From Country to Hip-Hop; Epigram's music writers break down the LPs that caught their attention in 2018...
By Epigram Music Writers, Epigram
If Kamasi Washington's aptly-named three-hour 2015 debut, The Epic, launched him into the stratosphere of jazz greats, then Heaven and Earth, released this summer, definitely confirms his place there. Clocking in just under two-and-a-half hours, the double album blends beautiful timbral landscapes with heaps of harmonic colour and contrasts, taking the listener on a journey closer to a theatrical performance than a traditional jazz LP. He’s also certainly not afraid to break out the choir and orchestra when the mood calls for it.
Despite the virtuosity displayed by Washington and his collaborators, who include Thundercat and Terrace Martin, who he both worked with on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, the album remains accessible and focused, ready for consumption by the mainstream and jazz-buffs alike. Heaven and Earth truly is a work which pushes the boundaries of what jazz can be.
By Alex Modell, Fourth Year, Maths
After a four-year break since their last album, the release of Jungle’s For Ever marks the return of their golden soulful melodies mixed with electric beats. After relocating to LA, this is Jungle’s Hollywood album which can be visualized through the juxtaposition of sun-dazed poolside funk and the longing passionate tracks as an outcome of the duo’s break-up with their partners. Their modern soulful sound and the eclectic use of percussion and falsetto vocals are what what gives Jungle their established unique aesthetic. This album a mix-match passionate soulful tracks and a funky and cool sound.
Tracks such as 'Heavy', 'California', 'Beat 54 (All Good Now)' and 'Happy Manare' the visual representations of their music and success; glancing up at the summer sun and a palm adorned promenade. Whilst 'House in LA' and 'Home' represent their romanticism. These two conflicting sounds mesh well together as a genuine representation of fun tracks concealing heartbreak. If there is one element that Jungle’s sound induces each time, it’s passion. The meticulously placed drumbeat and tempo match with the feeling in the falsetto vocals that evokes an emotional experience whether it be euphoric or melancholy.
By Ellen Kinsey, Fourth Year, French and Film
At once personal and universal, more than eight months after release Golden Hour continues to surprise. Moving in a more pop direction has expanded the transcendent potential of Kacey Musgraves’ songwriting. From the achingly ethereal of ’Slow Burn’ to the swirling technicolour disco of ‘High Horse’, Musgraves invites you to bask in the the aural equivalent of the titular ‘golden hour’.
The album often deals with the existential but not in a pretentious or overly-analytical way. Throughout Musgraves just wants to remind you of the simple joy of being, something no more obvious than understated highlight ‘Oh, What A World’, which centres on the unexplainable meaning of simple personal connection. These lyrics are underpinned by such an assured production that it pulls off the blending of vocoder with a gorgeous reverbed banjo.
As such, the album isn’t devoid of the country that made Musgraves’ name but the music feels more whole, more universal than before. The album does so many things at once, captures such a range of emotions so effortlessly that it leaves the listener wanting to defy the possible and let the golden hour last a little longer.
By Joe Gorecki, Deputy Music Editor
The revival of pop-punk in the last ten years has been astonishing – and it wouldn’t have happened without The Story So Far. Their first two albums Under Soil and Dirt and What You Don’t See were not only brilliant but defined the entire scene. Despite their massive success, TSSF were seen to have stagnated, with their self-titled album of 2015 falling a little flat.
However, this year they once again proved their class with the release of Proper Dose. For many, there was a worry that vocalist Parker Cannon had run out of creative material, given that their first three releases had centred on toxic relationships. However, Proper Dose sees Parker finally let go, allowing TSSF to move away from the pop-punk subgenre.
The results are refreshing. The album concerns Parker’s struggle with drug addiction, the difficulty of relating to his peers after years of touring and falling out of love with music. The songs generated by these struggles are by far the most mature the band have made with personal favourite ‘Upside Down’ being the album’s highlight. Whether you’ve ever listened to TSSF, or even pop-punk before, give this album a go. It won’t disappoint.
By Owen Ranson, *
Since 2015’s ‘King Push’, New material from the president of GOOD Music had been heavily anticipated, and with sizeable input from Kanye West, the artist proved that his new material was worth the wait . Lyrically, DAYTONA is laced with the drug-raps and cocaine conversation that Pusha has harnessed throughout the vast majority of his discography, yet the impeccable articulation in his storytelling excuses this.
Moreover, the thrilling, ticking beat of ‘If You Know You Know’, and the luxurious Booker T. Averheart instrumental that serves as the foundation of ‘The Games We Play’ exemplify the tasteful and unique sampling that the record boasts.
All in all, the album is pretty faultless. Arguably, this has been something much easier to achieve through the brief, twenty-one-minute length enabling greater concision. However, the narrative substance and meticulous attention to detail, particularly on part of Kanye's production stand as a compromise. Even if it did take far longer, and materialised to be far shorter than anticipated, DAYTONA is an immaculate project from two of the biggest names in hip-hop.
By Bethany Marris, Online Music Editor
Isolation is the debut studio album of Columbian-American R&B princess Kali Uchis. After first turning heads in 2012 with her mixtape Drunken Babble, Uchis’ impressive CV serves to excuse why she has not, until now, released a full LP. Prior to the album’s release, Uchis had already collaborated with a plethora of artists such as Snoop Dogg, Gorillaz and Miguel, with such variety exemplified in Isolation’s cross-genre foundation. The 23 year old has drawn upon reggaeton, hip-hop, neo-soul and funk to create a technically complex yet refreshingly accessible body of work.
The album itself is laced with Kali’s golden contacts. Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker provides the groove of the nostalgic 'Tomorrow', where Brainfeeder’s Thundercat brings instrumentation to Isolation’s blissful opener ‘Body Language’. Vocals are lent by an eclectic sound board of Tyler the Creator, Jorja Smith and Steve Lacey, serving both to densify and compliment the album in all the right places. The LP is also a lyrical triumph, as it deals poetically with difficult themes of love, immigration, hope and youth. Isolation is an exciting introduction to the creative capacity of a set-to-be superstar.
By Bethany Marris, Online Music Editor
Who would have thought that a chance meeting at a bowling alley would produce one of the best collaborations in recent years? This one-off indie side project by Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay is precisely that. The combination of Laura Marling’s warm blend of folk and Mike Lindsay’s history with folktronica titans, Tunng, make for an experimental and captivating listen.
Following a cycle of ambient soundscapes, hypnotic ripples of moog synths and Marling’s distinctively haunting voice, LUMP’s debut album is laced with intricate and beautiful melodies. Perfect for the listener to lose themselves in, almost inducing a reflective dream-like state. A truly unique and mesmerising listen.
By Guy Marcham, Music Sub-Editor
On her second album, Welsh singer-songwriter Gwenno Saunders takes us on a colourful sonic journey through the Cornish fields of England. Le Kov may just been 2018’s most unique album, sung entirely in the little-known Cornish language. A cinematic and colourful ode to Cornish identity.
However, away from its lyrical content, Le Kov’s true brilliance lies within its entrancing and beautiful psychedelic melodies. These range from the luscious string arrangements of opening track, ‘Hi a Skoellyas Liv a Dhagrow’, and the sparkling synth textures of psychedelic pop banger, ‘Tir Ha Mor’. Not only has Gwenno produced one of 2018’s best albums but has even sparked a rise in Cornish exams being taken. True sentiment to her infectious and spellbinding melodies.
By Guy Marcham, Music Sub-Editor
Featured Image: Bethany Marris/ Epigram
What was your favourite album of 2018? Let us know...