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Albums of the Year 2018

December 10, 2018

 Albums of 2018

What a great year for music it has been. No matter how much I struggled there was no way I was cutting my list down to ten. I was going to list some of those who nearly made it but there are just too many great albums to mention.

Here are my Top 15 albums of 2018.

Number 15 – Botany Bay by Kelly Oliver:

English singer/song-writer, Kelly Oliver has come up with a fine album of old folk songs. The title track and the beautiful Died of Love are two of the highlights.

Number 14 – White on Blue by The Cody Sisters Band:

I got this album from Folk Radio UK to review and it turned out to be a cracker with some great Americana music and brilliant guitar and banjo picking backing up the vocals. It was even more astonishing to discover the girls were only 13 and 15 years old!

Number 13: – Inyal by Inyal:

This is an excellent album with some fine experimental moments mixed with traditional touches and Gaelic songs.

Number 12; – The Pipe Slang by Jamie MacDonald & Christian Gamauf:

A great album of tunes played just as they are meant to be. Tears has already been bookmarked as the music for Colonsay Memories 3 (if it ever happens).

Number 11: – Avalanch by Imar:

This is very impressive album from Imar. A varied selection of tunes, all expertly played. Be Thou is just gorgeous.

Number 10: – No-one Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your F*ckin’ Hedge Cut by Half Man Half Biscuit:

This is a storming return to form for a band from my formative years. The power-punk chords are still there as are the puns and the songs are excellent. Swerving the Checkatrade is the Biscuits at their best while What Made Colombia Famous is just superb.Some albums make you think, some make you emotional. This one makes me grin like a maniac.

Number 9: – The Railway by Hamish Napier:

There are some great tunes and songs here as Hamish Napier charts the rise and fall of the railway system. Jocky the Mole is a cracking wee song and Diesel is a stomping tune.

Number 8: – The Morning Tempest by Josie Duncan & Pablo Lafuente:

This is a very good album, filled with great songs and it is one that I listen to regularly. There is a good mix of covers, some new songs and some fine puirt as well.

Number 7: – Broken Heart of Everything by David Francey:

Another great album from the Canada based Scot, David Francey. The songs are full of emotion and the trials of life. The highlights for me are Come Sunday, Blue Sorrow and Then Some and of course The Flower of Colonsay.

I have been listening to the next six albums constantly over the last few days and I cannot separate them. This is the order they are in as I write this. Tomorrow the order will change. They are pure class and I love them all.

Number 5=:- Ruins by First Aid Kit:

This is a diamond of an album from the Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg. The songs, many written during Klara’s break-up,are emotional and heartfelt and song writing does not get much better than this. Nothing Has To Be True is a beauty and a definite highlight from an exceptional collection of songs. This album was always likely to be high on the list but their fantastic live show made certain of it.

Number 5=:- Keeping Time by The Ennis Sisters:

This is a fantastic album of songs from the Newfoundland trio. Maureen’s voice is simply gorgeous and the harmonies with Karen and Theresa are as good as it gets. There is a fine mix of songs, mostly co-written by Maureen and a lot of them deal with family life including the loss of their father after dementia robbed him of his memories. It also includes the hugely uplifting Go Rosie, Go and the anthemic Daughters of Newfoundland which is up there with the best new songs of the year.

Number 4:- Laws of Motion by Karine Polwart, IngeThomson and Steven Polwart

This is a gorgeous album of songs that try to make sense of this crazy world. I Burn but I Am Not Consumed, tells how a man with Lewis roots became the most powerful maniac in the world and imagines how the rocks of Lewis might react if they could talk. It is a mostly spoken track but is a gem that sums up this powerful album. Cassiopeia (which includes the chilling and frankly ridiculous Government advice on how to survive a nuclear attack) is a very striking track and Crow on the Cradle is another cracking song, amongst many on this beautifully produced album.

Number 3:- Heard a Long Gone Song by Lisa O’Neill:

From the stunning opening a cappela version of Galway Shawl through to the closing cover of Shane MacGowan’s Lullaby of London, this album is just full of surprises. Lisa O’Neill has a unique style which may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I find it mesmerising. There is heartbreak in the tormented A Year Shy of Three and the unbearably sad Blackbird, there is the surreal like the tale of Violet Gibson’s attempt to assassinate Mussolini and then there is the breath-taking beauty of the moment when Radie Peat’s harmony kicks in on Factory Girl. No matter how often I listen to it, that moment stops me in my tracks every time. It is a sumptuous album of true Irish folk music.

Number 2:- The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff  by The Young ‘Uns:

This is not just an album but a history lesson set to music.The package contains a wealth of material giving details of the life and times of Johnny Longstaff. From the Hunger Marches to Cable Street, from the Spanish Civil War to World War II, Johnny had a remarkable life. His voice links the songs and adds a certain sense of poignancy to the album that is rather special. In typical Young ‘Uns style, you are taken from deep sadness in Ta-ra to Tooting (as Johnny says goodbye to his mates before travelling to Spain) to laughter in the next track, Noddy, where he has his first encounter with a naked lady. Perhaps the most striking moment is the final part of the closing track as the fine vocal harmonies of Sean, Michael and David are replaced by the stark and emotional sound of Johnny Longstaff singing about those left behind in Spain.

Number 1:- Round & Round by Ciaran O’Kane:

I was not even aware of Ciaran O’Kane until a few weeks ago but this album has quickly become one of my all-time favourites. It is a mixture of traditional and self-penned songs and it is sometimes hard to spot the difference. Tradition is well served with excellent versions of Banks of the Lee,Willie Taylor and the duet with his Mum on Lord Franklin. Songs like the almost poppy Skim and Round and Round are obviously referencing modern life but SnowDone (a song you would swear was based on an old Pibroch) and the wonderful The Fulldiew Stone sound like they have been around for years. It is fine song writing, the vocal is Irish traditional singing at its best and the musical backing is perfect. It is a very special album.

So there we are. These six albums could have been in any order as they are all amazing pieces of work and well worth a listen if you haven’t already had the pleasure. I have thoroughly enjoyed the music of 2018 and I am looking forward to what 2019 has to offer. 

Hughie McNeill

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