Time to close out 2018 on a high note. While it’s been a pretty rough year overall for a number of different reasons, I’d like to think this was one of the better years in recent memory for quality music. There’s been a really rich array of artists coming into their own by exploring new ideas and sonic territories, while some of the “old guard” either took a break or released material that might best be regarded as sub par. It’s been a thrill watching brilliant songwriters like Mitski and Janelle Monae hit new career highs in terms of acclaim and popularity, while Snail Mail, Soccer Mommy, Noname, Cardi B, and Kali Uchis all came out with strong debut albums that fulfilled their early promise. If you didn’t find a whole lot of new music to love this year, you weren’t looking hard enough. Maybe this list of Top 50 Albums can help! My sincerest hope is that you discover at least one new artist or record below that you hadn’t heard of or listened to before today, but even if you don’t, feel free to hand write me letters about how wrong these rankings are and all the great albums I somehow “missed” this year. Seriously though, I do love your feedback, so feel free to comment, email, or use the old social media to get in touch and share your thoughts! Oh, and before I forget, here’s some other year-end list things you might want to check out:
There were a lot of really great songs released in 2018. Actually, there are a lot of great songs released in any given year, and definitely more than a list of 50 can fully contain. But I’ve got to try anyway. The 50 songs in the list below feel like a relatively comprehensive chronicle of what it was like living through 2018, though I suppose if it were truly accurate there’d be a lot more depressing shit that’d turn most people off. Overall I’d say this is a strong balance of mood, tempo, style, and genre I sincerely hope will leave you feeling satisfied. The most fascinating thing to me about this year’s list is that the top two songs are not currently part of any full-length album. As for the unofficial “rules” behind the selections for the Top 50 Songs, there are only two: the song must have been officially released by an artist or band in 2018, and no artist is allowed to be featured more than once (for diversity’s sake). While there are audio streams and in some cases videos to accompany each song (apologies for the couple of live videos, as album versions were unavailable), you can also stream the entire list (minus one song) via the Spotify embed at the bottom of this post, or by going to this link. Please enjoy these Top 50 Songs of 2018, and feel free to share your favorites in the comments or let me know on social media (@faronheit).
Every December brings the near impossible task of trying to assemble a diverse and comprehensive array of “Best of” music lists that properly showcase the immense talents of so many different artists and bands from across the globe. Nobody has the opportunity to hear everything, but I try my best to digest and rank as much of it as humanly possible. There are always outliers – albums and songs that just barely missed the final cut because there are only a finite number of ranking slots on any given list. The official cut off point here at Faronheit is Top 50, and anything beyond that gets placed into the pool for a second category; the Honorable Mention. Below you’ll find 10 albums and 10 songs that I absolutely loved this year, but couldn’t quite find a spot for when push came to shove. Spared from the ranking system, they’re all listed in alphabetical order. Please check them out and give them a listen anyway, as I promise they’re more than worth your time.
In today’s culture of increasingly fractured attention spans, a fair number of people either can’t or won’t devote the time to listen to an entire album from start to finish. As somebody that places a very high value on spending quality time with artists and taking longer musical journeys with them, the recent focus on single songs leaves me just a little bit frustrated. But sitting in that neat little pocket between a single song and an album is the EP, A short (but not too short) statement from an artist just hoping to make an impact early or bide some time until they can do something more expansive, the EP has its merits and flourishes when you’re short on time or attention or both. 2018 saw the rise of some very promising new artists, the debut effort from a supergroup, and some established names trying out some new things – all via the medium of the EP. Here are ten of my absolute favorites, which I hope will lead to some new discoveries that expand your musical palate and strike at your emotional core.
As Christmas week is fast approaching and the year-end “best of” lists get finalized here at Faronheit, I’m pleased to bring you this final edition of Pick Your Poison for 2018. Have no fear, there will be plenty more new music to share once 2019 is underway. I’ll do my best to continue to provide it to you in a neat and orderly fashion. The business at hand today focuses on tracks from Autechre, Quinn XCII (ft. Noah Kahan), and Summer Heart (in winter, no less!). Then cap off the year with some extra song streams after the jump from 12Honcho, Amethysts, Dead Swords, Kid Koala, Ten Fe, Tristan Eckerson, Yung Gravy (ft. Lil Baby), plus a couple of solid remixes. Have a great rest of 2019, and we’ll be back in PYP action in the first or second week of January!
We’re quickly approaching the two-year anniversary of The Courtneys’ excellent sophomore album II, and they’re still touring in support of it. Their commitment is admirable, and the reward is hopefully a wealth of new fans eager to hear more from the Canadian trio. A stop at Thalia Hall in Chicago on Friday night actually marked the end of their tour with Cloud Nothings, so they celebrated with a wildly fun performance that perfectly balanced their winning charm and sadder sensibilities.
There’s an interesting collection of tracks populating today’s edition of Pick Your Poison. The highlights certainly stand out on their own, with new songs from Chewing (covering a Dennis Wilson classic with a little help from Local Natives), experimental artist Julian Lynch, and the dynamic Ric Wilson. Keep pushing past the jump for even more music from Be Forest, Bibi Bourelly, Cautious Clay, HERO, K. Roosevelt, mxmtoon, Pizzagirl, Sports, and StayLoose (ft. Andrew Paley).
Chewing – River Song (Dennis Wilson cover ft. Local Natives)
“I’m learning to like Chicago,” Protomartyr singer Joe Casey said toward the end of the band’s set at Thalia Hall on Thursday night. Protomartyr hail from Detroit, which has a storied Midwestern rivalry with Chicago, so the minor bit of animus is understandable. He also may have been kidding, but his detached demeanor on stage made it difficult to tell. That’s by design of course, befitting a singer and band that crafts songs so relentless and emotionally intense they often seem on the verge of total collapse. You can’t allow your feelings to become too invested when performing songs about the ails of the world, lest they hold you in a masochistic pit of despair.
While this won’t be the final edition of Pick Your Poison for 2018, this will be the final EXTENDED edition of Pick Your Poison for this year. So please enjoy some top quality downloads from Alex Lilly, Andy K Leland, Fawns of Love, and Protovulcan. Move beyond the jump to find some Soundcloud streams as well from the likes of Crywolf, Dirty Nice, Du Tonc (ft. Vania), Kaskade, Made By Tsuki & Wheezly, Picture This, Ravens & Chimes, SLUMBERJACK x Troyboi, Still Woozy, teen Daze, UnoTheActivist, and actor/musician Utkarsh Ambudkar.
Great stuff in today’s Pick Your Poison, including new songs from such talented luminaries as HEALTH, Sleeper, and Tourist. But wait, there’s more! Keep going past the jump and you’ll discover tracks from Arlo Parks, BAYNK (ft. GLADES), Cautious Clay, Chris Cohen, Future Present, mxmtoon, NGeeYL, Rich The Kid, and more!
As December rolls around and we officially enter into the final stretch of the year, things tend to get quiet in the world of new music. Everybody’s focused on year-end recaps and lists (including this site!), so not many artists want to interrupt that process by trying to release new tracks and generally promote records unless they’re already looking to 2019. My point is it gets tougher to share songs with you when there aren’t as many coming out. Expect a slowdown in Pick Your Poison posts for the next few weeks, but I’ll keep getting fresh music to you whenever the opportunity presents itself. Today’s highlights come from Czarface, who teams up with Ghostface for an interesting track. Murray A. Lightburn of The Dears also gives us another track from his solo record, and Toro y Moi brings some day-glo dance beats in one of his more exciting tracks in recent years. After the jump, there’s even more music from Big Wild, Danileigh, Inspired & the Sleep, Iris Gold, Kakkmaddafakka, Luvia, Ohtis, Semi Precious, and TULA.
In what should be (but isn’t) called the “PR Nightmare Tour,” two of the finest post-punk bands in recent years, Protomartyr and Preoccupations, are co-headlining dates around the U.S. from late November to mid-December. They’ll be in Chicago on Thursday, December 6th for a show at Thalia Hall, and it promises to be a night you won’t soon forget.
If you’re not already deeply familiar with Protomartyr, here’s a quick primer. Over the course of four excellent LPs and an EP, Protomartyr have distinguished themselves through densely packed arrangements and inspired yet obtuse wordplay. Their songs pound with noise and aggression, but also maintain a distinct air of humility that fits with their Midwestern (Ohio) roots.
