As another great year for vinyl draws to a close, our trusted panel of music-loving industry experts select the best albums of the past 12 months

There was a time, and it wasn’t so very long ago, when the end of year best-of polls in music mags were dominated by a small cast of the usual suspects: big-hitting, high-profile bands all playing a similar type of music, all signed to a familiar clutch of record labels. Those days are gone. Just a cursory glance at Long Live Vinyl’s Top 100 Albums list for 2018 reveals a wide range of artists (34 of the albums featured here are fronted by women) and musical genres (free jazz, synth-folk, alt-rock, neo-soul, post-punk, Afrobeat and more) – with over 50 different labels represented. It’s been said before, but we’re going to say it again, it’s a golden age for vinyl collectors, with the racks bursting with great stuff. And that’s without touching on the fantastic catalogue of reissued vinyl that has popped off the presses in the last year. Read on to see how many of the Top 100 Albums of 2018 you’ve got…


The Panel

We invited a rogues’ gallery of writers, record shop owners, record label bosses, festival organisers, bands and music PRs to each vote for their Top 20 albums of the year and awarded points accordingly to get our Top 100. Thanks to the following (and several others) for taking part: Banquet Records, Laura Barton, Glen Bushell, Cliffs, Paddy Davis, Tim Dellow, Daniel Dylan Wray, Drift Record Shop, John Earls, Eel Pie Records, Friendly Records, Steve Harnell, Jenna Jones, Jumbo Records, Duncan Jordan, Giacomo Lee, Longwell Records, Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, Chris Parkin, Kate Price, Simon Raymonde, Resident Records, Will Simpson, Spillers Records, Murray Stassen, Simon Taffe, Vinyl Tap, Gary Tipp, Wyndham Wallace, Ben Wardle, Laura Williams, Daniel Dylan Wray and Jonathan Wright


100. The Lovely Eggs
This Is Eggland (Egg Records)

99. Laura Gibson
Goners (City Slang)

98. Paul Weller
True Meanings (Parlophone)

97. Adrianne Lenker
ABYSSKISS (Saddle Creek)

96. Courtney Marie Andrews
May Your Kindness Remain (Loose)

95. Lily Allen
No Shame (Parlophone)

94. Slaves
Acts Of Fear And Love (Virgin EMI)

93. Sophie
Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides (Transgressive)

92. Gang Gang Dance
Kazuashita (4AD)

91. Pusha T
Daytona (GOOD Music)

90. Daniel Bachman
The Morning Star (Three Lobed Records)

89. Car Seat Headrest
Twin Fantasy (Matador)

88. Mount Eerie
Now Only (P.W. Elverum & Sun)

87. Tirzah
Devotion (Domino)

86. King Krule
The Ooz (XL)

85. Maribou State
Kingdoms In Colour (Counter Records)

84. Daniel Blumberg
Minus (Mute)

83. Ty Segall & White Fence
Joy (Drag City)

82. Matt Berry
Television Themes (Acid Jazz)

81. Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood
With Animals (Heavenly)

80. Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Sex And Food (Jagjaguwar)

79. Michael Rault
It’s A New Day Tonight (Wick Records)

78. Snail Mail
Lush (Matador)

77. Daniel Avery
Song For Alpha (Phantasy Sound)

76. Soccer Mommy
Clean (Fat Possum)

75. Marissa Nadler
For My Crimes (Bella Union)

74. Go Go Penguin
A Humdrum Star (Blue Note)

73. Jack White
Boarding House Reach (Third Man)

72. Mitski
Be The Cowboy (Dead Oceans)

 71. Cat Power
Wanderer (Domino)

70. Confidence Man
Confident Music For Confident People (Heavenly)

69. Mogwai
Kin (OST) (Rock Action)

68. Tune-Yards
I Can Feel You Creep Into My Private Life (4AD)

67. Jonathan Wilson
Rare Birds (Bella Union)

66. Ryley Walker
Deafman Glance (Dead Oceans)

65. Bodega
Endless Scroll (What’s Your Rupture?)

64. Jim James
Uniform Distortion (ATO)

63. Warmduscher
Whale City (The Leaf Label)

62. Hot Snakes
Jericho Sirens (Sub Pop)

61. Robyn
Honey (Island)

60. Kids See Ghosts
Kids See Ghosts (GOOD Music)

59. Rayland Baxter
Wide Awake (ATO)

58. Amen Dunes
Freedom (Sacred Bones)

57. Phosphorescent
C’est La Vie (Dead Oceans)

56. Iceage
Beyondless (Matador)

55. Odetta Hartman
Old Rockhounds Never Die (Memphis Industries)

54. Bill Ryder-Jones
Yawn (Domino)

53. Interpol
Marauder (Matador)

52. The Breeders 
All Nerve (4AD)

51. Beach House
(Bella Union)

50. Tuung
Songs You Make At Night (Full Time Hobby)

49. Gorillaz
The Now Now (Parlophone)

48. Julia Holter
Aviary (Domino)

47. Insecure Men
Insecure Men (Fat Possum)

46. The Blinders
Columbia (Modern Sky)

45. Ezra Furman
Transangelic Exodus (Bella Union)

44. Gruff Rhys
Babelsberg (Rough Trade)

43. The Internet
Hive Mind (Columbia)

42. Ty Segall
Freedom’s Goblin (Drag City)

41. Lump
Lump (Dead Oceans)

40. Gengahr
Where Wildness Grows (Transgressive)

39. Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Look Now (Concord)

38. Khruangbin
Con Todo El Mundo (Light Night Tales/Night Time Stories)

37. The Goon Sax
We’re Not Talking (Wichita)

36. Oh Sees
Smote Reverser (Castle Face Records)

35. Amber Arcades
European Heartbreak (Heavenly)

34. Our Girl
Stranger Today (Cannibal Hymns)

33. Hilary Woods
Colt (Sacred Bones)

32. Christine And The Queens
Chris (Because Music)

31. Wye Oak
The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs (Merge Records)

30. Spiritualized
And Nothing Hurt (Bella Union)

29. John Grant
Love Is Magic (Bella Union)

28. Let’s Eat Grandma
I’m All Ears (Transgressive)

27. Manic Street Preachers
Resistance Is Futile (Sony Columbia)

26. Gaz Coombes
World’s Strongest Man (Hot Fruit/Caroline)

25. Anna Von Hausswolff
Dead Magic (City Slang)

24. White Denim
Performance (City Slang)

23. Johnny Marr
Call The Comet (New Voodoo Records)

22. Young Fathers
Cocoa Sugar (Ninja Tune)

21. Nils Frahm
All Melody (Erased Tapes)

 


20. Sons Of Kemet
Your Queen Is A Reptile (Impulse! Records)
Afrobeat, grime, dub and jazz collide on Shabaka Hutchings’ latest, an articulate record of vaulting ambition that landed its composer a Mercury Music Prize nomination. Each track title pays tribute to an iconic black woman, while turning the crosshairs on a racist patriarchy, the monarchy and discrimination. A pioneering carrying forth of the torch passed by his jazz forefathers.


19. Beak
>>> (Invada)
The third album from the Bristol trio, led by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow feels like a confident step forwards. Brean Down, with Barrow’s propulsive snare work and the menacing refrain of “You don’t like our music ‘cause it ain’t up on the radio” feels like a dark-hued Can jamming with Beck and was one of Long Live Vinyl’s tracks of the year.


18. Gwenno
Le Kov (Heavenly)
Switching from Welsh to Cornish on her sophomore album, Gwenno Saunders delivers a gauzy psychedelic exploration that’s a salute to Cornish identity and minority languages. Who could argue with the sentiment behind the brilliant Eus Keus?: “Is there cheese?/ Is there or isn’t there?/ If there’s cheese, bring cheese/ And if there isn’t cheese – bring what there is.” We concur.


17. Lucy Dacus
Historian (Matador)
The loss of Lucy Dacus’ grandmother inspired the outstanding Pillar Of Truth, the high point of the 23-year-old Virginia songwriter’s second album for Matador. Her ragged alt-rock guitar playing offsets such tender moments on an LP of maturity and real depth. Her boygenius collaboration with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers is further evidence of an extreme talent at work.


16. Father John Misty
God’s Favourite Customer (Bella Union)
Following the at-times impenetrable Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman is at his most autobiographical on this superb third album in four years. The spotlight falls on a rocky spell in his own relationship on plaintive ballads Please Don’t Die and Just Dumb Enough To Try, but rather than feeling like the washing of dirty linen in public, it amounts to some of the best writing of his career.


15. Arctic Monkeys
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino)
After the lusty rock riffing of 2013’s AM, the follow-up is a curveball from Sheffield’s finest, as Alex Turner takes a firm grip of the reins. With the rest of the band lurking in the shadows and Turner at the piano, lunar-themed lounge tunes prevail, but amid the oblique non-sequiturs, Turner’s observational brilliance shines like a harvest moon.


14. Anna Calvi
Hunter (Domino)
Calvi’s third album is by far her most bold yet, with her guitar virtuosity and stratospheric vocal range delivering the payload of her most direct lyric writing to date. Gender stereotyping, misogyny and a recasting of the female role as powerful and predatory all fall under the microscope as Calvi opens her heart with devastating, melodramatic effect.


13. Goat Girl
Goat Girl (Rough Trade)
Disaffection with 21st Century Britain informed this succinct and incisive debut by the South London band, who signed to Rough Trade on the day Britain voted to leave the EU. “Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the top/ Put the DUP in the middle and we’ll burn the fucking lot,” as frontwoman Clottie Cream poetically puts it on Burn The Stake.


12. Parquet Courts
Wide Awake! (Rough Trade)
“That was the overarching theme: anthems against nihilism,” Parquet Courts’ joint frontman A. Savage told Long Live Vinyl of the New York band’s sixth album in eight years back in issue 15. It was an apt description for a state-of-the-world record that fuses angular post-punk with funk and electronica, resulting in their most expansive work yet.


11. Shame
Songs Of Praise (Dead Oceans)
Rage, disgust and askew humour were splashed all over the South London band’s hilariously titled debut. “I like you better when you’re not around,” vocalist Charlie Steen hollers on Tasteless, and the comparisons with Mark E Smith will be inevitable. Honesty, integrity and a wall of visceral post-punk noise make this a deeply thrilling and uncompromising record.


10. Josh T Pearson
The Straight Hits! (Mute)
Back on the booze and clean shaven after years of bearded sobriety, the Texan troubadour and former Lift To Experience founder turned in an uproarious, joyful country album in April, ironically titled The Straight Hits! While we were big fans of the lovelorn tales that made 2011’s Last Of The Country Gentlemen such a treasured release for UK music fans, in 2018 he was in unstoppable form. We hung out with Josh after his triumphant and frankly hilarious End Of The Road show in September, and resistance proved futile: we’re in love with Josh T Pearson. If only someone would give a vinyl release to his as-yet unheard comedy album…


9. Kamasi Washington
Heaven And Earth (Young Turks)
Los Angeles jazz saxophonist Washington limited himself to a mere double album this time round after 2015’s 3LP The Epic, and what a record it is. Opening track Fists Of Fury swiftly sets out Kamasi’s stall, a flurry of piano notes, percussion and sax paving the way for a record that eclipses two hours and is at times vibrant, spontaneous, adventurous and restrained. The two-part set veers between smooth refinement and head-bending atonal noise, forging a pathway that is anything but predictable. Skittering drums and wildly shifting basslines further decorate a challenging and intoxicating musical melting pot.


8. Kurt Vile
Bottle It In (Matador)
Former War On Drugs guitarist Vile’s latest is a pleasure savoured, not rushed. Recorded all over the US while on tour and stretching to 75 minutes, expansive is the word. Vile raises a defiant middle finger to Philadelphia’s parking attendants on Loading Zones, chanting “I park for free”, and the laconic 10-minute Bassackwards with its waves of psych-folk swirling reverse guitar is a hazy wonder. Kim Gordon, Cass McCombs and harpist Mary Lattimore all drop in alongside The Violators and Vile turns a wonderfully wonky lens on the madness of modern-day life: “What a world we’ve inherited/ From another mother/ What a whale of a pickle”. Indeed, Kurt.


7. Courtney Barnett
Tell Me How You Really Feel (Milk/Marathon Artists)
One of two entries by Australian artists in our Top 10, the second album from Courtney Barnett is a darker and more downbeat affair than 2015’s Sometimes I Sit And Think And Sometimes I Just Sit. The queen of observational slacker-pop is brilliantly wry in her response to an online hater on Nameless Faceless: “He said, ‘I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you’. But you didn’t.” Crippling Self Doubt And A General Lack Of Confidence offers an insight into Barnett’s state of mind as “indecision rots like a bag of last week’s meat”, with Kim Deal making a brief cameo on I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch. Barnett has no need for a lack of self confidence; she’s one of our very sharpest writers.


6. Jon Hopkins
Singularity (Domino)
A year shy of his 40th birthday, classical pianist turned electronic pioneer Hopkins delivers his masterwork. More ambitious than its Mercury-nominated predecessor, the dystopian Immunity, yet also hugely listenable, Singularity flickers enchantingly with a cinematic techno majesty honed with Hopkins’ exacting attention to detail. Analogue synths on the verge of breaking down are joined by mesmerising piano motifs and a varied rhythmic approach at times elevating to moments of sheer euphoria. Opening single Emerald Rush is a shard of blissed-out ambient perfection with an unrelenting beat that set the tone for 60 minutes of compositional brilliance.


5. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Hope Downs (Sub Pop)
A joyously infectious full-length debut from the Melbourne quintet. Tom Russo and Joe White’s insistent jangly guitar assault channels Joey Santiago and Johnny Marr, with shades of R.E.M. and The Cure shimmering away in a thrilling post-punk rush. Talking Straight is a propulsive bolt of brilliance, packing in one of the year’s best guitar solos. There’s more at play than catchy riffs here, though, with the outstanding Mainland spotlighting the horrors of the refugee crisis in the Med: “We stared into the haze, ocean merging with sky/ And talked about the land of our fore-mothers/ Now that we’ve shut the gate, it would be funny if it didn’t make you want to cry.”


4. Janelle Monáe
Dirty Computer (Bad Boy/Atlantic)
Prince disciple Monáe seizes her moment with a march on the mainstream pop arena that tackles racism, sexism and homophobia head-on while striding confidently across the dancefloor. Sex and sexuality are explored with a deft touch. “Everything is sex ‘cept sex, which is power,” Monáe intones on Screwed before she’s “Young black, wild, free, naked in a limousine” on the kaleidoscopic pop of Crazy, Classic, Life. Brian Wilson, Grimes and Pharrell Williams complete an unlikely trio of collaborators on a record that’s a defiant riposte to bare-faced misogyny: “If you try to grab my pussycat, this puss will grab you back.”


3. Hookworms
Microshift (Domino)
We spoke to Hookworms back in issue 20 about the art of holding down a full-time job while at the same time tearing up the nation’s festivals all summer long. In Microshift, the Leeds band made a major transition away from the proggy psych-rock of 2013’s Pearl Mystic and the following year’s The Hum. The motorik beats and expansive song structures remain but Hookworms have arrived at a celebratory synth-drenched place brimming with confidence and blissful melodies. However, while writing this we learnt that the band had split after abuse allegations levelled at singer Matthew Johnson.


2. Low
Double Negative (Sub Pop)
One way to capture the sound of things falling apart is to disassemble your own music and put it together again in new ways. That, at least, is the approach on US Midwest minimalist band Low’s Double Negative, an album born amidst the bellicose anger of the dawning Trump era, and which represents its creators’ disquiet not by shouting back but in waves of static, alternately distorted and plaintive vocals, and ominous bass notes.

 


1. Idles
Joy As An Act Of Resistance (Partisan Records)
An overwhelming choice with our panel as Album Of The Year, Joy As An Act Of Resistance has been the record that took Idles to ‘the next level’, barging its way to the upper echelons of the UK album chart and helping the band sell out a series of riotous live dates, with a vast globe-straddling 2019 tour announced as we went to press. There’s little in the way of this five-piece, with a Q Award and a triumphant set on Later… With Jools Holland under their belts, to name but a few successes.


Read more: Gear of the Year 2017

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