Gwenno, creator of my album of the year 2018

Sole criteria here is that it wouldn't fit in the previous 3 lists. However as I've always insisted, pop is a way of listening. Everything here got me almost immediately. So fuck it, I'm calling it my pop list even if you're unlikely to have heard them on pop radio. Anything in quote-marks is from reviews in DJ Magazine or The Wire.
The order is important in as much as it genuinely does reflect how often I've listened. Pop should be addictive and all of these have rewarded repeated plays. In a pre-internet world I would have listened to  only the top 5 or so all year.
One thing I know is lacking is indie-rock - honestly don't know where to look for that kind of stuff anymore. Where in hip hop and metal I trust blogs, and in bass I trust mags, in indie-rock I don't trust anyone. So recommendations in the comments will be appreciated. Cheers x

To read my 2018 Bass-music list click here
To read my 2018 hip hop list click here
To read my 2018 metal list click here


40. DOS SANTOS
Logos 
(International Anthem)
"With IA shaping up to be the prime entry-portal/magic-mirror into Chicago’s burgeoning experimental scene those us us already entranced by Ben LeMar Gay’s transmissions this year would do well to check out this new full-length album from the city’s sharpest label - 11 scintillating tracks from a quintet who pulsate with rhythmic life and structural waywardness". 

39. ALVA NOTO & RYUICHI SAKAMOTO 
Glass 
(Noton)
". . . a gorgeous, spectral sound as fragile and translucent as it is spontaneous and affecting. The feel is of being inside Superman’s crystal sanctuary, a universe of twinkling resonant sound to explore, peals of treated vocals suggestively blended into the peripheries. Redolent of Stars Of The Lid and the antarctic reach of Zoviet France, this is a bleak yet brilliant soundtrack to winter’s melting and spring’s tentative birth. Essential."


38. SIRIA 
Cuspo 
(Crónica)
"Trippy as fuck but entirely unpsychedelic - this is more like the true unhinged depths of extreme sleep-deprivation turned into sound, where lighting seems to always flash from behind you and your peripheral vision hums with life. Freaky deaky in extremis."



37. CV & JAB 
Thoughts Of A Dot As It Travels A Surface
(Shelter Press) 

Christina Vantzou and John Also Bennett collaborated on this collection inspired by a series of wall drawings begun in 2014 by multi-disciplinary Paris-based artist Zin Taylor. Evocative, full of music-concrete manipulation and wonderful wibble and tons more fun than its somewhat esoteric birth might suggest. 




36. TASHI WADA W/YOSHI WADA & FRIENDS 
Nue
(RVNG International) 

Tashi and his dad Yoshi with support from Julia Holter and others gave us the fourteenth in RVNG's 'FRKWYS' series and it was the best yet - unplaceable acoustic instruments bent into infinite space, tuned into new bizarre timbres. Experimental but entertaining and generous.


35. EVE ESSEX
Here Appear 
(Sky Walking) 

" . . . an incantation, an evocation, a summoning, and Essex is the spirit incarnate, as alien and as human as if she’s just ghosted through your walls . . . you feel like you’re being inculcated into a cult of which Essex is both martyr and avatar."




34. FAHMI MURYSID
Tenah Merah EP 
(Ultraviolet Tapes) 
". . . granular manipulations of traditional Indonesian music from this experimental Indonesian musician - useful music in the best way, it feels like it needs to be woven into the structure of day-to-day activities to really gain resonance, to really seep into your consciousness and your home. Put it on loop and let it take you somewhere unique."

33. JO THOMAS 
Ultra Tonal 
(Soft Apple) 
Loved the playful yet uncompromising electronic composition of Jo Thomas this year. This is, like all her releases, like seeing through another's eyes at all the fizzing functions in our peripheries that you ordinarily shut out. Also check out her 'Cellophane Resonance' single from this year too.

.
32. CHAINES 
The King 
(Slip) 
Like many I started piling everything new I heard into a Spotify list called 'Now', including this set from Mancunian electro-acoustic composer Cee Haines. It kept bullying itself back into my consciousness via shuffling that playlist and ended up being exactly what I wanted to hear in my darkest moods. Like a Crowhurst you can actually listen to.



31. GROUND 
Sunizm
(ESP Institute)


For reminding me of Solex. Seriously that's all it takes, I miss Solex so much! Alot of artists -  inevitably given the drive towards the bedroom and away from the more formula-based studio-spaces of yesteryear - have blended found-sounds, field recordings, old vinyl and analogue fuckery to good effect this year but I reck Ground did it best on this massively fun record. 

  

30. AGNARKEA 
Black Helicopters
(Natural Sciences)
Could have made it into my hip hop, metal and bass music lists to be honest cos where to put this? Utter mind-rot and like any conspiracy theorist worth their salt, you simply can't tell how often he's right. Fevered, angry music and one of the most convincing snapshots of the current American clusterfuck you'll find this year.



29. PENDANT 
Make Me Know You Sweet 
(West Mineral Ltd) 
Like any ambient music worth its salt in 2018 - worried as fuck, but not just politically - environmentally too, so what you hear is both a fantasy of a new eden and an elegy for a lost ecology of sound. Slow-music par excellence.



28. KAMAAL WILLIAMS 
The Return
(Black Focus) 
As someone who spent alot of time in 2018 lost in late 70s-early 80s Herbie Hancock albums it was nice to feel vaguely contemporary finding the exact same pleasure-buttons tickled by this sexy, slinky beast of a record.



27. CHRISTINE VANTZOU 
No.4 
(Kranky)
Everything I'd read about Vantzou's work put me off before I heard it, and suggested a preponderance of male critics imposing their own prejudices about 'femininity' on her music. Her music's too tough, too good and too engulfing for such 'ethereal' cliches. A 3 year wait for this since No.3 and well worth it, potentially her best yet.



26. LOW 
Double Negative
(Sub Pop) 
Would love them to write another song as good as 'Tomorrow One' but why the hell should they? They have better things to do - like confecting this beautifully twisted album that pissed off fans and confused many this year. Dunno why, if you're a pop fan you'll get it instantly.

 


25. LAURA CANNELL & ANDRE BOSMAN
Reckonings
(Brawl Recordings) 
Eerie, glacial, spectral string-pieces that never rest on melodic laurels, always push on to draw new shapes in the snow - recorded evocatively, often in one take,  in a medieval East Anglian church and yes very very M.R Jamesian at times. In a crowded year for new composition, especially from female composers, one of the best. 


24. BEN LEMAR GAY 
Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun
(International Anthem) 
There’s a palpable sense that Downtown Castles is true Americana, encompassing South and Central America as much as the US. In Gay’s music, the fluidity between the esoteric and catchy, the exotic and the familiar, is paramount. This is wide-open music in every sense, as much touched by Gay’s roots in the Chicago hiphop scene and his subsequent development as a jazz cornettist as his obsessions with visual and cinematic art.”

 

23. MIKA VAINIO, RYOJI IKEDA & ALVA NOTO
Live 2002 
(Noton)
" . . .at choice moments that low-end finds itself fraying against the edges of other sounds - slow-motion blocks of delicious static and sudden gusts of digital-decay swimming in, the buzz of unplugged cables becoming their own intriguing rhythm."



22. IDRIS ACKAMOOR & THE PYRAMIDS
An Angel Fell 
(Strut Records)
Funky, dubby cosmic brilliance from veteran Ackamoor and a collection of likeminded loons - superb, resistant, dissident jazz. 


21. MATT KARMIL 
Will
(Smalltown Supersound)
" . . . doesn’t play any games with the past, refuses to disappear into the agglomeration of vintage radiance from vintage equipment, emerges as a thoroughly modern, yet refreshingly ego-less suite of ethereal elegiac sound." 
 

