❉ So many great bands and songs! Stephen Porter on the top 100 songs in a brilliant year for pop music
2018 was another fabulous year for pop music.
In July of last year, We Are Cult published my Half Term Report – a guide to the Top 40 new or new-ish acts of 2018. Well I’ve updated the chart (a bit late, but I haven’t been well, and some belting songs arrived very late in the year) and expanded it to the Top 100. You might disagree with some, or indeed all of my choices, but if you haven’t listened to any new bands or acts recently, it’s a good measure of what you might have been missing.
The rules are simple: each artist is allowed one track – and I’ve got to rate and like them. No list is definitive because anyone who wants to has access to pretty much every song that’s been released worldwide – either for a small monthly sum or for free. Admittedly, I’m more inclined to dreampop, psyche and electronica, but there are quite a few songs in the list that surprised me – given my ‘punk rock’ youth!
The trick is to seek out new music and be open to its charms; this has always been the case for me. So many of these bands and artists were unknown to me at the start of the year and it’s been a delight to make their acquaintance; by the same token I’ve had to eliminate so many great songs and artists from this list due to a lack of space.
I’ve included the briefest of reviews and background info to accompany each track and I’ve also included a guide to soundalikes so that you can embrace or dismiss my choices (without listening to them!). Some songs have gone up (see the new number one), some have fallen from favour or been usurped by better songs, and some have disappeared altogether – but them’s the vagaries – as Nigel Blackwell once said. Full reviews for songs that appeared in the summer chart can be found in We Are Cult’s Half Term Report and are signposted throughout this full year list.
Don’t be put off by many of the unfamiliar names – I haven’t gone The Guardian/music press route of just going for tried and trusted star performers (nobody likes a populist and it’s just so lazy) – so just go with the flow.
Anyway, these songs and artists have kept me alive for the past few months….
100. Cullen Omori – All By Yourself
Clever indie kid (and former Smith Westerns alumnus) Omori’s beautiful, dreamy and uplifting song will bury its way into your psyche if you let it. In a good way, though.
Album: The Diet
Sounds like: Whitney (the band!)
99. Still Parade – Soon Enough
Nick Kramer’s melancholic genius at its best and a thing of wistful beauty. Wonderful.
Album: Soon Enough
Sounds like: Melody’s Echo Chamber; Todd Rundgren
98. The Beths – Great No-One
Super, clever power-pop from New Zealand. All bands should have at least one female or non-binary member. All male bands (like all male University Challenge teams) should be abolished.
Album: Future Me Hates Me
Sounds like: Frankie Cosmos (see below)
97. Chorusgirl – In Dreams
The easiest way to get into ‘the chart’ (as nobody will ever call it) is to put ‘Girl’ into your band name. A lovely pop song. End of.
Album – Stammer and Spin
Sounds like: Goat Girl; The Flatmates (anyone remember them?)
96. Vansire – Halcyon Age
Floaty dreampop from a tremendous, low-key band.
From: Rochester, Minnesota
Album: Angel youth
Sounds like: it wouldn’t sound amiss on the closing scene of The Shining (where the eternal caretaker is dressed to the nines amongst the twenties flappers)
95. Léonie Pernet – Butterfly
Brilliant, urgent, French motorik electro from a future superstar.
Sounds like: Metric; that annoying song from Baxter Dury
94. Peel Dream Magazine – Art Today
Lovely, dreamy, hypnotic lo-fi psych from New York’s Joe Stevens. The odd ‘band’ name references John Ravenscroft himself and I’ve played this to death for months now.
From: New York
Sounds like: Ultra Vivid Scene; Wire; many others
93. Lala Lala – See You at Home
More beautiful melancholia; not good for one’s psychological health if you’re prone to long term depression, but great, nevertheless. Looking forward to seeing her in Manchester in February.
Album; The Lamb
Sounds like: Nico
92. Paul Weller – Gravity
Between 1979 and 1982, Paul Weller was probably the most important new rock (for want of a term) star in any clued-up and politically-inclined young Briton’s life. He was regularly voted the NME readers’ Most Wonderful Human Being. I remember The Jam’s posters and pics plastering our Cathy’s bedroom wall, and people of my vintage talk fondly of the massed battle outside Deeside Leisure Centre as local North Welsh urchins, teds and rockers (“and punks and skins and rastas!”) descended en masse to kick the mods’ heads in.
