We may not quite yet be at the year’s end, but already we have been treated to all manner of musical delights. From Arctic Monkeys‘ divisive piano-lounge-come-’60s-mod-rock-revival curio to BROCKHAMPTON‘s reinvigorating return, there has been plenty to recommend as we head into the season of end-of-year lists.
But occasionally, there’s that album that flies under the radar, crushed by our appetite for endless scrolling and Drake‘s ridiculous marketing budget that allowed him to turn Spotify into Spotify: Drake Version for a week after his latest album release this summer. From delightful Mexican singer-songwriter records positively brimming with the kind of warmth you just want to pick up and hug, to emotionally touching art-pop albums that invite you onto a journey of self-discovery and affirmation, there were plenty of projects that fully deserve a listen before you go and check out the next most hyped LP. These are The Edge‘s hidden gems of 2018.
Tom Misch – Geography
From creating computer beats in his bedroom, the rise of multi-instrumentalist Tom Misch has been startling in 2018. His little EPs Five days of Mischon and Reveries – and mixtape Beat Tape 2 – have crafted a reputation for chilled household groovy beats influenced by Jazz and RnB with sounds of D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill for an easy listening crowd. But his first full length debut album Geography is a culmination of the last two years and its proved to be one of 2018’s sleeper hits.
His talent for creating vibrant, colourful instrumentation can be shown through tracks like ‘It Runs Through Me’ and ‘Disco Yes’ featuring funky base-lines, snazzy synths all blended together to form a warm summery vibe. However, some of the more slower ballad tracks have proven to be as memorable as the heavy hitters: the song ‘Movie’ opens with a voiceover by his sister Polly Misch that reminisces Classical Hollywood and then proceeds to reflect a previous relationship as though it’s “fresh out a black and white movie”, which has been steady grower on me after each returning listen.
It might not be a lyrically complex album or one that has a coherent theme running through it (it might not even be the most vocally exciting album), but considering Misch was an underground name two years ago and is now selling out The Roundhouse and O2’s Brixton Academy, it shows that there is a brighter future lying ahead for the South Londoner.
– words by Theo Smith
Geography is available now via Beyond The Groove.
Troye Sivan – Bloom
Troye Sivan’s Bloom is a follow-up album to his 2015 album Blue Neighbourhood. While Blue Neighbourhood explored teenage crushes and wrestling with Sivan’s sexuality, Bloom focuses on the ideas of virginity, sex and young love, with ‘Seventeen’ going over losing both innocence and virginity (“Got something here to lose that I know you wanna take”). There are more references to virginity later in the album, especially in the titular track ‘Bloom’. In ‘Bloom’, there is consistent floral references, which are associated with virginity (for example, the idea of deflowering) and that he feels happy with his partner that it’s the right time (“I’ve been saving this for you”).
However, the whole album isn’t about sex. The first single released from Bloom was ‘My! My! My!’, an upbeat pop track about falling in love for the first time, about the issues it brings (“let’s stop running from us”) and how good it feels to be infatuated (“I die every night with you”; “living for your every move”). Contrast this positive outlook on first love with ‘The Good Side’, which is much more mellowed and downbeat, a song full of emotion about the demise of Sivan’s first heartbreak. The lyric “left you with both of the rings” may seem like this was Sivan’s fiancé however it is referring to how free Sivan is compared to his ex, who has been left with the emotional baggage of a break-up. The narrative of the track quickly moves to how Sivan has moved on and found someone better, but not out of spite for his ex, just through luck (“Found arms to fall right into, its not how it looks, it wasn’t the plan).
Alongside all the songs about sex and heartbreak, there are also just some amazing collaborations, specifically ‘Dance to this’, which featured pop sensation Ariana Grande. A song about living in the moment, whether you’re having night out or a quiet night in and being around people the one you love (“Under the kitchen lights, you still look like dynamite”), which gives a lighter side to the album.
Since Bloom was released, Sivan has worked with other artists (such as Charli XCX on the track ‘1999’) and it’s to be expected that as his life develops, his music will grow into something new.
– words by Jack Nash
Bloom is available now via Universal Music Australia.
Natalia Lafourcade – Musas Vol. 2
Here I find myself in the rare situation of being too floored by an album to really know what to say about it. The follow-up to last year’s Musas Vol. 1, volume 2 takes what made that album in my mind the best of 2017 and refines & expands upon it, producing one of this Records Editor’s favourite records of all time, let alone 2018.
Hailing from Mexico City, Natalia Lafourcade is undoubtedly one of the greatest Latin folk singers currently performing. It’s easy for English listeners to be put off by the image of that genre alone, as it is to be put off by the fact that both volumes of Musas are sung entirely in Spanish, but the reward for sitting down and just listening to her music is two of the most heartwarming, touching and downright beautiful albums you could ever have the pleasure of hearing.
So what of Vol. 2? While it may be missing stunning standout tracks in the vein of Vol. 1‘s ‘Tu Si Sabes Quererme’ or ‘Soledad y el Mar’ (which I implore you listen to before anything else), Vol. 2 has a far greater sense of identity and unity than its predecessor, with fewer abrupt changes in tempo or genre and a smoother flow. As with Vol. 1, the record serves as a tribute to Mexico’s musical heritage, and the musical greats of Latin America in general – with Lafourcade’s collaboration with Buena Vista Social Club lead singer Omara Portuondo in ‘Desdeñosa’ standing out as a highlight. In doing so, the album acts as a perfect gateway to Latin music for those who have never explored bolero, bossa nova or Latin folk, whilst creating a strong musical direction for Lafourcade as she mixes traditional influences with her contemporary style.
But really, the main reason that Musas Vol. 2 is featured here is just because it’s so goddamn lovely. Every time I play this record I just want to pick it up and give it a hug, such are Lafourcade’s delightful vocals and her band’s perfect instrumentation. Even on the grimmest days as we head into winter, and even as the world seems ever more divided day by day, this album never fails to make me smile, and make me believe that there is love and unity to be found in the world. It truly is a wonder of captivating, luscious musical delight.
– words by Sam Law
Musas Vol. 2 is available now via Sony Music Entertainment Mexico.
Jeff Rosenstock – POST-
Thinking ahead to the terrifying prospect of writing a ‘Top 100 Albums of 2018’ article, I cast my eyes back to the very, very beginning of the year to a bleary New Year’s morning. Waking up after a 14-hour shift that finished at approximately 4am, a creature that looked like a mix between Steve Buscemi and a crusty binliner stared back at me. What a sight to welcome me into what was sure to be another compelling year on the train with no driver (let alone a track) that is my life. Alongside this horrifying image came POST–, released on the 1st of January and ready to scoop any other disenfranchised new-year scrooges into its loving arms.
In a similar fashion to the rest of Jeff Rosenstock’s discography, POST- takes a look at the state of the world and lets out a long, angry sigh. Starting with the absolutely glorious ‘USA’, Rosenstock belts out line after line of vitriolic rage towards the upsetting nature of Donald Trump being a person that really does exist, immediately following it with ‘Yr Throat’, a song with a solo that hits harder than Greta Van Fleet’s entire discography. Given its release at the very start of the year, it’s easy to overlook POST- or otherwise forget that yes, it was in fact released this year – but it’s an album that consistently renews my anger towards things that suck and, for that, I can only recommend it wholeheartedly.
– words by Tom Brewster
POST- is available now via Specialist Subject.