We thought we’d do this as a podcast, but instead we’re doing this as posts to buy us more time to work on our other top 10 lists. I get to go first because it was my idea to stall for more time, and because I’m the only one who’s still on holiday now that we’ve finished our sprint into 2019. So… last year had plenty of good songs, more than the 15 I’ve listed below, which you know is true because there are artists whose albums I put on my top 10 list who don’t show up here. Check it!
Against All Logic – “This Old House is All I Have”
Beach House – “Dive” (this music video is a trip)
Let’s Eat Grandma – “Falling into Me”
MGMT – “When You Die”
Neko Case – “Last Lion of Albion”
Anna Calvi’s awesome Hunter hits its peak fairly early, with its stellar third track “Don’t Beat the Girl out of My Boy.” The whole album is about gender and sex and sexuality, as was the way of music in 2018, but I especially appreciated this straightforward message about toxic masculinity. Plus it totally slaps like a Eighties power ballad and has some truly top notch yelling at the end, because Anna Calvi is fuckin’ tough.
I feel like “Salt in the Wound” is the boygenius song that gets the closest to my platonic ideal for the super group. It’s also the best part of their live set. Lucy Dacus takes the lead vocals, which just feels right to me for some reason, and Phoebe Bridgers absolutely belts her harmonies – I swear she would get like eight feet away from her microphone. Julien Baker also sings a verse but more importantly rips out a solo on guitar at the end that, at the show, Lucy and Phoebe were so blown away by they literally got on their knees on bowed to Julien’s power.
Soccer Mommy seemed like a bigger deal than year end lists ended up showing, which is a shame because that album came out in March and never went away for me. “Cool” is about idealizing someone who is really, well, cool, and wanting to be like them. It’s a cool song about wanting to be cool, like “Tribute” by Tenacious D is a great song about the greatest song in the world. Also I think the part where it gets pitched down or whatever at the end is extremely stylish.
Shannon & The Clams begins Onion by letting guitarist Cody Blanchard take the lead on a song that seems to literally be about having the girl beaten out of my boy. Huh, that similarity never occurred to me until I started writing this. Anyway, Shannon Shaw does a lot in her role as backup vocals, and the whole song is very much in line with the band’s psychedelic-surf retro-modern sound. It’s a tricky thing to pull off, but they really nail it here. I can’t even count the number of times I caught myself singing this chorus to myself over the past year.
The Vaccines may have released Combat Sports at the end of March, and “Out On the Street” may explicitly reference it being the winter, but make no mistake, this is the number one summer jam of 2018. Buried pretty late on the album, nonetheless this is a track that everyone in the world must know. I’m serious, “Out On the Street” should have dominated the airwaves everywhere anytime it was above 70 degrees all of last year. It’s all about trying to hook up, it’s got a driving guitar the pulls you right through it, it’s less than three minutes long – what more do you want?
I made a lot of last year about exploring my interest in dream pop, and “Letting Go” ended up being one of my favorite songs in the genre, period. Most of the time I just want to listen to chill music, and what could be more chill than those echoey guitars and that driving bass? Plus, I appreciate the ambiguity of the chorus – letting go could either be about releasing your inhibitions (optimists) or saying goodbye (pessimists) – something even someone with my limited lyrical literacy could pick up on.
Mitski is so great at depicting the illogical nature of emotions. “Nobody” is a song about loneliness and inadequacy, but also about how when you’re really submerged in those feelings how hard it can be on you and the people around you to get back out. At times like that, maybe all you can do is dance?
I really wanted to love Hop Along and Bark Your Head Off, Dog finally gave me a conduit for my admiration. “One That Suits Me” is a song about WWI, I guess about destruction and also the old and powerful disrespecting the young. The key lyric is the one that gets repeated: “of course I am for peace / one that suits me.” And that’s the whole deal, isn’t it? They will tell us they want what we want, but really they’re only interested in their own devious bullshit. Damn.
Another super dream poppy entry on my list, Jenn Wasner seems to really play up the “dream” angle on “You of All People” by singing about confusion, mistakes, and brain chemistry. But mostly its the lovely oh oh ohs and glistening instrumentation that makes me happy. I would go as far as to call this, and I’ll remind you this is just my opinion and in no way said with any sort of authority, the most beautiful song of 2018.
“This Is America” debuted on SNL, but the music video that came out the same night is what made the song for me. I just want to focus on one aspect: the opening shot. The camera moves in past the guitar man to Childish Gambino dancing, who makes his way up to the guitar man and then murders him with a gun. There are no visible cuts and the first time we see Gambino, he has his back to us. But when he gets to guitar man, he pulls his gun out of his waistband. How’d they do that? If there was a cut, where was it? Was the gun CG? That’s some magic shit.