The end of 2018 is approaching, we had a look back on the music brought to us this year. From up-and-comers to arena-sized icons, these are the albums that have stood out from the rest…
Since forming in 1994, Muse have released seven studio albums, selling over 20 million albums worldwide. On the 9th November they released Simulation Theory, now their eighth studio album and yet another to have major chart success. Simulation Theory peaked at number 1 in various album charts around the world, including the UK Albums chart, making it their 6th album to reach the number 1 spot. Featuring singles such as ‘The Dark Side’, ‘Something Human’ and ‘Thought Contagion’, Simulation Theory is a mix of rock, synth-pop and electronica that only Muse could effortlessly blend together.
Standout tracks: ‘Pressure’, ‘Dig Down’, ‘Algorithm’
2019 marks Take That’s 30th Anniversary. To celebrate their milestone, the band announced a massive UK tour and released Odyssey, a compilation of re-imagined greatest hits album that takes the listener on a journey through the incredible musical history of one of the UK’s most successful bands of all time. The album features a host of special guests as well as three brand new tracks, including ‘Out of Our Heads’, a pop ‘skiffle’ influenced song that will put a smile on anyone’s face. Odyssey is both a celebration of Take That’s past and present, an emotional journey through all their incarnations. The album is peppered with soundbites from their life, building a historical narrative around the songs.
Standout tracks: ‘Out of Our Heads’, ‘Pray (Odyssey Version’, ‘Greatest Day (Odyssey Mix)’
Paul Heaton is one of the UK’s most effortlessly talented and gifted songwriters/musicians. With a career stretching over 30+ years, being a part of the highly influential Housemartins and The Beautiful South, then formulating a very successful solo career and collaboration with former Beautiful South vocalist, Jacqui Abbott, Paul Heaton has conquered the music industry and won the hearts of music listeners and critics alike. Rightly titled The Last King of Pop, the album is filled with all his perfectly written and well-loved hits from start to finish, including ‘Don’t Marry Her’, ‘Happy Hour’, ‘You Keep It All In’ and ‘Flag Day’, among so many others. Right at the end are two very special surprises for both existing fans and new ones- a 2018 re-recording of the classic ‘A Little Time’ and a brand-new Paul and Jacqui song, titled ‘7” Singles’. The album has been cleverly put together to ensure every track keeps the listener excited. There isn’t a dull moment, no dry spell. It is an album of art, crafted to please.
Standout tracks: ‘7” Singles’, ‘Happy Hour’, ‘A Song For Whoever’
The influential Wirral five-piece released their critically acclaimed new album Move Through The Dawn in August. Since the release of their debut EP in 2001, The Coral have sold over a million UK albums, with five reaching the Top 10 including 2003’s chart-topping ‘Magic and Medicine’. Their eight Top 40 singles include ‘Dreaming Of You’, ‘In The Morning’, ‘Pass It On’, and ‘Don’t Think You’re The First’. The follow-up to 2016’s psychedelic masterpiece Distance Inbetween, Move Through The Dawn is an album filled with perfectly crafted songs, melodic and hopeful. In true Coral fashion it is also eccentric; informed by 60s and 70s music but hardly beholden to it, and very much with its own character.
Standout tracks: ‘Reaching Out For A Friend’, ‘Sweet Release’, ‘Eyes Like Pearls’
Former Talking Heads frontman released his first solo album in 14 years in March. Titled American Utopia, it confronts big questions concerning American politics and society, in Byrne’s own quirky, melodic way. It follows on from 2004’s Grown Backwards and proves that the Jack-of-all-traits artist has still got it. Reaching number 3 in the Billboard 200 charts, American Utopia is one of his most commercially successful solo albums to date.
Standout tracks: ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’, ‘It’s Not Dark Up Here’, ‘This Is That’
Following its release in April, Blossoms second album Cool Like You has amassed over 18,000,000 streams worldwide. The album charted at number 4 in the UK album chart and spawned the anthemic singles, which earned the album high praising reviews from NME, Clash Magazine and The Guardian.
