Sometimes with these year-end lists I like to keep it to songs that were released during the year in question. That would probably be the “professional” or “proper” thing to do. But this blog is neither. I’m the boss here and I say these are just songs I listened to a lot in 2018 and they made me happy – though most are 2018 releases. And, you know what? I’m not even going to bother ranking them this year because my current mood is “art ain’t no competition.” Also, I’m keeping it to one song per act.
“T-Shirt,” The Beaches
My love affair with the music of these four talented Toronto ladies began in late 2017 (in fact, my No. 1 song of 2017 was “Money”), and didn’t ease up this year. With its groovy guitar riff, infectious chorus and hilarious “itty bitty titty committee” line, “T-Shirt” was easily my song of the summer and song of the year. (Hmmm… I guess I just ranked this one. So be it! I’m the boss here! To paraphrase Darth Vader, “I am altering the rules. Pray I don’t alter them any further.”)
“Caught Up,” Death From Above
From their 2017 album Outrage is Now, it was on the radio a lot in 2018 and I never tired of it. It’s just so raunchy, with its riff full of bent notes and tempo change that takes it from a slow strut to a manic run for your life, and back again. Way back in the old days I had a mixtape (and later a mix CD) of songs I dubbed “Raunchy Rock,” and this track would’ve fit perfectly on it.
“Heat Wave,” Snail Mail
There’s something amazingly Juliana Hatfifeld/Dinosaur Jr. about this band, led by guitarist singer Lindsey Jordan, who wasn’t even born when those acts were at the height of their early-mid-‘90s popularity. The melody here is so soothing, spiked with awesome little guitar bursts, and it just reminds me of watching bands at Lee’s Palace in the ‘90s.
“Dark Saturday,” Metric
Look, I enjoyed Metric’s previous album, Pagans in Vegas, but it was less rock, more electronic, and just generally not as well received as their previous releases. So when they released “Dark Saturday” as the lead single from their 2018 album Art of Doubt, it was such a rock-and-roll middle finger to all those who slammed on Pagans. Like, “You want us to fucking rock? Here’s a fucking rock song that opens with a power chord blast and a big rock riff. There’s your rock.”
“Just Here with My Friends,” The Darcys (feat. Leah Fay)
At some point in the spring or early summer, The Darcys randomly followed me on Twitter. I’d heard the name, but wasn’t familiar with their music, but I followed back anyway. Not long after, I saw them posting about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this new song, “Just Here with My Friends.” Before long, this became my second song of the summer (behind “T-Shirt”). It’s just so bloody happy. I love that rapid-fire snare riff that leads into the chorus. I love that they brought in Leah Fay of July Talk to add an extra ray of sunlight to the song. Another themed mixed tape I made in the old days was called “Smile Songs,” and this would work perfectly on that one.
“Happy Hour,” Weezer
Like Leslie Jones in that amazingly niche Saturday Night Live sketch, I tend to like my Weezer as close to the sound of their first two albums as possible. But I try to keep an open mind. And I’m glad I did with this song, because while it sounds nothing like “typical” Weezer, bereft of loud power chords, it’s just so soothing. It feels like a day at the beach. And it doesn’t hurt that Rivers Cuomo sings about my musical idol, Stevie Ray Vaughan, in the song’s first line.
“just cuz you can’t,” pronoun
Snail Mail and pronoun were my two favourite new discoveries of 2018. This song comes from pronoun’s 2016 EP, so I’m a couple years behind on it, but I’m including it here anyway because it made me so happy in 2018. Really, all her songs did. She doesn’t have a huge vault of songs at this point (an EP here, a single there), but I look forward to a full album in 2019. And remember this when you listen to this song: it’s just two chords! How does she make the verse and chorus sound so distinct while using the same two chords throughout the entire song?
“The Rover,” Interpol
Interpol has a formula and they unashamedly stick to it album after album and I love it. This track, the first single from their 2018 album Marauder, is the epitome of the Interpol sound: eighth-note guitar lick, reverby vocals, and drums that lay down a steady beat but also leap outside the box here and there.
“Live Through the Night,” Dear Rouge
Really tough to pick just one song from Dear Rouge’s sophomore album, Phases. I almost went with “Little by Little” because of the personal connection I have to it, which I wrote a bit about here. I could just as easily have gone with “Stolen Days,” “Modern Shakedown,” “Boys & Blondes” or even “The Clearing,” too. But “Live Through the Night” has that big, fat bottom, that delicious groove, that I can’t get out of my head.
“Physical,” Juliana Hatfield
This is a cover of the Olivia Newton-John’ 80s classic from Hatfield’s ONJ covers album, which came out in 2018. As I said in my “sort of review” of the album back in April, I loved the original as a kid, but Hatfield adds a new urgency to the lyrics, rocks it up, and contributes a screechingly masterful guitar solo.