10. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – End of Suffering
9. Cassia – Replica
A slow-burner on release, Replica is a rewarding, optimistic outing. Cassia are hard to pigeon-hole. Calypso-pop? Afro-indie? It’s to the band’s credit that this is a conversation in itself; that in 2019 it is still possible for a band to come along who have the courage of their convictions to create a sound that is fresh, distinct and above all, engaging. The title track from the album offers up an easy-going singalong chorus; a love letter to a frozen Manchester, toasting its hands on a campfire. Out of Her Mind takes the intensity up another, darker, notch; as singer Rob Ellis delivers the coup de grace, “wrapped around her honesty, lies and infidelities.” In DreamA he asks us, “How can you waste such a beautiful moment.” It’s as good an album closer as you will hear, this year or any other. (ID)
Check out: Loosen Up, Small Spaces, 100 Times Over, Replica.
8. The Black Keys – Let’s Rock
Let’s Rock is probably the closest to a The Black Keys album that will appease both fans of ‘the old Black Keys’ and ‘the new Black Keys’. The Black Keys started life as blues guitar wizardry backed by primitive drumming. In the early years drummer Patrick’s biggest asset was his studio production building a crunchy guitar sound and soulful vocal production for guitarist/singer Dan Auerbach. After a few albums Patrick learned how to drum properly and then after the pair worked with studio genius Dangermouse more and more instrumentation was added in the studio. The band now tour with a full band to match their studio work, but at times their later worker has felt a bit pompous. Let’s Rock is exactly that, it’s The Black Keys back to the way we always loved but with a full band- can all The Black Keys fans just settle that this is a damn good compromise and album. (JW)
Check out: Shine a Little Light, Go
7. John Floreani – sin
6. The Twilight Sad – IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME
Set against internal departures, decamping to Mogwai’s Rock Action label and the death of close friend Scott Hutchinson, It Won/t Be Like This all the Time was the sound of a band continuing to take strides forward into the teeth of a storm. The album took the shards of light out of predecessor Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave and squeezed the life out of them. The cavernous vocals of James Graham resound throughout with a mixture of anxiety and defiance within the lyrics, while Andy Macfarlane’s guitar often sounds like anything in the world except, well, a guitar. The songs are intense, brooding affairs, whether employing the organic (I/m Not Here [Missing Face]) or electronic (Videograms), both to superb effect. It Won/t Be Like This all the Time announced The Twilight Sad as without peer when it comes to the title of the UK’s most compelling band of 2019. (ID)
Check out: Videograms, I/m Not Here [Missing Face], VTr, Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting
5. Johnny Lloyd – Next Episode Starts in 15 Seconds
Congratulations Johnny. Folk broadly speaking, in a boring and bland genre that only the greats manage to master. With Next Episode Starts In 15 Seconds you proved to be the next in a long line of greats. Like the greats it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes NESI15S so memorable but one can be certain that part of its endearing quality is its production. The sonic warmth metaphorically leaves the listener feeling the home that Johnny, his partner Billie Piper and their new-born inhabit. Johnny has become an accomplished film soundtrack composer in recent years and that skill bleeds all over this record. Johnny has mastered the subtlety of only adding what is needed when working on instrumentation and with NESI15S he achieves this again with ease. NESI15S sits just as well with a late night whiskey on the rocks as a summer top-down convertible drive in the country. A true record for all seasons. (JW)
Check out: Pacific Hymn, Modern Pornography.
4. The Maine – You Are OK
3. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1 and 2
Introduced by the band early in the year as “two halves of the same locket” ENSWBL 1 and 2 were, when they arrived, one of the most ambitious double album releases in British guitar music for years. A zeitgeist project that hopscotched between styles both within and across its two parts, ENSWBL 1 and 2 saw Foals embrace their stadium status. Regardless of bassist Walter Gervers departure, there was no let up from the four remaining original band members, producing a double album set of unrelenting quality. On Part 1, Café D’Athens called upon Radiohead influences, while In Degrees got the samba-disco party started. Part 2, gave us the latest heavy-Foals instalment in Black Bull, with The Runner ratcheting up the paranoia just as the band had promised. Ambition is one thing, delivering another. Was it ever in doubt? (ID)
Check out: On the Luna, Sunday, The Runner, Black Bull.
2. Yak – Pursuit of Momentary Happiness
Artists looking to create their sophomore release, that vital document that asserts they are no flash in the pan, would rarely be advised to follow the template which Yak visionary-in-chief Oli Burslem has executed in the near three years which elapsed between their debut Alas Salvation and this creation. Scrapped sessions, borderline bankruptcy, itinerant to the point of kipping in the back of his car, Burslem could never be accused of not inserting his heart, soul and just about anything else he could muster into this collection. It is testament to his talent that he created such a beautiful piece of chaos out of all the adversity. White Male Carnivore is essentially a one-chord riff-led onslaught which could be Spacemen 3 on speed, Burslem rants against the worst aspects of what he admits is a description of himself. A double-time foot-to-the-floor gear shift takes the tune to its conclusion so purposefully that you can almost feel an erection poking into your abdomen. Yak left no stone unturned with this album. It’s a wholly honest endeavour, detailed and strangely coherent despite what at times feels like a bewildering and trippy listen. Pursuit of Momentary Happiness is a masterpiece of conception and execution. (ID)
Check out: White Male Carnivore, Bellyache, Words Fail Me, Layin’ It On The Line.
1. The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears
When I Have Fears is the type of album that doesn’t deserve a review, it deserves a track by track run down. No song is a low point, no song is a high point; the album is a piece of work to listen to in its entirety, a stab at the playlist generation. Opening the album with elongated bows on For Everything for nearly a minute before the charging repetitive bassline and layered guitar line, the track tells us we are off to a war of emotions. Although this is not an album with highlights, it does have tracks that push the boundaries of what we knew of The Murder Capital. It also pushes our own expectations. Slowdance I and Slowdance II, are a post-rock symphony piece leading into the profound On Twisted Ground, a block of the album that will leave the most cynical listener dumbstruck. The latter is a clear obituary to the suicide of a friend, a presence that dominates the whole album. We as listeners feel a privilege to share such an intimate moment with them. Flood has again worked his trademark production magic, setting the album apart for its peers – and not just those from Dublin. In every bar of every song on When I Have Fears the band experience catharsis; a catharsis which as listeners we feel with goose-bumps of tenderness and empathy. Album of the year by some distance. (JW)
Check out: Feeling Fades, Green and Blue, On Twisted Ground.