2018 was the first full year that I’ve used Spotify and that is definitely reflected in this end of year list of my favourite LPs.
Replacing an eMusic sub with a Spotify sub has allowed me to hear more albums but to also buy albums I like more since eMusic could be a bit of a lottery. Certainly the Spotify sub hasn’t diminished my physical purchases, in fact, it might even have increased them. And, as seems to be traditional, the top 10 features a significant proportion of artists I’ve purchased for the first time (40%).
Of all the top 50 album lists I’ve done in the last few years, this is undoubtedly the strongest, not least because I purchased 49 of the following records.The order of preference shown suggests a disparity that doesn’t really exist – I don’t think I like my number 1 record that much more than my number 30.
2018 was unusual in that I don’t think there was a stand-out LP or two in the way that there usually is. Indeed looking at the Top 10 I’ve settled on it’s quite a varied list – a double instrumental LP, a double punk rock opera, some singer/songwriter albums and quite a lot in between. Which makes the ranking in large part redundant – how do you compare Adam Stafford and Martha Ffion or Fucked Up and Neko Case? Or even a record with 8 tracks compared to one with 18?
Anyhow, I’ve got to do this at some point so this list is as valid as tomorrow’s will be …
1. Fucked Up – Dose Your Dreams
The aforementioned double LP punk rock opera, ‘Dose Your Dream’ ends up on top because a) it covers a lot of ground even if abrasive still applies to a lot of the songs and b) it contains the highest number of great songs on the list. This was a Spotify roadtested first purchase of a Fucked Up record. This is one of the less abrasive numbers ..
2. Hookworms – Microshift
There’s a risk that the band’s messy demise might obscure the fact that this was their best record. But in moving in a less abrasive but more electronic direction, the band upped their game on this one. Another Spotify tested purchase.
3. Malcolm Middleton – Bananas
Largely eschewing the pop electronica of ‘Sumer of 13’, ‘Bananas’ probably sounded more like what folk expect a Middleton album to sound like. There were only 8 songs, but despite mainly extended arrangements, they were all excellent and different. A cause for celebration. And we got full band gigs as well!
4. Martha Ffion – Sunday Best
A wonderful guitar/pop record, ‘Sunday Best’ had to fight against my ingrained preference for bands over solo artists. Another record which I first heard on Spotify my timing was perfect in one regard as I heard it just as a limited run of CDs was made available and bad in another respect in that I just mentioned the short tour to promote the record. The country tinged ‘Baltimore’ is perhaps a bit unrepresentative of the record yet fully illustrative its many melodic strengths.
5. Neko Case – Hell-On
You can guess what inspired this purchase by now 😉 but it was hearing the song below on an Uncut CD that led me to finally investigate the Canadian singer/songwriter after all this time. It’s a terrific album and ‘I-5’ is probably my favourite song of the year. Appropriately enough I bought the album in the excellent Soundscapes record store in Toronto on holiday. Terrible cover though …
6. Birdhead – Massive Aggressive
There’s perhaps not a better titled record all year but Edinburgh’s Birdhead took the strengths of the first record and made them bigger and, er, more aggressive. Electronic rock is often a tricky thing to pin down, but Birdhead managed it with some style.
7. Fred Thomas – Aftering
A late contender after first hearing him on a Spotify playlist, I confess I know nothing about Mr Thomas. Half the songs on ‘Aftering’ are fairly uptempo (and short), whilst the rest of the album is far more downbeat (and long!) something close to the style of Micah P Hinson, perhaps. They’re all great though.
8. No Age – Snare Like A Haircut
This one was a wee bit of a spec purchase as I’ve heard most of the No Age LPs but always felt that some were better than others. But ‘Snares’ is a blistering set and led to myself and MPK2 catching them in Glasgow when they were phenomenal. Great stuff.
9. Adam Stafford – Fire Behind the Curtain
The great thing about Adam’s records is that they’ve always pushed me beyond my comfort zone and this was especially true of ‘Fire’ – a double album of instrumental music which not only covered a lot of ground but rewarded each successive listen. The record gained a lot of warmth from the cello of Pete Harvey but at times could still be quite uncompromising. As brave as record as Low’s ‘Double Negative’, I can’t help feeling that if Adam came from Fulham rather than Falkirk, he’d have acquired a much higher profile.
10. The Breeders – All Nerve
After the insipid Glasgow show in 2017, I wasn’t necessarily as excited about a new Breeders record as I might otherwise have been. ‘Wait In The Car’ though promised great things and if the album didn’t quite live up to that standard all the way through, then it was nevertheless their best record since ‘Last Splash’. And by some distance.
Here’s the rest of my 50 albums of the year and there’s plenty to love all through the list. The strength of the list is perhaps reflected by the fact that the Chills and Low took the top 2 places in the 2015 list and whilst I don’t think this year’s offerings were quite as good they’re placed at 26 and 12 respectively.
|11||Brix & The Extricated||Breaking State|
|13||Courtney Barnett||Tell Me How You Really Feel|
|14||Spare Snare||Sounds Recorded By Steve Albini|
|17||Chorusgirl||Shimmer and Spin|
|18||The Lovely Eggs||This Is Eggland|
|19||Kristin Hersh||Possible Dust Clouds|
|20||The Filthy Tongues||Back to Hell|
|21||The Beths||Future Me Hates Me|
The Spook School
|What Heaven Is Like
Could It Be Different
|24||We Were Promised Jetpacks||The More I Sleep The Less I Dream|
|26||Nap Eyes||I’m Bad Now|
|27||The Chills||Snow Bound|
|28||Whyte Horses||Empty Words|
|29||Swearin’||Fall Into The Sun|
|30||The Monochrome Set||Maisieworld|
|31||ILL||We Are ILL|
|32||Broken Records||What We Might Know|
|33||Dream Wife||Dream Wife|
|34||Meursault||Fuck Off Back To Art School|
|35||Martin John Henry||Some Evil Ways|
|36||Strike The Colours||Flock|
|38||Rolling Coast Blackout Fever||Hope Downs|
|39||Vital Idles||Left Hand|
|42||IDLES||Joy As An Act of Resistance|
|43||Haley Henderickx||I Need To Start A Garden|
|44||WHITEHORSE||A Whitehorse Winter Classic|
|45||Randolph’s Leap||Worryingly Okay|
|46||The Eastern Swell||Hand Rolled Halo|
|47||Jeffrey Lewis & The Deposit Returners||Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010)|
|48||Cloud Nothings||Last Building Burning|
|49||The Orielles||Silver Dollar Moment|
|50||Firestations||The Year Dot|
I bought 18 artists on the above list for the first time this year and 20 albums were auditioned to some extent on Spotify. Six LPs were purchased as a result of live performances.
A lot of the above records feature on my 2018 playlist: