Albums Of the Year // Staff Picks
Better at Night // Natalie Evans
It’s always difficult for me to pick an album of the year when there are so many great releases, but there was one album that I kept coming back to. Natalie Evans’ Better at Night stood out from the crowd for its unique character. Better at Night marked a clear progression from her 2013 EP Houses, full of meandering guitar, harp melodies, and simple soft vocals. It sounds a bit like a mix between the math rock twinkling of Toe (the band) and the quirky harp plucking of Joanna Newsom. It would be easy to pin the album down as twee, with its simple lyrics and dreamy vibe, but it feels effortlessly raw and natural. Whether it sounds like your thing or not, I urge you to take 30 minutes out of your day, brew yourself a fresh coffee and give it a listen.
Kids See Ghosts // Kanye West and Kid Cudi
For me, this project marks a major innovation in the development of alternative hip-hop, particularly in this instance psychedelic alongside a trap-oriented regime. It is incredibly well produced, written, features incredible vocals and verses from a variety of guests in addition to the stars of the show, Kid Cudi and Kanye West. Thematically, it directly links to Ye, and brings together the threads of West’s dynamic, and at times astounding, output this summer. Cudi was finally unleashed, recovered somewhat from his own personal problems and paired with a producer commensurate to the task of guiding him out of the overly indulgent output of recent years. The result is a crisp, definitive and powerful project.
OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES // SOPHIE
SOPHIE’s debut album is an incredible journey from start to finish. After impressive singles in 2017, It remained unclear whether the Scotsman would be able to translate her energetic style of music into a cohesive project. She does so with flying colours, producing one of the most essential electronic music albums I’ve heard in a while. SOPHIE succeeds in making an album with a precise vision, mixing up some of the most aggressive bangers she has produced so far with some more quiet personal moments, which gives the album an emotional weight from start to finish. These give the album a unique character and take us into SOPHIE’s mind, full of beauty and its own demons. This album truly is an experience worth your attention; it’s an absorbing and uncompromising listen which will leave you breathless.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships // The 1975
The 1975’s third installment a brief inquiry into online relationships released last month is something to be analysed deeply in relation to our modern world. sophisticated and mature compared to their past work, it delivers the message that we spend too much time in our 21st century virtual realities, and not enough time organically. The variety of songs from the jazz influenced ‘mine’ to the indie rock ‘give yourself a try’, takes the audience through a euphony of sound exploration. The contrast of the living orchestra and the artificial Siri voice in ‘the man who married a robot’ is an interesting and imaginative choice by the band, helping listeners contemplate its message. On Matt Healy’s controversial words of The 1975 being the band of the decade, some may dismiss it as blatantly pretentious. However, other undisputed bands of their own decades similarly delve into the album’s themes of unity, love for your fellow-man and defiance in the face of hardship. The array of tracks on the album makes it a good pick for anyone. It’s an album you could easily listen to on a Friday night preparing for Fibbers, or on a Sunday afternoon during a study session.
Beerbongs and Bentleys // Post Malone
To some it may seem like a cop-out but my favourite album this year has to be Beerbongs and Bentleys by Post Malone. It was undoubtedly the soundtrack to my summer and because of that, when listening back to the hits I am reminded of nothing but sun, smiles and fond memories. Not only this but it catapulted Post Malone further into the limelight – so far in fact that he’s considered one of the biggest artists right now. This is a huge achievement especially when he’s competing with releases from enormous names this year: Artic Monkeys, 1975, Ariana Grande to name a few. Although by critics it wasn’t particularly favoured, it’s not hard to see that by the public it was loved. ‘Rockstar’ reached over 1billion streams on Spotify; the numbers speak for themselves!
Amy May Ellis
August Greene // August Greene
2018’s supergroup August Greene gave us a fantastic jazz/hip hop album this year. Rap legend Common, keys maestro Robert Glasper and drum king Karriem Riggins came together to craft a beautiful set of tracks with a politically empowered message. Featuring the smoothest cuts such as ‘Black Kennedy’ to match the most emphatic lyrics on ‘no apologies,’ these musicians do a brilliant job of matching each other in the competitive arena surrounding this project. Brandy’s feature on ‘optimistic’ leaves a lasting taste at the back end of this thoughtful album. If you haven’t listened to August Greene’s Tiny Desk Concert yet, I implore you to experience it along a hot run bath and your favourite scented candle.
Bon Voyage // Melody’s Echo Chamber.
A short but sweet album, this is a fantastic slice of experimental psych-pop that features so many musical veins: folk, funk, dream pop, weird breakdowns, and animalistic vocal effects. Its richly textured sound and angelic vocals put so much emotion and passion into the project. The quirky production is refreshing, especially considering MEC’s last record was effectively a Tame Impala side-project. This time its a portrait of an artist really coming into their own.
Chime // Desa
Even after being a fan of Minneapolis rapper/singer Dessa’s work for years, I never foresaw how much I would love Chime. Every single track connects with astounding poignancy, with Dessa’s pensive, yet candid musings on heartbreak and gender being laid out with an eloquence that most writers would kill for. She side-steps cliche metaphors and reliance on diary entry-esque oversharing (my pet hate), instead harnessing her signature wit, charm and proclivity for the philosophical to incredible effect. The venomous, ‘5 Out Of 6,’ bangs hard, the dancey pop of, ‘Half Of You,’ is as catchy and fun as it is touching, the harmonies on the chorus of, ‘Boy Crazy,’ are so gorgeous and endearing that I think I may have sung, ‘I’m just Boy Crazy,’ more than any other lyric this year (an impressive feat by itself). And I will put album highlight, ‘Fire Drills,’ up against any other political song of the Trump era. Seriously, the bridge of this song may be the hardest, most masterfully-written takedown of gender inequality put to record this decade – “I think a woman’s worth, I think that she deserves a better line of work than motherf*ckin’ vigilance.” Whether you’re looking for a tear-jerker, a battle-cry, a banger, or a melancholy pop tune, Chime has got you covered, and will probably have you covered for the foreseeable future.