For the record...
14:00 17th December 2018

This list is a run-down of what the Gigwise editors and contributors loved most in 2018. The discs were chosen not because they’re the biggest, best-marketed unit shifters – and most certainly not because they were cool.

Except, they are all cool, obvs.

But mostly they’re hand-on-heart beloved records we’d unflinchingly recommend to our best mates. There’s no agenda – just pure love of the music.

Expect an eclectic mix of major international stars, plus picks we’ve discovered beyond the routine label mail outs in the UK. From Russia’s Glintshake, to Arctic Monkeys, via Portland’s Ural Thomas and Suede, there’s a broad range of albums to get your teeth into.

Words: Julian Marszalek, Vic Galloway, Shannon Cotton, Andy Hill, Jamie Ryder, Jessie Atkinson, Richard Foster, Dom Gourlay, Robert Ham, Lee Adcock, Nick Roseblade, Steven Kline, Cai Trefor...

51. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs - King Of Cowards

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs will probably be the first to admit that their name has probably left them viewed as some kind of joke band and a nightmare for promoters fearful of leaving a ‘pig’ off the advertising posters. So while it’s too late to do anything about that, the band has elected to tighten up in other areas to deliver an album of gloriously sludgy psychedelic doom metal. Reiging in the epic running time of the tracks that made up their debut, Feed The Rats, the six songs that populate King Of Cowards are leaner, meaner and all together tighter. Utterly daft and undeniably thrilling in equal measure, this is music to go deaf to. (JM)

50. Mass Gothic - I've Tortured You Long Enough

This former side project of Hooray For Earth member Noel Heroux has blossomed into his primary creative outlet, and on its second album, its output is almost perfectly split down the middle, with synth pop jams residing on one side and fuzzed up dream rock hanging on the other side. Two great tastes that aren’t too different from one another but that Heroux, his wife Jessica Zambri and their friends manage to keep separate yet connected. The rickety drive of 'Call Me' sits rather cozily next to the disco rumbles of 'J.Z.O.K.' and the New Romantic blissout that is 'Keep On Dying'. (RH)

49. Beak> - >>>

Given the pedigree of its principals – that’ll be Portishead’s Geoff Barrow, Robert Plant’s bassist Billy Fuller and Will Young of Moon Gangs – you’d be forgiven for taking Beak> as a psychedelic jolly boys’ outing to keep themselves amused. Their onstage bants and quips and regular festival appearances would suggest so, but the band’s third album reveals a shift in craft and delivery. While ‘Brean Down’ reveals motorik influences and ‘King Of The Castle’ is touched by the hand of prog, much care attention has been lavished throughout to show a band standing on their own feet. (JM)

48. Lonker See – One Eye Sees Red

The last 10 years or so has seen Poland emerging as one of the key breeding grounds for genuinely exciting and thrilling underground and psychedelic music. With no major label interference, Poland’s space cadets and sonic explorers have been left to their own devices to open their third eye wide while pushing boundaries beyond the usual tropes. Ergo Gdynia’s Lonker See. Displaying a growth rate that eludes the more unimaginative practitioners of the genre, Lonker See’s second album has seen them jettison the slide guitars and spacerock influences in favour of slow burning and totally cosmic wigouts that grip from the first note to the last. The result is a satisfying aural journey best experienced in a single sitting. (JM)

47. Szun Waves - New Hymn To Freedom

The second album by this London modern jazz trio is a testament to the power of patience. Built entirely from improvisations that the group lets evolve calmly and methodically, the long arc of these six tracks take a while to fully burst to life. And when they do, it’s as if a fireworks display started exploding around the room, drums, synths and sax crashing around one another in a bright, sparkling clamor. It sounds like a recipe for chaos, but these three men are keen listeners, shaping their sonic output to lock in with that of their bandmates. (RH)

46. Sleep - The Sciences

Stoner metal of the highest order. Sleep hadn't released an album since 1999's Dopesmoker before The Sciences, now out on Jack White's Third Man Records. The band formed in 1990 and have been a huge influence on metal ever since. Among the many, many joys of this record is in hearing some of the best guitar tones since Black Sabbath. The band are renowned for spending a cool 75 grand on custom amplifiers in the past and their audiohpile tendancies pay off on this brilliant heavy groove-based album with mantra-like singing. (CT)

45. Suuns - Felt

Felt is a repetitive, hard-hitting album full of military style drums, shimmering synths and fuzz-heavy bass that creates a claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere. “We’ve heard it all before,” I can hear you say, but where Felt really excels is that it’s incredible fun and playable, with clever melodies and motifs peppering the dank mood. ‘Bassline’ is one of the standout tracks that typifies this sound. Poppy angular guitars and throbbing basslines belie introspective and brooding lyrics. Yes the vibe is claustrophobic and tense, but there is a weird playful day-glo vibe to the proceedings that is hard to ignore. (NR)

44. Tim Hecker - Konoyo

As restrained as his music can get, Tim Hecker’s work tends to feel rich and filling, a dense cake of electronics and live instruments processed, somehow, out of focus. His latest album, Konoyo, is the first where the layers are peeled back, and the musicians joining him in this experiment—an ensemble specializing in ancient Japanese court music known as gagaku—feel present and clear. The lines aren’t entirely clear as the vibrant colors of the acoustic and electronic tones jostle gamely for position, smearing together and affecting one another in fascinating and unexpected ways. (RH)

43. Boy Azooga - 1, 2 Kung Fu!

This rave-tinged rock record won an actual award for Welsh Album of the Year – and deservedly so. Singer Davey Newington has a natural ear for melody like his hero Gruff Rhys, was in a nearly but not successful band called Houdini Dax on drums, and had Kinks-y pipes on him back then. Now, at the front of the band on guitar and vox, the Welshman is leading one of the most important independent outfits around at the moment. The band, naturally, take in a wide range of influences: there's Can, Black Sabbath, William Oneyabor and more than a little bit of Happy Mondays. They've the technical chops to nail some flashy, technical passages of music, but never forget the importance of stone-cold bangers. 'Face Behind A Cigarette' is good enough to take up up tracks 1 to 11 – a proper old-fashioned crowd pleaser. (CT)

42. Ty Segall - Freedom Goblin

The first of five (count 'em) albums this mad musical polymath released in 2018 also happens to be the best of the bunch. It’s also everything that you want from Ty Segall: a sprawling, varied collection that allows him and his Freedom Band to explore all the dark corners of their musical landscape. Desperate ‘70s folk-rock, long-winded psych-jams with squeaky guitar solos, ragged power pop, an ode to his beloved dog, a Hot Chocolate cover, tossed off funk-punk hybrids... all that, and somehow more, is packed into the the feature-length deluge. (RH)

41. The Orielles - Silver Dollar Moment

Originally from Halifax in the West Yorkshire dales, The Orielles have been playing together for the past five years after sisters Sidonie B (drums) and Esme Dee Hand-Halford (vocals, bass) met guitarist Henry Carlyle Wade at a house party. A handful of singles and countless live performances later, they put out long-awaited debut, Silver Dollar Moment. What's more, it was every bit as great as we'd hoped it would be. Fusing an array of styles and sounds across its twelve compositions, 'Silver Dollar Moment' is so eclectic and stuck in its own time frame it could easily have slotted into any of the past four decades. Comparisons with acts as disparate as Orange Juice, The Belle Stars, Happy Mondays and The Pastels tells its own story. For The Orielles it marks the culmination of the first chapter in what we're sure will be a long and prosperous career. (DG)

40. Glintshake - Польза

Moscow’s Glintshake have probably made the record that will define them. A brilliant, will-o-the-wisp pop act of many moods and colours, they have finally captured their exciting live sound on Польза (Benefit / Usefulness). Польза is a restless, funny and sometimes fiery record full of riffs and hooks. The catchy stuff is balanced against extended workouts that draw on everything from jazz to hippy Gong-isms and searing post-punk passages that cut like a blade. Singer Kate Shilonosova’s vocal delivery is a show in itself; we get screams, manic laughs, deadpan irony and weird pop smooch that is reminiscent of Ludus’s Linder Sterling. But there is a lightness about the production that elevates this record to a weird pop classic. (RF)

39. Cosmo Sheldrake - The How How Much and I

North London's Cosmo Sheldrake – now signed to Transgressive – cut his teeth making music with childhood friends Bombay Bicycle Club, an outfit named Gentle Mystics, and performing in Brighton at what was to become a world renowned solo show: a loop pedal-driven affair twsiting and turning through archaic, modern, eastern and western music traditions. There was carnival in his juxtaposition and exloration. Now, this – his debut solo album – features the trusty hands of Matthew Herbert at the controls and he's reached extraordinary heights technically to create such lucid connections with his multi-faceted and inquisitive style. There's a mix of Mardis Gras, free jazz, bluegrass, classical and an earworm vocal melodies. A lot to unpack, and plenty of good stuff to reward repeated listening. (CT)

38. The Good, The Bad and The Queen - Merrie Land

On what, by my conservative tally, must be Damon Albarn’s gazillionth album, the Bard of Essex finally returns to the topic that made him a household name in the Parklike era. That is, the English. Us. Our beauty, a bit, but mostly our ugliness; our infuriating fucking weirdness. The geopolitical elephant in the room tramples over every blade of grass, natch – they could quite easily have named this record ‘Article 50’. Still, along with his bandmates (Simonon off The Clash, Tong off The Verve, Tony Allen on kit) Albarn takes us on on a voyage around this sad sceptred isle, littered as it is with tatty maypoles, angry dogs, fluorescent care homes, and the weeping Windrush surplus. The state of our nation, in a right old state. (AH)

37. Jon Hopkins - Singularity

At first glance, the sixty-plus minutes running time of Jon Hopkins’ fifth album might suggest an exercise in over-indulgence but this would be a serious error to make. Singularity is Jon Hopkins’ most complete and cohesive statement to date and one that makes up for the five-year gap since the release of Imminuty. A record that’s equal parts cerebral and physical, its blend of beguiling explorations, squelchy grooves, delicate piano and unashamed bangers is a journey worth making in a single go with no room for stopovers and breaks. His festival shows during the summer proved to be the ideal soundtrack, and it’s one that lasts well into the winter. (JM)

36. Lewsberg - S/T

Rotterdam’s Lewsberg, despite using many of the most remade and remodelled of rock’s sonic conceits, have carved out a distinctive place for themselves with this debut LP. As dry as the Mojave in their outlook, but tackling subject matter that is at turns literary and perverted, Lewsberg is a sexy slow burner of a release, full of hints, wry asides and regrets that often belie a darker side. All set over a steady groove that can veer between maudlin introspection and sharp, grating, teeth-rattling rock and roll. Sonically, the Velvet parallels are a given, but it’s a record that belies a formidable independence born of a wit and intelligence that is all too rare these days. It ain’t what you do… (RF)

35. Ural Thomas & The Pain - The Right Time

Portland's answer to Charles Bradley and Ural Thomas is a soul singer with a similar story to the late, great Daptone, Eagle of Soul. Signed to the less-known but nevertheless excellent Tender Loving Records, Thomas was a hardworking musician throughout the 60s and 70s yet received hardly any acclaim, yet has enjoyed a late renaissance in his seventh decade. Remarkably, for such a natural talent, the new album, Right Time, is the first time Thomas has been recognised for his talent outside of the Northwest United States. He's just signed to Primary Talent booking agency, and has every chance of gaining further acclaim for the wall-to-wall soul bangers that this 11-track album is made up of. Just waiting for 6Music to start playing these on a regular basis very soon. (CT)

34. Ought - Room Inside the World

The underground loved Ought, but Montréal’s most dynamic quartet were caught in a bind - fans only listened when they were loud. On Room Inside the World, the gang regroup and rewrite the script. Gentler ballads and Eno layers of nuance replace the clattering monologues of old, clearing the way for Tim Darcy to finally breathe and let his singing voice fly. Certain fans may turn their noses at Room, but they fail to see that, really, Ought haven’t changed at all. Behind all that restlessness has always been a basic and loving respect for humanity, which simply shines brighter than ever before. (LA)

33. Lykke Li - so sad so sexy

Pop-genius and sorrow-sprite Lykke Li delivered her fourth, tear-splattered LP this year, proving through transcendent harmony and inventive hook-writing that this Swedish artist is seriously underrated. Gleaming synths, open-hearted lyricism and gentle piano interludes embrace softly for some exceptional melancholy pop. Polyphonic in places and sparse in others, Lykke Li has made an album of pop songs that embrace the sad and the sexy; the choral and the corrupt. (JA)

32. Agar Agar - The Dog and the Future

France's Agar Agar have an amazing sound. Plucking inspiration from some unlikely places for a major label signed band - Tangerine Dream, The Sims, Osamu Sato (LSD video game inventor) and medieval music are some of their touch stones - they've gone on to create an immense analog electronic driven pop record that tries to capture the elation and beauty of meditation and psychedelic experiences. It's one to put on, wash over you and feel reborn again after hearing. (CT)

31. Kate NV - FOR

Kate NV’s debut release for hipper-than-hip RVNG label is an experimental electro pop gem. Для (FOR) is a meditative but playful release creating fleeting moments that float past like gossamer. It’s down to the listener to catch and inspect them. More abstract and fragmented than her previous LP, Binasu, we get only one vocal, on the title track, where la Shilonosova sings a Kandinsky poem. Simplicity is key, then; focus coming through reduction of elements and a clear understanding of tone and pitch to drive mood. References could be crazy noughties Japanese electro pop made by the likes of Ichi or Sam and Valley, or German loons like Dieter Moebius. You can lose yourself in this release. (RF) 

30. Onyx Collective - Lower East Suite Part Three

A whip-smart antidote to the idea jazz is a knackered, fusty, heritage-entangled form, only fit for naff dinner cabaret joints, this instrumental suite from the broad-based Onyx Collective paints its titular ‘hood in bold, brassy and appropriately lurid hues. Mooch around the unsavoury psychogeography of Manhattan’s upscale yet stubbornly insalubrious bottom-right corner through tunes like ‘Battle of the Bowery’, ‘Rumble in Chatham Square’ or ‘2AM at Veselka’; the latter a shout-out to a 24-hour pierogi spot on the corner of 2nd and 9th. Sound cliquey? Perhaps. Intoxicatingly so – like being escorted through Gotham by a clever, naughty and profoundly horny mate. (AH)

29. Liars - Titles With the Word Fountain

It’s clear that Angus Andrew, the now-lone member of Liars, is ill-at-ease on latest work Titles With the Word Fountain. Clocking in at just under 40 minutes, the record wears angst on its sleeve (quite literally – the artwork is a multitude of stone-faced Andrews, an artist used to collaboration boxed-in to monologuing, each outfitted as a jilted bride) and makes gloom its home. Tracks like lead single ‘Murdrum’ and latter-half cut ‘Feed the Truth’ are cryptic and disconcerting exhibitions of this newfound internal chorus, with delicately arranged multi-track vocals chiming over woozy self-sampling. According to Andrew, the album functions as a direct sequel to predecessor TFCF, and the songs were recorded using similar techniques. As musical expression of self-dialogue, the record does an excellent job – crucial moments of calm are rendered with care, while episodes of tension and violence overpower. (JR)

28. Jack White - Boarding House Reach

Jack White is a goddamned fruitloop. That’s why he’s always set restraints on himself – the parsimonious arrangements of The White Stripes, or his frugal use of colour; he wants us to think he’s a normal human. Except on this bloody mental record. Look at the cover, his creepy feminised face. Marvel at his unnerving impression of a raging cokehead on ‘Corporation’, or phony gameshow host on ‘Everything You’ve Ever Learned’. He switches characters, screams about Greek mythology, covers every spare sonic surface in heart-pounding percussion. We may never see this far into his batshit rabbit hole again. So fill your boots. (AH)

27. Muse - Simulation Theory

The Soulwax-inspired new Muse album features a lot of different styles, possibly because they recorded it on tour. But major labels need a record when they need one, and boy did they get one. A good one: there's everything from Primus ('Break It To Me') to Imagine Dragons-esque pop ('Thought Contagion'). The latter pointed out by Pitchfork and a massive par, sure. But what critics of the album – who mostly miss the first two Muse records – fail to realise is the grandiose pop spectacle that this genre-blending album has its rock DNA more at the forefront than they might realise; the raw adrenaline of what drew people there in the first place is present and correct but wearing a new mask,. Even at its campest ('Get Up and Fight') there's the insistent industrial hammer of the drums, bass that could tear down a mountainside. And the synths are excellently gritty ('Dig Down'). Closing track ‘The Void' is excellent neo-gothic feel mixing with Bellamy's croon and the motorik electronic beat. An album that will uplift the atmosphere in any room you blast it out in. (CT)

26. Flasher - Constant Image

Somewhere in DC - past the bloodbaths and toxic swamps - formidable gangs have bound together to redefine existence and earn your undying affection. This year, though, liminal trio Flasher surged to the fore; Constant Image is a revelatory debut, as the three members work in tandem to destroy binaries, blast through the boundaries that divide us, and embrace complex forms of self. Songs crackle with camaraderie and sparks, enabling listeners to live (and dance!) in the moment, and free themselves from fatalistic notions of the past and future. (LA)

