ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 2018: 50-41

50. The Vaccines – ‘Combat Sports’


What We Said…

Over the years, The Vaccines have gone from a catchy pop-rock group to a more serious outfit and back again. But while their previous album 'English Graffiti' may not have been the direction their fans were looking for, their fourth full-length sees them back on the form that started it all as they return to the simplicity of their formative years and deliver another batch of memorable riffs and singalong choruses.

From the start, 'Combat Sports' looks to be nothing more than basic indie-pop joy. The soaring vocals of frontman Justin Hayward-Young take centre stage as the band look to make each song as much of a pleasurable experience as possible. From the hummed hook of 'I Can't Quit' to the almost Franz Ferdinand-inspired 'Nightclub', this new record looks to rekindle that original magic the band were known for and give us the indie record of 2018 we all deserve.

It may have taken them a while to find their inspiration again, but now it is back the band have taken it to the nth degree. Most indie bands have usually consigned themselves to mediocrity by this point in their career, but The Vaccines have shown that a true knack for great songwriting never leaves you.

49. Django Django – ‘Marble Skies’


What We Said…

When the Scottish quartet released their self-titled debut album back in 2012, they were instantly heralded as one of the most unique and interesting bands in the world. Their sound was a breath of fresh air for the time and place, but since releasing the far safer 'Born Under Saturn' in 2015, a lot of that magic was lost for a more traditional direction. But now back with their third album, it is clear that those formative years have returned and are influencing the nature of Django Django once again.

Much like their debut, 'Marble Skies' is a smorgasbord of diverse and engaging ideas, all wrapped up in a solid production. Each track likes to paint its own picture of what the band are feeling at any moment, giving us this eclectic vibe that showcases their own talent for songwriting, as well as displaying the multiple avenues that they like to explore.

It certainly feels like a nod to their roots rather than a full return. 'Marble Skies' is sonically very different to their self-titled debut, but the intent remains the same. A solid return for these art-rockers that fully rekindles the eccentric nature of themselves.

48. The 1975 – ‘A Brief History Into Online Relationships’


What We Said…

Over the last few years, The 1975 have turned themselves from just another pop-rock outfit to one of the most creative and captivating groups of today. While their self-titled debut album cemented them as an uplifting pillar of possibilities and potential, it was their follow-up 'I Like It When You Sleep...' that really saw them break the mould as to what they could be and gave us one of the most engaging releases of that year. Now they return with their highly-anticipated third album 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships', a record that sees them pursue far more of their pop direction.

The one thing that made their sophomore release such a brilliant listen was its use of powerful production outside of the regular indie-pop aesthetic, resulting in a more anthemic and memorable sound. Much of that idea has carried over onto this new release, but with far more focus towards the band's radio-friendly and accessible image. Meaning that while this album still maintains that forward-thinking approach, the songwriting takes far less risks than its predecessor, making it less of an ambitious release but one that simply sees them stick to what they know and work that as hard as it will go.

It may not have the full-on bangers of their last two full-lengths, but 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships' still sits as a bold and vibrant collection of pop-based singles. This new focus in their sound makes for a very enjoyable listen, but with less of the risks taken from the second album, it falls within its shadow only just.

47. Miles Kane – ‘Coup De Grace’


What We Said…

After putting his solo career on hold for the past few years to reunite with Alex Turner on their Last Shadow Puppets project back in 2016, Miles Kane seems more than eager to get back to his riff-tastic ways on this new studio album. While The Last Shadow Puppets and their more lo-fi sound may have bled into the new Arctic Monkeys record, Kane has gone back to the basics on his latest effort, taking inspiration from the glam rock and Britpop days to make this new material feel fresh but also familiar.

From the start, 'Coup De Grace' pitches itself to a more nostalgic ear. Tracks like 'Cry On My Guitar' see him transform into a modern day Marc Bolan, while lead single 'Loaded' would feel right at home as Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie off cut. But while the influences and homages throughout this record stand loud and clear, Kane has still tried to add his own sense of showmanship to the release. With a commanding vocal performance throughout, the frontman feels more than comfortable to be back at the centre of a musical project as he truly becomes a fully-fledged solo artist rather than just fronting a wider band.

The one thing that 'Coup De Grace' manages more than his previous records is maintaining a consistent level of energy and excitement about it. While it may lack that radio-friendly atmosphere, each track seems keen to keep you on your toes and, in the end, delivers a collection of his most engaging material to date.

46. Nine Inch Nails – ‘Bad Witch’


What We Said…

When 'Bad Witch' was first announced, it was intended to be the final instalment of a trilogy of EPs, including 2016's 'Not The Actual Events' and last year's 'Add Violence'. But after Trent Reznor and co. began to feel that they were falling into a pattern of subdued obsolesce, they decided to reevaluate the tone of 'Bad Witch' and instead release it as a 6-track album, which from the start sees them revisit a lot of inspiration from their initial career.

While their last two EPs may not have been totally what their loyal fans would have expected, 'Bad Witch' is a grizzled and experimental joy to listen to. Calling back to the venomous pace and anger of their 'Pretty Hate Machine' days, the new record sees the band as a reinvigorated entity that looks keen to push the pretence aside and deliver the most bite we have seen from them in years. Tracks like 'God Break Down The Door' and 'Ahead Of Ourselves' are stark reminders of just how captivating they are capable of being and show that with just six singles, they are far from running low on ideas.

