With 2018 coming to a close the Last Mixed Tape has delved deep and come up with its top 20 albums of 2018. As with every year, only albums reviewed by TLMT make it on the list.
20. Robert John Ardiff – Between The Bed And Room
There can be no doubt Between The Bed And Room is a personal record. Everything about how the album sounds portray an introspective almost isolating outlook. It feels intimate, a sort of catharsis wrestled with through song. Sometimes allowing yourself to be exposed as a songwriter is a daunting task, one not all artist can pull off, but here Robert John Ardiff simply allows himself to express that which he desires to express, either consciously or subconsciously. All of which results in an honest self-portrait of a songwriter.
19. David Kitt – Yous
David Kitt’s ability to create a refined atmosphere in all facets of his music is perhaps his most compelling characteristic. And in comparison to his previous work, Yous could very well be where this aspect of his sound shines the most. Working with Margie Lewis on violin and vocals, the depth of field shown throughout the record is immersive, with Lewis’ distant support creating a gentle juxtaposition to Kitt’s more upfront, dryer vocal.
18. Gavin Glass – Opus Pocus
Sometimes we need music to speak to us directly, we use it to get over break-ups, remember better times or simply soundtrack a place and time in our lives. With Opus Pocus, Gavin Glass achieves just that, an album which makes us all feel a little less alone when we seem lost, through music that feels at ease with itself.
17. Subplots – A Silent Phase
A meeting of atmosphere, texture, and depth of field, A Silent Phase simmers with soundscapes that run right beneath the far-reaching vocals, subtle guitar interplay and crushed snapped beats. All of which makes Subplots latest release such an engaging album to simply sit and listen to.
16. Pursued By Dogs – Pursued By Dogs
An album built from gestures rather than moments, the debut outing from Pursued by Dogs is overwrought with drama, raw emotion, and mood. Working as one whole piece, the record concerns itself with blending deep soundscapes, scattered beats, and monochromatic music into a single large canvas.
15. Hostess – A Simple Life
A work of crafted electronic soundscape sculpting, Hostess delivers an album that’s simply a joy to listen to. The sort of record that just feels like it’s taking you somewhere new and personal to its creator. No pretence, no pandering, no compromise. A Simple Life is a true understated gem.
14. Lisa O Neill – Heard A Long Gone Song
Heard A Long Gone Song is an album that puts the story and the storyteller to the forefront. A record that weaves its magic through the intricate vocal inflections, lyrical turns of phrase and powerhouse performances from Lisa O’Neill, the music of Heard A Long Gone Song is one that serves the tale.
13. Le Galaxie – Pleasure
A solid, well-crafted record Le Galaxie’s third outing finally finds the group harnessing the production of their studio work in a way that serves the song first. Excess has been replaced by focus, with nothing lost but everything gained along the way.
12. Wyvern Lingo – Wyvern Lingo
Wyvern Lingo could have stayed in position and done what was expected of them so early on in their career. But instead, they grew as songwriters, they grew as people and most importantly, they grew as a unit. All of which is shown in great detail on this album. Their first full-length outing is a success. One that will put Wyvern Lingo firmly on the map not only in Ireland but further afield. The hype will persist, for good and for bad, but if Wyvern Lingo continue to sidestep the trappings of such attention and write music that’s representative of who and what they are as artists, then the future is wide open.
11. Elephant – 88
The bravery of 88 is two-fold. Elephant’s courage to expand his music and Shane Clarke’s courage as a person. Musicians, writers, artists etc communicate things we’ve all felt before but it takes something special to convey not just a feeling but a past in its entirety and still be able to make it relatable. Through spine-tingling moments of musical reflection, sonic expressionism and a sense of place 88 encompass every nuance of emotion all at the same time. As I said before 88 about life itself.
10. O Emperor – Jason
With Jason, O Emperor leave on their own terms. Completing a body of work as expansive and diverse as the group’s early musical ambitions. The record is joyfully weird, ominously off-kilter and unrelentingly creative. In this way, Jason does not play like a wake, rather it’s a celebration, one final session for the lads.
9. Slow Skies – Realign
Realign is an album about Slow Skies. A deeply personal work, the album finds Karen Sheridan guiding us through her story, one we all can relate to. Debuts are usually a catalog of songs dating back years and therefore can feel slightly disjointed thematically. Realign does not suffer from such problems. Portrayed as one whole experience that has a defined beginning, middle and end, Slow Skies first offering patiently takes us somewhere worth going.
8. Hilary Woods – Colt
Things fall apart, Colt portrays what’s left behind, and what can be made, or remade, afterward. That seems to be the thread line in Hilary Woods work, a sort of need to reconstruct from her imagination. There’s a dreamlike logic to the music. It all makes sense whilst you’re in the dream but the feeling that something is not quite right remains with you, even when you’re awake.
7. We Cut Corners – Imposters
Going into their fourth album it felt like We Cut Corners needed to make a statement, something to shack the walls and kick the rocks a little. It’s to the duo’s credit that Imposters does just that whilst also maintaining the more abstract, subtle characteristics of their music. There’s always an air of deep beauty and pathos to their work, but now there seems to be more urgency. A powerful listen.
6. Spies – Constancy
Constancy doesn’t play like a debut at all. It’s a confident album that twists, turns, and tricks its way around the listener from beginning to end, all the while portraying a sound that’s filled with sonic and emotional catharsis.
5. Just Mustard – Just Mustard
Wednesday is an often eerie journey into the distant soundscapes of Just Mustard. Filled with some truly inspired use of noise, mood, and texture, the group’s debut offering is one that identifies them, much like the underlined sound of the record, as a band on the verge of something. What that “something” is remains to seen, but right now they have elevated themselves above the pack and expectations are high.
4. Delorentos – True Surrender
Success can make an artist stand still, frozen to one spot and unwilling to move out of fear of losing what made them successful in the first place. True Surrender is a reaction to this process and identifies Delorentos as a band brave enough to follow their own inspirations as naturally as possible. A career high for the group, True Surrender isn’t different for the sake of different, it’s just simply different.
3. Paddy Hanna – Frankly, I Mutate
Frankly, I Mutate is simply wonderful. The exhilarating turn from joy to sadness and back again makes for a compelling listen. It would be difficult to define Paddy Hanna’s performance as exactly that “a performance”. It’s not. Instead, Hanna lives through the record, pushing every inch of himself out into the open for us all to see, while the music that surrounds him does the same.
2. Villagers – The Art of Pretending To Swim
Every Villagers album has a distinct personality. In this wider context, The Art Of Pretending To Swim works as a meeting place between the raw and sonically expansive elements of the past whilst adding new and exciting colours to the mix. On its own, the record is a piece of gentle genius, low on pretence and high on ambition. Few albums, and indeed artists, reach out and connect in such a meaningful way with The Art Of Pretending To Swim Villagers do just that and more.
1. Saint Sister – Shape of Silence
Saint Sister have a made a debut that could be considered a triumph at any point in an artist career, let alone this early on. Everything about Shape of Silence feels carefully placed, considered and produced. Add to this the sheer weight of thematic mood, cinematic storytelling and enchanting sounds that form the album and you have something more than a record. You have a world, brought to life by a sense of mystery and intrigue that will leave you wanting to unravel what’s at the center of it again and again.
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