A collection of our editors and contributors share their favourite musical discoveries and moments of 2018.
Slow Meadow: Selection of Eps
I’m not entirely sure how I would have survived 2018 without Slow Meadow drip feeding emotive tracks throughout the year. Beginning with We’re Losing the Moon, where delicately intertwining strings swell into a deep synthetic bass, Slow Meadow provided a year of mindfulness. It is hard to summarise why the music had such a profound impact on me, perhaps something about the layers upon layers combining into something wholly absorbing, with pieces like ‘Clouds, Not Clocks’ acting like a love letter to the complexity of the human spirit. Or, mayhaps, string instruments activate something deeply dramatic within me. Oh well, Happy Hogmanay!
[Éirinn Fitzgerald – @eirinnfi]
First Aid Kit: Tender Offerings
Most people know that First Aid Kit is my favourite band and that I was greatly anticipating their fourth album, Ruins. It had all the elements that are key to a successful First Aid Kit album: themes of heartbreak, the use of the steel pedal, and beautiful harmonies. However, their surprise release of Tender Offerings in September, an EP made up of four songs that didn’t quite make the album, for me outshines Ruins, as it shows an even deeper, emotional side of the duo. ‘Ugly’ is a strong ballad of self-validation, whereas ‘I’ve Wanted You’ shows another haunting side to vulnerability and the loneliness that comes with heartache. Ruins is another fantastic album by First Aid Kit, but it is the emotional Tender Offerings that really highlights the Söderberg sisters’ talent.
Elder Island: Broadcast 3/11/18
Back in early November I went to Elder Island’s gig at Broadcast. I had only listened to about half of one of their songs and didn’t even know how many members were in the band, but the gig turned out to be one of the most energetic, vibrant and vibey gigs I’ve been to. Tracks such as ‘Bonfires’ and ‘Hotel Beds’ straddle the space between pop and techno and singer Katy Sargent’s vocals add an assertive yet ethereal feel to the music. The Bristol based trio currently have two EPs out and have a debut album The Omnitone Collection coming in 2019.
My tip for 2019: buy tickets for artists you’ve never heard of, you might be surprised.
Suzanne Vega: ‘Luka’
‘Luka’ is a perfect tragedy of a stranger, of that stranger upstairs who is just out of reach. The melody is beautiful and simple, as are the lyrics, but so much more is meant with each delicate stroke, so much more to be seen beyond these small phrases. Suzanne Vega is such a beautiful songwriter, she crams in so much depth of feeling into each line “if you hear something late at night…just don’t ask me what it was”, it perfectly epitomises the victimisation of an individual who goes on to inwardly blame – “maybe it’s because I’m clumsy… maybe it’s because I’m crazy”. Luka’s words are hidden within a large soundscape of 80s instrumentation, but the realism within Suzanne Vega’s words make it almost possible to reach out and feel every one of Luka’s words yourself.
[Imogen Hay – @ImogenIslay]
Semantic satiation is the term given to the phenomenon wherein a word is said so frequently it suddenly becomes unfamiliar, even meaningless. By the end of Mitski’s aching refrains of ‘nobody’, however, the word stands out as the only certainty to grasp onto as everything else slips into chaos – call it existential satiation. It is remarkable, in fact, the sheer breadth of expression Mitski is able to pack into each repetition. Far from simply despair, a close listen reveals tones of anger, confusion and horror permeating each word of the chorus – but never assurance; never closure. It is rare for a song to sink so deeply into the depths of existential angst, marking it as an especially valuable discovery in 2018.
Florence + The Machine: High As Hope
Looking back, I don’t know how I would have coped with this year without this album: it has become such an important and much needed companion during the bad times. I don’t think there is a song on it that I haven’t cried to – I think this is in part to how confessional it feels. Florence seems to be able to articulate every thought and feeling I had, even before I realised them myself. When my relationship with food was at its worse, I found solace in ‘Hunger’. When I desired happiness despite it seeming impossible, ‘No Choir’ was there in its own bittersweet way. This album was there for me when I needed it the most, and it meant seeing her live at the Hydro was such an important experience: no longer do I associate some of these songs with the summer, but rather my memories of her ethereal performance.
[Eleanor Fletcher – @eleanorlf_]
Hayley Kiyoko: Expectations
Hayley Kiyoko’s March release of Expectations changed the rest of the year for me. It’s been the soundtrack to exam stress, prepping for nights out, travelling home and travelling much further away from home, and beyond. Every single song of the 13 bops on the album means something to me. Going from the upbeat and catchy ‘HNLY’ (my personal fave) to more laid back tracks like ‘Sleepover’, all of them are worth listening to, and all the more so as some of the first songs I ever been able to see myself in as a queer woman. Songs are powerful when they mean something, but anthems last longer when they become a backing track to everyday life as a lifeline, and Kiyoko’s Expectations has definitely been that for me. So, 2018 is ending, but keeping rolling on 20gayteen!
[Róisín Fletcher – @avemartly]
Matt Maltese: ‘Even If It’s a Lie’
This song represents the dichotomy of 2018, both a year of some of my life’s towering highs and certainly some of my most hopeless lows. Love is a double edge sword and, hell, I know how deep it cuts. This song always leaves me with the sweet aftertaste of aching melancholy as Matt belts the raw desire to hear from someone that you once held so close that they feel the same. I found my first love this past year, it didn’t work as I had hoped and this song came embody the ultimate form of catharsis. The chorus now holds two meanings for me instead of just the one that I heard in height of my relationship. It reminds me that there was no other way. I need to know his heart isn’t in it as it once was, just one more time, just to be sure, “even if it’s a lie”.
[Rueben Knight – @RuebenKnight1]
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus: boygenius
For an existing fan of each artist already, awaking one morning during a long and stagnant summer to the news of the project felt nothing short of miraculous. All talented, nuanced and accomplished songwriters in their own right, the combination of these three voices is an absolute treat. Each of their individual quirks is showcased, coalescing in beautiful harmonies on the closing track ‘Ketchum, ID’. While home for Christmas, playing it for my family, it hit me what a sad record it is, but an important one. It’s a lovely thing to have talented artists on your side, releasing excellent music during alienating times. boygenius is what I’ve turned to the most in the past few months to feel a little less alone, and I maintain that Bridgers’ lyrics on ‘Me & My Dog’ are the best and most poignant I’ve heard all year: “I wanna be emaciated / I wanna hear one song without thinking of you / I wish I was on a spaceship / Just me and my dog and an impossible view.”
[Lizzie McCreadie – @franzgaffka]
PR Newman: Turn Out
The past twelve months in my life have been primarily consumed by a wildly arbitrary and arguably irrational obsession with the state of Texas; and while these frequent random obsessions of mine can sometimes prove themselves pointless, this one has brought into my life the album of my year. Turn Out is the first full release from Austin-based Spencer Garland (aka PR Newman, aka Punk-rock Randy Newman) since the 2013 release of Are Not Amused by his former band, Berkshire Hounds. Garland certainly captures an Americana feel throughout the album, blending sounds of funk, folk and rock all into one Texan melting pot. This uniqueness in sound is only matched in his lyrics which have a singular wit and humour to them, a tone that will forever now be identifiable to me. Truly a humble gem of an album, it will accompany you to the places you least expect; I have cried to this album, listened to it on repeat for six-hour car journeys, had it by my side on a tiny beach in Portugal, sung to it as I dressed for my sister’s wedding, and loved it every single step of the way.
[Feature Image Credit: Getty Images]