As I said for the 2017 round-up, I did not find last year to be particularly vintage - there was no one album or song that totally blew me away, although there was still much to be admired. As posted recently - I came across heavy metal band ’In This Moment’ over Christmas and their music dominated the tail-end of the year for me and continues to reign now - considering how little metal I listen to that is surely significant in some way.
There were some obvious trends that hit last year, and that will continue to resonate through 2018 (Grime, Latin, Dancehall), but there was much I did not get either / did not resonate for me. I still haven’t latched on to the supposed brilliance of Drake yet, and 2017 hip-hop breakout artist Cardi B did little for me either. I guess Björk kind of sums up the year - where I initially loved promo single ’Blissing Me’ but in the end it does not really go anywhere - just lovely twinkly noodly harp which eventually starts to get rather grating - which kinds of sums up my opinion of the corresponding Utopia album - it was sort of like a vague shadow of Vespertine - but without the memorable melodies or coherence of that album - it all kind of blurs together for me unlike its predecessor Vulnicura which I really rather liked.
I went into the year expecting big things from Skott, but I guess her album will launch this year instead. She did not manage to eclipse her earlier highs, and her musical output dried up somewhat through the year. This time around I have high hopes for another Scandinavian - from neighbouring Norway - one Sigrid Solbakk Raabe, who was an incredibly bright spark in 2017 and scored 3 hits with ’Don’t Kill My Vibe’, ’Plot Twist’ and ’Strangers’ - she’s my top pick for 2018 - her live performance at Glastonbury was superb too - totally effervescent.
Many readers will know that I’ve become somewhat entrenched in all things guitar at the moment and yet proper rock music still seems to be somewhat in decline - despite all the amazing new technology out there - which makes it easier to make any sound you desire, record and produce at high quality - from the comfort of your home. I still expect to see more Ed Sheeran - all-in-one types materialising - possibly with a more technical angle to their sound. 2017 also brought me the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix in the guise of Lewis Floyd Henry - who does a fine line in rock ’n’ hip-hop mashups - and is indeed a one man rock-machine - guitar, drums and all!
Some of the things I predicted last year failed to materialise - I am still awaiting that breakthrough home-studio-production technology with built-in AI which allows you to easily combine and improvise with existing stem materials. That said there are numerous innovations at CES and NAMM this year for home-recording and studio / production - just not quite at the level I foresaw yet.
Looking at the forthcoming album releases for the year - I’m still waiting for new Glass Candy material, but loook forward to debut albums from Sigrid, Skott, Billie Eilish, Echosmith, and follow-ups from Grimes, Róisín Murphy, Poliça, Rhye and U.S. Girls. We may even get more from Beyoncé and Kanye. On paper 2018 does not look particularly vintage either, but here’e hoping it will be a pleasant surprise...
OK year for albums - far from exceptional, but several long-players saw significant repeat-action:
Honourable mention - Ritual - In This Moment
Sigrid really stood our for me in the singles stakes, yet their were several pop gems to be found, not sure how many of those will end up as long-term bonafide classics:
2017 was the year that Grime finally broke through to the mainstream and also gained a tiny foothold in the USA to some degree. Latin Pop was everywhere last year - following worldwide hit Despacito, ’Mi Gente’ also had considerable success. That perennial 80’s vibe seems to be back and stronger than ever with several classic 80’s bands releasing new material - e.g. The Cure, and 80’s Soul & R&B flavours being back in vogue. Following on from Jlin’s Black Origami, I also see more ’glitch’ sounds being prevalent in 2018 - particularly in the area of drum-programming for hip-hop, where artists are always in search of new-style beats.
In times past I’ve put in a real concerted effort to dig up and uncover fresh new talent, but I’m happy for BBC, MTV and the like to do the heavy lifing for me these days. None of these are total guarantees of success, although I do have high hopes for at least the top 3 here, and wish all of these the best of luck with the various new artist awards - every little helps ...
As usual - just my preferences really and not a yardstick for all releases - just things that interest me: