by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


These are my 100 favourite songs of 2018: songs I love more than yanny, laurel, and self-destructing paintings.

Said the Gramophone hasn't published much in in 2018. Forgive us: we're very old.

"People don't read blogs any more."
      "People don't read about music any more."
            "Does it make you any money?"

I believe in making things because the making's the thing. I believe in good things lasting. (I also believe in finding the right endings.)

But this blog isn't ending. It's changing.

In 2019 we'll be publishing longer stories and essays, one a month, by writers you love like Emma Healey and Mitz Takahashi and me. Dear old friends and bodacious surprises.

I hope you'll enjoy my Best Songs of 2018< and I hope you'll stay with us, checking in now and then. You're important to this.

This is the 15th list like this at Said the Gramophone: see 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no primary artist may appear twice.

The best way to browse the proceeding is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs in three parts:

Thanks to Joey there are also Spotify and Apple Music playlist versions.


Said the Gramophone has had many authors, most recently: Emma Healey, Jeff Miller, Mitz Takahashi and me, Sean Michaels. This list is all Sean's dumb doing - don't blame the others for my bad taste.

If this is your first time at Said the Gramophone, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter or read my first novel (it's about the theremin). A new book, The Wagers, will be published in about a year.

Among these 100 artists, 43 are mostly American, 29 are Canadian, 10 are British and there are 4 Australian, 2 New Zealand, 2 German, 2 Irish, 2 Swedish, 1 French, 1 Jamaican, 1 Korean, 1 Nigerian, 1 Spanish and 1 South African act. 46 of the frontpeople/bandleaders identify as women, 51 as men, 1 as transgender and 2 acts are girl/boy duos. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain't perfect. Here are some charts of this and past lists' demographics.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures.

My favourite albums of 2018 were:

  • Joseph Shabason - Anne (listen);
  • Kyle Gann - Hyperchromatica (listen);
  • Young Galaxy - Downtime (listen);
  • Rosalía - El mal querer (listen);
  • Madeline Kenney - Perfect Shapes (listen);
  • Tampa - Belated Love (listen);
  • Tim Hecker - Konoyo (listen);
  • John Coltrane - Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (listen);
  • Melissa Laveaux - Radyo Siwèl (listen); and
  • Makaya McCraven - Universal Beings (listen)
  • I promise: all of these are fantastic.

    And now, without any more rigamarole, lots of proudly mixed metaphors:

    Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2018 - original painting source unknown

