Best album: Foxing – Nearer My God
Less than four hours before Nearer My God dropped, I was chatting to Foxing frontman Conor Murphy; he was bricking it. The album is a delve into apocalyptic paranoia completely unlike anything that the St Louis indie outfit had done before. Opening the show with Grand Paradise, the band finally delivered on the potential of their earlier releases. A critical darling and my AOTY (Album of the Year) from the second I heard it, Nearer My God’s epic scope, dense instrumentation and uniqueness will shape the indie world in the years to come. From the dark electronics of Slapstick to the triumphant closing to Lambert, there isn’t a second wasted. I’m still listening to it (in full) weekly.
Best song: Foxing – Won’t Drown
Surprise, my favourite song comes from my favourite album. Won’t Drown scratches an itch for dark indie-emo that hasn’t been touched upon since the less-than-graceful implosion of Brand New. Won’t Drown is a song that any band on the scene right now would dream of writing, showcasing the raw musical talent of the band who made 2018 their own.
Best event: the return of ‘Three Lions’
This summer could be defined by a number of things, but it being stiflingly hot and England fans singing Three Lions again made this one the summer for me. The initially ironic meme surrounding the song took on true belief as England reached the semis of the World Cup, making it all the more crushing when the team bowed out. Am I excited to sing it again for the Euros 2020? Of course I am.
Best album: KIDS SEE GHOSTS – Self-titled
Following his eighth solo effort ye, Kanye West formed a hip-hop supergroup with long-time collaborator Kid Cudi, releasing their self-titled KIDS SEE GHOSTS. The album is only seven tracks in length, yet feels far longer. The production is unique, blending styles of psychedelic rock with traditional hip-hop. Kanye raps at a far higher level than to ye, partly due to the more polished nature of the record, and Kid Cudi’s performance is consistently excellent throughout, peaking in the song Reborn in which he delivers his signature humming.
Best song: Bloody Waters – Ab-Soul
Consistently underrated by even devout fans of the hip-hop genre, Ab-Soul emerges on Bloody Waters with clever wordplay relating to water and violence. The production is reminiscent of the rhythmic dripping of water, which Ab-Soul flows over effortlessly alongside Anderson .Paak who delivers a shrill hook to break up the two verses. James Blake also contributes some gentle, distorted vocals in the song’s intro and outro segments, contrasting heavily with the other performances in this trio.
Best event: Camp Flog Gnaw
Tyler, the Creator’s yearly festival rarely disappoints a hip-hop fan, and this year was no different. As well as headlining it, Tyler also managed to call in KIDS SEE GHOSTS to co-headline, performing for the first time as the act. Other notable acts included Brockhampton, Earl Sweatshirt, Post Malone and A$AP Rocky.
Best album: Dilly Dally – Heaven
Toronto grunge-rockers Dilly Dally’s sophomore effort includes all the ingredients that made 2015’s Sore such a captivating debut, but this time with slower, even more considered songwriting. Katie Monks’ arresting vocals and Liz Ball’s signature screeching lead guitar lines remain, but I Feel Free feels like a refreshing start to the band’s next chapter. The exquisite title track reveals Dilly Dally’s more tender side for fans of Green, while introspective single Sober Motel builds up to a glorious peak around Jimmy Tony’s throbbing bass line. Sorry Ur Mad and Doom have two of the band’s best melodies to date and Marijuana is already a fan favourite. They tour the UK in January.
Best song: George Ezra – Pretty Shining People
While Shotgun may have been the anthem of the summer, the breezy opening track of Staying at Tamara’s is equally boppy. In the year in which George Ezra became Britain’s most important pop star by dominating the charts and selling out an arena tour in a few hours, this was the perfect soundtrack to the now-distant days of suntans and football. A slice of unadulterated joy from an artist, it’s extremely hard to dislike.
Best event: Weller charms the Festival Hall
Paul Weller is making a habit of marking big birthdays with big musical achievements. Turning 60 this year, he scooped Q Magazine’s award for Best Act in the World and GQ’s Songwriter of the Year, also finding time to release a new album, True Meanings. What better way to promote the contemplative, acoustic-orchestral record than with two intimate shows with a full orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall?