Lost & Found – Jorja Smith (Alev Omer, Head of Music External)
One album that stood out for me this year has to be Jorja Smith’s Lost & Found. A heartfelt album full of vulnerability, honesty and soulful vocals, Smith has cemented her place in the industry as an independent young female artist. With producers such as Tom Misch and Joel Compass, a range of jazz, blues and soul seeps into her R&B sound. At only 21 years old, it’s the level of maturity expressed through her lyricism that places her in a different league compared to other artist’s in the charts today. Smith’s debut album gives us just a glimpse into her music; but something tells me she’s got a lot more to give.
Yumeno Garden – Last Dinosaurs (Luke Jobling, Head of Music Internal)
I can only imagine the satisfaction of taking 3 years to travel the world, gain inspiration, experiment with sounds, write down your stories for it to all come across so clearly on a record. Well that’s exactly what Australian outfit Last Dinosaurs have achieved on their third album Yumeno Garden. The evolution of brothers Sean and Lachlan Caskey’s songwriting has been a pleasure to witness from their meat-and-potatoes guitar driven debut In a Million Years to the synth-infused sophomore album Wellness, to now settle on this carefully produced masterpiece.
With memorable riffs and choruses in ‘Shallow Boy‘ and ‘Bass God‘, the gorgeous verses on single ‘Dominos‘, and beautiful more mellow and sobering ‘Italo Disco‘, I wish every track could have a mention. The record is ended perfectly with, my personal favourite, 4 minute piano-keyboard-guitar ‘Non Lo So‘ (from the Italian for ‘I don’t know’), which asks to be played on repeat on a thoughtful drive around the city at night (“Midnight, Can’t get no rest because my soul’s on fire, Waking up in sunlight, Indifferent to the clear blue sky“). Being released in the same Class of 2018 as The 1975’s ABIIOR, Post Malone’s Beerbongs and Bentleys and The Vaccines’ Combat Sports is testament to the calibre of this third record. Now I must go, I need to buy a plane ticket to Down Under to see it live in the flesh.
iridescence – Brockhampton (Emma Sherry)
2018 has presented itself as a turbulent year for hip-hop collective Brockhampton. In May, it was announced that the ‘internet’s biggest boyband’ had signed a deal with RCA Records which was met with conflicting responses from fans as independence and creative control have always been central to the project. Overshadowing this was the controversy surrounding the removal of Ameer Vann as allegations arose regarding sexual misconduct, something the band have actively shunned.
After ‘regrouping’, the proposed album Puppy, containing creative input from Vann, was discarded and iridescence, the first major label album was released on September 21st. Following the online success of the Saturation Trilogy, it was with concern that iridescence was released in the midst of negativity, despite standout festival performances and sold-out international shows. iridescence reached unprecedented levels of success debuting at Number 1 on the US Billboard charts as well as achieving a 5-star rating from DIY Magazine and aMetacritic score of 85. iridescence encapsulates Brockhampton’s message; it is an album which rejects accepted cultures of racism, homophobia and sexism in music and society while also being entirely written, recorded and produced by its members. Throughout the album, the lyrics project what has become solace for young people within a growing digital culture of judgement and self-interest.
Although iridescence marks a new era for the group, their roots and character are maintained as is clear from the sampling of ‘BUMP’, from SATURATION, the first instalment of its trilogy, on ‘HONEY’. The band’s mantra is clear throughout, especially on standout tracks ‘J’OUVERT’ and ‘SAN MARCOS’ which highlight the talent and versatility of all members and how well the 13-piece collective fit together. iridescence achieves an excellent standard in all aspects, but it is the emotional response which occurs time and time again from listeners of all backgrounds that is testament to the talent and artistry of Brockhampton.
Culture II – Migos (Charlotte Stapleton)
I am loath to end 2018 without sending some praise in Migos’ direction; thus, my album of the year has to be Culture II. The Migos entered the race early in January and managed to maintain their position at the top of the @charstape chart regardless of some brilliant contenders, including the recently released Championships by Meek Mill. The majority of the 24 tracks comprising Culture II are a smash making it undoubtedly just as (if not more) exciting than the original Culture. Not only are the lead singles on this album (‘Narcos’, ‘Walk It Talk It’, ‘Stir Fry’ and ‘Motorsport’) all standout tunes, but other highlights include, ‘Higher We Go – Intro’, ‘BBO’, ‘Gang Gang’, ‘White Sand’, ‘Flooded’, ‘Notice Me’ and ‘Top Down On Da NAWF’ to name just a few. I’m not alone in my appreciation of this excellent album as it debuted at number 1 on the US Billboard 200. It is hence understandable that the Migos’ extreme talent and appeal has led them to become the 5th hip-hop group of all time to have more than 1 chart topping album. Ultimately, I cannot find fault in Culture II and it is yet to become boring so, unlike the much-saturated Godfather III, I am ready for a Culture III to complete the trilogy.
Good Thing – Leon Bridges (Georgie Arquati)
Leon Bridges’ soulful second album, Good Thing, includes a variety of tracks from the heartfelt ‘Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand’ to the upbeat groove of ‘If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)’. Although retaining the silky-smooth vocals and jazzy instrumentals present in his debut album, Coming Home, Bridges does not shy away from modernising his style in his second album. This is done through the infusion of refreshing, infectious beats, unmissable in the tracks ‘Bad, Bad News’ and ‘You Don’t Know’. Good Thing excels in this by maintaining Bridges trademark, nostalgic tones which have lead to him being compared to soul legends Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Continuing his tour in the States in the upcoming year, Bridges’ 2019 is sure to have only exciting things in store.
My Dear Melancholy – The Weeknd (Remi Olokun)
We found each other, I helped you out of a broken place
You gave me comfort, but falling for you was my mistake.
The opening lines of the project let you know immediately what you’re in for: heartbreak music (My favourite! #SADBOYZ). The Weeknd’s pain leaks through onto all the tracks, however most noticeably on ‘Call Out My Name’ and ‘Privilege’. The tracks ‘Try Me’, ‘Wasted Times’ and ‘Hurt You’, all had me dancing in the mirror and visualising past romances (a truly cathartic experience!). Nothing else released this year makes me feel quite like My Dear Melancholy, does.
KIDS SEE GHOSTS – KIDS SEE GHOSTS (Matt Sellars)
Ignoring his questionable political affiliations, Kanye West had a wild summer in 2018; he had a heavy hand in the production for five albums in five weeks whilst camped out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a loyal team of rappers, singers, and producers. KIDS SEE GHOSTS, the long-sought-after first full-length collaboration between West and regular affiliate Kid Cudi, competes with Pusha T’s DAYTONA for the best of the bunch. The seven-track album features a beautiful cover art courtesy of Takashi Murakami, eclectic samples ranging from a 1930s Christmas song to Kurt Cobain, and welcome appearances from Pusha T, Ty Dolla $ign, and Yasiin Bey. This all culminates in a cathartic, psychedelic experience that leaves the listener gasping for more after its 24-minute runtime.
2012-2017 – Against All Logic (Toby Wainwright)
Every single moment on this 67-minute house epic bangs. Eclectic vocal samples and sublime production come together to make one of the best listening experiences I’ve had in years. Nicolas Jaar effortlessly takes the album from funk and soul jams in ‘I Never Dream’ and ‘Know You’ to hypnotic deep house rhythms in ‘Cityfade’ and ‘Flash in the Pan’. The constant theme is that once it’s on you can’t stop grooving. This album is perfect for any time of day and for any kind of mood.
Jackuum! – D Double E (Tim Foster)
D Double E has been an ever-present figure in the UK music scene since the late nineties. Starting out MCing over jungle and garage riddims, D Double E ascended into the world of pirate radio sets, around the time that the darker sounds of grime were beginning to emerge in East London. Immediately adapting to these darker beats, D Double became an early pioneer in the grime scene, and has been cited by the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Skepta as a major influence. Despite his stature in the scene, innumerable radio sets and various EPs, both individually and as part of Newham Generals, Jackuum! is his first studio album. Bringing together bars from the UKs best lyricists, productions from the likes of Swifta Beater, Swindle, Footsie and Sir Spyro and “buh-da-buh-buhs” a-plenty, Jackuum! has to be the grime record of the year. Particular highlights are ‘Nang‘, with an energetic back and forth between D Double and Skepta, the humorous ‘Shenanigans‘ (check out the video) and ‘Better Than the Rest’, featuring the Godfather of Grime himself. Let’s hope this isn’t the last album we get from D Double E.