    1. Rosalía - "Pienso en Tu Mirá" [buy]
      My favourite song of 2018 is one of those stunners that reminds you that pop songs can do anything, there aren't any rules. Across her magnificent second album, 26-year-old Rosalía Vila Tobella reimagines (and arguably appropriates) flamenco music, weaving in pop and hip-hop, Auto-Tune and "Cry Me A River," demonstrating the same sense of invention that has marked the careers of M.I.A., Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake. Her videos are ravishing (no surprise Pedro Almodovar has recruited her for his next film) and El Mal Querer is actually surprisingly doleful, declining the temptation to attempt an Andalusian Thriller. Still, "Pienso en Tu Mirá" feels propulsive and magical, carried forward by handclaps, synth stabs and Rosalía's nightingale of a voice. Minor instead of major, dark instead of bright - but luminous with feeling, aglow with possibility, as powerful an incantation as anything I heard this year.
    2. Robyn - "Honey" [buy]
      Robyn's first appearance on one of Said the Gramophone's Best Songs lists was thirteen years ago (!), when "Be Mine!" was my favourite track of 2005. I compared her to Bob Dylan and James Joyce. I said that "Be Mine" revealed "the triumph of acknowledging your sorrow." Sweden's greatest solo pop star has undergone at least two transformations since then, yet these two songs still seem linked. For all its lines about breath and flesh and saliva strands, "Honey" is a song about pleasure that doesn't quite sound happy. Instead it's bittersweet - the sort of bittersweet that Joyce left out of his bawdy love-letters: a sense of Robyn's longing or regret, or maybe just her wisdom. You can hear it in the bass notes, dark and gleaming, and at the end of her phrases. You can hear it in the production (ghostly in spite of cowbell!). Perhaps there's a secret message to a lover un-won; perhaps Robyn's desire's just chronically minor-key. But I read "Honey"'s ambivalence as bigger than that, and more grown-up. Not the anguish of loss, nor the melancholy of falling short, but the sadness of realizing what it is you always deserved.
    3. Drake - "Nice For What" [buy]
      "Nice For What" is a song of plunging orbits, big ellipses, the kind of song that ought to eventually go on forever - an endless New Orleans bounce, an endless loop-around and begin-again; endless starts, groundhog days. Women hustling and hustling and fighting and fighting, Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor" sucked into a black hole - reborn as something infinite. If there's an actual song factory somewhere, this is the sound of its machinery. Persistence leads to victories, perseverence to just deserts.
    4. Sandro Perri - "In Another Life" [buy]
      The MP3 here is an excerpt of Sandro Perri's extraorinary 25-minute "In Another Life," which is not so much a song as a weather system, a climate that moves into a room and waits there, changing the colour and temperature. I've long-described Sandro as a musician who makes free music, free as in jazz - but who happens to operate in a genre (singer-songwriteriness) where that avant-gardism isn't obvious. What does it sound like to break apart a Nilsson-esque pop ballad? What does it sound like to make it fizz into nothing or fold itself in two? Can a nice tune still be a riddle?
    5. Christine and the Queens - "Doesn't Matter (Voleur de soleil)" [buy]
      I can't imagine preferring the English version of this electro-pop masterpiece - a song that gathers lustre with every syllable out of Héloïse Letissier's lips. "Doesn't matter (voleur de soleil)" relies on its agility, its swiftness: a song about despair that somehow finds a way to lift off.
    6. La Force - "Lucky One" [buy]
      One day I will make a mixtape about trying to live a good life. I'll call it The Republic and I'll fill it up with songs by Silver Jews, Patti Smith and maybe Iggy Pop; with songs like "Unless It's Kicks" and "We Have Everything" and La Force's "Lucky One." This is a song like an ember burning at the bottom of the hearth. It's a song like the songs we whisper to ourselves. Ariel Engle - of AroarA and Moufette and, now, Broken Social Scene - is more Dorothy Parker than Socrates; her wisdom's tossed-off, stinging. But she is still trying to sing something true here, with a voice like a silver cord. "Don't you forget what's simple / and what's small," she sings, sadly almost, not because it isn't true but because she knows how often she doubts it.
    7. Ariana Grande - "thank u, next" [video]
      It isn't very often that a #1 smash hit seems to have a different emotional register than every #1 smash hit that ever came before. What sets "thank u, next" apart isn't its sound - an airy, tinsely R&BB - but Ariana Grande's disposition. After a million anthems of self-reliance and reinvention, of overcoming one's exes, it's startlingly refreshing to hear someone just saying thank u to their past loves - not feebly but bravely, wisely, gently, thank us for moments shared and lessons learned, miles travelled to this spot. (And still, also: next!)
    8. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - "Talking Straight" [buy]
      There are times when Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever feel too much like a composite of other guitar-pop bands I love, from the Go-Betweens and the Feelies to Nap Eyes and Alvvays. But that kind attitude of leads to crankiness, not bliss, and I cannot but swoon for the snap of "Talking Straight," its gallop and its bray. Jangle like falling fortunes; riffs like ten-foot cacti, full of flowers; a melody you could hang your hat on all winter; everything picking up speed...
    9. Janelle Monae - "Make Me Feel" [buy]
      Purple-tinted funk like the wet and misting pop! of grape soda.
    10. Tim Hecker - "This life" [buy]
      I've spent dozens of hours with Konoyo, Tim Hecker's ninth album - a work of tinting electronics and efflorescing noise that feels more narrative than anything he has made before, as if it's not raw sound but story. "This life," which begins the LP, is like the opening sequence of a VanderMeer film adaptation, or of a Werner Herzog Heart of Darkness. It's a noise like a secret mission - keening sirens, insects, ghosts - and I feel almost as if I can smell it: scent of jade leaves, dark and vegetal, flexing in the night.
    11. 6LACK ft J Cole - "Pretty Little Fears" [buy]