25. Janelle Monae - Dirty Computer

This utter banger of a rap-rock-space-RnB-trap-soul-and-god-knows-what-else album almost never saw the light of day at all. Much of Dirty Computer (such a great title) was figured out in late 2016, but after the Stateside coronation of a certain orange dickhead, Monáe was in the mood to start again, angrier. Enter Stevie Wonder, who recorded a message of encouragement and love on her dictaphone app (listen to track 12 for the actual message). Her mate Prince’s fingerprints are everywhere, especially on lead single ‘Make Me Feel’, not to mention guest spots from Brian Wilson and Pharrell. But forget about all those old farts; Janelle Monáe, on this album, crowns herself the glossy, assured, woke-queen of all she surveys. (AH)

24. Connan Mockasin - Jassbusters

In an interview on stage at Rough Trade East earlier this year, Connan was quizzed heavily about this album written to go with a melodrama he's created named Bostyn 'N Dobsyn. The tireless questioning of the interviewer was contrasted with the nonchalance of his answers. "I made a record that's good to put on," he said, alluding to its easy listening feel. And, sure, Jassbusters is the most laid back and concise Mockasin offering of his career. It's a brilliant album for any occasion that nobody in their right mind would turn off the stereo. Sink into the sumptuous melodic wonderland of hook-laden eight minute album opener 'Charlotte's Thong' and stay for the rest of the guitar-led bliss and Mockasin's idiosyncratic imagination that's seared into this 40-minute underrated gem. (CT)

23. Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus

Ezra Furman is a bloody stonking artist, and this is a bloody stonking record. The follow-up to 2015’s scintillating Perpetual Motion People carries over the dense wit and all-American sonic palate of its predecessor, and stirs in a dollop of vivifying industrial production flashes and a gigantic, most-welcome overhaul of the drum sound. It’s a concept record, too, a "queer outlaw saga" indeed, where Furman and his squeeze whip around America on an adrenaline-fuelled road trip. There’s love, danger, sex, introspection, confession and a stirring you-and-me-against-the-world kiddo intimacy. Beatles-good melodies, too; get a load of set closer ‘I Lost My Innocence’ - hardly the heftiest track here, by any means, but a bellwether of just how boss this Chicagoan is. (AH)

22. Mart Avi - OtherWorld

Estonian trickster Mart Avi’s latest record is the sound of a remarkable mind being catapulted through the earth’s thermosphere. With beats. One of the most widescreen, yet lonely records of the year, OtherWorld is a dark mystery, the soundtrack to being stranded on some remote atoll. Here, Avi plays out a cyber-sonic fantasy as a C21st soulboy Prospero, racking up huge scores on FiFA 19 and keeping the crabs away from a filing cabinet full of information on David Bowie and Marvin Gaye. The music is brilliantly conceived, slick pop that draws on classic soul, 80s alternative pop and clever post-post-modernisms. A remarkable record, OtherWorld is Avi’s most smooth and unsettling to date. (RF)

21. Kikagaku Moyo - Masana Temples

Like good fusion chefs, Kikagaku Moyo have spent hours honing the diverse skills of the ‘60s psychedelic rock masters and the ‘70s Krautrock wizards, applying those lessons and techniques to inform their own homegrown work. The flavours of their influences are all over Masana Temples — the unrelenting rhythms of NEU!, the elongated explorations of the Dead, the jazzy intricacies of Can — but it is a uniquely Japanese record, suffused with not only their native tongue but also a craftsman's dedication to making sure every detail is perfect. Each squiggling guitar solo and elliptical rhythm feels reassuring, logical even. Trust in Kikagaku Moyo. (RH)

20. GOGO Penguin - A Humdrum Star

This record starts out with sombre sounds, as dramatic as a sheer drop on a glacier. The sparse loneliness and depressive tone go some way to explaining why the Mancunian trio are often compared to Radiohead. Yet the album is scattered with blistering high-tempo breaks – thanks to dextrous double bass playing, gnarly hi-hat work, and lightning ivory tinkling – that induce a visceral reaction. The music is played live with a multi-effected double bass, grand piano, and one of the best drummers in the world. It's released on Blue Note Records and would loosely be categorised as Jazz, though, there's 90s rave, indie, and other influences manifesting through A Humdrum Star. A jaw-dropping album, and one to go back to time and time again. (CT)

19. The Coral - Move Through The Dawn

This Coral album aimed for concise songwriting, with each line phonetically structured. The result is an album with no fat. The Coral are brilliant at portraying a whole world with very little so the approach works. With former Zuton Paul Molloy's lead guitar, lashings of Mellotron and space-echo overdubs, James Skelly's effortlessly melodic vocals, and lyrics that connect with the outsider's sick of too much of the world playing out on the internet ('Reaching Out For A Friend') , it does an excellent job of paying homage to vintage techniques while tackling very modern concerns. Relevant yet familiar, and timeless. (CT)

18. Louis Cole - Time

The third album by this L.A.-based multi-instrumentalist doesn’t just roll together the past 50 years of beat-driven music into a giant gnarly snowball, Cole also smothers it in glitter and rolls it down Sunset Boulevard, jiving the whole way and hitting impossible high notes with those gorgeous pipes of his. Time is a left-field wonder, full of big surprises and little grace notes that we’ve been trying to parse out for the better part of 2018. Explosive, funky, goofy, and damn sexy; every Brainfeeder artist is going to work overtime to try and top this. They will fail. (RH)

17. The Breeders - All Nerve

All Kim Deal needed to do to move forward with her personal project The Breeders was to look backward. Working once again with the line-up that helped see the band’s biggest commercial success, she discovered a minimalist sound that to all intents and purposes edited out the elements of songs that didn’t need to be there. The guitar notes that remained bent, and spit; the rhythms kicked and jerked – and her lyrics were marked by negative space and unfinished thoughts. Deal, her twin sister Kelley, and their crack rhythm section soared, simply by leaving the dead weight behind. (RH)

16. Fischerspooner - Sir

Michael Stipe's the invisible presence that runs throughout: the R.E.M man acted as Casey Spooner's shoulder to cry on for this singer who is one half of this electronic pop powerhouse alongside Warren Fischer who writes all the instrumentals. By hearing his hardest moments coming out of a seven-year relationship, Michael Stipe was able to write through Casey and inject some of the most moving pop music written this year. It's not all distress, though. In the process of recovery Casey Spooner rediscovered his energy as a single gay man and listen carefully you'll hear field recordings of his rejuvenation: there's a sample of him having sex with someone he met on Grindr. Start with 'Togetherness' if you've not yet indulged in this album; vocals from Caroline Poschack work with the leftfield beats and Spooner's lead vocal epically. (CT)

15. The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Whatever you make of The 1975, you can’t discredit their marketing prowess. Following a turbulent few years scratching at the surface of the mainstream music industry, third record ABIIOR has catapulted the Manchester four-piece to being one of the biggest bands in the world. Thanks in part to frontman Matty Healy’s online dialogue with his fans, it’s fitting that their third LP explores the etiquette through a soundscape of Aphex Twin-esque electronics and smooth, sultry jazz notes. Love it or hate it, this band are not going away. (SC)

14. Confidence Man - Confident Music For Confident People

The pop album of the year was made by this unassuming four-piece from Brisbane. Confident Music For Confident People proved to be every bit as great as their unforgettable live shows, fusing a pop sensibility with early nineties rave and mid-noughties electro. 'Out The Window' recalled the halcyon days of Screamadelica, 'Bubblegum' could be the long lost cousin of Dee Lite's 'Groove Is In The Heart' while 'Fascination' brought Right Said Fred and the B52s into 21st Century pop culture. Get Down! (DG)

13. Kamasi Washington - Heaven And Earth

Spread over two discs and requiring an investment of some three hours on the part of the listener, Kamasi Washington’s follow up to the appropriately named The Epic is a record that is still in the process of revealing itself. Yet of all that, subsequent listens peel away layers of density to present an aural image of what is and what could be. A concept album of sorts, the first disc – Earth – is steeped in chaos as it examines the state of the planet while the second disc – Heaven – finds Washington heading out into more cosmic and spiritual territories. Pushing the boundaries of music and the mind, Heaven And Earth is a demanding yet ultimately rewarding experience that brings jazz to a whole new generation. (JM)

12. Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar

As its title suggests, Cocoa Sugar is bittersweet mix of the hopeful and harrowing as the Leith, Edinburgh trio struggles with love, masculinity, sex, race and the feeling of impending doom brought on by modern politics. Effortlessly blending soul, hip-hop, dub, post-punk, industrial and tribal cut'n'paste techniques, it manages to sound both modern and classic, flirting with mainstream pop and the avant-garde. Young Fathers sound like absolutely no-one else and seem to revel in the weird and wonderful. The band are on incendiary form live just now, and with the single 'Toy' they also seize Track of the Year too. We look forward to whatever they try next. (VG)

