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The Quietus’ Top 50 Tracks Of 2018
Patrick Clarke , December 25th, 2018 12:14

YES to zesty bangers! YES YES to UK drill. YES YES YES to sublime abjection and dancefloor freakouts. Scroll down, lucky reader, to listen and surrender to the finest and most beautiful releases of the past 12 months

‘Prime Cuts’ by Lisa Cradduck

The list you're about to read – our top 50 tracks of the year – represents the last of our three big end-of-year round-ups. It's always a stressful time, wrangling with tQ's byzantine back-end in order to piece together an article of at least some aesthetic value, but it’s a rewarding one too. Every year the clamours of ‘wot no insert hype band here’ are drowned out by the power and the amygdala-expanding sounds of the artists we have chosen, artists who remind us of the extraordinary quality of the music we cover. This December we are feeling especially delighted and relieved to be celebrating the end of our tenth anniversary year, and we’re hopeful for what 2019 will bring.

Which brings me to the regulation plea for your donations to keep us going. We often bang this drum, but without your monetary help, we really are, to put it plainly, fucked. If you’ve discovered anything you’ve enjoyed via our end-of-year lists, or throughout 2018, and if it’s within your means, please consider making either a one-off or monthly donation so that we can bring you more. You can read more and do that here. And if you’re already a donator: THANK YOU.

There are of course also round-ups of the finest psych, metal, tapes, punk, hardcore, and straight-up weird shit from our crew of tremendous genre columnists, but for now get stuck in to the 50 finest songs of 2018, compiled based on polls by myself, John Doran, Luke Turner, Anna Wood and Christian Eede.
Patrick Clarke

50. Denzel Himself -
'Melty ft. KEYAH/BLU'
(Set Count Worldwide)
49. Virginia Wing -
'The Second Shift'
(Fire)
48. ILL -
'Stuck On A Loop'
(Box)
47. Grouper -
'Parking Lot'
(Yellow Electric)
46. Janelle Monae -
'I Like That'
(Bad Boy)
45. Baxter Dury, Etienne De Crécy & Delilah Holliday -
'White Coats'
(Heavenly)
44. Chromatics -
'Black Walls'
(Italians Do It Better!)
43. Bruce -
'What'
(Hessle Audio)
42. Julia Holter -
'I Shall Love 2'
(Domino)
41. Blood Orange -
'Charcoal Baby'
(Domino)
40. Wild Fruit Art Collective -
'Fabric'
(Eggy)
39. Liars -
'Murdrum'
(Mute)
38. Donato Dozzy -
'Cleo'
(Eerie Records)
37. Objekt -
'Secret Snake'
(PAN)
36. Underworld & Ø -
'Dexters Chalk'
(Smith Hyde)
35. GNOD -
'Donovan’s Daughters'
(Rocket)
34. Ploy -
'Ramos'
(Timedance)
33. Lonnie Holley -
'I Woke Up In A Fucked-Up America'
(Jagjaguwar)

32. Gazelle Twin -
'Hobby Horse'
(Anti-Ghost Moon Ray)
31. Riton & Kah-Lo -
'Fake ID'
(Riton Time)
30. Kasper Marott -
'Keflavik'
(Seilscheinbenpfeiler Schallplatten)
29. Leather Party -
'Baby It’s Alright'
(Self-released)
28. Riko Dan -
'Hard Food'
(Tectonic)
27. Bryte -
'Hustler'
(More Time)
26. Calvin Harris With Dua Lipa -
'One Kiss'
(Sony)
25. Jonny Shitbag And The Smokes -
'Distract Me'
(Captain Crooks)
24. Jockstrap -
'Hayley'
(Kaya Kaya)
23. Joy O & Ben Vince -
'Transition 2'
(Hessle Audio)
22. Big Joanie -
'Fall Asleep'
(Daydream Library)
21. Charli XCX -
'Focus'
(Asylum)
20. JK Flesh -
'External Transmission Stage'
(Electric Deluxe)
Every November I file my list for The Quietus Albums of the Year and instantly realise that I've left something brilliant off it - one of these in 2018 is JK Flesh's New Horizon. This track is a stand-out moment from that record, Justin Broadrick hammering home the point that he's one of the finest hard techno producers around with this six minutes and twenty-six seconds of deep bass thumping and gnarly and brittle acid synth lines that sound like acid played at a rave in the heart of a glacier during an ice age that we can only dream of now in this, the age of doom. Luke Turner

