Our 25 Favorite Songs of 2018

Let’s listen with our hearts. Let’s read the Pitchfork and NPR and Rolling Stone lists but rely on what we love at the end of the day. Let’s remember that music is objectively beautiful in any genre and any way you define it. Let’s be inspired. Let’s make our own art, in any way we can. Let’s celebrate a year of beautiful things and ugly things and mundane things. Because we’re alive. We’re here. And music wouldn’t exist and be loved if we weren’t here.

 

Kath’s Top 12-

 

Worst Nites - Foster the People

Okay, when we’re talking about my favorite music of the year and Foster the People released something in that year, chances are that at least ONE song will end up on my list. I’ll admit that I’m a bit partial to this band; I’ve been following them like a lost puppy since their debut with Pumped Up Kicks in 2010. I actually wrote a paper last year about them. Nevertheless, Worst Nites was a standout for me not just because of how catchy it is, but because everything FTP writes tends to have some sort of social meaning. This was no exception. I can’t wait for more in 2019.

 

Sanctify - Years & Years

This band! THIS! Band! They released their second full album this year, and Sanctify was probably my favorite. I thought it was dance-able, bop-pable, but also it made me feel cool when I listened to it and that always helps. Years & Years should get more recognition.

 

Younger - The Hails

This song started further down in my list just because chronologically it was one of the last ones I loved this year. However, I really thought it needed to be closer to the top. The Hails is a new-ish but damn good alternative band that I think is going to go really far. This song in particular is chill but super. Duper. Cool. I’m going to use the word cool a lot in this article, I’m descriptive like that. They had another song come out recently in December called Stay. That one is worth a listen, too. Remember their name and remember to credit me when they become your new favorite band. :)

 

R.E.M. - Ariana Grande

How would I not mention Ariana in this? If we’re being honest, I was never a huge fan before this year. I thought she released some good pop songs but it was never the end-all-be-all for me. I thought Sweetener was an album that truly deserved every bit of attention it got. I think it's incredible that she went through a lot this year and came out so strong. Frankly, she’s a badass woman who does whatever she wants and doesn’t apologize for it. I love it. I also have to say that I picked this song in particular because of how incredibly beautiful it is. Seriously. Listen to this and tell me you don’t want to cry and dance at the same time.

 

One Point Perspective - Arctic Monkeys

I was surprised when AM released a new album this year, and I’ll be real: still haven’t listened to the whole thing. But this isn’t an article called “Our Favorite Albums of 2018!” I like this song and I’m allowed to like just this one song so far and still really like the band. When I first heard this song, I was a little confused. It was similar to what I’d heard from them, but it was weird. It was AWESOME. Alex Turner’s voice is so damn distinct that I think I could recognize it if he was using one of those filters that they have for people who want their interviews to remain anonymous. Another song that makes me feel cool while I listen.

 

Walking Away - St. Lucia

So. I started by talking about my bias towards Foster the People. I’m gonna continue the trend here. I think St. Lucia is actually brilliant, and that’s no exaggeration. If you go listen to their first album, When The Night, from start to finish, you’ll understand. They make masterpieces. They released their third album, Hyperion, in September and I was not disappointed. Every song they put out has so many LAYERS that I think it would be impossible to dissect every part of it if you tried. I will always love this band. They can do no wrong. Walking Away was my favorite, but there wasn’t a dud on the record.

 

Phone - Louis Cole

I had never heard of Louis Cole before this year. Have you? He’s been on my list of people to write about for months but I haven’t gotten around to it. You should listen to Louis Cole, and here’s why. He’s a cool dude. His music is cool. It’s different than anything I’ve heard, so I can’t really compare him to anyone. The chords to his songs make me feel at peace, the words are funny and insightful and relevant to real life. There are little riffs in all of them that just give me shivers. I think Phone is the most shiver-inducing song of them all. You should listen to this in a dark room with just the glow of your device and wait for the feelings to be felt.

 

Me and Michael - MGMT

MGMT, aka the great indie-electronica band of middle school! I was sort of wondering what happened to them. I thought this song was just *kisses fingertips like an Italian*. It made me feel like I was in a fun and romantic montage (this is sad considering my bleak relationship status right now) where I was driving around in a vintage convertible, getting ice cream, and getting pushed down the slide at the park I went to when I was a kid. It’s fun! I don’t know if it means anything but, fuck, do I really need to fucking Google the meaning of every song I put on here?

 

Love It If We Made It - The 1975

I’ve already written about this song. Y’all know I love The 1975. Politics, emotions, amazing songwriting. “Thank you, Kanye, very cool!”

 

Hangout at the Gallows - Father John Misty

I finally understand all the talk about Father John Misty!! I’m so proud of me. It only took me until October to discover the depressing-folk-magic that is Father John Misty. My favorite song of his is actually Real Love Baby, but that was not released in 2018 even though I only found it in 2018. :( His music is kind of sad if you listen really hard but I consider it very, very good studying music.

 

LA Girls - Charlie Puth

Chaaaarrlliiiieeeeee why did you have to go and make such a cool song!!!!!! (I told you I’d say cool a lot.) This is so cooooooooooool. Also why is his voice so much higher than mine? The lyrics to this are sad and I like to imagine a very specific person singing them to me. He knows who he is! But he doesn’t read my articles so I don’t know why I’m calling him out like this!

 

Sincerity is Scary - The 1975

Is it lame to end with this song when I’m just gonna link you to that article I wrote last week about The 1975 again? Go read my article. I like The 1975.

 

Kait’s Top 13-

 

This is America- Childish Gambino

Remember that one weekend in May when Donald Glover hosted SNL and then released “This Is America” and we collectively acknowledged his genius and collectively reflected that artists who have something to say aren’t restricted in how they can say it? Best weekend of 2018. Full stop.

 

I didn’t think music videos were that important anymore. I was incorrect. They are. And they’re political and cinematic and ART, DAMMIT. Just when you feel like nothing is capable of shocking you, Donald Glover pulls a machine gun on a church choir singing the refrain in HIS OWN SONG.

 

Still, “This Is America” stood on its own just as well. I wanted so badly to dance to it, but I was unsure what the cultural implications would have been. Rap songs are very good at making me acutely aware of my whiteness. This, especially so. In a different way. In an important way. I wish I could talk about this in a more nuanced way. But I love the song.

 

Nobody- Mitski

If you’ve been following my music writing at all (if so, God bless you), you’ll understand this comparison: Be the Cowboy by Mitski is this year’s Melodrama by Lorde. It’s a perfect album and picking a single song from it to consider the best is torture and nobody should have to do it. So I’ll go against my contrarian nature and pick the single.

 

There’s a reason, though. And it’s the key change/segue into disco near the end. I mean, the whole rest of the song is infectiously catchy and dreary and melodically zig-zagging and showtunesy and perfect. I love the way Mitski paints these melodramatic narratives, acknowledges how playfully intense it is, then still rationalizes them without being condescending. Yeah! I’m lonely! It feels horrible! Let’s dance!

 

Night Shift- Lucy Dacus

I’m gonna be real with you- I only discovered this song last week. But it’s, since then, destroyed me. Far too real. The breakup jam that doesn’t wallow, doesn’t force you out of your rut, doesn’t pretend that what you’re feeling isn’t legitimate, but doesn’t make sense of it either. It’s six minutes long and cannot afford to be any shorter, lest you lose a strum or vamp or pulsation. And as sad as it’s made me (or rather, emphasized within me), I’m left with an anthem of hope: “In five years I hope the songs feel like covers/ dedicated to new lovers.”

 

King’s Dead- Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake

2018 has been so. Long. Can you believe Black Panther came out THIS YEAR? Can you believe that I listened to the Black Panther soundtrack in my house alone while making a pot of Kraft Three Cheese Shells THIS YEAR? Anyway. This is the best song from it. It’s the Killmonger song, so of course it is! The flow is uncomfortable to listen to in the best way. And it’s a great year for 2-in-1 rap songs (what’s good, Travis Scott?). Kendrick Lamar makes me feel smarter and more nuanced for having listened to him, no matter what it is. So thanks, Mr. Pulitzer Prize.

 

Pristine- Snail Mail

Good eye! This song, along with the Mitski one, was on Kait’s Back to School Playlist of Death! Well I’m gonna write about it again, because it’s THAT good. Why are women trained to feel so inferior to the person we’re crushing on? Why is our default to crouch into a corner and hate ourselves the second we like someone in fear we aren’t good enough for them? If it was so Lindsey Jordan could write the ultra-relatable line “if you do find someone better, I’ll still see you in everything/ for always, tomorrow, all the time” I’m okay with it.

 

Black Car- Beach House

Beach House was my number one Spotify artist of 2018! It’s because I love listening to Victoria Legrande’s smoky voice (layered a couple times in this song) over their serene, hazy beats while I study. Their 2018 album 7 took me a few listens to get into, but it’s so dark and moody in all the right ways. Especially “Black Car.” I feel like I’m carrying out a secret nighttime mission and I smell like lavender. I love a good Beach House refrain consisting exclusively of the syllable “ha,” and if you understood and liked that joke I’d love to pick your brain over appetizers sometime.

 

Finally Floating- Hinds

Okay it’s no secret by now that I love women with guitars because I WANT TO BE THEM ALL SO BADLY. A subset of this devotion I’d discovered this year is Hinds, four Spanish ladies who are the sonic equivalent of dicking around with your girl squad. Fuzzy guitars, peppy drum beats, singers Ana Perrote and Carlotta Cosials talking over each other and then together. (The way they round out and distort their vowels, especially in this song and on the word “useless”, makes me SO happy.) Just TRY not to strut while you’re walking to class with this in your headphones. I tested it out for you. You can’t.

 

Your Dog- Soccer Mommy

Even MORE twentysomething women with guitars? BIG FREAKIN’ SURPRISE! Adding to the canon of “Bands I Started Listening to Because They Had the Word ‘Mom’ in the Title,” Soccer Mommy also happened to create one of the most gorg and honest confessional albums I’ve ever listened to. This song perfectly describes knowing that your boo isn’t treating you right, but being into them enough to not want to leave. We’ve all been there. Sophie Allison gets it. “I want a love that lets me breathe/ I’ve been choking on your leash.” Here’s to 2019, where we’ll maybe find a love that lets us breathe.

 

Me & My Dog- boygenius

“So wait, two of your favorite songs of 2018 have the word ‘dog’ in it?” Yeah. AND two of them have Lucy Dacus contributions. She, along with Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker, formed the supergroup boygenius and released a delightfully dreary six-song EP that I bought on vinyl after constant repeat listens for five days. This song is grounded and ethereal, concrete and versatile. It’s the unhealthy behaviors you pick up when you’re falling in love- “We had a great day/ except we forgot to eat;”“I didn’t wanna be this guy/ I cried at your show with the teenagers’- and then turns into either heartbreak or resistance- “I wanna be emaciated/I wanna hear one song without thinking of you.”

 

It’s got gorgeous harmonies and high points and it’s made me cry in public SEVERAL times so if you see me looking all blotchy-faced please know I’ll be fine. (Still give me that hug, though.)

 

The Joke- Brandi Carlile

Speaking of songs that make me cry in public…

 

It’s the country-flavored ballad that says “screw you” to gender roles that you never knew you needed. (Maybe if you grew up in a town as small as mine you knew you needed it.) We got some sincere violins and acoustic guitar, and Brandi Carlile’s voice is effortlessly emotional, soaring to great heights and plunging to evocative depths. I want Brandi Carlile to be my mom. Can Brandi Carlile be my mom? Please? (Actual mom, I love you, but you can share.)

 

Tints- Anderson .Paak ft. Kendrick Lamar

Surprise! Sometimes instead of crying I also like to dance. And nobody motivated me to dance this year quite like Anderson .Paak. (Peep that stylization.) Pure luscious, funky fun. This song has me feeling like the world felt when we heard “Uptown Funk” for the first time a few years ago, before all of the commercial lacquer melted onto it. There’s a bassline that practically slinks across the song’s interstate like a rubber tire. It sounds like bright colors and sunshine. It just feels GOOD, dammit. We deserve to feel good.

 

Like Gold- Vance Joy

In December 2017, I saw Vance Joy in concert. In May 2018, I saw Vance Joy in concert AGAIN. He and his 2018 release Nation of Two are both so delightful (and overlooked!) that I couldn’t not put a song on this list. Of this whole warm and fuzzy album (that I put almost all of on a Spotify playlist called “My Life is So Cute Right Now”), my favorite has to be this unexpectedly good-natured song that happily looks back on a former relationship. I loved “Like Gold” when I thought it was a love song, but I love it even more now that I know it’s an olive branch to an ex. Truly gentle and healing.

 

Body- Estrons

Let’s talk sneering and belting and screaming into the oblivion until the pain goes away. Let’s talk self-confidence in the purest way. Let’s talk Estrons.

 

You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough is a sonic energy drink. It succeeds in a way that other self-motivation techniques have failed me. The lyrics to “Body” sound at first like the singer is expressing raw sexual desire, but closer listening reveals a motivation to be better than some dude who’s set a standard for what he can do and she can’t. She’s motivated to go faster, be better. “Whatever you do is overrated/ I’m not intimidated/ ‘Cause I can do that like that only better.”

 

This is how I want to go into 2019. Let me do what you do, only better. I have the strength now.