Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Round Up

Here is a quick round up of some new tunes and videos to start the year properly.

First up, Los Angeles duo Girlpool has shared the title track from their upcoming album, What Chaos Is Imaginary, featuring strings, synths, drum machines and stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

 

Australia’s Press Club have emerged from the underground punk scene, to become one of the country’s buzziest new bands. This is new single Suburbia, which comes from upcoming long player Late Teens.

 

Similarly born out of a staunchly independent Melbourne scene, The Stroppies meld brash post-punk and highly melodic, catchy indie guitar pop. Drawing on the classic Flying Nun catalogue as well as local pals The Goon Sax and Twerps, their debut was recorded in two days under tight monetary conditions, hammered out in between shifts at the local operating theatre, Turkish kebabs, bouts of existential dread and corporate sabotage. Check out the video for Cellophane Car.

 

Meg Duffy grew up in a small town in Upstate New York and cut her teeth as a session guitarist and touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. The Hand Habits project emerged after Meg moved to Los Angeles; it started as a private songwriting outlet but soon evolved into a fully-fledged band with Meg at the helm. Hand Habits’ debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void), was released by Woodsist Records in 2017. Two years later, Hand Habits has returned with their sophomore album, placeholder, due out March 1st on Saddle Creek. This is the video for the title track, which on its surface is about a break-up. “Oh but I was just a placeholder/ A lesson to be learned,” a scorned Meg sings over a lush bed of twangy guitars. The blame quickly shifts, though, as Meg begins to take on partial responsibility for the partnership’s collapse: “Oh but now you are just a placeholder/ Blinded by desire/ Oh now you’re just a placeholder for someone wasting time.”

 

Following the release of singles New Moon and Stonehurst Cowboy, Steve Gunn has shared a third song off of The Unseen In Between (out January 18th on Matador Records). The gorgeous Vagabond is named after Gunn’s favourite Agnes Varda film, and could almost be the soundtrack to a Denis Johnson short story or Sam Shepard play, with its rich cast of characters whose lives have gone astray – like Mona who “camped out in a graveyard” and Jean-Pierre who “came from the road, his artwork remains unsold.” Accompanied by gorgeous harmonies from Meg Baird, the song is a meditation on our restless times, an ode to the runaways, drifters, and vagabonds trying to make ends meet. Watch the stylish black and white video for the track.

 

Don’t Hesitate comes from Rat Boy’s upcoming new release Internationally Unknown. It is a blend of anthemic aggro punk with boisterous hip-hop beats, all the while maintaining the personality and attitude that first earned him attention. Meanwhile, the lyrics explore a conflict between outlaws and the police during a post-apocalyptic disorder.

 

The Wave Pictures have shared the video for their new single Shelly, which is taken from their recent album Look Inside Your Heart (out now via Moshi Moshi). Singer and guitarist Dave Tattersall describes the track as, “A love song in the laid back style of late 70s Grateful Dead only with even better lyrics.”

 

Ånge Teenage Angst have released Hanging Party a rather tasty debut single of taut anxiety, angst and darkness from the north of Sweden.

 

Oxford has long had a vibrant and eclectic music scene and our good friend Ronan at Nightshift has been documenting it every single month since before we can remember – ever since Mrs Mackerel introduced us more than quarter of a century ago, he has shared some of our favourite music, film and books with us and even taken us to some Wycombe Wanderers games…

Anyway, here is his track of the year from a brilliant Oxford band called Self Help, and an absolute belter it is too.

Last month Self Help were on the cover [of Nightshift], grinning like the kids who got all the cake and deservedly so, since no other band caused such a frenzy of excitement locally in 2018 as this quartet, who could mix pure, unadulterated exuberance with pure, unadulterated noisy bastardness and make it look and sound like it was as easy as breathing and as much fun as a box of kittens. While their live shows were ebullient celebrations of youthful musical zest and belligerent displays of firepower all at once, the band’s new EP showed they could write cracking pop songs into the bargain, and this track, released as a single in November, was everything we love about Self Help: joy as a musical weapon. A song to leap around your living room to, hug complete strangers in the moshpit to, break all your furniture to and sing along to from the top of mountains or tall building. It’s an absolute blast from start to finish, and since it’s just three minutes long, you can rewind and play it again and again til they come to take you away.

Have a listen. Get the EP here.

 

And here, finally, are MM’s own choices for favourite tunes of 2018.

Happy New Year one and all…

 

10 Frog – American
Just love the weary, resigned vocals, the profanity, the irresistible guitar jangle, the gradual build and swell into a furiously strummed coda – it sounds like Americana for the unhinged, which is exactly and precisely why we love it so much.

