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Best Albums of 2018

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Best Albums of 2018

Posted on 17 December 2018 by Joe

It’s been a good year for debut albums in our latest Best Albums list.

Politics has also loomed large, with a number of releases, including our top placed  album, trying to make sense of the chaos of Brexit.

We have also included a special focus on acts from one of our bases – the South West of England, which continues to produce some of the UK’s most best music.

16. Nicholson Heal –Big Jupe

Bristol based Nicholson Heal impresses with his debut album, with a keen focus on melody and  featuring a wonderful brass section. Deservedly one of our  Glastonbury Festival emerging talent competition longlist entries back in 2017. Full review.

NicholsonHeal

15. Tigercats- Pig City

Tigercats are back, bigger, brassier and they’ve brought the party with them, careering round the capital on this gem of a third album, which makes great use of their new horn section and African influences. A deserved spot in our best albums of 2018 list. Full review.

Tigercats

14. The Billy Shinbone Show – The Billy Shinbone Show

Jesse Budd from Glastonbury based psychedelic popsters Flipron becomes Billy Shinbone for this eclectic solo album that blends 1960s psychedelia with country and Cajun music. Fans of Robyn Hitchcock’s recent albums will find a lot to like here. Full review.

51S4VOk5DeL._SS500

13. Superorganism – Superorganism

This global octet, with members from the UK, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, have impressed us greatly with their stunning debut, which is packed with a range of styles, big choruses and delicious hooks.

superorganism-1024x1008

12. Okkervil River – In the Rainbow Rain

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best, featuring great tunes in the likes of Love Somebody and Pulled Up The Ribbon as well as some of the strongest personal writing yet from their leader Will Sheff. Full review.

OkkervilRainbow

11. Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Space Gun may well be the best album that Robert Pollard has recorded under the Guided By Voices moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012. Full review.

Space Gun

10. Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs

Former Death in Vegas man Ian Button and his crew continue to reinvent 1970s pop, this time covering themes of grief and loss as he reflects on the passing of his father, whose words of wisdom on No Pressure are among many, many highlights. Full review.

Papernut Cambridge

9. Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

For his third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths and 1980/90s influences to great effect. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song. Full review.

Alex Highton

8. Front Person – Front Runner

Canadian singer songwriters Kathryn Calder (The New Pornographers) and Mark Hamilton (Woodpigeon) come together  produce one of the best albums of 2018. Their trademark passionate lyrics and beautiful vocal delivery combine perfectly on this debut, which features some smart use of vintage electronica. Full review.

FrontpersonFrontrunneralbumart-1530552785-640x640

7. Neko Case- Hell On

The world’s best female vocalist? We certainly think so, especially after hearing this latest highly charged release. She certainly has a lot to be emotional about this time around with this album arriving after her house burnt down and amid a battle with stalkers. Yet another career highpoint and a worthy entry in our best albums of 2018 list.

Neko Case - Hell-On

6. Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood

A derelict children’s home provides the inspiration for former Hefner man Jack Hayter’s latest, where everything falls into place. It has a strong back story, some moments of genuine drama, great music and above all sincerity. Full review.

abbey wood

5. Robert Rotifer – They Don’t Love You Back

The Austrian musician, broadcaster and Kent resident has created an epic stream of folk, psychedelic consciousness that perfectly encapsulates the senseless chaos of  Brexit. Recorded as a 77 minute track as part of a Wiaiwya Records project to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières. Full review.

Rotifer - they don't love you back

4. The Go! Team- Semicircle

Eu-bleedin’-phoric! There’s no other word combo to sum up the sheer exhilarating joy of this Go! Team latest. Full review.

The Go Team SEMICIRCLE album artwork SMALL

3. Parquet Courts Wide Awake

Parquet Courts had already done their bit for guitar rock on their first three albums. Now they expertly take their music into new directions, thanks to Danger Mouse on production duties.

parquet courts

2. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Melbourne band’s three guitars pack a punch, especially on this album’s fantastic opening featuring  An Air Conditioned Man, Talking Straight and Mainland. Full review.

