The list that no one was waiting for. Over the next two days we reveal our top twenty albums of the year. Regular readers of the blog won't be surprised by many of these choices of course, but as we keep telling people we do this to champion music we love not to be hipster or with it or even politically correct. We start today with numbers twenty to eleven.
20 - THE BLINDERS : COLUMBIA
The Blinders' star was very much in the ascendancy in 2018, with 6 Music above all championing them as they released their debut album via Modern Sky in September in advance of a huge mostly sold-out UK tour. They were cited as a band with something to say in these difficult times, a band that didn't pull any punches and Columbia delivered on the plaudits that had been thrown their way.
Our review concluded "So where does Columbia place The Blinders? It's an impressive debut, one that captures the essence of what they're about and as much of the live performance as is possible within the constraints of a studio recording. It doesn't compromise their personalities and the real core of what they're about in search of a hit radio-friendly album, but it's that which has caught the ear of those that champion them. They have influences but not too overt, their songs observe rather than preach, talk of politics in its social context attacking ideologies and beliefs rather than directly attacking individuals which give it more gravitas. But most important of all they remain true to themselves."
The Blinders' website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
19 - YOU WANT FOX : REVERSE THE CURSE
Reverse The Curse is the long-awaited second album from Nottingham duo You Want Fox. Lead single Liar Liar heralded a more playful approach from Natalie and Colette to their debut album You Can't Sit With Us. Clocking in at just thirty-two minutes over eleven songs, it's full of short sharp sucker-punches and tales of love and deception.
Our review concluded : "Reverse The Curse is a real triumph of the independent spirit of You Want Fox. They take no shit if you mess with them, but they're equally willing to put a consoling arm round you should it be required. The songs are cleverly structured to make maximum use of the drums and bass that they have at their disposal and the fact that both of them are capable of playing lead or backing vocals across the album."
You Want Fox are on Facebook and Twitter. Reverse The Curse is available from their online shop.
18 - BLACK HONEY : BLACK HONEY
Black Honey's self-released debut album felt like a lifetime in the making, as single after single was released over the course of the past few years, with the ones not making the album conveniently collected on a wonderful bonus disc that came with initial copies of the CD and picture disc vinyl. With Izzy at the centre point of the record, Black Honey capture the infectious energy of their live shows on the record with stand out tracks I Only Hurt The Ones I Love, Crowded City and Blue Romance.
Black Honey's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
17 - SHE MAKES WAR : BRACE FOR IMPACT
Brace For Impact was She Makes War's fourth album, again self-released via her own Big Sister label and funded via a Pledge Music campaign that saw her impact on the charts in the release week. Ever innovative in her approach to making her music and marketing it, lead single Devastate Me saw her embrace loud crunching guitars and deliver a confident potent message, whilst the likes of Then The Quiet Came and Dear Heart see her in much more reflective mode. Brace For Impact is her most complete record to date.
She Makes War's official site can be found here. She is also on Facebook, Twitter and Bandcamp.
16 - ROSESAREBLUE : INTENSELY
RosesAndBlue has been prolifically releasing material for a number of years now and Intensely was one of three albums that appeared on her Bandcamp back in August. From opening track Fairytale through Wanna Be With You, One Day and Sleepwalking, Intensely is the finest output yet from Rose's recording only project. Heartfelt lyrics deal with many aspects of the human condition and do so in a considered, thoughtful and insightful manner, accompanied by soft caressing tunes that help soothe the listener and lull them into a peaceful place.
RosesAreBlue is on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud.
Her Bandcamp page features all six of her albums as well as three EPs.
15 - DAVID FORD : ANIMAL SPIRITS
David Ford's fifth studio album and his first since 2013's Charge was described as a record about macroeconomics. Scratch below the surface and many of the songs compare the human condition with economic theory as Ford takes aim at a number of targets yet retains the ability to craft personal lyrics such as on Why Don't You Answer Your Telephone and the album's closing track I've Lost More Than I Ever Thought I Had.
Our review concluded "David Ford continues to evolve as a songwriter and musician and has delivered an enduring, endearing, varied piece of work that grows in stature with each listen."
David Ford’s website can be found here. He is also on Twitter and Facebook.
14 - ILL : WE ARE ILL
Ill's debut album has appeared in a number of other online polls, reflective of how they've manage to capture the chaos of their live shows and distil that melting pot into an album that demands your full attention, often baffling, spliced with moments of off-the-wall genius that you’d blink and miss as the next curveball smacks in you right between the eyes. Sexual harassment is giving a going over on Space Dick, Bus Shelter deals with homelessness on the streets of Manchester and I Am The Meat tears shreds off the size zero obsessions of modern culture - just three songs from an album that never rests for a minute.
Our review concluded "We Are Ill is a genuine triumph; it somehow takes the energy of their live shows, extracts but doesn’t dissipate or dilute it yet still retains the taut tension, the thrill of the moment and the uncertainty of exactly what they’re going to do next. It’s not a record for a casual listen or inclusion on one of your playlists and you’ll be going back and discovering new things about it for years such is the depth and diversity of the songs. You might not understand exactly what they’re telling you at times, or misunderstand completely, but We Are Ill will keep you transfixed and on the edge of your seat if you’re brave enough to dive in."
ILL's official website can be found here. They are on Twitter and Facebook.
13 - THE BETHS : FUTURE ME HATES ME
Future Me Hates Me appeared without any fanfare in the middle of the year, but with tour dates supporing Death Cab For Cutie in the UK in January, it is a record that still has plenty of shelf-life left in it. It’s a brilliantly observed and understated record about the battle to find love both internally and externally with songs set to the sort of jangling guitars that are impossible to resist if that’s what turns you on.
Our review concluded "There’s something warmly familiar about Future Me Hates Me and if you’re looking for a groundshaking record that those whose who have disowned the wonder of jangly indie guitars because they’re just not cool enough will adore then you’re looking in the wrong place. But Future Me Hates Me is a glorious debut, a record that makes you smile whether it’s the naked honesty of the lyrics, it’s a knowing nod that most of these songs could reflect a heartbreak or a rut in your life or anyone you know at some point or their unashamed hat tip to the records they probably grew up listening to on the other side of the world which they’ve taken and allowed to influence but not dictate their own record."
The Beths' official website can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.
12 - HANNAH SCOTT : PIECES OF THE NIGHT
Hannah Scott's debut album Pieces Of The Night draws a lot on her love of Italy, home of her working partner Stefano Della Casa. The album was crafted in writing sessions both there and in her native London. The songs deal in detail with the human condition and human interactions, in particular the album's striking closing track Boy In The Frame, which deals with an old woman looking at an old photograph and coming to terms with her past in one of the most emotionally rich and tear-jerking songs we heard all year.
Our review concluded "Pieces Of The Night is one of those albums released without fanfare (it’s been six years since Hannah released her Still Static EP) that will stop anyone fortunate enough to stumble across it in their tracks. The songs are layered with emotional intelligence that means they’re easy to relate to, not too specific but also not too glib and vague to have no resonance. The production is crisp, clear and allows Hannah’s voice to take centre stage and the instrumentation to add force or subtlety to it as required."
The album can be purchased from her Big Cartel shop.
11 - CONTROL OF THE GOING : I LOVE YOU BUT IT'S GOING TO RAIN
Control Of The Going's journey has been a chequered one, going through line-up changes both before and after the release of their debut album as front man Liam moved to America late in 2018. I Love You But It's Going To Rain, a perfect title accompanied by a cover shot on Oldham St in Manchester, is a record that captures a moment in time in their development. Their glorious singles She and Love You More nod to the psych scene in Manchester that birthed them, but set their horizons further afield, whilst the album's stand out track Family is a song of communion, of coming together and being part of something.
Our review concluded "I Love You, But It's Going To Rain is an album you wouldn't associate with a band from the mean streets of Tameside and certainly one that produced the scrappy demos that brimmed with intriguing possibilities just a couple of years ago. It's ambitious without overstretching itself and it captures the band as they should be heard which so many albums fail to do these days. Whilst their roots may shine through in the title and the lyrical themes, this is a worldly wise album, produced by care and attention to every detail, that should reach far beyond the puddle-strewn potholed streets of this town."
Control Of The Going are on Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud. The album can be ordered from their Bandcamp.