 

9 Gretchen Peters – Wichita
I have a thing for a southern country drawl and for murder ballads too. On Wichita you get both as Gretchen Peter’s narrates a tale of revenge for a twelve year old girl desperate to protect her sister from what has already happened to her. It’s unflinching and its strong, and its delivered with a gorgeous mix of country twang and smoky, defiant vocals.

 

8 Stick In The Wheel – Over Again
Handclaps, a sing-along chorus, looping guitars and a relentless driving rhythm. Over Again is a modern, follow-no-rules, classic of traditional folk storytelling that evokes bearded men and women in muesli knit jumpers stomping hobnailed boots onto a wooden pub floor and roaring along – all in a very, very good way. Takes a stick of dynamite and rams it up the haemorrhoid ridden arse end of over precious, finger in the ear folkies and deposits rectal shrapnel far and wide.

 

7 Oh Sees – Nail House Needle Boys
What else can I add that Dr. Roddy and Chris T Popper haven’t already said. Overall the worthy song of the year for MM and I’ll stick with my original description: a deliriously scorched excursion around the outer limits of prog-rock and glam, sucking in great gulps of Can, Deep Purple and King Crimson and exhaling them as little more than smoke and ash, drifting down on to the still twitching corpse of psychedelic rock.

 

6 Silverbacks – Dunkirk
Our second favourite Irish band discovery of the year. Dunkirk has one of those insistent, needling guitar melodies that we can never resist. Throw in some laconic, half-spoken vocals and some hypnotic percussion and we’re like a kitten that has just discovered catnip. Thirty seconds in we’ve rolled over and exposed our tummy for a little stroke – it’s that damn good.

 

5 Parquet Courts – Tenderness
I’ve loved following the evolution of Parquet Courts, from scrappy speed-punk to twitchy art-rock and even drawing in elements of rap and dance. Tenderness feels like the culmination of the journey so far – a toe-tappingly catchy slice of upbeat indie-punk built on an irresistible choppy guitar and buoyant piano that, like all the very best songs, seems both simple and effortless when it is far from either!

 

4 Drenge – Bonfire Of The City Boys
Until now Drenge had always seemed to me to be one of those noise-punk duos that seemed to be following rather than leading, just lacking some tiny spark that would properly set them apart from the crowd. Well this is it – Bonfire of the City Boys takes the Big Black template and runs it through a Future of the Left filter to provide a brilliantly menacing and oppressively constant slab of noise punk that is exactly as incendiary as its title suggests.

 

3 FEWS – Business Man
FEWS
are a criminally underrated band. Thankfully they seem to take a healthy dose of resentment and cynicism and channel it into some of the most furious, blistering psych-punk noise that you could ever hope to hear. While other, lesser, bands hog the limelight, FEWS are chipping away at the foundations, creating their own blend of caustic sonic mayhem that in another, better, world sees them headlining Jools Hollands’ fucking Hootenanny and turning all the B and C list celebrities into blubbering cry babies. Business Man is the song that would do it. Just unstoppable: pulsating, discordant, spastic, and violent. Happy New Year!

 

2 Dr. Dog – Listening In
No one does this kind of pastoral, psych-infused Americana as well as Dr. Dog. For years they’ve been cranking out classics with little fanfare and this is just the latest. From the opening verse, we’re on a slightly surreal, kaleidoscopic journey that feels like it would be perfectly at home in Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka world, floating downstream on a chocolate river in a haze of twinkling lights and swirling vanilla flavoured fog, “I can hear the animals talking, I can hear the animals talking, But they ain’t talking to me, Are they talking to you? No, they ain’t talking to me, Who they talking to?

 

1 Fontaines DC – Chequeless Reckless
Let’s be honest 2018 was shit from a global perspective. From the vacuous lies of Trump to the frothing, swivel-eyed racists of our own political right who are hellbent on “taking the UK back” (from whom exactly?) into their halcyon vision of casual racism and colonial fuckwittery. Thank God then for small mercies like Fontaines DC – our favourite discovery of the year – who released two singles of unrivalled brilliance to announce themselves to MM. Chequeless Reckless is the song that summed up all our frustrations and misery of the year in a howling, visceral protest that at least gave us something to thump the steering wheel too as we careered through a year of driving to bloody Peterborough every week.

“An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of the thinking
A phony is someone who demands respect for the principles they effect”

Nothing phony about these boys. Song of the year. Fact.

 

Check out Dr. Roddy’s choices here and Chris T Popper’s here.

Back again like a carrion crow to roadkill. Every year since 2009, Chris T Popper has shared his favourite tunes of the year, and we love him all the more for it…

 

10. Death Valley Girls – Disaster (Is What We’re After)
Whilst the video for this song featuring Iggy Pop eating a hamburger garnered plenty of attention it shouldn’t detract from an absolute belter of a tune. A cracking hook and melody compliment Bonnie Bloomgarden’s raucous vocals. It barrels along like a proper foot stomper should.

 

9. Decemberists – Cutting Stone
I am a big fan of folk horror and this one conjures up dreamy visions of green fields, vales and vistas. Oh and lots of blood. Hats off to Decemberists who consistently serve up this unsettling fare. The album this song (and the excellent Severed) comes from, I’ll Be Your Girl, wasn’t particularly well received, but I love the backdrop of sweeping synths exuding tales of wayward children and a heartbroken lover falling under the Cutting Stone’s spell.

 

8. Silverbacks – Dunkirk
Produced by Girl Band’s Daniel Fox (a good start) this catchy, jittery little number from Silverbacks imagines a future dystopian Dunkirk which despite it’s iconic historical status now exists as a private holiday resort. A marvellous conceit and they follow through with an effective, unsettling moody treat that’s as tight as a gnat’s chuff.

 

7. Ought – Disgraced In America
Disgraced In America by the marvellously monickered Ought caught my ear with absolute gems like ‘I floated round downtown, I floated round Spain. I was like a Dentist, rooting for pain’. The entire vocal by Tom Darcy is brilliantly inventive and engaging while the song’s meandering lack of structure is the ideal accompaniment. You can’t help but follow where he goes.

 

6. Western Scene – Strange But True
The uplifting feel of optimism in Strange But True is impossible to resist. And considering what 2018 has been like let’s be thankful for that. A heartwarming and affecting song that has lifted the spirit crushing gloom of a morning drive to work on many occasions. The message that amazing things can happen outside of your comfort zone is one I’ll try to adhere to a little bit more in 2019.

 

5. Oh Sees – Nail House Needle Boys
Ah man, what a frazzling opening guitar that is. It slithers in to your ears accompanied by the mellow tones of John Dwyer. It’s the song I’ve had most reaction to when I’ve played it to friends. It seems to have an instant effect, the riff is so hypnotic the famous mind bender Derren Brown is suing. Allegedly.

 

4. Ron Gallo – Always Elsewhere
The start of the song sounds like an alarm going off and what follows is a rage against the shallowness that seems to occupy the world, always looking elsewhere and never sated. The shame of FOMO. It’s so packed full of stuff it can take a bit of getting used to. It rushes around against a fiery backdrop of jangling guitars and Gallo’s exhortations to ‘feel what’s real’. Chaotic and unrestrained, top marks Mr G.

 

3. Superorganism – Everybody Wants To Be Famous
A dream of a hook, lazy synths and the deadpan innocence of Orono Noguci’s delivery combine to make this an absolute peach of electronica. Little samples pop up and float off complimenting the melody perfectly; which after one listen is scorched in to your brain long after the final till rings shut. Noguci has some wonderful lines poking fun at our wholesale desperation for fame, whatever the cost.

 

2. Drenge – Bonfire Of The City Boys
Rob Graham’s growling basslines starts up the madness and invites you in – you can keep your boots on. When a song gets aggression right my synapses light up like a Christmas tree and this has oodles of it. The spoken word lyrics keep the fuse burning until it erupts in to a cacophony of drums and guitar. Class war has rarely sounded so good which is useful as it’s probably happening soon.

 

1. Cold Soda – Anna May
Cold Soda is a side project of MM stalwarts The Cave Singers and they have produced a gem of a tune with Anna May. When the melody kicks in the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention and send the message for my goosebumps to immediately join them. This song does what all the best songs do – it instantly transports me to a different world. The arrangement is carefully constructed and deftly executed, the plaintive vocals of Pete Quirk blending in to give it just the right amount of pathos without spilling in to sickly sentimentality. A stunning song that despite repeated listening still works those goosebumps without fail.

 

Check Dr Roddy’s top ten choices here, and check in tomorrow for MM’s selections.

Dr Roddy had been gone for a while trying to make a new life on land. Fuckwit.

I have been absent from the house of Mackerel for a couple of years now, and have missed this time of year so it is nice to be welcomed back to the shoal. What a time to re-join, a bountiful year of boss tuneage.

10 Drenge – Bonfire Of The City Boys
Always nice to receive a playlist with Drenge on it. I have loved these noisy pair of scoundrels for years. Their mix of blues, heavy rock riffs and total noise is right up my alley. This track doesn’t disappoint. Metallic ear assault escorts shouted hate to just the right part of your brain.

 

9 Cass McCombs – Sleeping Volcanoes
The dreamy guitar intro soon gives into a lazy plodding bass line, which sets the scene nicely for this ambling piece of stoner heaven. It has a soporific quality to the vocal delivery. Perfect for lazy summer days or late winter nights.

 

8 Rod Picott – Coal
Great piece of foot stomping country. Rod Picott gets a menacing sound out of the acoustic guitar and delivers us a bleak portrait of life in and around the Pittsburgh industrial scene. I love songs about hard rural life, tough lives, and tough men. Of course I do. I live in Oxfordshire, I’ve got a beard and a plaid shirt….. (to be fair, Dr Roddy is a tough man and rule breaker himself – I once witnessed with my own eyes him lighting a roll-up whilst fielding on the boundary during a cricket match…)

 

7 Cabbage – Arms Of Pleonexia
The Manchester boys serve up a good wedge of fuzz, feedback and fuck you in this track. There are burning questions in the lyrics and the whole piece has a frantic feel about it. Just when you think it’s going to tip up, it gets pinned together by a chorus chanted straight from the terraces.

 

6 The Lost Brothers – Come Tomorrow
I love the feel of this song. It reminds me a bit of “Ruby don’t take your love to town”. Maybe not the most upbeat of tunes, but it seems resigned to its own melancholy and who doesn’t like to wallow in a bit of lost love. If you don’t, you’re probably not drinking on your own enough.

 

5 American Pets – Bad Bream
A perfect piece of 80s synth sounds draped around an upbeat pop arrangement. It belies the depth of regret and misfortune that our protagonist finds himself in. I mean, in the first verse we find that he has smashed his phone screen while “high as a kite”. Then there’s heartbreak and toxic love. All backed up by an awesome bass line.

 

4 Spiritualized – I’m Your Man
In my humble opinion this is a about as good a piece of modern day blues as you are going to get. Perfectly paced, it gathers momentum into a “foot on the speaker” guitar break, which never ebbs into corny, only to fall back into its solemn wonder through the “wasted, faded, permantly jaded…” life of the song.

 

3 Jon Spencer – Hornet
This is just a rollicking good piece of rock and roll. It has a razor sharp riff and a drumbeat that moves the head and feet. All of this with a bass line so cool it could be Rick James.

 

2 Oh Sees – Nail House Needle Boys
This song is the perfect amalgamation of loads of bands that I have loved, The Jesus & Mary Chain, Charlatans, Stone Roses etc…. That is the reason I love it. Many of my musical needs sated in one song. Delivered by a truly talented outfit.

 

1 Katie Toupin – Danger
The feeling that drips of every word that comes from Katie Toupin in this tune is astounding. You get the sense that what is happening is so fresh and that she is talking directly to you. The band seem to encompass the fragile lyrics before they fall apart. Don’t get it twisted though – this song is written from a strong perspective. Get a large drink, turn it up real loud and sit back.

 

Great to have you back Dr Roddy! Check in tomorrow for Chris T Popper’s selections.

We rounded-up and shared a few songs yesterday that we had missed while posting our countdown of our favourite songs of the year. Here is a second helping for you…

First up is Sweden’s Second Oracle who create dreamy soundscapes where flute and organ meets heavy percussion, bass and guitar – twisting and turning psychedelia into new shapes and forms. Check out their debut single Seabird’s Lament.

 

Parquet Courts, Can, Television, IDLES, Protomartyr, PUP, Interpol and Dinosaur Jr. are all staples in Church Girls’ repertoire of rock, indie and post-punk influences. Their forthcoming EP, Cycles, grapples with the dissolution of relationships, and the responsibility one faces in setting boundaries for loved ones who encounter the quicksand of substance abuse. Listen to the excellent No Patience.

 

Nashville-based band The Prescriptions have released the latest single off their forthcoming debut album Hollywood Gold titled Broken Wing. It is a sweet cut of haunting Americana.

 

Trimdon Grange Explosion are an psych folk ensemble from North-East London. Their self-titled debut ranges from original compositions to acid-tinged group instrumentals to songs from the folk tradition, arranged for electric instruments. Check out the mournful and melancholic Weeping And Wailing.

