ZANI - The Sound of 2018 – End of Year Playlist Part 1

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2018 has been a great year for music. I’d argue it’s been the best year for new music of the 21st century so far, in fact. Which is why I’ve felt compelled to make another playlist, following on from my January to March one a few months earlier. This list covers the April to June period, compiling my favourite Albums and Eps of these three months, after which I hope to make one more covering July to December which will hopefully land in the new year. Here’s hoping 2019 will be even better!

ALBUM REVIEWS

Grimm Grimm – Cliffhanger (Some Other Planet Records, CD/DL/LP)
Grimm Grimm is a music project headed by London-based, Tokyo-born singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist/producer Koichi Yamanoha.  Second album ‘Cliffhanger’ is a beguiling Cubist soundscape of a record, a puzzling mix of rousing acoustic summer musings, emotionally complex drone rock and Joe Meek style theremin skullduggery. Acoustic tracks like ‘Still Smiling’ and the title track shine next to drone workouts like ‘Take me down to Coney Island’ and the pulsating synth throb of ‘Afraid.’ There’s even a Misfits cover (‘Hybrid Moments’) as if things weren’t already perplexing enough.

Jack Goldstein - A Tiger Shark Might Eat A Bull Shark, A Bull Shark Might Eat A Blacktip Shark And A Blacktip Shark Might Eat A Dogfish Shark (Attracted Records, CD/DL/LP/MD)
Proudly bearing 2018’s most tongue twisting title of the year, Oxford’s premier composer, top light entertainer and finest Michael Flatley tribute act Jack Goldstein bounces back with yet another lo-fi solo rumpus. His voice sounds gruffer in places than on previous recordings, giving rockers like ‘’Early Morning Birds’ and ‘5D Rock’ an added edge, as well as adding a rugged tenderness to the opening break up anthem ‘My Second Life.’ A Charles Manson cover (‘Peace In Your Heart’) lays bare his obsession with the macabre, and his old Fixers bandmates turn up on ‘Self-Deprecation Rock’ for good measure.

Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth (Young Turks, CD/LP/DL)
Tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington more than holds his own on his fifth solo album, the colossal ‘Heaven and Earth’, a double set of startling vision and clarity. Opening with a fearsome reworking of the theme from Bruce Lee’s ace early 70s kung fu flick ‘Fists of Fury’, the album serves as both a militant battle cry for the modern day African-American civil rights movement AND a spiritual Space Jazz odyssey, with the ‘Heaven’ and ‘Earth’ sides representing the world as its creator sees it both internally and externally. Proof that jazz is still very much the music of the future.

Gruff Rhys – Babelsberg (Rough Trade, CD/LP/DL)
Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys returns with his first solo record in four years, the follow up to 2014’s superb ‘American Interior.’ A lush, symphonic , string based sound permeates the album throughout, adding syrup to the lush 60s pop sounds of ‘Frontier Man’ and ‘The Club’, with darker moments arising in the shapes of ‘Drones In The City’ and ‘Architecture of Amnesia’. Ending with the gloriously dry humour of ‘Selfies In The Sunset’, the album is riddled with a genuine concern for the negative impact technology can have on culture at large. May the long, strange trip continue.

 

Gaz Coombes – World’s Strongest Man (Hot Fruit/Caroline International, CD/LP/DL)
Another veteran of the 90s indie scene, former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes bounces back with his third solo album, a markedly different beast to his old outfit. Less frenetic vocally (with a slightly higher tone?), this release is proof that the ageing process doesn’t have to be detrimental, with Coombes looking and sounding fresher than an organic watermelon. As diverse as ever, the surreal psychedelia of ‘Slow Motion Life’ recalls Neil Young jamming with early Mercury Rev, with flirtations with electro glitz rock (the title track), righteous voodoo temple groove (‘Deep Pockets) and enigmatic psych folk (‘The Oaks’) elsewhere.

Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears (Transgressive Records, CD/LP/DL)
Norfolk teenage terror duo Let’s Eat Grandma ‘s second album is a gleefully subversive slice of apocalypse pop, less lo-fi than their debut but no less uncompromising. A sparse CD booklet (no photos or printed lyrics) sets the tone; launching straight into the harsh instrumental electro throb of ‘Whitewater’, the album takes you into unknown waters from the very start. Tracks like the nine minute prog-pop of ‘Cool & Collected’ and the stupendous eleven minute Kafkaesque death pop of ‘Donnie Darko’ bludgeon the twee ‘little girl lost’ advert indie through the heart with devastating accuracy.

The Damned – Evil Spirits (Spinefarm Records, CD/LP/DL)
Produced by Tony Visconti, the UK’s original punk band’s first album in ten years has finally materialised after a successful online pledge campaign. It’s largely business as usual musically, and all the better for it. Tracks like ‘Devil In Disguise’ and ‘We’re So Nice’ prove the band can rock as hard as any of the younger bands on the scene, as does the glorious album closer ‘I Don’t Care’, a riot of trumpets and punk rock attitude, while the gorgeous ballad ‘Look Left’ and the eco anthem ‘Sonar Deceit’ provide food for thought.

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile (Sony, CD/LP/DL)
Blackwood’s grizzled punk/glam/indie veterans the Manic Street Preachers are back with a new art riot for a fractured time. Singles like ‘People Give In’ and ‘International Blue’ hit the right buttons; anthemic, rousing calls to arms with some gorgeous production from Dave Eringa. It’s a messy, at times infuriating affair; ‘Liverpool Revisited’, for all its good intent, is disappointingly flat and uninspired, however political rockers like ‘Broken Algorithms’ and the moving elegy to a bygone time ‘A Song For The Sadness’ prove they still have the old fire in their bellies.

Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer (Bad Boy Records, CD/LP/DL)
I must admit, I’d barely heard of Janelle Monae until a few months ago. I decided to investigate, slightly suspiciously at first on account of finding most contemporary Western pop as culturally enriching as a Rupert Murdoch newspaper. I shouldn’t have worried. ‘Dirty Computer’ is a triumph; a thrillingly alien, captivatingly futuristic blend of hard hitting hip hop (‘Django Jane’), soap bar pop (‘Screwed’, ‘Pynk’) and robot R&B (the otherworldly ‘I Like That.’) Brian Wilson provides backing vocals on the title track and ‘Take A Byte’, while ‘Stevie’s Dream’ features a spoken word segment from Stevie Wonder.

Le Emu Tavern – A Country Supper With Le Emu Tavern (Aktion Pact, CD/DL)
Idiosyncratic scousers Le Emu Tavern were one of my most notable discoveries of 2018. Opening with the angular, synth-led new wave of ‘The Clinician’, their off kilter sound manifests itself in many different forms throughout. Highlights include the ironic punk pop of ‘Good Dogs Never Die’, the Tory Press baiting ‘Water Cannon Moon’, the touching sci fi ballad ‘Not Every Astronaut Comes Home’ and the tense hometown mentality bemoaning electro pop of ‘Enter The City.’ Album closer ‘Money My Mum Hasn’t Got’ complete with a kids choir comes on like a socio political rewrite of Clive Dunn’s ‘Grandad.’

EP REVIEWS


Sebastian Reynolds – Mahajanaka EP (Nonostar Records, CD,DL)
Flights of Helios member Sebastian Reynolds spent some time in Thailand recently, studying the local folklore. Based around samples of Thai pop group The Krajidrid Band, ‘Mahajanaka’ is based around a story from the Jakarta mythology; a hypnotic, electro wired piece of fusion pop, an Eastern heartbeat set to an iron curtain of sound. Two remixes complete the EP, a euphoric take from Emseatee and a reverb-heavy, ambient electro mix from Atlasov.

The Dollymops – Fields of Wheat (Self-Released, DL)
Oxford indie punks The Dollymops made their presence felt this year with their debut EP, a three track riot of a release. Packed with big choruses, tense instrumentation and dramatic vocals, this May-baiting EP provides enough wit, focus and invention to suggest the next few years might be kind to these boys, having recently signed to FourTwenny Records. Matt King’s beefy production brings an added edge to tracks like ‘Romantic Mantras’ and the seaside imagery of‘Promenades.’

Circus Redux – Pelican (DL, Self-Released)
Circus Redux are an enigmatic Liverpool trio. They don’t do press shots, and take their names from the Neoist Art movement popularised by the left wing writer/art prankster Stewart Home (Luther Blissett, Monty Cantsin, Karen Eliot), and give production credits to the Hollywood pseudonym for disowned films of Alan Smithee. One of six Eps to be recorded by the band this year, ‘Pelican’ is an uneasy listen. An 80s indie sound is prevalent on ‘The Mechanical Bride’ ,‘Floating Lights’ and ‘Voice Over’ giving way to the white hot, demonic instrumental thrash of ‘Lowland Hundred’ with a disturbing lack of warning.

Blaze the Mic Smoker – Unicycle (DL, Self-Released)
‘Unicycle’ is Blaze the Mic Smokers’s debut release. A Bristol MC, currently a film student in Plymouth, these four tracks reveal a wickedly scatological, irreverent mindset for the most part; the title track gloriously evoking the carefreeness of youth with its talk of blazing and playing Mario Kart, with only the closing optimism of ‘Sunshine ft. Charlie Shirmer’ providing anything in the way of maturity. Probably the next Tarantino.

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Read 679 times Last modified on Friday, 28 December 2018 15:38
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