Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1)

Foals are veterans of the British indie rock scene at this stage. While many of their contemporaries from the late 2000s (such The Maccabees and Wild Beasts) have split up, they’ve stuck around, getting even bigger with every album they release. With 2015’s What Went Down, they pretty much cemented themselves as festival headliner material, with huge tracks like ‘Mountain At My Gates’ and ‘A Knife In The Ocean’.

So, where next? Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 1), the first of two albums the band will be releasing this year, marks a slight shift away from that arena rock sound. And as a result, it’s the most playful and creative album they’ve dropped since their debut. While Foals’ last two releases yielded some of the band’s biggest – and best – songs, both seemed to be missing a sense of colour. On these albums, the band generally stuck to a single sound throughout, leading to some tracks that sounded a little samey and repetitive.

Everything Not Saved Will Best Lost (Part 1) rectifies this. Every song here has its own identity and is bursting with personality. ‘White Onions’ sees Foals’ delve back into their math rock roots, recalling tracks like ‘Hummer’ and ‘Balloons’ with its propulsive drumbeat and looping guitar riff. Elsewhere, ‘In Degrees’ feels like a spiritual successor to the band’s big hit ‘My Number’, further exploring the dance-rock sound that song hinted at. It’s gorgeous, glitzy and difficult not to dance to. ‘Café D’Athens’, another standout, has drawn a lot of Radiohead comparisons. The song is unlike anything else the band released up to this stage, building off marimba loops and synth stabs, growing denser and more layered as it moves along.

‘Sunday’ is the type of song that Foals have more-or-less perfected at this stage – the big, airy closer. It draws the album together perfectly, drawing on the same apocalyptic themes as the rest of the tracks. It’s only let down by the fact that it isn’t the final track. The closing piano ballad ‘I’m Done With The World (& It’s Done With Me)’ is far from bad, but it just feels slight and unnecessary. The same can be said for the opening track ‘Moonlight’, which, while pretty, feels too much like a typical opener. It’s a song that only really works in the context of the album.

Everything between these two tracks, however, is great. They’re gorgeous and playful, showing that Foals can still surprise this far into their career. If they continue to put out music like this, I don’t there’s any reason to worry about them falling to the wayside like some of their old contemporaries.

Best Tracks: ‘White Onions’, ‘In Degrees’, ‘Sunday’

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Cherry Glazerr – Stuffed & Ready

Fronted by singer-songwriter Clementine Creevy, Cherry Glazerr have proven themselves to be a dependably good garage rock outfit. Their sophomore release, 2017’s Apocalypstick, did a fantastic job of blending a grimy rock sound with empowering lyrics, leading to plenty of fantastic tunes, such as ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’ and ‘Nurse Ratched’.

Two years later and here we are with their third album, Stuffed & Ready. On it, Cherry Glazerr mostly stick to their guns, and many of its songs could’ve fit onto their past releases pretty snuggly. The album opens with a great 1-2-3 of ‘Ohio’, ‘Daddi’ and ‘Wasted Nun’, each of them abrasive and fun in the way that the band’s best songs are. All of them stick to the classic ‘quiet verse, loud chorus’ that many rock songs go for. If they don’t push Cherry Glazerr’s sound in a new direction, they’re enjoyable at least.

After this, the album mellows with slower songs like ‘Self Explained’ and ‘Isolation’. Lyrically, both are a bit more inward and mature than what the band normally go for. ‘Self Explained’ in particular is a stand-out featuring a solid groove and a great refrain. Stuffed & Ready then picks up the pace again towards its end with ‘Juicy Socks’ and ‘Stupid Fish’ – the latter being another easy highlight. A reverb-soaked rocker, the track lumbers along before reaching an explosive finish. Creevy also delivers her best vocal performance of the album on the track, darting between soft and harsh.

It’s hard not to see this album as a slight disappointment though. Revisiting Apocalypstick made me remember just how strong that album is – making Stuffed & Ready almost feel like a step backwards. While Creevy has never been a hugely nuanced lyricist, the songs on Apocalypstick definitely had a unique edge and certain cleverness to them that seems to be missing here. (Just compare the lead singles from both albums: ‘Told You I’d Be with the Guys’ and ‘Daddi’.) Instrumentally, the tracks on Stuffed & Ready feel less colourful as well, with the band rarely, if ever, moving beyond the confines of guitar, bass and drums.

