Top 20 Albums of 2018

Another year, another great haul of albums. However, this wasn’t an ordinary year for the underground and alternative scene. Something is afoot. A unified and destructive punk rock and rock n roll is bubbling up. A searing intensity is brooding alongside a mass outpouring of love. They havent quite balanced each other out yet but, the hope that’s amassing on the underground circuit is emerging and will not be contained.

Remember 2018 as the year where the new working class fought back with intelligence and love (AGAIN).

20. Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

The old folk mongrel cannot stop delivering thought provoking guitar solos. Put your beret on and prepare to be dazzled.

19. Sean McGowan – Son of Smith

McGowan has toured with Billy Bragg, Frank Turner and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly in the past and clearly taken notes. From brass to funk to punk to pop, McGowan has taken a swing at them all. For the most part, made solid connections. Sometimes, bands/artists debut is all they have, a lifetimes dreams desperately oozing from their souls. What’s on display here is, clearly a man with aspirations and dreams way beyond teenage discourse.

18. Boy Azooga – 1, 2, Kung Fu

Welcome to the world of positivity starring Johnny Marr's protege. Cardiff's Davey Newington is a classic single away from national treasure status.

17. The Bonnevilles – Dirty Photographs

Amid all the fuzz and devilment, an old school R'n'B soul permeates The Bonnevilles. No matter how abrasive or decadent, an enriching warmth continually permeates.

16. Bennett Wilson Poole - Bennett Wilson Poole

The sweet sounds of The Byrds and CSNY are given a credible revisit.

15. Alfa 9 - My Sweet Movida

There is an expansive guitar side always threatening to break out on this record. The album isn’t lacking solos but, on 'Rise' and the trippy closer 'Fly', the highlight reel grows significantly. Think Stills at his sprawling best with Manassas.

14. Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile

When will they make a bad album? Lyrically Wire has lit the touch paper and Bradfield's guitar playing strays from Motown to Rush, the drummer is good too.

13. Blossoms – Cool Like You

The stand-out pop music record of the year.

12. 485c – 485c

There is so much to admire about this debut album but mainly, it’s the high level of consistency of it that’s striking. The Charlatans and Maximo Park need to make some space, there is a new member to the forever 8 out of 10 club.

11. The Lovely Eggs – This Is England

Wiggy giggy giggy giggy giggy giggy giggy.

10. Cabbage – Nihilist Glamour Shots

The line has been drawn for battle, if you're not on the Cabbage's side, history will come for you!

9. Asylums – Alien Human Emotions

Pop punk has a new standard bearer. Thoughtful and observant of the times, the Southend outfit have channelled their inner Martin Amis.

8. She Drew The Gun – Revolution of the Mind

Lyrics with the power of Irvine Welsh meet their synths and psyche music head on for their best work yet.

7. Johnny Marr – Call The Comet

Johnny. Johnny. Johnny fucking Marr!

6. DMA's – For Now

The Sydney outfit have honed their La's meets the spirit of The Enemy to pop perfection.

5. Get Cape Wear Cape Fly – Young Adults

Priced out of the city and forced to return home, Duckworth's song writing has hit a career high. Strummer-esque polemic is given a poetical turn to great effect.

4. Shame – Songs of Praise

Such evanescent guitar playing combining with a venomous but heartfelt vocal delivery. They maybe 4th here but, our suspicions are that, Shame will go further than most.

3. Suede – The Blue Hour

It may be their third album post-comeback but, now it feels like they are back in the hearts of the nation once more. Outsiders young and old have a voice once more.

2. IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance

Desolation and gut wrenching despair has never been delivered with so much love.

1. The Blinders – Columbia

With the next generation about to be royally fucked, thank god for the punkadelic revolution being led by the Doncaster trio. Dark, warped and scathingly brilliant.


“And the more they see the more they say
Thrown like two winter roses into a broken vase”

Suede - Outsiders – 2016

 On Saturday 24th November, the premier of Suede’s documentary ‘The Insatiable Ones’ aired on Sky Arts. It’s a glorious piece of cinema that depicts the London icons in their role as outsiders on their rise to the top.

Fast forward 7 days to Brixton Academy, The Courteeners, supported by Gerry Cinnamon and Zuzu, it was snapshot of what 2018’s outsider looks like. Accessible and great alternative pop songs from all three are treated like leprosy from the same outlets that once gave Suede a chance.

The rejection of British lives being reflected in song writing, especially in bands in recent years, has served nights like this well though. The reaction to having what they love being ignored has been an intense outpouring of togetherness at the live shows. Cinnamon’s name is sung to the rafters, it couldn’t be clearer that he is the breakout act of the year.

Yes, crowds go wild to anthems and they fall silent to the ballads but, there was something else lurking in Brixton. A genuine feeling of “I have to die proving I love this band”, it was almost tangible!

Our lives may not be reflected in the songwriting played on mainstream outlets now, but, it’s only made fans kick that much harder against the pricks.

Music Venue Trust

London's iconic 100 Club played host to four emerging talents recently. Headlined by London's Sisteray and supported by Gaffa Tape Sandy, Strange Cages and Beach Riot, this was more than your average gig, sadly. It was part of the Music Venue Trust's charity fightback to stop small venues going under.

The fact a charity was set up in 2014 to protect venues should be sending warning sirens to anyone with half an interest in live music. Too many small venues have fallen by the wayside in recent years because of extortionate business rates, gentrification, and a government desperate to increase stats on house building. Thankfully, they are establishing themselves across the country and looking to obtain freeholds when they become available on avid gig goers venues.

For TT, this gig was firm evidence MVT is needed to secure these venues futures. March 2017, Sisteray opened up for The Blinders and The Shimmer Band at the Camden Assembly (formerly the Barfly). Just over a year on, they sold out a venue with a bigger capacity. Without the a venue to progress onto, where is the carrot dangling for a new band like them? Write a soulless corporate Magic FM single? No thank you.

Having been at both gigs, the progress of Sisteray was striking. They were tighter and their confidence was up. Frontman Niall Rowan delivered his social commentary significantly more venom and, on set closer 'White Knuckle Joyride', the band have developed a freedom the Oasis-esque track deserves.

Now, anyone who thinks success is overnight or handed to you by a shit haircut in a roll-neck jumper on ITV, think again. Sisteray have grafted their nuts off and earned this slot. We're not saying it should be easy, the struggle and the journey are key to any art a band puts out. However, without the space to play, fail and learn, Sisteray could not have reached this new level.

The other three acts were indicative of so many support bands. They all showcased glimpses of the sound their honing. In many ways, they are Sisteray in March 2017. Here's hoping that this time next year, one of them emerges as the 100 Club headliner.

Thousand Yard Stare - Keep It Alive

Confession time, Thousand Yard Stare was a blind spot until their Shiiine On Weekender 2016. It was one of those nights where the words “wow, who the fuck is this” just kept forming in a cider induced brain.

So, when they announced a special EP only set at the Lexington, It felt somewhat fraudulent to be there despite the obsessive record collecting In the intervening years. Especially during ‘Twicetimes’ when a total stranger turns and excitedly stutters “20 years, never, 20, never heard in 20 years”.

So often, people with less obsessive tendencies around music ask “why are you going to see an old”, now, depending on mood, they are met with cynical derision or, an inevitable Spotify playlist. On this occasion, a far bigger response is needed.

They are the musical embodiment of Matt Le Tissier. This brilliant entity, capable of so many things but mainly, dragging the underdog to a realm of glory. The classic ‘0-0 AET’ encapsulates the spirit of The Wonder Stuff into their world of psychedelic rock n roll and ‘Buttermouth’, like Le Tissier, leaves you with the sense that, if new today, would be a national treasure.

Tenuous football links aside, the abiding feeling of tonight is love. From Stephen Barnes’ video message to unwell drummer Dom (get well soon mate), to Sean McDonough’s uncontrollable hugging of other band members to their crew holding on to amps and singing along simultaneously, love oozed from them. What “became unmentionable” tangibly rose in North London on Friday, “it belongs to everyone of us”.

What began as tentative baby steps to the front became leaps of joy and togetherness for one lonely music lover. Lost in the abandon of loyal “weatherwatchers” and seeking solace in a criminally underrated band, Friday was a heartfelt expression of hope.

Keep it alive!

A Letter to Scott Hutchison

Dear Scott,

Thank you. Thank you for your song writing. Thank you for the lift in mood at my most isolated.

The news of your passing didn’t hit until today, the anniversary of the Manchester terror attack. As Radio 4 reported the testimony of parents who lost their children and surviving children as young as 12, I was awe struck by the spirit and sense of togetherness they’d found in adversity.

Radio 4 also interviewed various choirs this morning. They were preparing for a performance tonight in memory of the tragically lost. As they found solitude in a mourning city, your masterpiece ‘Nitrous Gas’ sprang to mind more vividly than ever before.

The warming nature juxtaposed with the emotive darkness as the protagonist tears their world apart is remarkable. The sense of telling the world to “fuck off” is so striking its almost tangible. The little guitar licks nod towards a dawning light that should have been spent asleep dreaming of better things. The imagery is masterful.

However, clearly this mind-set came with a cost. We, and hopefully all music fans from here on in will change their approach to music appreciation. It cannot be enough for reviewers like me to put a tortured soul up on a pedestal anymore. The time has come to refer young men like Scott to CALM, or simply as, “are you ok mate”.

Sorry Scott. Sorry we indulged in your pain. Sorry for not making your isolation our problem too.

Yours Sincerely

Mike Adams

* The Mural was painted by Michael Corr in Glasglow with his wife and a little girl who walked by wanting to help.

The Bluetones Top 10

After two intimate nights with Mark Morriss (Westcliff) and then the full band (Water Rats), we thought we’d do something different than just review their brilliant Shepherds Bush Empire homecoming.

So, here is our top 10 Bluetones songs for you to enjoy, debate, and troll us with alternatives on Twitter with.

10. Slight Return

Music is a great tool for inducing memories both good and bad. As a child of the 90s, it felt like this emerged from nowhere to number two (kept of by Babylon Zoo!!!) in the charts. After Pulp’s ‘Mis-Shapes’, siege mentality at the fore front of the alternative community and this was one of its chief weapons.

9. Emily’s Pine

A groove laden ending to the 3rd album ‘Science and Nature’. What begins as a romantic ode ends in dank murderous tones. What’s not to like?

8. Carnt Be Trusted

The perfect mix of Marr’s funk and Squire’s rock n roll blend on this heavy paisley anthem. Lyrically, it’s Morriss at his best, detailing the darker side of relationships. Remarkably, in a song without a chorus, it’s level of hooks are high.

7. Talking To Clarry

Kicking off the debut album, and harnessing the band with too many Stone Roses comparisons was this cracker. Yes, there are some ‘Breaking into Heaven’ moments in the intro, but, for our money, there was always a nod to Crosby Stills and Nash in this slow burner.

6. Autohpillia

In 2000, Pop Idol was well under way, and freeze dried pop in a bag was in full force. So, for this eccentric REM number to reach 18 in the charts was a great feat.

5. After Hours

When Mercury Records decided to put a greatest hits out against the bands wishes, the boys decided to take ownership and record some new material. The iconic Bugsy Malone video directed by Edgar Wright was the best of the bunch.  

The Wings meets ‘Benny and The Jets’ sense of fun oozes from this tale of pub that the Winchester of Shaun of the Dead fame is based on. For anyone who is old enough to remember the dirty secret of a lock in, well, it will always raise a wry smile.

4. Never Going Nowhere

Bands like Radiohead get tagged as brilliant because they always innovate (rightly so). However, to recreate your band’s sound and retain great pop sensibilities is a far rarer occurrence. Their 4th album witnessed a distinct array of 70s influences not seen before. The intro brims with Talking Heads’ sense of humour whilst, as ever, Morriss tells brilliant tales of dark relationships.

3. Home Fires Burning

After the heavier second album, the knives were out in the music press. It would have been easy for them to fold under the pressure. Cue, their most complete single.

2. Bluetonic

This, more than anything seems to define the band in the mid 90s. It’s immediate with intelligent lyrics and a boozy swagger. Much like the early Supergrass records, it was both of and before its time simultaneously.

1. Marblehead Johnson

Few bands reach the top and then give something back to the fans like The Bluetones did with this non-album single. Furthermore, it’s the freest the band have ever sound. From the jingle jangle riffs to Morris’ eloquent vocals, everything flows effortlessly.

Shot in the Dark

"they've now grown up, sorted their shit out but importantly they still retain their bite." - Alan McGee (Creation Management) 

Tuesday night, in the car park of a music industry office building, Towers of London are laying on a night of booze food and themselves. These things are always weird, some turn up for the music, but some stand around talking through the whole thing about how they once broke some shit Britpop band.

It’s a short but impactful set of their new material which, is largely a foray into dirty rock n roll. Breed and Proletariat have been scrapping there way to radio attention in recent times, on this showing, Towers of London might just be the break through this emerging scene needs.

The show is good, they are good, but, on ‘Shot In The Dark’, they’re great! Donny introduces it by saying “this is Shot In The Dark, I hope you like it, It really means a lot to us”. This maturer approach is a striking contrast to the persona he once built which adds more fuel to its fire. This song wins on every level. Great riffs and solos are one thing but here, they become a clarion call to the downtrodden. Arguably the finest of its kind since The Enemy's 'Away From Here'.

In this setting, surrounded by industry that shunned them, they've made a great statement that, not only are they back, but this time you will listen.

This Feeling TV Live at Nambucca

Nambucca played host to the Other Kin, Shed Seven and Cabbage’s live performances of This Feeling TV (episode 5) Tuesday night. One thing is striking about the night, optimism. It’s everywhere. The youngest in the audience fuck about care free whilst, the elder states people among us, can sense the ground swell of rock n roll emerging once more. Despite the neglect from the mainstream, This Feeling has provided a home for the outsider and, after years of graft, they look set to kick the doors in and take back the airwaves for the righteous!

Opening the live proceedings were the Dublin five piece Otherkin and, although Shed Seven are legends and Cabbage are well established, the sense of “follow that” loomed large. Their blend of psyche, grunge and rock n roll was a joy to behold. The guitar playing, comfortably the best we’ve seen in some time. It was intensely brutal but, in a similar fashion to Nirvana or The Cribs, never loses sight of great pop melodies.   

Shed Seven treated us to a rare acoustic set. On new tracks ‘It’s Not Easy’ and ‘Better Days’, it struck home just how heartfelt they are and highlighted the trust Rick and Banksy have as song writing partnership. The classics ‘Going For Gold’, ‘On Standby’ and ‘Chasing Rainbows’ were giving an airing and, as ever, their hymnal quality reigned supreme.

Cabbage’s set is less promotional trail for the upcoming debut album release and more a rampaging assault on Downing Street. Their guttural psyche-cum-punk is the sound of this generation kicking back against all things Tory. Never without humour or melody, you can’t help but feel they are one big single and tabloid scandal away from scaring little Englanders half to death.

RIP NME. So What Now?

No one should be surprised that the NME closed recently. It's a difficult time for all print media. Furthermore, no one should care either. IPC has long put a noose round its neck to make the reader stop caring. It was trading of its once good name to sell adverts. Global are doing the same with Radio X, Channel 4 & Bauer did the same with Q television. There all run by people who just want a job and judge success on numbers. They should be run by people who want to push the boundaries of art, fashion and music.

Speak to anyone who writes about or takes photographs of bands they love and the same themes emerge. They were born out of a love of something and a deep routed sense of injustice that it was being overlooked.

It's not officially a public service, but, essentially, that’s what is provided. So, for anyone thinking it’s a sad day for music journalism, get off the canvas and join the struggle. You only have to look at This Feeling, Rocklands TV, The Zine UK or Louder Than War over to realise how the digital media can matter. Hell, even if you have just one reader, be it your wife, best friend, or parent who says “hey, I just listened to The Blinders after reading your review”, you've won!

What else can be done:


1.       Take to social media when you find a band you like. From our experience, the mainstream music industry will look for any reason not to play alternative music, such as, lack of online presence. It’s not in the DNA of the hegemonic to allow rebellion to thrive. So, like them on as many platforms as possible. Dont give them an inch!

2.       Start your own club nights. Find a room in a pub for free, get some mates, have a party. Get any local bands you know to play and most of all, don’t be snooty if they are shit. Everyone is shit when they start out. Find the first entries of our google blog, appalling (please don’t find them). Those willing to try, should be afforded the space to fail.

3.       Finally, to the younger generations, the ones who instinctively understand digital media. Find ways to make a honest living from it and ways for bands to make an honest living from it. Spotify cannot be the answer. You can and must do better to help artists thrive.



Top 20 Albums of 2017

20. Ride – Weather Diaries

The Oxford quartet’s first album since 1996’s ‘Tarantula’ saw them on mixed form. At it’s best though, ‘Cali’ and ‘Lannoy Point’ deliver their brand of melodic shoegaze.

19. Cast – Kicking Up The Dust

The Scouse legends deliver their best album since the 1995 classic ‘All Change’. Flitting between their free flowing blues and spritely pop numbers, John Power has hit a purple patch of song writing once more

18. Noel Gallagher – Who The Built Moon

The old mongrel shed a few coats for his latest album. When he nails it, as he does on ‘Holy Mountain’, it’s magnificent. It’s big bold and new. Alas, when he doesn’t, its because the leaps are not big enough or he doesn’t remain in his big key change comfort zone. Nevertheless, with plans to make another record with David Holmes, this could be the start of a glorious journey.

17. Public Service Broadcasting – Every Valley

Those clever clever bastards have churned out the goods once more. Getting to grips with pit life in Wales this time round. The guest vocals from Camer Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell and Manics’ James Dean Bradfield were welcome additions to their sound. However, the standout track comes from the rage

16. GospelbeacH – Another Summer of Love

The West Coast veterans channel their inner Byrds spirit and deliver exactly what it says on the tin. As the cold sets in and all that’s left to eat is cold meat, this blast of sunshine will see you through to your next holiday.

15. Alvvays – Antisocialites

Molly Rankin’s sublime vocals should be saved for a long journey staring out windows at vast landscapes. Everything this band do sounds life changing or affirming.

14. Girl Ray – Earl Grey

With the single of the year ‘Touble’ on its books, Girl Ray were always making this list. Brilliant melodies, unique vocals and a sense of humour unrivalled, they are band with magic at their fingertips.

13. Tom Williams – All Change

History has always proven the poet can achieve far more than social comment. Nevertheless, the social commentary here is smothered such warming pop music vibes, it’s hard to picture this not reaching even those who disagree.

12. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band

There is nothing we can say, that the genius John Dorman hasn’t about Michael Head already: Nevertheless, we love this album, we love that Head is in a good place and long may it continue.

 11. Liam Gallagher – As You Were

To quote Jurassic Park, “clever girl”. Did anyone see this album coming? All the money was on a flailing Beatles via psyche album. What we got was, big emotive albums with remarkably honest and humble lyrics from the icon.

 10. Shed Seven – Instant Pleasures

Sixteen years was well worth the wait. All the pain and bitterness felt by band and fans alike when they were shunned by the industry has dissipated. Emerging from the fog are the unsung heroes of Britpop. This new offing is packed with great choruses, wit, and a charming underdog spirit. Business as usual!

 9. The Moonlandingz – Interplanetary Class Classics

This supergroup was always going to deliver wasn’t it? Whether it’s the Mary Chain inspired ‘The Strangle of Anna’, the Gary Numan-esque ‘The Rabies are Back’ or Earl Brutus via The Horrors ‘Black Hanz’, everything sounds so fresh!

 8. Idles – Brutalism

Wry, sarcastic and effing hilarious. This pitiless body of work will stop at nothing to take the piss and provide punk rock nirvana.

7. Johnny Flynn – Sillion

The one true genius of the nu-folk era returned from acting to prove he is still the master. No one in the folk world can touch him for sincerity of song writing. Everything he delivers has a warmth and depth of emotion to be admired.

6. British Sea Power – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party

Is this the first ‘Remainer’ album? Quite possibly. It has overarching sense of together is better and, inevitably, a sense of loss.

Forever consistent, BSP have risen their pop sensibilities to ‘Open Season’ standard and, on leadoff single ‘Bad Bohemian’, surpassed it. Despite the “half glass empty” and “what’s done is done” lyrics, it’s as defiant single your likely to hear. Effortlessly free, it tumbles and swirls with abandon.

Elsewhere, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Get In The Way’ is a sauntering rock behemoth which will stop you dead in your tracks to ponder life as you know it.

5. Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders – Scenery For Dreamers

Proving age is but number, Wylie, 59, as delivered a masterpiece. No one thought it was possible for him to ever reach the heights of the Cosmic Rough Riders’ ‘Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine’ but, this Teenage Fanclub via Neil Young offering just does that.

4. Theatre Royal – And Then It Fell Out My Head

Comfortably the pop record of the year. Smart, funny and always brave in its song writing topics. The heartfelt ‘Standing in the Land’ just grows in resonance the more the British press turns away from atrocities of Syria. To wrap such a subject in a achingly beautiful acoustic number is the very reason why so many people think Ed Sheeran is shit. This is the pinnacle of a simple song!

‘Locked Together on the Lines’, ‘Port Bou’, and ‘Will Somebody Please Write Me a Song’ ooze a carefree spirit that demands instant affection.

3. Ryan Adams – Prisoner

Mr Prolific is back, and his back with the most brutal of break up records. This is the sound of a crushing divorce and searing unseen pain. Channelled through big rock riffs and dream pop production, Adams is at his scintillating best. 

2. Wolf Alice – Visions of Life

The hottest property in the UK right now, and rightly so. They’ve combined a sense of experimentation with punk and pop immediacy on an album that is forever shape shifting in sound. Rock music might not be dominating the charts right now but, Wolf Alice have taking a big stride towards making it relevant again and, they’ve done it with the utmost integrity.

1. Trampolene – Swansea to Hornsey

What a year these boys have had. As if supporting The Libertines and Liam Gallagher wasn’t enough, all the promise from the early EPs has been followed up with an instant classic. There's the aching beauty of ‘Gangway’ and ‘Beautiful Pain, the vitriolic social comment of ‘Dreams So Rich, Life So Poor’ and William Blake poetry scattered throughout, it has it all