      So much of a love-letter that I'm surprised it's not a rhyme in the first verse, rhyming with "propeller." 6LACK conceals his raunchy verses in the song's tender sound; from his tone of voice you'd be forgiven for assuming he's reading Neruda. The fit's a bit more natural on J Cole's feature - if only he had spared his wife the Matrix reference. (Thanks Neale!)
    12. Young Galaxy - "Seeing Eye Dog" [buy]
      A song reduced to essences: desire, audacity, moonlight. Such a respite - soft synths, Catherine McCandless's plainsong, everything as light as moths' wings. Taken from the tremendous Down Time, the most overlooked album of the year.
    13. Madeline Kenney - "Cut Me Off" [buy]
      Guitar-pop that's ravishing and askew - prisms twinkling, angles everywhere. Kenney's rosy voice tinges red at the edges; it blots almost, over "Cut Me Off"'s beautifully wrongish hooks, its beautifully wrongish drums. While Perfect Shapes owes something to Dirty Projectors' slanting vocals, Perfect Shapes (produced by Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner) is twice as good as Dave Longstreth's latest - vividly original, utterly delightful, one of the best damn things around.
    14. Connan Mockasin - "Charlotte's Thong" [buy]
      Drowsy, handsome music, with the pong that characterizes all of Connan Mockasin's tunes - that extra-terrestrial scent. An electric guitar prowls the house - searching for somewhere to lie down and sprawl. Drums beat like minute hands. And then Mockasin's mushy mumble: a wimp's voice, vaguely botanical, a stranger at this sumptuous table.
    15. The 1975 - "Love It If We Made It" [buy]
      A glittering, millennial reimagining of "We Didn't Start the Fire" or "It's the End of the World As We Know It." You get everything you need to know from the self-mocking opening lines, as the snare comes Phil-Collins-ing in: "Fucking in a car / shooting heroin / saying controversial things / just for the hell of it." I'm on-record as a 1975 fan; they continue to make a case for themselves as the UK's most interesting contemporary pop band, sucking the marrow from the Talking Heads and Radiohead, Danny Brown and Bright Eyes, Michael Jackson and The Streets. They integrate their influences in a way that feels almost anachronistic - and there's a similar out-of-time-ness to their (outstanding) big-budget videos, which seem lifted from MTV's heyday. Like most of my favourite diatribes, "Love It If We Made It" is really a declaration of love: to an algorithmic singularity, to the end of the world.
    16. Laura Jean - "Girls on the TV" [buy]
      I don't know what it is about this soft-focus indie pop song (or maybe I do - the grace of the singing, the unusually elaborated guitar-line, the chorus, the performance, the arrangement, the songwriting, everything).
    17. Mount Eerie - "Tintin in Tibet" [buy]
      Like last year's "Real Death", this song should not be on a ranked list; it should not be on a list at all. It should be at #1 or #100 or unnumbered, set apart. Its goal as a piece of music isn't the same goal as the other tracks here. Why count these things together, or measure them against each other? As Phil Elverum carries on, singing present and past, his vision somehow grows ever clearer.
    18. Lydia Képinski - "Premier juin" [buy]
      Sock yourself with this song, take it like a conker to the temple. A pipe-organ and a string section; a synth and a guitar. A song that tastes so ripe and raw that it's partly bloody iron, partly strawberry jam. Képinski's Montreal pop points right back to Arcade Fire's "Tunnels," Charles Burns' Black Hole, Frankie Barnet's An Indoor Kind of Girl. Today at full gallop, bolting toward the new. (And get a load of this.)
    19. SOPHIE - "Immaterial" [buy]
      Bouncing like a ball-peen hammer from ecstatic, sample-driven pop to something harder - shiny and warped. Featuring vocals from Montreal's own Caila Thompson-Hannant (Mozart's Sister, Cecile Believe).
    20. DJ Koze - "Pick Up" [buy]
      A midnight-coloured circle with Gladys Knight at its centre."[It's the] counterbalance of the sad voice and the disco loop," DJ Koze told Resident Advisor. "You find one loop, and if it's magical, you can hear it forever. But they're not easy to find. ['Pick Up' is] the only track I've made in one night -- in three or four hours, with a bottle of red wine."
    21. Mélissa Laveaux - "Lè Ma Monte Chwal Mwen" [buy]
      A song that erects its own fanciful, radiant universe - with Laveaux's elastic voice and winking Creole, the junkyard feel of the electric guitar. Like Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" reimagined on a Haitian beach.
    22. Nicholas Krgovich - "Spa" [buy]
      A man's hushed yet wry confessional - a break-up song that pulls no punches, beats around no bushes, itemizing the ending of a thing its singer did not wish to see end. Tragic and also somehow charming - it must be the saxophone.
    23. Thus Owls - "My Blood" [buy]
      Thus Owls' live performance of this song on 9/29 was probably the most moving performance I witnessed in 2018. Erika Angell sings about motherhood with a wisdom that seems visceral, not learned but felt - felt and then sung out, as if she has found the right words for these impossible feelings. (And Simon Angell beside her, strumming away, every chord a kind of vow.)
    24. Maggie Rogers - "Light On" [buy]
      A song like this makes songs like this seem easy: just verses, a chorus, a melody and harmony, drums. Mid-tempo and handsome, nothing to set it apart. Yet: marvellous. An ordinary pleasure to cherish and repeat.
    25. Boygenius - "Me & My Dog" [buy]
      Phoebe Bridgers leads all my favourite songs on the debut record by Boygenius - a group that brings together Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus. She has a gift for writing tracks with a little sourness to them, an antidote to the sweet; it gives a break-up song like this a sort of seductiveness, as if the end of things is somewhere you might choose to stay.
    26. U.S. Girls - "Rage of Plastics" [buy]
      Meg Remy's Fiver cover turns the grave blues of the original into something jittery and brightly lit. Country rock with a bit of Phil Spector to it - and also squealing saxophones, wounded keys, high moxy, high-capitalist anxiety. It's like a plant that grew up in a shopping-mall atrium, now it's too big to stop.
    27. Les Louanges - "Tercel" [buy]
      I love the twisting grooves of Les Louanges' La nuit est une panthère - a record full of funky rock'n'roll and avant-R&B, neons flickering on rue Masson. "Tercel"'s lefthanded storytelling owes something to Frank Ocean and something to Beck; it owes something to the drummer and the debt-collector.
    28. Jennifer Castle - "Texas" [buy]
      A road song of straight highways and big sky, with Castle - like Johnny Cash or Bill Callahan - mingling the everyday and the erotic, the somber and the merry.
    29. Saba - "Prom/King" [buy]
      Saba's greatest gift as a rapper isn't his rhymes or his flow but his storytelling, his ability to choose the right detail. "Prom/King" is a two-part portrait of his cousin John Walt, and it's a song that conceals its full intentions, that holds back the ending - lingering instead on small conversations, until the end, when Saba's words - and "Prom/King"'s beat - prove literally insufficient, everything running out.
    30. Kurt Vile - "Bassackwards" [buy]
      Some artists are inventors. Kurt Vile's not one of these - someone who invents and reinvents, transforming their sound. A Kurt Vile song in 2018 sounds a lot like a Kurt Vile song in 2015, a Kurt Vile song in 2011: slacker monologue, warm guitars, a tune that walks in circles like a stroll around the block. And yet a song like "Bassackwards" still feels sublime - not because it is a copycat, a beloved re-run, but because it is its own polished jewel, unlike anything else. Not a reinvention but a refinement, as each of Vile's best songs is - its own original refinement, a slightly new perfect.
    31. Post Malone - "Better Now" [buy]
      I'm with Jayson Greene: I can't stand Post Malone and also I adore him, adore this dripping catchy music that has rien à faire with the rest of my aesthetics, the things I think and say I like. Crude and treacly, unsubtle, labouring: yet magnificent, gold-leafed, a sad song I could hang like a wreath on my door.
    32. Frog Eyes - "Pay for Fire" [buy]
      If Mannheim Steamroller recorded an elegy with David Bowie and The Residents; if a tree sang a serenade to its soil... The pearl of Frog Eyes' final album is a mess that's going to be cleaned up, a cataclysm mid-solution. Carey Mercer's never sounded sweeter, his band never so kind. But they're still capable of violence - daggers to betrayers' ribs, rocks to traitor's skulls, poison in the developers' wine. There are still forces of resilience out there, knights in declining armour.
    33. Ella Mai - "Boo'd Up" [buy]
      A gravity blanket of sparkly R&B.
    34. Cardi B with Bad Bunny & J Balvin)- "I Like It" [buy]
      "I Like It" is an exemplar of interpolation - not just a competent remix of a Latin classic but a glorious transfiguration thereof. Chock full of tiny details, slowly gathering momentum, crackling with musical energy.
    35. James Blake - "Don't Miss It" [website]
      This is my favourite style of James Blake: when he finds himself at the middle-point between Klavierwerke and "Limit To Your Love", when his sappier singing instincts get cut-up and enjambed. "Don't Miss It" is a song that seems to keep starting and restarting, and every time it does it glows a little differently, not more but merely differently - as if its current is being sent down alternate routes, undiscovered channels. Electricity can move in different ways through a circuit.
    36. Tampa - "Synth Quirk" [buy]
      Tampa is the best ever rock band in Memramcook. That's a town in New Brunswick (Tampa's also based in nearby Moncton). Their scrambling indie-rock is like a handful of Pop Rocks - sugar fizz and crackle-snap, tidy only in the hand.
    37. Charli XCX - "No Angel" [buy]
      Soap-bubble pop with some metal to it too, like Charli's tossing around aluminium pans.
    38. Wye Oak - "Lifer" [buy]
      A song of perseverence. Patiently gleaming til the guitar part at 2:00 - a phosphorescing solo that rends the song in two, rouses the phoenix in its nest.
    39. Toni Braxton - "Long As I Live" [buy]
      There are portions of "Long As I Live" that feel as if they could have been released in 1996, in Braxton's un-broken heyday. But listen carefully: you'll hear a voice with more years in it, a production haunted by younger sounds.
    40. Troye Sivan - "My My My" [buy]
      A pop song with hop and jump - no, with skip, a thousand split-seconds suspended mid-air.
    41. Tirzah - "Say When" [buy]
      Tirzah dismantles contemporary R&B, rebuilding it as something room-sized and almost barren. Working with Mica Levi (Micachu and the Shapes), songs like "Say When" are as much about the desires they withhold than the pleasures they indulge - like an experiment with abstinence, pop-musical renunciation.
    42. Channel Tres - "Controller" [buy]
      A work of pure hypnosis, Channel Tres's voice and oscillating beat mesmerizing the listener, leading them onto the dance floor. (Thanks Max!)
    43. Yves Tumor ft James K - "Licking an Orchid" [buy]
      One of electronic music's most interesting makers showing a Bryan Ferry-like head for songcraft.
    44. Loma - "Joy" [buy]
      I loved the debut LP by Loma - a collaboration between Cross Record's Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski, and Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg. Like "post-rock" or "chamber pop," "chamber folk" seems like a lapsed genre at this point - something old and in need of regeneration. However songs like "Joy" have enough strength - and enough discord - to feel relevant and new, an alarm unfolding under woodwinds, drums, guitars, a lacework of synths. Cross and Duszynski's marriage ended over the course of this recording project, and I can't help but project that knowledge onto the music: a sense of transformation, or that something is really at stake.
    45. Low - "Always Trying To Work It Out" [buy]
      This is what I imagine it feels like to live in Trump's America. A song like a failing state - grim and cataclysmic, all the old rules fracturing. Yet also somehow hopeful, progressing: a staggering march, toward a far-off beam of light.
    46. Porches - "Find Me" [buy]
      Is cereal a soup? Are hotdogs tacos? How should one describe "Find Me"? A song that's a beeping, skittering rave-up - but with a singer who's doleful, melancholy, slinking through the bushes around the warehouse.
    47. Félix Dyotte - "Chrysanthèmes" [buy]
      I love the timelessness of "Chrysanthèmes." Dyotte plays the classic chansonnier while his band makes sure all the studio plug-ins are up-to-date, new and sumptuous.

