Solo Armada – Year End Award Nominations

29th November 2018 0 By Wes Bowie

Welcome to the 1st Solo Armada Year End Awards!

(By Stuart Iversen and Wes Bowie)

Over the past few weeks, The Solo Armada has been voting in six different categories for bands and artists that have made an impact on them in 2018, and the response has been incredible. 

      Best Album       Best Live Act      Breakthrough Artist     

Best Festival       Best Song       Greatest Discovery

And a still to be announced


Each category has now been narrowed down to three choices out of the hundreds that you put forward. Voting goes live next week, so it’s time to read up on those you haven’t heard before and treat your ears to their many delights.

Why do we need a Year End Awards? It’s a celebration of music. The opportunity to shout about that one band, album or song you discovered this year and wanted everyone to know about. It’s also the opportunity to explore! Is there a band or artist listed below that you’ve never heard of? Then give them a listen!



Best Album 2018 Nominations

Seán McGowan – Son of the Smith

Son of the Smith is an album in which Seán explores the human spirit, what drives us and what breaks us. His lyrics tell stories that any listener can relate to when dealing with everyday life. Whether that’s hating the job you’re stuck in, hanging out with your friends or being there for them when they’re at their lowest.

The debut also has a hint of a concept in the songs that open (‘Mind the Doors’), bridge (‘Mind Your Head’), and then close the album (‘Mind the Gap’), telling a tale of travelling across London and living hand to mouth. An all too harsh reality for many. It’s a bold move and yet handled with a confidence that many established songwriters may struggle to reproduce.

Seán McGowan 2019 UK full band tour. Book tickets HERE


Arkells – Rally Cry

Rally Cry is a statement of intent from Arkells as they establish themselves as some of the finest songwriters going.

With their fifth album, they’ve tailored a distinct sound which stands out in a year filled with great talent.

Bursting with energetic and catchy songs, Arkells have brought something new and fresh which places them in a league on their own. From the Springsteen fuelled fun of ‘Saturday Night’ to the seriousness of ‘American Screams’, Arkells have demonstrated their ability for diversity. 

Arkells 2019 Canada and North America Tour. Book tickets HERE


IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance

Joy As An Act Of Resistance is the album where IDLES decided not to so much wear their heart on their sleeve as rip it from their chest and thrust it into the world’s face.

The band’s second release is twelve tracks of punk ragers that turn their gaze towards everything from immigration to toxic masculinity. IDLES have attempted to, in the words of singer Joe Talbot, ‘act as an ode to communities and the individuals that forge them.’

Critical acclaim has followed, and with it hitting number five in the charts you have to have hope that the world is ready to listen.

IDLES 2019 UK tour. Buy tickets HERE


Best Live Act 2018 Nominations

Skinny Lister

There are many ways to create a great live experience. You can wow the audience with an incredible stage show, leave them broken by an intense onslaught or turn the fun up to eleven and have them grinning from ear to ear. It’s safe to say that Skinny Lister favour the latter approach.

Having kicked off the year touring America before heading back to Europe to do the festival circuit, you can guarantee they left every person who wandered into their path a little bit happier for having seen them. With a new album (and a massive UK tour) set for early 2019, it’s one you won’t want to miss.

Skinny Lister 2019 UK tour. Book tickets HERE

Gaz Brookfield

The self-proclaimed solo acoustic guy, Gaz Brookfield has proven himself as a hard-working, independent singer/songwriter and as a result, is one of the best live acts around.

Energetic and engaging, Gaz is continually touring the UK and has been known to play as many as 200 gigs a year. He’s played at Glastonbury, Beautiful Days and can be seen at the upcoming In Cider Festival. More recently Gaz has been promoting his new split album with Jake Martin, Aged Revolt, and has just announced new tour dates for February 2019.

Gaz remains the only unsigned solo artist to sell out The Fleece in Bristol which he has done numerous times even establishing an annual Christmas show. This year sees a change in venue to the larger SWX, Bristol on Saturday 15th December to accommodate for the rising demand from his ever-growing fanbase.