20. MACKAYA MCCRAVEN 
Where We Come From [Chicago X London Mixtape]
Universal Beings 
(International Anthem) 
Most of the end of year lists may have pointed you towards that Kamasi Washington snoozathon as jazz-album of the year. Ignore them and dig these instead, paritucularly the Chi-Town/London mixtape as it's fucking stupendous. 

 

19. STIMULATOR JONES 
Exotic Worlds And Masterful Treasures 
(Stones Throw Records)
Catchy-as-fuck re-imaginings of 80s soul-funk but populated by weakness and wracked longing more than aspiration or hope. Great songs, stealthily arranged, with hooks that'll nag at you for months. For fans of MJ, Cameo, Luther but also Pigeonhed. Oh yes.

 

18. ASTRID SONNE 
Human Lines 
(Esscho) 
"This is a controlled set that manages to feel like it emanates from the earth, springs up in time-lapse as you listen. Even though it’s clearly an album borne from experiment and play, there is no impulse to ‘challenge’ or ‘confront’ the listener here. It’s simply a delicious garden of sound to explore, dew-fresh, vividly green, surrounded by Arctic snow."

 

17. ANNA MEREDITH 
Anno: Four Seasons 
(Moshi Moshi)
Got into this late in the year. Dug it enormously for the sheer racket and rage of Meredith's explorations, for the stunning way she puts sounds together as well as the gentle unpickings of Vivaldi's most familiar tangles. Don't make the mistake of reading the reviews of this, they were all wrong, it's boss.



16. ARIANA GRANDE 
Sweetener 
(Republic) 
Grande has a truly great voice which somehow manages to melisma without foghorning  and it's served brilliantly by this futurist collection of brilliantly-executed pop. A record even my daughters agreed with me about. 




15. MOURNING [A] BLKSTAR 
The Garner Poems
(Electric Cowbell) 
". . . pitched precisely between eulogy and rage, despair and determination but it’s the sheer gorgeously full-fat TEXTURES of the sounds here that make the album so compelling. An astonishing suite of music constructed from an Afro-american past to document the strange regressions that have forced black america to its current ever-bleaker replications of that past. Stunning."




14. KHRUANGBIN 
Con Todo El Mundo 
(Night Time Stories Ltd.)
Hey, drum-sounds ARE imporant don't get me wrong but if it were just down to that then that epic Adrian Younge album would've got the nod. It didn't because records like 'Con Todo' exist, records that play with the past but do so uniquely, and create their own space completely. Just about the coolest sounding transmission you'll hear from a 'band' in years. Utterly essential. 

 

13. RAFAEL ANTON IRISARRI 
Midnight Colours
(Geographic North) 
R.A.I released a ton of music this year, all of it bewitchingly good but this one for me is the best - a gorgeous suite of Labradford/StarsOfTheLid-style isolationist ambient wonder that's skin-puckeringly delicious throughout. Seek out everything he does, but seek this out first. 


12. SIDI TOURE 
Toubalbero
(Thrill Jockey) 
The best drum sound, the best bass sound, the best guitar sound, the best BAND sound in 2018 by miles (this side of Khruangbin anyhoo). Stunning songs too and played with a ferocious thunking clattery power that never muffles the precision and detail of what's going on. Utterly top-notch playing from everyone involved and the fucking way these grooves SMOKE . . . sheesh, what a stunning record.



11. KHALAB
Black Noise 2084
(On The Corner)
If you have it on repeat (and you will) when the record rotates back to its start you’ll feel no sense of ‘ending’ or ‘beginning’. You’ll feel that this is music you need to live with, and let live with you for some time yet. That is incredibly rare in 2018."

 

10. DEDEKIND CUT 
Tahoe 
(Kranky) 
The reissue of those key Eno ambient records of the late 70s/early 80s this year highlighted how so much that emerged under the name of 'ambient' this year seemed shy of melody, as if tunefulness was a concession. 'Tahoe' made no such mistakes - this was simply ravishing electronic ambient music with a powerful sense of longing and yearning and beauty. Left you breathless. 

 
9. HARRIET TUBMAN
The Terror End Of Beauty
(Harriet Tubman) 
"Contrary to the odds stacked against it that would ensure its approval by cognoscenti and its disinterest to anyone else, ‘The Terror End Of Beauty’ actually emerges as an absolutely sizzling-hot snapshot of a band as danceable as they are deranged, as physical as they are cerebral, as fired by the past as they are committed to finding a future. Superb."



8. C.DIAB 
Exit Rumination 
(Injazero Records)
"On Exit Rumination everything Diab has previously achieved is focused and perfected. I haven't heard such a gorgeous suite of suggestive distortion since the heydays of Windy & Carl or Labradford"


7. GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW
Overload 
(Brainfeeder)
"'Overload’ walk a perfect tightrope: lyrically it’s about the sense of pre-apocalyptic turmoil we’re all in right now but musically it uses a colossal restraint and minimalism to push its complex interlocutions between love, loss and rage to maximum effect . . . there’s a new wisdom and wonder to Muldrow’s voice that leaves things suggestive more than doctrinaire, open rather than sealed, playful rather than penetrative. Superb."

6. PEGGY GOU
Once 
(Ninja Tune)
Most addictive disco of the year. I want to stay at this party forever.

5. FATOUMATA DIAWARA 
Fenfo 
(Wagram/Montuno) 

Wonderfully melodic Malian afro-pop with brilliant politically-charged lyrics - mostly in Bambara but luckily for me also occasionally in English. Great even when it simplifies down to just acoustic and you know how hard that is for me to even countenance. A major major talent and an album that offered both sheer danceable enjoyment and sharp thought throughout. Excellent. 


4. JENNY WILSON 
Exorcism 
(Gold Medal Recordings)
Throughout ‘Exorcism’, the hooks are massive and the emotional power unstinting. For women, an album that could be a touchstone. For me, and for men, another reason to shut the fuck up and listen for once. Get in the way of this record immediately"

3. AIR WAVES 
Warrior
(Western Vinyl)
"Mortality is always in the rear-view of 'Warrior', because Air Waves know mortality is what makes love hurt so much. And to hear that from a record is always sustaining, perhaps more so now than ever. This is not an album that will blow your head off, or scald your ears or send you into an endless spiral of thought. It will accompany you. It will be a friend. It will tell you to hope even though both you and it know how problematic that is. It will be a friend. You should love it like one."


2. CATS OF TRANSNISTRIA 
Opium 
(Soliti Records) 

End of year lists are times for honesty - 'Opium' took me EVERYWHERE this year, was always either on or about to be put on, these Finnish genii taking us further into their exquisitely strung-out souls and sounding as damn close to Hugo Largo as I've heard ANYONE get. These songs will stay in my heart forever.
1. GWENNO 
Le Kov 
(Heavenly)
I wrote a review of this Cornish-language masterpiece back in March when it came out, for DJ Mag saying this combined "startling ambient drift and pristine Broadcast-style avant-pop to delicious effect, the language only deepening the intrigue. Investigate". I'd only been paddling in 'Le Kov's' shallows by then - as the year went on I swam deeper and deeper again into its dreamy, delightful depths, toes barely touching the ground. It still entrances me. 


K-Trap 
An A-Z of my year engulfed/immersed in Bass. Yeah, I know, but what else to call it without sounding like fkn 'urban'? What qualifies things here and not elsewhere is that this is mainly undergound electronic music with a focus on the low end. Because of the sheer VARIETY of what that loose remit can contain (and also cos I consequently suspect putting these in any kind of meritocratic order would take me until March) these are simply alphabetically listed by artist-name (I know - it's a cop-out but I've been busy!)  A non-stop year as ever - anything I've overlooked or missed please point me right in the comments, cheers m'dears x

To read my 2018 hip hop list click here
To read my 2018 metal list click here


AMOSS
Everything Is Temporary
(Dispatch Recordings)
Best from the Dispatch stable this year this side of their reissue of all those Survival usb-sticks (as the full-length 'Unreleased Album') , an icey-hard unsparing set that brings winter and wonder and wubbly-wubblyness in equal measure.



