Grimes made a stomping return at the tail end of the year with this hulking electro-rock number. Featuring longtime collaborator Hana, it’s undoubtedly one of her most aggressive tracks to date full of distorted guitars and punchy drums as she gives the robust, hard rock sound of Nine Inch Nails a distinctly 2018 feel.
Stockholm’s Viagra Boys seized our attention with the release of their new EP ‘Sports’ earlier this year. Brimming with tongue-in-cheek humour, ‘Sports’ parodies a particularly American brand of masculinity with most of the lyrics naming different types of ball. With its scuzzy riffs, big meaty basslines and drawling vocals, it’s a brilliantly gritty slice of post-punk.
Matt Maltese has cultivated a cult-like following around the UK thanks to his clever storytelling, soaring, sardonic anthems and lush arrangements. Marking a significant step forward for the artist, he produced one of the most addictive jams of 2018 in ‘Greatest Comedian’; an exceptionally clever piece of songwriting that displays Maltese’s staggering abilities as a lyricist. Romantic as it is sardonic, his lyrical etchings are delivered against sweeping strings and hooky basslines with the lush production coming from Foxygen’s Jonathan Rado
Glasgow-based CRYSTAL stepped things up a gear this year with a series of memorable shows including Wide Days, Electric Fields, Kelburn Garden Party and Tenement Trail. It was the release of ‘Heaven’ at the start of the year though that confirmed all our suspicions; CRYSTAL are a band going places Carving out a thrilling new path with a renewed sense of focus and remarkable vitality, Wolf Alice meets Queens of the Stone Age on the track; an infectious blend of jagged guitars, propulsive rhythms and irresistibly catchy choruses.
The follow-up to Brockhampton’s Saturation trilogy proved a wildly exuberant and varied listen. While their previous records allowed individual members to hone their talents through competition and collaboration, Iridescence builds on that unrestrained youthful energy and recalibrates their winning formula following Ameer Vann’s much publicised departure. The result is a boldly eclectic and adventurous record that is testament to all the group stand for- diversity, acceptance and growth. One of its many highlights is ‘San Marcos’; a stripped back ode to the Texas city where they formed which builds into a moving singalong choral crescendo.
After rising to fame with their Daft Punk collaboration in 2017, Australia’s Parcels unveiled their self-titled debut this year after much anticipation. Brimming with infectious, disco-tinged singles and steady toe-tappers, ‘Tieduprightnow’ is undoubtedly one of the band’s finest moments with its joyous pop chorus and breezy vocals. Channelling the funky glitz of Chic, it’s a song that will make you yearn for summer
Little Dark Age marked a massive return to form from US psych-pop pioneers MGMT and sitting right in the middle of it was the euphoric ‘Me And Michael’. Inspired by a shared love of European synth-pop, the track is a shimmering ode to friendship; an openhearted anthem built on sparkling guitars and keys right out the 80s
Emerging from the shadows after over a year of radio silence, we were delighted to welcome back Glasgow’s electronic aficionados Crash Club who last month dropped a brand new song in ‘Boost’. A mighty return from the group who have made a name for themselves thanks to their deeply engrossing and hard-hitting live shows aswell as their penchant for invigorating, rock-inflected dance music, the new song perhaps marks an exciting new era for the outfit and features input from none other than Jagz Kooner, the man behind Primal Scream’s iconic ‘Swastika Eyes’. Foregoing the use of a guest vocal and the impassioned anthemic stylings of previous singles, an element that has become a staple of their work in the past, ‘Boost’ instead focuses on climactic dance beats and the kind of immersive soundscaping that recalls the work of Giorgio Moroder. Transcendental and exquisitely executed, it’s yearning to be played in the depths of a club in front of a receptive audience.
