Monday, 31 December 2018

The Best Of 2018 - numbers 20 to 1

JUMP TO: 40-21 II 20-1

I've talked in previous year-end countdowns about my reluctance to wholeheartedly embrace streaming. Well, 2018 was the year I abandoned iTunes (for new music) and used Spotify instead. 

I still have all my pre-2018 music on iTunes, but I listen to everything on this list using Spotify - a fact that makes me nervous because I'm convinced that one day some of the songs will disappear. I expect I'll do a massive download of my favourites for piece of mind. Speaking of my favourites, here are my top 20 for 2018...

Like Poppy, who we saw back at number 26, Leadley (which is her surname; Bethan is her first name) got her start on YouTube. She's now narrowed her focus, hitting pause on the lifestyle vlogging to concentrate on her brand of anthemic pop.

He scooped the pool at this year's Grammy Awards, but new jack swing-influenced Album Of The Year 24K Magic hadn't impressed me the way his previous two albums had... until he recruited Cardi B for a remix of "Finesse", which became the album's fifth single - and Bruno Mars's first appearance on my year-end chart as lead artist since 2013.

Over the years - and especially in 2018 - Kim Petras has received a lot of attention about a number of different things: being transgender, working with Dr Luke, copping backlash from Troye Sivan's fans after being announced as his support act. Ignoring all that, the German singer has released some of the year's best pop in the form of this track from EP Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1 and single "Heart To Break", which just missed my top 40.

The band formerly known just as RÜFÜS in Australia adopted their overseas moniker for all territories - easier that way, I guess - and returned with their strongest album to date, Solace, which perfected their miserable-but-uplifting style of dance music. As well as the haunting "Underwater", singles "No Place" and "Lost In My Mind" made my year-end top 100.

Synthpop duo? Tick. Swedish act? Tick. Stockholm-based act Junior Brielle is comprised of brothers David and Gabriel Rödin, and "Love" made a late charge into my year-end top 20 when it was released on the final day of November.

Here's another female singer with a link to Troye Sivan - Allie X was responsible for co-writing a chunk of his Bloom album. Also in 2018, the Canadian released EP Super Sunset, which featured her best song yet, "Girl Of The Year".

And here's Troye himself. "My My My!" was a game-changer for the singer - the exultant lead single from Bloom exuded confidence and was the sound of an artist really hitting their stride. Or should that be strut?

Two years ago, his debut made my top 30 for 2016, and in 2018, Sweden multi-instrumentalist T O F F E (I think the spaces are still a thing) returned with another euphoric synthpop track.

In 2019, this Swedish duo will be competing to represent their country in the Eurovision Song Contest - a win I'd be happy to see on the basis of this remake of Nick Kamen's European hit from 1990. More from Erik Gabriel and Adam Warhester soon...

They had a run of excellent retro-flavoured dance tracks in 2014-15, and in 2018, British duo Blonde returned with this piano house stormer featuring vocals from Bryn Christopher (previously heard on Sigala's "Sweet Lovin'").

Six songs from Palo Santo make my end-of-year top 200, but my favourite of them all is "Up In Flames", which didn't even make the standard edition tracklisting. A bonus track on the deluxe edition, it's a moody pop gem.

Like "Up In Flames", the best song on Kimbra's third album, Primal Heart, wasn't lifted as an one of its five official singles. But that hardly matters when the concept of the single doesn't have the same meaning it used to and "Lightyears" still managed to receive plenty of attention on the blogs, forums and Facebook groups I frequent.

Here they are again, with another track from their debut EP, Euphoric Melancholic Electronic. The duo get their name from a pair of embracing skeletons unearthed in Italy in 2007.

