The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2018 (So Far…)

TIER 2: The Best of the Rest (in no particular order)

Drakeo The Ruler
“Flu Flamming”
Cold Devil (out now on Stinc Team)
Nobody’s come with a fresher new style than a potent pair of LA rappers: the aforementioned 03 Greedo and Drakeo The Ruler. Nothing about Drakeo sounds like anybody else, as he switches between jamming extra words into places they shouldn’t fit and babbling under his breath. Currently incarcerated on trumped up charges, it remains to be seen whether one of the state’s biggest recent talents gets a fair chance to better himself and share his unique voice with the world.

Sada Baby & Drego
“Block Party”
Digital Single
One of the most magnetic rap songs I’ve heard this year, the Detroit natives come through with a joyous but muscular slice of street rap. Built around a comically deep bass line, Sada Baby’s sneer and Drago’s melodic drawl interchange effortlessly, lacing bars that are so catchy there’s no need for a hook. Could be one of the sleeper songs of the summer.

Tirzah
“Gladly”
Devotion (out 08.10 on Domino)
The London singer has always had the rare ability to write love songs that meld the ordinary with the extraordinary. She’s not one for metaphor or grand gestures, preferring to sing about how love actually is rather than how it’s portrayed in most movies and TV. “Gladly” is a beautiful distillation of that approach — plainspoken, grateful, unflashy, and deeply devoted.

Jacques Greene
“Night Service” (f/ Cadence Weapon)
mixtape (self-released)
You won’t find this gorgeous, late-night number on the streaming services. Buried at the end of his incredible new, 48-minute mixtape, which is only available as a single track, “Night Service” is a glorious dancefloor seance, built to exorcise the ghosts of late nights passed. Narrated by plainspoken Canadian MC Cadence Weapon, the track captures the excitement and intrigue that only the best Saturday masses deliver.

Lucy Dacus
“Night Shift”
Historian (out now on Matador)
Of the many, many, many songs written about breaking up, few capture the way it feels better than the 22 year-old does here. From its opening line on (“the first time I tasted somebody else’s spit, I had a coughing fit”), Dacus’ husky voice drags you straight into those raw months that come in the wake of moving on from someone you used to love. Each couplet is more affecting than the next before it hits its big payoff, which explains the title and sharply illustrates the main ambition of anybody who is newly single.

Quando Rondo
“Motivation”
Life B4 Fame (out now, self-released)
When you think of Savannah, GA, you probably think of boat shoes and idyllic Gothic and Victorian architecture, but is also the home of one most promising young rappers of the year. The 19 year-old’s proper debut mixtape is full of emotional, melodic street rap that is full of joy and struggle. “Paradise” is a buoyant farewell to lost friends and a defiant declaration that his spirit remains unbroken and he’s determined to win. I’m rooting for him.

Cardi B
“Ring” (f/ Kehlani)
Invasion of Privacy (out now on Atlantic)
Remember that old Kanye line, “people talk so much shit about me at barbershops, they forget to get their hair cut”… People spend so much time coming up with awful Cardi B takes, they forget to actually listen to the album. If they did, they’d realize that she’s a nimble, clever, self-deprecating rapper with an endless supply of charisma and quotable bars. Her major label debut is full of excellent modern rap, and “Ring” is a solid example of her underrated storytelling chops. Sleep on her at your peril.

Sophie
“Is It Cold In the Water?
Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides (out now on Future Classic)
Sophie’s beguiling, exquisite new project is one of the most visually evocative albums I’ve heard in a long time. For whatever reason, every track conjures up specific cinematic images in my head. And on this — a overwhelming digital aria — I picture Sophie high above an oasis, watching people frolicking below, wondering whether it’s OK to jump in and join them. It’s unclear whether she’s referencing diving into a totally new sound, a front-facing public career, or a different gender, but it’s clear that she has decided to jump.

BlocBoy JB
“Look Alive” (f/ Drake)
Simi (out now on Bloc Nation)
Aside from delivering one of the most delightful dances of the year, the exciting young Memphis rapper’s breakthrough single was a welcome bolt of kinetic energy that cut through winter’s dreary dog days. Best of all, he followed it up with a super solid project that should cement him as an artist who will stick around far longer than a Drake co-sign.

Jenny Hval
“Spells”
The Long Sleep (out now on Sacred Bones)
Though it’s so much more effective in the context of its 23-minute EP, “Spells” is exactly the kind of heady, bewitching tune that has made Hval such a unique and special artist. Here, she plays the role of fairy godmother, guiding her charges through this confounding mortal coil. While it’s clear what lies at the end of the journey, something about her soothing voice and the lush instrumentation makes it feel like everything’s going to be ok.

How To Dress Well
“The Anteroom”
Land of the Overflowing Urn (out now on Domino)
Though Tom Krell’s uneven last LP “Care” — an attempt at making a pure pop album — wasn’t without merit, I have to admit that I’m glad to hear him return to a more experimental sound on this track. To my ears, Krell’s evocative falsetto is best framed by misty, late-night grooves, and “The Anteroom” feels like it could have been produced by long-term collaborator Jacques Greene. This is a gorgeous song that will hopefully signal an exciting direction for HDTW.

Saba
“Heaven All Around Me”
Care For Me (out now on Saba Pivot)
Frankly, I’m surprised that the 23 year-old Chicago native isn’t getting more “Next Kendrick” buzz. On his heartbreaking second LP, Saba (né Tahj Malik Chandler) demonstrates the rare storytelling and penetrating lyricism of a young Kendrick, weaving a beautiful eulogy for his late cousin and best friend, Walter “John Walt” Long Jr. The whole disc is superb, but its last track is a soulful elegy that pictures Long smiling in a better place, far above the unforgiving streets that Saba inhabits. If you’ve ever lost someone you love too young, you’ll feel this.

The Carters
“Apeshit”
Everything is Love (Roc Nation/Parkwood)
Man, it’s great to hear Beyoncé having this much fun. Though her recent music has been the most meaningful of her career, this undulating slice of Migos-assisted luxe-rap shows that even the greatest pop artist of a generation needs to let her hair down every once in a while. Listening to Queen Bey flippantly quip “get off my dick” at the Louvre is everything I didn’t know I needed, and even old man Jay came through with a skkrong Chief Keef reference of his own. Mom and Dad aren’t holding back here.

Slowthai
“The Bottom”
The Bottom / North Nights (out now on TOYITOYI / BLACK DOLPHNN)
Rising rapper Slowthai needs you to know that he’s not from London. The excitable 23 year-old hails from Northampton — a mid-market town in the East Midlands, about halfway between London and Manchester. He doesn’t need you to come visit.  He just wants you to know that he’s from the bottom and that he owes his ravenous, ultra-passionate style to it.

Future
“Georgia” (f/ Young Thug)
Superfly Motion Picture Soundtrack (out now on Epic)
Though the quality of Fewtch’s Beastmode 2 almost guarantees this low-key track won’t make my year-end list, “Georgia” is a pristine, heartfelt collaboration from the Peach State’s two favorite sons. As the deft production whistles like a sweet southern breeze, Jeffery and Future take turns emoting over pulsating bass and twinkling piano keys, praying they won’t get swept up the everyday cyclones they inhabit.

Real Lies
“The Checks”
Digital Single
Few write more convincingly about urban ennui than the London trio. “The Checks” is the first new track since their excellent 2016 debut, and the expansive, house-tinged tune is well worth the wait. Over undulating synths and a four-to-the-floor backbeat, vocalist Kev Kharas guides us through another damp night in their hometown that feels both familiar and bursting with opportunity.

Oneohtrix Point Never
“Babylon”
Age Of (out now on Warp)
A warped “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” the most emotionally direct moment from Daniel Lopatin’s awesome new opus, “Age Of,” captures the age-old struggle of deciding whether it’s your time to leave the city and transition to the next period of your life. With a harsh assist from Prurient, the 35 year-old considers his place “in the sea of other things” before deciding that he just can’t bring himself to leave just yet.

Westerman
“I Turned Away”
Confirmation (out now on Blue Flowers)
The London vocalist writes subdued, quirky tracks that deal with loss and alienation with a lithe touch and a cherubic falsetto. On “I Turned Away,” he sharply details the way so many shun help when they need it most, turning inward to wallow in their situation instead of reaching out for a hand. It is a direct, affecting track that reminds us that much can be happening below the surface of seemingly peaceful waters.

joan
“i loved you first”
Digital Single
A little bit Savage Garden, a little bit NKOTB (these are compliments, don’t @ me), the Arkansas duo’s power ballad is four minutes of delicious cheez. The keyboard tone is pure Spandau Ballet, and the softboi/sadboi vocals would make Brian Littrell sweat through his backwards baseball cap.

Drake
“Don’t Matter To Me” (f/ Michael Jackson)
Scorpion (out now on OVO)
It’s Aubrey, a lost Michael Jackson hook, and a 40 beat. I knew exactly what this sounded like before I even hit play, but that didn’t stop it from worming into all the same places in my brain that all the best dRake&B records did before.

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best of '18, Featured

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