music / Columns

The Best Albums Of 2018 (So Far)

July 12, 2018 | Posted by David Hayter
Kid Cudi & Kanye West

With half the year in the rear-view mirror it’s time to take stock and reflect on the very best music 2018 has had to offer. So here are the 50 best albums we’ve heard since January: arranged by the score we gave them on a first listen.

Disclaimer: We haven’t heard every album released in 2018 and there are a number of LPs that I know I’d likely love (Visigoth, Kasami Washington, Lucy Dacus, Petal, Junglepussy, Car Seat Headrest etc…) that I haven’t found the time to listen to.

Without Further Ado – The Albums Of The Year So Far:

Albums Rated Lower Than 7.0 That Are So Fascinating Everyone Should Hear Them:

Boarding House Reach by Jack White

This is a Luddite’s attempt to not only embrace the future, but to narrate it. White ends up with a bad taste in his mouth and is forced to spit modernity out. He wants to break the tyranny of screens, social media and (even) Wikipedia in favor of first hand experience. However, White is no hypocrite. Before he can decry our electronic world, he has to first immerse himself within it. Boarding House Reach is journey into (and a sorrowful escape from) the 21st Century and the world yet to come.” Read The Full Review

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino by Arctic Monkeys

Irony has invaded every last inch of Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino, but oddly, far from diminishing its lyrical depth, Turner’s dismissive jokes give us a peak into his soul. The Sheffield songsmith has so much left to say, but he no longer wants to be burdened with being taken seriously: after all, it’s far easier and more exciting to slip away into a intergalactic Brian Wilson inspired dream. The result is a luscious album full of both excellent and awful ideas that slip between shimmering surfaces and alluring depths. Fittingly, sitting atop the fourth wall Turner provides the most accurate review himself: “I want to make a simple point about peace and love/but in a sexy way where it’s not obvious…I’ve a feeling the whole thing may well just end up too clever for it’s own good”. He’s undoubtedly right, but that doesn’t mean this collection of alien elevator music narrated by a failed Hollywood bore isn’t worth experiencing – far from it.

Albums Rated 7.0

High as Hope by Florence + The Machine

“Pleasingly, High As Hope is a major departure from its predecessor. Florence hasn’t become a wallflower overnight, but she has discovered a much-needed sense of space. Breathing room exists in abundance, even as her vocal rampages in the still of night. On the seductive lurch of “Big God”, we can hear an unadorned Florence croaking and gasping for air between lines. Lead single “Sky Full Of Song” sees the singer go through the gears (and keys) with bombastic aplomb, but the arrangement never swells around her, instead her powerful vocal is left to heartbreakingly wither on the vine as she cries: “Hold me down, I’m too tired now”. No longer a primal force of nature, Florence appears mortal: vulnerability is no longer something she has to explain in words, it’s a state she explicitly inhabits and exudes.” Read The Full Review

Microshift by Hookworms

Whatever nervousness affects Hookworms in the live arena it is complete absent on their rigorously constructed albums. It’s very rare to find a wilfully expansive and psychedelic record that is this tight, crisp and on edge. Microshift is propulsive and wonderfully uptight as it goes through the gears. The biggest compliment that can be paid to Hookworms is that their music never loses its sense of momentum even as the playtime extends into the distance (“Ullswater” is a seven minute marvel and “Opener” only gets more addictive with time).

American Utopia by David Byrne

The American Utopia live show has proved so fantastic in all its wonderful oddness that the album itself has been overshadowed. This is a shame. David Byrne’s latest might not rival his work with the Talking Heads, but he has created joyfully oblivious take on an Internet age apocalypse. Pointless personal improvement and singing for your supper are the new religion, so wake up, smile and the face the day – sky-high rents and a mountain of personal debt are a blessing we should be thankful for (what great impetuous to go out and earn!). The arrangements are often clunky and Bryne is a bit too on the nose at times, but American Utopia overflows with an infectious joy and irresistible warmth. Even after all these years, no one is better suited to wearing a fake plastic smile and inanely dancing as the world burns around him than David Bryne.

Invasion Of Privacy by Cardi B

The moment of truth has arrived and, it turns out, Cardi B is exactly who she always appeared to be: the man snatching, no fucks giving, steel eyed scrapper, who rose from rank outsider to history making rapper in the blink of an eye. And yet, as confounding as it may seem, Invasion Of Privacy is a wily record that subverts expectation at every turn.” Read Our Full Review

Ephorize by CupcakKe

You have about thirty seconds to run cover before cupcakKe unleashes hell: a dripping wet blend of salacious dick riding boasts are fired off at lightening pace, interspersed with staunch life lessons and bravado crumpling put downs. The one liners flow relentlessly downhill, but what makes cupcakKe stand out from the crowd is her choice of imagery – she simply refuses to flinch: “my stretch marks really itch, my hair haven’t grown an inch”, “I thought I came, but I peed on the dick…my cakes got fatter by using cum as a batter” and, for good measure, “put it past my tongue, cause I want to feel it on my lungs”.

Die Lit by Playboi Carti

The album title says it all, in more ways than one. Yes, this is a wild, club friendly, incessantly enjoyable onslaught of cloudy trap music (it’s lit!), but it’s also reeks of transience, empty trend chasing and slang that will age badly. Die Lit is of the moment and, in the moment; it offers more delight than despair. The album is best viewed as a sugar rush, an attempt to overwhelm our critical faculties and just go with the flow. It wears thin, but it is an experience worth having.

Albums Rated 7.5

 Freedom by Amen Dunes 

 “At the fifth time of asking singer-songwriter Damon McMahon finally knocks it out of the park with Freedom. The album pulls off a curious a trick: it is both more expansive and more accessible than its predecessors. More remarkably still, Damon continues to yearn, gurn and force out quick narrative flourishes with a aura of piercing personal pain that should make this album uncomfortably intimate – but it’s not. The band ensure the arrangements have plenty of swing and color, no matter what rabbit hole Damon decides to dive down.”

Sway by Tove Stryke

Swedish former reality show contestant turned electro-pop starlet Tove Stryke is maturing into one of pop’s best and breeziest voices. Sway is an absolutely effortless 26 minutes, unburdened by cloying gropes for relevancy or obtrusive production: a reminder that pop music should be joyous and easy. Across eight expertly crafted tracks Tove Styke sees her love blossom from sneaking around on the “low low” to arriving at the point where facades become transparent (“I Lied”) and their understanding is implicit (“On A Level”). This is thoughtful and thoroughly modern music that is entirely disinterested in posture and is instead obsessed with the complexities of romance.

Everything Is Love by The Carters

“This might just be the first live fast and die old LP in the hip hop history. Beyonce and Jay are playing the long game: they want their children’s children’s children to grow up in lap of luxury, they want their friends, family and race to thrive and, most importantly of all, they want their union to survive, no matter what indignities each partner (but particularly, Beyonce) must endure.  All these thoughts are delivered with a cocksure glee that confounds a generation of tediously severe “conscious rappers”. Everything Is Love might not be a perfect pop record, but it is a dynamic rewriting of the entire luxury rap playbook.” Read The Full Review

IRISIRI by Eartheater

On paper IRISIRI should be one of the strangest and most amorphous listens of 2018, but, bizarrely, between all the deadpan spoken snatches, airless synths, Hollywood strings and interplanetary exhaust fumes lays a strange pop music. Eartheater’s music might exist is an ambient realm where nothing is fixed and no tangible forms take shape, but there is always a pulse or a fleeting narrative that makes IRISIRI more than a mere intellectual curiosity. Alexandra Drewchin feels like a reluctant popstar: even as she does everything possible to disguise and subvert her vocals, her singing retains a power and immediacy that defies the innate aimlessness of the project.

