Top 100 Songs of 2018

Treble staff

Two years ago, amid one of the most frustrating years Treble’s been operating, we expanded our best songs of the year list from 50 to 100. It was a good idea, if only because more music was a good way to soothe that very frustration. It’s still a good idea, and there’s still more great music from 2018 than we can possibly cram into a daylong playlist, but these are the songs that we returned to over and over again. Enjoy our list of the 100 best songs of 2018.


best songs of 2018 Serpentwithfeet100. Serpentwithfeet – “Bless ur heart”

from soil (Secretly Canadian)

Nina Simone—that’s who I think about when I listen to “Bless Ur Heart.” Nina is all over this track, from Josiah Wise’s falsetto to the swirling orchestration. But unlike a Nina Simone song, “Bless Ur Heart” never quite boils over. Wise never shouts or screams like Nina at her most emotional. Instead, he whispers, but even as his whispers are anthemic. Listen to how he sings that title phrase and try not to get swept away. – Ben Cohn


best albums of 2018 so far Car Seat Headrest99. Car Seat Headrest – “Bodys”

from Twin Fantasy (Matador)

This was already a propulsive highlight of Will Toledo’s first go-round with CSH’s Twin Fantasy album back in 2011, albeit one seemingly abraded by early 1970s Greenwich Village basement stages and studios. Yet the tale of his courtship of musician Cate Wurtz benefits greatly from the revision of the LP earlier this year for Matador. The drums of Andrew Katz in particular have a boom and crash that generate previously unheard momentum, and we can better appreciate the nervy Talking Heads energy of Toledo’s lyrics now that we can make them out. – Adam Blyweiss


Daughters You Won't Get What You Want review98. Daughters – “The Reason They Hate Me”

from You Won’t Get What You Want (Ipecac)

The first single from Daughters’ first new album in eight years was actually “Satan in the Wait,” a darkly poetic vision of the Devil as heard through a surprisingly beautiful dirge. But it was the second single, “The Reason They Hate Me,” that hit the hardest—grinding noise-rock guitars, percussive industrial thump and a general atmosphere of cybernetic terror amid Alexis Marshall’s belligerent barks (“they got a name for people like you! I didn’t take the time to write it down, though…“). It’d be utterly terrifying if it didn’t sound so much like the industrial disco anthem of the year. – Jeff Terich


Black Panther the Album review97. Kendrick Lamar & SZA – “All the Stars”

from Black Panther (Top Dawg/Aftermath)

SZA’s Ctrl. was one of 2017’s best albums by a significant margin, and befitting the star she’s become in her own right, she’s a full-fledged partner to Kendrick Lamar on “All the Stars,” a Black Panther soundtrack highlight. Whether powering through one of this year’s best choruses with aplomb or trading tough-love verses with Lamar that cut through the infatuated but vulnerability-averse T’Challa persona he adopts, SZA’s full spectrum of talent is on display here. – Liam Green


Laurel Halo Raw Silk Uncut Wood review96. Laurel Halo – “Raw Silk Uncut Wood”

from Raw Silk Uncut Wood (Latency)

Berlin-based electronic musician Ina Cube has continuously been on the forefront of ambient music, shaping a ceaselessly developing scene in real time while challenging and contradicting her previous releases as others play catch-up. The opener and title track from Raw Silk Uncut Wood moves at a steady pace, focusing on impressionistic simplicity and stillness. Taken from Ursula Le Guin’s translation of a Taoist text, “Raw Silk Uncut Wood” exists in a vacuum of minimalistic solace, becoming a centering, preemptive meditation for the album’s avant-jazz deviations. – Patrick Pilch


Hot Snakes Jericho Sirens review95. Hot Snakes – “Six Wave Hold-Down”

from Jericho Sirens (Sub Pop)

The clash of Rick Froberg and John Reis’ guitars is a singular sound. Whether at their most straightforward in their early band Pitchfork, intertwining like a post-hardcore caduceus in Drive Like Jehu, or scraping and jabbing their way toward triumph as they do here in the first single from Hot Snakes’ first album in 14 years, the duo tear through their Gibsons like animals. But “Six Wave Hold-Down” maintains a cool groove amid the aggression, a punk anthem that showcases the kind of badassery to match the shot of bassist Gar Wood shredding on the album’s cover. – Jeff Terich


Voivod The Wake review94. Voivod – “Obsolete Beings”

from The Wake (Century Media)