Standout tracks: ‘I Can’t Stand It’, ‘There’s A Reason Why (I Never Returned Your Calls)’
His fourth studio album as alias Blood Orange, Negro Swan sees Devonté Hynes capture the feelings of what it is like to be a person of colour in today’s politics, society and culture. The album features perfectly crafted lyricism that serves as a commentary on racial issues, laying on top of a mix of R&B and alternative-indie.
Standout tracks: ‘Smoke’, ‘Charcoal Baby’, ‘Chewing Gum’
A concept album about a dystopian future and Johnny Dream (singer Tom Haywood’s on-stage persona), The Blinders give dark commentary to society on Columbia, incorporating influences of protest songs to give a cry for change on negative aspects of today’s world. A snarling whirlwind of indie-punk, The Blinders second album cements them as one of the most exciting new bands to come out of the UK.
Standout tracks: ‘Gotta Get Through’, ‘Brave New World’, ‘Et Tu’.
The third album to be released by Pusha T, Daytona was produced entirely by rap icon Kanye West and even recorded at his ranch. This collaboration accentuates the talent that Pusha T has for rapping- spitting clear, concise hooks that are a breath of fresh air in the sudden rise of ‘mumble rappers’. Priding himself in authenticity, Pusha T puts thought and time into his music, igniting that combination of energy and rawness to make an album any great rapper would be proud of.
Standout tracks: ‘If You Know You Know’, ‘Hard Piano’, ‘Infrared’
As always, The 1975 have blown fans and critics away with the release of their third album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. Despite being released just two weeks ago, it’s become a worthy contender for album of the year by the likes of The Independent, Evening Standard and Billboard, with the latter calling it “timeless”. The synth-pop quartet saw the album debut at number one in the charts, which is not uncommon for them. The conceptual collection stills bursts with classic 1975 electronic sounds but elevated with new levels of maturity and clarity that the band have been working towards.
Standout tracks: ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, ‘Give Yourself A Try’, ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’
Little Mix have had an incredible year. Not only have they dropped one of the most empowering albums of 2018 but they also toured relentlessly and saw arenas sell out. LM5 not only highlighted how much the X-Factor winners have developed their style in the last seven years together, but also featured guest vocals by Nicki Minaj for the mighty ‘Woman Like Me’. It was highly praised across the board for their variety in style yet consistency in ballads that scream female solidarity. Pop fan or not, this is an explosive album that will strike a chord with any listener.
Standout tracks: ‘Woman Like Me’, ‘Strip’, ‘Told You So’
The quality of Children of Zeus’ debut album Travel Light not only matches the time and effort that was put into it’s creation, but proves that soul and hip hop know no limits. The Mancunian duo have captured an audio journey of persistence, disenchantment, growth and balance which strikes the perfect balance of nostalgic 90s RnB and innovative soul. There’s no wonder why Children of Zeus have been championed by the likes of Stormzy, DJ Target and Rag’n’Bone Man as UK Bass Music referred to their work as “a very powerful album, full of soul bearing and heartfelt sentiments and also one will that will certainly stand the test of time.”
Standout tracks: ‘The Story So Far…’, ‘Kintsugi’, ‘Vibrations’
Only released a month ago, the eclectic producer Anderson .Paak has wowed audiences with his third album Oxnard, named after his hometown in California. Featuring collaborations with J. Cole, Pusha T, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar to name just a few, as well as Dr. Dre standing in as executive producer, this is a soulful hip hop masterpiece. Oxnard is the final installment of his “beach series” which includes Venice (2014) and Malibu (2016) and rounds off the era perfectly as his progression as an artist shines through.
Standout tracks: ‘Tints’, ‘Anywhere’, ‘Trippy’
Described as an “interstellar debut” by Clash, The Vryll Society have hit the ground running this year. Having produced a series of critically acclaimed singles over the last few years, including live stalwarts ‘A Perfect Rhythm’ and ‘Shadow Of A Wave’, to say Course of the Satellite highly anticipated is an understatement. The Liverpudlian five-piece explore space rock, trip hop and psychedelia through glowing melodies, charging drums and inventive bass lines, and ensure each element of the songwriting shine through clearly.
Standout tracks: ‘Shadow of a Wave’, ‘Andrei Rublev’, ‘Give In To Me’