19. LSDXOXO -
'Burn The Witch'
(Self-released)
Based around a sample of Missy Elliott’s ‘I’m Really Hot’, ‘Burn The Witch’, from LSDXOXO’s self-released BODY MODS mixtape, became one of 2018’s most ubiquitous club tracks. Its thwacking drums and jazzy chords - impressively repurposed from Wynton Marsalis’ ‘Skain’s Domain’ - caused many a dancefloor freakout throughout the year. Christian Eede
18. Unknown T -
'Homerton B'
(Universal)
Arguably the biggest breakout track for UK drill in 2018, ‘Homerton B’ sees Hackney’s Unknown T deliver one of the year’s biggest hooks. A testament to the MC’s flow, it was a leading example - despite the best efforts of the Met Police to demonise an entire genre of music - of a refreshing, emerging musical movement. Christian Eede
17. Pregoblin -
'Combustion (Live)'
(unreleased)
The 'proper' studio single is due for release in the spring, but we are jumping the gun with this live version - with vocals from Jessica Winter instead of Alex Sebley, and with a glamstompier vibe - because it is utterly ace in its own right and a glorious example of what a great gig in a New Cross pub is like. Sublime abjection; perfection songwriting. Anna Wood
16. Insecure Men -
'I Don’t Wanna Dance (With My Baby)'
(Fat Possum)
This track wins the award for the least creepy on Insecure Men’s self-titled debut. Not that this is particularly difficult. Compared to more troubling hits like ‘Mekong Glitter’, ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance With My Baby’ is a fun and uneasy song you might hear at a very eerie school disco. Jade Spencer
15. Cosey Fanni Tutti -
'Tutti'
(Conspiracy International)
After a couple of years of reflection via TG and Time To Tell reissues, her memoir Art Sex Music and COUM Transmissions exhibition at Hull's City Of Culture 2017, Cosey Fanni Tutti returned in 2018 with new music that, after a reveille on her ever-distinctive cornet, comes at you like some giant marching troupe of sauce and noise. The cornet continues to parp and blast over what's essentially a pretty thrilling techno-tinged banger that fizzes and pumps in all the right places. When there are so many TG-inspired artists making self-importantly 'dark' electronic music at the moment it's pleasing to see that the original practioners are striding forth with something so future-focussed, potent and joyous. Luke Turner
14. SOPHIE -
'Immaterial'
(MSMSMSM)
An undoubted highlight of SOPHIE’s debut album, ‘Immaterial’ is a bouncy celebration of gender fluidity. Backed by the kind of hyper-glossy instrumental that has become synonymous with SOPHIE’s sound, collaborator Cecile Believe repeatedly rallies “I can be anything I want” in the track’s glorious mid-section, in turn summing up much of the themes explored across the record as a whole. Christian Eede
13. Marie Davidson -
'Work It'
(Ninja Tune)
Producer, DJ and side project-muse, Marie Davidson is no stranger to hard graft, and kick-drum driven track ‘Work It’ won’t let you forget it. Pulsating, stripped back and relentlessly straight-talking, the message behind Working Class Woman's most poignant commentary is clear and scarily relatable; you’ve got to work for no one but for yourself. Kate Hutchison
12. These New Puritans -
'Into The Fire'
(Infectious)
How the hell were These New Puritans to follow Field Of Reeds, a magisterial and adventurous record that stands as one of the greatest works of The Quietus' decade of existence? The answer as heard in the group's first new material in some years is a distillation of everything that makes them great, a retrenchment before moving forwards. As ever with TNPs, 'Into The Fire' is a track that reveals its secrets with repeated listens, as the drums clear like storm clouds and the sheer depth of the piece - processed choral vocals, piano, scratched sonics, David Tibet muttering, Jack Barnett's ever-compelling voice - come fluttering forth. Luke Turner
11. International Teachers Of Pop -
'After Dark'
(Desolate Spools)
Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer are a many-headed beast of musical magic, like a pantomime horse crossbred with Hydra: they keep on forming new bands and making ace records. With Leonore Wheatley, Katie Mason and Rich Westley, they are International Teachers Of Pop and the joyful lesson for today is that South Yorkshire electro disco rave will never die. Anna Wood
10. Real Lies -
'The Checks'
(UNREAL)
The band claim the new track is “less Pet Shop Boys, more British Murder Boys”, to which we'd add that it’s also more Underworld and Vince Clarke remixing the Happy Mondays than Bass-o-matic. John Doran
9. Välve -
'The Happening'
(Self-released)
Joy Division-y loose-string bass, deadpan choral vocals, gnomic weirdsome lyrics, and is that a melodica on a loop? This is the most hooky track from an EP of hooky tracks, by a perfectly strange and experimental band who also have a harpist and a machine to emit delicious smells when you go to hear them play. Anna Wood
8. Jenny Hval -
'Spells'
(Sacred Bones)
Dreams and death mix together in Jenny Hval’s ‘Spells’; her voice is so sweet and comforting but you half suspect it’s just luring you in, a masked acquaintance taking you to a ball where you’ll do things you regret, a tasty bit of turkish delight that will tempt you into terrible mistakes. With a song this beautiful, it’s worth the risk. Anna Wood
7. Kali Uchis -
'After The Storm'
(Universal)
The standout cut of Kali Uchis' delightful, genre-hopping debut album Isolation was 'After The Storm', a silky cut of irresistible mellow funk. If its syrupy bassline, Uchis' feather-light vocal, and Tyler The Creator's louche and debonair bars weren't smooth enough for you, it's introduced by none other than the mighty Bootsy Collins. This is an essential cut from one of the year's finest breakout stars. Patrick Clarke
6. Hen Ogledd -
'Problem Child'
(Weird World)
Hen Ogledd returned this year with the addition of Sally Pilkington, which seemingly sparked a glorious mutation into the world's most cosmic heavy synth pop geniuses. Their latest album, Mogic boasted varied delights, but 'Problem Child' remains the pick of the bunch, with Richard Dawson at his most commanding on lead vocals, as Pilkington, Rhodri Davies and Dawn Bothwell clatter brilliantly behind him on this barmy banger. Patrick Clarke
5. Aphex Twin -
'T69 Collapse'
(Warp)
Aphex Twin sent heads churning in August when he unveiled 'T69 Collapse'. This was thanks in no small part to its Weirdcore-directed video which could not be broadcast on television after failing a photosensitive epilepsy test, but the music stands up too. The track, with its 150 time changes, is a frenetic piece of deeply unsettling beauty. Patrick Clarke
4. Black Midi -
'bmbmbm'
(Speedy Wunderground)
Along with Black Country New Road, Goat Girl and Jockstrap, Black Midi are one of a particularly exciting crop of new groups specialising in arch angularity that have appeared in London over the past year or so. Black Midi’s live shows are mesmerising affairs, ludicrously tight musicians giving the base matter for strange, stuttering vocal intonations that occasionally collapse into a fiery racket, and ‘bmbmbm’ (with its hints of Shellac playing an uptight bank manager coming to repossess your house and through your dearly beloveds out onto the street) is a fine encapsulation of that hectic energy. Luke Turner

