Tag-team top 10

Taking turns with favorite songs from 2018

“This is America”

“This is America”

Five on five:
Stream Howard and Jason’s shared play list at tinyurl.com/tagteamten

Maria,” Kerala Dust: This dark dance jam by Edmund Kenny, a London-based songwriter who produces electronic music under the name Kerala Dust, is paced by a heartbeat thud rather than the big, brash kick drum that drives most EDM tracks. Kenny’s singing sounds like a whisper over your shoulder, drawing you into a warm, if unsettling, soundworld light years away from the club music you’re used to. –H.H.

“Wide Awake,” Parquet Courts: Innovative New York guitar group brings in Danger Mouse to produce its latest album and lets the funk flag fly. The defining jam is the title track, a people’s anthem with lively, catchy guitar and bass riffs, a sing-along chorus and dancing-in-the-streets New Orleans second-line vibe, complete with whistle and cowbell. –J.C.

“Buzzing in the Light,” Dr. Dog: Co-vocalist Toby Leaman waxes poetic on the mysterious depths of the universe on this standout track from the band’s latest, Critical Equation, which encapsulates the long-running psych-rock outfit’s newfound affinity for slow and spacious songs. –H.H.

“Make Me Feel,” Janelle Monáe: If anyone needed any more proof that Monáe is the rightful heir to Prince’s funky crown, this fierce, fun, catchy and sexy-as-hell dance-pop instant classic will set them straight. –J.C.

“Midway,” Bad Bad Hats: On this single that sounds like a lost 1990s alt-rock radio hit, Bad Bad Hats frontwoman Kerry Alexander toys with the listener’s expectations, taking her sugary-sweet, pure-sounding melodies in surprising directions and showing off her wide-ranging songwriting chops. –H.H.

“Pristine,” Snail Mail: Snail Mail is at the top of an impressive list of female-led noisy guitar groups—a list that included Camp Cope, Hop Along, Soccer Mommy and Thin Lips—that ruled the indie-verse in 2018. And this bittersweet love song from teen songwriter/bandleader Lindsey Jordan is all infectious vocal melodies and jangly-meets-discordant guitar energy. And it’s just about perfect. –J.C.

“Virgo,” Atmosphere: Few artists are better suited to capture the direness of modern existence than Slug, the introspective MC half of indie-rap duo Atmosphere. “Virgo,” the somber first single from Mi Vida Local, contains sobering observations about climate change or the nuclear apocalypse or whatever is threatening humanity’s existence right now. Slug raps, “Like fuck it, you can sacrifice me to the weather/If you promise that you’ll let my songs live forever.” –H.H.

“Punk Kid,” Joan of Arc: Prolific indie/experimental trailblazers from Chicago take another turn on their latest album, 1984, bringing in visual artist Melina Ausikaitis to sing. The vaguely Appalachian-sounding a capella tunes she’d been collecting for years were treated with a wide range of ambient textures and field recordings, with the most mesmerizing being this meditative number: “All my life, I’ve been eating shit/Look at me, I’m a real punk kid.” –J.C.

“Killshot,” Eminem: Detroit rapper Machine Gun Kelly poked a sleeping tiger by releasing the exhaustive diss track “Rap Devil,” calling out Eminem for his weird beard, being “sober and bored” and other offenses related to being a middle-aged rapper. Em responded with the razor-sharp “Killshot,” dissecting MGK’s disses and reconstructing them for his own evil purposes. The real winners, though, were hip-hop heads with an appetite for beef. –H.H.

“This Is America,” Childish Gambino: Both a hard-hitting trap jam and an upbeat pop tune that—with much help from its accompanying visceral video—challenges with its juxtaposition of the beauty of black culture with the ugliness of gun violence in America. It’s a masterful work of art that gets its point across by making us dance in the streets as the bullets whiz by. Song of the year. (Side note: For me, the only other music that responded as powerfully and effectively to the chaos of the Trump era was Low’s unsettling somber/glitchy Double Negative album, a masterpiece from which no one song could be singled out.) –J.C.