Thursday, 13 December 2018

My 10 favourite albums of 2018

1. Loma – Loma (Sub Pop)
This collaboration between Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg and Cross Record's Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski is one of those perfect albums that seems to come along once in a blue moon. Even though it was released all the way back in February, it's cast an imposing shadow over my whole year. I've measured everything released since against this restrained, atmospheric, utterly beautiful collection of songs. I can't wait for their next one.

2. Ned Collette – Old Chestnut (It)
Melbourne ex-pat Ned Collette has really hit his stride on Old Chestnut, exercising his muse over four sides of vinyl yet deserving every groove. Collette's nimble nylon-string guitar playing traces out fragile structures, around which his collaborators (including The Necks' Chris Abrahams on piano) construct warm, flowing arrangements that are as welcoming as a roomful of friends and family. An endlessly replayable suite of story-songs. 
3. Moonface – This One's for the Dancer & This One's for the Dancer's Bouquet (Jagjaguwar)
Spencer Krug is such an oddball that the release of a double album interspersing marimba-and-vocoder songs about the myth of the minotaur with more conventional drums-and-sax songs should come as no surprise. What is surprising is just how immersive this collection is, featuring some stunning moments like 'Dreamsong', one of my favourite songs of the year. I'll be exploring this one well into 2019.

4. Kilchhofer – The Book Room (Marionette)
The best way I can describe this album is to imagine what Boards of Canada might sound like if they lived in a tropical rainforest rather than the wilds of Scotland. Teeming with percussive details and awash in synth drones, it's a glorious, meandering soundworld – and, weirdly, the third double album on this list.
5. Rosali – Trouble Anyway (Scissor Tail)
Rosali Middleman is a great songwriter, but on Trouble Anyway her songs truly come alive thanks to the band she's assembled around her, including Nathan Bowles, Mary Lattimore and Mike Polizze. There's an aching country-rock intimacy to every word she sings, and there are moments where the music is carried into the realms of questing psych-rock. Impeccable.
6. Ian William Craig – Thresholder (130701)
A comparatively minor release in Ian William Craig's stellar discography – bringing together songs recorded between 2014's A Turn of Breath and 2016's masterpiece, Centres – Thresholder is still absolutely beautiful and could only have come from IWC's heavenly voice and beaten-up tape decks. There's a sublime ebb and flow to this album, plus it features 'Some Absolute Means', one of his finest songs to date.   
7. epic45 – Through Broken Summer (Wayside & Woodland Recordings)
Steeped in northern England's sense of place, there's a gravity to epic45's music that's astutely counterbalanced by their fleet-footed instrumentation, ensuring Through Broken Summer runs the full gamut of emotions, from melancholy to elation, tempered, of course, by an English sense of reservation. This album makes me miss home. 

8. Sleep Decade – Collapse (Dusky Tracks)
While I can identify plenty of beloved precedents for Sleep Decade’s new album Collapse – Bark Psychosis, Low and Slint come to mind – there’s a dark magic at work here that makes it unique, rather than a studied retread of atmospheric guitar music of years gone by. Everything about Collapse feels carefully considered to extract maximum resonance from minimum instrumental ingredients – and the effects are devastating.
9. Eiko Ishibashi – The Dreams My Bones Dream (Drag City)
Everything Jim O'Rourke touches is worthy of investigation, and the work of Eiko Ishibashi is no exception. The Dreams My Bones Dream is probably the darkest, knottiest album she's released on Drag City thus far, which immediately won me over thanks to its first track being eerily reminiscent of Talk Talk's 'Taphead'. 

10. r beny – Eistla (A Place to Bloom)
Each year, there's always one new ambient/drone record I keep coming back to. This year it's Eistla. I stumbled upon this release thanks to a random online recommendation and have listened to it devotedly since. It sounds like its cover looks: a beautiful natural scene, churning with undercurrents. 

Another 10 that are also awesome (in alphabetical order):
Elephant Micah – Genericana (Western Vinyl)
Foxwarren – Foxwarren (Anti-)
The Green Child – The Green Child (Upset the Rhythm)
Jesse Marchant – Illusion of Love (No Other)
My Autumn Empire – Oh, Leaking Universe (Wayside & Woodland Recordings) 
Ovlov – TRU (Exploding in Sound)
Rival Consoles – Persona (Erased Tapes)
Liam Singer – Finish Him (Birdwatcher)
Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs (Merge)
Olden Yolk – Olden Yolk (Trouble in Mind)

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