Monday 31 December 2018

Influential Music of 2018

Music has always given me so many hours of inspiration and enjoyment. I have listened to hundreds of albums this year (without exaggeration) and here are the stand-outs.

Why not give them a try for yourself?

Caro Emerald: Acoustic Session
This album was released in 2017, but was toured during 2018, giving it every reason to be included here (the same applies to the next one on the list).

Caro Emerlad's gig at the York Barbican was one of the events of the year; a real show with superb music and the atmosphere of an evening-long party.

Imelda May: Life Love Flesh Blood
I was in the very fortunate position of being able to see Imelda May for the third time earlier this year. She sang through most of Life Love Flesh Blood, which sees her leaving behind the rockabilly roots to present a full set of thoughtful, touching and beautiful songs, which should definitely connect with all listeners on some level. One of the best albums of any year.

Dawn Lanes: Meet Me At The River
The intimate surroundings of The Basement in York gave me the perfect opportunity to spend an evening wrapped up in the music of Dawn Landes. A fabulous singer/songwriter with a really lovely voice, Dawn deserves to be much better-known in the UK.

Christina Aguilera: Liberation
I like music to challenge me; its an essential duty. This diverse album is not exactly easy listening but it is a real 'grower', demanding attention, focus and an open mind. It is no good using this album as background music while doing anything else! In a world seemingly awash with mush, this will make you think.

The Damned: Evil Spirits
Remarkably, The Damned returned to their top form in 2018 with their first album in a decade, backed up by a major tour (one of the gigs of the year). The album is full of excellent songs - Standing on the Edge of Tomorrow, Look Left and Evil Spirits, to name but three - and should act as a real eye-opener for those who have neglected The Damned.

Pistol Annies: Interstate Gospel
The Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley) have returned with their third album. Country and Gospel - with a very sharp cutting edge. Miranda Lambert was sensational in concert last year, when I saw her in Hammersmith, and I am hoping this innovative trio will be putting together some UK dates for 2019.

Sounds of the Sirens: For All Our Sins
The vocals of Abbe Martin and Hannah Wood are powerful and the songs are excellent. They are all set to make a big impression in 2019, so now is the time to give their music a try. Pop/folk, for those who must have everything neatly pigeonholed.

Hailey Tuck: Junk
Hailey Tuck! A remarkable talent. Brilliant 'live' (as proved in Middlesbrough earlier this year) and hugely charismatic, Hailey invites you to step back to the 1920s - the era of the Flappers - while keeping one foot in the present. We need more tour dates next time!

Jah Wobble: The Butterfly Effect
Jah has had a very productive year. The current incarnation of The Invaders of the Heart are helping to push the boundaries and their almost constant touring has led to very fruitful studio time.

The Butterfly Effect offers a series of challenging songs and tunes that simply need to be listened to. Yes - of course - Jah goes all the way back to the days of Punk with PiL, but leaving the musical analysis there may be the choice of many, but it is downright lazy. The genres embraced and enhanced by this extraordinary man and The Invaders of the Heart deserve much more attention.

Hollie Cook: Vessel of Love
I found this wonderful album by searching out more material by Jah Wobble, who is present on some of the tracks. 'Tropical Pop', if you like...full of dreamy Reggae, powered by worthy bass. A soundtrack to my Summer, this album will prove uplifting.

Confessin' the Blues - Curated by The Rolling Stones
The Stones know the Blues - and here they are, curating a superb collection of originals (some of which they covered in their time) to offer up two discs brimming with extraordinary music. Get back to the roots!

Lauren Daigle: Look Up Child
Lauren Daigle is going to take 2019 by storm. This extraordinary album is absolutely full of brilliant songs. Lauren's voice has been likened to Adele's and it is easy to see why - at least on first impression. Yet a few more listenings should be more than enough to tune into Lauren's unique personality and inspirational ethos. Go and listen to it and then try telling me the songs don't make you feel something. Fingers crossed for UK tour dates in 2019, as I'm sure it will definitely prove to be one of the gigs of the year.

Best of the Year: 2018

At the end of every year I always end up thinking it has been the best-ever for fabulous gigs.

As the calendar starts to get busy for 2019, it is time to take a backwards glance to pick out the highlights of an excellent 2018.

Some old favourites returned and I was delighted to be able to see numerous superb artists for the very first time, in a variety of venues from massive stadiums to the most intimate of 'small rooms upstairs.'

Here are some of my favourite moments, representing approximately half of the gigs of 2018.

The Skids at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton
Big Country at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton
Rosanne Cash at the Union Chapel, Islington
Bananarama, Edinburgh Castle
Altered Images, Edinburgh Castle
The Rolling Stones, Twickenham Stadium
Sam Lavery at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton
Natalie Imbruglia, 02 Academy, Liverpool
The Damned, 02 Forum, Kentish Town
...with support from Slim Jim Phantom!
Gary Numan - Middlesbrough Empire and then Newcastle City Hall
Sherdian Smith, The Sage, Gateshead
Kim Wilde, York Barbican
UK Subs at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton
Eilen Jewell, Gulliver's (Manchester) and The Lexington (London)
Imelda May, Symphony Hall, Birmingham (with Texas and Ward Thomas)
Shania Twain, Manchester Arena
Jilted John, Middlesbrough Town Hall
Hailey Tuck, Middlesbrough Town Hall
Dawn Landes, The Basement, York
Caro Emerald, Barbican, York
Rachel Harrington, The Old Cinema Launderette, Durham
Sweet at Arc, Stockton
The Cardigans, Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith

2019 has a hard act to follow, but plans are already falling into place!