Looking back at 2018, I’m grateful for this column and for The Bozho and for you as a reader for letting me do this. I’ve spent more time than I ever have digging through all the new songs I can for gold, and it turned up just about everywhere I looked for it. There were easily 100 songs I loved this year, so it was a feat both fun and agonizing to whittle it down to these, my 20 favorite songs of the year.
20. Tommy Cash: “X-RAY”
This song benefits from being massively overproduced in a way comparable only to 2017’s massively slept on dubstep fantasia, Fall Out Boy’s “Young and Menace.”
19. Kurt Vile: “Loading Zones”
He’s such an established favorite of mine that this song gives me that ‘perfect song’ feeling about eight seconds in and lasts till it’s over, but “Loading Zones” still feels so fresh and worth celebrating even after all the plays I’ve given it since this summer.
18. DJ Koze: “Pick Up”
“Pick Up” is ’90s house perfection; the sonic follow up to Daft Punk’s earliest material we never really got from the robots.
17. Kraus: “Bum”
An amazing weighted blanket of a dream pop song. This felt so good in 2018.
16. serpentwithfeet: “whisper”
Absolutely no one sings like serpentwithfeet, but it’s so good to walk outside with this playing in headphones and try to follow along under my breath. It’s so hard to believe (but true!) that this is only one of 11 terrific songs on his debut album.
15. Cardi B (feat. Bad Bunny & J Balvin): “I Like It”
Ah yes, “I Like It,” home of “I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks.” The best song to hear everywhere this year, and we did!
14. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Party for One”
This is Carly’s second year in a row releasing just one song: a perfect standalone banger; ostensibly kicking off her new album, which is coming out…sometime. How many more years could we forgive her for only releasing a new track every 12 months? Hey, if they’re this good, I’m here for it!
13. Against All Logic: “Rave on U”
There were a handful I heard (and indeed a handful on this album), but this was my favorite purely instrumental track this year. The 10-minute runtime was not only essential to the experience, it’s also a total blessing.
12. Mitski: “Nobody”
Nobody asked Mitski to make a disco song about pining for human contact, and maybe that’s why we got one. This was such a fantastic thematic/sonic checkpoint on 2018’s incredible Be the Cowboy.
11. Bad Bunny (feat. Drake): “MIA”
No disrespect to Carly, but how many terrific singles was Bad Bunny on this year? “MIA” was my fave this year, notable because I typically begin to enjoy songs with Drake on them a few years after the fact.
10. Farao: “Marry Me”
Who is this woman? I still haven’t learned or even heard much about Farao, but “Marry Me” is such an arresting sleepy-eyed psych pop song and deserves way more attention than it’s getting.
9. Parquet Courts: “Almost Had to Start a Fight / In and Out of Patience”
I am a huge sucker for songs that start out in one way and end in another (spoiler alert for the end of this list) and this barnburner from one of my very favorite records of the year was great and cathartic whether played live, in a car, in headphones, etc.
8. Lala Lala: “Destroyer”
I describe this album The Lamb affectionately as cloudy day music, and while that still feels like a fair characterization, I have a hard time justifying that designation when the kaleidoscopic chorus of this song parts the morose, overcast reflection of its verses. Nothing feels clearer.
7. Yves Tumor: “Noid”
“Noid” was my favorite of the year’s dark post-Lil Peep tracks. Let’s break down the components: I like sunny samples and I like unsettling, scary music. Does it have to be more complicated than that?
6. Sampha: “Treasure”
One of the my favorite songs of the year was this piano ballad, lush with strings and subtle processing effects, which was released to flood your face with any tears not yet unleashed by Beautiful Boy. I’m looking forward to see this go head-to-head with “Shallow” at the Oscars!
5. Hatchie: “Sure”
When I came across this gem when digging for bands to see at SXSW this year, it made me nostalgic for the ’90s. Now it makes me nostalgic for March! Har har har.
4. Robyn: “Honey”
It’s quite difficult to say anything about this song without being dramatic about it. Many of my very favorite albums of the year didn’t have my very favorite songs of the year on them, but Honey did.
3. Clairo: “4EVER”
Clairo will never have another 2018, just as she never will have another 2017, and just as you’ll never have another of either. That’s all the more reason to celebrate how perfect this (and “Pretty Girl”) was in the context of its Gen Z culture takeover guard change.
2. Lucy Dacus: “Night Shift”
There was never gonna be another “Night Shift” in 2018, which made it the song I compared all others to in 2018. Her audacity to make this epic the opening track of her [breakthrough] album, or to release my favorite rock song of the year before it began, or to have the gall to subject increasingly large rooms of people to the emotional experience of hearing this played live in concert, made Lucy Dacus one of the absolute titans of my 2018.
1. Ariana Grande: “no tears left to cry”
Each of Ariana Grande’s four albums have been great, and each is littered with both world-conquering chart-toppers and fantastic album-only cuts. Still, “no tears left to cry” feels singular both in the context of Sweetener and the rest of her catalog. It’s impeccably lush, stylish and substantial.
Ariana ended up having a truly massive 2018, both personally in her A-list status and widely publicized relationships and commercially with her string of hits on and off of Sweetener. But back in April when “no tears left to cry” was released, none of this seemed a given; she had been largely out of the spotlight following the terrorist attack at her Manchester performance in May 2017. Even during the first moments of hearing this single, I had no expectation that its sweeping, half-time introduction would soon give way to the brisk pace and forward drive that carries it through to the finish.
That seems fitting. The song of course went on to throw her back into the spotlight, where she has remained through to the present, having let loose a massive post-Sweetener hit and cultural phenomena in November with “thank u, next.” As she prepares for a world tour and another new album in 2019, it’s worth saluting “no tears left to cry.” My personal song of the summer ended up being my favorite song of the year in 2018, preserving the year for me in the promise of late spring, back when the world heard it for the first time.