Review of the year – Jamie MacMillan

2018 saw the usual mix of legends and newcomers appear across Brighton. At one end of the scale, Patti Smith’s Brighton Dome show was an absolute treat. All those years of poetic, powerful messages channelled into one unforgettable evening. A legend of a different sort, Jarvis Cocker’s surprise and intimate Patterns gig was one of those moments that you just can’t miss – his mixture of Pulp standards, solo classics and new ‘Jarv Is’ material made it a huge step up from the usual Britpop nostalgia. However, as a live moment, Shame at The Haunt is unbeatable. The explosion of a band grabbing their moment with both hands, in a venue that became woefully too small for them in the period between announcement and performance, the intensity of that night was unbelievable. To see them playing in front of a few thousand in London a few months later showed just what a dizzying ride they had enjoyed.

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Jeff Tweedy – Warm

After 24 years with Wilco, in Warm Jeff Tweedy has finally got round to releasing his first solo album of all-new material. Following the recent publication of his first set of memoirs, this follows the same pattern of introspection and reflection as he looks as much at himself as he does study the world around him, putting himself and his actions under the same keen scrutiny.

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The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Easily the most hyped and anticipated album of 2018, the third record from Matty, George, Adam and Ross sees The 1975 continue their path to world domination. After a social media and marketing campaign that has taken the art of building excitement and engagement to new heights, it’s now finally time for the band to show they can live up to expectations. Overwhelmingly, resoundingly, staggeringly, they do and more. As much about millennial angst as it is a brutally honest study of a young man on the brink of his 30s, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is out on its own in ambition, creativity and execution.

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Art Brut – Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!

“Close your eyes and hold on tight, everything’s gonna be alright!” These aren’t just the opening words to Art Brut’s comeback record Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!, they could easily be Eddie Argos’ personal mantra too. Following the temporary dissolution of the band seven years ago, a new line-up has formed around the charismatic frontman. With births, hospital stays and break-ups, it doesn’t sound like the last few years have been particularly quiet. However, it is safe to say that what began as a ‘break-up’ album turned inescapably into an ‘in-love’ album, for the band and listener as much as in Argos’ personal life.

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Jade Bird – The Haunt, Brighton – 22nd November 2018

It’s been quite the year for Jade Bird. The unmistakeable noise of hype has surrounded the diminutive singer from Hexham all through 2018, boosted initially by word-of-mouth before reaching fever pitch after an appearance on Later With Jools and a multitude of festival slots. Packing a Brighton venue for the second time in a year, The Haunt was a sizeable upgrade tonight from March’s Green Door Store show. With her debut album wrapped only days before and being prepped for a 2019 release, tonight was a chance to prove that the initial excitement is now capable of bearing real fruit.

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Sleeper – Concorde 2, Brighton – 17th November 2018

As time goes by, its becoming easy to forget just how bloody massive Britpop was before it all imploded as dramatically as it burst into the mainstream. Not just in the music charts, which were dominated by it in all its various strands from Blur to Robbie, Union Jack flags printed on both dresses and guitars, its stars adorning the front pages and the gossip pages. Sleeper were right in the thick of it, Louise Wener an inescapable presence in the charts alongside her band (affectionately known at the time as the ‘Sleeperblokes’). Last year saw them return to the fray for the first time in 22 years with a show at The Haunt that showed that none of the affection that they were held in had faded. That lit the spark that sees them return as a touring band proper, with new songs to boot. On tonight’s showing, they won’t be going away again for a good while yet.

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Estrons – Green Door Store, Brighton – 16th November 2018

Arriving in Brighton on the last leg of a victory lap around the UK following the critical acclaim to their long-awaited debut, You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough, Estrons provoked absolute scenes at the Green Door Store. Like all of the best things in life, it is jagged, ragged and wild. Headlining a dream line-up alongside Lucia and Berries, it acts as the perfect gateway into the weekend.

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Esben and the Witch – Nowhere

Named after a Danish fairytale, it has been ten years since Esben and the Witch first joined forces and began to cast their spell on fans of atmospheric goth-pop. Over the four previous records, they have bewitched and beguiled a growing audience, and now it is to the mystical land of Nowhere that they take their journey.

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Muse – Simulation Theory

Simulation Theory, the eighth studio album from Muse, sees them trade in their old Queen albums for a whole new obsession. Less A Night At The Opera, more an evening with Netflix and Prince. The Devon trio, never known for their lack of bombast, have moved away from gigantic guitar riffs and towards an overly-polished 80s-obsessed synth-rock sound. The results are a confused, and confusing, mess of a record.

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