    48. Simmy ft Sun-El Musician - "Ubala" [buy]
      Something in the low end of "Ubala" makes it feel more like landscape than music - terrain that goes on for miles upon miles, beyond the horizon. South African house music as far as the eye can see.
    49. Amen Dunes - "Miki Dora" [buy]
      The chug at the heart of this song might be a car or a motorcycle; it might just be Amen Dunes' running feet. But it's clearly a dash - a long one, mile after mile, while the song scans the horizon. A little Springsteen and a little Kurt Vile, with some mischief in its pocket. A little mischief and a little nerve, treasure waiting at the end of the trail.
    50. Stephen Malkmus - "Middle America" [buy]
      It's been a long time since Malkmus sounded as good as this, and I can't remember him ever sounding so kind. There's a generosity to this song that feels almost sappy; never mind that Malkmus is painting his customary tableaux, only half-comprehensible. "Men are scum, I won't deny" (he sings the line like he's giving someone an anniversary present), "May you be shit-faced the day you die / And be successful in all your lies / In the wintertime / in the wintertime." As if all this time he's just been waiting for a reason to cozy up.
    51. Molly Burch - "To The Boys" [buy]
      Bubblegum guitar-pop that's adamant and unapologetic, Burch singing like an acrobat who has climbed out of a cannon, turned it toward her enemies, plopped in a cannonball and calmly lit the fuse.
    52. Bas ft J Cole - "Tribe" [buy]
      Two rappers playing catch over a samba beat - each of them feeling fat and happy, jolly, made.
    53. Spice - "Tik Tak" [buy]
      A dancehall track that cut like a hot knife through my playlists, dividing everything into Before and After. Spice spits like she's made of clockwork, her mechanisms newly wound, as sure of herself as of the number of minutes in an hour.
    54. Lucy Dacus - "Night Shift" [buy]
      A song like a letter to a former lover, a letter never sent. But of course it is sent, it's here in six and a half minutes, and so that's why it bursts into flame at exactly 4:09 - so the recipient won't forget it, can't shake it off; so they'll smell smoke and burning paper; so maybe they'll get burned, burned again (for the second time). Dacus has made a thing that's tender and fiery, a ballad she won't - can't - take back.
    55. AdriAnne Lenker - "Symbol" [buy]
      Experimenting outside her band Big Thief, AdriAnne Lenker makes music that's much more constrained: rhymes and fingerpicking, a voice just louder than a whisper. But it's the rhythm on "Symbol" that makes it click for me, the sense of tempo, like a series of keys fitting into locks.
    56. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" [buy]
      Somewhere there's an intra-dimensional Soul Train where "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" aired once in 1981. Ruban Nielson was wearing iridescent make-up, singing outside a giant cardboard TV. Stevie Wonder's sister played keys.
    57. Hop Along - "Prior Things" [buy]
      A cozier kind of Hop Along - as if they're living with friends in a green-gabled house, dinner cooling on the counter. Frances Quinlan sings her worries but I'm never actually worried for her - I believe in her instincts and the instincts of her friends, that good will win out. Those nodding strings; those bobbing keys; a whole world wishing her the best.
    58. Helena Deland - "Body Language" [buy]
      A ballad with undertow, the kind of hesitation that could save a life one day.
    59. Thom Yorke - "Suspirium" [buy]
      A piano figure forms the basis of this chilly lullaby, a ghost story in 3/4 time. "This is a waltz," Yorke begins. "Thinking about our bodies / what they mean."
    60. Ought - "Desire" [buy]
      Like a punk-rock "Song of Solomon," full of decent, law-abiding carnality. I love the randiness of the song, the impression of a band that's caught a springtime scent. "I could taste it in your paint," Tim Darcy sings, like a shipbuilder with a hard-on.
    61. Joseph Shabason - "I Thought That I Could Get Away With It" [buy]
      Saxophonist and composer Joseph Shabason made one of the most splendid albums of the year by taking snatches of sax and samples from interviews (with his mom), parcels of processed synths, pasting it all into a work that feels like it's about osmosis: the sense of a wisdom gained ambiently, over time. The accumulation of insight & experience & raw sensation, still only half-understood.
    62. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Party for One" [video]
      "Party For One"'s a clomping, stomping pop song, but its sense of sexuality's not so different from #60 - Jepsen's paean to self-love has a cotton-wool feel, as if freshly laundered.
    63. Scott Orr - "A Memory" [buy]
      A love-song that doesn't quite feel real, like something borrowed from slumber. "You woke up in a dream," Orr sings, "caught inside a memory. / I won't leave your side / and I'll lie with you baby." He brings to mind Sandro Perri or Damien Jurado but there's more flicker to this folk music, like it already senses its decay.
    64. Mariah Carey - "GTFO" [buy]
      Hard feelings don't deserve a song this pretty. "You took my love for granted," Mariah begins, all dusty rose. "You left me lost and disenchanted." But the song moves on past bland dejection: "My prince was so unjustly handsome," she sings, a line twice-stinging. Soon the listener begins to wonder: might she really spell out the song title? On a song that sounds like this?
    65. Pusha T - "The Games We Play" [buy]
      This song's here for the barb & prong of the beat, the blues guitar like a lean tiger.
    66. Couteau Papillon - "Peau d'opium" [buy]
      Glittering synth pop from Montreal that measures its pep against its weariness, its appetites against its caution. I love the zippy synths against Philippe Lachance's sandpaper falsetto, the skittering drums against the silvery guitar. A song to pack up in a suitcase when you're off to somewhere drab; wheel it along behind you, open it up when you get to the hotel.
    67. Viagra Boys - "Sports" [buy]
      Like a gritty remodelling of #42, Viagra Boys' "Sports" recalls Iggy Pop and even maybe Mark E Smith - men with baritone voices and an appreciation for the absurd, the way a saxophone can crack a song like an egg.
    68. Ebhoni - "Opps" [fb]
      With its bubbly synths and sunny horns, "Opps" seems at first feel like one of those R&B songs about riding round town with your friends. Instead, it's pure kiss-off: a venomous adieu to a 🐍 of an ex-friend, a sunny F.U. with the windows rolled down.
    69. Hollow Hand - "One Good Turn" [buy]
      Hollow Hand's a new romantic with a shelf-ful of Kinks albums, a shed full of guitars, a folder full of handclap loops. He's probably got a garden and a couple of sturdy old shovels. "One Good Turn" skips and jangles and la-la-las, weaves a tapestry, drives a tiny Citroen to the seaside.
    70. Jim James - "Just A Fool (Universal Clarity version)" [buy]
      My Morning Jacket's Jim James re-doing a rock song in full Bob Dylan get-up - a leather jacket around his shoulders, an acoustic guitar in his hands. No harmonica though: instead just a man's strange yodel, a dog-like yip, transsubstantiating the song in its final seconds.
    71. Lennon Stella - "Breakaway" [website]
      Spotifycore as it may be, Stella works wonders with "Breakaway"'s pre-chorus - a moment of tension when you don't know which way the song will go, higher or lower, faster or slower, into the sky or back down to earth.
    72. Rejjie Snow - "Désolé" [buy]
      Irish hip-hop - where the pennywhistle's synthetic and the hook's in French. I love "Désolé"'s elevator-music shimmy, its stop-start approach to catchiness. Not so sure about Snow's serenading skills: hopefully his lover likes her wooing off-key and genuine.
    73. Foxing - "Slapstick" [buy]
      Foxing perform a kind of alchemy, transmuting "Slapstick"'s punk-rock riffs into a variety of materials. Some of it still sounds hard and shining, but most of it is softer - emo balladry, fireside sing-along, games with yipping muppets. It's proggy something, I'm just not sure what - it owes as much to Justin Timberlake as to Jimmy Eat World.

