It’s new year’s eve, and therefore, more importantly, it’s Belwood’s 4th birthday and time for our annual awards! It’s been an odd twelve months in many respects, and a real mixed bag as far as music is concerned, but 2018’s highlights more than made up for its lows. Here’s the music that left the biggest impression on us over the past year:
Album of the Year: Typhoon – Offerings
The year peaked early with our highest scoring album to date all the way back in January. With all the depth and detail you’d expect from a finely crafted concept album, but with enough consistent hooks and standout moments to capture the attention of the casual listener, I don’t see this record being dethroned from its top spot any time soon.
Song of the Year: Hozier – Nina Cried Power
This man could sing the phone book and we’d still be swooning. So to have him singing a track with such soul and meaning, with the legendary Mavis Staples by his side… well, it’s a bit of a no-brainer isn’t it? It feels like an age since we last had new music from Hozier, but to return with an incredible track such as this makes every second of waiting feel worth it.
EP of the Year: Sophie Morgan – Sons & Daughters
This is the soundtrack to birdsong, golden sunsets, the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the rush of crystal clear water along a stream. “Beautiful” is an overused word, but if I had to use it to describe just one release this year it would be Sons & Daughters. So lush and yet so delicate, one listen is enough to make you feel like all is right with the world.
Album Cover of the Year: All the Luck in the World – A Blind Arcade
This wonderful watercolour is another instance of something that caught my attention way back at the beginning of the year and has stuck with me ever since. It takes an interesting idea and pulls it off brilliantly, which is the highest honour that any art form can hope to achieve. It’s instantly recognisable and can draw in your gaze from right across the room, which is everything you want in an album cover.
Video of the Year: Steven Wilson – People Who Eat Darkness
‘People Who Eat Darkness’ was one of the highlights of Steven’s latest record from 2017, and likewise the arresting visuals created for it were one of the high points of his live shows on his most recent tour. So it’s fantastic to have those visuals out in the world at last. Surreal and suspenseful, it’s not a viewing experience you’ll soon forget.
Best Male Solo Artist: Hozier
There aren’t many artists out there that can be the biggest name on the planet in a respective year while not even releasing an album. But, if anyone can do it, Hozier can. Album or not, his return to the spotlight has been one of the defining musical moments of 2018. He’s sounding better than ever, and I can’t wait to hear more new music from him.
Best Female Solo Artist: Snail Mail
Under her Snail Mail moniker, Lindsey Jordan has released what is hands down one of the finest debuts since the site began. Lush lives up to its name in every sense and is head and shoulders above most indie records this year. She’s one hell of a songwriter and I’m looking forward to seeing her next steps as an artist.
Band of the Year: Typhoon
I mean… have I mentioned that they released our highest rated album to date? Like, if that doesn’t win you best band then I’d call shenanigans. Typhoon just seemed to appear on my musical radar out of nowhere, and released a record that I’d hold in the same esteem as some of the finest albums of the decade. Best band by a country mile.
The Spotlight! Award for Best New Band: The Howl & The Hum
This one had me baffled for a while. The Howl & The Hum didn’t enter into my head for the longest time, for the simple reason that they don’t feel like a new band finding their way. They’re one of the most unique indie bands in years, their live performances easily some of the highlights of my year. To me, they already seem like a massive band, just the rest of the world has yet to catch up. Any band that feels like one of the best acts in the country before they’ve even released an album more than deserves this award.
Soundtrack of the Year: Bohemian Rhapsody
I don’t think anyone expected this film to be as amazing as it was. The attention to detail was nothing short of extraordinary. However, I don’t think it was ever in doubt that the soundtrack would be anything short of incredible. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is a Queen fan, and this film and its brilliant soundtrack was the perfect way to remind us of that fact.
Discovery of the Year: If These Trees Could Talk
For me 2018 will perhaps be best remembered as the year that I took the plunge into the world of post-rock. It’s floated on my periphery for a while, but after I finally delved deeper I’ve discovered some real gems. Chief among these is easily If These Trees Could Talk. All of their albums are consistently fantastic and have been on heavy rotation this year.
The White Feather Award for Disappointment of the Year: Arctic Monkeys
There have been a few releases that have fallen short of expectations this year, and plenty that have been painfully average. Sat squarely in the centre of the Venn diagram is Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. Musically it’s a monotonous slog, lyrically the once great Alex Turner seems to have just lost the plot. I can certainly see and appreciate what they were going for, but it just misses the mark in every way.
The Forgotten Gem Award: Wild Pink
Berate list season all you like, but it’s a great chance to discover awesome releases that you missed. Without them, I’d have never heard the gorgeous new record from Wild Pink. As gutted as I am that it slipped past me when it first came out, I’m delighted to have the chance to spend some time with it now, and ring in the new year with it playing on repeat.