Yeah, yeah. We say it each and every year, but 2018 was a real treat in terms of musical output. So to replace our weekly New Music Friday roundup, what better time to recap the best tracks of the year as we're nearing its end.
Again, our indecisive selves here at Festicket couldn't rank our favourite tracks so simply curated a marvellous 100-song playlist for your listening pleasure, with a few musings on a selection of those included.
Whether or not you need a soundtrack to help reminisce about your momentous occasions over the past year, or are lacking inspiration for a New Year's Eve playlist, just make sure to enjoy the fruits of 2018.
Roll on 2019.
Janelle Monae - 'I Like That'
Dirty Computerseemingly ‘won’ the album of the year prize as far as year-end lists are concerned, indicating it’s been a good year for Janelle Monae. But ‘I Like That’ was definitely the standout track, with Monae embracing her eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, and looking back on times in her life she was made to feel weird for being who she was – “but even back then with the tears in my eyes I always knew I was the shit”. All of this over a gloriously joyful, gospel-inspired groove. JK
Viagra Boys - ‘Sports’
With lyrical self-deprecation and drawling delivery seeing them draw comparisons with the likes of Ian Dury and Nick Cave, Viagra Boys’ ‘Sports’ became an office staple during many a ping-pong rally throughout the year. The Swedish tracksuit-clad punks juxtapose a list of popular sports with the finer things in life; drinking, smoking, and general daily debauchery. Throw in some saxophone over a metronomic drum-beat, and you’ve got a splendid sporting anthem for the goons and geeks.
Remember, it’s not the winning that counts it’s taking part. If that’s the case, beers all around. TC
Washed Out – 'Face Up'
2017 saw the return of Ernest Green aka Washed Out and a marked shift from the blissed-out chillwave his project had long become synonymous with, to a fragmented patchwork of samples.
Though still highly atmospheric and full of groove in true Washed Out style, each song on the audio-visual album Mister Mellow (released on the revered Los Angeles label Stones Throw) seemed to serve a purpose of forming a cohesive, albeit colourful, whole.
Accordingly, when Greene surprisingly dropped ‘Face Up’ back in April as part of Adult Swim’s Singles Series, it was like being hit by a gushing pocket of nostalgia as he returned to the emotional and hazy electronic pop of previous years.
“All in all”, Greene sings with sparse, breathy harmonies backing him, “the moments lost / All we need to do is break it off”. The song captures the decisive moment of taking control of an unhealthy situation, and amongst the emotion that somehow seems to hang in the air finally comes the rhythmic push needed to face up and take control. JB
Drake – ‘Nice For What’
In 2018, Drake released arguably his most underwhelming album to date with the bloated Scorpion. He also found himself on the receiving end of one of the most savage diss-tracks in recent memory courtesy of Pusha T. And yet, amongst all this, the 6 God still managed to come thru with one of the singles of the year (not to mention ‘God’s Plan’ and ‘In My Feelings’).
‘Nice For What’ was my most played song this year, in fact, there was one particular day on which I don’t think I listened to anything else. And yet I can still hear that Big Freedia feature, sped up Lauryn Hill sample, and New Orleans bounce influenced instrumental and be as captivated as I was back in April when it was released. JK
Amyl and the Sniffers – ‘I’m Not A Loser’
Though technically a re-issue from their first EP, nothing exemplifies the raw, snarling energy of a burgeoning Australian pub-punk scene that champions the less demure facets of modern life, let’s say. Almost too self-aware to be truly authentic, however, Amyl and the Sniffers wear their white-trash roots on their beer-stained sleeves, donning mullets and silver knee-high boots with unwavering pride.
Belting out three-chord riffs that’d make their Australian lineage proud, ‘I’m Not A Loser’ is a catchy, satirical, and spiky anthem that exemplifies the Aussie’s knack of merging riotous guitars with a sharp sense of humour. Ripsnorting good lark. TC
Peggy Gou – ‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’
It would be a bit of stretch to say that 2018 belonged to Peggy Gou, but it was, without doubt, a breakthrough year for the Korean DJ and producer – and it was the release of ‘Itgehane’ at the end of January that set the tone for the months ahead.
Despite its release date, it still managed to be one of the tracks that soundtracked the summer, with its infectiously simple melody, groove and understated vocals coming courtesy of its creator. And it still sounds as good now as it did then. JK
Grimes – 'We Appreciate Power' (ft. HANA)
An unconventional, at times absurd, yet highly infectious pop-metal return for Grimes aka Claire Boucher. There was a decidedly early-noughties aura about the track; a flickering of discordant nu-metal riffs accentuate Grimes’ celestial and cherubic vocal atop the industrially solid beat. Oddly, both Trent Reznor’s and Enya’s influence was apparent.
Touring buddy HANA shares vocal duties throughout, placing more emphasis on Boucher’s production prowess - throughout the recording of Art Angels, Boucher readily disassociated herself from on the ‘pop-star’ facade of Grimes acknowledging her strength lies in the studio rather than centre-stage. Yet it’s Grimes’ personality that gives the composition its unashamed uniqueness.
‘We Appreciate Power’ works as both an anthem for female empowerment (“Elevate the human race, putting makeup on my face”), whilst exhibiting Boucher’s adoration for crafting fictitious environments that enable her personas to flourish; think an amalgamation of cyber-punk/vampirical/’Tank Girl’/Manga-style rebels overthrowing a dystopian patriarchal reign. Trademark Grimes. TC
Skinshape – ‘I Didn’t Know’
Will Dorey may have once been better known for his role in the reflective and sparkly indie of London band Palace, but over the past few years after leaving the group has retreated to his own studio to make his own records as Skinshape. Though criminally under-appreciated, Dorey has always seemed content regardless, a quality that hangs in the dreamy and spacious atmosphere of his recordings, not least on ‘I Didn’t Know’ from fourth album Filoxiny, released back in November. Recorded to tape, there is a warm honesty to the production that’s gently immersive, like lying on your back in water and, as the song’s three and a half minutes pass, floating gently downstream. JB
ELIZA – ‘Alone & Unafraid’
The artist formerly known as Eliza Doolittle has traded in the twee and charing indie-pop of a few years back for a new smooth, soulful, and sensual sound. And with ‘Alone & Unafraid’ she released not just the best song of her career to date, but comfortably one of the most infectious singles that 2018 had to offer. JK
Disclosure – ‘Ultimatum’ (ft. Fatoumata Diawara)
Though their 2015 sophomore Caracal just about proved its weight with a couple of bangers, it looked as though Disclosure were just about squeezing the last drops of their characteristic deep-house/pop dry, their formula already saturated in spite of the bigger and bigger names making a cameo beside them.
It was with a breath of relief then when, after a healthy period of quiet and rest, Brothers Lawrence came back on the scene with ‘Ultimatum’, an offbeat house banger, the kind of music the pair cut their teeth to, and earned popularity with proving again how well they can do it, tastefully sampling the powerful vocals of Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara.
Soon followed by a string of equally engaging sample-based tracks, ‘Ultimatum’ revealed that Disclosure have saved themselves from saturation, just in time for their awaited 2019 return. JB