Stevie Harley has his say…
# 5 Arctic Monkeys
Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino
I remember the Arctic Monkeys breaking on to the scene… they were shy, youthful, cheeky and relevant. They were relatable, they wrote songs that resonated at the time and overnight became a sensation.
Naturally as they grew older, got exposed to different cultures and creative influences, their music changed and across every album since their debut they have developed. Given that, it was with great anticipation that Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino was released in May 2018. They teased the release with short videos and audio snippets, building on the anticipation and giving an insight into the direction the album was heading. It didn’t prepare anyone for what was to come.
The album is so far removed from the debut it is unrecognisable. From the opening of Star Treatment, it is clear that this is hotel lobby music with a twist. As an album it is beautifully crafted, it tells a story and could almost soundtrack a 1980s film.
Lying back with headphones on and making the effort to invest yourself into the album pays dividends. This isn’t a ‘pick up and play two tracks’ album, it’s an album that requires commitment. It is truly worth it, in my opinion it’s their finest work yet.STAR TRACK – Four out of Five.
# 4 She Drew The Gun
Revolution of Mind
Having been lucky enough to see She Drew The Gun at Kendal Calling in 2017, I have been under their spell.
In front-woman Louisa Roach they have a delicate soul with a deadly pen. Writing meaningful songs with a depth in the lyrics few can currently match. In the current political and social landscape there is unrest in people who care about the human race and the beautiful side of it and fighting against its uglier shadow, this album is at the front of this with the megaphone wanting to be heard.
There is a distinct increase in pace and anger from the debut 2016 release Memories of Another Future. From the opening chords of Resister there is a feeling of movement, momentum and a message. The message is clear: do not just accept the wrongs.
The message couldn’t be more apt. This is an important album from an important band.
Go see them live, they truly blossom in that environment but at the very least check out this fantastic album.STAR TRACK – Revolution of Mind
# 3 We Were Promised Jetpacks
The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream
We Were Promised Jetpacks are part of a series of fantastic Scottish bands that have a cult-like following. This year they released The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream, four years since their previous release – 2014’s Unravelling. Amongst the band’s fans there was a huge sense of anticipation.
The anticipation was justified, with this album they have created one of my all-time favourite LPs, never mind my favourite release from the band.
Impossible, the opening track, is a growing, enrapturing song. It sets the tone for a magnificent listen from beginning to end. An album’s biggest compliment is that it has no tracks you would skip and this collection falls directly into that category.
Someone Else’s Problem is a magical track, upbeat tempo with deep and punching lyrics. Lead singer Adam Thompson has a great voice, especially in the live setting, but this still comes across none-more-so than in this track.
The album comes to a rousing end with The More I Sleep, The Less I Dream.
The band should be treasured, Scottish music is in a great place at the moment, this band are definitely one of the flag-bearers. This LP could spell bigger things for the band and it would be fully deserved.STAR TRACK – Someone Else’s Problem
# 2 Slaves
Acts of Fear and Love
Slaves, a very unconventional band with guitarist Laurie Vincent and standing drummer Isaac Holman, are relentless in both sound and output. Since their first EP Where’s Your Car Debbie? in 2012, they have consistently released new material and toured, playing to bigger and bigger crowds as time ticked on.
They are punk. No doubt. They play high-tempo angry music which throws daggers straight at the heart of whatever they see as needing addressed. An aggressive social commentary.
In August (2018) they released Acts of Fear and Love and from opening track The Lives They Wished They Had it’s clear there is no tidal change to their inspirations. Lines such as, “So what exactly were you trying to say, When you put your latest purchases on public display?” get screamed into your ears. This theme continues throughout the album. As someone who deals with society on a daily basis I can wholeheartedly agree with their assessments.
Sharp lyrics like “Another let-down generation, fed inaccurate information” and “There’s no stopping what’s begun, a tiny piece of what’s more to come, now it’s just a matter of time, the desolation of human kind” are relentless. Another band clearly fucked-off with society and what they see, and transforming it into exceptional music.
I have always said music follows the paths of what surrounds it during the times of its inception. Britain is in disarray, society is divided more than I can ever remember and no matter what your views on Brexit, it isn’t clearing up any time soon. This album is one of many that are angry, observational and send important messages. That’s why it’s one of my favourites of the year.
# 1 Idles
Joy As An Act Of Resistance (JAAAOR)
If you are reading the countdown you will have probably grasped a theme in my albums of the year. My favourite releases are all lashing out at society and make musical comment about it.
My favourite album of the year is no different. Stepping it up another level from Slaves, Acts of Fear and Love not only snarls at you, it bites you.
Following up from Brutalism (2017), JAAAOR is more refined but no less punchy than its predecessor. Opening track Colossus kicks things off with a haunting bassline and deep lyrics. No holds barred, lead singer Joe Talbot opens his heart in the least tender way possible. Building to a relentless crescendo, this sets the tone and starts a 42-minute journey.
You will be battered, you will be bruised, there is a good chance that it will expose emotions in you, but it is powerfully exhilarating. I don’t think in all my life I have connected with an album the way I have with this (and I love The Twilight Sad).
It is masterful, the way it is angry, tender and violent. It approaches subjects such as immigration, racism, love, loss (I will come back to this), suppressed emotions, media perceptions of how you should look, and Brexit. As well as a startling cover of Solomon Burke’s Cry To Me this album is somewhat exhausting.
With track June, Talbot even exposes his grief of his tragically stillborn daughter Agatha. It’s beautiful, yet almost uncomfortable to see someone lay themselves open to you in such a way. As a band they are clearly sending messages to every individual who listens to the album. The LP will affect you, no doubt. Alongside their Facebook group The AF Gang, who offer each other support and are a proper community where mutual fans can interact with no worry or fear of judgement, Idles are something bigger than just a piece of music.
This album is a message, open your ears and enjoy. I will be forever grateful I did.STAR TRACK – Samaritans
It is always hard to narrow it down to just five, especially as 2018 has been a fantastic year, in my opinion, for new music.
However, I feel it’s only fair to list a few others which only just missed out. In no particular order;
• Kathryn Joseph – From When I Wake The Want Is
• Mastersystem – Dance Music
• Miles Kane – Coupe De Grace
• Rascalton – CSC (EP)
• The Coral – Move Through The Dawn
• Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
• Interpol – Marauder
• Editors – Violence
• Cabbage – Nihilistic Glamour Shots
• Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Wrong Creatures