Words by Joe Bulger (@notjoebulger)
It’s December, and ‘List Season’ really is in full swing once again. In the year that Drake broke any and every streaming record on, well, record, we’ve enjoyed an absurd amount of great new music. But, as with anything nowadays, you can’t possibly listen to it all – no one has that many ears. To help satisfy that insatiable itch, I’ve gone and rounded up six of my favourite releases from 2018 that I think might very well have slipped under your radar.
Tierra Whack, Whack World
FFO: Noname, Saba, JPEGMAFIA
Must Listen: ‘Hungry Hippo’, ‘Bugs Life’, ‘Pet Cemetery’
Fifteen songs with fifteen accompanying videos, each precisely one minute in length. This is the premise of Whack World, the newly released debut album from 23-year-old ‘Philly’ born artist and rapper, Tierra Whack. Whack – who insists that, yes, that really is her birth name! has attracted a healthy buzz this year for her tongue-in-cheek twist on the most frightful of musical tropes, ‘the concept album’. At a time where rap albums more often than not outstay their welcome, bearing agonisingly self-indulgent run times and very little else (ahem – we’re looking at you, Drake) , Whack World is a breath of cool, springtime air to dust away the cobwebs. Confronting uncomfortable feelings of pain, heartache and trauma with a disquieting sense of humour, Whack World’s wicked charm is indebted to its creator’s powerful sense of imagination – It’s an absurdist trip through the singer’s wonderfully weird mind that leaves you gasping for that little bit more with each and every listen. You think you know rap music? Think again.
Yves Tumor, Safe In The Hands of Love
FFO: Aphex Twin, Arca, Oneohtrix Point Never
Must Listen: ‘Licking an Orchid’, ‘Economy of Freedom’, ‘Honesty’
With his Warp debut, avant-garde producer Yves Tumor finds beauty – hypnotic and at times disconcerting, in the most unlikely of places. Dense and diverse, Safe In The Hands of Love dips its toes in elements of ambient electronic, industrial, noise, pop, rock and almost everything in between without ever sounding diffuse and overbearing. …Hands of Love‘s accessibility is surprising given the album’s modish production choices and otherworldly atmosphere, however at its nucleus this is still a pop record. Sporting an irresistible groove at its backbone, it’s difficult to find yourself not descending into a toe-tapping trance at first listen. Whether or not …Hands of Love will be spilling out of the speaker stacks and onto the dancefloors of the future is another question entirely, however Yves Tumor’s latest effort is nonetheless a touchstone in experimental music.
FFO: Protomartyr, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party
Must Listen: ‘Pain Killer’, ‘Catch it’, ‘Under the sun’
Grasping Shakespearean art rock sensibilities with both hands, Danish punks Iceage find their footing on their fourth full-length album, Beyondless. Spending the better part of a decade carving out their idiosyncratic sound, Elias Rønnenfelt and co. have mushroomed from ragtag protagonists of the Copenhagen DIY scene to some of contemporary guitar music’s most illustrious auteurs. Beyondless is nothing short of a tour de force in pop-punk grandeur, propelling the quartet to dizzying heights that no one, least of all myself, could’ve ever expected. Operatic percussion clamours to be heard over the caterwauling of anxious guitars, whilst the appearance of a horn section, if intermittently, imparts a refined third dimension to the group’s sound. Lyrically, Rønnenfelt is foreseeably cryptic, however there’s a literary allure to his intoxicant drawl that is all too enticing. Arousing, seductive and irrefutably important, Beyondless is the sound of a band at the height of their artistic powers.
Turnstile, Time & Space
FFO: Code Orange, Sum 41, Rage Against the Machine
Must Listen: ‘Generator’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Blind’, ‘High Pressure’
Turnstile – the biggest and without a doubt the most talked about band in hardcore right now have never shied from exacting the status quo. The Maryland punk outfit’s rhythmic, groove-loaded approach to New York hardcore might piss off the “purists”, but to deny Turnstile’s success in bringing such a cloistered subculture back into the spotlight? Foolish at best. Despite signing to the major label Roadrunner Records for the release of their second album Time & Space the band’s foot hasn’t slipped from the accelerator, far from it. Collaborating with EDM bigwig Diplo might not seem like the most obvious step, but one listen to the stonking keyboard lines on ‘Right To Be’ and you’ll be “slamdancing” around the room before you can even say “Wall of Death”. Worried? Don’t be; galaxy-sized riffs and mind-bending breakdowns will do more than enough to pacify even the most fuddy-duddy old heads. With Time & Space, Turnstile have bottled the sense of community, inclusivity, and togetherness that previously only existed in a live environment, somehow making it sound bigger, better and ballsier than ever before. If you thought punk was dead, you clearly haven’t been paying enough attention.
Ross From Friends, Family Portrait
FFO: Bicep, Four Tet, Boards of Canada
Must Listen: ‘Thank God I’m A Lizard’, ‘Project Cybersyn’, ‘Pale Blue Dot’
Essex-born producer Felix Clary Weatherall’s lifelong affiliation with dance music is very much accredit to his father – himself a onetime jet-setting DJ with a taste for the very same ‘80s Hi-NRG disco and Eurobeat spilling out of the soundsystems at the squat parties he would frequent whenever and wherever he could. This heady sense of premillennial nostalgia pigments Ross From Friends debut album, Family Portrait – the producer’s inaugural release on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label. Felix and his peers are the architects of a resurgent interest in ‘90s EDM and house music that delights in endearing pop culture sentiment and rough-hewn, “old school” production. Family Portrait is less of a homage to Felix’s influences and more of a 21st century rundown of the state of contemporary dance music, one that demonstrates Ross From Friends accomplished talents as a not only as a producer, but as a songwriter too. Loaded with personality, palatable instrumental work and poolside melodies befitting of the mainstage, the club and even the afterparty, Family Portrait is an all-important step forward for the young producer.
A.A.L. (Against All Logic) – 2012-2017
FFO: Jamie xx, Floating Points, Andy Stott
Must Listen: ‘This Old House Is All I Have’, ‘Cityfade’, ‘Now U Got Me Hooked’
Ask any EDM fan worth his salt about New York City DJ, Nicolas Jaar and it’s more than likely that the words “danceable” or “listener friendly” won’t be on the tip of their tongue. The mysterious Chilean-American composer is nigh impossible to second-guess. His cerebral musical cocktail of subterraneous techno and dystopian ambience is unpredictable at best and can be completely inapproachable to all but the most diehard clubgoers. Listening to 2012-2017, Jaar’s latest release under his Against All Logic (A.A.L.) moniker, you’d be mistaken for questioning who it was you were really listening to. Retroist samples (listen out for the ‘Yeezus’ sample on ‘Such a Bad Way’) and an unmistakable ear for melody separate the album from the producer’s more unconventional arrangements, however there’s still plenty of peculiarities to keep you ticking over. 2012-2017 is Nicolas Jaar’s most club-ready outing to date – why not put this on at your next party and just let the rhythm do the rest.