Albums of the year as chosen by our favourite acts of the year

Albums of the year as chosen by our favourite acts of the year

Clockwise from left: Lia Mice (credit: Chris Turner), Martha Ffion, The Spook School, Kathryn Joseph (credit: Tom Johnson), Carla J. Easton (Brian Sweeney), Apostille

Featuring selections by Carla J. Easton, Kathryn Joseph, Stuart Braithwaite, Solid Blake and more

It's December, which means the flurry of end of year album lists has begun, revealing what everyone's been locked into over the past 12 months. To switch things up a little, our music team have gone out and spoken to the musicians and bands they've been listening to the most this year for their very own recommendations. Here's what our favourites have chosen as their top releases of 2018.

Adam Todd (The Spook School): Bad Moves – Tell No One

I love Bad Moves' Tell No One so much. It's full of amazing powerpop bangers. Bad Moves don't shy away from great pop songs in an attempt to sound 'intricate' or 'innovative'. This is pure, invigorating, guitar-driven pop music. I'm sure if this album had been made 30 or 40 years ago it'd be listed as one of the classics of the genre. But while Bad Moves perfect the powerpop sound in a way that is undoubtedly their own, this is so much more than a throwback record. Lyrically, they manage to cover subject matter from queer romance to critique of cultural appropriation in a way that is wonderfully personal, accessible and totally manages to avoid heavy-handedness. It's really everything a modern guitar-driven pop record should be! (CA)
The Spook School's Could It Be Different? was released on 26 Jan via Slumberland Records

Meg Remy aka U.S. Girls: Badge Époque

My favourite release of 2018 was a single track delivered by the impeccable Badge Époque. This one track ('You Can Build a Palace, Or You Can Please People') speaks louder than most full length albums. Dynamic, thorough, sexy, moody, flute to boot! These players have The Gift, so tight they are loose. I look forward to a full album from these fabulous freaks in 2019. (SG)
U.S. Girls' In a Poem Unlimited was released on 16 Feb via 4AD

Richard Youngs: Low – Double Negative

No contest. Low, Double Negative. Daring, extreme, beautiful...showing old farts everywhere that the way ahead is taking risks, fucking with the formula, not resting on your laurels. Rather than the ever-diminishing returns of staying true to some imagined notion of who/what you are, re-invention is key to preserving your inner being, and Low illustrate this powerfully on the most radical record of their career. Should be required listening for all dullards of the heritage music industry. (SS)
Richard Youngs' Belief was released on 2 Mar via O Genesis Recordings and AMOR's Sinking Into A Miracle was released on Fri 7 Dec via Night School

Martha Ffion: Anna Calvi – Hunter

Anna Calvi's single 'Hunter' was my favourite song of 2018, and the album it came from (of the same name) was one of the best records of the year in my opinion, exploring ideas about gender and sexuality in an incredibly innovative way. On Hunter, Calvi makes me think of the Cure, Jeff Buckley and Madonna all at the same time. It's wildly romantic and raw but poppy as hell. I am both completely in awe/insanely jealous of Anna Calvi who really can do it all – sing, shred and write beautiful, thought-provoking music. (CA)
Martha Ffion's Sunday Best was released on 9 Mar via Turnstile

Eleanor Friedberger: Jennifer Castle – Angels of Death

Jennifer Castle's Angels of Death. I met the Canadian singer Jennifer Castle in Glasgow in October. We played 4 shows together and I watched her entire set each night; not something I tend to do. She played guitar, a little harmonica, and sang with a voice as clear as a bell – ethereal at times, but could also grumble down low. She grabbed me with her Dylan cover of 'Walkin' Down the Line', but I found myself singing her melodies long after the shows were over. Of course I could say she's like a lovely combination of Joni Mitchell and Kate McGarrigle – but she's just Jennifer – with her own authentic take on country, gospel, and folk; a perfect blend to warm up to on a cold December morning. (CA)
Eleanor Friedberger's Rebound was released on 4 May via Frenchkiss Records

Michael Kasparis (Apostille/Night School Records/Anxious Music): Special Interest – Spiralling

'Young, Black, Gifted, In Leather!' Although I only relate to the latter of these adjectives, it's the first song off an album called Spiralling by a band called Special Interest and it's my discovery of 2018. Four punks from New Orleans crushing drum machines, crude as hell samples together with a growling, thunderous distorted bass and an acute lyrical anger spat out by the most exciting front person in punk and I can tell this despite only seeing them on YouTube. A label I co-run called Anxious Music is releasing this next year in Europe and mark my words this group will be The Band Of 2019. (SS)
Apostille's Choose Life was released on 8 Jun via Upset the Rhythm

