Al­bums of The Year

Star­ring: Low, Ty Se­gall, Rolling Black­outs and Spir­i­tu­al­ized

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50 THE NECKS Body NORTH­ERN SPY The lat­est from key­boardist Chris Abra­hams, bassist Lloyd Swan­ton and drum­mer/gui­tarist Tony Buck was their most thrilling yet, the Aus­tralian trio hit­ting an ex­tended mo­torik gal­lop at the half­way point. At times rem­i­nis­cent of Mog­wai jam­ming with Michael Rother, at oth­ers dab­bling in their cus­tom­ary jazzy am­bi­ence, Body shows that The Necks can still sur­prise, even on their 20th LP. 49 MARY LAT­TI­MORE Hun­dreds Of Days GHOSTLY IN­TER­NA­TIONAL 2018 saw this LA harpist not only team up with Meg Baird for the ex­per­i­men­tal folk of Ghost Forests, but also bend her in­stru­ment’s 47 strings to Hun­dreds Of Days, a bliss­fully am­bi­ent solo work. With Lat­ti­more loop­ing her harp, and sea­son­ing it with synth, pi­ano, gui­tar and voice, she evoked the sub­lime tex­tures of New Age tapes, and the time­less drones of Eno and Oliv­eros. 48 LAURA VEIRS The Look­out BELLA UNION Five years af­ter her last record, Veirs’ 10th al­bum pro­vided a wel­come re­minder of the heights the Port­land-based song­writer can reach. Her hus­band Tucker Mar­tine was again pro­duc­ing, while Suf­jan Stevens, Jim James and Karl Blau helped out with vo­cals, but the real stars here were Veirs’ lyri­cal, ro­man­tic songs, whether hushed and ele­giac (pi­ano-led “The Meadow”) or supremely crafted (“Ev­ery­body Needs You”, with its dub echoes and drum ma­chine). 47 JU­LIA HOLTER Aviary DOMINO Have You In My Wilderness, Uncut’s Al­bum Of The Year in 2015, tem­pered Holter’s more ex­per­i­men­tal roots with the in­flu­ence of clas­sic Canyon song­writ­ing. Its fol­low-up Aviary, though, makes no such con­ces­sions as, across 90 min­utes, Holter sketches out free-jazz freak­outs, dron­ing elec­tronic tones and heady lyrics in­spired by Sap­pho and me­dieval texts. Dif­fi­cult and awk­ward, but full of de­lights. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 46 KATHRYN JOSEPH From When I Wake The Want Is ROCK AC­TION Ar­riv­ing fully formed with her 2015 de­but, Glas­gow­based pi­anist and song­writer Kathryn Joseph re­turned with an even stronger ef­fort this year, in­spired by a tem­po­rary break with her longterm part­ner. As ex­pected, it was a bleak but in­tox­i­cat­ing lis­ten, with the singer’s bro­ken, skele­tal pi­ano lines and an­guished vo­cals on “And You Sur­vived” re­call­ing Thom Yorke, and “Mouths Full Of Blood” try­ing out the frac­tured jazz of Mark Hol­lis or Robert Wy­att. 45 ANNA CALVI Hunter DOMINO Calvi’s long-awaited third al­bum was her most in­tense and hard-hit­ting yet, ex­plor­ing the re­stric­tions of gen­der roles over her most am­bi­tious mu­sic to date – “Swim­ming Pool” re­calls Scott Walker, and “Chain” chan­nels the Ban­shees at their most psy­che­delic and an­guished, while the open­ing “As A Man” re­con­fig­ures Nick Cave’s “Red Right Hand” for Roxy Mu­sic. The stripped-down “Away” shows that Calvi can do quiet too: “There is a rage in the sky/Is this the mo­ment sub­lime?” 44 RY­LEY WALKER Deaf­man Glance DEAD OCEANS “I didn’t want to be jammy acous­tic guy any more,” wrote Walker, in­tro­duc­ing this al­bum. “I just wanted to make some­thing weird and far-out that came from the heart.” So while Deaf­man Glance wasn’t as in­stantly se­duc­tive as Prim­rose Green or Golden Sings…, its vexed, me­an­der­ing nar­ra­tives felt like a more ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of its mer­cu­rial creator, ca­su­ally blend­ing jazzy Chicago post-rock with coun­try des­o­la­tion. 43 TRACY THORN Record MERGE Hav­ing been re­leas­ing stel­lar mu­sic for al­most 40 years, Thorn would have been for­given for re­lax­ing a lit­tle on her lat­est; in­stead, though, she pro­duced a set of shiny, grace­ful elec­tro-pop with help from Warpaint, Shura and Corinne Bai­ley Rae, her lyrics dis­cussing the joys of drunk danc­ing, the var­i­ous ob­sta­cles that women face in our so­ci­ety (“Sis­ter”), and her chil­dren (“Ba­bies”): “Lay your pretty hair down/Get the fuck to bed now,” she sings wryly.

42 MELODY’S ECHO CHAM­BER Bon Voy­age DOMINO Burnt out cre­atively and per­son­ally, Melody Pro­chet headed to Swe­den to record her sec­ond al­bum with mem­bers of Dun­gen. The re­sult was per­haps 2018’s most free­wheel­ing and eclec­tic set, tak­ing in Gains­bourg grooves, lounge jazz and sam­ple-heavy hip-hop – and that was just the first track, “Cross My Heart”. Else­where there were hints of The Breed­ers and Ti­nari­wen, and riffs in­spired by Black Sab­bath, the whole co­a­lesc­ing to re­flect Pro­chet’s fear­less, quest­ing vi­sion. 41 CAT POWER Wan­derer DOMINO Af­ter 2012’s Sun, an am­bi­tious, if awk­ward, pop record, the old Chan Mar­shall re-emerged for Wan­derer, hap­pier and more re­laxed on new la­bel Domino. The tex­tures were fa­mil­iar, sure – the sparse pi­ano on Ri­hanna’s “Stay”, the coun­try des­o­la­tion of “Rob­bin Hood”, and the widescreen gospel of “Wan­derer/Exit” – but the over­all re­sult, a slim but ad­dic­tive 38 min­utes, was one of Mar­shall’s best. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 40 ARC­TIC MON­KEYS Tran­quil­ity Base Ho­tel + Casino DOMINO Fol­low­ing 2013’s huge-sell­ing AM, Alex Turner and co could have con­quered the world, but in­stead they headed for the moon, craft­ing this au­da­cious con­cept al­bum seem­ingly about a lounge crooner on some fu­tur­is­tic lu­nar colony. Turner’s long tried to ape Nick Cave and Dion, but on the likes of “Amer­i­can Sports” and “Golden Trunks” he hit upon a style of noirish, plas­tic-soul bal­ladry all his own. 39 ELEANOR FRIEDBERGER Re­bound ROUGH TRADE Af­ter per­fect­ing a stately folk-rock sound on 2016’s New View, the for­mer Fiery Fur­nace took a dif­fer­ent tack on her fourth solo al­bum; in­spired by an ex­tended stay in Athens, and specif­i­cally a goth club she was taken to in the Greek cap­i­tal, Re­bound was all drum ma­chines and woozy, vin­tage syn­the­sis­ers. At its warped heart, though, lay Friedberger’s most char­ac­ter­ful songs yet, from the gal­lop­ing “Ev­ery­thing” to the fid­gety, Fur­naces-like “Are We Good?” 38 CALEX­ICO The Thread That Keeps Us ANTISwap­ping the Ari­zona desert for the lusher en­vi­rons of North Carolina, Joey Burns and John Con­vertino made their most straight-ahead rock record since 2006’s Gar­den Ruin. Of course, this be­ing Calex­ico, it’s still a heady mix, con­tain­ing some ven­er­a­ble song­writ­ing on the Wilco-es­que rush of “Bridge To Nowhere” and the Neil Finn-like “Girl In The For­est”, not to mention some of their usual gen­rebend­ing on the horn-as­sisted dis­copsych of “Un­der The Wheels”.

37 STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS Sparkle Hard DOMINO Four years af­ter Wig Out At Jag­bags, and with a whole host of young artists now in thrall to his loose, lit­er­ate sound, the for­mer Pave­ment front­man and his band re­turned with this ef­fer­ves­cent LP. “Rat­tler” found Malkmus dab­bling with au­to­tune, but the rest was re­as­sur­ingly fa­mil­iar, from the ly­ser­gic as­sault of “Bike Lane” and the bit­ter­sweet cham­ber-pop of “Solid Silk”, to “Re­fute”, a coun­try-rock cousin of “Range Life” fea­tur­ing Kim Gor­don. 36 THE LEMON TWIGS Go To School 4AD The Lemon Twigs’ sec­ond LP was, yes, an epic rock mu­si­cal about a schoolat­tend­ing chimp called Shane, as much Rodgers & Ham­mer­stein as Rund­gren. Yet the story was just funny enough to work, and the songs, per­for­mances and ar­range­ments su­perb, whether the D’Ad­dario bros were try­ing out pic­ture-per­fect Big Star power pop (“Queen Of My School”) or Van Dyke Parks bal­ladry (“Won­derin’ Ways”). 35 GO KART MOZART Mozart’s Mini Mart WEST MID­LANDS Lawrence’s lat­est might have come out at the same time as the first set of Felt reis­sues, but it was as im­pres­sive. Glam-synth stom­pers such as “When You’re De­pressed” bounced along mu­si­cally, but touched on very dark top­ics – see Clavi-funk cut “A Black Hood On His Head”, seem­ingly about Isis killings. And who could re­sist songs ti­tled “Crokadile Rok­starz” or “Knick­ers On The Line By 3 Chord Fraud”? 34 HOOKWORMS Mi­croshift DOMINO As we went to press, this West York­shire quin­tet had just split af­ter al­le­ga­tions of abuse in­volv­ing front­man MJ; nev­er­the­less, their third record was their bravest ef­fort, with songs about the 2015 Leeds Boxing Day floods that de­stroyed their stu­dio, and about Alzheimer’s, can­cer, death and bro­ken re­la­tion­ships. Light­en­ing the load was a new, more elec­tronic sound, with synths and loops re­plac­ing shoegazey psych-rock on “nega­tive Space” or the hyp­notic kos­mis­che of “Static Re­sis­tance”. 33 CONNAN MOCKASIN Jass­busters MEX­I­CAN SUM­MER The Kiwi au­teur’s third solo al­bum was the sound­track to his own short film se­ries, Bostyn ’n’ Dob­syn, which Mockasin co-wrote and starred in. Di­vorced from this Lynchian, slightly creepy se­ries, though, Jass­busters still de­lighted; recorded live and stripped down in a Paris stu­dio, th­ese eight tracks of hushed soul, led by Mockasin’s koto-in­spired gui­tar leads and ad-libbed vo­cals, were oth­er­worldly. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 32 GWENNO Le Kov HEAV­ENLY Gwenno Saun­ders’ sec­ond LP was sung purely in Cor­nish, in­spired by both her up­bring­ing and the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to cut school fund­ing for the mi­nor­ity lan­guage. To show the lan­guage is liv­ing and breath­ing, she har­nessed it to a gauzy set of psych pop, with crisp drums, bass and pi­ano wo­ven be­tween all man­ner of synths and or­gans. Broad­cast, Jane Weaver and Gruff Rhys (the lat­ter fea­tur­ing) were touch­stones, but Le Kov showed that Gwenno could match those artists. 31 GAZELLE TWIN Pas­toral ANTI-GHOST MOON RAY El­iz­a­beth Bernholz’s third LP as Gazelle Twin found the Brighton-based mu­si­cian ex­am­in­ing English­ness through a night­mar­ish melange of folk and elec­tro, cut up and pitch-shifted to ghoul­ish ex­tent. The 14 short tracks flowed tightly, func­tion­ing more as a sound­scape or ra­dio play than an LP – per­fect for Bernholz’s free­wheel­ing mes­sage, then, which drew from Wil­liam Blake and the per­pet­ual call of the el­derly (“Bet­ter In My Day”). ON THIS MONTH’S CD

30 MÉLISSA LAVEAUX Radyo Si­wel NO FOR­MAT! This Cana­dian singer-song­writer re­turned to her fam­ily’s roots on her fourth LP, in­spired by the mu­sic of Haiti. The re­sult was an in­tox­i­cat­ing mix, with Laveaux singing in Cre­ole and ac­com­pa­ny­ing her­self with some strik­ing gui­tar. Of the highlights, “Kouzen” has a mi­nor-key lilt that sounds dis­tinctly French – per­haps no sur­prise see­ing as Laveaux lives in Paris – while “Twa Fey” is beau­ti­fully strange, its sound as thin and high as Laveaux’s re­verbed vo­cals. 29 LET’S EAT GRANDMA I’m All Ears TRANSGRESSIVE Rosa Wal­ton and Jenny Holling­worth’s quixotic 2016 de­but was hard to ig­nore, but their fol­low-up was the real deal; mix­ing to­gether synth pop, weird folk and pump­ing dance, the pair, along with pro­duc­ers David Wrench, So­phie and Faris Bad­wan, cre­ated a thrilling and strange cos­mic soup. Best of all was “Don­nie Darko”, which moved from a plain­tive bal­lad to Balearic slow-disco and back in 11 joy­ful min­utes. Fol­low­ing the au­to­tune ex­per­i­ments and ugly re­crim­i­na­tions of 2017’s self-ti­tled ef­fort, this was a swift re­turn to form for the indie-rock braini­acs. Buoyed by new love and a (mostly) new band, Dave Longstreth drew on ’70s folk rock and neo-soul for this gid­dily up­beat af­fair; he re­mains the only song­writer around likely to com­pare his lover to the Archimedes palimpsest. 27 IDLES Joy As An Act Of Re­sis­tance PAR­TI­SAN The big­gest thing in British punk rock for years, this Bris­tol quin­tet put ev­ery­thing into their sec­ond al­bum; thrash­ing gui­tars and ragged drums height­ened Joe Tal­bot’s mes­sages, whether he was call­ing out toxic mas­culin­ity on the Sonic Youth-es­que “Samar­i­tans” or writ­ing about the death of his daugh­ter on “June”. As the LP’s ti­tle sug­gested, th­ese 12 piledriv­ing songs doc­u­mented a search for con­tent­ment and hap­pi­ness in the face of a painful ex­is­tence. 26 JOHN PRINE The Tree Of For­give­ness OH BOY Not for noth­ing is John Prine one of Bob Dy­lan’s favourite song­writ­ers; and the long-awaited The

Tree Of For­give­ness didn’t dis­ap­point. Dave Cobb was in the pro­ducer’s chair, with Ja­son Isbell and Amanda Shires con­tribut­ing vo­cals and as­sorted in­stru­ments, but Prine’s lyrics, de­liv­ered in a mov­ing, des­o­late croak, are the treat here: “Yeah, when I get to heaven, I’m gonna take that wrist­watch off my arm,” he sings on the clos­ing “When I Get To Heaven”. 25 COURT­NEY MARIE AN­DREWS May Your Kind­ness Re­main LOOSE An­drews’ sixth al­bum was a strong fol­low-up to her break­through record, 2016’s Hon­est Life, and found the West Coast song­writer ex­plor­ing a new in­ten­sity in the at­mo­spheric pro­duc­tion, and a new depth and ten­der­ness in her songs. “There is al­ways a rea­son/A story to tell,” she sang on “Bor­der”, while on the ti­tle track she paints a pic­ture of a friend “wear­ing lone­li­ness like a cos­tume for the whole world to see”. 24 PAUL WELLER True Mean­ings PAR­LOPHONE Hit­ting 60 af­ter a sav­agely cre­ative decade, Weller took some time to re­flect, con­jur­ing up th­ese 14 tran­quil and folky songs. The tex­tures were homely, sure – hints of Nick Drake, Traf­fic’s more rus­tic ma­te­rial and his own He­lio­cen­tric (2000) – but True Mean­ings was all about the songs; from the waltz­ing live favourite “Grav­ity” and the soul­ful “Mayfly” to the ma­jes­tic “Come Along”, fea­tur­ing Martin Carthy and Danny Thomp­son. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 23 KURT VILE Bot­tle It In MATA­DOR The Philadel­phia song­writer’s long­est and most ex­pan­sive al­bum, Bot­tle It In seemed to stop time, invit­ing the lis­tener to en­ter the gui­tarist’s glo­ri­ously woozy headspace for 80 min­utes of ethe­real indie rock. “Load­ing Zones” and coun­try cover “Rollin’ With The Flow” were joy­ously im­me­di­ate, but the real picks were the med­i­ta­tive 10-minute “Bas­sack­wards” and the tran­scen­dent, cir­cu­lar “Skinny Mini”. Ef­fort­lessly unique. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 22 FA­THER JOHN MISTY God’s Fa­vorite Cus­tomer BELLA UNION Af­ter the grand scope of Pure Com­edy, Josh Till­man’s fourth seemed mod­est by com­par­i­son; yet nestled within its 10 tracks were some of the song­writer’s finest songs, from the acidic, Bea­tles-y “Han­gout At The Gal­lows” to the blown-out, twin­kling ti­tle track. And for­get wry songs ex­plor­ing the whole of hu­man his­tory, God’s Fa­vorite Cus­tomer in­stead found Till­man writ­ing mov­ingly about his own per­sonal strug­gles. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 21 KA­MASI WASHINGTON Heaven And Hell YOUNG TURKS Af­ter 2015’s gamechang­ing The Epic, the sax­o­phon­ist re­fined his sound on this dou­ble al­bum (triple if you count the hid­den EP) of in­ter­stel­lar jazz-funk. Along the way it took in kung-fu themes, a clas­sic be­bop cover and 10-minute sym­phonies in­cor­po­rat­ing lush choirs, heart-rend­ing ar­range­ments and some stun­ning per­for­mances from Washington and his crew – es­pe­cially key­boardist Bran­don Coleman and vo­cal­ist Pa­trice Quinn. Di­vine. 20 JACK WHITE Board­ing House Reach THIRD MAN/COLUMBIA/XL If some thought they had Jack White pegged as a tra­di­tion­al­ist, his third solo al­bum set them straight – here, White and a car­ni­val of di­verse mu­si­cians ex­plored hip-hop, garage gospel, spo­ken word, dig­i­tal funk and musique con­crète, often in a sin­gle song. While the eclec­tic, ragged re­sults proved con­tro­ver­sial with some, there was no doubt that this was a game-changer for White, and per­haps the start of an ex­cit­ing and ex­per­i­men­tal new era.

19 COW­BOY JUNKIES All That Reck­on­ing LA­TENT/PROPER Re­turn­ing af­ter six years away, the Junkies’ lat­est was ar­guably their best since The Trin­ity Ses­sion 30 years be­fore. A stately, qui­etly ex­per­i­men­tal record, All That Reck­on­ing found the Tim­mins sib­lings and Alan An­ton weav­ing tales of “mug­ging politi­cians” and a“king of empty things”, with stately ar­range­ments and Margo Tim­mins’ peer­less voice to the fore. “And you can con­trol hate,” she sang on “The Things We Do To Each Other”, “but only for so long/And when you lose con­trol, oh man…” 18 THE BREED­ERS All Nerve 4AD That All Nerve hap­pened at all was a sur­prise, be­ing the clas­sic lineup’s first al­bum to­gether since 1994’s Last Splash; more of a shock, though, was just how strong th­ese 11 songs were. Warped punk jolts such as “Wait In The Car” jos­tled with bleached miniatures like the ti­tle track, while Kim Deal’s enig­matic lyrics (“ox bow, strange glow…”) and Kel­ley Deal’s pri­mal gui­tar daub­ings made All Nerve won­der­fully more than the sum of its parts. If her de­but LP cast Bar­nett as a gen­uinely funny voice, this fol­low-up showed a darker, more se­ri­ous side to the Mel­bourne song­writer. The de­jected trudge of the open­ing “Hope­fu­less­ness” set the tone, and the most im­me­di­ate cut, “Name­less, Face­less”, took on male op­pres­sion and vi­o­lence against women. Mu­si­cally, there were al­lu­sions to Neil Young (“Walkin’ On Eg­gshells”) and Pave­ment (the sec­ond half of “City Looks Pretty”), while the sour, melan­cholic “Need A Lit­tle Time” showed just how Bar­nett’s writ­ing has ma­tured. Se­ri­ously good, then. 16 EZRA FUR­MAN Transan­gelic Ex­o­dus BELLA UNION A “queer out­law saga” set in a world where an­gels ex­ist and are deemed il­le­gal, Ezra Fur­man’s lat­est didn’t lack am­bi­tion. The Chicago-born song­writer had the tal­ent to pull it off, though, whether he was writ­ing about pas­sion (“Love You So Bad”) or faith (“God Lifts Up The Lowly”), or cor­ralling synths and cel­los into a new, rest­less sound. ON THIS MONTH’S CD 15 ELVIS COSTELLO & THE IMPOSTERS Look Now CONCORD A sur­prise re­turn to the stu­dio for Costello, who af­ter 2013’s Roots col­lab­o­ra­tion

Ju­lia Holter: dif­fi­cul­ties and de­lights

Ka­masi Washington: from kung-fu themes to sym­phonies

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