So here we are at the end of the year and it’s time to make some god damn lists!
Lists of accomplishments, lists of the number of different burrito spots I ate at, lists of the different movie theaters I fell asleep in (it’s a problem). Most importantly though, I have put together of list of the best songs (my favorites) of 2018.
Now for starters all of the songs on this list fall into the alternative/indie/singer-songerwriter/dream-pop/chillwave/rock categories. If you want my ‘Best of 2018: Hip Hop’ list give me a call at (415) 995-7066 between the hours of 10am-12:30pm and I will personally dictate my favorites to you, just make sure you have a pen and paper ready. If you would like a list of the ‘Best of 2018: Cumbia’ please send me a DM on Bumble.
As for this list, this is the finest artisanal, hand-crafted, gluten-free list of alt-type songs you’ve ever listened to in your life! So put your favorite sweatpants on, dim the lights and get ready for pure audio ecstasy!
50.Weezer – “Africa”
We honestly can’t talk about the state of alt music in 2018 without talking about a cover of a pop song from 1982. Weird times we live in.
49.Let’s Eat Grandma – “It’s Not Just Me”
Despite what you may think this band is not just on here because of their name, although it didn’t hurt. This UK duo of childhood friends released their way radical sophomore album “I’m All Ears” and this dancey, synth-driven gem stands out about the rest of what is a solid collection of songs on the album.
48.Kurt Vile – “Loading Zones”
This Philly based shaggy haired guitar maestro has been doing weirdos across the world proud by continually releasing some of the best music from the fringe for nearly a decade since leaving The War on Drugs. “Loading Zones” serves as a wonderful introduction Kurt’s superb songwriting and guitar playing.
47.U.S. Girls – “Rosebud”
46.Albert Hammond Jr. – “Far Away Truths”
Probably best known as the lead guitarist in a little band named The Strokes, Albert has been releasing solo projects for over a decade, but his latest Francis Trouble is some of his best work as a solo artist to date. His latest single “Far Away Truths” happens to be just as good a “driving song” as it is a “waiting in line at In-and-Out for 45 minutes with the same song on repeat” song. Trust me I tried it, you should too.
45.Thundercat ft. BADBADNOTGOOD and Flying Lotus –“King of the Hill”
Probably one of the most well-known bassists Thundercat has collaborated with everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Kenny Loggins over the past several years, not to mention his work with thrash metal super group Suicidal Tendancies. His 2017 album Drunk nearly single handedly brought about the resurgence of yacht rock. “King of the Hill” sees Thundercat lending his vocals and distinct bass to a collaboration with the most in-demand instrumental hip hop band BADBADNOTGOOD and super-producer Flying Lotus. The result will assuredly make you don a captains hat while you softly rock out on your pretend yacht.
44.Men I Trust – “Show Me How”
This Canadian trio has been on fire since completely abandoning their original sound in 2016 gaining a cult following with their mellow grooves and non-traditional approach to releases, eschewing the traditional album to instead release songs one at a time. “Show Me How” is one of their most mellow tracks, but perfect for a lazy Sunday morning while you nurse the hangover from Hades.
43.Mild Orange – “Mysight”
“Mysight” pairs best with a bottle of the finest Argentinian Malbec whilst silently dripping tears into your sandalwood scented candle. The swirling guitars on this melt through the speakers stirring sorrow in the best possible way.
42.Flora Cash – “You’re Somebody Else”
Finding a life partner on the internet is no easy task, but to also find a musical partner in the same swoop on Soundcloud, a music upload site mostly for shitty trap rappers has to be more difficult than putting a person on Mars. That is exactly what the wife-husband duo was able to pull off, not to mention they made one of the sweetest songs of 2018 in “You’re Somebody Else”. Hooray for love (boo).
41.Yves Tumor – “Licking an Orchid”
To say that Yves Tumor is an enigma is an understatement. Very little is actually known about the mysterious artist, as he chooses to mostly let the music speak for itself.The current king of all things experimental, his music truly defies genres, but his debut on Warp Records Safe in the Hands of Love is full of very approachable songs including standout track “Licking an Orchid”.
40.Benny Sings – “Passionfruit” (Drake Cover)
Even on a list of mostly alt-type songs one can’t get through a god damn year-end list without including a Drake song! This one however happens to be a cover from the delightful Dutch treasure Benny Sings who has made a career out crafting love songs you might sing to someone on a rowboat. Listening to his music you start to understand how he has played the role of influencer and now collaborator to Rex Orange County as he paired with the 20 year-old for the smash hit “Loving is Easy”, for which he rarely gets credit for being a featured artist and writer on the song.
39.Pink Skies – “Getting Old”
Oakland native Arieh Berl is the brainchild behind Pink Skies, an LA based psychedelic band that struck gold with their cover 6LACK’s “Getting Old”. Think Tame Impala meets Frank Ocean, it’s one of the rare times that the cover blows the original away.
38.The Interrupters – “She’s Kerosene”
The L.A. based ska punk band scored a bonafide hit with the release of “She’s Kerosene” off of their third album Fight the Good Fight. The rousing track hits you like a Chuck Norris roundhouse to the dome and will have you skanking in no time; after you recover from the Chuck Norris roundhouse of course.
37.American Pleasure Club – “this is heaven & id die for it”
The band formally known as Teen Suicide rightfully changed their problematic name to the more ambiguously uplifting American Pleasure Club, but the music is still emo as all hell. The song serves it purpose best when listened 6 minutes after a break-up. Enjoy!
36.The Internet –“Come Over”
An off-shoot of the controversial hip-hop collective Odd Future, The Internet has staked their own claim to fame with their incredible output over the past several years including their critically acclaimed fourth album Hive Mind. Come over is my favortie track of theirs to date with the ultimate in chill vibes and a sweet Steve Lacey guitar solo to boot.
35.Low Hum – “Nebraska”
Low Hum is the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Colin Desha, who much in the same vein of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, crafts perfect psychedelic rock songs that straddle the fine line of appeasing pop enthusiasts at the same time. The self titled EP put out by Low Hum earlier this year is a must listen, but “Nebraska” is by far the standout track on the project with it’s haunting lyrics and heavy guitar lines, the song is an absolute ear worm.
34.Grandson – “Blood // Water”
With one of my favorite names of the year, Grandson uppercut his way onto the scene with the fiery single “Blood // Water” leaving a trail of angst in its wake. In a era where many have wondered where the great political rock songs have gone, Grandson steps into the void with a song challenging our passive nature in the light of rampant corruption. The soft to loud formula of the song borrows from pioneers of the style like Pixies and Nirvana, with an updated sound for 2018 utilizing programmed drums and heavy bass drops. It’s too easy to compare Grandson to Rage Against the Machine, so I am anxious to see where his sound will go from here. He has the potential to be a much needed voice in rock music during particularly divisive times.
33.Soccer Mommy – “Your Dog”
The perfect song for anyone who has gone through a recent breakup, or who has felt generally taken advantage of, “Your Dog” is an anthem for those sick of being held back by obedience. The song boasts the typical intimate Sophie Allison lyrics along with bright, atmospheric instrumentation that will leave you in a dreamlike state hitting the repeat button over and over and over and…
32.Sir Sly –“&Run”
Building on the strength of last years single “High”, Sir Sly followed up with an even more catchy hip-hop influenced single in “&Run” for 2018.The ability to juxtapose an almost folk like guitar line against a pulsing beat makes the song even that more interesting. Sprinkle on top self-empowering lyrics of personal triumph and the song takes on an even deeper meaning. Sometimes it feels weird to dance to such emotionally charged music, but Sir Sly makes it feel oh so right.
31.Snail Mail – “Pristine”
In the indie music world 2018 has belonged to Snail Mail. Fronted by 19-year old singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan, Snail released their debut album Lush on Matador records in June leaving critics in a frenzy as they fell over themselves to sing the praises of their indie Messiah. Don’t get me wrong, the album is good, I’ just not in love with every song on it, but I am quite enamored by “Pristine” which showcases Jordan’s wise-beyond-her-years songwriting and prodigious guitar work.
30.Toro Y Moi – “Freelance”
As one of my favorite artists Toro Y Moi has honestly been a bit disappointing to me in recent years. His latest album Boo Boo was a bit weak when compared to his previous two efforts What For? and Causers of This, but hope has reared it’s beautiful head with the release of the single “Freelance” off of the upcoming Outer Peace due out in January.
29.Yellow Days – “The Way Things Change”
U.K. based George Van Der Broek, better known as Yellow Days, has been crafting his unique indie-rock-meets-soul sound for only the past couple of years, but he has already managed to make some of the most inventive music the indie scene has seen in quite some time. His debut EP Harmless Melodies was released at the tender age of 16, which honestly makes my blood boil with jealously over his talent, but I digress. Now at the ripe age of 18, Yellow Days latest single “The Way Things Change” continues to leave me spellbound as to how a voice so rich, and seemingly so full of wisdom can come from someone who is barely out of high school.
