The end has finally arrived—the end of 2018 that is. That means it’s year-end list time. With great albums comes great songs, and in a year that brought us plenty of great singles, there were a few deeper cuts that flew under the radar along the way. That being said, this list, looks at the best radio hits, diss tracks, diamonds in the rough, indie gems and everything in-between. All this to say, RIFF presents the 100 best songs of 2018, according to our staff writer Kyle Kohner.
100. “Rave on U” – Against All Logic:
The closing number of 2012-2018, “Rave on U,” is a 10-minute voyage that appropriately concludes one of the most eclectic electronic projects of the year by Chilean-American producer Nicholas Jaar. “Rave On U,” among many other immersive, albeit, brief dance numbers from his latest, is a sweeping deep house banger that veers from Jaar’s usual experimentalism by opting for something more danceable and accessible.
99. “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America” – Lonnie Holley:
“I Woke Up In A Fucked America” sees 68-year-old Lonnie Holley crooning and yelping about the twisted political climate brought on by the election of Donald Trump two years earlier. An experimental jazz mind-bender brimming with a surrealist and woozy dread, the Alabama artist’s voice is haunting, pained and appropriately 68 years of age.
98. “Night Shift” – Lucy Dacus:
In what 23-year-old songstress Lucy Dacus describes as “the only breakup song I’ve ever written, “Night Shift” aims to be a positive release of emotion in spite of some uproarious guitar riffs and immeasurably visceral lyricism: “Am I a masochist/ Resisting urges to punch you in the teeth?/ Call you a bitch and leave?”
97. “Dolphin” – Panda Bear:
Though he had no involvement with Animal Collective’s Tangerine Reef, Panda Bear attempts to reconcile the bland mess that was that record through one song alone. “Dolphin” is everything that Tangerine Reef tried to be—immersive, hypnotic and one with the ocean.
96. “Hunted” – Lotic:
Menacingly contorted through an industrial loop of sonic uncertainty, “Hunted” serves as the emotionally fierce backbone to Lotic’s debut album. Lotic makes its introduction to wider audiences much more striking with the track’s remarkably vivid mantra: “Brown skin, masculine frame, head’s a target/ This nigga can’t take it/ Had to grow feminine, think I found it/ This nigga can’t take it.”
95. “OKRA” – Tyler, The Creator:
Stylistically resembling the best of early Southern hip-hop, “OKRA” throws in a few new-age trap elements along the way, namely, an ear-splitting bass amplified into distorted proportions. Pair the above with Tyler’s adventurous flow, and “OKRA” is up there as one of Tyler’s boldest releases to date.
94. “King’s Dead” – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake:
Though it has obvious replayability and serves fans of the film, there are enough elements here to deem “King’s Dead” a genuine display of great hip-hop minds colliding. Aside from Kendrick completely murdering Mike WiLL’s beats, Future etched himself within the rap pantheon (not really) by providing one of the best lines ever uttered: “La di da di da, slob on me knob…”
93. “Honey” – Robyn:
Sweden’s beloved pop icon is finally back and it seems she never lost a step. “Honey” proves why Robyn is still capable of making the very best in popular dance music. With every drum machine blip and each wave of synth, “Honey” perspires a sheen and cleanliness that suggests a post-digital age—yet there is also a warmth and intimacy that most pop music lacks.
92. “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia”- of Montreal:
Swaying between dystopia and utopia, the frenzied electro-pop atmosphere and subtle piano melody beneath the foreboding yet playful “Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia,” makes an otherwise weak of Montreal record palatable.
91. “Angie” – Shame:
Birthed from a headspace swimming with alienation and delusion, “Angie” is a suitably mournful yet melodic conclusion to a deranged and manic album. Shame’s Songs of Praise radiates with anger and boastful post-punk energy, so much so that when the “Angie” turns the corner, listeners are completely taken aback by the band’s diverse palette.
90. “A$AP Forever” – A$AP Rocky, Moby:
I’ve been one of A$AP’s biggest critics and his first album in three years, TESTING did nothing to alleviate certain criticisms. However, amid the heap of unfinished ideas and grueling length of TESTING stands “A$AP Forever.” Sampling the enrapturing beauty of Moby’s “Porcelain,” A$AP flies over with aggression and grit, something I’ve been waiting to hear since his debut.
89. “Let The Lioness In You Flow Freely” – Yves Tumor:
Just as the song’s title describes, Yves Tumor unleashes an unrestrained, malevolent array of sound. From disjointed horns off in the distance to the obliterating percussion up front, the disjointed display of “Let the Lioness In You Flow Freely” is a perfect way to end a record.
88. “Don’t You know I’m In a Band” – Confidence Man:
Humorous and incredibly self-aware, the exhilarating moxy of Confidence Man flows through the contagious rhythms and energetic beats of one of the best and easiest songs to dance to in 2018.
87. “Hurrah” – Iceage:
A bluesy, pressing post-punk burner in the vein of Nick Cave, this Iceage tune ponders the destructive and even fatal nature of mankind through welcomingly scuzzy and layered arrangements, and a nihilistic lyricism.
86. “Nervous Young Inhumans” – Car Seat Headrest:
Brandishing a charming and simple early 2000s indie rock feel, “Nervous Young Inhumans” is an anthemic, anxious and animated dance punk gem custom fit for millennials. However, beneath the vigorous surface, Car Seat Headrest frontman Will Toledo battles the duality between good and evil made evident through his self-examining narration to close out the track.
85. “TABOO | TA13OO” – Denzel Curry:
Over slightly soulful instrumentation and a cryptically mellow beat, Denzel Curry journeys into the darkness of sexual abuse and dips into a well of lyrical breadth that poses multiple questions.
84. “1529 N. Calvert” – JPEGMAFIA:
Pusha T wasn’t the only rapper to diss Drake upon unforgivable grounds in 2018. A fusion of cloud, trap and industrial rap, “Peggy” malignly deconstructs and obliterates his much more established counterpart with a flow and lyrics that are absolutely murderous.
83. “June” – IDLES:
For a band that prides itself in deranged, punk sounds and bold lyrics, “June” is harrowing because it’s strikingly personal and, well, sad. Joe Talbot reflects on the stillborn death of his daughter with remarkably vivid lyrics depicting the grieving father selling baby shoes that were never worn.
82. “Self Care” – Mac Miller:
A direct lyrical reflection regarding the fallout with ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande, Mac Miller shows a willingness to grow not only as a musician but as a person through humble lyricism and a great ear for production, bringing in Dev Hynes. Of course, we all interpreted this as a work of art rather than a call for help.
81. “Thank U, Next” – Ariana Grande:
Considering the amount of pain and tumult she has dealt with this past year, it’s a marvel that the magnetic pop star wrote her most human and cathartic moment as a musician and as a public figure with “Thank U, Next.”
80. “We Appreciate Power” – Grimes:
Many will disagree with the inclusion of this song, but Grimes continues to assert herself as one of the most versatile producers out there today. Slightly veering from the bubblegum pop exterior of Art Angels, the polarizing artist funnels pop sensibilities through ‘90s industrial pastiche on “We Appreciate Power.”
79. “Wide Awake” – Parquet Courts:
When you “need more cowbell,” look no further than the rambunctious single from the infectious New York post-punk rockers. “Wide Awake” is an extremely high-energy dance number that will relentlessly burrow its way into the ears and heart whether you like it or not.
78. “Cops Shot The Kid” – Nas, Kanye West:
Once again proving himself as a sampling master, Kanye cleverly borrows from Slick Rick’s 1988 “Children Story,” enhancing the routine-yet-dynamic commentary on police brutality of what is arguably the lone bright moment from Nasir.
77. “Burn” – The Soft Moon:
Harkening to the darkwave passages of ‘90s-era Nine Inch Nails, Luis Vasquez’ vocals are obviously more drowned out than Reznor’s but give way to an insane assault of industrial guitars, paranoid patterns of drum machine and murky floods of morose synthesizers.
76. “Me & My Dog” – Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus (boygenius):
The lead single from one of the most formidable supergroups in recent memory, “Me & My Dog” zeroes in on the particular talents of Phoebe Bridgers. As the melancholic conduit for nostalgia and bittersweetness, Bridgers uses the clever and comforting image of her relationship with her pup as an escape from emotional tumult stemming from a past relationship.