Arctic Monkeys’ sixth studio album, Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, proved to be the most controversial and slowest-selling of their career, which perhaps tells you rather more about their fans than it does about the radical nature of the album’s Serge Gainsbourg and Beach Boys-inspired contents. It will be interesting to see how said contents work played live in arenas.
Tour begins 6 September, Manchester Arena
Chic – It’s About Time
An appropriately titled comeback album from Nile Rodgers, who’s been touring around the world with a latterday version of Chic for over a decade, and constantly promising a new album during that time. So 26 years after the last Chic album, and wrapped in a sleeve that explicitly references their eponymous 1977 debut, here it is: apparently boasting a Daft Punk influence and guest appearances by everyone from Janelle Monáe and Anderson.Paak to Elton John.
Released 7 September
MNEK – Language
Better known as a blue-chip pop architect – songwriting and producing for Beyoncé, Madonna, Stomzy and Dua Lipa amonst others – MNEK has been quietly releasing his own material for four years, without really matching the impact of his backroom work, his hit 2016 duet with Zara Larsson, Never Forget You, notwithstanding. Whether Language will change that remains to be seen: the singles released to date suggest a slick pop-soul hybrid.
Released 7 September
Paul Simon – In The Blue Light
Currently on a farewell tour, Simon’s new album finds him reworking “songs that I thought were almost right, or were odd enough to be overlooked the first time around” in the company of jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and the National’s Bryce Dessner. None of the big hits are there, although you certainly get a sense which of his albums Simon thinks is most unfairly overlooked: almost half the tracklisting is taken from 2000’s You’re the One.
Released 7 September
Scottish National Jazz Orchestra/Jazz Re-Imagined
With only a small nation’s jazz talent to recruit from, and zilch sponsorship in its infancy, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra led by gifted saxophonist Tommy Smith nonetheless evolved into a world-class outfit. They have partnered international stars, produced scintillating original music, and reimagined classic works through visionary arranging and improvisation. The band’s autumn series opens on reworkings of timeless themes by Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, John Scofield and many more.
At venues in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh, 7 September -6 December
Her 14th album saw a distinct change of musical tack: you couldn’t miss the country influence on Golden, an album recorded in Nashville that gamely attempted to meld fiddles and banjos with influences from house and EDM, while the lyrics seemed noticeably more personal and emotionally wracked than previously. Whether this is a direction she’ll pursue in future is an interesting question, doubtless these shows will offer extravagantly glittery business as usual.
Tour begins 18 September, Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Christine and the Queens – Chris
The follow-up to the UK’s biggest-selling debut album of 2016, heralded by what may be 2018’s best pop single, the fantastic Girlfriend, and an extraordinary choreographed live performance of the track on Later. Chris is apparently “sweatier, harder, more erotic” than Chaleur Humaine, with Janet and Michael Jackson, Eminem, and Serge Gainsbourg in 80s funk mode in its DNA.
Released 21 September
Prince – Piano and a Microphone 1983
The first posthumous release to draw upon Prince’s legendary vault of unreleased material is oddly low-key, perhaps chosen because it fits the concept of the stripped-back tour the singer was on when he died: a home recording from between the release of 1999 and the global success of Purple Rain, that features an early version of Sign O’ the Times’ Strange Relationship and covers of both the gospel spiritual Mary Don’t You Weep and Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You.
Released 21 September
The young Somerset singer-songwriter has been a semi-finalist in the BBC Young Folk awards and has supported Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman on tour. Her remarkably accomplished debut album, Namer of Clouds, beguiles with its poetry and tenderness, and her eye for detail, vivid imagination and bright vocals make it a captivating listen. She is a talent to watch.
Album released 21 September (Navigator Records). On tour 1 September-9 December
The kind of viral sensation that could have been designed with the express purpose of baffling anyone over the age of 24, north London rapper Timothy Gonzales’s DIY songs have attracted both comparisons to the Streets’ Mike Skinner and accusations that it’s all just a knowing hipster joke. Watching the home-made videos for I Can Speak Spanish or Getting Busy! you can understand both interpretations: either way, his songs are insanely catchy.
Tour begins 22 September, The Haunt, Brighton
A solitary – and apparently final – reunion gig from the trickiest and most transgressive of 80s synth pop stars. It was hard to avoid the feeling that Marc Almond and David Ball didn’t quite realise the esteem and affection in which their oeuvre was held until the success of Almond’s 10CD, career-spanning 2016 box set Trials of Eyeliner. Whatever the reasons, this show is a guaranteed treat for fans of their brief but frequently extraordinary back catalogue.
30 September, O2 Arena, London
Tim Hecker – Konoyo
Canadian electronic auteur and sound artist Hecker makes reliably fascinating albums that exist in a space between punishing noise, becalmed ambience and modern classical music. His latest represents a vast shift away from the sound of its predecessor Love Streams, into music inspired by gagaku, a form of Japanese classical music performed at the imperial court – sections of it were recorded in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo. It sounds as simultaneously challenging and thrilling as usual.
Released 28 September
The annual K-Music festival is an intriguing reminder of South Korea’s experimental folk-rock, jazz and fusion scene. Highlights this year include glam-folk-rock band Ssing Ssing, and E-Do, who mix traditional and rock influences, and are led by the remarkable Professor Yu Kyung-hwa, who plays the chulhyungeum, a cross between a Korean zither and guitar.
At venues across London, 2 October-20 November
Cat Power – Wanderer
The six years that separate Wanderer from Cat Power’s last album Sun have apparently been trying for singer-songwriter Chan Marshall: bankruptcy, ill health – she was disgnosed with an hereditary immune disorder that causes the face to swell up – and the collapse of a relationship. Wanderer comes out swinging: a guest appearance by Lana Del Rey, a cover of Rihanna’s Stay, a stripped-back sound and a succession of fantastic songs.
Released 5 October
David Bowie – Loving the Alien (1983-88)
And so the series of lavishly packaged Bowie box sets reaches his most commercially successful and controversial decade: there are remixes and unreleased live albums on offer, but most interest will presumably be piqued by a complete reworking of 1987’s infamously disastrous Never Let Me Down, with new parts recorded by various Bowie sidemen after the singer’s death. Can it make his artistic nadir sparkle? We shall see.
Released 12 October
Idles’ brand of twitchy, visceral guitar noise and dark street-poetry lyrics feels very much like a product of now. They released their debut single in 2012, but there’s something striking about the way they’ve gained such momentum in angry, divided, post-Brexit referendum Britain. The acclaim’s fully deserved: their songs are smart, potent and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny – Never Fight a Man With a Perm counsels the title of a track from their second album – and live they’re chaotically thrilling.
Tour begins 16 October, SWX, Bristol
By all accounts, U2’s current tour represents a very different beast from their acclaimed 2017 outing performing The Joshua Tree in its entirety, its setlist dodging some of their biggest hits – no Where the Streets Have No Name or New Year’s Day. Its opening involves the audience watching the show through an app on their phones for an “augmented reality” experience, and also features Bono’s Zoo TV-era alter-ego MacPhisto.
UK tour begins 19 October, Manchester Arena
After triumphant London shows to promote her second album, Fenfo, the husky-voiced Malian singer-songwriter heads out on tour to demonstrate why she rates alongside her compatriots Oumou Sangaré and Rokia Traoré as one of the most inventive and dynamic performers in Africa. At her best, she mixes delicate solo work with high energy songs, dance routines, social comment and African-edged reworkings of classics such as Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground.
Touring 19-24 November
All Years Leaving
A well-curated two-day festival – fairly obviously hosted indoors given that it’s the middle of October – All Years Leaving neatly gathers together a bunch of 2018’s most acclaimed guitar bands: from the seething power of Goat Girl to the Orielles’ idiosyncratic off-kilter garage rock, by way of the sleazily ecelectic Fat White Family offshoot Warmduscher and punky power-pop trio Dream Wife.
20-21 October, Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
Arguably the most acclaimed live shows of the year, the blend of brilliantly simplistic staging and lighting, hugely impressive choreography – everyone on stage is in constant motion – and Byrne’s fantastic backing band makes for a genuinely boundary-breaking experience. The setlist is fantastic – heavy on selections from Talking Heads’ avant Afro-funk albums – and the whole gig is quite unlike anything else that’s been attempted in the area of live rock music.
UK tour begins 21 October, First Direct Arena, Leeds
John Grant – Love Is Magic
The fourth solo album by the former Czars frontman, now resident in Iceland, arrives three years after its predecessor, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure. Co-produced by Benge – one third of Wrangler, the electronic band with whom Grant formed the side project Creep Show – and featuring arrangements by Midlake bassist Paul Alexander, the lead single and title track suggests that lyrically, there’s no let-up in Grant’s brutally frank confessional approach.
Released 21 October
Musgraves arrives in the UK for a series of live dates on the back of her fourth major label album, Golden Hour, not just a career best but one of the albums of the year so far: a beautifully-turned example of classic Nashville songwriting stretching out into everything from Daft Punk-ish disco-house to hazy psychedelia, with lyrics that touch on everything from LGBTQ rights to LSD.
UK tour begins 23 October, Bristol Hippodrome
Sam Sweeney, the Unfinished Violin
The English fiddler is more usually to be found bringing his sprightly virtuosity and sweet tones to groups such as Leveret, Eliza Carthy’s Wayward Band and Bellowhead. His first solo release is inspired by the extraordinary tale of his own violin – carved but left unfinished by a music hall performer who was killed on the battlefields of the first world war. Sweeney has collected music that would have been heard or made in the British trenches, as well as tunes from Belgium, France, and Germany in this beautiful collection of instrumentals that makes for a poignant and thoughtful memorial to the war in this centenary year.
Album released 2 November (Island Records)
A solitary UK date for Donald Glover in hip-hop mode, following the vast success of This Is America, not merely a US No 1 single but by some distance the most discussed music video in recent memory. His headlining set at this summer’s Lovebox festival – Glover’s first live performance in the UK for five years – was wildly acclaimed: given his plan to retire the Childish Gambino name after his next album, there’s a certain unmissable urgency about this show.
4 November, O2 Arena, London
Has there been a more inescapable song this summer than George Ezra’s Shotgun? It’s proved 2018’s equivalent of Avicii’s Wake Me Up or Ed Sheeran’s Castle on the Hill: a single that seems almost impossible to avoid whether you want to or not, testament to the ability of Ezra’s unassuming if curiously enunciated folk-pop to unite teen audiences and Radio Two listeners alike in appreciation. It seems unlikely he’ll be playing venues this size much longer.
Tour begins 8 November, O2 Academy, Newcastle
Barnett’s last UK dates involved her playing her second album Tell Me How You Really Feel in full, a pretty bold, even confrontational move, given that it had only been released a few weeks before. She could doubtless do it again at these shows to a much more excited response: packed with smart, sensitive observations, noticeably noisier and angrier than her debut, it’s one of 2018’s understated delights.
UK tour begins 14 November, O2 Brixton Academy, London
London jazz festival
The 10-day EFG London Jazz Festival – the biggest deal in the UK’s jazz calendar and pretty big in broader contemporary and world-music terms, too, returns for its 26th year. Highlights include the veteran South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and vocal star Madeleine Peyroux, accessible experimenters such as trumpeter Dave Douglas and guitarists Bill Frisell and Mary Halvorson, actor Jeff Goldblum in jazz-piano guise, and rising young UK stars such as saxophonists Camilla George and Nubya Garcia.
Various venues across London, 16-25 November
A tour designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of her classic album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – the anniversary arrives in the same year that Drake sampled Ex-Factor on the chart-topping Nice For What – but who knows how it will pan out? In the years since its release, Hill has become a byword for erratic live performances; the reviews of her recent US shows were wildly mixed and some gigs were cancelled. Fingers crossed.
Tour begins 23 November, SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Years & Years
The album launch show for Years & Years’ Palo Santo felt like a spirited attempt to cram a stadium-sized show into the confines of London’s Roundhouse, replete with costume changes and special effects. It all bodes well for their forthcoming arena tour: as does the fact that Palo Santo represented a clear musical progression from their debut, confirming Years & Years as one of the UK’s deeper and more intriguing pop bands.
UK tour begins 28 November, SSE Hydro, Glasgow
The long-awaited follow-up to Popcaan’s raucous 2014 debut album Where We Come From finally appeared this summer: trailed by the great single Body So Good, Forever met with mixed reviews – some observers thought that his desire to cross over to a pop market undermined its sound. That said, the Jamaican deejay’s ascendancy to dancehall’s top flight is underlined by the fact that the London date of his UK tour sees him playing Wembley Arena.
Tour begins 6 December, SSE Arena, Wembley, London
Arriving in the wake of his Greg Kurstin and Ryan Tedder-produced album Egypt Station, it will be intriguing to see if and how much McCartney changes up his live show: his appearance at last year’s Desert Trip festival attracted some criticism for the fact the set seemed almost identical to that at every gig he’s played for years, song introductions and all. Still, you would have a hard time arguing with the actual quality of the songs he plays.
Tour begins 12 December, Echo Arena, Liverpool