The Top 100 Songs of 2018, Part Two: 80 – 61

Hey, reader! Make sure you’re all caught up with the first 20 songs by clicking here. They’re good, I promise – and, wouldn’t you know it, these ones are even better!

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80. Moaning Lisa – Lily

Moaning Lisa’s second EP, Do You Know Enough?, is the audio equivalent of four seasons in one day. When “Lily” rolls around, the storm is settling in and things are taking a turn for the worse. A considerable stylistic departure for the Canberra natives, “Lily” is a slow-motion lucid dream in which a private universe crumbles and drifts into the abyss. Anchored by picked-out bass and beds of guitar feedback, the song subtly sweeps and builds to what may be the single most devastating lyric of the year: “Now I have nothing left for you to take.” Welcome to heartbreak.

79. Joyce Manor – Think I’m Still in Love with You

When Joyce Manor dropped Cody back in 2016, the cool kids gave them a bunch of shit for it. Pitchfork said it sounded like Everclear – like that was a bad thing! Still, it must have gotten to them in one way or another – their fifth album, Million Dollars to Kill Me, is even poppier than last time. Hell, this track from it in particular sounds like a lost Cheap Trick single, all tight harmonies and chugging major chords. Forget leaning in – Joyce Manor have gone completely head over heels here. Fitting when you think about it, really.

78. Fiddlehead – Lay Low

A lot of hardcore kids never got over Have Heart breaking up, and fair enough too. Consider this, though: Have Heart died to so that Fiddlehead could live. There is an urgency and vitality to what this supergroup of sorts are doing, packing short and punchy songs full of throat-tearing hooks and emotive lyrical pleas straight from the heart. Of all the tracks that compose their debut LP, “Lay Low” is the pick of the litter. It comes out swinging from its opening chords and refuses to relent until you’ve felt everything there is to feel. The sun has risen.

77. Silk City feat. Dua Lipa – Electricity

There are two mayors in Silk City – super-producers Diplo and Mark Ronson. As it turns out, this town is big enough for the two of them – and just as well, considering they’ve also invited a friend in rule-setting pop sensation Dua Lipa. Her high-energy joy matches up perfectly with Ronson’s retro piano stabs and Diplo’s insistent handclaps, leading to a chorus that would be envied by anyone from HAIM to Miley and back again. This is house music on such a mammoth scale that it’s bound to wake up the neighbours. And if they don’t like it? IDGAF.

76. BROCKHAMPTON – SAN MARCOS

If you’re angling BROCKHAMPTON as a boy-band, then “SAN MARCOS” is the ballad performed on the B-stage in the arena, sitting on stools. That’s figuratively what they did when they performed this centrepiece of their fourth album for Like a Version on their eventful Australian tour – which, coincidentally, is also where the music video was filmed. It’s one of the group’s most heartfelt, introspective songs to date, showcasing both a maturity and a vulnerability within their creative spectrum. There may not be a more resonant refrain from the year passed than “I want more out of life than this.”

75. Cloud Nothings – Leave Him Now

“Leave Him Now” is a song about a troubled straight relationship in which the female party is advised to remove herself from it. The twist is: That’s it. Dylan Baldi is not putting himself forward as the substitute. This isn’t a “drop the zero and get with the hero” scenario. This is about a genuine concern for a woman’s wellbeing and stability. It takes a trope of songwriting across multiple genres and decades and subsequently turns it on its head. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also one of the catchiest songs Baldi and co. have ever written. How about that.

74. The Hard Aches – Mess

Here’s what you need to know: “Mess” is the first song on the album Mess. The word “mess” is the fourth word you hear on the entire album, and it’s repeated over a dozen times throughout. It’s a unifying theme for an album that’s ostensibly about everything falling apart. Lest we forget, this is not a new place for them – existentially, at least. They’ve been here before and they’ll be here again. So, they sing over big chords and swinging drums: “We’re not burning out.” It’s defiant. It’s purposeful. It’s resolute. Truth be told, they’ve never been more believable.

73. Basement – Stigmata

Basement have found themselves associated with a few different movements and scenes, such is the versatile nature of their music. They’re flagged for emo-revivalists while simultaneously being added to pop-punk playlists. What a song like “Stigmata” showcases, however, is what they’re capable of at their crux: An alternative rock band. A damn fine one, too. A callback to when it was a good thing to be. A time of Jerry Cantrell harmonies, Pixies dynamics and snares that hit like they’re being played next to your eardrum. The genre is unquestionably in good hands – even with gaping holes in them.


72. Confidence Man – Don’t You Know I’m in a Band

How did a semi-anonymous disco band fronted by a classic pervert and a Lolita become one of Australia’s biggest live acts? It’s all in the name: Confidence Man put themselves forward and danced like there was no-one watching, and kept doing so even as those watching amassed into thousands. NPR’s Bob Boilen once described them as “perfectly goofy,” and there’s truth to that – but it’s not the whole story. A song like “Band” is an acute takedown of the rockstar lifestyle, while also serving up a better chorus than any wannabe could dream of. They have confidence in them.

71. East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Essendon 1986

It’s funny that East Brunswick’s debut album was called Seven Drummers – when “Essendon 1986” kicks off in earnest, that’s exactly what it sounds like. Jen Sholakis is the central focus of this spiralling, seething number, her toms rumbling the earth beneath her as her bandmates carve into their respective stringed instruments. The band has never sounded this dark, this aggressive or this forthright – and it’s this immediate shift that ends up paying off to create their finest singular moment to date. A fading, sepia portrayal of restless outward Australia that, truthfully, couldn’t have come from any other band.

70. David Byrne – Everybody’s Coming to My House

The erstwhile Talking Heads frontman was behind one of the year’s most critically-acclaimed and beloved live tours, bringing a barefoot ensemble of untethered musicians onto stages across the world with a celebratory, career-spanning setlist. The tour took place on the back of what surprisingly ended up being one of the year’s more overlooked LPs in American Utopia, Byrne’s first proper solo endeavour in years. “House” was its lead single, and is filled with a classic sense of Byrnian paranoia and unease while simultaneously peppering in a sizzling horn section and head-voice, Sampha-assisted melodies. Long may the grand Byrne spectacle continue.

69. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake

“Is anybody sleepy?” a voice sarcastically quips before the gang vocals of “Wide Awake”’s second verse boldly answer back with the titular phrase. This sardonic easter egg is a reflection on Parquet Courts as a whole – they do what they do primarily with a knowing wink, playing up their surrounds while also maintaining a deadpan. “Wide Awake” is one of their most uncharacteristic songs to date – a percussive funk procession with double-dutch chants and a literal layer of bells & whistles. They even scored “fluke indie hit” bingo by playing the damn thing on Ellen – go figure.

68. Courtney Barnett – Charity

Courtney Barnett can turn on a dime – or a 20-cent piece, depending on what part of the world she’s touring in at the time. Take the huge chorus of Tell Me How You Really Feel‘s rocking final single as a prime example: Figuratively seconds after singing the phrase “Everything’s amazing” in three-part harmony, she delivers one of the year’s most brutal lines in “So subservient/I make myself sick.” It’s so subtle that you don’t even notice the first listen, but by the time you do you’re looking at a far bigger picture. Here, Barnett is seeking a deeper connection.

67. Baker Boy – Mr. La Di Da Di

Three years prior to “Mr. La Di Da Di,” a certain voice heard in a certain song asked the age-old question: Now, if I give you the funk, you gon’ take it? Not only did Baker Boy take it, he let it possess his entire being. No, “La Di Da Di” wouldn’t exist without “King Kunta” – but that wouldn’t exist without George Clinton, which wouldn’t exist without James Brown, and so on and so forth. Radiating pure positivity, Baker Boy is the latest in a long line of exceptional artists that are black and proud. Say it loud, y’all.

66. Ball Park Music – Hands Off My Body

It doesn’t get much more wholesome, family-friendly and generally PG than Brisbane’s Ball Park Music. Not to say they’re bland or uninspired, mind you – just good clean fun. What happens, then, when they promptly go off the rails? Vocalist Sam Cromack is a man possessed on this single from the band’s fifth album, propelled by an atonal keyboard blip and a persistent breakbeat as he goes around chopping body parts off. It’s easily the band’s most gruesome and dissonant song to date – and yet, in classic Ball Park fashion, it’s a certified festival killer. Everybody do the chop-chop!

65. Wafia – I’m Good

For a few years, break-up songs well and truly got Adele’d. They were all saccharine, mopey and downright depressing – a cheap imitation of “Someone Like You” done by, well, someone like her. With “I’m Good,” we’re making an earnest return to the celebratory end of a shitty relationship – it basically sounds like the audio equivalent of walking away from an explosion without looking at it. The song drips with effortless cool – its wafting synth bass and four-on-the-floor strut give it a “Stayin’ Alive” swagger, while Wafia herself breathily kisses off her shitty ex. “I’m Good”? Damn right.

64. Vacations – Steady

True to their name, Vacations sound like they’re playing live and direct from where you want to be – which is pretty funny when you find out they’re from Newcastle. All joking aside, the quartet are locked square into the tone-zone – summery guitar reverb, warm bass, roomy drums and some lush harmonies to boot. “Steady” might be the song where they most singularly nail it across the board – a bashful, honest love song filled with hazy chord inversions and an instantly-memorable refrain. Indie didn’t get a whole lot more charming in 2018 than Vacations – Australian or otherwise.

63. E^ST – I Don’t Lack Imagination

Melisa Bester isn’t the kind to mince words. Hell, she named her EP Life Ain’t Always Roses, which is about as blunt and unapologetic a phrase as you can get. “Imagination” from said EP is surrounded by – ahem – flowery production and slinky rnb melodies. The lyrics, dissecting an impervious relationship dichotomy, still manage to cut through across a slim three-minute runtime. That – and, by extension, the song itself – deserves considerable credit. Pop fans were once told to go west – either by kings or boys. Now, the future is female – and the future is E^ST.

62. The Presets – Downtown Shutdown

Among the issues Australia has faced since The Presets last put out an album are human rights crises facing asylum seekers and the swift closure of pubs and venues across Sydney. On “Downtown,” Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes decided to kill two birds with one stone (sorry, PETA) by addressing both head-on in a parade of slap-bass, pogo-bounce grooves and skittish electronics. The titular phrase is an obvious allusion to the restricted nightlife of Sydney, but the refrain is chanted by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church Choir – which is primarily made up of African immigrants. Consider the man stuck to.

61. Charli XCX feat. Troye Sivan – 1999

“Does anyone remember how we did it back then?” asks Charli XCX halfway through “1999,” seemingly to no-one in particular. Hey, Charli, do you? Lest we forget our heroine was all but seven years old in the titular year – and her sidekick for this song turned four. It’s a gripe, sure, but it’s a small con up against a long, long list of pros. Among those are Oscar Holter’s throwback beat, the hammered-home chorus and what ended up being one of the year’s best music videos. They mightn’t actually remember 1999, but they’ve made sure we’ll never forget “1999.”

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That’s it for now! You can stream all 40 songs so far via the Spotify playlist below:

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INTERVIEW: Rolo Tomassi (UK), December 2010

I discovered this band by pure chance at a Soundwave some years ago and I’ve dug them ever since. A consistently weird and generally wonderful band that exist on the outside of every genre they blend into their music – and that’s just fine by them. I’ve met the Spence siblings from the band several times, including at their Australian tour last year. They’re incredibly polite and charming folk. That’s all I have to say on the matter, really. 

– DJY, October 2014

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There was plenty to see and do at this year’s Soundwave festival, but for those who managed to sneak in early, one new band was the talk of the early hours of the festivities. That band was arty British post-hardcore kids Rolo Tomassi, with a deceptively attractive frontwoman in Eva Spence who went on to screech and howl like some kind of rabid dog; as well as having at least half of the members leaping off the stage to crowdsurf at one point or another. Love them or hate them, they certainly generated a reputation, turning many perfect strangers into huge fans.

“For us, it’s the most important thing in the world to do good live shows,” says Eva’s brother James Spence, the band’s keyboardist and co-lead vocalist. “We started the band to play shows more than anything, and we strive to be as good as we can be – tight, as energetic and as aggressive and imposing as we can be without wanting to alienate anyone. We just want to be fun to watch and fun to be a part of.”

Working up from D.I.Y. shows and home-made cassette demos, the band evolved from a project between the Spence siblings to expand into the quintet that it is today. The band have two albums under their belt – the latest of which, Cosmology, was released in May of this year, produced by former M.I.A. and Santigold collaborator Diplo. In spite of Cosmology arguably being the band’s most technical and intrinsic work to date, the band were fully confident in their abilities to translate this to the live environment.

“It’s easier for it to be difficult to play than to worry it won’t sound good live,” Spence says. “Essentially, if something’s difficult, we can always practice it for ourselves. I think that’s the main difference between the first and the second record – there were some songs on the first record that we had to modify to play live, and none of us were really happy with that. We wanted to take what we’d done on the record and play that live and make a bigger energy, rather than change the songs. I think the difficult songs on the new album, we’ve mastered and can be realised in their full potential when we play them now.”

Ahead of its release, fans in Australia were amongst the first to hear cuts from Cosmology road tested properly. Despite only being here for just over a week, Spence still has incredibly fond memories of what was the band’s first ever Australian tour – even going so far as to describe it as a “headfuck.” His voice picks up and the tone of excitement is too outstanding to ignore.

“Flying that far from home across the world to play gigs with our band is just a very, very strange feeling,” he says. “I don’t think any of us ever expected or assumed that we would ever get the opportunity to do something like that, so a lot of the time we were just walking around wide-eyed – we weren’t really sure how to behave or what to do. After getting over the jetlag, we really made the most of the trip, and really explored the place. We could have really been taken aback, but we decided to make the most of it while we were there.”

The tour also saw the band paired up in some Sidewave action with what FasterLouder deemed one of the strangest support acts of all time – Rolo were the opening act for Jane’s Addiction’s headlining shows. “You’re kidding!” says Spence with a laugh when informed of the band making the list. “That’s amazing. I’ll be honest – I couldn’t identify a Jane’s Addiction song if you played it to me. But the name is just one that sticks out – I mean, I knew what Dave Navarro looked like, and I knew who Perry Farrell was – but I wasn’t really familiar with their music; though I knew it was an odd pairing. I consider them the last of the real rock-stars, and we’re a very humble band with really strong D.I.Y. roots – so to see the complete opposite end of the spectrum was something else. They were great shows, though – the crowds were really responsive and cool.”

After working through a tonne of festival dates, as well as coming off tour with a much more fitting support slot – opening for the band’s heroes, The Dillinger Escape Plan – the time is nigh for Rolo Tomassi to make their return to Australian shores as a part of a quadruple bill with other acts from this year’s Soundwave – This Is Hell, Comeback Kid and headliners Architects. The enthusiasm kicks up a notch once more as Spence gears up for his band’s imminent return to our “fair country,” as he puts it.

“Us, Architects and Comeback Kid were all on the same stage,” he recalls. “The drummer from This Is Hell is from England, too, so we got to meet those guys. I’m a fan of that band, so I ended up watching them anyway. It’s gonna be great to catch up with everyone – we all hung out a fair bit on that tour, and we all played some of the same festival dates in Europe, as well. It’s gonna be really nice – there’s gonna be that sense of friendship amongst all the bands, so it won’t be awkward the first few days.”