It’s that time of year again. As 2018 draws to a close, here are the best albums of the year according to The Upside News:
- Mojo Juju – Native Tongue
Native Tongue is a superb piece of work and our number one album of 2018. “Mojo Juju’s songs manage to walk a fine line. She makes bold statements about identity and inclusion, but using an intensely personal lens and drawing on the experiences of her antecedents, her material is never didactic or preachy.” And it’s all packaged up in an inventive, genre-bending soundscape that’s a treat for the ears. This is one very important album (that even provoked a barb in an Andrew Bolt column). Read our full Mojo Juju review here and make sure you catch Native Tongue when it is performed at next year’s WOMADelaide.
- Middle Kids – Lost Friends
It’s amazing to think that Lost Friends is the debut album from Middle Kids. The nuanced, superbly crafted songs on the record make for a polished, powerful work that has understandably garnered acclaim both here and abroad. The band are also sure to be one of the real highlights of this summer’s Laneway festival that arrives in Adelaide February 8. Read our full album review here.
- Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
Heaven and Earth is the best work yet from this jazz virtuoso. The expansive material here pushes boundaries while remaining completely engaging throughout. Read our review of Kamasi Washington at this year’s WOMADelaide here. (Photo credit above: Dave Court)
- West Thebarton – Different Beings Being Different
What a year it has been for West Thebarton: scooping the SA Music Awards, earning an ARIA nomination, high Triple J rotation and the success of various national and international tours. The great achievement of Different Beings Being Different is that it manages to capture the glorious energy of the band’s live performance on a record. With the release of their debut album, the rest of the country and a few other places across the world have found out what we’ve known in Adelaide for some years now: that West Thebarton are a bloody awesome rock band. (Photo credit above: Kay Cann)
- Dream Wife (self titled)
Another fantastic debut to come out in 2018, Dream Wife’s self titled album packs a real punch, with a punk aesthetic that can be both fun and menacing. The trio have an infectious sound and are just as comfortable singing about romantic attraction as they are tackling rape culture. The track, ‘Somebody’ could very well be the defining song of 2018. Also delivering a standout performance at this year’s Laneway, you can read the review here. (Photo credit above: Tessa Manning)
- Sarah Blasko – Depth of Field
With 2016’s Eternal Return, Sarah Blasko was taking her music in very interesting new direction. With Depth of Field she has arrived at her destination, delivering some of the artist’s best work to date with a powerful set of songs and excellent production. Blasko will play The Palais for Adelaide Festival on March 7, with details here.
- Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer
The most personal outing from Father John Misty, there’s a new immediacy to the songwriting here that really works, allowing us to peer through the persona of the artist’s adopted pseudonym to see the real Josh Tillman. And, as always, the songs are constructed with the most skilful precision. Read our review of the Father John Misty Laneway performance here. (Photo credit above: Tessa Manning)
- Florence + The Machine – High As Hope
Florence Welch is in career best form with High As Hope, dialling back on the signature bombast for a slightly stripped back approach that lets the power of the confessional songwriting do the talking. And then there’s that incredible voice. Catch Florence + The Machine when they perform at Adelaide Botanic Park this January – details here. Read our full album review here.
- Fraser A Gorman – Easy Dazy
Moving onto a larger canvas after the simpler sound of his debut record, Fraser A Gorman has produced one of the most enjoyable albums of the year with Easy Dazy. Listening, you can clearly hear the influences of Paul Kelly, Bob Dylan and the Go-Betweens, but in putting it all together, Gorman owns his sound and delivers a great set of songs. Read our interview with Fraser A Gorman and a review of his Grace Emily show.
- Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Another fantastic record from Courtney Barnett, who pulls listener in close with Tell Me How You Really Feel. Thankfully, the quality of the material is not diminished by her prolific output. In fact the opposite is the case: Barnett just seems to get better and better. Check out our photo gallery of her August Adelaide gig here. (Photo credit above: Kay Cann)
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Sex & Food
A worthy successor to UMO’s defining 2015 album Multi-love, Ruban Nielson continues the same spirit of sonic inventiveness with Sex & Food. Great songs, some fine guitar work and very nice groove throughout.
- Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus
Described by Ezra Furman as “a queer outlaw saga”, Transangelic Exodus is a frenetic, misshapen narrative and quite a ride, both lyrically and musically. Surrender to all and let it take you on this weird and completely wonderful journey.
- Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Mitski sure knows how to pack a lot into a two-and-a-half minute pop song. The lyrical and musical attention to detail on Be the Cowboy amounts to the singer-songwriter’s best work yet: intelligent, insightful and affecting.
- Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats – Tearing at the Seams
Tearing at the Seams is a big sounding slice of retro-soul out of the Stax label, adorned with horns, organs and husky vocals. And in good news, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats are heading to our shores for Bluesfest next year and will play the Gov on 15 April (details here).
- John Butler Trio – Home
With his seventh album, Home, John Butler has given his sound a revamp, while lyrically the focus is more personal than political. And although there are synths and occasional electro-stylings to be heard here, there’s enough of Butler’s signature fingerpicking guitar blues to keep long time fans happy. Home is another fine album from this national treasure, who will also play a headlining set at WOMADelaide 2019.
- Lake Street Dive – Free Yourself Up
In the short space of a few years, Boston’s Lake Street Dive have delivered a prolific catalogue of remarkable quality, and their third LP, Free Yourself Up, is no exception. With infectious and polished retro sounds, clever lyrics and one of the best voices in the business (in Rachael Price), Lake Street Dive are a pure listening joy.
- Christine & the Queens – Chris
This is an album of irresistible and lush synth-pop, but Chris is also an intelligent and subversive work in its exploration of gender, identity and sexuality. This an immersive and highly satisfying listening experience from start to finish (with both English and French language versions of the material). Christine & the Queens also promise to be one of the highlights at WOMADelaide next year.
- Los Chicos – By Medical Prescription
By Medical Prescription is “is an album that delivers what it sets out to deliver – unadulterated fun, and a thirty-two minute rock and roll party!” Read Ken Grady’s full review here, as well as our interview and review of the Los Chicos Adelaide gig.
- Augie March – Bootikins
Two decades in and Augie March are still making great records. Bootikins is another collection of literate, superbly crafted songs that can sit proudly among the five-piece’s quality back catalogue. And while they may have missed Adelaide while touring the album this year, Augie March will be here in March to play The Palais for Adelaide Festival, with details here.
- Mama Kin Spender – Golden Magnetic
Golden Magnetic is a real joy, packed with sunny musical hooks and delicious harmonies. The blues and roots duo really know how to package up a good song. Read our review of their WOMADelaide performance here.
- Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Perhaps the most divisive album of the year. With the South Yorkshire accents long gone and no loud guitars, Arctic Monkeys are barely recognisable on Tranqility Base, provoking the anger of some long-time fans. What we do get, however, is an inventive Bowie-esque odyssey that should be lauded for its creative daring and resistance of playing to expectations.
- Jazz Party – Monday Night
Monday Night is great fun, capturing the energy of a New Orleans jam. Put it on loud and enjoy with a bourbon. Jazz Party were one of the surprise hits of WOMADelaide 2019, read our review here.
- Public Access TV – Street Safari
Stepping away slightly from The Strokes inspired sound of their debut, New York’s Public Access TV deliver a dynamic sophomore album packed with catchy musical hooks. In any other era they would headlining festivals by now, so give them some love.
- Hellions – Rue
Thomas Jackson writes: “Hellions have once again delivered, creating one of the best albums of the year. While many fans would have been happy with another Opera Oblivia, the band have expanded and experimented finding new strengths while providing familiar comfort. Opera Oblivia might be seen as the album that put Hellions on the map, but Rue may be the new fan favourite.” Read the full review here.
- Neil & Liam Finn – Lightsleeper
While this father and son team have shared the stage many times, this is the first full album the pair has put out (with a host of other contributors including Neil’s new bandmate Mick Fleetwood on drums). Lightsleeper is not the album you expect, with an experimental feel and generally avoiding those signature Finn choruses. It does, however, delivery some sublime moments and is well worth the listening investment. Read our review of Neil and Liam’s Bird in Hand winery gig here.
- The Hard Aches – Mess
“On their second album, Adelaide rock two-piece The Hard Aches have distilled their sound into something quite wonderful, producing a record of raw and ragged beauty.” Read our full album review here, along with a review of duo’s April show at The Gov.
- Calexico – The Thread That Keeps Us
We are in very safe hands with Calexico, who give us their ninth LP. The Thread That Keeps Us showcases the outfit’s adroit songwriting, in this outing with a slightly more expansive and raw sound that really works. And we get the chance to hear it performed live soon with the band playing The Gov on January 17: details here. Don’t miss them!
- Skeggs – My Own Mess
Skeggs really made their mark in 2018. Debut LP, My Own Mess, won over audiences across the country with the band’s dynamic garage punk. The Byron Bay trio are another must-see act at this summer’s Laneway.
- The Presets – Hi Viz
The first album from The Presets in six years is a high-octane affair that pushes into new musical territory. Read Josh van’t Padje’s interview with The Presets here, along with Ken Grady’s review of their Thebby show from earlier in the year.
- Paul McCartney – Egypt Station
There might not be an ‘Eleanor Rigby’ here, but Paul McCartney can still write a killer song. Egypt Station is another fine entry in one of the most remarkable musical careers in history and well worth the listen.
Written by Matthew Trainor