There were a ton of great songs that dropped this year, some as singles and some were deep cuts. While most of our staff including Lauren Halliday, Trish Connelly, Daniel Jackson, Derek Rathbun, Michelle Hernandez and David Garrick contributed to this list, these are the songs we found ourselves placing on repeat again and again. No matter what your favorites were, here are our fifty favorite songs of 2018.
50. “Say My Name” by Tove Styrke
It’s okay if you don’t know Sweden’s Tove Styrke, but you should know that aside from opening for Lorde on tour this year, she’s a big deal in her homeland. This song has it all, pop feels, hooks, and a beat that’s just golden.
49. “Tidal” by No Age
No Age is still going strong, taking their lo-fi aesthetic and adding it to all they touch. This track comes from their wonderful and underrated album Snares Like a Haircut, and it hits all the fuzz rock and noise elements they’ve become known for while its snappy pace never seems to relent.
48. “Blood Runs Blue” by Buxton
There’s notes of dissonant folk here that are too powerful to deny. Buxton has come full circle, taking their folky touches and adding new instrumentation that make this song a winner from its droning open to its soulful end. The little guitar strokes that hop on and off will stick in your head for days.
47. “Future Me Hates Me” by The Beths
New Zealand’s The Beths craft such snappy fuzz pop, that it’s hard not to like them. On their full length they explored this further, though our favorite track was easily “Future Me Hates Me” where they added backing vocals to do what Weezer used to do, before they stuck with them same hokey formula for the past decade.
46. “Outside” by Ruiners
This song is just two minutes long, but has all you want from a band that treads the lines of punk and emo. Upbeat drums, weird guitar squeals, and just about enough past influence to stick in your head. The use of dual vocals here is masterful, the driving bass is thunderous, and the band does what they do better than most who attempt to do the same.
45. “Toy” by Young Fathers
Dark breaths and weird synths fall all over this song before things get going and they get going hard. Young Fathers aren’t making music like really anyone, and while this song noodles in your head after you hear it, and it has pop structure, it’s not a pop song. Maybe that’s why we love it.
44. “SICKO MODE” by Travis Scott
Sure, this is a single and it’s the most popular track off the album, but can you blame us? The song just bangs with that off-center opening before it hits it’s stride and just pops to the end. Scott is in his element here, offering plenty of chopped vibes nodding towards his Houston roots while giving us a banger in the process.
43. “Break the Glass” by Superchunk
The energetic sounds of nineties Superchunk is all over this album, though this track was our favorite off the politically charged What a Time to Be Alive. The sliding guitar hook, the way Mac’s vocals sound doubled, and the pacing of the song make it a winner that’s hard not to repeat again and again.
42. “Double Death” by White Denim
Texas’ White Denim is going further down the seventies rock rabbit hole on their latest album, and this song falls into that theme. With this track they add plenty of soul and even touches of psych that’s only brought more to life with LSD induced vocals and hand claps. With all of these elements intertwined, it’s hard to believe the song could be catchy, but it definitely is.
41. “Calm E” by Culture Abuse
Culture Abuse cleaned up their sound for their new album on Epitaph and created some memorable songs in the process. Adding elements of psych into their punkish drive, this song was definitely the right choice as a lead single. Catchy and memorable, Culture Abuse is reaching for a larger audience with this track. From the looks of their show size lately, they achieved it.
40. “No Muse” by Wild Moccasins
The pedal drenched guitar that opens this song is enough for it to rattle around in your skull for days. Then the vocals hit and draw you closer until the drums come in, and it’s a home run. The song is so catchy and memorable that you might sing it in the shower after you hear it. Complete with those neo-new wave vibes the band has become known for over the years, they’ve definitely perfected that sound with this release.
39. “Danny Nedelko” by Idles
Sure, this song is the catchiest of the entire album, but c’mon, how could you not like it? The British sneer in the vocals, the fact that the band sounds like they’re getting ready to explode and the snappy punk energy that the track has make it a winner. Even the nod towards Pavement-though tongue-in-cheek-is just that much cooler. Idles crafted a gold medal champion here, hands down.
38. “Somewhere a Judge” by Hop Along
The upbeat sounds here, the way the vocals sound like a conversation and the pop melodies that fall all over the track make it hard not to constantly play again and again. Hop Along isn’t typical, so all of these factors with this squeaky guitar noodling makes the track as memorable as it is endearing.
