Live4ever’s Best Of 2018: The Albums

Live4ever EOY Album 2018

After our favourite tracks of 2018 were picked last week, here Live4ever presents the best albums to have been featured and reviewed on these pages during the last twelve months. From instant classic debuts to fascinating artist evolution, we conclude with a familiar name picking up another hugely deserved top placing…

Season’s greetings to all our readers, and the very best for 2019!

Twin Fantasy

20: Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

“It’s surprising to learn how much effort and time went into the album as it sounds impressively lo-fi and ramshackle, as well as being full of spirit. Toledo doesn’t have the strongest singing voice (at one stage he even pleads to have Frank Ocean’s), and at points you could be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to The Strokes, so much does he sound like Julian Casablancas, this especially true on Cute Thing, where the guitar and drums collide gloriously over his East Coast drawl. Indeed, the album could only have been made in America; at some points it oozes Ryan Adams’ melancholic drama, at others the Smashing Pumpkins’ theatrical desperation.”

Call The Comet

19: Johnny Marr – Call The Comet

“The whole album is peppered with effects and unearthly rhythms; Actor Attractor has synths that hark back toth Electronic days, and album centrepiece Walk Into The Sea offers ninety seconds of a variety of instruments all backed by a nagging pulse before it kicks into life with a sky-scraping, windswept, ear-consuming sound. As a contrast, Marr talks rather than sings throughout the song in a defiant tone. As rightly heralded as he is, it always seems to go without comment how much funk Marr brings to the mix. Bug is a perfect case in point, strutting as it does but the guitars on both verse and chorus could easily sit anywhere in Chic’s catalogue.”

Columbia

18: The Blinders – Columbia

“But Columbia doesn’t beat you over the head with its allegories. Brave New World might not be about Trump’s America, it could be about an ‘idiot king building a wall’ (although the Kardashians reference makes it hard to avoid), and Rat In A Cage doesn’t have to be about the migrant crisis, it could be a straight-forward call to arms, as Dream tells us to ‘come together, we need each other’. The politics is there if you want it to be, but it’s oblique enough to ignore should you choose to. The Blinders join Cabbage, Shame and Idles as pioneers of a movement we’ve needed for some time, giving us faith in rock music again.”

Acts Of Fear And Love 1

17: Slaves – Acts Of Fear And Love

“Although succinct at 9 tracks (considerably shorter than Take Control’s 14), Acts Of Fear And Love isn’t just all ferocity. Ellie Rowsell of Wolf Alice makes an appearance on Daddy, adding her usual breathy vocals to a lament (by Slaves’ standards) about the pressures of fatherhood. Structured only around a meandering guitar, it’s a pleasant draw of breath after the bludgeoning of the senses provided by the opening numbers. Recent single Chokehold has the lyrical content of a ballad, singer/drummer Isaac Holman dealing with the age-old themes of how fragile the male ego is in the aftermath of a broken relationship.”

Twentytwo In Blue

16: Sunflower Bean – TwentyTwo In Blue

“Twentytwo In Blue is a significant leap forward. Produced by Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a substantial amount of meat has been added to the bones of their sound. It comes out of the traps strongly, opener Burn It wouldn’t sound out of place on a 70s edition of Top Of The Pops 2 so indebted is it to glam rock. Second single Crisis Fest, also cut from Bolan-esque hues, is a rallying call to arms to a disenfranchised generation; ‘If you keep us down you know that we can shout’. It’s a modern day Children Of The Revolution and acts as a perfect accompaniment to these tumultuous political times.”

Yawn

15: Bill Ryder-Jones – Yawn

“To complete the task set by its creator, Yawn needs to pose as a horse of Troy to unpick the 21st century vagaries of modern music consumption with its skips, playlists and general unfaithfulness to the musician’s conscience. At times though, his trademark ambiguity has everyone guessing; And Then There’s You is an effortless tilt at of the sort indie pop you feel he could reel off in his sleep, whilst in the maternal juxtaposition of Mither, the foothills of a truest love are held back by austerity and dryness of mouth…Bill Ryder-Jones knows he’s never made a better record, and if the price of entry is higher than a smile then so be it.”

Love Is Magic

14: John Grant – Love Is Magic

“This cavalcade of wit and bestial commentary ends with Touch And Go, a signature ballad that deals articulately with the ordeal of whistle-blower Chelsea Manning from the point of view of a non-judgemental bystander born to an information age which makes us all feel like we know everyone else by a single degree of separation. It’s a fittingly conversational end to a record by what’s become one of contemporary music’s singular phenomena, a go-anywhere talent willing to smother his defining characteristics in favour of satirising himself, virtue and the limpness of our modern-day human spirit.”

Revolution Of Mind

13: She Drew The Gun – Revolution Of Mind

“Sonically, the album pays respect to different eras and influences in music: from the super-captivating arrangement of Something For The Pain, a song with an extremely cool, calm and consistent 1960s vibe, to the 1990s trip-hop element and rap influence present on both Arm Yourself and Dopamine, through the cinematic music quality of Resister Reprise, She Drew The Gun take us on an immaculate journey comprising not just a fascinating mix of genres, but also one that entails the most impressive soundscapes. This album has an identity and a voice. The emotion, thought, heart and art displayed symbolise the ideal encounter.”

Aviary

12: Julia Holter – Aviary

“What all this delivers is something uncompromising, challenging in fact. The record’s constant unerring and unnerving search for transformation brings to mind The Mars Volta’s Eriatarka. They sound nothing alike, but they are playing with their food in similar ways, bound by nothing other than the ideas they have. Every song starts somewhere, but that’s no indication of where the song is going and how it will finish. This quickly becomes that, there is here, and all other manner of inconsistencies and questions. Much of the album transcends simple forms and structures but without becoming bizarre jazz or ambient noise.”

1 2 Kung Fu

11: Boy Azooga – 1, 2, Kung Fu!

“The early morning peace is shattered immediately, however, on Loner Boogie; a glorious salute to the in-the-kitchen oddballs who make life either richer or more dangerous, with a strong-arm, nervous riff and revved up distortion made big just to make a pointless f*****g point. Breathless, we then segue into another mood map on Face Behind Her Cigarette, a maudlin piece of synth pop that splits the difference between the two songs before it, avoiding the trap of having to bother explaining itself and being just what it is. Some of this freewheeling is probably the result of not being forced to create sequentially, the rest down to deploying your own filter.”

Tell Me How You Really Feel 1

10: Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel

“As well as being lyrically more visceral, the music is also noticeably abrasive – the fumbled early sludge of opener Hopefullessness barely getting out of its slacker trance before dissolving into a scree of feedback. The sunshine and past relatable neuroses of suburbia it ain’t. There are occasional reminders that the singer has lost neither her keen eye for observation nor the knack of turning it into gold, as with Nameless/Faceless’, ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup/And spit out better words than you’, but this is a song about how femininity and feminism are becoming more distinct in a world where so many men can deal with neither.”

No Thank You

9: Kyle Falconer – No Thank You

“It’s hard, in fact, to decide whether No Thank You peels back the layers to Falconer’s writing or adds a dozen more; the lovely, melancholy reel of ballad Kelly finds him sat at the piano and surrounded by strings, while the Radio 2 friendly centre of Japanese Girl lies closer to the pop sheen of Coldplay or Snow Patrol, which is surely the point. As well as showing this prowess at grafting an open melody to a proud confessional, there are episodes of tenderness which even the most trolling wronged hotel owner may warm to. The caner-turned-contactless-payment guru of Last Bus Home is a neat catharsis set to country and western cadences.”

Im All Ears 1

8: Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears

“This revival of the new profits most from dropping any pretences; for songwriters who were once regarded largely as making novelty music for over-excitable Graduations, it’s a mature and spirited comeback to those who would still put them in that box. Neither is it a fluke – even more expansive, closer Donnie Darko gestates around a brittle but danceable piano lilt that speaks to arch-Mancunians New Order’s period at eighties synth-pop’s vanguard, before breaking down into little poetry and a twinkling, exhausted end. For a duo barely old enough to vote, these two breakdowns into mood and instinct are comings of age.”

Tranquility Base

7: Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

“It’s been five years since the quartet’s relatively hang up free AM, a record which, based on the evidence of Tranquillity Base Hotel And Casino, was not only a career full stop but also a thick underlining in pen. Embryonically it was a set of ditties bashed out by Alex Turner on a Steinway Vertegrand piano in his spare room, which at first the singer toyed with fashioning as a solo album such was the departure that they signalled from the various aspects of the band’s past. Instead, these autobiographical notions became the DNA of this a sixth release that, such is its wild diversionary nature, may result in no-one ever feeling safe from the band’s next step again.”

Majahua

6: Future War Bride – Majahua

“The drums have an industrial weight which propels the album forward and gives it a sense of urgency not usually found in psych-rock; as on Gloves Off which, as the title suggests, is a direct challenge to the malaise that the ‘face-down’ generation busies itself with. In Step eases the pace somewhat, frontman Mikkel Bostrom pleading the listener to ‘step with the times’ against a mournful backdrop before Apple Tree, which can only be described as Temples covering America’s Horse With No Name, asserts itself as an instant ear-worm. Glorious, emotion-drenched backing vocals and a winding string section contribute to an album highlight.”

Gods Favorite Customer

5: Father John Misty – God’s Favorite Customer

“Perhaps this refusal to relate is what we’ve come to expect. But there is also a waxing intimacy here…A record that could just as easily have been entitled ‘Who’s Behind Door Number One This Time’, Josh Tillman veers from heartbreak to diagnosis and back amongst the sort of rubble you sense he’ll always claim was like that when he found it. Should he ever find his muse in happy-ever-after mode you suspect the product will be one of the greatest albums ever written. For now though, he remains a talent under someone else’s lock and key, perhaps the big fella of the title, or anyone else willing to be the jailer stood on the other side of his confessional wall.”

Ghost Alive

4: The Boxer Rebellion – Ghost Alive

“Ghost Alive is superficially an acoustic record, not so much an abandonment of the principles which have, to a greater or lesser degree, dominated the band’s horizons but a rejection of anything that could distract, the object to bring you as close to the mirror as possible. Part way through its creation Nicholson’s father died, making it something of an unconscious requiem, although it seems that the deceased’s influence is more as a confidant than the subject of a glad-ragged wake. That weight, and simply avoiding the trite precepts of unplugging, is a draining enough task alone but somehow elevated by it.”

Hunter

3: Anna Calvi – Hunter

“There’s a tenderness and resignation to the ballad Away that portrays Calvi as a victim as well aggressor, but the final word goes to opener As A Man, where the question is not about her but about what the subject wants, a reminder that sexuality is never owned set to a massive set of pop-props that could launch the provocative what ifs into the mainstream. Strip back rock and roll and you’ll find lust and sex – its name comes from it, after all. The Hunter is about all the other stuff we complicate it with and Anna Calvi has used it to come out from everything, including her own body. That beneath this revelation it still makes a noise worth hearing is a remarkable feat.”

Songs Of Praise

2: Shame – Songs Of Praise

“‘Our music is about wanting to provoke something,’ Steen says, the most utterly no-shit statement heard in rock for many a year. Clearly, you don’t do that by making easy choices, and rather than hiring some of the safer pairs of hands to do the job, Songs Of Praise was produced by Dan Foat and Nathan Boddy, long standing figures in the techno world dealing with a band for the first time. Both, he says, obsessed over Martin Hannett’s auteurial work with Joy Division and the Happy Mondays, a force self evident on the chiming, treble soaked guitar of Friction, a Bummed-era sleazoid rolling groove that connects a mains circuit cable back into Madchester’s sleeping Frankenstein.”

Joy As An Act Of Resistance

1: Idles – Joy As An Act Of Resistance

“Unfiltered, Talbot’s skill is grabbing the listener and making connections; you can’t resent him for it, only admire the courageousness of June, on which he starkly draws the veil of grief back on the death of his daughter and leaves himself as vulnerably open as a stranger can be to another stranger. In the grain and underneath the fused, at times edge grinding noise, Joy As An Act Of Resistance is mostly about love – indeed, the band’s hyper obsessive fanbase uses the phrase All Is Love as a term of mutual identification and synonymity. Learning about it as more than a word though is the album’s BIG IDEA.”

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