100 Best Songs of 2018: 61 - 100
61. Angry Me - Graham Coxon
This folk stomper is less than two minutes long. Really it’s a testament to the power of auxillary percussion. The woodblock is the star of the show here. Also the song is good. But I’m really just waiting for Christopher Walken to come out, drop his cowbell and start demanding more woodblack.
GENRE: Indie Folk, Folk Rock
62. Hand It Over - MGMT
This is classic MGMT, more so than any other song on “Little Dark Age”. With astral textures and expansive production (bring on the vocal phasers!), all surrounding fundamentally impeccable melodies and a signature Andrew VanWyngarden performance on drums and bass guitar.
VanWyngarden has really always been the heart of the band, in this writer’s opinion. Much of “LDA” features Ben Goldwasser’s synths, and really showcases his value to the group. But the best MGMT songs are the ones with rockin’ bass lines and bitchin’ drum beats. Think “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters”, “The Handshake”, and “Alien Days”.
Really though, the song in their catalogue this calls the most back to is the title track from “Congratulations”, both of which close their respective albums. It’s mellow, bordering on melancholy, yet soothing. In many ways, “Hand It Over” is an improvement on “Congratulations”, mostly in terms of production and choices like the female backing vocals. Really though, “Hand It Over” attests to the fact that MGMT are still the last great mainstream rock artists.
63. Resume (feat. Swamp Dogg) - Mouse on Mars
I have a strange affinity for surreal spoken-word passages over dark and weird soundscapes. Frankly, there isn’t enough of this music being made, it’s super cool bro. Swamp Dogg’s poem that opens the song is close to immaculate. Then the bass drops and he starts talking about his hit record, and lo and behold, we hear a snippet of the record. Mouse on Mars isn’t afraid to go for the gusto, people! And they nail the execution I might add, from the big bass-y beats to the pulsing outro.
The inner fanboy in me is very turned on by this avant garde docu-collage approach to some of the subject matter. The dancer in me is turned on by the dark, industrial, dubby beats. So really there’s something for everybody, yo.
GENRE: Electronic, Spoken Word, Experimental
64. Lucky Ones - Israel Nash
Israel Nash seems pretty committed to the singer-songwriter image. This is the only song I’ve ever heard of his, but it’s so very Laurel Canyon circa 1977 that I can’t imagine this man wearing anything other than cowboy boots and corduroys.
Beyond this, Nash posts all his lyrics on a beautifully rendered web-page that should genuinely make most songwriters jealous. It’s necessary too, since it’s kind of hard to understand him at times. Not that this is a bad thing. Nash’s lyrics are flowery and ornate enough in the verbiage that it compensates for a pretty lame overall message. So honestly it’s best we aren’t forced to focus on it, and instead can hone in on his unique vocal timbre.
It also helps that this is really finely crafted song melodically speaking, as well as in terms of pacing. Nothing lasts too long, and the song changes just enough to keep things interesting, while giving you everything you want from it.
GENRE: Alt-Country, Singer-Songwriter, Folk Rock
65. Caroline - Raised On TV
This is just damn good songwriting. Good earworm melodies, perfect and efficient structure, nifty guitar licks, an absolutely killer guitar solo etc. The production is also top notch, with layered radio-ready guitar tones, a tight low end and polished harmonies.
I wish I had more to say about this song, but it’s really just such a solid display of pop-rock craftsmanship that it speaks for itself. There’s no fat to trim, and the production perfectly matches the song’s excellent dynamics.
GENRE: Alternative Rock, Power Pop
66. My Van - Casablanca Drivers
I first heard this French indie pop band at a concert they performed while on tour in America this year. I didn’t know what to expect obviously, and what I saw was a genuinely tight and groovy live band.
This translates on record, thank god, as Casablanca Drivers recognizes the strength of their live chemistry. Plus there’s some tasty synth guitar tones and a trippy fake out at the three-minute mark, to boot! It’s so bodacious that it doesn’t even matter that they can’t properly pronounce the word “van” through their thick accents.
GENRE: New Wave, Indie Pop, Synth Rock
67. Somewhere A Judge - Hop Along
Hop Along is a good band. I, like much of the music world, figured that out in 2015 when they dropped “Painted Shut”, a blisteringly raw album, both sonically and emotionally. Three years later Hop Along are back and . . . quieter than ever?
“Bark Your Head Off, Dog” was a disappointment for me, to be sure. The loud, firebrand wails of vocalist Frances Quinlan have transformed into adult contemporary friendly whispers. The new music is more like Natalie Merchant than their old garage rock Alanis Morrisette sound. By eliminating the louder side of their music, they have sacrificed dynamics for commercial viability in the post-Big Thief rock ecosystem.
That being said, Hop Along is still a good band. There were some pretty inventive grooves on their most recent album, like on the string driven “Prior Things”. “Somewhere A Judge” has such a strong melody and buoyant instrumentation that my personal quibbles with the album fall by the wayside. This is just a good radio rock song, plain and simple. Full of quirky flourishes like a random burst of vocodered robo-vocals, the message seems to be: if you’re gonna sell out a little, you might as well do it right.
GENRE: AC Revival, Indie Rock
68. Pastorale Vassant - Jon Hassell
Jittery polyrhythms abound in “Pastorale Vassant”. Apparently this means “Pastoral Spring” in Hindi, which makes me wonder at the odds that Hindi would have cognates with English. Perhaps their word is a transliteration of an English word? But I digress. The point of listening to music like this is to make your mind wander. I rarely finish this song without being surprised that it’s already ended. Safe to say, this dissociative soundscape isn’t like traditional musical portrayals of it’s titular season (the strings and pianos here shiver and shake about in halting, yet hypnotic rhythms, in direct opposition to the fluttering and transient nature of a piece like, say, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”). Yet, it does in a way reflect Spring accurately: brief, messy, throbbing with an unpredictable energy.
GENRE: Experimental, Avant-Garde Electronic
69. I’ll Make You Sorry - Screaming Females
“I’ll Make You Sorry” is prototypical neo-grunge. Power Trio? Check. Female Vocalist? Check. Garage influences to roughen up the proceedings? Check. But checking off all the boxes isn’t enough to make this song one of the year’s best.
No that honor belongs to singer Marissa Paternoster, whose voice splits the difference between the robust power of Rachel Fannan (Sleepy Sun, Only You) and the grungy warbling of Mia Zapata (The Gits). She brings a gravitas and raging vulnerability to the proceedings that’s befitting of the track’s ambiguous subject matter.
It’s clear from the lyrics that Pasternoster is issuing an angry warning. But exactly what the warning means is left unclear. Certainly the romantic partner in question is a liar, but “not the worst”. “You drive my sin”, Pasternoster fulminates, but was fuels the exhortation that she will “make you sorry”? The obvious implication from the secondary hook that gives the song it’s title is one of vengeance. And this isn’t a bad thing in terms of marketability.
But I posit that the song is actually about Pasternoster’s own failings. “I once was in love before I knew you/I’ve given up” she says on the chorus, while closing the third verse with “where future structures fail/their ruins write your name”. Is it possible she will make you sorry because she’s damaged and unsure of her ability to trust or put faith in love again? Who knows but the fact I can ask these questions is a testament to the lyrics.
GENRE: Punk Rock, Neo-Grunge
70. Human For - Sunflower Bean
We live in an era where everyone and their brother is trying to find new ways to synthesize rock and electronic production, in hopes of finding the next big “sound”. Well, Sunflower Bean seems about as close as anyone.
“Human For” centers around a descending grunge riff, while the drums pound robotically before slamming into a crashing beat as Julia Cumming intones that she needs “the sound of the drums, the drums, the drums”. It’s loud and nasty, but full of shiny production flourishes (the oscillating radio static of the bridge) and each instrument is balanced between full on rock menace and glittery teen-friendly pop sheen. Best of all, the song is economical and over fast, leaving you wanting more. So prepare to click the repeat button before listening.
GENRE: Neo-Grunge, Indie Rock
71. Knockin’ On The Coffin - Trembling Bells
In the tradition of Heron Oblivion, Trembling Bells combines groovy psychedelic rock with traditional english folk melodies and motifs. The result is probably far more psychedelic if you’re British, sort of the primal equivalent of what Neil Young & Crazy Horse are for Americans. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable mixture, and you get exactly what you paid for.
GENRE: Psychedelic Folk Rock
72. Far Below - The Pineapple Thief
Yeah baby! Remember 2000s radio prog? You know, stuff like A Perfect Circle, Porcupine Tree, Coheed and Cambria, Fair to Midland etc?
Well if you miss the genre’s clean and unthreatening vocals, wash of crisp guitars (chock full of massive mute picking), and busy yet groove oriented drumming, you are in luck. The Pineapple Thief dropped an album this year, and it’s a time capsule to a simpler time. Clearly this band is still trapped in 2005, and I don’t mind.
“Far Below” is the best outing on “Dissolution”, an album full of big riffs and flashy drums from Gavin Harrison, formerly of the aforementioned Porcupine Tree. There’s something refreshing about hearing a band so comfortably and genuinely nail this genre, which is generally boring, for me at least.
Is “Far Below” life changing? Nope. I’m not really sure why this genre is considered progressive, to be honest. But “Far Below” has got a solid structure, opening with gigantic guitars and winding its way through dreamy verses into an stadium-ready chorus, all topped off with an epic, yet restrained, bridge section. I hate using the word epic by the way. So what does that tell you?
GENRE: Prog Rock, Prog Metal
73. Check Baby - Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile gets himself a synthesizer and it invigorates the best track on a somewhat lackluster album. It’s not that I completely dislike Vile’s albums that have come out post-“Wakin’ on a Sunny Daze”, a masterpiece of lo-fi rock production and folk rock songwriting. But his trademark sound is intentionally lazy (hence the now ubiquitous “slacker rock” genre tag), and something about his past two albums hit me like he just wasn’t trying very hard. Songs are meandering and severely need editing, and he’s generally been recycling the same tricks for ten years now. The man has a wheelhouse, and he’s locked himself inside it and eaten the key.
Luckily, in spite of himself, Vile usually pumps out two or three really good songs a record, like clockwork. Even when the full album is a mess you can count on tracks like this or “Loading Zones”.
“Check Baby” lumbers along, buoyed by a dirty, bass heavy synth.
GENRE: Synth Rock, Slacker Rock
74. Brean Down - Beak>
Beak> makes electronic music live in the room, and regularly avoids overdubs. Perhaps this is why 2018’s “>>>” was such a fantastic outing, especially compared to what I found to be an underwhelming year for the genre.
We can probably credit the live instrumentation to Geoff Barrow, he of Portishead fame. Barrow’s vision of electronic was always more ambitious than many of his contemporaries, and that shines through here as Beak> moves beyond their trademark Dumpster-Krautrock sound. The anxiousness remains in full force on “Brean Down” however, and certainly “ain’t up on the radio”.
There’s something foreboding about this track, as the unforgivingly persistent beat provides a back-drop for an eerie hum of... guitars, I think? Who knows, maybe they are synths. Half the fun of Beak> is the uniqueness they bring to their aural textures, and “Brean Down” is highly exemplary of this.
GENRE: Trip-Hop, Electronic
75. Flight Advantage - Guided By Voices
So many young bands right now are trying to sound like Guided By Voices circa 1999. What they don’t know is that the most recent incarnation of GBV is just as good as, if not better than, the band in their Major Label days.
“Flight Advantage” features an instant classic vocal melody on the verses (“Birds can fly/Spiders will dance”), with a typically raw chorus to offset it. The dissonant, yet Alex Chilton indebted, guitar riff that drives the song provides the perfect backdrop for singer Robert Pollard. The older the band gets, the more the ragged sound they are known for makes sense.
GENRE: College Rock, Indie Rock
76. White Bird - Jess Williamson
I’m truly a sucker for a good chorus, and that’s pretty much all I have to say about this song. Also the production is good, the songwriting commendable and the musicianship is better than average. The song sets a vibe very well. All that being said, I’m here for the catchy, yet laid back, chorus and the rest is all just gravy.
GENRE: Folk Rock, Alt-Country
77. Never Known - General Mojo’s
General Mojo’s unabashedly carry the toward of old school Progressive Rock forward into the dark cacophonous night of the modern music age. While the rest of us are bombarded with trap metal and noise pop, the Mojo’s bathe in a sensory deprivation chamber and listen to old Emerson, Lake and Palmer records on psychedelics.
Fortunately for us music listeners, this is a recipe for some damn good songs. “Never Known” is the finest effort off of their 2018 EP, “All The Greats”, and it showcases the bands rare chemistry better than almost any other track in their repertoire. Vocalist/Bassist Dune Butler and Vocalist/Percussionist Heather Thomas duet together beautifully, as their voices meld together in a celestial haze of reverb and chorus effects. Meanwhile, guitar and synth lines wash over a propulsive yet restrained bass line.