And then he broke up The Jam. I was moderately interested The Style Council, but then I wasn’t.
Anyway, a nice little song that almost made me like him again.
Album: True Meanings
Sounds like: the past.
91. Say Lou Lou – Ana
Tremendous, vaguely trip-hoppy pop from a more than decent album.
Sounds like: Portishead; a deeply sad, half-remembered dream
90. Jungle – Casio
Hints of Earth Wind and Fire on this sombre and brooding slice of modern soul/disco.
Sounds a bit like: EWF!
89. Molly Burch – Candy
Angelic-sounding Texan singer songwriter with a lovely paean to the foibles and disappointments of love, and – curiously – sung with a Mexican/Hispanic lilt.
Album: First Flower
Sounds like: Angel Olsen
88. Laura Veirs – Everybody Needs You
A splendid track from a lovely album.
Album: The Lookout
Sounds like: longing and sadness calling from across the lake of a distant planet
87. Idles – Television
I first heard this whist buying vinyl in the rather splendid Piccadilly Records in Manchester -and for a moment, I thought it was a musical epiphany. I also thought it sounded like The Jam (just before they reached their peak), but maybe I was just in a good mood that day.
On reflection though, it’s just a good record, and I’m not convinced about ‘punk credentials’ as a career enhancer – especially for older blokes with rag-arse beards. I can’t say I’m happy with the lines:
If someone talked to you
The way you do to you
I put their teeth through –
However ironic or meta they may be.
I can just imagine the sort of scumbag who’d pick up on the violence in those lines as justification for their own violence.
Still, it was OK for a while.
Album: Joy As An Act Of Resistance
Sounds like: The Jam
86. Shame – One Rizla
See above. A tremendous pop/rock song with one of the best guitar riffs in years, but ultimately the sound of ambition – and the album doesn’t sound anywhere near as appealing in December as it did in January.
Album: Songs Of Praise
Sounds like: themselves
Summer Chart Position: 40/40
85. Muncie Girls – Jeremy
Like I said, so many ‘Girls’ in this chart (I also went to see a sparsely populated Girls Names gig this summer), and this song starts with:
I’m so angry
I’m going to get a tattoo
That says ‘f**k Jeremy Clarkson’
And ‘f**k you too’.
Harsh. He’s improved Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? no end
Album: Fixed Ideals
Sounds Like: Honeyblood
84. Wild Nothing – Letting Go
More lovely dreamy pop from a wonderful and ever dependable band.
Sounds like: a breath of early morning mountain air
83. Loma – Joy
Absolutely brilliant and beautiful live band, and I last saw them in June playing to a ‘crowd’ of forty or so above a bar in central Liverpool. Lovely ethereal and yearning pop music.
From: Texas/New York
Sounds like: Renaissance (on this song!)
82. Snapped Ankles – Drink and Glide
Brilliant name (unless you’re ex-Coventry City footballer David Busst) and a fantastic sound. Motorik rhythms and splendid post-punk electroclash make for a fabulous single.
Album: Stunning Luxury
Sounds like: Can; The B52s
81. You’re Not Mine – The Last Detail
French producer Mehdi Zannad and singer Erin Moran (namechecking envelope-pushing, existential 70s sitcom Happy Days) with one of the best laid-back songs of the summer.
Album; The Last Detail
Sounds like: a female Elliot Smith
80. Strike the Colours – Aces
From their Mogwai-produced third album, this is STR’s singer Jenny Reeve’s finest moment. Another voice of an angel. Good to see a few Scottish voices and bands making waves after a certain hiatus and (me recalling) so many memories of the golden years for Scottish pop that were the eighties.
Sounds like: not sure – a late eighties band I’ll probably remember the name of at four o’clock in the morning
79. She Drew the Gun – Something for the Pain
Radio 6-friendly pop from one Liverpool’s great rock and roll hopes for 2019 and taken from a much better album than their curate’s egg debut.
