LISTS, MUSIC

LIST: My 25 Favorite Songs of 2018

All year, I keep track of my favorite music and now that it’s December, I’m ready to share with you what made the cut for my favorites of the year, starting with my 25 favorite songs of 2018.

I’ll let the songs speak for themselves in this post and reserve longer thoughts for my 10 favorite albums post later this month.

I considered songs for this list that had any kind of release (be it on a single or an album) in 2018. And, as always, I only included one song per primary artist to ensure no one artist dominated the list.

Here are my favorite songs lists for 2012201320142015, 2016 and 2017.

Lastly, I created a Spotify playlist of these songs here and embedded at the bottom for your listening pleasure (the playlist is meant to be listened to as a 25-1 countdown, despite the numbers next to each song).

Enjoy these awesome songs and stay tuned for my albums post.

25. SMASHING PUMPKINS – “SILVERY SOMETIMES (GHOSTS)”

24. CHVRCHES – “GET OUT”

23. DAVID BYRNE – “EVERYBODY’S COMING TO MY HOUSE”

22. BIG RED MACHINE – “I WON’T RUN FROM IT”

21. ARCTIC MONKEYS – “FOUR OUT OF FIVE”

20. ROBYN – “MISSING U”

19. UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA – “HUNNYBEE”

18. JANELLE MONAE – “MAKE ME FEEL”

17. JAY SOM – “PIROUETTE”

16. COURTNEY BARNETT – “CITY LOOKS PRETTY”

15. FLASHER – “MATERIAL”

14. WILD NOTHING – “LETTING GO”

13. CAR SEAT HEADREST – “BEACH LIFE-IN-DEATH”

12. KACEY MUSGRAVES – “BUTTERFLIES”

11. JOHN MAYER – “NEW LIGHT”

10. MITSKI – “NOBODY”

9. KISSISSIPPI – “CUT YR TEETH”

8. SOCCER MOMMY – “COOL”

7. JIMMY EAT WORLD – “HALF HEART”

6. HATCIE – “SUGAR & SPICE”

5. LUCY DACUS – “PILLAR OF TRUTH”

4. BEACH HOUSE – “DIVE”

3. ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER – “MAINLAND”

2. BOYGENIUS – “SALT IN THE WOUND”

1. SNAIL MAIL – “PRISTINE”

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LISTS

LIST: My 20 Favorite Songs of 2012

I spend all year keeping track of my favorite new music and with year-end comes my year-end lists. Last year I kept my year-end list of favorite songs to my Twitter account but this year I’m sharing my choices here on the blog.

Because I wrote about several of these at the midway point of 2012 and because I’d rather save my long-form thoughts on the year in music for my favorite albums post, I’m keeping this to just the songs themselves with imbedded YouTube clips.

My criteria: The songs must have been released in some way during the calendar year of 2012 and to ensure no domination by a few artists, I allow just one song per artist/band.

Hope you enjoy, thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my favorite albums of 2012 post coming later this month.

20. JACK WHITE – “SIXTEEN SALTINES”

19. DAVE MATTHEWS BAND – “BELLY BELLY NICE”

18. SLEIGH BELLS – “COMEBACK KID”

17. DIVINE FITS – “WOULD THAT NOT BE NICE”

16. ARCTIC MONKEYS – “R U MINE?”

15. TEAR TALK – “SLEEPWALKING”

14. CHROMATICS – “KILL FOR LOVE”

13. TAME IMPALA – “APOCALYPSE DREAMS”

12. HOT CHIP – “FLUTES”

11. DUM DUM GIRLS – “SEASON IN HELL”

10. JAPANDROIDS – “THE NIGHTS OF WINE AND ROSES”

9. TWO DOOR CINEMA CLUB – “SLEEP ALONE”

8. GRIZZLY BEAR – “YET AGAIN”

7. FRANK OCEAN – “SWEET LIFE”

6. THE KILLERS – “RUNAWAYS”

5. JOHN MAYER – “A FACE TO CALL HOME”

4. THE SHINS – “SIMPLE SONG”

3. PASSION PIT – “IT’S NOT MY FAULT, I’M HAPPY”

2. BEACH HOUSE – “LAZULI”

1. WILD NOTHING – “NOCTURNE”

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LISTS

LIST: The 10 Best Concerts I’ve Seen

There’s a new band out there.

Pitchfork gave their debut an 8.4. Twitter and the music blogs are lighting up. Everyone you know has the single.

The group is coming to your town and you make sure to snatch up tickets. You know if you don’t, you’ll look back one day with regret.

You pack into the venue. The first band is good, but the band you, and everyone else, came out to see is a few minutes from taking the stage. You can feel the buzz in the room. The excitement is so thick you can taste it.

The lights go out. The spotlights come up. You dart your eyes to the stage. Everyone around you is cheering at the top of their lungs.

And they take the stage. From note one, to note last, they kill it. They’re everything you ever expected and more. You share amazed glances with your buddies every now and then.

Everyone in that room knows they’re seeing something incredible. Something special. The beginning of something.

It ends. And the breathless exaltation starts. You know something just happened you’ll never forget. Something you may never be able to replace.

That is, until the next band comes along.

I went to my first concert in August 2000. I’ve been to nearly 70 concerts since, which is a lot for some but a small number compared to others. There is nothing on Earth, in my opinion, like the thrill I just described above. It doesn’t necessarily just come from a band you haven’t seen before, or a new act trying to make a name for themselves.

It can come from a great act you’ve seen a a million times, or an old standby that hasn’t stopped rocking. Or it can just be from a great time and great memories you created with friends on a night with music.

As times change, the way we experience music has also changed. Until now, our increasingly socially-connected world hadn’t made its way to concert-going.

My best friend, Sam Mullins, has been working for months to develop an iPhone app that will help you find great live bands, check into concerts, rate and review shows and connect with other people in the crowd.

The app is called TourBus and it’s now available in the App Store on your iPhone. If you have an iPhone, and enjoy the thrill of live music, I urge you to check it out and tell all your friends about it. Check out TourBus on Facebook and Twitter, too.

To mark the occasion of TourBus’ release, and as a reward for your download of the app, I’m offering a list of the 10 best concerts I’ve seen. Narrowing down all the great shows I’ve seen to 10 was an extremely difficult task.

I have based this on a number of criteria, including but not limited to: the greatness of the headliner, the greatness of the entire bill, my personal memories of the show, the overall concert experience, and basically anything else I felt was important.

I’ve listed the shows in chronological order and each show is accompanied by my ticket stub. Thanks for reading, thanks for downloading the app, and keep on listening.

7.22.02 JIMMY EAT WORLD (w/PROMISE RING and DESAPARECIDOS) STATE THEATER, PORTLAND, ME

This was my second concert, and my first at Portland’s great State Theater. It was also the first of the seven times I’ve seen Jimmy Eat World, four average guys from Arizona who leave everything they have on stage every night. It was the height of their popularity, with “The Middle” and “Sweetness” burning up the airwaves. With nearly everyone from my high school in attendance, I got to first understand the power of a smaller venue. It was my introduction to the songs from their 1999 opus Clarity, which would become my favorite album of the era. Not only that, but the guys played not one but TWO encores, finishing the set with Bleed American‘s epic closer “My Sundown.”

2.29.04 ZIGGY MARLEY/MICHAEL FRANTI & SPEARHEAD (w/BETH HART) STATE THEATER, PORTLAND, ME

The first concert Sam and I went to together, we got there early and were leaning up against the front of the stage throughout. Beth Hart and her strong voice made a great early impression, but Michael Franti and his backing band Spearhead stole this show. Franti was wildly funky, traipsing the stage in bare feet. But he was so strong, so believable and so enjoyable from beginning to end. When the set ended, he walked off the front of the stage into the crowd to say hello to people in attendance. Ziggy Marley played a good set, but I was always struck by how much fun Franti and his band had that night.

4.29.07 THE KILLERS (w/THE RED ROMANCE and THE SILVER BEATS) TSONGAS ARENA, LOWELL, MA

Las Vegas rock gods the Killers were touring in support of their monster second album Sam’s Town when I was treated to the best arena show I’ve ever seen during my sophomore year of college. The Red Romance were a fun rock act with tinges of ’80s nostalgia, and put on an excellent set. None of us knew anything about the next band, the Silver Beats. It turned out they were a NOTE PERFECT Beatles tribute band from, of all places, Tokyo. I’m telling you it was borderline creepy how good they were. Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of any show I’ve seen. Then the Killers came out and made everyone nearly forget about the incredible display they’d just witnessed.

