Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
In her third studio album, Kacey Musgraves delivered the best album of the year – Golden Hour is a fantastic piece of work, attracting critical plaudits and four Grammy nominations (including a prestigious ‘Album of the Year’ nod). That such a personal collection of songs has such resonance with the listener speaks volumes about her talent – they’re musically complex yet lyrically simple, little vignettes that propose whole ways of life and shine in their raw emotional honesty.
Musgraves covers a lot of ground in the album, with several love songs (although, far from a gushing romantic, these tunes balance out – the romance of ‘Butterflies’ is followed by a ‘Wonder Woman’ lamenting that love isn’t ever perfect), the skewering of a local show-off in ‘High Horse’, the simple and beautiful ‘Rainbow’, and so much more. Each song is masterfully composed and performed, and listening to the album in its entirety lends it a sense of completeness that many modern albums lack.
Golden Hour is a beautiful album and a compelling listen, with some wonderfully crafted songs making it more than the sum of its parts. I wrote in my review of the album that it “shows a musician completely at ease with herself and the music she wants to play, and songs that could be cliché ring with an honesty that make them feel fresh and new”. I stand by that sentiment, and I once again recommend that you give it a listen. Musgraves is never less than brilliant – Golden Hour is, in a word, brilliant.
Camp Cope, How to Socialise and Make Friends
The second album from Melbourne-based Camp Cope is a landmark moment for women in music. This isn’t only because it embodies the indie scene’s recent progressive shift, but because it does more for women in forty minutes than the last five years of
mainstream ‘feminist’ material.
In counterpoint to pop’s desire to sanitise, the songwriting of Georgia ‘Maq’ McDonald is some of the most personal, visceral material you’ll ever hear, and it only becomes more powerful when paired with her guttural vocals. Whether it’s an account of sexual assault in ‘The Face of God’ or an indictment of industry-wide misogyny in ‘The Opener’, these acerbic lyrics are the most memorable of 2018 – and yet what makes them truly staggering is their focus, often centred around music itself. This isn’t a half-hearted dusting of pro-woman clichés; this is a detailed exploration of autonomy and oppression, and one that offers genuine solutions between its hooks. Antifeminists may take issue with Camp Cope’s ideology, but they’ll find little to criticise in their technique.
However, the band stand for much more than #MeToo. Themes from long-lost friends to the overwhelming experience of grief are given the Camp Cope treatment, too, and Maq’s inimitable voice is paired with Sarah Thompson’s drums and Kelly Dawn-Helmrich’s bass – both of which could be genre benchmarks. You’ll struggle to find a group with more natural dynamics, and the results are only too clear to see. How to Socialise and Make Friends is an evolution in every way, and in between its technical excellence it’ll give you the biggest gut-punch of 2018.
Children of Zeus, Travel Light
R&B duo Children of Zeus gave us their contender for album of the year with their critically-acclaimed debut. Amidst the plethora of modern soul-induced hip-hop albums we saw this year, the Manchester artists have shot right to the top. Apart from the two K15-provided beats, the self-produced album does not disappoint.
Punchy yet smooth jazz-infused beats, reminiscent of Kaytranada’s, provide the backdrop for their personal but poignant messages. An introspective approach, the Mancunian pair detail their experiences and troubles without allowing the album itself to become troubling, and instead weave some softness into their sound in a musically mature manner. ‘Hoodman2Man-
hood’ journeys through the difficulties of maturity under the guise of a classic R&B track, making for a versatile track following ‘Slow Down’, a self-reflective song discussing the need to control partying habits and which boasts niche samples in the hook.
A persistent desire to be responsible resonates throughout; as we travel through the cold avenues of their adult experiences, they pay homage to their influences with frequent 70s soul or reggae samples and instrumentation.
The Manchester scene has produced yet another musical figurehead to contend for their place in culture, and this one has stuck.
Well-rounded, this album’s tracks will last you weeks; whether for conscious listening or as background slow-jams, Travel Light outperforms anything else 2018 had to offer.