Best Music of 2018, Ranked

written by Zach Morrissey on 2018-12-18

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Because I feel a compulsive need deep within my soul to rank things on a regular basis, here’s the return of my personal end-of-year best music list.

The Back Half of the Playing Field: 50-21

The latter of the list this year still had a lot quality tracks in it. Surprisingly deep year for music, had to cut a lot of tracks that would’ve easily made the list in other years.

50 Parquet Courts - Wide Awake
49 Mistki - Nobody
48 Father John Misty - Mr. Tillman
47 Twin Shadow - Brace (feat. Rainsford)
46 Khruangbin - Evan Finds the Third Room
45 St. Vincent - Fast Slow Disco
44 DJ Koze - Pick Up
43 KIDS SEE GHOSTS - 4th Dimension
42 Sylvan Esso - Funeral Singers (feat. Collections of Colonies of Bees)
41 The Carters - APESHIT
40 Vince Staples - FUN!

39 Janelle Monae - I Like That
37 Preoccupations - Espionage
36 Kanye West - Ghost Town (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)
35 The Voidz - Leave It In My Dreams
34 Flasher - Who’s Got Time?
33 Dirty Projectors - Zombie Conqueror
32 Theophilus London - Only You (feat. Tame Impala)
31 Toro y Moi - Ordinary Pleasure
30 Soccer Mommy - Your Dog

29 Leon Bridges - Bad Bad News
28 Lucy Dacus - Night Shift
27 JPEGMAFIA - Puff Daddy
26 Pusha T - If You Know You Know
25 The Beths - Future Me Hates Me
24 Disclosure - Ultimatum
22 Kurt Vile - One Trick Ponies
22 SOPHIE - Immaterial

The Stars of 2018: 20-1

These were this year’s standout tracks.

20. Superchunk - What a Time To Be Alive

Not a band I would’ve imagined ending up on my SOTY list for 2018, considering the last thing that I’d heard from them was likely released in the 90s. Unbeknownst to me, they had started recording/touring again and are quietly recording indie-rock gems like this one. The way the chorus hits in this song is unparalleled.

The slowed-down acoustic version from KUTX Austin is pretty excellent as well.

19. Sylvan Esso - PARAD(w/m)E (Rostam Remix)

Turns out Rostam Batmanglij still makes great instrumentals when he’s not subjecting us to his uncomfortable chuckle-whisper-laugh singing that he’s intent on doing every track he’s sung since leaving Vampire Weekend. The original Sylvan track is pretty entertaining, but this remix is worlds better and easily the most fun song this year.

18. Thee Oh Sees - C

In true Thee Oh Sees fashion, this is a song that lives and dies on the fact that the individual musicians playing it are extremely talented.

17. Little Dragon - Lover Chanting

Not since Junior Senior’s “Move Your Feet” has there been a hook that sounds so instantly familiar. Add onto it the hyper-saturated MMO-themed music video for it and you’ve got a hit on your hands.

“Do you wanna be my girl? I wanna be be your man”

“Do you wanna be my girl? I wanna be be your man”

16. Ought - Desire

After listening to the follow-up to their incredible 2015 album Sun Coming Down (featuring astonishingly good “Beautiful Blue Sky"), I couldn’t help but be disappointed by this year’s release Room Inside The World. This song, however, stood out upon repeat listens and really is an incredibly beautiful track.

The live KEXP session they played earlier this year even improves upon the recorded version.

15. Courtney Barnett - Need a Little Time

While nothing on her newest album reaches the heights of previous gems “Pedestrian at Best” or “History Eraser", Barnett’s newest 2018 offering Tell Me How You Really Feel is a well-written collection of songs topped by this.

Can’t stress how excellent of a live performer Courtney is.

14. Kendrick Lamar - King’s Dead (feat. Future, James Blake and Jay Rock)


One of those rare superstar-filled collaborations where every member adds something and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Never thought I’d see James Blake and Future on the same track but hey, we’re here and it works.

Convinced this Black Panther-accompanying album is the best thing to ever come from the Marvel universe.

13. Natalie Prass - Short Court Style

A fresh, unique pop gem that plays like a some bookish young Juilliard student wrote a take on 90s Mariah Carey.

Also gets the award for the shiniest outfit on Conan this year.

12. Snail Mail - Heat Wave

Pure, unfiltered songwriting talent. Could’ve used a bit of editing to trim a bit of length, but that hasn’t hurt it enought to make me not love it.

Bonus CPR OpenAir recording of this one is real good.

11. Parcels - Tieduprightnow

First learned about these guys after Daft Punk produced their 2016 single “Overnight”, but this is 10x the song that was. Inherits all of the best parts of that famous French duo’s sound without feeling derivative.

10. Drake - Nice for What

For everything Drake does, he’s always had a keen eye for good producing. On the back of that, he’s made my end-of-year list virtually every year since I started doing them about 10 years ago. This ones an instant-classic with a clever Lauryn Hill sample.

9. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - Talking Straight

“I’m hopeless! No embrace." The deft, spoken word-esque way that the RBCF frontman delivers these lines echoes earlier songs from Courtney Barnett. This bizarrely manages to emulate both jangle-pop and Real Estate and still sound good.

8. Hop Along - How Simple

After claiming the #2 spot in my 2015 list, Hop Along back it up with another indie pop gem, still featuring the greatest female rock vocals since Jagged Little Pill. Improved production and tightened songwriting really make this a giant leap forward from 2016’s Painted Shut.

Really cannot overstate how excellent of a singer Frances Quinlan truly is.

7. Moses Sumney - Rank & File

A chilling, syncopated indictment of police violence. The guttural “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6” shouted in the background. The distorted guitar lead take over during the chorus as the rhythm drops out. Every bit of this just works. Live versions of this song are known to stretch several minutes longer and feature crazy vocal looping samples.

6. Travis Scott - SICKO MODE (feat. Drake)

Direct, unfiltered fire. Threw me for the first time after “Gone on you with the pick ‘n roll”…

This verse by Travis Scott feels like his turning point similar to what Nicki Minaj had on Kanye’s Monster from 2010.

5. Anderson .Paak - Anywhere (feat. Snoop Dogg & The Last Artful Dodgr)

Anderson had a late entry into this list this year as Oxnard was only released in late November, but this one immediately jumps out at you from the second that you play it for the first time. Snoop’s mumbled intro to the catchy-as-all-get-out chorus.

While not as good as the record, the bonus vocoder-and-horns version of it on The Daily Show earlier this year is pretty excellent too.

4. Kali Uchis - Just a Stranger (feat. Steve Lacy)

This album came outta nowhere for me. Kali Uchis created a spiritual sequel to Janelle Monae’s 2010 epic The ArchAndroid. Listens like a new-age recreation of Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill featuring on a Fugees track, complete with 90’s beach music video accompaniment.

3. IDLES - Danny Nedelko

A bizarre pro-immigration oi-punk jam from these UK punk rock monsters. The main refrain sounds like Yoda was revived from Star Wars and became frontman for a very angry version of the Dropkick Murphys:

“Fear leads to panic, Panic leads to pain, Pain leads to anger, Anger leads to hate."

“Yeah yeah yeah yeah eh eh eh eh, Yeah yeah yeah yeah eh eh eh eh, Danny Nedelko!"

Watch them kill it on KEXP.

2. Father John Misty - Disappointing Diamonds are the Rarest of Them All

“Like an oil tanker tipped at sea, this love’s contaminated me."

In true FJM fashion, Josh Tillman channels his inner “Hey Ya” and creates a love song dripping with sarcastic wit and bemoaning the requirement that every single love created between two people has to be the most special thing ever.

The sung vocal hook echoes an indie Harry Nilsson or Neil Diamond; purposefully kitschy lovey-dovey crooning. Fortunately enough, it’s done with enough wit and skill to avoid being grating.

1. Parquet Courts - Almost Had To Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience

“What do, what do, what do, what do you do when you are provoked?"

“When does, when does, when does, when does something stop being a joke?"

Undoubtedly, far and away the best song released this year. A two-part behemoth of a song with the works. Genius switch from Mono to Stereo in the middle of the song. The staccato, rapid-fire lyrics and guitar work in the beginning segue into one of the best-performed mid-song turnarounds ever, immediately transforming it into a full-out Parquet-style banger.

When the switch flipped on in this song hit at the Showbox Market earlier this year, you’d have thought the floor dropped out.

Miscelleneous Other Music Things From 2018 Or That I Discovered in 2018