So, why don’t you giddy up, giddy up
And ride straight out of this town
You and your high horse
You and your high horse…
Summing up the year in music is never an easy task, but I could see myself singing the above lines to any number of people in 2018, first among them that interloper in the White House. Let’s hope he takes it to heart in 2019.
In any case, as I have for done for the last five years, here are some of my favorite songs and videos from the past year. I’ll leave it to you to guess who is an angel and who is a cowboy.
Best in Births: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, “Shallow” (A Star Is Born). Even people who didn’t love this film or song as much as I did (and do) seem to agree that the moment when Cooper and Gaga are first on stage together to sing “Shallow” is one of the best movie moments of the year. I loved a lot of the music in the film, and it didn’t hurt that I watched it at a special screening at Dolby Laboratories, but this is the video I could watch over and over. And I have.
Best in Broncos: Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse” (Golden Hour). I think Same Trailer Different Park remains my favorite Musgraves album, but Golden Hour has a number of gems, particularly if you like her mellower stuff. Besides “High Horse” below, I recommend “Butterflies”, “Space Cowboy”, and “Wonder Woman”.
Best in Bobs and Bettyes: Bettye Lavette, “Things Have Changed” (Things Have Changed). Who would have thought I’d like an album of Bob Dylan covers? But there were actually quite a few songs on Things Have Changed that I felt were worth owning, especially the title song below. For something on the softer side, try “Going Going Gone”.
Best in Black Girl Magic: Janelle Monáe, “Django Jane” (Dirty Computer). While the Prince-inflected “Make Me Feel” is perhaps the obvious choice from Dirty Computer, the feminist message of “Django Jane” and the look of this video just won me over.
Best in Big Gods: Florence + The Machine, “Big God” (High as Hope). As my favorite Florence + The Machine songs tend to do, this song haunts me in the best way. When you can write a song this good about someone not replying to your text, you are a certified genius.
Best in Bourbon: Cody Jinks, “Must Be the Whiskey” (Lifers). If you like your cowboys to be pure country, you won’t find much better than Cody Jinks. “Desert Wind” was another highlight on this album.
Best in Brandis: Brandi Carlile, “Every Time I Hear That Song” (By the Way, I Forgive You). Choosing a song to feature from Brandi Carlile’s By the Way, I Forgive You was perhaps the most difficult choice in this list. I loved “The Mother” and “Most of All” just as much.
Best in Beyoncé: The Carters, “Apes**t” (Everything Is Love). This is one of those songs that is nothing without the video, but the video is absolutely incredible so here it is. Recontextualizing centuries of Western art to comment on everything from colonization to our consumption culture and her place in it is pure Beyoncé, even if her husband shows up too.
Best in Barcelona: Rosalía, “Malamente” (El mal querer). I mean, sure, I usually feature a French song here somewhere, but this captured my “world music” heart this year.
Best in the Basin: Buddy, “Trouble on Central” (Something to Tell You). For the part of my spirit that lives in the Los Angeles Basin, this captures a side of the city that I never knew existed until about five years ago.
Best in Benadryl: Sofi Tukker, “Benadryl” (Treehouse). A song about Benadryl, you say? Why yes, I say! Do I have any idea what this song means? Why no, I do not! And it’s not because I don’t speak Portuguese.
Best in Bathroom Walls: CHVRCHES, “Graffiti” (Love Is Dead). After Bettye LaVette’s Things Have Changed, CHVRCHES’ Love Is Dead is the 2018 album I now own the most songs from. “Graves” was also in contention here.
Best in Breakups: Glen Hansard, “Movin’ On” (Between Two Shores). After discovering Glen Hansard through The Swell Season and Once, I have been somewhat disappointed with his solo work. However, this album has a few good selections, including this heartfelt number.
Best in Breakthroughs: Dirty Projectors, “Break-Thru” (Lamp Lit Prose). If you need a light, up-tempo song to recover from the emotion of Hansard’s “Movin’ On” above, look no further than this confection from Dirty Projectors.
Best in Breakdowns: Childish Gambino, “This Is America” (single). It was not surprising that the video for “This Is America” went viral. Besides its catchy hook, the provocation and production values were off the charts. My favorite versions of the song are those that break down the complex images and lyrics of this incredible performance.
Finally, as often seems to happen with favorite band First Aid Kit, it was hard to pick a single from their latest album, Ruins. So, please enjoy this playlist of six of them:
Other runners-up for favorite singles were Buddy Guy, “Guilty as Charged” (The Blues Is Alive and Well), Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, “Middle America” (Sparkle Hard), Mountain Men, “Boat” (Magic Ship), serpentwithfeet, “Whisper” (soil), and Jorja Smith, “Tomorrow” (Lost & Found).
For previous Year in Music round-ups, see
Unapologetic B*tch: The Year in Music (2014)
Surf’s Up: The Year in Music (2015)
The Year in Music 2015: Missing Links
Getting in Formation: The Year in Music (2016)
Shadow, Take Me Down: The Year in Music (2017)
*Note to email subscribers, there is embedded video in this post that may not appear in your email. Please click through to the actual post to see the complete list of selections.