These end of year lists are always difficult, evoking many arguments and heated discussions, but we’ve managed to wangle a top 20 list of all the tracks we have loved this year.
So, without further ado; say hello to your new 20 favourite tracks of 2018.
20. Tessa Violet – ‘Crush’
In the year of 2018, pop music is at a point where it is arguably at its most varied. Chart music in general has moved on from the homogenised and bland era of the 90’s and the start of the decade, now situated in a time of Youtube and social media. So, it’s fantastic to hear what some of social media’s biggest stars can do in music, and not many do it better than Tessa Violet.
“Crush” is probably Tessa Violet’s biggest single to date, and for good reason. The song feels like a throwback to the pop and garage crossovers that existed in the 90’s, but brought forward to this current generation, making an altogether wonderful sound that is playful, energetic and just all around lovely to listen to. Most definitely one of the best pop songs of the year, Tessa Violet absolutely crushed it in 2018. Charlie Leach
19. Little Dragon – ‘Best Friends’
A definite highlight of March and a track that’s withheld its place as one of our favourite tracks over the past nine months, ‘Best Friends’ from Little Dragon is a relatable head bopper for the ages. A wistful track that sings of friendships past, something which unfortunately inevitably happens to us all. Some friendships don’t stand the test of time, but at least we get some great music out of it! Samantha Daly
18. Fever 333 – ‘Made An America’
I feel like I’ve said all there is to say about Fever 333 across these end of year lists. My decision to bat for them in as many of the categories as I have speaks volumes about the power of their message so early into their career. ‘Made An America’ is possibly the track that embodies this in the most obvious way. Fever 333 are sick and tired of the status quo in their home nation and are looking to step up, ask questions and try to force change. A great way to aid this cause is to write brilliant, uncompromising songs. ‘Made An America’ is almost like the dark, alternative cousin to Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’. Both have a way of getting under your skin and making you stop and think. Kieran Rogers
17. IMOGEN – ‘We Never Dance, Do We’
If enchanting ethereality was a competition – which we have half a mind to make it one – Newcastle’s IMOGEN would probably already be winning with flying colours. From her debut single ‘White Lines’ to her follow up EP Faze Green in October, her noir aesthetic has been shining through in earnest, but none more intensely than on ‘We Never Dance, Do We.’ Building from subtle, swirling electronics to stripped back piano refrains and strings, the track ends in a crescendo of raw orchestral and emotional power. Definitely not for the faint of heart. James Makin
16. Team Picture – ‘Strange Year’
Summing up 2018 succinctly in one word (although you could say that for the last few…), Team Picture make depressingly accurate observations of “what’s the news that’s getting me down?” and “the kids, they got no future here”, somehow feel joyous in the absurdity of it all. With fuzzy guitars, soaring synths and catchy lyrics, it’s the perfect antidote to our current strangeness. Tobias Pugh
15. Self Esteem – ‘Rollout’
Self Esteem’s Rebecca Lucy Taylor is more seasoned than you’d presume, and it shows; her music has an underlying confidence that is unmistakable. Take her third single ‘Rollout’ for example; it is a boldly provocative and self-assured pop track (think early Robyn) that leaves you in no doubt of where Taylor’s own self esteem sits on the scale. “What I might have achieved if I wasn’t trying to please you,” recites Taylor the Slow Club alumni over and over as she ruminates the demise of a relationship and the subsequent compromises and lost time. As sad a statement as that could seem, it isn’t, for this song is a proclamation of confidence. There may be regret dwelling here, but there’s definitely no intent to replicate it. Kayleigh Watson
14. Let’s Eat Grandma – ‘Falling Into Me’
Aged a mere 16, Let’s Eat Grandma captured all of our left-field hearts with the quite frankly bonkers ‘Eat Shitake Mushroom’ and corresponding debut album I, Gemini. It was so captivating because it was so wonderfully naive, an album crafted through pure mischievousness and self-satisfying fun. For fans of I, Gemini, their follow up I’m All Ears was a bit of a curveball with the pair’s newfound sophistication, and ‘Falling Into Me’ was the epitome of that. Toning down their impish inflections for a more resolute delivery and trading in their clumsy keys for lush swathes of synth and pounding drums, the duo show their first foray into a maturing sound that is bewildering to behold. You wouldn’t think it was the same band; here’s to the journey. KW
13. Bad Sounds – ‘Are You High?’
Our ultimate go to for some feel good indie pop. Bad Sounds have had a great year, exuding nothing but ‘great sounds’ with not only this track, but their debut album Get Better. ‘Are You High’ erupted into our lives like a little bundle of joy, ironic as lyrically it’s about someone with a chronic case of RBF (resting bitch face). A track that will have you screaming ‘YES’, how could it not be on this list? SD
12. Childish Gambino – ‘This Is America’
What kind of Top Tracks list would this be without a little slice of the Gambino! If you haven’t heard ‘This Is America’ yet – or at least seen a clip from the video – we’re not quite sure where you’ve been. It’s already been making the rounds on our Best of 2018 lists, from the esteemed top spot of our Best Music Videos to a controversial appearance in Memeworthy Tracks, but we haven’t had enough of the Donald just yet. No not that Donald, we’ve definitely had enough of him. JM
11. LOVE SICK – ‘Bullet’
Has this song been synced to high heaven? If it hasn’t, it will no doubt be soon, as Love Sick’s ‘Bullet’ has that familiar quality that makes it feel as if you’ve heard it in a past life. It’s no bad thing, but merely serves to make their brand of clinically slick yet euphorically engaging brand of electro-pop that bit more endearing. As far as debut singles go (this one would have been right at home on our 2018 Debut Tracks of the Year list too!) this one is a mission statement of intent. Whether it be unleashed full force or pared back down to piano like their recent re-imagining of the single, its lovelorn tale loses no impact but merely balances on a different edge. That’s just good songwriting, isn’t it? KW
10. YONAKA – ‘Teach Me To Fight’
YONAKA’s brand of unique alt-pop is subversive and captivating at the worst of times, but at its best it is truly scintillating. Everything about this track holds your attention effortlessly, its piercing guitars, Theresa Jarvis’ swaggering, almost arrogant vocal delivery and above all its chorus. On ‘Teach Me To Fight’, the Brighton band have possibly provided us with the most colossal, soaring, commanding choruses that we have heard all year. Jarvis’ tears down the house (or wherever else you choose to listen to your music) with her impossibly powerful voice. Mesmerising, adrenaline-raising, compelling stuff. KR
9. Freedom Fry – ‘Zombie Love’
With whistling as catchy as that Peter Bjorn and John ‘Young Folks’ song, instrumentation like a funner MGMT one and lyrics of love literally transcending death, ‘Zombie Love’ is the best song you’ll ever hear about, well, zombie love. Though a B-side, Freedom Fry have somehow discovered the formula for the perfect Halloween song; it’s exciting, romantic, catchy, has THE BEST lyrics, can be played 50 times and doesn’t get annoying (theory has been tested) and makes every day feel like October 31st. TP
8. George Clanton – ‘Dumb’
In nearly a decade of writing music, 2018 has been stupendous for George Clanton. With his initial fame coming from his classic vaporwave albums under the name ESPRIT 空,and solo work under Mirror Kisses, Mr Clanton has developed a cult following in the underground internet circles that his music is so suited for.
His 2018 album ‘Slide’ was a tour de force of hypnagogic pop, an ode to the 90’s that combined shoegaze, synth pop and chillwave to make a pure masterpiece. ‘Dumb’, one of the lead singles from the album, is the a product of this world George has created. Imagine if Weezer met Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, took a lot of LSD, and played around with synths. This is ‘Dumb’. A euphoric, orgasmic ride through wondrous synth-scape.
Here at Born, we have one writer who especially loves George Clanton, and would totally love for him to tour the UK. Please. Please George. CL
7. Fontaines D.C. – ‘Chequeless Reckless’
With lead singer Grian Chatten’s straight-to-the-point vocals stating definitions to choice words like ‘Sell-out’ or ‘Dilettante’, you don’t have to read too closely between the lines to piece the spite here together, particularly the repetition of “Money is the sandpit of the soul”. ‘Chequeless Reckless’ is a wise, aggressive and brilliant track that’s the perfect introduction to one of the most new exciting bands of 2018. TP
6. Janelle Monae – ‘Make Me Feel’
The opening bars of this song blew up on on the radio in February and pretty much everybody was convinced that Prince had been resurrected. Alas, it was in fact Janelle Monae, finally having her big pop moment that she has threatened since The ArchAndroid, with ‘Make Me Feel’.
Everything came together here – the call and response chorus, the guitar licks, the squelching bass syncopating perfectly with the clicks. It’s one of the most infectious slices of synth-funk heard on the airwaves in potentially decades* and got everybody anticipating the release of ‘Dirty Computer’.
*Yes, I’m aware ‘Get Lucky’ exists, but I stand by my statement. MF
5. Christine and the Queens – ‘Doesn’t Matter’
With this year’s comeback album Chris seeing the singer-songwriter further investigate gender and sexuality within her music, and visuals and solidifying Christine and the Queens as one of the most powerful pop entities in the world right now, it is understandably a hard try to pick a single track as a standout. For a song so toe-tappingly upbeat with its punchy 80s beats and throbbing synth, ‘Doesn’t Matter’ is imbued with the serious stuff. “If I believe in God and God does exist, it doesn’t matter, does it?” poses Héloïse Letissier cyclically as she touches upon suicidal thoughts, expectations and dynamics of gender from her non-binary stance. As with all the best pop music, it provides on a surface level, but digs deep without you really being aware. KW
4. Florence and the Machines – ‘Hunger’
Florence made her wondrous return, with a thoughtful, evocative track that is yet to not give us goosebumps – and we’ve listened to it, a lot…
This track was never actually meant to be a song, originally a poem that she wrote in an effort to understand why she was looking for love in things that were not love. Speaking about obsession and how it can fill holes in our psyche so easily, speaking on the track Welch said: “I guess I made myself more vulnerable in this song to encourage connection, because perhaps a lot more of us feel this way than we are able to admit. Sometimes when you can’t say it, you can sing it.” SD
3. Young Fathers – ‘In My View’
Testing perceptions, jam-packed will sly provocations. In My View sees Young Fathers at their best. Half spoken word, half sung, with hectic, scattered drum beats and intoxicating synths. It’s a track that you can’t help but be taken over by. One that should be on everyones list for this year. Without question. SD
2. Girli – ‘Day, Month, Second’
The interesting thing about Girli, is that since her inception we seem to be watching her grow quite vividly in sound, genre and production. This track was a complete step up for her and one we hope will see her well on the right track in to 2019.
We’ve been fans from the start and judging by this absolute bop, we will continue to be for a long time to come. SD
1. IDLES – ‘Danny Nedelko’
There’s not much left to say about IDLES. ‘Danny Nedelko’ is a song that delivers the band’s message. This is music of acceptance, love, and hating anyone else that opposes that. IDLES are the band of this generation, the one that will lead people through the mire into a happier tomorrow.
Devoted to singer Joe Talbot’s best friend, ‘Danny Nedelko’ tells the story of, well, Danny Nedelko, lead singer of Heavy Lungs (who are also a fantastic band). Though IDLES’ trademark bite is here in this song, this is music with a predominantly upbeat and positive message. Immigration is good, and as IDLES suggest, we should all embrace people from all over the world.
IDLES have dominated 2018 from start to finish. There is really no other band that have grabbed the public’s collective attention quite like IDLES. They are certainly a band that will will remain at the top of their game for decades to come. CL