While they have said that this will be their last material as Nine Inch Nails, it certainly seems like a fire may have been reignited in them once again. If 'Bad Witch' does turn out to be their final outing, then this is one hell of a way to leave us.

45. Gengahr – ‘Where Wildness Grows’


What We Said…

When London's Gengahr released their debut album 'A Dream Outside' back in 2015, we were not only impressed with the sheer level of confidence within their songwriting, but also relieved to hear that swooning indie-rock was still a sound that could make an impact in today's music scene. Now the band have returned to deliver their second studio album 'Where Wildness Grows', a record that continues that strong confidence throughout.

Opening up with the blissful 'Before Sunrise', this new release clearly sees them fully immerse themselves in the psych-rock influences they dabbled with on their debut. Moving more towards a more strung out direction, the new material sees them at the beginning of an evolution in their sound. Much like The Horrors and Foals, Gengahr are beginning to break away from their initial identity and grow into something far more outstanding.

It certainly is exciting to hear this new work. They have managed to become one of the few bands to take the best parts of their debut and use it to produce an equally ambitious sophomore album. A fantastic return for a band that are only just beginning to reach their full potential.

44. Robyn – ‘Honey’


What We Said…

It is hard to believe that it has been a full eight years since Robyn released her last studio album 'Body Talk'. Although she has been keeping herself busy with a number of collaboration in that time, including singing alongside Neneh Cherry and releasing the brilliant collaborative EP 'Do It Again' with Royksopp, this is the first time in nearly a decade that we have got to hear her back on her own terms and it seems that her latest full-length 'Honey' has gifted us with the same dark and alternative pop she has always looked to create.

While the record was previewed and opens with this uplifting and vibrant 'Missing U', much of this release sees her reject the upbeat disco influence of that introduction, opting for a more mood-driven release from there. Blending the subtle eccentricities of strings and keys over a bed on pulsing electro-pop throughout, this new album sees her return to her brooding and sombre roots that look to trigger strong emotions as you listen. Produced by many collaborators including Kindness' Adam Bainbridge and Metronomy's Joe Mount, the general tone of this record is of a warm and textured electronic release that maintains a solid and driven pace throughout.

It may have been a long time coming, but 'Honey' has certainly been worth the wait. While on paper it may sound like a more depressing release than we initially thought, Robyn's engaging energy and warm atmospheric style has seen this new collection move out of the shadows and become one of her best works to date.

43. Beach House – ‘7’


What We Said…

Over the years, Baltimore-based duo Beach House have become very much the centre on the dream-pop movement. Their woozy, atmospheric tones and ethereal production has made them one of the most captivating units working in the scene today. And while their imagination was certainly not involved when it came to naming their seventh studio album, the pair have still managed to bring a wealth of creativity to this new release.

From the start, '7' likes to see itself a diverse separation from what many would have expected from these two. While the brooding atmosphere still remains, the eclectic way they have managed to juggle with pace and flow makes this a really captivating listen. Rather than just slip into their usual ways, the pair are branching themselves out to deliver a broad collection of ideas that manage to strike a chord again and again.

It may feel like a record that needs multiple listens to thoroughly enjoy, but it is definitely worth it this time around. '7' is proof that while they may be lost when it comes rekindling their initial fire, there are still plenty of sparks ready to ignite.

42. Young Fathers – ‘Cocoa Sugar’


What We Said…

Since winning the Mercury Prize for their debut album 'Dead' back in 2014, Scottish hip-hop trio Young Fathers have almost been given a blank cheque to pursue their experimental sound to the nth degree since. Their 2015 follow-up 'White Men Are Black Men Too' continued the style and dynamic intention of their debut, and despite a longer gap before this new release, the three-piece still return with a hugely ambitious new full-length.

From the start, 'Cocoa Sugar' looks to be a more commercially angled release than their previous material. Adopting a more RnB flavour on some of the work, the album aims to mirror the mainstream sound of today and offer a more engaging direction in the process. Essentially the band are taking some cues from the commercial urban sound and showing exactly how good it can be when passion and heart is put into it.

Less anger and grit on this one, but still filled with all the gusto and unexpected dispositions we would have wanted from them once again. Young Fathers are quickly growing into one of this country's most loved underground treasures and this third full-length will cement that feeling.

41. Estrons – ‘You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough’


What We Said…

After first exploding onto the scene last year, Welsh alt-rock trio Estrons have certainly made a lasting impression since then. Capitalising on their distinctive and chaotic sound, the outfit have spent the last few months building up a loyal and devout fanbase, all leading to this moment, the unveiling of their debut studio album 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough'. And from the start, this new release looks to cement them as one of the country's most exciting new bands.

Unlike many other bands who like to use their debut album to express a range of different emotions and aesthetics, Estrons only have one gear and that is to go headstrong into everything they do. The result leaves 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough' as a brutal juggernaut of high-power riffs, thunderous drums and an impassioned Tali Källström leading the group in a raucous cavalcade of raw and honest lyrics. This certainly seems like a band who know who they want to be, and have no difficulty in finding inspiration for their material.

It is fair to say that if you have enjoyed any Estrons singles from the last few months, then you'll be loving this new album. A succinct and cohesive release that manages to not only capture the sheer energy of this group, but gives them plenty of breathing room as to where to head in the future.

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