Jon Fuchs, Music Director: Dean Blunt – “Chancer (feat. A$AP Rocky)”
It’s crazy that the best hype track of 2018 is a minimal masterpiece with no actual beat at all. Acting as the opening track on his latest EP, Soul On Fire, Dean Blunt’s “Chancer” is based solely on a constantly looping strings sample, Blunt’s monotone vocal delivery about clubbing hard and making money and A$AP Rocky‘s perfect, screaming and unbelievably aggressive ad-libs. Those three elements sound strange and distant when compared to one another, but they work together perfectly to sound like nothing else that came out this year. The only thing wrong with the song is its criminally short runtime of 1:35, which will ensure endless plays from anyone daring enough to get hooked in its beautiful string harmonies and Rocky’s amazing gunshot sounds. Listen to this future club banger at your own risk because it may be the only thing you listen to for a few days.
Mary Puzder, Programming Director: Kacey Musgraves – “Slow Burn”
I discovered Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves the day after my 21st birthday party. I was cleaning up the house, drinking tea and generally having a chill morning. Spotify notified me about the new album, and I queued it up.
“Slow Burn”, the opening track of the album, immediately grabbed my attention and made me listen. Starting with the calm strumming of a guitar, the song’s calming vibes set the tone for the rest of the album. The lyrics, “Old soul, waiting my turn / I know a few things, but I still got a lot to learn,” particularly resonate with me as a college student, while the chorus reminds us that in this fast-paced world, we should chill out and take things slow. It’s perfect for driving with the windows down during, well, golden hour.
I used to listen to country music more often when I was younger, but I really disliked the direction the genre went within the last five years or so. But Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, specifically “Slow Burn”, gives me hope for the future of country music.
Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor: The Good, The Bad & The Queen – “Merrie Land”
What do you get when you combine Blur/Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn, The Clash’s Paul Simonon, The Verve’s Simon Tong and Tony Allen? Pure bliss.
2018 gave listeners a new The Good, The Bad & The Queen record for the first time in over a decade. Merrie Land takes a look not just at the topic of Brexit but at England as a whole in an almost nostalgic kind of way. Its opening track of the same name starts off the album like the opening of a love letter, with Albarn pleading to his home country: “And if you are leaving can you leave your number / I’ll pack my case / And get in a cab / And wave you goodbye.” Set to a waltz-like beat, the orchestral instrumental grows more eerie and intense as the song progresses, matching Albarn’s increasingly stout demands and reflection. It’s a beautiful track that deserves a listen, so go serenade your ears. I’ll wait.
Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor: Mayday Parade – “It’s Hard to Be Religious When Certain People Are Never Incinerated by Bolts of Lightning”
Sunnyland is the biggest pop-punk comeback of 2018. After going AWOL with their sound in Black Lines, Mayday Parade has captured every defining moment from their discography, creating a collective reservoir of the band’s forte—and I couldn’t be happier. “It’s Hard to Be Religious” is an exemplar of the band amping up their staple sound, but it puts more emphasis on a well-rounded semblance of their past albums.
Unlike the classic Mayday melodrama, this song expresses frontman Derek Sanders’ deep indignation that derived from the political climate of the United States. Although the song doesn’t bring anything new to the table, the drums fuel the drive right off the bat and the guitars melodically synergize with Sanders’ soaring vocals, hitting us tenfold with a huge chorus. Don’t sleep on this album; Mayday have regained serious momentum and freshened today’s musty pop-punk scene. And just look at that title. That needs a comeback, too.
Abby Jeffers, News Editor: Hop Along – “Prior Things”
Despite clocking in at nearly a whopping six minutes long, Hop Along’s “Prior Things” is the underdog on their 2018 release, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Frontwoman Frances Quinlan’s vocals are gritty as she muses on possibilities and the future (“Why don’t I try to make you mine? / Why is a lack of imagination the crime?”), and the sunny string melody is repeated throughout, maintaining the track’s edge rather than resolving into something too comfortable. It’s familiar without being unoriginal; although the strings feel like a flashback to the band’s second album, Get Disowned, this intricately layered track is tangy and addicting. While it is a shift for a band with deep DIY roots, “Prior Things” is a solid closer for Hop Along’s latest album, cementing its intricate, genre-bending sound.
