In 2019, we added some music reviews (again!) to Up Late At Night Again, and our regular music contributor Scott Bingham has provided us with some comments on his favourite albums of this year.
Cinema reviews will follow in the days shortly after Christmas as usual. Thanks for reading and we’ll be back with more reviews in 2019!
10. Karen O & Danger Mouse – Lux Prima
Karen O & Danger Mouse served up this year’s most impressive & at times astounding collaboration on this stylish, soulful & dreamy pop album crammed with brilliant melodies. An ambitious & dynamic collaboration between indie rocks best female vocalist (yes, its true) & Yeah Yeah Yeahs front woman, Karen O, & the producer with which everything he touches recently turns to gold, Danger Mouse, proves that a ying & yang combo can produce sparkling results. Production is lush & spacious whilst Karen O’s vocal performance is stupendously varied from the dramatic, Ministry, to melancholic, Nox Lumina, to in your face dominant on the bluesy jewel in the crown, Woman. Modern pop how it should be.
Top Track: Woman
Top Lyric: I’m nowhere, I’m no one, I’m nobody / Theres nobody but you – Lux Prima
9. Efdemin – New Atlantis
Inspired by Francis Bacon’s incomplete homonyous utopian novel, Phillip Sollman aka Efdemin, delivered a hauntingly gloomy concept LP perched on the fence between experimental & dancefloor techno. The Berlin mainstay & Berghain resident has long been a master of creating thick decay laden minimalist soundscapes. New Atlantis is no different but with greater diversity to be found amongst the driving four by four hypnotic beats as drone & ambiance features across varying tempos & moods; and not to mention an acapella vocal sample of a 18th century methodist hymn in the opener. Emotive dystopian techno at its finest.
Top Track: New Atlantis
Top Lyric: No longer in misery now / No longer a sinner like me – Oh Lovely Appearance of Death
8. Big Thief – Two Hands
Brooklyn’s indie folk quartet, Big Thief, stripped back to basics on their 2nd LP of the year with the earthy & enchanting Two Hands reaching a level of brilliance last seen on 2017’s Capacity. The band took a step back veering away from the fuller production on UFOF & although critically acclaimed, the return to the rawer & more intimate approach taken on Capacity wields all the better results. This approach magnifies the quality songwriting on display as well as the most distinct vocals in the genre from Adrieene Lenker. A simple, intimate folk record which invites the listener into the room as if it’s just being recorded for the first time.
Top Track: Not
Top Lyric: The blood of the man who’s killing our mother with his hands is in me / It’s in me / In My Veins – Shoulders
7. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
A golden slice of wry & depressive Americana country rock from debutants Purple Mountains most notably featuring the late American singer songwriter & poet David Berman of indie lo fi Silver Jew fame. After effectively retiring in 2009 as Silver Jews broke up, Berman returns with his songwriting evidently revitalised by crisis in his personal life (long term divorce & death of his mother). The writing here is as frank & self deprecating as you get combined with warm instrumentals that have a lovely country rock flare. Heavily shadowed by the breakdown of a c20yr marriage, Purple Mountains is an album for the heartbroken, the grieving & the destitute. RIP
Top Track: All My Happiness is Gone
Top Lyric: If no one’s fond of fuckin me / Maybe no one’s fuckin fond of me – Maybe I’m the Only One for Me
6. Callum Easter – Here or Nowhere
The first full length debut album, Here or Nowhere, is brimming with ideas as Scottish multi instrumentalist & singer songwriter Callum Easter invites you into his spacey echoey world. The Young Fathers keyboardist & former Stagger Rats man delivers a variety of different sounds which are delightfully off kilter & otherworldly heavy featuring atmospheric organ & his own Paulo Nutini esque vocals.There are bluesy elements present whilst the record is at times reminiscent of early Suicide material but it’s hard to really find a direct comparable. An utterly captivating record baring huge promise for this talented newcomer.
Top Track: Space in Time
Top Lyric: Tired of making love to the back beat / Tired of wearing your heart on my sleeve / Tired of making love to the back beat / But never tire of making love – Back Beat
5. Fat White Family – Serfs Up
The diseased, drug addled, shambolic rockers, Fat White Family, headed full steam towards complete destruction before a period of relative sobriety (swapping heroin & cocaine for ketamine & weed….) to rid addiction & the return of all core members propelled them from near oblivion re-emerging with their most coherent & hooky album yet. Their songs remain filthy, damaged, seductive & provocative mirroring the levels once brought by the likes ofThe Fall’s Mark E Smith, but there is a very slightly more polished & considerate feel as there is a softer more controlled touch throughout. This brings a washed out / stoned vibe outwith an exceptional glam rock type stomper (inc an appearance from the unmistakable Baxter Dury). Fat White Family have twisted their sound akin to developing a scribble into a rough sketch without losing their trademark sleazy edge. Finally they have lived up to their promise & more.
Top Track: Feet
Top Lyric: A big mushroom cloud for the middle classes / Leaves a beautiful shape for you to project your fears onto – Tastes Good With The Money
After a decade in the business, New Jersey singer-songwriter, Sharon Van Etten is thrust back into the limelight with her first record since 2014, the anthemic Remind Me Tomorrow. Once a cult folk figure, this sees Sharon evolve into an iconic star sitting on the edge of electronic rock. Synths replace guitars & an energic & dramatic sound is favoured over her previously minimalist style. In particular, the vocal performance is a standout shifting several gears from her previous records & at certain moments on the more anthemic numbers, it has this gut wrenching quality which can’t help but drag the listener into the emotional mire. Remind Me Tomorrow displays an accomplished songwriter at the peak of her powers as she flexes her artistic muscles to push her own boundaries resulting in her best album to date.
Top Track: Seventeen
Top Lyric: I know what you’re gonna be / I know that you’re gonna be / You’ll crumple it up just to see / Afraid that you’ll be just like me!
Masters of glorious dourness, Kilsyth outfit, The Twilight Sad, kicked off 2019 with a welcome return to their raw pacey sound last seen on their debut but with a new found directness in the songwrighting. Driving beats are present throughout acting as an undercurrent for a thick heavy atmosphere created by guitars & icy synths. Of course, the lead vocals are bonecrushingly impassioned finding lead singer James Graham on tremendous form as you feel the paranoia & anxiety emanating out of him. A well rounded & varied rock record projecting the sound of a band feeling genuinely comfortable that they have crafted & found exactly how they want to sound.
Top Track: VTr
Top Lyric: There’s no love too small / And I won’t be surprised if it kills us all – VTr
2. Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs
Hailing from Fremantle, Stella Donnelly’s debut full length LP successfully tackled sexism, gender divide & rape culture amongst others through a tight indie pop album full of quirks. The instrumentation & vocals are generally soft & delicate verging upon twee but the observational lyricism packs a haymaker when appropriate. The witty songwriting is not too dissimilar from Courtney Barnett, but whilst the tone & delivery is more fragile, Stella can hit that sharp line to pierce air at the right moment just like her fellow countrywoman. An accomplished debut with quirky diversions & at times unconventional twists combined with sharp & at times fierce songwriting.
Top Track: Beware of the Dogs
Top Lyric: Your personality traits don’t count / If you put your dick in someone’s face – Old Man
1. Fontaines D.C – Dogrel
Loud, abrasive & disillusioned defines the exhilirating debut from Dublin post punkers, Fontaines D.C. There is a bleary eyed half cut look upon Irish life sang by a charismatic & slightly enigmatic lead singer who echoes the nervous energy of Ian Curtis (see their raucous live performances) & the vocal sneer of Mark E Smith but with a thick Dublin accent. It doesn’t miss its enemies though with the barrel firmly aimed at big corporations & capitalism in true punk fashion – embracing Lydon’s “anger is an energy” strapline. Stylistically it moves through white knuckle post punk to early rock n roll to 60’s surf rock; not forgetting the more typical Pogues Irish drinking serenade style closer. Overall it is a diverse creature with a raw beating heart & swagger in abundance. A band & a record to believe in.
Top Track: Boys in the Better Land
Top Lyric: A sellout is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money – Chequeless Reckless