Music - Ten Great Albums You Might Have Missed in 2018
2018 was another banner year for new music fans, with big-name releases dropping on a weekly basis. In fact, there was so much to take in that even the most ardent crate-digger could be excused for letting a few great but overlooked albums slip through the cracks.
Below is our list of ten albums from all types of genres and artists which you may have missed over the past twelve months, and which are definitely worth checking out once you’ve managed to catch your breath. And because we’re all busy people, here are the highlights in one easy-to-digest playlist.
Baloji – 137 Avenue Kaniama
Of course I assume you’re all intimately acquainted with the Belgian rap scene, but if not you should definitely check out this fantastic new album by Congolese-born artist, filmmaker and wordsmith Baloji. “137 Avenue Kaniama” draws on Afrobeat, funk and world music, and the result is arresting and eminently danceable.
Brigid Mae Power – The Two Worlds
In a marketplace awash with unremarkable singer-songwriters, Brigid Mae Power stands out thanks to a canny ear for melody and atmosphere. The songs – written after a return to Power’s native Ireland - start and end without much in the way of dynamics, but the sombre arrangements and lilting, detached vocals are enough to hold your attention long after the album draws to a close.
DJ Koze – Knock Knock
DJ Koze has been around the block, from his ‘90s hip hop roots to the foundation of his own recording label, Pampa. That life experience is on full display on “Knock Knock”, a sprawling, Avalanches-esque full-length that runs the gamut from minimal techno to dreamy ‘70s soul. Appearances by guest vocalists such as Roisin Murphy and José Gonzalez make the collection seem more like an impeccably curated mixtape than a proper album, but it’s unmistakably DJ Koze’s (best) work.
Elza Soares – Deus É Mulher
After 81 years, countless albums and a string of very public personal tragedies, Brazilian samba icon Elza Soares should by rights be kicking back in on the Copacabana right now. Instead she’s stealing the show at the Olympics opening ceremony whilst enjoying a magnificent late-career revival similar to those of Gil Scott-Heron or Bobby Womack: a craggy, acerbic voice of wisdom backed by a crack team of electro producers and young talent. Throughout, the singer’s outraged and outrageous personality carries this unlikely SoaRenaissance.
Iceage – Beyondless
Danish ne’er-do-wells Iceage have been drunkenly teetering on the edge of goth-rock greatness for a while now, and with “Beyondless” they finally deliver. Singer Elias Rønnefelt ditches his usual Birthday Party pastiche for a new identity as a deranged punk Rimbaud, duetting with Sky Ferreira on the instant hit “Pain Killer” and lashing out at the “wretched pantomime” on the leering vaudeville of “Showtime”. It’s gruesome and garish and catchy as hell.
Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears
This is an album that you may have deliberately avoided due to that undeniably silly band name – and who could blame you? But “I’m All Ears” is a deceptively mature and well-rounded release for a pair of 19-year-olds from Norwich, balancing washes of synth and prog-esque song structures with an unerring knack for melody. That said, the silliest part of the album – an epic, 11-minute disco track inexplicably titled “Donnie Darko” – might just be its best.
Nicholas Britell – If Beale Street Could Talk (Original Motion Picture Score)
Nicholas Britell is an American composer who hit the big time with his captivating score for the Oscar-winning “Moonlight”. Director Barry Jenkins has enlisted him for his follow-up, “If Beale Street Could Talk”, and the result is another collection of beautifully melancholy instrumentals. Although the film itself isn’t out until later this month, if Britell’s score is anything to go by it should be a front-runner come awards season.
Noname – Room 25
One of the best rap records of the past year, “Room 25” sees the artist formerly known as Fatimah Warner confidently hold court about all manner of issues: “god, religion, Kanye, bitches”, as she puts it on disarming opener “Self”. The music is soulful and lived-in (rapid-fire shout-outs to both D’Angelo and Nina Simone are no coincidence), the lyrics are pissed-off yet poised, and the flow is often transcendent.
Orquesta Akokán – Orquesta Akokán
From Daptone Records comes the latest in a long line of exceptional Cuban big band collectives. Orquesta Akokán recorded their debut album live over three days in Havana, with a line-up of some of the best musicians in the country, and the result is an exciting mishmash of styles, filled with swinging 1940’s brass and melodious mambo. Think of them as the raucous afterparty to the Buena Vista Social Club’s polite soirée.
Press Club – Late Teens
Sometimes all it takes is three chords and energy – enter Press Club from Melbourne, Australia, with a debut album that practically fizzes out of the speakers led by singer Nat Foster’s full-throated vocals. Lead single “Headwreck” is probably the pick of the bunch, channelling the manic swagger of Japandroids, Patti Smith and Cheap Trick among others, but “Stay Low” runs it close as a barnstorming singalong of a closer.
Any more hidden gems from 2018 that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments!