Matt Wilkinson on Beats 1 radio, recommendations from friends, Pitchfork, Buzzfeed, randomly monitoring new releases and grabbing songs that looked like they might be cool, checking out interviews with my favorite artists to see what they’re listening to, Reddit, and Twitter.
Here’s a couple of songs that I thought were great in 2018.
Venice Bitch - Lana Del Ray
This is some perfect Laurel Canyon nostalgia (can you count the lyrical references?) segueing into a pretty and noisy middle, back out into pretty folk, and then back into the noise. It’s over nine minutes long, but it doesn’t feel drawn out or padded. It’s beautiful and hypnotic, and one of my fave songs of the year.
French Riviera - Cautious Clay
One of my happiest discoveries this year was Cautious Clay. He’s Brooklyn, and I guess you could say he’s part of this new wave of indie R&B. He’s got a real feel for how to bring the big chorus (check out Joshua Tree for another example of his production prowess). His lyrics are cynical and heartfelt at the same time, guarded and vulnerable. I missed his debut show at Baby’s All Right, and I don’t know that I’ll ever forgive myself. Watch this kid - he’s gonna be huge.
Doesn’t Matter - Christine & The Queens
This one reminds me a lot of an old fave of mine, La Roux: open wound angst over chilling synth beats. The second part of the song (“Run if you stole a shard of sunlight/Don’t ever tell them I’ve got your back/Choking to tears on shards of sunlight/Run if you stole a shard of sunlight”) makes me cry every time. Sometimes it’s tough to be happy and optimistic in this life, and though I’m a cheerful, sunny person by nature, I’m not sure people always realize how much work it can be to remain that way, despite everything. This song gets it.
Break Thru - Dirty Projectors
I would listen to this song over and over while taking showers this summer. It reminds me of my wife, whom I love more than anything in the world. I’ve been a DP fan since Bitte Orca, even though it would be cooler to say “since Rise Above” but that would be lying. The circular riff, the squishy beats and bass, his weirdo vocals - I love it all.
bless ur heart - serpentwithfeet
For about a month, I was making everyone I knew listen to “four ethers” by this guy (which is not on this list because it was released in 2016). Then this album came out, and this song is the final track. It breaks me every time I hear it. It’s the end of a relationship, an attempt to come to terms with what happened. The only growth worth having has a least a little pain in it. Arianna Grande’s “Thank U, Next” isn’t even smart enough to wish it were this song. Even after all the times I’ve listened to it, it still made me cry when I listened to it while writing this.
(also, his outfits are ridiculous, and I have a soft spot for true weirdos)
Don’t Miss It - James Blake
I spent a number of years, most of my life maybe, being a depressed, self-centered asshole. A few years ago, I stopped doing drugs so much, I started taking care of my health, I married the love of my life, and I started being grateful for having such a great life.
Then I got cancer, and all those things were thrown into sharp relief. I was confronted by my mortality, and whereas before I had been trying to be happy, I now realized that there was no other real choice. Happiness was the only option. I am so lucky. You are too, really, if you want. Don’t miss it.
High Five - Sigrid
This fucking song. Pure pop and absolutely glorious. When the chorus kicks in, it’s like a shot of pleasure straight to the spine. The production is stellar, too (the drums! the vocals! the breakdown in the middle 8!). Just listen and enjoy.
Golden Wings - Gabriel Garzon-Montano (IMHO this one’s an invocation of the God Mercury, may his name be Thrice Blessed, and the best invocation of a god through music since Holst)
LOGOUT (ft. Chance the Rapper) - Saba
The beat in this one kept me coming back over and over.
Tomorrow: 2018’s best albums