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So here we have it – the top of the pile! Our favourite songs of 2018.
25 Ought – Disgraced In America
Way back in January, Montreal based quartet Ought kicked off 2018 with the bright guitar sound and ultimately noisy percussion and spaced-out synths of Disgraced in America. It was a fine start.
24 Spiritualized – I’m Your Man
I’m Your Man was the brilliant lead single from Spiritualized’s new album And Nothing Hurt. It wraps layer upon layer of gloriously transcendent sound together to create something utterly mesmerising and cinematic, and with a towering guitar solo – where the waves of blissful noise are almost overwhelming.
23 Jon Spencer – Hornet
Jon Spencer can be relied upon to deliver a sleazy, bone-shaking excursion into the underbelly of classic blues and with Hornet he delivers in spades – growling, primitive and with a suitably buzzing guitar figure.
22 Fat Earthers – Letter Bomb
We love the Isle of Wight and now we love it even more because it is home to the insane noise of the Fat Earthers whose punked-up garage rock didn’t so much explode out of our speakers, as leave them gibbering in twisted shards of plastic and cable in the corner. There is always one song that gatecrashes our favourites at the end of the year and Letter Bomb is it. I hope they’re from Ventnor!
21 Western Scene – Strange but True
A chugging, exhilarating earworm of a song that recalls something of the best of Lord Huron or Wilco, with its irresistible melody and immediate emotional energy.
20 American Pets – Bad Dream
Sublime, sweetly melodic indie rock. The kind so many bands try to do, and so many fail to achieve. It is impossible not to be carried away on the rise and fall of the harmonies and Bad Dream’s gentle swell of mildly psychedelic beauty.
19 Ron Gallo – Always Elsewhere
Ron Gallo seems to be one of those absurdly hyperactive songwriters, flitting from one genre to another as though on a never ending quest for musical nectar. That he does it so well seems equally absurd as he rolls out gem after gem in a prolific manner. Always Elsewhere is garage rock, psych-pop, new wave, glam and 70s NY punk. It is jerky, obsessive and compelling and held together by his anxious, exasperated vocals.
18 FEWS – Businessman
Just unstoppable, pulverising noisy psych built on the most pulsating riff imaginable.
17 The Twilight Sad – I/m Not Here (Missing Face)
After too long an absence Twilight Sad returned with I/m Not Here (Missing Face) which was a driving, motorik anthem, with wailing guitars and swirling synths circling around frontman James Graham’s repeated declarations of “I don’t want to be around you anymore.” Graham describes the track’s lyrical basis as being “about my ongoing battle with not liking myself, trying to be a good person but constantly feeling like I’m failing myself and everyone I care about.”
16 Young Fathers – In My View
As much spoken as sung, In My View is a fractured, down-tempo track set atop skittering percussion and synths.
15 Superorganism – Everybody Wants To Be Famous
Like a mutated cross between Uptown Top Ranking and some long-forgotten video game, Everybody Wants To Be Famous manages to take its wonderfully kaleidoscopic groove to a whole new level of infectious electro-pop flourescence.
14 Dr. Dog – Listening In
On their brilliantly assured new album Critical Equation, Dr. Dog barely put a single foot wrong, and an absolute standout for us was Listening In. Another exceptional example of their warm, psych-infused Americana, carried along on metronomic percussion and a typically plaintive and questioning vocal.
13 Phosphorescent – Christmas Down Under
The introspective smoulder and slow burn of Christmas Down Under is a pedal-steel led tale of surreal Americana. One for the sunset and the open road…
12 Katie Toupin – Danger
After a long stint with Houndmouth, Katie Toupin’s first foray into solo territory resulted in the bluesy rock of her debut EP Moroccan Ballroom. The raw, haunting beauty of Danger mixes heartbreak with a smattering of grit and her always stunning vocals to create something very special indeed.
11 Fontaines DC – Chequeless Reckless
Our third and final entry from Fontaines DC – back in February we said we were pretty sure Chequeless Reckless would end up in our best of the year lists and so it proves. Channelling past masters like the Modern Lovers, The Fall and Iggy Pop, as well as contemporaries like Idles and Shame, Chequeless Reckless is built on a driving, hypnotic, kraut-rock infused cyclical riff, and some scalpel sharp lyrics.
A sellout is someone who becomes a hypocrite in the name of money,
An idiot is someone who lets their education do all of the thinking
A phony is someone who demands respect for the principles they affect
A dilettante is someone who can’t tell the difference between fashion and style
10 Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Billy The Kid And Geronimo
In the rich vein of classic country like Pancho and Lefty, the fantastical Billy The Kid and Geronimo – about an imagined meeting between the two 19th century outlaws whose lives became the stuff of legend in the American West has Gilmore, who is part Native American, voicing the thoughts Alvin wrote for Geronimo, the Chiricahua Apache chief who was one of the last Native American leaders to abandon his resistance against white colonisation of the American Southwest.
9 Decemberists – Severed
Channelling their inner New Order and 80’s electronic new wave, the Decemberists delivered another left-turn in their long career with I’ll Be Your Girl. Chief among them was Severed, all fuzzy synths, rolling bass and an unrelenting guitar riff. The juxtaposition of shiny, shimmering melody and bleak lyrics was just the icing on the cake.
8 Cold Soda – Anna May
Cold Soda is a Cave Singers side project, and Anna May is brilliant, brooding Americana, built on a sinewy rhythmic groove and Pete Quirk’s ominous rasp.
7 Silverbacks – Dunkirk
Brilliantly delivering their own louche take on NYC-indebted rock, Dublin art-punks Silverbacks’ single Dunkirk is underpinned by an insistent, nagging bassline and creepy crawly guitar lines, it provides the ideal vehicle for frontman Daniel O’Kelly’s stream of consciousness ramblings about martial strife, the perfect sandcastle and spotting a con artist when he sees one. The track lurches forth, pressure building from the undulating backbeat and layers of skronking guitars accenting Daniel’s increasingly frazzled yelps before finally collapsing into a sugar sweet coda.
6 Rod Picott – Coal
Coal is a tough track. A hard-driving, unflinching snapshot of an industry’s decline. It is a world of darkness, small enclosed spaces, rusted machines and steel tied boots. It is simple, unadorned folk storytelling at its spartan best.
5 Quiet Hollers – Addicted
Addicted is a powerful rumination on opiate addiction – Quiet Hollers frontman Shadwick Wilde has struggled with addiction since adolescence. Although he didn’t intend for it to be a “drug song” necessarily, its inception came at a time when his family was struggling with the loss of his mother’s brother, who died of a fentanyl overdose so he felt it was important to acknowledge how deeply vulnerable we all are to these things, and how serious that problem really is. The track is a perfect mix of alt-country shot through with grungy guitars and a resigned honesty shared through fittingly world weary vocals.
4 Dan Mangan – Peaks And Valleys
Dan Mangan is a restless troubadour, from the earnest straight up folk of Postcards & Daydreaming to the darkly experimental Club Meds, he has always been both an explorer and an observer. Peaks and Valleys comes from new record More or Less and is a up-tempo, easy going reflection on the simple things in life and the wisdom and understanding that comes with getting older. Sometimes the most obvious things can be the most revealing and so it is with this lovely reminder that optimism is not a bad weapon to have in these turbulent times.
3 Drenge – Bonfire Of The City Boys
“It started with a bang” the opening line from Bonfire of the City Boys could almost be a prediction as a stuttering, repetitive bassline starts up and Eoin Loveless’ spoken word vocals cut in over the top before a crushing guitar riff takes centre stage. Heavier than they’ve ever been, with a sound more akin to Future of the Left, Bonfire of the City Boys is four minutes of joyously ferocious hardcore.
2 Decemberists – Cutting Stone
Like one of their classic ornate folk fantasies turned dark, appropriately enough Cutting Stone is cut through with a synth accompaniment that brilliantly contrasts a brittle, futuristic feel to Colin Melloy’s literate and verbose tale of wayward children and dying brides.
1 Oh Sees – Nail House Needle Boys
Nail House Needle Boys – a deliriously scorched excursion around the outer limits of prog-rock and glam, sucking in great gulps of Can, Deep Purple and King Crimson and exhaling them as little more than smoke and ash, drifting down on to the still twitching corpse of psychedelic rock.