10. Chance the Rapper – I Might Need Security
It’s been an odd year for Chance, now two years out from his fantastically dominant 2016 which culminated in a few Grammys. We didn’t get a new album, however, we got five separate singles released sporadically throughout the year, each showing quite a bit of development from the young rapper. The best of these was “I Might Need Security,” which used a fantastic Jamie Foxx soundbite on loop to set a beat and featured hard-hitting bars from Chance throughout. Lyrically, it’s a bit unfocussed, but punchlines like “Ain’t to many me’s, rest in peace to Vern Troyer,” and “boy meets world, everybody been savages,” make the track an absolute blast.
9. Thou – The Only Law
One of the most prolific bands in all of rock music, this doom/sludge metal act has dropped a total of five projects this year, including the Rhea Sylvia EP, one of my favorites of 2018. This track melds elements of doom metal, grunge, and extreme metal to create something that’s truly bonechilling. The vocal performances feel demonic over complex lyrics and the long, sprawling form means that each idea can be fully developed in all its horror. In the end, “The Only Law,” is one of the best metal tracks of the year.
8. John Prine – Summers End
As my first peak at the new project, “Summers End,” stood out for a few reasons, not the least of which the fun lyrics and excellent melody. Prine is an absolute legend, and his approach to this album and ability to still write so poignantly demonstrate this. The highlight, however, comes in the sincerity, as the now aged country icon sings with conviction despite the occasional faltering of his voice. The track feels like an honest piece in the best way possible, and its that honesty that lands it on this list.
7. Hozier – Shrike
It seemed many people all over the world were ecstatic to hear about a follow up to the Irishman’s 2014 masterpiece debut. The promised EP was quite unique, each track presenting something for fans to latch to. It’s his especially powerful ballad “Shrike,” that makes the cut here, though, as the soft guitars and organic pallet carve out plenty of space for Hozier’s booming voice to command the melody. He has total control on this track and he crafts a song that feels like a strong step forward without abandoning what made his earlier work what it is.
6. Father John Misty – Mr. Tillman
Following the massive success of his 2017 political opus, Pure Comedy, Father John chose to take a look at himself in the mirror. “Mr. Tillman” details the chronicles of a very drunk man wandering throughout a hotel, being constantly given assistance. The lyrics are snarky, yet heartfelt, dealing with alcoholism and addiction and even name dropping last year’s “best album” choice, Jason Isbell, all from the point of view of a desk attendant at a hotel where Misty is having a bender. It’s such a simple story told and produced expertly by one of the best writers of our time.
5. Florence + The Machine – Hunger
Florence + The Machine established themselves as a true, pop-rock powerhouse this year with their fourth studio album, the highlight of which was the second track, “Hunger.” The instrumentals are fairly simple, though the clanging piano forms a nice contrast to the grooving drums. Overall, the track is, essentially, a vocal master class put on by lead singer, Florence Welch. She’s powerful but not overbearing, each of her runs are perfectly controlled, and the vibrato on higher notes is simply perfect. This is one of the most listenable tracks of the year and it made for a fantastic single for a great album.
4. Pusha T – The Story of Adidon
Easily the track I’ve listened to the most in 2018, Pusha T’s response to Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle,” diss may be one of the most brutal of all time. We’ve seen two younger rappers lose embarrassingly to old school legends this year, but where Eminem threw a flurry of technical bars, Pusha T landed one massive haymaker after another on Drake’s chin, including the revelation that he has a secret child with an adult film star. Push later apologized, but the damage was done as the track shone a light on Drake’s weaknesses as an MC, which will likely not be forgotten anytime soon.
3. Blues Traveler – She Becomes My Way
If you’d told me in January that a second tier band from the 1990’s soft rock movement would release one of my favorite tracks of the year, I wouldn’t have believed it. Yet here we are, and Blues Traveler’s “She Becomes My Way,” is absolutely fantastic. John Popper’s voice has held up wonderfully and, of course, his harmonica is as rocking as ever. Though it’s essentially a simple love song, the lyrical style of longwinded, complex verses is fun to hear, even more fun to learn, and it leads to a very listenable flow for the vocals. I must admit that I’m sucker for this sound and era, and Blues Traveller is one of my favorites from the movement, but to hear them stringing together excellent tracks for a genuinely awesome album is quite nice.
2. IDLES – Great
I struggled in choosing just one IDLES song to make this list, but in the end, it had to be “Great.” The thrashing guitars, bombastic rhythm, and driving bass paves a nostalgic path directly to the incredible punk music of the 1970’s, from which they borrow quite a bit, including production techniques. Joe Talbot’s gravelly voice shouts lyrics about today’s political division, but best of all, it’s all positive. The track speaks to the importance of diversity and sympathy with quotables like “change isn’t a crime,” and “we’re all in this together.” The song ultimately carries the message that the world is beautiful, and that fear of the other is a grave mistake.
- A Perfect Circle – The Doomed
- Death Cab for Cutie – I Dreamt We Spoke Again
- Amanda Shires – Parking Lot Pirouette
- Death Grips – Black Paint
- Richard Edwards – Olive Oyl
- Kamasi Washington – Fists of Fury
- Cardi B – Bodak Yellow
- Dave Matthews – Samurai Cop
- Greta Van Fleet – When the Curtain Falls
- Post Malone – Psycho
1. Daughters – Satan in the Wait
Coming from one of the most guttural, horrifying albums of the years, this terrifying blend of noise rock, industrial rock, and post punk is, without a doubt, the best track of the year. The mix is daring, burying the vocals in favor of jarring cymbals and a strange, melodic keyboard. At once, the lyrics comment on the rise of division and extremism in modern times and the dangers of government overreach, pedal a remarkably in depth biblical metaphor, and tell a simple but effective horror story. This all over brutally chaotic music. In sound, in message, and in aesthetic, this album and track are horribly prescient.
HEAR THESE TRACKS: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0dvp6pZZoMhlnWOyXsXWkI