TRANSISTOR’S 10 Best Albums of 2018 (Mid-Year Update)

intro and thumbnail fae liam menzies (@blinkclyro)

While we could start this off with some drivel about how 2018 has been fraught with political debate, general discourse and a shaky quality in memes, we know what you’re here for: a ranking of subjective apart, decided by people you don’t know and/or care about. We might not be in the same league as Pitchfork and the likes but we feel our contribution to the discussion is… somewhat worthy, plus, we’ve got some solid patter so why not get into the list season spirit early?

10 Father John Misty – God’s Favourite Customer

Josh Tillman is a man on a hot streak. Since leaving the Fleet Foxes in 2012, he has reinvented himself as folk rockstar Father John Misty – releasing 3 critically acclaimed records, 2012’s psychedelic Fear Fun, 2015’s wildly romantic I Love You, Honeybear and 2017’s world-weary Pure Comedy – which topped many end of year lists. However – Pure Comedy also proved somewhat divisive – with many criticising its 75-minute run time, filled mostly by less-than-energetic instrumentation.

Tillman’s response? He’s returned just over a year later with God’s Favorite Customer – his shortest record yet at just 39 minutes. GFC feels like more of a sequel to Honeybear than Pure Comedy, detailing a rough patch in Tillman and his wife Emma’s relationship when he was living in a hotel –hilariously depicted on lead single Mr. Tillman, with the lyrics coming from the perspective of a hotel receptionist concerned for Tillman’s welfare.

However, things get considerably darker on other tracks, like Please Don’t Die, where he details “pointless benders with reptilian strangers” and the chorus comes from the perspective of Tillman’s wife, begging him not to take his own life. Remarkably, on the darkest moments of this incredibly personal record, Tillman keeps up his absurd sense of humour which has been a staple of his FJM records. On the solemn The Palace, Tillman undercuts his confessional to declare “last night I wrote a poem/man I must have been in the poem zone” and perhaps even references the internet’s favourite Jeff meme. In a sentence – God’s Favorite Customer is hilarious, heartbreaking and incredibly catchy – all at the same time. It’s just what we expect of Father John Misty now. – Andrew Barr (@weeandreww)

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9Jeff Rosenstock – POST

POST- is an album rife with conflict, vacillating between furtive political references and forthright internal turmoil. Yr Throat questions the efficacy of self-expression as the narrator’s body and mind lock into a stalemate: “What’s the point of having a voice when it gets stuck inside your throat?!” All This Useless Energy stages a contentious dialogue between under-informed neurotypicals and frustrated depressives: “You’re not fooling anyone when you say you tried your best.”  I’m worried of abandoning the joys that framed my life, but all this useless energy won’t hold me through the night.

Whatever the meaning you choose to ascribe to the term “post” (Post-Obama, Post-Trauma, or for the overdramatic, Post-America) POST- refers to the end of an era. Every generation grapples with its social and political conventions, and now the Millennials have been called to action. A daunting task, to be sure, for a throng of young people consistently written off as thin-skinned, lazy, and disinterested. But with Jeff Rosenstock at the forefront of punk’s socially-inclined philosophes, we’re sure not to be tired and bored with the fight. May we never be again. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

8Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin

Last January, Ty Segall quietly delivered one of the finest records of 2017. That is, of course, quiet as in it was met with little fanfare. The music, on the other hand, was a short, sharp shot of frenetic energy that blew the new year’s blues away with consummate ease. And now, almost a year to the day, a new project, entitled Freedom’s Goblin, has been unleashed upon the world to do the same. A double album of 19 tracks, the record sees Segall at his most dynamic, hopping nimbly from futuristic disco to some of the fuzziest rock seen since Dwayne Johnson grew out his beard last year. In lesser hands, this sort of smashing together of styles could have resulted in a disjointed mess of a record, but instead, the constant variation creates an exhilaratingly sprawling joyride of ups and downs that at the very least, will leave you with a gigantic ear-to-ear smile.

According to the man himself, the concept of the album was to effectively eschew one altogether, and it undoubtedly has been a resounding success. Not all of the tracks work, Shoot You Up, for example, sounds a little too similar to last years Break a Guitar to really satisfy, but the general level of consistency across such a mammoth and diverse tracklist is nothing short of astounding. Segall tips his toes into disco, metal, and a whole host of other styles and comes out of the other side a bona-fide genre-hopping hero.

This may well be the musician’s finest release yet, at the very least standing toe to toe with some of his previous classics. It’s a treasure trove that demands multiple listens to uncover its hidden gems, of which there are a great many, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone begrudging a few extra listens to really get to grips with it when the music is this good. – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

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7 A.A.L – 2012-2017

Returning with a surprise album under his Against All Logic (A.A.L) moniker, leading electronic producer Nicholas Jaar ditches most of the experimentation for what could be pretty much summed up as a deep house album. Now, as this Jaar, this isn’t your chart-ready, sanitised house. Here, Jaar again samples with aplomb, but unlike other releases where the samples are manipulated into something totally new, here Jaar lets these groove-laden samples sit by themselves, letting the samples play out, with expert flourishes of percussion and electronic trickery to flesh out the instrumentation.

It might be contentious to some to include what is essentially a compilation album of previous songs onto this list, but it is for good reason. Here, Nicholas Jaar has arguably made a house album that will transcend normal genre barriers; this is an album that will go down in the history books as one of the best house albums ever made. Funk and soul samples are paired with some of the smoothest percussion heard this year, to make an album that is oozing style, charisma, and panache. – Charlie Leach (@yungbuchan)

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6UMO – Sex & Food

On their newest release, Unknown Mortal Orchestra hone in on the best aspects from each of their previous projects and produce some of their best work yet. The album swings from 80s pop to the psychedelic rock of the 60s and 70s so effortlessly and constantly applies a modern spin to each song, whether it be from the lyrics or production. On ‘Sex and Food’ an excellent mix between a vintage sound and modern ideas if found, as UMO refine their sound and deliver a cleaner than usual selection tracks that may be some of their best yet.

The brilliant songwriting and interesting production of Unknown Mortal Orchestra are sounding as good as ever with this latest project. Sex and Food sees new inspirations emerge and blend with the signature sound of UMO to continue the great track record that the band have formed since 2011. The album also finds more of a cohesive and clean sound than some of the distortion-heavy releases prior to this, which works well with the grooving baselines and beautiful melodies that can be heard throughout the project. Overall, it seems that Unknown Mortal Orchestra have matched, if not exceeded, the quality of Multi-Love, and continue to add to their already intricate and unique sound with a great album that continues to impress. – Ewan Blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

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5Confidence Man – Confident Music For Confident People

When Australian dance-pop four piece Confidence Man burst onto the scene amidst a flurry of Triple J hype and YouTube comment section detractors with a stunning live rendition of their first single, “Boyfriend”, few expected them to capitalise on that potential and become 2018’s most surprising success story.  It goes without saying that a key component to this sudden rush in popularity is down to their near-flawless debut LP, which is in itself the most fun you’ll have with an album all year.  It kicks off the party with “Try Your Luck”‘s earworm of a melody and doesn’t let go until the final echoes of “Fascination” fade out into the night as you stumble out, breathless and hungry for more.

In the rest of its forty minute runtime, Confidence Man cover a lot of ground for a band who could have been a one trick pony, taking the best bits of house, techno and disco and repackaging them in a contemporary format that recalls the best of Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, and Fatboy Slim.  Along the way, they will make you dance, laugh, sing, dance some more, and be oh so grateful that they exist in such dour times like this. – Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

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4Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

After 2013’s still-quite-good-but-underwhelming AM, you’d be forgiven for writing ArcticMonkeys off for good, god knows I did. But now the naysayers as a collective have egg on their ruddy faces! The Sheffield 4 piece are back in town, and they are back with a vengeance. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is the self-inflicted kick up the arse the band had simply to give themselves after the AM album cycle left them positively stagnant.

Gone are the grease and leather jackets from AM, replaced with a Hugh Hefner-esque robe, a stiff whiskey and a wee pipe. TBH+C is lounge music for the modern era. A trip through an astral Las Vegas through the eyes of an aging patron. It’s straight out of left field and it’s all the better for it.

Each song weaves into the last effortlessly. This isn’t an album you can put on shuffle, it’s as deliberate as it is sexy. There’s no banger single on here (bar maybe the album’s centerpiece Four Out of Five), but what you, dear listener, gets instead is an album from a band finally totally free from the shackles of indie rock, and finally comfortable in their own skin. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino sounds, to me, like the album Alex Turner and the boys have wanted to make for a long, long time. It is truly out of this world. – Jake Cordiner (@j4keth)

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3 Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Who would’ve thought that four white guys playing in a punk outfit in 2018 could sing about how “woke” they are and make it sound convincing? Parquet Courts have long played the role of rock and roll philosophers; co-songwriters Austin Brown and Andrew Savage often dive into popular rock fodder like relationships, travel, and technology, detailing each phenomenon with an enlightened, if blunt, sentiment. And on Wide Awake!, the group return with their trademark urban nervousness, this time with a wider musical palette, courtesy of guest producer Danger Mouse.

Removed from the context of the music, Brown, and Savage begin to sound like paranoiacs, their lyrics veering close to the basket cases spouting off outside of grocery stores and banks. “Lately I’ve been curious/ Do I pass the Turing test?” Savage sings on Normalization, his voice not so much panicked as it is angry, demanding. But for all the furor, the Brooklyn quartet remain woke, even if it’s the kind of social awareness that keeps you up at night: “Mind so woke cause my brain never pushes the brakes!” As always, Parquet Courts make anxiety catchy—to them, the human condition is a mix of mundanity and revulsion, terror and desensitisation, and on Wide Awake!, it’s never without a strong hook.

Oh, and fuck Tom Brady. – Sean Hannah (@shun_handsome)

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2Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

One of the most exciting acts Scotland has seen in years, Young Fathers returned this year with the much anticipated Cocoa Sugar, an album which continues to showcase their ability to create an explosive collection of innovative and experimental tracks. On Cocoa Sugar, Young Fathers are catchier and poppier than before but sacrifice none of their talent for packing so much intricate detail into short but powerful blasts of music.

The Edinburgh hip-hop trio are as versatile as ever here as well, going from almost spiritual places on tracks such as In My View and Lord to the grit and sinister tones of Wow, Wire, and Toy. Cocoa Sugar gets more impressive with each listen and it’s most impressive aspect is just how layered each track is with its intertwining vocals, driving beats, backing choir and many minor details that you appreciate more and more with each listen. – Ethan Woodford (@human_dis4ster)

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1Car Seat Headrest – Twin Fantasy

What to say about Twin Fantasy that hasn’t already been said? Will Toledo’s lo-fi opus is a source of inspiration to all indie fans of this generation. Toledo’s enormous presence mixed with honest but cryptic storytelling led his diehard fans to pick and dissect every bit of truth behind the album. Usually, this kind of reaction would generate a pretty negative feeling towards the album from the musician’s standpoint, but the art Toledo created in 2011 stood the test of time.

