Goshen Electric Co.

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“You won’t have to think twice if it’s love. You will know”. We missed Jason Molina this year. But there was plenty to celebrate. A highlight was Timothy Showalter and former members of Magnolia Electric Co. reinventing two of the more obscure tracks from Molina’s Didn’t It Rain era.

Iron & Wine – Weed Garden

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“Some want love and some want gold, I just want to see you in the morning”. Sam Beam returned with six gorgeously gentle songs full of recognisably Iron-&-Wine-y themes, lyrics, and arrangements.

Kevin Morby & Waxahatchee – Farewell Transmission/The Dark Don’t Hide It

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“In the sirens and the silences now all the great set up hearts, All at once start to beat”. We missed Jason Molina this year. But there was plenty to celebrate. A highlight was Kevin Morby and Katie Crutchfield reinventing two of the best tracks from Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. era broadly understood

Kramies – Of All The Places Been & Everything The End

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It’s been a long wait. “Ireland” was premiered on the 2015 forêts antiques live EP after all. But it was worth it. Rising and falling. Swelling and subsiding. Kramies brought us on a journey through all the places been to a new home. And more.

Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie

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“If you’d have seen me last year I’d have said, ‘I can’t even see you there from here'”. Matthew Houck may have become a parent and started writing songs about his young son. But fear not, the essence of the old Phosphorescent still shone as brightly as ever.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

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“This is a verse about a man who dared, To fall head over heels for a woman who shared, Similar interests, similar looks, Similar taste in similar books”. A typically eclectic mix from the (grand)father of indie rock. Includes the best song about a bike lane that you’ll hear all year.

The Rock*A*Teens – Sixth Sense

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‘Take a deep breath and blow the cobwebs away”. The Rock*A*Teens returned with a new beginning, proving that teens still know how to rock, even once-upon-a-time ones.

Shakey Graves – Can’t Wake Up

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“Tonight!, I’ve got nothing on my mind but you, Somewhere, somehow, You’ll feel it too”. Alejandro Rose-Garcia really doesn’t like Abba. The song ‘Aibohphobia’ confirmed that.

Mount Eerie – Now Only

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In a category of its own. Do not send these songs to your friends or play them at parties! They are some of the most emotional pieces of music of the year though.

 

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.

Songs: Ohia – Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions

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“Whether you save me, Whether you savage me, Want my last look to be the moon in your eyes”. If The Lioness is your favourite Jason Molina album. Possibly. And you want more songs that sound like The Lioness. Definitely. Then this Deluxe version is for you. Phew.

Bob Dylan – More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14

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“I came in from the wilderness, A creature void of form, ‘Come in’, she said, ‘I’ll give ya, Shelter from the storm'”. If 3,513 versions of ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’ is what you are craving. Hmm, not totally sure. Then this Deluxe version of Blood On The Tracks is for you. Oh, OK.

Neil Young – ROXY: Tonight’s The Night Live

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“Walk on, talk on, baby tell no lies, Don’t you be caught with a tear in your eye”. If you like Neil Young to be providing somewhat approximate renditions of what are undoubtedly some of his best tunes. Yes, yes. Then this live version of Tonight’s The Night is for you. Oh Good.

The Beatles – White Album

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“The sun is up, the sky is blue, It’s beautiful and so are you”. If you have ever been to Esher and wondered what it must have been like for The Beatles to demo The White Album songs there, then this Super Deluxe Version is for you. Where’s Esher again?

Kate Bush – Remastered I-IV

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“His left hand is under my head, And his right hand, Does embrace me, This is the song of Solomon”. Classic Kate Bush. Remastered. Move on. Nothing more to add. Oh OK. Right.

 

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.

There was a top 20 and then @danmumbleson released an album on 8 December. So, 20 became 21.

St Vincent – Masseduction

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The promo campaign did nothing for me, neither did the outfits, nor a couple of the über-pop tunes, but, fundamentally, behind all the post-modern irony and the major-label production values, this was an old-fashioned St Vincent album in all its glory.

Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life

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Lana Del Rey is one of my favourite artists. A woman who has beaten corporate musicality and has been able to make the music she wants. Respect. Don’t tell anyone, though, but without the collaborations this would have been an even better album.

Ryan Adams – The Prisoner

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Maybe it was the Flying V, but from the very first chords Prisoner hit the spot.

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

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My gig of the year. But Jason Isbell didn’t just deliver a fantastic show in 2017. He also delivered a top-class album with songs about beating alcohol, managing anxiety, and living in Trump’s America. All the more remarkable when you think that you’d need the first to manage the second caused by the third.

Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile To The Surface

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Truly a mad-cap project. But an album that at a certain point of the year I simply could not stop playing. And it had the effect that all great albums have. It made me reacquaint myself with the back catalogue. Revisiting Simple Math was an almost equal pleasure.

Holy Holy – Paint

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Holy Holy delivered their ‘difficult’ sophomore album with great panache. Better even than their debut, Paint was full of good old fashioned rock songs (but for a modern age).

Japanese Breakfast – Soft Sounds from Another Planet

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I couldn’t stop listening to the Soft Sounds of Japanese Breakfast over the summer. Expecting some wonderfully Proustian moments in years to come.

Dan Michaelson – First Light

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Dan Michaelson’s first solo album was built around a plaintive piano. His second features a string section. Plaintively, of course. With the sound perfectly complementing the sentiment, “Don’t dwell on old kisses you’ll always regret”, First Light is scarcely a blast of Christmas cheer. But released only a few days ago, it proves there really is a Sanity Clause.

Frontier Ruckus – Enter The Kingdom

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Sounding like songs of innocence, these were more like songs of a certain type of suburban experience. “Everyone’s home in sweatpants for the series finale of their discontinued fall prime time”. For sure, the neighbours may be slightly passive-aggressive, “And if I am not mistaken, You still owe me, 27 dollars”, but the air is thick with tender melodies and exotic instrumentation.

Widowspeak – Expect The Best

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There’s a density to the sound of Widowspeak, but there’s also a sensitivity to melody that keeps the tunes in your head long after the record has stopped.

Robyn Hitchcock

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Sparky riffs. Erudite lyrics. Robyn Hitchcock rolled back the years and delivered one of his finest albums in years. Meanwhile, therapists are still pouring over the lyrics. “I’m naked in the water, In the amniotic sea, Inside my real mother, She opens up for me”. Oh boy.