This list seems to shrink every year. Maybe that's indicative of the way we listen to music these days. I certainly haven't bought an album this year, and find myself streaming singles on my phone rather than sitting down and listening to a whole LP through.
That's a post for another time though - the other reason this favourite albums of 2018 list is so short is that there simply weren't that many this year that I think really deserve blog bigups.
Again, this could well be down to me having less time to listen to music, rather than a paucity of good stuff out there, but I do try to keep on top of new releases and give things a run through to see if they merit repeated listens. Problem is, those below are the only five albums that really did pique my interest enough to garner repeated spins.
Another observation is that no hip hop or guitar-based music makes the list. I haven't intentionally been avoiding the genres, but no bands or rappers I like put out records, or great records, during the last 12 months.
From my tracks list you'll see that there are still plenty of artists I like making music I love, but few of them made enough of it in one place to get themselves a place on this page.
A wee shout out to the also rans then: Róisín Murphy's four EPs with house heavyweight Maurice Fulton; Rival Consoles' build and release masterclass Persona; the stupidly-named Ross From Friends' Ninja Tune debut Family Portrait; Gold Panda and Jas Shaw from Simian Mobile Disco's unexpected treat in the form of Selling; Jungle's solid sophomore effort; Objekt's wonderfully weird techno landscape Cocoon Crush; the short, sharp Daytona by Pusha T; Unknown Mortal Orchestra's occasionally brilliant Sex and Food; XL boss Richard Russell's star-studded collab-fest Everything Is Recorded; Throwing Snow's late but great Loma; Nils Frahm's lush All Melody; and Parquet Courts' fun-filled Wide Awake!
Enough waffle though - here are my favourite albums of the year:
5. Max Cooper - One Hundred Billion Sparks
As Max explains: "Every track on the LP is a score to a visual story stemming from this system of one hundred billion sparking neurones, which create us." This record is the result of a month spent making music in rural Wales, with no technological distractions. While in many ways it's a continuation of his intricate, multi-layered electronic methods, this album does feel like the most well-rounded to date - as rewarding an experience consumed start to finish via headphones in the dark, as it is via the 'visual stories' told in each track's accompanying video.
4. George Fitzgerald - All That Must Be
On his second album, the UK producer moves further from the club cuts and DJ tools that made his name and into the song writing and vocal collaboration that began on 2015's Fading Love. Since then he's moved back from Berlin to London and become a father, two facts which can be read into as much or as little as you like. What's plain is that he's getting better at this lark - crafting lush textures with the help of Bonobo on Outgrown and twinkly pop-perfection with Tracey Thorn on Half-Light.
3. Lauer - Power
Back on his Tuff City Kids partner Gerd Janson's Running Back label for a third album, this is arguably the best of the trio - and I really liked Borndom. According to the press release: "Like his attic - Pyramide Studio 2 for those who know - where a vast synthesiser collection from the days of yore and tomorrow meets other digital dinosaurs and analog Aphrodites." This is certainly a lesson in how to make melody-laden 80s power pop, ably-assisted by the vocal talents of his pal Jasnau.
2. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
Influenced by taking up transcendental meditation and having some well-documented psychedelic experiences, this album thankfully eschews any introspective wankery and goes the other way, beefing up the beauty heard on Immunity with purposeful pads and soaring synths. Much like Max Cooper's opus earlier in this list, Hopkins' latest work is his best yet, dripping with emotional heft and spiritual power.
1. DJ Koze - Knock Knock
Stefan Kozalla is a bit of an enigma, rarely giving interviews - although very interesting when he eventually does - and seemingly preferring to let his music do the talking. And if that's the case, then he's a multi-lingual polymath; such is the diversity of styles over his career, and on this album. From the ear-worm-ingly simple disco house of Pick Up, to lo-fi strumming with José González, via Kurt Wagner's voice floating over ethereal electronics, this is eclecticism par excellence. At no point does anything seem forced though, it's merely a fascinatingly fun glimpse into the parallel universe he produces in.
As is customary, I'll finish the post with a selection of my favourite compilations and online mixes of the year - so in no particular order:
Will Saul - Inside Out 1 - a magnificent showcase of the talent he's assembled on the Aus label.
Sasha - Fabric 99 - took him a while to finally take his place among the clubs cannon, but the mixtape master doesn't disappoint.
Craig Richards, Terry Francis & Keith Reilly - Fabric 100 - the trio that have been most instrumental in shaping the music policy of Fabric Saturdays finish the epic mix series in style.
KiNK - Live at Cocoon Ibiza - fair play to Sven's crew for being the ones to finally capture KiNK's legendary live performance for posterity.
Theo Parrish - Thanks to Plastic - an overdue ode to Theo's eclectic sets at the much-missed Shoreditch rave cave.
Permanent Vacation - Selected Label Works 6 - another roster round-up from one of my favourite labels - so much quality to choose from.
Studio Barnhus Volym 1 - a riot of fun and funk from the Scandi trio of Kornél Kovács, Petter Nordkvist and Axel Boman
As for the mixes - all the usual repositories managed to coax talented people to blend lovely music together for free - here are my picks:
Resident Advisor got Objekt in for a unique mix of what he calls 'no kick rollers' - powerful tunes with no distinct drum rhythm - and almost certainly the only RA mix to weave in the Eastenders theme tune. Surely the oddest in the cannon so far though came this year courtesy of the fantastic DJ Bus Replacement Service. The phenomenon that is Doris Woo's alter ego has to be heard to be believed - superlative nonsense and a welcome antidote to some of the more po-faced stuff on the site.
The BBC bods behind the Essential Mix played a blinder this year, getting several of my favourite DJs of the moment in for the hallowed two hour slot. In roughly chronological order there was: rave restoration specialist Lone, the hyperactive Weegie let loose Denis Sulta, the mercurial talent that is Four Tet, everyone's new dance music crush Peggy Gou, Ejeca's glorious Trance Wax revival project, the perennially-underrated Fort Romeau, a blisteringly-diverse set from Avalon Emerson, crate-digging funk, soul and disco from Jeremy Underground, a peak-time live set from Ricardo Villalobos at Amnesia, the hypnotic sounds of HAAi, and the various old farts that put in mini-mixes for the 25 year anniversary celebrations at the end of October.
Talking of anniversaries, Ninja Tune's regular Solid Steel mix show decided that 30 years in the game was long enough and signed-off (more to come in a different format next year apparently) with a slew of great sets - this one from stalwart DK being my pick.
The Boiler Room has taken a bit of a turn of late, but there were still some good bookings among the trendy bollocks, this session from Bonobo in New York being one in particular. Staying in the States, this recording of Beardyman testing out his new rig in Seattle is a joy.
While their own work has tailed off in recent years, I'll always have a lot of love for Ugly Duckling's gateway hip hop - if you're unaware of their brilliance, let this discography mix get you up to speed.
To round out this increasingly lengthy post, quick shout outs to this mix by Huntleys + Palmers founder Andrew Thomson made entirely of cuts from his new Belters sub-label, this entertainingly-intense electro mix from Etienne de Crécy, and a live recording of Kornél Kovács charming the Lost Village festival.