Album: Revolution of the Mind
Sounds like: Nancy Sinatra; The Liminanas
78. Stonefield – In the Eve
Let’s rock! Slinky, melodic blues-rock from the Australian Findlay sisters. Not usually my cup of snakebite, but a tremendous track and an absolutely amazing live band.
Album: Far From Earth
Sound like: Auf der Maur
77. The LuLu Raes – Things Change
More Australians and the least macho-sounding band in the Top 100 – with the least macho name. Excellent bubble gum pop – until it gets on your nerves!
Sound like: a boy band with talent
76 L.A. Witch – Kill My Baby Tonight
Let’s Rock! (II). More smoky, catchy bluesy rock from a massively talented trio. Again, not usually my cup of jack*, but a brilliant song from another tremendously exciting live act. (Soup Kitchen, Manchester, June 2018.)
From: L.A. (surprisingly)
Album: LA Witch
Sounds like: The Distillers (had forgotten about the excellent City of Angels)
*apparently milk and alcohol – as favoured by Wirral’s fearsome biker community
75. Dentist – Night Swimming
More super girlie pop taken from an enjoyable (if samey) debut album.
From: New Jersey
Album: Night Swimming
Sounds like: The Primitives (but faster – a lot faster)
74. The Last Detail – Trust Your Buddy
Splendid, modern American indie pop. Unfortunately, you’ll start singing Summer Holiday from the chorus onwards.
I know I said one track per band, but this sounds like a completely different act to 81.
I’m not changing it, anyway.
Album: The Last Detail
Sounds Like: Sir Cliff’s 1961 masterpiece
73. Andy Jenkins – Curve of Love
Quotidian, non-pop star name; terrific song. Good album.
From: Richmond, Virginia
Album: Sweet Bunch
Sounds like: Lots of people (not very helpful, I know!)
72. Peach Kelli Pop – Honey
Lovely cover of an obscure Marine Girls track from 1980. Reviewed in Half Term Report. Good, but a bit bored with it now.
Album: Gentle Leader
Sounds like: The Marine Girls; Wonder
71. Natalie Prass – Oh My
Classy chamber pop from a flavour-of-the month artist from the early part of summer. Good song, so-so album.
Album: The Future And The Past
Sounds like: Christine and the Queens (on this song, anyway)
70. US Girls – Navy and Cream
One of the best live performers of 2018. Reviewed in Half Term Report. Album is a little patchy, but it gained good reviews from most critics.
Album: In a Poem Unlimited
Sounds like: Grimes
Summer Chart Position: 17/40
69. Air Waves – Home
More distant melancholia from Nicole Schneit’s third album – another quite beautiful song, but again, one to avoid if you have a habit of drifting into unaccountable sadness.
Sounds like: Echoes of Coldplay’s Yellow. Sorry, Nicole!
68. Grimes – We Appreciate Power
The only new product this year from the wonderful Claire Boucher.
OK, but not up to Grimes’s usual high standards.
It’s probably brilliant live, mind.
Sounds like: Grimes!
67. Say Sue Me – Let It Begin
Full review in Half Term Report. Lovely power pop, but I think I got carried away because I missed their one British gig in March!
From: South Korea
Album: Where We Were Together
Sounds like: The Tornados reimagined as indie dreampoppers!
Summer Chart Position: 12/40
66. The Vryll Society – Course of the Satellite
Great band, great album and a lovely dreamy, elegiac song, Course of the Satellite is another indication of the resurgence of Liverpool/Merseyside music over the past two years. A pity that lead singer Michael Ellis decided to leave the band at the start of 2019.
Album: Course Of The Satellite
Sounds like: a non-terrible Yes; the fulfilment of promise
65. Farao- Marry Me
Delicate dreamy (that word again) electro dance – and possibly the best thing I heard on my holidays this year.
Sounds like: The Three Degrees, Abba and David Holmes collaborating on a Bond soundtrack
64. Jellies – If I’m Anything
Gorgeous, floaty psychpop from The Bees’ Aaron Fletcher and Tim Parkin. A decent album named after my favourite-ever Everton season. A pity that Bob Latchford’s 30 wasn’t a track name.
