Topher’s Top 100 Tracks of 2018
Everyone listens for something different when hearing a particular song for the first time, whether it’s the lyrics, how the vocalist sounds, or an aspect of the musical composition itself. Like it or not our ears are biased. For me lyrics are typically the last thing that I listen for when giving a track that first play. I think 2018 changed that paradigm for me though; many of my favorites were favorites due primarily to the lyrical content therein. Even if the lyrics in these songs weren’t the first thing that caught my attention, for many of them the lyrics were what kept me coming back.
100. The 1975 – Give Yourself a Try
99. Lykke Li – deep end
98. Shad – The Fool Pt 3 (Frame of Mind)
97. The Voidz – Pointlessness
96. twenty one pilots – Morph
95. Years & Years – Sanctify
94. Step Rockets – Never Die
93. Foxd’legnd – Holla at Me
92. Wild Nothing – Partners in Motion
91. Snoop Dogg – Call Him
90. Billie Eilish – you should see me in a crown
89. Smino – TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD
88. Tash Sultana – Mystik
87. Set It Off – Killer in the Mirror
86. Dave Matthews Band – She
85. Charli XCX – 5 in the Morning
84. Justin Timberlake – Livin’ Off the Land
83. Beach House – Dark Spring
81. AWOLNATION – Handyman
80. Ariana Grande – God is a woman
79. Childish Gambino – Summertime Magic
78. Sirius Blvck – hard2find
76. Mick Jenkins – What Am I To Do
75. twenty one pilots – Nico and the Niners
74. Anderson East – Girlfriend
73. Black Foxxes – JOY
72. DREAMS – Numbers on the Board
71. Grimes – We Appreciate Power
70. NAWAS – She Knows
69. Real Friends – Unconditional Love
66. The Band CAMINO – Daphne Blue
65. Sam Westhoff – Night Cap
64. The Revivalists – Change
63. The Fratellis – Starcrossed Losers
62. Mini Mansions – Works Every Time
59. Her – Icarus
58. Beartooth – Manipulation
57. serpentwithfeet – whisper
56. Nothing But Thieves – Forever & Ever More
55. ZAYN – Sour Diesel
54. Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel
53. J. Cole – KOD
52. Meg Myers – Numb
51. tUnE-yArDs – Heart Attack
49. Victoria Victoria – Body Body
48. Kamasi Washington – Vi Lua Vi Sol
47. The Faim – One Way or Another
45. Sofi Tukker – Baby I’m a Queen
44. BROCKHAMPTON – 1997 DIANA
43. THE WLDLFE – Headache
42. twenty one pilots – Cut My Lip
40. Kulick – Ghost
39. The 1975 – I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)
38. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays
37. Lupe Fiasco – Down
35. Young The Giant – Simplify
34. iLe – Odio
33. Good Charlotte – Shadowboxer
32. Underoath – Rapture
31. Diop – Gold Wrist
30. Moon Taxi – Moving to the City
28. Sirius Blvck – Vonnegut
26. Mac Miller – What’s the Use?
25. liily – Toro
Rockers everywhere have been discovering this Los Angeles quintet’s second single “Sold” thanks to placement on numerous Spotify playlists, but it’s their rowdy, upbeat debut cut “Toro” that truly shows off the youngsters’ unbridled rock and roll, both in sound and attitude.
24. Mick Jenkins – Barcelona
My first taste of Mick Jenkins came years ago with his vibey banger “Jazz”—between the incredible wordplay and smooth flow, I was an instant fan. And while for me such wordplay hasn’t quite been replicated since, Jenkins’ signature smoothness is all over his latest LP, Pieces of a Man, particularly on this brief bop.
23. Justin Timberlake – Filthy
A lot of longtime JT fans were concerned when they first saw the teaser video previewing his newest album, and Man of the Woods is admittedly rather different from any of Timberlake’s previous material, venturing into such territory as folk and country at its most different. The lead single, however, is a “filthy,” futuristic-sounding banger that features the Justin everyone has grown to know and love.
22. Interpol – Number 10
Interpol’s first album in four years is a fresh take on their distinct post-punk sound, and while Marauder is a stellar release through and through, it’s the record’s blistering second single that really blew me away. Just listen to that massive—almost majestic—guitar tone, and you’ll hear why “Number 10” remained a mainstay on my regular rotation long after its initial release.
21. BETA – Yo Fugaz
To me this BETA cut is as progressive as it is “indie.” Between the driving guitar and frontman Blas Cernicchiaro’s powerhouse vocals, “Yo Fugaz” is at points reminiscent of the legendary Australian prog-rockers, Karnivool. It’s easily the best alternative rock track to come out of Mexico all year.
20. Fantastic Negrito – The Duffler
Fantastic Negrito just released an LP in 2017, but he really turned things up a notch this time around with Please Don’t Be Dead, and the album’s second single “The Duffler” is living proof of this. There’s a certain stank in the sort of groove employed here, one sure to get your foot tapping along to the beat.
19. Death Cab for Cutie – I Dreamt We Spoke Again
Once again, it is the second single from a release that stands out as its highlight for me, this time with Death Cab for Cutie and their sneakily brief cut, which is equally vibey as it is groovy. It is the fast-moving bassline though that really makes “I Dreamt We Spoke Again” a… shall we say “bop”? (Does that work? Too late; it’s already said. More on this later.)
18. THE WLDLFE – Notch
I have said it once already, but I’ll proudly say it once again for those of you in the back: Carson Hogan is THE WLDLFE’s secret weapon. The multi-instrumentalist spends much of I’m Not Worried Anymore in the background taking otherwise-solid tunes and making them spectacular, but on the one moment where he truly gets to shine, Hogan does just that, serving as a frighteningly fitting frontman over chill yet intense instrumentation.
17. Alex Anwandter – Malinche
What is a “bop” anyway? Is there a specific meaning or is it just the term the kids use these days to call something a “cool song?” Because, based on my own usage of the word, it has no regard for style or genre. This particular cut from the Chilean pop singer who caught my attention with “Siempre Es Viernes En Mi Corazon” a couple years back is vibey too, but here the synths play a much more crucial role. Anwandter’s been often known for his synth-soaked pop sound though, so it’s only fitting that they run the show on this effervescently electronic opener taken from Anwandter’s latest.
16. Ben Howard – Nica Libres At Dusk
I have found that my favorite time to spin the eerie opener from Noonday Dream is while driving fast with the windows down just as the sun is setting. Needless to say, “Nica Libres At Dusk” quickly became a road trip mainstay on many a summer’s night—or, rather, many an evening.
15. Florence + the Machine – Big God
“Big God” is a massive epic that will no doubt send chills down your spine. With a slow, stomping beat and frontwoman Florence Welch’s signature powerhouse vocals, that alone would be enough to make it the highlight from High As Hope. A nasty saxophone line, courtesy of the one and only (you guessed it) Kamasi Washington, is what really pushes it over the edge though.
14. Childish Gambino – This Is America
“This Is America” is the song and music video that everyone needed in 2018, portraying our country’s past and present perfectly over a loud, blasting beat and featuring several cameos from some unlikely stars in hip-hop today.
13. Anderson .Paak – Bubblin’
Much like how I felt about other songs here (such as BROCKHAMPTON’s “1997 DIANA,” Mick Jenkins’ “What Am I Do,” and The Faim’s “One Way or Another”), I initially felt betrayed when I first learned that “Bubblin’” would not see release on an album. What can I say? It’s a bombastic bop that feels like it could be the theme for a high speed chase—.Paak’s own words, not mine. The So-Cal-based artist was sure to redeem himself though with Oxnard in November.
12. Sam Westhoff – The Way That You Move
Sam Westhoff is an old friend whose music I’m so glad I finally rediscovered this year. His latest album, Colour, released back in October, which I enjoyed quite a bit. None of the songs, though, come close to possessing that same staying power on “The Way That You Move,” which at 2:23 is over far too soon.
11. DREAMS – Silence
Another song I covered earlier in the year, “Silence” marries 1980s synth-pop with 1990s industrial on this frenetic-sounding banger, with vocalist Daniel Johns bringing his best vocal performance on all of DREAMS’ debut.
10. CHVRCHES – Never Say Die
CHVRCHES know how to make synths sound nasty, all while still retaining that etherealness in much of their music, and with “Never Say Die,” vocal harmonies also add a soaring characteristic to the song’s chorus, making it an easy highlight on the band’s third studio album, Love Is Dead.
9. Hippo Campus – Anxious
On the surface, the second track from Hippo Campus’ fantastic new LP, Bambi, feels like a fun, feel-good electro-tinged banger… that is, until you hear the lyrics. Staying true to its title, “Anxious” tackles a tough subject that not everyone is brave enough to document in song form. I’m also a sucker for that wonderful juxtaposition of music and lyrics that sonically just don’t make sense together, so it’s no wonder I loved this song so much.
8. Young The Giant – Mirror Master
While they have been on my radar for years, 2018 was the year that Young The Giant finally became one of my favorite bands (maybe my favorite? Sorry, MUTEMATH), and this particular track played a large role in that. Instrumentally, it’s a stellar song that serves its purpose as an album closer rather well. Lyrically, “Mirror Master” is exactly what I needed to hear during a time in my life when I was unsure about a lot of things, and in that way it feels like it was made specifically with me in mind. That, my dear friends, is the beauty of music.
7. Yadin Kol – True Love
I featured Yadin Kol’s debut back when it first released in June and could not stop raving about his unique sound. At the time I coined the sound “island soul pop,” a term by which I still stand one hundred percent, even six months later. Add to that some incredibly thought-provoking lyrics that will likely make you nod your head in agreement (all while already bobbing to the beat), and it’s no wonder “True Love” served as the soundtrack to much of my summer in 2018.
6. Dream Chief – Love Me Back
Speaking of quality tunes released this past summer, with perfectly complementary guitars and synths (a feat not everyone can pull off), and lyrics with just the right amount of “bubbly,” “Love Me Back” was the smash of the summer for me and many others. This is the second year in a row where a Dream Chief song is in my top ten, and even though the indie pop duo actually released three singles this year (two of them, including this one, are here), “Love Me Back” is by far the strongest tune the Tuttle cousins have written to date.
5. Franz Ferdinand – Feel The Love Go
There’s a certain cathartic feeling that I experience every time “Feel The Love Go” comes on—one that would likely drive most other people insane. Not many tunes are as danceable as they are dissonant, though. And even nearly a year later (the second single from the Scots’ latest LP first released at the beginning of January), the penultimate cut from Always Ascending still has that same bite to it.
4. Joshua Powell – Econoline
The new record from Joshua Powell is unlike anything he’s ever done before, which is partly why it ended up as my album of the year for 2018. Its second single, the deceivingly straight-forward, dreamy indie pop tune “Econoline” epitomizes this ethereal uniqueness present throughout much of PSYCHO/TROPIC.
3. St. Paul & the Broken Bones – Convex
“Convex” wasn’t the lead or even the main single from Young Sick Camellia, but it sure feels like it should have been. From the opening notes to its ending fadeout, the powerful track is constantly evolving over the course of its 5-minute lifespan, with an incredible array of chord progressions and key changes always keeping things interesting.
2. twenty one pilots – Jumpsuit
I recall the very first time I heard that driving bassline of “Jumpsuit.” I had just begun my two-hour drive back home to Indy the morning after seeing Janelle Monáe in Cincinnati, when my friend Angela texted me to tell me the long-awaited first taste(s) of Trench had finally arrived. Needless to say, the haunting yet uplifting rocker became all I listened to the rest of the way there, and a tune I continue going back to long after that fateful July morning.
1. The 1975 – Love It If We Made It
If there is any one song that can adequately sum up the year 2018 (other than, of course, “This Is America”), it would be The 1975’s “Love It If We Made It.” With frontman Matty Healy’s plethora of dicey one-liners referencing the state of the world right now, and the tune’s exceptionally vibey sonic disposition, there was no better song from this year than “Love It If We Made It.”
Listen to all of the songs below on my Spotify playlist: