The Best Four Songs of 2018 Thus Far: What You Should Be Playing When Your Friends Hand You the AUX Cord

By Erin Caine
Senior Writer

Though we’re just a month and a half into 2018, it’s already turning out to be a promising year for music. So far, popular artists such as Justin Timberlake, Of Mice and Men, Fall Out Boy, Camila Cabello, and Tonight Alive have released new albums, and the anticipation for new releases from the likes of Azealia Banks, Hayley Kiyoko, Jack White, and Kylie Minogue is palpable. From indie rock to heavy metal to electropop, the line-up of January and early February releases serves a variety of tastes. Here are a few of the best songs to come out of 2018 so far:

1. “Always Ascending,” Franz Ferdinand. This Grammy-nominated Scottish indie rock band dropped their fifth studio album, “Always Ascending,” in early January, which NME called “a record driven by vim, vigor, and ideas.”

The eponymous track, the album’s longest, builds slowly from simple piano and Alex Kapranos’s languid vocals to a stylish electro-indie beat and uncontainable energy as Kapranos sings, “Come on, wake me up.”

The hectic blend of synths, lively percussion, and vocal layers never let up for a moment, keeping you thoroughly engaged (and foot-tapping) for the song’s duration.

Fans of bands like The Killers and those looking for a kinetic indie sound will enjoy the whole album.

2. “Hand it Over,” MGMT. This American duo has, over a 16-year run, honed their peculiar brand of what Spin described as “shape-shifting psychedelic pop.”

“Little Dark Age,” their fourth album, was released in February, and one of its singles, “Hand it Over,” dropped earlier in January.

Though more relaxed, “Hand it Over” nonetheless retains the dark vibe and retro charm of their other tracks. Bass-driven and unperturbed, the song submerges the listener in a wistful, introspective mood.

More pensive and grounded than other singles such as “Me and Michael,” it’s one of the album’s standout tracks, and you can’t help but get carried away by the crooning vocals and serene ambiance.

3. “Let Me Down,” Jorja Smith, feat. Stormzy. The English singer’s 2018 single is a bit of a departure from her usual R&B and jazz-influenced style, such as 2017’s soulful “Teenage Fantasy.”

“Let Me Down” is heavy and piano-driven, sleek and brooding. Smith’s crystalline, powerful vocals and the track’s stripped-down instrumentation set it apart from other pop singles, and Stormzy’s role as the song’s sober and distant “you” is the perfect counterbalance to Smith’s heartsick vocals and the soaring orchestra in the chorus.

Smith, only 20 years old, has already independently released a studio album, 2016’s “Project 11.” “Let Me Down” flaunts her impressive vocal command and musical range.

4. “After the Storm,” Kali Uchis. The Colombian-American singer released this easy-going track in the beginning of January, and the song features rapper Tyler, the Creator and prominent funk bassist and vocalist, Bootsy Collins.

With its ‘70s psychedelic vibe and Collins’ weighty bass line, the track conjures hazy summers and poolside lounging, and Uchis’s velveteen vocals wrap the whole song up in a stylish shimmer.

Uchis, as well as being a singer and songwriter, is also—at just 23—a producer, director, and fashion designer. She’s worked with a number of notable acts, such as Gorillaz, Snoop Dog, and Carly Simon. Of course, she has enough elegant flair and talent to pull off solo, as well.

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