End of the year music round-up alert!
Yes, it’s that time of year when we reflect on the best music we heard all year and assess which releases will have some
We won’t be ranking our fave music of the year as ranking art inevitably reduces it, and is symptomatic of a culture that tells us to seek and to measure value in quantity, not quality, popularity rather than creativity or talent. Also, the relative value of music can’t really be assessed in a simple list of who’s best anyway. It’s like, as the expression goes, comparing apples and oranges – who is better, Madlib or Mad Professor, 4Hero or FourTet? Can you put them in order of ‘best-ness’? And on what criteria? Maybe such a judgement can’t be made, and instead the binary approach is the problem. Perhaps one producer isn’t ‘better’ than the other, perhaps they are different, with differing strengths and skills. Not everything in life can be simply compared and evaluated like this;
So instead we’re just going to talk about some really, really good music that was released this year, some of which you might not have heard. This is our list so we can be as preachy as we want, and so we thoroughly recommend that you ensure some money goes to the artists you love – either via Bandcamp, Juno, Beatport or Traxsource or if you’re not a buyer, then through your chosen streaming platform – because for 99% of the music making population, making brilliant music is a very poor way to make a good living. All the best for 2019, and here’s some marvellous music in the meantime!
Here’s the full playlist on Spotify:
Our favourite music of 2018 :o)
Both Daniel Avery’s and Leon Vynehall’s album releases this year were beautiful, in quite different ways. Avery’s ‘Song For Alpha’ is pristine, moody and cold to the touch, whilst Vynehall’s ‘Nothing Is Still’ is melancholy, atmospheric and emotive whilst simultaneously restrained. It’s definitely one of my musical highlights this year.
Other stand-out albums this year included DJ Koze’s excellent ‘Knock Knock’, 16 tracks of hazy, fuzzy-edged samples and unselfconscious beats, with some memorable melodic moments, a frankly brilliant Roisin Murphy collab and of course the rather big ‘Pick Up’
The ‘Negro Swan’ long player from Blood Orange was a lush delight too. Based around an entirely different production style from Koze’s slightly wobbly collages, ‘Negro Swan’ was clean, crisp and shiny, confident and languid. It’s a rich, almost florid album, full of overly sweet harmonies, space-age beats, contemporary synths and sentimental retro references.
The Crooked Man album ‘Crooked House’ was really good this year too, a vocal house affair with a pleasingly original production on each track. Highly recommend. Likewise the
Other album mentions have to go to Joe Armon-Jones’ jazz odyssey ‘Starting Today’, featuring 6 long, spread-out funky celestial jazz journeys – yeah, you either love or hate this kind of thing – me, I love it, and this is another album that I’ll be returning to in the coming months. Martyn’s dreamy yet harsh ‘Voids’ is an entirely different kettle of synths. It’s dark, oppressive, sometimes it thinks it’s all cool, detached Berlin Techno, then the next moment it’s all Croydon Garage, great bit of hybrid action. Holly Cook’s sprightly ‘Vessel Of Love’ is an album of contemporary reggae songs and is well worth checking out. And in an entirely different style, the tiny wibbles twitches and snippets that
When it comes to singles, there were a bunch of big bashing piano tunes that I was keen on this year, including Marquis Hawke’s ‘We Should Be Free’ and Gerd Janson & Shan’s remix of Special Request’s ‘Brainstorm’, both unashamedly retro-flavoured, but a flavour that’s irresistible. And songs too, with words and melodies, what’s not to like.
Speaking of songs, on the more mid-tempo tip, oh my God the Crooked Man brooding re-rub of Amy Douglas’s ‘Never Saw It Coming’ is a contender for
Likewise, Chaka Khan’s ‘Sugar’ was a monster this year, seriously good quality dance floor tackle. Other decent songs this year included national treasure Roisin Murphy’s ‘Plaything’ which really should have been much bigger than it was.
The FourTet remix of Bicep’s ‘Opal’ is absolutely superb, it’s probably been on loads of adverts now, but if you’ve not yet heard it, it really is very pretty. As a
I really loved the Eris Drew / Octo Octa Devotion EP, it’s a splendid bit of old school updating, as is a lot of their recorded output. On a similar breakbeat/rave tip, ‘Limewire’ from Brame & Hamo and some stuff from Ross From Friends this year trod that nostalgia/contemporary line carefully. You wouldn’t want to hear a DJ set just made up of these kinds of 90s referencing tunes, but they definitely have their place and when done as superbly as here, then it would be a crime not to play them.
There were many more honourable mentions, contenders and players this year, this is just a taste of some of the more memorable music that really did it for me in 2018. A very big thank you to all the artists, producers, musicians, songwriters and DJs who are still turning out quality music despite working within an industry that sometimes seems to want artists to starve to death.