FEATURE: It’s About the Whole Package, Not Just Looks: National Album Day: The Best Albums of 2018 (So Far)




It’s About the Whole Package, Not Just Looks


PHOTO CREDIT: @duck58cth/Unsplash 

National Album Day: The Best Albums of 2018 (So Far)


I have just written a piece about the best debut albums ever…


 PHOTO CREDIT: @trommelkopf/Unsplash

that is inspired by National Album Day. There are another few days to go until that celebration comes but it is a good opportunity to look at albums and actually celebrate them in full – rather than concentrate on singles and the material side of music. I am excited, on 13th October, to celebrate National Album Day and, given the tremendous L.P.s that have arrived this year; I had to compile the best of the year so far and urge people to give them a good listen! There are still a couple of months to go until the year is through but there have been some tremendous albums released already. I present the very finest of 2018 so far that provide the album is very much…


 PHOTO CREDIT: @danidums/Unsplash

ALIVE and kicking.



Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer


Release Date: 27th April, 2018

Labels: Wondaland; Bad Boy; Atlantic


She’s got The Purple One’s punk, mad-scientist approach but creates a world all of her own. Throwing in rap, soul, pop, R&B, space-rock and whatever the hell she wants with her fearless message, Janelle Monáe doesn’t believe in walls or limits: this is a fluid celebration of freedom, raging and raving against the oppressors. In fact, only one label sticks – icon

Standout Cut: Django Jane

Arctic MonkeysTranquility Base Hotel & Casino


Release Date: 11th May, 2018

Label: Domino


Perhaps the great mystery of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is not its knotty themes or cryptic lyrics but what’s motivating Turner. With the keys to the most lucrative and well-oiled indie-rock band around, he’s regenerated Arctic Monkeys in service of a delirious and artful satire directed at the foundations of modern society. This is not an act of protest: Implicated in its sprawl are gentrification, consumerism, and media consumption, but rather than address these meaty topics, he strafes around them, admiring their transformation in the laboratory of his word tricks. In the end, his helpless struggle for meaning is what makes him relatable. For all this record’s hubris, the long-touted “generational voice” that is Alex Turner has never sounded more real, or more himself” - Pitchfork  

Standout Cut: Four Out of Five

Kacey MusgravesGolden Hour


Release Date: 30th March, 2018

Label: MCA Nashville


Everything clicks perfectly, but the writing has an effortless air; it never sounds as if it’s trying too hard to make a commercial impact, it never cloys, and the influences never swallow the character of the artist who made it. In recent years, there have been plenty of artists who’ve clumsily tried to graft the sound of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours on to their own. On Lonely Weekend, possibly the best track here, Musgraves succeeds in capturing some of that album’s dreamy atmosphere without giving the impression that she’s striving to sound like Fleetwood Mac. It’s an album that imagines a world in which its author is the mainstream, rather than an influential outlier. It says something about its quality that, by the time it’s finished, that doesn’t seem a fanciful notion at all” - The Guardian  

Standout Cut: Space Cowboy

IDLESJoy as an Act of Resistance


Release Date: 31st August  

Label: Partisan Records


Across its 40-odd minutes, ‘Joy As An Act of Resistance’ makes you want to laugh and cry and roar into the wind and cradle your nearest and dearest. It is a beautiful slice of humanity delivered by a group of men whose vulnerability and heart has become a guiding light in the fog for an increasing community of fans who don’t just want, but need this. No hyperbole needed; IDLES are the most important band we have right now” – DIY  

Standout Cut: Television

SophieOil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

Release Date: 15th June, 2018

Labels: MSMSMSM; Future Classic; Transgressive


Often I tune out the first and get annoyed with the second. But the rest of the album is all laughs and thrills in which sweet clarity defies a panoply of beaty techno sound effects at different junctures every time you listen. For me the most reliable comes as a reward right after "Pretending": "Immaterial," where she has the generosity to grant one of technodancepop's most generic and cheerful riffs the Sophie version of eternal life” - Noisey    

Standout Cut: Immaterial

Jon HopkinsSingularity

Release Date: 4th May, 2018

Label: Domino


Much like Immunity before it, Jon Hopkins plays with light and dark to exhilirating effect and with Singularity it feels like he’s levelled up the melding of two worlds: ambient and techno. Hopkins’ signature deep tissue massage bass is stitched together throughout, with unreal moments of musical beauty making Singularity a simply stunning album of emotional highs and lows” - The Skinny    

Standout Cut: Emerald Rush

Cardi BInvasion of Privacy

Release Date: 5th April, 2018   

Label: Atlantic


And yet there is a political, even feminist element to all this. One look at the tastemaking Spotify playlist Rap Caviar will show you how overwhelmingly male the scene still is, and in their tracks, women are often reduced to mere “beasts” and “bad girls”, seduced into infidelity less for sexual pleasure than as a way to cuckold their partners in a war of masculinity. The common use of “thot” – an acronym for “that ho over there” – shows how depersonalised women often are. Like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Nicki Minaj before her, Cardi’s genius is to take the sexually available “thot” image and rehumanise it, reminding boorish men of women’s agency, wit and emotional reality” – The Guardian       

Standout Cut: Bodack Yellow

Leon Bridges Good Thing


Release Date: 4th May, 2018

Label: Columbia


While the record embodies Bridges’ Sam Cooke-influenced vocals, he doesn’t just find himself attached to Sixties soul: he finds himself transcending time with the sparkling, disco “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” and the Eighties synth-influenced “Forgive You”. “Sometimes I wonder what we’re holding on for/Then you climb on top of me and I remember”, Bridges sings on the sexy, lovesick “Mrs”. Bridges has matured, and that is absolutely a good thing”- The Independent     

Standout Cut: Bad Bad News

Eleanor Friedberger - Rebound

Release Date: 4th May, 2018 

Label: Frenchkiss Records


“Rebound, on the other hand and despite its evident connections to a specific type of 1980s music, is an album written very much in the present: a work of emotional maturity where the dizzying memories of youth, the infatuated giddiness of new love, or the safety of domesticity have been dealt with and overcome. All the baggage left in some Aegean shore. Hence, in Rebound, Friedberger meets mementos of happier times and opportunities for immediate joy with identical ease. And that is the promise, making her latest album an intriguing open door from an artist who continues to grow in all possible ways” - TinyMixTapes

Standout Cut: In Between Stars

Nils FrahmAll Melody


Release Date: 26th January, 2018 

Label: Erased Tapes Records


It’s a wonderfully imaginative process. ‘Human Range’ uses wind instruments like the horn to give it this kind of airy quality, while the notation is more stuttered, bringing in also that premier wind instrument – the voice. ‘All Melody’ is a masterpiece of texture. Incessant overlapping rhythms which swoop down from on high, peeling off into the subsequent track ‘#2’ which just wallops you with rhythm.

It’s continuously changing, perfectly timed, evenly spaced - an impeccable album” – Drowned in Sound

Standout Cut: My Friend the Forest

Mitski Be the Cowboy


Release Date: 17th August, 2018    

Label: Dead Oceans


Mitski’s songwriting trademarks are strong enough to transcend the stylistic revamp – arrangements that are rich without being precious (Pink in the Night), plus her terrifically mordant worldview. “Nobody butters me up like you,” she sings on twisted country song Lonesome Love. “And nobody fucks me like me.” It is hard to sing at a remove and maintain emotional directness – Mitski is famously private – but like St Vincent or even David Lynch, she specialises in the bait-and-switch of delight and obfuscation” – The Guardian   

Standout Cut: Why Didn’t You Stop Me?


Release Date: 2nd February, 2018  

Label: Domino Recording Company


Groove-based krautrock is visited on the epic nine minutes of "Opener". The use of electronic loops and monotonous guitar lines results in something trancelike, hypnotic and accompanied by the most impassioned vocal on the album ("I can’t last the distance / It’s hard to find a better world / Where we can countercall the shortcomings, oppress them til they're hidden from the world /or just let it all out"). Again, on paper it might read kinda twee, but its delivered with such steely conviction, the message of it totally being OK to not be OK proves to be one which is deeply profound.

