By the modern, arbitrary calendar, we are not quite at the end of the year yet. But seeing as I won’t be posting on December 31st, I think this is a good a time as any to look back at new music I’ve been listening to over the last twelve months. This is by no means exhaustive, and I of course I am not claiming that these are ‘the best’ albums of the year. As there is so much music out there, I have heard but an infinitesimal amount of it. However, these are the ten (the human obsession with digital numbers runs deep) albums which I recommend. Special thanks to those of you who recommended bands and albums to me this year; particular shout out to The Falcon, The Miscreant, and The Man from Shutter Island.
Please send me on your recommendations. It’s the holiday season, and I’m going travelling so will have plenty of opportunity to stick new music on the headphones. Here are ten of mine, in no particular order. Maybe with a gun to my head, I would suggest either the first or the last on the list as being my ‘album of the year’, but then again, information extracted under such duress would not be reliable. Make up your own mind.
Zeal and Ardor – Stranger Fruit
Starting with the one of the more outlandish concepts in recent music, Zeal and Ardor is the brainchild of Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss experimental musician, who, when goaded in an online forum by a smart-ass racist, set out to fuse Gospel Music with Black Metal. This album is the second in this project, and though on paper it sounds as if it would be a complete mess, it somehow works together seamlessly. Blending elements of the aforementioned genres with Soul, Post-Punk, and Shoegaze, this eclectic mix takes us on a bizarre ride, effortlessly moving through the gears and switching genres even within individual tracks, without once losing its momentum. Utterly engrossing.
Turnstile – Time and Space
The best and freshest sound I’ve heard in Hardcore Punk this year, Turnstile blaze through 13 tracks in 25 minutes without pausing for breath. Pure, unadulterated tear-your-face-off music. The soundtrack to a riot. Great to get yourself pumped up.
Ghost – Prequelle
Swedish wonderful weirdos Ghost deliver their most pop album yet; truly deserving their moniker of Evil Abba. The pop-rock sensibilities are so well-realised that they even get away with an outrageous sax-solo – wheeling out Papa Zero for the live show to ‘perform’ it. One could imagine our dear elderly grannies nodding along to the tunes, oblivious to the tongue-in-cheek Satanism pervading all of Ghost’s work. I predicted a few years ago, when I first saw Ghost live, that they were on their way to being the biggest rock band in the world. This album is another big step on that journey. Look out Metallica, your support band on next summer’s tour are coming to steal the show.
Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
From the reviews and feedback I’ve heard surrounding this album, it is surely the most divisive of the year. It is truly the Marmite of post-metal albums I’ve heard recently. Many see it as an overly-indulgent, pompous mess, others as a brave expansion on their previous sound. I am in the latter category, and find the melodic soundscapes produced to be moving and affecting. I missed Deafheaven the last time they were in Dublin, as their gig was clashing with something else. I certainly won’t miss them next time.
Epic Beard Men – Season 1
This one is simple. I love B Dolan. I love Sage Frances. Anything associated with Strange Famous and Speech Development Records has to be worth checking out. So, when my two favourite stocky, bald, bearded, rappers teamed up to tour together, and then to record this album, I was more than excited. And the results didn’t disappoint. Lyrically dense and fiendishly clever, this is one of the feel-good records of the year. Even when, no, especially when advocating taking over private country clubs with a bunch of shotguns. Just listen. You’ll get the reference. The album is simply called Season 1, which tantalisingly suggests more in the offing.
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Ken Mode – Loved
The above two albums dovetail well together, satisfying my love for fuzzy, distorted, wailing rackets. Both of these bands do all of the above so well. Looking for filthy, aggressive, noise? Look no further.
Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
I had not heard of Ezra Furman until earlier this year, when a wonderful person (you know who you are, thanks again) invited me to the gig in the Tivoli. I decided to check Ezra out before committing to the gig, and half way through the opening track of this album, I was hooked. The gig was fantastic, the album is a cracker, and the aforementioned opener, Suck the Blood From My Wound, is surely the pop song of the year.
Brutus – Burst
Ok, this one is cheating, as this album was actually released in 2017. But seeing as I only discovered it recently, and it has already become one of my most listened-to albums all year, I felt I had to include it. This band actually started out as a Refused covers band, and Refused’s post-punk influences are certainly there, but Brutus have forged their own sound. Stefanie Mannaerts’ vocals are melodic and growling in equal measure, and the snappiness of the riffs and aggressive rhythm counterbalance everything nicely. Not the band are a one-trick pony; the sounds are far-ranging, and the punk stylings even make way for the soulful and beautiful Bird at the album’s half way point. The best 2017 album I’ve heard in 2018…
Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance
Finally, the band of the moment. Last year, Idles released their debut full-length, Brutalism, which was quite likely my favourite album of 2017. Over a year and a half after it was released, it still gets better with every listen. How were Idles to follow up such an immense opening salvo? Well, they may well have topped it. Joy as an Act of Resistance is ridiculously inventive, clever, catchy, and relevant record. Tackling themes ranging from xenophobia to mental health, it is an album of its time, capturing the zeitgeist perfectly. Their appearance on Jools Holland a few months ago shot them to the World’s attention, and they have gone from strength to strength since. Danny Nedelko, in a society torn apart by nationalism, racism, and ignorance, is a true anthem of defiance. Their gig in the Button Factory was my favourite gig of the year, and I’m delighted to be going to see them again twice next year. If you get a chance, I cannot recommend them highly enough. Check out this album, and check them out live. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life.