In 2018, Real Gone celebrated its ninth birthday. It’s been a long and hard road to this point, but we’re pleased to be celebrating our most successful year online to date. Hundreds of new albums have been heard and a record number of gigs have been attended. Not only has this year been our biggest success…it’s also been our favourite.
Nearing the close of 2018, it’s time to look back and celebrate our favourite events – including our top ten album releases…
Normally, each year has an album that’s a clear stand out. Making that distinction this time around has been somewhat trickier, so we’re awarding a joint “album of the year” to two very different albums. If that seems like a cop-out, we don’t care…there really was only a hair’s breadth between them.
Real Gone’s best album(s) of the year goes to… THE FIERCE AND THE DEAD for ‘The Euphoric‘ and SALAD UNDRESSED for ‘Good Love Bad Love‘.
The Fierce and The Dead have been a cult phenomenon for a few years, but 2018’s ‘The Euphoric’ found the band stretching out. Some of the album’s material was heavier than anything they’d recorded previously, while some tracks were actually more commercial. Mixing up elements of post rock, metal, prog and angular synth noise, the UK art-rockers created a masterpiece. [Full review here.]
Paul and Marijne from 90s indie band Salad returned to live performance in 2017 as Salad Undressed, performing stripped down semi-acoustic renditions of Salad songs and road-testing ner material. The gigs were fun and sometimes scrappy, but nothing suggested their next studio recording would be as great as it actually was. With at least three tracks that rival Salad’s formative years for quality and a few musical deviations and experiments, ‘Good Love Bad Love’ is a present day indie classic. It’s worth hearing for the melodic ‘Evergreen’ and ‘Hyacinth’, but the 40 minute, filler-free disc is one that’ll fit most listening moods. It’s great to have them back…and with a new full Salad album due in 2019, they’re heading for another good year… [Full review here.]
Also making our list of the year’s essentials…
CHRIS STILLS – Don’t Be Afraid
It took Chris Stills a full ten years to follow up his self-titled second album, but ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is an amazing work. It’s a record that should be heard by all fans of Ryan Adams and various singer-songwriter moods with both 70s and 90s tinges. It’s a lyrically honest and sometimes pained collection, but like Dylan’s ‘Blood on The Tracks’, some fantastic music makes personal pain accessible to almost everyone. [Full review here.]
NATTERERS – Head In Threatening Attitude
In 2017, Yorkshire’s Natterers released the ‘Toxic Care’ EP which was one of the year’s best punk discs. This year, they took their hardcore skills and boundless love for Dead Kennedys and stretched out to a full album. Clocking in at barely twenty five minutes, the idea of “full album” is certainly relative, but ‘Head In Threatening Attitude’ is a record not to be missed by hardcore punk fans. Between Emma’s raging vocals and Thomas’s homages to Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray, this young band show most punk bands how things should be done! [Full review here.]
AWOOGA – Conduit
By the end of March, Awooga’s first full length was already a mile in front of other metal albums in terms of quality and enjoyment. Although the year was still young, there was also a chance it would end the year as metal’s finest achievement. Fact is, although there have been other hugely enjoyable metal records released this year, this one still kept pulling us back in. It’s what we always wanted: an album that sounds like Deftones and Tool could actually write songs. [Full review here.]
K7s – Take 1
When taking time out from his own world of power pop, Kurt Baker can also be found moonlighting with Euro punks K7s. Their first album on Rum Bar Records is the greatest 90s pop punk record you never heard…in 2018. Imagine a cross between Green Day’s ‘Dookie’, Screeching Weasel’s ‘Anthem For a New Tomorrow’ and the best bits of a couple of Fat Wreck belters and that’s ‘Take 1’. No attempt has been made to modernise a pop-punk sound; no vocal filters have been applied for emo fragility – it’s just pure, unadulterated, classic pop-punk the way you loved it in 1994. Essential. [Full review here.]
ASTRAL DRIVE – self-titled
Singer-songwriter/producer Phil Thornalley appeared in the summer of ’18 with a retro pop classic. His Astral Drive project is a celebration of all things ELO and Todd Rundgren sounding…and it was a fantastic coincidence that the album’s single ‘Summer of ’76’ appeared online during the longest and hottest summer since! [Full review here.]
MICK TERRY – Days Go By
It took approximately eight years for Mick Terry’s second album to appear, but in 2018 it was finally let into the wild. Mick had two goals for ‘Days Go By’: to make a record that was better than his debut and to get it released on vinyl. He succeeded on both counts and ‘Days Go By’ – much like the Astral Drive record – is a loving celebration of AM radio sounds. It’s a record without filler, but worth hearing for ‘Pop’s a Dirty Word’ alone – especially if you need a direct pointer towards this Hoxton lad’s chief interests. [Full review here.]
DOT DASH – Proto Retro
Dot Dash have been very prolific over the past decade, but their sixth album in eight years is easily their best. On 2018’s ‘Proto Retro’ they’ve dispensed with the lower fidelity punky edges and turned in a classic power pop record. ‘Proto Retro’ is brimming with small tunes and big hooks – for all fans of Buffalo Tom and The Replacements, it might be the best record most of you didn’t hear this year. [Full review here.]
THE RADIO BUZZKILLS – Get Fired!
On their first couple of releases, US pop-punks The Radio Buzzkills sounded ragged and fun, but it always felt as if they would eventually tap into their potential. ‘I Got Fired!’ is a fantastic mix of Ramones influenced sounds, Screeching Weasel brattishness and big choruses. With songs co-written by Dave Parasite, the record is a pop punk essential. [Full review here.]
…and if that’s not enough, the best of the rest is a fabulous mixed bag. We’ve had a second slab of retro pop from David Myhr, great underground punk from Vinny and The Hooligans, huge doom metal from DIY project Pink Cocoon and Witch Mountain, the return of prog legend Robert Berry and the most ambitious release from Jet Black Sea featuring a thirty minute epic. For those looking for retro sounds, Mats Wawa fused soul, indie and 70s rock on their instant mood-lifter, the ‘Scuzz’ EP and Real Gone favourites Strange Majik served up blues rock grooves, funk and rock on ‘Channel T’ which, whist not quite as good as their previous record, sounded great when played loudly and was a very welcome release that afforded the band – and frontman David Pattillo – two UK visits. [Full reviews of these releases can be read by clicking on the emboldened links].
Speaking of gigs, there have been some fantastic ones this year: we saw Slayer‘s farewell show in London ending a mega night of maximum riffs [a review of that night’s Lamb of God set can be found here]; two shows from KOLARS were amazing [a review of their second Ramsgate show of 2018 can be read here]; we got to see Kristin Hersh and Fred Abong in a tiny venue and Japanese legends Shonen Knife put on an amazingly sweaty and intimate show that was hard to beat. Pixies staged a five night residency at London’s Roundhouse and that was amazing, but if anything this year is going to stay with us forever, it’s Smashing Pumpkins‘ three hour show, celebrating their past, going backwards to go forwards. Not just the best show of 2018, but possibly one of the greatest gigs of the past two decades. [A full review can be read here]. [Reviews for other shows can be found behind the emboldened band names.]
In addition to all of this great stuff, we also got to chat with ex-Fall drummer Paul Hanley about his book ‘Leave The Capital’ and the many great bands recorded at Strawberry Studios over several decades. It was a real pleasure — probably even our favourite ever thing to happen at Real Gone so far… Thanks Paul! Thanks also to the folks at Route Publishing. You can buy ‘Leave The Capital’ and other great books from their website. The full chat with Paul can be read here.
Before almost calling time on 2018, we’d like to thank all of Real Gone’s supporters for sticking with us and say thanks to the many bands, PR companies and labels hitting us up for opinions. You’re all important, but we’d especially like to thank Matt and Lou for the many review items; Shauna, Matt Stevens and Joshy from Marmozets for securing guest-lists and Jasups, Kirk and Katy for facilitating those guest-lists with travel assistance etc. Thanks also to my mate Rich for accompanying us to untold amounts of gigs throughout the year and to Neil Luckett for the huge support.
Here’s to 2019. We promise it’ll be fantastic.
Until then, all the best to all of you…