Kathryn Joseph: Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

My record of the year is Young Fathers' Cocoa Sugar. There is nothing more beautiful than what they do especially when they do it live. In every way they make me feel the most proud to be part of this small country of amazing noise and it is so wrong that they weren't nominated for the Mercury Prize. They deserved the double again. Every single moment of every human in this band is the most sexy, great and amazing to watch and listen to. Also they are beautiful humans in real life too. I love Young Fathers. The most. ️(AQ)
Kathryn Joseph's From When I Wake the Want Is was released on 10 Aug via Rock Action

Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai): Low – Double Negative

My favourite record of 2018 is Double Negative by Low. It's rare for a band who are in their third decade to reinvent themselves in such spectacular fashion. It's a unique, brave and beautiful record, and I think the ominous sound of it encapsulates the turmoil that we're living through right now and seems to soundtrack our lives at this point in time. I'm excited to hear what they do next, we're so lucky to have them.' (DP)
Mogwai's KIN: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on 31 Aug via Rock Action Records

Carla J. Easton: Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt

It's hard for me to articulate the sheer joy I feel when listening to And Nothing Hurt by Spiritualized. I am so thankful that our damaged Spaceman came back to Earth – potentially and supposedly – for the last time, to deliver us And Nothing Hurt. Symphonic and, equally, cacophonic, this silver-hued, starry-eyed testament to broken souls and all-encompassing love was the soundtrack to the latter part of my year. It soars triumphantly with strings, brass and timpani with Pierce's fractured vocal dancing delicately on the edges of anticipation, with lyrics of something hopeful promised, something more and something new. This record sounds like flying through a spiral of billions of suns.
Carla J. Easton's Impossible Stuff was released on 5 Oct via Olive Grove Records

Heather Leigh: Body/Head – The Switch

2018 felt dominated by strong female musicians: Grouper, Eiko Ishibashi, Zaimph, Mary Lattimore, crys cole, Sarah Davachi, Rosali, Josephine Foster, Miss Red, U.S. Girls, Mimi Parker of Low, to name just a few of the phantastic albums that were released this year. My favourite is Body/Head's The Switch, which is the duo of Kim Gordon and Bill Nace. Their music is gripping, felt in the body, transcending any urge to THINK about what you're experiencing. The interweaving guitars combined with Kim's voice and harmonica, is sexy and sensual. Having seen them live, when I listen to the record I envisage the shapes they pull when they play – their shadows against the film behind them, Kim's glitter boots, Bill stretched over his guitar. This is blues, it sings something eternal. I find it moving and alive – it changes every time I listen to it. (SS)
Heather Leigh's Throne was released on 26 Oct via Editions Mego

Solid Blake: Lucrecia Dalt – Anticlines

This is a gorgeous album of spoken word, barely-there melodies and incredible sound design. It contemplates, according to the artist, 'the bodies of self above and beneath the surface', hitting themes of limits, borders, surfaces, contact and touch. I was totally captivated by the opening track 'Edge', inspired by the Colombian myth of El Boraro, a monster that crushes its victims and sucks out their pulped insides, then inflates the remaining skin like a balloon. It's in equal measures horrifying and beautiful, and the listening experience is tense and remarkably physical. (AQ)
Solid Blake's Warp Room was released on 2 Nov via Seilscheibenpfeiler

Lia Mice: AJA

My favourite release of 2018 is the self-titled album by Nottingham producer AJA, out on Opal Tapes. I'm a big fan of uncomfortable electronic music, intense hardware production, and berserk vocal effects and AJA is the master of this domain. The opening track 'Rattles' is the ultimate dystopian club track, with distorted kick, feedback, screaming, and high pitched ringing. From there the whole album is really disorienting, whipping between nightmarish textural sound worlds and hard hitting beat driven short form bangers. It makes for a truly unique listening experience and sounds great through a giant sound system! (AQ)
Lia Mice's The Sampler As A Time Machine was released on 9 Nov via Optimo Music

Still House Plants

Finlay Clark: I was in London earlier this year speaking to Mary Jane Leach about her work of bringing Julius Eastman's music into the public eye; in response, the Kukuruz Quartet released Piano Interpretations on Intakt Records.
Jessica Hickey-Kallenbach: Tirzah's Devotion was full of jolts and refits, and it was a grazing soundtrack to moving about this year.
David Kennedy: I listened and listened on my laptop to RP Boo's album, I'll Tell You What!, and it's really fun. My mate always plays it at work and I got into it again. 'Udon't know' is good. (SS)
Still House Plants' Long Play was released on 18 Oct via bison.