This song seems designed specifically for driving your car at night, down a lonesome city road. It transfixes and hypnotizes the listener, and before you know it, six minutes have passed and you’re ready to hear it all over again.
GENRE: Synth Rock, Prog Rock
78. Norrin Radd Dreaming - Oliver Coates
What I like about the best avant garde electronic music is how it defies traditional description and analysis. Sure someone could explore the musical theory of it in a similar way one would with jazz or classical, but that someone ain’t me.
“Norrin Radd Dreaming”, to this writer, seems like a collage of adjectives. Shivering, Pulse-Pounding, Empyrean, Tempestuous, Placid. The song surreally mimics a dream state, as the best avant garde electronic should, and closes with a murmured female voice. Not sure who the voiceover is supposed to be, but it surely can’t be the titular Norrin Radd. You see, Norrin Radd is the Silver Surfer’s alter ego.
Take a listen and come up with your own interpretation dammit, I’m busy meditating.
GENRE: Avant-Garde Electronic, Ambient
79. Do or Die - The Revies
The only way to describe The Revies’ sound is classic rock. That’s what it is, and there isn’t any pretense about it. The restrictions imposed by such vigilant traditionalism are perhaps what enable The Revies to write songs like “Do or Die”, or last year’s “Moonlight Waltz”. Songwriting is all that matters in the classic format; there’s nothing new aesthetically that can really be achieved. (This may be the central mistake of so many neo-psych bands these days who sacrifice songwriting for style.)
The verse is focused around a remarkably familiar hook and lyrical conceit (“another sunday afternoon...”). The chorus can’t quite match up to the catchiness of the verse, but it doesn’t need to. It does all it’s asked and relieves the mounting tension of the verses quite nicely. Its descending chord progression and a heavy backbeat, nicely contrasts the tightly wound verses, while the song’s overall structure builds to a neat crescendo before dropping back to that infectious verse motif and a big chorus finale, all of which The Revies execute with the casual precision of old pros.
80. Son Of A Gun - The YeahTones
A raucous garage-burner of a track. Technically a version of “Son of a Gun” dropped last year (when it was featured on Showtime’s “Shameless”) but an extended cut was released on this years “Lightning” EP. It’s a far better incarnation of the song, with a new bridge that is chaotic yet dynamic and ramps up the payoff from the final chorus.
Speaking of, that chorus is, frankly, perfect. The band nails the balance of tightness and slop necessary to properly execute a rowdy song like this. There isn’t really much to say beyond this: Play this
GENRE: Hard Rock, Garage Rock
81. Purge - The Gitas
Something about The Gitas just sounds loud as fuck. Every instrument in “Purge” sounds absolutely enormous. Drums hit like the hammer of the gods. Bass rumbles like menacing thunder. Guitars rain down from the heavens like a fiery hailstorm of rawk.
Hyperbole? Or just the only proper way to describe The Gitas’ massive sound, which some slovenly ignorami may refer to as “classic butt-rock”. And in some ways that demeaning label is accurate. For The Gitas are not a band of subtlety, nor are they interested in hiding their glorious rockism for fears of seeming lame.
This is because they actually aren’t lame at all, any way you slice it. Hundreds of stupid bands in leather studded pants trip across the stage at washed up rock clubs across America, all thinking they sound like The Gitas actually do sound: Unironically Epic. Boner-Inducing. Head-Splitting. Awesome.
GENRE: Stoner Rock, Grunge, Metal
82. Brightening The West - The Fernweh
Following in the footsteps of a thousand neo-psych bands obsessed with the traditional folk based sound of the 60s, The Fernweh step things up a notch. Not only does the song accentuate the aesthetic with modern production techniques that really shine, but it’s actually got a good melody that is well exectued.
With “Brightening The West”, The Ferweh have done what so many contemporaries are trying and failing to do: Write a good song that simultaneously transcends its fetishistic idolatry and remains a complete time-capsule, indebted intransigently to it’s influences.
GENRE: Folk Rock, Paisley Folk, Neo-Psychedelia
83. Lean In When I Suffer - Speedy Ortiz
The wobbly groove of Speedy Ortiz can be pretty hit or miss. Sometimes you end up with a danceable industrial-noise-punk barn burner like “Puffer”, or sometimes you end up like a majority of their forgettable 2018 outing “Twerp Verse”. I suppose the album isn’t actually that bad, but it certainly didn’t live up to my expectations after the excellent “Foil Deer” a few years back. But Sadie Dupuis is a talented enough songwriter that she can’t help but cough out a couple gems regardless.
Enter “Lean In When I Suffer”, which pulls off the tricky balance of queasy grunge dissonance and pop craftsmanship that Speedy Ortiz is known for. Dupuis has a real knack for sneaking an earworm melody into a garbage disposal of noise, and making it somehow not sound trite. One advantage the song has is it’s brevity. It doesn’t waste time trying to convince you of anything. Instead it just does it’s business and continues on it’s merry, stumbling way.
GENRE: Neo-Grunge, Noise Rock, Lurch Punk
84. Vitch - The Oil Barons
The Oil Barons specialize in schizophrenic lounge metal, heavily indebted to any band who ever liked Black Sabbath ever. That being said, “Vitch” is no cookie-cutter stoner metal affair.
The song features equal amounts twangin’ country fried guitar lines and prog-metal shredding from Louis Aquiler, whose melodies on guitar interlock perfectly with singer/bassist Andrew Huber’s fat, idiosyncratic bass lines. This interplay is most apparent during the breakdown two minutes in, as well as the Both are complimented with an organ that subtly weaves its way in and out of the mix, filling what little empty space there is as necessary.
When brainstorming what the hell the lyrics are about, I suppose the best guess would be that it’s the way a German person would say “witch”? Something something about long dicks, a few guitar solos and epic pleas for divine intervention, etc. What you have here is a frenetic hodge podge of cabaret energy and art-punk attitude, all wrapped in a stoner metal package. It’s kinda incredible that it even works, but it does.
GENRE: Prog Metal, Stoner Rock
85. Spring - Luluc
I love when a song lives up to it’s name. The rich harmonies and pastoral production of “Spring” perfectly encapsulate the sleepy optimism of the titular season. The engineering and mixing on this track are truly stellar, with lush reverb and full sounding instrumentation. This is the sort of song you play while you try to fall asleep in the backseat of a car.
There’s really not much to say beyond that. The simple structure of the track isn’t trying to do anything new, as it’s a song hinging more on precise yet relaxed performances. “Spring” hits its mark perfectly, and doesn’t try to do anything beyond that.
GENRE: Chamber Pop, Folk
86. Leave It Alone - Amanda Shires
This lo-fi riverboat electro-prog track is produced by Dave Cobb. There’s other good things about it. But really just listen to it cuz Dave Cobb is the best producer working today by a mile and apparently everything he touches turns to gold.
GENRE: Lo-Fi, Indie Prog, Garage Pop
87. Set It On Fire - Vikingo!
Most pop punk is shitty. But most pop punk bands don’t have Vikingo’s guitar pedals. That octave effect that anchors the main riff is stupidly cool. For real, it’s stupid how cool it is.
Aside from cool guitar effects though, Vikingo! busts out some truly hooky vocals and a big, modern sound, all buffed to perfection by the clean and muscular production.
GENRE: Pop Punk, Alternative Rock
88. Trafalgar Square - Jonathan Wilson
What I like about Jonathan Wilson is he shamelessly re-appropriates classic rock tropes, and often actually improves on them. Mostly because he’s a smart guy, and he lifts elements from songs that didn’t reach their full potential.
On “Trafalgar Square”, the obvious candidate for the title of “song was Jonathan Wilson listening to last week” is “Spirit in the Sky” by whichever one-hit wonder that was so inconsequential I don’t care to look up their name.
“Spirit in the Sky” had a rad guitar tone. The rest of the song is stupid and lame, and the musicianship is poor. Jonathan Wilson rectifies pretty much all of this and gives that guitar tone the song it deserves.
Few artists can get away with re-appropriating such obvious references and not come off as total schmucks. Sometimes Jonathan Wilson is one of them.
GENRE: Retro-Rock, Glam Prog, Psychedelic Rock
89. Deran Deran Alkheir (Well Wishes) - Bombino
Something, something about Bombino. King of Tuareg Desert Blues, yadda yadda. I really just wanna use this space to trash Dan Auerbach for a second.
See, most people know Bombino because of The Black Keys frontman. So good on him for that. But take a listen to the two albums Dan Auerbach produced for Bombino. They are the worst albums in the dude’s catalog. By a long shot.
So to put it another way, Dan Auerbach made a guy famous and then made sure that the albums everybody knew him for were way shittier than the rest of his stuff. Nice work, Dan. Really living up to that sad Jack White clone-abortion image you’ve built for yourself. I’ve always felt like Dan Auerbach cries whenever he ties his shoes, because it hurts his feetsy-weetsies, know what I’m sayin’?
Then a song like “Deran Deran Alkheir” comes out and is super cool and awesome and stuff. Luckily Bombino now has resources. So he can produce songs that actually sound pleasing to the ears, but feature some really wicked, middle-eastern scale guitar playing.
GENRE: Desert Blues, Tuareg Rock, World
90. With Animals - Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood
Mark Lanegan does as Mark Lanegan does. Duke Garwood (who I didn’t previously realize had a history of Lanegan collaborations until 2018’s “With Animal.”) sounds like Mark Lanegan playing country music.
Together they sound like Mark Lanegan with a really cool guitar player. The music is downtempo and hazy. It swirls and churns, but gently and smokily.
“With Animals” isn’t a song that will grab you right away. But it ends up worming it’s way into your brain over time. And it’s sexy.
GENRE: Desert Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Electronic Rock
91. Disarray - Low
Mormon sadcore divas Low went in a different direction this year. Instead of remarkably slow, minimalist indie rock, they decided to do some really slow, minimalist, uncomfortable electronic music. UDM for short.
This track is a one way ticket into a migraine headache, so strap yourself in. Remember kids, sometimes anxiety is the desired affect!
GENRE: Electronic, Experimental
92. Thunder Cave - Foot
I don’t know why I know this song. I don’t know exactly why I like it so much really. Most stoner metal sounds the same, guys. Let’s call it like it is. To me, that makes it not particularly psychedelic most of the time, borderline boring. Now, Foot is a good band, but their biggest weakness is just this. They don’t obviously stand out stylistically on first listen, and probably like Red Fang.
But “Thunder Cave” really does live up to its name though. It’s deceptive, in that you don’t exactly realize how bludgeoningly heavy it is. Until halfway through when you realize you aren’t bored.
There’s not anything that particularly stands out on the track. I can’t specifically point to the vocals or guitars or bass or drums or production and definitely say “this is what makes the song work”. It just all comes together in a singular performance of a well constructed song, and calls to mind Alice in Chains’ third album by way of Kylesa.
GENRE: Stoner Metal, Sludge Metal
93. Doesn’t Matter - Christine & The Queens
I’m a big fan of philosophers such as Camus, Nietzche, and Hegel. Can we assume the same of french singer Heloise Lettissier/Christine and her band of Drag Queens?
Who knows. But either way, Christine seems to have figured out the point. My whole life I’ve never felt it mattered whether god existed, so I’m probably biased. But “Existentialist Pop” has a nice ring to it, no?
Also, this is one of the songs on her successful 2018 album “Chris” that, in addition to it’s blissed out, shiny production and earworm melodies, didn’t strike me as trans-bandwagon jumping to a highly cynical degree. The album explores her titular (heh heh) male alter-ego, which mostly comes off as opportunistic exploitation of a hot button issue.
(It also seems to be working pretty well for her, so make of it what you will. I expect we can now assume that the Lady Gaga business model of consolidating a gay fanbase in order to seem “hip” to women is the musical equivalent of gentrification.)
Regardless, “Doesn’t Matter” is a good fucking pop song. Like, damn yo. Theres a slithering, pulsing synth groove backing up some ridiculously infectious vocal melodies. Then, after some expertly constructed verses & choruses, it’s all topped off with a sublime bridge where Lettessier busts out one hell of a Celine Dion impression. It all adds up to a song that’s hard to not listen to on repeat.
94. An Air Conditioned Man - Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Do you like R.E.M.? Do you like The Replacements? Do you like The Feelies? Then you’ll like this. The band finds a way to transcend their influences (barely), which makes the song work. Also the fact that we no longer produce music to sound like everything is happening in the biggest cavern of reverb ever, aids the song immensely. The production is slick, yet raw; the guitar tones are dialed in and restrained. And there’s a rippin’ guitar solo at the 3:43 mark.
Still, it all boils down to if you like R.E.M. At this point, the fact there isn’t a genre page on Wikipedia entitled “Bands Who Fucking Love R.E.M.” amazes me.
GENRE: College Rock, Indie Rock
95. Catch It - Iceage
“Catch It” is a song that’s hard to listen to all the way to the end, unless you’re: A.) Ignoring it as background noise or B.) Paying a lot of attention to it.
