London
I don’t suppose seeing just about ten minutes of Wren’s incredible set at 8 Years Of Chaos would count for much of a gig review although I do have a decent excuse as I was busy running the other stage! It was enough though to know there was something really special
happening as Wren threw down a marker and took their live show to another level altogether. That and the buzz that was going round The Brewhouse after they played! Don’t miss Wren in 2019!
So, the shows that more than made their mark on me this year:
Flies Are Spies From Hell – at 8 Years Of Chaos Festival
For me, the moment, and on ‘my’ stage, of 8 Years Of Chaos back in February and I still get goose bumps thinking about it! Flies Are Spies From Hell just seem to go up a level every time I see them but this one was special. Stunning set and I love that they got on a stage and
give it their all. I always watch them with the feeling that they don’t lose sight for a second that they are there to entertain and love what they do, that’s massively important on both counts. A breath taking, enthralling juggernaut of a set, Flies Are Spies From Hell rock! Hard!!
Hemelbestormer – Dunk! Festival
Epic! Hemelbestormer in their element and a swirling maelstrom of a set on the main stage at Dunk! A band in perfect alignment with the moment and their surroundings, it looked as incredible as it sounded and their set was as mind burning as anything I’ve ever seen!
Jo Quail – ArcTanGent Festival
I’ve spent this year again seeing Jo play amazing shows and wowing audiences each and every time, and to see the reaction of people who’ve not seen her play before is still a thrill. This year Jo developed her new set playing material from Exsolve for a vastly bigger
soundscape and these larger stages, to say it worked is more than an understatement! I could probably fill this list with my favourite JQ shows this year but this was Arctangent; ‘that’ festival, that crowd, THAT reaction! I was the one at the back with the tears streaming
down my face!
Famyne – The Black Heart
A new band and, for me, a pretty new discovery this year. The brilliant debut album is more than a clue but barely tells half the story of the live show. They’ve worked hard and played a lot but even so come across as a band that has spent years learning their craft. Not just in
terms of their playing but performing a show, the sheer energy of it and their stage craft make them unmissable. Their proggy doom never loses its groove or lets up on the energy pouring off the stage. Tonight they tore the room apart and carried the entire evening to a
high, won a room full of fans too! Be in no doubt this is a band going places and fast!
Svalbard – Tramlines Festival
I don’t need to ‘explain’ Svalbard or why they are so essential right now, especially after this year’s ‘It’s Hard To Have Hope album’, there are those much better able to do that than me. Tonight I’m just grateful to get to experience them live after manging to miss them so many
times! A band for these dark times and one not to shy away from subject matter most would not approach, they don’t take an easy path yet the striking thing is how it feels as if all of us in the room are connected in this moment and its energy. Getting onstage and owning it is one thing but Svalbard absolutely live it and carry the audience with them on a shared outpouring of emotion. All the anger, frustration, despair and disgust spews forth, unflinching, from the stage but rather than a torrent of negativity it binds us all in knowing these are feelings shared. The result is cathartic and uplifting, the shared experience and reaction of the crowd more than shows we can have hope. Gig of the year!
Those Honourable Mentions:
Jessica Moss – Sebright Arms, London
Heilung – SWG3, Glasgow
Memory Of Elephants – New River Studios, London
The Fierce And The Dead – The Black Heart, London
Nils Frahm – Barbican, London
A Forest Of Stars – Boston Music Room, London
Yob – The Garage, London
Bonnacons Of Doom/Father Murphy – The Shacklewell Arms, London
Arctangent Festival 2018
For so many reasons, this was the highlight of all Arctangents for me. But highlights of the highlights include Behind The Shadow Drops, Poly-Math, Alpha Male Tea Party and Telepathy.
Smash It Out V – The Windmill
As much about the crowd as it is the music. Both are a highlight every year for me with this one.
Nils Frahm – Barbican
Skronkfest – New River Studios
Skronk, Skronktronic and Skronkdance are the most stimulating, exciting showcases of experimental music and dance that I’ve ever seen. Consistently awesome discoveries and inspiration. This was a whole day of all of that. Yes.
Amenra, Boris and Jo Quail – Rescue Rooms
If you’ve ever seen any of these projects live then you’ll need no explanation. All three of them under one roof was almost too much. Pristinely talented, raw and emotionally sincere. Even Amenra having to calmly stop while some drunk punters were shouting loudly, before carrying on, wasn’t enough to break the atmosphere for me.
Myrkur (Folksange) – St John On Bethnal Green
Nøught – Café Oto
AJA – New River Studios
Solleme – The Dev, Desertfest