    74. Hatchie - "Sure" [buy]
      Blissful jangle-pop from Australia. There's a quality to this kind of music that makes me think of rain - washouts, downpours, the daylight all smeared. Does it ever rain in Brisbane?
    75. Anderson .Paak - "Bubblin" [buy]
      The California rapper's stuck in a spy movie credits sequence: will he make it out alive?
    76. A.A.L. (Against All Logic) - "Now U Got Me Hooked" [buy]
      My son likes to march: "March!" he announces, stomping up and down the hallway. (He's two and a half.) It's not a military sort of march; it's not rigid or formal. It's free, gleeful. He swings his arms and hikes his knees, stomping all alone. Which happens to be my preferred way of enjoying "Now U Got Me Hooked" - an infinitely amiable stomper by A.A.L. (aka Nicolas Jaar). Wave at the singer! Salute the trumpets! Ripple like a flag!
    77. Bonjay - "Night Bus Blue" [buy]
      The mystery of the night bus: where do they go in daytime? Surely they're not the same vehicles you see cruising down Bathurst, crawling up Yonge, while the sun's high in the sky? A night bus is a colder thing, frictionless and strange. It's brightly lit. The people inside are fading, or stirring, and after they're gone it's as if they were never there: the people of the city, the essence of it, dispersed to hidden workplaces or hidden away in bed. A night bus is a fleeting place and time and this song is as well - somewhere you can only remain for 7:20. It picks you up, it drops you off; you can't stay.
    78. Krystal Klear - "Neutron Dance" [buy]
      If robots ran on jam - tin-can machines with pectin-powered batteries, strawberry-scented servos, a convenient compatibility with peanut-butter - maybe then we'd all wake up together, the humans and the machines, to celebrate the morning with toast & "Neutron Dance." Part of a complete breakfast.
    79. Frankie Cosmos - "Jesse" [buy]
      This is a song about a conversation, Greta Kline explains in "Jesse"'s first verse - but immediately it leaves the frame of the conversation and goes into the ideas imagined there, the dreams turned over and remembered, as if the song is darting in the air above their heads, twisting between the figments of what's done and what's coming.
    80. Kim Petras - "All the Time"
      A song so sweet it'll make your teeth hurt. Petras is wrapped in foil, prancing across a stage, a girl without a past or a future - everything she's singing is a beautiful lie an she's singing it because it sounds right, or it sounds good, the kind of things a person might feel if they weren't too busy prancing, too busy tucking foil under their bra-strap, or behind their ear.
    81. Kacey Musgraves - "High Horse" [buy]
      I was not particularly smitten with Kacey Musgraves' turn toward a pan-generic country pop. Artists with the gift of vision should be able to indulge that vision, making songs like no one else. As much as I enjoy it, "High Horse" could as easily be the work of Katy Perry or Taylor Swift or even the likes of Jewel. But I shouldn't be too hard on a song I still like a lot: the Cardigans-like sheen of the guitars and strings, the handsome chestnut canter of the chorus's heart. And especially the splendid use of triangle, tinkling teensily while Musgraves sings about a tall pony.
    82. Snail Mail -"Heat Wave" [buy]
      The rippling thwack of an August heat wave; the thrum of a love that's at the edges of your summer, just out of reach. Lindsey Jordan's noisy, technicolour rock'n'roll feels strangely at-a-distance, as if she's describing the sunset before it falls.
    83. Burna Boy ft J Hus - "Sekkle Down" [buy]
      Nigeria's Burna Boy makes a song like this sound as easy as water flowing downhill.
    84. Pierre Lapointe - "Mon prince charmant" [buy]
      A love song that begins on the morning David Bowie died. Despite the stately string arrangements there's a loucheness to Lapointe's voice, to the way he observes his lover swimming - "like a David Hockney painting" - in the pool. He always sounds like he's holding something back, something unfit for polite company. Maybe he'll write it down, tuck the message into Prince Charming's towel.
    85. IU - "삐삐 (BBIBBI)" [video]
      Finally, a K-pop song about maintaining strong boundaries around social media. Filled with prrs and clinks, ringtones and pager-beeps, it tells a story of rejecting gossip, ignoring DMs. The chorus is a blinking line in the sand: "Yellow C-A-R-D," IU sings. "If you cross this line, it's a violation - beep." After 10 years atop the charts, IU doesn't need to put up with hashtag bullshit.
    86. Forth Wanderers - "Company" [buy]
      Sweet, clamorous and spasmodic punk rock - a song that swings on a wire from distance to intimacy and back, close and far and close again, as if it's tracking Ava Trilling indecision, her decision not to decide.
    87. Zen Bamboo - "Boys and Girls" [buy]
      A Strokes homage from Québec City - a world-weary singer and his band of plaid-clad rockers, all of them willing to stay up as late as it takes, but only as late as that. Then they'll go to bed. (Thanks Julia!)
    88. Chance the Rapper - "I Might Need Security" [soundcloud]
      A rap song about kingdom-making: not the acquisition of wealth but the distribution of justice, Chance telling us the ways he's reimagining Chicago, the people he wants out and the citizens he wants to call back in, the monuments he wants up (hint: it's a monument to himself). And all of it over a glorious gospel sample - the gospel, that is, of get the fuck outta here.
    89. Michael Feuerstack - "Before You Wake Up" [buy]
      Some advice from Montreal's most wise and useless advice-giver. One of Feuerstack's secrets is that if you ask him for directions, he always points to the closest stop-sign. There's no malice to it: Mikey only wants the best for you. He just knows how little he knows, knows you'd rather he sound convincing.
    90. Chaka Khan - "Like Sugar" [video]
      An old man in a blue blazer dancing til his shoes squeak.
    91. Teyana Taylor - "3Way" [buy]
      This is a very nice song about having a three-way.
    92. Mr Twin Sister - "Jaipur" [buy]
      A feverish groove, full of subtle touches. Andrea Estella's voice twists and trembles over a stylish hand-drum beat. Strings and flute, snatches of sax and dub, while she sings a dream of true love.
    93. Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke - "God" [buy]
      A Ride of the Valkyries for mutant forces: superheroes zooming through thunderclouds, lasers lightninging out of their eyes.
    94. Major Lazer ft Burna Boy - "All My Life" [buy]
      Although I'm a fan of Major Lazer, there's a dutifulness to many of their songs: the sense of a procedure started and seen through. "All My Life" is much more interesting than the headline suggests - not just a competent Afrobeat-by-numbers but something oddly dignified, almost solemn, its tin-can grooves built around a dry, deliberate brass section.
    95. Panda Bear - "Dolphin" [buy]
      Panda Bear's just floating on a VR lake, singing like a melting cartoon character.
    96. Born Ruffians - "Side Tracked" [buy]
      Born Ruffians' band of merry men is finally reunited. Throwing axes at a wall, snatching harmonies out of the air, studying the geometry of roots-rock and R&B and then using the same math to make something sparer, not a luxury yacht but a raft.
    97. Westerman - "Confirmation" [soundcloud]
      Synth-pop under northern light, cerulean-blue.
    98. Tracyanne & Danny - "Jacqueline" [buy]
      Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell and Crybaby's Danny Coughlan offer up a chiffony country duet, a waltz for just inside the cemetery gates.
    99. Kids See Ghosts - "Kids See Ghosts" [buy]
      There are no real ghosts in Kids See Ghosts' "Kids See Ghosts." Any phantoms are of the Scooby-Doo variety - millionaire developers hiding behind paintings, would-be Instagram influencers noodling on the theremin. It's a song that feels like a children's illustrated mystery - smudgy paintings of old houses and neighbours' kitties, spectacled faces peeking through windows. But there's still something spooky to it - at least until Kanye West arrives, ruining the hard work of Kid Cudi and Yasiin Bey, a drunk uncle streaking magic-marker over the pictures.
    100. Jennah Barry - "Roller Disco" [buy]
      I've been to two roller rinks in my life - one in Québec, QC, the other in Atlanta, GA. Barry's "Roller Disco"'s more the former than the latter, but in a way it's a tribute to all the ways roller rinks are the same: the revolutions of the skaters, the orbits of the disco ball, adolescent love-scenes spinning through the evening. I like that Barry doesn't clutter the song with reverb, or drench the song in strings. Just the same old story the same old way, new despite it all.
    So that's 2018's century of songs, or the way they seem today. There are others that didn't quite make it, that I wish I were pointing you to too, and there will be so many I've missed. Maybe make your own suggestions in the comments or on Twitter.

    Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. (Invest in things that are important.) Be kind with each other, be brave, undo what harm you can. Remember: music's good for the heart.

    See you soon.

    Posted by Sean at December 18, 2018 12:04 PM

    This is seriously the point at which the festive period begins for me. First there will be the ritual combining of the folders, then the customary persuasion of iTunes to group the songs together, and finally a week of glorious music with frequent StG visits to get the full annotated experience.

    At the end of it all, there's usually a handful of tracks that take over my playlists and mixtapes for the following year, but which never fail to anchor me to the precise moment they entranced me for the first time (Rokia Traoré: wrapping a present in my childhood bedroom; Caribou: forgetting to get off a bus in Exmouth Market; Hurray For The Riff Raff: crossing a wind-blasted park as old friends appeared on the horizon).

    A podcaster recently tweeted "it is wild to remember that sound is a physical touch." Thank you Sean & the gang for continuing to find and write about and share the songs that touch the most keenly.

    Posted by KC at December 18, 2018 1:14 PM

    I'm grateful for the work you -- all of you -- do to make this blog, and I'm glad you're going to continue.

    And Sean, your year-end list has been an annual musical highlight for me for about a decade now. Thank you for sharing your "bad" taste.

    Posted by Aimee at December 18, 2018 4:58 PM

    Yes, yes, yes! Thank you, Sean and Co. and congrats on covering another year of amazing tunes.


    Posted by Ramon at December 18, 2018 7:34 PM

    Made up the list in GM, too ... thank you thank you for this, a highlight of my year :)

    Posted by Andrew at December 19, 2018 9:52 AM

    Thank you Sean!
    Loved your lists since almost the beginning.
    Mixtapes with the Silver Jews, I love it, What could be better??

    Posted by joe at December 19, 2018 11:00 PM

    I got a lot of joy out of checking out this list the past two nights. THANK YOU!

    Posted by Justin at December 19, 2018 11:23 PM

    THANKS for sharing, not only for the song list, but for the interesting album picks as well.

    Posted by Billy at December 20, 2018 4:06 PM

    On top of the music, there's always some writing that sticks with me and this year it might be describing rhythm as "a series of keys fitting into locks."

    Posted by brendan at December 21, 2018 11:05 AM

    I've really been looking forward to this as it has proved over the last few years to be the best place for me to find new discoveries, and I will doubtless end up using some of them in my 2018 mix. Thanks for putting in the time to put this together again and Merry Christmas!

    Posted by James at December 25, 2018 5:50 PM

    I have drunk at this well since 2007. Your selections and prose, the bands and artists, the photos have been an ever-reliable source of joy for me - and I'm not being hyperbolic. This is still the best music blog out there. I have long stopped believing one band or artist could save my life so I love the eclecticism here - music which has passion and craftsmanship, no matter what genre, no matter from where, no matter who. Please don't let this blog fade. That would be a real loss for me and, I'm sure, for many others.

    Posted by Richard Smith at December 27, 2018 12:13 AM

    I look forward to this post every year!!! I am so happy you continue to produce it. I always discover new (to me) artists this way. Thank you!

    Posted by Vanessa at December 27, 2018 9:52 PM

    Thank you Sean & co. For this best of. For continuing (in the face of algorithms and all the rest). For confirming I did not miss out on all the best songs of 2018 (I admit to some solid fist pumps and/or private dabs when I first scanned the list), but for also finding some that I know will be my best songs of 2019. And some I'm less into so far, but that I'm open to considering... Which is part of the magic. With gratitude & best wishes, Mx

    Posted by Michelle at December 28, 2018 1:04 AM

    An annual highlight for me, I kept checking for this list with no results. I had thought that you had ended posting your best of list (the last post was from July), but lo and behold! One more check today and it's here! Now I have to make up for lost time and start listening. I'm happy to read that STG will be making changes but will still be around. Honestly, I don't come here often except for the year end list but with the new format I will make the effort to start following more regularly. All the best to you, Sean + co. in the new year!

    Posted by Budman at December 28, 2018 1:21 PM

    Thank you Sean & co. For this best of. For continuing (in the face of algorithms and all the rest). For confirming I did not miss out on all the best songs of 2018 (I admit to some solid fist pumps and/or private dabs when I first scanned the list), but for also finding some that I know will be my best songs of 2019. And some I'm less into so far, but that I'm open to considering... Which is part of the magic. With gratitude & best wishes, Mx

    Posted by Michelle at December 29, 2018 11:35 PM

    Thank you for putting this list together every year - it's a little celebration every time it comes out! My boyfriend and I are looking forward to it every time and continue catching up on the albums and artists we've missed well into the new year. Thank you!

    Posted by Dima at December 31, 2018 9:10 AM

    Thankyou, Sean and the gang. As others have said, a real highlight of the year's end. The perfect thing to pour into that strange void between the end of one thing, Christmas, and the beginning of another.

    Posted by James C Mitchell at December 31, 2018 10:33 AM

    Enjoyed these songs but how good it would be if more male singers stopped taking pride in not hitting a note. Singing flat and croaking should not be mistaken for autheticity. Edward Droste's shoulders are only so wide.

    Posted by Richard Smith at December 31, 2018 10:13 PM

    Thank you.

    Posted by Matt Forsythe at January 2, 2019 12:52 PM

    Very glad to see this tradition maintained - and a new direction forward for StG.

    Posted by Matthew at January 2, 2019 2:52 PM

    Thank you so much for doing this every year. I always look forward to it and discover a ton of great music. Gonna savour it for as long as I can.

    Posted by Jessie at January 3, 2019 10:59 AM

    This human loves this human-selected list. Every year since 2009 it's a December highlight. Profound gratitude to STG.

    Posted by Deanna at January 5, 2019 2:58 PM

    +1 to all the comments above; I love this year-end list, both for the introduction to new musical notes as well as the commentary notes that add accents and umlauts to my appreciation of the tunes themselves.

    Posted by amy at January 9, 2019 5:19 PM

    It's just not Christmas without this! Thank you for posting! It's very hard to find new *downloadable* music these days. Yours was the first blog I found back in the day, and I'm still here, appreciating everything you find!

    Posted by kristin at January 12, 2019 1:21 PM

    Late to the party, but just wanted to add my gratitude as well. The StG top 100 is the one list I always look forward to each year, and just as always I discovered several great new artists/songs that I had never heard of. Can't wait for the essays!

    Posted by Sytze at January 14, 2019 7:02 AM

    StG has been my favorite site to read about music for over a decade.

    I consistently tuck away bits and pieces of the wonderful writing you all do, and find myself returning every now and then to certain posts and songs I've discovered here.

    So glad to hear this good thing is lasting.

    P.S. thrilled to see "Pretty Little Fears" and "GTFO" on this list! J. Cole's love letter of a verse was my favorite all year, and Mariah has perhaps never been better.

    Posted by Philana at January 30, 2019 4:13 AM

    I've been downloading these lists for about a decade since I was a preteen, and every year I fall in love with so much of what you post. Thank you so much!!!

    Posted by Meaghan at February 6, 2019 6:38 PM

    I've just stumbled upon this list (well, this blog), it's already summer, and many of these songs are not even my cup of tea. BUT...
    But I feel happier and richer, because the words and the sounds took me through a journey. I can smell the truth, the humanity, the love behind each and every selection.
    This was great and I guess I'll be coming back for more!

    Posted by BigSur at June 7, 2019 10:41 PM

    Chiming in with my high praise! Sean, as always, every year, as far back as I can remember, I relish this best-of list. It's the perfect compliment to my own music tastes, which lean towards the electronic spectrum. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    And for anyone else wanting an alternative list of tracks of 2019, with an electronic bent, check this selection out:

    Posted by Blair Millen at January 16, 2020 9:47 AM

    Thanks so much, Sean (and team)! These lists are always a joy to explore every year.

    Friendly note: 33. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s track is linked to “Her Arrival” instead of “Ancestral Recall” here and on the Spotify playlist.

    Best of luck in 2020!

    Posted by Ramon Esquivel at January 17, 2020 3:08 PM

    Post a comment

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners

our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny