Top Songs of 2018

Indy Review Top Songs 2018 Art

As the music industry continues to evolve into the streaming industry, the shelf life of songs seems to be dwindling, as access to new music and playlists is only a click away. In this age, a song has to truly be exceptional to stand-out and have a lasting impact. These are the songs that got stuck in our heads for days after, the ones that brought us joy or nearly moved us to tears, the ones that sounded refreshingly original or exceptionally timeless.

Below are our favorite songs we heard this year.

Top Fifty Songs of 2018 (Bo):

Of the thousands of songs I heard in 2018, about one hundred and fifty managed to shine brightly enough to be worth considering. From these, I once again went through the difficult process of pairing that list down to the fifty best of the best.

Like all lists of its kind, it’s purely subjective and there are likely hundreds of other songs I missed that I look forward to discovering as similar lists hit the internet. For now, below are my favorite songs of 2018 (and a few that came out LATE 2017 so are included here).

1. Dan ManganFool for Waiting

Released towards the beginning of 2018 as the first single from Dan Mangan‘s album More or Less, “Fool for Waiting” is at once gorgeous and heart-wrenching. Though stripped down to little more than piano, guitar, and Mangan’s deeply resonant vocals, this song struck a chord on multiple levels after just one listen. It’s a love song for anyone who’s a bit crazy, while also endearingly showing the craziness of love. As Mangan pleads “If you try to be with me, I will try to get by. Some say I’m a fool for waiting, they don’t know this fool doesn’t mind” it’s impossible to not relate (I certainly can in very specific ways). While it’s been a while since a ballad like this took top honors, there simply has not been another song this year that was as moving and pure.

2. Dessa5 Out of 6

Dessa is a true multi-talent; a singer, rapper, composer, and songwriter able to balance aggressive rhymes with engaging melodies. “5 Out of 6” captures everything that Dessa does well as an artist. The verses have bite, while the melodic chorus is dark and empowering. As she sings “I’m the phoenix and the ash”, you’ll feel prickles down your spine as you raise your hands in the air, entranced by the waves of rhythm Dessa‘s hypnotic delivery. The song is more proof that Dessa is one of the most underrated artists  working today.

3. EditorsMagazine

When they first started, Editors received numerous comparisons to goth rock groups like Interpol, but never fairly. The British band traversed similar dark roads in its music, but with incredible amounts of emotion and soul, able to break a heart or send your spirits to heaven through bombastic, U2-style melodies. This soul runs through the veins of “Magazines”. The track disarms with its pedantically paced lines, teasing nefarious breadcrumbs like “I got a little secret for you, it’s in a magazine”, before turning into a booming political rally cry, “Now talk the loudest, with a clenched fist”. Digging at the pompous, fascist-leaning leaders in power, the track manages to not let the pointed lyrics overpower the club-ready rhythm, finding a perfect balance that is one of the group’s best songs in years.

4. Brian FallonWatson

Best known as the lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem, Brian Fallon is continuing to solidify himself as an incredible solo artist. With his second album, Sleepwalker, Fallon filters his romantic trials and fears of death and loneliness through poetic lyrics and elevated metaphors, no better than on “Watson”. The romantic ballad finds Fallon longing for a woman he meets in London, unsure of how a relationship will work, but struggling with the fear of not taking the chance on her. Comparing his fears of losing her to England’s famous detective duo trying to track down “the one that got away”, the song builds to a cathartic denouement, filled with mournful slide guitars that would make Tom Petty weep. Is pure heart-on-your-sleeve Jersey songwriting in the best possible way.

5. The VaccinesI Can’t Quit

British rockers The Vaccines came back in a big way this year with their best album in years, and an irresistible lead single that was made for shouting along while jumping on a club floor. It’s the kind of rock song that could have been a huge hit in any of the last three decades, filled with timeless, pogoing melodies and the perfect “fuck all” delivery that UK rockers do so well.

6. U2Red Flag Day

Coming back with their best album since All That You Can’t Leave Behind, the veteran Irish rockers managed to sound reinvigorated and relevant throughout Songs of Experience, but nowhere more than on “Red Flag Day”. Reminiscent of classics like “New Years Day”, the song finds the Edge shaking and swerving with angular guitar spikes that play off Adam Clayton’s funky bass lines, until Bono swoons out with subtly melancholy chorus that smartly reigns in some of U2‘s normal pomp to make the track a dangerously sharp, solid modern rocker.