28.A$AP Rocky – “Sundress”
Now you may be saying to yourself, “What the hell Arthur, A$AP Rocky is a rapper, KFOG is an alt station, what are you thinking?!” but hear me out. While the Brooklyn based rapper has spent the better part of the 10’s bringing Houston-style rap and trap music to the mainstream his latest song “Sundress” sees him dipping his toes into a more psychedelic rock sound thanks largely in part to the generous sampling of Tame Impala’s “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind” off 2010’s Inner Speaker. A$AP also ends of singing on the chorus and two of the three verse’s on the song, giving the song more of a traditional alt feel to it. Either way this is a stellar song, an absolute ear worm, and possibly a sign of things to come from the versatile artist.
27. Twenty One Pilots – “Jumpsuit”
If you told me three years ago that I would include Twenty One Pilots on a year-end list I would have certainly asked you to please share the ridiculously potent edibles you were consuming. It’s not that I ever had anything against Twenty One Pilots, it’s just their sound was a bit too “poppy” for me on previous releases. That all changed with the release of “Jumpsuit” earlier this year with it’s dark tone, thunderous bass line, and ominous synths – this was a sound I could get behind. Twenty One Pilots went on to have another song pop up later on the list, and now I’m honestly don’t even know what’s real anymore.
26.Blood Orange – “Dagenham Dream”
Dev Hynes, the 32-year-old singer/songwriter behind Blood Orange first made a name for himself as a producer working with everyone from rapper A$AP Rocky to Deborah Harry and Brittney Spears. After releasing his debut solo record in 2011 Hynes quickly grabbed the spotlight for himself with his spin on a genre that sounds like modern indie-rock meets Purple Rain era Prince. His latest album Negro Swan features several standout tracks, but I often find myself hitting repeat on “Dagenham Dream” a hazy, dreamlike recounting of how he used skateboarding as an escape after he suffered a brutal attack that left him hospitalized.
25.Mt. Joy – “Silver Lining”
This is one of those rare songs that has nearly made me cry on several occasions. The melancholy vibe and folksy guitar strumming seem best suited for listening to when your driving on a solo road trip through a desolate Arizona landscape at sundown, or ya know, a smelly BART ride through the Transbay tube. Matt Quinn, lead singer of the Philadelphia-based folk band explained that the song was written in response to the growing opioid crisis that has swept across America as he struggled to find a silver lining to it all. Heavy stuff, but as usual some of the most beautiful art comes from the darkest pain.
24.Mr. Twin Sister – “Echo Arms”
If you need a pick-me-up after the last one, this is the song for you! “Echo Arms” will transport you to a smokey lounge where a seductive,raspy voiced singer almost makes you forget that you’re supposed to hate disco. This fun, bouncy song could have very well been produced by funk loving aliens as opposed to the chill wave stalwarts Mr. Twin Sister who often find it hard to shake the comparisons to the Cocteau Twins.
23.Conan Mockasin – “Charlotte’s Song”
Be warned! You might put this song on and accidentally seduce yourself. Conan Mockasin is a master of bringing out the sultry side of the guitar while mysteriously crafting some of the most interesting psychedelic pop music there is. This song definitely comes in as the longest on the list at a remarkable 8 minutes and 56 seconds, but after each listen it never feels long enough.
22.King Princess – “1950”
King Princess is another teenager on the list who took 2018 by storm. The 19-year-old singer songwriter struck gold with “1950”, a song about unrequited love through the lens of queerness while paying homage to those who came before her who had to keep queer love in the shadows. The song became such a relatable and heartwarming phenomenon that it racked up over 170 million streams on Spotify over the past several months.
21.No Vacation – “Yam Yam”
This was a band I first discovered through No Name and his Record Room series on KFOG.com and ever since then they have become a staple in my regular rotation. The San Francisco indie-pop band formed on the campus of USF, but almost vanished in 2016 after their first release when one of the founding members left the band and the remaining members went on indefinite hiatus. The remaining members came back with a vengeance (albeit a mellow, dreamy vengeance) with the release of “Yam Yam” off of the Intermission EP. The nostalgic, melancholy melody and the softly sung lyrics of vocalist/guitarist Sab Mai are the perfect song for a rainy day; if we ever see rain in the Bay again!
20.Hala – “Sorry”
This upbeat bedroom-pop-meets-surf-rock jam has the power to put a smile on the face of the biggest Grinch. 21-year old Ian Ruhala penned the perfect anthem for those of us who constantly find ourselves apologizing for our misdeeds, but who simultaneously want to dance like a carefree kindergartner. The guitar solos in “Sorry” also happen to be my favorites I’ve heard all year.
19.Sports Team – “Camel Crew”
While this band of five lads and a lass from London are still cutting their teeth in the scene, their music feels oddly important, as if there may be a glimmer of greatness on their horizon. “Camel Crew” is a rowdy introduction to their crisp alt sound, but the band’s secret sauce lies in the vocals of frontman Alex Rice who posses one of the most authoritative voices in indie-rock and a fiery swagger that can only be described as “Jagger-esque”.
18.Portugal. The Man – “ Tidal Wave”
These guys have been killing it so hard they named a god damn country after them! The alt-rock world has belonged to the “Lords of Portland” since they dropped “Feel it Still” in 2016 and took the world by storm. One of the few alt bands that has been able to capture true cross over appeal recently, PTM managed to score two more charting singles this year off of Woodstock with “Live in the Moment” and “Tidal Wave”. The latter showcased the band’s ability to craft another nearly perfect pop song with an exquisite balance of horns, synths, chanting, and a chill-inducing bridge.
17.Yuno – “No Going Back”
I have no clue what the hell instrument is being played on “No Going Back” (a harpsichord? Although I honestly don’t know what a harpsichord sounds like) but it’s magical to say the least. The synthy, upbeat track sounds almost like champagne tastes: bubbly, bright, and if you’re not careful it’ll subtly sneak up on you and f*ck you up. Yuno’s skillful falsetto and hearty guitar solo add an extra dimension that solidifies the track and makes it apparent why indie giant Sub Pop records took a chance on the former bedroom-based artist.
16.Billie Eilish –“You Should See Me in a Crown”
With a beat that sounds more suited for hip-hop power duo Run the Jewels, “You Should See Me in a Crown” was a brooding introduction for many to alt-pop’s eventual queen in Billie Eilish. Her undeniable edge goes far beyond her 16-years and is on full display in this track which features ominous knife sharpening sounds, thundering 808 kick drums, demonic adlib’s , frenetic hi-hats, and a slow build that provides the perfect backdrop for Eilish’s versatile vocal range.
15.Bayonne – “Uncertainly Deranged”
Roger Sellers, better known by his stage name Bayonne describes himself as a minimalist composer, but there is nothing minimal about his stellar track “Uncertainly Deranged”. The complex production, fluttering synth, rhythmic guitar and silky smooth vocals from Sellers give the track undeniable pop sensibility while staying true to Bayonne’s experimental dance roots.
14.Still Woozy – “Cooks”
First off, let’s be clear, Sven Gamsky A.K.A has quickly become one of my favorite new artists and “Cooks” was the song that began my love affair with his music. The 25-year old singer/multi-instrumentalist produces some of the quirkiest lo-fi indie jams by blending electronic and acoustic instruments all from his Oakland garage. “Cooks” is a chill, sweet shot of serotonin guaranteed to boos happiness levels 143%
13.Clairo – “4Ever”
This one’s a certifiable 70’s late-night beach funk party banger. 20-year old Clairo has become a bona-fide internet sensation over the past year due to her steady stream of effortless lo-fi indie/electro-pop. “4EVER” is by far the funkiest track she has released to date.
12.Joji – “WANTED U”
YouTuber, prankster, and the man behind the viral “Harlem Shake Challenge” has now set his sights on the music industry and surprise – it’s actually really good! The lo-fi indie-R&B type song is emotionally provocative featuring amazing production and a killer guitar solo.
11.MK.Gee – “You”
USC School of Music student Michael Gordon, known professionally as MK.Gee (pronounced McGee) is a relative unknown, but his music has received some high profile cosigns recently for his interesting blend of laid back indie rock and R&B. The 21-year old’s latest track “You” was picked as a favorite of indie R&B superstar Frank Ocean who included it recently on his Blonded radio show which brought immediate buzz to the up-and-comer. The lush instrumentation and upbeat rhythm of “You” make it perfect for a warm summer evening, or as a nice pick-me-up on days when the world is against you.
10.Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Hunnybee”
New Zealand psych rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra released yet another splendid album earlier this year with one of the tracks, “Hunnybee”, soaring to the top of my favorite songs from them to date. The bright but mellow, lo-fi instrumentation paired with the deeply personal and almost dark lyrics of the song keep things interesting, but it’s the undeniable catchiness of the melody that make this one worth a few hundred listens on repeat.
