Best Records of November 2018 The Fernweh, Drew McDowell, Northerner, Ed Harcourt, Daughters
The records that soundtracked the misery of travelling on Northern Rail, getting soaked to near death by relentless rain, standing in endless queues at shops, Black Friday, and the oncoming Slade/Band Aid/Wizzard apocalypse.
Best albums this month
A record to gladden the hearts of anyone who thinks that they don’t make great English psychedelic records any more. This Liverpool-based three piece take influences from the late 60s - the likes of Pink Floyd, The Kinks and Trees - and emerge with a blend of bucolic, folksy psychedelia that is as varied as it is impressive. Had it emerged earlier in 2018 this one would be bothering very many Album of the Year charts...
Drew McDowell was a sometime member of Coil who played on some of their best work. His recent solo albums for Dais have also been impressive, and this third in the trilogy is possibly the most immersive of the lot. Standard pop-song length compositions whisk you away into an evocative sound world of dark and twisted electronics...this is music from the most severe of trances.
November is a wet grey month, but Northerner’s 'End of the Holiday' could help transport you back to those sun-dappled days on the beach where the only concern is where your next cocktail is coming from. This all-instrumental glide is kind of like a Balearic cross between Durutti Column and Leon Vynehall. A faded postcard for dreaming of sunnier climes.
Free Love are the duo who used to trade under the name Happy Meals until they presumably fell foul to the might of the golden arches. Never mind, they still sound pretty joyous on this LP which blends synth-pop, psychedelia, Italo and acid with their wonderful ear for a tune. An album that is accessible, warm and welcoming.
Perhaps the perfect early winter album. Ed Harcourt is more known as a singer songwriter (who has written for Paul McCartney no less), but his first foray into instrumental neo-classical music is a minor revelation. This is an album full of exquisite instrumental beauty, standing up well with the best work of the likes of Max Richter and Nils Frahm. A career in evocative soundtrack work surely beckons for Mr Harcourt.
If you are familiar with Sebastian Gainsborough’s previous work as Vessel it may be time to erase what you already think and plough deep into this new sound world. Queen of Golden Dogs takes many differing, familiar styles including a mutant take on funk, soul, tribal, baroque and classical. But it joins them together into an album impressively cohesive and with a vibrant, almost childlike enthusiasm.
We thought Stephen Steinbrink was such a nice boy, but it turns out he’s been living in his studio and eating LSD during the recording of his third LP. Apart from some dark lyrical matter and the odd harsher sound, it’s business-as-usual on a series a perfectly constructed lo-fi guitar pop with charms and disarms in equal measure.
Not to be confused with the limp Daughter. Daughters are the absolute polar opposite of that band, with an album of distorted, schizoid, industrial-leaning noise rock. 'You Won't Get What You Want' is a blast from start to finish, a barrage of Birthday Party-ish sludge and all your other noise favourites. It both blows their previous work out of the water and single-handedly flips noise metal on its head.
A record that despite (or maybe because of) its dark subject matter and unusual, often challenging instrumentation feels like one of the year's most essential. Toronto saxophonist Joseph Shabason barely uses his signature instrument as he creates a series of moving and sonically distorted portraits to his mother, suffering from all the cruelties of Parkinson’s disease. A thoughtful, fascinating and important work.
One of the best metal albums of the year from this duo, who combine traditional Indonesian folklore with black metal vocals, noise textures and everything in between. The result is unique and enticing: an experimental album in some ways, but one that will appeal to fans of metal just as much as it will to lovers of freeform noise and distorted loops.
Coming to a shelf near you this December
The release schedule traditionally grinds to a halt a bit in the last month of the year, but there are a few bits we're looking forward to including:
- Wearing out piano keys faster than Donald Trump gets through lawyers it's Lubomyr Melnyk with 'Fallen Trees' - an album celebrating his 70th birthday. On Erased Tapes.
- Has anyone told our mates over at The Quietus? Big Manics retrospective.
- We barely have to say anything about Denis Sulta, so quickly does his stuff disappear from the shelves most of the time.
- Daniel Avery and Richard Fearless combine forces for the first time as PSSU.
- And speaking of fruitful collaborations, what weirdness will Dean Blunt conjure up with Delroy Edwards?
Want more? Take a look at our reliable-as-a-70s-British-car release schedule.