End of the year album wrap-ups are fun, and if you want my favorite albums of 2018, they’re right here:
- Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
- Hive Mind – The Internet
- Fresh Kill – Fresh Kill
- The Official Body – Shopping
- Forth Wanderers – Forth Wanderers
- Lightlessness is Nothing New – Maps & Atlases
- Daddy – GRLwood
But what really caught my attention in 2018 were single releases and strong songs to draw me in. Just look at all the bits and pieces we got from Childish Gambino this year. Some came with captivating music videos, some were brief 2-3 song EPs, and some even came attached to full album releases. I just really found myself loving songs more than albums and there’s nothing wrong with that in a world where you no longer have to settle for one over the other.
You can listen along by playlist and read below about some of those songs that I just couldn’t get off REPEAT in 2018.
“Slow Burn” – Kacey Musgraves
I don’t think I’ve ever hard opening song lyrics that spoke so clearly to me, because they felt like they were about me:
Born in a hurry, always late.
Haven’t been early since ’88.
“Slow Burn” is one of those tracks that just rolls through and puts you in a moment. And when that moment ends, you play it again. The minimal intro with just guitar and vocals sets the mood, and as the song progresses, instruments are gently added. The drums and bass hitting mid second verse… perfect. This song is like a rain shower that just sets in perfectly on a hot summer day.
“High Horse” – Kacey Musgraves
Don’t get me wrong, even though I’m focusing on songs this album and the others mentioned were still great. Golden Hour was EPIC in my opinion just full of amazing songs, another of which is “High Horse”.Musgraves puts it best in these lines:
Everyone knows someone who kills the buzz every time they open up their mouth.
This song takes nods from disco and pop, with Kacey’s country twang and is both fresh and classic at the same time. As usual, the lyrics are brilliant and full of just the right punch.
“Come Over” – The Internet
Another album I would describe as EPIC would be The Internet’s Hive Mind. The musicianship and songwriting on this album demonstrate the growth and talent of this band. “Come Over” is a sexy groove that is essentially… a booty call. And you know what? We’ve all been there. And the video directed by the multi-talented Syd is full of visual treats as the song unfolds.
“Feels Like Summer” – Childish Gambino
Continuing with the R&B grooves, Childish Gambino gave many gifts this year, including “Feels Like Summer” off of July’s Summer Pack EP. I love the chill arrangement of the song and the seamless flow of Donald Glover’s vocals. And of course, another brilliant video.
“This Is America” – Childish Gambino
Of course, I can’t mention Childish Gambino without the intense, thought-provoking art that was “This Is America”. Was anyone prepared for all that this song and video unleashed? There’s not much I can say about it that hasn’t already been said and deeply analyzed, but I will say this: “This Is America” was a wake-up call among a number of wake-up calls this country has needed to see the injustice we live with every day. We can’t forget or become complacent with the indecencies and atrocities that continue to impact our lives (even the ones you don’t see directly in front of you).
“4/25” – Maps & Atlases
I started this blog back in 2008 and if you’ve been with me since then, you know that one of my favorite bands in this world is Maps & Atlases, so you better believe I was all too happy to see the release of Lightlessness is Nothing New this year. It’s a great album full of new and familiar sounds from a band that loves to explore. “4/25” has this Bowie-esque build, I’m talking a Labyrinth “Magic Dance” vibe, with percussion, guitar, and synth working in harmony to create the constantly moving rhythm that drives the song. I love that sound, how it leads us through a song with a repetitive verse style that still sounds like it’s always changing and growing. Plus, it’s the first time I saw a music video released in its entirety via Instagram Stories. Technology y’all… artists are always pushing it forward.
“Tired Games” – Forth Wanderers
This song was made for me to fall in love with it. It’s that kind of indie rock that is full of jangly guitars and moving instrument parts that don’t match at all but fit together perfectly. Hardly any part is playing in unison, and yet, instead of sounding like a big mess, it sounds like a perfectly wrapped sonic experience. The self-titled debut album from Forth Wanderers came out on Sub Pop this year and is full of delights like this one and the slow-tempo “Taste“. Definitely one of my favorite discoveries of 2018.
“Gold” – Fresh Kill
The release of Fresh Kill’s debut album is bittersweet for me. The release show was also the band’s last, as they were leaving their post-college lives in Bloomington, Indiana for new adventures. But go out strong, they definitely did. I’ve listened to Fresh Kill frontward and backward on repeat since its release and it is an absolutely brilliant collection of songs. Beautiful dual vocals, poppy hooks, and sway-worthy melodies. I hope all of these musicians continue to make music, and maybe even find a way to come back together for round two.
“Shave Your Head” – Shopping
UK’s Shopping burst into my life at the perfect time. I had been studying Gang of Four and well as three-piece punk bands for inspiration in my own music, and here they came. They snuck onto my radar via one of those sneaky Spotify Daily Mix playlists with “The Hype” (also from 2018’s The Official Body) and I was hooked. What I love about this band is their full and complex sound–despite minimal instrumentation, and their live energy, which I’ve only been able to see via video thus far. Their performance of “Shave Your Head” on Audiotree Live captures those traits brilliantly.
“thank u, next” – Ariana Grande
I have to admit, I never really paid much attention to Ariana Grande until recently, but with “no tears left to cry” and “thank u, next”, I was introduced to Ariana Grande the human, rather than the pop star. Both songs showed a real window into the struggle of handling intense, emotional events within the constant watch of the public eye. With “thank u, next” Grande took another tumultuous experience and turned it around to a pop hit that was both vulnerable, reflective, and hopeful. Plus the video was drenched in teen drama nostalgia.
“potage” – tricot
Tricot. There aren’t enough words to describe how great this band is. They finally received an American album release in 2017 with 3 on Topshelf Records which opened some great doors leading to this year. 2018 brought the two-song potage EP, an Audiotree session, and a U.S. tour — which meant my first time finally seeing tricot live! I caught their opening set of House of Blues Chicago this summer and although I wish they’d had a longer set and a working credit card machine at the merch table, I loved everything about their live show.
“potage” is another shape-shifting track with shifting tempos, time signatures, and rhythms. They released an artsy music video, but personally, I love the live version from their Audiotree session. It’s got a longer intro build and you really get to see the talented playing of each band member. I really need to learn Japanese.
There were, of course, other songs that caught my ear this year, including the return of artists I’ve been looking forward to hearing more from like DM Stith, Emily King, and Lily & Madeleine. Catch all the songs on my Favorite Songs of 2018 playlist.