Despite having an even more depressing year, 2018 was not so bad in terms of musical experience.
I went to several nice gigs last year: from the legendary shoegaze band from Oxford Ride to the overly energetic Glaswegians Franz Ferdinand to the hip millennials The XX and Beach Fossils. Synchronize Festival was also another highlight, as it was surprisingly good and totally gezellig.
However, neither my 2018 Spotify wrapped and Last.fm scrobble results actually represented finest tracks from 2018 that I have been listening to. This was partly because I have been making some throwback playlists on Spotify, including the monthly #ThrowbackThursday #tbt1998, #Kylie50 – to commemorate Kylie’s 50th birthday, “Swede Sixteen” – 16 songs by Swedish artists, and the obscure Pet Shop Boys playlist series so-called “A Relationship with Tennant/Lowe”.
So that explained why my Top Artist from 2018 was the Pet Shop Boys. I will definitely post that playlist this year. Apart from that, I made some more tribute playlists: Gustaph (of Hercules and Love Affair), Chris Sharrock (the current drummer of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds whom I had a crush on since his days at The Lightning Seeds), and Bernard Butler. My post on Gustaph playlist was mentioned by Gustaph himself back in July and I was just above the clouds that Saturday afternoon.
During one of my depression periods I was also intensively listening to James, in particular these three songs: “Say Something”, “Sometimes”, and “Sit Down”. I even made a short playlist called “I have a friend in James” which consisted of these three songs and I played it over and over and over again.
Why? Because James said they could and would do the following..
Back to 2018, the year marked significant comebacks by 80s and 90s bands such as Simple Minds, Soft Cell, Rick Astley, and Tracey Thorn. For me, Tracey’s album “Record” is the ultimate album of the year, with electronic pop sounds and Tracey’s distinguishing vocals that will briefly take you to “Missing” and “Wrong”. But I like this album more than Everything But The Girl’s “Amplified Heart” – it is fresher and gives such an uneasy yet empowering feeling of being a girl.
Apart from “Queen”, my personal favourite is “Air” where she collaborated with Shura. You can hear bits of Shura’s synth touches as in “Touch” and the young singer-songwriter’s vocal in the background.
And look straight through me
Like plate glass,
like fresh air
Like i wasn’t even there
1. TRACEY THORN – Queen
I immediately fell in love with this song the first time I heard it on Spotify new releases back in January. For me this is her best solo album ever, filled with upbeat yet gloomy electronic tracks that would give you the feels.
2. THE RHYTHM METHOD – Chin Up
I believe this is the best English football anthem since “Three Lions” and “Three Lions ’98” 20 years ago. It has the feeling of New Order’s “World in Motion” and they reminded me so much of the Electronic with the soft voice of Neil Tennant. Yet it hit you hard with the sad fact that England might not win the World Cup. And that artwork – it just brings back the past nightmare of Gareth Southgate’s missed penalty. But Southgate, the England manager for this year’s World Cup, surprisingly managed to take England to the semi-final. Oh well, chin up England.
3. SOFT CELL – Northern Lights
This is what I call an ultimate come back. After more than three decades, Soft Cell returned with this single and it just brought back all the synthpop memories as future-related quotes and images of flamingos were flashing inside my head. Don’t get too excited though, the album “Keychains and Snowstorms” was (merely) a greatest hits instead of a whole new studio albums packed with strong synthesiser melodies.
4. GEORGE EZRA – Paradise
George Ezra is back with a new album and this first single is definitely a solid hit. The music in “Staying at Tamara’s” is far much richer, and it clearly shows maturity in his vocals.
5. GOLDFRAPP featuring DAVE GAHAN – Ocean
Another awesome collaboration from this year was this. Dave Gahan’s vocal really gave extra depth of darkness that will take you to the infinite abyss
I’ve lost my will to
I’ve lost my way
6. UNDERWORLD & IGGY POP – Trapped
This was probably the most bad-ass collaboration of the year. And just when I thought nothing could top New Order’s “Stray Dog” (which featured Iggy Pop on vocals) a couple of years ago, Underworld just did with one whole EP. Their first single “Get Your Shirt” was also a great track (and attracted many funny comments on youtube, haha)
7. CIAO LUCIFER – In While I Out
I knew this band from my friend Willem, whom I met at “Smell and Art” course at KABK many years ago. I believe this is their finest single since “60/40 Love”, and I had the tune (and in particular the bass notes) stuck in my head for weeks.
8. PAUL HEATON & JACQUI ABBOTT – 7″ Singles
Paul Heaton and former co-vocalist of The Beautiful South Jacqui Abbott have been very productive – releasing three full studio albums in the last three years. This is another release but it did not come from another studio album – it is a compilation of Paul Heaton’s works, from The Housemartins to The Beautiful South to his solo works to his duet with Jacqui. This first single mentions quite a number of artists, from Billy Joel to Elton John to Diana Ross. A perfect song for a music trivia freak like me.
9. HERCULES AND LOVE AFFAIR (featuring GUSTAPH) – My Curse and Cure
As I have mentioned earlier, perhaps one of the biggest highlights instagram history was to have my post mentioned by Gustaph himself on his instastory. I have been a fan of Hercules and Love Affair ever since their first visit to Indonesia back in 2012. Omnion was another brilliant work by Andy Butler, and surely my heart skipped a beat when they finally released this as a single. Gustaph’s vocal was still as mesmerising as ever.
10. CHRISTINE AND THE QUEENS – Doesn’t Matter
Chris is back with a new androgynous look, choreography, and kick-ass tunes. What I really like from this song in particular is the electric drum and synth intro – I could just listen to that first part on repeat the whole day.
11. NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS – If Love Is The Law
Last year I was very much obsessed with Chris Sharrock, whom I knew from his drumming days with The Lightning Seeds in mid 1990s. Now he is drumming for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and he is still as awesome as ever. And this album is probably Noel’s best, with an excellent music production, brilliant lyrics, and catchy tunes that will stuck in your head for ages. For this song, Noel actually asked the legendary guitarist (and fellow Mancunian) Johnny Marr to be involved – not to play guitar, but to play harmonica.
12. ASH – Confessions In The Pool
I haven’t been very impressed by their latest releases in the last few years, but this is a very nice track with a touch of electronic-surf-pop, if there is such a thing (I surely made that up). And this video really reminds me of Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
What could we have done to deserve this misery?
Drowning in these tears, drifting on the sea
13. YEARS & YEARS – If You’re Over Me
I must admit that Palo Santo is not as powerful as Communion, but this track has a very catchy intro that got stuck in my head for days.
14. BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT – Tough Love
Rod never seems to run out of inspirations to make brilliant electronic-pop tracks that always give you the feels of going back to late 80s/early 90s.
15. PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING – White Star Liner
After releasing a full-length album last year (which featured notable British artists like Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura and James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers), Public Service Broadcasting is back with a new, 4-track EP “White Star Liner”. This somehow reminded me of their earlier releases “The War Room” with their single “Spitfire” and my personal favourite “London Can Take It”.
16. FRANZ FERDINAND – Glimpse of Love
Franz Ferdinand has definitely made a comeback with their new album “Always Ascending”. I had the chance to see them live late last year and it was very strong performance from beginning to end. And this was the first song they played that evening.
17. ORBITAL (featuring PROF. BRIAN COX) – There Will Come A Time
It seems like there are just too many great collaborations this year, especially if you are a 90s kid like me. From Underworld with Iggy Pop, Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr, and now this. Surely (the now Professor) Brian Cox is not being featured as a keyboardist because those D:Ream days are over, but as a physicist, lecturing on time. I have always been very mesmerised by Cox’s programmes on BBC Earth – although I must admit I did not always understand the whole thing, especially when it was about quantum physics – but I have always wondered what would happen if I went to his actual lectures. Would it give me a different perspectives on physics?
There are few certainties in science,
but one fact of which we can be certain
is that one day we will die.
Our atoms won’t disappear.
They will return to the Earth.
Some will become parts of a living future,
but they will cary no imprint,
no memories, no knowledge,
the pattern once known as you.
17. JAMES – Many Faces
James never seems to fail to impress me with their strong message. And this song seems suitable with the message of “100% Manusia” (100% Human) – a film festival that I have been involved in in the last couple of years.
There’s only oneAccording to Spotify on their 2018 Wrapped, here are my top artists and top tracks of 2018:
Everybody belongs here
- James – Say Something
- The Tears – Lovers
- Sufjan Stevens – Mystery of Love
- Jens Lekman – The End Of The World Is Bigger Than Love
- Acid House Kings – Are We Lovers Or Are We Friends?
- Pet Shop Boys
- Kylie Minogue
- New Order
This year, last.fm released a listening (or should I say, scrobble) report and mine looks sort of like this:
- James – Say Something
- George Ezra – Paradise
- Tracey Thorn – Queen
- Soft Cell – Northern Lights
- Hercules and Love Affair (feat. Gustaph) – My Curse and Cure
- Franz Ferdinand – Glimpse of Love
- Ciao Lucifer – In While I Out
- Sufjan Stevens – Mystery of Love
- The Rhythm Method – Chin Up
- Orbital (feat. Professor Brian Cox) – There Will Come A Time
- Pet Shop Boys
- Franz Ferdinand
- The Lightning Seeds
- New Order
- Depeche Mode
- Hercules and Love Affair
- Tracey Thorn
As usual, the mixtape will be posted after this blog.