The first half of 2018 has been an interesting one in the music world. The Carters in true Carter style dropped an album out of nowhere, old faithful Brit rockers Arctic Monkeys released an album that can only be described as… uhh… divisive, and a bunch of youngins joined the scene to release some really fresh sounds. Here’s a list of some of my favourite albums of the year so far.
Parquet Courts- Wide Awake!
Parquet Courts’ mix of punk, funk and art rock is unlike anything currently in the industry. On their sixth studio album the boys continue to push boundaries and blur genre lines, resulting in a one-hour journey through sonic possibilities. Each song is so dissimilar, but the album is never jarring. ‘Mardi Gras Beads’ is a surf indie bop, which transitions into punk-like riffs at the beginning of ‘Almost Had to Start a Fight..’, which then transitions into the 70s-esque keys that open ‘Freebird II’. It’s an album that’s full of charm and, much like Melbourne’s weather at the moment, will keep you on your toes. Do I bring an umbrella? Will the Parquet Court boys start anthemically singing and break out a violin? Anything is possible.
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever- Hope Downs
These Melbourne-based boys created huge album anticipation after their EP ‘French Press‘ blew-the-fuck-up locally as well as over in the States. Their laid back indie/jangle rock tunes aren’t necessarily changing the game, but this album exemplifies what good indie music is all about: catchy guitar riffs, great lyrics, and stylised touches such as the spoken-word monologue in opener ‘An Air-Conditioned Man’ or their endearingly occa vocals. The single ‘Talking Straight’ has such an infectious chorus it’s easy to imagine the crowd chanting it back to them with a tinnie in one hand and the other up in the air. Their lyrics reflect on issues of masculinity, tyranny, and Australian politics- sliding a witty observation in every now and then. ‘Hope Downs’ highlights and celebrates everything great about the Aussie music scene.
Snail Mail- Lush
At 19 years old, Lindsey Jordan (under the Snail Mail guise) is one of the many baby musicians livening up the scene in 2018. Her debut album ‘Lush’ dropped with great anticipation after 2016 EP ‘Habit’ stirred the masses and created a large following. Her lyrics have a frank innocence that reflects the teen years of hyperbolic emotions: “I’ll never love anyone else” in ‘Pristine’, or “And I hope I never get a clue” in ‘Heat Wave’. But they don’t come across as kitch or saccharine. The production on ‘Lush’ is vivid and colourful, with Jordan’s angst-filled voice and classically trained guitar work at the forefront, accompanied by smatterings of subtle horns and keys. She perfects the catchy indie rock tune (‘Pristine’), whilst also allowing time to develop light and shade (‘Stick’, ‘Let’s Find Out’). It’s a beautifully sad, yet hopeful, set of songs about teenage love. Keep your eye on this one.
Courtney Barnett- Tell Me How You Really Feel
Courtney Barnett is an extremely busy woman; ensuring the success of self-made Milk! records, making an album and touring with Kurt Vile, touring as guitarist for wife Jen Cloher, as well as writing, recording and touring her own music. That hasn’t stopped her from releasing an album worthy of topping worldwide success ‘Sometimes I sit…’.
‘Tell Me How You Really Feel’ sees Barnett turn from sarcastic storyteller to evocative poet. Here second LP is personal and confronting, as she sings about the harsh realities of relationships, prejudice, loneliness and the patriarchy, with one song literally titled ‘Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Self-Confidence’. Gone are the days when she sings about gardening, not being able to smoke bongs, and the housing prices in Preston. Although lyrically heavy, Barnett continues to write catchy guitar riffs and lovable tunes. On ‘Nameless, Faceless’ she sings about being scared to walk in the dark as a woman (confrontingly released at a similar time to the death of Eurydice Dixon), chanting “I hold my keys between my fingers” and “Women are scared that men will kill them” to an irresistible beat. Barnett really is an Aussie living legend.
Janelle Monae- Dirty Computer
2018 has been a life-changing year for Janelle Monae. She’s come out publicly as pansexual, released a six-emmy nominated album, and an accompanying movie. ‘Dirty Computer‘ is an amalgamation of everything we love about Janelle Monae; clever commentary about life in America as a queer woman of colour all sung to an infectious pop/rnb soundtrack. This is epitomised in ‘Crazy, Classic, Life’as she sings about being “Young, Black, Wilid and Free”, and that “We don’t need another ruler/ All of my friends are Kings”. Sexuality is a large theme throughout the album, with suggestive imagery in hits ‘Pynk’, ‘Make me Feel’ and ‘Screwed’ and I’m alllll about it. ‘Dirty Computer’ is unique, powerful and resonates with so many that hadn’t previously had representation in such a mainstream arena.
Beach House- 7
Dream pop crusaders Beach House have returned after a busy 2015, releasing both ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars‘ and ‘Depression Cherry‘ within a few months of each other. Their newie “7” opens with a familiar, yet more sophisticated soundscape. Beach House experiment with darker sounds and it really pays off. The opening note in ‘Pay No Mind’ strikes you like a tonne of bricks. The album is packed with new psychedelic and dark pop influences; creating a set of songs that resonates with old fans, but is still experimental. It’s a difficult task, but Beach House keeps on delivering.
The Carters- Everything is Love
I mean, it’s Beyonce. And she’s rapping.