[sic] Magazine

Neil Meehan’s Albums of the Year

List presented alphabetically.

Arctic MonkeysTranquillity Base Hotel & Casino

The speed of its announcement quickly forgotten, May 2018 saw the world trying to digest the Arctics’ 6th record. Is the turntable set to the correct speed? Is it a concept album set in space (my own take is of a clever distraction for it being autobiographical)? Whatever, it is certainly their bravest album to date. The dance-floor long gone, Alex Turner chooses instead the holiday hotel, as he croons reflectively over mid-tempo, spacious organs, allowing his distinct lyricism to take centre stage:
“A montage of the latest ancient ruins / sound-tracked to a chorus of ‘You Don’t Know What You’re Doing’.”
Those who check in to this space hotel adventure are soon reminded of its showstopping feature: Turner’s songwriting brilliance.

Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubWrong Creatures

Like the fit of a trusted leather jacket, a new B.R.M.C album is snug, welcome, and improves with age. Perfect for that post-Christmas comedown to warm those long, wintry nights, this early January release was no exception. Retaining the classic sound, combining Psych with Blues, Country with Garage, the highlight was a fittingly-titled “Echo”; five stunning minutes you want to hear again and again.

Goat GirlGoat Girl

The debut Goat Girl long-player walks that delicate tripwire of an indie-garage recording; loose enough to jangle its way forward through the clouds, yet retaining focus and balance so as not to fall by the wayside, where so many others would have. That is not to say this is a carefree record, the London quartet discuss issues of politics (“Burn The Stake”) and public transport stalkers (“Creep”), and, well, “The Man With No Heart Or Brain”. And with the 19 tracks of lo-fi guitar and harmonies also including numerous, all-too-rare-nowadays musical interludes, it seems Goat Girl are not short of ideas. Roll on album no2.

Liines Stop – Start

A packed-out Gullivers venue, mid-afternoon, before the Dot-to-Dot festival had event started? The punters of Manchester obviously knew something, and once LIINES took to the stage, it was obvious what. A relentless, blistering assault (in a good way) of short, sharp, shudders of guitar, bass and drums, no time to catch breath between songs. Debut album Stop-Start is equally to-the-point. 2018 has seen the band continue to rise, ending with opening for The Slow Readers Club (who also released a great record this year) at a sold-out Manchester Apollo, with this post-punk trio set to follow the Readers’ trajectory.

MansunAttack Of The Grey Lantern

21 years after its chart-topping release, this writer’s most revered album of all-time was re-issued in 2018. Rather than a quick cash-in, the release included a 120gm vinyl format (the original pressing long-since deleted and tough to track down), re-mastering, 5.1 surround mix, and a string of demos, session tracks, and never-heard-before out-takes, over its 4 CDs. Quite the collector’s edition. Yet listening once again to the album itself, making pop hits out of prog experimentation, before any of this was acceptable, is a reminder of the genius that made Mansun both loved and misunderstood.

Mull Historical SocietyWakelines

The 6th record by Mull Historical Society (although Colin MacIntyre – the man behind MHS – has released two more in his own name), Wakelines is the first to be released alongside an accompanying book. The live shows saw MacIntyre reading excerpts, in amongst playing songs. The book contains memoirs of MacIntyre growing up on the isle of Mull. The record contrasts these childhood memories with adulthood in London, via the trademark MHS pop sensibilities, with a sprinkling of Bernard Butler guitar and production. The record, book and live show provided a complete artistic works.

Primal ScreamGive Out but Don’t Give Up (The Original Memphis Recordings)

Joining the Scream party following 1997’s Vanishing Point, I had struggled to understand why the better songs on its predecessor – the heartfelt, piano-led “Cry Myself Blind”, “I’ll Be There For You”, and the untitled hidden track – were sandwiched uncomfortably between quasi-funk-blues numbers. Watching the 2018 BBC documentary of the album’s recording, seeing Bobby Gillespie wipe the tear from his eye as he listened back to the original mixes, and this 24-year-old niggle was vanquished. Primal Scream had made a beautiful soul record, and finally the world (and Bobby G) can hear it as originally intended. And that hidden track has a name; “Jesus”.

Shame Songs Of Praise

Having seen London post-punks Shame’s intense, encapsulating live show numerous times, the question was, would the tunes stack up when cut to tape? The answer was an emphatic ‘Yes’ – as contemporaries Idles would emulate later in the year – putting Songs Of Praise instantly amongst the top 2018 albums, where it has remained since the second week of the year.

SpiritualizedAnd Nothing Hurt

Although the albums may not be as prolific as they once were – And Nothing Hurt came six years after its predecessor – Jason Pierce and crew remind us they can be worth the wait. The gospel choir element to previous records may be missing, but Pierce uses this to his advantage; Opening track “A Perfect Miracle” begins with Pierce’s raw, exposed voice, gripping the listener before the crescendo of accompaniment soon swells around it, comfortingly. Elsewhere, strings and tremolo guitars replace shoegaze fuzz, for the most-part, with Pierce still not afraid to psych-out when required. A joyous return.

VennartTo Cure A Blizzard Upon A Plastic Sea

Mike Vennart returned with his second ‘solo’ album – recorded again with two of his fellow ex-Oceansize bandmates – in between his day job as Biffy Clyro live guitarist. Following the September release, Vennart noted – in thanking his loyal fanbase – a lack of UK radio airplay for the record. Although not the crucial medium radio once was, it feels a dereliction of duty that the public are not regularly treated to these kaleidoscopic songs, which combine rock riffs, prog structures, an array of time-signatures and melodies made for the airwaves. And in “That’s Not Entertainment”, Vennart and co. have produced that perfect radio track-of-the-year that never was.