The Quality Streets have been scoffed, the Baileys is on hand and us lot at DIY HQ are getting all misty-eyed and reflective looking back on the last twelve months. And what a twelve months it’s been for music! So, in true end-of-year fashion, we’re running through some of 2018’s biggest highlights, along with a handful of our own favourites.
So cast your minds back all the way to the start of the year: when Lily Allen announced her first album for four years, Arctic Monkeys did what no other band could do and announced plans to play almost every festival in Europe - all in one bloody day - Frank Ocean got interviewed by actor du jour Timothée Chalamet, while Robert Smith was busy raiding his phonebook for the latest Meltdown Festival line-up. And obviously, loads of our faves returned with new music. All in all, it was a bloody great start to the year.
Dive into our highlights from January, February and March…
DIY say Hello 2018 with our annual new music gig series
Still wiping mince pie crumbs from the corners of our mouths and desperately trying to fit back into our jeans, DIY wasted no time in getting back into the business of banging new music with our annual Hello… shows in January. A yearly exercise in crystal ball gazing, bringing the most exciting fledgling talent out there to the Old Blue Last for four free gigs across the month, these shows are always something of an immersive (and sweaty) plunge pool dive back into music-land after a month of singing Slade on repeat, and 2018 was a vintage year for it.
Three of January’s selection – Sports Team, Yowl and Whenyoung – continued to charge forward throughout the year and finished it as fully paid up members of our Class of 2019 (two of them on the cover, no less). Crewel Intentions – the new project from Palma Violets’ Chilli Jesson – played one of their first ever shows. Boy Azooga and Her’s cemented why they already had a fair-size following, while the likes of Drahla, A House In The Trees and Grand Pax justified their own considerable hype and then some. And as for budget gold jacket-wearing nutcases Horsey? We wouldn’t want to start the year any other way. FYI, we’re doing it all again this coming January too – see you down front.
Shame kickstart their attempt at world domination
It was only 12 days into the year when Shame released one of the best debut records we’ve heard all 2018. In our five star review of ‘Songs of Praise’ we said “Shame shout louder than anyone else at the moment, and make a claim to become Britain’s best new band,” and all this promise was solidified across a fantastic year for the London five-piece. “We’ve been working hard on this for our entire existence as a band, and we’ve been taking it seriously and gigging hard and trying so tirelessly to make it our full time profession, and then this record started getting underway, and when it came out, all of this stuff was just done for us already,” guitarist Eddie Green told us when we met the band on the road in Spain half way through the year. “The position we dreamt about being in this time three years ago, it feels like it happened as soon as this record came out.”
Through a fantastic festival season and a UK tour in November (alongside our cover feature from that month, of course), 2018 has seen Shame forcefully establish themselves as a vital new voice in this country, and as they go away to work on its follow-up, they’ve left us with a year’s worth of fantastic, formative memories.
Dream Wife make quite the opening statement
Dream Wife have been constantly on the road since - and before, tbh - they released their self-titled debut - so while it’s exhausting enough to think ‘was this really this year?’ for us, just imagine what it’s like for them. ‘Dream Wife’ was some time coming: ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and ‘Kids’ both featured on their March 2016 debut EP, but via the explosive ‘FUU’ and ‘Let’s Make Out’ alongside the poignant ‘Somebody’, the record cemented the trio’s status as a voice that should be heard.
Paramore’s return to The O2 is a true triumph
Having first introduced audiences to their infectious ‘After Laughter’ with a series of (reasonably) intimate shows back in June 2017, Paramore soon found themselves back in the gigantic confines of London’s O2 Arena just a few weeks into the new year.
Joined by longtime friends mewithoutYou, their show was a triumph in every sense, with the band sounding powerful, and finally looking and feeling confident in their own skin. And while ‘After Laughter’ itself was by far their most raw album to date, on the live stage, it’s gone on to become a defiant celebration of solidarity. “In contrast to their last slots in this room, the band – re-joined by drummer Zac Farro – feel more solid, more comfortable than ever,” we wrote in our review. “Things might have changed since the last time Paramore played the O2, but if anything’s clear after tonight, it’s that they’re finally in the right place.”
