Friday, 28 December 2018

EVEN THE STARS TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2018 - 10 to 1


Today we reveal Even The Stars' top ten albums of 2018. These are our favourite records of the year, the ones we returned to time after time in a year, the ones we loved rather than we were told to love.
Our albums from twenty to eleven were revealed yesterday and are reviewed here

20 - THE BLINDERS : COLUMBIA
19 - YOU WANT FOX : REVERSE THE CURSE
18 - BLACK HONEY : BLACK HONEY
17 - SHE MAKES WAR : BRACE FOR IMPACT
16 - ROSESAREBLUE : INTENSELY
15 - DAVID FORD : ANIMAL SPIRITS
14 - ILL : WE ARE ILL
13 - THE BETHS : FUTURE ME HATES ME
12 - HANNAH SCOTT : PIECES OF THE NIGHT
11 - CONTROL OF THE GOING : I LOVE YOU BUT IT'S GOING TO RAIN


10 - THE LUCID DREAM : ACTUALISATION

Actualisation was an album that might never have happened. On tour in Paris in summer 2016 The Lucid Dream had all their gear stolen and it was only a crowd-funding campaign and their unshakable faith in what they do that kept them going. Declarations such as "Many acid house records from 1985-1993 have influenced the new record" and the album's lead single SX1000 with its radical departure in the band's sound set the tone for what was to follow - a record that split opinions, but which ultimately continued to grow the band's fanbase both at home and abroad.



Our review concluded "For fans of The Lucid Dream, this eagerly anticipated album is everything we could have hoped for. Over the course of their four albums, The Lucid Dream have never stood still and have always pushed expectations and boundaries, Actualisation continues in that vein. This is a big, bold, and uplifting album. As if that’s not enough, it is released on beautiful red vinyl too, housed in another classic The Lucid Dream atmospheric sleeves."

The Lucid Dream's website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter. The album can be bought directly from the band here.

The Actualisation album tour calls at Glasgow Broadcast (February 2), Liverpool District (8), Manchester Yes (9), Birmingham Hare And Hounds 2 (10) and Newcastle Cobalt Studios (16).


9 - RORY WYNNE : RORY WYNNE

Rory Wynne's debut had a low-key release back in April. The eight-song collection of all-new material clocked in at under twenty six minutes, testament to Rory's ability to craft three minute gems that knock the door down and leave you feeling dizzy as they depart as soon as they've arrived. Lead single Friends and its follow-up Little Miss Edgy lead the way, whilst Let's Have A Party does exactly that and White Lines hints at broadening of the horizons. With a This Feeling tour in March and a new EP on the way as well as a prestigious support with Fuzzy Sun at Gorilla on the horizon, 2019 might just be the year Rory finally breaks through.



Our review concluded "Rory Wynne is a throw back to the old days of albums, full to the brim of singles, lasting no longer than the minimum needed to send the listener dizzy with spinning round to the singalong, dancealong pop tones of songs, each and every one of which could get picked for radio. Supremely confident, assured and seeing no need to experiment and deliver anything other than a series of three minute gems, Rory Wynne is a radio A-listing and a huge promo campaign away from the hearts and minds of the nation's indie kids."

Rory Wynne's official site can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.

He plays Manchester Gorilla (Feb 23 with Fuzzy Sun), London Water Rats (March 1), Brighton Hope And Ruin (2), Birmingham Actress And Bishop (15) and Manchester Jimmy's (16).


8 - ANNA ST LOUIS : IF ONLY THERE WAS A RIVER

We stumbled across Anna St Louis in a tiny record shop in Los Angeles in October. Intrigued by the restrained beauty of the songs we heard we immediately picked up the album and brought it back excitedly to the UK. The record lived up to all those expectations, soft understated but achingly poignant and delicate in its delivery and it has picked up traction both in the States and the UK where both Resident and Crash included it in their end of year lists. Producer Kevin Morby hit the nail on the head describing the record "To step into the world of Anna St. Louis is to step into a world where the heart leads straight to the soul and where everything is cloaked in beautiful mystery. If Only There Was a River is a record of longing - of a soul reaching for more."