BLOCKS & ESCHER 
Something Blue 
(Metalheadz)
Very much in the Om Unit/4-Hero tradition of jazzy, fusion-inspired d'n'b this was a mournful, thoughtful set from underdog-heroes B&E that sealed a brilliant year for a resurgent Metalheadz.


BOP
Untitled Patterns EP 3 
(Hospital Records) 
Rounding out a superb trilogy of EPs for Hospital from the Russian wunderkind this was to these ears seeking as much warmth as harshness these days - the best of the lot. Another discovery via Doc Scott's unmissable Future Beats podcast (search for it on Soundcloud). 


CALIBRE 
4am 
(31 Recordings) 
Dependably gorgeous as ever from Calibre (and of course 'Shelflife 5' was unmissable too). I kinda don't want him to depart from his own imprint cos it's so good - tracks here like 'Zee Tone' and 'Dark Paths' keep things Calibre-ish and you with a big sloppy grin on your face.



CARNS HILL & ZONE TWO
Hillside Zoo 
(CL Management) 
Moral panic bullshit aside, funny thing about UK Drill getting so much attention this year is that it's at precisely the point the genre is hitting a dead end and perhaps falling apart. Trust Kwengface to find some last gasps of joyous darkness from its dying embers.



COMMODO
Dyrge
(Black Acre)
Good to have this loon back with his first since 2016's unmissable 'How What Time' LP. Fever-struck strung-out weirdbeard shit ahoy.



CULPRATE 
Others 
(Inspected) 
Beautifully unplaceable beats and suggestively evocative drama from these weirdniks. Have a listen and find your pigeonholes exploded and your mental rolodex scattered.



DBRIDGE
A Love I Can't Explain 
(Exit Records)
A whole decade after his debut dBridge is now making music for no-one but himself, on his own Exit imprint. As usual with Darren White - a gorgeous attention to detail but what's new is the freedom, the spaciness, the confidence. Superb easy-listening for the year 3018. 

 
D DOUBLE E 
Jackuum 
(Bluku Music) 
Like I say, OLDER voices have grabbed me in grime this year but was simply bizarre how this was DDE's debut-album considering the length of his tooth. What you'd expect and therefore totally ace.

 

DETBOI 
Ice Cold EP 
(Metalheadz) 
Lead-off track 'Blood Drops' pulled me in and so glad it did. Febrile, fearsome stuff.

 
GANTZ
Dying On Acid EP
(Deep Medi)

"We're fucking ugly. We're not making anything beautiful." I guarantee you, utterly unlike anything else you've heard this year but closer to the way you feel being alive right now than anything you've heard this year. Also check out this year's 'Space Horror' single on Innamind. 



GROUND
Underside EP
(Flexout Audio)
Bad vibes. 4 squelches of future Hadean Numanoid doom.



HALOGENIX 
Deep News
(Critical) 
Fell in love with album-opener 'Bitter' after hearing it on one of Doc Scott's utterly unmissable Future Beats Radio Show podcasts. The rest of the album didn't disappoint.



INTERLINE
Come Through EP
(Nurtured Beatz)
Yr fillings will rattle out. A sucker for owt on NB, and I dug that Babylon Dead album so why not this? Great to hear Interline back (been 3 years since 2015's amazing 'Badmon' EP with Red Army) and just as creepily dark as ever.


JAMMER 
Are You Dumb Vol.5
(Jahmek The World)
Sozboz but I dug older voices in grime the most this year and Jammer cracked me up the most. And the naughtiness of this, the lunge and jab of it - addictive. Go make your life one to remember. 




JUBEI
(With Marcus Intalex) Lubbly Jubbly/Fanny's Your Aunt 
(With Tyrone)The Arcane EP 
(Metalheadz)
Play it loud enough and our future robot overlords might take pity on you, perhaps even suspect you're one of their own.  As ever from Jubei, murderously good.
KID DRAMA, DLR, ULTERIOR MOTIVE & HYDRO
Dredger/Unforgiving
(CNVX)
Two immense irresistibly phat rollers. Insert and enjoy. Also seek out KD's 'Enforcer' EP from this year.