7. Bedouin Soundclash – Salt-Water

After a long hiatus, Canadian trio Bedouin Soundclash made a triumphant return this year, releasing six singles over the course of the year, all of which were incredibly eclectic, original and memorable, but the strongest had to be the Preservation Hall Jazz Band-assisted first single “Salt-Water”. Melding various influences, from New Orleans brass to island calypso, the group created a song that manages to be warm and haunting, bubbly and poignant. I’m all the more excited for 2019 knowing that there are more songs to come from the group.

8. The InterruptersShe’s Kerosene

The Interrupters did what many thought was impossible – they brought ska back! Aimee and the Bivonas took North America by storm with their positive and unifying brand of ska punk, and earned a very well-deserved radio hit with the infectious first single. While it was difficult to decide between this track and the incredible “Gave You Everything”, the sharp and clever lyrics (“I’m a match, and she’s kerosene. You know she’s gonna burn down everything”) helped “She’s Kerosene” edge out its placement on the list.

9. The CoupHey Saturday Night (feat. Tune-Yards)

For the soundtrack to Boots Riley’s first feature film, Sorry to Bother You, Boots and his group The Coup teamed up with the ever-eclectic Tune-Yards to create a soundtrack that is as crazy, quirky and awesome as the film itself. Of all the great tunes on the album, the highlight has to be the handclap-happy “Hey Saturday Night”. An excitably upbeat, good-time party song from the generally socially and politically minded rap group, the song still manages to be as smart as it is catchy, with Boots spitting rhymes like “Entice us with the future, say our destiny’s a shopping mall, but we gon’ be the looters”.

10. Janelle Monáe – Django Jane

While her incredible album Dirty Computer shows off Janelle Monáe as the true heir to Prince, the second single from the diverse album, “Django Jane” stays true to Monáe’s hip hop roots without forgetting the black female empowerment message she exalts on the album. “And we gonna start a motherfuckin’ pussy riot, or we gon have to put ’em on a pussy diet” may have been a more effective campaign slogan for Hillary than the one she used to rally more women to her cause. Monáe remains an incredible writer and trailblazer, both in her music and her voice.

11. Dashboard ConfessionalWe Fight

Emo favorite refinds his inner stadium-rocker with this uplifting anthem.

12. Vance JoySaturday Sun

A perfect piece of summer acoustic pop from the Australian hit maker.

13. The FratellisStarcrossed Losers

The Scottish rockers’ very catchy ode to Shakespearian lovers

14. Jukebox the GhostJumpstarted

Queen couldn’t have done this multi-part stadium rock composition any better.

15. Alan SilvestriEven for You

A powerful and moving piece from the excellent Avengers: Infinity War score.

16. Frank TurnerBlackout

Turner turns in his most full-realized rock song yet that perfectly hits both political and personal notes.

17. A Perfect CircleSo Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

A surprisingly touching farewell to some of the famous lights lost.

18. Better Than EzraGrateful

An unabashedly feel-good slice of pop rock from the 90’s hitmakers.

19. The ParrotsSoy Peor (Bad Bunny cover)

A garage rock cover of the Latin trap song that is so much better than the original it became the only cover to make this list.

20. Nathan GrayAs the Waves Crash Down

Passionate acoustic punk from the lead singer of BoySetsFire.

21. Skizzy MarsAmerican Dream

Mars turns a screed about the economic disadvantages facing young black men in America into an insightful banger.

22. Gin BlossomsBreak

The classic 90’s rockers returned with a new single that slowly dug it’s way into my consciousness with a simple but extremely effective hook.

23. Ben HowardNica Libres at Dusk

A sparse but hauntingly beautiful track from Howard’s excellent new album.

24. 88risingMidsummer Madness

The embodiment of a summer jam, the Asian rapper collective kill it on this hazy addictive opus.

25. Dirty ProjectorsThat’s a Lifestyle

Quirky afropop-influenced indie rock with an undeniably memorable chorus.

26. Lord HuronAncient Names (Part 1)

Folk rockers return with a hints of psychedelia added to their sound.

27. Tony MolinaJasper’s Theme

A short and sweet Byrds-esque tune.

28. Amy SharkThe Idiot

Recalls classic Alanis Morissette in her perfect cadence and delivery. Gets stuck in your head too easily.

29. PassengersSurvivors

Hummable and evocative  with true emotional desperation.

30. GorillazHumility (feat. George Benson)

One of the most breezy and summer tunes to ever come from this animated band.

31. Plan BGuess Again

A British rap/dancehall banger, pure and simple.

32. Marshmello X BastilleHappier

One of the year’s biggest songs, and deservedly so. Melancholy, heart-felt lyrics meld with  club-ready production for an anthem to all those who care more for those they love than themselves.

33. KokorokoAbusey Junction

Jazz meets afrobeat for a moody, beautiful instrumental.

34. MuseSomething Human

A surprisingly warm acoustic song about longing to return home from the road that hits the right emotional notes.

35. Family of the YearLet Her Go

Family of the Year manage to infuse pristine melancholy into their Laurel Canyon folk rock.

36. P.O.S.Catch a Vibe (feat. Zamora)

A chill summer rap gem from an up-and-comer (note: this is a different rapper than the one on the Doomtree label)

37. Spanish Love SongsAloha to No One

Angsty punk band writes a perfect, self-effacing acoustic song about wanting to be better even if you’ll never be your best self.

38. ImarhanTumast

This Algerian desert rock group bring insane guitar riffage that would make Muse jealous.

39. EminemLike Home (feat. Alicia Keys)

Eminem eviscerates Trump while lauding what makes our country great.

40. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness Ohio

McMahon takes us on a nostalgic journey that is both sad but hopeful as a family leaves Ohio in hopes of finding a fresh start.

41. Peter Bjorn and JohnGut Feeling

The Swedish trio comes back with their catchiest single since “Young Folks”, and don’t even need a whistle solo to sell it.

42. Alice MertonHit the Ground Running

New artist Merton writes an empowering song that will be on running playlists for decades to come.

43. The English BeatIf Killing Worked

Political indictments of war and brutality have never sounded so sugary sweet as this soulful ska song.

44. Ball Park MusicThe Perfect Life Does Not Exist

Australian band Ball Park Music help keep us grounded with this ode to accepting the world we have.

45. Tar & FlowersThis Machine

A thoughtful folk song that summons the living spirit of Bob Dylan in its eloquence and elevated writing.

46. ElohimFuck Your Money

One of the year’s best dirty pop songs with an eternally relevant message.

47. InterpolThe Rover

Interpol return with a straight-up post-apocalyptic rocker that make guitars sound necessary again.

48. BarbarossaDon’t Enter Fear

Gorgeous harmonies give an ethereal quality to this somber piece of indie pop.

49. The Mighty Mighty BosstonesWonderful Day for the Race

Boston ska heroes return with a horn-filled, uplifting ode to the best of humanity.

50. Rare AmericansCats, Dogs & Rats

A rabble-rousing, scuzzy punk singalong with an irresistible chorus.

While not all songs can make the Top 50, at the bottom of the page is a Best of the Rest list of songs that are all great and worth taking the time to listen to. Find the complete playlist with the Top 50 and Best of the Rest here or at the bottom of the page.


 

TOP 10 SONGS OF 2018 (Jerrod)

1. Fucked Up – Raise Your Voice Joyce

Grimy lead vocals backed up by a clean chorus makes this punk song one of the best of the year.

2. Ovlov – Stick

Stylish and subdued. Like a waking beast there’s ferocity just on the edge of the scene.

3. Charlie Lane – The Darkest Time

The lyrics “God I hate Mondays” in peppy indie gets you going everyday.

4. D.C.R. Pollack – Cold Tub (Hot Garage Demo)/ Hank Williams

Dripping in pathos. It’ll give you chills./ Sexy horns and an R&B beat evolving into a jazzy ending. Cool.

5. Grandaddy – Bison on the Plains

Beautiful, soft, understated, understanding, intimate.

6. Owen Duff – Nobody Loves a Tortured Soul

Hey, you’re sad and tortured but so are so many! So enjoy the company. Sesame Street meets Ben Folds. Fun good times talking about lonliness!

7. Meshy Meshy – Need Some Lovin’

Sure, it’s simple, repetitive and mundane. But I like it dammit. Check out “Desire” if you want a bit more.

8. Midnight Peacemaker – Manticore

A love song about a lion with a scorpion tale and happy little synth plunking.