Prompting him to redo the album completely; submerging himself in lyrics and feelings from years prior. This led him to create what is arguably his most grand record to date, labeled as (Face to Face). The structure from the original album is there but everything has been redone in the best possible way. There is enough for fans of the original to feel it has been done justice, but it also stands on its own enough to attract new fans. It’s the perfect love letter to what Car Seat Headrest used to be, written from where the band is now. – Ryan Martin (@ryanmartin182)

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Album Review: Freedom’s Goblin by Ty Segall

by rory mcarthur (@rorymeep)rating 9

Last January, Ty Segall quietly delivered one of the finest records of 2017. That is, of course, quiet as in it was met with little fanfare. The music, on the other hand, was a short, sharp shot of frenetic energy that blew the new year’s blues away with consummate ease. And now, almost a year to the day, a new project, entitled Freedom’s Goblin, has been unleashed upon the world to do the same. A double album of 19 tracks, the record sees Segall at his most dynamic, hopping nimbly from futuristic disco to some of the fuzziest rock seen since Dwayne Johnson grew out his beard last year. In lesser hands, this sort of smashing together of styles could have resulted in a disjointed mess of a record, but instead, the constant variation creates an exhilaratingly sprawling joyride of ups and downs that at the very least, will leave you with a gigantic ear-to-ear smile.

Straight from the Conan road-tested opener Fanny Dog, Segall manages to whip up a palpable sense of almost giddy excitement. Riding a cacophonous wave of uplifting horns, rock ’n’ roll piano lines, and of course a few hard-hitting guitar riffs, you can almost visualise the cheeky grins of those involved as they pound out the track dedicated to the Californian’s pet pooch. It’s amongst the catchiest and most infectious rock songs you’re likely to hear all year and lingers in the memory long after the album’s one-hour 14-minute runtime is up.

After a brief flirtation with piano-driven balladry on Rain, the energy picks right back up again with an all expenses paid trip to disco-land. A fuzzed-up cover of Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner followed by an original composition of the funky disposition, Despoiler of Cadaver, provide a welcome deviation from the usual garage rock formula, providing some genuinely unexpected high points from the whole album. This trip into unfamiliar genres continues later on with the Black Sabbath influenced crunch of She. Previous records have often sounded heavy of course, but never quite with this much force behind them. The track crackles with metallic sludge, shot through with some Ozzy-esque yowling to complete the picture. It’s one of the longer tracks on the album, and it’s all the better for it, providing a centrepiece that’s sure to go down as a live favourite, in addition, to probably the highlight of the album itself.

With all this in mind then, it’s perhaps not surprising that the album ends on a rather ambitious note. The 12-minute And, Goodnight begins as a pleasant sounding jam but soon reveals itself as an electric reworking of the title track from the 2013 acoustic project Sleeper. For long-time fans of the artist, this is a real treat, to hear such a fantastic song reimagined so well serves as a reminder of why they fell in love with this artist in the first place, while simultaneously feeling right at home capping off a new set of songs.

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Aside from this, there are of course some other classic Segall hallmarks to be found lurking throughout the tracklist. The artist’s tendency to shove instruments through waste disposal units, or at least that’s what it sounds like, crops up a few times, and it sounds just as good as it did on 2016’s wonderfully distorted Emotional Mugger. The horns that lift so many of these tracks to greatness get the full treatment on The Main Pretender, sounding about as sleazy as is allowed by law. And even before that, When Mommy Kills You showcases some terrifically disgusting guitar tones that somehow manage to fit perfectly alongside some of the more subdued material. But that’s just the beauty of this album. It’s the sound of an artist not afraid to experiment, but equally not afraid to revisit some old sounds and give them another spin.

According to the man himself, the concept of the album was to effectively eschew one altogether, and it undoubtedly has been a resounding success. Not all of the tracks work, Shoot You Up, for example, sounds a little too similar to last years Break a Guitar to really satisfy, but the general level of consistency across such a mammoth and diverse tracklist is nothing short of astounding. Segall tips his toes into disco, metal, and a whole host of other styles and comes out of the other side a bona-fide genre-hopping hero.

This may well be the musician’s finest release yet, at the very least standing toe to toe with some of his previous classics. It’s a treasure trove that demands multiple listens to uncover its hidden gems, of which there are a great many, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone begrudging a few extra listens to really get to grips with it when the music is this good.

At the end of it all, it seems that Segall’s Freedom Band chose their name wisely.

 

 

Best Tracks Of The Week (15-22/10/17)

Contributions from Gregor Farquharson (@grgratlntc), Will Sexton (@willshesleeps& Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

Lewis Capaldi – Mercy

Lewis Capaldi is back: the young musician’s rise to fame has been nothing short of amazing, and his latest EP and this track just go to show why. His strong vocals and songwriting abilities are on full show on this meaningful, a track that is nothing short of being beautiful. The rest of the EP isn’t much different, acting as a powerful statement of how big a role the singer has played in making the Scottish acoustic scene something worth getting invested in.

Wy – Hate To Fall Asleep

Never judge a book by its cover but if said cover has a girl crying white gunk, expect it to have some sort of emotional resonance with you: step in Wy, hitting out with a debut LP submerged in worrying thoughts. Hate To Fall Asleep is one such track that follows the album’s mantra of feeling pretty shitty, showcasing the luscious, aching vocals of Ebba as she struggles to “see the great in everything”. The quaky, borderline lo-fi guitar that accompanies to leave you feeling that things are far from okay – sometimes that’s okay.

joji – will he

George Miller has finally arrived with his first official single from his first EP (In Tongues) coming to all ears around the world on the 2nd Of November. The song is gorgeous: dark, gloomy, sexy and spacious, it’s everything that Joji has been building up too over the last couple of years and the hype is truly here. The production on this track seems slicker and more finished than the last two tracks he has released on Soundcloud this year. Fans of his internet show persona Filthy Frank and people who have been following him for years are fully anticipating the rest of this EP – beyond excited.

Bully – Spiral

Appearing on their debut LP, Bully have been generating a lot of buzz and tracks like Spiral justifies why: raspy, powerful vocals from Alicia Bognanno are captivating from the get-go and the romantic narrative keeps things interesting, making it pretty easy to find yourself going back to this track again and again. We’ll keep hush hush on our verdict of their album as a whole but for the meantime, Bully seem to be finding their footing very early on.

Bearcubs – Do You Feel

While there’s been a lot of aggression shown in this week’s selection, Bearcubs manages to calm things down with his chilling new track Do You Feel. Extremely meticulous and charming, this song has a bunch of lovely wee quirks that seem to rear their head at random intervals which you may or may not notice on your first listen. From the washed out back up vocals to the tropic instrumentals to the synthesised chirping, Bearcubs pack some angst but doesn’t let it overshadow the hard work that is on show.

Ty Segall – Meaning

We all know he has a ridiculous output at this point but that only makes the fact that Ty Segall can still keep us interested all the more remarkable. On Meaning, we get some frantic guitar playing that segways us into digital drum armageddon a la Death Grips, a moment that comes totally out of left field. Instead of being followed up by MC Ride yelling, we get Segall’s wife Denee to show off her lovely pipes, the instrumentals giving off a punky vibe in its purest form. It’s a total fucking racket and combined with what Denee is singing, it wouldn’t surprise us if this was a cathartic experience.

listen to our picks via our swanky wee playlist, updated weekly:

The More, The Merrier: Are Regular Releases Detrimental?

By Connor Moore (@OddRonald)

It seems great at first – you’ve got into a band, you love their sound and they’re constantly releasing music. In a world where many music fans are left waiting years for a track that may or may not be dire, you’ve got a band that’ll keep you more than satisfied quantity wise. They make headlines with new music regularly and stand out as eccentric for it. It makes the urge to see them live too much to bare so you grab a ticket to their next show in DefaultVenue and…they play nothing from that one album you love. Bitter and disappointed, you’re left asking yourself one question: am I getting too much of a good thing? 

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Before we dive in, we need a notable example and who better than the most well known culprit for their regular output King Gizzard And The Lizard WizardThe Australian Psych rockers are renown for crazy antics both in the studio and live, often releasing an album almost two albums a year since 2012. They’ve said this year that five albums will come out, a statement that was picked up by almost all major music press and has certainly given them publicity and a wider fan-base. In 2013 they released Eyes Like The Sky and Float Along- Fill Your Lungsboth of which are interesting psychedelic albums on their own but feel similar together and this reoccurs with many of their same year releases.

Stu and the boys have tried to tackle this with taking each album as a project; especially this year with Flying Microtonal Banana. Focusing on eastern influence and micro-toning, it was an interesting and fantastic project and felt different to their other work. The second album Murder Of The Universe sounds completely different looking at prog rock and almost feeling slightly metal in comparison. News of the third album of the year Sketches Of Brunswick East (due out on August 25th) tells us it’ll be prominently jazz based; yet another different venture. The thing is their most celebrated and widely acclaimed album, Nonagon Infinity came out in 2016 by itself, which for me says a lot. It suggests that albums standalone better, they’re talked about for longer and get more listens over time. It feels as if sometimes a band is forcing new work down your throat before you’ve even properly heard their last project. Only time will tell if this ambitious feat will play into the band’s favour. 

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Car Seat Headrest is another fantastic example of albums properly released in orthodox time proving to be superior. Will Toledo was and still is a Band-camp favourite after released 12 albums on there, yet his big break and most successful work came when he was picked up by Matador Records and spent a good amount of time creating 2016’s Teens Of Denial, the sequel to 2015’s Teens Of Style. Featuring new material that felt tweaked to near perfection and not in the slightest bit rushed, it’s easy to see why many regard it as his strongest work yet – Rome wasn’t built in a day and this album stands as an example of patience working in an artist’s favour.

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Much like this piece has foreshadowed so far, there are problems other than quality that regular releases can cause. Ty Segall is a talented American artist who is in numerous bands, such as Fuzz and Broken Bat, and is well known for his output of an album or EP a year since 2008. I got into the album Melted in 2013, three years after it came out, and since then it’s remained my favourite. I’ve enjoyed albums since, such as 2014’s Manipulator, as well as albums before Melted.

A friend and I planned to see Ty Segall in London last year on his tour, yet sadly after seeing the setlist we saw that he hardly played any of the songs that we’d grown to love and got us into him. Instead, he had stuck to more recent releases, especially concentrating on Emotional Mugger. This year he plays End Of The Road Festival and I shan’t be seeing him due to his set clashing with Father John Misty, yet I don’t mind because I know he will play even more new tracks – especially considering this year he’s released a self-titled album and the Fried Shallots EP. This is great for fans who love every venture of an artist but for those like myself who have a connection with a certain album, it can make going to see an artist a gamble that is far too risky.

Related imageObviously this criticism can be made for any band when they don’t play many songs from your favourite album, yet with most bands their releases aren’t so often that an album that came out just a year or so ago are considered “old”. Radiohead don’t play anything from their 1993 debut Pablo Honey apart from “Creep” but that isn’t because it was ages ago or that they’ve released twenty odd albums since, more so that they’ve moved on to something different and undoubtedly better. Despite this, even Thom Yorke and co. can fall victim to this much like they did with Amnesiac which dropped a year after 2000’s Kid A – while it got flack for being “rushed”, it’s still regarded as a great album and does support the argument that it’s not impossible to create regular music without sacrificing quality.

I still find it odd that an artist can be praised for focusing on getting as many albums as possible out rather than working on the one record at a time. At the end of the day, if you like an artist and they release music often, you’ll be happy, but there’s a chance the quality might have fallen due to it being rushed or the setlist when you finally get the chance to see them may fall short for you; clogged with new songs you’ve barely had a chance to listen to. I love all three of the prolific examples I’ve mentioned, the only difference being I got into Car Seat Headrest with his latest release and the other acts with their earliest ones – the main point to take away is that you can still spoil your fans without overwhelming them with constant releases.

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