It’s been a memorable year for music and to celebrate that little aperture between 2018 and 2019 we are playing some of the best songs and some of the best new artists of the year. There’s no particular order as the styles and genres are so different. What I do guarantee is that every one of them is a potential classic of the future and that new career and legends will start here. So here are 20 great songs and a great way to end the year.
Robyn – Missing U (Honey 2018)
“Missing U” is a song recorded by Swedish singer-songwriter Robyn, released on 1 August 2018 as the lead single from her eighth studio album Honey. It serves as her first solo single in eight years. The song premiered on Annie Mac’s show on BBC Radio 1. The single was preceded by a seven-minute short video used to promote the single.
“Missing U” is Robyn’s first solo release since her triple album Body Talk (2010). Robyn released several collaborative EPs including Do It Again (2014) and Love Is Free (2015). Robyn also had an appearance on the HBO series Girls soundtrack with the song “Honey” before work on her eighth studio album began.
The demo for the song was created by Robyn in Summer 2014 on her laptop along with a LinnDrum machine and a software synth. She noted that the lyrics for the song took two years to complete before finishing them with producers Joseph Mount and Klas Åhlund.
Plan B – Heartbeat (Heaven before all Hell Breaks Loose 2018)
Heaven Before All Hell Breaks Loose is the fourth studio album by English singer and rapper Plan B. It was released on 4 May 2018 by Atlantic Records and 679 Artists.
In 2010, Plan B released his second studio album The Defamation of Strickland Banks, a concept album about “the journey of a fictional soul singer who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit”. The following year, he announced a follow-up album, The Ballad of Belmarsh. He told the Daily Mirror that the album would be closer in tone to his debut, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words: “It’s an underground hip-hop album about Strickland Banks being banged up in Belmarsh. I won’t be him singing anymore, I’ll be rapping about him, commenting on the story.” In September 2011, Plan B announced that The Ballad of Belmarsh had been put on hold in order to work on his then-upcoming film Ill Manors (2012).
In April 2018, Plan B stated that the project never came to fruition because he got bored of the Strickland Banks character:
Dermot Kennedy – Glory (live (Singles on Spotify 2018)
Life and death. Joy and pain. Love and loss. Dermot Kennedy has always been fascinated by extremes. On his brilliant debut EP, ‘Doves & Ravens,’ the young Dubliner draws inspiration from all the moments of brightness and darkness this world has to offer, crafting music that’s at once soaring and intimate, stripped-back and explosive. Stuttery hip-hop and R&B-influenced percussion underpins his weathered vocals as he combines organic and electronic elements into an arresting, emotional blend that calls to mind the adventurous arrangements of Bon Iver, James Blake, and James Vincent McMorrow.
Rich beyond just its production, the EP showcases Kennedy as a writer in possession of a sophistication well beyond his 25 years. He pens lyrics with a poet’s eye and a rapper’s precision, conjuring vivid imagery and transfixing audiences with the unique rhythm and flow of his soulful delivery.
“I think reading poetry and listening to hip hop offer a lot of the same rewards,” reflects Kennedy. “The good rappers are so honest, and in my opinion they deserve to be viewed as poets. Regardless of the form, though, I just feed off of anyone who’s expressing themselves and sharing their feelings.”
That’s precisely what drew Kennedy to the music of fellow Irish artist Glen Hansard, who he met by chance on the streets of Dublin.
“A few years later, when I was making my first recordings, I invited him to the studio,” remembers Kennedy. “He couldn’t make it, but he called back and offered me ten minutes onstage at his sold-out Christmas show. He said, ‘You can use the guys in the band, you can do it acoustic, the stage is yours for ten minutes.'”
Kennedy made the most of his time in the spotlight, performing a stunning rendition of his 2016 single “After Rain.” Praised by the BBC and hailed by The Irish Times as “woodsy romantic folk pop,” the track would go on to rack up a staggering 19 million streams on Spotify, where Kennedy averages nearly 2 million monthly listeners these days.
The massive audience brought on by his streaming success has enabled Kennedy to sell out his own shows in Dublin and London now, but when it came time to record ‘Doves & Ravens,’ he eschewed any temptation to repeat the same musical formula that had brought him past popularity, instead pushing himself further artistically and personally than he’d ever gone before.
“I did the acoustic thing for so long, and I still love it, but what I mainly listen to is hip hop, and I think that was bound to come through in the production,” he explains. “The first time we tried putting a beat over the verse of a song, I got so excited by how the acoustic element of the guitar was working with the programmed sound of the drums. I realized that if I ignored that feeling the music gave me and didn’t chase that side of things, I’d be letting myself down.”
The EP opens with “Glory,” an emotional, infectious tour-de-force that solidifies Kennedy’s status as a vocal powerhouse with equal parts grit and grace. Densely stacked harmonies meet minimalist instrumental production on the track, which is propelled forward by hypnotically off-kilter percussion loops. “I’ve learned that doves and ravens fly the same,” he sings in a subtle nod to the two life-altering events that underlie each of the EP’s four songs: falling in love and facing loss.
“In my songs, verse to verse, line to line can jump back and forth between those two subjects,” says Kennedy. “They’re both always in my mind, and I think that goes a long way toward explaining the idea behind ‘Doves & Ravens.’ The songs all have a mix of light and shade.”
On the fingerpicked “A Closeness,” Kennedy reconciles the pain of loss with gratitude for having experienced something so special at all, while the rolling piano of “To All My Friends” honors the strong women in his life who have led by example, and the dreamy “Boston” harkens back to a summer in America when life was simpler.
Kennedy’s live shows are intense and powerful experiences, something he’s again quick to credit to the influence of poetry, in particular the African-American writers Black Ice and Amir Sulaiman.
“Watching those guys perform serves as a reminder to give everything you have with every line,” says Kennedy. “They don’t have music to back them up, so they have to be convincing with every word.
Convincing listeners has never been something Kennedy’s struggled with. He sings with a fire in his soul and writes with raw, unfiltered honesty reflective of both his emotional and musical maturity. It’s a rare combination that enables both his recordings and performances to cover such a wide and potent spectrum. Celebratory and solemn. Playful and serious. Analog and electronic. Dermot Kennedy has always been fascinated by extremes.
Alba Plano – I Hope (White Lotus EP 2018)
Alba Plano is a Jazz and Neo Soul singer from Sicily, renowned for her unique vocal texture and for being an extremely versatile artist.
She started her career hosting a show for Dabliu Radio (Sicily) before working as an actress on Italian Television for a few years. She also studied fashion design, though her foremost passion has always been music.
The Sicilian-born songstress has been singing since her teens, and began her jazz vocal studies in her early twenties with acclaimed vocalists such as Norma Winstone, Kurt Elling, Barry Harris, Bob Stoloff, Joe Blake and Maria Pia De Vito, encouraging her to experiment with using her voice as an instrument, and leading to a fascination with contemporary jazz.
Stylistically comparable to Solange, Esperanza Spalding and Erykah Badu, Alba draws influence from a wide array of artists, including Becca Stevens, Gregory Porter, Lianne La Havas, and Jill Scott, and is also strongly influenced by Nina Simone, Bobby McFerrin and many other jazz singers; her passion for hip-hop and neo-soul is also strongly evident.
Alba is based in London and is now collaborating with accomplished musicians such as Dale Davis (Bass player and musical director for Amy Winehouse,Tina Turner and Freak Power), Jim Hunt (sax for Richard Ashcroft, Brand New Heavies, Noel Gallagher, Jamiroquai) Enzo Zirilli (drummer for Enrico Pieranunzi, Omar), Troy Miller (drummer and producer for Becca Stevens, Laura Mvula); Mike Gorman (keyboard player for Boy George,Incognito); Jonathan Idiagbonya (pianist for Anthony Joseph), and she has performed in many prestigious venues such as Ronnie Scott’s and Shepherds Bush Empire.
She has performed backing vocals for Ninja Tune’s Jordan Rakei (one of Gilles Peterson’s favourites).
For the last two years she has fronted “Forever Amy”. A project featuring Amy’s original band, that is giving her the opportunity to tour and perform in large venues throughout Europe and the Uk, honing her stagecraft and interpretive skills.
Reviews have pointed out how she has undertaken this difficult task with great proficiancy whilst retaining her own unique sound and strong personality.
The upcoming album, White Lotus was co-produced and co-written by Alba Plano and Karme Caruso (Omar, Maverick Sabre, Karyn White), with some of the lyrics co-written by Davide Shorty singer songwriter and producer (Retrospective for Love, Mr Jukes).
The album will feature Karl Rasheed-Abel, David Mrakpor, Luca Faraone, Michael Castellanos, Joao Caetano, Julian Mazzariello, Dario Deidda, Enzo Zirilli, and Stefano Costanzo, Amadu Kholifa, Jim McCrae, Alessandro La Barbera, Jim Hunt, Graeme Flowers and Chris Webb.
Bugzy Malone – Run (ft Rag ‘n’ Bone Man) (B. Inspired 2018)
Aaron Davis (born 20 December 1990), better known by his stage name Bugzy Malone, is an English grime rapper from Manchester, England. Malone has been described as one of the key MCs instigating a “grime revival” moving the UK urban scene away from more commercially oriented music and the first rapper in the grime genre from Manchester to have commercial success in the UK.
Davis is currently one of the most popular grime artists in the UK following the release of his three EPs which have all landed in the UK Albums Chart top 10 with his latest release, King of the North releasing on 14 July 2017 and peaking at No. 4.
Jorja Smith – Blue Lights (Lost & Found 2018)
Jorja Alice Smith (born 11 June 1997) is an English singer-songwriter from Walsall, West Midlands.
Smith has released several singles since January 2016 and collaborated with other artists, including Drake, Kali Uchis, and Stormzy. She released her debut extended play, Project 11, in November 2016. In 2018, she won the Brit Critics’ Choice Award. Her debut studio album, Lost & Found, was released in June 2018 and peaked at number three on the UK Albums Chart.
In January 2016, Smith released her debut single “Blue Lights”, which samples Dizzee Rascal‘s song “Sirens“, on SoundCloud; the song garnered 400,000 plays on the website within a month. Her second single “Where Did I Go?”, released in May, was singled out by Drake as his favourite track of the moment in Entertainment Weekly in July. In November 2016, she released her four-track debut extended play, Project 11. The same month, Smith was selected as one of the fifteen rising acts on BBC Music‘s Sound of 2017 longlist, and finished fourth on the list.
Smith performed as a special guest on Drake’s Boy Meets World Tour in February and March 2017, and featured on two tracks on his mixtape More Life (2017). She released the song “Beautiful Little Fools” on International Women’s Day; the title is a reference to the novel The Great Gatsby. In May, she featured on Kali Uchis‘ song “Tyrant”, the lead single off Uchis’ debut studio album Isolation (2018). She released her third single, “Teenage Fantasy”, in June. Two months later, Smith and grime artist Preditah released a single together called “On My Mind”. In September 2017, she began dating singer and producer Joel Compass.
She performed as the opening act on Bruno Mars‘ 24K Magic World Tour in October and November 2017. In December, it was announced that Smith would be the recipient of the Brit Critics’ Choice Award, to be presented at the Brits nominations launch on 13 January 2018. She is the first independent artist to have been nominated for the award, let alone win.
In January 2018, she released the single “Let Me Down” featuring rapper Stormzy. Smith co-wrote and performed the song “I Am” on Kendrick Lamar‘s soundtrack album for Black Panther, released in February.[ Later that month, she performed at the BRIT Awards with Rag’n’Bone Man. In April, she made her American late-night television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with a performance of “Blue Lights”. Her debut studio album, Lost & Found, written over a five-year period, was announced in April and released in June 2018. In the month of the album’s release, Smith began touring in support of the album, with dates scheduled across Europe and festival appearances in Japan. The Lost & Found Tour’s North American leg began on 19 November in Seattle and conclude on 19 December in Toronto and will be supported by Ravyn Lenae.
Tom Walker – Leave a Light On (What a Time to be Alive 2018)
Tom Walker (born 17 December 1991) is a Scottish singer-songwriter who was born in Scotland and grew up near Manchester. He is signed with Sony Music’s Relentless Records and released his debut single “Sun Goes Down” in March 2016. On 19 May 2017 he released an EP, Blessings, through Relentless Records. His most successful hit commercially is “Leave a Light On” in 2018
Walker has been honing his sound over the past couple of years and this is in some part influenced by sharing a house with twelve others, also musicians where they would jam together in their home-built studio. He has also cited musicians such as John Mayer, Paolo Nutini and Angus Young (of AC/DC) as having an impact on him as an artist. At the end of 2015, Walker signed with Relentless Records.
Walker was picked as Elvis Duran‘s Artist of the Month appearing on NBC‘s Today show with Kathie Lee Gifford where he performed live his hit “Just You and I”.The song has accumulated over 29 million Spotify streams. His follow-up single is “Blessings”, the title track from his debut EP Blessings EP. On 13 June 2017, Walker released the single “Heartland”, co-written and produced by Naughty Boy. Walker has described the meaning behind the track as a reference to temptation getting the better of you and the consequences of those actions. On 22 August 2017, the single was added to the BBC Radio 1 playlist.
In mid-2017, Walker was named as one of the new additions to the BBC Radio 1 Brit List, alongside other rising British talent such as Stefflon Don and J Hus.
Walker has played sell-out tours and support slots for artists like George Ezra, Gallant and Jake Bugg. On 28 September, Walker began his US tour, in Connecticut, supporting The Script.
On 13 October 2017, Walker released his single “Leave a Light On” on Relentless Records. The single was co-written and produced by Steve Mac (Clean Bandit‘s “Symphony”, P!nk‘s “What About Us”, Ed Sheeran‘s “Shape of You”). The track was also featured on Spotify‘s New Music Friday playlist around the world and Walker was featured as the cover image for New Music Friday Germany. The music video for “Leave a Light On” was produced by Charles Mehling (Paolo Nutini, Olly Murs, The Script) and filmed in Croatia.
Gwenno – Tir Ha Mor Translated: Land and Sea (Le Kov (Place of Memory) 2018)
Gwenno Mererid Saunders (born 23 May 1981) is a Welsh musician, known by the stage name Gwenno. She performs as a solo artist, releasing her first album Y Dydd Olaf on Heavenly Recordings in 2015 followed by her first album in Cornish in 2018, entitled Le Kov. Gwenno Saunders has also been a singer in the indie pop group the Pipettes.
Saunders was born in Cardiff. She is the daughter of Cornish poet and linguist Tim Saunders and Lyn Mererid, who is an activist and member of the choir Côr Cochion Caerdydd and works as a translator. When growing up, her father spoke Cornish; her mother spoke Welsh.
From the age of five she attended the Seán Éireann-McMahon Academy of Irish Dance and was a cast member of Michael Flatley‘s productions of Lord Of The Dance and Feet of Flames by the age of 17, playing a lead role in a Las Vegas production of the former. In 2001 she had a role in the Welsh language soap opera Pobol y Cwm on S4C, for whom she would later host her own programme Ydy Gwenno’n Gallu…? She is fluent in Welsh and Cornish.
Gwenno has toured as a synth player with Pnau and Elton John in 2012.
In June 2012, Saunders released a five-song Welsh language EP, Ymbelydredd, available on hand-painted cassettes on Peski Records.
Gwenno appears on The Boy Least Likely To‘s 2013 album The Great Perhaps, contributing vocals to the track “It Could Have Been Me”.
She released her first solo full-length album, the Welsh-language Y Dydd Olaf, in October 2014 on Peski Records. In May 2015 Gwenno was signed to Heavenly Recordings. The label re-released her debut album in July. The album won Best Welsh Album at the 2015 National Eisteddfod and in November 2015 won the 2014–2015 Welsh Music Prize.
Gwenno also currently co-produces and co-hosts a Welsh radio show on Cardiff Radio titled “Cam O’r Tywyllwch” (“A Step Away from the Darkness”) with her Peski Records colleagues. The team was also behind the CAM ’15 music festival in Cardiff, which took place in April 2015 and featured the first live performance in over 20 years by Welsh music post-punk pioneers Datblygu
In October 2018 the Cornish Language Board claimed that Saunders’ album Le Kov had contributed to a 15% increase in the number of people taking Cornish language exams during 2018
Le Kov (“a place of memory” in Cornish) is the second studio album by Welsh singer-songwriter Gwenno. It was released on 2 March 2018 on Heavenly Recordings. The first single from the album is “Tir ha mor (Land and sea)”. Heavenly Recordings claim Gwenno felt a duty to make her second album entirely in Cornish as a record of the living language
The songs on Le Kov are written and composed by Gwenno Saunders with help from Rhys Edwards, and features guest vocalist Gruff Rhys on the song “Daromres Y’n Howl”. The album also features drum engineering by Gorwel Owen. Gorwel Owen and Gruff Rhys are both members of Super Furry Animals
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Talking Straight (Hope Downs 2018)
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, also sometimes known as Rolling Blackouts C.F., is an Australian indie rock band. It was formed in Melbourne in 2013 by singer-guitarists Fran Keaney, Tom Russo & Joe White. The band’s five members are Keaney, his cousin Joe White, Tom Russo, his brother Joe Russo (bass guitar), and Marcel Tussie (drums). Their debut EP, Talk Tight, was released in 2016 on Ivy League Records. It was followed by their second EP, the French Press, which was mixed by Doug Boehm and released in 2017 on Sub Pop Records. They performed at the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival on 29 January 2018, and their debut full-length album, Hope Downs, was released on 15 June 2018 on Sub Pop.
Robert Christgau gave Talk Tight an A grade, writing that “If you like the [guitar] effect—and why not, it’s beautiful—you’ll gravitate to it on sound alone. But what I’m loving at least as much is lyrics that suit the bright white male culture the sound implies.” He also compared the band’s sound to that of the Go-Betweens, a comparison that has also been made by critics like Stephen Deusner.
According to Metacritic, The French Press has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 4 reviews, indicating that it has received “universal acclaim” from critics. One favorable review of the EP was written by Pitchfork Media‘s Stuart Berman, who gave it an 8.1/10 rating, writing that the French Press “shines just as bright as their last EP [i.e. Talk Tight], but the songs cast darker shadows.” In a more mixed review, Landon MacDonald of PopMatters gave the EP a 5 out of 10 rating, writing that “Ultimately, this record is for indie rock fans alone and can’t stretch past the borders of the genre.”
Lenny Kravitz – 5 More Days ‘Til Summer (Raise Vibration 2018)
Leonard Albert Kravitz (born May 26, 1964) is a Bahamian-American singer, songwriter, actor, and record producer. His “retro” style incorporates elements of rock, blues, soul, R&B, funk, jazz, reggae, hard rock, psychedelic, pop, folk, and ballads. In addition to singing lead and backing vocals, Kravitz often plays all of the instruments himself when recording.
He won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance four years in a row from 1999 to 2002, breaking the record for most wins in that category as well as setting the record for most consecutive wins in one category by a male. He has been nominated for and won other awards, including American Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, Radio Music Awards, Brit Awards, and Blockbuster Entertainment Awards. He was also ranked number 93 on VH1‘s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock. On December 1, 2011, Kravitz was made an Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He played Cinna in the Hunger Games film series.
Raise Vibration contains twelve compositions. As on most of his other albums, Kravitz plays most of the instruments himself, with longtime guitarist Craig Ross and keyboardist/orchestrator David Baron being the only collaborators (other than string and horn players). The album has produced two singles. “It’s Enough!” is a song against corporate greed, political corruption, and racism. The follow-up single “Low” explores the perils of his near-mythical sensuality with intonations alluding to his past intimate relationships. The song “Low” was released as a single and a video approximately six weeks before the album. It contains vocal extracts from Michael Jackson.
Leon Bridges – Bad, Bad News (Good Thing 2018)
Todd Michael “Leon” Bridges (born July 13, 1989) is an American soul singer, songwriter and record producer from Fort Worth, Texas. He is best known for his song “Coming Home“, which received regular airplay and was also a Top 10 Most Viral Track on Spotify. Bridges’ debut album, also titled Coming Home, was released on June 23, 2015, on Columbia Records and subsequently nominated for Best R&B Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.
The album’s singles, “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” and “Bad Bad News” was released for digital download on March 13, 2018. “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” was later sent to urban contemporary radio on April 10, 2018. The album’s third single, “Beyond”, was released on April 20, 2018, it was later sent to urban contemporary radio on April 30, 2018.
Boy Azooga – Face Behind Her Cigarette (1, 2 Kung Fu 2018)
Boy Azooga Davey Newington – Vocals, Guitar Sam Barnes – Bass Dylan Morgan – Keys Dafydd Davies – Drums
Boy Azooga’s debut album, 1, 2 Kung Fu, is piloted by Davey Newington, a young man with much musical heritage. One of his granddads was a jazzer who played drums for the Royal Marines. Davey’s dad (violin) and his mum (clarinet) both played, and met, in the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales. Davey himself also enjoyed orchestral engagement, playing in various Welsh Orchestra’s and Jazz bands as a teenager.
Davey took up the drums at the age of six. More recently, and operating as one Bongo Fury, he became the rhythmic pulse for Charlotte Church’s Late Night Pop Dungeon, sat behind the kit as Charlotte plied joyous pop hedonism to Glastonbury and beyond. This would have been enough for some, but now Davey returns as Boy Azooga. The oldest song on the debut album is Hangover Square, titled after Patrick Hamilton’s celebrated and blackly compelling 1941 novel of the same name. The book was given to Davey by his dad as Davey left home at the age of 18. He was so taken with the novel that he almost immediately turned the book’s narrative into a song. Now, completing a circle, Newington senior plays strings on the Boy Azooga album. Davey plays everything else.
Davey’s vocals and arrangements carry the tunefulness of The Super Furry Animals. But the palette extends far beyond singer-songwriterly poignancy. Davey recruited friends Daf Davies, Dylan Morgan and Sam Barnes to form the Boy Azooga live quartet, an ensemble that swings smoothly from filmic instrumentals to a churning, rave-tinged rock that hints at both Can and their progeny in Happy Mondays.
“The album is not all one thing for sure,” says Davey. “The whole point of Boy Azooga is to be a celebration of loads of different types of music. I wanted the album to be more like a mixtape or something. We wanted to include loads of contrasting styles.”
By way of illustration of Davey’s multifarious musical mission, the track Face Behind Her Cigarette both hints at Hot Butter’s 1972 synth-pop smash Popcorn and draws inspiration from the late Nigerian funk overlord William Onyeabor. The filmic instrumental Breakfast Epiphany II is a response to The Beach Boys’ Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), as featured in an LSD-fuelled scene in the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy. Boy Azooga close 1, 2 Kung Fu with Sitting On The First Rock From The Sun, a piece of poised 1960s-flavoured classicism that expands into a Black Sabbath-esque whig out
Other influences on the album include Sly & The Family Stone, Caribou, Black Sabbath, Outkast, Van McCoy, Ty Segall and The Beastie Boys. It’s a range of listening that reflects how Davey moved on from a school-days love of Nirvana and Run-DMC – which was partly down to an inspirational art teacher.
Davey: “Mr Clark was pretty cool. He knew I played drums, so he told me I should check out Can because they have really interesting rhythms, so I bought Can’s Ege Bamyasi in Spillers Records in Cardiff. When I was in the shop [Television’s] Marquee Moon was playing on the stereo, a record I’d never heard of. I ended up buying that as well. Not a bad day’s work…”
Davey is evangelical about his musical influences. His choice of band name also has links with cultural precedent – this time the 1994 film The Little Rascals, which was, in turn, based on Our Gang, the series of comedy shorts created by Laurel & Hardy producer Hal Roach.
“When we were growing up,” says Davey, “we used the watch the film The Little Rascals at my gran’s house. In that film they chant ‘Azooga-zooga-zooga’ so the name comes from that. My cousin is in a really good Edinburgh-based band called Man Of Moon. When me and him text each other we always sign off with ‘Azooga-zooga.’ I’d wanted to call the band Bo Azooga after Bo Diddley, but my girlfriend told me BO was not something good to have in a name…”
Alongside the triangle, Davey also played timpani, xylophone and sleighbells for various youth orchestras. He was delighted to find that The Stooges also deployed sleighbells, on tracks such as I Wanna Be Your Dog. Now sleighbells feature on the Boy Azooga album. But Davey’s treasure chest of hand-held percussion doesn’t stop there. Maracas are a key feature with Face Behind Her Cigarette, the song with which Boy Azooga often finish their live set, and which turns into a rave/psych monster-mash in the process.
“I started off with two pairs of maracas,” says Davey, “my lucky black maracas from this shop in Cardiff… Then my girlfriend and my best friend knew we had loads of gigs coming up. So they got me all these cheap maracas for my birthday, like 40, and drew different stuff on them – the date of a gig and so on. I think I currently have about 50 pairs. We lose a few at gigs but I’m hoping that’ll change and people will start bringing their own…”
Secure your maracas, grab those sleighbells. The Boy Azooga beat is already among us – and getting louder.
Sam Fender – Dead Boys (Dead Boys 2018)
Sam Fender (born 25 April 1996) is a British male singer-songwriter who was named one of the BBC’s Sound of 2018 alongside other emerging artists including Sigrid, Lewis Capaldi, and Khalid. His single “Play God” was featured in the FIFA 19 video game.
Fender was raised in North Shields, in the North East of England. He is from a musical family. His father Alan and brother Liam are both singer-songwriters, with Liam also playing drums and piano.
Wand – Pure Romance (Perfume 2018)
Cory Hanson and his SoCal cohorts continue their transformation from manic garage rockers to shape-shifting innovators on an EP as eclectic as White Light/White Heat.
Last year, Wand pulled off a magic trick. For their fourth album, Plum, founder Cory Hanson disappeared the manic band responsible for three raucous LPs in two years—a creative clip familiar to some of their SoCal garage-rock associates—and summoned in its place apparitions of several different bands. Adding two permanent members, guitarist Robbie Cody and Sofia Arreguin, on keyboards and vocals, provided them with new sonic bulk and flexibility. But Plum was more remarkable for demonstrating that Wand could shape-shift in a snap of their fingers.
It seemed as though they’d benefitted from taking an extra year to design a more thoughtful work. But Hanson didn’t rest for a moment, following their Plum tour, before announcing that Wand’s next release was already in the bag. On their EP Perfume, they return to their original bustling pace without losing any of their new-found ingenuity.
The band sounds filthy and pristine in equal measure, just as it did on Plum. Again, multiple Wands show up, bearing songs varied enough to have come from several discrete seasons of writing. It’s rare to find transitions this agile on a single album, or even across the same career: Perfume resembles a retrospective compilation from an act that’s been around for 20 years—not five—and has spent significant chunks of that time workshopping different sounds. Whether gritty or pretty, each song could pass for the work of a genre specialist.
Shawn Mendes – In My Blood (Shawn Mendes 2018)
“In My Blood” is a song recorded by Canadian singer and songwriter Shawn Mendes. Written by Geoff Warburton, Scott Harris and its producers Mendes and Teddy Geiger, it was released by Island Records on March 22, 2018, as the lead single from Mendes’ self-titled third studio album. It was nominated for Song of the Year at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.
“In My Blood” chronicles Mendes’ struggle with anxiety. It marks the first time the singer has publicly discussed his experiences with the mental health disorder.
On his decision to write the song, Mendes said he wanted to “make something as serious as anxiety tangible where everybody can listen to it and either connect with it or understand it”. He then added that, “sometimes it lasts two hours, sometimes it lasts a day and sometimes it lasts five minutes”. He emphasized that, “The point of the song is that no matter how long that lasts, you can come out the other end stronger and you come out of the other end always”.
Andy Burrows & Matt Haig – Handle with Care (Reasons to Stay Alive 2018)
Andrew William Burrows (born 30 June 1979) is an English songwriter and musician. He was the drummer in the band Razorlight from 2004 to 2009, as well as We are Scientists from 2009 to 2014.
Burrows first solo album The Colour of My Dreams (2008) was released while he was still member of Razorlight. After he departed the band he released his first album with the solo project I Am Arrows, called Sun Comes Up Again in 2010. His third solo album Company was released 22 October 2012.
He has worked with Tom Smith from Editors under the moniker “Smith & Burrows”. He also co-wrote the soundtrack to The Snowman and The Snowdog with Ilan Eshkeri, which was nominated for a BAFTA Craft Award in April 2013.
Andy co-produced the soundtrack for the Ricky Gervais’ film, David Brent: Life On The Road’. Andy appears in the film as David Brent’s drummer in the fictional band, Foregone Conclusion.
Andy continued working with Columbia recording artist, Tom Odell, having co-written ‘Sirens’ from Tom’s debut album, ‘Constellations’ & ‘Here I Am’ from the ‘Wrong Crowd’ LP, and ‘Jubilee Road’ from forthcoming album, ‘Jubilee Road’.
Andy plays drums and sings backing vocals on both the ‘Wrong Crowd’ & ‘Jubilee Road’ albums.
In 2018, he collaborated with the British author Matt Haig for the album “Reasons To Stay Alive“. The songs were composed by Burrows while Haig composed the lyrics for his songs. In August 2018, the title track of the album was released
Matt Haig (born 3 July 1975) is a British novelist and journalist. He has written both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults, often in the speculative fiction genre.
Haig is the author of both fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. His work of non-fiction, Reasons to Stay Alive, was a number one Sunday Times bestseller and was in the UK top 10 for 46 weeks. His bestselling children’s novel, Father Christmas and Me, is currently being adapted for film, produced by Studio Canal and Blueprint Pictures.
His novels are often dark and quirky takes on family life. The Last Family in England retells Shakespeare‘s Henry IV, Part 1 with the protagonists as dogs. His second novel Dead Fathers Club is based on Hamlet, telling the story of an introspective 11-year-old dealing with the recent death of his father and the subsequent appearance of his father’s ghost. His third adult novel, The Possession of Mr Cave, deals with an obsessive father desperately trying to keep his teenage daughter safe. His children’s novel, Shadow Forest, is a fantasy that begins with the horrific death of the protagonists’ parents. It won the Nestlé Children’s Book Prize in 2007. He followed it with the sequel, Runaway Troll, in 2008.
Haig’s vampire novel The Radleys, was published in 2011. In 2013, he published The Humans. It is the story of an alien who takes the identity of a university lecturer whose work in mathematics threatens the stability of the planet who must also cope with the home life which accompanies his task.
In 2017, Haig published How to Stop Time, a novel about a man who appears to be 40 but has, in fact, lived for more than 400 years and has met Shakespeare, Captain Cook and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In an interview with The Guardian, Haig revealed the book has been optioned by StudioCanal films, and Benedict Cumberbatch had been “lined up to star” in the film adaptation. Reasons to Stay Alive won the Books Are My Bag Readers’ Awards in 2016 and How to Stop Time was nominated in 2017. In August 2018, he wrote lyrics for English singer and songwriter Andy Burrows music album. The album was titled taken from Haig’s book “Reasons to Stay Alive“.
Shame – One Rizla (Songs of Praise 2018)
Shame are a British alternative rock band originally from South London. Their debut album Songs of Praise was released on 12 January 2018. The group has received critical acclaim from publications including NME, Paste, and Clash.
Shame released their debut album Songs of Praise on 12 January 2018 through Dead Oceans and was met with critical acclaim. The record currently holds an aggregated score of 85 based on 16 reviews. The album peaked at number 32 on the UK Albums Chart and remained on the chart for two weeks.
Sigrid – Sucker Punch (Sucker Punch Single 2018)
Sigrid Solbakk Raabe (born 5 September 1996) is a Norwegian singer and songwriter. In 2017, she achieved international success with her EP “Don’t Kill My Vibe“, and she later won the BBC Music Sound of 2018 award. Her single “Strangers” reached number 10 in the UK.
In 2016, Sigrid signed with Island Records. She released her debut single with Island, “Don’t Kill My Vibe” in 2017. The song has charted in Norway, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Sigrid also performed on Park Stage at Glastonbury. The Guardian newspaper even suggested that Sigrid may be worthy of headlining the festival in the years to come. She was also a part of The Sims 4: Parenthood soundtrack with the Simlish version of her hit song, “Don’t Kill My Vibe”. Sigrid performed at the Reading Festival in August 2017. She is featured on the 2017 Justice League soundtrack performing a cover of Leonard Cohen‘s 1988 classic “Everybody Knows“.
In 2018, Sigrid was announced as BBC‘s Sound of 2018. On 10 February 2018, she was a guest presenter for an episode of The Playlist for CBBC. The same month, Sigrid won the Newcomer of the Year award at Spellemannprisen ’17. She announced on Twitter that she would release a song called “Schedules” on 11 July 2018. She will release her debut album Sucker Punch, on the Island label, on 1 March 2019. Sigrid will be touring with American band Maroon 5 for their Red Pill Blues Tour in Europe in June 2019 and to join George Ezra’s 2019 UK tour.
Rae Morris – Someone Out There (Someone Out There 2018)
Rachel Anne “Rae” Morris (born 2 September 1992) is a British singer and songwriter. She released her debut album, Unguarded, in 2015. Her second album, Someone Out There, was released in January 2018.
Morris began work on the follow up to Unguarded in late 2015. Working prominently with Fryars, Morris opted for a more electronic-oriented sound for her second album. Between July 2017 and October 2018, Morris released seven singles to promote the album – “Reborn”, “Do It”, “Atletico (The Only One)”, “Push Me to My Limit”, “Lower the Tone”, “Someone Out There” and “Dancing With Character” – as well as various remixes. The album, titled Someone Out There, was released on February 2, 2018.
In July 2018, the song “Reborn” from “Someone Out There” was featured in the BBC’s closing montage from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In October 2018, Morris said she was “going away for a few months to write the next era.”
Elbow – Golden Slumbers (Golden Slumbers single 2018)
Elbow are an English rock band consisting of Guy Garvey (lead vocals, guitar), Craig Potter (keyboard, piano, backing vocals), Mark Potter (guitar, backing vocals) and Pete Turner (bass guitar, backing vocals). They have played together since 1990, adopting the name Elbow in 1997.
The band have released seven studio albums, Asleep in the Back (2001), Cast of Thousands (2003), Leaders of the Free World (2005), The Seldom Seen Kid (2008), Build a Rocket Boys! (2011), The Take Off and Landing of Everything (2014), and Little Fictions (2017). Their studio albums, as well as their B-sides compilation Dead in the Boot (2012), all reached the top 15 of the British album chart. Seven of their singles placed in the top 40 of the British singles chart. Their most recent album, Little Fictions, was released on 3 February 2017.
In 2008, Elbow won the Mercury Music Prize for their album The Seldom Seen Kid, and in 2009 they won the Brit Award for Best British Group. In 2012, they released “First Steps“, the BBC theme for the 2012 London Olympics.
“Golden Slumbers” is a song by the Beatles, the sixth part of the climactic medley that appears on the B side of their 1969 album Abbey Road. The song is followed by “Carry That Weight” and begins the progression that leads to the end of the album. The two songs were recorded together as a single piece, and both were written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney), strings and brass arranged and scored by producer George Martin
Snow Patrol – Empress (Wildness 2018)
Snow Patrol are a Northern Irish rock band formed in Scotland in 1994, consisting of Gary Lightbody (vocals, guitar), Nathan Connolly (guitar, backing vocals), Paul Wilson (bass guitar, backing vocals), Jonny Quinn (drums), and Johnny McDaid (piano, guitar, backing vocals). Initially an indie rock band, the band rose to prominence in the early-mid 2000s as part of the post-Britpop movement.
The band were founded at the University of Dundee in 1994 by Lightbody, Michael Morrison, and Mark McClelland as Shrug. After briefly using the name Polarbear and released the EP Starfighter Pilot (1997) and losing Morrison as a member, the band became Snow Patrol in 1997 and added Quinn to its line-up. Their first two studio albums, Songs for Polarbears (1998) and When It’s All Over We Still Have to Clear Up (2001), were commercially unsuccessful and were released by the independent record label Jeepster Records. The band then signed to the major record label Polydor Records in 2002.
Connolly joined Snow Patrol in 2002, and after their major-label debut album, Final Straw, the following year, the band rose to national fame. The album was certified 5× platinum in the UK and eventually sold over 3 million copies worldwide. Their next studio album, Eyes Open (2006), and its hit single, “Chasing Cars“, propelled the band to greater international fame. The album topped the UK Albums Chart and was the best-selling British album of the year, selling over 6 million copies worldwide. In 2008, the band released their fifth studio album, A Hundred Million Suns; then, in 2009, they released their first compilation album, Up to Now; and, in 2011, released their sixth studio album, Fallen Empires. The band released their seventh album, Wildness, on 25 May 2018.
During the course of their career, Snow Patrol have won seven Meteor Ireland Music Awards and have been nominated for six Brit Awards. Since the release of Final Straw, the band have sold over 16 million records worldwide.
Wildness is the seventh studio album by Northern Irish-Scottish rock band Snow Patrol. The album was released on 25 May 2018. It is their first album with Johnny McDaid as a full member of the band, after his involvement as a guest musician and songwriter on Fallen Empires and participation in its tour
“Don’t Give In” was released as the first single for Wildness on 21 March 2018. “Life on Earth” was released as the second single from the album on 12 April 2018. “What If This Is All the Love You Ever Get?” was released as the third single on 2 May 2018. “Empress” was released as the fourth single on 8 May 2018.
Tom Grennan – Found What I’ve Been Looking For (Lighting Matches 2018)
Tom Grennan (born 8 June 1995) is a British singer-songwriter based in London, England. He is signed with Insanity Records
At 18, he was mugged by a group of strangers on the street and was left with four metal plates and screws in his jaw that “still hurt when winter comes”. He trained to become a professional footballer. He played for Luton Town for a while, tried for Northampton Town and Aston Villa. But he was later released. He worked briefly at Costa Coffee. He told Music Week: “I was close to playing over in the States but something was telling me not to and obviously it was the music”.
His musical beginnings are obscure, but he says he was at a house party where he sang “Seaside” from The Kooks. He didn’t remember it, but his friends were impressed and pushed him into performing more. He studied acting at university. Also at age 18, he started doing gigs around London with his acoustic guitar, mainly in small pub appearances for almost three years. After a performance at Finsbury pub, a representative of Insanity Records heard him play and offered a contract. His debut EP, Something in the Water was produced by Charlie Hugall. He had his big break when he was featured in the Chase & Status 2016 single “All Goes Wrong” that was picked as “Hottest Record” on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 Show. After that he was invited for an appearance on BBC Radio 1‘s Live Lounge, and a follow up appearance on BBC Two‘s show Later… with Jools Holland. The song charted in the UK Singles Chart peaking at number 65. It also charted in Scotland and some European charts.
In 2017, he was shortlisted for MTV Brand New Award singing at MTV Showcase at London’s Electric Ballroom on 2 February 2017). Also in 2017, he had a cameo appearance in Charli XCX‘s music video for her song “Boys” alongside many well-known artists and duetted with grime MC Bugzy Malone on “Memory Lane”. He performed in Trafalgar Square during the F1 Live in London show in support of Formula One drivers. He started an all UK tour in March 2018 in support of his upcoming album Lighting Matches released in July 2018. His song “Found What I’ve Been Looking For” appears on the FIFA 18 soundtrack and is also used by Sky Sports as the theme song for Super Sunday.
Passenger – To Be Free (Runaway 2018)
Michael David Rosenberg (born 17 May 1984), better known by his stage name Passenger, is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Previously the main vocalist and songwriter of Passenger, Rosenberg opted to keep the band’s name for his solo work after the band dissolved in 2009. His most successful single, “Let Her Go“, has topped the charts in many countries. In 2014, the song was nominated for the Brit Award for British Single of the Year, and he received the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work.
Rosenberg was born on 17 May 1984 in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, England to Quaker parents, English mother Jane and American Jewish father, Gerard Rosenberg, originally from Vineland, New Jersey. Rosenberg learned classical guitar at a young age and at around 14–15 started to write songs. He worked as a chef and spent his spare time writing music and practicing guitar. He did not apply himself at school in Brighton, spending his time making music. Rosenberg left school at the age of 16 to pursue a career in the music industry and spent the next few years as a busker in England and Australia. Rosenberg still lives in Brighton.
On 18 May 2018, Passenger released the song “Hell or High Water”. It was recorded in a variety of different national parks across Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. In the following days, he also announced a fall European tour and teased fans through social media with a cover for a new album.
On 25 May 2018, he formally announced his tenth studio album Runaway and released a live acoustic version of “Hell or High Water” recorded in Venice Beach. Passenger described the record as a concept album, as he realised many of the songs had a strong sense of Americana. He also believed the songs would work well accompanied by American visuals and thus, alongside long-time collaborators Jarrad Seng, Stu Larsen and Chris Vallejo, embarked on a three-week-long road trip through the United States to film videos for each track. Additionally, they recorded acoustic videos for each track, filmed in a variety of different locations. Rosenberg plans to release a song every three weeks, sharing both the official and acoustic videos, plus behind-the-scenes footage. The full album Runaway was released on August 31, 2018.
Eva Cassidy & the London Symphony Orchestra – Autumn Leaves (Single 2018)
Eva Marie Cassidy (February 2, 1963 – November 2, 1996) was an American singer and guitarist known for her interpretations of jazz and blues. In 1992, she released her first album, The Other Side, a set of duets with go-go musician Chuck Brown, followed by the 1996 live solo album titled Live at Blues Alley. Although she had been honored by the Washington Area Music Association, she was virtually unknown outside her native Washington, D.C.. She died of melanoma in 1996 at the age of 33.
Two years after her death, Cassidy’s music was brought to the attention of British audiences, when her versions of “Fields of Gold” and “Over the Rainbow” were played by Mike Harding and Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2. Following the overwhelming response, a camcorder recording of “Over the Rainbow”, taken at Blues Alley in Washington by her friend Bryan McCulley, was shown on BBC Two‘s Top of the Pops 2. Shortly afterwards, the compilation album Songbird climbed to the top of the UK Albums Chart, almost three years after its initial release. The chart success in the United Kingdom and Ireland led to increased recognition worldwide. Her posthumously released recordings, including three UK number-one records, have sold more than ten million copies. Her music has also charted within the top 10 in Australia, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
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