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20 of the best albums of 2018 released so far

20 of the best albums of 2018 released so far

10.

David Kitt – Yous

The Dubliner’s first singer-songwriter album in eight years

David Kitt has been releasing music under his electronic project name New Jackson of late but Yous is his first release as David Kitt in over eight years. It’s is an understated record, a singer-songwriter record in the vein of his early work. He is accompanied mostly by guitar and the violin and voice of Margie Lewis with some underpinnings of synths and drum machines. It was recorded at his Dublin home with a blend of electronics, samples and live instrumentation (with some additional production by Karl Odlum). Other contributors include Dunk ‘Sunken Foal’ Murphy, Michelle Stoddart (The Magic Numbers) and Robbie Kitt. A cover of Fever Ray’s ‘Keep The Streets Empty For Me’ is included as are acoustic versions of his ‘Make It Mine’ and ‘There Will Always Be This Love’ which are both from his electronic project New Jackson.


9.

Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo

Warm band grooves that don’t wear out

Texas psychedelic trio Khruangbin return with a second album of psychedelic laid-back band music. The band meld “60’s Thai funk, 70’s Persian rock music, and 80’s Algerian symphonia” with light funk and improvisational touches while the rhythm section keep things rolling nicely. More of a background groove than a marquee sound but it’s very effective.


8.

Wyvern Lingo – Wyvern Lingo

R&B, pop and alternative combine on an engaging debut

Wyvern Lingo’s self-titled debut album arrives on Rubyworks with much fanfare based on hard work, a regular gigging schedule and crucially, great preview songs. If lead single ‘I Love You Sadie’ is a starting point, then the group spend the rest of the album fleshing out and expanding upon that polished R’n’B sound with harmonius intent and a keen eye to real-world events. Without a doubt, the most exciting Irish prospect at the moment. Listen to them interviewed about the entitlement of Irish male artists of the past in our recent podcast.


7.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food

Their most varying yet effective album yet

Ruban Nielson’s UMO are band that always moved between psych-rock, frenetic sonics and oddball funk. Sex and Food finds a bit of everything of the band’s established sounds in there along but perhaps with everything pushed to the fringes or testing the limits somewhat. So there’s the aggressively-charged distorted rock of ‘American Guilt’ alongside the positively 70s yacht rock tracks ‘Ministry of Alienation’ and ‘Everybody Acts Crazy Nowadays’. “When it comes to rock, I want to get into dodgier territory.”, is how Nielson has talked about the album.

Nielson’s voice remains as the peculiar whispering floating timbre. It’s a little creepy, a little laconic, and totally unique. With influences drawn from places he visited like Reykjavík, Seoul, Auckland, Hanoi and Mexico, away from the Portland home that informed much of his 2015 breakthrough record Multi-Love, Sex and Food ultimately, is like a patchwork of their sound to date.


6.

Rejjie Snow – Dear Annie

A sprawling and likeable debut of R&B and hip-hop form Ireland’s breakout rap star

Dublin-born rapper Rejjie Snow has finally staked his claim on the international hip-hop landscape with the release of his long-awaited debut album Dear Annie. The album is released under the watchful eye of 300 Entertainment, home to artists such as Migos and Young Thug. Rejjie first appeared on the scene as Lecs Luther, channeling MF Doon and Tyler, The Creator and while he hasn’t left the influences of those artists entirely behind, he has penned a A stylish and polychromatically produced debut record where the vocalists like Portland’s Aminé, London’s Ebenezer and Jesse James Solomon, Norway’s Anna of the North and American singers Dana Williams, Caroline Smith and Jesse Boykins III shine on the hooks.

Rejjie’s choice of intermissions negate the album’s romantic sincerity but there’s much to enjoy here in the vein of a soft glow rooftop down R&B-tinged rap tip. Snow hasn’t quite escaped the shadows of his forebearers but at 24 years-old, he’s finally on a path to showing his own colours.


5.

Nils Frahm – All Melody

The composer’s expansive experimental neo-classical album.

A sprawling beauty of an album from composer and musician Nils Frahm. All Melody was recorded in his studio in his custom-built studio in Funkhaus in Berlin which took advantage of reverb chambers and the space of the old place along with contributions from other musicians gives the album an endlessly exploratory feel and at 75 minutes that’s what it needs. It moves between ambient, classical and electronic, and the lines are increasingly smudged of those archetypes. It’s Frahm embracing possibilities in his compositions while still maintaining his owwn sonic imprint.


4.

Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

Young Fathers continue to find solace in sonics


Scottish trio Young Fathers’ Cocoa Sugar via Ninja Tune is the alt-rap group’s third studio album. The previewed sound on the album from the first single releases of ‘In My View’ and ‘Lord’ suggested an increased softness and directness that wasn’t present on their first two records. That slight change in direction is present throughout the new album gives it a fresh soulful sound with feel-good gospel constructions to relish in.


3.

David Byrne – American Utopia

An old master shows he still has new tricks.

Ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s first solo album release in 14 years sees him collaborating with artists such as Brian Eno, Sampha, Blood Orange, Oneohtrix Point Never, Jack Penate and a bunch of other male contributors, a factor that resulted in some backlash for the Scottish-American musician that he addressed directly and apologetically. American Utopia shouldn’t be overshadowed by those facts. The album is excellent, filled with has certain sound elements that project his musical roots with Talking Heads yet it also proves that David Byrne is a long-standing solo artist with distinction who is still able to make relevant and engaging art-pop in 2018.


2.

Caroline Rose – Loner

“A sprightly, angsty pop burrito.”

It can take time living in the world for an artist to truly represent themselves in their music. Caroline Rose is proof of that. In 2014, she was pegged as an Americana folk-rock youngling with a debut album I Will Not Be Afraid, that was in thrall to past predecessors. Four years later, Rose has lived. Feeling disconnected from her own music and the modern world, the New York musician decided to embrace it. At 25, she joined Tinder, rented her first apartment, socialised more, wore red all the time and got a girlfriend. They travelled, then broke up. Rose discussed “politics, capitalism and Rihanna,n” and put herself out in the world.
The self-described “queer feminist” has put her real experience into her invigorating new album Loner. It’s bright and vibrant like the red clothes she now wears and she says, reflects her true personality and real life experiences from her circle of friends – an accidental pregnancy, financial stability and unfaithful lovers. “A sprightly, angsty pop burrito,” is how her label terms it. Loner is a dark-edged album of manic and millennial modern pop, drawing on indie-rock, surf music, synth hooks and bright production, which Rose herself, recognising the lack of gender diversity in the field, is keen to take credit for.

“I wanted to make sure everything was as me as it could possibly be,” she affirms. Rose represents herself absolutely.


1.

Black Panther OST

Kendrick Lamar’s curated album is a thrilling ride and one of the best soundtrack albums in eons.

Curated artist soundtracks are a relatively new concept in the world of OST with Lorde the most notable high-profile artist to “curate” the third Hunger Games soundtrack. That release served as a nice tie-in in music marketing for a mainstream movie.

For Marvel’s Black Panther soundtrack though, the Marvel studio and the film’s director Ryan Coogler turned to Kendrick Lamar, the conscious rapper who blazes through the mainstream despite the tag. Lamar curates this 14-track album, along with Top Dawg CEO Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith. What ties the soundtrack together is Kendrick’s and lyrical sensibilities exploring the black identity. I can’t imagine more than a handful of these songs appearing in the film itself which would certainly make for an interesting superhero movie watch but there’s enough parallels between the film and Kendrick and his collaborators that this doesn’t feel like just a tie-in, more a considered cultural response, with nods to the film’s plot dotted among its lyrics. It feels less an artist marketing and movie tie-in and more a collection of art that uses Black Panther’s black superhero and African heritage themes as an inspirational starting point for a companion piece.

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