31st December, 2018

2018 in music

It was a year where music helped contextualise a world weighing heavy, my favourite albums serving as coping mechanisms. Stacking art in ordered lists is questionable, but also a way to exert a little control, to own something of the year. And so, here are my top albums, tracks, and gigs of 2018.

My top albums

Low and IDLES addressed the corrosion of the US and UK respectively. Double negative felt a bit like a room full of Rothkos: often opaque and a little difficult, but the more time I spent within, the more I sensed reality being unpicked — a real work of art. Joy as an Act of Resistance was a proxy for my anger, its aggression and humour leaving me calm. Christine's polished pop barely disguised the anguish below the surface; gender and mental fragility explored through her own proxy, Chris.

I was captivated by some beautiful electronic and collaged sounds: Erland Cooper's Orcadian birds; Leon Vynehall's ode to his grandparents; Jonas Bonnetta's soundtrack to Newfoundland; Derbyshire trio Haiku Salut's reflections on landscape and togetherness.

I was never much of a Suede fan, but I enjoyed their reappearance with eerie songs about the countryside, and I fell for Bill Ryder-Jones's densely-layered themes about family. As for the much-misunderstood Arctic Monkeys album... well, it was a weird comfort during periods of head-down stressy work, and I totally fell for its strangely sleazy off-world sci-fi imagery.

  1. Low, Double Negative
  2. IDLES, Joy as an Act of Resistance
  3. Christine and the Queens, Chris
  4. Big Red Machine, Big Red Machine
  5. Snail Mail, Lush
  6. Father John Misty, God’s Favourite Customer
  7. Haiku Salut, There Is No Elsewhere
  8. Wild Nothing, Indigo
  9. Leon Vynehall, Nothing Is Still
  10. Erland Cooper, Solan Goose
  11. Jonas Bonnetta, All This Here
  12. Bill Ryder-Jones, Yawn
  13. Grouper, Grid of Points
  14. Anna von Hausswolff, Dead Magic
  15. Soccer Mommy, Clean
  16. Mark Peters, Innerland
  17. Suede, The Blue Hour
  18. Robyn, Honey
  19. Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
  20. Shame, Songs of Praise

Dozens more albums had multiple plays, including: Metric, Art of Doubt; The Beths, Future Me Hates Me; Palace Winter, Nowadays; Beach House, 7; Lucy Dacus, Historian; Adrianne Lenker, abysskiss; Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer; Mitski, Be The Cowboy; Interpol, Marauder; Manic Street Preachers, Resistance is Futile; Gruff Rhys, Babelsberg; Nils Frahm, All Melody; Gwenno, Le Kov; Johnny Marr, Call The Comet; S. Carey, Hundred Acres; Khruangbin, Con Todo El Mundo.

My top tracks

The second half of Doesn't Matter is insanely good classic pop. Pristine is a joyously pin-sharp song about a teen struggling to let someone go, and Lyla sees middle-aged men make relevant-sounding sounds. There's also room for 70s-inspired man-balladry, a 12-minute Swedish doom-epic, and a few quieter, reflective moments.

  1. Christine and the Queens, Doesn't Matter
  2. Snail Mail, Pristine
  3. Big Red Machine, Lyla
  4. The Beths, Little Death
  5. Father John Misty, Just Dumb Enough To Try
  6. IDLES, Danny Nedelko
  7. Robyn, Honey
  8. Suede, Wastelands
  9. Bill Ryder-Jones, Mither
  10. Anna von Hausswolff, The Truth, The Glow, The Fall
  11. Wild Nothing, Oscillation
  12. Metric, Dressed to Suppress
  13. Jonas Bonnetta, Tilting
  14. Shame, Dust on Trial
  15. Johnny Marr, Spiral Cities
  16. Haiku Salut, Bow Wood
  17. Palace Winter, Empire
  18. Erland Cooper, Shalder
  19. Interpol, If You Really Love Nothing
  20. Jóhann Jóhannsson & A Winged Victory For The Sullen, Ég Heyrði Allt Án Þess Að Hlusta

Reissues and compilations

Just one, but it's good. I mean, out of nowhere comes a big R.E.M. at The BBC compilation, featuring an entire live broadcast recorded in 1984 at Nottingham's Rock City — the club where I learned so much about music and life. Brill.


I have to put New Order first: the band that changed my life, and yet this was my first time seeing them live. It was also my first time seeing the Manics, who I've always felt to be incredibly valuable. Metric kicked arse, and the one-day festivals were superb.

  1. New Order, Alexandra Palace
  2. The National, Future Islands, Warpaint, Broken Social Scene, Public Service Broadcasting, at All Points East
  3. Manic Street Preachers at Meltdown, Royal Festival Hall
  4. The Cure, The Twilight Sad, Slowdive, Interpol at Hyde Park
  5. Metric at Kentish Town Forum

That's it!

Need a playlist? NP. You can wade through my vast and comprehensive 2018 Faves playlist (246 songs, 18 hours), or go for the more focused 2018 Top Twenty playlist mirroring my top tracks list above.

So, that was 2018 in music. You can also check out 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010... weird gap... and 2005.

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