Gaz Brookfield 2019 UK Tour. Book tickets HERE

Felix Hagan & The Family

It’s no surprise that Felix Hagan & The Family have made the shortlist for Best Live Act 2018. Over the last few years, the band have built up a fan base draped in feather boas and bedazzled with glitter.

A show of excess and extravaganza, if you have never seen them before you’d be forgiven for not knowing what the hell is going on the first time around. However, by the end of the opening song Felix & The Family will have you jumping, clapping and singing your heart out. If you don’t leave their gig sweaty, breathless and joyous, we’d be stunned.

Felix creates a more intimate atmosphere for his acoustic house gigs which are equally as enjoyable and at the showcase his brilliant diversity. If you didn’t manage to catch Felix & The Family supporting Arkells on their recent tour, you still have a chance to fit them in before the year ends as they support Everything Everything on New Year’s Eve at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester.

Felix himself is branching out into musical theatre next year as his collaboration with Spitlip hits the stage in Operation Mincemeat. 

Tickets for the musical Operation Mincemeat are available HERE

Breakthrough Act 2018 Nominations

Dream Wife

Dream Wife are a London based three-piece consisting of Alice (guitar, vocals), Rakel (lead vocals) and Bella (bass, vocals) who first came together as students at Bristol University. Forming in 2014 as an art school project, their sound blends punk, pop and indie rock. A combination that has seen their self-titled debut album garner high praise from music fans and critics.

Along with energetic live performances, the trio is quickly rising in popularity and have started to gain the attention they deserve. Adopting a “Bitches to the front” policy, women are encouraged closer to the stage where they can mosh together creating a safer environment for those that may not feel comfortable or have had bad experiences in the past.

Seán McGowan

Following the release of his debut album Son of the Smith in May, Seán has had the opportunity to show all sorts of crowds what he’s made of. Being nominated in three different categories for the Solo Armada Year End Awards is a reflection of the impact he has had on music in a short time.

Seán has crafted his live performances by performing on the main stage as one of the main supports at Frank Turner’s Lost Evenings II before heading out on a headline UK tour. He’s ended the year touring with The Levellers throughout Germany and the UK while next year sees Seán embarking on his biggest headline tour to date supported by a full band. Looking at his track record to date, this will be a tour that cannot be missed!

Seán McGowan 2019 UK full band tour. Book tickets HERE

The Blinders

Growing up in Doncaster, this trio was initially inspired by local heroes Arctic Monkeys, although their album Columbia takes as much by literary touchstones George Orwell and Jack Kerouac as their musical influences, who include Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and The Wytches.

The Blinders have been picking up specialist radio support since their first DIY releases from the likes of Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Daniel P Carter, Radio X’s John Kennedy, and 6Music’s Chris Hawkins and Steve Lamacq, who had the band on his show for a BBC Music Introduction Sessions.

Columbia includes the 6Music playlisted singles ‘Brave New World’ – also a Radio 1 BBC Introducing Track Of The Week – and ‘L’Etat C’Est Moi’. The Blinders headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds Festivals and recently completed a sold-out 22-date UK headline tour.

The Blinders gigs for 2019. Book Tickets HERE


Best Song 2018 Nominations

 IDLES – Danny Nedelko

Inspired by a friend of the band, ‘Danny Nedelko’ it’s a pro-immigration attack on nationalism bursting with angular guitars and crackling with feedback. And yet, this is the song that brought IDLES onto Jools Holland and spearheaded their way into the mainstream. Because alongside that message it’s an uplifting anthem that sounds like it could be chanted on football terraces the world over. It’s a contrast that has placed ‘Danny Nedelko’ into the ears of the very people that near to hear it which has to go down as good work by all involved.

IDLES 2019 UK tour. Buy tickets HERE

Seán McGowan – Springhill

‘Springhill’ is an emotionally charged song about the loss of a close loved one and looking after those that are affected by the tragedy as well as dealing with your feelings.

It’s a song that was written from Seán’s personal experience which is a key part of what makes it so special. It is yet another example of Sean’s writing skill and his ability to draw upon life experience and speaking about what matters in life. 