Hope Downs

1. Field Music – Open Here

From its chamber pop gems to pop-tastic foot stompers, this latest from Britain’s most interesting act continues to delight.  There are serious messages too, as the band eloquently express their fears around parenthood in post-Brexit Britain. A deserved top spot in our Best albums of 2018 list. Full review.

field-music-lp

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

Posted on 20 June 2018 by Joe

Each June we take a moment to look back on our favourite albums of the year so far. Inventive pop is a key theme his time around, with bands keen to push their boundaries and take their sound into new directions. It’s certainly paid off in the case of many of our Top 10 Albums of 2018 …. so far. We will revisit this list once again in December, when we will reveal our favourite albums of the year.

 

10. Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

For his third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths and 1980/90s influences to great effect. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song.

Alex Highton

Read our full review here.

 

9. Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Space Gun may well be the best album Pollard has recorded under the Guided By Voices moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012.

Space Gun

Read our full review here.

 

8. Superorganism – Superorganism

This global octet, with members from the UK, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, have impressed us greatly with their stunning debut, which is packed with a range of styles, big choruses and delicious hooks.

superorganism-1024x1008

 

7. Okkervil River – In the Rainbow Rain

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best, featuring great tunes in the likes of Love Somebody and Pulled Up The Ribbon as well as some of the strongest personal writing yet from their leader Will Sheff.

OkkervilRainbow

Read our full review here.

 

6. Tigercats – Pig City

Tigercats are back, bigger, brassier and they’ve brought the party with them, careering round the capital on this gem of a third album, which makes great use of their new horn section and African influences.

Tigercats

Read our full review here.

 

5. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

Parquet Courts had already done their bit for guitar rock on their first three albums. Now they expertly take their music into new directions, thanks to Danger Mouse on production duties. The results are pure joy.

parquet courts

 

4. Neko Case – Hell On

The world’s best female vocalist? We certainly think so, especially after hearing this latest highly charged release. She certainly has a lot to be emotional about this time around with this album arriving after her house burnt down and amid a battle with stalkers. Yet another career highpoint and a worthy entry into our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

Neko Case - Hell-On

 

3. The Go! Team – Semicircle

Eu-bleedin’-phoric! There’s no other word combo to sum up the sheer exhilarating joy of this new The Go! Team album.

The Go Team SEMICIRCLE album artwork SMALL

Read our full review here.

 

2. Field Music – Open Here

From its chamber pop gems to pop-tastic foot stompers, this latest from Britain’s most interesting act continues to delight.  There are serious messages too, as the band eloquently express their fears around parenthood in post-Brexit Britain. A deserved high placing in our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

field-music-lp

Read our full review here.

 

1. Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood

A derelict children’s home provides the inspiration for former Hefner man Jack Hayter’s latest, where everything falls into place. It has a strong back story, some moments of genuine drama, great music and above all sincerity. This is not only one of the best folk albums of the year, but currently our favourite album of 2018.

abbey wood

Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood

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Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood

Posted on 27 February 2018 by Joe

Abbey Wood, the latest album by Jack Hayter nails it.

It’s got the quality songs, in particular the melancholic opener The Mulberry Tree. There’s perfect vocal delivery, with Hayter’s wise old vocals bringing life to the tales throughout.

And then there’s a great back story, of an album created while the former Hefner man was living in what he describes as a “leaky and abandoned” derelict children’s home in London.

abbey wood

Among this home’s four kitchens and six bathrooms, none of which worked, these 12 folk songs were crafted. It is these echoes of the young and vulnerable former residents,  floating around him as he slept on old pallets, that are key to the success of this album. This is particularly the case on But I Don’t Know About Frankie and I am John’s Care Home.

But there are also some other characters from the capital to add into the mix. For this is an album about London as well, with some staple urban folk fodder of shipwreck victims and tragic petty criminals joining in.

The shipwreck one, Arandora Star, is particular effective. This recounts how around 850 German and Italian internees and prisoners or war died after being hit by a German U-boat while being transported to Canada. The awful irony, that some had fought the fascists in 1936’s battle of Cable Street before being sent needlessly out to sea as target practice for the German navy, is not lost on Hayter.

Fanny on the Hill, about a thief on the run from the constables and in need of a drink is another folk standard topic elevated by Hayter’s voice and the ghosts of those who lived in his derelict muse.

There’s some guests here to help Hayter conjure up this collection, including Suzanne Rhatigan’s vocals on the aforementioned Arandora Star and the excellent Bigger Than The Storm.

Ralegh Long, whose own recordings are enriched by Hayter’s pedal steel, also drops by to provide piano on The Stranger Fair.

With the back story to go with it and the earthy grit of Hayter’s vocals this is not only one of the best folk albums of the year, but is a strong contender for our end of year best of list too.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

Jack Hayter- Abbey Wood is released on Gare Du Nord on March 23. For more information see here.

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Ralegh Long, John Howard and Darren Hayman – Servant Jazz Quarters, London (Nov 27, 2013)

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Ralegh Long, John Howard and Darren Hayman – Servant Jazz Quarters, London (Nov 27, 2013)

Posted on 29 November 2013 by Joe

Deepest Dalston – where hipsters lurk behind every chip shop/tattoo parlour.  I’m always a bit wary of gigs around there, worried I’ll be overwhelmed by a bearded and brogued buttoned-up brigade of the cooler than cool and the trendier than the trend you haven’t heard of yet.

However, last night my fears were completely unfounded and I was instead treated to a beautiful evening at the Servant Jazz Quarters, organised by up-and-coming singer/songwriter Ralegh Long and Gare Du Nord, the label he founded this year with Rotifer frontman Robert Rotifer and Ian Button, who releases under the name Papernut Cambridge.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman

It was one of the loveliest events I’ve attended in a long time, the tiny but thoroughly charming venue playing host to three generations of musicians who are all connected via good intentions and have an obvious mutual admiration for each other – Darren Hayman, John Howard, and Long himself.  It was an unpretentious, genuine, joyful night of music.

Not knowing much of any of them previously, I went along as Neon Filler’s representative, as the site is a champion of all three acts and played a small part in connecting Long and Howard via email, something Howard acknowledged on the night.

Darren Hayman, formerly of 1990s indie band Hefner and now a prolific solo artist, opened with his thoughtful, articulate, funny and sincere songs, which reminded me a bit of an English Neil Young, but quirkier. Just him and his guitar, he played impeccably, his lyrics sweet and honest. Highlights included I Know I Fucked Up, from his 2012 January Songs album and originally recorded with vocals from Allo Darlin’s Elizabeth Morris. Another was I Taught You How To Dance, from 2011’s The Ship’s Piano. I’ll definitely be looking up more of his solo work, as I think there’s a lot more for me to learn here.

John Howard

John Howard

And then there was John Howard, and all I could think was ‘THIS is how it’s done’. I swiftly realised we were in the presence of an old-school master. Once touted as the next big thing  his is a story of the almost made it, a tale of the machinations of the music industry, dropped in the 1970s, only to experience a resurrection since the early 2000s, that has included influencing emerging artists like Long.

His are piano-driven pop ballads that I would liken to early Elton John with a bit of Bowie. The songs have a slight glam, show-tunes touch, but they don’t feel dated or twee – instead, it’s mood-enhancing music with a story to tell, songs that you feel you’ve known your whole life. And he’s also just such a nice man. He played from classic album Kid in a Big World, and tunes from new album Storeys, telling tales from a block of flats. He also covered Bowie’s The Bewlay Brothers so perfectly, to my utter delight. That was the highlight of a set, that also featured Rotifer, Button and Acid Jazz man Andy Lewis as his backing band.

Ralegh Long

Ralegh Long

Howard’s influence is evident in Ralegh Long’s work,  during a set that was packed full of melodic, sweeping songs, that were lifted with the help of his great band that included pedal steel played by another ex-Hefner man Jack Hayter. But it’s the piano that takes centre stage again, beautifully done, stirring stuff.

With indie music too often guitar focused, it was really refreshing to have the piano front and centre for an evening.  Long more than lived up to the ‘one to watch for 2013’ tag were thrust upon him earlier this year as he played from his most recent EP The Gift and his soon-to-be-released debut album.

In all, a great night of wonderful music by a collection of musicians in the great spirit of influencing each other and helping each other. Feel good factor 50.

By Patricia Turk

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Introducing… Jack Hayter

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Introducing… Jack Hayter

Posted on 04 April 2012 by Dorian

Our Introducing section is usually reserved for new acts, but on this occasion we are devoting the space to someone who, from their time in Hefner, we have known for many years. However, after a nine year musical hiatus (between 2002 and 2011) he is back actively releasing new records. So consider this a reintroduction to Jack Hayter, in his own words.

Where is he from? “I assume the question relates to me not the songs. Originally from Devon via Liverpool. I have lived in that tiny part of London called Hither Green…more specifically that part called ‘Further Green’ for a long time now. Hither Green is famous for not much but train disasters and a very large crematorium. Also the place where, like me,  Spike Milligan learned to play the steel guitar. If the question was about the songs then I could tell you but its complicated.”

Who is he? “I am Jack Hayter. I write songs and play things with strings and old music software. I found myself by accident in a band called Hefner a long time ago and I have have been in two other good bands Spongefinger and Dollboy; mostly playing pedal steel guitar and other things with strings on. I put an album out called “Practical Wireless” on Absolutely Kosher records about 10 years ago, then got on with other things. I have been a motorcycle courier, a gardener a science teacher, a freelance computer network engineer and latterly a lucky person who trains the children of Thamesmead to edit video and create sounds. A couple of years ago I had a nasty heart attack and, shortly after that, Jamie Halliday of the Audio Antihero label contacted me and frogmarched me with prejudice into releasing an EP called Sucky Tart. I have not made him richer.”

Jack Hayter

What does he sound like? “Ramshackle folk songs with bits. I’m not very good at assigning labels to music. I guess what makes a folk-song is not the instrumentation or the sound..more that it evokes a time and a place and tells a story. Thats what I try to do anyway. It doesn’t always work but I hope that the songs don’t sound mumford (with a small ‘m’ of course). In truth I really can’t sing. I have always had a bit of a complex about that since I was chucked out of the Okehampton School choir at the inaugural rehearsal when I was twelve. My pitching is so bad that even autotune can’t cope (well of course I tried it wouldn’t you!). So until someone comes along who wants to sing these you’ll have to put up with me doing it.”

What has he got to say for himself? “I have always found that way of posing that particular question semantically intriguing. If I say something “for myself” that implies that it is for my ears and not for others’ ears. I can think of quite a few home truths I might say to myself..some of them thoroughly disagreeable. Some sort of neural feedback loop might result in a rock’nroll exploding head so its best that I keep my own counsel from myself.”

What releases should you look out for? “Every month for a year from this April there will be a digital release on the Audio Antihero label. The series is called “The Sisters Of St Anthony”. He is the patron saint of lost things (or the Lost). The first in the series is “The Shackleton” which is about a phantom teenage pregnancy during the latter stages of the Cold War. The Avro-Shackleton was plane that was used to search for Russian submarines. It made a most distinctive sound. The other songs in the series will be mostly about lost people or lost possessions.”

To find out more go to www.jackhayter.com and to listen to (or subscribe to) The Sisters Of St. Anthony visit http://audioantihero.bandcamp.com/album/the-sisters-of-st-anthony-subscription-series.

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Jack Hayter Announces Singles Series – The Sisters of St. Anthony

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Jack Hayter Announces Singles Series – The Sisters of St. Anthony

Posted on 24 March 2012 by Dorian

Jack Hayter is probably best known to our readers for his time in Hefner alongside Neon Filler favourite Darren Hayman. He has also been a member of Dollboy, Spongfinger and The Organ as well as maintaining a critically acclaimed solo career. His blend of folk, indie and lo-fi electronica, mixed with a unique and natural singing voice, make for fascinating listening.

His latest project is the release of a 12 song single series, The Sisters of St. Anthony, released over a 12 month period.

Jack Hayter - Sisters

Each of the twelve singles will be available individually or as part of a low priced subscription series with exclusive subscription only material.

Cover art will come from guest artists like Benjamin Shaw and fellow Hefner member Antony Harding along with fan submission competition entrants.

The series will be launched on April 4th at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch.

You can pre-order and stream the singles here: http://audioantihero.bandcamp.com/album/the-sisters-of-st-anthony-subscription-series

By Dorian Rogers

 

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