From: The Isle of Wight
Sounds like: too many to single out; someone throwing a freshly-laundered cotton sheet over your sleeping body
63. Mikaela Davis – Delivery
Another classic breakup/love’s regret song with a touch of the French chanson tradition. A great piano motif will inveigle itself into your mind after the second play.
From: Rochester, New York
Sounds Like: Ricky Lee Jones
62. Golden Drag – Shoot the Breeze/Aphex Jim
Shoot the Breeze is great – you wait all your life for a band to rip-off Summer Holiday and then two come along at once! It even starts with the line:
“They’re all talkin’ ‘bout…summer holidays…”
Sir Cliff will be livid, I’m telling you. Borrowing aside, this is a brilliant pop song – almost a post-surfing classic.
Aphex Jim is clever, catchy slice of electropop.
From: Los Angeles
Sounds like: Sir Cliff’s 1961 masterpiece!
61. Nothing – The Carpenter’s Son
A lovely, elegiac and epic eight minute slice of shoegazing, but with lyrics like:
Sitting on the porch
Living with the flies
Your headlights blind us all
Nothing’s a surprise, anymore
It’s probably not the best song if you’re feeling mentally delicate or wanting to break the ice parties.
Album: Dance On The Blacktop
Sounds like: the saddest song you’ll hear as you gaze from your rain-lashed hospital window
60. Eleanor Friedberger – Everything
More Radio 6 daytime-friendly fodder. Literate and enervating pop from the (former?) Fiery Furnaces singer.
Sounds like: a less annoying Carly Simon
59. Vinyl Williams – Noumena
Lionel Williams’s splendid dream-psych band with an almost ghostly paean to eternal yearning. Lovely.
From: Los Angeles
Sounds like: Broadcast, Melody’s Echo Chamber; an early seventies Martini ad
58. The Marias – Loverboy
More from Los Angeles – one those albums that just seems to have dipped beneath the radar and was played almost constantly chez moi for weeks on end earlier this year. Hard to classify, mixing rock, nu-soul and trip hop from one track to another. Loverboy is just gorgeous.
Album: Superclean Volume II
Sounds like: Erykah Badu; various
57. Papercuts – Laughing Man
Indiepop with a fabulous hook and chorus. That’s all you need to know. Ace.
From: San Francisco
Album: Parallel Universe Blues
Sounds like: you can probably sing the start of Lindisfarne’s Run for Home over the opening bars, but then it gets more difficult.
56. So Stressed – Grape Skins
Full review in Half Term Report. Super shoegaze from Morgan Fox and company.
From: Sacramento (my goodness California is having a good run here – whatever happened to British bands? I blame Brexit.)
Sounds like: heartbreak on a stick
Album: Pale Lemon
Summer Chart Position: 37/40
55. Night Flowers – Sand Castles
Full review in Half Term Report. Hull’s best export since Mick Ronson.
Album: Wild Nation
Sounds like: Lush
Summer Chart Position: 34/40
54. Goat Girl
Full review in Half Term Report
I hope someone works out the high percentage of female-fronted bands in this list. So many great bands and songs.
Album: Goat Girl
Sounds like: The Coral’s Dreaming of You. (Sorry!)
Summer Chart Position: 26/40
53. Her’s – Love on the Line
Full review in Half Term report. Oddball and virtual uncategorizable pop from an original and likeable duo.
From: Liverpool (via Barrow and Norway)
Album: Invitation To Her’s
Sound like: Sparks/Buggles/Todd Rundgren
Summer Chart Position: 20/40
52. Melody’s Echo Chamber – Cross My Heart
Full review in Half Term Report. More of the (very nice) same from the wonderful Ms. Prochet
Album: Bon Voyage
Sounds like: You’ve heard MEC, I take it?
Summer Chart Position: 39/40
51. Gorillaz – Tranz
Efficient and unexpectedly brilliant electronica from Damon and the other cartoon characters. Surprisingly good – and a heart-breaking synth riff written across the chorus.
Album: The Now Now
Sounds like: Gorillaz, I suppose.
50. Gwenno – Tir Ha Mor
Full review in Half Term Report. Astonishing Cornish language pop from a beautiful album.
Album: Le Kov
Sounds like: nobody really (Stereolab at a push)
Summer Chart Position 25/40
49. Heartbreak – Unloved
Producer David Holmes and singer Jade Vincent’s excellent contribution to the Killing Zoe soundtrack.
From: Northern Ireland/USA
Sounds like: when eighties bands used to ‘do Motown’, although you can sing bits of Walk on By as well during the chorus
48. Charles Watson – Now That I’m a River
Another gig missed through illness – and bitterly regretted. Slow Club alumnus Watson’s voice is the sound of leaves floating languidly down a gentle stream. Perhaps that’s why he wrote and sang Now That I’m a River, come to think of it.
Album: Now That I’m a River
Sounds like: Pooh Sticks. (As played by Sebastian Flyte and Charles Ryder – and not the C86 band.)
47. The KVB – On My Skin
A song that kicks in on the third listen and stays with you for the longest time. Lovely, uplifting shoegazing.
Album: Only Now Forever
Sounds like: James
46. Grow into a Ghost – Swearin’
Normally there’s nothing big or clever about swearin(g), but in this case there is.
Album: Fall Into the Sun
Sounds like: Speedy Ortiz, The Wombats! (on this track, anyway)
45. Sunflower Bean – Twentytwo
Full review in Half Term Report. Bright as a button indie pop, but somewhat ephemeral. A brilliant live band.
Album: Twentytwo In Blue
Sounds like: sunshine; outdoor drinking
Summer Chart Position: 32/40
44. Fade – Fall in Love
Marley Ferguson’s new project continues her excellent work in her previous duo Parts. Another gorgeous but deeply sad pop song from yet another fantastic female performer. This should be higher in the list come to think of it, but it’s too late now.
Album: Fall In Love
Sounds like: the most melancholic of half-remembered nostalgia
43. MGMT – She Works Out Too Much
Full review in Half Term Report. A return to form for a class act. I heard this in a bar in Manchester earlier this year and it sort of set me up for the night. A tremendous pop song.
Album: Little Dark Age
Sounds like: the future (from an eighties prism)
Summer Chart Position: 19/40
42. Anna Calvi – Swimming Pool
Huge, siren-like pop from one of the stars of 2018. Superb album as well.
Sounds Like: You Only Live Twice (very much so)
41. Thin Lips – Chosen Family
A young woman remembers the genesis of her sexual identity. 48 seconds long.
Album: Chosen Family
Sounds like: a bit of an original, this one
40. Khruangbin – Friday Morning
The final track from the lovely album by the difficult-to-pronounce Texan trio.
Album: Con Todo El Mundo
Sounds like: floating in Space
39. Kurt Vile – Rollin’ With the Flow
I always thought of Kurt Vile’s solo stuff as a being a bit Evo-Stick League Father John Misty, but this is wonderful – romantic and lyrical and a splendid ode to stoicism. My only problem is that it keeps reminding me of ‘Little’ Leo Sayer’s Love You More Than I Can Say, and talking of Buddy Holly’s back catalogue, so much of Bottle It In’s vocal style reminds me of the Buddy Holly who crashes into the Young Ones’ house and gives his rendition of ‘Coo-Coo, Daddy Longlegs’.
But that’s my problem.
From: Pennsylvania (another one!)
Album: Bottle It In
Sounds Like: ‘Buddy Holly’ (ETA: I’ve just found out it’s a cover of a song by grizzled country and western star Charlie Rich! Forget everything I’ve said!)
38. Kali Uchis – In My Dreams
Full review in Half Term Report. Tremendous pop/dance/electro from one of the best albums of the year. My favourite Colombian/American song of the year (with a little help from Damon Albarn).
From: Virginia (again!)
Sound like: nothing else on the (very good) album
Summer Chart Position: 27/40
37. La Luz – Loose Teeth
Full review in Half Term Report. Twangy guitars and angelic harmonies make for a fantastic pop single.
From: Los Angeles
Album: Floating Features
Sounds Like: The best Tarantino soundtrack you’ve never heard.
Summer Chart Position: 24/40
36. The Spook School – I Only Dance When I Want To
Full Review in Half Term Report. Another brilliant live band and hopefully TSS will help to revive Scotland’s (current – no country punched above its weight in the 80s) less-than-stellar portfolio of great bands. A great, urgent pop song.
From: Scotland (mostly)
Album: Could It Be Different?
Sound Like: The Flatmates; The Rezillos
Summer Chart Position: 13/40
35. Never Tell – Art d’Ecco
From one of the best albums of the year, there’s definitely a David Bowie/Roxy/Sparks influence in the spectacularly androgynous Canadian Art d’Ecco’s music. A really great single that should be added to everyone’s list.
From: British Columbia
Sounds Like: Sparks (on this one)
*He was good enough to thank me for liking his album and he quietly pointed out that his album was in fact called ‘Trespasser’ and not ‘Trespass’ which is an old Genesis album. (A terrible Freudian error – my neon mohair punk jumper will be rolling in its grave.)
34. Beach House – Pay No Mind
Full review in Half Term Report. A classy track from an ever-dependable and much-loved duo. One of the albums of the year.
Sounds like: love; civilisation; the caress of a lover
Summer Chart Position: 21/40
33. Astronauts Etc – Shut My Mouth
I find this song almost too difficult to listen. Unbearably beautiful. That’s all I can say.
From: Oakland, California
Album: Living In Symbol
Sounds like: sadness; loss; shades of Blue Monday
32. Video Age – Lover Surreal
Full review in Half Term Report. More lovely, yearning electronic pop from the clever Louisiana pop duo.
From: New Orleans
Album: Pop Therapy
Sounds Like: eighties pop revisited; shades of Hall and Oates’ One on One
Summer Chart Position: 36/40
32. Anna Burch – 2 Cool to Care
One of the live highlights of last summer (at Gulliver’s, Manchester – see you there on October 5th, We Are Cult fans!), Anna Burch rocked an amazing skinhead and sang like something beamed down from heaven. 2 Cool to Care is the highlight of a more than decent album.
Album: Quit The Curse
Sounds like: still trying to work this one out. I’ll get there eventually.
31. Juanita Stein – All the Way
Ex-Howling Bells singer Juanita Stein has one of the most beautiful voices in pop music and this is a tremendous single. I saw her performing to about twentypeople in the autumn and wondered why she wasn’t playing to packed audiences in much bigger venues.
It will happen.
Oh. and the best album cover of the year.
Album: Until the Lights Fade
Sounds like: sultriness on a hot summer evening
30. Mint Field – El Parque Parecia No Tener Fin
Full review in Half Term Report. Absolutely brilliant, haunting guitar pop and unlike anything in this list. Two 19 year old sisters from Mexico and talented beyond belief.
Album: Pasar de la Luces
Sounds like: nobody but themselves
Summer Chart Position: 31/40
29. Renata Zeigeur – Follow Me Down
Full review in Half Term Report.
Lovely dreamy singer-songwriter pop. The best use of Hawaiian guitar in the list.
Album: Old Ghost
Sounds like: Mollie Burch
Summer Chart Position: 10/40
28. The Liminanas (Featuring Emmanuelle Seigner) – Shadow People
Full review in Half Term Report. A brooding slice of classic French psych-pop. Superb.
Album: Shadow People
Sounds like: The Velvet Underground
Summer Chart Position: 33/40
27. Anderson. Paak (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Tints
The perils of wealth and celebrity (oh, the humanity!) and the need for non-see-through windows (it would be first on my list, believe me).
Super pop song, but when young Anderson sings ‘I need tints’, I was convinced he was singing ‘I need tits’, and I thought ‘that’s a bit rude for mid-morning radio’.
Warning – a bit sweary if you decide to leave this on as a Spotify/Deezer playlist.
From: Oxnard, California
27. Amber Arcades – Simple Song
Full review in Half Term Report. Another brilliant single from Annelotte de Graaf.
Album: European Heartbreak
Sounds like: A Pale Fountains/Nico mish-mash
Summer Chart Position: 7/40
26. Winter – Zoey
Full review in Half Term Report. Catchy, almost bubblegum dreampop from Samira Winter and her band’s impressive second debut album.
From: Brazil/Los Angeles
Sounds like: The Velvet Underground
Summer Chart Position: 28/40
23. Ezra Furman – Suck the Blood from My Wound
Full review in Half Term Report. Terrific, almost out of control album opener from ‘The Gay Boss’.
Album: Transangelic Exodus
Sounds like: Placebo
Summer Chart Position: 8/40
22. Linda Guilala – Mucho Mejor
Full review in Half Term Report. Almost the best slice of shoegazing from 2018. Wonderful pop music
Album: Mucho Mejor
Sounds like: My Bloody Valentine; the opening bars remind me of the theme from Multi-Coloured Swap Shop
Summer Chart Position: 18/40
21. Men I Trust – Show Me How
Full review in Half Term Report. Classy Canadian art pop – as light as a feather and almost the dictionary definition of ‘ethereal’
Sounds like: Nadine (see below)
Summer Chart Position; 30/40
20. Let’s Eat Grandma – Hot Pink
Full review in Half Term Report. Another set of mega-talented sisters. Only British this time. Huzzah! One of the anthems of the year.
Album: I’m All Ears
Sounds like: Shampoo (with brains)
Summer Chart Position: 21/40
19. Speedy Ortiz – Buck Me Off
Full review in Half Term Report. Just brilliant. Brooding, growling pop from the outstanding Love and Rockets-monikered guitar band.
From: Northampton (Massachusetts!)
Album: Twerp Verse
Sounds like: near-genius, bratty pop!
Summer Chart Position: 14/40
18. Peggy Gou – It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)
Full review in Half Term Report. Hypnotic, dance/trance from South Korea’s best pop star. It’s strange the way that The Orielles decided to cover this song after both acts made a much sought-after appearance in my prestigious summer chart.
Just saying like.
From: South Korea
Sounds like: nobody else
Summer Chart Position: 11/40
17. Caroline Rose – More of the Same
Full review in Half Term Report. I stayed in to watch the England v Croatia instead of heading up to Manchester to see Caroline Rose’s only northwest gig.
Wrong on so many levels.
Some of the best lyrics of the year and a tremendous, bittersweet single.
From: Long Island
Sounds like: Christina’s Is That All There Is?
Summer Chart Position: 5/40
16. Madison Beer – Fools
Full review in Half Term Report. Scally handbag music, but what a song!
From: New York
Album: As She Pleases
Sounds like: Alexis Jordan
Summer Chart Position: 6/40
15. Belako – Lungs
Full review in Half Term Report. More amazing Spanish shoegazers. A stunning single.
Album: Render Me Numb, Trivial Violence
Sounds like: Mint Leaf/The Jam’s Set the House Ablaze
Summer Chart Position: 15/40
14. The Love Language – Juiceboxx
Joyous, uplifting high falsetto (but not in a Bee Gees way*) life-affirming pop.
From: Raleigh, North Carolina
Album: Baby Grand
Sounds like: joy; optimism; Steely Dan’s children
*not that there’s anything wrong with that
13. Frankie Cosmos – Being Alive
Full review in Half Term Report. Greta Klein’s hyperspeed anthem to the joys of youth.
From: Los Angeles
Sounds like: Loads of other indie hopefuls, but with a tad more talent
Summer Chart Position: 9/40
12. TV Girl – 7 Days Till Sunday
Full review in Half Term Report. Literate and ironic pop from one of my favourite bands of 2018. The electronic ‘miaow’ hook will get to you at some stage after hearing this song – usually in the early hours of the morning and/or when you least expect it.
From: Los Angeles
Album: Death Of A Party Girl
Sounds like: Nobody, really
Summer Chart Position: 22/40
11. Beni – Cinematic
Gorgeous, lush Japanese/American soul/dance music. Heartbreaking and rather lovely. The best track on the album by a mile.
Sounds like: Nadine (see below)
10. Soak – Everybody Loves You
In another year, this would be number one. Norther Irish soul music, just quite beautiful and towards the end it just SOARS.
Album: Grim Town (to be released)
Sounds like: a more interesting, indie Adele; timeless, classic pop
9. Part Time – Before You Fall Apart
Terrible band name. Great song. I started singing along to this on the train one day. Momentarily forgot that earphones don’t transport you to your own house. Had to get off.