The Class of 2018 hit the road
As you should well know by now, each year we announce DIY’s Class of… a selection of artists we truly believe are going to blow up and do great things in the 12 months ahead. In 2018, however, we went one better – taking two of our chosen bands (and some extra pals) on a full tour around the UK.
Headed up by Dirty Hit-signed goth pop-pers Pale Waves, and flanked by fellow Co18 stars Our Girl and rising newcomers Bloxx, the whole event was a sold-out, boggle-eyed testament to just how much feverish frenzy there really was building around Heather Baron-Gracie and co at the time. Trouncing every venue up and down the UK, they’d not even had a record out yet (that’d come later in the year with the strong, confident opening statement of ‘My Mind Makes Noises’) but it was obvious the Manchester quartet were onto something special – and it was a pleasure to be with them along the way.
‘DAMN.’ boy! Kendrick Lamar brings his massive show to the UK
Kendrick Lamar’s ‘DAMN.’ was one of the finest artistic statements of 2017, and he brought the tour for the record to the UK at the dawn of this year. A brilliantly artsy, conceptual show, the London show of the run at The O2 saw him flip the script on what an arena show can be, at once intimate and filmic but also simply anthemic. In our review of said show, we said “A masterclass of an arena show, The ‘DAMN.’ Tour sees Kendrick at the peak of his powers, and pushing live performance in new, fascinating ways. As if there needed to be any more confirmation, tonight proves he’s the greatest in the world right now,” and ten months later, you’d still struggle to argue with the claim.
DIY goes SXSW-side
Ah, SXSW. On one hand, it’s where the venues and bars of the city of Austin become buzz central for a week, as the world’s hottest new acts (and some slightly older favourites) head to Texas to show off a bit. On the other, it’s just an excuse for endless frozen margaritas, tacos and some actual sunshine. Obviously Team DIY were very much excited about the former, as we headed Stateside to host two stages at the shindig.
First up, the British Music Embassy, where LIFE, Our Girl and Catholic Action were among the acts performing, and later in the week to Seven Grand, with acts including Goat Girl, Starcrawler and The Britanys. We also found time to catch a very sweaty Shame winning just about everyone over, Aussie favourite Stella Donnelly charming our pants off, and faves Sunflower Bean being generally ace.
It’s a kind of Magic (Gang)
It felt like we’d been waiting our whole lives here at DIY HQ for the debut album from The Magic Gang. The time finally arrived in March though, and boy was it worth the wait. In our five star review of the record, we said a clear love of music from eras bygone - even flecks of The Osmonds and the Temptations are audible, at times - results in a forward-looking ear for songs that are classics in their own right. A rare album without a single Achilles heel, The Magic Gang have created a debut that’ll be remembered as a milestone moment in years to come.”
Alongside the album release in March, the band graced the cover of DIY for the first time, paying homage to their faves The Beach Boys and talking about their journey up until now, and how they’re glad they waited until the opportune moment to release the debut. “We learnt a lot on [our 2015 tour with Wolf Alice], seeing the way [they] had built themselves up, and had a fanbase, but waited ages to release an album, knowing that it would have an audience when it comes out that’s actually going to say ‘Fucking yes! Finally!’.” Predictably, the same kind of reception was waiting for The Magic Gang upon the debut’s release, which also saw us host a special album release show album release show for the band in London alongside their label YALA! Records. On constant rotation for the whole of 2018 at DIY HQ, the debut album still stands as a landmark moment.
Festival season saw George Ezra pack his camping bags
We had George Ezra lead our expedition into the summer’s soggy fields, as he featured on the cover of the 2018 Festival Guide right at the end of March. While he’d got everyone and their Nan singing along to ‘Shotgun’ by the time autumn set in, he told us about how the world of travel - and a certain accommodation-finding app - helped him along the way to LP2.
Of course, it was a strange year for festivals with the lack of Glastonbury leaving a gaping hole in late June, but we still found acts like Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club, Pale Waves, Wolf Alice and Marmozets to talk field-hopping, headlining and winning over new fans.
Stay tuned for the rest of our 12 Months of ‘18 features, later this week.