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Rose In Harlem
Teyana Taylor’s Kanye-produced K.T.S.E. may have been marred by rush release and a lack of clarity around it, but it contains some of the best R&B of the year. ‘Rose In Harlem’ samples a Stylistics song that brings the song’s emotional anchor and Taylor’s vocals cement the song’s connection with the idea of growth in a barren landscape suggesting graft and inspiration.
Produced by Andy Ferguson and Matt McBriar of Bicep, ‘Overtime’ sees Ware return to her dancier, uptempo roots that were more prevalent on her debut album Devotion than on recent material. The anthemic song boasts an irresistible bass line and chorus melody which, combined with Ware’s breathy vocals makes for a captivating first listen.
Drip feat. Migos
Salsa isn’t my vibe so Cardi’s ‘I Like It’ does very little for me. ‘Drip’ was my favourite track on Invasion of Privacy, a song that lifted the listener up with hyped energy, hooks and old-fashioned odes to fancy jewellery that you’d find yourself walking around the house repeating. Drip drip.
‘Again’, the opening track from The Art Of Pretending To Swim, finds a sweet spot for acoustic-lead folk music and textured production. It’s a song about renewal and readying yourself to create. It’s a hopeful song. “I’ve found again a place in my heart again / For God again / in the form of Art again.”
Bad Bad News
The Texan soul sensation hit the big time this year. Granted, Good Thing had to take on a far poppier sound for Bridges to get there. Still though, tracks like jazz-inspired ‘Bad Bad News’ show what a cool, calm and collected artist Bridges really can be.
Street Fighter Mas
A highlight from the new jazz vanguard’s sprawling triple album Heaven and Earth. ‘Street Fighter Mas’ is a tune of celestial choir-lead cosmic jazz brilliance.
Ross From Friends
Pisstake experimentalism? New age fakery? Chris Morris-esque japery? On the surface, John Cage, the song from 24-year-old Felix Weatherall is a joke track with a narrator spouting new age pleasantries over an aquatic ambient track. But on second and third plays, this six-minute song unfolds into something that transcends its parts on paper. A repeating vocal is the hook, a simplistic link into this weird and wonderful track on the Brainfeeder label.
Jon Hopkins’ fifth album is release that has two approaches – nuanced and textured dance music with largesse and elongated ambient passages. The title track is an example of the bridging of both, and heard on a well-calibrated soundsystem, the song is humongous in its execution.
British nu-funk duo Jungle’s long-awaited second LP offers plenty to be pleased about. ‘Heavy, California’ is probably the best of the bunch. Three minutes of grandiose disco-infused grooves and slick melodies, all polished to a gleam, with another top video to go with it.
Make Me Feel
The tightrope-walking singer Janelle Monáe has spent the last few years building her successful acting career with appearances in Hidden Figures and Moonlight. Her success in her new field meant that it was easy to forget the magnetic musician on display until the poppy Dirty Computer sent out a strong reminder of her ambitious streak. Personally, Dirty Computer didn’t move me in the main, but this sleek, slinky, sexy ode to Monáe’s hero and mentor Prince did.
Four Out Of Five
Writing a concept album about a hotel on the moon seems like a strange direction for the world’s biggest rock band to go down. Yet, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino has more than its fair share of golden moments. ‘Four Out Of Five’ is the best among them, showcasing the expansion the group have made on the songwriting front. There’s a palpable sense of sexual tension on this woozy standout.
Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa
The Pop song of the summer.
Illumination (feat. Róisín Murphy)
There was a time where Róisín Murphy seemed to feature on someone else’s track every other week, but no matter the volume or situation, the Wicklow singer’s voice has been a treat for the ears since the days of Moloko and Sing It Back. On ‘Illumination’, she adds some human soul to the German producer’s glacial and mechanical dance production. “I need a bit of light here,” Murphy quips on the track as if narrating her presence.
If You Know, You Know
The G.O.O.D. music president finally got around to releasing a solo project in 2018. Surprisingly, Daytona is far more self-reflective than we’re used to from the MC. ‘If You Know You Know’ is the exception to that rule. This track is three minutes of ego-driven fire atop Kanye’s explosive beat. A high point for hip-hop in 2018.
070 Shake comes through with an absolutely gorgeous vocal performance to give us one of the most unabashed messages of self-affirmation and self-love of 2018. The New Jersey singer’s vocal builds on John Legend and Kid Cudi’s contributions by reflecting the song’s destructive but breakthrough second half. “I put my hand on a stove / to see if I still bleed / and nothing hurts anymore / I feel kinda free,” she sings with ecstatic purgation.
With Turkish, Bajan (of Barbados) and Irish blood, Yanya’s music sits between soul and indie, the former drawn from her undulating voice, the latter from the guitar that often accompanies it. ‘Baby Luv’ is a conflicted song about an ex-lover and the anguish is palpable. The chorus asks “Again, again, again, again / Do you like pain?,” repeatedly, before Nilüfer offers a way back. “You’re still beautiful / I could watch you comb your hair / call me sometime.”
Everybody’s Coming to My House
It’s almost offensive when people say David Byrne still has it, of course he does – he keeps proving it, whether it’s live, on record or in his writing. ‘Everybody’s Coming To My House’ is taken from his American Utopia LP. The track highlights Byrne’s keen interest in the intersection between theatre and music, there’s a musical-esque quality to its structure and sound design where he melds acoustic textures, brass and Afrobeat textures with his trademark pop songwriting.
‘Fun’ and the video which accompanies it is the perfect example of the wry socio-political commentary in Vince Staples mini-LP. A razor-edged focused snapshot, lyrically and visually into the cycle of violence and poverty many African-Americans endure and the white suburban kids who often idealise it.
20-year-old Nashville songwriter Sophie Allison has been building a reputation for her bedroom indie-pop music and ‘Your Dog’ is her earworm. “I don’t wanna be your f–king dog that you drag around,” Allison sings resolutely of a failing relationship.
In My View
Young Fathers seem immune anyone outside their clique, operating as a gang who were more interested in offering genuine healing through music that crosses rap, gospel and lo-fi sonics. ‘In My View’ is a idiosyncratic uplifting gem from these outliers on their superb third record Cocoa Sugar.