We’ve hit the midpoint of 2018, and that can only mean one thing: Albums of the Year so far. For the next few weeks, our writers will detail the five albums that have excited them most thus far. Kicking off proceedings is Elliot Burr, who provides everything from hip-hop to hardcore in his Top 5 Albums of the Year… So Far.
Don Broco – Technology (2 Feb)
2018 has been the ultimate year for Don Broco. After ascending a fairly narrow set of stairs to best British rock act (it’s a genre in serious need of a comeback), the maturity of a gang of young blokes kicking a football around on a Bedford suburban estate (see: ‘Thug Workout’) has now become most apparent, trading in tarmacked kids’ parks for Ally Pally at the tail end of last year. So how to top a tremendous 2017? Releasing your best work to date after handing other British rock acts’ arses on a plate with sophomore effort Automatic is a sure-fire way to do it. By golly, Simon Delaney’s thunderous centre stage guitar riffs have been amplified to their full potential here (‘Greatness’) alongside the funk laden rhythm section of Matt Donnelly and Tom Doyle which made Automatic a minty breath of fresh air from their contemporaries.
There’s still some chillaxing summer pooltime vibes on show here (verses of ‘The Blues’, with barbeque reference included), but Broco mix it up with some of their most pounding moments to date, putting them well in the mix of potential festival headliners for the future. Vocalist Rob Damiani has always had a rockstar bravado brewing, but he’s finally let loose with some belting vocal takes, as well as bringing back ‘Nerve’-esque high notes which fit in snuggly amongst the sweary banter. Pre-released singles ‘Everybody’ and ‘Pretty’ set a high bar for the album to come and have now merely become two fragments of Technology’s rollicking good time from start to finish.
A little long? Automatic whet the appetite for brand new tunes from Broco for bloody ages, and this lengthy tracklist will surely prevail ‘til they concoct more luscious and heavy smashers. Plus, stadiums or otherwise, fans are still doing pushups to Thug Workout, and the album artwork proves they still have their winning sense of humour. Never sleep on this band. You can read a full-scale Technology review here.
Turnstile – Time & Space (23 Feb)
“Ugh, lounge music?” is a phrase often connected with Arctic Monkey’s awe-dividing latest effort, but who did it first this year? Well, unbeknownst to many, it was Baltimore’s trailblazing hardcore punk outfit Turnstile.
Thrashy boppers are the usual name of the game for this quintet, very much the basis for all four of their fucking excellent EPs and genre reinvigorating album Nonstop Feeling, so the inclusion of jazzy interludes seems strange. Then again, considering Trapped Under Ice’s usual sampling of 50s doo-wop as little breaks from their carnage (vocalist Brendan Yates being the drummer of TUI, in fact), it actually doesn’t seem all that peculiar. In fact, one criticism of Time & Space – part of their continual forward-thinking approach to hardcore music – is that these moments don’t last for longer. But for fans old and new, this sophomore effort provides much of the angsty, sweaty and dancey punk that makes Turnstile one of the globe’s most spirited live acts.
The album’s real moments of power (‘Big Smile’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Blind’) are short-lived explosions of energy and emotion, whilst cuts that distort the tried-and-tested formula include Yates’ switch to clean, grungey hooks (‘Generator’) and the backing vocals of mad-as-a-hatter bassist “Freaky” Franz Lyons, who croons as lead vocalist on the band’s poppiest and catchiest track to date: ‘Moon’. It stays in the noggin for days… Plus he looks epic diving into a crowd on the cover, as is typical of Turnstile’s gig centric album sleeves.
Many have been critical of their more experimental fashion this time ‘round, but cramming in a shedload of influences (from maelstrom worthy hardcore or elsewhere) into a not-so-cute 25 minute package takes some doing. It gets the blood bumping, cools you down, throws you into the pit for 5 more rounds ‘til you can take no more, dusts you off, makes you boogie for a while, then stops. Killer.
Logic – Bobby Tarantino II (9 March)
It’s a mixtape. Please forgive me, but given the actual flow of these 13 tracks and their consistency, one must allow the treatment of Logic’s second smörgåsbord of songs as an LP contender.
Logic’s trap heavy beats may be off-putting to some, but amongst a crowd of mumblecore, he shines as an extremely skilled rapper, lyrics and speed included. Taking the sparse synth lines and simple beats is standout track ‘Warm It Up’, showcasing Logic’s true rapper status. Lifting “visualising the realism of life and actuality” from AZ’s classic verse on Nas’s ‘Life’s A Bitch’ (still undoubtedly the most gratifying rapped verse ever) seems completely organic rather than forced, and the call and response vocals for its ‘chorus’ show Bobby trading off with another of Logic’s alter egos, Young Sinatra, another fluid wordsmith named after the rapper’s true musical idol.
A wide range of influences, this boy has. And this even cleverly fits in to such tracks as weed praiser ‘Indica Badu’, a neo-soul instrumental owing tribute to the genre’s matriarch Erykah Badu and a J-Dilla inspired beat. Yeah yeah yeah: the punny name; inclusion of Wiz Khalifa; and 4 minute 20 second length may seem corny, but fuck it, this is a mixtape owing to rap’s past and present, and it’s all perfectly valid. Other (varied) featured spots include 2 Chaaaaaainz, DJ of the moment Marshmello on ‘Everyday’ – “I work hardeverymotherfuckin’dayeayeayeayeaaaaaay” (couldn’t help but say it), and Rick and Morty. You read that correctly.
An eclectic mix of voices, personas, beats and rap speeds has made Logic’s second mixtape outing one of the year’s most exciting, head bopping and repeatable releases. Plus, again, the album’s cover is tremendous.
MØL – Jord (13 April)
Danish musical exports are usually hard to come by. Heck, in the realm of hard rock, we still have Volbeat. The semi-cheesy stadium friendly European version of Theory of a Deadman complete with an overly-enthusiastic James Hetfield impersonator stealing the mic during a session of Rock Band. I’m not complaining that much, I love ‘Lola Montez’.
I digress – music in general needs more Danes, and one genre still in a nascent stage despite the growing years is blackgaze, the surprisingly fluid amalgamation of black metal and shoegaze. Alcest and Deafheaven have spearheaded its revolution, the latter opening up the sound to many a new (hipster?) audience with beautiful soundscapes and haunting vocals aplenty. Now, Aarhus residents MØL bring their brand of doomy catharsis to the table, and it’s a sumptuous main course.
Considering this is just the debut from this band is a huge plus; over a non-expansive 8 tracks (a perfect selection, really), they demonstrate their own aggressive take on blackgaze, trading in the sprawling epic ambience of their genre mates for more (oxymoronic) focused recklessness. The songs are shorter, yet still constructed in such a fashion to devastate and breathe life into the listener at exactly the correct moments. Beauty and ugliness being a staple component of black metal’s appeal, MØL juggle them with aplomb. Instrumental track ‘Lambda’ is a slower building patchwork of guitar pleasure, alongside the opening two track’s heavier leanings. Vocalist Kim Song describes this approach to “playing metal in major”, with his Danish and English screams and growls complementing the affirmed musicianship of this young band.
MØL may mean moth in the band’s native tongue, but the next couple of years could see them bloom into a free-flying world-conquering form. If that happens and they decide to change their name according, I dig Sommerfugl too.
Pusha T – DAYTONA (25 May)
Much has been said surrounding the release of Pusha T’s DAYTONA: changing album names; the delay of its release; the last-minute shift to the controversial album cover; it’s part to play in Kanye West’s tumult of 7-song releases. But, all that aside, DAYTONA is an unbelievably succinct and accomplished release with little to no filler whatsoever.
Whatever one’s view of Yeezy is, particularly given his headline grabbing antics of late, his production on Pusha’s effort is sublime, letting the music continue to do the necessary talking. The ear for sampling material on this bloke is next-to-none, with ‘If You Know You Know’s high pitched beat accompanying vocal take reclaiming the mastery of Yeezy’s first ever single ‘Thru the Wire’, and the rhythmic switches in ‘Come Back Baby’ show the touch of a perfectionist achieving that acquired perfection.
Considering the main songster, Pusha’s performance is a solid showpiece in this whole album circus (“EP or album?” Just forget it.), with his lackadaisical speed and flow contradicting his extremely frank, urgent lyrics and enunciation. Certain verses go with some violence, some religion, some politics and of course the now-fiery Drake diss which has led to a fairly deliberate and awkward beef, but even his jokey vomit/spit noises and “PUSH” are executed so convincingly that one can’t help but believe in the vocalist’s magnetic charm. Indeed, he claimed that (once the release was finally dropped) the end result was “flawless”, and it’s certainly tough to spot a faulty cog in this well-oiled machine.
How early noughties hip-hop guitar twangs, cartoon crime caper sounding samples, and an eerie Spanish refrain can fit so well together (‘Santeria’) deserves a ton of praise. Not much more really needs to be stated in this overblown commotion: was the long-awaited tapestry of artistic integrity worth the wait? In the most non-pretentious answer possible: you betcha.