It’s my opinion, but my opinion is basically fact. One song per artist.
10. The Ting Tings – “Blacklight”
Album: The Black Light
Release Date: 14th September
This year, The Ting Tings dropped a surprising fourth album unlike any of their previous work to something of a mixed response. Indeed, NME described ‘Blacklight’ as “drum’n’bass… or something?” in a needlessly scathing opinion piece back in September. While I wholeheartedly disagree with their criticism, it would be fair to say that this song doesn’t really conform to the traits of a single music genre.
However, that seems fitting for The Ting Tings. They are, after all, a band who have always been somewhat zany and who, in a recent interview, expressed their desire to constantly shake up their style:
We have definitely suffered in the past from wanting to experience all genres being huge muso’s. We always want to be a new band. Nothing beats the feeling of being fresh, unknown, challenged and unpredictable. Success muted that sense for a while and we constantly try to break out from that rigid world.
Personally, I think ‘Blacklight’ is a fun, catchy song and the accompanying album has some similarly bright spots – most notably ‘A&E’, which very nearly made this list.
9. The Lovely Eggs – “Wiggy Giggy”
Album: This is Eggland
Release Date: 23rd February
The Lancaster-based rock band returned in February with their fifth full album, brimming with all their usual oddball charm. While I’d be lying if I said that I love every track on This is Eggland, like with most releases from The Lovely Eggs, a couple have resonated with me in a big way.
‘Wiggy Giggy’ is one such song. I’m not sure what the title refers to or exactly what the song is about, but the heavy guitar and drum beat paired with the unmatched authenticity of Holly Ross’ vocals has made it a firm favourite this year. As their style continues to evolve and their cult following grows larger with each release, I’m fascinated to see what The Lovely Eggs do next.
8. Lykke Li – “bad woman”
Album: so sad so sexy
Release Date: 8th June
The latest album from the Swedish singer-songwriter, so sad so sexy, features a number of strong tracks which would be at home on this list. Ultimately though, it was the solemn and understated ‘bad woman’ which took the spot. Lykke Li’s delicate vocals and sparing use of instrumental give the song a feeling of intimate vulnerability, one which rings far more true than the average break-up song.
‘bad woman’ is yet another example of the age-old adage: less is more. With that in mind, just listen:
7. Crooked Colours – “I’ll Be There”
Album: Do It Like You
Release Date: 14th August
Crooked Colours followed up their superb 2017 album Vera, with the single ‘I’ll Be There’ set to appear on their upcoming sophomore release. The song expands on the same unique sound the Australian group established in their first release, offering a rich synth beat coupled with some handsome vocal work.
‘I’ll Be There’ wouldn’t be out of place on a chilled playlist, but equally I could see myself putting it on before a night out. The song has a versatility that seems to make it appropriate for any mood or occasion, perhaps the most strikingly unique electronica I’ve heard since the early days of Purity Ring.
6. Mattiel – “Count Your Blessings”
Release Date: 13th July
Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, graphic designer-turned-musician Mattiel Brown burst onto the UK music scene over the summer after her album was released by indie label Heavenly Recordings. The self-titled debut is a very promising start with a number of standout tracks, but my personal favourite has to be ‘Count Your Blessings’.
From the moment I heard the catchy choral melody that kicks in around the ten-second mark, I was hooked. The smooth sax is a treat for the ears, while the genuine sincerity in Mattiel’s voice gives the lyrics a true sense of weight, although whether her words are a reassurance or a warning is open to interpretation.
Regardless, be sure not to let this one pass you by.
5. Laura Veirs – “Seven Falls”
Album: The Lookout
Release Date: 13th April
Any new release from Laura Veirs is all-but-guaranteed to be a delight, and 2018’s The Lookout was no exception. I’m consistently amazed by the beauty and sophistication of her lyrics and melodies, with not one weak spot among the twelve songs on her latest release.
Forced to pick a favourite for the purposes of this list, I’ve opted for ‘Seven Falls’, a warm and reflective song that never fails to calm my often frantic mind. Nineteen years removed from her debut studio album, Veirs remains a unique and priceless voice in the music community.
Side note: I had the pleasure of seeing her perform live back in June, she and her band were superb.
4. Superorganism – “Relax”
Release Date: 3rd March
With their full debut album and subsequent world tour, Superorganism proved themselves this year as far more than an oddity of the internet age. Their self-titled release contains ten tracks in total, including the band’s viral debut: ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’
The dry vocals of (cult)lead(er) singer, Orono Noguchi, effectively reflect the disillusionment of a generation. Nowhere is that more prevalent than in ‘Relax’, a defiant retaliation against the pressures of modern life. The song is an unapologetic joy, as is the full album, with it’s satirical humour and frequent veering into sheer absurdity.
Superorganism is a band which seems ahead of its time, but equally feels like exactly what the world needs right now.
3. Florence and the Machine – “Big God”
Album: High As Hope
Release Date: 29th June
Less than a decade into her career, Florence Welch has already produced an exquisite library of music, one that many artists couldn’t match in a lifetime. As the title would suggest, High As Hope is a more optimistic album than her previous work, with perhaps the only exception being ‘Big God’.
The song starts softly with Welch’s instantly recognisable vocals accompanied by a foreboding piano track, before an emotional outburst midway through which shifts us onto the path of a lavish final chorus. It’s a beautiful expression of aching frustration and instantly earns a place among the best of her impressive catalogue.
2. Courtney Barnett – “City Looks Pretty”
Album: Tell Me How You Really Feel
Release Date: 18th May
The second studio album from Australian treasure Courtney Barnett is another batch of wry societal observations mixed with personal insecurities, in other words it makes for therapeutic listening. Choosing just one song to spotlight here was a challenge, with ‘City Looks Pretty’ gaining just an edge on the competition.
‘City Looks Pretty’ encapsulates everything great about Barnett’s unique style. With its poetic lyrics performed in a pleasant yet somewhat apathetic tone over a heavy and fast paced drum beat, the song draws you in almost instantly. Everything slows down around halfway through revealing her more subdued side, before ramping back up to a final instrumental which finishes thing off with a bang.
1. First Aid Kit – “Distant Star”
Release Date: 19th January
Although it’s true that First Aid Kit’s 2018 album is very much business-as-usual for the Swedish duo, that’s no bad thing when “usual” is beautiful, heart-wrenching folk music. Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg harmonise so effortlessly well and their melancholic lyrics don’t pull any punches.
Written in the wake of a collapsed relationship, Ruins is an album full of touching sentiment. ‘Distant Star’ quickly became a standout, with its roaring start that instantly draws you into a tale of lost love. The fast-paced and tuneful melody is pleasing throughout, but only serves to give the final mournful line all the more impact.
‘Distant Star’ is my song of 2018.