The release of the blistering ‘Suis-Je Cool?’ heralded the almighty return of Glasgow quartet The Van T’s last month. After spending the majority of the year holed up in the studio and rehearsal room, honing in on their sound and forging new ideas, the track is the first piece of new music to be heard from the band in over a year; and it’s the kind of incendiary blast of alt-rock we’ve all been waiting for. Relentless from the very get-go, ‘Suis-Je Cool?’ is fiery with passion and reverb; fuelled by pummelling drums and scorching riffs. A song dedicated to those who struggle to fit in, it’s a fast, hard-hitting and exceedingly stylish return from one of Glasgow’s finest outfits. The Van T’s are back
Pleasure Heads’ ‘Middle Man’ is a snapshot of unbridled youth and merry abandon. An outfit discussed in lofty terms by all those who have seen them live, the Falkirk band followed up their impressive debut single with an equally accomplished offering which saw them delve into their post-punk influences with a modern indie-rock flair. Recalling the likes of Interpol and even the Stranglers, frontman Euan Purves’ deep, husky vocal is delivered over jangly guitar lines and a wonderfully melodic chorus which evokes a glorious sense of sun-kissed nostalgia. Among a string of releases from the band this year, it’s a track which cements their position as one of Scotland’s most exciting young outfits.
‘Starstruck’ is undoubtedly the biggest step forward to date from London outfit Sorry. Since first emerging with a few scratchy demos, the outfit have proven themselves hard to pin down; flirting on the edge of traditional rock music while throwing in their own quirky electronic elements and distinctly lo-fi production. This off-kilter approach is most perfectly harnessed on their latest single ‘Starstruck’; a dark and seductive track which builds ominously with a mix of jagged riffs, menacing dual vocals from Asha and Louis O’Bryen and an addictively repetitive chorus
Anderson Paak previewed his latest album Oxnard with this breezy funk track back in October. Joining forces with Kendrick Lamar once again who pops in for a verse, Paak sings about driving around LA with tinted windows over funky guitars and a plethora of intoxicating melodies. It’s a fun, bouncy, floor filler with more than a touch of tongue-in-cheek; exactly the kind of tune we need from the duo
This bittersweet single from Snail Mail’s debut album Lush sums up everything that about the LP that makes it such a triumph. A heartbreaking lament over a failing relationship, Lindsay Jordan works through her contradicting feelings and insecurities with deep sincerity and a lump in her throat. Candid and assertive, she doesn’t water down her feelings but she isn’t self-indulgent either; her vocals are strong and her guitar riffs are powerful as the song unwinds with poetic fearlessness. In the end we are left a resounding emotional sucker punch: “Who do you change for? Who’s top of your world? And out of everyone, who’s your type of girl?”
A mix of the blunt empathy and dry wit that informed her hugely successful debut record, Barnett’s sharp lyrical observations widened their scope on ‘Nameless, Faceless’; a sharp and grungy take on online trolls, fragile male egos and female fears. Following a jangly opening verse, it’s the massive, grungy chorus that really hits home, featuring the brutal Margaret Atwood quote “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them”. Patently political and pointedly clever, it was a bold and exciting preface to the album
Containing all of the central attributes that gained them a place on our Ones To Watch list for back at the start of the year, the lead single from Fauves’ debut EP Les Fauves saw the band deliver a refined take on an enduring live favourite and make some notable progression in the process. With Ryan Caldwell eschewing his trademark falsetto in favour of a thoughtful drawl that inhibits the vocal stylings of Jonathan Richman and Julian Casablancas, this marked change sees the band adopt a more sedate tact without diluting the vividness of their distinct and serene take on art-pop
Born of a shared affinity for traditional folk songwriting and ambient electronic beats, TENEMENT TV were delighted to introduce Linzi Clark and Andrew Quinn earlier this year, otherwise known as D R I F T; a brand new electro-pop duo from Paisley. Deeply hypnotic from the outset, ‘Baby Maker’ heralded their arrival beautifully; cleverly fusing Clark’s alluring vocals and grounded lyricism with Quinn’s electronic stylings to great effect.
Reminiscent of the smooth, sophisticated sounds of Air and Lana Del Rey at her most ethereal, it’s a highly impressive introduction from a band who are only in the very formative stages of their career; one which displays a great depth of songwriting maturity and emotional relatability.
An artist who has been bubbling away under the surface of Scotland’s ever-vibrant music scene since late 2016, electronic experimentalist Glassmasterer released a series of beautifully crafted and wildly eclectic compositions this year.‘Last Chance to Make Plans’ features Edinburgh synth-pop duo Chuchoter and was premiered earlier this year on Vic Galloway’s Radio Scotland show. Opening in ambient fashion, it takes the listener on an aural odyssey; one which shifts from beguiling synths and organ sounds into an upbeat, funk-laden disco tune with a female vocal. It’s experimental, wildly creative and unpredictable; quite simply, like nothing we’ve heard already this year.
2018 saw Paisley quartet The Vegan Leather play the Barrowlands with Phoenix, take on the main stage at Electric Fields and return to the studio to work on some eagerly anticipated new material. Before all this though, the band unveiled ‘I Take American’ back in February to waves of acclaim. Built around fluorescently vibrant synths and the sort of formidable display from the rhythm section that has gradually become a calling card of their sound, the song saw the band take aim at the encroaching and belligerent nature of stateside ideals and the nation’s power to all but homogenise western culture at every turn. Featuring charismatic vocal interplay from Gianluca Bernacchi and Marie Collins, ‘I Take American’ is a masterful example of delivering a profound message without any trace of preachy heavy-handedness whilst retaining the key tenets of their brand of idiosyncratic dance-pop escapism that they’re now so widely adored for
Endemic of the deeply personal approach that Van Ives take to their music, Corder has been built from fragments of old family VHS tapes and metamorphosed into a transcendent work of sumptuous modern-day R&B that retains its national heritage. Sharing more sonic DNA with artists such as Noname, Kaytranada, and Kali Uchis than it does any of their countrymen, the exquisite work of producer Roan Ballantine is a feat in itself but is brought to an entirely new level of prestige by Stuart Ramage’s breathtaking vocal range.
Informed by their shared affinity for the luscious and poignant sounds of Nowhere-era Ride, Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, ‘Haven’ has long registered as the emotive summit of WAYs catalogue. A touching ode to finding the inner peace and serenity that has always evaded you in life within the beautiful visage of another, the tension created by the intricate and almost indecisive guitar part that haunts its verses before the soaring revelation of its chorus makes for a compelling yet heartrending listen. Led by a thoughtful performance from Craig Milroy and strengthened by the euphoric backing vocals of drummer David Roberts, the band’s dexterity and volatile chemistry is on full display when they make the jump from its more contemplative pace to an unrelenting hail of guitar that allows the track to conclude on a joyously hopeful not
Hailing from Limerick, Whenyoung have seized the hearts of fans and critics alike in recent months and have rolled out a number of indie-pop bangers already. The exuberant title track of their EP which came out in November stems from what the band call “a series of late nights and self-inflicted misdirection”. What comes from this though is a hugely addictive slice of indie-pop; one which features one of the catchiest choruses we’ve heard this year as the band bolster their sweet melodies and jangly guitars with a punky self-defiance and underlying optimism. “The central message is to take your life by the reins and create your own future”, they say
In the midst of one of the biggest periods of sustained unrest in the nation’s history, one modern renaissance men felt implored to provide the song which perfectly captured this state of perpetual unease in the USA. Armed- pardon the pun- with one of the most visually arresting videos of the decade that spawned a million fan theories and alleged “decodings”, this thunderous trap beat-based track from jack of all trades Donald Glover satirised everything from hip-hop’s modern predilection for ad-libs to the hackneyed portrayals of African-Americans in the media that cloak the systemic injustices that they face to this day. Powerful, inescapable and persistent, ‘This is America’ repackages a nation on the brink into a piece of music that can be viewed as insipid on the surface level but contains untold depth when re-examined and that is where its true genius resides.
The opening track to one of the year’s most anticipated albums, Blossoms’ ‘Cool Like You’, this track is a synth-pop driven indie anthem from start to finish. Taking flavours from across the music landscape, the indie verses and only matched and bettered by the chorus that could have been lifted straight from a 1980s pop compilation, that pushes listeners to sing, and in many cases dance, along to one of the defining indie tracks of 2018.
Featured on one of our favourite records of the year, ‘Twentytwo’ is perhaps one of Sunflower Bean’s most tender cuts to date; channelling Fleetwood Mac in their gorgeous melodies as Julia Cummings’ delicate vocals come to the forefront. However while the track may be more gentle than previous single ‘Crisis Fest’, its message is every bit as potent; recalling Dylan Thomas’ powerful poem ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ in its emotional chorus, Cummings’ captures the feelings of those forced to grow up in this tumultuous political climate we find ourselves in today.
Having abstained from releasing new material since the critically lauded Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave from 2014, the recorded hiatus from James Graham and Andy Macfarlane came to a merciful end this summer with the unveiling of ‘I/M Not Here (Missing Face).’
Awash with dissonant, fragmented noise that is offset by a hauntingly sparse piano melody and a driving rhythm, their debut on Mogwai’s ‘Rock Action Records’ is a languorous, contemplative number that reasserts the poeticism and aural substance that has long made them so enthralling to behold. A revelatory return to the fray after Graham’s dabblings with Out Lines and a lengthy spell of support dates with The Cure that culminated in an emotional turn at London’s Hyde Park, the band are set to embark on a UK tour next year which will see them play the Barrowlands
Universally acclaimed and beautifully constructed, ‘Be The Cowboy’ was the album that finally saw Mitski reach her staggering potential. Originally shared back in June, ‘Nobody’ was the track that marked a shift away from her distortion-heavy guitar ballads towards a cleaner, funkier groove. pulsing, With dark lyrics that contrast its deceivingly hopeful beat, it’s the humility and stomach-pummelling lyrics that are particularly striking in this dance-ready ode to loneliness.
Perhaps no band this year has embodied a sleazy rock sound quite like Demob Happy. ‘Be Your Man’ is perhaps the perfect representation of their hard-hitting, face-melting rock n roll sound. The into hits the listener like a tonne of bricks, going from a mammoth descending riff to a jaggy, trudging guitar that matches the lustful nature of the track. You can only marvel at the proficiency of this band, not only in their playing, but the harmonies in the chorus of ‘Be Your Man’ make it one of the best choruses in rock music this year.
No stranger to Glasgow’s thriving DIY scene thanks to a string of support slots, Snack Villain has developed into one of the city’s most enigmatic performers in recent months; an artist who operates on his own terms and who refuses to adhere to any boundaries put in place by genre or convention. His latest single ‘Tick, Tick, Tick’ arrived like a bolt out of the blue. An utterly vital and head-spinning piece of music, the track is an eclectic brew of frenetic drums, warm brass, stream-of-consciousness lyrics and exquisite production. Fresh, experimental and bursting with infectious energy, it’s a must-listen
It has been a whirlwind two years for Maggie Rogers who has been gone from unknown musician to viral pop phenomenon in what feels like no time at all. Her success has been no fluke though; with a string of hugely popular singles to her name such as’Alaska’ and ‘Give A Little’, she has seized the hearts of fans all over the world with her magnetic folk-pop and deft songwriting. Set to arrive on 18th January via Capitol Records, the singer has now announced the release of her eagerly anticipated debut album ‘Heard It In A Past Life’, aswell as sharing one of its featured tracks ‘Light On’. Perhaps one of her most vulnerable tracks to date, the song is unmistakably Maggie; tackling her meteoric rise from striving artist to public figure through lush and layered textures and a hugely cathartic chorus
With his reputation for crafting the finest, desert-sounding stoner rock, Kurt Vile’s latest record offers up one of his best servings yet, in ‘Yeah Bones’. A more upbeat approach to songwriting than we see from Kurt on the remainder of the album, this tune oozes the sound of long-drives, with perfectly crafted leads, twinkling instrumentation and soulful vocals. The track adds more and more layers throughout until it becomes an orchestra of country-influenced rock.
Last year, St Vincent released her fifth album Masseduction to swathes of critical acclaim but the enigmatic Annie Clark surprised everyone with this exquisite reworking of one of the record’s finest track. Revved up with a dancefloor-ready electronic pulse and warped synths, ‘Slow Disco’became ‘Fast Slow Disco’ in a fine display of musicianship.