Emily DiAlbert, Copy Editor: Current Joys – “Fear”
Nick Rattigan, the genius behind Current Joys, plucked out every single one of my heartstrings with his 2018 release of A Different Age. The album captures the essence of realness, using Rattigan’s powerfully raw voice and tantalizing instrumentals as the perfect narrators to the human story. The album covers all the basics: love, hate, depression, anxiety and fear. It also utilizes accompanying tear-jerker videos to further the visual that Rattigan’s vulnerable lyrics already begin to create in your mind.
The album’s second track, “Fear”, is both revealing and relatable. Marked by warm, lulling orchestral instruments and unwavering guitar melodies, the track illustrates the fear one can experience when you feel your life turn in an unexpected direction. When Rattigan belts, “I don’t want to be afraid / I don’t want to live this way,” you can sense the immense amount of anxiety that he releases through his music. As someone who relates a little too much to the whole “being afraid to live sometimes” thing, this song left a huge mark on the spot in my heart reserved for all my “emo” feelings. Sometimes you just need to hear you’re not alone with your emotions, and man does “Fear” let you know.
Lane Moore, Staff Writer: All Get Out – “Value”
As is the case for many of my peers, this year has consisted of graduating high school, starting my time as a college student and feeling the ever-creeping responsibilities of pseudo-adulthood. This is why All Get Out’s “Value” is a fantastic track for defining my experiences of 2018. Though I often feel the frustration of “repeating a formative year,” there has certainly been more to this one than the monotony of my daily routine.
The vibrant guitars and boisterous drums on the track remind me of the high points of 2018 and make me wonder if “doing the same thing for years” isn’t so bad after all. I’m reminded of the people I’ve met and the experiences that feel more like movies when I reflect on them. I’m also reminded that I never filed my state taxes, but I doubt that could ever come back to haunt me. That being said, “Value” has all of the lyrical substance and masterful instrumentation needed to be considered my Track of the Year™.
Kwase Lane, Staff Writer: Brockhampton – “1999 WILDFIRE”
Brockhampton may have lost a lot in early 2018, but they emerged from the flames better than anyone could have hoped, and “1999 WILDFIRE” is undeniable proof of that. After ousting Ameer Vann from the “all-American boyband,” the remaining members were left to pick up the pieces left behind by their arguably most recognizable member. Each member carries more than their fair share, and together they quash any doubts one may have had about the group’s future.
The absence of Vann has allowed every other member to grow in response. The standout of “1999 WILDFIRE” is, no doubt, Bearface. Often relegated to an awkward track on the backend of Brockhampton projects, many fans give him the short end of the stick. But when his talents are used properly, you get the breakdown of this song. The trials of 2018 may have been unwelcome at first, but the collective has overcome every challenge, punctuating each success with a groovy banger.
Jessica Jones, Staff Writer: Lana Del Rey – “Venice Bitch”
The world was finally ready for a 10-minute-long Lana song, and she delivered. This soft, groovy suite takes you on a whimsical journey and makes you feel like you’re sitting on the front porch of your childhood home on a warm summer night. Distorted guitar, folk-rock influences and the classic edginess that we have learned to expect from Ms. Del Rey make this track one perfect tune.
Andrew Breazeale, Staff Writer: Kali Uchis – “Dead to Me”
Kali Uchis was thrown into the spotlight this year after her new album Isolation was released in April. Filled with funk, soul and R&B, Isolation quickly became my most-listened-to album. But what makes “Dead To Me” so much more special than the other tracks on the album is its highly conflicted nature and catchiness. Uchis sings about how the person she doesn’t want to associate with won’t leave her alone, saying “You’re dead to me / Could you just leave me alone?”
Although that may seem like a common theme in music, the manner in which Uchis sends the message is what makes her song so incredible. The entire song plays like an upbeat funk-pop ballad, suggesting that Uchis enjoys telling the person that she hates them. The infectious chorus and incredible production make the song so enjoyable that it becomes almost addicting. Empowering and uplifting, Kali Uchis’ “Dead To Me” kept my head moving and my body grooving throughout all of 2018.