ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2018: 30-21

30. Cosmo Sheldrake – ‘The Much Much How How And I’

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What We Said…

All the way back in 2013 was the first that we heard from Cosmo Sheldrake. A quick couple of singles in the form of 'The Fly' and 'The Moss' was nearly all we got out of him before he disappeared to do some personal searching for himself. But firmly back with us, the frontman unveils his long-awaited debut album 'The Much Much How How And I', a record that aims to intrigue and confuse as much as its title does.

The one image that keeps coming to mind throughout this release is one of a psychedelic woodland, where trees and animal morph and melt together as one to create this otherworldly experience that draws you in as it plays. Throw in some pulsing percussion, and Sheldrake has managed to create a record that breathes and swells as one entity, moving from one track to the next with little resistance and making for a thoroughly enjoyable listen throughout.

There is certainly something at work in the mind of Cosmo Sheldrake but we just can't put our finger on it, then again maybe that is the secret to his songwriting. This debut album is blissful wonder with many joyful moments to experience, a truly warming release.

29. Death Cab For Cutie – ‘Thank You For Today’

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What We Said…

While Death Cab For Cutie remained almost unchanged throughout their infancy, the last few years have proven to be very turbulent for both the band and frontman Ben Gibbard. Although their 2015 album 'Kintsugi' was well received by both critics and fans, it was written during a painful divorce for the singer, and even saw the group lose one of its founding members Chris Walla, who has since moved on to other projects. So as they regroup to release their ninth full-length, the themes of lost relationships and growing older remain very much at the heart of this new release.

Yet while times have been tough for Gibbard these last few years, this record certainly seems more ambitious and uplifting than you would originally think. It would have been very easy for the emo outfit to fall inward on themselves and deliver a selection of self-absorbed ballads, but instead the band have delivered a diverse and exciting collection of tracks that see them embark on a personal evolution of sound. With a beefed-up production and more dreamlike influences, 'Thank You For Today' has that feeling of a new beginning that they are trying to convince themselves of.

While it may not have been the kindest experiences for Gibbard, being forced out of his comfort zone has lead him to take more risks with the band and almost freed him from his past in the process. This feels like a new and invigorated Death Cab that will hopefully continue for many years to come.

28. Brockhampton – ‘Iridescence’

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What We Said…

The last year or so have proven have turbulent time for hip-hop mega group Brockhampton. With their most notable individual Ameer Vann ousted from the group earlier this year due to domestic abuse allegations, the 14-member outfit have looked to return stronger than ever by addressing the past and moving on from it on their fourth studio album 'iridescence', a record that plays as their best to date.

Over the years, Brockhampton has been a interesting experiment in the world of hip-hop. Channeling the aspect of groups like Wu Tang Clan, ASAP Mob and Odd Future, by bringing together a large number of artists to perform under the same guise, 'iridescence' manages to find the balance amongst all these different styles and delivers a thunderous return that rap music has been waiting for in 2018. Filled with a eclectic collection of ideas and stellar production throughout, this new release sees the group as less of a gimmick and more a fully-formed collective that have learnt how best to juggle their diverse personalities.

There are really no artists we can compare this to, because 'iridescence' is a shape-shifting juggernaut on the scene right now. But rather than feel like a disjointed collection of singles, the album manages a deliver an exciting and engaging release from start to finish with a new surprise around every corner. A perfect example of how a group can move on from their demons and rise to even greater heights than before.

27. Rae Morris – ‘Someone Out There’

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What We Said…

Since releasing her critically-praised debut album 'Unguarded' back in 2015, Rae Morris quickly became one of the most talked about names in British music. Her mix of soaring vocals and eclectic production made her an instantly identifiable figure, and as she returns to unveil her much-anticipated follow-up 'Someone Out There', it is clear that she is far more confident in her sound than before as we see her embark on an even more ambitious direction.

While sonically the style of both albums remain largely the same, the overall tone of 'Someone Out There' is far more uplifting and engaging this time around. The juxtaposition between her more clinical pop tunes and those with a more diverse approach to production helps give this record an extremely fresh sound. She seems more at ease in taking chances and that has resulted in an unabashed release that pulses with positive vibes and a larger-than-life outlook.

While there are still many moments that some will believe is her trying to replicate the success of her first album, the majority of this release delivers such energy, it can be hard to imagine it is the same woman behind it. A glorious return that cements her as one of Britain's most intriguing artists.

26. Cat Power – ‘Wanderer’

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What We Said…

It is hard to imagine anyone who has been a more respected songwriter in today's music industry than Cat Power. With a career that has now lasted more than two decades, frontwoman Chan Marshall has been at the forefront of true heartfelt music since she first arrived on the scene in the mid 90s. And now returning after a six year break, she has unveiled her tenth studio album 'Wanderer', a record that presents her as a far wiser yet more vulnerable individual on this swooning collection.

What seems the most striking element of this new release is just how little she relies on other instrumentation to perform her music. With the exception of a few singles, the record is mostly just her and her guitar, giving us a very intimate experience straight from the start. 'Wanderer' has this eloquent and timeless quality about it, with Marshall channeling a very simple yet powerful structure in each of her songs. The record plays with a basic elegance to it, which not only showcases her beautifully soothing voice, but also gives a sense of grandeur to each track as she seems at ease moving around this new full-length.

It is genuinely hard to find something not to enjoy on this release. With a strong and succinct direction, 'Wanderer' barely sets a foot wrong and sees her return with some of the best material of her career so far. A confident return from one of the best musicians we can expect to find in our lifetime.