Bad Witch by Nine Inch Nails

It’s a staggeringly poignant end to a rough and ready Nine Inch Nails album that feels all the better for both its brevity and its intuitive nature.  Sure there are some old sounds and second hand ideas, but the high-minded standouts (“Play The Goddammed Part”, “Over And Out”) and rebellious rockers (“Shit Mirror”, “Ahead Of Ourselves”, “God Break Down The Door”) more than compensate. Bad Witch is an album designed to confront lethargy: if you are angry, don’t just sit there and take it. If your life is dwindling away, day after day, don’t succumb to apathy and easy ambivalence – make a change. This feeling of urgency in the face of decay may well have been lost on a more polished, longer form release – so regardless of reasoning behind making Bad Witch the Nails’ ninth studio album, the results more than speak for themselves.” Read The Full Review

No Shame by Lily Allen

“The summery tones of tropical house and dancehall can’t soften the brutality of a broken home. Lily Allen’s marriage has fallen apart and No Shame is at its best when it details the self-recrimation and enduring pain that result from infidelity. This could have been a confessional classic, had it been trimmed to 10 self-immolating tracks, but some meandering mid-tempo chaff weighs the album down on the back end.” Read The Full Review

Care for Me by Saba 

Saba inhabits a realm of stiff clicks in lieu of rhythm and suppressed lurches masquerading as grooves. This might sound like a formula for stroppy sad boy rap, but there’s a strangely sorrowful warmth to the gospel flourishes that punctuate the murk. There’s no hiding Saba’s pain, nor his venom, and yet he rarely lashes out externally. Care For Me feels like a vicious internal monologue, a journal of the injustices that surround and suffocate him, as well an internal desolation in the face of an existence and persona he cannot possibly escape.

The Sciences by Sleep

Long live stoner metal and, truth be told, living long is the name of the game: each riff and groove will linger, dwell, collapse and rise at a glacial, but hypnotic pace. The Sciences, at its absolute best, recalls Black Sabbath being played at half speed, as if some ominous hand is gripping the record, forcing the needle to slowly drag against its surface. That’s not to say there are no virtuoso moments, “Sonic Titan” cascades in slow motion towards a wonderfully groovy solo: it’s a drawling attempt at seduction that provides a stark contrast to the black magic chanting of the verse. Sleep’s hymnals to the dankest intergalactic weed should grow old quick, but they never do, listeners are left transfixed as towers of fuzzy rawk prepare to envelop them.

Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers

The Mercury Music Prize perhaps jumped the gun by awarding Young Fathers for the thrillingly uneven DEAD – the best, it would seem, is yet to come. Cocoa Sugar probably isn’t the destination, but it is a more coherent, considered and subversive statement than any of its predecessors. The diaspora sound is still intact, as is the very Scottish ruffness of the production, but the wildness of old has been channelled into a shadowy seductive underground rumble. Beautiful melodies soar at the most unexpected moments as Young Fathers gain a panoramic perspective; escaping the moment for the first time in their careers to survey the carnage they’ve both wrought and survived.

Liberty by Lindi Ortega

 “Lindi Ortega continues to work away at her sound and Liberty is her best attempt yet at merging Spaghetti Western sonics with stately country sonic writing. Not one to run from a challenge, as if merging the scope of Hollywood with the intimacy of the front porch, Liberty is divided into three conceptual suites. To be honest, the story is pretty hard to follow (apparently the physical release comes with detailed liner notes), but these songs flourish in isolation. Ortega proves wonderful dramatic harnessing 80s rock propulsion, wacky séances, handclaps, deliciously camp vocals, 60s schlock and anything else that pops into her head, thus ensuring this collection never ceases to surprise.”

K.T.S.E. by Teyana Taylor

Anyone left screaming “I miss the old Kanye” should check out the latest release from Mr. West’s Wyoming odysseys. This luxurious listen sees Teyana’s smooth and sultry vocal caressing a selection of soulful arrangements backed, in large part, by acoustic guitars. Yeezy and co. chop up the soul and there’s something rather captivating about hearing Taylor duet with a selection of soul legends (and ermmm, Sisqo). Taylor proves controlled, but dexterous playing the pleading lover seeking stability on the summery “Issues/Hold On”, while oozing swagger on the show stealing “Rose In Harlem” – possibly the best track single track to come out of the Wyoming sessions.

Clean by Soccer Mommy 

Soccer Mommy’s debut is charmingly miserable. Sophie Allison explores her inner misgivings and self-loathing backed by a selection of clever riffs and understated melodies that suggest a well-disguised pop nous. No matter how sorrowful or dreamily distant Soccer Mommy’s mood, the music is never labored. Despair and longing seep from Clean’s every pour, but they are not pervasive, Allison’s diary is well worth reading and, best of all, you suspect, despite appearances, passing time in her company would be a delight, rather than a drag.

 May Your Kindness Remain by Courtney Marie Andrews

 “Some of the themes may be a little well worn (it’s not a house, it’s a home), but this wonderfully expansive album sees the already excellent Courtney Marie Andrews really coming out of her shell. Combing traditional country instrumentation and themes with modern industrial alienation, scuzzy indie guitars, gospel choirs and looming chamber pop, Andrews has crafted the best Americana album of the year so far. There are illusions to Dylan and Springsteen, but also to Mogwai and Miranda Lambert. We’ll explore them all in a full-length review later this week.”

 Albums Rated 8.0

Firepower by Judas Priest

 “Judas Priest may show the odd sign of age on Firepower, but they never, not for one second, show any signs of growing up. There’s no toning it down, no gropes toward profundity and no concessions to the cutting edge. Where other artists in their 60s sound embarrassed to be making music and try so hard to sound like elder statesmen, Priest are still hell bent for leather. They’ve learnt every trick of the trade and are awash with tonal subtleties and crafty influences, but they are all in the employ of immediacy. This is music that lives and breathes in the here and now. Firepower is alive. It screams from every sinew. It’s fast, ferocious and has no interest in aging gracefully. Just the way it should be. God bless Judas Priest.” Read Our Full Review

Now Only by Mount Eerie

After last year’s devastating LP A Crow Looked At Me, I felt like I needed a break from Mount Eerie. The explosion of intimacy and catharsis that followed his wife’s deaths proved so moving, I couldn’t imagine he’d let his audiences (let alone himself) go through it all again. And yet, here is the marvellous Now Only: a tentative step forward with his wife’s ghost in tow. The specificity of the past still reigns supreme, but the mix of acoustic strums that manage to linger despite their fragility and bruising distorted electric tones give the album a sense of growth. He puts it bluntly, “I don’t believe in ghosts or anything, I know that you are gone and I am carrying version of you around” – and he is and so he should, but the secret of Now Only is that he’s always carried the weight of decisions made and deferred, of identities embraced and rejected, of what could have been and what came to pass. Even in his quest to detail the experience of loving and living with his wife, Mount Eerie is aware that his personal history is an impermanent fluke of circumstance rather than destiny, of consequence to a precious few – and that makes it all more worth celebrating. The album is perhaps defined by a heartbreakingly beautiful and undeniably true moment (as anyone who has rushed to hospital will attest): “I remember looking around the hospital waiting room, all full of people involved in their own personal catastrophes or reading books about being mortal”. The most painful moments of our entire existence matter to so few – and we so rarely notice the daily agonies inflicted on others.

Black Coffee by Joe Bonamassa & Beth Hart

Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa have such excellent chemistry it’s a wonder they ever separate. Whether they’re reworking a classic or penning an original, Hart and Bonamassa have an instinctive understanding of Chicago blues and – perhaps surprisingly given Joe’s noodling eccentricities – classic soul. At its best Black Coffee is an album that sits and stews with the odd seductive swivel or virtuoso shred thrown in for good measure. Hart and Bonamassa’s bravest choice may be the decision to buck the nostalgic trend – sure the covers are classics, but this album is not obsessed with recreating pre-historic production techniques, it’s clean and crisp. Any crackle and scuzz comes from Hart’s lung busting intensity and Joe’s dustbowl swing.

Have Fun by Smerz

Norwegian electro-pop duo Smerz build on their impressive debut EP, Okey, with another 25 minutes of hypnotically disinterested futurism. The traditional Scandinavian staples are in place – there’s plenty of ominous glacial drift in the instrumentals and a masterful understanding of melodic dynamics – but Smerz cannot be so easily codified. There are luscious American R&B influenced vocals that appear to emerge out of the wilderness and deliciously cool snatches of speech that recall Christabelle in her pomp, all underwritten by an attitude that floats between stoned insouciance and prickly disdain. Darker and less obvious than its predecessor, Have Fun is almost unpleasantly sexy.

Songs Of Praise by Shame

Now this is a curious offering. On the surface Songs Of Praise is a straightforward successor to the sneering post-punk scepticism of Fugazi and The Fall, but these Londoners (whether they’d admit it or not) appear to have grander ambitions. Even as the seek to subvert their stream of consciousness subject matter, Shame managed to surge towards raspy melodies and tub-thumping onslaughts of scuzz. What initially appears to be a terse and dismissive album soon blossoms into something more carefully textured and raggedly beautiful. Equally, while their overt influences often made brevity and brutality an art form, Shame are happy to indulge their ambitions allowing for big billowing statements like “Angie” and “Friction”. So don’t judge this book by its cover.

Pop 2 by Charli XCX

“Sooner rather than later, Charli will have to deliver a more fully realized and definitive project, but, in the meantime, Pop 2 is a exhilarating smorgasbord of modern art pop, full of fly-by-night sonics and passing personas. Her last two mixtapes have been jam packed with so many ideas and influences it’s hard to imagine what single sound she will eventually alight upon, but truth be told, that’s her problem – we can simply sit back and marvel at another joyously creative collection.” Read The Full Review

Ye by Kanye West

“Short and to the point, despite an onslaught of distinctly dodgy lines, Ye is a twisted love letter to Kanye’s family that doesn’t seek to justify his behaviour (or his politics), but instead shows their devastating effects on those who love him the most. The highs are sky high (“Ghost Town”) and the sonics (while more offering more of a sly evolution than a grand leap forward) are richer, more dynamic and more grandly ambitious than those of his peers.” Read The Full Review

Confident Music For Confident People by Confidence Man

Dance music doesn’t have to be anonymous and, if it’s going to be cynical, it doesn’t have to be an emotional excoriation. Duo Confidence Man offer a lip smackingly garish take on a series of masterfully sculpted and sustained grooves as Janet Planet rolls her eyes through relationships, warehouse parties and Class-A drugs. Like James Murphy and Right Said Fred’s love child raised on 60s B-movies and 90s Acid House, Confident Music For Confident People is a revelation, completely out of keeping with an era of self-serious, introverted dance music.

Dirty Computer by Janelle Monae

As expressions of sexual self-confidence go, Dirty Computer is hard to beat. Monae’s decision to ditch the ArchAndriod in favor of a pussy exalting, hip shaking, standard bearer for carnal openness feels less like a liberation from and more like a weaponization of the words of others. The album is littered with putdowns she’s endured and moments of self-doubt she’s survived, but rather than succumbing to them, Monae has channelled them into a Prince-sonian, stadium sized pop persona. Even her admission that she’s afraid to fall in love with her partner plays on the largest stage imaginable. Dirty Computer is super hero rock music from a distant era infused with both modern eclecticism and racial/sexual/political anxiety.

Transangelic Exodus by Ezra Furman

“I think we’re on our own, I think we’re really on our own”. Transangelic Exodus sees Ezra Furman take his lovers hand and hit the road in hope of outrunning an oppressive regime in this queer love opus. There’s something wonderful about an album that swings from grand Springsteen narrative flourishes to insular and unflattering subconscious snipes so recklessly. The arrangements reflect this dichotomy between the cinematic and candid, with music that flitters between momentous indie rock and shards of disruptive avant garde noise. There’s a wonderful post-punk spirit to the whole affair which, backed by Furman’s wicked sense of humor, that ensures Transangelic Exodus is an album to be felt in the gut, rather than merely appreciated intellectually.

Down Below by Tribulation

This is the record metal desperately needed, it has the gnashing intensity and thoughtful tonality of the best underground works, but also the vampiric pomposity and strange goth danceability of a crossover sensation. It might sound like a box ticking exercise on paper, but Tribulation’s sound hangs together organically and feels like the creation of living breathing metal icons rather some concoction of ardent record collectors playing dress up. Down Below is defined by momentum. Even when the band indulge in some naval gazing, a mounting sense of creeping urgency persists and, nine times out of ten, the listener is rewarded with a glorious crescendo. Perhaps Tribulation’s appeal is best explained by “Here Be Dragons”, it’s not their best track by any means, but even as the music stews, dwells and slowly swells there’s a tremendous sense of swing to the arrangement – finally a metal band that understands the hips are just as important as the head.

