Albums of the year: Kylie's Golden and Christine And The Queens' Chris top 2018 list
KYLIE'S enduring appeal inspires devotion in her fans. As she turns 50, her golden year, she begins afresh with a change of label with this, her 14th studio album. Recorded in Nashville, there is a country sheen and a touch of the Dolly Partons, but this collection is quintessentially Kylie. Lead single Dancing opens the album and has proved to be a grower, its subject matter a reflection on enjoying life while you can. The album continues with much whooping and stomping beats, but this is also a very personal effort - Kylie co-wrote each track, and there are songs that nod to her break-up last year. Radio On is a late-night musing on heartache and the beautiful Music's Too Sad Without You, a duet with Jack Savoretti, is possibly the best ballad the Australian pop star has ever recorded. Kylie proves she still has the Midas touch with an album packed with heart, soul and glitter on its cowboy boots.
Christine And The Queens
WHEN Heloise Letissier delivered Chris to her record label, she produced not only a collection of vividly imagined and brilliantly captured songs of self-discovery but also a 15-page dossier that portrayed her physical emancipation. She tells of becoming "a real grownass woman" since her debut LP Chaleur Humaine and has achieved that through embracing her androgynous, non-binary self, building up an athletic physique and adopting the more masculine contraction of her stage name. Letissier scoffs at suggestions this is all an act. Chris is a fresh shell for Letissier and an unshackled confidence streams through the record - the basslines funkier, lyrics punchier, the full package strikingly sensuous. Girlfriend, the glitterball-disco single, has Chris candidly pursuing flings above commitment, and is one of several songs here that recall peak-period Michael Jackson. Doesn't Matter and Damn (What Must A Woman Do) are mighty works from a phenomenal artist.
Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
WELCOME to Arctic Monkeys' concept album. In his most spectacular lyrics yet, Alex Turner gives the grand tour around a seedy, 1970s-era hotel in space. Arctic Monkeys are the house band as we meet the vain guests staying there. Four Out Of Five is set on its rooftop restaurant where Turner seems to mock TripAdvisor reviews and lament about gentrification on the Moon. In one of his more unsubtle references, Turner sings "the leader of the free world reminds you of a wrestler wearing tight golden trunks". This album - nominated for the Mercury Prize - is a departure from AM's slick blend of R&B hooks and fuzzy guitars. While it is a lyrical puzzle, musically it is all inclusive. Turner's grandiose prose is darkly crooned like Nick Cave over piano-led tracks. Subtle bass grooves and sinister electric organ create the ambience of a creepy hotel reception. There is a genius at work. Do not disturb.
Invasion Of Privacy
ALL hail Cardi B, who finally dropped her debut album after a wait that seemed painful to many fans. Invasion Of Privacy, the 25-year-old rapper's first full LP following her smash-hit debut single Bodak Yellow in 2017, was well and truly worth the wait. It's a glittering example of female empowerment, sex appeal and pure attitude combined with the artistry of old-school hip hop. Kicking off with a rage and passion-filled opener Get Up 10, Cardi B - real name Belcalis Almanzar - sets the tone with its powerful message to her haters. It's a musical middle finger, and rightly so. From there, the album drips in classic 1990s and early noughties hip-hop vibes, filled with melodic harmonies, samples and addictive beats. She shows her softer side in Be Careful, but even this honest, raw offering comes with a side of Grade A sass. Standout tracks include Best Life, Bickenhead and I Like It, but it's all pretty fabulous.
Joy As An Act Of Resistance
BRISTOL punk rock outfit Idles follow up their acclaimed debut Brutalism with a ferocious attack on toxic masculinity, racism and television's enforcement of negative body image. Singer Joe Talbot's acerbic lyrics make you laugh and think in equal measure and somehow include references ranging from Labour MP Dennis Skinner to actor Tom Hiddleston's stylist. Drummer Jon Beavis' ominous stick work on opener Colossus are reminiscent of a train chugging down a track that's about to run you over. When the break comes the album bursts into life as Talbot screams "I put homophobes in coffins". The catchy Danny Nedelko, a celebration of immigrants, shines as this summer's unlikely radio hit. I'm Scum sounds like if Elvis did a punk song as Talbot sneers about James Bond being a "murderous toff". The song Great puts the boot into the Brexiteer fetish for blue passports. Idles succeed in expressing a delicate vulnerability through powerful and savage means.