3. William Doyle -
'Millersdale'
(Self-released)
Taken from William Doyle's Your Wilderness Revisited project exploring those late 20th century housing developments you see as bumps on the edge of Britain's towns, 'Millersdale' sounds like nothing else you'll have heard in 2018, building from piano that acts as a bridging point from his work as East India Youth, a strange and elegant near-waltz bit, before it all crashes around in free-form drums and saxophone skronk and an exultant middle. Rich in texture, sonics and production, it bodes well for his forthcoming album due in 2019, and makes for a fine tribute to some of our most under-celebrated places. Luke Turner
2. $hit And $hine -
'You Were Very High'
(Diagonal)
Can a song be very high? Can a song be 50ft out of its mind on balloons and/or skunk, and then elegantly - skilfully, beautifully - regurgitate Rihanna, Steely Dan and the guitar wangout from the end of 'Let's Go Crazy', with what seems to be a smattering of the narrator from Dave TV's Road Wars series? Yes it can. Here it is. Magic. Anna Wood

1. Audiobooks -
'Gothenburg'
(Heavenly)
This is the first song Evangeline Ling and David Wrench made together, the day after they met at a friend’s birthday, and there is something beautifully primordial and unpremeditated about it, like it’s oozed straight out of the hangover they probably had that day with just a little help from Wrench’s bank of synths. With tumbling bass-y hook and vocals that swim between angelic and Gollum, it is both unsettling and comforting, sinister and pure of heart. Anna Wood

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