Somewhere Out There by Rae Morris

Rae Morris’ bravery has been richly rewarded on Somewhere Out There. Ditching the soggy balladry of her debut to team up with co-producer Fryars, Morris has managed to make more obscure and challenging music that is, somehow, more addictive and directly powerful than her attempts at conventional pop. Perhaps the secret lies in her voice, Rae’s vocal recalls Bjork and her strained notes prove most powerful when they are allowed to hang in the air. To maximalise her muscle, her voice is multi-track to create imposing crescendos and set against ambient electronic loops in quitter moments Let’s not forget, this is major label pop, so when Rae hits her stride she’s not disguising her intentions. At her best she details failing in love, having sex with new partners for the first times and coming apart at the seams in clear and precise detail.

Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It by Rolo Tomassi

There was always a sense that Rolo Tomassi were playing progressives, mere amateur auteurs who legitimately enjoyed jazz and electronica, but were foisting it into their hardcore assault more optimistically than artfully. Those days are over. Their previous releases were dizzying and impressive in their chaotic experimentation, Time Will Die… is simply dazzling in surety of its execution and the clarity of its ideas. Starting with its lingering instrumental intro, the band’s control of tone and subtle understanding of their own internal dynamics now feels innate. Every soft melody, spacey drift or soul-harvesting assault feels natural, rewarding and well earned. For the first time, Rolo Tomassi’s music exudes ambition – not to surprise or unsettle – but to conquer: these are songs for the grandest of stages.

Sparrow by Ashley Monroe

They don’t make records like this anymore, except, of course, they do. Ashley Monroe seems to exist in a different dimension to Country’s other leading ladies despite being a proud Pistol Annie. Sparrow is a luscious, lingering listen full of the kind of music that Lana Del Rey tries so card to subvert and re-contextualize. Monroe’s songcraft is all soft sway, sorrow and seduction, delivered without even the slightest hint of irony and that, in itself, is so refreshing. The production is warm and roomy, affording Monroe plenty of room to sumptuously explore the anxieties and understated tensions of her largely loving relationship.

Post- by Jeff Rosenstock

Following 2016’s Worry was never going to be easy, but Post- manages it by both doubling down on Jeff’s core eccentricities and by embracing a sense of instrumental ambition. Perhaps the clue is in the title, this is Post-punk and the sonics on this album are simply stellar, but as always, what makes a Rosenstock LP essential is his performance. He’ll grind your gears, win your heart and tell you something quietly profound in forty short minutes.”

Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves

I was extremely worried about this release, but Golden Hour puts me to shame for doubting Kacey Musgraves. Her quick wit remains in tact, but Golden Hour sees her focus switch from her immediate surroundings to her navel. This is a more reflective meditation of love, commitment and happiness, with a smattering of bad boy dissections thrown in for good measure.”

Loner by Caroline Rose

If the Haim sisters didn’t love life would they sound like Caroline Rose? The question comes to mind because, in spite of her droll sarcasm and caustic detachment, Rose cannot resist the kind of peppy melodic choruses usually used to fill cavernous arenas. Loner’s targets are big hearted and small minded: she sighs at her alienation in the face of the hipster elite and silently screams at misogyny walking down the street or into an office. Given that Loner is album stuffed to overflowing with demonstrably wrongs and few moments where things actually go right, it’s remarkably enjoyable. Rose surveys FM pop, scuzzy punk, power-pop, new wave, rockabilly and tracks that echo Metronomy one moment and down tuned Daune Eddy the next.

Tell Me How You Really Feel by Courtney Barnett

The explosive on rush of slackerish ennui and razor sharp observations that defined Courtney Barnett’s debut could never be repeated. Sure, she might be able to pull the same narrative inverting tricks, but the impact of hearing “Elevator Operator” or “Depreston” for the first time cannot be recreated. So either wisely or by chance of mood, Tell Me How You Really Feel sidesteps expectation altogether, as the ever scuzzy and understated Barnett drifts towards a deeper and more lingering sorrow. The themes are darker, deeper and more personal, but delivered with the same melodic airiness of old. There’s still a sense of ironic detachment between mood and meaning, but now the peppy guitar work feels like a false smile – just enough to stop her friends from asking: “Courtney, are you sure you’re alright?”