 

angelic milk, the Saint Petersburg based project from Sarah Persephona, is back with their long-awaited debut album Divine Biker Lover. With Persephona’s vocals floating over shimmering guitars, latest singles Celebrate and Acid & Coca-Cola showcases angelic milk’s brand of catchy alternative rock.

 

Northeastern fuzz-rock favorites, Stove, recently released their sophomore full-length, ‘s Favorite Friend, on Exploding In Sound Records. Now they have shared a new music video for album standout, Duckling Fantasy.

 

 

Fine Jewelers is the duo of Dan Helmer (solo Helmer releases on Valcrond Video and Anomia) and Matt Korvette (vocalist of Pissed Jeans). Working at dangerously high BPMs, the duo create neurotic industrial rave music and inhospitable gabber. This is Unreasonable Rider.

 

Having been very focused on our Best of Year tracks recently, we’ve built up a bit of a backlog of new tunes to share, so thought we’d spend a couple of posts catching up and try to slip them in before the end of 2018.

First up, it has been nearly 13 years since his proper debut as Viking Moses, and Baltimore musician Brendon Massei is soon to release his fifth album, Cruel Child. New single Headstrong is stripped back, dark Americana for fans of Cat Power, Will Oldham, and Smog.

 

Keeping the dark Americana theme going, Old Nobodaddy has shared the rootsy, driving rhythm of new single Read ’em and Weep.

 

With a sound that is raw, expressive, and strange, Lonesome Shack’s music is part hill country blues, part urban folk rock, and owes as much to Alan Wilson’s Canned Heat as it does to Junior Kimbrough. The trio have featured a few times on MM and this is new single Past The Ditch taken from upcoming album Desert Dreams.

 

Just shy of two minutes of sonic mayhem from Cowgirl’s debut single She Picks Me Up. The raucous duo mix the Jesus & Mary Chain and the Ramones with the Ronettes, and a soupçon of Beach Boys to thrilling effect.

 

Recalling the early ragged glory of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or the Black Angels, Black Doldrums deal a nicely malevolent combination of heavy drums and sonic ferocious riffs. Listen to the relentless euphoric swirl of People’s Temple.

 

Reverend Beat-Man & Izobel Garcia have announced the release of Baile Bruja Muerto (out in January 2019), this is the video for their blues trash rework of Venom’s Black Metal.

 

Next Year Will Be Mine is an original Whyte Horses track full of joyful eccentric kitsch, chiming Christmas bells and honeyed harmonies…capturing the shedding of one year and the hope of all the next one will bring, wrapped up in wall-of-sound production, so distinctive, that anyone would be forgiven if they thought Phil Spector had a hand in making this record.

Watch / stream it here.

 

 

So here we have it – the top of the pile! Our favourite songs of 2018.

25 Ought – Disgraced In America

 

Way back in January, Montreal based quartet Ought kicked off 2018 with the bright guitar sound and ultimately noisy percussion and spaced-out synths of Disgraced in America. It was a fine start.

 

24 Spiritualized – I’m Your Man

 

I’m Your Man was the brilliant lead single from Spiritualized’s new album And Nothing Hurt. It wraps layer upon layer of gloriously transcendent sound together to create something utterly mesmerising and cinematic, and with a towering guitar solo – where the waves of blissful noise are almost overwhelming.

 

23 Jon Spencer – Hornet

 

Jon Spencer can be relied upon to deliver a sleazy, bone-shaking excursion into the underbelly of classic blues and with Hornet he delivers in spades – growling, primitive and with a suitably buzzing guitar figure.

 

22 Fat Earthers – Letter Bomb

 

We love the Isle of Wight and now we love it even more because it is home to the insane noise of the Fat Earthers whose punked-up garage rock didn’t so much explode out of our speakers, as leave them gibbering in twisted shards of plastic and cable in the corner. There is always one song that gatecrashes our favourites at the end of the year and Letter Bomb is it.  I hope they’re from Ventnor!

 

21 Western Scene – Strange but True

 

A chugging, exhilarating earworm of a song that recalls something of the best of Lord Huron or Wilco, with its irresistible melody and immediate emotional energy.

 

20 American Pets – Bad Dream

 

Sublime, sweetly melodic indie rock. The kind so many bands try to do, and so many fail to achieve. It is impossible not to be carried away on the rise and fall of the harmonies and Bad Dream’s gentle swell of mildly psychedelic beauty.

 

19 Ron Gallo – Always Elsewhere

 

Ron Gallo seems to be one of those absurdly hyperactive songwriters, flitting from one genre to another as though on a never ending quest for musical nectar. That he does it so well seems equally absurd as he rolls out gem after gem in a prolific manner. Always Elsewhere is garage rock, psych-pop, new wave, glam and 70s NY punk. It is jerky, obsessive and compelling and held together by his anxious, exasperated vocals.

 

18 FEWS – Businessman

 

Just unstoppable, pulverising noisy psych built on the most pulsating riff imaginable.

 

17 The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here (Missing Face)

 

After too long an absence Twilight Sad returned with I/m Not Here (Missing Face) which was a driving, motorik anthem, with wailing guitars and swirling synths circling around frontman James Graham’s repeated declarations of “I don’t want to be around you anymore.” Graham describes the track’s lyrical basis as being “about my ongoing battle with not liking myself, trying to be a good person but constantly feeling like I’m failing myself and everyone I care about.

 

16 Young Fathers – In My View

 

As much spoken as sung, In My View is a fractured, down-tempo track set atop skittering percussion and synths.

 

15 Superorganism – Everybody Wants To Be Famous

 

Like a mutated cross between Uptown Top Ranking and some long-forgotten video game, Everybody Wants To Be Famous manages to take its wonderfully kaleidoscopic groove to a whole new level of infectious electro-pop flourescence.

 

14 Dr. Dog – Listening In

 

On their brilliantly assured new album Critical Equation, Dr. Dog barely put a single foot wrong, and an absolute standout for us was Listening In. Another exceptional example of their warm, psych-infused Americana, carried along on metronomic percussion and a typically plaintive and questioning vocal.

 

13 Phosphorescent – Christmas Down Under

 

The introspective smoulder and slow burn of Christmas Down Under is a pedal-steel led tale of surreal Americana. One for the sunset and the open road…

 

12 Katie Toupin – Danger

 

After a long stint with Houndmouth, Katie Toupin’s first foray into solo territory resulted in the bluesy rock of her debut EP Moroccan Ballroom. The raw, haunting beauty of Danger mixes heartbreak with a smattering of grit and her always stunning vocals to create something very special indeed.

 

11 Fontaines DC – Chequeless Reckless

 

Our third and final entry from Fontaines DC – back in February we said we were pretty sure Chequeless Reckless would end up in our best of the year lists and so it proves. Channelling past masters like the Modern Lovers, The Fall and Iggy Pop, as well as contemporaries like Idles and Shame, Chequeless Reckless is built on a driving, hypnotic, kraut-rock infused cyclical riff, and some scalpel sharp lyrics.

A sellout is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money,
An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of the thinking
A phony is someone who demands respect for the principles they affect
A dilettante is someone who can’t tell the difference between fashion and style

 

10 Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Billy The Kid And Geronimo

 

In the rich vein of classic country like Pancho and Lefty, the fantastical Billy The Kid and Geronimo – about an imagined meeting between the two 19th century outlaws whose lives became the stuff of legend in the American West has Gilmore, who is part Native American, voicing the thoughts Alvin wrote for Geronimo, the Chiricahua Apache chief who was one of the last Native American leaders to abandon his resistance against white colonisation of the American Southwest.

 

9 Decemberists – Severed

 

Channelling their inner New Order and 80’s electronic new wave, the Decemberists delivered another left-turn in their long career with I’ll Be Your Girl. Chief among them was Severed, all fuzzy synths, rolling bass and an unrelenting guitar riff. The juxtaposition of shiny, shimmering melody and bleak lyrics was just the icing on the cake.

 

8 Cold Soda – Anna May

 

Cold Soda is a Cave Singers side project, and Anna May is brilliant, brooding Americana, built on a sinewy rhythmic groove and Pete Quirk’s ominous rasp.

 

7 Silverbacks – Dunkirk

 

Brilliantly delivering their own louche take on NYC-indebted rock, Dublin art-punks Silverbacks’ single Dunkirk is underpinned by an insistent, nagging bassline and creepy crawly guitar lines, it provides the ideal vehicle for frontman Daniel O’Kelly’s stream of consciousness ramblings about martial strife, the perfect sandcastle and spotting a con artist when he sees one. The track lurches forth, pressure building from the undulating backbeat and layers of skronking guitars accenting Daniel’s increasingly frazzled yelps before finally collapsing into a sugar sweet coda.

 

6 Rod Picott – Coal

 

Coal is a tough track. A hard-driving, unflinching snapshot of an industry’s decline. It is a world of darkness, small enclosed spaces, rusted machines and steel tied boots. It is simple, unadorned folk storytelling at its spartan best.

 

5 Quiet Hollers – Addicted

 

Addicted is a powerful rumination on opiate addiction – Quiet Hollers frontman Shadwick Wilde has struggled with addiction since adolescence. Although he didn’t intend for it to be a “drug song” necessarily, its inception came at a time when his family was struggling with the loss of his mother’s brother, who died of a fentanyl overdose so he felt it was important to acknowledge how deeply vulnerable we all are to these things, and how serious that problem really is. The track is a perfect mix of alt-country shot through with grungy guitars and a resigned honesty shared through fittingly world weary vocals.

 

4 Dan Mangan – Peaks And Valleys

 

Dan Mangan is a restless troubadour, from the earnest straight up folk of Postcards & Daydreaming to the darkly experimental Club Meds, he has always been both an explorer and an observer. Peaks and Valleys comes from new record More or Less and is a up-tempo, easy going reflection on the simple things in life and the wisdom and understanding that comes with getting older. Sometimes the most obvious things can be the most revealing and so it is with this lovely reminder that optimism is not a bad weapon to have in these turbulent times.

 

3 Drenge – Bonfire Of The City Boys

 

It started with a bang” the opening line from Bonfire of the City Boys could almost be a prediction as a stuttering, repetitive bassline starts up and Eoin Loveless’ spoken word vocals cut in over the top before a crushing guitar riff takes centre stage. Heavier than they’ve ever been, with a sound more akin to Future of the Left, Bonfire of the City Boys is four minutes of joyously ferocious hardcore.

 

2 Decemberists – Cutting Stone

 

Like one of their classic ornate folk fantasies turned dark, appropriately enough Cutting Stone is cut through with a synth accompaniment that brilliantly contrasts a brittle, futuristic feel to Colin Melloy’s literate and verbose tale of wayward children and dying brides.

 

1 Oh Sees – Nail House Needle Boys

 

Nail House Needle Boys – a deliriously scorched excursion around the outer limits of prog-rock and glam, sucking in great gulps of Can, Deep Purple and King Crimson and exhaling them as little more than smoke and ash, drifting down on to the still twitching corpse of psychedelic rock.

 

Check out the rest of our countdown: 100-76 here, 75-51 here and 50-26 here.

Into the top half of our favourite songs of the year. Here are tracks 50 through to 26.

50 Murder By Death – True Dark

 

Murder By Death have built a career on gothic country rockers and sun-baked desert folk, yet even after all these years they still manage to surprise and True Dark is them at their twangiest best.

 

49 Fontaines DC – Too real

 

The second entry for Fontaines DC. The band’s latest single, Too Real is another storming track of undeniable power and swagger that just begs to be played loud, and on repeat.

 

48 Frog – American

 

Stripped back, insistently sparse folk and a lyrical gem, “Yes by God I’m American, God is great he’s hilarious, What the fuck y’all staring at? Tall, dark, bald and arrogant”

 

47 Shame – Gold Hole

 

We know this isn’t strictly a new song this year but we’re claiming editorial immunity and sneaking it in anyway as it does feature on London punks Shame’s debut long player that came out at the beginning of 2018. Gold Hole is an uncomfortably close-to-the-bone story of a lecherous older man buying the affections of a young girl – it is seedy and sordid and brilliantly observed. “Sweat stains the wrinkles/Tongue touches the hole, She feels so dirty, she knows that it’s wrong, But she feels so good in Louis Vuitton.

 

46 Conor Oberst – No One Changes

 

Is there anyone else who can make melancholia sound so stunningly gorgeous? No One Changes is an introspective, sombre beauty, as elegant as it it fragile.

 

45 Oldermost – The Danger Of Belief

 

Creating era-blending Americana-infused rock & roll with a more indie rock vibe, rollicking, anthemic  single The Danger of Belief was made for a long straight highway with the windows down and the volume up.

 

44 Kurt Vile – One Trick Ponies

 

A highlight from his most recent album, One trick Ponies has all the trademark Kurt Vile ingredients: woozy guitar lines, mumbled stream-of-consciousness lyrics, sly humour and a touch of the surreal. But this is a generous, big-hearted song and the hazy sheen he coats it in just adds the prefect amount of gentle bonhomie.

 

43 Cass McCombs – Sleeping Volcanoes

 

Almost without noticing Cass McCombs has become one of our most influential and important songwriters. Sleeping Volcanoes, the thematic centrepiece of his upcoming album, is a delight of pensive, dreamlike rock, albeit anchored by a rumbling groove and his world-weary vocals.

 

42 Wing Defence – Stuck

 

Aside from the netball connotations, Aussie duo Wing Defence delivered a sublime single of indie pop with Stuck, the infectious melody is of major earworm quality, and shot through with a core of wonderfully bitter lyrics.

