Music’s primary function is enjoyment, how it makes you feel. I could, like most other reviewers, easily present you with a list of music that impresses, dazzles, challenges, but when it comes down to it, that kind of music may not necessarily be the same as the music that gives you pleasure, music that you want to listen to again and again, that draws you back and lights up your world for a little while.
So, no more best album list, here are the 10 albums that made me most happy in 2018, I have also added a few dry facts about each album. At the very bottom you will also find, in alphabetical order, 15 other highly enjoyable albums reviewed drurng 2018. And if that’s not enough, you can always go back to previous blog entries; I never review an album I don’t like…
Paul McCartney: Egypt Station
Egypt Station is a great album and would have been even greater with some pruning before release. But Paul’s ability to create a great tune with some whimsical lyrics without a hint of subtext is still unsurpassed. It is 50 years since the release of Beatles’ White album, and to hear that this man is still churning out music like this, well, I am lost for words….!
- His 17th solo album
- First studio release since 2013
- The title derives from a 1988 painting by McCartney
- McCartney says about the album: «I liked the words ‘Egypt Station.’ It reminded me of the ‘album’ albums we used to make… ‘Egypt Station’ starts off at the station on the first song, and then each song is like a different station. So it gave us some idea to base all the songs around that. I think of it as a dream location that the music emanates from.»
Father John Misty: God’s Favorite Customer
Father John Misty is again out with a new album, and again he delivers. Readers of my blog know full well how much I have appreciated all his previous albums, and nothing much have changed in my appreciation – nor in the Father’s approach to music. He is as witty as before, every song is like a small symphony, melodic and at times even hummable. How does he keep this up? This is his fourth release in a short while, and as unique and outstanding as the other three.
- The album has an alternative title: Mr Tilman’s Wild Ride
- The album was supposedly mostly written on the toilet
- On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, God’s Favorite Customer has an average score of 83 based on 27 reviews, indicating «universal acclaim»
- Father John Misty is in my Top 10 list for the third year in a row, so yes, I am a fan.
Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour
I am so proud to have discovered this artist long before the majority of reviewers did. Her two previous albums are so full of fireworks and fun and heartbreak and truth that it is almost impossible to believe she didn’t score massively. With Golden Hour reviewers are going crazy, calling her the new Taylor Swift. And she deserves every bit of praise. The only fly in the ointment is that she will be swamped with composers and producers who will do their best to peel off the very layers that make her the superior artist she is. I hope she proves me wrong – and on Golden Hour there is only one horrible track (“High Horse” – which is already the most listened to track by Musgraves on Spotify – Sigh!), the rest is every bit as lovely as everything else she has released.
- The album won Album of the Year at the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards
- Musgraves said about the album: «I have a lot more love songs this time around, and I’ve never been one to write a love song and really feel it. That probably sounds like the most depressing thing ever. [But] I’m coming off getting married and being in this golden hour of my personal life, where all these things are finally coming to fruition. I found myself inspired to write about this person and all these things he brought out in me that weren’t there before.»
- Musgraves’ sister Kelly Christine Sutton took the cover photo for Golden Hour
The Lost Brothers: Halfway Towards a Healing
I was particularly taken by the album Halfway Towards a Healing from the Irish band The Lost Brothers. This is the closest to Simon & Garfunkel and Everly Borthers we have come for a very long time, soothing, wonderful harmonies, heart-warming lyrics and melancholia galore. The album is their fifth, so I am going to their back catalogue if and when I am getting bored with the current one.
- The brothers are not brothers at all: it is an Irish musical duo consisting of Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech
- In 2018, they recorded Halfway Towards a Healing in Tucson Arizona with producers Howe Gelb and Gabriel Sullivan.
- The album was released to wide critical acclaim from leading music publications, including Mojo, Uncut, Record Collector,and Q Magazine
Alela Diane: Cusp
Beauty can come from personal pain, and Alela Diane’s concept album Cusp about childbirth, both her own and her children’s, is truly beautiful. The soft feel to both the lyrics and the melodies make for great listening.
- Alela Diane Menig (born April 20, 1983), known as Alela Diane, is an American singer-songwriter from Nevada City in California.
- This is her 7th studio album
- In February 2017, she gave birth to a second daughter named Oona. The birth supposedly inspired the album.
- Diane said about the album: “This music is about motherhood,” Even just by saying that, it feels like people will write you off. It’s like you’ve suddenly lost the charm of being youthful and even attainable––you’ve been commoditized as available. There is not a big place in the music industry for 30-something women with kids making music.” Well, I would argue there is.
Caroline Rose: LONER
LONER is Caroline Rose’s third album, and I have really fallen in love with it. Caroline Rose gives the world the finger with her playful songs, modern and chic, whimsical and with a rare creativity in the use of instruments. There is a bit of Cindi Lauper in Rose, irreverent and rickety. The track Bikini, might be the most fun track of 2018.
- Born in 1990 in Long Island, Rose grew up in Center Moriches, New York. The daughter of two artists, Rose began writing songs and poems at age 13
- LONER got an amazing and deserved 83 score on Metacritic
- Although Rose played most of the instruments on the album, she formed a new band to perform on tour.
Benny Andersson: Piano
Benny Andersson of ABBA fame has released a solo album – simply called Piano – on Deutsche Grammofon, performing songs on a grand piano from his vast catalogue. If anyone was in any doubt before about the quality of his compositions, listen to this album. In my view, Andersson is up there with the great composers of our time, like Lennon/McCartney, George Gerschwin and Irving Berlin. Both his songs for ABBA and his post-ABBA music are brilliantly performed, with so much emotion and grace that it almost makes me cry listening to the love, sweetness or pain that radiate through his fingers.
- Piano is performed unaccompanied by just Benny himself, on his trusted grand piano.
- The album was recorded with Linn Fijal, engineer and studio manager at his own RMV Studios, on the island of Skeppsholmen, in the heart of his hometown Stockholm.
- Andersson said about the album: ‘In the process of recording this album, I have come to realise that the pieces I have chosen to play are an integral part of me. In endeavouring to reach for some core within them, I have found that the more I strip away the clothing, the closer I feel to the music, regardless of whether it was created last year or 40 years ago. In a strange way, I feel like I am playing my memoirs.’Even without the bass, drums, guitars, strings and vocals on these songs, I think there is still substance in all of them. That was very pleasing to realise.’
Another great tunesmith isThomas Walsh of Irish band Pugwash and their new album Silverlake. If you’re a McCartney or an ELO fan, look no further. Yes, it is a bit old fashioned, but if you are that kind of music fan, like me, that is complementing the album, not criticizing. And if you have had enough of darkness and winter, Pugwash will definitely introduce an early summer in your ears. Lovely.
- In the early 1990s, Walsh adopted Pugwash as a stage name and began recording some 150 demos to 4-track and, in 1995, one of those was named Demo of the Year by Irish music magazine Hot Press.
- Walsh later formed a group called Pugwash
- Walsh was also part of the duo The Duckworth Lewis Method, also featured in my list, despite singing about cricket only.
- In 2017 Walsh disbanded the group line-up and returned to being a solo artist under the Pugwash moniker.
- Thomas Walsh said: “I still live in a small house with nine guitars, a Dansette, a telly and a fuckin’ mellotron,I collect records and live hand-to-mouth. We’ve made some great records but most of them have gone nowhere.”
- Nowhere? They are at no. 3 in MY list!!
Joan Armatrading: Not Too Far Away
We haven’t heard from Joan Armatrading , born on Saint Kitts, for quite a long time. Her new album, Not Too Far Away, is vintage Armatrating, folk-pop at its best, perhaps even more hummable than back when her records were on everyone’s turntable. She plays all the instruments on the album, rarely a good idea, but she is pulling that off as well, so no complaints from me.
- Fun fact: Armatrading performed as a cameo vocalist for the song «Don’t Lose Your Head» on the 1986 Queen album A Kind of Magic.
- Armatrading said: «My songs aren’t about me at all. They’re always about love, the pain and anguish of it. But the way I’ve always written is from observation. They’re about what I see other people going through. If the songs were about me I’d be so embarrassed I don’t think I’d be able to walk out the front door.» The optimistic songs reveal a bit more of me because that’s how I feel. I’m definitely a ‘glass is half full’ kind of a person.
- Many of her lyrics do not specify the gender of their subjects and she frequently uses the word «you» rather than a gender pronoun.
Hailey Tuck: Junk
Hailey Tuck carries the legacy of much older, even deceased, performers on her shoulders. There is a lot of Billie Holiday, Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux in both her voice and her choice of songs, and this amazing debut album proves that she can carry that weight. Tuck’s intepretations of great songs stand out, and the album deserves to be named Most Enjoyable Album of 2018. Because that is what it has been to me.
- Hailey Tuck is from Austin, Texas.
- Tuck has performed with Jamie Cullum
- Junk followed three EP releases.
- Last year she released a Christmas single, Please Come Home for Christimas
- Her biggest other interest in life is vintage clothing and the silent movie star Louise Brooks
And – as an extra treat, here are previous number ones:
I Awake – Sarah Biasko
The River & The Thread – Roseanne Cash
I Love You, Honeybear – Father John Misty
JOANNE – Lady Gaga
DANCE OF TIME – Eliane Elias
And – as another extra treat, here are 15 other highly enjoyable albums of 2018, in alphabetical order, click album title to listen:
Sarah Blasko – Depth of Field
Roger Daltrey – As Long As I Have You
Falkevik – Louder Than I’m Used To
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – A Star Is Born Soundtrack
Jimmy Livingstone – Airplane Mode
The Manhattan Transfer – The Junction
Mariza – Mariza
Morrissey – Low in High School
Willie Nelson – Last Man Standing
Madeleine Peyroux – Anthem
U2 – Songs of Experience
Vårin – If I Started Seeing Rainbows
Paul Weller – True Meanings
Marlon Wiliams – Make Way for Love
So, that’s it folks. 2018 veers to an end, and we with it. I will be back in 2019 with lots of new, exciting, feel music.
So watch this space.
Happy new year to all readers and listeners, I really appreciate that you keep reading, keep commenting, keep sharing with others.