30 December 2018

top 40 of 2018 | 10-1

10. Fickle Friends - "Glue"

Some damn fine retro-tinged pop coming out of Brighton, England. I had to pick this one up on cassette not just because the packaging was so cute, but is there any better medium on which to listen to music like this?

9. Gigi Rowe - "Got That"

I love that music written specifically for video games is becoming a thing, and even though this isn't really in that exact spirit, it counts! I was absolutely blown away by this when I came across it in Just Dance 2018. It recalls everything that was so perfect about mid-'80s R&B-flavored dancepop like Deniece Williams' soundtrack hit "Let's Hear It For The Boy" and Five Star's criminally underrated "If I Say Yes". And come on -- how cute is she?!

8. Troye Sivan - "Bloom"

I gushed in the last post about how Troye's debut single from this album was his emergence as a true pop star, but this second single and title track took things very quickly to full blossom: It's the right proper butt sex anthem that the world didn't know it needed. I had absolutely nothing like Troye growing up, so I'm very thankful for his existence for today's queer youth. The video is a perfect complement, too -- even driving home its early '90s motif by being shot in 4x3.

7. Christine & the Queens ft. Dâm-Funk - "Girlfriend"

A funny, funky twist on the concept of masculinity. We in the queer community often preach about how men often need to be more in touch with their femininity, but what about the inverse? Bring on the butchies!

6. Anna Burch - "Tea-Soaked Letter"

An absolutely perfect little indie pop-rock romp that made me realize how badly I was missing this specific sound from my college radio days. The melodic structure of this song is so damn well-written, right from the very first note, when she comes in singing the harmony instead of the melody that you expect.

Side note: I actually heard this for the first time while I was peeing in a restaurant bathroom, and I used my free hand to Shazam it -- a fact that I didn't necessarily have to tweet to and share with Ms. Burch, but I did anyway. Don't worry; she thought it was funny.

5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "The Punishment of Luxury"

Listen, I'm just as surprised as anyone that frickin OMD is showing up on my year-end top songs list in 2018 CE, but I had the grand fortune of seeing them live back in March, and they simply killed it. The first time I actually heard this song, the title track from their most recent album, was at that show, performed live, and it sounded just as good then as it does on the album. I've caught myself countless times the rest of this year humming this melody!

4. Jack Antonoff & MØ - "Never Fall In Love"

This is from the soundtrack to one of my favorite movies this year, Love, Simon. I wish Jack and MØ would do an entire album of synthpop like this!

3. Pale Waves - "Television Romance"

I'm so glad that there's still a new wave scene (if you know where to find it, anyway)! Manchester's Pale Waves absolutely crushed it with this one - every note, both played and sung, is perfect.

Worth noting: There are two mixes of this song, and I prefer the one used in the video to the one on the album.

2. Betty Who - "Just Thought You Should Know"

Betty Who is one of those artists who I stan more out of image or politics than the actual music. She blew me away with "High Society" from her debut EP in 2013, but I've never come close to loving any of her other songs like I loved that one, until now.

What so spine-tinglingly delicious about this track is the way it progresses from a quiet pop whisper into a pop punch. When it starts, you're nodding your head with her, but by the one-minute mark, it's "DAMN! Ok then Betty!!"

1. Kim Petras - "Heart To Break"

I honestly don't know what else to say about this except that it's literally a perfect dancepop song, and that I hope Kim has a long and fruitful career.

28 December 2018

top 40 of 2018 | 20-11

20. Loote - "Your Side Of The Bed"

The lyrics and vocal delivery on this one are, to me, its biggest detriments -- but their shortcomings are ultimately irrelevant because the production is fantastic. It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a proper meshing of electric guitar and synth riffs.

19. NOTD & Bea Miller - "I Wanna Know"

Two Swedish high schoolers who know how to bedroom-produce teamed up with a booming-voiced young lady (and former The X-Factor contestant) and the result a modern pop banger that just kinda works. Hard to believe this one didn't even crack the Hot 100!

18. Lady Gaga - "Hair Body Face"

All of the attention paid to the soundtrack of A Star Is Born has focused on the country-pop ballads. Gaga wrote some amazing material for her pop-star persona, and everyone needs to stop glossing over it and/or sleeping on it this instant!! Frankly, you're all being VERY Jackson Maine about it!!

Gaga is the best at reminding us that we can dance and feel feelings at the same time, and nowhere on this album is that displayed more than on this track, about the insecurity that comes with being in a relationship with someone whose friends don't like you.

17. Netta - "Toy"

This is the first year I've gotten into the Eurovision Song Contest as it was actually happening, and I'm honestly not sure what I've been doing for the past 31 years while I wasn't paying attention to it. This song was the instant favorite of both my only two Eurovision-obsessed friends and me, and lo and behold, sweet lil Netta ended up winning! She even got to come to America and perform this on the Today Show!

A song about the #MeToo movement performed on only a sampler/looper. Who says I'm only into being retro?

16. Marianas Trench - "Rhythm Of Your Heart"

I know exactly three things about Marianas Trench:

  1. They are Canadian
  2. They look like they are from 2006 and work at GameStop
  3. I would probably hate literally all of the rest of their songs

But you know what? That's fine, because this track is amazing.

15. Shawn Wasabi - "SQUEEZ"

What is not to love about Shawn Wasabi? He writes some of the catchiest pop melodies I've ever heard, he has beautiful bright green hair, loves video games, is always smiling, and tweets about his big ass. Like Netta, I love artists who choose pieces of modern technology as their primary instruments (a Midi Fighter 64 in Shawn's case). He's definitely the reigning king of both midi controllers and Bleep Pop(a-pop pop).>

14. Mikolas Josef - "Lie To Me"

The other song from this year's Eurovision that made my list, this one easily wins my award for the year's best lyrics. Some examples:

  • "I know you whomp-bomp-a-loo-bop on his wood bam-boom / But you were still seeing me and well he didn't even knew"
  • Then it got heavy, mom I'm feeling home already / But steady plenty mothafuckas wanna eat my spaghetti

I mean dude...yes.

13. Glades - "Not About You"

Glades are an indie trio that met in college in Sydney, Australia and just released their debut album (which, incidentally, sports my favorite album art of the year). This is undoubtedly a modern pop track, but there's something deliciously and undeniably 1987 about it, and I just love it.

12. Troye Sivan - "My My My"

Troye is on full display in all his goofy glory in this video, with a strut that rivals that of Jagger or Morrissey and a swagger exudes a confidence that we hadn't seen from him until this moment. His first EP and album were still very much in his reserved, private, bedroom YouTuber persona, so it's great to see him finally peacock out into the queer nerd we've all always wanted him to be.

11. Janelle Monae - "Make Me Feel"

Speaking of becoming a queer icon, hey Ms. Monae! This is one of the best albums of the year, led off with a single that is probably the last-ever Prince song, and hoo boy are there purple fingerprints all over this thing. She's just so damn cool and so sexy, and this track would make somebody shake their shoulders at their own funeral.

27 December 2018

top 40 of 2018 | 30-21

30. Kasey Musgraves - "High Horse"

Is this the first country/dance crossover since "Cotton Eye Joe"? I mean nobody saw that one coming either, but I think we're all glad it exists, right? Same here.

In all seriousness, as someone who spent three years as a country radio disc jockey and drowned every day in a sea of banal pedal steel and scooped notes, I love seeing country stars branch out and get experimental.

29. Jay Som - "O.K., Meet Me Underwater"

There's something pleasant and calming about Jay Som's music. The combination of her soft delivery and her college rock guitar progressions put my mind in a happy place. This is one of two songs she released this year that were outtakes from her full-length LP last year.

28. CHVRCHES - "Grafitti"

CHVRCHES delivers yet again with another album of just-edgy-enough-to-dance-to synthpop. This track was my instant favorite, but the keyboard progression that carries "Really Gone" is one of the best I've ever heard from any artist of any era.

27. Morgan Willis - "Beyond The Stars"

I mean, just...how awesome is this?! If you don't feel like a sci-fi hero in an early '80s made-for-TV movie while listening to this, what are you even doing, my man?!

26. Gryff - "Jessie"

This is where I give (the abbreviated version of) my semi-regular spiel about how so many modern artists who emulate '80s synthpop barely miss the mark and end up sounding more modern than they think they do (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). I don't know what they're doing down under in Aussieland to get this shit so, so, right, but add Gryff to the list of Aussie synthwave artists who absolutely, convincingly nails this sound. (A list which, incidentally, previously only included my buddy Absinth3.)

25. Chris Huggett & Parallels - "Golden"

Some more flawless synthwave here from either a guy who's been in the synth game a long time or a nerd who has very carefully chosen his stage name and Parallels, who are kind of OG's in the synthwave scene. Seriously, if you like this stuff, check out their first two albums. This track is 1986 beach driving perfection.

24. Confidence Man - "Boyfriend"

I heard this one in the movie To All The Boys I Loved Before, co-starring America's 2018 boyfriend, Noah Centineo. It's the kind of thing that makes you want to peacock around and maybe kick someone's ass in the process.

23. The Midnight - "Lost Boy"

The lead single from their fourth full-length LP shows New York's The Midnight growing ever more confident and owning the hell out of the synthwave sound. They definitely win my "Favorite Album Art of the Year" award for this one too!

22. Hayley Kiyoko ft. Kehlani - "What I Need"

It's really great to see some queer representation in pop that isn't a cis white gay dude or a riot grrl lesbian (not that I don't absolutely love both of those things, but diversity is nice)! This is an absolute dancefloor decimator -- just listen to that synth bass!

21. Soccer Mommy - "Cool"

To fully appreciate this one, you have to listen to it the entire way through. You'll be fooled at first as I was that it's just an average midtempo alt rock song, but in its last 30 seconds, it does something so bizarre and unsettling that really makes it burrow into your psyche. I didn't really appreciate how influenced by '90s alt rock these folks were until watching the music video, either.

26 December 2018

top 40 of 2018 | 40-31

40. Wes Period - "Wutda Hell"

This totally goofy, synth-heavy hip-hop track dropped way back in January and I would never have found it had Shawn Wasabi not tweeted it. Period's inspiration from Kanye West is clear, but he also cites Carole King and George Benson as influences. He seems like an interesting dude with more smiles to offer, and I look forward to hearing what he does next.

39. Blue Americans - "Free Champagne"

It's really funny how so many things affect how we receive a song that have absolutely nothing to do with the song itself. I first heard this thanks to a streaming radio service, and I thought it was pretentious millennial nonsense. My opinion changed, however, when I found out that these dudes are Irish. I have no idea why that mattered, but it did. This is an interesting little indie pop tune.

38. Tove Styrke - "On The Low"

Breathy delivery is very hit or miss for me, but I really think it works quite well here. She sounds comfortable when she enters the higher registers in the chorus, maintaining a quiet vulnerability that keeps this a saccharine little bop.

37. Halo Circus & Allison Iraheta - "Narcissist"

I've been a fan of Iraheta since her stint on American Idol back in 2010. Her debut album had some serious jams, but it flopped, leading her to forming Halo Circus a couple of years later, where she's worked since as a vocalist and songwriter. She has a wonderfully powerful voice, the kind that hollers and screams as well as it holds notes. This oddball song was instant brain peanut butter for me; the chanted hook stays with you and the punchy, noisy synth stabs infect your brain. It's such a fever that you don't realize until after it's over how well it represents in audio form what it's like to have let a narcissist into your life.

36. Sofi Tukker - "Batshit"

If you watch Orange Is The New Black, you heard this over the end credits of a season six episode that focused on sub-antagonist Madison "Badison" Murphy. This is the kind of thing you turn on while you're putting on very bright makeup to head to a drag show.

35. Calpurnia - "City Boy"

There is no shortage of new rock bands that pop up every couple of years comprising kids who have just discovered 1960s British bands for the first time and want to make music that emulates them. Calpurnia is absolutely one of these groups, and even though this song is certainly nothing groundbreaking, there is something oddly organic about it. This is surprising, as the kids in the group are no doubt wealthy (one of them is Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard), so the odds are against them to pull off making something that even resembles heartfelt, unpolished pop rock music. So even if I'm wrong, this has enough unrefined edges to maintain that illusion and charm.

34. GRLwood - "Bisexual"

I saw GRLwood perform in a basement pizza parlor in November of last year, the first of five acts to take the small section of concrete floor functioning as a stage that night. With one guitar, one drum kit, and one hell of an in-your-face vocal performance, they captivated my entire attention for the duration of their set. Thank goodness two awesome people are still out there making real riot grrl music for queers in 2018.

33. pronoun - "run"

The audioscape of this track blooms somewhere between late '80s indie rock, '90s pop rock, and '00s college rock; a veritable smoothie of crunchy distortion guitars, silky vocals, and cutesy melodies. The lyrics detail the futility of telling yourself not to chase someone who you know wants you to chase them.

32. Robyn - "Missing U"

I was just as excited as every other queer on the planet to finally get some new tunes from Robyn this year, and I honestly wish I'd been as moved by the whole album as many of my friends seemed to be. This first single, though, was the very definition of "giving the gays what they want": disco beats, lyrics about longing and heartbreak, and synthtacular motifs.

31. Marshmello & Anne-Marie - "FRIENDS"

The chorus really sells this one -- it's just a damn solid hook, even if the obnoxious structure makes it sound like our heroes don't know how to spell the title of their own damn song. (And even though it didn't make the list, I did also enjoy Anne-Marie's breakout solo single "2002," an ode to an era in pop culture that I can't stand.)