How can it possibly be the end of 2018 already?! We’ve only just gotten used to writing it down instead of 2017 ffs. Here we are though, a whole year has flown by and all that’s left to do is to gorge ourselves on chocolates & turkey leftovers, watch Die Hard again (it is SO a Christmas movie) and then gear up to see in 2019 in style. Meanwhile, here’s a rundown of all the choonage that got us all hot under the collar in 2017… Sorry 2018.
1. Amen Dunes
Taking his influences from such touchstones as Syd Barret, Tim Buckley and early Verve cuts, New Yorker Damon McMahon weaves a rich sound that is eventful yet uncluttered, earnest yet unpretentious. Our top pick for the year.
2. Foo Fighters
Concrete and Gold 8/10
Just when you thought Dave Grohl & co. were heading for a cushy retirement, here’s yet another barnstorming album packed full of beefy riffs, canny songwriting and shout-yourself-hoarse vocals.
3. Gaz Coombes
World’s Strongest Man 8/10
Gaz Coombes’ groovy-as-hell third solo album since shedding the skin of Supergrass back in 2010 marks the completion of his transformation from mutton-chopped 90s Britpopper to progressive multi-instrumentalist.
Built around a backbone of tight-as-a-drum riffery and pared down production, each track is a wonderfully simple earworm that grabs and sucks you in immediately. The effect recalls early PJ Harvey, The Black Keys, First Aid Kit and especially The White Stripes. Fast, funky, bluesy, the album rattles by in a super economical 35 minutes with nary a dull moment.
5. Public Service Broadcasting
Every Valley 8/10
Spun as a coal mining electro concept album interspersed with sampled clippings of news broadcasts and public information films during the latter part of last century, “Every Valley” leaves a profound impression throughout its immersive 45-minute run time.
6. Father John Misty
God’s Favourite Customer 8/10
Folky, country, beardy, tragic, and doused in dry wit (yeah OK Josh Tillman actually is a bit of a bard), the songs go down like pints of decent craft beer served in a hipster bar. It’s kind of a joke, but it gets you drunk enough not to care.
7. First Aid Kit
Retro gimmicks aside, the real joy of ‘Ruins’ is the Söderberg sister’s vocals; both full of character and genuine empathy – kind of like a softer Janis Joplin but with the bonus of some wonderfully layered harmonies.
8. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Wrong Creatures 7/10
Their 2002 debut B.R.M.C. was such a clear-cut encapsulation of who Black Rebel Motorcycle Club were – leather clad, midnight-dwelling spooks – that further developments since have been deemed largely unnecessary. Wrong Creatures is testament to that with its business-as-usual voodoo rattle and hum.
9. Cat Power
An album that speaks of dusty roads, desert campfires and deserted dive bars. A lo-fi treat delivered by an artist reveling in her own confidence.
10. Ben Howard
Noonday Dream 6/10
It’s all spooky ambience and reverb echoing around in a hollow chamber on the Devon surfie’s third effort. The result is continuation of the darker, richer and stranger experience of album two, compared to his more poppy debut.
We’d like to thank Dan Ashcroft for his outstanding CD reviews over the past year, I’m sure you would agree, some of the best in the land. Ed.