Albums Rated 8.5

Daytona by Pusha-T

“Remember Will Smith won the first Grammy? They didn’t recognize Hov until Annie. So I don’t tap dance for the crackers and sing “Mammy”. Cause I’m ‘posed to juggle these flows and nose candy”. Pusha-T has no interest in compromising or chasing chart success. Daytona is 22 minutes of hard bars and skeletal beats. Kanye West more than holds up his end, turning 50 years of musical history into a graveyard for Pusha’s dead eye coke-rhymes to haunt.

Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides by Sophie

Sophie has come a long, long way. She was trust into the spotlight when Scotland’s maximalist scene quickly gave way to PC Music, but she was quickly and wrongly dismissed as a cloying fad. Not only did her alien sweetness and metallic clatter lead to a selection of subversively saccharine hits, they paved the way for her opus: Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides. This is an album that mutilates expectations. It starts with a classic 90s girl pop weepie (“It’s Okay To Cry”) about holding back the tears and how true love is found on the inside, rather than exterior, but contrasts it with “Pony Boy”, a merciless pseudo-industrial banger. The vulnerability is suddenly turned on its head, sure it’s okay to cry, but not at the tenderness of her love, but from pain and pleasure of being brutally penetrated by a domme. From there on in the album never takes backstep. If there’s any just Oil…  will become a camp classic, but it’s more than that, this rich, atmospheric and attitudinal music rewards deep listening as beats and hooks remerge at the most unexpected of moments. Prepare yourselves ladies and gentlemen for a candy coated bondage rave aboard the Zenomorphs mothership.

Kids See Ghosts by Kanye West & Kid Cudi

“Their one-two punch proves impossible to resist. Cudi paints in faint watercolors and subtlety shifting liquid acrylics. His is a world of dreams and illusions. Kanye’s is material. He scorches the canvas in thick slabs of oil, sometimes he smears, often he stabs, but occasionally he offers vivid flourishes of unmistakable detail. Ye no doubt succumbs to Cudi’s sonic LSD, but he’s still peaking from the cocaine. His pent up energy and his perfectionist approach to production ensures that this ship never slips its anchor. Kids See Ghosts is soulful sorcery; birthed of two opposing forces, the album, however miraculously, arrives at perfect equilibrium.” Read The Full Review

Prequelle by Ghost

There’s a lingering feeling that Prequelle isn’t Ghost’s biggest, boldest or most revolutionary record – and that may be fair – but listening to Prequelle’s 10 tracks I find it impossible to care. The Swedish three-piece might not be pushing themselves to their absolute limits, but the music they are creating is sublimely judged. The guitars have a celebratory sense of momentum, each buoyant gallop and sliding solo arrives right in the nick of time, the perfect compliment to Tobias Forge’s showstealing vocal performance. He oozes theatricality and showmanship as he leads his rats in a merry dance. Best of all, Prequelle brings back the pomp and circumstance of classic rock’s past. This Black Plague concept album recalls Rush in its wholehearted silliness and commitment to the cause, but has the pop chops of BOC and The Scorpions. Cutting edge it ain’t, but who the fuck cares, Prequelle is glorious.

7 by Beach House

Perhaps persistence is endearing. After being deeply suspicious of Beach House’s pillowy pop for a decade or more, I’ve finally succumbed to their immaterial charms. 7 is a masterpiece that doesn’t try too hard and is not knowing or insincere in any way shape or form: this is pure pleasure. What makes Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally’s creation so remarkable is its ability to seeping into your subconscious, like a hypnotic gas drifting through an array of imperceptible pours. This might all sounds very subtle and understated, but it’s not. 7 is full of big, unmistakable pop music. They might exist in a obscuring haze, but there’s no disguising Beach House’s artistry. The lyricism and instrumentation is right there, in plain view, but good luck grabbing a hold of it.

Beyondless by Iceage

Danish punks Iceage have never been ones to pander or be pigeonholed and their fourth album, Beyondless, is a study in composed execution. Sure, some fans will mourn the loss of the wild extremes of old, but the luscious textures and gloriously considered arrangements more than compensate for any lost energy. Ronnenfelt’s drawl is as lurid and seductive as ever, whether set against a broken Western backdrop (“Under The Sun”) or snot nosed theatricality (“Showtime”). There is this wonderful wonkiness to the whole production, that’s designed to undermine the undeniable professionalism of the older and wiser Iceage. In their own words, “It takes character to make a decision” and these Danes have displayed, yet again, the willingness to lose their entire audience to challenge and satisfy their artistic impulses.

