As it’s time to bid farewell to 2018, why not have a quick pause and look back at the albums that have shaped the music scene this year. From the alternative space concept album from Arctic Monkeys, to the debut album from Shame, now one of the biggest new punk bands in the UK, 2018 has brought us an abundance of incredible new music. After weeks of deliberating, milkbarmusic finally concluded the top 18 of 2018! Hope you enjoy.
18. Her’s – Invitation to Her’s
Invitation to Her’s is the second album from young Liverpool-based duo Her’s. This album is a collection of carefully-written lyrics paired with ear-pleasing instrumentals, with Her’s managing to take the best aspects of the latest indie pop and rock sounds and mash it into one fabulous album.
The album comprises of a mixture of jazzed up Mac Demarco songs, through to an airy pop sound. There’s even a 60s inspired song, inspired by bands such as The Beatles and the Beach Boys. A listen to this album really does prove what a smart and talented duo Her’s are. I would highly recommend a listen.
Read a full review of this album here: Her’s – Invitation to Her’s
17. Cool Sounds – Cactus Country
Joining the thriving Australian indie scene in 2018 was the outfit Cool Sounds. With an impressive seven band members, Cool Sounds released their second album Cactus Country in October 2018.
Cactus Country is an album full of nonchalant guitars and airy vocals, giving us that fresh summer feeling regardless of the weather outside. This album seems a world away from where the band begun, who were originally formed as a joke to sing about the gags and perils of the internet, such as falling in love with a YouTube star and the idea of having online friends. Cactus Country is an album that I will for sure be playing on repeat as the days get lighter and the sun gets warming. I can’t wait to see Cool Sounds launch further into the indie pop scene in the new year.
Read more about Cool Sounds here: Cool Sounds
16. Loose Tooth – Keep Up
Another young Australian band appearing in my top 18 albums of 2018 is Loose Tooth, a band comprising of three old family friends from Melbourne. Signed to Milk! Records, Loose Tooth are one of Courtney Barnett’s latest prodigies. Loose Tooth definitely have one of the tightest and integrated sound, playing their songs as if it were only one person.
They’re debut album Keep Up was released in August. I think one of the best things about this album was how beautifully polished, but still raw, their sound was throughout. Keep Up was an album I would best describe as the vocals of Stephen Malkmus, with the wit of Courtney Barnett. What sets Loose Tooth apart from other 2018 newcomers is their ability to make every song feel personal, and almost like a conversation, as if the band are addressing someone personal to them, and this makes for a really nice listen.
Read a full review of this album here: Loose Tooth
15. Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
The fourth album from Josh Tillman (better known as Father John Misty) is unlike anything we have heard from him before. With his previous album Pure Comedy full of complexity and self-exploration, this album instead takes a completely different turn, showing Father John Misty at his most vulnerable. Full of ballads discussing his heartbreak and pain, it feels as if the ego of Father John Misty has fallen off his pedestal.
This melancholic feel is clearly heard in the lyrics. For example, father John Misty talks about begging for ‘somebody to stop this joyless joy ride’, and, in the track The Palace, he sombrely sings the line ‘Last night I texted your iPhone, and said ‘I think I’m ready to come home’ / I’m in over my head, I’m in over my head…’ With the album being written in hotel rooms over two consecutive months, there is surprisingly so much to this beautifully simple record. This is definitely the most solemn and genuinely honest album we have ever hear from Father John Misty, and so worth a listen.
14. Amber Arcades – European Heartbreak
Back in September, Amber Arcades gave the world one of the most eloquent and beautiful break-up albums ever written, all focusing on Britain’s break-up with the EU. Amber Arcades (also known as Annelotte de Graff), an ex-legal aide for the UN, is full of remorse and heartache about Brexit. Her opinions are expressed all throughout her album European Heartbreak, but the song Goodnight Europe has to be the real standout. In this mellow song, she also mentions her ‘left ideals’ and how she now feels ‘all alone in the Eurozone’, almost as if she feels isolated in her political opinion and is struggling to understand the decision by Britain: ‘everyone got bored and moved along / Now I’m left here, wondering if I still belong.’
This album has a wonderful sound and flow, resulting in an incredibly important album to ease the heartbreak caused by Brexit. This is an album I urge everyone to listen to.
Read a full review of this album here: Amber Arcades – European Heartbreak
13. Baxter Dury – B.E.D.
Baxter Dury has joined forces with Delilah Holiday and Etienne de Crecy to create an album full of excellent alternative dance music. Despite being an unlikely trio, this album works incredibly well. Sharp, crisp electronic arrangements are complimented by the deepness of Baxter Dury’s voice, which act as a base for the softer, higher vocals of de Crecy. All in all, their different styles combined result in a surprisingly elegant, smooth and very polished songs.
This album is all about Paris nights, quite literally. Throughout 2017 Baxter Dury frequently caught the Eurostar to Paris for what can only be described as weird, wonderful and wild weekends. These experiences are the basis of this album, and sometimes uncoherent meanings behind the songs seem to perfectly sum up Dury, Holiday and de Crecy’s adventures in Paris. And it’s amazing to listen to.
12. Teleman – Family of Aliens
From the first listen of Family of Aliens by Teleman it is clear that Teleman is fed up. Teleman is fed up with Earth, and this album allows us to enter the weird and wonderful mind of the band as they imagine all the ways they can run away from Earth. Song For A Seagull, the album’s lead single, is all about withdrawing from life and flying off to a better place. Somebody’s Island is about leaving Earth and living on the moon. Submarine Life fantasises about running away from the land and living underwater. For Teleman, it seems they are able to escape to any fantasy land they imagine.
Family of Aliens is filled with great tracks full of happy hooks and boppy beats. With a sound somewhat resembling Pulp, or perhaps even an upbeat Belle and Sebastian, Family of Aliens will take you on a fantastic journey, and one I highly recommend.
Read a full review of this album here: Teleman – Family of Aliens
11. Goat Girl – Goat Girl
Debut album Goat Girl by Goat Girl is an album full of wonderful murky vocal harmonies, compelling bass hooks and strong drum beats throughout. The girls behind Goat Girl have managed to create a sound much more mature than their age would suggest, often resembling that of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Tom Petty.
Goat Girl by Goat Girl is an incredibly relevant album for many young people today. Topics range from naming and shaming specific UK political parties, to the complicated state of Brexit, to sexual harassment on public transport. Goat Girl have a lot of opinions and are not afraid to express them; a bold move for a debut album but pulled off impeccably.
Read about their live gig here: Goat Girl – Live @ Manchester’s Gorilla
Read a full review of this album here: Goat Girl – Goat Girl
10. Shame – Songs of Praise
The debut album Songs of Praise is full of energy and is a great album from this young post-punk British band. Having come from the same south London area as the likes of Goat Girl and Fat White Family, Shame have proven on this album that they are just as talented as the rest of their peers.
Seeing as the band are famous for their boisterous and rowdy live shows, it is no surprise that this album is best heard live. This is a somewhat refreshing feeling, showing the band have really stayed true to what they do best, and that’s exactly why their fans love them.
9. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel and Casino
After the astounding worldwide success from their previous album AM, Arctic Monkeys had a lot of pressure in making their 6th studio album just as big of a hit. Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino sees the band take a very different musical turn from the rock sound of AM, instead opting for a much more spacey and atmospheric sound. This album is a concept album and is set on an imagined moon in an area degraded by humans and their building of hotels and casinos (which is set near Turner’s imagined Sea of Tranquillity).
There is so much to this album, and it is very focussed around the lyrics and the subsequent storytelling. It is the kind of album where you will pick up something new on every listen, be it a subtle bassline or nonchalant harmony. Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino has confirmed that Arctic Monkeys are still as relevant as ever.
8. Kadhja Bonet – Childqueen
On her second studio album, Kadhja Bonet once again shows off how marvellously talented and liberated Bonet is, having written, performed, produced and mixed the whole album by herself.
Childqueen is an album with all the extra frills and subtleties many artists lack in their album. The track Delphine provides a spotlight for Bonet’s magical falsetto soul vocals, which are seemingly reminiscent of a less wacky Kate Bush, whilst the track Joy gives way for a wonderful bed of woodwind and strings. Towards the end of the album the track Mother Maybe revives the listener, filling space with shrill soprano vocals and perfectly encapsulating a central theme of feminine power.
Childqueen can take you away to another world, even from the incredible vocals alone. Kadhja Bonet has to be one of the most talented musicians gracing our ears in 2018.
7. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
Wide Awake! from Parquet courts is an upbeat and head-bopping album, full of danceable punk rock music. With help from producer Danger Mouse, Parquet Courts have managed to create an album containing a collection of effortlessly cool songs, in particular the tracks Wide Awake, Total Football, and Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience. The band do take a more mellow turn on the song Before the Water Gets Too High, where the band talks about changing global climates and a lack of state action, with singers A. Savage and Austin Brown singing remorsefully about ‘images of drenched survival’ and ‘tent villages waiting for the state to help’.
Despite the band being in their 30s, their music hasn’t aged with them, and they still have a very young sound which will especially appeal to their younger punk rock fans.
Read about their live gig here: Parquet Courts – Live @ the O2 Ritz, Manchester
6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
Having caught lots of attention from the release of their single French Press back in 2017, Australian band Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever released their first album, Hope Downs, in the June this year.
Hope Downs is an album full of jangly guitar and witty lyrics that prove just how talented this five-piece Melbourne band are. All the songs on Hope Downs are wonderfully addictive, and the album feels fresh on every listen. With music sounding similar to Car Seat Headrest and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, I think Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are well on their way to becoming the next best indie rock band.
Read about their live gig here: Rolling Blackouts Coastal fever – Live @ Manchester Academy 2
5. The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking
We’re Not Talking was the second album from the best young Australian band, The Goon Sax. Released in September, this album was full of the band’s experiences of love, and love lost, shared through their distinctive awkward jangly guitar pop. From the opening the off-kiltered cow-bell opening track Make Time 4 Love, which could almost be a song by the Talking Heads, to the track Now You Pretend, which has a much more Nick Cave angle to it, with the elegant piano and deep, romantic lead vocals and lyrics including ‘now you pretend / like nothing means nothing’. It is evident that The Goon Sax’s music is growing up with them, and it’s a really nice change to hear.
We’re Not Talking is an album that perfectly captures and portrays growing up, and all the ups, downs, emotions and experiences that comes with it.
Read a full review of this album here: The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking
Read more about The Goon Sax here: The Goon Sax
4. Christine and the Queens – Chris
Heloise Letisser, the women behind Christine and the Queens, has once again proven to be one of the coolest people on the planet in her new album Chris. From the first track on Chris, an intimacy is set between artist and listener. Every track on this album has meaning and depth behind it, but still leaves a large place for the listener to decide their own story behind the song. The swapping between singing in French and English is surprisingly complimentary to the tracks on this album, occasionally sounding like a conversation between Letisser and herself, or even Letisser and the listener.
Chris is full of brilliantly unique pop songs which showcase in full glory Letisser’s pride in being a strong, pansexual woman on the edge of superstardom. Yet underneath all of this Helouise Letisser still questions whether the belief she has in herself will ever be enough. An insecurity no one would guess from this unique popstar. That is what make Chris such a standout album.
3. The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
The 1975 reappeared on the global indie pop scene in late 2018 with their third studio album: A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. This is album that really should not work. Pop bangers, piano jazz-style sentiments, a hint of EDM, and three minutes and 33 seconds of a story told by Siri all piled into one album sounds like a bit of a shambles. Yet, somehow the 1975 have managed to pull it off.
The journey taken in this album, and the development and maturity of The 1975’s sound, are indicative of the experiences undergone by the band. From travelling the world, learning to be international popstars, and lead singer Matty Healy’s heroin troubles, The 1975 wear their heart on their sleeve, and use these experiences in the best way possible: to make an album full of exceptionally varied and distinctive songs.
2. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
In at number 2 is Tell Me How You Really Feel by the wonderful Courtney Barnett, who is probably one of my favourite artists at the moment. This album was finally released three years after her debut album (Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit), and then a brief pause from her own music to release a brilliant collab album with Kurt Vile (Lotta Sea Lice). But I can tell you confidently it was definitely worth the wait.
This album features several appearances from Kelley and Kim Deal (from The Breeders), and it is a well thought out album from start to finish, with Barnett indeed telling us how she really feels. This album does have a much more mature feel compared to her earlier music, with fewer witty lyrics about mundane everyday events (which was a common feature in her earlier work). Overall, Courtney Barnett has delivered a fantastic album that I could listen to, and do listen to, over and over again.
1. Mitski – Be the Cowboy
Back with her fifth album, Be the Cowboy shows Mitski as quietly confident, almost as if she is comfortable showing her vulnerabilities. However, Mitski is far from playing the victim, as if she is fighting back and she seems purely comfortable in her stride.
This album consists of distorted guitars, upbeat disco pop and elusive piano ballads. However, a dark humour can be heard through this whole album, particularly on Lonesome Love and Nobody. It is a dark humour almost resembling that of St Vincent, but with a unique twist on it. All tracks on this album, bar three, come in at under two and a half minutes. Mitski has been very clever at giving listeners enough of a dose of her in every song, without it ever settling and dragging on, making for a fantastic listen.