Top 50 Tracks of 2018 (20-11)

20. Jack White “Corporation”

No other record by a renowned artist was as critically polarizing in 2018 as former White Stripes lead singer and guitarist Jack White’s third solo studio album, Boarding House Reach. Instrumentally, “Corporation” sounds like a modern take on Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Vocally, the song has White sounding as if he’s been possessed by a raving lunatic as he whoops and shouts lyrics about buying up all the cars and empty lots and making one giant farm. Regardless of your feelings about Boarding House Reach, “Corporation’s” infectious, organ-driven, funky groove was impossible to resist and made it one of the best tracks of the year. – Andy Mascola

19. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever “Talking Straight”

In a year that saw several break out acts, Melbourne based Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever were as primed and ready as any. Releasing an E.P. in each of the prior two years the boys from down under, now signed to Sub Pop, put out a full length chock full of indie hits. Still erring on the side of brevity, 2018’s Hope Downs is a distilled pop record lasting just over 36 minutes in total. There’s no room for frills or bits and bobs on this record, just the goods, stripped down to their essentials. Talking Straight is no exception, talking girls, cars, drugs, love, only the essentials. It’s no wonder these guys have been selling out venues from Brooklyn to Brisbane. – Greg Scranton

18. Cursive “Life Savings”

If you have heard Domestica or The Ugly Organ, you know Tim Kasher can write an acrimonious song but much of Cursive‘s back catalog has had to do with romantic relationships gone sour. 2018’s Vitriola focuses its disdain on bigger picture issues. In the case of “Life Savings,” capitalism is in Kasher’s crosshairs. The vented frustrations that arise from the current presidential administration leads to line after line of classic Kasher-isms from “money buys you clemency/in a clandestine economy” to “head down, anonymous/the more you comply is the more you subsist.” For everyone angry with politics in 2018, Cursive is here to let you know you’re not alone and they have an anthem for you. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

17. Pinegrove “Darkness”

“Darkness” underscores Pinegrove singer Evan Stephen Hall’s skills as a songwriter; Hall manages to be deeply incisive and thoughtful despite his almost lackadaisical vocal style. This allows for his songs to carry a heavy emotional weight without the overwrought angst that emo and indie rock can often succumb to. At 4 minutes and 34 seconds, it is the longest and most fully-formed track on Pinegrove’s most recent album Skylight, bringing to a head the themes of anxiety and existential longing present throughout the album. As such, “Darkness” represents the best example of the captivating dissonance between Pinegrove’s jangly, country-tinged guitars and unsure, apprehensive lyrics. – Tom Heubel

16. Beach House “Lemon Glow”

Beach House is the duo that keeps getting better. 7 was a distinct departure from the previous albums, with “Lemon Glow” embodying their change in sound. “Lemon Glow” is a noisy, grating, repetitive, psychedelic banger. It transports you to a liminal space, with Victoria Legrand cooing voice pulling in one direction, and the sharp, whiny bending pitches pulling in another. I went to see Beach House during their 7 tour, and when they played “Lemon Glow” live, I nearly lost it, especially at the drum beating at the end. Perhaps listening to this album as loud as possible is the best way to enjoy it, to really lose yourself in the noise. – Jacqueline Sun

15. Caroline Rose “More of the Same”

“More of the Same”, the lead-off track on Caroline Rose’s Loner LP, enters gently with a steady analog organ and some dreamy synth effects. “Floating around in a vacuum of space, everything here it all looks the same,” Rose sings somewhat apathetically during the track’s first verse before the composition hurtles headlong into a soaring chorus. The song, a tribute to adult disillusionment, is immediately relatable as Rose goes on to describe a predictable party and a woman whose dreams have been sidelined. “More of the Same” is built to shoulder empathy and does it so well that you may find your mood improving upon each listen. “More of the Same” is a strong opening moment on a great album. – Andy Mascola

14. Pusha T “If You Know You Know”

For many artists, rapping about the drug trade is a finite prospect; artists like Jay-Z and T.I. started out by rapping about dealing and slowly evolved past that. Pusha T is not past that and hopefully never will be. Twenty years in the rap game and Pusha still manages to paint vivid pictures about drug trafficking. With Kanye West‘s raw production as the backdrop, Pusha knowingly smiles as he raps lines like “We got the tennis balls for the wrong sport.” What does it mean? I have no idea but if you know, you know. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

13. Kacey Musgraves “Slow Burn”

Musgraves 2018 release, Golden Hour saw her step beyond her country roots, mixing her typical twang with tasteful forays into psychedelic, disco, electronic, and more. “Slow Burn”, the lead track from the album, perfectly encapsulates this new aesthetic, combining banjo and country lyricism with swirling synths, and a spacey, reverb-heavy vocal. The song unfolds methodically, as Musgraves makes good on her promise to take her time, incorporating backing vocals, strings, and bass along the way. It is clear that Musgraves has surrounded herself with excellent talent, as the production and instrumentation absolutely sparkle, taking Musgraves’ earnest songwriting to another level. Her cutting turns of phrase and gentle observation of the world around her, coupled with an expansive sonic palette make for the highlight track on one of the best albums of the year. – Tom Huebel

12. Snail Mail “Pristine”

To say 2018 has been quite a year for Snail Mail lead Lyndsey Jordan would be an understatement. A critically acclaimed debut album, and a whirlwind tour to boot, Snail Mail has leapt to the front of indie rock’s radar. Off Snail Mail’s debut album, Lush, “Pristine” could easily be a defining track for indie rock – not bad for a band comprised of 18 year olds with only an EP to their name. It starts with a quiet, modest, guitar line, so simple you could convince yourself that you could have done it first. It’s not until the second verse when the drum enters and another guitar line enters and you realize – Jordan is 18 years old, just out of high school, how could her lyrics relate to me so well? – and huh, these guitar chords are actually so catchy and layered, is this band really only three people? So the track builds, a full experience till the the end, with a sharp and succinct guitar crunch to finish – until you go to hit the play button again. – Jacqueline Sun

11. Wild Nothing “Letting Go”

Ok, close your eyes…now imagine a song that felt as if the Dunedin Sound met C86 sound met…Blacksburg, Virginia? Who would have thought these guys would make music reminiscent of 80’s New Zealand and England while hailing from a town known more for American football and the Huckleberry Trail than their synthpop. Regardless, Wild Nothing deserves all the acclaim and prestige associated with the aforementioned movements. Their sound is indeed reminiscent of those electronic pop pioneers that have come before them, perhaps elements of New Order arise most often on this album, but they also craft their own unique brand of dream pop ballads that have you flying high above a pastoral landscape or driving at light speed through brake-lit traffic at midnight. Get on board and enjoy “Letting Go”. – Greg Scranton

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