37. “Speck” by John Allen Stephens
Soulful pop has definitely been on the rise for the past decade, though when we heard it from John Allen Stephens, we wondered if we’d really “heard” it before. The production is top notch, the synths and beats are on a level above the herd, and the guitar hook; oh, that guitar hook. Stephens’ soft vocals are only made stronger by his chopped backing vocals that should make you a fan on the first listen.
36. “Texas” by Fat Tony
Maybe it’s the nods to how things get done in the Lone Star state, maybe it’s the country twang, or maybe it’s the fact that Tony just made country rap actually sound good. There’s something about this seemingly jokey track that had us blasting it since it was dropped as a single. Whatever it is, it’s a funny banger that’s hard not to like.
35. “When I Get to Heaven” by John Prine
John Prine is a treasure, no matter where you place him. On this song, Prine takes a bit of country structure, he talk sings on parts of it, and he looks back at life mixed with vices while he stares forward to what happens when you ineveitably leave this mortal coil. There’s an endearing tone here, though Prine is in rare form offering up a new take on an old subject that no one wants to discuss.
34. “This Is America” by Childish Gambino
For about a month we listened to this track about every three hours, then we jammed it daily before now still dropping it on about once a week. Childish Gambino gave us the killer video, but the track itself is just fire. The backing vocals, the beat…oh that beat. It’s all here as the song just bangs from start to finish and it came at the right time to remind many why art still can lift us all up.
33. “Ghost Town” by Kanye West
Kanye had quite the year, and that’s really skimming over quite a bit. With his own release, Kanye quickly proved he was still the master of production and sample use. This song is pretty uplifting on an otherwise dark themed release, and the hook mixed with adds by PARTYNEXTDOOR on the track just works on multiple levels. Even when he’s dark, West can still drop a jam every now and again, and this song is full of R&B touches that make it worthy of anyone’s ears.
32. “Friday I’m In Love” by Phoebe Bridgers
It’s safe to say that we’re fans of pretty much whatever Phoebe Bridgers does, but with this quietly released cover of a song by The Cure, Bridgers held our attention once more. It’s not upbeat but somber and it works so well that it’s worthy of repeating. Bridgers does with a cover what few seem to do, she makes it her own and this version of the track is all her.
31. “Nothing’s Changed” by Justus Proffit, Jay Som
Aside from the psych touches here, this track is upbeat enough to be a feel good hit, if those still existed. At times it channels the likes of Elliott Smith and Sebadoh, while there’s keys and a horn that come in to add to the wonderment. It’s happy and snappy, and that’s enough to please your ears.
30. “Flight of Fancy” by Interpol
Interpol is dancing with so many new structures here, that the song would feel off the rails if they didn’t keep it all in check. The post-punk notes of their early years are now met melodic compositions and lush notes. Interpol sounds like themselves while adding new pieces that it’s like they’re reborn on this song.
29. “Sex With My Ex” by Lil Peep
It seems there was a lot from Lil Peep that was worth hearing, though now we won’t really get to heat any of it. This release was pretty solid, though the track “Sex With My Ex” has weight, it hits and snaps and has enough pop hook to stay around. Lil Peep left too soon when tracks like this were on their way.
28. “Pristine” by Snail Mail
The way this song opens with the catchy guitar might be enough, but the drums come in and the song just opens up even further. Sure, the second guitar adds a new hook, but once the chorus comes in, it’s breathing fresh air into your face. It’s sweet and endearing, the lyrics feel personal but not too heavy, and it’s just a solid song that you can’t forget.
27. “Won’t Be Here Tomorrow” by The Suffers
The Suffers dug deep on this new album, but the album’s closer is a true gospel nuanced soul track that just stays with you. In fact, it’s a bit different from the rest of the album, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s thick and full of emotion that never really stops dripping with its slower pace. This is a track that tells us there’s so much more to this band that we haven’t ever heard, even if we’ve already heard so much.
26. “Mr. Jukebox” by Joshua Hedley
The “right hand man” of Nashville really went back in time a bit with this twangy country track that has pop feels, but still steers the country music ship with ease. Hedley definitely throws it all in with notes coming from the fiddle, the pedal steel and more alongside his middle of the country spectrum vocals without sounding too new or too old timey in the process.
25. “The Games We Play” by Pusha T
Holy moly, that beat that opens this song is just so on point that it stayed on our regular plays from the date it dropped. Pusha might drop an “eck” a little too much, but who cares. The rhymes are stellar, the flow is like wind passing through the trees and the way the song steps along is just amazing. We want more of this from Pusha T, as much as we can get.
24. “So Far Away” by Part Time
This song takes its time to get going, but once it does it touches on elements of dream pop and new wave in a way that is only exemplified by the dead pan vocals. The minimal beat alongside the flute sounding synths create a chill wave sound that’s hard to deny, while it reminds you of bands like Spandau Ballet and Howard Jones.
23. “Wrong” by Erik Phillips
Virginia’s Erik Phillips makes the kind of bedroom folk pop that sounds like it was done anywhere else but the bedroom. With his airy vocals, this song reminded us of how Elliott Smith sounded the first time we heard him, though with more instrumentation than just an acoustic. Phillips has the ability to drop in a falsetto here and again, and it just adds to his gentle sound.
22. “Charity” by Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett made a pretty wonderful record, but this song is quick and never lets up with its snappy pacing. Barnett adds these little breakdowns before the chorus that get you excited for the melodies that follow. The guitar work is nice and lo-fi, the vocals are sweet but not sugary and the song won’t release its grip from your ears for a while.
21. “Jazz Oppression” by The Young Mothers
The free form jazz that Austin’s The Young Mothers create, is heavy on the word free. Elements of hip hop, soul, R&B and math rock find their way onto their songs, especially with this track. The searing intensity of the way the song opens is like getting punched with sound before grime styled lyricism gets going alongside rhymes that are as quick and furious as the pacing of the song itself. Free expression in the form of music is the best way to describe it, while these guys re-invent what you think jazz music can be.
20. “I’ve Got a Hole Where My Heart Should Be” by The Sheepdogs
Dual guitar leads aren’t as popular as they once were, though with this song you kind of wished you heard more of them. Canada in general seems to have artists who love nostalgia and with this song, The Sheepdogs remind us of seventies sunny California, when your mom’s GTO was just boss and old enough for you to get to take it out and cruise the strip on the weekend.
19. “Big Pink” by BORZOI
The dissonant build on this song alone is noteworthy, though the dark crashes of noise and ephemera that chime in before all hell breaks loose is something else. Is the world ending? Are we being replaced with chaotic notions of the future? Or are these guys just that good? The answer could be all three.
18. “I’ll Be There” by Michael Rault
Canada’s Michael Rault somehow channels Big Star and psych without sounding too much like more than a fan here. The song has these subtle touches in the chorus that feel like sunshine on your face for the first time since a harsh Winter. Rault sounds new while also pulling from the past, and that’s a good thing when it’s done as well as it is performed here.
17. “Dead Weight” by Jack Stauber
Pittsburgh’s Jack Stauber loves creating avant-pop, which is all over this record. This song has pop feels but also steers towards mixes of dark wave and techno, making it a hard to deny song. The craziest part is how seemingly bleak the song could be, though the pop pieces just make you want to dance alone in the house with no lights on while it plays on repeat.
16. “Name Escape” by BODEGA
With post-punk and synth fueled electronica, Brooklyn’s BODEGA added dual vocals-both deadpan and melodic-and it just stays with you. The bass line drives the track while these little stabs from synths and voices hop on and off the song. It’s memorable, so much that that bass is now in your head. Forever.
15. “Beating My Head Against A Wall” by Jeff Rosenstock
This is pretty much basic indie rock with everything you love. Repetitive lyrics, hand claps, snappy drums and a hooky guitar. Do you need much else? It’s a winner, trust us.
14. “Make Believe” by Kero Kero Bonito
This dream pop banger is full of soft notes and softer vocals that make us think that Poppy would be a fan. Kero Kero Bonito just sounds so sweet and easy going here that the song makes you want to get your day going, or watch cartoons while hugging a teddy bear. The backing vocals are a nice touch, as the group blasts off into electro-pop-land. The planet, not the genre.
13. “Fruit” by Pill
Brooklyn’s Pill make the best experimental post-punk mixed with free jazz you may hear. They do things differently than most bands, while their intensity leaks through in each of their songs. With this track, that crazed darkness mixed with tension based energy keeps coming from all corners and never leaves you.
12. “Mixed Tide” by SRSQ
In many ways, the sounds that come from SRSQ remind you of a lot of the past. Notes of new wave intertwined with dark electronica and synth pop are all over their debut. However with this song, it’s a slow burn that you could fall for based off the powerful vocals alone. Of course, the slow builds on it don’t hurt either, as it is like it’s being sung to someone who may never hear it.
11. “Me & My Dog” by boygenius
Though this song hasn’t been out too terribly long, we’ve had it on repeat since we first heard it. The way it takes a while to get going with Phoebe Bridgers’ vocals and the guitar lead the way like a light in the darkness before being met by the voices of Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker. These three together might be one of the most memorable super groups to release an album in recent years, and this song is the catalyst for that notion
10. “May Your Kindness Remain” by Courtney Marie Andrews
Few times can a voice stop you in your tracks, though that’s what the vocals of Courtney Marie Andrews can do. She can sing, so much better than what you’ll hear in a lot of music today. This title track is a slower, where the depth of it alone should make you weak in the knees. But her voice, it’s so powerful that you can’t help but marvel in it while you soak up every note.
9. “Last Girl” by Soccer Mommy
We definitely wore out the grooves of the vinyl on this album, but you can actually see how many times we blasted this sugary and upbeat tune. Maybe it’s how the vocals sound like the Spring air, maybe it’s just how the guitar drops three hooks in the song, or maybe it’s just that great. The way the lyrics remind us of every misled notion of inner sadness and self-deprecation help, but the song just stays with you, and we like that.
8. “Bodys” by Car Seat Headrest
Most of this album is full of gems. The songs can be up to twelve minutes long and still hold your attention, and that says a lot about an album. With this song, we thought it was the kind of sound we wished bands like Spoon and Arcade Fire would employ more. It’s catchy as hell, it has one of the best indie pop openings, and the way the guitar comes in and then that second guitar too? Get out. It’s just too good not to love. It’s also almost seven minutes long, and yet we still want more.
7. “Strong References” by Drug Church
Melodic guitar openings aren’t typically met with a searing riff, but that’s how these New York guys do things. Drug Church took us by surprise with this single that we played from when we received the advance to writing this article. It’s punchy as hell, it makes you want to go break things that you own, and it trickles the punk rock intensity that was gone from the genre for so long. Even with all of this, they throw in a strong chorus that breaks apart from the verse, but still works, and that in itself is impressive.
6. “Asking 4 a Friend” by Anna Burch
Anna Burch brings a lot to the table on this record, but we think the magic comes when she drops a dissonant vocal and a slow build. The way the riff is so complimentary to her voice is one thing, but when the chorus changes direction her vocals change with it and it sounds so wonderful you’ll want to hear it again and again.
5. “Cry!” by Caroline Rose
True story, KT Tunstall told us this was her favorite record of the year. This whole album is so different because it’s essentially a re-invention of an artist that we already found interesting. This song is pop but doesn’t hold all of the sugary notes that pop music seems to have too much of. It’s indie rock but doesn’t really fall too hard in that lane either. Sometimes a song is so good, it doesn’t matter what genre you use to describe it, just as long as you’re honest. In the vein of that, we’ll be honest, this song is just so damn good.
4. “Good Times Are Gone Again” by Fred Thomas
This song and the video for it have been seeing continuous airtime since they dropped as a single. While the record has Thomas taking bold steps, this song is straight indie rock ear candy and we love it. Thomas’ vocals shine through a mix a squealing guitar tones and big open riffs, and the snappy pacing of the song doesn’t hurt either. For an artist who seems to get better with each release, we’ll take songs like this from the Michigan artist all day long.
3. “Nonbeliever” by Lucy Dacus
Lucy Dacus is the only artist I had people ask who were riding with me, “who is this?” That was usually followed by statements of greatness towards her vocals and her overall sound. The bulk of this record is a home run, but with this song, all that she brings to the table is here while her voice warms you like a cup of hot cocoa. The way you can hear her hand moving up the fret board, the hum of the strings in the background, and her powerful voice are all present. The way the song takes turns that you’re right there with is masterful, gorgeous, and what we wished we heard more of.
2. “Total Football” by Parquet Courts
Album openers aren’t always our favorites, but the structure of this song just snaps and pops like a firecracker. Those drums just let you know what you’re in for before the band takes off and keeps things snappy. The lyrics are calling out and they aren’t masked, the backing vocals in the chorus are just extraordinary, and the post-punk notations that the band has always held are still here. Instead of just skipping to other tracks, we always let this opener play in full and just soak in the chaos and hooks that these guys create here.
1. “Tasteless” by shame
When a promoter let us hear this record early, our heads almost exploded. shame figured out how to tread the lines between post-punk and punk with ease, and this song holds it all together. The melodic notes are so catchy without being sugary pop, the raspy vocals sound emotive without sadness and the intensity of the band comes through on each note. Even when the lyrics “I like you better when you’re not around” come in on repeat, they just grow the song as it gets more and more dark without losing any of the energy they built around it.
Those were our favorites from 2018, though there were plenty of songs off of these albums that we adored almost as much. We hope 2019 brings just as much great music as this year has brought.
Image Credits: Photo Courtesy of Pexels.