Here are the best songs of 2018's first quarter
From Annie Bass and Alice Ivy to Woodes and What So Not, 2018 has given us some real gems early on.
We're 25% into 2018, which means that 25% of 2018's best singles should've come out by now – right?
This reasoning might not be exactly accurate, but 2018 has gifted us a heap of brilliant singles thus far, and seeing as the end of March officially concludes the end of 2018's first quarter, we thought what better way to wrap up what's happened so far than a quick guide to the first few month's best tracks? Over the past three months, Australia's music world has really stepped up to the plate to deliver some of the best indie, rock, electronica and hip-hop we've heard from the country in years. Pair that with the rest of the world's equally impressive efforts, and you have one hell of a start of the year.
Pop music has had an incredible ride thus far, with Janelle Monáe and Troye Sivan both returning with some of the best songs of their careers in Make Me Feel and My My My!. Likewise, City Calm Down and Camp Cope, both releasing their second albums in 2018, have released some of the most powerful and emotionally charged rock music Australia has delivered with their efforts in Joan I'm Disappearing and The Face Of God (although Camp Cope's whole second album, How To Socialise And Make Friends, is ripper from start to finish). On the electronic side of things, HANDSOME, Dro Carey, and next-big-thing G Flip have each released some incredible music in the early months of 2018 – as has artists like Golden Vessel, Alice Ivy, What So Not and a whole heap more.
To summarise, 2018 has been absolutely wild on the new music front. So, in case you feel like you're missing something, here are our 20 favourite tracks of the year so far:
20. HTMLflowers – Spirit Double feat. Eilish Gilligan
After last year's incredible debut album Chrome Halo, Melbourne's HTMLflowers returned in 2018 with fellow superstar-in-the-making Eilish Gilligan for a woozy R&B number Spirit Double. Combining the talents of two of Australia's most thrilling acts, Spirit Double is a gaze into an exciting and diverse future for Australian music – a future we're overjoyed to be witnessing with Spirit Double and every release from HTMLflowers and Eilish as they continue to strive.
19. What So Not – Beautiful feat. Winona Oak
One of 2018's big electronic albums came from our own What So Not, who finally committed to the album format with a sensational and varied release in Not All The Beautiful Things. Beautiful is the strongest single from the album, with What So Not teaming up with vocalist Winona Oak for a house-leaning anthem which we can see dominating the dance music market over the next few years. Just try not get swept up in that charging breakdown.
18. Woodes – Origami
Melbourne's Woodes is an artist that has always impressed us, and as far as 2018 goes, our favourite single from her has to be Origami. It's a single remarkably clever in its songwriting, with the continually rising musician cramming as many origami/paper-folding references as possible above the song's chiming, three-minute duration. Taken from her new EP Golden Hour, Origami proved why Woodes has become one of Australia's growing highlights, and why she's tipped to be one of the next big things by so many.
17. Alice Ivy – Chasing Stars feat. Bertie Blackman
Taken from another incredible Australian electronic album in 2018, Chasing Stars is the perfect starting point if you're yet to be acquainted with the magical, sample-filled world of Melbourne's Alice Ivy. Combining light melodies and a driving percussion line with heavy sampling and Bertie Blackman's soaring guest vocals, Alice Ivy's Chasing Stars begs for comparisons with highlights from acts like The Avalanches. Except you know, Alice Ivy doesn't wait 15 odd years between releases – so really, she's probably better.
16. Cosmo's Midnight – Get To Know feat. Winston Surfshirt
Previewed live at Falls Festival, Get To Know was one hell of a way to start Cosmo's Midnight's 2018. Featuring unexpected 2017 stand-out Winston Surfshirt on vocals, Get To Know sees the Sydney electronic twins veer into funk-fuelled territory with incredible results, proving why Cosmo's Midnight are worth their place in Australia's electronic market – especially when it comes to their craft of consistently releasing anthems for the D-floor and at home too.
15. Annie Bass & Christopher Port – Thrown Away
Annie Bass and Christopher Port are two of our favourite emerging Australian electronic acts, which is why we were stoked to see them join forces this year for a new two-track. Thrown Away is the better track of the pair, with Annie Bass' bold and confident vocals standing tall above Christopher Port's percussion-soaked production that oozes with his signature garage-esque flavour. We had high hopes for a collaboration between the pair, and Thrown Away knocks these right out the park.
14. Emerson Leif & Golden Vessel – Hesitate
Golden Vessel and Emerson Leif have collaborated numerous times before, and every time they do, it seems like they make magic. Hesitate is their latest and strongest collaboration yet, with Golden Vessel and Emerson Leif showcasing their complimenting styles in a way that is fluid and perfectly matching – with no half out-strengthening the other. It's oozing electronica at its best, bringing exactly what we hoped for another collaboration between the pair and what all partnerships should aspire to be.
13. Essie Holt – Magnetise
For what's only her second major single, Melbourne's Essie Holt sure knows how to write a hit. Released just a few days ago, Magnetise has such a mature and dynamic strength to it that it has already captured our love and catapulted its way up our favourites list above songs that have been out for months. Essie Holt really feels in her element on Magnetise, with her vocals stealing the show above a glittery electronic production that is one of the best of the year so far. Continue to watch her as she dominates 2018.
12. Eilish Gilligan – S.M.F.Y.
As previously mentioned, Eilish Gilligan is one of our favourite acts in Australia right now, and if her woozy collaboration with HTMLflowers didn't convince you, then S.M.F.Y. – her latest single – sure will. Simply put, S.M.F.Y. is brilliant. It showcases Eilish Gilligan's mighty vocal prowess hinted at in past releases above a shining production that'll keep you entertained and excited as the single's three-minute duration continues, proving why she's a force to be reckoned with as 2018 continues.
11. Jon Hopkins – Emerald Rush
2018 sees legendary UK electronic producer Jon Hopkins return to the spotlight with Emerald Rush, his first single in years and the first from his incredibly overdue new album Singularity – arriving in May. Emerald Rush creates a musical landscape in a way that only Jon Hopkins can, with his relentless, signature synth line growing in power as the single draws closer to its epic, climactic ending – an ending that'll have your jaw somewhere down at your feet as it fades out like nothing happened.
10. The Presets – 14U+14ME
After returning with 2017's 'dance-rock' anthem Do What You Want, many were questioning whether The Presets' returning album would give us their signature, synth-drenched electronica that had been missing from our electronic scene for years. 14U+14ME put these thoughts to rest in an instant, with the Sydney duo practically giving us My People 2.0 with a charging synth line, festival-ready vocals, and a heaving bassline which well and truly had us foaming at the mouth for their upcoming album Hi Viz – due later this year.
9. G Flip – About You
I don't think I've ever heard of an artist – local or international – who has had a rise quite as quick as G Flip. The Melbourne instrumentalist uploaded her debut single About You onto triple j Unearthed and, within hours, she was labelled 'Best New Music' by Pitchfork and one to watch by primarily every music site in Australia and across the globe. Just one listen to About You will make it obvious why the world has been begging at her feet for more so quickly, and having just crushed SXSW and joined Future Classic for management, we can't help but feel G Flip is our next big superstar.
8. Against All Logic – I Never Dream
Dusting off an old alias for his first release of 2018, the incredible Nicolas Jaar reminded us all why he's one of the best with Against All Logic's 2012 - 2017. I Never Dream, the percussion-soaked highlight of the album, is Jaar at his house music peak, bringing together clever sampling with thick percussion and growing melodies for a track which suddenly bursts into low-key stop-start house – something that we haven't heard from Jaar in this way for a long, long time. Consider us floored, Nicolas.
7. Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All The Stars
With Kendrick Lamar heading curation duties, it's no surprise that the Black Panther soundtrack has delivered some of this year's best hip-hop. Amongst the charging house-rap of Vince Staples or the soulful croon of The Weeknd sits All The Stars, a simply brilliant collaboration between the US hip-hop king and one of 2017's biggest stars, SZA. All The Stars is exactly what everyone would hope for a partnership between Lamar and SZA, with Lamar feeling as relaxed as ever while SZA's incredible chorus steals the show.
6. Troye Sivan – My My My!
Back in 2014 when Troye Sivan was a baby-faced Perth boy armed with his debut single Happy Little Pill, it was hard – but not impossible – to imagine that he would be one of the world's biggest stars a few years later. My My My! is the first single from his incredibly awaited second album (due for release this year) and it's Sivan at his most powerful, confident and bold, stripping himself of his indie roots for a fully-fledged pop anthem which will no doubt be one of the best of the year internationally – and definitely one of the best in years from Australia.
5. Dro Carey – Glow Now (feat. Taliwhoah & Genesis Owusu)
Dro Carey's skill for creating catchy and anthemic dance anthems hasn't gone unnoticed, with 2016's KUČKA-featuring Queensberry Rules still getting rinsed often some two years later post-release. Glow Now is his latest and possibly his best yet, with the Sydney electronic madman teaming up with two of R&B's best newcomers – Taliwhoah and Genesis Owusu – for a unique and catchy electronic hit that we just can't stop hitting repeat on. The single opens with Taliwhoah's bright vocals, which soars above a darting synth line and chopped percussion that turn full club-ready with the single's earworming chorus. Insert a laid-back and refreshing verse from Owusu, plus a little production switch-up, and you have another electronic charmer from Dro Carey, who is quickly becoming one of Australia's best producers with every invigorating release.
4. Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel
In February, the acclaimed Janelle Monáe burst back into the spotlight with two incredible new singles, Make Me Feel and Django Jane – both taken from her first album in five years Dirty Computer. While Django Jane definitely has its moments, Make Me Feel is one of, if not the best single Monáe has released across her illustrious career, following in the footsteps of her late friend and mentor Prince for a funk-fuelled, nostalgic 80s anthem that no-one else could come close to executing. Make Me Feel is straight-forward and simplistic, but the way Monáe brings it all together with her signature sound and flavour is what makes it a single so easily repeatable. From the opening swelling melody and crisp mouth clicks, Make Me Feel is irresistible, colourful and theatrical in the best of ways, reminding us all of the simplistic beauty of Janelle Monáe's singles and why she's one of the most well-respected artists in the game right now.
3. Camp Cope – The Face Of God
Camp Cope's The Face Of God will almost definitely end up being 2018's most important song. Taken from the acclaimed second album How To Socialise & Make Friends, The Face Of God is a critical and honest story of experiencing sexual assault and the feelings of self-doubt that follow, with lead vocalist Georgia Maq putting it all on the line for Camp Cope's most personal single yet. "Now you've got me questioning everything I did / Or what would've happened if I'd done one thing different," she howls above a stripped-back instrumental by Sarah and Kelly that forces you to focus on Georgia's raw delivery. "And I saw it, the face of god / And he turned himself away from me / And said I did something wrong."
The Face Of God comes at an important time in the music industry and in the world as a whole, with worldwide movements such as #MeToo and #MeNoMore encouraging women and their allies to speak up and take action against assault and misogyny – something Camp Cope place front-and-centre on their album's most confronting single. By shining a light on sexual assault, the feelings of insecurity and doubt that typically follow, and how easily noted abusers – particularly in the music industry – can get away with their actions due to the cultural and political climate, Camp Cope have created an essential single that'll stop people in their tracks and hopefully, reach out to those that need it. Also, Georgia Maq's closing "they said your music is too good" line might just be one of the year's most haunting and tear-jerking.
2. HANDSOME – Save Some Love
The beauty of HANDSOME's Save Some Love is almost indescribable. The Sydney musician's second major single – the Joyride-featuring Late Night Ball Game being her first – is an almost-four-minute demonstration on how to perfectly execute heart-stopping electronica, so much so that the first time we came across the single, we almost didn't write anything on account for words not being able to do the single justice. However, much like we did then, we shall attempt to anyway.
HANDSOME's Save Some Love blends the beautiful, romantic songwriting of The XX with the haunting, warped autotune of Bon Iver and the electronic, percussion-soaked pulse of Bonobo in one tidy, seamless package that'll have you swept away from its opening piano chords, only to dunk you under time and time again with its waves of emotional beauty until you can finally gasp for her as her autotuned vocal echoes out. Its message is also refreshingly positive, with HANDSOME using the single to remind everyone on the importance of positivity and self-love in a time when the world seems to feel like too much more and more often: "Save Some Love is a reminder to love yourself," she said at the single's release. "We allow ourselves too often to give all of our energy, positivity and love out to other people; we often forget to leave a little for ourselves. This song has many different stories to it, many heroines that I have met in my life that have done and said things that have reminded me how important self-love and authenticity truly is." Save Some Love is uplifting, elegant and jaw-dropping with its beauty, and noting that it's only HANDSOME's second major single, we are in awe with what she could possibly achieve in the next few years.
1. City Calm Down – Joan, I'm Disappearing
There's something about the vulnerability and upfront honesty of City Calm Down lead vocalist Jack Bourke on Joan, I'm Disappearing – the fourth single from their quickly approaching second album Echoes In Blue – which makes it so remarkably special. "It turned to shit on April 18th," he cries in the single's impactful opening line. "At home on the stairs with an old cup of tea and your head held heavy in your hands." Recollecting a story on how workaholic neglect led to the dissolution and ending of a long-term relationship, the fragility of Bourke's vocals across Joan, I'm Disappearing's long-winded verses almost makes it feel real and personal to one's self, something incredibly hard to do when it comes to emotive songwriting.
Jack Bourke's vocals aside, Joan, I'm Disappearing is a masterclass on the importance of song texture and climactic builds. It starts slow, with a soft guitar line and moody synth creating a hazy landscape in which Bourke's vocals whisper over the top. From there, it builds and grows in power, with the single's chorus welcoming a marching drum line and more twinkling melodies that don't disappear until the climactic, confident final chorus that is quickly pulled right back for a haunting, vocal-led outro. In other words, it's an absolutely wild ride, and it's one which doesn't feel stale or unimpactful some 500 listens later – which proves that City Calm Down's emotionally-charged songwriting is at its highest peak yet as they draw closer to the release of their second album on April 6th. The aching cries of Jack Bourke repeating "I'm disappearing..." during the single's outro might just give you permanent goosebumps.