When it comes to thinking of the music that I have loved this year, there are only a handful of albums that I can choose from. This is certainly not from a lack of albums, more so the fact that I just simply haven’t listened to enough. I came to this conclusion when I was drawing up a list of my top 10, only to just about find ten that I had properly listened to throughout the course of 2018.
So first thing’s first; next year I’m absolutely making more of an effort to check out more albums. For someone who goes on about who much they love music, I have no where near enough of a hold on what albums have completely rocked it this year, let alone the ones that totally flopped. That being said, I have some sort of an idea, hell I even went to a listening party of The 1975’s new album despite spending a whole lotta time complaining that I just don’t get the fascination with them. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships proved to treat me with a few unexpectedly enjoyable tracks, but a top album of 2018 it did not make. Too long, not a fan of some of the production, but definitely some moments on there to make you laugh, cry and everything in between, so in that respect, it’s certainly an interesting album.
Speaking of “top albums”, I don’t want this post to read as simply as that, purely because I just don’t feel that listened to nearly enough albums to create a list I’m happy with. Instead I’m thinking of key moments throughout the year, looking at shows as well.
2018 started off strong with Dream Wife’s debut LP. The self-titled record took me right back to the first time I saw them in 2017 all while reinventing the band with newer unheard songs. It was a great chance to really get to know Dream Wife and enjoy the full spectrum of their music. I’m a little annoyed that out of all the shows they played this year I did not make it to one of them. That being said, their album is one I have enjoyed throughout the year, and even if in the later months it may have been pushed back in favour of other records, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing some of my friends getting in to them and feeling more connected to them for it. As I’ve said many times before, that is what one my favourite things about music is, the sharing of it and the connections it can create.
Not long after Dream Wife came Shame with Songs of Praise. What a record. Another band who’s live show captured my heart, the raw intensity of it all somehow wrapped up in this album. I recently went back to it and fell in love with it all over again, there’s a real good energy that fills me with such joy each time I hear it. It’s totally the kind of music that makes me want to play the drums again.
A major band for me this year were Foxing. I was introduced to them last year and knew immediately that they were just the band for me, despite having not checked into similar bands for quite some time. When Nearer My God came out I got to experience new Foxing music at the same time as other fans, making me feel a lot more part of the fan base than I had done before. I had in fact received a stream of the album ahead of its release, it was an email that really excited me and I couldn’t wait to write up a feature for my blog about this brilliantly beautiful band. I was also very lucky to get a free pass to their show in London the day before they released the album and honestly, it may have been one of my favourite shows of this year (another thing I need to do more of next year). Hearing the songs live elevated Nearer My God to a whole new level and I am still in awe of the sheer love from the crowd, particularly the guy clutching his hands together at this chest with so much adoration in his eyes. It sounds all slushy and gross but it really got me. This would definitely be in my top 10 list, I even thought about a tattoo to go with Lich Prince for goodness sake. I’m yet to get that though. We’ll see. Overall, even though NMG seemed to split fans, with some saying that they had completely changed their sound, I felt like it was the most ‘Foxing’ they have ever been. Yes sonically it went in a new direction, but the whole feel of the album, its very aura, is so in tune with who Foxing are and that’s exactly what holds it all together. It is intense, exciting and drenched in emotion, my heart just could not deal. To top it all off their mini podcast “Nearer My Pod” just made the experience all the more special and I definitely recommend it to anyone who loved the album.
I feel a bit weird transitioning from Foxing to this next one, but I just have to talk about Sweetener. Now, I’ve always loved a little bit of Ariana Grande, but I never really thought I’d be listening to a whole album of hers on repeat and then playing the absolute shit out of thank u next when that came out not long after. It may be my single of the year. Granted it’s the only MAJOR single I listened to more than a few times, and it seems like almost every person on the planet was doing the same, but still – 2018 would not be what it is without those Ari hits. Seriously though, that album. It opened me up to more than I would normally go for and not just generic pop crap. There’s the pop music you just love because that’s how it is manufactured, but there is a real sense of connection (yes I said it again) with this album and that was just so unexpected.
Okay, so it would absolutely not be a Sam worthy list if there was no mention of Beach House. While you can’t beat a classic like Bloom, their 2018 release 7 took my love for these dream pop connoisseurs and shook it all up into something bigger than I ever imagined. They may even be more of a favourite of mine than Wolf Alice at this point. One morning I woke up at 4am and was feeling really crap so obviously I ended up scrolling through Twitter, where I discovered that Beach House had released a new single. What a way to make a horrible morning so much better! ‘Lemon Glow’ was a mind boggling reimagination of the typical Beach House sound and I must have listened to it at any opportunity I got over the course of those next few days. I was just so elated that they were still making new music, not only that, but it was a little more inventive and still magnficently ‘them’. Of course, if you know me, you will definitely know that I also finally saw Beach House this year. Like, did I mention it at all? That was a really special show. If I had to see one show from this year one more time it would definitely be this one. I’ve spoken/written to death about it already so I won’t go into much detail but dear god did it rip my heart out. They spoke about us, the fans, being the electricity and I have never felt so much from such a big crowd. I loved every minute of it, a top ten of all the shows I have ever been to, that’s for sure.
Not long after this I saw Our Girl, a band whose album I had been listening to almost constantly the minute I first pressed play. Both the record and the show are up there in my highlights of 2018. Their show brought out a while new side to Stranger Today that I just was not expecting, plus the generous buggers added an entire Bedroom Record to the mix, essentially meaning I’ve heard all their songs in three different ways and that makes me so frickin’ happy.
Now, not all albums make me happy. Some make me super sad, and in some twisted way, I’m such a fan of that. Two albums that stand out are LoveLaws by TT (Theresa Wayman) and Yawn by Bill Ryder-Jones. I remember listening to LoveLaws way earlier in the year and worrying so much about how to write a review that would do it justice. I got so attached to it that I simply could not find the appropriate words without throwing my own feelings in there. I think the last album that made me feel like that was The Dream by Tashaki Miyaki. I have a vivid memory of immersing myself into this album by listening to it in my bedroom late at night in the dark. Man, it really hurt. I have a real morbid fascination in music or books that have the ability to break my heart into tiny pieces, it’s such a strange sensation of love and sorrow all at once. I did of course end up writing a review, only to then see Warpaint sharing it on their social media, so no pressure, only a band that Theresa Wayman is a part of reading my review of her very personal solo album. No pressure at all.
Bill Ryder-Jones came a lot later in the year. I only stopped to listen to his album after seeing his involvement on the Our Girl bedroom record and remembering his performance from By The Sea in Margate a few years back. “Let’s check this out then” I thought as I put on my headphones on the train back from London with my sister. Then out of nowhere, ALL OF THE FEELINGS. What really struck me about Yawn is the purity of it all. It is so soft and simple in sound yet so hard and raw in essence. Emotions everywhere. Vocals come in as gentle husky breaths, while the lyrics themselves serve heavy punches to the gut. Again, that love for all music that makes me want to cry comes in. It is another one that took me by surprise and I have listened to it almost every day since. Absolutely a top album for me this year.
My final key moment is the Juniore show at Heartbreakers. I got invited to it last minute, my friend opening up with a solo set. I had no idea what to expect. I think that is somewhat a factor in how I ended up falling for Juniore. Their sound was a little boujie with a crazed energy, a combo that I would not necessarily expect to pair too well but Juniore absolutely smashed it. It was at this point that I decided I absolutely had to take more a chance on live shows and make an effort to see more bands in 2019. I recently listened to an interview Juniore did with Lauren Laverne which made me love them even more. Particlarly with their talk of connection to culture, no longer living in your first home and feeling like you took it for granted. I just love how they reached back to their roots, using inspiration from French band of the 60s and putting it into the world today.
Overall I have listened to lots of awesome music this year, but to be entirely honest I’m a little underwhelmed about the amount of new music I actually pushed myself to listen to. You don’t have to listen to music any particular way but one thing I know for sure is that in 2019 I want to be able to tell you my top ten albums of the year, carefully chosen from a large selection. While I am keen to explore more genres and go to more shows, my ultimate goal is to simply immerse myself in to more albums. I’m nerding out a bit thinking about getting really stuck in and dissecting albums piece by piece, learning about its background as well as the bands themselves. I just can’t wait.