9.The 1975 – “Love it if We Made It”
With one of the more politically charged songs on the list The 1975 succeed in finding that delicate balance between social commentary and pop sensibility. The lyrics invoke such strong imagery that it’s impossible to shake them from your head, while the impassioned vocal performance from Matt Healy leaves goose bumps even after several listens. Not to mention the almost perfectly produced arrangement of the song that builds to a rousing climax that begs to be blasted at decibels unsafe levels. This is a song that is meant to be heard, but may be deeply felt more than anything.
8.Twenty One Pilots – “My Blood”
The only band to end up with two songs on the list, Twenty One Pilots made a fan out of me in 2018 with their single “Jumpsuit”, but it was the moving “My Blood” that I really fell in love with. The music is so dark, so different from the alt-pop leaning duo that it immediately struck me as a bold statement of maturity and self-awareness while still maintaining the signature groove that Twenty One Pilots have become famous for. The part that really cemented this song as one of my favorites is the falsetto chorus from Tyler Joseph. The message, the emotion, the lyrics, it is a true thing of beauty.
7.Kali Uchis ft. Tame Impala – “Tomorrow”
Top to bottom, Isolation, the debut album from Kali Uchis is easily a top-five record record of the year with several standout tracks, but it’s the Tame Impala produced “Tomorrow” that stands as the real diamond here. The Columbian-born singer delivers a velvety smooth, slightly melancholy vocal performance over the gorgeous dreamlike production which has that unmistakable Tame Impala (Kevin Parker) sound. This is a song best listened to when reminiscing over long lost loves and wondering what could have been.
6.Triathalon – “Courtside”
Now that we cried our eyes out on the last track it’s time to chill out and remember everything is going to be OK (maybe). Courtside delivers the epitome of a dreamy bedroom pop song with a lo-fi aesthetic, whisper-sung lyrics, and a vibe so chill you’ll be grabbing a sweater and cranking the heater. The retro feel of the synth and drum machine give the song a timeless quality, while the simple guitar riff will burrow into your head like the most welcomed tick ever.
5.Rex Orange County ft. Benny Sings –“Loving is Easy”
I don’t know what kind of soft, tenderhearted sap I’m turning into but this is my JAM; and it concerns me. The simple and light-hearted message of the song will transport you back to your teenage years when loving was easy before you built of years of baggage, and your cold little heart froze over. Not only does the song invoke feelings of nostalgia in one’s personal life, but the music itself sounds like it could have been on a compilation vinyl of 70’s soft rock hit that used to play on AM radio. 20-year old Rex Orange County almost exclusively pens the type of love songs you would have passed along in a note to your high school crush, but the formula work, and might be much needed the more we become inundated with heavy news, dark music, and bad vibes.
4.Pink $ock – “Feminist Cowboy”
This song holds the distinction of being not only being my most played over the year, but it also ranks number one for sexiest song of the year, and best song title, maybe ever. This retro indie-pop/chillwave/libido enhancer feels like the theme song for a summer night cruise down the Sunset Strip in your drop-top pink Cadillac circa 1989. I wish I knew more about the man behind this auditory silk sheet, but Pink $ock is about as obscure as it gets, with less than 300 likes on Facebook, a few thousand plays on Spotify, and a bio that simply reads: “Will play your wedding”. I might need to find someone to marry soon just to make that happen.
3.Theophilus London ft. Tame Impala – “Only You”
Normally I would have a hard time ranking a cover song this high on the list, but my god, this is song is pure heaven. Trinidadian singer Theophilus London updates the 1984 Steve Monite classic with the help of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who deploys the signature Tame Impala groove on the production. The pair, who collaborated back in 2016 under the informal name Theo Impala on the track “Whiplash”, have hinted at a possible full length project sometime in the near future. Even if this is it for the unlikely duo this song has a special place in my heart for its infectious rhythm and soulful vocal performance from London.
2.MorMor – “Heaven’s Only Wishful”
Toronto based musician Seth Nyquist, better known as MorMor, delivers what is not only one of the best (my favorite) songs of the year, but a full emotional experience that lingers long after the song is finished. It starts with a tight, simplistic drum pattern, simplistic, yet warm guitar strumming, airy synths, and the subtle soulful delivery of Nyquist’s lyrics as they build towards a dynamic song structure and an explosion of human emotion at the climax.
1.Beach House – “Lemon Glow”
This song is a masterpiece. I don’t want to ruin anything about the song with words. Please just listen to it for yourself…on repeat…for the next 2 months.