My top 10 songs of 2018

For the eighth year in a row here I am composing this list to post on here. Why do I do it? Well there’s lots of great music made each year I like to share with you all, but also it’s nice at the end of each year to look back at what music moved me for various reasons. I hear a lot of songs each year, but these are ones that stuck as more than just background noise.


Carb On Carb – It’s Been a Rough Year


It was a bit of a rough year in some ways, but that’s not why I found myself craving emo music. That was just because I love that warm fuzzy guitar and yearning vocals. It can be hard though to find emo music that doesn’t sound like the ridiculous whining of broken-hearted white boys. Saving the day though was Auckland’s Carb On Carb with For Ages; where singer Nicole Gaffney explores the nuances of getting older – an experience which, whether we like to admit it or not, does tend to bring its emotional complications. And this song is just a good pep talk which we can all do with at times.


Shed – Poured Out


When this song started getting airplay on 4ZZZ in the middle of the year it raised questions – who was this mysterious “Shed”? I know I’m not as connected to the local scene as I used to be, but still it seemed the band appeared from nowhere with this beautiful and odd song. Turns out band members are spread across the country, but I did get to see them play once before the end of the year. The whole record Terrestrial Stress is good, but this is still the highlight with its bare guitar and violin sound and bizarre nature poetry.


Hanny J – Trying to Get By


No longer do we in Brisbane get the regular joy of seeing Hanny J perform in her many musical projects. She is living down in Melbourne and touring the world with punk rockers Clowns. But she also found time for a solo EP this year, and it was typically great wholehearted punk rock. Definitely my highlight was this song – on a theme way too familiar for those who’ve hung around the punk scene for a while, but sadly relevant to so many people everywhere: “knowing the people who make me want to live want to die”.


Bombino – Ouhlin


Since Tinariwen discovered guitars in their Algerian refugee camp back in the 70’s, Sahara’s nomadic Tuareg people have been making some of the most interesting rock music on the planet. The style has evolved over the years, and while a band like Tinariwen is often compared to the blues, young upstart Bombino plays a style that, while distinctively Tuareg, recalls psychedelic rock with its funky drumbeats and endless guitar soloing. I was very stoked to get to see Bombino in Brisbane in November as it’s pretty rare for Tuareg bands to make it out to this part of the world. The show was brilliant, as was his album Deran.


The Gametes – Man of Thumbs


Who knew that what the Brisbane music scene was crying out for in 2018 was a group of nerdy looking young guys dressing up and making a dystopian science fiction surf-punk concept album?

But everything The Gametes did this year was amazing. Hilarious social media posts (the band claims they are merely a front for the power-hungry Takiyama Corporation); energetic and visually interesting gigs; amazing videos (one of which is above, another caused a storm when the Brisbane City Council edited from it the words “male impotence”, and one show I saw them play involved them playing an instrumental soundtrack to a bizarre film of their own making); and ultimately their album The Astronomical Calamities Of Comet Jones.

Their creativity, humour and intelligence was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, they broke up immediately after the release of their album, with members moving overseas. Still, maybe better to burn brightly for a short time than to work yourself to a demoralising end like Comet Jones.


Petrol Girls – Survivor


This year there were a number of songs that emerged from female artists in response to the MeToo movement making visible the extent of sexual assault.  It made for powerful listening, which is certainly how I’d describe this ferocious track from British/Austrian punks Petrol Girls.

I have to admit I’m not sure how I personally feel about the idea of a vengeful coven as a method of change, or even with the idea of anger as a redemptive force. But damn it’s such a great song.


The Hold Steady – Eureka


Fourteen years after the release of their first album, The Hold Steady this year released a series of singles, sporadically appearing on their bandcamp. At this stage it’s probably unwise for anyone to hold their breath waiting for the band to top their masterpiece from 2006 Boys and Girls in America. But for fans, each new single is like catching up with an old friend – those familiar cheesy classic rock riffs with a wisecracking narrator telling tragic tales of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. This was my favourite.


Teri Young – Cruise Ship


A personal musical highlight of 2018 for me was going on a tour of the east coast in March with Teri Young. We played mostly house shows, often in country towns, which was a great medium to do folk music in. It also meant I got very well acquainted with the songs off Teri’s just released album. Her songs are beautiful in how they explore the significance of incidents in everyday life – and this her love song to Hobart is an example of what it means to be attached to a place. Teri was up in Brisbane to play at my own album launch later in the year, which was lovely too.


Toko Telo – Oka Niny


For many years I’ve enjoyed the beautiful music of D’Gary – a self-taught guitar virtuoso from rural Madagascar who back in the 90’s just happened to cross paths with an American music producer and didn’t even own a guitar when he recorded his first album. His music is often hard to find, so it was a delight to this year discover some of his classic songs re-recorded with Madagascan supergroup Toko Telo; where D’Gary is joined by the diva-like voice of Monika Njava and electric guitarist Joël Rabesolo. D’Gary’s guitar playing is as always extraordinary, the songs are great; and while this one’s probably not actually my favourite track, the opportunity to see the group jamming out on a video like this is a joy. Also, the phrase “Oka Niny” means “Go, Girl”; which is pretty great.


Outright – Repeat/Defeat


Sadly, it appears neo-nazi ideologies never go completely out of style, as Outright point out in this song (“History repeats itself/Defeats itself“). Fortunately though, neither does hardcore punk – exhibit A being Outright’s wonderful EP of crushing old-school hardcore released this year. It seems many agree, as I see them appearing on all kinds of festival lineups. When they came up to Brisbane to play at Common House headlining a bill of female-fronted punk bands, it was an awesome show that reminded me why I love this music. And this song is just immense.

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