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 Mangan – Fool 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. Dessa – 5 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. Editors – Magazine
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 Fallon – Watson
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 Vaccines – I 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. U2 – Red 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 Interrupters – She’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 Coup – Hey 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 Confessional – We Fight
Emo favorite refinds his inner stadium-rocker with this uplifting anthem.
12. Vance Joy – Saturday Sun
A perfect piece of summer acoustic pop from the Australian hit maker.
13. The Fratellis – Starcrossed Losers
The Scottish rockers’ very catchy ode to Shakespearian lovers
14. Jukebox the Ghost – Jumpstarted
Queen couldn’t have done this multi-part stadium rock composition any better.
15. Alan Silvestri – Even for You
A powerful and moving piece from the excellent Avengers: Infinity War score.
16. Frank Turner – Blackout
Turner turns in his most full-realized rock song yet that perfectly hits both political and personal notes.
17. A Perfect Circle – So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish
A surprisingly touching farewell to some of the famous lights lost.
18. Better Than Ezra – Grateful
An unabashedly feel-good slice of pop rock from the 90’s hitmakers.
19. The Parrots – Soy 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 Gray – As the Waves Crash Down
Passionate acoustic punk from the lead singer of BoySetsFire.
21. Skizzy Mars – American Dream
Mars turns a screed about the economic disadvantages facing young black men in America into an insightful banger.
22. Gin Blossoms – Break
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 Howard – Nica Libres at Dusk
A sparse but hauntingly beautiful track from Howard’s excellent new album.
24. 88rising – Midsummer Madness
The embodiment of a summer jam, the Asian rapper collective kill it on this hazy addictive opus.
25. Dirty Projectors – That’s a Lifestyle
Quirky afropop-influenced indie rock with an undeniably memorable chorus.
26. Lord Huron – Ancient Names (Part 1)
Folk rockers return with a hints of psychedelia added to their sound.
27. Tony Molina – Jasper’s Theme
A short and sweet Byrds-esque tune.
28. Amy Shark – The Idiot
Recalls classic Alanis Morissette in her perfect cadence and delivery. Gets stuck in your head too easily.
29. Passengers – Survivors
Hummable and evocative with true emotional desperation.
30. Gorillaz – Humility (feat. George Benson)
One of the most breezy and summer tunes to ever come from this animated band.
31. Plan B – Guess Again
A British rap/dancehall banger, pure and simple.
32. Marshmello X Bastille – Happier
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. Kokoroko – Abusey Junction
Jazz meets afrobeat for a moody, beautiful instrumental.
34. Muse – Something Human
A surprisingly warm acoustic song about longing to return home from the road that hits the right emotional notes.
35. Family of the Year – Let 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 Songs – Aloha 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. Imarhan – Tumast
This Algerian desert rock group bring insane guitar riffage that would make Muse jealous.
39. Eminem – Like 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 John – Gut 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 Merton – Hit the Ground Running
New artist Merton writes an empowering song that will be on running playlists for decades to come.
43. The English Beat – If Killing Worked
Political indictments of war and brutality have never sounded so sugary sweet as this soulful ska song.
44. Ball Park Music – The 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 & Flowers – This Machine
A thoughtful folk song that summons the living spirit of Bob Dylan in its eloquence and elevated writing.
46. Elohim – Fuck Your Money
One of the year’s best dirty pop songs with an eternally relevant message.
47. Interpol – The Rover
Interpol return with a straight-up post-apocalyptic rocker that make guitars sound necessary again.
48. Barbarossa – Don’t Enter Fear
Gorgeous harmonies give an ethereal quality to this somber piece of indie pop.
49. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Wonderful Day for the Race
Boston ska heroes return with a horn-filled, uplifting ode to the best of humanity.
50. Rare Americans – Cats, 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.
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: