2018 (we lost our way, in the rain)

Hello. If we’ve been quiet lately, it’s due to the belated realisation (a sobering one, after thirty years of trying to evangelise for our favourite records, starting in the days when our secondhand typewriter was as high-tech as the process got) that writing about music doesn’t feel so worth pursuing in the age of the internet and when you don’t in all honesty have the time, the spark or the audience to make it worthwhile.

But we’re damned if we’re not going to let you know our picks of 2018, because somehow good, good people all across this wretched globe just won’t stop making and curating great music, and everything below deserves your love and attention. For music’s sake, purchase the hell out of these records if you can.

That said, this time next year we might skip writing up our lists here and just sit on a bench outside to yell the names of our top 2019 picks at passing traffic instead.

***Singles of the year***

"I've got an invisible band / that's lovingly constructed"

1. The Hit Parade ”Happy World” (JSH) –with love from the Hit Parade”… an unassuming, self-deprecating, yet pretty-much-perfect platinum pure-pop 7” from Julian Henry and his not-so-stupid band...
2. Fret “Silent Neighbour” (L.I.E.S.) …and this is surely the perfect 12”, from our fave Mick Harris project since Quoit: an immense, powerhouse 20 minutes, with four tunes expertly teasing out the boundaries between industrial noise, wrecking-ball broken techno and walls of feedback dub (as per the all-conquering LP last yr)
3. The Catenary Wires “Was That Love?” (Where It’s At Is Where You Are) – tender, post-Marble Giantsy alleged AA-side of splendid 7” that radiates brittle, delicate beauty and sheer sadness: mind you, the A, “What About The Rings?” is not far behind
4. Joker ft Footsie “Marching Orders” (Kapsize) – hmm, one for Darrell Clarke: lethal Brizzle meets LDN grimestep on the twelves as moonlighting Newham General languidly rolls 3AM vibes over sensational, skewed Joker riddims
5. JK Flesh “Wasplike” (Inner Surface) – more blue riband post-Napalm Midlands techno: a bright, playful, sweetly-pulsing floor-kisser from a man more renowned for industrial and metal heft
6. The Hit Parade “Oh Honey I...” (JSH) - “as Edwyn said, I’m simply thrilled to / play my guitar and talk to you through / a dead medium like this”: oh, but not half as thrilled as we are to listen to you, Julian
7. Azure Blue “Whatever ‘18” (Matinée Recordings) – the addictive, devil-may-care, should-have-been summer hit that wrongly wasn’t, from Gothenburg’s archduke of electro pop nous
8. Memory Drawings “Phantom Lights” (Signal) – the dulcimer-led instrumental marvels paraded triumphantly into our town brandishing this sun-glinting travelogue six-tracker, starring a stunning title track and the “Elegia”-style caresses of “Final Curtain”. Also: *dub inflections*
9. Comet Gain “If Not Tomorrow” / “I Was More Of A Mess Then” (Tapete) – ace 7” double-header return from THEE C.G. - now rostered with Robert Forster on their new German label home - max plaudits for “Tomorrow”, which is sensitive and pretty, yet faster and feistier than their super-reflective last LP
10. P Brothers ”Mentaltainment” (Heavy Bronx) – effectively 3 US-UK A-sides in 1: surly bleeders Milano, Daniel Son and Your Old Droog coax out the rhymes as the Nottingham Bronx regroup & smack down all pretenders with this exhibition of on-fire North American street-corner MCing

“I thought it would make me seem really cool / but all it did was make me lose all of my hair”

