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Into the top half of our favourite songs of the year. Here are tracks 50 through to 26.
50 Murder By Death – True Dark
Murder By Death have built a career on gothic country rockers and sun-baked desert folk, yet even after all these years they still manage to surprise and True Dark is them at their twangiest best.
49 Fontaines DC – Too real
The second entry for Fontaines DC. The band’s latest single, Too Real is another storming track of undeniable power and swagger that just begs to be played loud, and on repeat.
48 Frog – American
Stripped back, insistently sparse folk and a lyrical gem, “Yes by God I’m American, God is great he’s hilarious, What the fuck y’all staring at? Tall, dark, bald and arrogant”
47 Shame – Gold Hole
We know this isn’t strictly a new song this year but we’re claiming editorial immunity and sneaking it in anyway as it does feature on London punks Shame’s debut long player that came out at the beginning of 2018. Gold Hole is an uncomfortably close-to-the-bone story of a lecherous older man buying the affections of a young girl – it is seedy and sordid and brilliantly observed. “Sweat stains the wrinkles/Tongue touches the hole, She feels so dirty, she knows that it’s wrong, But she feels so good in Louis Vuitton.”
46 Conor Oberst – No One Changes
Is there anyone else who can make melancholia sound so stunningly gorgeous? No One Changes is an introspective, sombre beauty, as elegant as it it fragile.
45 Oldermost – The Danger Of Belief
Creating era-blending Americana-infused rock & roll with a more indie rock vibe, rollicking, anthemic single The Danger of Belief was made for a long straight highway with the windows down and the volume up.
44 Kurt Vile – One Trick Ponies
A highlight from his most recent album, One trick Ponies has all the trademark Kurt Vile ingredients: woozy guitar lines, mumbled stream-of-consciousness lyrics, sly humour and a touch of the surreal. But this is a generous, big-hearted song and the hazy sheen he coats it in just adds the prefect amount of gentle bonhomie.
43 Cass McCombs – Sleeping Volcanoes
Almost without noticing Cass McCombs has become one of our most influential and important songwriters. Sleeping Volcanoes, the thematic centrepiece of his upcoming album, is a delight of pensive, dreamlike rock, albeit anchored by a rumbling groove and his world-weary vocals.
42 Wing Defence – Stuck
Aside from the netball connotations, Aussie duo Wing Defence delivered a sublime single of indie pop with Stuck, the infectious melody is of major earworm quality, and shot through with a core of wonderfully bitter lyrics.
41 Sunflowers – Castle Spell
The pulverising riffing and chanted lyrics of Castle Spell combine into a freakbeat spectacular of psyched-out space rock – like Silver Machine on speed.
40 Mary Gauthier – The War After The War
Rifles & Rosary Beads was an album that was four years in the making, it is a collaborative record in the sense that the eleven songs were co-written with wounded veterans in the SongwritingWith: Soldiers retreats. Taken from the album, the heartbreakingly poignant and evocative The War After The War, with its gorgeous violin backdrop and insistent guitar had one of our favourite opening verses of any song we heard this year.
Who’s going to care for the ones
who care for the ones who went to war?
There’s landmines in the living room
and eggshells on the floor
39 Death Valley Girls – Disaster (Is What We’re After)
Awash with a swirling riff and Thor-like percussion, Disaster (Is What We’re After) is a churning, boiling psych-punk rocker that rides its undeniable, repetitive groove like a drunken cowboy at a rodeo.
38 DBUK – In San Francisco Bay
DBUK, a side project of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club will return early in the new year with their second album. The first single In San Francisco Bay is a southern gothic four-de-force. Hypnotic, mesmerising and menacing – think of it as the musical equivalent of a naked preacher sat in a box full of venomous snakes.
37 Cabbage – Arms Of Pleonexia
Blending social comment with mordant black humour and a keen eye for detail, Arms Of Pleonexia was a savagely frenetic addition to Cabbage’s rapidly growing collection of brilliantly observed post-punk anthems
36 American Wrestlers – Ignoramus
Described by American Wrestlers (aka songwriter Gary McClure) as “a weird little country song with hokey lo-fi strings that bent into black memories“, Ignoramus is all that and more – in fact we’d go as far as to say it is a snidely understated masterpiece.
35 Stick In The Wheel – Over Again
Over Again is classic British folk story-telling. Hurtling along on the back of an irresistible melody, it begs to be sung along to (and there’s even room for some handclaps).
34 Laura Gibson – Tenderness
Laura Gibson’s album Goners explored themes of grief and loss and a standout was the haunting and beautiful Tenderness. An intimate and somewhat pensive fable that reflects, almost dreamlike, on how we project pain and lash out, holding on to each other’s trauma and sorrow. “Certain men can smell a wound a room away, you are melancholy well, beauty only made you lonelier”
33 FEWS – Paradiso
Paradiso from brilliant Anglo/US/Swedish noiseniks FEWS was yet another example of their slashing, incandescent guitars and ferocious, pummelling percussion.
32 Yves Tumor – Lifetime
We’re allowing Polly Pocket this one… a multi-faceted tune of bright, crisp synths, ethereal backing vocals and relentless, unforgiving drums that call to mind Disintegration era Cure.
31 Lost Brothers – Come Tomorrow
A gently insistent folk song complete with the duo’s trademark tender harmonies and sense of bruised heartache. It is an absolute gem of a tune.
30 She Makes War – Undone
She Makes War (aka Bristol based artist and multi-instrumentalist Laura Kidd) wrote Undone in a daze the day after her grandmother Constance died last May. The song’s monster guitars deliver palpable rage at the bad things that happen to good people, acting as an openhearted rallying cry against the British stiff upper lip brigade. “We need to give ourselves a break”, she says. “Giving ourselves time to feel devastated doesn’t make us weak.”
29 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Bellarine
A brilliant debut album and a brilliant rolling track of jangling guitars and driving motorik percussion.
28 Interpol – The Rover
The Rover opens with ringing guitars and percussion taken directly from Krautrock’s halcyon heyday. It is a relentless, menacing rush of pure rock’n’roll.
27 Gretchen Peters – Wichita
Where would we be without a good murder ballad? This is classic country story-telling given a contemporary twist as Gretchen Peters brilliantly sketches a tale of a woman driven to desperate measures to protect her little sister from a predatory male.
26 Parquet Courts – Tenderness
Ever since the brilliant Stoned and Starving, Parquet Courts have shown an uncanny ability to create some of the catchiest, toe-tappers around, whilst still managing to diversify their sound into new genres and styles. Tenderness is up there with the best of them – surprisingly slinky, jaunty and knowingly insecure, “Like a junkie going cold, I need the fix of a little tenderness“. We can all relate to that.