Top 10’s of 2018- Manchester Writer Mhairi McDonald’s Favourites of the Year.

Our final top 10 of the year comes from Manchester based Bournemouth born Mhairi. Mhairi’s taste is hard to pin down with a love of genre hopping artists and experimental exploratory sounds. She grew up listening to a hefty amount of indie folk rock but has since broadened her horizons and firm favourites to include a smattering of different influences. A fan of the conceptual, Mhairi will listen to her favourite albums repeatedly, believing that lyrics and ideas are just as important as the music itself.
10. Nils Frahm– All Melody
Contemplative and sweeping, Frahm’s All Melody strikes the perfect balance of artful calculation and frantic improvisation. Recorded in Berlin’s Funkhaus, the record appears to take inspiration from the environment Frahm built himself to record this album – full of giant chamber reverbs and ambient expanses broken up with his arsenal of synths, piano and pipe organ.
9. Beach House – 7
Granted, Beach House aren’t known for shaking up their sound album to album, and 7 follows it’s six predecessors with the same shimmering synths. Beach House are one of a select pool of bands who manage to recreate similar sounding albums over and over only slightly digressing from their signature sound without getting mundane. The dream-pop duo has delivered another album of whimsical soundscapes, but it feels sharper this time, with edgier lyrics and slightly darker tones throughout. Is it radical? No. Will I still blast it on full volume and sway around the room? Hell yes!
8. Adrienne Lenker – abysskiss
Although beautifully intimate, Lenker’s solo debut still keeps a few secrets. There’s something enigmatic about the way her voice tumbles around the pared down, fluttering fingerpicked backing. Lenker is a clear master of melody, and abysskisswarrants several close listens to truly appreciate its craft.
7. S. Carey – Hundred Acres
Despite being perpetually cast under the shadow of fellow Wisconsinite Justin Vernon, (Sean Carey is drummer in Vernon’s Bon Iver) S. Carey proves himself king of contemplation on his third full-length release. From the heart-wrenching Emery to the expanse of Meadow Song, Carey details admiration for the simpler things in life – the great outdoors and the people closest to him, reminding us “all we need is a hundred acres and some room to breathe”.
6. Hannah Epperson – Slowdown
Following on from her 2016 debut, Upsweep, Epperson continues with the dichotomic theme of a story told in two halves, Amelia and Iris. The 10 track LP comprises of five songs repeated in two styles; the first half being electronically influenced and the latter half catering to a more organic neo-classical genre. Choosing a preference isn’t easy, however, with each version (Iris and Amelia) so artfully composed it feels like a completely different song in itself.
Due to this album half two versions of each track we have chosen to give 2 examples of this album.
5. Snail Mail – Lush
Often lauded a precocious talent, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan has proved herself formidable even before creeping into her 20s. Pristine documents teenage infatuation so emotively and as Jordan admits “I’ll never love anyone else”, she expresses unconditional love in a way that manages never to feel cliché. This record is infectious, a perfect window into the future of indie rock.
4. boygenius – boygenius (listed on Spotify as boygenius by Julien Baker)
Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus may or may not be familiar names, but alongside their burgeoning solo careers, they teamed up to create supergroup, boygenius. At a time when the industry is finally cottoning on to the incredible amount of female talent, Dacus, Baker and Bridgers have collaborated on a record that is simultaneously powerful, eloquent, and emotive. Each of their signature styles can be heard across the tracks – Baker’s influence on Stay Downin particular – but a leader is undiscernible, making this the perfect blend of three forces to be reckoned with.
3. Son Lux – Brighter Wounds
With the same grandiosity as previous releases, Son Lux returned with the majestic breadth of Brighter Wounds. Ryan Lott’s quivering vocal has the same unsettling edge as the squiggling synths but still packs a punch as he confesses “I can’t bear another day like this” on the LP’s opener, Forty Screams. The complex arrangements complement Lott’s knack for lyricism perfectly, and the textures create an otherworldly cinematic landscape that, even in its quietest moments, feels massive.
2. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine
Take two musical heavyweights – Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner – from two of the biggest indie/alternative bands of this decade – Bon Iver and The National – and you get an incredibly intriguing collaboration. The familiar and always fantastic voice of Vernon urges “well I better not fuck this up” over sounds that explore every corner of what the two musicians have to offer. Dessner himself has described the eponymous record as “definitely some of my favourite music I’ve ever made, in any context”, and I’m partial to agree.
1. Mitski – Be The Cowboy
Mitski’s fifth album, and easily her best, takes the pop genre and warps it into something entirely fantastical. Each song feels like a performative exercise, the excitable and complex instrumentation contrasting with her clear exasperation as she sings “I don’t want your pity / I just want somebody near me” on Nobody. This is artistry and ingenuity at its best; tenderness, desperation and celebration marrying to produce pure brilliance.
Click the links for our other writers top 10s