11. Various Artists “Themes & Variations” (Osiris Music) – a stellar Osiris v/a twelve: label boss Mønic’s in combative mood on the bracing “Stampede” (though more plague of locusts than rampaging wildebeest); Pessimist’s “Indigo” purveys hangdog St Paul’s crawl; the main Møn & Grebenstein team up to ooze slow-cooking dread with “Cutting The Ties That Bind”; but best of all is the malevolent Dorset drum & bass of Overlook’s thumping “Former Self”
12. Rotten Sound “Suffer To Abuse” (Season Of Mist) – a grind tsunami roars across the Bothia as the frolicking Finnish foursome pummel us with seven slabs of socially astute metallic noise, taking in homelessness, people-trafficking, drug abuse, the 9 to 5 grind and sold-out rivals along the way
13. Sneakbo ft Swavey, Mdargg, J. Boy and Bellzey “Fuck It” (Jetskiwave Records) - past chart-botherer Sneakbo and selected SW2-aligned allies drop the year’s most unforgivingly screwface posse cut, the most potent track from his “Brixton” set
14. Filthy Gears ft Maxsta “Boom & Bang” (1 Forty): Lyrical Strally, Ali McK & Jhuttz "Grime Street" (1Forty) – taken together, these (the lead tracks from the “1FGRM002” and "1FGRM003" EPs), irresistibly team Leeds' 1Forty crew with lyrical talent from the capital: Lewisham’s Maxsta shines over a forward-running grime riddim (shades of Filthy’s ace MC Vapour collabo last yr), while YGG's Lyrical Strally lays waste to "Grime Street" with equal style and character
15. Jook & Jammz “No Remorse” (Sector 7 Sounds) – Jammz gets nippy & Jook gets jiggy as Hackney meets Brighton and general lyrical more-fire ensues
16. The Orchids ”I Never Learn” (Where It’s At Is Where You Are) – easy, teased-out lowkey Scotch-pop skills on the sevens, from the kings of um, lazy perfection
17 Lemzly Dale “Catty” (Sector 7 Sounds) – all-too rare vinyl outing for Lewisham Red Merky Ace as he kills lead tune “What We Do” on yet another sparkling Bristol-meets-LDN 12”
18. Sev Dah “Proletarijat 007” (Proletarijat) – 30 yrs on from “Three English Football Grounds”, we now have a 12” banger dedicated to three Yugoslav football grounds - Poljud (Split), Marakana (Belgrade) and Grbavika (Sarajevo): all via vibrant, 90s-tinted techno stylings that would have graced ZET in the day. Sev remains as stylish and resilient as the Croatia ’18 side this record celebrates
19. Sidetracked / Scum Human split (GrindPromotion) – it’s obv. ace to have Tacoma shortcore fury-mongers Sidetracked back on vinyl, but it’s Vancouver’s S.H. who fly highest on this Italian-released shared 7” pearl, all spot-on spat-out powerviolence rage
20. The BV’s “Every Story Is A Ghost Story” (Cloudberry Records) – wistful Anglo-German popsters brew a tender Cornish cream blend of swirly mid-fi Sarah-ish melodies, the silky reverb of Young Scum, the relatable melancholy of Forest Giants, and Brighter’s flexi classic “Next Summer”: all courtesy of the inestimable Cloudberry

“I’m a dark skin ting, red lipstick / man I rock what I want, don’t business”

21. Jeff Rushin “Between Minds” (Arts Collective) – Amsterdam scene doyen pumps out effortless artist EP of sibilant, futurist, passably Moroderish techno. Toss-up between title track and the Andrew Johnson-ish “New Era” for overall crown
22. Aleja Sanchez “The Acheron Passage” (Illegal Alien) – Colombian skills supreme on Mexican label as Aleja deploys a throbbing, haunting ode to a New Zealand waterway on 12”
23. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks “Middle America” (Domino) – a textbook example of how meaningless lyrics can seem utterly meaningful, when you get everything else right: not wholly convinced by the long-player, but on this one a massively underrated singer-songwriter rolls back the years to Pavement’s “Here”
24. Lioness ft Stush, Queenie, Little Simz, Lady Leshurr and Shystie “DBT Remix” (Lioness) – a razorsharp anti-colourism tirade from Lioness and her many distinguished guests, another standout in a fine yr for posse cuts
25. The Declining Winter “Chimneys etc.” (Signal) – sold-out in seconds (maximum grrr) 7” joy of pencil-sketch tracks from windswept Yorkshire marvels the Declining Winter (before they took to the M62 for the higher-fi “Belmont Slope” LP)
26. Isnaj Duj “Dean Clough C2” (Flaming Pines) - found-sound post-industry basement ambience from Halifax’s most consistent performer since Neil Redfearn, on fetching CD-r into the bargain
27. DJ Overdose “Wires Smoking” (L.I.E.S.) – doyen of the apparently burgeoning The Hague scene (it’s not all war crimes trials and bungling GRU agents) rustles up our top electro tip of the year
28. Myrkur “Juniper” (Relapse) – this properly international 7” (Danish artist, Pennsylvania label, English studio, Colombian producer) is how we reckon Kate Bush would do crossover shoegaze folk-metal. Plus, no track in our top 50 would make a better Scando-noir theme tune than this one
29. Ol’ Dirty Bastard ft Raekwon, Method Man & Macy Gray “Intoxicated” (Damon Dash / 36 Chambers) – few people have released records this great 14 years after they died, but then ODB was always something special: a surprisingly effective tribute from his Wu Tang compadres, for what would have been his 50th birthday
30. Terror Danjah ft Jammz, God’s Gift, Capo Lee, Trigga, Hitman Hyper & Irah “Overproof” (Hardrive) – stellar cast list tells you all you need to know, surely. Spellchecker corrected this to Ovenproof, which pleased us (said spellchecker also stubbornly refuses to recognise ‘Brexit’ – fight the power)

“I’m a missing link between the pig and the divine / I shall cast the pearls before the swine”

31. Shades ft Killa P “Alarma” (Deadbeats) - transatlantic dynamic duo Shades lay down some skulking subterranean beat skullduggery as Killa’s magnetic attraction to the best productions continues
32. Behemoth “God = Dog” (Nuclear Blast) - Gdansk’s finest wrestle with new ways to blaspheme on a surprisingly huggable 7”, settling for the happy medium of a shoegaze-death metal meld, plus some kids on backing vocals
33. JK Flesh “PI.04” (PI Electronics) – sprightly pixel-perfect artist EP from the newly-prolific JKF on which he spread his electro/techno wings for the first (but not last) time this year
34. Arrest! Charlie Tipper “Berlin EP” (Breaking Down) – ever-undersung Bristol stalwarts A!CT officially enter their Berlin period: “I Won’t Fight Your Battles” and “Last Night In Berlin” offer contrasting, but plaintively great, new wave-ified indie thrills
35. Terror “Mental Demolition” (Nuclear Blast) – a raging slab of sullenly old-school hardcore anger (of course) from the L.A. veterans, one which we perhaps identified with a little too readily. But then when even Barbra Streisand has turned to agit-prop, you know it’s time to *resist*
36. Insolate “Proletarijat 005” (Proletarijat) - the erstwhile Miss Sunshine dazzles on 12” with her contribution to Sev Dah’s Proletarijat series, especially the (quick) march of “Ponos” (pride)
37. Sex Prisoner / Harm Done split 7” (To Live A Lie) - Tucson's S.P. improve with every release: their clutch of tracks here are five-star growling powerviolence, all shards of metal and flecks of magic dust
38. Sharky Major “Grime Original” (Grime Originals) "I helped build a scene / that helped man move their mum  from her council flat": the N.A.S.T.Y. Crew don slays on a Biggaman production tip, even before you encounter the remix ft Manga, Fumin, Bruza (yay) and Maxwell D
39. Sev Dah “Proletarijat 006” (Proletarijat) – on which the series of hymns to Yugoslav partisans reached #6, peaking with “Rebellion”’s futurist techYES
40. Little Simz “Offence” (Age 101 Music) – with bravado and admirable purpose, Islington-grown homegirl Simz *razes* it up over low-down deep funk stylings

"Who you elected is so septic, so full of shit, I can't accept it"

