We did it, 2018 is over and we’ve once again been given a new batch of fantastic music. We discovered new artists, we were disappointed by some artists, but we were amazed by the development of others. My tradition breaking tradition is fully in tact as I list my favorite 10ish songs this year, so you can look forward to that.
Just like last year, if you want to use Spotify, the playlist is conveniently located all the way at the bottom, happy scrolling!
Best Music Video:
This is America, Childish Gambino
I discovered this aspiring R&B artist on the internet, he claims to be Danny Glover’s father, but that seems inaccurate. The skill Glover has shown in making this song/video prompted me to think that he is talented. Maybe someday he will get a chance to show us if he has talents beyond music. Tell your friends about this guy, he needs our support!
10ish) 65th & Ingleside, Chance the Rapper
It was great to hear new Chance songs this year, it was also important so I could keep my other tradition of including him somewhere on these lists. This song shows Chance has a rare capacity for self-awareness as he reflects on how he treated others during his assent in the music world. Also the song kicks ass.
10) Ladder to the Sun, Saintseneca
This song is the high point from a really good album. Part of my attraction to this song is that it helps fill that quirky and thoughtful void created by the dissolution of bands like Bright Eyes.
9) Royal Empress, Greg Laswell
I’m glad Lasell explained that this song is about drug addiction, and how in our youth we are often convinced we are invincible. The song packs a strong emotional punch, which should be no surprise given his history of emotionally rich compositions.
8) Night Shift, Lucy Dacus
This song steps through the pain and awkwardness of the relationship after a breakup. The reason this song is on the list is due to the dramatic shift the song takes 4 minutes into the song when it blossoms into anger and resolve. Also, Lucy is now a part of the group boygenius with Julien Baker and Phoebe Bridgers who apparently put on a pretty good concert according to Jon and Lauren.
7) Don’t Miss It, James Blake
Not all of James’ music connects with me, but this haunting song gabbed my attention and has caused me to reflect on my relationships, the sacrifices we make as parents, and my personnel responsibilities.
I could say anything I’d like
Switch off whenever I like
Sleep whenever I like
I could leave in the middle of the night
But I’d miss it
6) Hunnybee, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
This is not a term I use casually, but this song is the perfect representation of ‘chill.’ Each instrument subtly plays its part and result is an infectious gem. Also if “This is America” didn’t come out this year, it would be my favorite music video of the year. It matches the song perfectly and allows me to slowly melt into a zen state.
5) Rip Off, Ethers
This Chicago garage band brings me back to the early 2000s with strong guitar riffs and interesting keyboard accompaniment. Hopefully this band will find support it needs to keep these songs coming!
4) The Louder I call, the Faster It Runs, Wye Oak
This band has completely reinvented itself from its Americana roots, yet they are still kicking ass. Their dive in to electronic music hasn’t created consistent successes, but they still are making high quality compelling songs. I love how this song increasingly adds interesting and complementary layers until we are given no choice but to embrace the chaos.
3) Throwback, Jim James
Every few years James creates an remarkable composition, while most of these have been with My Morning Jacket, this song comes off a very strong solo album. This song showcases his ability to introduce of remarkably fresh sounding guitar parts and his mastery of all kinds of distortion.
2) Soft Stud, Black Belt Eagle Scout
Something about the drive of the electric guitar as it propels the song through the otherwise changing composition brings me back repeatedly. Maybe what is most impressive is that there are no wasted elements of the song, everything falls in place to create a fantastic six-minutes of music.
1) Funeral Singers, Sylvan Esso
I know, it is dumb to list a cover as my favorite song of the year, but I can’t help myself. Sylvan Esso’s version of “Funeral Singers” provides a pulse and a lightness to offset a song that is otherwise engulfed in darkness. The song was recorded with tour mates Collections of Colonies of Bees who provide a fantastic texture to the track. However, much of the credit should go to Amelia Meath’s vocal work, which adds warmth to the sorrowful Califone lyrics:
The lighthouse keeper
Grazed the lip spread like a fog
Stood in the weather and prayed for a push
But doesn’t take the jump again tonight
[And I’ve got chills]
Runner Ups: Grow into a Ghost – Swearin, Once in My Life – The Decembrists, In My View – Young Fathers, Heavy – Birdtalker, What it Takes – Sarah Shook
5) Tell Me How you Really Feel, Courtney Barnett
This album initially felt like a disappointment, but the tonal changes just necessitated multiple listens to appreciate what Barnett achieved on this album. While Barnett’s witty lyrics are mostly missing from this album, she instead taps into her anger to create powerful moments. This is best exemplified by the slow boil song Hopefulessness that builds to a wonderfully destructive climax. Nameless, Faceless is the single in which Barnett tries to envision the perspective of internet trolls, and sarcastically offers an apology.
You sit alone at home in the darkness
With all the pent-up rage that you harness
I’m real sorry
About whatever happened to you
4) Hope Downs, Rolling Blackouts CF
With their third release Rolling Blackouts CF has maintained their record of still not having released any bad songs, which is a crazy achievement. This Melbourne-based band signed with Sub Pop and has a very bright future. The drawback is that there are not as many great singular tracks on this album as there were on their French Press EP. However, Talking Straight is a standout driving rock track with enigmatic lyrics that deftly depict isolation.
On closer inspection, it’s just a reflection
And I still move with feeling inside
And it’s the tyranny of questioning
Ring the diving bell
I’m further down, I’m nearly out
I’m deeper down the well
3) World’s Strongest Man, Gaz Coombes
I was drawn to the album by the title track, which has is a compelling yet mature indie rock sound akin to My Morning Jacket. I was confused and very impressed when the album switched genres and became more experimental and orchestral, like an interesting adaptation of Radiohead. But Coombes wasn’t done genre bending, he includes ballads, electronica tracks, and pop-leaning hooks. And somehow it all works beautifully.
2) Wide Awake!, Parquet Courts
These goofball punks had my attention with their earlier releases, but for me their sound was too distant without enough dynamic payoffs. The band was looking for a shake up and surprisingly brought in Danger Mouse to work on the album. The collision of the two styles created a unique and fantastic dance punk album. Plus anybody that writes a song called Freebird II deserves some sort of formal recognition.
- Lamp Lit Prose, Dirty Projectors
Dave Longstreth has emerged from a place of personnel darkness and this album reflects his bold new outlook. Immediately the contributions from a variety of powerful brass instruments infuse a vitality into the already rich compositions. Longstreth brings in an impressive series of collaborators that keep the tracks fresh and dynamic. While there is an overall optimistic tone to the album, Longstreth still writes cutting and powerful lyrics.
Who will stop wasting the lives of the brave
Based on a lie?
Who will stop wasting the forest and seas?
We know what will survive
Runner Ups: Twin Fantasy – Car Seat Headrest, Uniform Distortion – Jim James, Pillar of Na – Saintseneca