Well it’s that time of year again when the end of year lists start coming out. I generally find something new from these, there’s always something that I have missed during the year… such is the high quality of releases.
This is the third year that I have been proud to have published the ‘best of year’ list voted by the Psych Lovers online community. There were well over 100 album nominations this year, and members of that community have written their own appreciations for each album featured here. There’s some great writing here, and I have really enjoyed hearing different voices talking about the albums they love (and not just the voices in my head that usually gets featured on this site).
So scroll down, have your own preferences confirmed, find some surprises, revel in your outrage in what has been missed out and… well… just dig in and enjoy!
…and after you’ve revelled in this, check out ANOTHER 30 great albums in my Review of the Year.
1. Mildred Maude – CPA I-III (Weird Beard Records)
Not many people would’ve given this trio from Falmouth, UK much of a chance. All three having varying ages with different tastes in music. What they do have is a love for playing their instruments. Within an hour of playing together Mildred Maude was born. The trio instantly gelled together and headed into the studio and recorded ‘CPA I-III’ in one day with no over dubs.
In the opening 15 seconds of ‘CPA I’ the song leads you to believe you are in for an ambient jaunt, then what follows is the sound of a guitar effect that sounds like a siren on acid. Then the bass and drums kick in and settles in what can only be described as a chainsaw stripping a forest with ease. ‘CPA II’ is a mellower affair with it’s opening giving the sense of dawn with the sun rising over the horizon. The bass kicks in and gives the song a big comfort blanket. Finally ‘CPA III’, kicks off like frenzied punters in rush hour traffic trying to get to their destination. The drums start with a fast rhythmic pace surrounded with an intermittent bass line and the guitar batters you in to submission.
‘CPA I-III’ is an outstanding debut and a worthy winner of album of the year 2018
Written by Ian Mc Glynn
2. Kikagaku Moyo – Masana Temples (Gurugurubrain)
Opening track ‘Entrance’ is a blissed-out sitar instrumental which builds in intensity before fading out and moving into ‘Dripping Sun’ which channels a funk groove, overlaid with psychedelic riffs to create something that falls in between. Its infectious vibe permeates to set feet tapping before changing tact to a slower, more melodic number with vocals being added as the final piece of the puzzle. ‘Nazo Nazo’ is a different entity, with a slower tempo and more pronounced elements throughout. ‘Fluffy Kosmisch’ channels some serious kraut rock influences (as its names hints at) but with a unique Kikagaku Moyo twist, some ethereal vocal interplay and a race to the finish. Then we move into ‘Majupose’, a track which harks back to past offerings strongly.
‘Nana’ however fires straight back to the present, returning to a funk laden groove once more. ‘Orange Peel’ once again slows the pace, with the overall interchanging pace creating a sway within the album, keeping the listener constantly on their toes, not knowing which way they will go next. ‘Amayadori’ offers a melodic instrumental interlude, before ‘Gatherings’ proceeds almost exactly where ‘Orange Peel’ left off, but with a meatier bass line and a more pronounced synth riff. The repetition draws one deeper into the track whilst the addition of new segments at regular intervals keeps it interesting. It descends to a full scale kraut rock jam as it finishes before ‘Blanket Songs’ concludes the album.
Written by Le Crowley
3. Carlton Melton – Mind Minerals (Agitated Records)
Carlton Melton are known for (among other things) recording their early material in a geodesic dome, but have generally gone into ‘proper’ studios for more recent releases. As such, ‘Mind Minerals’ is audibly more polished, but still manages to retain the characteristically earthy, organic aroma of psychedelic music deeply rooted in nature, and sits very comfortably with the band’s earlier material.
In terms of pace the overall feel of the album is that of a venerable old wooden roller coaster with steady climbs that reveal breath-taking views before turning into long thrilling descents through sound and space. The changing pace and variety of textures are indeed a tonic for the mind; a meditation of gently picked guitar, pounding tribal drums, spacey synth, hypnotic drone and scorching fuzz.
Joyfully, ‘Mind Minerals’ a nicely packaged double, meaning that the band’s characteristic slow burns are allowed to smoulder away moodily until they spontaneously combust, which is nice, since Carlton Melton excel at this steady, methodical improvisation, and aren’t a band to be rushed.
In conclusion this is a great album that evidently appeals to the established fan base, and is certain to have gained Carlton Melton numerous new fans too.
Written by Sean Gibbons
4. Psychic Lemon – Frequency, Rhythm, Distortion, Delay (Tonzonen Records)
On hearing this album at the tail end of 2017, it was clear that I was listening to an album that would feature at the top end of the 2018 polls. ‘Frequency, Rhythm, Distortion, Delay’ is Psychic Lemon’s second album and gives you a clue in how it’s going to sound. There is a distinct change in direction here, but in a very positive way.
From the moment the tribal drums kick off in the opening track ‘Exit to the Death’, you know you are in for a ride. Add to that a faint rhythm bass line, along with a looping guitar melody. Then a tribal chant kicks in with some ferocious guitar riffage giving you a track that leaves you wanting more. There is no let-up in ‘Hey Droog’ and ‘You’re No Good’, opening with an MBV type riff with a crowd of angels hollering in the background. Add some intermittent guitar shredding to liven things up and you have a track from the psych gods.
The album continues with another couple of sub 10 minute tracks, ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’ and finally ‘Satori Disko’. There is a noticeable change in pace in this track which allows you to zone out to some clever looping and distorted sounds from the outer sphere. Overall this is an outstanding album that has hung into my top 5 of the year since January, which is no mean feat considering the amount of top quality albums that have arrived since.
Written by Ian Mc Glynn
5. Dead Otter – Bridge Of Weird (Riot Season Records)
Maybe it was the cover with its 1950s sci-fi-esque dystopian artwork. Maybe it was the fact it was on Riot Season (have they put out a bad record yet?) or maybe it was the Cosmic Dead connections whatever the reason I felt like I needed this album even before I heard it.
Opener ‘Eye Elevator’ kind of just falls out of the speaker and slowly starts to build a steady and infectious groove, it seems to drift from chiming eastern sounding guitars to full on heavy distortion. All of this is underpinned by some thunderous drumming. The second track ‘Waning’ may have a lot more of a mellow feel but its spiralling guitars give it all the light and shade you will need. ‘Fur’ gives us a brief musical interlude before the full on sonic attack of ‘LV-426’, clocking in just shy of four minutes. It’s a psych monster with a metallic coating. Like any good album the best is saved for last, the massive title track contains all the elements that make this album so bloody good, the light and shade, the time changes, the left turns and man those guitars!
Thirty odd minutes of post/psych/stoner rock of the highest quality, what’s not to like?
Written by Iain Wiltshire
6. Father Sky Mother Earth – S/T (Dirty Filthy Records)
On the first day there was Light and the Gods came forth and created SUNN O]]], and on the second day the Gods created Sound and so was created FATHER SKY MOTHER EARTH, and what a sound.
Seeming more like a religious experience, a ritual, or even a meditative exercise, FSME are much more than merely a musical band of Musicians, they are Sound Sorcerers. The album, self-titled, is much more than music; it is the creation of Alchemy.
The band consists of just two members, Niclas Gerull and Nico Seel, whose sound is huge enough to be considered likened to that of Seismic activity. FSME are more likely to create a trance like state, Meditative and inducing a Reflective Temperament unlike the reactions caused by compositions by other groups of a similar vein. An experience itself rather than Sonic Assault on the Mind, Body and Senses. Primitive and Simplistic Drones, less really is sometimes more. Just Guitar, Bass and a Live Drum Programme machine and a whole sack full of Depth and Feeling.
Nico, formerly of Kraut/ Space Rock influenced outfit The Space Spectrum had designs on something more and reached out in pursuit. Niclas, in his own words, describes his, waiting for something to happen, as ‘’Sleeping somewhere in a Cave amongst Bears and Bats, growing with Wolves, but had to soon leave, to find exile, somewhere in the North [Germany]. I had to hide until I was finally discovered by Nico’. It was only then that the magic was realized and symbiosis took form. From then on is as they say history.
Likened to that Great Obelisk in Stanley Kubricks classic, 2001 [ A Space Oddesy], FSME fell from somewhere other worldly and changed lives, forever.
Written by Brian Dennis
7. The Myrrors – Borderlands (Beyond, Beyond Is Beyond)
The Myrrors, an American band from Arizona, have long been a favourite of the Psych Lovers Facebook group so there was great expectation and delight upon receiving their latest album Borderlands. The album kicks off with a short track (Awakening) akin to an orchestra tuning up for the delights to follow, and what delights they are.
Side one contains three more tracks (The Blood that Runs the Border, Formaciones Rojas, Biznagas) of viola led psychedelic folk drones that draw you in to a place where you can just lose yourself in the music and let the guitars and vocals that drift in and out wash over you and a fifth track (Call for Unity) a saxophone and drums led heavier mantra. Side two contains one epic 19′.34″ track (Note from the Underground) a track that builds up the drone layers as it flows onwards to its finishing crescendo. All in all, a great album from a band at the top of their game.
Written by Laurence Blackwell
8. Anthroprophh – Omegaville (Rocket Recordings)
Essentially a concept album, with artwork that could be 21st Century Gustave Dore, Omegaville touches on gentrification, privilege, automation and the lack of housing forcing people out of jobs and out of their communities.
Heavy pedal driven riffs lead most of the first two sides; dragging us through guitarist and frontman Paul Allen’s dystopic view of the world around him. His vocals in places including Housing Act 1980 (which instigated the Conservative’s Right to Buy manifesto) are reminiscent of Rudimentary Peni’s Nick Blinko.
Anthroprophh have tipped their beanie hats to Can’s Tago Mago here, the deeper we travel in Omegaville, the more experimental and expansive things become. Gareth Turner’s bass and Jesse Webb’s drums are more at the forefront on these later tracks, with ‘I’ and ‘Maschine’ bridging the gap between these and the earlier freak outs.
There are stopping places – the birdsong in OMEGAVILLE/THOTHB takes you by surprise – but just long enough to catch your breath before leading you down another path. Anthroprophh albums always travel full-circle but Omegavile’s destination is not necessarily a happy place. We are led out of town, but where to isn’t clear.
It’s breath-taking in its scope; pedals and fuzz, double-bass gravitas, and scene-setting drums lift you from your comfort zone to face the future as we hurtle helplessly toward it.
Written by Denise Arkley
9. The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (TBWNIAS) – Droneverdose (Cardinal Fuzz)
‘Droneverdose’, the January 2018 release from The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol, manages to combine so many different types of music into one coherent, instantly-loveable album. The album opener ‘Earworm’ transports you back through time to the peak of 70s rock, with its Deep Purple-esque grooves and we remain firmly in the 70s with the second track, ‘Snorehand’ (think Sabotage-era Sabbath). You could be forgiven for wondering how an upbeat dub/ska track could fit in here and not only that, but morph into a cosmic landscape of sounds and rhythms – yet somehow, that’s exactly what the 10-minute-long ‘Gausian Blur/Beach Debris’ does.
Side two’s ‘118’ begins with chanting and you may think it’s going to be a mellow ride. You would be wrong – in comes the bassline and kicks everything up to ten and suddenly you’re dancing round the room, your head swirling as more and more layers build this song into probably my personal favourite on the album. ‘Tsunami of Bullshit’ manages to be dark, uplifting, heavy and buoyant at the same time and is a perfect close to this album. It ensures that all you want to do is flip the record and play it again.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you need ‘Droneverdose’ in your life.
Written by Alison Sunshine
10. Wooden Shjips – V (Thrill Jockey)
As I drop the needle onto track 1 (‘Eclipse’) suddenly I feel the need to dig out my shorts and flip flops out and head to the beach , as for me this truly is summer on wax . As if being possessed by the drum beat and bass line I start I start to relax and once Ripley’s soothing vocals kick in. I feel so calm, almost too calm! As I close my eyes and start to drift the lead guitar kicks me in and drags me back and picks me up bringing me back into focus so I can enter into the melodies of track 2 fulfilling all my mental needs.
Side 2 starts and compels me to continue my journey by wooden ship to somewhere close to nirvana. To sum up, it’s an LP to sit back and drift into where there is no hurry or need to find the answer, just sit back and let the music lap over you like the tide.
Written by Al Wyatt
11. Dead Sea Apes and Adam Stone – Warheads (Cardinal Fuzz)
You don’t see much politics in psych. Gnod are one of few bands on the scene to engage with politics. Yet psychedelic music should be about liberation. What could be more political than liberation in these worrying times? Step up Dead Sea Apes and Adam Stone with their new album Warheads.
From the punk blast of Inside of Me, it is clear that this music is here to TELL you something. The trademark lost-in-the-desert guitar introduces Reduced to Zero and Adam’s bleak words intone “the real truth is crushed with derision”. The pressure increases with Retreat to Your Bunker – the whole lot could explode at any moment – “stay in your bunker/until the bombs start falling”
I love the punkier moments on this album – Doing What You Want is another example – a revelation of another side to this already multifaceted band. Throughout side two, Adam Stone’s lyrics spit alienation and isolation and when the dam breaks the tracks power over the parapet. The whole magnificent cacophony is stitched together by interlocking guitar, bass and drums, while Adam tears it up on top.
Another step-change for Dead Sea Apes. This is an important album.
Written by Stephen Bradbury
12. Earthling Society – Mo The Daemon (Riot Season Records)
No two earthling Society releases I have heard ever seem to tread the same ground and this is no exception. Composed as a soundtrack to a Shaw Brothers kung-fu Horror movie, it starts off with a distinctly jazz club feel with tinkling instrumentation taking a backseat to a lounge style series of chords and progresses towards a Neil Young-esque guitar driven outro. The jazz influences continue with an extremely funk laden second track. If you’re worried that I’ve mentioned jazz twice already, don’t, this album goes well beyond that offering up delayed feedback guitars over repeating hypnotic drumbeats with Tibetan bells and blissed out guitar solos with a largely Eastern influence, before culminating in rising feedback and that’s just side one!
Side two continues the Eastern feel with a chanting Korean vocal over arpeggio guitars and synth before morphing into space rock and finally on the last track we get lo-fi vocals preceding a great psych guitar jam assault. Mellotrons, drones, tablas, congas, harmonizers alongside the usual guitar, bass and drums, give this a very eclectic feel and I discovered more layers on every listen. A blinding work but unfortunately the band’s last. What a way to go out!
Written by Peter Baird
13. Kungens Män – Fuzz på Svenska (Adonsonia Records)
There must be something in the water in Scandinavia. That can be the only explanation for the amount of high quality psychedelia that has emerged from these countries from the 60’s to the present day. Stockholm’s Kungens Män are one of the current wave and with this, their 4th vinyl release on Adansonia Records, they are riding high on the crest of that wave.
Moving away from the structured concept idea of their last DLP, Fuzz på Svenska is a totally different beast. Fluid and jazz-like in places, helped along by the inclusion of some wonderful saxophone courtesy of Gustav Nygren, layered with flavours of improvised Krautrock and the drone like riffs of their forebears, this album is a full on aural trip from start to finish.
Certainly darker than their previous output, this album isn’t afraid to take you to places that you may not want to go, not to say that it’s in anyway oppressive, more introspective and melancholic. Kungens Män provides the soundtrack to an experimental journey that I’m more than happy to join them on.
Written by Dai Croll
14. Bonnacons Of Doom – S/T (Rocket Recordings)
To say I was looking forward to this album is a bit of an understatement. A smattering of tracks over the years had left me wondering if this band were ever going to release a full album. I’m glad they did because the 7″ that came with the God Unknown special was starting to wear thin from being played so often. Add to this that I caught them live earlier this year and they completely blew my mind. Sonically the band sound like an alternative soundtrack to a Ben Wheatley film. It’s ritualistic music with a dark edge, music for the old Gods of Albion, music for the stone circles of Yorkshire. They mix abrasive industrial sounds with a kind of heavy dark jazz but always with a sense of rhythm. Taking the repetitive drones of bands like ‘International Harvester’ and adding their own unique twist. Vocalist Kate brings extra dynamic, an extra layer of menace maybe. With this debut album ‘Bonnacons of Doom’ have an album that sounds contemporary and yet ancient it is a masterclass of daring and quiet simply brilliant.
Written by Iain Wiltshire
15. Gnod – Chapel Perilous ( Rocket Recordings)
Chapel Perilous starts off with heavy foreboding. Not unlike the beginnings of a comeup, once reality starts to fray. The journey you are about to take will plant you in the passenger seat – it’s a wonderful and terrifying feeling. Droning guitars chime and rubbery analogue delays start to bounce off the inside of your skull, while we march onward towards infinity. The upward ascent slowly becomes more frenetic – music comes to a crescendo of raucous and primal cleansing fire before abruptly casting you into the abyss.
From the ashes of the purge, we are then taken to a ceremonial cleansing that is the body of the album (is “soma” more relevant here?). Found sound and percussive elements echo off the walls of a cavern you cannot see or feel, of which size you cannot discern at all. The realization dawns – the only way this can be described is that it is forbidden music, you have stumbled across some sort of cosmic expanse, an extra-dimensional broadcast where you are hearing something that was meant for few to experience. The final knell of the album is a baptism, a purification in sound.
When all is quiescent, look in the mirror and say hello to someone new.
Written by Mark Milanovich
16. Pigs x 7 – King Of Cowards (Rocket Recordings)
Billed as a six track journey through the seven deadly sins this lp doesn’t disappoint. As the opening track ‘GNT’ rolls into my ears and mind I feel like I’ve been smashed in the face with a sledgehammer. It’s a wall of guitar noise with added darkness and menace. The vocals (on the verge of being too shouty for me) just makes this a more brooding affair. And so the monolithic freight train rolls on through ‘shockmaster’ to probably my favourite track on this LP, ‘A66’ which ends up with Matt screaming that ‘I found god’ and ‘I found love’.
Straight onto side 2 and the monstrous sound keeps rolling with ‘thumbsucker’ and ‘cake of light’ swiftly followed with closing track ‘gloamer’ which starts at a slower pace with the lyrics almost spoken. However don’t be fooled before long this descends into a glorious crescendo of riffs and noise. I was genuinely excited about owning this lp and it didn’t and still doesn’t disappoint.
Pigs x7, Stoner/Psych/Sludge/Doom/Metal, Something for everyone………………………
Written by Chris Lane
17. Slift – La Planète Inexplorée (Stolen Body Records)
There’s something happening underground in France. A fuzzy garage scene is being built with the purpose of becoming strong enough to rival the American giants of psychedelic/garage rock, such as Ty Segall and Oh Sees. One of the figureheads of this French uprising is Slift, a three-piece from Toulouse who brings forth their debut full-length ‘La Planète Inexplorée’ (The Unexplored Planet). On these nine tracks they create an atmosphere that is both coherent and compelling, with each song built on a structure of noise and psychedelia with fuzzed-out guitars, rolling drum beats, psych-driven improvisations, addictive grooves, and a few little surprises in-between. Even some of the more ‘straightforward’ tracks are still tight and high-paced enough to keep them sounding powerful. With ‘La Planète Inexplorée’, Slift have created an album that owes itself to the past whilst gazing out to the future, pushing their songs as far as possible to the outer reaches of fuzz and beyond. This unknown planet is definitely worth exploring!
Written by Greg Barrett
18. Minami Deutsch – With Dim Light (Gurugurubrain)
Although I don’t physically own this album I’ve had a digital version since it was released. On first listen I did like it but wasn’t inspired to go out and buy a copy. I saw them perform prior to this release at a Guruguru Brain day at Liverpool Psych Fest a couple of years ago and was blown away by their performance. This made me buy their first album and to be honest just didn’t get the same impact from their recorded output.
So back to this new album first track ‘Concrete Ocean’ has a real different vibe to their other material sounding more like label mates Kikagaku Moyo. A bass lead track with less distortion on the guitars giving a gentle start in places.
Track two, ‘Tangled Yarn’, follows a similar pattern style with a jangle-guitar style based song with soft vocal harmonies.
Track three. ‘Tunnel’, goes straight back to earlier Kraut rock influences with a pulsating drum beat ,head nodding bass line and a crystal clear guitar riff.
Track four, the brilliantly titled ‘I’ve Seen A U.F.O’, starts with the Kraut rhythm but with the soft vocals and slightly lighter guitar sounds takes the song into a different place.
Track five, ‘Bitter Moon’ shows a different side to the band with an acoustic style track.
Final track, ‘Don’t Wanna Go Back’ comes in just under the ten minute mark and to is still a bit of a mystery to my ears to be honest. Sounding like a totally different band not a bad thing just very different.
I think this album shows a band trying to be different which is okay by me but sometimes can come across as an inconsistent piece of work. I look forward to hearing where they go to next?
Written by Stuart Bowskill
19. Electric Moon – Live In Kosmos (Sulatron Records)
‘Live In Kosmos’ is a 2.5 hour set recorded at Zeiss Planetarium Bochum, 2015. Initially a Bancamp album only, 2018 saw it gain an eagerly anticipated physical release. Electric Moon play a slow build on album opener, it’s scene setting for what is to come and you are introduced to each individual player. Once fully underway it builds into a heavy tense riff. At twenty-eight minutes long it’s a reminder of the time commitment required. Sit down and buckle up, it’s going to be a long ride.
‘Air to Space’ is a huge rush with bass and drums locking tightly together, freeing up space for articulate space riffs and synth trickery. It’s a pattern that is repeated for most the remaining four sides of vinyl, light and shade is gained as the tension builds and eases. It’s not all rocking out ‘Radio Contact Was Lost’ and album closer have an easy playfulness to them.
This is a (space) journey album, you can imagine it being the soundtrack to one. Obviously given the length of this live album it’s unlikely to win over a casual listener, but for those initiated it really delivers.
Written by Colin White
20. CB3 – From Nothing To Eternity (Drone Rock Records)
A London pal of mine recommended this to me, and when I realised it was an Eggs in Aspic cassette release, I jumped right in. Early this year Drone Rock Records announced it would be getting the vinyl treatment..ace! The main track ‘From Nothing to Eternity’ is worth your attention and money alone, but the whole album is special, blending echoes of prog, extended psych jams, and a dash of spacerock thrown in for good measure.
And beyond that it has a jazz flavour to it, but no sax here, instead wonderful use of a double bass which plays the perfect partner to Charlotta Anderson’s free flowing jams, and guitar work which builds and soars to incredible effect, changing direction in a heartbeat before building again. Irresistible. I get more out of this with every listen and eventually had to curtail my listens for fear of it losing its spell on me…I needn’t have worried.
Written by Gordon Baxter
…and after you’ve revelled in this, check out ANOTHER 30 great albums in my Review of the Year.
Spofity playlists here