41. Wiley “Flip The Table” (self-released) – flamin’ ace war dub freestyle (Dizzee & Skepta take cover) from the indefatigable crown prince of E3 that brings back memories of those Eskiboy and Tunnel Vision mixtapes back in day
42. Quentin Ravn “Apollo” (OFF Recordings) – sulphuric, blasting Bordeaux acid techno on Berlin (of course) label
43. Terror Danjah ft FFS Why Though FFS Why Though?! (Hardrive) - insanely icy, proto-eski beats from Terror, nicely set off by cheeky jab-and-parry rhyming from newcomer FFS
44. Various Artists “Propaganda Moscow - Act IV” (Propaganda) - ace Russian club presents showcase 12” from Jeff Rushin (Amsterdam), Pacou (Berlin), Alexander Babaev (Moscow) and Ctrls (Copenhagen): please note strong correlation between the coolest European cities and mad techno skillz
45. YGG “Strikers” (Astral Black) – Camden-rooted youngsters step up to boxfresh own-right single, illuminated by smart rhymes and quirky metaphors
46. Terrorizer “Caustic Terror” (The End) - cracking LP taster single that clocks in sweetly at just under a minute, despite the extravagance of a drum solo…
47. Mary & Stew “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” (Emotional Response) - Mary EAWS and Stewart 'racer go ‘flexi-crazy’ with unlikely but delectable Meatloaf cover, loosely in the vein of the Mary Chain’s strummed ballads
48. Code Error “Code Error” (Tandang Records) – super Singaporean, post-Wormrot, cassette-pet grindcore
49. Cindy “Creepin’ While Ya Sleepin” (Ravage Digital Series) – whisper it softly, but techno enfant terrible Cindy is beginning to stockpile some abso-cracking tunes behind those uncompromising/oddball song titles
=50. Ice Cube “Arrest The President” (Lench Mob) – at his best, our favourite wish-they-were-uncle Cube was always angry, wise and on-point: and this delivers on all counts
=50. Deicide “Excommunicated” (Century Family) – stinging, still got-it DM (a dinky taster for their “Overtures Of Blasphemy” set) which, despite their ever-advancing years, doesn’t neglect pace one iota
=50. The Wedding Present / Cinerama “White Riot” / “The Name Of The Game” (Where It’s At Is Where You Are) – well, as we’re talking old hands... the Gedge machine lands triumphantly on WIAIWYA with an instantly-sold out covers single to complete that label’s stellar year: and TWP ‘win’ the face-off with “White Riot”, possibly the first cover they’ve done which isn’t twice as fast as the original…

And as usual there were loads of scintillating should-be hit songs that weren’t singles, but modestly tucked away on vinyl B-sides, splits, or EP and LP tracks. So here is a set list we composed entirely of unbelievably ace tunes from 2018 that would no doubt have made the cut had they been ‘proper’ 45s.

***Albums of the year***

"This body is mine, so the decision is mine" 

1. JK Flesh “New Horizon” (Electric Deluxe) – JKF catapults into the big league with this ahead-of-its-time 2xLP set juggling pulsating minimalist grooves with groggy dub techno: simply exceptional (however facetious it might sound, we’re tempted to say it’s his best since “Scum”)
2. Cappo & Cyrus Malachi “Postmodernism” (Village Live) – assured, essential suite of hip-hop poetry and vaguely Taskforce-ish pontification from Notts and Hackney tsars of simile, which we almost missed as it sneaked out halfway through Advent
3. Nothing Clean “Cheat” (Abusive Noise Tapes / Circus Of The Macabre / Force Fed Records / Repulsive Medias / Samizdat Records / SuperFi  Records / Vleesklak Records) – highly lucid Leicester noisemongers destroy all before them in startling 41-tune long-player debut, peppered with newies plus selected ‘hits’ from their two-year parade of split 7”s
4. The Declining Winter “Belmont Slope” (Home Assembly Music) - swiftish on the heels of their willo’ the wisp “Chimneys etc.” the Winter unfurled this higher-fi, if worringly downbeat slew of rustic, post-Hood tumbling in the ferns, abounding with the raw gorgeousness of tunes like “My Divided World”
5. Svalbard “It’s Hard To Have Hope” (Holy Roar) - a title ripe for broken Brexit Britain, but an uplifting and activist suite of searing, passionate Bristolian shoegazemetal that musically alternates the bellicose and brittle: and lyrically takes in sexual assault, feminism, identity politics, the right to choose, worksploitation, and the plight of rescue dogs
6. Death Toll 80k “Step Down” (Svart) – we were really worried they’d gone for good, but they had a last Act in store for us: one of the truly great grindcore combos (up there with Napalm, Wormrot, Nasum and Insect Warfare) returned with this divine selection – topical yrics, too (fur farms, the need for better environmental regulation, the normalisation of fascist views)
7. Azure Blue “Fast Falls The Eventide” (Matinée Recordings)confident, sassy but crucially relatable electro-pop genius from Sweden: yes, a top 10 single and a top 10 album this year, in our world at least
8. Math & Physics Club “Lived Here Before” (Matinée Recordings / Fika Recordings) – M&PC play, with tunefulness and tender care, for all of our entertainment and delight: boasting the best single of 2017 of course plus the REM-tinged should-be-single joys of “Take A Number” or “Broadcasting Waves” etc etc…
9. Born To Murder The World “The Infinite Mirror Of Millennial Narcissism” (Extrinsic Recordings) – FETO-related Black Country supergroup attack modern life, all guns blazing
10. Chas & Dave “All About Us” (Rockney) – it was another masterly comeback from the septuagenarian superstars, pleasingly back on their iconic label, but sadly (R.I.P. Chas Hodges) it was to be their swansong. Listen, if the belting “Nothing You Can Do” isn’t one of the top songs of 2018, then I’m a whole crate of bananas

"Hadron collider / who's there? / Knock, knock"

11. Slam “Athenaeum 101” (Soma) – slinky, thoughtful techno mood music that goes from 0 to 1h01m on the clock, at 101bpm natch, over snug IDM segments
12. Half Man Half Biscuit “No One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut” (Probe Plus) – storytellers, soothsayers, sultans of satire, the four men who shook the Wirral return. Shame they don’t do singles any more though
13. The Perfect English Weather “Don’t You Wanna Feel The Rain?” (Matinée Recordings) – south-coast songsmiths unveil classy travelogue pop
14. Blawan "Wet Will Always Dry” (Ternesc) – Barnsley-to-Berlin leftfield techno magnificence
15. P.L.F. “Jackhammering Deathblow of Nightmarish Trepidation” (Six Weeks) – erm, jackhammering deathblows of nightmarish trepidation, from grind-minded, ever-tuff Texans Pretty Little Flower
16. Dean Wareham vs. Cheval Sombre (Double Feature) – it’s um… slight for sure, but it’s also gentle, wry and lovable: surely the best country crossover album since Jeff Walker took on the classics
17. J Mascis “Elastic Days” (Sub Pop) – yes, he's still going: this is Dinosaur-unplugged but – like the Malkmus, Wareham and Donnelly outings of 2018 – a still-fresh reminder of dark and woozy pop skills. “See You At The Movies” is an utter peach of songwriting, up there with his best
18. Third Eye Foundation “Wake The Dead” (Ici D’Ailleurs) – maybe more grown-up, maybe less playful (aside from the chaotic respite of "That's Why"), but it’s always worth re-communing with Matt Elliott’s haunting, modernist soundscapes
19. Haiku Salut “There Is No Elsewhere” (Prah Records) so pleased they’re still around and dropping these occasional (mellow) bombs on us
=20. Violation Wound “With Man In Charge” (Peaceville) – coruscating, rocky, socially conscious somethingcore (on Doom’s least favourite label!) mixing short sharp shocks with addictive tunes like the enviro-sympathetic title track
=20. Septic Tank “Rotting Civilisation” (Rise Above) – Lee Dorrian’s couldn’t-be-less-like-Cathedral project on solid form, mixing very British hardcore with a twist of grind and getting most of the numbers on the socially-conscious lyric bingo card into the bargain
=20. Terror “Total Retaliation” (Nuclear Blast) – massively ace, severely bludgeoning west coast hardcore with gurning breakdowns and boasting an ace hip-hop interlude, too: there’s even a tune called “In Spite Of These Times”, hopefully inspired by Close Lobsters. Or by us.

***Record of the year that wasn’t really a single or an album***

oh, that'll probably be Famous Problems' 10” mini-LP/maxi-EP thing “Hey! It’s Raining!” on WIAIWYA, although to be honest we’d have been happy as a tic in mustard just to have had “I’d Do It A Thousand Times” as a 7” single!

Closely pursued by Chester P's "P.A.S.T." EP, a several-track digital thing via his own Real Talk records... a welcome, welcome return for the local hero (apart from Bobby Gillespie, Taskforce are probably our nearest neighbours who we own any records by...)

***Gigs of the year***

"I feel like someone's favourite meal / no sweeteners or additives, the flavour is real"

1. Memory Drawings – one spring evening, a revelation: a simply magical swirl of guitarviolindulcimer
2. BMX Bandits & the Popguns – an incurable romantic, armed only with a kazoo, a banana and a formidable band, saves the world once again; with able back-up from the fine songwriting, ace vocals and feral, raw guitars of the resurgent Popguns
3. Emotional Response Sarah Records tour – yes, Even As We Speak, Action Painting!, Boyracer and Secret Shine all in one place on one night (it was something of a shock to have over 1,000 punters read our piece on this in the first 24 hours, instead of the usual three people and a dog, so thanks twitter people and even @sarah_records for the unsolicited but welcome tweets and re-tweets…)
4. Comet Gain – we’ll always love them, like they were our own wayward but good-at-heart children. Despite the thunderous back catalogue since we saw them at the Hope & Anchor over 20 yrs ago, their essence hasn’t changed a bit – more power to them
5. The Declining Winter – this wonderful band graced the Angel on a winter's Saturday night with turbocharged versions of “Why Is It So Elusive?” and “My Divided World”
6. Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony @ the Royal Albert Hall – a profoundly Russian brilliance and flair, courtesy of the BBC Symphony Orchestra
7. Madama Butterfly @ Glyndebourne - TUNE!
8. Obituary @ ULU - early-year moshing as the boys returned to show off skills acquired over 30 years of cultivating rasping, bass-heavy death metal stylings
9. Echo & the Bunnymen at the London Palladium – Upsides: great venue, great songs, unbelievable chandelier. Downsides: didn’t play “Silver”
10. Barnet v Bristol Rovers, FA Cup – the greatest competition in the world, a friendly ground, a sunny day, and a cracking cup-tie with controversy and lots of exciting late woodwork-peppering. All for a tenner (let's cast a veil over everything that happened after that, though)

***Artist compilations of the year***

"lean on a doorframe / make me SHAKE"

1. Monrella “Process & Report EP” (Berceuse Heroique) - yes, Mick Harris had yet another side project, this one dealing in thumping 90s techno (which is fair enough, because it actually was the 1990s). This is a v. welcome 12” that reissues Monrella’s first two ZET singles on one slice of extremely heavyweight vinyl: smilingly shredding stuff for any rave you might care to hold
2. Boyracer “Throw Yr Bonnet Over The Windmill” (Emotional Response) – all-time great UK band turned all-time great US band take a trip down memory lane with this compilation of their Sarah EPs (fact: includes one of the best 10 songs ever recorded)
3. Napalm Death “Coded Smears And More Uncommon Slurs” (Century Media) - utterly barnstorming cornucopia of experimental vs ridiculously fast sounds from the living legends that are ND
4. Arrest! Charlie Tipper “The Astonishing Rise Of Charlie Tipper” (Breaking Down) - Arrest! Charlie Tipper being the latest name of the bostin’ Bristol band formerly known as the CT Conspiracy and the CT Experiment, and doubtless soon to be something else again (Big Time Charlie Tipper?): listen, and be baffled how they don’t get more props
5. Action Painting! “Trial Cuts” (Emotional Response) – essential listening for Sarah-heads, containing all four of the boys’ fantastic singles, even before your head’s turned by a generous dollop of bonus tracks
6. The Mayfields “Compact & Bijou” (Firestation Records) – aah, all the hits (“Deeper Than The Ocean”, “All You Ever Say”, “World Of Your Own”) and more from recent C89ers the Mayfields: but perhaps best of all, the rising intensity of “I Don’t Think So” and its marvellous instrumental section. Aeons overdue, but exceedingly welcome
7. The Wolfhounds “Hands In The Till” (A Turntable Friend) – ghosts of young men recording brilliant Peel seshes: a satisfying nostalgia trip courtesy of east London’s ever-consistent marvels, the Wolfhounds
8. The Love Parade “Out To Sea” (Firestation Tower) – fellow Elston brothers fans, you might not have realised we needed a comp of tLP’s “Liverpool years” (esp after the welcome “All We Could Have Been” reissue), but it turns out we do: this, which includes future Pure standout “Can’t Buy Me Love”, is a treat
9. Napalm Death “Stunt Your Growth” (Church Of Vinyl) – a mere three years from its appearance on their “Apex Predator” LP, “Stunt” and two other archive ND tunes get a limited edition 7” picture disc re-release: utterly pointless, but you simply can’t argue with the brilliance of the music
10. The Fall “58 Golden Greats” (Cherry Red) a sad loss, but this is as good a way as any to capture the breadth of Smith’s formidable back catalogue

And that’s it, I think. No digressions or anecdotes this yr. Hope you liked our Essex Road sunset pic: you can find beauty in the bleakest places. Thanks for reading, and have a fantastic 2019 if you can.


Though we should probably say that – as usual - this list was compiled in various places, largely around N1: the Alma, the Hunter S, the somewhat subtly refitted Duke of Wellington, the Lady Mildmay (a new entry in our end of year pubs list), the newly bio-branded Seveney (let’s face it, it’s always quiet), Trade on Essex Road, and of course the best veggie fry-up places in town – Coffee Corner, Gesya, the old Workers Café (back after a slump), Maya nr Exmouth Market, Gategrill on Goswell Road (when they don't have racists in).
Oh, and you won’t be surprised to know that we didn’t stop at compiling a top 50 singles. So numbers 51-100 included jukebox platters from Overlook again, the Declining Winter again (a superlimited lathe-cut 7" that we obviously didn't get a sniff of, but tDW gave it away on bandcamp as a Christmas present, for which we're suitably grateful), Cub (not Cub the fantastic Canadian indie-pop trio of “Box Of Hair” and “Mauler” fame, nor Cub the sometime indie-maton boys who we once paid to see in Camden wrongly thinking they might be Cub the fantastic Canadian indie-pop trio (etc)… but Cub the Midlands duo of Regis and Simon Shreeve, both top artists in their own right now notching up a new 12” on Downwards, in knowing Pop Group-homage sleeve), Deuce ft Killa P, Queenie, various artists on Connwax (an ultra-obscure handstamped thing featuring Jeff Rushin amongst others), the excellent Matinee Records World Cup EP, Flame 1 (a ridiculously high-kudos collabo between Burial and the Bug creating swooning, dub-encrusted fug-of-weedsmoke d-step), Kid Acne ft Cappo & Jug-A-Naut, GHSTLY XXVII, the Nothing Clean / Hooked on Christ split, Nazar, Riko Dan, Arnaud Le Texier and Insolate, Klaudia Gawlas, Maria Savage, Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, One People Production, Keedz, R.Rose, Groza, Dean Wareham vs. Cheval Sombre, Ten, Ryuji Takeuchi, Nicki Minaj (twice), the Harvest Ministers, Iron Reagan, Lewis Parker, the Perfect English Weather, Meridian Dan ft God's Gift, Flowdan ft Irah “Bodybag”, Boyracer, Wu Tang Clan, Jetstream Pony, Destroyer “New Age”, Slam, White Town, Aleja Sanchez again, Virgil Enzinger, GRM Daily, Carnifex, Flowdan featuring D Double E, GHSTLY XXVII, Nasty Jack, Meridian Dan, Masro, Teddy Music, Filthy Gears and Jammz, Sven Wittekind, Coops, Arms Race, Black Thought, M.I.K, AJ Tracey, Kristin Hersh, the Lovely Basement, the Big However, Belly, Depraved, Monnone Alone, the Churchhill Garden, Earl Sweatshirt, Onyx, DJ Nu-Mark ft Method Man, Erick Sermon & Raekwon…
Oh, and other albums closing on our top 20 came from Cortechs, Cripple Bastards, Trends & Boylan, Memoriam, Micall Parknsun & Mr Thing, Jug-A-Naut, Onyx, Belly (do check the gorgeous we-missed-you comfort pop of standout “Stars Align”), Regional Justice Center, Terrorizer, Deicide, Rolo Tomassi, Behemoth, Sick Of It All…
Biggest Sarah-related disappointment of 2018: being led to believe that the *entire* Sarah back catalogue had been bandcamped & that there would therefore be 1st digital outings for longlost classics like Tramway’s “Boathouse” (a Gregory Webster production!), the Rosaries’ "Anything", Gentle Despite rocker “Torment To Me”, the Golden Dawn’s “Let's Build A Dyson Sphere” and the Poppyheads’ "Pictures You Weave". Essentially, all those bands that posterity hasn’t yet found time to reward with a retrospective on LTM or Cherry Red.
But... biggest Sarah-related unexpected bonus of 2018: being in a Costa Coffee on Cockfosters high street (long story) in dismal mid-December rain when, in the middle of their Xmas playlist they played "If You Need Someone" by the Field Mice. My heart jumped and at the same time, I could have wept with joy. The first time I've heard a Sarah record played in a national chain! Come on, other coffee shops, see what you can do in 2019. "Reproduction Is Pollution", maybe?
Sorry sorry sorry, just one more thing for now... it may be worth mentioning that one of the things we’ll be shouting at passing cars this time next year is “TULLYCRAFT!”, because their forthcoming seventh LP is the bees’ knees and you won’t regret wrestling the good people at Happy Happy Birthday To Me for it in the next couple of months, rather than waiting for us to turn up at the kerbside of your street next winter.

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