The fact that Richard Edwards isn’t a household name hurts my heart. He is one of the most poetically talented writers producing music and has been for over a decade. His second official solo effort, Verdugo, is the perfect follow up to last year’s Lemon Cotton Candy Sunset. It’s bolder, stronger, fuller.
KC Dalager and Brad Hale aren’t back. They’ve never left. Despite six years having passed since their ambient rock album Threads won over fans across the globe, the duo never went anywhere. They’ve spent nearly all of that time second term touring, writing, getting stuck, restarting, and figuring out what was next.
The first three months of 2018 produced so many great songs. I have a working Spotify list where I throw singles when I dig them. There were a lot of ones that burned fast and fell by the wayside, but then there were those I could listen to every single day. Here are 30 I enjoyed ranging from synthy indie dance tracks to souldful R&B to relaxing folk.
“All Nerve” – The Breeders
Give Kim Deal two minutes and she’ll create more complexity than most do in numerous songs. She tells us she won’t stop in this song. I believe it.
“All the Stars” – Kendrick Lamar and SZA
These two were the King and Queen of 2017 and I love them together. It’s time Hollywood starts recognizing their blockbusters need blockbuster songs again. Black Panther saved this song for the closing credits and it was so juicy.
“AZ” – Now, Now
When the MLPS due returned with “SGL” in 2017, I was shocked at how acoustic the song was. With the band’s third single off of their forthcoming Saved, they returned to poppy synths and rhythmic lyrics. This is a warm, sing-a-long perfect for summer road trips.
“Bad Boys Need Love Too” – Bahamas
This was one of my first favorite songs of the year. It’s leaps and bounds about the musician’s other songs. It takes risks where normally Afie Jurvanen plays it safe.
“Catch It” – Iceage
That garage rock, I don’t give a damn attitude seeps through this entire nearly 6-minute song. Whoever Iceage is, you know they’re cool.
“Clutch Burning” – Jay Summer
Summer covers so many sounds in this song. It’s the type of song that swims through an entire sunlit apartment on a warm weekend afternoon.
“Cool” – Soccer Mommy
It’s a poppy song about the pressures of trying to be cool. It shifts between apathetic lyrics with jangly guitars filled with fuzz. This whole album is a complete stellar debut. Picking just one song was difficult, trust me. I’ll cheat then: “Your Dog” is 100% awesome as well.
“Django Jane” – Janelle Monáe
She’s back and thank goodness for that. She is on a flat-out mission as she raps hard and doesn’t stop. She covers everything from being a proud black American to female empowerment. She released this alongside “Make Me Feel” to introduce April’s Dirty Computer album.
“Get Out” Chvrches
The Scottish synth-pop trio sounds massive on this track. This is the indie hipster version of a club banger and you can catch me with my car windows down ruining Lauren Mayberry’s perfect vocals.
“God’s Plan” – Drake
Degrassi’s Jimmy Brooks knows how to put out a radio smash. The actors (and sometimes rapper/singer) has refused to play by the music industry’s games and put out two songs in January. We haven’t been able to talk about anything since.
“He Will” – Emma Cole
Her album was years in the making and it was worth the wait. Cole’s vocals rival Amy Winehouse and her melodies are infectious sing-a-longs. There’s everything you want in a song wrapped up in a perfect bow.
“High Horse” – Kacey Musgraves
I’m just getting turned onto Musgraves. The album is sneaking up into my rotation, but this song is how I was introduced to the musician. She’s making pure pop joy regardless of how much of a bummer the lyrical content is.
“How Simple” – Hop Along
This Philadelphia band is on its way to the top. This single is heartbreaking, but you’d never know it. On the surface, it’s tingly and fizzy. They put out a very radio friendly track while never compromising.
“How to Socialise and Make Friends” – Camp Cope
Close your eyes when you’re listening to this and get transported to some dingy venue in the early 1990s. The band knows how to put out some lite riot grill vibes for the modern era.
“I Can’t Quit” – The Vaccines
With some nice oooh-oooh-ooohs and moments to clap along, the Vaccines offer a refined sound that would play well in underground DIY venues or stadiums. They definitely know how to write a damn good song.
“Little Sister” – Trixie Mattel
This drag superstar loves folk and American. The lead track off of One Stone is an older sibling’s advice to younger ones. It’s about growing up and getting out. I love how much Trixie is herself while other drag queens put out club hits, she put out something that would make Johnny Cash proud.
“Minefield” – Richard Edwards
The former Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s maestro went softer on his last album, but this first single highlights how he can orchestrate multiple instruments into pure pop fantasy. He’s turns of phrases highlight how masterfully smart his lyrics are.
“Mistake” – Middle Kids
These Aussies had a terrific self-titled EP in 2017 and are expanding that effort to a full-length album. If you loved their breakout “Edge of Town” you’ll love this smooth, cathartic anthem.
“Next of Kin” – Lucy Dacus
There is something about women in their early-20s producing top-notch rock. Dacus is just one of those on this list and this song may be the pinnacle of what we could expect for years to come from this group of songwriters.
“One Night Only” – Sonder
We need a new Usher and maybe Sonder’s vocals can be up to the task. There’s a lot going right for the singer in this song and he has a solid foundation for something special with his ability to croon.
“Pristine” – Snail Mail
If you’re seeking watered down emotions, look elsewhere. Lindsey Jordan is coming full force with how she feels and she isn’t afraid to hide it. She’s another strong writer who has a lot of moving pieces but never lets her songs feel like a gimmick.
“Rat of the City” – Sidney Gish
Gish is studying jazz guitar at Northwestern and if this song is any indication, she is ready to graduate valedictorian. The whole song is just her soft voice over a barely distorted guitar. She’s in the same class as Julien Baker in the sense of that is all she needs to produce greatness.
“Reviews” – Tancred
Jess Abbot’s vocals on this album have a refined tune to it whereas her previous release sounded rawer. She continues to master writing catchy lyrics over swirling guitars littered with effect pedals. It’s the first single off of June’s Nightstand and knowing Abbot’s songwriting skills, this will be the most single-worthy, but far from the best song.
“Rosebud” – U.S. Girls
Mashing up different melodies and sounds ranging from that music featured in an action flick’s trailer to 1960s girl group vibes, Meg Remy has a firm grasp on what genres and styles go together.
“Standbye” – Death on Holiday
This song sounds like a mid-2000s indie track written in a cabin in Kansas. Or something like that. There are Death Cab vibes or whoever your favorite MySpace band was.
“Suck the Blood From My Wound” – Ezra Furman
Furman’s evolution has hit a new peak here. The opening track from Transangelic Exodus is fuzzy with the best hook and chorus around. There is so much passion behind the shout-singing throughout the track that you’ll need a breather after listening.
“Sweet Holy Honey” – Sango with Xavier Omar
If there was ever a song that should be in an erotic sex scene in an Oscar-winning film, it should be this. It oozes arousal in the slow-burning R&B parts and then even picks up its pace at the right moment.
“Voicemail” – Staasia Daniels
I don’t know when or how I heard Daniels for the first time, but I am so glad I did. Her voice just makes me feel like she should be opening for Beyoncé on a world tour.
“Wasted Time” – The Weeknd
My favorite Weeknd is a sad Weeknd. This song is in the middle of his surprise 6-song release Dear Melancholy, and he sure is bummed. He doesn’t want to wake up if he doesn’t have Selena Gomez or Bella Hadid laying next to him. Which one? You decide.
“Wild Child” – Shopping
You may not think punk when you hear the butt swaying bass line that plays throughout this song, but this trio has that attitude in their veins.
“Youth (Quiet)” – Luna Shadows
The LA-songwriter’s 2017 EP had a terrific pop song called “Youth.” This version is stripped down and was fully produced by the singer herself. If 2018 isn’t the year of Luna Shadows, 2019 will be.
Tancred (aka Jess Abbot) and Richard Edwards (fka Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s) have been releasing some of my most favorite music for the last half-decade. Abbot helped craft Now, Now’s Threads back in 2012, while Edwards fronted my favorite band dating back to 2006. Now, they’re both officially solo artists releasing new albums on the same damn day. June 1, 2018 is going to one hell of a day.
Congratulations – excuse me, condragulations are in order. Trixie Mattel was just crowned the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars 3. She also has the number one album on iTunes. Unlike other drag queens who release EDM-based dance tracks meant to play in gay clubs across the country, Trixie release a… folk album.
Soccer Mommy’s Clean has jumped to the forefront of those fighting for my favorite album of the year. Sophie Allison’s soft melodies of self-referential emo could have been on alt-radio anytime from when Monica Lewinsky topped headlines to rap’s takeover of the mainstream to this very moment.
I made a playlist on Spotify of my favorite songs from the year. I’ve listed the 50 below by artist (as alphabetized by Spotify). You can play the mix on shuffle or I threw it together in a nonsense way that sort of flows. Just enjoy it like the radio station and get surprised with what comes next though.
This year has been sweet to my ears. My favorite musician Richard Edwards released his first official solo album. Then he released a stripped down LP of some newer and older songs. Now, Now released two songs after a five-year hiatus. Lorde, Alvvays, and Haim put out their highly anticipated sophomore efforts. Then there were albums that crushed my soul like Mount Eerie and Phoebe Bridgers albums. Selecting ten was difficult but I tried. I added five EPs to the mix as well. Because I wanted this to encapsulate all of my favorite aural candies, I threw in five podcasts. I could have suggested dozens, but am trying to control myself.
Coming up with my top five favorite rock albums of my lifetime to jam out to of all time is relatively easy.
In chronological order:
- Nevermind by Nirvana (1991)
- Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Moriessette (1995)
- Bringing Down the Horse by the Wallflowers (1996)
- Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World (2001)
- Hot Fuss by the Killers (2005)
The Real Fits are no more. Don’t worry, the Phoenix-based band is still around and their sound is just as mesmerizing as ever. The quartet is now Panic Baby and they, like they have the past few months, plan on releasing new music as often as possible. Their latest song “Heavy” proves the band continues to perfect their precise yet atmospheric tone.