Top Songs of 2018
75. Adrianne Lenker – symbol
74. Fatima – Attention Span of a Cookie
73. Kilo Kish – Like Honey
72. Anderson .Paak – Bubblin (ft. Busta Rhymes)
71. Lafawndah – Joseph
70. Denitia – Distant
69. James Blake – Don’t Miss It
68. Mariah Carey – Giving Me Life (ft. Slick Rick & Blood Orange)
67. Allie X – Not So Bad In LA
66. Kali Uchis – Miami (ft. BIA)
65. St. Vincent – Sugarboy – piano version
64. Gallant – TOOGOODTOBETRUE (ft. Sufjan Stevens)
63. Rae Morris – Rose Garden
62. serpentwithfeet – cherubim
61. Georgia Anne Muldrow – Vital Transformation
60. Pusha T – Infrared
59. Soccer Mommy – Blossom (Wasting All My Time)
58. Chanel Tres – Topdown
57. Gaika – Born Thieves
56. Jean Deaux – Work 4 Me (ft. Kari Faux)
55. DJ Koze – Scratch It (ft. Rósín Murphy)
54. Empress Of – Trust Me Baby
53. Sudan Archives – Nont For Sale
52. Calvin Harris – One Kiss (ft. Dua Lipa)
51. Amen Dunes – Believe
50. Julia Holter – I Shall Love 2
49. Santigold – I Don’t Want
48. Farao – Marry Me
47. The Internet – Next Time/Humble Pie
46. The Carters – APESHIT
45. Bonjay – Ingenue
44. Against All Logic – I Never Dream
43. Lizzo – Boys
42. Lucy Dacus – Pillar of Truth
41. Natalie Prass – Short Court Style
40. Tune-Yards – Honesty
39. Kadhja Bonet – Delphine
38. Tyler The Creator – Potato Salad
37. Troye Sivan – Seventeen
36. Lotic – Power
35. Young Fathers – Lord
34. Kelela – BADSISTA_FEAT_LINN DA QUERBRADA_125PM
33. Vince Staples – FUN!
32. Half Waif – Silt
31. Snail Mail – Deep Sea
30. Kamasi Washington – The Space Travelers Lullaby
29. Moses Sumney – Rank & File
28. Drake – In My Feelings
27. Nao – Saturn (ft. Kwabs)
26. Nilüfer Yanya – Thanks 4 Nothing
25. Cardi B- Bickenhead
Few artists have had as good of a year as Cardi B has. Apart from becoming the first female hip hop artist to land at number #1 on the Billboard charts, she captivated our imagination with her colorful personality. Bickenhead might have been the hit that I Like It but with lines like, “Pop that pussy / Like popping pussy like it’s going out of style” this is the ultimate bad girl dance anthem that I just couldn’t stop listening to again and again to help cheer me up or before an evening out.
24. Moses Sumney – Make Out in My Car – James Blake Version
2018 was a bit of a watershed year for the remix, which I typically consider to be a half baked attempt to get more album streams. My favorite of the bunch was James Blake’s interpretation of Moses Sumney’s wonderful song from 2018. Sumney, who’s delicate falsetto and explorations of desire in all its complexities, is a perfect match for the introspection and electronic experimentation Blake is know for. The end result is a whirr of strangely formed electronic beats that swell and recede with Sumney’s vocal talent as closeness and distance come dancing together.
23. Emilie Nicolas – String
If you’re never heard of Emilie Nicolas before, you’re probably not alone. But Nicolas, from Norway, is a leader in the Nordic pop and R&B crossover genres. On String, a nervous, skittering beat underpins Nicolas’s soaring vocals. “I'm just clinging to a living thing /
Like you would never die” underpins a sense of mortality and the role that loving someone can play in staying alive. It’s one of the shortest songs on the album but its frenzied intensity reflects the existential musings contained in the sparsely crafted lyrics.
22. U.S. Girls – Incidental Boogie
Of the live acts that I saw in 2018, U.S. Girls near the top of the list because they bring together a full band with such seamless precision. Incidental Boogie is one of the closet things to rock the band gets, with walls of guitar noise and beautifully mangled riffs the perfect foil for a song about abusive and controlling men. “I still do what I want
/ And I still do what I like,” lead vocalist Meg Remy sings hauntingly. She’s still not free from the psychological violence caused by these men.
21. Ariana Grande – thank u, next
2018 has been a rough year for Ariana, mending the scars from her concert bombing, dealing with the death of ex-Mac Miller and sitting in the center of a short but tumultuous relationship with Pete Davidson. thank u, next succeeds as a song and cultural phenomenon because it transforms that negative energy into a positive, future-leaning ballad of self love that throws up the middle finger very softly to the fuckbois of the world. Combine that with a music video full of 2000s film easter eggs and you have a song almost everyone can love and relate to 100 times over.
20. Tirzah – Devotion (ft. Coby Sey)
Hailing from the UK, Tirzah had a breakout year with her album Devotion. Her song of the same also happens to be her best, with a sparse, looping beat that could be plucked straight from an old Arthur Russell record. Her voice is distinctively warm and immediately felt, flooding the song with a tender lyricism about romance and comfort. It could easily register as treacle but the space that Tirzah and Sey create together feels genuinely moving and not at all forced as you might expect.
19. Blood Orange – Nappy Wonder
Blood Orange’s latest album Negro Swan seems the truest expression of Dev Hynes to date. Nappy Wonder is likely to be considered one of the lesser tracks on the album compared to Charcoal Baby or Chewing Gum but it really doesn’t be good. It features one of the best bass lines of the year, evoking funk and soul in immediate terms. “Feelings never had no ethics” is the chorus here and something strikes so true in this statement. Emotions are always messy and irrational. We continue to remove the splinters well after the consequences of these emotions have been felt.
18. Janelle Monáe – Screwed (ft. Zoë Kravitz)
Janelle Monáe has always been a star: a full package of electric live performer, style icon, strong vocalist and conceptual artist. With Screwed, from her Dirty Computer album, she sheds all pretense to create the sex positive anthem we all needed in our lives. “I wanna get screwed like animal,” she sings at one point. In an era where queer sex continues to be censored, this unabashed desire sends a strong message to everyone who wishes to silence queer lives, particularly of QPOC.
17. Amber Mark – Love Me Right
From New York City, Amber Mark is one of the most promising pop vocalists in the industry today. Though she’s only released her 2nd EP this year, the songs come perfectly formed, showing a wisdom of production and vocal acuity well beyond her experience life. Love Me Right is about her lover realizing the “right” way to be loved. Over a breezy beat, her voice soars as she sings,” “You are starting to drive me crazy / Why won't you realize you gotta love me right baby.” It’s hard to be swept up in her singing.
16. Jeremy Dutcher – Pomok naka Poktoinskwes
It can largely be said that 2018 is a year where few artists have really pushed music in new directions. Jeremy Dutcher, as a singer for what he calls the indigenous resistance, is an exception, as he’s essentially given musical shape to the Wolastoq language on the brink of existence. Using a mixture of found audio from tribal leaders, classical music and haunting chamber vocals, he creates musical textures unlike any I have heard: strong and piercing enough to fill any concert hall but so deeply personal that even if he is not speaking my language, I can feel his passion for protecting the Wolastoq heritage and for challenging us all to decolonize musical spaces.
15. Mitski – Nobody
Nobody’s music cuts quite like a dagger to the heart as Mitski’s does. Even as she’s traded her rougher edged rock for some glossier pop production, the dagger still sticks. “I just need someone to kiss /
Give me one good honest kiss,” she sings during the course of the song, making her loneliness palpable but without ever resorting to pity. She also is able to register her sense of loneliness in open terms, creating her own reference point but opening it up to a broad based interpretation. In this era of unrest, few artists resonate as strongly as she does.
14. Let’s Eat Grandma – Snakes & Ladders
At 19 years old, this experimental female pop duo is wise beyond their years, creating lush and intricate landscapes of youthful angst. On Snakes & Ladders, they hit a monumental peak, carving open spaces to explore relationships and politics in a contemporary era. Lines like “Don't mind me, you'll find me head-to-toe in bright green” reflects a sense of jealousy but also carries the hidden meaning of consumer culture and comparing yourself to others.
13. ROSALÍA – BAGDAD – Cap.7: Liturgia
Few artists have had a bigger breakout year than Rosalía, the Spanish artists whose contemporary interpretation of flamenco has landed her on late night shows and end of year lists. On BAGDAD, signature flamenco claps intersect with sparse production as her falsetto glides above everything else. There’s an almost spiritual quality to how she sings, managing to overcome heartbreak in the most controlled way. This track might not have the same electronic experimentation of other album tracks but its simplicity, while still sounding contemporary, is why it succeeds.
12. Yves Tumor – Honesty
Yves Tumor is one of the most chameleonic musicians out there, able to slip between genres with remarkable ease while creating a cohesive narrative. On Honesty, a dense electronic beat and fuzzy vocals create the distance needed to explore an immediate attraction to someone that cannot be realized. “I wanna wrap around you,” he sings, even as that attachment is called into question. There’s something mysterious and unfinished with the stories Yves Tumor creates, forcing you to listen carefully and soak up all aspects of what he creates in the process. With Honesty he creates the perfect anti-club track.
11. Rubby – No Más
It can be hard to find spaces for queer Latinx men in music, particularly in the machismo Dominican culture but Rubby is an artist that could change that. No Más might only be the third song he’s made but it was his first turn at writing both the melodies and instrumentation. The results are spectacular: he uses a wood shop and power tools to dismantle and sexualize masculine spaces of work for queer bodies. There is something temporary about this inversion of masculinity but that’s also where the defiant, ecstatic joy and beauty comes from, blending R&B, trap and electronic influences seamlessly.
10. Kacey Musgraves – Oh, What A World
Kacey Musgraves makes country music that crosses over into pop and dance music, country music that doesn’t resort to the narrow lyrical trappings that seem to define the genre. On her most recent album, Golden Hour, the obvious choice for best song is High Horse, the closest thing to disco cowboy pop the world has ever heard. But I think Oh, What is her most accomplished track, blending electronic vocal distortions, simple guitar strumming and her pleasing, round voice to great effect. As she sings, “Oh, what a world, don't wanna leave / All kinds of magic all around us, it's hard to believe,” you temporarily escape the world’s negative energy to step into the arms of love. It’s the perfect music for warm summer days and cold winter nights, something you can always return to without it feeling tired.
9. Noname – Don’t Forget About Me
A poet by trade, Noname entered the world of hip hop in 2016 in a big way, getting guest verses on Chance the Rapper and Saba’s albums while releasing her own mixtape. In 2018 she’s finally released her debut album, which is an impressively released collection of poetry in motion, eschewing all conventional trends in the genre. On Don’t Forget About Me, Noname is at her lyrical best, added by the richly textured, jazzy production courtesy of Phoelix. In the song she explores mortality but also moving from Chicago to Los Angeles. “Let's get down to the nitty gritty, changed my city / Titties 13k, the pretty costs these days” is one of 2018’s most memorable lyrics, an indictment of the beauty culture in LA while also participating it in. Noname is not afraid to explore her own contradictions.
8. Christine and the Queens – Damn (what must a woman do)
The French electro-pop group Christine and the Queens is led by Héloïse Letissier, a formidable singer, songwriter and producer who creates songs in both English and French. On the group’s latest album, Letissier embraces her butch persona Chris, grappling with some of the most pressing disparities between men and women in culture. For me, Damn (what must a woman do) is the heart of the most recent album, addressing female sexuality in its rawest form. Letissier herself has called it a song about “pure horniness,” which she says makes people feel uncomfortable because women are not allowed to talk as openly about desire. Live she sang a cover of Janet Jackson’s Nasty, which perfectly explains the energetic defiance that runs throughout.
7. Róisín Murphy – All My Dreams
Róisín Murphy is probably the most underrated electronic music artist in the business and it’s hard to understand why she hasn’t gotten more recognition. In 2018, she released four sets of two singles, each complete with their own colorful album art. As a concept, it could also seem to resemble an album but not being packaged that way gives the individual singles greater presence. The most memorable of these is All My Dreams, a late night house banger dripping in seduction that cannot be contained. “This is ridiculously sexy,” she sings over and over again throughout the track produced by Maurice Fulton, whose glitch rhythms seem to propel Murphy forward into her desires. “All my dreams come true” is also repeated in a song that demonstrates why house music still has such great appeal in the freedom that helps to create.
6. SOPHIE – Immaterial
Hailing from Scotland, SOPHIE is the moniker of trans electronic producer Sophie Xeon, who rose to prominence after producing songs in 2013 and 2014 in the style of PC Music. For her debut album, she manages to create a sprawling landscape of electro-pop sounds while also providing commentary on transgender identity and visibility in an intimate way. At the heart of this album is Immaterial, a riff on Madonna’s Material Girl. It is the loudest and most buoyant track, pure bubblegum pop revelry, that holds a darker, much more sinister message of trans erasure and economic instability that a younger generation have had to inherit. What is so remarkable about SOPHIE is how she is able to explore these darker places while also inspiring others to be visible, to be heard and, most of all, to dance themselves silly.
5. Beach House – Black Car
Of all of the groups making music, Beach House has one of the most distinctive sounds that has been kept consistent throughout the albums they’ve made. With 7, however, they’ve started to expand their sonic palette, creating songs that keep their signature essence in place but hint at darker places the band can go, led by more experimental and unusual beats. From 7, Black Car is one of the prime examples of this experimentation. A plodding, methodical beat opens up the track and continues throughout as more lyrics are added to build up the intensity. The vocals almost seem to disregard the beat underneath, floating effortlessly above. Every element in this song shouldn’t work but it does. “Each time I'm walking at night / And I can't close my eyes” hints at the haunted nature of this track, a loop of paralysis in these darker times.
4. Neneh Cherry – Natural Skin Deep
Neneh Cherry’s first studio album was released in 1989, the year I was born, and she has been releasing music since then. She’s an artist that is uninterested in trends. She is a deep thinker, one who imbues a strong personal identity into conversation with the state of affairs in the world. On Broken Politics, she grapples most acutely with the brokenness of the world today and how to persevere while grappling with disappointment. Produced by Four Tet, Natural Skin Deep is the most accomplished track on the album, with air horns, jazzy riffs, synth explosions and tropical percussion that should not work together but do. “Don't have anywhere to go / Nowhere to hide / All of me is now,” Cherry sings, addressing her naked presence in this world and the difficulties of standing up and being so exposed. “My love goes, my love goes on and on” is the most repeated line on the track, which seems to suggest that despite the difficulties of being present, she is guided by presence to love.
3. Azealia Banks – Anna Wintour
Azealia Banks first captured our attention by injecting the sounds of the club into hip hop. Her career has been tumultuous to say the least, marked more by bitter feuds and questionable comments than a steady output of music. She’s a figure that is easy to dislike but she also makes unquestionably good music and Anna Wintour is no exception. It’s also her first effort in which the majority of the track is comprised of vocal singing, with hip hop being a guest feature. Many other artists have tried to unsuccessfully crossover from rapping to singing without being successful. For Azealia, it works in her favor. Under a pulsating deep house beat, she sings, “Now I feel in love, babe / I really know that your love is enough.” By the time she gets to rapping, there is an explosion of energy: raw, sexual and opulent that you can’t turn away from. Azealia Banks knows a thing or two about losing yourself on the dance floor.
2. Robyn – Between The Lines
Eight years is a long time to wait for any artist to release music, but particularly for an artist like Robyn, who so appropriately captured our attention with Body Talk. With Honey, she has given us what I consider to be her masterpiece. On Between The Lines, we are taken to the heart of a dance floor in the 1990s, where Robyn is in the heat of romance, getting turned on by calls from lover that progress into more intimate actions as the song progresses. The production lends an ease to things where every breakdown or beat change seems effortless and helps to create subtle depth throughout. The vocal samples toward the end: “RELAX,” “THAT SHIT’S SO GOOD” drip with sexy confidence that also make you, as the listener, feel great. With Between The Lines Robyn has invited us into a honey-dripping slice of life that is absolutely irresistible. It’s a song I know I will continue returning to again and again in the future.
1. MorMor – Heaven’s Only Wishful (Extended Version)
MorMor is the stage name of Toronto-born musician Seth Nyquist, who, at 26 years old, has achieved considerable recognition with his debut EP Heaven’s Only Wishful. Beginning with a simple, almost bedroom sounding, guitar loop for the first 27 seconds, everything is disrupted by a single piercing scream. The first time I heard this, I was astonished. It seemed to convey a catharsis as he immediately sings “I’m just a poor boy / Waiting for answers” after. Nyquist’s voice is tender and sensitive throughout, as the guitar line continues and shimmery electronics coast in and out of the production. But he needs to have a softness and sweetness in his voice to offset explorations of alienation and darkness that run throughout. By the end of the song, the guitar lines increase in intensity, as he comes to a recognition: “Some say / You're the reason I, I / Feel this way.” Here the song morphs from R&B to rock as he screams out the lines as any good rock frontman would do. By the end of the fuzzed out guitar riff, I realized that I’d gotten to experience 5 minutes and 22 seconds of sonic bliss, where I didn’t want to change a single thing.