FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2018

DS albums 2018

Another year done and dusted in the world of music and as always there were some exceptional records released. These lists always do our head in so this time around we’ve shaken things up a bit. Instead of just doing a ranked top 50 list we’ve narrowed down our top ten and then listed the 40 other albums that we highly rate and recommend you checking out if you haven’t heard them. As always, we’d love to hear what your favourite records of the year.

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Top Ten

1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
“A record that shakes off any restrictive genre shackles, shakes shimmies and grooves with garage rock, baggy dance and an enviable level of cool.”

2. Suicide Swans – La Jungla
Suicide Swans are seemingly a band on a mission. The dust has barely settled on the release cycle for their excellent Augusta album of last year and they’re already releasing it’s followup – the sprawling, psych, rock and cosmic country double album that is La Jungla.”

3. Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love
“‘Make Way For Love’ is a heavy album at times but it leaves you with a feeling of stepping out of the darkness and into the light, optimism replacing despair and with the desire to explore the mysteries of love still tantalisingly intact.”

4. Halfway – Rain Lover
“Halfway are a modern treasure on the Australian musical landscape, always cutting to the heart and soul of their music with each record they produce. On ‘Rain Lover’ they’ve topped even their own lofty standards.”

5. Low Double – Negative
“‘Double Negative’ is bold and powerful music, fusing the avant-garde and traditional song with both friction and harmony. It’s unnerving, visceral and wholly compelling.”

6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
“Effortless and endless melodies that are both melancholic and enervating at the same time. A songwriting collective in perfect unison and right on top of their game”

7. Cash Savage & The Last Drinks – Good Citizens
“‘Good Citizens’ is a bold and astute album that thrives on its balance and range. It pulls on heartstrings as effectively as it raises questions and it thrillingly blends musicality with Savage’s emotionally and intellectually-based commentary.”

8. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meatspace
“Tropical Fuck Storm are a glorious detour into deconstructed rock music, reflective of societal malaise and unafraid to tell it like it is. Qualities desperately needed in the current musical climate.”

9. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
“Soulful, funky, tripped-out pan-global grooves that hit you in the head and the hips”

10. Nils Frahm – All Melody
“The result of disciplined, studied genius, a wildly creative mind and open musical borders. This is ambient electronic music for the headphones and the heart.”

11-50 unranked, in alphabetical order:

Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
Choir Boy – Passive With Desire
Colter Wall – Songs Of The Plains
Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed
Eleanor Friedberger – Rebound
Darren Cross – Peacer
Davey Craddock – One Punch
Avantdale Bowling Club – Avantdale Bowling Club
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Earthless – Black Heaven
East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Teddywaddy
Field Music – Open Here
GAS – Rausch
Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
Harmony – Double Negative
Harmony Rockets – Lachesis / Clotho / Atropos
Jack Ladder – Blue Poles
Jamie Hutchings – Bedsit
John Prine – Tree Of Forgiveness
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare
Moaning – Moaning
Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain
Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie
Richmond Fontaine – Don’t Skip Out On Me
Roadhouses – Roadhouses
Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It
Ry Cooder – The Prodigal Son
Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance
Sarah Blasko – Depth Of Field
Space Afrika – Somewhere Decent To Live
Stuart A. Staples – Arrhythmia
The Breeders – All Nerve
The Caretaker Everywhere at the end of time – Stage 4 & 5
The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking
The Messthetics – The Messthetics
The Necks – Body
Windhand – Eternal Return
Wooden Shjips – V

ALBUM REVIEW: Low – Double Negative

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Press play and the first thing you’ll hear on the new Low album is the equivalent of a digital sandstorm.

Slowly but surely, out of the static and sonic scree comes the voice of Alan Sparhawk, sounding like a ghost trying with all his might to re-engage with the physical world. It’s a fascinating way to open an album; a new approach for Low and one that sets the scene for their most experimental and strangely beautiful record to date.

There’s a strong David Lynch aesthetic at play across Double Negative. That blend of a sense of foreboding and unease mixed with tender and affecting musical emotiveness. ‘Dancing And Blood’ continues to ratchet up the tension and usher the listener further into the present. Producer BJ Burton has worked in Bon Iver’s studio and you can certainly hear elements of the creative deconstructionist approach to traditional song that has happened within those walls. Mimi Parker takes the lead vocal on ‘Fly’ and it’s a powerful moment, almost backwoods ecclesiastical in the way it billows and urges. The defiance is short lived though as ‘Tempest’ submerges their voices in grainy, almost all-consuming decay. The clouds part momentarily before the connection is again violently disrupted.

‘Always Trying To Work It Out’ is a soulful suffocated pop song while ‘Poor Sucker’ is unsettling and laced with existential dread. When ‘Dancing And Fire’ emerges with pristine, clean guitars and an unprocessed vocal from Sparhawk, it sounds positively calming, Parker’s voice acting like a tonal echo chamber. “It’s not the end, it’s just the end of hope,” they sing, and it sums up the album’s themes of standing up for one’s beliefs, the danger of losing optimism and how the negative forces in the world are warning signs to correct things before it’s too late.

Low leave us with ‘Disarray’, a robotic dance at a death disco and a plea for change; “Before it falls into total disarray, you’ll have to learn to live a different way.Double Negative is bold and powerful music, fusing the avant-garde and traditional song with both friction and harmony. It’s unnerving, visceral and wholly compelling.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Low Share Three New Songs from ‘Double Negative’.

Low

Low have a new album called Double Negative coming out via Sub Pop Records on September 14th and today the label has shared a clip featuring videos for three of its songs – ‘Quorum’, ‘Dancing And Blood’ and ‘Fly’.

Working again with producer B.J. Burton, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk and bassist Steve Garrington returned once again to Justin Vernon’s April Base studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (where they recorded 2015’s Ones and Sixes). Rather than obsessively write and rehearse at home in Duluth, Minnesota, they would often head southeast to Eau Claire, arriving with sketches and ideas that they would work on for days with Burton. Band and producer became collaborative co-writers, building the pieces up and breaking them down until their purpose and force felt clear.

Tracklisting:
1. Quorum
2. Dancing and Blood
3. Fly
4. Tempest
5. Always Up
6. Always Trying to Work It Out
7. The Son, The Sun
8. Dancing and Fire
9. Poor Sucker
10. Rome (Always in the Dark)
11. Disarray
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ALBUM REVIEW: Low | C’mon

written by Chris Familton

Low return with a new album recorded in a 110 year old former cathedral in Duluth, Minnesota. It almost seems like a contradiction that a band known as one of the progenitors of the slowcore genre would utilise such a vast and cavernous space to capture their music but in actual fact it serves to impressively enhance the trademark intimacy of their sound.

Low have always been known for the richness of Alan Sparkhawk and Mimi Parker’s vocal harmonies and yet again they excel on C’mon. They have such sympathetic voices that they sound naked and exposed when you hear one of them on its own. You See Everything is a gently pulsing swoon of a song with a gentle swing that cradles their voices as they weave their intertwined magic over the top. Parker in particular delivers an absolutely mesmerising vocal on Especially Me with its swaying crawl of a tempo, an inspired string arrangement and her voice taking in gospel and deep soul influences.

If you’ve heard the version of Neil Young’s Down By The River that they did with Dirty Three then you’ll find much to like on this new record. They invest the same drama and emotional gravitas in these songs as they did on their version of Young’s classic track. Witches eases electric guitar into its orbit to build the tension of the song while a banjo grounds the song in americana roots. When the solo edges forward it feels like it is stepping into the darkness and open spaces of the desert. Dirty Three’s vibe also permeates $20 with its lazy and bedraggled guitar playing and the way they place musical accents to create a gentle yet dramatic rise and fall to the song.

The country vibe in Low’s music is omnipresent, even if it can sometimes be hard to hear. Whether it be the weeping lap-steel guitar of guest Nels Cline, the appalachian flavor of David Carroll’s banjo or just the ache in Sparhawk and Parker’s voices; the music always sounds rural and organic with some deep connection to the soil and the historical weight of musical traditions filtering through their hands and throats.

Nightingale casts an eye across at contemporaries Wilco and Beach House with its dreamy introspective shuffle and the whole tone of C’mon leans more to the personal and intimate moments in life. It feels like we are privy to some parts of the inner workings of the married Sparhawk and Parker’s world. It doesn’t feel intrusive and it comes across as possibly their warmest and most personable record to date, partly as a result of the content of the songs but also the environment in which it was recorded and the near perfect balance of warm hum and gentle grit that permeates C’mon – with glorious results.

this review first appeared on FasterLouder