Sean’s vocals on the track are heartfelt but when played live, ‘Springhill’ is a true display of what he is capable of vocally and will leave many in tears at the emotion.

Seán McGowan 2019 UK full band tour. Book tickets HERE

Camp Cope – The Opener

In three minutes and forty seconds, Camp Cope set out to undermine every bit of misogynistic nonsense that has dominated the music industry since there was an industry to speak of.

It’s a mission goal that they came pretty close to achieving as the opening single of How To Socialise & Make Friends might be the first piece of music on which you can hear someone’s eyes roll into their head. Listen to Georgia Maq repeating the clichés that you imagine she’s listened to a million times before and try not to join her in it too. ‘The Opener’ is the sound of people who have had enough and has rightly seen many more flock to their banner.

Camp Cope Australian gigs for 2019. Book tickets HERE

Greatest Discovery of 2018

Homeless Gospel Choir

A lot of people are shocked to discover that The Homeless Gospel Choir are neither homeless, singing gospel songs or even a choir. In fact, it’s one bloke named Derek sporting an acoustic guitar and a bag full of protests songs that you need to hear.

Having released his first album in 2010, Derek has been on the road for a long time, but a UK tour supporting Frank Turner followed by a spot at Lost Evenings 2 has opened him up to a new audience. It’s probably a safe bet to assume that it’s one he’s only going to build on.




Charismatic and engaging, Arkells have had a busy time in the UK. From supporting Frank Turner to headlining in their own right, they have grabbed crowds with their catchy and upbeat songs and proved why they sell out stadium gigs in their Canadian hometown Hamilton, Toronto.

For the band to come to the UK and perform smaller venues is a sign of dedication to a fan base which has grown over the past year. The band excels at crowd interaction, and you can see that they have a great time performing as they generate a contagious energy that ripples through the crowd. By the end of an Arkells’ gig you should be a sweaty mess because if you aren’t, you haven’t done it properly.

Having released their FIFTH album Rally Cry this year, there’s certainly a lot to discover about the Arkells.

Arkells 2019 Canada and North America Tour. Book tickets HERE


You’d be forgiven for thinking of IDLES as an overnight success. For many, this Bristol based punk band have burst into the mainstream with their second album Joy as an Act of Resistance and since found themselves flying up album charts and popping up on Jools Holland. However, like many such stories, that success comes after many years of hard work. Last year’s Brutalism was a critical success in its own right while the band released their first EP in 2012. It’s a history that suggests IDLES are no flavour of the month and now that the world has discovered them, they’re here to stay.

IDLES 2019 UK tour. Buy tickets HERE

Best Festival 2018 Nominations

2000 Trees

For a festival, identity is everything. With the marketplace more saturated than ever, you need more than great bands to get people through the door (although those will always help). With that in mind, 2000 Trees sells itself as the friendliest festival you’ll ever go to, and you don’t have to spend much time there to realise it’s a genuine claim. With this year’s line-up featuring everything from Enter Shikari acoustic sets to British underground standouts like Palm Reader they have something for everyone all wrapped up in a friendly, and tree heavy, package.

Beautiful Days

Founded by The Levellers 15 years ago, Beautiful Days is a family-friendly festival that eschews corporate branding while hoping to bring the weirdness back into this stuff. It does that by constructing an eclectic line-up which this year featured everyone from gipsy punks Gogol Bordello to 90’s Britrock legends The Wildhearts. Alongside the usual musical shenanigans, Beautiful Days has a theatre tent and a children’s area, in an attempt to make sure that everyone is having fun. With so many festivals selling out and booking the same soulless bands, the existence of festivals like this one is something we all should cherish.

Kendall Calling

Whether you are looking for ninety’s nostalgia with Ocean Colour Scene or the slightly more modern thrill of White Lies, Kendall Calling was the place for you this summer. Having grown from a 900 capacity two-day event in 2006 to a 25,000 person four days extravaganza, it’s safe to say that this festival has outgrown its humble roots. Set in Lowther Deer Park in the Lake District Kendall Calling even has its very own Garden of Eden to help calm you down when the music gets just a little bit too exciting. Music and a massage, it doesn’t get much better than that.