Next up in our year end lists, we look at the songs that mightn’t have had a chance in the spotlight, but stand just as highly (perhaps even more so) as their single counterparts – these are the best deep cuts of 2018.
Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
5. Panic! At The Disco – Dying In LA
Far be it for Brendon Urie to simply tone things down at any point, Dying In LA instead repurposes all of Pray For The Wicked’s glitz for this closer, a swan song to the crushed hopes of stardom that had been inflated to unfathomable size, and then brought crashing down by a Hollywood lifestyle that became too much to handle and the seedy, fickle underbelly began to shine through. Thematically, it’s the perfect way to round off an album like Pray For The Wicked where the debauchery had spent the majority of the time bubbling over, but with a stately, delicate piano line and gauzy strings, it feels like the naturally sombre conclusion to such an arc, and executed in the best way possible. For as divisive as Panic! At The Disco’s output this year has proven to be, the unanimous consensus has been around how great this song is, and it’s easy to see why.
4. Judas Priest – Never The Heroes
A not-insignificant amount of the appeal of Judas Priest’s Never The Heroes might be due to the fact that it’s from a band nearly fifty years into their career who are still hitting heights like this, and really, if this was from a much younger band, it mightn’t have quite as much resonance in that field. That said, that context makes the reasoning still perfectly valid, particularly given the curse that tends to afflict any band branded a legend, something that Judas Priest have deftly avoided with a stomping, raging and just overall fantastic metal song. Rob Halford sounds incredible on vocals, the mid-paced crunch really works for a band playing to these particular strengths, and while the lyrics do fall into the self-indulgent historical territory that quite a lot of Firepower similarly did, it’s a level of camp that feels totally natural for this band, and they can own it with no worries. It’s definitely a basic track, but no other metal veterans have released a song as good as this in years, and for where Judas Priest end up in the rankings of legacy acts, that speaks volumes.
3. itoldyouiwouldeatyou – Goodbye To All That
One of the wonderful things about itoldyouiwouldeatyou’s Oh Dearism is how many different songs resonated in different ways to different listeners, something that a lot of bands are just unable to muster. And while Greek Fire seems to be the popular consensus for the best song here, it says far more that Goodbye To All That, a glorified coda telling the story of the relationship between a rabbit and a hare, is able to stand as such a profoundly poignant and sad note. The discordant instrumentation certainly has a lot to do with that, especially given the tangled storm of thoughts and emotions that precede it, but the story itself is one of a strange amount of power, vivid in its imagery and setting but deeply relatable as an allegory for the sudden and unexplained loss of happiness, especially in the subtextual nods to the societal conditioning that this is all normal. And among all of that stands the keystone line “Happiness is often just as scary as sadness, because it is far easier to lose”, arguably the cornerstone of itoldyouiwouldeatyou’s ethos as it’s presented here and the sort of latent lyrical power that only the most special bands can achieve. If that doesn’t say everything about what itoldyouiwouldeatyou have in their wake, nothing does.
2. The Xcerts – First Kiss Feeling
As far as the biggest, most effervescent pop-rock songs possible go, somehow The Xcerts managed to cram nearly all of them into one album with Hold On To Your Heart, and while virtually anything from it could have made this list, First Kiss Feeling feels the most pertinent in encapsulating everything that makes this album such a joy. For one, the simplicity is just electric throughout, be that in the dashes of synth that push it into long-lost ‘80s pop ballad territory or the driving, fist-in-the-air gallop of the guitars that, when this band inevitably becomes a festival main stage staple, will sound just as life-affirming as it does here. And as for Murray Macleod, the Scottish Springsteen that he is, the heart that fills his yearning for someone to truly love him back is enough to make up multiple albums, and yet it never even feels close to being mawkish or insincere. If there’s such a thing as the perfect pop-rock song, this is probably it, because in that field right now, no one even comes close to The Xcerts.
1. The Wonder Years – Flowers Where Your Face Should Be
A lot of the reception to The Wonder Years’ Sister Cities this year was unfortunately lukewarm, and that doesn’t feel like a fair representation of a band taking the depth and emotion that was there all along into a more mature sound that might be less exuberant, but has all the hallmarks of the same great band. Just take Flowers Where Your Face Should Be for the definitive piece of evidence, a beautifully subdued track that shows the emotional resilience and versatility of this band at its highest peak, playing with delicate guitars and strings in a way that sounds absolutely remarkable alongside Dan Campbell’s cracking vocals, not to mention that one note towards the very end that condenses so much depth, vulnerability and love into one tangible moment. And for a track celebrating that love and the purity of it that remains such a universal, uniting factor, The Wonder Years capture the swelling, heartfelt atmosphere absolutely perfectly. It’s the standout proof of how great The Wonder Years really are, not just within their scene, but among every other band around
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
5. King Princess – Holy
Stunning breakout single 1950 is the song that has become synonymous with King Princess – it’s a love song paying tribute to the LGBT+ community having to keep their lives and relationships private decades ago. But the EP to which that song belongs also houses the stunning Holy. Holy is almost a modern day telling of the story in 1950 – she uses religious themes to describe a relationship. In it, she dominates her partner with love and sex, and the themes feel perfect and effective against the sleek, steady instrumentation. While the themes make Holy super interesting, it’s the gorgeous melodies that make it irresistible, and a talent and ear for writing such songs surely can’t be kept under wraps for much longer.
4. Chvrches – Graffiti
Love Is Dead saw Chvrches delve into more political lyrical themes, and as mixed as the critical reception has been to such a shift, it’s been pretty much unanimous that opener Graffiti is not only one of the best songs on the record, but of their entire career thus far. Using the metaphor of names scrawled on a bathroom stall, it encapsulates an all-too-relatable wistful feeling towards youth absolutely brilliantly. Lauren Mayberry’s soaring vocal married with the colourful dynamic synth lead helm a emotional rollercoaster – your mind will rush with nostalgia and your heart will swell any time the chorus kicks in. It’s a subject matter that will always be relevant, and Chvrches’ sound is the perfect one to get such emotions across.
3. The Aces – Stay
Albums that make it feel like summer no matter when you’re listening to them are essential to anyone’s music collection, and The Aces made 2018’s best one. While their guitar-led indie pop has an effortless California glow about them, the biggest highlight on their debut album When My Heart Felt Volcanic is deep cut Stay. A peppy, youthful ode to the talking stage of a relationship, it’s a great example of super simple songwriting creating maximum impact. Singer Cristal Ramirez is a super relatable narrator and especially effective when it comes to upping the ante on the heart-swelling post-chorus. It’s a brilliant song on a fantastically consistent album, and though every song has a similar effect to this one, the smile left after Stay is that tiny bit wider.
2. Black Foxxes – The Big Wild
If anyone upped their game this year, it’s Black Foxxes. Reiði houses evolved versions of their already excellent rock songs – this time they’re expanded, more ambitious and innovative compared to many of their peers in the same scene. The Big Wild is a lovely change of pace for the trio which showcases a pretty side plenty of fans probably didn’t know they had. The guitar lick that the song centers around is hypnotising and Mark Holley’s vocal, as well as the rest of the band’s super tight efforts later on, blends fantastically with the track’s ebbs and flows. It’s the type of songwriting that feels effortless despite the amount of work that has clearly gone into it, which is testament to just how vital Black Foxxes are in rock music right now.
1. Marmozets – Meant To Be
Marmozets’ stellar second record feels like a step-up from their acclaimed debut in every way – it’s more streamlined and honed than their debut, all without losing any of the bouncing-off-the-wall energy that made them such hot property in the first place. Meant To Be feels like a kick in the face, call to arms and on-your-feet bop all at once, mainly because it is. Becca McIntyre as always gives an excellent performance, flitting from rockstar screams to popstar “ooh”s, but Sam McIntyre’s guitar work really shines on this track, particularly in the brilliant breakdown at the end helmed by the electrifying riff that anchors everything. It’s not one of the songs on the album that feels innovative or different for whatever reason, but just a damn good rock song, something the music press perhaps doesn’t give enough credit whenever it’s due.