Anna St Louis is on Facebook and Twitter. She plays UK shows at Sheffield Picture House (April 13), Bristol Hy Brasil Music Club (14), Glasgow Old Pint Pot (15), Leeds Hyde Park Book Club (16), Brighton Hope And Ruin (17) and London Slaughtered Lamb (18)


7 - IST IST : LIVE AT ST PHILIPS

Ist Ist's live shows are the stuff of legend in Manchester where they've packed out pretty much every two to six hundred capacity in the city over the past couple of years without getting any of the recognition of many of their less successful but more colourful peers. Live At St Philips follows on from their guerilla Live album of last year, but this one is a desk recording of their first show as a four-piece with Mat Philips on board on keyboards and effects. Tracks are drawn from their growing catalogue of singles as well as their forthcoming Everything Is Different Now EP that hits in January. It's the sound of a band expanding, growing in stature and exploring the boundaries of their sound in front of an audience that's growing in size with them.



Our review concluded "Live At St Philip’s is the sound of a band discovering the power and precision of what they do. So confident in their ability that they eschew the industry’s modern day method to releasing songs one by one and making them feel disposable, Ist Ist’s approach is refreshing and challenging the norms. Not for them the kiss arse immaculately and excruciatingly polite games that bands are expected to play these days and they’re finding increasing resonance with an audience that want a band to fall in love with, that takes no prisoners and isn’t afraid to put their music out in the world in such ways as this because of an unerring belief in it. Whether they get further success or not, the legacy of releases like this will write them large in the mythology of the city’s music scene amongst those that hold such things closest."

Ist Ist are on Facebook and Twitter. The Live At St Philips CD is available to order from the band's shop along with their recent Spinning Rooms EP and pre-orders are being taken for their Everything Is Different Now EP due in January.

Our review of the show can be found here and our recent interview with them can be found here.

Ist Ist play Hebden Bridge Trades Club (January 30), Leeds Lending Room (February 28), London Sebright Arms (March 1), Hull The Polar Bear (5), Sheffield Cafe Totem (9), Nottingham Rough Trade (15), Manchester Gorilla (16) and Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's (30)


6 - BLOSSOMS : COOL LIKE YOU

Blossoms' second album Cool Like You followed up the success of their self-titled debut. Launched with a mysterious PR campaign that included us pretending to be a journalist interviewing Joe about a bust up in the band with Tom (see here), lead single I Can't Stand It was dropped followed by There's A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls) ahead of the album's release. Like its predecessor the songs don't try too hard to be something they're not and Tom's lyrics talk about relatable situations from his own experiences and observations. The album was accompanied on various formats by an acoustic version of the album and a DVD of their biggest headline show to date at Castlefield Bowl in Manchester. The success of Cool Like You means they now play Edgeley Park in Stockport next summer usurping that as their biggest show.



Our review concluded "Like the band themselves, Cool Like You is a sign that fame and fortune hasn't changed them one bit, still down to earth, affected by the same things and therefore being able to write songs that their audience can relate to. It's unfussy, uncluttered and isn't trying too hard, the production is light touch enough to allow the simple qualities of the songwriting to shine through. It'll delight their ever-expanding fan base and charm those that are discovering them for the first time. They unashamedly flaunt the music they love in what they do without ever copying it. The indie thought police might be all over them by the time the album comes out but they and the hordes that will swoon at Cool Like You's feet will not care. This is the sound of perfect modern pop music made by five lads from Stockport."

Blossoms' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.


5 - LIAM FROST : THE LATCHKEY KID

Nine years and numerous delays on from his second album We Ain’t Got No Money Honey But We Got Rain, Liam Frost finally released his third album digitally via Pledge Music in September. Featuring songs that had made their debut at his intermittent live shows over the preceding years and a bunch of new material, the album delighted his long-term fans as it confirmed him as the most under-rated and one of the most talented songwriters of his generation, with an ability to craft songs that immediately attach themselves to you, but which reveal more on every listen as you pore over the lyrics. A physical release of the album should be forthcoming in 2019.



Our review concluded "The standards set by Show Me How The Spectres Dance and We Ain’t Got No Money Honey But We Got Rain meant expectations for this forever delayed record were sky high, but, as Liam was recently quoted, this is his best collection of songs yet. His unmistakable voice is the centrifugal force but the real star here are the songs, constructed with an eye on every detail with an army of trusted people on the long gestation period of the record. Warm, open and candidly reflective, it’s proof that the art of great songwriting is alive and kicking in an era of X Factor and bpm obsession."

Liam Frost can be found on FacebookSoundcloudYoutube and Twitter. The website can be found here. Our recent interview with Liam can be found here.


4 - BELLY : DOVE

Twenty-three years on from their second album, Belly released Dove, the strongest of their three albums to date. Lead singles Shiny One and Stars Align gave a taster of an album that took the best parts of Star and King and brought them right into the here and now. Dove was a record that sounded like it was fun to make, it was fun to watch and listen to them playing the new songs live, invigorating the old songs at the same time.



Our review concluded "The magical thing about Dove is the way it feels like everything fits together perfectly, that the recording process is the result of four people wanting to make beautiful music together. For all the excitement at the announcement a couple of years ago of the reformation, we never imagined that this would be the result - a combination of the best elements of their first two albums brought right up to date and delivered with a warmth and empathy and love that will melt the most cynical of hearts."

Belly's official website can be found here and they are on Twitter and Facebook. Tanya Donelly is on Twitter.


3 - LIINES : STOP / START

LIINES' debut album Stop / Start was a long time in the making, as the band that formed from the ashes of Hooker took five years to be able to record and then release this album through Reckless Yes. It captures the essence of LIINES' live performance, raw, revelatory and straight to the point. Singles Never There, Be Here, Disappear, Blackout and Cold are all present and correct as the record, laid down with original bassist Steph, draws a line under phase one of LIINES ahead of an exciting 2019 for the three-piece.



Our review concluded "What LIINES do so well, and Stop - Start lays this down irrefutably, is to create a sound that's unmistakably theirs, setting their targets laser-like and locking down on them and hitting them dead centre without fail. There's not a single second on this album where they're trying to be anything else but themselves. Inspired by post-punk and riot girl heroines - Sleater Kinney, P J Harvey, Eilidh from the much-missed local heroes Solar Race, they're laying claim to be the inspiration for future generations of girls to pick up an instrument and use it to express themselves without the need to pander to the whims of anyone but themselves. It's a very brave album lyrically as it's more open and emotionally descriptive than most singers would dare to show. Stop - Start might be modest in its outlook, like the band themselves, but that is what makes it such a powerful magnificent statement and the perfect capture of everything that LIINES are about."

LIINES' official website can be found here.  They are also on TwitterFacebook and Soundcloud. We interviewed them back in July - read it here. They support Sleaford Mods on a massive thirty-two date tour in March through May before headlining three shows of their own at London Thousand Island (May 30), Nottingham Bodega (31) and Manchester Yes (June 1).


2 - JAMES : LIVING IN EXTRAORDINARY TIMES

James' fifteenth studio album Living In Extraordinary Times marked eleven years since they reformed in 2007, exactly the length of time between their chart debut Gold Mother in 1990 and their last album before they split originally in 2001. It charted at number six and with huge arena shows at the end of the year, it confirmed that James are still relevant close to forty years on from their formation in Manchester. Tracks like Hank and Heads rail against the Trump administration in the States, where Tim now lives, whilst Many Faces is a song that celebrates people coming together as one to celebrate what joins us together against the evil that tries to divide us.



Across twelve tracks, sixteen if you include the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition, James show that their creative fire is still burning strong. Leviathan, the album's stand-out track, probably jinxed any chance of radio play with its exultant "fucking love, fucking and love, before they drop the bomb, make sure you get enough" line, but stands tall against all the big hits from their halcyon days of the early to mid nineteen nineties. Live, they continued to challenge their audience, choosing to play album tracks rather than the two lead singles Better Than That and Coming Home (Part 2), demonstrating that James are still refusing to play by the traditional rules.



Our review concluded "Living In Extraordinary Times feel like James at their most relaxed with each other for a long time, allowing the producers Charlie and Beni to help shape and influence the songs in the way they did with Brian Eno. Unafraid to experiment and refusing to be silenced on things that matter to them, the record reflects their restless spirit more so than any they've created since Laid. There's moments that will appeal to the more casual fan (and tellingly these have been chosen as the singles - Better That That, Coming Home Part 2 and Many Faces) which prove that they still have it in them to create songs of mass connection, but as always it's where they step out of their comfort zone and try something different that they're at their most vital. Songs like Leviathan, Extraordinary Times and Hank push the envelope and challenge the listener to immerse themselves in the way the band do themselves and explain why thirty six years in James are still surprising and delighting people."

James' official website can be found here. They are on Facebook and Twitter.  Some of the band - TimAndy and Dave - are also on Twitter. We also run the One Of The Three James archive, the most detailed resource for information about the band, and the site also has Facebook and Twitter. TimBoothLyricADay, whose posts often lead to Tim explaining his thought processes behind the lyrics, can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

James have announced the following dates for next year as part of their Living In Extraordinary Times tour : Margate Winter Gardens (March 6), Bath Forum (7), London Royal Albert Hall (9), Cambridge Corn Exchange (11), Nottingham Royal Centre (12), Southampton O2 Guildhall (14), Stoke Victoria Halls (15), Newcastle City Hall (17), Edinburgh Usher Hall (18), Carlisle Sands Centre (20), Birmingham O2 Academy (21) and Hull Bonus Arena (22).


1 - THE SLOW READERS CLUB : BUILD A TOWER

Build A Tower hitting number 18 in the album charts was a sign that The Slow Readers Club had arrived. Selling out gigs in their hometown in Manchester at a moment's notice was one thing, making such an impact on a national scale is a completely different thing. The follow-up to 2015's Cavalcade, it was always going to be a barometer of how far they'd actually come since being signed and having expectations ratcheted up a level.


The album's ten songs feature singles Lunatic, You Opened Up My Heart, Supernatural and the live favourite On The TV although such is the consistent quality of the album and the anthemic nature of the songs that any one of them could be picked as a single. The album's final track, and the last one they wrote, Distant Memory is our favourite and hints at a broadening of songwriting horizons as they go full time in 2019.



Our review of the album can be found here. It concluded "Build A Tower delivers on every level, it's a marked progression in their sound whilst staying true to the studio and producer with whom they delivered Cavalcade and you can hear the confidence that success brings pouring out of every note and every word. For a band that has spent the best part of a decade trying to get heard, this album is going to ensure that in spades, and secure the breakthrough into the charts and the big big halls of the land that those expectant on-lookers are demanding. Its success belongs not to just to them, but to every band in Manchester, or any other town or city, that's steadfastly believed in their music, worked tirelessly to promote it with little or no backing and it shines like a beacon of hope in a world where success is predetermined by taste-makers and record labels rather than the simple quality of the music and the lyrics and good old-fashioned word-of-mouth."

The Slow Readers Club's official website can be found here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

They undertake a massive tour next year at Groningen Eurosonic Noorderslag (January 18), Kendal Brewery Arts Centre (March 2), Carlisle Brickyard (3), Inverness Ironworks (4), Aberdeen The Tunnels (5), Dundee Beat Generator (7), Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (8), Sunderland Independent (9), York Fibbers (10), Hull Welly (12), Wakefield Warehouse 23 (13), Blackpool Bootleg Social (14), Liverpool Arts Club (15), Sheffield Leadmill (16), Stoke-On-Trent Sugarmill (18), Wrexham The Live Rooms (19), Birmingham O2 Academy 2 (20), Derby The Venue (21), Leicester The Shed (23), Gloucester Guildhall (24), Swansea Sin City (25), Bristol The Fleece (26), Truro The Old Bakery (28), Exeter Phoenix (29), Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (30), Reading Sub 89 (31), Oxford O2 Academy 2 (April 1), St Albans The Horn (3), Bedford Esquires (4), Norwich Open (5), Southend Chinnerys (6), Royal Tunbridge Wells Forum (8), Brighton The Haunt (9), Warrington Neighbourhood Weekender (May 26) and Madrid Mad Cool Festival (July 12)
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