Despite the negativity, this is a great album and if you’re a fan of Cherry Glazerr – or rock with a feminist edge – you’re unlikely to be disappointed. I just wish the band could’ve taken more risks and pushed themselves out of their comfort zone.

Best Tracks: ‘Wasted Nun’, ‘Self Explained’, ‘Stupid Fish’

Deerhunter – Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet?

Deerhunter have never been a cheery band; I don’t think they have a single song that would be appropriate for a family barbeque playlist. They’re a band that specialises in topics such as loneliness and death – think ‘Agoraphobia’ or ‘Helicopter’ – exploring them to crushingly sad extents. Yet, despite the darkness of these topics, Deerhunter always seem to find a strange, twisted beauty in them that makes their music so fantastic.

Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet? doubles down on the bleakness of the band’s past projects. Death hangs over every song like a black cloud. Opener ‘Death in Midsummer’ sets the tone of the album, with Bradford Cox singing to the listener about the death of their friends and their own eventual demise: ‘And in time, you will see your own life fade away’. Yet, there’s a certain gleeful to the way he delivers these lines – as if he’s smiling as he says them. It adds another layer of meaning to them. Cox is simply telling it as it is: we’re all going to die and nothing really matters, so stop worrying about it.

The album’s best songs revel in this bleakness in a similar way. ‘Your cage is what you make of it’, Cox sings in the opening of ‘Futurism’, showing the same sense of contentedness. The theme of accepting death, however, is most present on the track ‘Détournement’. Bradford Cox’s pitch-shifted vocals float around the song, sounding almost disembodied, like they’re coming from a god. He greets several different countries (‘Good morning to Japan’) before comforting them about their eventual deaths: ‘Your struggles won’t be long, and there will be no sorrows on the other side’. It’s bizarre, but it works.

Instrumentally, the album has a skeletal feel to it. The presence of instruments like harpsichords and xylophones give off an antiquated, gothic tone that fits the album and its message well. The structures of the songs also feel stripped back – many clocking in at only two or three minutes. While I understand why Deerhunter chose this minimalist approach, it does hold some of the songs back. Many of them sound like demos, rather than finished tracks – still waiting to be fleshed out. Closer ‘Nocturne’ is the only moment where the band truly allow themselves to indulge a bit – wrapping the album up with a gorgeous dreamy jam.

Ultimately, Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared Yet? is another solid release from Deerhunter. While I don’t think it has the same staying power as their best albums, it has some powerful moments, feeling like a logical progression from where the band have been so far.

Best Tracks: ‘Death in Midsummer’, ‘Détournement’, ‘Nocturne’.

15 (More) Favourite Albums From 2018

As mentioned in my 25 Favourite Albums of 2018 list, last year was a great one for music. That list easily could’ve ended up being a lot longer, but I wanted to avoid it becoming too much of a slog to read, so I kept it down to 25.

So, here’s a second list! I enjoyed the following 15 albums a lot last year and so I wanted to give each of them a little shout out. I’ve kept things brief, and they aren’t in any numerical order this time (just alphabetical). If you’re in need of something new to listen to, be sure to check any of them out that peak your interest.

Adrianne Lenker – Abysskiss
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While not quite a mesmerising as Big Thief’s last album Capacity, the latest solo effort from the band’s vocalist is delicate yet powerful.

Listen to ‘Symbol’

Anderson Paak – Oxnard
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Anderson Paak’s follow-up to the fantastic Malibu is filled with great track after to great track, acting as a dizzying showcase for his musical talents. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘Tints’

BC Camplight – Deportation Blues
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Bizarre and unhinged in the best ways possible, Deportation Blues stands out from the crowd with its unusual sense of personality.

Listen to ‘I’m In a Weird Place Now’

Blood Orange – Negro Swan
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Celebrating unheard voices, the fourth full-length from Dev Hynes is filled with gorgeous, soulful moments.

