It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2018 rapidly approaches we take a personal look back on familiar names, features and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been another crazy year of highs and lows- it’s the releases that have pulled a lot of people through the year. Now in it’s 8th year, Circuit Sweet will be hosting takeovers from the featured artists/musicians/labels and promoters of the site with their personal top releases of the year.
As we near the end of our annual end of year tradition; we let our favourites take over the site to tell us the records that have made their end of year lists. Telling us their favourite events/gigs and what we can look forward to from them next year.
Our next take over comes from a band with their own legendary status. We hand over the site to Space Blood and their drummer/synth player and friend of the site William Covert to talk about his year in music. Earlier in the year Space Blood announced that their ending was near, much to the despair of their fans. Firstly they said goodbye in the US, but then they rebuilt hope by crossing the seas and touring the UK one last time including a standout insane performance at this year’s ArcTanGent. With some remarkable shows under their belt, including support for Tera Melos and Mouse on the Keys- we know it’s not the last we will be hearing from William. But for now check out more about his year in music…
Top 5 Releases of the Year
Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
Upon my first listen to the new album, You Won’t Get What You Want, by Providence, RI, rock legends Daughters, I was immediately blown away by what is the most unique album I’ve heard in 2018. Having been a fan of the bands earlier works especially their albums Canada Songs and Hell Songs, the ability of the band to completely transform their sound in a way that would make a master music chameleon like David Bowie even blush is a once every decade kind of feat. The production on the album is absolutely amazing and the guitar tones mixed with the electronic/industrial sounds create some really haunting and cathartic music for Alexis Marshall to work his magic with vocals that fit perfectly with the music and lyrics that encapsulate the current undertow of brooding emotion echoing through America in 2018. For a band known in their early days for blending grindcore with mathcore and later incorporating elements of post-hardcore, You Won’t Get What You Want is definitely a noise rock album and an instant classic in the genre on par with noise rock gods like The Jesus Lizard, Swans, Shellac, and The Locust, and the album is possibly defining a new direction for the genre to go in.
Death and the Penguin – Anomie
One of the albums I’ve listened to the most this year was Death and the Penguin’s debut full-length album, Anomie. A lot of people make the assumption that something considered “math rock” can’t be catchy and melodic, but London’s Death and the Penguin prove that mathy music can be just as poppy with hooks and catchy refrains as music considered more ‘mainstream.’ “Colour in Me” is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year with a really catchy and driving rhythm to start the song and the bands three part vocal harmonies really drive it home. The band does a really job mixing different various influences that combine Battles like dancey math with jazz and some heavy prog vibes. Some parts of the album are very reminiscent of Antidotes by Foals (the only good Foals album in my opinion) and the musicianship is great throughout. Having toured with these guys on Space Blood’s last UK tour earlier this year I found myself loving this album even more seeing these songs performed masterfully live multiple nights in a row.
Palm – Rock Island
The first time I heard the song “Dog Milk” off Rock Island I was immediately caught off guard and trying to make sense of what I was hearing, and I couldn’t get enough of it! Palm has made huge steps and bounds on this album from their previous work, and they present a really interesting sounds that is cross-stitched with synthesized guitar that sounds like 80’s King Crimson and Talking Heads mixed with sounding very much like a contemporary New York indie record and like music from the future all at the same time. Rock Island exists in an unusual plane where it is very catchy and melodic while all sounding rhythmic complex and chaotic simultaneously and hoping this is a trend that influences more bands going forward into the next decade. This is a really fun and adventurous album that has been in my constant music rotation throughout 2018.
a-tota-so – S/T
I was waiting for about two years for this album to out and it did not disappoint. Space Blood played with Marty Toner and Jamie Cattermole’s other band, Alright The Captain, on our first UK tour in 2014. We then played with Cheap Jazz that Jamie and Chris Marsh are in, the first time we played ArcTanGent in 2016. So when Marty first told me about the new band, I was super excited to see what these three guys would come up with. A-tota-so’s S/T debut album is definitely my favorite instrumental math rock album of the year. It’s dark, heavy at times, with great dynamics and musical presence that reminds me a lot of instrumental Slint in a way that no band has in a long time. Marty Toner really showcases his guitar chops and it’s a total riff fest throughout album, and I find myself humming the melodies to “Double Deaf” and “Box-Elder” when I’m at work, riding the train, just multiple times throughout the day because I can’t get them out of my head, and I’m not complaining about that at all.
sewingneedle – User Error
I need to have some hometown love on this list, and Chicago’s sewingneedle is doing something different than about any other band in Chicago right now. Chicago has a long history of working-class bands dating back to the ‘Chicago Hardware’ scene of the 80’s and early 90’s, and guitarist/singer Calvin Fredrickson fills the shoes of the working-class frontmen before him with great vocals and equally well-thought lyrics. User Error is my favorite album to come out of Chicago this year, and is an incredibly dynamic album with elements of math rock, noise rock, post-punk, and 90’s indie rock that shows respect to the 90’s Chicago scene while not trying to copy any one band’s specific sound and sewingneedle is very much a sound to itself. “Feel Good Music” is probably my favorite song of the year and is the kind of song I wished I wrote after hearing it.
Top Release 6-10
Johann Johannsson – Mandy Soundtrack
Giraffes? Giraffes! – Memory Lame
Ghost Bag & Tine Fitz – S/T
Irk – Recipes From The Bible
Tangled Hair – We Do What We Can
Favorite Show I Played This Year
ArcTanGent!!! Being able to come back and play ATG for a second time with Space Blood was incredible. We got to play the ATG Main Stage, which was the cherry on top. It was easily the best show of our Final UK Tour, and was one of the best performances we had as a band. It was great to hang out that weekend and run into so many friends we’ve made over the years from touring in the UK, and it was great to make new friends this time around as well. Hands down favorite show of the decade.
Best Gig Attended and Why
I attended too many awesome shows to count them all, but the one that has stuck with me more than any other was seeing John Zorn play at the Art Institute of Chicago this Fall. It was just such an uncanny choice of venue to do an avant-garde jazz show at the Art Institute of Chicago, which is more famous for having Ferris Bueller’s Day Off filmed there than any musical performances given at the art museum. I think what made it even more unique and memorable of a performance was the fact that Zorn curated different musicians playing different pieces of music throughout the day at the Art Institute and the selected pieces of music were to represent the paintings they were performed next to. They was a classical spanish guitar piece performed in front of the iconic Picasso painting “The Guitarist” and John Zorn did a free-jazz improv performance with long-time drumming collaborator Kenny Wollesen in front of one of the massive Jackson Pollock paintings the Art Institute has in its contemporary art wing. It was very cathartic and impressive to see someone like John Zorn literally playing while looking at a Jackson Pollock painting and the match of the visual and audio experience just left me in full wonder of what the same audience I was a part just was able to witness and bring this momentary piece of art into life.
Highlights of the Year
I think some major highlights for us in Space Blood was going back to the UK for another tour this year and just having a great time on tour with Death and the Penguin. Every show we played on tour was a highlight and getting to play with bands like Irk, a-tota-so, Codices, Body Hound, Wot Gorilla?, Theo, and the be part of the last Bearded Youth Quest show in Brighton. The whole weekend at ArcTanGent was special and something I’ll never forget.
Some other highlights for us were playing Delta Sleep’s first U.S. show ever in Chicago in August and playing with Tera Melos in Chicago in November. We also wrote, shot, and produced a music video by ourselves, which is about as DIY as you get, for our song Where’s My Shippy, and the outcome was better than I think either of us could have expected and we even got the official nod of approval from Mark Shippy guitarist of U.S. Maple about the song and video. I also played my first shows this year as a solo performer and somehow managed to write and record a solo record.
Breakout Band To Watch In 2019
Say hello to JOB! These guys have quickly become one of my favorite local bands in Chicago and they are a musical force to be reckoned with. They assert the term “power trio” with loud and noisey guitar playing coupled with driving synth covering the low end and very precise drumming. The band’s drummer Jim Myers wass the drummer of 2000’s Midwest math rock icons Dakota Dakota, which is the band that launched the career of Russian Circles guitarist Mike Sullivan. JOB has one EP out already, and their debut full-length album is set to come out in the first half of 2019. Their music varies from song to song sounding like math rock to krautrock to heavier noise rock to soft and delicate almost ambient drone style post-rock. They are definitely a band to put on your radar and get acquainted with them now before their LP hits the math rock scene like a tsunami next year.
Plans For 2019
I have quite a bit already planned going into 2019. I’m releasing my debut solo album on Feb. 1, 2019 through Coup sur Coup Records. It’s kind of a departure musically from bands I’ve played in as there are no guitars on the album at all and is strictly drums and various synthesizers as the instrumentation. The music is kind of a cross of mathy electronic stuff similar to Adam Betts and Vessels to darker prog ala King Crimson with also a heavy influence of the soundtracks of John Carpenter. I plan on playing more solo shows and possibly solo touring in 2019.
My band Rust Ring will also be releasing our debut full-length album in the first half of 2019. We recorded and mixed the album with Matt Jordan of Lifted bells, Cut Teeth, and Stay Ahead of the Weather fame. A lot of the songs have a wide mix of influences and to me kind of sound like what Slint might have done if they didn’t break up after Spiderland and veered more towards emo inclinations in the 90’s. We hoping to tour in support of the album as well.
Thank you so much, your forthcoming 2019 releases sound incredible and we can’t wait to hear those!