Albums and songs of 2018 so far: Music Week staff picks

Albums and songs of 2018 so far: Music Week staff picks

This week, Music Week has been delving into the best songs and albums of 2018 so far.

We've heard from a selection of the biggest names in the biz, who told us about their favourite tracks and LPs this year, and now it's time for the Music Week team to pick our favourites. Read on to find out what we've been spinning...

TRACKS:

Anne-Marie 2002 (Atlantic)

Lyrically, 2002 is all over the place. Most of the songs it references weren’t actually released in the titular year. Anne-Marie grew up in Essex, where the chances of “dancing on the hood in the middle of the wood on an old Mustang” seem minimal, to say the least (although maybe one of the 17 other credited writers came up with that bit). And have you ever trying singing at the top of one of your lungs? But hold up! None of that matters a jot, because 2002 is an absolute stone cold banger, an effervescent pop triumph that’s made Anne-Marie a genuine star at last and will define the long hot summer of 2018 for a generation, albeit while making a terrible mess of their internal timeline. And the video’s a hoot too. It may be incomprehensible chronologically, geographically and even grammatically, but in pop terms it makes perfect sense.
Mark Sutherland, editor

Amen Dunes – Believe (Sacred Bones)

Damon McMahon has been making records as Amen Dunes since 2009, but none has connected like this year’s Freedom, released by brilliant New York indie label Sacred Bones. The album is a triumph because, the more you play it, the more you realise it represents a watershed moment for its maker, who lost his mother during its conception. Her presence, along with that of his father, is felt at various points on the record, but never more so than on Believe, its magnificent centrepiece. Two things about this song are brilliant: firstly, McMahon’s sandy vocals, which flicker and change throughout; and secondly the moment when it drops into a spacey folk-rock trance. McMahon is an heir apparent to The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel. 
Ben Homewood, senior staff writer

George Ezra  Shotgun (Columbia)

George Ezra's huge comeback with sophomore album Staying At Tamara's won't be for everyone but the mellow vibes of Shotgun are hard to resist. With its rubbery bass and Ezra's laidback vocal, which suggests he's just been awoken from a siesta, it's almost entirely at odds with the robust pop bangers it's holding off the top of the charts in the latest Midweeks. A good old-fashioned summer hit, it should be playing at boozy barbecues for years to come.
Andre Paine, news editor

Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – One Kiss (Columbia/Warner)

Unlike our American cousins, UK football fans are yet to fully embrace the concept of pop performances at major sporting events. But the reaction of Liverpool fans to Dua Lipa's One Kiss before this year's Champions League Final in Kiev suggests its a nut that can still be cracked. Possibilities indeed.
James Hanley, senior staff writer

ALBUMS:

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (Decca)

Not for nothing is the first track on Kacey Musgraves’ superlative fourth album called Slow Burn. This is a rare modern record that rewards repeated listens, seeping slowly into your soul until you can’t quite recall how you ever lived without it. Musgraves’ voice is more affecting than ever, while her songwriting – poised perfectly on the non-cheesy cusp between country and pop – is razor sharp throughout. Lyrically, it ranges from shimmeringly sad to sardonically sassy, resulting in an album guaranteed to lift the spirits, while the album’s mid-section (Mother, Love Is A Wild Thing, Space Cowboy, Happy & Sad) is the strongest sequence of songs we’ve heard in ages. The last song is called Rainbow, and this record is the pot of gold at the end of it that the world has been searching for.
Mark Sutherland, editor

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino (Domino)

How can you not love an album that, when you turn the sleeve over, features titles like Batphone, Golden Trunks and The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip on the tracklist? Even better, the front cover displays an image of a fictional lunar hotel designed by the band’s frontman, who pored over it for hours in his Los Angeles hideaway. And then you get to the music, a loungey 11-song set of dreamy, keyboard-led lullabies sung by a greasy-haired Alex Turner, sporting an open necked shirt and blazer like some jumped up bingo caller murmuring in a buttery Yorkshire accent. That people said anything negative about this record is preposterous. The whole thing was exciting, no tracks or press in the lead up, classic publicity photos, a buzz of anticipation... This was what a big album release should feel like. And, for the record, it houses some of the cleverest and most memorable phrasing Turner has ever come up with ("I launch my fragrance called "Integrity"/I sell the fact that I can't be bought") teamed with big melodies and the Monkeys’ now-familiar muscular musical backing. The Royal Albert Hall show was something special, too. 
Ben Homewood, senior staff writer

Let’s Eat Grandma – I’m All Ears (Transgressive)

Music Week tipped Let's Eat Grandma's debut album, I Gemini, for the Hyundai Mercury Prize shortlist a couple of years ago. It didn't happen then but the follow-up seems more likely to sway the judges. The teenage duo from Norwich probably couldn’t care less about such industry garlands – they’re too busy immersing themselves in the creation of twisted pop like Hot Pink. Less weird than their first album, I’m All Ears actually has plenty of tunes and there are signs of hit-making potential (Falling Into Me, It’s Not Just Me). Like The xx, who they sometimes resemble, they've also cracked the art of making cohesive and compelling albums. Q magazine gave their comeback the full five stars, and we wouldn't disagree with that excitable verdict.
Andre Paine, news editor

Manic Street Preachers – Resistance Is Futile (Columbia)

The best Manics' album since, well, the last one, Resistance Is Futile wasn't so much a return to form as a continuance of the excellence that has characterised the second half of their career. An LP full of hit singles (if rock bands still had hit singles), RIF comes roaring out of the blocks with sweeping opener People Give In and never lets up the pace. Thirteen albums in, they remain essential. 
James Hanley, senior staff writer

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