9. Cloud Nothings – Echo of the World

Saw ’em live at the Casbah. Was a wall of reverb and guitar and was an awesome show. Ears still ringing. This ditty shows some range.

10. Drugchurch – Avoidarama

There’s an echo of Fugazi here on this slower song that has a radio friendly feel


As discussed above, below please find some of the other fantastic songs from this year that didn’t make the Top 50.

BEST OF THE REST (in alphabetical order) (Bo):

Adam Sandler – Farley

Albert Hammond Jr. – Far Away Truths

American Aquarium – Tough Folks

Anamon – Iron Bill

Bear Hands – Back Seat Driver (Spirit Guide)

Big Red Machine – Gratitude

Bob Schneider – Blood and Bones

Big Mother Gig – Alvarado

Blue October – How to Dance in Time

Boygenius – Me & My Dog

Chance the Rapper – Work Out

Charlie Fink – My Heartbeat Lost Its Rhythm

Childish Gambino – Feels Like Summer

Chris Cornell – When Bad Does Good

Cloud Nothings – Offer an End

Cornershop – Double Denim

CHVRCHES – Get Out

Damien Jurado – Over Rainbows and Rainier

Dan Romer – Annie and Owen

Dave Matthews Band – Idea of You

Deer Tick – Hey! Yeah!

Descendents – Who We Are

Dude York – What Would You Do If You Had Some Money Now?

ELEL – Tequila

Fall Out Boy – Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)

Fat Tony – Got it Out the Mud

Femi Kuti – Na Their Way Be That

Four Fists – 6666

The Get Up Kids – I’m Sorry

Goodbye Blue Monday – Misery-Punk Ruined My Life

The Go! Team – Chico’s Radical Decade

Great Lake Swimmers – Side Effects

Hinds – Tester

The Hold Steady – Eureka

Hop Along – Prior Things

Jack White – Over and Over and Over

Jade Bird – Uh Huh

James Bay – Pink Lemonade

Jay Rock – Win

Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros – London is Burning

John Doe – Comequando

John Nolan – Half a Block to Go

Kacey Musgraves – Space Cowboy

Kamasi Washington – Fists of Fury

Keegan DeWitt – Hearts Beat Loud (feat. Kiersey Clemons)

Keenan – Mahattan (feat. Marc E. Bassy & Skizzy Mars)

King Tuff – Psycho Star

The Knocks – Shades

The Kooks – All the Time

Lagartija Nick – Strummer/Lorca

Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers – Apocalypse Now (& Later)

Lauren Ruth Ward – Well, Hell

Lauv – Chasing Fire

The Living End – Otherside

The Love-Birds – Hit My Head

LSD – Thunderclouds

Lucero – Bottom of the Sea

Lucius – Tempest

Macy Gray – Cold World

Matt Costa – Sharon

MGMT – When You Die

Milo Greene – Worth the Wait

More Giraffes – Dinosaur

Moscow Apartment – Orange

The Motorleague – Everyone is Digital

Mt. Joy – Jenny Jenkins

Murs – Powerful (feat. Propaganda)

New Found Glory – 20 Years from Now

The Night Game – Summerland

Novo Amor – Birth Place

Open Mike Eagle – Relatable (peak OME)

Ozomatli – Coming War

Panic! at the Disco – Dying in LA

Paul McCartney – I Don’t Know

Paul Weller – Aspects

Quinn Devlin & The Bridge Street Kings – Answer Me

Rainbow Kitten Surprise – Matchbox

Rat Boy – Internationally Unknown

Razorlight – Japanrock

Rivers Cuomo – Medicine for Melancholy

Rod Stewart – Didn’t I (feat. Bridget Cady)

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Talking Straight

Ruston Kelly – Asshole (demo)

Salt Cathedral – Rude Boy

Shannon and the Clams – The Boy

Sloan – Right to Roam

Sparta – Cat Scream

Sting & Shaggy – 44/876

Strung Out – Town of Corazon

The Struts – In Love With a Camera

The Tallest Man on Earth – Forever is a Very Long Time

Tash Sultana – Blackbird

Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra – Chienowa (feat. Kazunobu Mineta)

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Keep a Little Soul

Trampled by Turtles – Thank You, John Steinbeck

The War and Treaty – Healing Tide

Waxahatchee – Slow You Down

Listen to all of these songs on my Top 50 of 2018 Playlist:

 

 

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