11. Kan Wakan - Phantasmagoria, Vol. 1

After a few years of teasing us with a well-meaning mishmash of downtempo, dreampop, jazz and a touch of modern classical, Kan Wakan (aka Gueorgui Linev) has finally attained the optimal balance of elements and come away with a masterpiece. The missing link all along, it seems, was the pliable vocals of Elle Olsun, a throaty soprano who shapeshifts to meet whatever musical challenge her friend might throw her way, be it a tender ballad from another planet ('Hold Me Close'), sultry acid jazz ('Sunken Souls') or glitchy, smoky R&B ('I Would').

10. Suede - The Blue Hour

In the scrubland and gravel on the outskirts of the city, Suede have dug up a latter-era classic. Closing their increasingly ambitious trilogy of reunion comeback albums with the theatrical pop equivalent of a Ben Wheatley noir horror, they’ve created an atmospheric sister-piece to ‘Dog Man Star’; glorious, towering melodic monuments like ‘Life Is Golden’, ‘Beyond The Outskirts’ and ‘Flytipping’ hemmed in with ominous chorales, menacing poetry and dramatic interludes of hunts for lost children and mysterious midnight burials. Now firmly ensconced in their own cult world, Suede’s re-ascent to the forefront of outsider alt-pop is complete. (SK)

9. IDLES - Joy as an Act of Resistance

Making punk love again, IDLES are five tough-looking men who have made a blistering album in which it is safe to be vulnerable. Remember when Oasis told us not to put our lives in the hands of a rock ’n’ roll band? Well this is a band that’s making it safe again. Singer Joe Talbot spills his guts onto the swelling guitars and stick-snapping drums, forging a path through the chaos, dancing through the hailstorm and putting into sound what it feels to know everything is going to be okay. (JA)

8. Gaika - Basic Volume

Formerly a straight-up rapper with grime crew Murkage, Brixton-born MC has gone seriously off road on his debut solo album ‘Basic Volume’, taking the pressure cooker atmosphere and street paranoia of grime and its hoodlum cousin drill, and repurposing it as ghostly, ethereal modern soul music. Tracks like ‘Yard’ and ‘Warlord Shoes’ share similar lyrical concerns, only delivered via autotune-distressed singing and almost whispered rhymes over melting, slow motion productions made all the more threatening and spooky by their haunted, funereal aesthetic. It’s not a comfortable listen, but it’s certainly one that takes the rulebook, rips it up and starts again. (BW)

7. Kelly Moran - Ultraviolet

New York-based composer Kelly Moran’s first foray into prepared piano on last year’s Bloodroot felt manic and excitable, the output of someone thrilled at the strange sounds she was finding in her instrument of choice. With her latest full-length Ultraviolet, she has found a measure of restraint. Moran still revels in gamelan-like arpeggios and rapid squalls of notes, but even those feel more measured, balanced out throughout with warm washes of synth (some provided by Oneohtrix Point Never mastermind Daniel Lopatin) and the perfect application of reverb to her buoyant playing. As prickly as it gets, Ultraviolet remains an absorbing and intoxicating experience. (RH)

6. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

It took properly galactic cojones for Alex Turner to abandon his winning formula – tall tales and sleazy odes to whichever model he was banging at the time – to singlehandedly craft this wild, esoteric concept piece. Still, he’s a genius, so he pulled it off. Most fans took a few listens to buy into the central conceit – that Arctic Monkeys have morphed into some manner of lounge act, in the not-too-distant-future, on the fucking moon – but now the penny’s dropped, this oddball LPs masterclass in wit, imagination and textural cohesion will stand forever as an out-of-this-world classic. (AH)

5. TVAM - Psychic Data

TVAM possess a real knack for weaving murky experimental electronic melodies, motorik beats with virtuoso psychedelic rock guitar riffs and explosive lead tremolos. 90s Sheffield-based electronic indie weirdos Add N to (X) - whose Dean Horer mixed the record - are a strong influence and TVAM's pop ear and suggests that a life listening to The Beatles and Pink Floyd hasn't gone to waste in the process of discovering more discerning less trodden influences . Album highlights 'Narcissus' and 'These Are Not Your Memories; are a great place to start and indulge in in the anti-pop aesthetic. Indulge in the disaffected rage that beats through this darkly glittering experimental masterpiece. (CT)

4. Low - Double Negative

Low’s 12th album in 25 years is the perfect soundtrack for the cancerous rebirth of fascist ideology and the slow-burn impending doom of climate change. And just like society-wide terror, it's also timeless. Double Negative is warped and wretched. Its schematics are twisted and buried under layer upon layer of feedback. Sonically it is as close to sheer static as the fragile slowcore that Low used to purvey, yet it still possesses the haunting beauty long associated with the Duluth trio at its heart. It take a special band to release their most ambitious (and best) album so long into their career. Low are a special band. (JD)

3. Spiritualized - And Nothing Hurt

That an album that sounds like it was recorded with a dozen Philharmonics in some arching opera house was actually pieced together on a laptop in Jason Pierce’s bedroom is only part of the gargantuan achievement of Spiritualized’s eighth long player. Making amends for 2012’s patchy ‘Sweet Heart, Sweet Light’, Pierce returns to form with an almighty crash of orchestral grandeur and emotional freedom - has he ever sounded more elated than on ‘Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go’? ‘Perfect Miracle’ might trace the gradual erosion of romance and ‘The Morning After’ deals with tragic teenage breakdowns, but ‘And Nothing Hurt’ is ultimately the sound of the perfect middle-age bliss hit. (SK)

2. Shame - Songs of Praise

Starting the year off right, Shame released their tectonic debut Songs of Praise in January and never looked back. Taking the ten tracks far and wide across the globe, it still remains to be a gritty, seething and ruthless sonic projection even as the year approaches its end. Honing formidable guitar riffs that straddle rock, punk and indie and harnessing frontman Charlie Steen’s growling vocal delivery, a good 70% of this record oozes so much salacious charisma that it’s filthy, making you feel like you should reach for the nearest bar of soap, and that’s totally acceptable. (SC)

1. A Perfect Circle - Eat The Elephant

A widescreen, sandblasted lunarscape of incendiary rebellion and howling grief – dense with astute lyricism and technically compelling production. Eat the Elephant is a proper old-fashioned masterclass in the album form.

With lyrics from the pen of Maynard James Keenan and music from the fretboard of longterm collaborator Billy Howerdell, Eat The Elephant mightn’t be the most trendy or (heaven forfend) 'woke' disc you’ve spun this year. Nonetheless, it still leaves all others in the shade through the sheer scope of its ambition, and the breadth of technical accomplishment on display.

Keenan thrives on unsettling subject matter. He’s a dab hand with a lucid metaphor, and this, his visceral reaction to the poisoned taint of what passes for civil discourse in 2018, is utterly bewitching.

His exasperation at the state of the things is most acute on the Douglas Adams-referencing track ‘So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish’. It cleverly weaves the spate of recent music industry deaths, with Trump's trigger-happy atomic itch. Hey, remember North Korea? That was this year.

Elsewhere, 'Disillusioned' demonstrates how he's dug deeper into power politics, and learned more about how it relates to one of the most written about sociological phenomena of the 2018: chronic social media addiction. "Addicts of the immediate / Keep us obedient and unaware.”

The title track, meanwhile, manifests stanzas refracted through a more personal lens; meditations on inner struggle, which is apt considering the instrumentals were laid down by Billy Howerdell when he was mourning the loss of his friend Chester Bennington. Indeed, get this; Howerdell had originally written this song for Linkin Park.

Whilst unsettling the status quo, and raising the standard of critical discourse may not be the most shiny or glib gimmick when it comes to a left-leaning metal band, there aren’t as many as good at it than Maynard James Keenan. His skill at distilling compassion, raising theoretical issues, all the while packaging it in a way that’s appealing to millions, could – and really should – give the powers that be pause.

A Perfect Circle are a critical cog in the battered by still intensely relevant machine of music as a spur for change and progress in society. At a time of increasingly Draconian policies around freedom of speech and the uneven quality of online discourse, the burden falls upon artists to dig deep, hew close to the bone, tell it like it is, and (hopefully) keep us all alive and alert and compassionate. Music is the medium for rebellion and in 2018, with Trump in the White House, it’s vital this most astute band are heard at the loudest possible fucking volume. (CT)

Photo: Yousef Hatlani / Nicolas Joubard / Zac Mahrouche