2018 In Review


2018 has come to an end, and as we look ahead to the coming year in our Ones To Watch feature, it only makes sense to take a look back over the previous 12 months and identify some of the best moments.


Matt Hitchinson – ‘Kindness Is The New Rock & Roll’ by Peace
“No-one really noticed when this album came out, they were all a bit pre-occupied with the Arctic Monkeys’ release on the same day, but I’m a massive fan of it. The band seem a lot more mature in their sound and approach to this record: there is more honesty in the lyricism and the pointless weirdness and extravagance of previous work has been dropped and what is left behind is a series of great music.”

Adam Saraswati Rawlings – ‘Invasion of Privacy’ by Cardi B
“For me hands down the best album of 2018 was ‘Invasion of Privacy’ by Cardi B. Despite all the drama that surrounds Cardi you can’t deny that her introduction to the music industry was anything but a refreshing change to the rap game. She has a killer flow on every single track on the album and with songs like the summer hit ‘I Like It’ she tied her Latina roots into her sound seamlessly without it feeling like it was a forced move to fit onto the Latin music trend of this summer. It is without a doubt a great album for perking up rainy days and letting off some steam.”

Conor Giblin – ‘Silver Dollar Moment’ by The Orielles
“This record came out in February and by September, I knew this was my album of the year. It’s grown and grown on me and even broadened my musical horizons. It’s funky, a bit psychedelic, tongue ‘n’ cheek… to me, it sums up the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with being young nowadays and I love how they’ve managed to make two stone-cold bangers about a bottle and a suitcase.”

Elizabeth Tomkins – ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ by Boston Manor
“Even though I’ve listen to Boston Manor a lot over the last few years, the music on this album shows how much work they’ve put into improving and expanding as a band!”

Taylor Donoughue-Smith – ‘Wide Awake!’ by Parquet Courts
“Parquet Courts’ sixth album saw them experimenting with the garage rock formula that made them one of the more dynamic and exciting recent indie bands. Produced by Danger Mouse, ‘Wide Awake!’ sees the band flit between the gritty, nitty punk stylings of ‘Total Football’ and ‘NYC Observation’ and funk, especially on the title track, whilst also taking influence from bands like the Beach Boys and Pavement on tracks like ‘Mardi Gras Beads’. Perhaps the best song is ‘Freebird II’, which, despite the reference, is a catchy and original three-minute gem. This is an intelligently written album, with themes like community, climate change and racism challenged head on. Parquet Courts are a band that are not afraid to nail their colours to the mast. A supreme listen.”

Becky Scott – ‘No Shame’ by Lily Allen
“It’s been a long time since I’ve found an album where every song makes me feel something. I’ve liked Lily Allen in the past, but this album has solidified my love for her and her music – it was Mercury Prize nominated in 2018 and I can see why. ‘No Shame’ is fun, it’s sad, and there’s a song on there for every mood possible. My personal favourites are ‘Higher’, ‘Lost My Mind’ and ‘Come On Then’ – definitely worth a listen.”

Kai Feltham – ‘Noonday Dream’ by Ben Howard
“Ben Howard is somewhat of an enigma; each album strikingly different to its predecessor, refusing to rest on his laurels and seeming entirely averse to revisiting the acoustic favourites of breakout album ‘Every Kingdom’. His progress, though, is one of a genuine artist and ‘Noonday Dream’ presented a commercially divisive yet strikingly beautiful record. It is ambient and moody, swirling soundscapes colouring the gaps and painting an ethereal canvas behind Howard’s poetic mumblings. ‘Nica Libres at Dusk’, ‘A Boat to an Island on the Wall’, ‘The Defeat’ and ‘There’s Your Man’ are the highlights, but it is an album to be listened to in order from start to finish to get the most from it, and what it lacks in sing-along acoustic ballads it makes up for tenfold in atmospheric musical artistry.”



Conor Giblin – Rae Morris @ Highest Point Festival, Lancaster
“Seeing one of my favourite artists, Rae Morris, pretty much on my doorstep at the foot of the beautiful Ashton Memorial in Lancaster, was unforgettable. Her voice was perfect and she danced gleefully around the stage, putting the biggest smile on my face. She sang the words directly to me in a couple of songs and it felt so special to connect with an artist in that way. I didn’t want it to end.”

