Anyway, 2018. Before getting into the top 10, it's fair to say that my lack of attention to new releases has laid bare my default buying habits - indie rock by artists in their heyday 10-20 years ago. Okay, it's not that homogeneous, but it's also fair to say that I've not been massively inspired by 2018 either. A number of critically acclaimed records don't make the cut here because they left me cold - even by artists I normally love, like Julia Holter (too experimental, too much hard work), Kamasi Washington (too samey, too long), Kurt Vile (see Kamasi Washington) and Oneohtrix Point Never (just not up to past high standards).
10. Papa M - A Broke Moon Rises
The second recent-ish album from David Pajo after 2016's brief and surprising comeback, Highway Songs. A Broke Moon Rises sees Pajo return to the familiar chilled out instrumental acoustic territory of older classics like 1999's Live From A Shark Cage, and the end result is a delight that appears to have been overlooked by a lot of critics.
9. Kelly Moran - Ultraviolet
Okay, so I wasn't entirely on autopilot in my 2018 album explorations. Kelly Moran was a new discovery for me, and on hearing this I quickly snapped up her preceding album, Bloodroot (2017). The attraction here is Moran's unique sound obtained from her custom-modified piano, which is perhaps best showcased on the track 'Helix'. I'm not sure this album completely fulfils Moran's potential, but it is certainly one of my standout listens of 2018.
8. Death Cab For Cutie - Thank You For Today
This one was a bit of a surprise entry. I'd almost written off Death Cab after their decent-ish but ultimately underwhelming 2015 release, Kintsugi. Despite it's insipid cover and title, Thank You For Today is a much needed shot in the arm for these beloved indie rock veterans - great production, lyrics and a consistent all-round listen.
7. Belle & Sebastian - How To Solve Our Human Problems
Less of a surprise, but very much in the veteran indie theme of this top 10. Although not really a proper album, this collection of 3 EPs is a nice addition to Belle & Sebastian's already extensive discography. True, there's nothing much new here, just a really strong collection of songs without the slightly artificial disco styling of their last album, Girls In Peacetime Like To Dance (2015).
6. Jlin - Autobiography
Time for something a little different to break things up. Autobiography is the third full-length album from electronic 'footwork' artist Jlin, and is her most satisfying album to date. Perhaps the key difference here is that the music was composed to accompany a dance performance arranged by Wayne McGregor. Whatever the reason, this album is consistently compelling, with many well-executed twists and turns. Looking forward to the next proper album.
5. Beach House - 7
Another great album from Beach House? Not exactly. Yes, I've included it in my top 10. There are plenty of stand-out songs here, such as early highlight 'Lemon Glow'. At the same time, despite a tweaked sound, I think this album may mark the start of peak Beach House for me. Perhaps the track listing didn't quite flow as well as on their previous albums, or maybe I've just heard too much Beach House. Either way, this is their first album in a long time that hasn't felt like a truly essential listen, despite its evident qualities.
4. Low - Double Negative
Let's file this one under refreshing change of direction. Not that one was necessarily needed - their previous album Ones And Sixes just made my top 10 for 2015. It's not quite the Low meets Bon Iver transformation that some critics billed the album as, but nonetheless this is invigorating and enchanting in ways Low have rarely been before, if ever.
3. Frankie Cosmos - Vessel
I don't get the relative lack of attention Frankie Cosmos gets. Okay, the music tends to review well enough, but somehow her albums seem to disappear when it comes to too many end of year lists. This is another superb pop gem that follows hot on the heels of the similarly excellent Next Thing, my #2 pick for 2016. As ever, many of the tracks here are fleeting in their brevity. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, leaving the listener lamenting their shortness, but encouraging repeated listening...
2. Tim Hecker - Konoyo
Another refreshing change of direction, this time a little more subtle from ambient-electronic instrumentalist Tim Hecker. On Konoyo, recorded in Japan, Hecker seemingly adds his own spin on recent Western rediscovery of Japanese environmental-ambient fourth world music from the 1980s and 90s, in a style that is reminiscent of the excellent 2017 album Reassemblage by Visible Cloaks. While many agree that Hecker's first four albums are frustratingly difficult to separate in their excellence, his later releases have been a bit more divisive. Konoyo makes a strong claim to being Hecker's best release of the last 10 years.
1. Melody's Echo Chamber - Bon Voyage