Here’s a digest of the album released in January 2018:
Sunderland’s Field Music produce angular, prog-inflected pop music with strong melodies. Never predictable and drawing on influences from principally XTC, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads and Steely Dan their latest album Open Here should win them new fans.
The second album since his comeback (one that began in 2015 with the Big Narstie-abetted UK garage track When the Bassline Drops and peaked with his chart-topping 2016 album Following My Intuition) by no means disappoints on the cringe front.
Their third album is as eclectic as ever, a winning meld of sunny harmonies, pulsing Krautrock rhythms and psychedelia-tinged vocals, all refracted through the prism of dance music dynamics. But this time there’s a welcome economy to the songwriting and nothing outstays its welcome.
It all begins unexpectedly – with a wordless chorale “ooh”-ing prettily. For his seventh studio album, German post-classical composer Nils Frahm has expanded his previous core solo piano brief – a brief that was, admittedly, always highly individual.
Premiered live in 2015, Landfall is Laurie Anderson’s electro-acoustic song cycle on Hurricane Sandy, the October 2012 storm that devastated huge parts of North America – including Anderson’s New York apartment. As she narrates her nightmare, the arrangements of David Harrington’s Kronos Quartet tell the story sonically.
Marmozets second album is the work of a band who’ve suddenly had time to think about the world and their place in it.
There are still plenty of their trademark screams, distorted guitars and blast beats, which enthusiastically nip at pop like a pack of pesky Jack Russells. However, the rapidly maturing band are also dabbling with rave-type breakdowns, euphoric pop rushes, and even – in Me and You – a (gulp) tender ballad about dreams of a better world.
On their fourth effort, First Aid Kit sound more hurt than ever, if just as mellifluous. Johanna and Klara Söderberg wrote the album when the latter was reeling from a break-up, trying to achieve resolution through the band’s signature balm.
Tune-Yards’ drew freely from global styles across three alt-pop albums, are too curious an artist to accept a free pass, and wrestles thorny issues of race, privilege and platform on their fourth. “I use my white woman’s voice to tell stories of travels with African men,” she sings on the crunching, pulsing Colonizer, “I smell the blood in my voice.”
Born in the Essex badlands from a motley background that includes dubstep and hard rock, Stick in the Wheel conform to none of the lazy stereotypes that surround folk music. Their 2015 debut, From Here, arrived like a punk manifesto; urgent, abrasive, with no contrived antique accents, jangling guitars or prettification of the hallowed tradition. This follow-up maintains their fierceness while broadening their sonic palette and embracing a more diverse approach in its 50/50 mix of standards and originals.
Many a band has stumbled trying to take a cult following with them into the uber-mainstream. However, since re-forming in 2013, Fall Out Boy have edged further away from their emo/pop-punk roots while continuing to top the US charts.
Reworking of the fifth studio album Heartworms. The running order is reversed, and every song is in a different style to the original. By and large, the top-line melody remains intact, but everything else – instrumentation, tempo – is altered. It’s neither better nor worse than Heartworms – which itself was very much a mixed bag – but the pleasures come in different places.
Brighton’s Go! Team, a shape-shifting beast ever since 2004 debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike– a punked-up hybrid of Saint Etienne’s indie dance and the Avalanches’ hip-hop sampledelia – listed in the direction of wistful indie on 2015’s The Scene Between. But 2018, sonic architect Ian Parton decided, needed a Berocca-style boost, a psychedelic marching band to blast away global gloom.
This Americana artist of dual Mexican/US heritage is saying something quite specific on songs like the moving elegy for America, Twins, abetted throughout by an eloquent rock band and a post-War on Drugs spaciousness: that the many cultures making up the US will not be intimidated, and guys like him aren’t going anywhere.
BRMC mapped out their territory on their 2001 debut – essentially, dark and scuzzy black-clad rock – and have barely moved from it since. Their eighth album is another solid affair, from the Mary Chain menace of Spook to the slow-building guitar wig-out of standout Ninth Configuration, not to mention the unexpected Shaun Ryder vocal stylings on the queasily lurching, fairground-evoking Circus Bazooko.
The most significant musical anniversaries of 2018 are all centenaries – of the births of Leonard Bernstein and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, and of the death of Claude Debussy, and it’s the last of those, which falls in March, that is attracting the attention of record companies. Warner Classics has got in early with its 33-disc set that aims to include everything Debussy wrote, from his earliest songs of 1879-80 to the three sonatas composed during the first world war, as well as his own transcriptions, and arrangements of his music made by others during his lifetime.
The British multi-instrumentalist Tony Woods has made only four albums in 20 years with his folk jazz Project band, but they all fuse the communality of song with an upbeat, jazzy urgency. Woods’s folk roots are immediately declared in the skipping, pitch-sliding soprano sax melody of Queen Takes Knight, but the jazz connections are also plain in Rob Millett’s glowing, Gary Burton-esque vibraphone sound, and in Outram’s restrained, sporadically wailing chord work.by