Few songs have captured the world’s interest this year as much as Ariana grande’s ‘thank u, next’. As popular for its throwback rom-com style video as it is for its kiss-off title, the song may be instantly meme-able but it’s undoubtedly one of the best pop creations in recent memory. After her rollercoaster year, the singer runs through her high profile romantic timeline and how each relationship has helped to shape her. And without stirring the pot about her recent relationship, as common media narrative would suggest, Ariana shows the value of letting go in a powerful display of acceptance, honesty and forgiveness. With its now iconic chorus delivered over a subtle, twinkling bear, it’s a rare mindset to come across, especially from such a massive pop star; and the result is an eloquent showing of inner strength and self awareness
Glitter-fuelled chaos transforms into a storm of angst on Walt Disco’s latest single ‘Drowning In Your Velvet Bed’; a track which sheds the warm, shimmering pop charm of their previous work in favour of an onslaught of dark, menacing riffs and ferocious urgency. Bringing all of their torment to the surface, it’s as if the band can’t get to where they’re going fast enough before there’s a break in the clouds with the arrival of a woozy, almost hallucinogenic sax solo in its middle section. Produced by Chris McCrory and mixed by Thomas McNeice,the track is undoubtedly one of their finest releases this year and an ambitious outing which lives up to their growing hype
It’s hard to pick one specific favourite from Kali Uchis’ vibrant, wide-spanning debut album Isolation, but ‘Just A Stranger’ boasts a chorus that is part icularly hard to shake off. Featuring none other than Steve Lacy of The Internet, just one of the many sublime collaborations on the LP, the pair exhibit an insatiable chemistry on the track; Lacy sings the main hook of the chorus while Uchis’ almost wistful vocals float over the driving bass. Sugary-sweet yet subtly confident, it doesn’t take long to be hypnotised by this dexterously funky track.
Easy Life boast a genre-spanning take on pop music, that draws elements or hip-hop, the catchy choruses of 90s pop music, and wraps it all together in a package of a playful and cheeky nature. There is perhaps no better representation of this unique attitude and style than on the dream-sounding ‘Nightmares’. Cataloging the emotions of gloomy days where your mind feels far from fun,
‘Nightmares’ uses thumping hip-hop beats that trudge through the track-mirroring the unenthusiastic message within the lyrics, jazzy horns and tongue-in-cheek lyricism to tackle this issue in a not-so black and white way. This approach to songwriting is confident beyond belief, and channels sounds of mid-2000s indie pop with a child-like playful sound masking a more serious undertone that weaves it’s way into the intricate verses and singalong choruses.
Retro Video Club’s year got off to an emphatic start with the indie-pop whirlwind that was their newest single ‘Chemistry.’ After racking up over hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify with the ease and nonchalance of a far more tenured band, the quartet unveiled equally riveting visuals to accompany the track.
A vivid and emotional encapsulation of all that they’ve achieved since their formation in 2015, the new clip shows the band prepping for their sold-out homecoming at Edinburgh’s renowned Liquid Rooms. A show that was clearly cathartic for both band and long-time fans alike, the choice to align one of their most riveting compositions to date alongside footage of what was a pivotal moment in their career is entirely arresting and fosters a belief in the band’s indisputable potential.
The winner of this year’s BRITS Critics Choice award and former Tenement Trail alumni Sam Fender has taken the UK by storm this year with his intelligent songwriting and angelic yet tortured vocal. Often using his music to make sense of subjects that are difficult to digest, ‘Dead Boys’ sees Fender at his most thought-provoking and mature. A poignant exploration of toxic masculinity and male suicide, the track delivers his message over raw, powerful anthemics and intriguing sonic shifts
The 1975’s latest album A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships dipped into everything from post-punk to glitzy pop to neo-gospel to jazz, covering deeply personal themes related to Matt Healy’s heroin addiction while also holding a mirror up to society and the tumultuous times we live in. Undoubtedly one of its finest moments comes in the shape of the towering ‘Love It If We Made It; a song that takes square aim at pop culture, politics and real-world horrors of today in emphatic fashion. With a splurge of stream-of-consciousness lyrics, said to be taken from direct quotes and newspaper headlines, Matty Healy’s words feel razor sharp as he claims “modernity has failed us”. It’s not all doom and gloom though; when the chorus kicks in with the repeated refrain “I’d love it if we made it”, we are left a silver lining and a glorious sense of relief.
2018 proved a prolific year for Declan Welsh & the Decadent West who not only completed their first European tour, but also unveiled a string of self-assured singles which eventually made their way onto the band’s debut EP All My Dreams Are Dull. A strong testament to all of their hard work over the past few years, as well as their renewed focus and vitality, the highlight of the EP comes in the shape of ‘Lull’; the lyrics of which provide the title of the EP. Demonstrating his ability to weave entrancing stories and thought-provoking subjects through his lyricsm, ‘Lull’ explores the insecurities and self-doubt that come hand in hand with making art; particularly when trying to make art that makes an impact on the world. Built on a clever juxtaposition between sombre lyrics and upbeat melody, the track evokes the spirit of Pulp and Arctic Monkeys while blistering through one of his most memorable choruses to date.
As if their debut album didn’t already attest to their penchant for extravagantly nuanced and forward-thinking pop enough, the duo known as Let’s Eat Grandma teamed up with PC Music figurehead SOPHIE for the fascinating ‘Hot Pink.’ A masterclass in melding the abrasive and exuberant with remarkable results, their first track since last year’s I, Gemini’s fusion of both dark and light astutely mirrors its lyrical concerns of embracing the intertwined relationship between masculinity and femininity.
Undoubtedly one of the most wholly unique and thrilling live acts on the planet this now, ‘Don’t You Know I’m In A Band’ featured on Confidence Man’s thrilling debut album. Familiar to those who have been lucky enough to catch the outfit live, the track is an eccentric, whistle-heavy stomper which sees effortlessly cool co-frontman Sugar Bones take the lead. Bursting with sassy beats and tongue-in-cheek humour, the wacky chorus is anchored by the repetition of “Don’t you know I’m in a band?” as they once again find that glorious balance between self-aware and satirical.
With a voice that has the ability to stop you in your tracks 2018 has been a breakthrough year for Graham who has seized hearts and minds all over the country with her spellbinding performances and beautifully delicate creations. ‘Industrial Strength’ is the perfect introduction for the uninitiated; layered with vivid lyricism and twinkling melodies, it’s warm, quirky and utterly entrancing. Having spent a significant amount of time honing her folk influences into something modern and entirely unique, it’s quite clear that we have a very special artist on our hands. We suspect her talents won’t stay under the radar for much longer.
Formerly known as Happy Meals, Free Love have established themselves as one of Scotland’s most exciting and intriguing acts this with a series of enthralling live shows and the release of their idiosyncratic, genre-hopping EP Luxury Hits. Marking a sharpest refinement and reinvention of their sound, its finest moment arrives in the shape of ‘Pushing Too Hard’; an acid-drenched number which delves into Italo, house and disco against ensnaring beats and a stomping bassline. A tale of fanatical and unrequited love, Suzi Rodden’s otherworldly vocals slip in and out of French to create a heady and deeply engrossing track.
Scottish newcomers Alligator followed up their monstrous debut single with another hugely impressive outing in ‘Shadow By Your Side’. Shedding the dark, sinister attitude of its predecessor in favour of swooning melodies and fuzzy romance, ‘Shadow By Your Side’ sees them channel their heavily distorted, reverb-laden tendencies into four minutes of heartfelt, melodic britpop. It’s a song that will stay with you long after your first listen while effortlessly evoking the spirit of their nineties influences. With only two singles to their name, Alligator already have us hooked
Undoubtedly the most accessible and recognisable cut from Arctic Monkeys’ divisive latest album Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, ‘Four Out Of Five’ sits between the poppy arrangements of Suck It And See and the west-coast vibes of Last Shadow Puppets’ last LP ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’. Built on the thud of a slinking bassline, the understated instrumentation is offset by lovely harmonies while Alex Turner’s delectable croon delivers one of the only traditional choruses on the album.
A late contender for the tracks of the year, Neon Waltz returned to the top of Scottish music with their latest single, ‘The Stranger Things’. This song harnesses the intricate indie sounds that Neon Waltz have become renowned for. Throughout the verses, the track rises and falls through soft instrumentation and Jordan’s dreamy vocals, crashing into loud, riff-driven interludes. A real indication of the diversity the band are beginning to explore.
Even contained within a world of increased equality and empowerment, Janelle Monae feels less like a mere mortal and more of an unbridled force for liberation that inspires everything in its vicinity. Among one of innumerable highlights on her conceptual masterwork Dirty Computer, ‘Make Me Feel’ is a track that exudes an acceptance of not only the self but the magnetism of others. Punctuated by an incessantly funky riff and joyfully sultry production, it should come as no surprise that it was touched by the deft hand of the dearly missed Prince prior to his untimely death. Forged by a refusal to cowtow to the restraints and internal shame that society once implanted on women for daring to embrace their position as sexual beings, this track by one of R&B’s foremost champions of inclusivity has all the makings of not just an LGBT anthem in the making but serves a rallying cry for anyone that wishes to free themselves of imaginary constraints on how they live their lives.
Inspired by their love of poetry and noisy punk, Dublin outfit Fontaines DC have generated quite the buzz in recent months. Having notched up support slots with the likes of Shame and IDLES, the band recently signed with New York label Partisan Records and have just dropped their latest single ‘Too Real’. A chaotic cut that crawls its way into your subconscious with its hypnotic repetitiveness, inspired by T.S Eliot’s Preludes, the track is a perfect encapsulation of the band’s surrealist, lyrical approach to corrosive punk. Fuelled by a similar sense of purpose as IDLES, frontman Grian Chatten conjures vivid images of bleak but bustling Dublin; posing important questions about the human condition against a barrage of guitars, chugging basslines and slabs of distortion. Fontaines DC are a band leading the way in a world ridden with anxiety.
There are few words more apt to depict the rise of Glasgow’s own The Dunts than ‘meteoric.’ Less than two years since their inception and debut show, the group’s ascendancy to the top of the city’s flourishing network of indie-punk firebrands has been cemented in recent times courtesy of Radio 1 airplay, a slot at Reading & Leeds and a variety of assorted accolades. Arriving back in August, Witch Hunt’ is a testament to The Dunts’ far-reaching ambition. Inspired by Johnny Rotten’s desire to murder Mick Jagger, Jimmy Saville and ‘about 200 others’ in 1978 that led to his blackballing from the BBC, the track sees the ageing punk pioneer exact his plan of righteous vengeance over an uproarious foundation of drums and piercing guitars. Charting his rampage that constitutes his parting gift to earth, a doff of the cap must be offered to the production team for their ingenious use of a shutter-speed effect on the guitars that embodies his killing spree being filmed for prosperity. Far more interesting from a lyrical standpoint than a banal tale of boy meets girl or another token ode to hedonism on indie rock’s endless stockpile, ‘Witch Hunt’ was a statement of intent from the four-piece and its catchy refrains will stand them in good stead for years to come
Dundee’s Beta Waves have seamlessly cemented their place as not just another pair of budding musicians with high-minded aspirations but a proposition that have the material and raw ingenuity to stand out amid the rabble. Forged from the creatively fluid traditions of psychedelia and electronica, Let It Out’ eschews any template and instead opts for a blank canvas upon which they deliver an enticingly rhythmic track that allows for their tangential mindset to dabble with meandering psychedelia and cerebral synth pop within a single bar of one another. A prospect that is brimming with potential in a land where Django Django and Man Of Moon were given free reign to blossom in a similarly unconstrained manner, their future remains as bright and vivid as the enveloping sonic journeys that they construct
Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s fourth album Sex & Food marked another reinvention for the New Zealand outfit, headed by the enigmatic Ruban Nielson. What seemed on the surface as a set of fun, funky and fuzzy songs actually delivered some of Nielson’s most intricate and introspective work to date; a strange fusion of insular sounds and soulful alienation. Hidden amongst its assortment of oddities is the sweetly comforting ‘Hunnybee’; a tender ode to his daughter which describes the wistfulness of distance. Its tight rhythms and swaggering groove immediately seize your attention, coming together to create a song that’s tender in the right places and a big summer jam at the same time.
