In April 2018 we learned that revenues for streaming services surpassed income from CDs and vinyl (and, for that matter, cassettes) for the first time. So it feels rather quaint to have “Albums of the Year”, yet, like filling our houses with sparkly tat at Christmas, or steadfastly maintaining to our children that a fat man in a big beard randomly buys them gifts and delivers them by magic down a chimney which may have been long since boarded up, while being pulled along by exotic, flying, hoofed, ruminant mammals with light-projecting noses, there are some traditions worth sticking to.
Maybe in 2019 Spotify’s “Sprawled on the Beach After a Heavy Night Out in Magaluf” will slug it out with Apple Music’s “Songs to tie your shoelaces to” for the coveted “Playlist of the Year” title, and we’ll all talk about Albums the same we do now about Spangles, lairy orange wallpaper and white dog poo.
But for now, let’s stick with the tradition.
The object of all of these lists is to spread the word of some great new music, and to hopefully share the music that has given the compiler much joy in the year, and in that spirit, here’s the ERTAS Top Albums Of 2018:
1. Idles – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
An outstanding album, notable for its emotional intelligence, raw power and, yes, joy.
Vinyl: Coloured vinyl variants for early adopters and a lovely aperture-sleeved deluxe issue with a dozen art prints.
2. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Wapentak
A fantastic collection of songs from SBP. Contemporary lyrics touch on the division seen in the world, and feature the tasteful musicianship and skilful songwriting that is Sweet Billy Pilgrim’s trademark, interweaving multiple melodies and voices.
Vinyl: Physical vinyl release available from the Band’s website.
3. Field Music – Open Here
Another album notable for addressing the corrosive political climate of the year, which let’s face it hasn’t got any better. Fantastic prog-pop-indie (I’m struggling to describe it) music helped this album really stand out.
Vinyl: Limited clear vinyl and a die cut sleeve showing through to the printed inner was a nice touch.
4. Parquet Courts – Wide Awaaaaake!
A real leap forward musically – a more diverse collection of songs than on any previous PC release made for a genuinely satisfying collection.
Vinyl: The deluxe LP contained a 15 page booklet with illustrations and lyrics – perhaps the most impressive package of any album this year.
5. Belle and Sebastian – How To Solve Our Human Problems (Parts 1-3)
Stuart Murdoch’s crew decided to release this collection of songs on three EPs rather than an album, only collecting them together afterwards. The idea was to create a number of different PR opportunities and release dates. This might just be the future of the album…
Vinyl: The EPs were collected into a box set, with part 2 perhaps the strongest.
6. Dream Wife – Dream Wife
Debut album from Brighton band, full of pop punk bluster. Refreshingly loud and in your face.
Vinyl: Splattered coloured variant in limited numbers, or a gatefold regular release.
7. Spiritualized – And Nothing Hurt
There are songs on this album as good or better than anything Jason Pierce has done before.
Vinyl: Initial copies came in a white vinyl edition, and there was a deluxe orange coloured edition.
8. Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin
It may begin with a song about a dog called Fanny, but this is a sprawling masterpiece. Highlights include an inspired cover of Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s A Winner and the brutal Black Sabbath homage “She”, which has to be heard to be believed.
Vinyl: A gatefold double album with printed inner sleeves and a poster.
9. The Magpie Salute – High Water 1
Rich Robinson has left behind his former band, The Black Crowes, but gives them a salute, in the company of former Crowes Marc Ford and Sven Pipien. The resulting album is a step forward, as well as a nod to former glories.
Vinyl: Double gatefold LP came in clear and limited blue vinyl variants.
10. Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Second album (discounting a couple of EPs) from Australian guitarist, singer, songwriter and all round indie hero Courtney Barnett. Wry lyrics and grungy guitar make for a strong follow up to 2015’s “Sometimes I Sit and Think…”
Vinyl: indie stores stocked a red vinyl edition, and there was also a purple marbled edition direct from Barnett’s website.
And if all that “listening to albums” thing isn’t your bag, here’s a Spotify playlist of some of my favourite tunes of the year…