The end of year lists are a blogger’s duty but also a great privilege. After unearthing hidden gems, ranting to friends about new music, and sharing like a madman on social media, this is the moment where we get to share the cream of the crop. Do enjoy, dear friends.
10) The Majestic Ones – “I’ll Be There”
-This wonderful classic tune comes through with a fresh energy here from the crisp delivery of The Majestic Ones. The full production feels like it came straight from the 70s. If I had to put my finger on what my current curation is all about, it’s this kind of quality capturing overall positive vibes.
9) Dawn and Hawkes – “Stardust”
-Earlier this year I interviewed and reviewed the band, so at the risk of oversaturation I am going to include this track here. Dawn and Hawkes are fantastic musicians and songwriters who capture some magic with this one. It’s slow and introspective, but I adore the existential lyrics on this one. The harmonies make the hard questions go down smooth.
8) Basciville – “Sweet October”
-If curators are honest, sometimes the effect of a song is as much about our own lives as it is about the quality of a specific track. The time and place I was in personally when I first heart “Sweet October” meant that I needed this beautifully moving acoustic song. It’s deeply intimate with an absolutely amazing lead vocal. It reminds me of how I felt the first time I heard Penny and Sparrow. It’s stunning.
7) Liam Russell – “Half Chance”
-I have always been a sucker for the timeless love song, but Liam Russell wrote a fantastic one here. It’s a little bit of the blues, a little bit of pop, and a swanky piano element that is sure to find a lot of fans. It puts me in mind of folks like Ray Charles and Ray Lamontagne. That’s some great company and Russell’s work absolutely fits.
6) JC Stewart – “Medicine”
-Stewart’s anthem was the first one that really “floored” me this year. I remember listening the first time and having that “jaw dropping” moment that rarely comes. I just sat back admiring the quality on the vocal and the songwriting. It’s a love song but it’s the way the soul seeps through that does it for me; this isn’t just about wanting to be with someone. He needs this love for survival. The gospel-style chorus absolutely steals the show. I love this one.
5) Evergreen – “End of the World”
-This track is the most recent addition to the list, honestly. I only found it last week, I think. But the sweet, delicate harmonies here cut right through the noise of the modern day. The set of deep and abiding questions in the lyrics make this peaceful sonic experience fodder for journaling or meditation. It’s honestly an amazing track.
4) Elizabeth Gundersen – “Elephant Heart”
-Long time fans of this site won’t be surprised to see a Gundersen on this list at all, but trust me this is not a favor to the family. Elizabeth Gundersen’s album is one that I have listened to many times over. This song in particular moves me emotionally on every listen. The powerful connection between the piano work and the sincerity in the vocal works perfectly. Gundersen is a songwriter who seems to be able to capture and express thoughts and feelings that I don’t even know how to process. Her work is a gift.
3) Tors – “Wilder Days”
-Tors were a band that casually slipped into our submissions and blew me right out the door. The vocal harmonies from this band were some of the best we found all year, honestly. I love the nostalgic element of this song, yet the sort of settled maturity that it has at the same time. Like let’s have a good time like the old days, but wait… don’t get too wild. The lead vocal has the quintessential pop folk tone, too, making the song stand out for repeated listens.
2) Darlingside – “Hold Your Head Up High”
-I’ve been following Darlingside for a few years now, but I think the critical community would agree that the band *arrived* this year. This song shows everything I love about this band from the engaging folk harmonies to the innovative string work and inspiring lyrics. I love that everything about them is artful. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated folk vibe, you need Darlingside in your life.
1)Jeremy Messersmith – “Happy”
-Jeremy Messersmith’s work in 2018 is not only one of the most impressive albums musically, it might be the best lyrically complex music we found. Messersmith’s critical perspective is nothing short of inspiring, showing that musicians can be cultural critics with their work. This song in particular tackles the issue of materialism using a Beach Boys pop style. It’s a sonically pleasing song with lyrics that will cut you to your core, especially if you are someone who uses possessions to make yourself happy. This is unapologetically the most important song I found in all of 2018.