25. Maribou State – ‘Kingdom In Colour’

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What We Said…

Since first emerging on the scene at the start of the decade, Maribou State had remained a full prolific outfit. Releasing new music on an almost yearly basis, the band then finally unveiled their incredible debut album 'Portraits' back in 2015. And since then, things have been uncharacteristically quiet for the duo. But after many years on the road, both touring and personal journeys, the band have brought their new world concept into their latest material as they return with their kaleidoscopic sophomore full-length 'Kingdom In Colour'.

From the start, it is clear as to how much influence the world traveling has had on this new release. Channeling the diverse vibes of a series of multinational influences, 'Kingdom In Colour' manages to adopt the blissful, lo-fi sound the band had already perfected, and spread itself out into a diverse range of cultural eccentricity. This seems like an album ready to celebrate the world and all its inspirations, as the pair seem reinvigorated on this new material, keeping the energy high and the diverse nature of their productions moving ever forward.

Maribou State have always been part of the forefront of forward-thinking electronica, but this seems very much like the next level for them. Wonderfully crafted and serene in its atmosphere, this new material feels like the beginning of a new evolution for the pair, and one we hope continues for years to come.

24. Leon Bridges – ‘Good Thing’

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What We Said…

Back in 2015, we were treated to the incredible debut album from Leon Bridges, 'Coming Home'. Taking inspiration from soul legends such as Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, his debut release was a warm blanket of nostalgia for classic rhythm and blues lovers. But as we move on in time, so has Bridges as his second full-length 'Good Thing' sees him eye inspirations from the 1970s, making for a more funk-filled return.

It is clear from the opener and lead single 'Bet Ain't Worth The Hand' that artists like The Temptations and The Stylistics have now peeked his musical interest. And while we are still treated to the occasional classic blues number, it is clear that the frontman is looking to make more of an impact in his grooves, opting for an uplifting and upbeat return that delivers just as much intrigue and interest as his first full-length.

It certainly seems that Leon Bridges is looking to be more than a nostalgic artist though. With an almost Pharrell like production, 'Good Thing' manages to skirt that thin line between retro and contemporary almost perfectly. A confident return from an artist that has done little wrong so far.

23. Spring King – ‘A Better Life’

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What We Said…

When the garage-rock upstarts Spring King delivered their brilliant debut album 'Tell Me If You Like To' back in 2016, they arrived amongst a flurry of great UK-based indie outfits and after a while, almost got lost in the fold. But not ones to let competition get the better of them, the band have returned two years later with their follow-up 'A Better Life', a record that reignites the fire of their first LP and continues it in stellar form.

Listening to 'A Better Life' seems to trigger the heyday memories of the indie scene in the mid noughties. With a memorable focus and tenacious attitude, the band's sophomore album looks intent on leaving a lasting impression on the listener with its catchy hooks and foot-stomping moments. Pretence be damned when it comes to this new full-length, as the Macclesfield outfit whack out one infectiously glorious anthem after another, showing that they are far from low on ideas and passion within their songwriting.

The difficult second album is obviously just a cliche at this point, but Spring King have taken the challenge by the horns and returned with an album filled with fun and excitement. 'A Better Life' feels like the second chapter in the band's accession and already seems like this lot are going to be on our minds for years to come.

22. Cabbage – ‘Nihilistic Glamour Shots’

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What We Said…

It feels like this moment should have happened a long time ago. The Manchester-based five-piece have been one of the hottest tips in new music for more than two years now, and after a rocky 2017 which saw them wrongly caught up in the sexual assault scandals of that year, the band are looking to the future once again as they unveil their long-awaited and highly-anticipated debut album 'Nihilistic Glamour Shots', a record that will truly cement them as one of the year's great innovators.

Produced by The Coral's James Skelly alongside Rich Turvey, which will make perfect sense when you hear the opener 'Preach To The Converted', this new album likes to mix up the band's known style of irreverent post-punk with a more darker flurry throughout. Much like how The Horrors sounded in their infancy, Cabbage have instilled an almost gothic approach to their sound, which not only makes for a gloriously diverse collection but also sets them apart from pretty much everything else around at the moment.

Despite everything that has happened to them in their brief career so far, they have still managed to come through with an exceptional debut release. Intriguing and captivating throughout, this band will surely find themselves back on people's lips where they belong once again.

21. Christine & The Queens – ‘Chris’

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What We Said…

When French frontwoman Héloïse Letissier released her debut album 'Chaleur Humaine' back in 2014, it was born out of a frustration of not wanting to be herself on record. Having been a gay woman in France all her life, she still felt like an outcast in her own country and took the guise of Christine to project the feelings of isolation through the lens of pop music. Taking this premise to a new heights on her second studio album, the now androgynous frontwoman is going by the name Chris in an attempt to blur the lines between male and female popstars, giving one of her greatest performances in the process.

From the start, 'Chris' looks to tap into the sun-kissed pop-rock sound that bands like Haim have been pushing their whole career. With a more minimal yet atmospheric production, Héloïse's vocals look to take centre stage on this new release, giving far more attention to her lyrics than the music surrounding them. In which we find a more confident, blossoming individual who is looking to compromise less on who she is and simply looking to be taken seriously in a world that focuses far too hard on gimmicks and throwaway ideas.

Overall, 'Chris' is a far brighter and ambitious record when compared to her debut. With a focused and succinct direction, the album unleashes one thought-provoking pop single after another, making for a truly engaging listen. The record may have been written through the eyes of an alter-ego, but we get a sense that this is more in line to the true Héloïse Letissier, brimming with positive energy and impeccable in her craft.

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