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The Best Music of 2018....

It has been another great year for music. Here's my review of the year's best, plus a few memories of some of the musicians who sadly left us this year....
BC Camplight...been desperate, loves his dog, top bloke....
Whilst 2018 probably didn't have any real stand out albums and tunes that were head and shoulders above the rest compared to some years, the overall standard has been very high across so many genres. Picking just 10 albums that were the best didn't I think reflect the quality of music around, so I upped it to 12 (which I have done before, and in any case I make the rules!). And then picking just one album that stands out has been very difficult. Ask me tomorrow and it may be different! Individual tunes were a bit easier, but even then, I slipped back into DJ-mode to some extent and listed what I felt would sound good when played next.

I saw some excellent live music, both free in the pubs and bars around Halifax and Calderdale and the odd one in Newcastle, and ones I paid for mainly at favourite spots like the Brudenell and Trades Club, but I also enjoyed several at the Lantern and Square Chapel in Halifax, whilst in May the beautifully-restored Piece Hall had a major event featuring Father John Misty, the legendary Edwyn Collins, Hookworms, and Halifax's very own Orielles, a day that will live long on the memory of all who attended. And other notable gigs I attended were This is The Kit in January at the Brudenell, Richard Dawson at the Trades Club in Independent Venue Week at the Trades Club - I also saw him in June at Halifax Minster - Baxter Dury and Lee Bains lll and the Glory Fires at The Lantern, Goat Girl at the Brudenell, Field Music at Gorilla and Simone Felice at the Deaf Institute, both in Manchester, BC Camplight at the Trades Club, Rolling Blackouts at Leeds University Stylus, and the amazing Beak at the Brudenell. And anyone who was at the Grayston Unity on the Sunday of the August Bank Holiday weekend was treated to a special performance from The Blue Orchids - and it was free too!

Best Free Gig of the Year: The Blue Orchids, Grayston Unity, Halifax, August 26th
Best Free Gig featuring a Local Band: The Rainey Street Band, Cross Keys, Siddal, July 1st
Best Gig I Paid For: Field Music, Gorilla, Manchester, March 16th

Sadly, as ever, we lost some great musicians this year. The great Mark E.Smith left us in January, after which I paid tribute to him here. He had been ill for some time, but it was still a shock, just as it was a few weeks ago when one of his contemporaries, Pete Shelley, from the Buzzcocks, suddenly passed on, leading to a huge reaction which just shows how much his songs of teenage love and angst touched so many lives. We also lost Cranberries lead singer, Dolores O'Riordan, at a tragically early age, the great Aretha Franklin, swamp rock legend Tony Joe White, Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues, crooners Vic Damone and Charles Aznavour, jazz drummer Jon Hiseman, blues guitarist Otis Rush, Chas Hodges from Chas and Dave, and Alan Longmuir from The Bay City Rollers. And comedian and national treasure, Ken Dodd, who also left us this year, will also be remembered by many for the string of hits he had in the 60's and 70's included a massive-selling No 1 from 1965, 'Tears'. RIP, to all the faithful departed....

Best Albums of 2018
In the usual reverse order:
12. Stick In The Wheel - Follow Them True
This is folk music for 2018: spiky, angry, visceral, not built around bucolic images from some imagined village, but, whilst staying true to the genre's musical roots, capturing images and the mood of these uncertain times. This is urban folk music - the band are from London - with singer Nicola Kearey making no attempt to hide her London accent, coming across at times like a female Billy Bragg. This is an album that grows on you and seeps into your soul. Favourite track: Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green
11. The Blinders - Columbia
The band come from Doncaster, not renowned as a hotbed of musical talent, but make no mistake, on this, their debut album, The Blinders have created a vision of a dystopian world where society is breaking down around us. They play a hard, driving rock, but within it there are some great riffs, rythmns, and choruses. Everything about this band is full on, from the striking album sleeve to the first crunching riff. Favourite track: L'Etat C'est Moi
10. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
An electro album which gradually creeps up on you. Between the pulses, throbs, and waves lurks an album of a rare beauty, the perfect antidote to the world outside. Rather than a set of different tracks, it flows as a complete piece of work, quite possibly enticing you to go back to the beginning and listen all over again, once it has finished. Favourite track: Singularity
9.Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar
The third album from the Mercurial Edinburgh-based 3-piece. A melting pot of different ideas from a band that never stand still, full of strong melodies matched to disarming beats, with rap, electronica, and a host of other influences, ranging from the radio-friendly ballad In My View to the frenetic rap and paranoia of Toy. Not always the easiest of listens, but stick around and you'll be rewarded by what was one of 2018's most satisfying albums. Favourite track: Toy
8. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance
The second album from the band from Bristol. This is one powerful, steamroller of an album which knocks you over from the first  beats of opening track Colossus and just doesn't let up. Despite the energy and sound of the band, the lyrics tackle some serious topics: xenophobia, relationships, male stereotypes, toxic masculinity, grief, mental pressures. And as singer Joey Talbot, whose grief at him and his partner losing their daughter in childbirth last year, which informs a lot of the album - shouts into the microphone, it it is hard to believe his favourite film is Dirty Dancing. But then again, Idles are no ordinary band. Favourite track: Television 
7. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Hope Downs
This band from Melbourne took everyone by surprise with this excellent set of guitar-led indie-rock. Three guitarists, bass, and drums, gave us an album that was choc-full with cracking riffs, great melodies, catchy choruses, creating a sound that everyone and everyone else seemed to like, simply because it was that good. The crystal-clear production was first rate, and their ringing guitars sounded fresh every time you put the album on. Favourite track: Talking Straight
6. Kathryn Joseph - From When I Wake The Want Is
An amazing album, richly-layered, and intense, from Scottish singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph. Keyboard-based, the heartfelt songs are written around the painful break-up with her long-term partner, which at times ooze emotion and pain, whilst the excellent music recalls the likes of Kate Bush, Agnes Obel, O'Hooley and Tidow, and Lisa Knapp. Despite the serious theme, though, the sublime melodies make this one of 2018's most beautiful albums. Favourite track: Mountain
5.Beak> - >>>
Another Bristolian band, Beak> are the side project of Portishead's Geoff Barrow, although you wouldn't think it based on the quality of this album and the effort they put into touring during 2018. This album was modern-day prog rock; largely instrumental, with excellent work on percussion by Barrow underpinning the guitar and keyboards. Tracks like The Brazilian, Brean Down, and Alle Sauvage bristling with ideas. Live, they did split opinion, but I thought they were excellent when I saw them at the Brudenell, entertaining, with great musicianship and banter between Barrow and fellow band members, Will Young (no, not that one!) and Billy Fuller, which had you in stitches. Favourite track: The Brazilian
4. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment
This album was an absolute pleasure from start to finish. Released in February 2018, although in reality it sounds as if it could have been released at any time over the past 30 years, all the more amazing considering the fact the band, who are from Halifax and whom I wrote about here, are all so young. Packed full of great tunes and lyrics, this is a cracking pop album, and the fact they have recently released an excellent new tune, Bobbi's Second World, further evidence that this is a band that is going to go far. Favourite track: I Only Bought It For The Bottle
3. Bodega - Endless Scroll
Relentless from the beginning, this excellent set of intelligent art-rock from Brooklyn-based Bodega was a breath of fresh air. Tight musicianship, quirky melodies, sharply-observed lyrics, and crisp-clean production all came together to inform one of the year's most unexpected treats. Bodega are hip, cool, of the moment - and very good. Favourite Track: How Did This Happen?
2. Parquet Courts - Wide Awake
Like Bodega, Parquet Courts are based in New York, although they originated in Texas. Unlike Bodega, they have been around for a while, and this album was their 6th. From the opening intro of Total Football, through Violence, to the funk of the title track through Where The Water Flows, and finally through to final track Tenderness, complete with honky-tonk piano, the album takes you through a series of different genres. Riffs and melodies abound, production is tight and clean, and it only just missed out on top spot. Favourite track: Total Football
Album of The Year:
BC Camplight - Deportation Blues
Ultimately this was my favourite album of the year. Full of great melodies, performed by New Jersey-born but Manchester-based Brian Christinzio, on keyboard and vocals, with his four-piece band providing guitars, bass, drums, synth, and additional keyboards and vocals. They play lush, grand tunes, but with enough twists and turns to give the album, Brian's 4th, a unique feel of its own, with Brian's falsetto at times recalling the great Roy Orbison. Full of great tunes, from the title and opening track, to I'm Desperate, with its hookworm of a riff, the off-kilter grandness of I'm in a Weird Place Now, whilst Brian's paean to his pet, When I Think Of My Dog, works when so many other similar tributes would become schmaltzy and sentimental. And it was an absolute pleasure to meet Brian after the band's gig at the Trades Club in October. This, ultimately, is the best album of 2018. Favourite track: I'm Desperate

Top Tracks of 2018
And so for those that are still awake/reading/interested, here are my top tunes of 2018:

30. Smashing Pumpkins - Silvery Sometimes
29. Simone Felice - The Protector
28. Fontaines DC - Too Real
27. Field Music - Count It Up
26. Beach House - Dark Spring
25. Cicada - La Luz
24. Beak> - Brean Down
23. Menace Beach - Crawl in Love
22. B.E.D. - White Coats
21. Bodega - Jack in Titanic
20. Idles - Collosus
19. Laura Viers - Everybody Needs You
18. Young Fathers - Toy
17. The Orielles - I Only Bought it for The Bottle
16. Beak> - The Brazilian
15. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
14. Car Seat Headrest - Bodies
13. Public Service Broadcasting - White Star Liner
12. Underworld/Iggy Pop - Bells and Circles
11. Bodega - How Did This Happen?
10. Boy Azooga - Loner Boogie
09. David Byrne - Everyone's Coming to My Place
08. Blue Orchids - Deep State
07. Deerhunter - Death in Midsummer
06. Rolling Blackouts CF - Talking Straight
05. Hen Ogledd - Problem Child
04. BC Camplight - I'm Desperate

03. Parquet Courts - Total Football
02. Teleman - Cactus
01. Underworld/Iggy Pop - Get Your Shirt

And here it is....

So some great music was around in 2018.

As for 2019, watch out for Fontaines DC and WH Lung....


  1. Great read. We must catch up in the 'Fax and compare notes. Some great stuff in your lists, but a lot I haven't heard yet (so another day on Spotify to set aside). There's hardly any commonality across the best of lists, bar the Idles, which both my 17 year old and I have in Top 10 along with Car Seat Headrest reinvention of Twin Fantasy. You've prompted me to do my own list now !

  2. Cheers, Martin! Definitely should do. Would be interesting to see your choices, Car Seat Headrest aside! Off to Manchester Beer Festival, don't know if you are around.

  3. I'll be at Manchester on the Friday (Roger Protz IPA session); think there may be a few folk I know going !


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