8.24.08 JOHN MAYER (w/ONEREPUBLIC) BORGATA CASINO BALLROOM, ATLANTIC CITY, NJ

Don’t pretend you’re not jealous: I got to see John Mayer in a casino ballroom and stood a few feet away while he spun hours of blues-rock perfection. Mayer wasn’t touring for an album, but it was my first Mayer experience and it was unforgettable. He played songs from throughout his catalogue, with some of the best coming from his best album, 2006’s Continuum. Certified show-stopper “Gravity” was the highlight of the night. Sam and I saw this show with Sam’s family friend Todd, known as “Toad” to friends. Toad, who loved live music, passed away about a year after this show. If you look really closely at the icon for the TourBus app, you’ll find a tribute to Toad in there.

11.12.08 KINGS OF LEON (w/THE WHIGS and WE ARE SCIENTISTS) ORPHEUM THEATRE, BOSTON, MA

The Whigs and We Are Scientists both played good sets at this show. With that out of the way, I can now gush about how un-fucking-believable Kings of Leon played that night at the Orpheum. We had excellent seats, just a few rows from the stage. Only By the Night, the Tennessee quartet’s third album, the one that would launch them to super-duper-stardom, was tearing its way through the country while “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” were in everyone’s heads. Every note they played that night was dripping with Jack Daniel’s-infused rock gravitas. They practically burned that place down. We knew immediately upon leaving we’d never see Kings of Leon in a venue that small again.

2.26.09 JIMMY EAT WORLD (w/REUBEN’S ACCOMPLICE) HOUSE OF BLUES, BOSTON, MA

This show came shortly after the newly-renovated House of Blues opened. I could think of no better kick-off  than seeing Jimmy Eat World on their “Clarity x 10″ tour. They played only 10 shows that winter showcasing the entirety of their finest album, which turned 10 that month. They played their set with a special energy and enthusiasm. For me, it was an unforgettable chance to see my favorite band play my favorite album. My emotions ran high as they went through favorites like “Just Watch the Fireworks” and “For Me This Is Heaven,” obscure singles like “No Sensitivity” and the incredible re-made closer “Goodbye Sky Harbor.” So many of the songs they played were ones I feared I’d never see again. Instead, they gave me memories in one night I’ll never forget.

12.4.09 SPOON, PHOENIX and PASSION PIT, ORPHEUM THEATRE, BOSTON, MA

The dearly-departed WFNX’s annual holiday show in 2009 had an absurd lineup, despite the disparate styles of the three bands: Passion Pit was a local group that had exploded that year thanks to their masterful electro-pop debut Manners; French rockers Phoenix were also gaining major attention in the U.S. for the first time on the heels of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix longtime Texas alternative demi-gods Spoon were set to release Transference in the wake of immensely popular Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. The result was an astoundingly-great show from beginning to end. Today the only one of those bands who could still headline a venue as small as the Orpheum would be, interestingly enough, Spoon, who headlined that night.

9.28.10 LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (w/SLEIGH BELLS), ORPHEUM THEATRE, BOSTON, MA

Before the release of their third album, This is Happening, James Murphy-led Brooklyn indie behemoths LCD Soundsystem made clear this would be the end of their band. With this knowledge in hand, there was no way I’d miss them that year. The result was a show at the Orpheum for the ages. We were in the back of the orchestra that night and I remember it being more sweltering than usual inside the old venue. That could have been due to the intensity of LCD’s live show. They blistered through classics like “All My Friends” and I specifically recall “Get Innocuous!” as a highlight of the night. It’s almost certainly the first, last and only time I’ll ever see LCD Soundsystem live. My sadness over that is replaced by the incredible memories of their live prowess.

11.20.11 M83 (w/ACTIVE CHILD), HOUSE OF BLUES, BOSTON, MA

We didn’t really know what to expect when we got tickets to see Anthony Gonzalez’s shoegaze-inspired synth pop project M83 in concert last fall. Because of demand, the show had been moved from the much-smaller Paradise to House of Blues and we stood in the mezzanine to get a bird’s eye view. It’d safe to say we were stunned beyond belief at just how astounding M83 was that night. From the opening synth drones of “Intro” to the out-and-out amazing closer “Couleurs,” I had chills the entire night. They scampered around the stage like crazed French elves, jamming away on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming staples like “Reunion” and world-beating single “Midnight City.” This was definitely a night like the one I described in my intro. Months later, we were still talking about how great that show was.

6.6.12 DAVE MATTHEWS BAND, COMCAST CENTER, MANSFIELD, MA

I’ve seen Dave Matthews Band five times now, and every time has been awesome, including two fantastic shows at Fenway Park in May ’09. There cannot possibly be another band on the planet who has more fun on stage than these guys, who’ve been crushing it live for over two decades now. They have a chemistry that’s so deeply palpable. The show this past June stands out because of how it ended: After so many years as the DMB concert version of a white whale, Boston-area fans finally got to see “Halloween,” the Before These Crowded Streets deep cut that takes an entirely new existence live. That segued into a joyously euphoric closing rendition of “Tripping Billies” to cap another incredible show. Even if you aren’t a huge fan, you owe it to yourself to take in the DMB experience someday.

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LISTS

LIST: My Favorite Songs of 2012 So Far

Last year, I came to you with on this date with my nine favorite songs to that point in 2011. This year, there have been 10 songs released I feel similarly motivated to tell you about, in alphabetical order by artist. Enjoy.

ARCTIC MONKEYS – “R U MINE?” 

As they did with “Leave Before The Lights Come On” after their debut album, Arctic Monkeys unleashed this bone-crusher as a non-album single a few months after the release of Suck It and See. “R U Mine?” is a terrific combination of the Black Sabbath-esque power trips they’ve attempted the last few years and the inescapable energy of their early era. When I hear “R U Mine?” I’m reminded of the pissant teenagers who dominated my college musical tastes. Is this a sign they’re moving away from the melodic Suck explorations, and going back to the angry tones that made them famous more than a half-decade ago? We may know in the coming months.

BEACH HOUSE – “LAZULI” FROM BLOOM

My favorite album so far in 2012 has been this Baltimore dream pop duo’s fourth album, Bloom. The first two songs, “Myth” and “Wild,” are tunes I regard as much as any on this list. But it’s “Lazuli,” the third song and the centerpiece of Bloom‘s knockout opening, that makes me fall deeper in love every time I hear it. It’s clearly defined by its two halves with a shift from the first to the second coming literally in the middle. Following the delicate hums of the first part, we’re whisked away by the soft arpeggios of the latter part. The song just feels huge in every spot. Victoria Legrand’s voice soars everywhere and never sounds better when she hits that refrain: “Like no other you can’t be replaced.” There’ll likely be no other song this year that replaces how I feel about “Lazuli.”

CHROMATICS – “KILL FOR LOVE” FROM KILL FOR LOVE

I was naturally smitten with Chromatics when I fired up their fourth album, Kill For Love, and the first track was a synthed-out cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).” It didn’t hurt that the following title track encapsulated everything great about this release from Johnny Jewel and Ruth Radelet’s group. The pulsating drums, the longing guitar riffs, the breathless vocals, the perfectly-timed synth expressions, the general feeling of weightlessness: It boils down dream pop to its essence, a success for anyone attempting mastery of 2012’s most imitated indie subgenre. Does it make me feel like it’s 1988 all over again? Indeed. Yet, I was two years old then. So “Kill For Love” will have to placate me for now, and I’m fine with that.

HOT CHIP – “FLUTES” FROM IN OUR HEADS

London electronerds Hot Chip have established themselves as one of the most consistent, highly-regarded dance rock groups around. The absolute no-doubt-about-it apex of their fifth album, In Our Heads, is the intense, angry, destructive “Flutes.” Clocking it at over seven minutes, it accomplishes two difficult tasks for any song of its ilk: mixing fiery ferocity with delicious danceability. It builds and builds and builds some more until breaking down just past three minutes in. “All this talk is getting me down,” Alexis Taylor croons. “Nothing’s making sense in my brain.” As if we’re inside that brain, the drama rises up once again. There’s so much going on here, with one voice after another, drums that could be real or mechanized, even an ’80s-inspired marimba sound pops up. It ends somewhat softly, but the point is made. Then you hit the play button again.

JACK WHITE – “SIXTEEN SALTINES” FROM BLUNDERBUSS

Jack White has rarely been about subtlety. On his first solo album, “Sixteen Saltines” represents perhaps his least subtle attempt  ever at ear-bleeding rock. The deafening main riff reminds me of what attracted me to White the first time I heard “Fell In Love With A Girl” 10 summers ago. This is certainly one of those songs that doesn’t require a drawn-out explanation: it rocks, it rocks hard and White clearly doesn’t care about anything here but causing hearing loss. The classic organ tinges behind the bridge riffs, the high-pitched guitar squeals leading up to the end, White practically screaming throughout the entire song: it all fits perfectly into exactly what we expect from White.

JOHN MAYER – “A FACE TO CALL HOME” FROM BORN AND RAISED

Born and Raised is not John Mayer’s best work. My initial disdain for the album has been greatly tempered since that first listen, there are more good songs than poor, however some still make me say, “Shit, this should be a B-side.” Yet I couldn’t possibly say that about the perfect, penultimate “A Face To Call Home.” Alongside two previous Mayer epics, “In Repair” and “Edge of Desire,” “Face” is the third in a Mayer self-examination trilogy. Where “Repair” is about not being together (but getting there), and “Edge” deals with being together but with scared uncertainty, “Face” finds Mayer at his most content while still bringing his incredible blues-rock chops to give the song his signature feel. “Maybe I could stay a while / I’m talking like all of the time.” This isn’t a Mayer we’ve heard before. I always wondered what happy Mayer would sound like. I love the answer.

PASSION PIT – “I’LL BE ALRIGHT” FROM GOSSAMER

In 2009 Passion Pit came out of nowhere with Manners, which doubled as the best debut album I’d heard in years and the album that provided me a turning point as a music fan. Gone were the days when I eschewed sounds made by machines. Michael Angelakos, Nate Donmoyer and the rest turned me on to the magic of electropop. There’s no 2012 album I’m anticipating more than Gossamer, which I can’t believe won’t be out for three more weeks. Lead single “Take A Walk” is tremendous, but it’s the second tune released, the gigantic-sounding “I’ll Be Alright,” that takes me back to the best parts of Manners. The frenetic pace, heavenly Angelakos vocals, squawking samples and out-and-out optimism tells me Passion Pit isn’t skipping a beat with their sophomore effort. I can’t wait to hear more.

THE SHINS – “SIMPLE SONG” FROM PORT OF MORROW

I never really listened to James Mercer’s longtime rock excursion the Shins before the sterling Port of Morrow was released this year. What I found was an album overpopulated with future classic rock radio staples for whenever 2012 earns “classic rock” status.  There probably won’t be such thing as “classic rock radio” when that happens, but I digress. “Simple Song” has become its biggest song, bursting with arena-rock, Dennis DeYoung gravitas. It presents itself as a simple song about love, but it’s not entirely clear it ends well. Mercer successfully trumps up those awkward interactions (“Remember walking a mile to your house / Aglow in the dark / I made a fumbling play for your heart / And the act struck a spark”) we’ve experienced while the guitars jam along. Makes you feel like a teenager again, doesn’t it? That’s what good rock should do.

SLEIGH BELLS – “COMEBACK KID” FROM REIGN OF TERROR

Few indie rock acts have been more polarizing in recent years than Sleigh Bells. I haven’t encountered many people lukewarm on the duo’s scorched-earth style. It’s a love-hate thing and for the most part, it’s been a love thing for me. The finest song on their polished second album is “Comeback Kid,” which hits just about everything we’ve come to expect: Alexis Krauss’ sweet vocals meshed with Derek Miller’s power chords, a wild mess of percussion and a time signature you need a degree in physics to figure out. It manages to be far from predictable while still an easier listen than much of freshman effort Treats. Will they ever be more than a niche indie novelty? Will they ever appeal to more than a sliver of listeners? Will they ever get an actual fucking drummer to play with them live? If they keep making songs like “Comeback Kid,” I don’t care about the answers.

TEAR TALK – “SLEEPWALKING” FROM PORT SUNLIGHT EP

I know pretty much nothing about this band. From what I can tell, they are from Liverpool, they have one EP (which I still haven’t heard in full) and their Facebook page had a robust 172 likes as of Saturday (myself included). I came across this song on an indie rock mix torrent that comes out every month. Finding something worthwhile from an unknown artist on one of those is a trying task, but I unearthed a gem in “Sleepwalking.” Quick down-stroked guitar dominates alongside the reverberated vocals and there’s a terrific deep drum sound that reminds me of Bryan Devendorf’s work on High Violet. I love the fun keyboard line that drives the melody amongst hushed vocals. Sometimes it takes a little digging to find good music. This is one dig that paid off.

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In the second half of the year I’m looking forward to new music from Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Dave Matthews Band, the xx, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Two Door Cinema Club and Dum Dum Girls in addition to Passion Pit. It’s shaping up to be a very good year.

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