It's the beginning of the 2018 and talk of albums of the year right now is obviously churlish, but on Microshift we're hearing a band hitting their sweet spot with such an effortless swagger that we're sure this is a contender” – The Line of Best Fit  

Standout Cut: Negative Spaces

Christine and the QueensChris

Release Date: 21st September    

Label: Because Music 


Maintaining every ounce of the sheen of ‘Chaleur Humaine’, while pushing forward the idea of Christine & The Queens as the most subversive, game-changing pop star we have, ‘Chris’ is a second album that thrives in the realm of the uncertain, throws perceptions on gender, sexuality and expression comprehensively out of the window, and cements the status of Héloïse Letissier as a true star” - DIY   

Standout Cut: 5 dollars

Gaz CoombesWorld’s Strongest Man


Release Date: 4th May, 2018  

Label: Caroline International


So here’s an album by a male songwriter who feels deeply affected by the conversations happening around men and masculinity right now in light of #MeToo, Time’s Up and gender inequality in all its forms. Gaz Coombes isn’t congratulating himself on having these thoughts, he’s just trying to be more like the man he wants himself and other men to be. There’s room for a lot more of those” - NME  

Standout Cut: Walk the Walk

GwennoLe Kov


Release Date: 2nd March, 2018  

Label: Heavenly Records


While the diverse musical settings she and Edwards cook up for each song are impressive, Gwenno's vocals are a dream throughout. It's clear that she feels strongly about the words she is singing, and she inhabits every song fully. The music, words, and voice come together on Le Kov like fragments of the past put back together and made into a satisfying new whole that works as a lovely tribute to Cornish culture, while also solidifying Gwenno's place as an important artist” - AllMusic  

Standout Cut: Herdhya

Anna Calvi Hunter


Release Date: 31st August, 2018   

Label: Domino Recording Company


The legacy of female-led British punk comes through, with essences of Lene Lovich in Calvi’s vocals on ‘Indies Or Paradise’, a track that kicks off with a hint of X-Ray Spex’s ‘Germfree Adolescence’. After the edgy, melodramatic intensity of the first two-thirds of Hunter, a break comes in the emotional detachment of ‘Away’. With its acoustic, gentle melody, it’s a bittersweet song of release, but the softness steadily gives in to a melancholic ache of loss. The jewel of the album, though, is ‘Don’t Beat The Girl Out of My Boy’, in all of its ethereal Cocteau Twins-esque gothic rock. Calvi howls up a storm as she defies the gendering that society imposes from an early age, imploring “let us be us”. Hunter is a tempestuous album full of haunting, unsettling vocals; it resonates with evocative power” – The Quietus  

Standout Cut: Hunter

Shame - Songs of Praise


Release Date: 12th January, 2018   

Label: Dead Oceans


It would be wrong to paint Shame as class clowns, though; lyrically and musically this cuts deeper than most, with the band’s political beliefs worn firmly on their sleeves. There’s a sense throughout of upending the norm, a group of young people shunted to the sidelines who yearn – if only briefly – to seize control of the stage, to rip down the curtains and show things as they really are.

‘Friction’ is one of the album’s most resolute achievements, and it asks one of Shame’s most daring questions: “In a time of such injustice how can you not want to be heard?”

In context and execution, ‘Songs Of Praise’ is one of the most daring, scorching, seethingly intelligent, and at times downright funny British guitar albums to come our way in years” – CLASH    

Standout Cut: Tasteless

Courtney Barnett Tell Me How You Really Feel


Release Date: 18th May, 2018   

Label: Milk! Records


They’re the most Nirvana-esque moments on this modest masterpiece of an album, made by an avowed fan who shows a kindred underdog solidarity. Kicking against the pricks, including the ones in her own head, Barnett encourages us to do the same, with an impressive generosity of spirit. “Take your broken heart/Turn it into art,” she counsels at the LP’s outset. “Your vulnerability is stronger than it seems.” As Tell Me How You Really Feel amply demonstrates, so is hers” – Rolling Stone   

Standout Cut: Nameless, Faceless