 

41 Sunflowers – Castle Spell

 

The pulverising riffing and chanted lyrics of Castle Spell combine into a freakbeat spectacular of psyched-out space rock – like Silver Machine on speed.

 

40 Mary Gauthier – The War After The War

 

Rifles & Rosary Beads was an album that was four years in the making, it is a collaborative record in the sense that the eleven songs were co-written with wounded veterans in the SongwritingWith: Soldiers retreats. Taken from the album, the heartbreakingly poignant and evocative The War After The War, with its gorgeous violin backdrop and insistent guitar had one of our favourite opening verses of any song we heard this year.

Who’s going to care for the ones
who care for the ones who went to war?
There’s landmines in the living room
and eggshells on the floor

 

39 Death Valley Girls – Disaster (Is What We’re After)

 

Awash with a swirling riff and Thor-like percussion, Disaster (Is What We’re After) is a churning, boiling psych-punk rocker that rides its undeniable, repetitive groove like a drunken cowboy at a rodeo.

 

38 DBUK – In San Francisco Bay

 

DBUK, a side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club will return early in the new year with their second album. The first single In San Francisco Bay is a southern gothic four-de-force. Hypnotic, mesmerising and menacing – think of it as the musical equivalent of a naked preacher sat in a box full of venomous snakes.

 

37 Cabbage – Arms Of Pleonexia

 

Blending social comment with mordant black humour and a keen eye for detail, Arms Of Pleonexia was a savagely frenetic addition to Cabbage’s rapidly growing collection of brilliantly observed post-punk anthems

 

36 American Wrestlers – Ignoramus

 

Described by American Wrestlers (aka songwriter Gary McClure) as “a weird little country song with hokey lo-fi strings that bent into black memories“, Ignoramus is all that and more – in fact we’d go as far as to say it is a snidely understated masterpiece.

 

35 Stick In The Wheel – Over Again

 

Over Again is classic British folk story-telling. Hurtling along on the back of an irresistible melody, it begs to be sung along to (and there’s even room for some handclaps).

 

34 Laura Gibson – Tenderness

 

Laura Gibson’s album Goners explored themes of grief and loss and a standout was the haunting and beautiful Tenderness. An intimate and somewhat pensive fable that reflects, almost dreamlike, on how we project pain and lash out, holding on to each other’s trauma and sorrow. “Certain men can smell a wound a room away, you are melancholy well, beauty only made you lonelier

 

33 FEWS – Paradiso

 

Paradiso from brilliant Anglo/US/Swedish noiseniks FEWS was yet another example of their slashing, incandescent guitars and ferocious, pummelling percussion.

 

32 Yves Tumor – Lifetime

 

We’re allowing Polly Pocket this one… a multi-faceted tune of bright, crisp synths, ethereal backing vocals and relentless, unforgiving drums that call to mind Disintegration era Cure.

 

31 Lost Brothers – Come Tomorrow

 

A gently insistent folk song complete with the duo’s trademark tender harmonies and sense of bruised heartache. It is an absolute gem of a tune.

 

30 She Makes War – Undone

 

She Makes War (aka Bristol based artist and multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd) wrote Undone in a daze the day after her grandmother Constance died last May. The song’s monster guitars deliver palpable rage at the bad things that happen to good people, acting as an openhearted rallying cry against the British stiff upper lip brigade. “We need to give ourselves a break”, she says. “Giving ourselves time to feel devastated doesn’t make us weak.

 

29 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Bellarine

 

A brilliant debut album and a brilliant rolling track of jangling guitars and driving motorik percussion.

 

28 Interpol – The Rover

 

The Rover opens with ringing guitars and percussion taken directly from Krautrock’s halcyon heyday. It is a relentless, menacing rush of pure rock’n’roll.

 

27 Gretchen Peters – Wichita

 

Where would we be without a good murder ballad? This is classic country story-telling given a contemporary twist as Gretchen Peters brilliantly sketches a tale of a woman driven to desperate measures to protect her little sister from a predatory male.

 

26 Parquet Courts – Tenderness

 

Ever since the brilliant Stoned and Starving, Parquet Courts have shown an uncanny ability to create some of the catchiest, toe-tappers around, whilst still managing to diversify their sound into new genres and styles. Tenderness is up there with the best of them – surprisingly slinky, jaunty and knowingly insecure, “Like a junkie going cold, I need the fix of a little tenderness“. We can all relate to that.

 

Check out tracks 100-76 here, and 75-51 here.