Much like the bulk of new album The Wake, “Obseolete Beings” finds the Canadian prog-thrash metal legends blending every era out their sound into something that shows their prowess without being too opaque. Snake’s voice sounds great on this song, while their “new” guitarist Chewy (now going on 10 years) busts out a jaw-dropping solo that still remains true to the vision of late founding member Piggy. Both melodic and driven, the somber mood that hovers over the song shows that metal can be introspective too. – Wil Lewellyn


Sudan Archives new track tour dates93. Sudan Archives – “Nont For Sale”

from Sink (Stones Throw)

Mix many musical influences together and you might come across as stilted or heavy-handed. When Brittney Parks performs as Sudan Archives, however, the touch is impossibly light. “Nont for Sale” is a breezy anthem of independence from her second Stones Throw release that passes through many territories: African thumb organs and single-string fiddles, the processed and prepared playing of Kelly Moran and Poppy Ackroyd, the next-level R&B of Beyoncé and Solange, and a hint of 1980s island-tinged New Wave. – Adam Blyweiss


Makaya McCraven essential track Black Lion92. Makaya McCraven – “Black Lion”

from Universal Beings (International Anthem)

Chicago-based Makaya McCraven is a drummer, first and foremost. But he’s also an acoustic jazz musician after the hearts of ’70s fusion visionaries, assembling a super-team’s worth of contemporary jazz ringers on Universal Beings only to re-edit much of their sessions into downtempo electronic groove tracks. “Black Lion” is one of the few tracks to most conspicuously show its stitches and seams, the ultra-cool late-night vibe of upright bass and vibraphone transformed into something sumptuously atmospheric. It’s only toward the end where McCraven’s percussive skills get a chance to shine, but they crack and rattle with such ferocity, it’s enough to temporarily break the spell of these richly textured three minutes. – Jeff Terich


best albums of September 2018 Exploded View91. Exploded View – “Sleepers”

from Obey (Sacred Bones)

The single sustained note of synth that opens Exploded View’s “Sleepers” only hangs around for about 10 seconds, but it feels like it could last an eternity—or more importantly, that it should. At heart, “Sleepers” is a raw slice of psychedelia that nods heavily to the Mexico City/Berlin-based band’s influences, like The Velvet Underground or Silver Apples. But more than merely exercising pulse and drone for their own sake, the band slowly build that minimalist frontal assault into a cinematic assault on the senses, a moment of patience and restraint turned heroic. – Jeff Terich


Underworld Teatime Dub Encounters review90. Underworld and Iggy Pop – “Bells and Circles”

from Teatime Dub Encounters (Underworldlive)

The 20th anniversary of the release of Trainspotting brought us an unexpected gift, as the artists whose songs were lifted to cult status by the film ended up working together. The electronica duo cornered Iggy Pop in a British hotel to create new music, and this first single from their resulting EP was part memoir, part faux techno insight. Trashy, nonsensical, intense—everything good about dance music, really. – Adam Blyweiss


best hip-hop releases of January 2018 Maxo Kream89. Maxo Kream – “Grannies”

from Punken (TSO)

Technically, this song was released as a single in 2017, but I’m still talking about it now because you still need to hear it. Maxo Kream is one of rap’s most thoughtful and vivid writers right now, and he works here to center his drug-peddling narratives in his family struggles and to show how the two inform each other. He’s not judging, just reflecting, and he gets at the little details that make these songs work: an aunt who knows all but tells no one, cousins who get caught, uncles who stay dealing. He’s paying attention; you should too. – Ben Dickerson


Jean Grae and Quelle Chris Everything's Fine review88. Jean Grae and Quelle Chris – “OhSh”

from Everything’s Fine (Mello)

“Sheeeeit.” State Senator Clay Davis of The Wire was overdue for becoming part of a hilarious hook to a hip-hop jam. And so the chorus goes, numerous times from many like-minded expletive-droppers in this dadaist art rap from partners in life and hip-hop Jean Grae and Quelle Chris. The beat seems just so off-kilter as to barely stay within its time signature, and from the get-go it feels a little like being drunk. Enter guest rapper/comedian Hannibal Buress: “I ain’t got no fur coat, but I got a bookbag full of Merlot/I’m just kidding I ain’t got no fuckin’ Merlot/I drink Whiskey/but I do want a fur coat.” Everything’s wild and unpredictable, hilarious and cartoonishly eye-popping, the kind of rap track that compels one to shout its own hook back to it: Sheeeeit. – Jeff Terich


best songs of 2018 Neneh Cherry87. Neneh Cherry – “Kong”

from Broken Politics (Smalltown Supersound)

Neneh Cherry’s sixth album Broken Politics is an album as much about nuance as it is about an affectionate turmoil about the state of the world. Naturally, it’s first single toes the line between ballad and banger, dejected and defiant. Propelled by a dubby beat courtesy of producer Four Tet, “Kong” feels a bit like a 2018 update of the trip-hop sound Cherry helped to pioneer way back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s something like a “Teardrop” for the Trump and Brexit age, Cherry meditating, “Bite my hand off, my world will still be/Another risk worth taking.” It feels a little like a prayer, but it might just be an anthem. – Jeff Terich


U.S. Girls In a Poem Unlimited review Album of the Week86. U.S. Girls – “Poem”

from In a Poem Unlimited (4AD)

U.S. Girls’ semi-titular highlight “Poem” is an anti-capitalist meditation on ethics and consumption, lyrically uncovering humanity’s innate moral code and our subsequent contradictory actions toward a profit-driven culture. Meghan Remy’s idea of a utopian, currency-free society relies on universal accord, insisting “No one needs to make a profit/No one needs to get paid/If we all agree we don’t have to live that way.” The track’s instrumentation perhaps serves as a tongue-in-cheek quip towards somewhat tone deaf and self-serving holiday tributes, adding another compelling layer to one of U.S. Girls’ finest tracks to date. – Patrick Pilch


best albums of 2018 Mitski85. Mitski – “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?”

from Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans)

Mitski’s Be the Cowboy comprises 14 songs about self-image, the perception of other people, and what it means to have control of those perceptions slip farther out of your hands the more famous you get. But “Why Didn’t You Stop Me?” finds her examining a more awkwardly intimate sort of skewed perspective: The blind spot that comes with missing an ex. “I know that I ended it,” she sings, “But why didn’t you chase after me?” It’s the worst kind of willpower test she sketches, wishing for an indulgence on a second chance at something that absolutely, definitely will not work. But if it’s a journey toward certain doom that lies ahead, at least it’s paved with wobbly new wave synthesizers and a triumphant horn section right at the cusp. – Jeff Terich


DJ Koze Knock Knock review84. DJ Koze – “Pick Up”

from Knock Knock (Pampa)

The simplicity of DJ Koze’s “Pick Up” is what makes it so engaging. A sugar rush of synth strings, a heartbreaking Gladys Knight sample, and the grooviest bongo drum pattern you’ve ever heard: These are the three elements that make up one of the biggest bangers of the year. “Pick Up” plunges forward with head-over-heels intensity and an insatiable need to get feet and asses moving. Surrender to the beat, it’s all you can do. – Ben Cohn


Dr. Octagon Moosebumps review83. Dr. Octagon – “Octagon Octagon”

from Moosebumps (Bulk)

The octagon opener from this octagon comeback, Kool Keith’s alter Octagon ego drops octagon science against octagon beats that reunite him with octagon DJ QBert and Dan “The Automator” Nakamura for the first octagon time since Octagon was an Octagonecologyst. Good octagon thing, too, since that’s the unspoken octagon theme of this octagon tune: octagon fans latching onto an octagon artist’s one big octagon hit like they have octagonapus arms, at the expense of other octagon output. – Adam Blyweiss


Denzel Curry Ta13oo review82. Denzel Curry – “Vengeance” (feat. JPEGMAFIA/ZillaKami)

from TA13OO (Loma Vista)

“Vengeance” is the most thrillingly chaotic moment of an album filled with them. Denzel Curry and fellow Florida curb-stomper ZillaKami rap like they’re trying to shatter the soundproof glass in the vocal booth, and the beat sounds like Three 6 Mafia scoring The Raid: Redemption. But Baltimore firebrand JPEGMafia steals the show with an apoplectic, Kanye-biting verse that makes me want to destroy an A-frame house with my fists. – Ben Dickerson


Cloud Nothings essential track81. Cloud Nothings – “The Echo of the World”

from Last Burning Building (Carpark)

“I’m obsessed with the idea of energy at the moment…bursts of intense, controlled chaos. I wanted to make that come across in a way that can actually be felt.” So said Cloud Nothings frontman Dylan Baldi before the release of Last Building Burning, and then they backed it the hell up with lead single “The Echo of the World.” Full of searing hooks, overdriven noise and Baldi’s howls and screams, it’s a song that’s definitely felt in the best way possible. – William Lewis

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