Comprised of the previously solo Alex Winston and MS MR member Max Hershenow, duo Post Precious came about when the two were involved in a songwriting session for another artist and clicked together. Third single "Lose Myself" was, like its two predecessors, included on debut EP Crown

Here's another instance of a great song being overlooked for promotional push. The Strike's Faint Of Heart album was released in mid-2017, but although single "Eye For An Eye" made my top 70 for 2016, it wasn't until "Human Right" was featured in 2018 Netflix teen rom-com To All The Boys I've Loved Before that I clued into its pop brilliance.

5. "Girlfriend / Palms Trax mix" by Christine And The Queens featuring Dâm-Funk

A CD copy of Christine And The Queens' self-titled debut album (which features the acclaimed "Tilted") has been siting on my desk all year, but while I never got around to listening to that, I did get into follow-up Chris, which came in French and English versions. Lead single "Girlfriend" came in a third version with the laidback funk of the original given an energetic makeover thanks to the throbbing Palms Trax remix.

It's just typical - I finally find a song by US duo The Chainsmokers I like and it becomes one of their least successful singles in Australia, where they've notched up seven top 10 hits. The fact that it is stylistically quite different from the rest of their output probably explains that. Featured singer Emily Warren is best known for singing on "Capsize" by Frenship.

While Canada's Dragonette are no strangers to my year-end countdowns, having featured since 2007, their cohorts on this cute electronic number both make their first appearance on my chart. Digital Farm Animals is British DJ/producer Nicholas Gale, best known for featuring on Louis Tomlinson's "Back To You" alongside Bebe Rexha, while Canadian singer/DJ/producer Shaun Frank was one of the co-writers of The Chainsmokers' biggest hit, "Closer". 

I think I'm going to have to revisit the list of my top 25 Kim Wilde singles, which I posted earlier in the year when her Here Comes The Aliens album was released. On that list, second single "Kandy Krush", which had recently come out, ranked number 18, but given it almost took out my favourite song for 2018, I expect it will probably jump up a few positions. Simultaneously sounding like something she could've released in her early-'80s heyday - please note the "I Want Candy" nod to that era - and something very now, "Kandy Krush" proves why Kim is one of my favourite singers of all time.

He placed at number 4 on my year-end chart for 2016, and thanks to this track (also not an official single) from second album Young Romance, the German singer born Marius Lauber has come out on top. From its "Don't Bring Me Down"-style opening drums to its melodic chorus, "Illusions" is one of those songs I never get tired of listening to. Two other tracks, "Yr Love" and actual single "Under The Sun" feature in my top 100, while in his guise as remixer, Roosevelt also helped CHVRCHES' "Get Out" place in my top 70.

The full top 200: 

1           ILLUSIONS Roosevelt
2           KANDY KRUSH Kim Wilde
3           TOKYO NIGHTS Digital Farm Animals, Shaun Frank & Dragonette
4           SIDE EFFECTS The Chainsmokers featuring Emily Warren
5           GIRLFRIEND / PALMS TRAX MIX Christine And The Queens featuring Dâm-Funk
6           HUMAN RIGHT The Strike
7           LOSE MYSELF Post Precious
8           LOVERS ON THE RUN The Lovers Of Voldaro
9           LIGHTYEARS Kimbra
10         UP IN FLAMES Years & Years
11         ME, MYSELF & I Blonde featuring Bryn Christopher
12         I PROMISED MYSELF The Lovers Of Valdaro
13         RIVERSIDE T O F F E
14         MY MY MY! Troye Sivan
15         GIRL OF THE YEAR Allie X
16         LOVE Junior Brielle
18         CLOSE YOUR EYES Kim Petras
19         FINESSE Bruno Mars featuring Cardi B
20         LIKE I DID Leadley
21         SUN IN OUR EYES MØ & Diplo
22         AFTER ALL All Saints
23         SANCTIFY Years & Years
24         NO TEARS LEFT TO CRY Ariana Grande
25         THE GIRLS Magdalena Bay
26         TIME IS UP Poppy featuring Diplo
27         TALK Oliver Nelson featuring Linae
28         ENTIRETY Shift K3y featuring A*M*E
29         BREATHE Jax Jones featuring Ina Wroldsen
30         SELF CONTROL Bebe Rexha
31         GOOD VIBES ALMA featuring Tove Styrke
32         BLOOM Troye Sivan
34         NEED YOU Flight Facilities featuring NÏKA
35         DON’T GO BREAKING MY HEART Backstreet Boys
36         FEEL ABOUT YOU Silk City featuring Diplo, Mark Ronson & Mapei
37         INDIANA Just Kiddin
38         SOMETIMES Cub Sport
39         NEVER MINE Hanna Ferm
40         EVER AGAIN Robyn
41         MOVES Olly Murs featuring Snoop Dogg
42         BODY TALK Just Kiddin
43         PLAY Jax Jones featuring Years & Years
44         FOR YOU Liam Payne / Rita Ora
45         HEAVEN ONLY KNOWS Bob Moses
46         HEART TO BREAK Kim Petras
47         1999 Arrhult
48         DOMINO Saara Aalto
49         LONELY STAR Ariana And The Rose
50         DESIRE Matt Cardle
51         SIRENS Saara Aalto
52         SUCKER PUNCH Sigrid
53         FAST SLOW DISCO St Vincent
54         UNDER THE SUN Roosevelt
55         GIMME A BREAK Nicole Millar
56         NOTHING 2 LOSE Asbjørn
58         ELECTRICITY Silk City & Dua Lipa featuring Diplo & Mark Ronson
59         BIRTHDAY Kim Wilde
60         PRAY FOR ME The Weeknd / Kendrick Lamar
61         DONE FOR ME Charlie Puth featuring Kehlani
62         GOOD THING Kideko
63         FEEL MY NEEDS (TURN AROUND) Weiss
66         DOESN’T MATTER Christine And The Queens
67         OVERTIME Jessie Ware
68         80’S GIRL Nina
69         FIRED UP Yonaka
70         ALL FOR YOU Years & Years
71         LIGHTENUP Parcels
72         LOVE LASTS FOREVER All Saints
73         BEAUTIFUL LIFE Rick Astley
74         FEEL IT STILL Portugal. The Man
75         ON MY OWN 3LAU
76         EMOTION Astrid S
77         NIGHT FLIGHT Franc Moody
78         KINGDOM Gorgon City
79         GET TO YOU Sarai
80         RIGHT NOW Nick Jonas vs Robin Schulz
81         SAFE Daya
82         ALL THE WAY joan
83         PROMISES Calvin Harris featuring Sam Smith
86         ADDICTED TO YOU Kim Wilde
87         DANCE YOU OFF Benjamin Ingrosso
88         YR LOVE Roosevelt
89         WAKING UP Magdalena Bay
90         NEEDING YOU Lilly Ahlberg
91         LOST LIONS Priest
93         SOMEBODY NEW Olly Murs
94         PARADISE IS WAITING St Lucia
95         HURT YOU The Weeknd featuring Gesaffelstein
96         JUST A LITTLE Violet Days
97         I’M GOOD Wafia
98         PAPER CUT Indiana
99         BREATHIN’ Ariana Grande
100        CHERRY Rina Sawayama
101        DANCING / INITIAL TALK MIX Kylie Minogue
102        RENDEZVOUS Years & Years
103        NO STRINGS Nicole Millar
104        SCIENCE Allie X
105        ALL LOVE TO ME Say Lou Lou
106        WE GOT LOVE Jessica Mauboy
107        MISSING U Robyn
108        BEHIND THOSE CLOTHES Jaguar Dreams
109        IT’S NOT LIVING (IF IT’S NOT WITH YOU) The 1975
110        FLAMES David Guetta & Sia
111        DO IT WITHOUT YOU Hannah Jane Lewis
112        WALKING AWAY St Lucia
113        CHARACTER FLAWS Openside
114        OUT THE WINDOW Confidence Man
115        VOICES Against The Current
116        JEALOUS Oliver Nelson
117        MY ENEMY CHVRCHES featuring Matt Berninger
118        20 QUESTIONS (FROM “BERGMAN’S RELIQUARY”) Veronica Maggio
119        ALRIGHT Jain
120        BRIDGES Erthlings
121        RIDE OR DIE Noella Nix
122        EAST END STREETS Nimmo
123        IF YOU SEE HER LANY
124        FEAR Stockholm Noir
125        BAD BOYS Lilly Ahlberg
126        PALO SANTO Years & Years
127        PARTY FOR ONE Carly Rae Jepsen
128        LUCKY STRIKE Troye Sivan
130        DANCE TO THIS Troye Sivan featuring Ariana Grande
131        IF YOU’RE OVER ME Years & Years
132        WANT YOU BACK 5 Seconds Of Summer
133        NERVOUS Shawn Mendes
134        CAPITAL LETTERS Hailee Steinfeld x BloodPop®
135        STOP (WWW) Justice
136        GLORIOUS All Saints
137        DIAMOND HEART Alan Walker featuring Sophia Somajo
138        IT’LL BE ALRIGHT Donkeyboy
139        MADE FOR NOW Janet Jackson featuring Daddy Yankee
140        KEEP REACHIN’ Quincy Jones & Mark Ronson featuring Chaka Khan
141        DUMB Smith & Thell
142        SUGAR & SPICE Hatchie
143        DON’T TALK ABOUT IT UØ featuring Lilly Ahlberg
144        HIGH FIVE Sigrid
145        NEVER FALL IN LOVE Jack Antonoff
146        STRANGER Foley
147        ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS Vera Blue
148        HONEY Robyn
149        ELASTIC STATE OF MIND Highasakite
150        MAKE ME FEEL Janelle Monáe
151        ONE KISS Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa
153        FUNKY SENSATION Disclosure featuring Gwen McCrae
154        DOWNTOWN SHUTDOWN The Presets
155        MUST’VE BEEN Chromeo featuring DRAM
157        I’M FALLIN’ LKA
158        HE’S GOOD Kate Stewart
159        GO DEEP Gorgon City, Kamille & Ghosted
161        GIVE YOURSELF A TRY The 1975
162        THE ISLAND Ladytron
163        RAINING GLITTER Kylie Minogue
164        LIMITLESS Jennifer Lopez
165        RHYTHM IN MY BLOOD Icona Pop
166        MIDDLE OF A HEARTBREAK Leland
167        HANG UP YOUR HANG UPS (THE ONLY ONE) (CAMELPHAT REMIX) Paul Woolford featuring Kim English
168        THINK ABOUT YOU Delta Goodrem
170        SHE WAS A DANCER Millie Turner
171        YOU DON’T LOVE ME Folly Rae
172        STOP ME FROM FALLING Kylie Minogue
173        NOTHING BREAKS LIKE A HEART Mark Ronson featuring Miley Cyrus
174        CHANGE Great Good Fine OK
175        HAPPIER Marshmello featuring Bastille
176        NOBODY BUT YOU Cesar Sampson
177        FUEGO Eleni Foureira
178        NIGHT OWL Ariana And The Rose
179        LOVE CAN BE SO HARD Disclosure
180        ONE MORE TIME Pale Waves
182        BABY Clean Bandit featuring Marina & The Diamonds and Luis Fonsi
183        DIRTY NEON 3LAU
184        LOYAL TO ME Nina Nesbitt
185        THE GOOD PART Liz Lawrence
187        SAY AMEN (SATURDAY NIGHT) Panic! At The Disco
188        CHANCES Backstreet Boys
189        LOVE THE LIE Call Me Loop
190        NEVER GETTING CLOSER Lilyer
191        ALRIGHT Cyn
192        QUEEN Tracey Thorn
193        CRAZY KIND Sarah Close
194        IDGAF Dua Lipa
195        THESE DAYS Rudimental featuring Jess Glynne, Macklemore & Dan Caplen
196        SPACE GIRL Sophie And The Giants
197        PEOPLE LINES featuring Adele Kosman
198        I MISS YOU Clean Bandit featuring Julia Michaels
199        LOVE MADE ME DO IT Cheryl
200        THERE’S NO WAY Lauv featuring Julia Michaels

And here's a Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure: 

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1990 II 1991 II 1992 II 1993 II 1994 II 1995 II 1996 II 1997 II 1998 II 1999
2000 II 2001 II 2002 II 2003 II 2004 II 2005 II 2006 II 2007 II 2008 II 2009
2010 II 2011 II 2012 II 2013 II 2014 II 2015 II 2016 II 2017 II 2018 II 2019

Sunday, 30 December 2018

The Best Of 2018 - numbers 40 to 21

JUMP TO: 40-21 II 20-1

Well, this almost didn't happen at all. For one reason or another, I was very behind in working out my year-end top 100, but thanks to a mad dash since Christmas, I've compiled my annual chart for 2018. 

With only a couple of days left in the year, I've skipped ahead to the top 40 (maybe one day, I'll go back and fill out numbers 100 to 41 in more detail - who can tell?). So brace yourselves for the usual serving of synthpop, Scandipop and pure pop from a year when it was harder than ever for a music fan with my particular taste to track down good music. 

When it came to Robyn's long-awaited Honey album, fans tended to fall into two camps - those who were disappointed it wasn't packed with "Dancing On My Own"-style tears on the dancefloor anthems and those who liked its more adventurous direction. I belong to the former camp, with the two official singles, "Missing U" and "Honey", placing lower down this list. I did love the album's final track, "Ever Again", though.

It wouldn't be one of my year-end countdowns from the 2010s if there weren't a Swedish female singer making an appearance with her debut single. Let's all welcome Hanna Ferm, who was the runner-up in the 2017 season of Sweden's version of Idol - the 13th year the reality show has aired there.

Brisbane's Cub Sport have been around for about a decade, but the passionate dream pop of "Sometimes", which will appear on third album Cub Sport, is the first song by the four-piece I've connected with.

If you're playing year-end chart bingo, you can mark off "British electronic duo" on your game cards thanks to this appearance by Laurie Revell and Lewis Thompson (aka Just Kiddin). "Indiana" was followed by another solid track by the pair: "Body Talk"

A joint project between Diplo and Mark Ronson - both of whom were very busy in 2018 - Silk City released a stream of singles this year, including the Dua Lipa-featuring "Electricity". The Robin S-sounding "Feel About You", featuring Swedish singer Mapei, was my favourite.

Next up, a group that needs no introduction - the best boy band of all time with the lead single from their upcoming ninth album, DNA (due January). "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" wasn't a major hit for BSB, but it did earn them a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Another electronic duo now, this time from Australia - and I'm shocked this single with vocals by New Zealand singer NÏKA and a music video featuring footage of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger on a dating show wasn't a huge hit. Hugo Gruzman and James Lyell have yet to follow-up their ARIA Award-nominated debut album, Down To Earth, but "Need You" is the poppiest of an eclectic handful of singles they've released over the past couple of years instead.

In reading up on this Norwegian trio, I received something of a history and geography lesson, since ISÁK come from a part of the world known as Sápmi (which is traditionally referred to erroneously by English speakers as Lapland). Musically, "In Comparison" is a pulsating, brooding synthpop banger with the requisite big chorus. 

2018 has been a pretty big year for Australia's Troye Sivan, whose second album Bloom has popped up on all sorts of year-end lists, around the same time as he received a Golden Globe nomination for his song "Revelation" from Boy Erased, in which he appeared. The meaning of title track "Bloom" - it's about receiving anal sex - has been discussed extensively online, but not by Troye, who prefers to remain modest and say "it's about flowers".

Individually, Finland's ALMA and Swedish singer Tove Styrke have appeared on my year-end charts before. In 2018, the pair appear together with this upbeat little number from the former's Heavy Rules Mixtape

She's best known for "Meant To Be", her collaboration with Florida Georgia Line which made number 2 in Australia in February, but for me, this track from debut album Expectations is the best thing the American singer has done to date. A few weeks back, Bebe teased a duet version of "Self Control" with Jennifer Lopez on Instagram - could that version see the light of day in 2019?

Back to '90s-influenced dance sounds with this UK top 10 hit, which features vocals from Norwegian singer Ina Wroldsen. "Breathe" is included on Snacks, the recently released EP from British DJ/producer Jax Jones, which collects his singles dating back to 2016's "House Work".

Let's keep the '90s vibes going with this team-up between another British DJ/producer, Shift K3y (who was last seen in my top 40 for 2016 with "Gone Missing"), and featured vocalist regular A*M*E (seen the same year on tracks by Generik and MK).

Yes, it's another track from Sweden - both producer Oliver Nelson and singer Linae are from the Scandinavian music hot spot - but the funky, disco-tinged "Talk" isn't your stock standard Scandipop. I liked another of Oliver's tracks, "Jealous", this year as well.

Apparently American singer Poppy (real name: Moriah Pereira) is a YouTube celebrity, although she came to my attention this year thanks to this Diplo-featuring (yes, him again) single from her second studio album, Am I A Girl? "Time Is Up" is about the rise of the machines and the end of humankind when the robots take over.

They placed two songs in my year-end top 25 for 2017, and the duo who describe their sound as "future '90s throwback space-pop" were back with another clutch of tracks this year, including this poppy tune and "Waking Up", which falls lower down my top 100.

The most successful song in this batch, "No Tears Left To Cry" (or "no tears left to cry", as it's styled) was a number 1 hit in Australia, and reached number 2 in the UK and number 3 in the US. The Max Martin co-written and co-produced track was also the lead single from Ariana Grande's fourth album, Sweetener, which only came out in August but has already given way to promotion from her upcoming fifth release, Thank U, Next, with the title track, which doesn't appear on this list, topping all three of those aforementioned charts late in the year.

Any fears that Years & Years would fall victim to second album syndrome proved unfounded, at least as far as I was concerned, when "Sanctify" was released as the lead single from Palo Santo. More proof that singer (and the song's co-writer) Olly Alexander knows his way around a big pop hook, the track was moodier than the likes of "King" or "Meteorite" and inspired by a relationship Olly had with a man who identified as straight. The video for "Sanctify", meanwhile, is set in the fantasy world of Palo Santo - a place invented by the band as a visual concept to accompany the album.

If 2016's Red Flag album - particularly career highlight "One Strike" - proved anything it was that there was plenty of life left in late '90s/early '00s girl group All Saints. And with this track from this year's Testament album, the quartet came up with the goods again, with a little help from an old friend. Produced by William Orbit, who'd been responsible for some of All Saints' biggest songs, "Pure Shores" and "Black Coffee", "After All" ranks among their best work. 

A few years back, Danish singer MØ was racking up massive hits (in her own right and as a featured performer) like nobody's business. Those hits might have dried up more recently, but this single from second album Forever Neverland is, for me, the best thing she's ever done and once again saw her team up with regular collaborator Diplo.

Next up: my favourite 20 songs for 2018, which I'll aim to have posted on New Year's Eve.

1979 II 1980 II 1981 II 1982 II 1983 II 1984 II 1985 II 1986 II 1987 II 1988 II 1989
1990 II 1991 II 1992 II 1993 II 1994 II 1995 II 1996 II 1997 II 1998 II 1999
2000 II 2001 II 2002 II 2003 II 2004 II 2005 II 2006 II 2007 II 2008 II 2009
2010 II 2011 II 2012 II 2013 II 2014 II 2015 II 2016 II 2017 II 2018 II 2019