Listen to ‘Saint’

Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
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Though it doesn’t quite match up to her defining debut, the second album from Courtney Barnett demonstrates that she’s still a singular, unique voice in the current music scene.

Listen to ‘Nameless, Faceless’

Django Django – Marble Skies
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Bouncing back from the sophomore slump that was Born Under SaturnMarble Skies is a lean, focused and (above all else) fun effort from Django Django. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘In Your Beat’

Goat Girl – Goat Girl
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One of 2018’s strongest debut albums, Goat Girl is filled with quick, punchy tracks that demand your attention.

Listen to ‘The Man’

Oh Sees – Smote Reverser
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Smote Reverser delivers the garage-rock goods, featuring tracks that are as punishing and unhinged as we’ve come to expect from Oh Sees.

Listen to ‘Smote Reverser’

Snail Mail – Lush
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Though its second half falters a little, the debut album from Snail Mail features some of the year’s most memorable, heart-achingly angsty indie rock songs.

Listen to ‘Pristine’

SOPHIE – OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES
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The first full-length from SOPHIE attempts to redefine what pop music can be, with sharp, dissonant instrumentals and gorgeous lyrics about self-discovery and identity.

Listen to ‘Faceshopping’

Sunflower Bean – Twentytwo In Blue
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Wearing their influences on the sleeve, Sunflower Bean together a fun and breezy pop-rock album that more than matches their debut.

Listen to ‘I Was a Fool’

Superorganism – Superorganism
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No one else really sounds like Superorganism. Their first album is filled with quirky and colourful songs about fame, the night time and… prawns. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’

Teleman – Family Of Aliens
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Teleman’s third full-length is bright and inventive, featuring the band’s signature blend of off-beat instrumentation and unusual lyrical themes.

Listen to ‘Submarine Life’

The Voidz – Virtue
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Julian Casablanca’s band truly comes into its own on Virtue – a rock album that avoids easy categorisation, bouncing from style to style, genre to genre.

Listen to ‘Leave It In My Dreams’

Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
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Young Fathers continue to be on Scotland’s most exciting bands and, as Cocoa Sugar shows off, there’s no one else quite like them.

Listen to ‘In My View’

 

25 Favourite Albums of 2018

Every year since I started this blog, I’ve intended to put together one these lists and finally, I’ve managed to get my act together and actually do it.

2018 was a  great year for music, honestly, and I had a tough time putting this list together. The fact that so many of the albums featured on here were not actually reviewed on Sound Mind just goes to show how many good albums there were. (It also highlights how flaky I’ve been with updating this blog, but whatever…)

At the end of last year, I resolved to try and expand my music taste a bit more, but the lack of genre diversity here shows that I kind of failed with that. Most of my music listening still boils down to indie rock and pop, which has always sorta been my comfort zone.

Anywho, enough with the preamble. Here are the 25 albums I enjoyed listening to most released in 2018.

25. The Internet – Hive Mind
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Though never a big fan of The Internet in the past, I found myself coming back to Hive Mind again and again throughout the year. Featuring some heavy soul and funk influences, the album is filled with slick grooves that are hard not to get caught up in.

Listen to ‘Roll (Burbank Funk)’

24. Christine and the Queens – Chris24.jpg
Boasting a stronger sense of attitude than her much-lauded debut, the second album from Héloïse Letissier takes a few more risks. The songs here are punchy and poppy in the best way possible, without a single lowlight in sight.

Listen to ‘Doesn’t Matter’

23. Julia Holter – Aviary
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Abstract and obtuse, Aviary presents itself as a puzzle. This 90-minute epic is filled with lush sonic layers, impenetrable lyrics and song structures that gleefully throw every musical rulebook out of the window. And it’s all the better for it – the perfect album to lose yourself in.

Listen to ‘I Shall Love 2’

22. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
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Swapping out straightforward rock for sleazy lounge music, Arctic Monkeys’ latest was bold in a way that probably shouldn’t have paid off. While Alex Turner may have alienated a few fans through the shift in style, the album succeeds in crafting a unique world that’s hard not to admire.

Listen to ‘Four Out Of Five’

21. Jeff Tweedy – Warm
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The first solo album from the Wilco frontman is exactly what its title suggests it: warm. Though Tweedy addresses some of his most painful experiences – such as his struggle with drug addiction on ‘Having Been Is No Way To Be’ – as a whole, the album is beautifully life-affirming.

Listen to ‘I Know What It’s Like’

20. U.S. Girls – A Poem Unlimited
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The sixth full-length from Meghan Remy is perhaps her best yet. Combining danceable, disco-infused instrumentals with sharp lyrics on gender equality, In A Poem Unlimited is an album that works on multiple levels. From sinister rocker ‘Incidental Boogie’ to the Talking Heads-esque funk-out ‘Time’, it’s nothing less than stunning.

Listen to ‘Rosebud’

19. Shame – Songs of Praise
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Perhaps 2018’s first great release, the debut album from Shame shows that British punk is alive and kicking. Songs of Praise features just the right amount of variety, from the almost anthemic ‘One Rizla’ to unhinged slow-burner ‘The Lick’. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘One Rizla’

18. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
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Jon Hopkins is one of the most respected names in electronic music today and for a good reason. Singularity, his first release in five years, is all kinds of gorgeous. It excels in its energetic moments – such as the stuttering lead ‘Emerald Rush’ – as well as its more tender ones, such as on the subdued closer ‘Recovery’.

Listen to ‘Emerald Rush’

17. Robyn – Honey
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I am, and always will be, a sucker for a good pop song. Luckily, Honey has nine of ’em. The latest release from Robyn is just fantastic pop music from start to finish, featuring zero low points in its runtime. While love has been sung about in thousands of songs before, Robyn has a knack for making it sound like she’s the only one who’s ever experienced it.

Listen to ‘Honey’

16. MGMT – Little Dark Age
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Following up their divisive self-titled album, in many ways, it feels like MGMT have gone back to basics on this release. And it works. Each of the songs featured on Little Dark Age radiates its own sense of personality, from the darkly gothic title track to the smartphone-critiquing ‘TSLAMP’. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘Little Dark Age’

15. Low – Double Negative
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How often does a band drop an album as good as this one over 25 years into their career? Double Negative conjures up its own little world, blending the band’s usual repertoire of instruments with some fuzzed-out and often tense electronics. It has a dazed, weary quality to it – like wandering through a lucid dream.

Listen to ‘Always Trying to Work It Out’

14. LUMP – LUMP
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Somehow Laura Marling just seems to get better with every project. Last year’s Semper Femina was one of my favourite releases of 2017, but LUMP – a collaborative album with Mike Lindsay of Tunng – might be even better. The album is more playful and eclectic than anything she’s released before, both musically and lyrically. Each of its six tracks is gorgeously strange in its own way.

Listen to ‘Curse of the Contemporary’

13.Ty SegallFreedom’s Goblin
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In terms of artists who released a prolific amount of albums in 2018, this year belonged to Ty Segall. Of the five albums he dropped through the year, Freedom’s Goblin is my favourite. Almost his White Album, it dives into a wide variety of genres and styles across its hour-plus runtime (with colossal 12-minute closer ‘And, Goodnight’) and yet it all fits together so well. A collection of experiments where just about all of them pay off. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘My Lady’s On Fire’

12. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
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Parquet Courts have been around for a little while now, but it feels like they’re only just getting the recognition they deserve with Wide Awake! The album is stacked with great songs, blending clever political lyrics with the band’s usual slacker-rock sound.

While I loved many of the band’s previous albums, everything just feels that little bit sharper here. The band feel like they’re at the top of their game on Wide Awake! and it’s going to be exciting to see where they go next.

Listen to ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience’

11. Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus11
Ezra Furman has quietly been delivering killer album after killer album over the past ten years or so, and Transangelic Exodus might be his most impressive project yet. An allegorical concept album, focusing on Furman and his (literal) angel lover going on the run from the government, it’s bursting with personality and cleverness.

The songs here are all fantastic on there own – from punchy opener ‘Suck the Blood from My Wound’ to the joyfully lighthearted closer ‘I Lost My Innocence’ – but together they form something much more powerful. It’s a bold and creative celebration of queerness as well as a plain-good rock album.

Listen to ‘Suck the Blood From My Wound’

10. Pusha T – DAYTONA
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The buzz surrounding DAYTONA when it was released was inescapable. The first album released as part of Kanye West’s GOOD Summer series, it’s also the best one. While Kanye seemingly becomes more unlikeable with every public appearance, here he excels behind the scenes as a producer, his production matching perfectly with Pusha T’s hard-hitting lyrics.

With its brief runtime of 21 minutes, there’s no room for filler on it and every track absolutely pops. DAYTONA is truly an album for the digital age – encouraging you to put it on loop, listening to it again and again and again.

Listen to ‘If You Know You Know’

9. Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
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The opposite of DAYTONA in terms of length, Bottle It In is every bit as impressive. While Kurt Vile’s signature laid-back indie-folk sound hangs over the album as a whole, he delves into a number of different styles throughout it. There are straight-up rockers like ‘Loading Zones’ and ‘Check Baby’ and more tender, vulnerable songs like ‘Mutinies’.

Where the album succeeds most though is its longer, hazier moments like ‘Bassackwards’ and the title track. With their looping instrumentation and simple yet evocative lyrics, they’re the sort of songs you can’t help but lose yourself in. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘Bassackwards’

8. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
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What can I say about Mitski that hasn’t already been said? In a discography full of stunning releases (check out Puberty 2 if you haven’t already) Be the Cowboy feels like the artist’s most powerful statement yet.

The album is filled with short but striking tracks, each of them conjuring up a sketch of a troubled relationship. ‘Washing Machine Heart’ and ‘A Pearl’ each build themselves around brilliant central metaphors, ‘Geyser’ explodes with as much emotion as its title suggests and ‘Nobody’ is the perfect loneliness anthem. Each of these songs is filled with more emotion than some full albums are, and that’s a mighty achievement.

Listen to ‘Nobody’

7. Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy
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A remake of the most iconic album from Will Toledo’s vast Bandcamp back catalogue, Twin Fantasy is not technically made up of new songs… But they’re overhauled heavily enough that I think it should count as a new release.

On it, Car Seat Headrest continue to make a strong argument for why indie rock is very much not dead. Tracks like ‘Sober to Death’ and ‘Bodys’ show off Toledo as a singular voice, with his lyrics being incredibly honest and revealing. The album’s most striking moments though are the two behemoth songs that sit at its beginning and end – ‘Beach Life-In-Death’ and ‘Famous Prophets (Stars)’. Each shifting through multiple phases during its runtime, these are the sorts of songs that Toledo truly excels at crafting. (Read the full review)

Listen to ‘Bodys’

6. Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance.
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While Idles’ 2017 release Brutalism was a fantastic punk album, Joy as an Act of Resistance. definitely feels like something more significant. The band blend together some truly crushing instrumentals with the central theme of self-love. Songs like ‘Great’ and ‘Television’ tell the listener to accept themselves for who they are: ‘If someone talked to you the way you talked to you, I’d put their teeth through’.

Pretty much every song on the album lands, and it’s remarkable just how good it is considering Brutalism was only released last year. From slow-burning opener ‘Colossus’ to pro-immigration anthem ‘Danny Nedelko’, Joy as an Act of Resistance. is filled with moments that will stick with me for a while to come.

Listen to ‘Never Fight a Man with a Perm’

5. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
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Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy was arguably one of the most talked about albums of last year. It was a gargantuan, sprawling album in which the singer-songwriter pondered on politics, religion, technology, society and just about every other big topic. It ended up being divisive and, in my opinion, a bit too much. While there are some fantastic songs buried in Pure Comedy, the whole thing was too self-indulgent for its own good.

God’s Favourite Customer, in comparison, is a breath of fresh air. It’s received much less fanfare than Tillman’s last album, but it’s stronger in just about every way. Instead of looking outward, it’s much more introspective, focusing on his estrangement from his wife as well as his struggles with depression. Half the length of Pure Comedy, it’s more concise and every track shines.

Listen to ‘Please Don’t Die’

4. Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
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Pop music doesn’t get much better than I’m All Ears.

The second album from pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma is full of songs that twist, transform and challenge the listener. Take lead single ‘Falling Into Me’. Incorporating prog elements, the song forgoes the typical verse-chorus-verse structure, constantly shifting and changing as it moves along. The song must go through at least four or five phases in its six minutes, but they all fit together seamlessly.

The other great moments on I’m All Ears act similarly. The album’s two longest tracks – ‘Cool & Collected’ and ‘Donnie Darko’ – which sit at its end are particularly stunning, extrapolating what ‘Falling Into Me’ does into ten-minute lengths. It’s difficult to pull off a long song that doesn’t get dull halfway through but Let’s Eat Grandma manage it effortlessly. It’s impossible not to get excited about where these two are going to go next.

Listen to ‘Falling Into Me’

3. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
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Following a pair of killer EPs released in 2016 and 2017, Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever’s debut album doesn’t disappoint.

I mentioned earlier than I’m a sucker for a good pop song and, well, the same is true for a straight-up indie rock album. The band manage to do everything right on Hope Downs – the songs are punchy and energetic, and the lyrics shine with their own sense of personality. The album hits the ground running with ‘An Air Conditioned Man’ and doesn’t really slip up once from there.

Rolling Blackouts don’t really reinvent the wheel, but not every album has to. I’ve heard plenty of albums this year that have strived for a similar sound to this one – many from bands that have been around for a while – and it’s just great to hear an act get it right. As with Let’s Eat Grandma, it’ll be interesting to see where these guys go next, but I’m more than happy for them to keep doing they do on Hope Downs.

Listen to ‘Talking Straight’

2. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer
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Narrowing this list down to just 25 albums was difficult in itself, but choosing an order was even harder. In the end, I decided it made sense to put the albums I had on repeat most throughout 2018 at the top… And yeah, Dirty Computer was one of those albums.

The first half of this album, in particular, is immaculate. Every song flows into the next one seamlessly and yet each one has its own distinct personality, from the Prince-inspired ‘Make Me Feel’ to the feminism-infused ‘Pynk’ and ‘Django Jane’, which features some fantastic rapping from the singer/actress. It shows off Monáe as a stunning jack-of-all-trades, able to shift into any genre she chooses.

Dirty Computer is just a great pop album through-and-through. Listening to it, it’s not surprising that Prince had a hand in the album, with it tight, consistent quality reminding me of some his best albums (Purple RainSign ‘O’ The Times, etc.) The album may not be particularly boundary pushing, but it succeeds so well at everything it tries its hand at that it’s impossible not to love.

Listen to ‘Pynk’

1. Beach House – 7
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It’s been a running joke with Beach House for a while that they never really change up their sound. Across their first six albums, they hovered around the same dream pop style, making small tweaks here and there… And it was never really a problem because they were just so good at that sound.

All that said though, it’s the fact that they have switched things up that makes so fantastic. Songs like ‘Dark Spring’ and ‘Dive’ show the band pushing out of their comfort zone further than they ever have before, experimenting with new sounds and styles. Even when the band play it safe, the results are nothing less than gorgeous; tracks like ‘Pay No Mind’ and ‘Lose Your Smile’ could easily slip onto Bloom or Depression Cherry.

The album is also just so damn consistent. While Beach House has long been one of my favourite bands, this might be the first album they’ve released where every track is a stunner. Songs like ‘Lemon Glow’ and ‘Drunk in LA’ sit among their best, painting moods unlike any other band I know is capable of.

is the best album that Beach House have released so far, and that’s saying something for a band with such an impeccable discography. I can’t think of any other artist who’s been so consistently good for so long.

Listen to ‘Drunk in LA’

 

 

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

The 1975 are a band I’ve been aware of for a long time, but have never been too interested in checking out. There’s always been a certain trying-too-hard, eye-roll-inducing quality about them (their second album’s title encapsulates this perfectly) that’s put me off really diving into their stuff.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships ended up being hard to ignore though – due to all the buzz it’s been receiving online – so I decided to give it a go. And it’s a strange one, to say the least. The album is flawed, but it’s often admirably ambitious at the same time. You can tell that the band chucked a lot of ideas into it, and when they work, they often work spectacularly.

‘Love If We Made It’ exemplifies this best. The song is full of tension, featuring abrasive vocals and an ominous, repetitive instrumental on the verses. They act as a recap of the low-lights of the past couple of years (from the Syrian refugee crisis to ‘Thank you Kanye, very cool!’) before the glitzy 80s-infused chorus comes in. And it’s gorgeous – especially when paired the chant of ‘And I’d love it if we made it’. The song just perfectly encapsulates modern times and is the perfect anthem for them.

It’s the main highlight of the first half of the album, which is mostly filled with underwhelming moments. Matty Healy sounds too much like he’s trying to ape Bon Iver’s 22, A Million on intro track ‘The 1975’ and the two singles that follow it – ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ – are just kind of okay. Neither are bad songs, but it’s difficult to get excited about them.

On the other hand, songs like ‘Be My Mistake’, which features the album’s cringiest line (‘You make me hard, but she makes me weak’) and ‘The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme’ are straight-up bad. They don’t really do much other than drag down the album’s batting average.

Outside of a couple of highlights, such as ‘Love It We Made It’ and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships doesn’t really hit its stride until right near the end… Which is unfortunate. ‘Inside Your Mind’ is a fantastically twisted love ballad, managing to be haunting and romantic at the same time. On it, Matty sings about cracking his girlfriend’s head open to find out what she’s thinking. On ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, the band once again wears their love of 80s pop on their sleeves and it pays off tremendously, featuring a cheesy chorus that they just about pull off.

Album closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ ends things on a definite high note. Swapping the 80s pop influence for 90s Britpop, it’s a great overblown alternative rock number – think Oasis’ ‘Champagne Supernova’. It’s grand and climactic like a good closer should be. It’s just a shame that so much of what comes before it doesn’t work half as well.

Best Tracks: ‘Love It If We Made It’, ‘Inside Your Mind’, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’

Sunflower Bean @ SWX, Bristol

Sunflower Bean has always been one of those mid-tier bands for me. Both their albums are solid, each featuring a handful of real highlights, but they’ve yet to drop something truly fantastic. That’s not to diss them though – the band members are incredibly young (hint: their latest album is called Twentytwo in Blue) and they’re still finding their groove in some ways.

Opening for them at SWX was Miya Folick, another promising artist. I saw her at the same venue just over a year ago, and it’s remarkable how much she’s reinvented herself in that time. Her first album  Premonitions (released in October) swapped out the indie-rock singer-songwriter style of her early EPs for a poppier sound, with big catchy choruses. While not all of the songs worked for me when listening to the album, they sounded terrific live.

Folick has an absolutely tremendous voice, and it sounded even better live than on her album. Her set built slowly, kicking off with some of the more sombre cuts from Premonitions (such as ‘Thingamajig’) and ending with the more energetic ones (like ‘Freak Out’). While it would’ve been nice to hear a couple of older songs, the set was still stunning, winning me over a little more on her new material. She made for a tough act to follow.

Fortunately, Sunflower Bean was just as – if not more – impressive. While I’m not normally a fan of shorter sets (the band only played for an hour), it led to the performance being tight and filler-free. From opener ‘Burn It’ to the one-song encore, there were no lulls throughout the entire set, which is something I rarely see.

And everything sounded pristine. It’s interesting how some bands can sound fantastic in studio recordings but incredibly underwhelming live (an example of this is Snail Mail, who I caught a few weeks ago). Sunflower Bean is one of those bands that work the opposite way, sounding even better live than they do on their albums. Every track they played was filled with energy, featuring passionate performances and some great impromptu solos.

Highlights include the band’s new track ‘Come For Me’ (from an upcoming EP), during which lead singer Julia Cummings moshed around the audience, and ‘I Was A Fool’, a woozy Fleetwood Mac-inspired cut from their last album. Sunflower Bean closed things out with an encore of ‘Wall Watcher’ from their debut, which was a lot of fun if not a little too brief.

If you get the chance to see them live, go for it. Even if you don’t consider yourself much of a fan, I think you’ll be impressed.