The Top 100 Songs of 2018, Part Three: 60 – 41

We have arrived at the Bon Jovi position of the DJY100. We are halfway there, folks. And then some. Part one is here, part two is here and now… part three!

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60. Joyce Manor – Million Dollars to Kill Me

Of Joyce Manor’s five albums, Million Dollars may be its most cryptically titled. Does it allude to some sort of bounty? Defiance? Survival? The cost of living? The album’s title track doesn’t make it any clearer – in fact, it muddies the waters even further by detailing a demised relationship where, while both parties are still fond of one another, the proverbial writing is on the wall. Truth be told, none of that really matters when it comes down to it. “Million Dollars” is one of the strongest, sharpest songs Joyce Manor has ever written. What’s in a name, anyway?

59. CHVRCHES – Get Out

Fun as it may be, synthpop is a genre with limited scope by definition. Nevertheless, CHVRCHES have found ways to make room, innovating within their palette across three albums in five years. Their most recent, Love is Dead, was their most ambitious and accessible to date. “Get Out” was the lead-in, and ended up being about as strong a start one could hope for. With claps so hard there’s no way they could have been produced by a human, matched up with a vulnerable vocal delivery that could have only come from a human, “Get Out” exists in perfect tessellation.

58. Drake – God’s Plan

Everything about “God’s Plan” feels massive. That’s to be expected at this stage when it comes to Drake, of course – his movements feel seismic in the present-day pop climate – but the way this song announced itself to the world somehow hit in a different way. That could well have something to do with its good-samaritan music video, which is well on its way to a billion YouTube views, or the earth-orbiting Cardo beat kicking in. Maybe the endlessly-quotable lyrics had soemthing to do with it. Whatever it was, it worked. The Lord works in mysterious ways, after all.

57. Death Cab for Cutie – Gold Rush

“Gold Rush” has been dismissively referred to as Ben Gibbard’s first “get off my lawn” song. Sure, our emo hero of yesteryear is now a married 42-year-old millionaire – but he ain’t Clint Eastwood yet. Rather, he’s channelling two iconic women of the 70s here: Yoko Ono – whose “Mind Train” is sampled in the song’s feedback-loop backing – and Joni Mitchell, who penned a similar song of gentrification and disenfranchisement in “Big Yellow Taxi.” At a time where they could have easily phoned it in, Death Cab deserve kudos for delivering such a sonically-interesting curveball. “Gold Rush,” decidedly, glitters.

56. The Beths – Future Me Hates Me

It’s a phrase that, somehow, hadn’t been strung together before The Beths concocted it for their debut album’s title track. It’s something that uses a double negative of tense to create something immediately familiar – “I am doing something that I might not regret now, but that I will soon look upon as a mistake.” It’s about the inherent risk that comes with a budding relationship, as detailed through the lense of tingly, electric power-pop that hammers home huge chords and warm vocal arrangements. The Beths make music for the here and now – that’s why it’s called the present.

55. Luca Brasi – Never Better

A standout from the Tasmanians’ fourth album, “Never Better” is a reflection on facades and brave faces. If we’re ever asked if we’re okay, all of us have used the titular phrase as means of reassurance. Here, vocalist Tyler Richardson removes the veneer and draws in listeners with some of his most brutal, honest lyrics: “Every effort feels so tired and rehearsed,” he laments at one point; “I’m coming apart at the seams,” he confesses at another. His bandmates drawback and venture into more restrained, twinkly musical territory to ensure these words are crystal clear. Songs like “Never Better” matter.

54. Cash Savage and the Last Drinks – Pack Animals

If you walk into the Old Bar in Fitzroy, a giant Cash Savage poster is a centerpiece on the band-room wall. It’s borderline messianic – fitting really, for whenever Savage is on stage, sermon is in session. Tell ’em that God’s gonna cut you down: “Pack Animals” is one of Savage’s most biting, blunt songs ever. As The Last Drinks encroach on a pulsating rhythm with urgent, dischordant delivery, Savage righteously tears into some poor normie dickhead who thinks he understands political correctness because he’s read 12 Rules for Life. Fuck him, and fuck you if you don’t like this.

53. Press Club – Suburbia

Less than two years into their time as a band, Melbourne’s Press Club have promptly swept the nation with a must-see live show and a take-no-prisoners debut album. If you’ve somehow been centrally located beneath a boulder of some description, fear not: Your immediate entry point is “Suburbia,” a song so rousing and anthemic that a crowd can overpower a PA when singing its refrain. Vocalist Nat Dunn sounds like she’s going so hard the mic might blow up, while her bandmates seemingly have sparks flying off them the whole time they’re locked in together. Your heart belongs here now.

52. Aunty Donna feat. Demi Lardner – Best Day of My Life

Supreme overlords of comedic absurdism, Aunty Donna have been making dark surrealism a compact, shareable form for years. In 2018 they turned their attention to music, creating an album of send-ups and gut-laugh pastiches. Among the highlights is a song that also doubled as the opening number of their festival show for the year, a back-to-school celebration about all the things that make young students tick. Maybe some that probably shouldn’t, too – see the cameo from self-described “horrid little troll” Demi Lardner for more. “Best Day” is as tasty as a scone and as hard-hitting as a big stick.

51. James Bay – Pink Lemonade

James Bay? The motherfucker with the hat? That James Bay? Yes, believe it or not, the “Hold Back the River” singer had a Charlie Puth-style pop reinvention in 2018, releasing a decent coming-of-age “I fuck now” record in Electric Light. In a weird way, however, Bay almost overshadowed himself – “Pink Lemonade” is so far ahead as the album’s frontrunner, you almost question why the other songs bothered showing up. A neon-tinged nu-rock number, the song sees Bay indulging a more soulful tear in his vocals while a wall of electric guitar churns against the slick production. Best served cool.

50. Amy Shark feat. Mark Hoppus – Psycho

The likes of Amanda Palmer and Nardwuar have waxed lyrical about the art of asking. So it went that Amy Shark reached out to her teenage idol, blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, to work on a song for her debut album. Not only did it eventuate, but it turned out to be the highlight of the record. “Psycho” offers a dark, duelling perspective on an intense relationship as soundtracked by pensive guitars and restrained drum programming. The latter eventually gives way to live drums complementing Shark’s high notes, and it’s one of the year’s best dynamic payoffs. Ask and you shall receive.

49. The 1975 – Sincerity is Scary

The 1975 have never released a song like “Sincerity is Scary” before. It’s soulful, piano-driven and would feel more at home in a jazzy nightclub than a pop playlist. It may well be the single biggest stylistic leap they have ever taken – and yet, they made it to the other side completely unscathed. They didn’t do it alone, certainly – a sizzling horn section and a faithful gospel choir propel the song’s finer points – but it’s a complete credit to how adaptable and ambitious this band has become that songs like this can thrive.

48. Nas feat. The-Dream and Kanye West – everything

In 1996, Nas released one of all-time definitive hip-hop tracks in “If I Ruled the World” – a song with big dreams, hopes and aspirations. “everything” is its spiritual successor, some 22 years on, and although its surroundings are bleak there is that same white light of hope that seeps in as the piano resolves on a major chord and Kanye proclaims – almost exactly as Lauryn Hill did – that he would change everything if he could. “everything” is a song about black history, success stories and perseverance. It’s easily the best Nas song in at least a decade.

47. Aunty Donna feat. Boilermakers and Montaigne – The Best Freestylers in the World

The best satire of a form comes from a place of love. Montaigne loves to belt out a big hook, Matt Okine loves hip-hop and the Aunty Donna boys love improv. The difference here is that Montaigne and Okine are actually good at these things normally. When Broden, Mark and Zack throw themselves into the world of freestyle rap, they are deers in headlights. What follows is something so ridiculous that it ends up being completely hilarious and a loving satire of the form. Bonus points: Okine’s street-tough, ad-libbed barks of “Target Country, motherfucker!” and “That’s too much for pants!”

46. Cry Club – Walk Away

In 2017, Australia underwent a plebiscite to determine whether marriage equality should be legalised. It sparked a few key songs in reaction: The aforementioned Cash Savage wrote “Better Than That,” while Brisbane’s Good Boy offered the blunt “A Waste of Approximately 122 Million Dollars (Taxpayer Funded).” For their debut single, Cry Club rallied against every curmudgeonly conservative fuck that stood in the way of a massive step towards equality. It rumbles, it rages and when the count-along pre-chorus kicks in it fucking rules. Forget their trademark glitter: “Walk Away” is the sound of a band donning warpaint. Join the Club.

45. Muncie Girls – Picture of Health

It can take a lot of courage to reach out from a point of despair, uncertain as to how you’ll come across and how it might impact the people you care about. With “Picture of Health,” Muncie Girls’ Lande Hekt sees themselves in another – and that’s not a good thing in this case. It’s a song that’s just as much about co-dependence as it is about self-care, and how there’s nothing wrong with seeking solace in either. As luck would have it, it’s also one of the sharpest and catchiest songs the band has ever written. A healthy choice.

44. IDLES – Danny Nedelko

The idea of helping your fellow man and treating others as you wished to be treated seems like such a basic concept, but if 2018 proved anything it’s that humanity isn’t quite there yet – especially over in the UK, which is more openly racist and transphobic than ever before. IDLES literally have to spell it out on the second single from their second album, paraphrasing Yoda and referencing Pavement for good measure. Such is the passion and conviction of “Danny Nedelko,” you feel like you could kick in the door of number 10 in one go once it’s finished.

43. Moaning Lisa – Carrie (I Want a Girl)

Time for some girl talk. Moaning Lisa’s breakthrough single is, by their own admission and design, a very lesbian affair. It’s celebrity crushes and heart-eyes-emoji lust, as backed by a slinking bass-line and a big-business riff. They cut to the point, and will wash you right out of their hair if you disagree. Even if you’re not – as 10 Thing I Hate About You put it – a k.d. lang fan, there’s so much to enjoy here that it doesn’t even matter. If you can appreciate a tongue-in-cheek indie-rocker with an attitude to it, you can get behind “Carrie.”

42. Skegss – Smogged Out

Unfairly dismissed by most as doofus garage-rock for burnouts and the bullies from your high school, Skegss have had to fight more than your average band for credibility and validity. It’s unclear whether they’ve achieved it with My Own Mess, their long-awaited debut LP, but at this juncture they’re well beyond fretting over what the post-woke blue ticks of the world reckon about them. Their allegiance is to KISS-principle jangle with subtle undertones and festival-mosh choruses. “Smogged Out” may be one of their best efforts in this department yet, putting a pogo bounce into a song of malaise and pity.

41. DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo and Chance the Rapper – No Brainer

In 2017, DJ Khaled assembled his own Avengers and gave us “I’m the One,” which promptly took over and simultaneously saved the universe. Although not a complete reunion – Weezy is inexplicably absent – “No Brainer” is a sequel that’s just as enticing a big-budget blockbuster as its predecessor. Although from a scientific standpoint there was no song of the summer this year, “No Brainer” felt about as close a contender as you were likely to get: A whole crew of A-listers flexing over a bassy beat and smart, simple chord progressions? The choice is obvious. Even little Asahd approves.

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Part four with you at the start of 2019 – it’s so soon!

Check out the updated playlist with all of the DJY100 in it so far:

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2012 – A Year in the Front Row. Part One: Jan/Feb/March

So, here’s an idea I had. I go to so many damn shows, why not do a retrospective? Especially considering 2012 was easily my busiest year of gigs ever. So, here is part one of four. It’s a very brief recount of the year that was, but one I was compelled to share. Enjoy! – DJY

JANUARY

With a slew of bands still staying over from the New Year’s festivals, as well as some perfectly timed tours, my first few weeks of January 2012 were insanely busy. Within the first week alone, I’d seen old favourites Bluejuice, Italian skramz band Raein, U.S. hip-hopper Jean Grae, U.K. movers-and-shakers The Jim Jones Revue, pop-punk heroes Tonight Alive (the first of four times I’d see them this year) and mid-teen heroes The Dresden Dolls. An exhausting highlight reel of great, diverse and interesting music hanging around Sydney and Wollongong at the time.

Unfortunately, the only sour note among the lot was Jean – arriving forty minutes late on stage and proceeding to treat her fans like idiots while barely putting any effort into her rapping still ranks highly among my year’s sorest disappointments. Still, you’ve got to take the good with the bad – and, there was so much good to take.

In particular, I point to the Dresden Dolls show at the Enmore Theatre as still one of the best shows I went to this year. For two-and-a-half hours, I partied like it was 2006 and celebrated the reunion of one of my biggest high-school obsessions. Having seen Amanda solo twice before, I already had an idea of what to expect – but bringing drummer Brian Viglione into the mix sent the entire affair to strange new levels. A great one to tick off the bucket list.

Not long after that, I was headed to Melbourne for the first time ever. I had the honour of playing with former A Death in the Family vocalist/guitarist Jamie Hay – eerily enough, on Friday the 13th, the day that AditF had announced their split. He didn’t let the news get in the way of a phenomenal performance, thankfully. The weekend immediately following this show lead to my main purpose of visiting Melbourne – Sugar Mountain.

An awesome initiative from Two Bright Lakes, this night was the first of three times I would see percussive adventurers tUnE-yArDs in this month. Getting to see the delightful Deerhoof and the blistering Thee Oh Sees was the icing on an already delicious cake. The next night at the Corner Hotel, I got to see tUnE-yArDs doing her thing once again. I appreciated a total switch-up of her live set – she even started on the same song that she had closed with the day before, and vice versa! My final time seeing her was a day after returning home, at the Famous Spiegeltent as a part of the 2012 Sydney Festival. I also managed to sneak in a breathtaking set from U.K. chanteuse Beth Orton at City Recital Hall for the Festival, too. Gotta be happy with that.

Onto a far-less cultured festival, the one and only Big Day Out. I only managed to get in a single sideshow this time, but it was more than worth it. Battles shook the foundations of the Metro Theatre like nobody’s business. Having now seen these guys 4 times, I can affirm their status as mind-melting musos that you could watch individually for a set’s entirety and not get bored. That said, their MVP is unquestonably Mr. John Stanier. ‘Tis no man! ‘Tis a drumming machine! Onto the BDO itself: Highlights included the bombastic Kanye headlining set, the world-class rock & roll of Soundgarden, Cage the Elephant and My Chemical Romance and the insane celebratory dance party of Girl Talk. Despite relatively poor ticket sales, BDO was a tonne of fun.

The month finished with a quick visit to Wollongong for day 2 of the Stacked Music Festival. Although I attended almost exclusively for Sydney legends Gay Paris, there were also a few treats thrown in for good measure – local champions The Conspiracy Plan, brattish post-punks Chicks Who Love Guns and the always-delightful folk-rockers The Pennys.

TOP 5:

  1. The Dresden Dolls
  2. tUnE-yArDs
  3. Kanye West
  4. Battles
  5. Jamie Hay

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Jean Grae, plus the shitty local band that opened for Tonight Alive whose name escapes me.

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FEBRUARY

I was eased into February quite nicely by one of my favourite events in Blood, Sweat and Beers. This show would mark the first of many times I would see positive-thinking pop-rockers Milhouse, as well as sets from Canberran bong-ripping favourites I Exist, Tassie boys Luca Brasi, country bumpkins Wagons and the brilliant Harmony. With Laneway in town, I caught a sideshow for Canadian sensation Leslie Feist, although admittedly I was going almost exclusively for her support in the delightful Mountain Man. These sweet-singing ladies subsequently wiped the floor with Feist herself, who was half-an-hour late on stage and caught up in her own self indulgences too much to make this show worthwhile.

I then returned to my second home of the Annandale Hotel for three shows headlined by Michigan post-hardcore cult heroes La Dispute. These shows were just as inspiring and engaging as the very first time I saw them back in 2009, but for very different reasons. The 2009 shows were inspiring on account of an American band doing a completely D.I.Y. Australian tour that was done out a pure love for what they do as a band.

These shows were inspiring on account of seeing a relatively little-known band playing a very unfriendly style of music managing to pack out the Annandale for three shows with a huge, hungry and wildly boisterous audience. In other words, they’ve more or less arrived in Australia. We also got some fantastic local supports at these shows: Let Me Down Jungleman, Hira Hira (shout out to Jack Wotton for doing double duty!), Perspectives, Between the Devil and the Deep, Making and the late, great Animal Shapes.

Nearing the end of the month, I got to spend some quality time with some of my songwriting heroes – namely, Dan Mangan and Ben Gibbard. The former played a wondrously joyful set at Notes in Newtown, while the latter lead his band (and one of my all-time favourites), Death Cab for Cutie, into a second headlining show at the Enmore Theatre just up the road. Despite an annoying, iPhone-ready audience, I still had a great time at my third Death Cab show.

Sandwiched in-between Dan and DcfC was SoundDave, a DIY all-day festival held at another one of my Sydney “homes,” Black Wire Records, curated by Milhouse/Between the Devil and the Deep bassist/FBi radio personality/all-round heartthrob Dave Drayton. I was a volunteer for the entire day, and was so happy to be involved. Highlights including decidedly bitchin’ sets from Epics, Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt and Surprise Wasp, fronted by Gay Paris bassist Dean “Slim Pickin’s” Podmore. Top stuff.

Although I gave Soundwave a miss, I still managed to wrap up the month with two great “Sidewaves” at the Metro Theatre. The first was the final Sydney show from Thursday, a band that I will gladly admit meant a hell of a lot more to most people in that room than me. I was a late bloomer for Thursday, only really getting into them later in high school. And I was a War All the Time guy, as opposed to a Full Collapse guy, which was the album they were playing in its entirety. Even so, I came out of that show with a mountain of respect for what they accomplished in their time, and it was an honour to be a part of it. Finally getting to see Circa Survive live was also a treat.

A few days later, on a rare February 29th, I got a triple-horned hardcore treat with Enter Shikari, letlive. and Your Demise. Each put on a great set with their own style and energy, but I’d be kidding myself if I wasn’t there to get properly mental to letlive. After discovering them in mid-2011, I vowed that I’d be front row centre as soon as they toured. And so it was – I screamed, I jumped, I climbed on things and I essentially acted all of the ways a 21-year-old really, really shouldn’t. And it was GLORIOUS.

TOP 5:

  1. La Dispute
  2. Dan Mangan
  3. letlive.
  4. Death Cab for Cutie
  5. I Exist

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Feist. Sorry, babe. Maybe next time.

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MARCH

A pinch, a punch and some motherfucking MASTODON for the first of the month! Don’t mind if I do, thanks. With French destroyers Gojira and Norwegian warriors Kvelertak in tow, my brother Chris and I were treated to one of the most brutal shows I’ve seen all year. This was also the first of three shows at new Sydney venue The Hi-Fi I would attend this month, and all within a few days of one another. The very next day, I saw the delightful Ben Kweller doing his thing, while on the Sunday I’d finally get to see Manchester Orchestra live. Along with my ridiculously similar appearance to Andy Hull, I love all of their albums, especially Mean Everything to Nothing. Watching the band play “Everything to Nothing” live is one of the few gig moments from 2012 where I’ve actually teared up. Truly incredible stuff.

With Future Music Festival in town, I had yet another chance to see Die Antwoord after catching them at both the 2011 Big Day Out and at their show with M.I.A. the very next day, at which they completely blew her off the stage. Here, I found them in the illustrious surrounds of the Enmore, which was decidedly packed full of people from the Zef Side of Sydney. Despite going on late, they put on a truly fantastic show – bounding energy and a seemingly endless supply of bangers.

Next up was a return to Black Wire, to see the hilarious Battle Pope get rowdy along with Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt, The Reverend Jesse Custer and Jesus Christ Posse. Right there is four of my favourite heavy bands in the country, so that was more or less a dream come true. Another festival in March was Golden Plains, and from the cool streets of Portland came the femme-fatale quartet of Wild Flag. Lots of dancing to be had at their show at the Manning Bar with Love of Diagrams and impressive upstarts Unity Floors.

I’ve had the chance to do multiple shows on tours a few times this year, as evidenced back in February with La Dispute. These next two shows would be the first of two times I’d double up on some Children Collide action this year, bringing my grand total to nine times of seeing them live. For what it’s worth, they never let me down. Although the turnout for their Metro Theatre show was abysmal, they packed out the Patch in Wollongong and put on a truly hectic show for all involved.

During the final song, I decided to flip myself off the foldback and into the crowd. Half-expecting to fall to the ground, I ended up being carried all the way to the back of the venue, eventually toppling downward in-front of my bug-eyed sister, who could not believe her baby brother had just crowdsurfed like an absolute champion. Good times. Shout out to the killer supports, Deep Sea Arcade and Palms.

Nearing the end of the month, I was back at Black Wire to see two of my favourite Australian musicians, and people that I’m honoured to count as friends – Jamie Hay and Jen Buxton. I also had the pleasure of meeting Jen’s little dude, Eli. He has the biggest cheeks I’ve ever seen. I showed a world of restraint for not just sinking my teeth directly into them. Don’t tell her I said that, of course.

Oh yeah, I also saw Evanescence. The less said about that, the better. At least Blaqk Audio were pretty good.

TOP 5:

  1. Manchester Orchestra
  2. Mastodon
  3. Die Antwoord
  4. Children Collide
  5. Jamie Hay and Jen Buxton

DISHONOURABLE MENTION: Evanescence. Childhood memories tainted forever by this soulless display of mediocrity.