Currently one of the most vital and incendiary live acts in the world right now, Bristol punks IDLES have been riding waves of acclaim since they dropped their eagerly anticipated second album Joy As An Act of Resistance. One of its many highlights includes the pro-immigration anthem ‘Danny Nedleko’; a song inspired by the frontman of up and coming outfit Heavy Lungs. Encapsulating the riotous energy of their now infamous live shows, it may be one of their most radio-ready offerings to date; but it’s loud, direct and utterly relentless from start to finish. IDLES are the band British music needs right now
LUCIA kicked the year off on an emphatic note with the release of ‘Melted Ice Cream’. A logical progression from her alluring and exceedingly catchy debut EP Best Boy, the song catapulted the singer and her versatile band into the eyes and ears of fans all over the UK and a year of massive gigs and festival slots followed. Sounding in many ways like the missing link between Dum Dum Girls, Pixies and The Shangri-Las, ‘Melted Ice Cream’ sees Lucia recant the demise of friendship that had once seemed primed to endure through a captivating blend of garage rock and swooning, romanticised pop.
It has been impossible not to fall in love with ST.MARTiiNS and their mesmerising alt-pop creations. Steeped in romance and a dreamy allure, their unique blend of woozy pop, intricate melodies and angelic vocals have struck a chord with listeners around Scotland and far beyond throughout 2018. Recently signed to the revered 13 Artists, their latest single ‘Jazzboy’ is testament to the band’s progression over the last 12 months aswell as their renewed creative focus. Boasting a fuller, more aggressive chorus than anything we’ve heard before, Katie Lynch’s dreamy vocals lean in and out of the song with great effect; quietly reflective one minute to more commanding the next. Sprinkled with idiosyncratic treats like the twang of a vibrated guitar aswell as crushed drum loops, it’s undoubtedly their finest release to date.
After riding waves of acclaim for much of 2018 across the UK and beyond, ‘Sometimes the Silence is Sweeter’ saw The Ninth Wave maintain their rich vein of form. Inspired by “an appreciation for being alone”, frontman Haydn’s stirring vocals are brought to the forefront as they once again effortlessly anchor their dark, moody post-punk tendencies with a huge, cinematic chorus full of stabbing, glistening synths. A band who can seemingly do no wrong, the quartet are set to finish this milestone year with a massive headliner at Glasgow’s Saint Luke’s on 21st December.
This year alone Lewis Capaldi has played TRNSMT’s Main Stage, sold out two nights at the Barrowlands, been playlisted by Radio 1, performed for Radio 1’s Live Lounge and been nominated for the BRITs Critics Choice award. To say that his progress over the past 12 months has been anything short of stratospheric would be an understatement. And with a dedicated fanbase that is seemingly expanding all over the world at an eye-watering rate, it’s fair to say that his popularity levels soared through the roof with the release of ‘Grace’. Every bit as rousing and deeply moving as the singles that came before it, the track starts as a soft melody before launching into the kind of anthemic chorus that’s fit for an arena. It’s Capaldi’s powerfully raw and evocative vocals that have grabbed the nation’s hearts though as he stakes his claim to be the next household name of heartbreak pop.
After three years of self imposed retreat from the newfound acclaim and limelight that Chaluer Humaine brought her way, Christine And The Queens re-emerged In 2018 with a retooled musical agenda. With her pop contrarian credentials very much still intact, the French singer/songwriter lesser known as Héloïse Letissier came struttingly back into the fore with ‘Girlfriend.’ The first single from what was to become the near-universally acclaimed Chris, her newly shorn locks came complete with an uninhibited bravado and self-assurance that she’d earned every ounce of hard fought acclaim. Extracted from the essence of demurely cool 80’s funk pop that in no way deterred its vitality, the Dam-Funk assisted single replaced the austere chill of some of her previous work with a sumptuous warmth that came complete with a sense of defiance. Casting off the shackles of “female pop artist” in favour of becoming a hulking tour-de-force of creativity, ‘Girlfriend’ is a track that’ll be fondly looked back on as Chris’ coronation as one of contemporary music’s icons in waiting
Taken from the utterly remarkable and genre-defying Cocoa Sugar, ‘Toy’ sees Young Fathers fuse pop, hip-hop and neurotic electronica to create something that is frenzied yet still allows for moments of beautiful levity. Hinging on the contrast between their unshakeable self-belief and the words of detractors that aim to limit their scope or curtail ambition, ‘Toy’ provides one of the finest moments on the SAY Award winning album and is a firm indication then their vitality remains firmly intact