Cat Power – The Wanderer

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“Doctor said I was not my past, He said I was finally free”. The return of Chan Marshall after a six-year absence was one of the year’s greatest moments. And there were a few of those.

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

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“I was just coastin’, never really goin’ anywhere, Caught up in a web, I was gettin’ kinda used to stayin’ there, And out of the blue, I fell for you”. Kacey Musgraves made the big time in 2018, but also managed to subvert it slightly when she was there. That’s a great trick.

Soccer Mommy – Clean

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“And I knew when I met him, That he’s the one I want to be with, ‘Cause I can see him, Blossom in the future that I’m dreamin'”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Soccer Mommy. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.

Snail Mail – Lush

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“It took so long to know someone like you, And age in the dying sun, With only the vivid greens and blues”. Good old-fashioned indie guitar music from Snail Mail. And yet not a throwback sound. Good.

Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink

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“I could stay on the crest of the wave, In the sea of your love all my days”. The transformation of Jess Williamson’s music over the course of three albums has been revelatory. Cosmic folk, Texas-style.

Snail Mail – Lush

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“Do you dream about the people that wrong you? Do you see those faces again and again?” Oh yes. Do you dream about the songs that speak to you. Do you hear those chords again and again. Sure do. Lindsay Jordan has released probably the best album of the year so far.

Soccer Mommy – Clean

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Soccer Mommy can sometimes sound a little like Snail Mail, but with a lot more swearing. “I don’t wanna be your fucking dog, That you drag around, A collar on my neck tied to a pole, Leave me in the freezing cold”. Sophie Allison has released pretty much the best album of the year so far.

Dream Wife

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Fresh out of art school, Dream Wife can sound even angrier than Soccer Mommy. And they know how to swear in both English and Icelandic. Doubleplusgood. Rakel Mjöll and friends have released maybe the best album of the year so far.

Jess Williamson – Cosmic Wink

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With a nod to a deeper consciousness that flows from the love of each other and humanity, Cosmic Wink is an antidote to some of the pervasive negativity of the age. So, no swearing. Jess Williamson has released arguably the best album of the year so far.

The Men – Drift

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To ensure some gender balance, it’s time for some token men. And who better than The Men. Drift is a gloriously eclectic album with far more hits than misses. In fairness, Mark Perro and Nick Chiericozzi may not have released the absolute best album of year so far, but it’s been on repeat for months. And that’s fine by me.

Jess Williamson – Native State

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The comparisons between Joanna Newsom and Jess Williamson are inevitable. Two female indie singers with aereated vocals. One with a harp. The other a banjo. And there are times on Native State when the comparison is fair. There’s a cadence to Jess Williamson’s singing that on occasions is reminiscent of Ys-period Joanna Newsom. When on the title track she sings, ‘I wish you well, I wish you peace, I wish you realise some day, You’re beautiful and you always need someone’, you could imagine Monkey saying exactly the same thing to Bear in exactly the same way. But in truth the resemblances are only fleeting. Perhaps a better comparison is with another female indie artist also with sometimes aereated vocals, Anais Mitchell. Whereas Ys-period Joanna Newsome is full of whimsy, Jess Williamson, like Anais Mitchell, is more at home with human-sounding stories. Their songs seem populated by real people. When she repeats ‘And your hair all up in braids now’, you feel likes she’s addressing someone directly. But comparisons can be invidious. The great thing about Native State is that Jess Williamson has carved out her own sound. It’s a very spare sound. The vocals. The banjo. And only subtle touches of other instrumentation here and there. But still just enough to fill out the songs and keep things interesting. And the aereated vocals give the songs a real personality. A strange one at times, to be sure. We hear ‘mayer-ther’ for mother. ‘Dayer-zens’ for dozens. Maybe it’s a Texan thing. But it doesn’t matter, because they always sound authentic. The trick for Jess Williamson is now to move on. Just like Joanna Newsom and Anais Mitchell. And the orchestral backing, understated at the moment, hints at where to go. The chances are it could be an genuinely beautiful place.

Pitchfork review

In Your Speakers review

Gozamos review