The RIFF Tuesday Tracks writers pick their favorite finds of 2018

Pale Waves

This is the second year the RIFF staff has compiled our weekly new music column, Tuesday Tracks, highlighting standout tunes that were, perhaps, flying under the radar. And what a productive year 2018 was.

Chloe Catajan, Max Heilman, Vic Silva, Tarandeep Kaur and Matthew Eaton took shifts plunging into an ocean of songs to choose their favorite of the week. With the year drawing to a close, all five contributors have combed through their 2018 choices to present their favorite discovery.

Enjoy this year’s stand-out tracks as chosen by your musical deep-divers:


Chloe’s Pick: Pale Waves, “The Tide” — I chose “The Tide” by Pale Waves as my pick of the week at the beginning of February. The band was new to me, but I was crazy for the track even before my first listen ended. At the time, Pale Waves didn’t have many releases online. I remember scouring YouTube that week to listen to as much of their stuff as I could. Most of them were audio rips of live performances. I even mentioned at the end of my column that “I [could] see myself jamming to this group for a long time.”

By late November, I have played Pale Waves 680 times on They’re one of my top five most-listened-to artists for 2018. I’ve loved keeping up with their rapid trajectory, from releasing their EP, All the Things I Never Said, to opening up the second day at Outside Lands, to releasing their debut album, My Mind Makes Noises. On top of Pale Waves’ catalog of dreamy rhythms and relatable lyrics, the group continues to impress with compelling videos and intriguing covers of songs like Taylor Swift’s “22” and Dua Lipa’s “One Kiss.”


Max’s Pick: EMÆL, “Yellowtail” — Several of the songs I chose ended up being on some of my favorite albums of year, so I’m excluding those to avoid redundancy. Even after narrowing down my choices, it seemed like it would take ages to decide which song I wanted to give special recognition. But then, I remembered the very first Tuesday Tracks column I ever wrote. I remembered EMÆL.

“Yellowtail” perfectly defines the band’s self-description as “indie chamber pop,” and remains leaps and bounds beyond anyone’s expectations. From its complex rhythm structure to its impressionistic melodies, this song shrouds itself in infectious and mysterious arrangements. This band’s classical training is evident in its meticulousness and tight execution. Heavily syncopated beats and accented string arrangements coincide with trippy electronics and unpredictable songwriting chops, making for an ingeniously crafted experience. What’s even more amazing is how catchy the vocal melodies retain cohesion in this surreal sonic tapestry. EMÆL does to folktronica what Bjork did to chamber pop, pushing the genre’s excentricities while engraining its hooks into the mind.


Vic’s Pick: Claire George, “Where Do You Go?” — Infectious pop-rap, beachy soft-rock and female-fronted dream-pop styles made my picks this year, but Claire George won the victory for the ladies.

Her single “Where Do You Go?” sprinkles 1975-esque reverb and washy keyboards on stark ’80s synthwave. The song’s cinematic video heightens its feeling of uncertainty and loneliness as she aimlessly paces tennis courts and golf courses. The song’s blissful aura pairs pixie-like soprano vocals and trendy relevant themes that would definitely appeal to a desperately heartbroken or conflicted audience. Claire George is adept at creating an enveloping aura, inviting the listener to empathize with her as she encompasses her artistic reservoir.


Tarandeep’s Pick: Hana Vu (featuring Satchy), “Cool” — Back in April, singer-songwriter and producer Hana Vu released the mellow, bedroom pop single “Cool,” off her debut album, How Many Times Have You Driven By. A smooth, gentile-sounding intro invites listeners to chill out before Vu delivers some morose lines about the mundane frustrations of life. “I’m always waking up too early/ Heavy set in my routine,” she sings in a deep tone.

Featured artist Satchy adds to the moody vibe, singing alongside Vu in a somewhat hopeful cheer in the outgoing chorus. This track is jam-packed with emotions that range from stoic to depressive and passive. The playful dream-pop production adds an element of comfort to the song. This is why I keep coming back to it. It’s has a calming effect during times to foil the depressive lyrics.


Matthew’s Pick: Jon Bryant, “Paradise” — My favorite new discovery of the year is John Bryant’s groovy and understated “Paradise.” Dripping with nostalgia, “Paradise” combines soft rock and psychedelic influences seamlessly.

Bryant’s songwriting is almost too good on this song, providing weight to an otherwise breezy and carefree track. What stands out on repeat listens is the impressive production. Layers of sound combine to create a hypnotic haze, perfectly setting up that oh-so-catchy chorus.

Follow editor Max Heilman at and
Follow editor Chloe Catajan at and
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