End of year lists. We know, you’ve seen hundreds already this year. Hell, you’ve probably even made your own. Every blog, radio station, newspaper and magazine has made its pronouncement on the ‘Best of 2018’ and ranked the creative endeavours of our bands in ascending order. I wouldn’t pretend to have the authority (or indeed arrogance) to make such a sweeping judgement, but do always enjoy the chance the look back over the year and pick out a few releases and shows that have floated my personal boat, and to point out a few bands that the rest of the lists may have missed out. We’ve also created a video playlist featuring a selection of these acts at the bottom of the article for you to check them out.
Before we get onto the unsung heores though, it has been heartening to see Idles riding high in many of these best of articles. The stark, angry but positive political messages and pummelling post-hardcore of their album Joy As An Act of Resistance was an undoubted highlight of the year, and we can only hope that it opens doors for more bands with a message to share. One band who are beginning to look as though they might do just that are The Blinders, whose rabble-rousing psych-flecked anthems on debut LP Columbia has propelled the Doncaster trio onto plenty of ‘ones to watch’ lists.
There were welcome returns from plenty of Joyzine favourites this year, principal amongst which was Art Brut‘s fantastically named Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, whose technicolour indie-pop left us praying that we wouldn’t have to wait another seven years for the next album. Grunge godfathers Mudhoney released their tenth studio album Digital Garbage, which was the wonderful sound of a band who are well beyond giving a fuck who they upset – a savage slice of politicised fury and fuzzed up guitars, which was matched by an excellent show at The Electric Ballroom later in the year. Thomas Truax is one of the few artists to have featured in our early editions back in the early years of the millennium and still be going strong and his latest album All That Heaven Allows, released in January, is one of our favourites from his extensive back catalogue. Showcasing his supreme story-telling abilities, it perfectly captured the otherworldy thrill of his wonderful live shows.
There were plenty of fantastic debuts as well – we got a sparkling indie pop gem with an unapologetic 90s glint in its eye from Fightmilk in the form of their cheeky LP Not With That Attitude, while the churning thrum of Rat The Magnificent‘s The Body As Pleasure sated our appetite for dirty punk rock. Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business raided the percussion cupboard to create an enthralling minimalist choral jam on their self-titled debut, and Moore appeared again as one third of Charismatic Megafauna whose debut album Semi-Regular spat vitriol from atop a cloud of lo-fi electro buzz. GUTTFULL unleashed their first album, Tits and Nails, in November, and their frantic, firebrand sax punk also provided one of the highlights of the excellent Loud Women Fest at The Dome in the summer.
As you might expect with everything that’s been going on in the news for the past couple of years, there were plenty of angrily political albums to be found in the 2018 canon but few phrased their misgivings with such eloquence and humour as Steven Adams & The French Drops‘ Value Signals, while Vodun‘s second album Ascend dug deeper into family and cultural roots, with singer Chantal’s mum providing spoken word intros to the excellent Afro-psych heaviness within. Croydon duo Frauds went for a more direct approach, with hilarious consequences, on the razor-wire post-hardcore blast of their single ‘Animals’ and its stomach turning video. Glitoris unveiled ‘The Policy’, a storming metallic manifesto, while ‘Fight’, the title track from Soeur‘s 2018 EP, took inspiration from a conversation with a soldier who could no longer support the cause for which he’d gone to war.
Rattle, who were the very first guests on our brand new podcast channel, created a low-key wonder with their expansive four track Sequence album, with its winding rhythms constructed solely from percussion and vocals. While fellow podcast guests Chorusgirl‘s second album Shimmer and Spin did exactly that, creating an air of beautiful melancholy beneath gentle showers of reverb. Australian punks Deaf Wish took a novel approach to make their storming fifth LP Lithium Zion, with each band member taking it in turns on songwriting and vocal duties, resulting in an album of unusual depth and variety.
And, sadly, it was time to say goodbye to long-term Joyzine favourites Vienna Ditto, who signed off with two albums of mesmerising electro-surf-gospel, Flat Earth and شبح , along with a wonderfully chaotic final gig at The Bird’s Nest in Deptford.
There were plenty more fantastic live shows to enjoy as well of course, and some of our favourites included the scorching punk of PROM at The Lock Tavern, fantastic summer all-dayers at The Windmill for Sunburn (which included Youth Man, Frauds, Sit Down, JOHN and many more Joyzine faves) and The Brixton Hill Studios AGM (featuring Cut, Hot Sauce Pony and The Apathy Band), the soul-wrenching beauty of Scout Niblett‘s show at The Victoria and an end of year love-in with The Burning Hell at The Ivy House.
2018 marked fifteen years since we first started making Joyzine. Back then it was an entirely DIY operation, which I organised from my bedroom with the help of a small band of enthusiastic volunteers, and now… well I’ve moved the computer into the front room. Joking aside, the site has gone from strength to strength in that decade and a half, but has retained its proudly independent amateur status, continuing to shout about the music (and occasionally films, books, theatre and art) that we love, without any advertising or paid-for articles and will continue to do so.
To celebrate our 15th birthday, we put on a two-day Joyfest at two South London venues with a special place in our hearts, with The Indelicates, Mega Emotion and Dexy playing The New Cross Inn, where we had staged our first ever gig, while Rat The Magnificent, Time Dilation Unit, Young Sawbones, Stephen Evens, Useless Cities and Emily Magpie performed at our home from home The Windmill in Brixton.
We also put out a compilation album, with tracks from some of the bands that we’ve loved over the years and fantastic artwork from Joni Belaruski, Russell Taysom, Steven Horry and Gavin Kinch. You can still get your hands on a copy, with all proceeds going to Parkinson’s UK, at our Bandcamp page.
So that was 2018, onwards with a new year of fantastic new music. We hope that you’ll join us for it & if you fancy getting involved in telling the story, get in touch about joining the Joyzine team.
Words and Pictures by Paul Maps
Check out our 2018 Playlist: