2018: Top 20 Singles of the Year

Top Singles 2018 for Northern Transmissions
Top Singles 2018

2018 was more than just a great year for albums, it also brought dozens of songs that blurred the lines of genre and fandom. From hip hop to rock and everything in between, we’re highlighting our favourite singles from 2018 that really meant something to us and music as a whole. We’re also including a b-side from each featured 2018 artist so you can explore their work even further.

 

Four Out Of Five – Arctic Monkeys

With a sweeping soul-era David Bowie-like swagger, “Four Out Of Five” brought us into the cosmic world of the new Arctic Monkeys album. As Alex Turner brought a theatricality to both his storytelling and music as a whole that had only been touched on in The Last Shadow Puppets, this track was truly a giant leap into their lunar-themed record. B-Side: Star Treatment 

Stir Fry – Migos

Though I might not always agree with how Migos Culture II sequenced itself, it was impossible to deny how fun and addictive “Stir Fry” was to listen to. With Pharrel’s killer beats, sneaky hooks and a constantly evolving production that eclipsed most of their albums as a whole, this track was really something else. B-Side: Walk It Talk It ft. Drake

Dance Your Life Away – Audiobooks

In an album ripe with a variety of sounds from this frantically creative pair, Audiobooks really got insanely aggressive on “Dance Your Life Away.” With a beat and groove that ooze movement and a real excitement, every yell just drives this even higher to make a track that you want to lose your inhibitions to. B-Side: Hot Salt

Seven – Men I Trust

Ever the masters of singles, Men I Trust knocked us out, or maybe just soothed us out, with this groovy track about getting totally lost in the moment. Smooth on every end, “Seven” is just as catchy as it is relaxing, and keeps bringing you in to sing, dance and really just calm down for a moment. B-Side: Say, Can You Hear

One Rizla – Shame

Part-rallying cry, part-personal anthem, “One Rizla” saw Shame pushing themselves with the world of pop and punk together in harmony that few bands have done recently. With a warmth the genre needs right now, Shame really brought out a fire in this track that makes dancing feel wonderfully angry and exciting. B-Side: Dust On Trial

See You Again ft. Kali Uchis – Tyler The Creator

While I certainly enjoyed this track the first time around, there was something so captivating about Tyler’s video for “See You Again” that made me fall in love with it all over again in 2018, and even appreciate certain details of its production I’d initially missed. With dream-like sequences from Kali Uchis, and intensely grimy verses from Tyler, this song constantly delivers, and even brings out a few little surprises like trumpets into the mix. A wonder both visually and sonically, this is one track that was even better almost a year after it initially came out. B-Side: After the Storm ft. Kali Uchis, Tyler, The Creator & Bootsy Collins

Little Dark Age – MGMT

MGMT was once wonderfully poppy, than extremely weird, but this song proved that they could once again marry both sides of their sound into music that was addictive but never predictable. With a rich mix of futuristic and nostalgic tones, this track was like the 80’s raising from the dead and angry for it, and each chorus had us wanting to move as much as bust out eye-liner. B-Side: When You Die

Humility ft. George Benson – Gorillaz

As each Gorillaz album comes out there’s just as much wonder in seeing the stories that Damon Albarn works out with Jamie Hewlett as their is in hearing the music. For “Humility” Gorillaz got about as beach-like as they’ve been since Plastic Beach, and showed how groovy Albarn was ready to get in 2018. Though this definitely was an outlier on its album, it was so fun to put on loop that we weren’t too bothered. B-Side: Lake Zurich

Make Me Feel – Janelle Monáe

Every clicking beat of this track and Prince-like riff was more infectious than the last, and Janelle Monáe made this work just as well as a song as it was a multimedia experience. As empowering as it was sexually, the track grew to become a broader anthem for the LGBT community as a whole, especially with the narrative and subtle lighting its video used to highlight Monáe’s own life. More than anything, it was the over-the-top passion behind the singing and constant funk of the song that made this such a cross-genre hit. B-Side: I Like That

Lemon Glow – Beach House

Beach House took their new album 7 to take every convention of their sound and twist it into something new and wondrous for 2018. For “Lemon Glow” this meant a touch of hip hop and a new psychedelic edge, that made their ethereal sounds more driving and powerful. Though you may get where it’s going early on, this song keeps pushing the envelope to surprise you again and again. B-Side: Drunk In LA

Nostalgia – MØ

Though I listen to a lot of pop, few artists manage to drop hits that truly mesmerize and take over my brain like MØ. On “Nostalgia” the Danish pop singer mixes off-kilter beats, dozens of boisterous vocals and harmonies into one package that is somehow viscerally emotional. By constantly throwing curve-balls into the production and shouting like her life depended on it, MØ gives a life to “Nostalgia” that elevates it above many of her peers. B-Side: Way Down

Fuckin’ ‘n’ Rollin – Phantastic Ferniture

Hearing Julia Jacklin make happy music (and ecstatically dance to it on video for that matter) was such a powerful force that a one point this year this track was my auto-fill suggestion whenever I typed YouTube in my address bar. The tight bass hooks, and warm singing really set this song off, and its utter lyrical simplicity just made each cry all the more exciting to shout along with Jacklin and co. This is truly a song that perfectly elicits how it makes listeners feel in its dance-heavy video. B-Side: Bad Timing

Everybody Wants To Be Famous – Superorganism

Though you were likely left dazzled by their DIY video, Superorganism truly proved they could deliver music like none other when they launched this second single. With a sound that blends 90’s tv-production sounds with hip hop and strange pop-funk, “Everybody Wants To Be Famous” was easily fun to listen to. Along with its huge production, the critique on sharing-culture made this a track that eerily reflected our times. B-Side: Night Time

Down In The Basement – Viagra Boys

The raw fury of 90’s Nine Inch Nails is stripped of its electronic sheen in “Down In The Basement” as Viagra Boys created a truly visceral listening experience. Dense, heavy and all-enveloping, this track will consume you. B-Side: Worms

Death In Midsummer – Deerhunter

Right when you feel like Deerhunter is getting a little baroque on you with “Death In Midsummer” the track bursts open with a pop-rock dynamic that slaps viciously and begs you to sing along. Whether it’s a folk sense of rustic charm or its quirkier tendencies, this track really expands and then some. B-Side: Element

Tomb – Angelo De Augustine

There’s a tenderness to Angelo De Augustine’s music that few others are able to keep interesting in this day and age. With all the crisp production and silky falsettos that keep “Tomb” together, it’s like hearing a sunrise in audio form. B-Side: Time

Northern Lights – Death Cab For Cutie

There was an immediately rich beauty to the soundscapes that filled “Northern Lights” and set it apart from just about anything Death Cab For Cutie has done. While it understates its hooks, there’s a sense of subdued excitement that it plays with well. B-Side: Gold Rush

Talking Straight – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

“Talking Straight” was one of those rock tracks we get every few years that has a sense of immediacy and pressure to its sound that gives every chorus a vicious burst of life. In this Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever deliver a loud and to-the-point track. B-Side: Time In Common

Cast Off – Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks

It’s not the roar but the darkness of “Cast Off” that made it hit so hard the first time we listened to it, and that feeling has yet to wear off. In Malkmus’ wondrous dynamic range and songwriting that feels oddly personal, he crafts something you get hooked on fast. B-Side: Middle America

This is America – Childish Gambino

When it seemed like Donald Glover was all but abandoning his music, he returned with this behemoth of a track and was briefly everywhere on and off the web. Arguably the most important music video of the year for its commentary and visuals, the song had a sound and heft that was dangerous in the best ways possible. The track and video are still being dissected even now, and there are so many layers to all the guests and tones on the song that it’s truly one that merits a lot of listens. With its seamless ability to critique while blending hip hop and funk-folk into something modern and important, “This Is America” impacted just about everyone in 2018. B-Side: Feels Like Summer

Words by Owen Maxwell

Selections from Northern Transmissions Editorial