What do I mean by this? The lazy affect of the band and the vocals isn’t particularly interested in grabbing your attention, and the real gold comes in the track’s latter half. After three minutes of indie-drone to take ambien to, the track stops and lurches forward into all sorts of noise and tempo-shifts, which finally call attention to the strange attention to detail and control Iceage exert over their ostensibly “sloppy” sound.
96. Hands of the Reapist - Euphio
Euphio is a three-piece out of Los Angeles that is attacking jazz/alternative rock fusion from a new angle. Less grungy than early Slothrust, but still interested in hooks, vocal melodies and sticking to a pop format unlike, say... Elephant9. Their first EP dropped on New Years Day, and showcases the groups complex, tense musicality.
“Hands of the Reapist” plays like a Radiohead song lounging around in a smoky 60s jazz club. In winter. Something about the track is remarkably cold and serene. Singer/Guitarist Lilliana Villines coos softly over the rhythm section’s winding, swirling tapestries. Things get really interesting around the three-minute mark, as the band showcases their skills through an efficient bridge that breaks into a brief squall of noise before dropping back to a hush. Euphio then slowly crescendos into the explosive grand finale, as Villines snarls “Now you’ve got it!”
GENRE: Jazz Rock, Indie Rock
97. Why They Name Whiskey After Men - Dawn Landes
Sometimes a good country song is hard to find. Especially as the genre’s resurgence thanks to artists like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell begins to be co-opted by the mainstream Nashville machine. (Just listen to The Wild Feathers 2018 record and compare its hollow laziness to the ebullient creativity of their debut)
Luckily, we have a song like this Dawn Landes ditty. It’s not concerned with the state of country music or saying anything new. Rather, it’s concerned with being lovesick, getting drunk about it, and having fun. The titular lyrical conceit is so classic that it’s frankly amazing that it hasn’t been done before.
98. Manipulation - Preoccupations
Remember when Viet Cong changed their name to Preoccupations, a year after dropping a pretty damn good debut album, only to drop an album of complete garbage under their new moniker? The band clearly lost their mojo, deflated by the absurd “controversy” around their name, trading in biting guitar noise and well-written songs for weak, whimpering, soulless pap.
On their 2018 album, “New Material”, Preoccupations seems to have brought back some of the Viet Cong intensity. Not to such a degree that I’d strongly recommend the album, but I will say that a few songs on it (“Solace”, “Disarray” and this track) are actually memorable. Which is a massive step-up considering I literally can’t remember a single track from their last album.
“Manipulation” is easily the best track on the album, merging the bands trademark aural paranoia and cold-sounding garage-shoegaze with a song that’s actually makes good use of their strengths instead of coasting on them. The vocals are biting and angry sounding, and the desolation of the lyrics is aptly represented by a slightly off-kilter groove that is followed by a crescendoing refrain of white noise.
GENRE: Post-Punk, Noise Rock
99. Don’t Turn Off The Lights - Dream Phases
“Don’t Turn Off The Light” hinges on a woozy riff that blends some truly queasy sounding guitars with a gloriously sludgy bass. The vocals gently shimmer over the cacophony liltingly, perfectly matching the production of the instruments. The overall result sounds like listening to Jeff Lynne on Ketamine.
GENRE: Neo-Psychedelia, Psych-Pop, Garage Rock
100. Fire Away - Dirty Honey
“Fire Away” opens with a riff that is relatively modestly, with a classic rock stomp that is instantly familiar. It’s not until the pre-chorus, when singer Marc LaBelle coos a pleasing would-be-hook that builds tension and leads perfectly into a thunderous chorus that recalls AC/DC, Aerosmith, Guns ‘N Roses, and pretty much any band your dad would listen to while riding a motorcycle. Anthemic and shamelessly retro, this chorus justifies the simplicity of the aforementioned opening riff, proving that rock is more about thunderous execution than anything else.
Also, if you’ll forgive a final tangent, this song highlights the folly of Greta Van Fleet better than almost any other track that came out this year. It seems to me that Dirty Honey as an alternative for those who (correctly) think Greta Van Fleet is a bunch of poseur kids with too much free money.
Where GVF is busy, over-extended and rambling, DH is locked and loaded, relishing the fundamentals and ignoring the pretense. Greta Van Fleet’s album was an insult to my brain as a thinking individual. If you’re gonna ape the classics, at least follow Dirty Honey’s example and do it well.
GENRE: Hard Rock, Retro-Rock
Photo at the top of the article is by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash.