Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Top 20 Songs of 2018, Part 1

This is the earliest I've ever completed my Top 20 Songs list, so I'm pretty happy with myself. It was kind of an off year. I'd say the music was respectable, but not great. I wound up choosing my 20 Songs with a little less hand-wringing that usual.

As usual, I'll give you numbers 20 through 11 in this post, then post 10 through 1 tomorrow or Friday.

I wasn't going to do honorable mentions this year, but I've relented on that, and I'll give you a few. So here we go.

Honorable Mentions: These are in no particular order. They're the songs that just missed making my Top 20 list. The one that missed by the tiniest amount was "Melba" by Jeff Rosenstock. It's typical Rosenstock -- high energy, catchy, a bunch of guitar feedback. It's everything he does well. I also really liked "Double Cross" by Jersey pop-punkers Senses Fail, which is another hard rocking song; that one guitar lick that opens the song and gets repeated throughout is particularly fetching. The next pick is kind of weird. It's "God Knows Why" by the Australian avant garde artist Lack the Low (aka Kat Hunter). I really didn't like the album at all, but this one track is quite pretty, and a lot more accessible than the rest of the album. Another one that really grew on me over the course of the year was "Threaded", the title track from Jeremy Gilchrist's new EP. It's a haunting track, written with the kind of naked sincerity that I've really come to appreciate in Gilchrist's music. And last but not least, I give you "Super Position" by Young the Giant, from Mirror Master, their best album since their debut effort.

And here's Part 1 of my Top 20 list, in reverse order:

20. Loreena McKennitt - "Ages Past, Ages Hence" Loreena McKennitt - Ages Past, Ages Hence

The funny thing about this Canadian new age artist's latest album, Lost Souls, is that these are all supposedly misfit songs -- songs she wrote awhile ago, that didn't fit on any of her previous albums. This one is typical Loreena -- delicate, ethereal and very beautiful.

19. Rachael Sage - "Spark" Rachael Sage

There were quite a few really good songs on Sage's latest album Myopia, but this is the one that stood out the most for me. It's a catchy and upbeat little ditty about human relationships, and strangers who connect in the night, and it features some really nice piano and strings.

18. Sting & Shaggy - "Just One Lifetime" Sting & Shaggy - Just One Lifetime

A lot of people have taken shots at this collaboration between the former front man of The Police and the Jamaican reggae/hip-hop artist, but there's a lot of good stuff on their 44/876 LP, including this fine track. The lyrics are borrowed from Lewis Carroll's narrative poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter".

17. John Gorka - "Tattooed" John Gorka - Tattooed

Folk artist John Gorka has been making albums since 1987, but I just discovered him this year. This is my favorite song from his latest album True in Time. This particular track is stark, and maybe a little ominous. The line I especially love from this one: "Losing hurts worse/Than winning feels good". I tend to agree.

16. Milestones - "Paranoid" Milestones - Paranoid

For the unfamiliar, this is a British band. I'm not necessarily the biggest pop punk fan in the world, but I do appreciate a good power-pop anthem once in awhile, and this is one that I really like. It's fast-paced and fun.

15. Three Days Grace - "The New Real" Three Days Grace - The New Real

This is another band that is often maligned, undeservedly, probably because they're kind of a quasi-Christian band. They rock pretty hard, and I find a lot of their songs to be catchy and well-written. I don't like their new album Outsider and much as 2015's Human. But this track in particular grabbed me.

14. Frankie Cosmos - "Duet" Frankie Cosmos - Duet

This is admittedly a strange choice for a Top Songs list, because it's so abbreviated that it's more of a songlet than a full song. But a lot of the Vessels album is the same way, and it's kind of charming. I love Greta Kline's voice here, and the dreamy quality of the music. The lyrics are pretty simple young-girl-in-love kind of stuff, but they're pleasingly genuine.

13. Waterparks - "Peach (Lobotomy)" Waterparks - Peach (Lobotomy)

I'll admit, I was disappointed with the new Waterparks album Entertainment, especially because I really liked their two 2016 efforts, the Double Dare LP and the Cluster EP. But they definitely know how to craft a good pop song, and this one is first-rate. I especially liked their use of whistling on this track.

12. Haley Heynderickx - "Drinking Song" Haley Heynderickx - Drinking Song

I had this classy folk-pop track on my list all year, then almost eliminated it at the last minute. The reason is that although it's from her new 2018 LP I Need to Start a Garden, I realized near the end of the year that there was an earlier recording of the song released on her 2016 EP Fish Eyes. But it really is a new version here, a little slower than the original. And in the end I just liked it too much to exclude it.

11. Chvrches - "Graffiti" Chvrches - Graffiti

Love Is Dead was my favorite album of the year, the one where I feel that Chvrches really came into their own as a first-class alternapop band. And this was my favorite track from the album. It's a mid-tempo young-love-gone-wrong track (possibly because the young lovers died -- at least that's my take on the song). As I said in my Top 10 Albums list, I feel as though with this album, lead singer Lauren Mayberry became this decade's Hayley Williams.

So I think we're off to a lovely start here, how about you? When we come back in a day or two, we'll get into the real nitty-gritty, my Top Ten songs of the year.