KRUST 
The Portal/Concealing Treachery
(31 Recordings)


Dunno bout you but I simply wasn't expecting any new Krust anytime soon so this was not only a surprise but a delightful one cos he's STILL GOT IT. Beautiful and engrossing yet as monomaniacally ace as ever.



K-TRAP 
The Re-Up
(K-Trap)
Detailed imagery and thoughtful structuring meant 'The Re-Up' rose above the road-rap/uk-drill pile this year. Your income levels will decide how much cultural tourism you're engaged in here but most of us should find this convincingly close-to-home, real yet reflective.



MARTYN 
Voids 
(Ostgut Ton) 
Heard all kinds of things here - d'n'b yes but also some crepuscular garage, two-step, grime, techno, 'Voids' is late-night cab-rides in between clubs, the neon smeared in the rain on your window as the chemicals start blurring your brain.  



ONEMIND
OneMind Presents OneMind
(Metalheadz) 
One of 2018's finest d'n'b headphone trips - it's the sheer detail here that's gorgeous, the tiny peripheral glimmers and sudden central ruptures that keep you compelled throughout.

 
P.ADRIX 
Album Desconhecido 
(PRINCIPE)


Frantic, free southern rhythms, spooked Northern dubs, placelessly unique.



PRESIDENT T 
Stranger Returns 
(Star Work Music) 
FINALLY - this album's long-awaitedness made the wait for that MBV album seem like a week or two - when PT finally delivered 'Stranger Returns' there was a sense it couldn't live up to its anticipatedness but it was a  hugely enjoyable set packed with relishably rampaging bars.



PROC FISKAL
Hello Boss EP 
(Cosmic Bridge) 
Dubby, fun, hella-bass-heavy instrumentals that continue this 21-year-old Edinburgh producers strange journey tween grime and d'n'b. Also check out his 'Soundwise' single for Astrophonica.


THE RUM BABA
Hollywood EP 
(31 Records)

Unmissable as ever from Doc Scott's 31 imprint. Nutty, reggae-slathered, instrumentals that hit hard - too easy perhaps to hear this as heavily Bristolian but Rosalie Forde aka The Rum Baba clearly loves her hip hop as much as her dancehall as much as her d'n'b.




SB81 
Future Point EP 
(Metalheadz) 
Loved the sheer darkness and unpredictability of this EP from Wolves-based producer SB81. Metalheadz fully fulfilling their futurist remit. Also check out SB81's 'Headspace' cut on Narratives Records.




SCAR
Born Again EP 
Out Of Perspective EP 
(Metalheadz)
Scar's music gets weirder the further you go in, the further you go in the less you know what to expect but you do get conditioned to his ability to use treble as twisted torture and bass as rampaging relief.
 

SD
Cold Blade 
(Commercial Suicide)
Hooligan party business. A bassline so lairy the police have been called and you can hear them arriving. 


SUB DRIFTER 
Turning Point EP 
(Massacre Unit Digital) 
Sparse, truly dubby dubstep that darkened every car-journey it accompanied into a desolate post-apocalyptic cruise around dystopia. Timely as anything.






TMSV 
Repeat EP 
(58744 Records) 
This Dutch producers own bumf says he's 'not constrained by genre or tempo' but I dug this precisely cos it refuses flatly to speed up or energise itself beyond its supra-stoned dubstep pace.

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Resist:Ed Two 
(Tech Itch Records)
I'm just a total sucker for this kind of hard and heavy Renegade-Hardware-type d'n'b and Tech Itch gave us tons of it this year via many comps of which this was the best.


VARIOUS ARTISTS 
The Fifth Column 
(Rupture LDN) 
Fierce collection of spankin' new jungle tracks for junglists of any age. Just love the snares throughout. The era? HERE and NOW.