It’s time to say goodbye to 2018. Thanks to everyone for reading through the year, and to all my MG colleagues for another great year.
Here’s my five favourite albums from the past 12 months featuring the usual mix of dance, indie, rock and black metal.
Ho, Ho, Ho! \m/
The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
Once in a while, an album comes along that is immediately brilliant. The songs sound fully realised and viscerally thrilling. Like the very best bands, they make it sound so easy. It’s as if these songs were lying around waiting to be discovered but they were so obviously great that everyone ignored them until The Beths picked them up and dusted them off. They throw in influences from all over the musical spectrum and integrate them seamlessly into power pop gems. Maybe it takes four jazz musicians to show the current crop of milquetoast rock stars how to write pop songs again. If you are despairing at the current state of guitar music, then Future Me Hates Me is the tonic you need. It will restore your faith.
The Men - Drift
The Men may have emerged as a noise rock band but there are few remnants of that era here. On ‘Maybe I’m Crazy’, The Men channel Nine Inch Nails. Elsewhere, They turn their hand to trip-hop and psychedelia. They owe debts to Jim Morrison, Nick Cave, The Eels, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. Drift doesn’t step into the same river twice. With any album that covers as much musical ground as this one, some songs work better than others but the musical tapas on offer, and the expansive feel of the record, make it work as a whole.
PBR Streetgang - Late Night Party Line
Generally speaking, if an album appears one winter and you are still listening to it the next, that’s a recommendation in itself. PBR Streetgang may sound like the guerrilla marketing team for a microbrewery but Late Night Party Line’s smooth, unobtrusive, electro is immediate, accessible and unpretentious. The Leeds duo have played together for over a decade and the longevity of their relationship shows through. From Chicago house, to the European invasion of the ‘90s, via ‘80s pop, the pair play fast and loose with the samples and beats. The 10 tracks here are so well constructed, and seamlessly arranged, that it’s difficult to believe that this is their first full-length. This isn’t one to be scattered in playlists. It’s an “album” album.
Dimmu Borgir – Eonian
The resounding cries of “Sellout!” from metal purists usually signify a record worth listening to. Black metal has reached the zenith of its accessibility with Eonian. However, if Dimmu Borgir have set out to storm the mainstream with their first album in eight years, then they have failed. What we get instead is an ornately gothic, macabre collection of morose beauty. The breadth and scope of the music are what set this album apart. The romantic, choral contributions of Gaute Storaas and the Schola Cantrum Choir pitch the symphonic end of Dimmu Borgir somewhere between Blind Guardian and The Sisters Of Mercy, with overt nods to Carl Orff and Edvard Grieg. It also happens to be great for headbanging.
Stoat – Try Not To Think About It
It’s been a long wait to hear Stoat’s second album. Their sole long player, Future Come And Get Me, has become a cult classic in the intervening years. A decade away has given the band life experience as well as improved musicianship. It’s no less sardonic or intellectual than their previous work but the energy in the music is infectious. They balance sophisticated rage with a simplicity of presentation that will be familiar to fans of The Pixies and McLusky. With the rapturous choruses and absurdist verses, Stoat have taken the work of Albert Camus and condensed it into three minute pop tunes with production that is so clear, you can see your face in it. The band mix social commentary, wordplay, and a fun approach that balances the darker material. Life is hard, but it always has been, and we’ll get through it. If we try not to think about it.