Albums of the Year 2018: St Vincent - MassEducation The New Yorker's once-more-with-feeling rebo
Sometimes it seems that the more complex life becomes, the less interested we are in simple emotion. Take, for instance, 2017's Masseduction by St Vincent (aka Annie Clark). No-one could fault how artfully Clark expressed contemporary gender politics. But that was also its weakness. On about half the album, the songs sounded like a Guardian article set to music.
This year Clark re-recorded the LP as a simple piano-and-voice piece, MassEducation. It was an utter revelation. Suddenly, the tracks sounded like Tori Amos in her heyday - full of beauty, and anger and sorrow. That quickly made it my favourite album of the year.
The other CD's I spent a lot of time with were all similarly direct. Cat Power's The Wanderer created an exquisite air of melancholy and fragility, with Cat's voice barely rising above a whisper throughout. Similarly understated were Ray Davies' vocals on Our Country. The album's America-themed lyrics also showed the rock veteran to be witty and wise as ever.
Some other opuses took a little longer to work their magic. Like Resistance is Futile, the Manic's first album for four years. At first listen, it simply felt like a solid offering. But songs like "Hold Me Like A Heaven" kept drawing me back with a force of gravity. It was a similar story with Miles Kennedy's Year of The Tiger. I was, and still am, ambivalent about the album as a whole. But "Haunted By Design" and "Love Can Only Heal" stand tall as two of my favourite acoustic rock tracks for years.
My actual choice of track-of-the-year is something of a cheat. The version of "You're a Big Girl Now" found on Dylan's More Blood, More Tracks was actually recorded in September 1974 but first released this year as part of The Bootleg Series volume 14. If anyone ever tells you Bob can't sing, this is the song to send them to.
Two More Essential Albums of 2017:
Cat Power - The Wanderer
Ray Davies - Our Country: Americana Act 2
Gig of the Year
Stone Free Festival
Track of the Year
Bob Dylan – "You're a Big Girl Now"