As 2018 comes to a close we look back at some of our favourite albums of the year.
Richard Ashcroft – Natural Rebel
Returning to what he does best, Ashcroft picks up the acoustic guitar and takes you down a road of lyrical wisdom. Lead single ‘Surprised by the Joy’ is the pick of the bunch on the ten track release, but there are other gems such as the ever uplifting ‘That’s When I Feel it’ which is one of the more upbeat songs on the record, and the opening track ‘All My Dreams’ is a good display of heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics Ashcroft has come to be known for.
DMA’s – For Now
It may only be the band’s second album but these three Aussies continue to capture their own unique sound and even go on to develop it on this year’s record. ‘In The Air’ is a soft sounding highlight that shows the tenderness that has been so key to the group’s success so far, while songs such as ‘For Now’ play polar opposite and zap into your headphones with the largest of productions. The variety and quality of this album makes it well worth a listen.
Biffy Clyro – MTV Unplugged
The legendary Scottish rockers trade in their electric guitars and bone shacking solos for a more mellow version of some of their biggest songs to date. The acoustic makeover gives songs such as ‘The Captain’ and ‘Black Chandelier’ an entirely new feel to them, shedding light on Simon Neil’s excellent lyrics like never before. This album is a great look into some of the best moments of the band’s back catalogue while also acting as a great alternate version of what fan’s already love.
The Brew – Art of Persuasion
The Hendrix influence has always been worn of the sleeves of The Brew, which in this band’s case has once again proven itself to be a good thing. The guitar playing on this record is of the very highest calibre. None stop rock from the get go, first track ‘Seven Days Too Long’ has an unrelenting riff and the band starts as they mean to go on. ‘Gin Soaked Loving Queen’ is a reminder of earlier record ‘Control’ with both its sound and structure and is likely to become a key part of bands future live shows.
Florence + The Machine – High as Hope
Not much else can be said for this stellar music making group that hasn’t already been in the past but, they were back at it in 2018 and they delivered in style. Stunning vocals flow throughout the record, as you’d expect and Florence’s lyrical poetry takes the songs to the incredible highs that she reaches with every record. Hit single ‘Hunger’ is the powerful ballad that was custom made for the live show experience and will sit perfectly next to older classics. But, the ever so beautiful ‘The End of Love’ is our pick of the bunch.
Blossoms – Cool Like You
The Stockport pop five-piece delivered everything they’re best at on this record. Sonic sounding keyboard riffs and interesting lyrical avenues are travelled down to make this easy-on-the-ears output one of 2018s best. ‘There’s a Reason Why’ is the perfect pop opener and the 11 track album only goes from strength to strength from there. The upbeat, insatiable ‘Cool Like You’ is perfected pop, while singles ‘There’s a Reason Why’ and ‘I Can’t Stand It’ are some of the finest tracks from the past year.
Dan Patlansky – Perfection Kills
This rifftastic album is a combination of Dan’s usual powerful, punchy vocal delivery and some of his best guitar playing to date. Opening song ‘Johnny’ is bound to become one of his biggest live-show staples with its brilliantly catchy chorus and killer guitar solo. ‘Too Far Gone’ is the ultimate modern rock song, filled with some of the best guitar tones in years, while ‘Judge a Man’ will having you return to the album for the foreseeable future to get your blues fix.
Miles Kane – Coup De Grace
Pulling from a brand new set of inspirations, Miles Kane has compiled his best collection of songs to date. ‘Cry on My Guitar’ is a shot of pure T Rex; which is sure to get you moving onto the dance floor. ‘Killing The Joke’ is a lyrically reflective track, emotionally capsuled, and ‘Shavambacu’ sounds like it’s been tastefully ripped form a Last Shadow Puppets record. This is Kane at his very best and a stylistic choice that he should continue to explore.
Dawes – Passwords
The Los Angeles folk rockers returned with the stylistically-varied sounding ‘Passwords’, an album filled with lyrical genius and their trademark soothing harmonies. Taylor Goldsmith has once again penned a lyrical phenomenon, continuing to prove that he’s untouchable when it comes to words. ‘Crack the Case’ is the best example of this and even though the track rolls in just shy of six minutes, it flies by. ‘Feed The Fire’ is the best song on the record; it tonally sounds like it could have sat just as nicely on previous album ‘We’re All Gonna Die’. It’s the perfect showcase of the bands instrumental prowess, perfected rhythmic drumming and spacey sounding electric guitar riffs. Goldsmith’s vocals shine throughout the album, hitting your ears with the softest touches of harmonistic glory.
James Bay – Electric Light
James Bay rethinks his approach entirely for much of this album and in doing so ‘Electric Light’ is one of the coolest sounding records of the year. ‘Pink Lemonade’ sounds as if it could’ve fallen off the back of an early Kings of Leon tour bus with its rapid fire guitar style. ‘Fade Out’ shoots a nod to Frank Ocean with both the falsetto vocal style and the otherworldly beat sounds that glide through the song. ‘Just for Tonight’ comes with a familiarity to James’ earlier work and works effectively as a piece of classic songwriting. Other highlights are the funky sounding ‘Wanderlust’ and the lairy ‘Wasted on Each Other’.
The Longshot – Love is for Losers
Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong travels back to his punk roots in order to front a band that have released one of the best albums of the year. Capturing much of the heart of older Green Day records, ‘Love is for Losers’ is a 32-minute rock ‘n’ roll paradise, which flashes by so quickly that you can’t help but think an extra track or two would’ve helped to flesh it out a bit more. Although, with that said, you won’t find an album that’s more fun to listen to than this from the past year. In a world that takes itself far too serious, not taking itself too seriously is just what was needed in order to tick every box with this release. ‘Kill Your Friends’ and ‘Chasing a Ghost’ are major highlights. Let’s hope The Longshot continue to release music and not just fade out like a side project.
Snow Patrol – Wildness
Seven years without any new releases was far too long to be away from the limelight; thankfully, Snow Patrol welcome us back with one of their biggest musical accomplishments yet. This is the band’s darkest album, in terms of tone and lyrical subject, they have released thus far. Although, ‘Wildness’ actually finds it’s best form in it’s more upbeat and poppier moments. ‘Heal Me’ and ‘Empress’ are two tracks in particular that stand out in the track listing. ‘Heal Me’ layers its different sounds on top of each other before exploding into it’s chorus section, and by doing so creates a great modern pop sound. ‘What If This Is All the Love You Ever Get?’ is a beautiful moment on the album that displays just how effectively the band can strip down their sound and still end up with an amazing piece of music as the result of doing so.
The Temperance Movement – A Deeper Cut
Back with a third record that stands out as their best work so far, by quite some distance, The Temperance Movement took 2018 by storm. This album caters to all your rock needs with 12 tracks that are each more than worthy of your time. ‘Caught in the Middle’ is the perfect album opener, built to measure with a punchy guitar riff and a vocal that shakes bones during the chorus. ‘Love and Devotion’ is an amazing example of how guitar music is still as relevant as ever and songs ‘A Deeper Cut’ and ‘Another Spiral’ showcase the tender touch the band has in it’s locker is most certainly a powerful one.
Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile
Just inches away from our top spot, this record gives you Manic Street Preachers at their very best. ‘People Give in’ takes songwriting to another level, particularly with it’s quite brilliant chorus. The irresistible sound of ‘International Blue’ makes you want to pick up a guitar and start playing along. ‘Hold Me Like a Heaven’ is perhaps the pick of the 12 songs, it’s symphonic sounding choruses are infectious and the use of its chanting backing vocals gives it an epic sound. This is by far one of the best albums of the year and one you should certainly consider revisiting if it passed you by when it was released.
Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
There was only ever going to be one album at the top of our list. This album transports you to another world, fantastically created by Alex Turner and co. It’s certainly Arctic Monkey’s most divisive release to date, and it’s understandable to see why it’s left many a fan pining for the days of 2014s AM. But, for those that will appreciate the stylistic alteration, it’s the best time you’ll have with an album from 2018. The title track sounds as if it’s been zapped from David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’, accompanied with an unsettlingly edgy vocal delivery. ‘Four out of Five’ is the closest you’ll get to the Monkey’s previous work but, the spotlight shines most brightly on crooning tracks, ‘One Point Perspective’ and ‘Star Treatment’. This album is the true masterpiece of 2018 and has opened up a book of questions about where the band might take their sound next.
All words by Jared Musson