From: San Francisco
Sounds like: The Icicle Works
8. Bodega – Name Escape
If you’re going to do ‘punk’, do it like this. In fact, it’s more hip-hop than punk. Superb.
Album: Endless Scroll
Sounds like: Run DMC’s It’s Tricky; The Fall
7. Nadine – Ultra Pink
Full review in Half Term Report. The dreamiest of all the tracks on this list and with a delicacy that’s just beautiful.
From: Minneapolis/New York
Album: Oh My
Sounds like: the last memories of a beautiful dream
Summer Chart Position: 7/40
6. Our Girl – Our Girl
Another song which could have ben number one in another year. An absolutely storming track and the second best ‘rock’ track of the year.
Album: Our Girl
Sounds like: a shoegazey Hole (so to speak)
5. Teenage Wrist – Chrome Neon Jesus
Full review in Half Term Report. THE rock track of the year. This has been drifting round my mind for the past year and I certainly underestimated it first time round
From: Los Angeles
Album: Chrome Neon Jesus
Sounds like: a more melodic Nirvana
Summer Chart Position: 29/40
4. Sunflower Seeds – The Orielles
Full review in Half Term Report. I could have chosen Mango or new single Bobbi’s Second World. They’re all brilliant.
Band of the year. Album of the Year.
From: Halifax (the UK one, not Nova Scotia!)
Album: Silver Dollar Moment
Sounds like: themselves
Summer Chart Position: 4/40
3. Father John Misty – Mr Tillman
Full review in Half Term Report. The Guvnor. Best lyrics of the year and best gig(s) of the year. A star.
Album: God’s Favorite Customer
Sounds like: Himself
Summer Chart Position: 1/40
2. Christine and the Queens (featuring Dâm-Funk) – Girlfriend
A bit of an obvious one, perhaps, but the charms of Girlfriend just crept up on me one day and I realised I was listening to a pop/dance masterpiece. As someone who has always championed French pop, perhaps I just couldn’t see les bois pour les arbres, but we all make mistakes. This almost made it to number one – a slinky, sinewy and serious-sounding dancefloor classic for many years to come.
Héloïse Letissier – what a star!
Sounds like: you must have heard this one!
And the winner is…..
Illuminati Hotties – Shape of My Hands
It was number 23 in summer, but then I heard it in the right place at the right time.
And now it’s number one.
Kiss Yr Frenemies has the joint best album cover of the year (I’ve framed mine) and was a contender for album of the year after going off like a proverbial indie rocket, but as my old psychotic PE teacher once told me: “It’s a marathon not a Snicker,” and the wonderful Sarah Tudzin just can’t make it to the line in the same tip-top shape as she started.
An absolutely brilliant record: joyous, heartfelt and capturing the essence and pain of love with such deftness and perspicacity for someone so young.
After a rapturous set of verses and choruses, the song slows down to an almost whispered coda and if anything has taught me about the healing powers of pop music, it’s this lovely record:
You remind me of somethin’ I scratched on a napkin
“It doesn’t matter how many people love you
All that matters is how one person loves you”
Kissed me on the temple when you thought I was sleeping
And said, “You are so…”
I never quite caught the last word
But I’m sure it’s the sweetest thing that I’ve ever not heard
From: Los Angeles
Album: Kiss Yr Frenemies
Sounds like: Shades of The Wannadies’ You and Me Song
Summer Chart Position: 23/40
So there you have it. One hundred of my favourite songs and artists of the year, and hopefully some of the best on anybody’s list.
Lots of Americans and continental Europeans, with the odd spattering of Australians and homegrown native talent, and a healthy preponderance of all-female or female-fronted bands.
Like I’ve said before, you have the world’s music to choose from these days so where a band comes from is (rightly) totally irrelevant – although judging from the Official UK Charts Top 100 (and some of my more parochially-influenced friends) you’d never have guessed. Anyone who’s been included in ‘my chart’ is there because they’ve made my life better – by whatever major or minor degree.
A brilliant year, then, and I’m already adding songs and artists to ‘2019’.
(Hello, new bands You Tell Me and Tallies!)
❉ Stephen Porter has written for Esquire, Backpass and a host of other publications.
❉ Feature image: Juanita Stein.