These are the 2019 albums that I have on restrict­ed-play mode, in case I over­do it. These are best played when you’re on your own. No dis­trac­tions and no play­ing them as mood music in the back­ground – who wants some ran­dom per­son to sud­den­ly start talk­ing to you just as you get to the best bit.

W H Lung – Inci­den­tal Music

Saun­ter­ing past a tent at Blue­dot fes­ti­val in 2017, I caught the celes­tial sounds of WH Lung waft­ing through the air, and I’ve been obsessed by them ever since. And this debut album doesn’t dis­ap­point. Dense, with a mys­te­ri­ous edge and a swirling inten­si­ty under­pin­ning their songs, the Man­ches­ter band are addic­tive. WANT and Sim­pati­co Peo­ple are favourite tracks – as is, always, the epic Inspi­ra­tion!

UNKLE – The Road Part II (Lost Highway)

The road con­tin­ues. More a mix­tape, as James Lavelle has stat­ed, this sec­ond album in a tril­o­gy takes you on an adven­tur­ous jour­ney; The Road Part II is expan­sive with wide open land­scapes, tak­ing in a mix of gen­res, and strong visu­al appeal. Ar:Mour is a haunt­ing track; like­wise Feel More / With Less, ele­vat­ed by Leila Moss’s haunt­ing and dra­mat­ic vocal deliv­ery. Lavelle’s live per­for­mance at the Roy­al Fes­ti­val Hall was one of my top gigs of the year, too. UNKLE’s music fea­tured at the Saatchi Gallery exhi­bi­tion Beyond the Road: gourmet gigs review is here.

Bode­ga: End­less Scroll

I love the warm post-punk sound of Bode­ga, com­bined with their ener­gy and wry, wit­ty lyrics. Their songs sur­vey the messed-up land­scape of mod­ern life: End­less Scroll about the frus­tra­tion of deal­ing with the illu­so­ry inti­ma­cy of the com­put­er. Sec­ond track Name Escape, with its repet­i­tive ‘heav­en knows I’m mis­er­able now’ line with man­ic David Byrne-esque deliv­ery tone can’t fail to amuse. Jack in Titan­ic has been get­ting a lot of air­play but I  find it some­what plod­dy and there are far more inter­est­ing tracks on this shin­ing first album.

Michael Kiwanu­ka: Kiwanuka

A sur­pris­ing col­lec­tion tak­ing a slight­ly dif­fer­ent direc­tion for Kiwanu­ka. Much of the pro­duc­tion of this album has a retro feel, harken­ing back to the 50s and 60s – sec­ond track Rolling with its sexy, fuzzy bass line. There’s also some gospel influ­ence which Kiwanuka’s soul­ful voice is just made for, such as on I’ve Been Dazed  with its mov­ing cho­rus. Hard to Say Good­bye opens with a cin­e­mat­ic intro before it shifts into a melan­cholic ballad.

Lamb: The Secret of Let­ting Go

Open­ing with an incan­ta­tion on Phos­pho­rous to set the scene, Lam­b’s most recent release The Secret of Let­ting Go is a reward­ing expe­ri­ence. Bul­let­proof – prob­a­bly the song most sim­i­lar to their ear­li­est work, seems to have stolen the head­lines but my favourites are the doomy and ten­sion-laden Armaged­don Waits plus ethe­re­al Illu­mi­na. There’s an instru­men­tal on the album called Deep Delir­i­um. Lamb were ahead of the curve in the 90s when their work was seen as exper­i­men­tal; the band are still cre­at­ing orig­i­nal work and their live per­for­mance was one of the best gigs of this year.

Phildel: Wave Your Flags

It was inter­est­ing to see what Phildel (above) next move would be, after her last album The Dis­ap­pear­ance of the Girl in 2013. That work was intrin­si­cal­ly about grow­ing up in a home where her strict step­fa­ther for­bade her to lis­ten to or play music. Her new album Wave Your Flags is a con­fi­dent, haunt­ing and beau­ti­ful col­lec­tion of songs, with Phildel’s dis­tinc­tive sooth­ing vocals sound­ing bet­ter than ever. The Deep is a hyp­not­ic track with rich vocal lay­ers and Oh Love, writ­ten about her sup­port­ive part­ner flows beau­ti­ful­ly, with its ecsta­t­ic cho­rus and mov­ing lyrics.

Best new single

The Court And Jury by Ele­phant Stone. Dystopi­an psy­che­delia rules in this doomy, dra­mat­ic new release.

Looking forward…

The Lucid Dream: a long-await­ed new release is on its way.

The Orielles: sec­ond album Dis­co Volador drops in Feb­ru­ary; check out their first sin­gle from the album, Come Down on Jupiter.

Pic­tish Trail has an album com­ing out next year too called Thumb­world: some of the mate­r­i­al was aired at Out­er Lim­its Xmas Par­ty at Hack­ney Wick­’s Stu­dio 9294 and very good it was too.

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