Albums Rated 9.0

God’s Favorite Customer by Father John Misty

Father John Misty has finally seen the cosmic joke he’s been playing on the universe come crashing back down on his own happy home. “I’m treading water as I bleed to death”, he cries on the album opener and, if the question on Misty’s former work was “who is laughing at whom”, we now find ourselves wondering how an older, wiser Tillman will stop his psyche coming apart at the seams. He’s spent so long skewering society and picking apart our pretences, that he finds himself struggling to accept the very tangible nature of reality. Luckily, while his once unshakable surety may be gone, his beautiful, Elton John inspired songcraft remains – allowing the album to drift from the sublimely soulful to the knowingly ridiculous. God’s Favorite Costumer is at its best at both ends of the spectrum: when Tillman is completely overwhelmed by anxiety in the face of his love for his wife and as he drifts into delusional paranoia (“Mr. Tillman for the seventh time, we have no knowledge of a film that is being shot outside/Those aren’t extras in a movie, they are our clientele/No the are not running lines and they aren’t exactly thrilled”).

Isolation by Kali Uchis

Being labelled “grown up” is often a fate worse than death; it suggests music that is professional, undeniably thoughtful, but usually quite dull. Despite the inherent baggage, it’s the term that springs to mind when listening to Isolation: this is the cool, sensual music of a grown woman, rather than a little girl playing music industry sex pot. Uchis controls her own destiny. She is in command of every second of this LP and her lyricism is delightfully mischievous – she wraps both Morrissey and Kanye West around her little finger on “Miami” (“I was looking for a job and then I found one/He said he want me in my video like Bound One/But why would I be Kim, I could be Kanye?/In the land of opportunity and palm trees”). Isolation is preposterously brilliant, it’s hard to know what to discuss: each track is a radical departure from the last and Kali’s smoky, effortlessly tuneful vocal oozes superstar quality. On Isolation, Kali can, and does, have it all.

In A Poem Unlimited by U.S. Girls

Meg Remy has not only done it again, she’s completely blown 2015’s Half Free out of the water. In A Poem Unlimited might be too silky for those who crave the jagged edges of her past work, but in blending dreamy lounge pop vocals with trip hop’s dislocation and jazz’s sense of anchorless drift, Remy has struck upon the sensuous and serene. These protest songs assault everything from pollutants to Obama’s false promises with a sultry aplomb that renders her targets not only ridiculous, but completely defenceless. Throw in the best pop hooks of her career to date (as well as an incredible live show) and you’re left with a stone cold album of the year contender.

Palo Santo by Years & Years

Something remarkable has happen. Years & Years have embodied a contradiction. They have jettisoned some of the more stately and pompous elements of their star-making debut Communion, while embracing richer, far more intimate, self-excoriating lyricism. In other words: Palo Santo is far deeper and significantly shallower than its predecessor. Every inch of this hit-studded album is infused with an airily-electric, club-ready, pop energy even as Olly Alexander details a series of shattered illusions and foolish mistakes. Debauched, sexy, strangely clean, Years & Years run rings around Justin Timberlake while displaying an understanding of both gay and straight club culture that defies their years. On Communion they understood the chart topping potential of synth pop, on Palo Santo their eyes are open wide and everything from MJ aping-pop and sultry R&B to modern-tropical house and classic Bronski Beat are slaves to their mastery. Perhaps it’s a little too slick, but honestly, who the fuck cares when it sounds this good?

I’m All Ears by Let’s Eat Grandma

Talk about coming on leap and bounds, Let’s Eat Grandma have shed the wishy-washy amateurism of their debut in favor of meaty and fiercely focused dream pop sounds. Somewhat amazingly, this giant leap forward in musicality does not come at the expense of either attitude or anarchy: the duo still have a droll bratty aura that gives these luxurious songs a healthy subversive edge. The result is music that plays with the tension between heartbroken sincerity and that teenage desire to brush it all off with a shrug. This friction gives I’m All Ears an explosive power as the duo’s telekinetic friendship transcends a series of nearly-but-not-quite romantic failures – perfectly pitched modern pop music just so happens to be the by-product..