Photo by Conor Giblin

Anna Mather – King Crimson @ Empire Theatre, Liverpool
“By far the best gig of 2018 for me was King Crimson at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre. I’m not sure ‘gig’ does it suffice: King Crimson, a set of musicians of legendary proportions, are much more of an orchestral percussion-centred performance than a measly ‘rock band’ (bearing in mind they have been going since the late sixties and have even played Lancaster University’s Great Hall in 1971). Comprised of eight instrumentalists, vocalists and countless instruments and synthesisers, King Crimson attacked their favourite futuristic tracks in an adoringly improvisational manner. Robert Fripp and his musicians lead the audience through a deep dark forest of true talent and musical insight. Crimson’s display in Liverpool was metallic and heavy, and every note resonated through the Empire Theatre with power. Theme and variations defined their entire set, and without a show of a doubt, they are Gods amongst rock bands.”

Kai Feltham – Arcade Fire @ Manchester Arena
“Prior to striding through the crowd towards the stage to ironically tinged Fight Night style commentary, Arcade Fire looked like they had set Manchester Arena up for 12 rounds of bruising combat rather than a stellar set of their ever-popular indie rock. Playing in the round with the appearance of a boxing ring, a nine-person band on a rotating stage complete with giant screens, a majestic light show, two of the largest disco balls you’ll ever see and enough dry ice to entirely submerge a writhing crowd during ‘Power Out’; Arcade Fire at Manchester Arena was a night for the ages. New album Everything Now was showcased, mixed in with fan favourites such as ‘Reflektor’, ‘The Suburbs’ and ‘Afterlife’. As the band danced in and out of the crowd, combined with every effect you could possibly imagine; this gig felt huge yet intimate, and would have taken some beating to be bettered in 2018.”

Image by Wyatt Dixon, via Flickr.com

Erin Wilson – Bugzy Malone @ Mayfield Depot, Manchester.
“This gig was my first time covering for SCAN Music, so I wanted to do a good job, but the gig itself was incredible and the Depot came alive whilst Bugzy was performing. I was already a fan of his music, especially as his new album ‘B. Inspired’ had only recently been released before the concert, but his music is even better performed live and Bugzy just exudes showmanship by capturing the crowd.”

Becky Scott – Nothing But Thieves @ Apollo, Manchester
“This gig was everything you could want from live music: it was hard-hitting, loud and full of passion. The entire show was a spectacle, which is an achievement at such a limited venue – the lights were incredible, and there were graphics on the back screen too. ‘Live Like Animals’ in particular had a montage video of protests, politics and injustice during the song that sent shivers down my spine, and increased the communal energy that the crowd had cultivated. I’ll remember it forever.”

Matt Hitchinson – Larkins @ Dive, Manchester as part of Dot To Dot Festival
“I’d just found out my train home had been cancelled and I was in a terrible mood as I sat in a small bar nursing a pint, prepared to be disappointed with my decision to miss the headliners, The Horrors. How wrong I was! Larkins managed to create a proper gig atmosphere in a cramped corner underneath a set of stairs as their infectious energy and optimism spread throughout and everyone in the room crowded in front of them and danced. Never have I been more immersed in a set!”

Taylor Donoughue-Smith – Arcade Fire @ Manchester Arena
“Whilst reaction to their latest album ‘Everything Now’ was mixed, no one is in doubt as to their live performance mastery. More a party than a gig, Arcade Fire were cinematic, anthemic and, most importantly, fun. A mix of disco, electronic and the powerful art rock that made them famous, this performance made me understand what the hype was about. Truly the mark of a group nearing the peak of their powers.”

Elizabeth Tomkins – Enter Shikari @ Hatfield Forum, Hertfordshire
“Enter Shikari at Hatfield Forum in July last year would have to be the one for me: it was really special as it was the first gig I’ve ever been too alone, and in the bands home county Hertfordshire was a truly intimate show, the connection created an atmosphere that I won’t forget!”



Kai Feltham – ‘Doesn’t Matter’ by Christine and the Queens
“There are so many worthy winners of this category (I’m thinking ‘1999’ by Charli XCX and Troye Sivan, ‘Buried in the Sand’ by Haelos or ‘All the Stars’ by Kendrick Lamar and SZA) but one outstanding frontrunner has to be ‘Doesn’t Matter’ by Christine and the Queens. All her work in 2018 is little short of transformative and a first UK festival headline set at All Points East in Summer 2019 is a must. ‘Doesn’t Matter’ builds alongside a brooding bassline, before bursting into vocal crescendos showcasing the very best abilities of the French pop superstar. The record is laced with 80s influences and ‘Doesn’t Matter’ is no different; one of many tracks on critically acclaimed album Chris that would struggle not to get even the most static listener grooving just a little.”

Becky Scott – ‘God is a Woman’ by Ariana Grande
“This was my Spotify ‘Most Played’ song of the year, and I can see why. ‘Sweetner’ was the album that made me fall in love with Ariana Grande, and this is the crown jewel. Nobody can listen to this song without feeling just a little bit happier and more uplifted. The power in Ariana’s vocals is well documented, and this song shows her range and ability incredibly well. The music video is also a masterpiece – it’s an all round winner from me!”

Enrico Specogna – ‘Both Directions at Once’ by John Coltrane
2018 gave us some good musical retrospective as it has been a year full of the most various reissues, from an eternally debated art-rock classic such as Beefheart’s ‘The Trout Mask Replica’ to Flaming Lips’ early recordings, and even the soundtrack of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ is among these glories of the past. John Coltrane’s ‘Both Directions at Once’ is however an unexpected gem: this posthumous work by one the most iconic jazz performers ever is a new, exciting meeting with Coltrane’s vision of music, art and life. If you loved ‘A Love Supreme’ or even ‘Giant Steps’ from him, then these unedited recordings are not something to be missed.

Elizabeth Tomkins – ‘Thru These Tears’ by LANY
“This song came out just as I needed to hear these lyrics, it summed up my emotions so perfectly that I’ve kept the song with me throughout the year it’s been out.”

Taylor Donoughue-Smith – ‘Total Football’ by Parquet Courts
“The opening track to their sixth album, ‘Wide Awake!’, ‘Total Football’ sees Parquet Courts tackling the issue of trade unionism, community and (fuck) Tom Brady – all with an infectious, cutting punk rhythm. Whilst their political leanings may be contentious, there is no doubt as to the sincerity and ingenuity of their lyrics. With piercing vocals from lead singer, A Savage, and fabulously intricate bassline, this is a song that matches the moment of 2018 so well. Brilliantly produced by Danger Mouse, this is a song that knows how to have fun, too.”

Matt Hitchinson – ‘Love It If We Made It’ by The 1975
“The opening lyrics hit you like a train following a gentle floating introduction: “fucking in a car, shooting heroin, saying controversial things just for the hell of it”. This continues throughout, the rasping intensity of the emotion in Matty Healy’s voice interacts perfectly with the glittering synths and monotone drum beat. This song has been streamed over 35 million times, and I reckon I’ve been responsible for at least half of that.”

Ruth Walbank – ‘L’aérogramme de Los Angeles’ by Woodkid and Louis Garrel
“This is one of those songs that I have listened to on repeat and found it more beautiful every time. There was an even a period over the holidays when my Spotify account deleted all songs except two, and thankfully Woodkid and Garrel’s song was one of them. For me, it really demonstrates that music can still convey emotion and beauty despite the language it’s written it. It’s an elegant song, one of my favourite releases of the year, and I can all but recommend a listen.”

Conor Giblin – ‘Memoria’ by Sunflower Bean
“This song has had a really personal impact on me this year. I was lucky enough to interview Sunflower Bean and when asked about this song, they said they wanted it to be something you could scream the words to whilst driving around: that’s certainly the relationship I have with this song. The lyric “The past is the past for a reason” will stay with me forever, because it reminds me not to dwell on things.”

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