With more new music available to us than ever before thanks to the internet, the vinyl revival and a new independent record shop revolution, there really is no excuse to mill around listening to your old records/CDs/tapes crying over a bygone era of golden sounds. Get online, get in the shops and, most importantly of all, get to a gig of an emerging band, artist, DJ or producer at an independent venue near you. If you’re not part of the scene, you’re part of the problem. Always remember that.
Some of these selections you may love, others you may hate. I sincerely hope there’s something in here for you to discover and maybe pass on to your friends, family and loved ones. If there isn’t….. well, I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe next time.
Anyway, here goes. The best new albums and EP’s of 2018, a January to March playlist. Let’s start with the albums.
Modulus III – Modulus III (Friendly Records) (CD/LP/DL)
Boldly going where no man, woman or Tory MP has gone before, Modulus III have crafted a perfect lift off for the list. Despite its forward looking sci-fi hubris, this self-titled debut album was actually recorded live in 2016 in the band’s hometown of Bristol, although it sounds as though it may well have been mixed on Mars. 31 minutes and three tracks of dense, cold, electronic post-jazz soundscapes, JG Ballard’s ‘Vermilion Sands’ meets Miles Davis circa ‘Nefertiti.’ Welcome back to the Space Age.
Brona McVittie – We are the Wildlife (Company of Corkbots) (CD/DL)
Irish folk chanteuse and harpist Brona McVittie has finally released her debut solo album, and quite a debut it is too. A mix of traditional arrangements and self-penned compositions, We are the Wildlife is a potent blend of Celtic folk and ambient electronica. Opener ‘When The Angels Wake You’ (taking its title from WB Yeats) has a distinct Cocteau Twins vibe, a hypnotic slice of post folk with a pleasingly modern urban sheen, placing her comfortably amongst ‘nu folk’ subversives such as Lost Harbours and The Nightjar. Gorgeous stuff.
Ratty Sound – The Bristol Inna Zone Vol.1 (Self-Released) (CD/DL)
Ratty Sound are a five piece Hip Hop collective from (you guessed it) Bristol. Best listened to in one go for maximum effect, The Bristol Inna Zone Vol.1 suckerpunches you in the gut several times over with its madcap typhoon of Spanish rapping (courtesy of MC/Flamenco guitarist Juanito Miniguan), Indian/Iranian psychedelia samples, irreverent humour and more old school beats than a Jack Kerouac convention centre. Deserves a place in any self-respecting (or self-disrespecting) Hip Hop collection.
Flights of Helios – Endings (Self-Released) (CD/DL)
Space Rock beamed in from the star of Oxford. After a few years of perfecting their psychedelic sound in various shapes and forms, Flights of Helios have finally got round to releasing their debut album; an impossibly expansive, emotionally exhausting display of far out drone melodies, demented prog-jazz workouts, soaring space rock anthems and electronic whispers from the dead. I mean, any album containing a single with the opening line of “Just can’t find a vein to draw the blood” (the mighty ‘Succubus’) has got to be something special, right?
Brickwork Lizards – Haneen (Lazima Records) (CD/DL)
More from the city of dreaming spires, this time in the form of an Arabic jazz-folk ensemble. ‘Haneen’ (meaning ‘feeling of nostalgic yearning’ in Arabic) is the second album from Brickwork Lizards, a mad mix of swashbuckling pirate folk, traditional Arabic & Middle Eastern music and the pre-war British jazz of the 30s and 40s, as well as some Jan Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart New Age stylings. Traditional arrangements of pieces such as ‘Dance of the Ottoman Sultans’ mixed with the growly originals recall Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan jamming with The Pogues. Perfect party music!
Faeland – All My Swim (Green Sage Records) (CD/DL)
Faeland are a Bristol based folk duo comprised of Rebecca Nelson and Jacob Morrison (although they are from Guernsey and Hackney respectively), a refreshing alternative to a genre blighted by the borderline racist Little Englander appeasing likes of Mumford and Sons. The Indian stylings of ‘Prayer Song’ and Celtic elements of ‘Too Much’ separate them from the closed minded folk bullies, offering up instead an intoxicating summer brew of rock pools, sun, sea and sand, the haunting Joni Mitchellesque strains of ‘Strings’ being a strong early candidate for song of the year.
Hollie Cook – Vessel of Love (Merge Records) (CD/LP/DL)
One of modern reggae’s most intriguing voices, the daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul is pulling out all the stops on her third album proper (discounting Prince Fatty’s ‘Hollie Cook in Dub’ release). Her hypnotic brand of dream pop (I’ll avoid the ‘Tropical’ moniker sometimes associated with her music) sounds more seductive than ever. Poppy numbers like ‘Freefalling’ rub shoulders with more heavy duty fare like ‘Lunar Addiction’ and ‘Turn It Around’, while psychedelic love ballads like ‘Together’ draw you ever further to the bottom of the ocean. Sublime.
Rejjie Snow – Dear Annie (BMG) (CD/LP/DL)
One of the leading lights of Dublin’s nascent Hip Hop scene, the man from Drumcondra Rejjie Snow (currently based in the states) lets rip with his debut album, an unmistakeable Dublin twang and Irish wit gleefully present amongst the American turns of phrase and stylings. ‘Dear Annie’ is a corker; an astonishingly inventive addition to a genre many feared had lost itself to cliché. A real blue ringed octopus of a record; pretty, deadly, and packed with a considerably bigger bite than most of its contemporaries.
Cabbage – Nihilistic Glamour Shots (BMG) (CD/LP/DL)
Face it kids, Cabbage are crap. From the ‘Darklands’ aping cover art to the doesn’t-quite-work song titles of ‘Molotov Alcopop’ and ‘Postmodernist Caligula’, everything about them suggests a cheapening of musical rebellion and a sordid, seedy half grasp on the terrifying political landscape giving them a home. Yet these imperfections are precisely why they sound so fucking brilliant. This, their debut album proper, is the sound of ‘A Night At The Opera’ on cheap speed, an electrifying, terrifying glam punk mess. You’ll love it, but you won’t love yourself for loving it.
The Shits – Drink Your Blood (Concrete Block 002) (MD/DL)
This charming four track EP came to my attention by way of veteran music critic (and Moonbears frontman) Neil Kulkarni, who described it as ‘the most delightful thing I heard all day’ on Facebook. The lurid blood red cassette tells you everything you need to know about the music contained within; four tracks of gut wrenching, stomach pumping Leeds sludge punk, reminiscent in spirit to the NME’s short lived ‘New Scum’ movement of bands like Penthouse and Groop Dogdrill, complete with a ‘singer’ whose voice is the aural equivalent of a cave troll with piles. Lovely stuff.
Espedairs – Imposter (Self-Released) (DL)
Liverpool Indie New Wavers Espedairs dropped a new EP in late January, following on from their five track demo the year before. These four new tracks reveal a more polished, refined approach to their distinctive sound. ‘Saints Of The Day’ is a startling opener, a haunting war lament, backed up by the nerve shredding nervous breakdown of ‘What A Shame’, the punk snarling of ‘Imposter’, and the towering anthem to urban boredom ‘Nothing Down Errington Street.’ Look out for their debut mini LP out on Ugly Man Records this year.
Tuath – Youth (Self-Released) (DL)
Donegal’s finest young shoegazers return with a stunning six track EP, a dark exploration of the inner workings of the human mind and the cycle from youth to adulthood, fleshed out with a keen Gaelic worldview and a gleeful disregard for genre trappings. Here we get flirtations with doom-laden trip hop (the title track), chaotic psych pop (‘Old Man Yells At Cloud’), even a bit of 70s funk meets The Birthday Party (‘And Ur Cock Gets Soft/Take Me To Your Dealer’). Just wish they’d get round to releasing their music on CD and/or vinyl so I can start bloody paying for it!
Maggie Thatcher’s Rotting Corpse – MRTC (Bunnysnot Records) (CD/DL)
More scum punk from Leeds. Not actually an EP, rather a 3 track single, however it’s so bloody good that I just HAD to include it! Another Facebook discovery, this rousing self-titled punk rock rumpus gobbed its way onto my feed on 8th April, the Iron Lady’s death day. This fearsome five piece, with names like Iain Duncan Watkins and Boris Brady, have already received death threats and physical threats of violence for this tory baiting tune. Backed by ‘let’s All Spit On Boris Johnson’ and ‘Sick Jeremy Hunt’, this lot are a S*n readers worst nightmare. Way to go, lads!