Wednesday, December 5, 2018

my 18 favorite songs of 2018

it was a less fruitful year than most for me, musically, but there were still plenty of gems to be found. let's get right to it!

playlist for your listening pleasure HERE.

honorable mention:

the brian jonestown massacre - "who dreams of cats?"
ariana grande - "no tears left to cry"
deeper - "pink showers"

18. cherry glazerr - "juicy socks"

sorry, the title of this song is kind of weird and gross ... and so is the video, but i swear it's a really good tune! it's a simple little slice of lush, dreamy garage pop from singer clementine creevy and her ever-rotating cast of bandmates. it's funny, too: a lot of the comments i read about this song from longtime cherry glazerr fans expressed some disappointment in the new direction she was taking the music in, but i felt just the opposite. i was never super into anything i heard from them until this song!

17. khalid f/ normani - "love lies"

the power of a smooth r&b jam cannot be underestimated, and "love lies" puts me in a chill, happy place. khalid and normani (formerly of girl group fifth harmony) have such sexy vocal chemistry, and the bridge is as catchy as the chorus.

16. calpurnia - "greyhound"

no, your eyes are not deceiving you...that is indeed mike from stranger things, aka finn wolfhard. turns out that he has an indie band on the side that's pretty good! calpurnia's scout ep was produced by my boy cadien lake james from one of my favorite bands, twin peaks (and by "my boy," i mean i just have a weird crush on him and gleni and i refer to him as my "white trash boyfriend"). anywho, this sleepy, groovy song appears to be about someone whose partner either broke up with them or committed suicide, leaving them to go to a concert they planned to attend together by themselves. :( either way, a bit dark to be sure, but the instrumentals are lazy and light and i love the harmonies at the end. perfect for a long train or...erm, greyhound ride.

15. bass drum of death - "too high"

he's baaaack! while i was extremely wary of BDOD's new album just business after hearing the decidedly Not Good first single, "heavy," he fortunately returned to form for the rest of the record, adding just a bit more polish and doo-wop flair to his brand of garage rock. this song immediately stood out to me with its singalong quality, and the chorus just makes me want to do the pony (you know, the '60s dance).

14. teddy - "i was in a cult"

whoops! i definitely just wrote about this song like, two weeks ago and then realized it was probably going to end up on this list immediately after i posted it. so, i guess i'll just copy and paste what i said about it because i feel the same today:

i can't be the only one to remember the shaggy-haired, blue-eyed heartthrob teddy geiger, can i? his earnest acoustic tune, "for you i will (confidence)" was kind of a sleeper hit back in the mid-2000s, and he starred on the short-lived, ill-conceived, but mostly enjoyable show love monkey with tom cavanagh from ed.

fast forward 13 years, and he is now a she, who has apparently co-written mega-hit songs for the likes of shawn mendes, one direction, and 5 seconds of summer. one of her own recent tunes, released under the moniker teddy (i can't add the heart because blogger thinks it's HTML code), popped up on spotify and it is a certified BOP.

it has an undeniably catchy melody, there are shades of fuzzy garage/psych pop, and how about that little piano riff?! just makes me want to strut down the street.

addendum: seriously, i feel like i have to physically restrain myself from pretending i'm on a catwalk when i'm listening to it in public. and i didn't really notice it at first, but the vocal flourish at 2:07 gives me LIFE, honey.
13. tancred - "reviews"

this is the second time tancred (the solo project of jess abbott, formerly of now, now) has made my year-end list—"bed case" was on my 2016 list as well. "reviews" has a more subtle, decidedly darker vibe, and a pretty interesting melody that's somehow still really catchy as it takes all these twists and turns. i had the pleasure of attending a *~secret show~* by her and her band at the boston spotify office this past spring (probably because i had been listening to this song all day, errday), and i felt like i was in one of those "cool concert" scenes from a movie or tv show and it was extremely sweet. sounded great live, too!
12. 5 seconds of summer - "youngblood"

i swear to god, the first 20+ times i heard the beginning of this song on the radio, i was absolutely convinced it was ZAYN (which is another reason i love it, probably) and then when the beat kicked in, i was like "goddammit, tricked again!" i finally got it through my thick head a few months later and fully embraced the song and its true identity. between the groovy, shoulder-shimmying, finger-snapping "you push and you push and i'm pullin' awaaay" to the larger-than-life, foot-stomping chant of a chorus, there's so much to dig about this perfect, not-so-little pop song. btw, that's not the band in the video. they're australian. idea.

11. the voidz - "leave it in my dreams"

like a much dreamier (sorry) early strokes song, "leave it in my dreams" took a while to grow on me. but it wasn't long before its subtle sweetness and casual cool started to endear me to it and i craved it like my morning coffee. so...basically, also how i feel about julian casablancas.

10. eminem - "killshot"

never thought i'd see the day that i included a rap diss track on this list, but if everyone hadn't already agreed that em's the greatest rapper of all time, this confirmed it, despite his last few terrible albums. it does help to watch machine gun kelly's original diss video (which was surprisingly decent) for context. but when i first heard "killshot" without having listened to it, i was still blown away. i won't spoil any of the lines because it's so much more fun to listen to the sweet, slow burn of every jab and yell "yaaaaas." but i will say that the "man bun" line had me like:

and the "you dress better" one had me like:

9. gender roles - "about her"

i love me some bratty british indie rock, and gender roles came through this year with "about her," a crunchy little nugget with a headbanging earworm of a chorus. after the first time i heard it, i'm pretty sure i listened to it aboooout 50 times in 3 days, which is one of the most satisfying musical experiences ever, IMO. love the brit-as-fuck spoken-word breakdown. CRUSH IT UP AND PUT IT IN MY DRINK!

8. phantastic ferniture - "fuckin 'n' rollin'"

block your ears, children! if it weren't for the fact that the lyrics to the chorus are literally "fuckin' 'n' rollin, roll in the night/fuckin 'n' rollin'/just feels right" this laid-back, folksy song would be the LEAST likely to have such an explicit title by the mere sound of it. it’s gorgeous in the simplicity of the melody, the bassline is groovy as hell, and julia jacklin’s voice adds a layer of richness to the whole breezy affair. the video is so enjoyable to watch, too.

7.  donovan wolfington - "ways"

i wrote at length about these cats earlier in the year, and "ollie north" was on my 2015 list, so i've been loving d-wolf for quite a while. sadly, they broke up in the spring, but their final album waves is such an excellent goodbye note, and certainly one of my most-played this year. "ways" in particular encapsulates their sound perfectly, IMO: joyous, unabashed skate punk with dark undertones and unexpected layers and textures to it. the alternative put it really well, describing the beginning as "a gargantuan riff with the crunch of a dozen Nature Valley bars." totally, bruh.

6. kurt vile - "bassackwards"

"remember that time that neil young had a baby with tom petty and he was born with long scraggly hair and a sneer and a flannel? hi kurt." - some guy on youtube 😂

would it even be my favorite songs of the year list without an appearance by kurt vile?! while "loading zones" and "yeah bones" from his latest album, bottle it in, were in the running, i kept coming back to this languid, hazy, almost-10-minute trip that's not a second too long. "bassackwards" —and much of kurt's music, really—feels like big, long hugs from your favorite person, aimless solo drives where you pretend you're in a movie, good, cathartic cries, finding shapes in clouds, and the all of the beautiful, weird little moments that make life so lovely. kurt vile is the only person who can have a lyric like "i appreciate her to the utmost degree" and have it somehow sound like he's saying "whatever, maaaan."

5. greta van fleet - "brave new world"


man, it's a good thing i don't require bands to write a fucking thesis on their innovative compositions in order for me to like their music, because if i did, i'd miss out on some excellent tunes like this one. are greta van fleet currently derivative as hell? absolutely. do i care? not one damn bit. my criteria for enjoying music is the following: it makes me feel good when i listen to it, and...nope, that's it. it makes me feel good when i listen to it.

if they aren't your cup of tea, that's fine! but to dismiss them or worse, spew hate because they have the same "sound" as another—incredible!—group (who, may i remind you, isn't making music anymore) when 95% of indie bands sound alike is pure bullshit. i laugh so hard when i see critics referring to them as "precious," because TRULY, the only element of preciousness here is the fact that pretentious assholes are taking a super fun young rock band so seriously. like, it's not greta's problem that you'd prefer to quietly cry yourself to sleep while listening to neutral milk hotel every night than have a couple of beers and play air guitar. please calm down. it's only rock 'n roll, baby!

when i fell in love with this band just over a year ago ("edge of darkness" was my favorite song of 2017 and i stand by that assessment more now than ever), all i knew is that they were going to get really, really big—probably really, really fast. then, i saw them live in july. i've been to around 200 shows at this point in my life, and theirs was easily in my top three, ever. it was certainly the most fun i've ever had at a concert. the maturity, musicianship, energy, and charisma these guys play with at 19(!) and 22 years old is straight-up insane and i will not let a mumble-rap-loving journalist tell me otherwise, because i know what i saw, heard, and felt.

ANYWAY (shh, don't tell the haters!), this song—along with about half the songs on the new album—sounds absolutely nothing like zep. break out your lava lamp and get ready to stare at your favorite tapestry for five minutes, brothers and sisters. it's grungy, heavy, atmospheric, and rush-meets-neil young and crazy horse-meets-black sabbath-meets-the mars volta. more than anything, though, it's very greta van fleet. as a youtube commenter said, "the chorus sounds like you're a knight fighting a dragon on a cold night." fuck yes. also, i'm pleased to announce that i'm now pregnant as a result of that fuzz-pedal guitar solo and drums at the end.

admittedly, i preferred last year's double EP from the fires to anthem of the peaceful army, but it's a solid, highly enjoyable album with some true flashes of greatness like this one. i really look forward to seeing these young bucks continue to grow as musicians and hone their own sound, because they absolutely have what it takes to be legendary, and i'm not being hyperbolic. i'll proudly be going to new york to see them live again in may. think the dude from pitchfork will be there? ;)

p.s. if you're interested in joining the party and opening your ears and heart to GVF, i recommend you set aside 26 minutes, light somethin' up, and watch of my favorite activities these days, tbh.   
4. post animal - "gelatin mode"

in the second appearance from a band featuring a stranger things cast member (joe keery aka steve harrington played guitar on this record), we have post animal's swirly, psychedelic adventure, "gelatin mode." this track is part soulful '60s garage ditty, part sludgy '70s acid trip, part '80s video game soundtrack, and most importantly, a really good time. without a doubt, it's also one of the most creative and unique songs i heard this year. but see? that's the beauty of music, guys. you can enjoy a great (mostly derivative) song AND a great (mostly unique) song. both can be excellent! there's more than enough room for all of it in this big, wonderful world. thanks for coming to my ted talk.

3. anna burch - "tea-soaked letter"

hiiii, jangly '90s indie rock vibes! indeed, this song wouldn't be out of place at all on the soundtrack to singles, reality bites, or the clueless tv adaptation. anna's voice is like the best parts of juliana hatfield's and liz phair's all mixed together and baked into the perfect pie. also, i credit this video for inspiring the majority of my style this year.

2. flatbush zombies - "headstone"

i still can't believe that i accidentally discovered these guys at the boston calling music festival a couple years ago. this track—the first single from their album vacation in hell—is not only an absolute banger (that beat, tho!), but also a masterclass in old-school hip-hop. every single line of every single verse is a reference to those who came before FBZ, from biggie to slick rick, and it's all woven together flawlessly; i completely lost my shit at the bone thugs' "crossroads" and kanye's "jesus walks" nods. if you're as nerdy as i am, these dudes break down the references pretty thoroughly.

don't even get me started on the flows, y'all. erick, zombie juice, and meech all spit fire, as the kids say, and have their own distinct voice and vibe that makes the song so dynamic and interesting the whole way through. i'll give you a moment to laugh as you picture an extremely white girl rapping "put money over bitches on my headstone" as she drives through suburban boston.

1. soccer mommy - "your dog"

in 1969, iggy and the stooges were like, “i wanna be your dog” and in 2018, soccer mommy (aka sophie allison) is all “i don’t wanna be your fucking dog!” JK, i'm pretty sure that the former song has absolutely nothing to do with the latter, but it was my first thought. 

clean, the album on which this track appears, was also my favorite of the entire year. the whole thing is earnest, angsty, and bare-bones, really showcasing allison's excellent songcraft and understated-yet-powerful voice. my favorite time to listen to it has been driving around at night, because it evokes such a distinct mood. in "your dog," a haunting guitar riff sets the scene for pleas like "i'm not a prop for you to use/when you're lonely or confused/i want a love that lets me breathe/i've been choking on your leash." the lyrics are very of-the-moment, but also timeless, because…dudes. in many ways, it's a perfectly fitting closing track for 2018.

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