Here we go. It’s that time where I tell you all about the albums that made my 2018. I haven’t numbered them or picked an outright favourite, cause I just couldn’t…these have all lit up my year. Truly outstanding albums. There might be a few surprises here and some may be surprised by what’s not here. Or maybe you won’t be surprised by anything at all and you’ll say to yourselves – or out loud to those sitting next to you or whatever – “well, that was just a little predictable, eh?”
So, here goes.
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
Man, there’s something special about Kurt Vile. Quirky, smart tunes… a voice that’s welcoming and familiar. The meandering is purposeful and it all comes off like Bob Dylan if his hero was Stephen Malkmus and not Woody Guthrie. This is the real-deal-genuine-brilliance type stuff here….
Mister Hughes & the Crow Bone Chorus – Seeing Ghosts
I’ve been a fan of Craig’s stuff for near enough 10 years. In that time I’ve gotten to know him pretty well, so it pleases me no end that’s he’s released something like this. It combines all his influences and passions from what I can hear – blues, rock, Richard Thompson subtleties and ZZ Top swagger…and dare I say a bit of prog. At its best it’s some of the best music I’ve heard this year – the second half being particularly outstanding with “Sweet Little Incision” and “Made a Thing” highlights.
Walking Papers – WP2
The last album recorded by the ‘classic line-up’ (I know, I know), WP2 had sat on the shelf a wee bit due to the GNR 3.0 reunion and Barrett Martin’s schedule. Whereas Duff McKagan was only on a handful of tracks on the hugely impressive debut album, he was a fully-fledged member by the time the band got to work on WP2. The songwriting is consistently brilliant and Angell remains engaging. He’s one of the best front men out there – loads of personality and swagger. This album rocks and rolls and it gets better with every spin. It was worth the wait.
Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood – With Animals
For those that don’t know Garwood, he’s something of a rustic and spiritual alternative bluesman. His tunes a wee bit off kilter, ethereal, intricate…he has a specific sound unique to him. I can’t describe it, really. This is his second album with Lanegan and it builds on the foundations laid on the brilliant Black Pudding. This won’t be instant for most folks, but my word is it worth giving this one some proper attention, cause it really reveals itself to be an album of deep beauty and spirit.
Mythic Sunship – Upheaval
I’ve been listening to this a whole lot over 2018. This is a real cracker. Heavy and uplifting. When I make a Kaiju movie this is my soundtrack. It swaggers with all the intent of a slinky dog and the coils rattle and grind as it, eh, slinks, down the stairs. Let’s do battle at the breach, evil alien Kaiju!
Earthless – Black Heaven
This has been the album I’ve listened to most this year, I think. I’ve listened to a lot of Earthless this year, actually, as they galloped straight to the top of my favourite bands list. For the uninitiated, Earthless are the most rockingest grooviest of bands. Big guitar workouts without ever sounding boring or cliched. On Black Heaven the explosive cosmic jams are replaced by some tight song structures that kinda sound like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath… Jamming with Jimi Hendrix. Seriously, the guitar scorches the earth. It’s incredible. My favourite album this year. Absolutely no question.
Billy F. Gibbons – Big Bad Blues
There’s nothing new here for fans of Gibbons, but that’s just perfect for me. See, I was a bit disappointed with Perfectamundo with its mild spice flavours and kinda lightweight song design. This here is more robust and smoking. A real classic burrito with big bad blues riffs. It might not set the world alight, but it’s a great album with some of that classic Gibbons boogie and guitar. It’s a perfect accompaniment to ZZ Top’s La Futura, if you ask me.
Emanative – Earth
Have you heard this? Seriously. It’s so good. Cosmic jazz right here, folks. Favourite tune being “Spice Routes”, but this is more than the sum of its parts… this is why albums are so important. It blew my mind…still blows my mind as I hear new textures on each listen. There was a point where I thought it was my album of the year. Into jazz at all? It doesn’t matter. It transcends genres. It lifts the spirit. It heals the soul. This is the kinda stuff that Miles would be doing. It’s Miles and Sun Ra. It’s maybe my third favourite jazz record of ever ever.
The 1984 Draft – Make Good Choices
I’ve spoken about this at length before and all I can say is that it just gets better with each listen. There’s so much about this album that connects with me… “Lately” and “Honest” speak loudly, but I can relate to Joe and I dig the music he and his band are making. It’s very similar in tone to The Hold Steady, so if you like them I’d recommend hitting them up. And get a load of “Miss Ohio”…a bit darker, but it’s one of my tracks of the year.
Bennett Wilson Poole – Bennett Wilson Poole
There was me still soaking in the brilliant light of the last Danny & The Champions of the World LP when Danny goes and hooks up with a couple of pals to make one of 2018’s highlights. There’s obviously a bit of the CSN about the album cover, but we’ll stray from drawing any other comparisons, will we? Bennett Wilson Poole is a cracker. Tightly woven positive jams that circle the line between the likes of The Byrds and The Kinks. Well, that’s what I hear anyway.
Jim James – Uniform Clarity
Jim James is bloody good, isn’t he? Even when My Morning Jacket weren’t at their best (Evil Urges) they have produced some really outstanding pieces of music. I’ve been on the fence about his work outside of that particular band, but on this one, he really caught my attention. The music and how it’s recorded are perfect and sparse in comparison to My Morning Jacket’s output. I love the slight distortion of the vocal, James’ phrasing and his words. This is a beautiful album…tender…bright…lifting….
Sleep – The Sciences
Ah, right, okay. This one. My favourite album of 2018? It really depends on the day. Seems like I waited an age for the vinyl to arrive. By then I’d been streaming the album daily. Over saturated? No way… I still love it. It’s everything I hoped for. Oh, and before you start barking on about it being disappointing cause the songs aren’t exactly new, etc. etc. Don’t. Good for you. You don’t need to like it. I do.
Mythic Sunship – Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
So, I was thinking “can I have two albums by Mythic Sunship here?”… then it hit me. I thoroughly enjoyed Mythic Sunship’s early year release and I was still soaking those heavy vibes in when El Paraiso said “hey look there, Mythic Sunship are dropping a new album”. Where Upheaval was the perfect soundtrack as humanity battled against Kaiju, this one is a whole different cup of coffee and pack of cookies. There’s all sorts of textures here and I’m wondering how the heck a band can be this consistent and powerful. This is all Coltrane jazz with slabs of cosmic riffage. Think that sounds a bit too mental? You might be right…but it’s also sounding like the best album of 2018.
Sungod – Wave Refraction
Sun-bloody-good-god this is amazing. Do you like driving rhythms with guitars and all that good stuff? Well, you might just like this…unless you’re not big on synth and some cosmic jams, cause there’s lots of that here, too. Still, this is all sorts of amazingly dense melodic rocky space jazz goodness. The opening track sets the tone…and it’s all sorts of awesome from then on in.
JP Harris – Sometimes Dogs Bark at Nothing
Right, okay, this is my favourite album. I’ve been trying to think if there is an album I like more than this and, well, I honestly don’t think there is. Last time I felt this enthusiastic about a country album was when I heard Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. I’ll be honest, I was initially cautious of his hipster credentials (check out the beard and tattoos, y’all), but forget that shit… he’s the real deal. Harris has serious country chops. Jerry Reed meets Kris Kristofferson here. Get into it and tell me that this isn’t some of the best country music you’ve ever heard.