This past summer Protomartyr unleashed the Consolation EP, which featured four beautifully destroyed tracks that focused on death and oppression, with some vocal and arrangement assists from Kelley Deal of The Breeders. Sure, it’s not the most upbeat music in the world, but post-punk as a genre very rarely is. The guitars swell into oceans of distortion as Joe Casey’s guttural vocals evoke powerful and poetic scenes of tragedy. This mixture is even more potent on stage, as the physicality of Protomartyr’s songs rise to the forefront and get spit out in fits and spasms. It’s intense, exciting, and cathartic all at the same time, which is one of the primary reasons Protomartyr remains such a worthwhile band in an ever-shifting climate.
Preoccupations have been riding high on a similarly dark and punishing wavelength since their debut EP Cassette back in 2013. Born from the figurative (indefinite hiatus) and literal (RIP Christopher Reimer) ashes of Calgary experimental band Women, they immediately struck a nerve thanks to a confrontational performance style and a so-controversial-it-was-later-changed name Viet Cong. But it was their songs that deserved and ultimately attracted the most attention. Their approach might best be described as angular, because so many of their tracks veer off in compelling and unexpected directions. You’re never allowed to get too comfortable in the world of Preoccupations, and that’s a big part of the fun. Then again, don’t let my use of the word “fun” give you the wrong impression of a band that has been known to cover goth legends Bauhaus and have an 11-minute kick-to-the-face track appropriately titled “Death” as part of their catalog.
A current of nervous yet ferocious and focused energy runs throughout each of Preoccupations’ three albums so far, as they’ve become more confident and detailed with every new release. You can detect subtle nods toward ’80s post-punk and bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain, Echo & The Bunnymen, and The Psychedelic Furs blended seamlessly into many of their recent material, pulling them away from the heavier drones that marked their earliest pieces and into more melodic visions of darkness. It’s been a fascinating transformation, and one that’s enabled them to remain vital since their auspicious beginnings. Their live show is no less impressive, hitting the gas on their Motorik stomp by using noise and passion for fuel. It’s entirely possible you’ll walk away from a Preoccupations show in a daze, unsure of exactly what you just witnessed, but that it was amazing and profound.
If you’re a fan of post-punk and haven’t already made plans to see Protomartyr and Preoccupations on their current tour, do yourself a favor and buy a ticket to one of their shows. As we sink ever deeper into the holiday season amid the extensive retail crowds, the stress of finding that perfect gift for a friend or loved one, and the forced cheer of non-stop parties and get-togethers, here are some live performances that will allow you to lean into the turmoil and (emotionally) exorcise your darkest impulses. Consider it a bit of a reprieve and a way to treat yourself to some music self-care. In Chicago, Thalia Hall next Thursday night. Be there.
We’ll finally be getting Alice Merton’s debut album early next year, but to tide us over until then, she’s provided a new song that’s at the top of today’s Pick Your Poison highlights. Because December kicks off on Saturday and we’re officially in the Christmas season, I hope you’ll enjoy The Beths’ take on a festive classic. Plus, Grace Weber managed to recruit Vic Mensa for a pretty fantastic new one as well. Sail beyond the jump, and you’ll find songs from Baby Goth (ft. Trippie Redd & Lil Xan), Cheat Codes (ft. Kim Petras), Elderbrook, Fredfades & Jawn Rice (ft. Lucid Paradise), Murlo, Toby Green, Tony Romiti (ft. Russ), and more!
Alice Merton – Funny Business
The Beths – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
It’s been a week since the last edition of Pick Your Poison, and I’m not happy about it. But there’s not a whole lot I can do when the music gods go silent for a period. Call it a consequence of the holidays. Thankfully there are some really great new tracks in this set to help make the wait feel worth it. That includes highlights from Balms, the return of Gesaffelstein, and a white hot cut from Kllo. Cruise on past the jump and you’ll find even more music from Dahlia Sleeps, Henry Jamison, ISLAND, Jake Miller, Kinder, Tanners, Yung Baby Tate, a Skrillex remix of Travis Scott’s latest single, and more!
It’s a quieter week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but I wanted to share this collection of tracks to help soundtrack your extended break and time with family. To start, there’s a pretty great remix of Amine’s “Reel It In” with a guest verse from Gucci Mane. Something fresh from Earl Sweatshirt (ft. Navy Blue) teases his new album that’ll be out next Friday. And hey, let’s add a wonderful Shay Lia track as well for good measure. After the jump, you’ll find even more to be thankful for, including songs from Balthazar, Bjarki, Daisy Maybe x Skepta, DJ Nu-Mark (ft. Method Man), FUR, Hajk, Perfect Body, and Silverbacks.
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