The Purple Sneakers Mid-Year List: Our top songs of 2018 so far

This year has been enormous when it comes to new music. From surprise mixtapes and albums to career-defining records, we’ve seen incredible releases from emerging artists all the way through to fully-fledged global stars. There’s been thought-provoking activism like CHILDISH GAMBINO, deeply profound personal statements like that from JANELLE MONAE; the euphoric collaboration between KENDRICK LAMAR and SZA and incendiary bangers like that from THE PRESETS; heartfelt introspection from EILISH GILLIGAN to genre-defying work courtesy of the ever impressive NLV RECORDS family, NINA LAS VEGASKOTA BANKS and SWICK. Don’t even get us started on SOPHIE‘s debut album, or how excited we are about KAIIT, how much we’ve danced to RITON & KAH-LO or cried to LYKKE LIWILLARIS. K put himself on the global map while CUB SPORT remixed JACK RIVER and made us feel something special, while ALTA levelled up with their best song yet, and SLIM SET made sure everyone knew who they were and where they’re from (Western Sydney, of course!).

Ultimately, 2018 has consistently delivered the goods, and we at Purple Sneakers have loved the ride so far. We’ve put our heads together to narrow down our definitive list of our favourite songs so far of this year, and some of us have even accompanied our selections with why they’re on this list at all. Take it all in below, and listen to the whole playlist right here.

A$AP ROCKY – Praise The Lord Ft. Skepta

ALICE IVY – Chasing Stars (Ft. Bertie Blackman)

ALTA – Now You Want Me

Melbourne duo ALTA have always been one of my favourite acts, but with this song, they evolved once again. Channelling a global approach, they’re spreading their wings this year and are ready to soar, and with songs like this under their belt, there’s no where to go but the top. – Emma Jones

BAKER BOY – Mr La Di Da Di

BELLA UNWIN – Break Time

No one does ambient pop quite like Bella Unwin, and her sublimely retro style was fully realised with this fantastic cut. – Max Lewis

CALVIN HARRIS – One Kiss (With Dua Lipa)

CARMOUFLAGE ROSE – Wildflowers

CHARLI XCX – Focus

CHILDISH GAMBINO – This Is America

I think you’d be hard pressed to credibly make the claim for any other song being the definitive track of 2018. Visceral, urgent and audaciously ambitious, ‘This is America’ weaves together genres, geographies, historical periods and ideas of how white supremacy appropriates and exploitatively profits off the social capital of black joy, pain and art, repurposing it as consumptive “entertainment” while preventing these communities from profiting off their own experiences via. the racist systems of capitalism. And somehow – remarkably – it distills these huge, knotty concepts down to a four-minute track that violently juxtaposes gorgeous, Soweto-Gospel-Choir-infused refrains against claustrophobic, menacing, ad-lib drenched rap verses. No other piece of popular culture this year has inspired more rigorous, impassioned debate and thoughtful, nuanced conversation. There are thinkpieces, there are thinkpieces about those thinkpieces, there are memes, there are thinkpieces about the memes, there are podcasts, and then there are listicles of the most important thinkpieces to read if you don’t have the time to find them yourself. Which is to say that the speed with which ‘This is America’ was consumed, analysed and – even to a degree – sold as a work of ‘genius’ speaks to the state of today’s media ecosystem more than any other cultural product this year. Ultimately, with every piece of the impossibly layered track Glover sets up a trap for the listener, indicting them for finding entertainment, analytic “merit” and chart positions in music built from the trauma of the African-American experience. But this is what the best art does: it becomes a locus, a product sitting at the intersection of the most vital conversations dominating our public discourse right now; it knots around itself as it elucidates our collective cultural moment and asks us to question how we’re engaging with it whilst refusing to provide any of the answers for us. – Kyle Fensom

DRO CAREY – Atmosphere (Ft. Kwame, Renz & Raj Mahal)

FEELS – They Need Us (Ft. Stella Donnelly)

We went into great detail about why this song is so important. In a time where minorities in music are screaming so loudly only for our voices to keep falling on ears unwilling to listen, it’s a powerful message to reassert the fact that we’re still needed whether those in power want to admit it or not. Two extremely promising artists in their own rights have come together to be defiant in the face of sexism and misogyny and have flipped the script in doing so. While noting they’re three white women and therefore they note how even more difficult it would still be for others more marginalised, Feels and Stella Donnelly offer up a call-to-arms anthem that’s brave, self-assured and sounds damn good. – Emma Jones

EILISH GILLIGAN – S.M.F.Y

I knew S.M.F.Y would be on this list as soon as I heard it; it’s endearing and relatable and oh-so-catchy it’s impossible not to love. – Max Lewis

FREDA – Breakfast

Anything Sydney label Moonshoe Records release is guaranteed to be a complete gem. Freda’s Mad Dancer EP curates three neighbouring tracks of Lo-fi deep groove cuts. The closer ‘Breakfast’ orchestrates a suspicious section of whining synths, alongside frenetic beats and an interrupted vocal motif. Mysterious and obscure, it’s completely addictive and will see the listener head for the repeat button as they rinse the shit out of the EP time and time again. – Hannah Galvin

G FLIP – About You

HABITS – Selfie

JACK RIVER – Ballroom (Cub Sport Remix)

JANELLE MONAE – Make Me Feel

A dazzling, soaring moment for one of music’s most daring artists, ‘Make Me Feel’ is the raison d’etre of Monae’s artistry, ten years after debut. – Jackson Langford

JONNY REEBOK – Tyrone

Kicking off with a sampled piece of British dialogue, the track expands into what would fit snuggly on esteemed South London label, Rhythm Section. Luckily for us, we claim this West Sydney sider as our own. Tyrone facilitates a party vibe, whilst holding a wealth of heart. – Hannah Galvin

KACEY MUSGRAVES – High Horse

KAIIT – OG Luv Kush Pt 2

KEELAN MAK – Weigh You Down

KENDRICK LAMAR & SZA – All The Stars

It’s fitting that the makers of the two best albums of 2017 would link up in such an extra-terrestrial way. ‘All The Stars’ mixes the grit of Kendrick with the sensuality of SZA, and gives them a shiny pop makeover. – Jackson Langford

KIRA PURU – Molotov

KOTA BANKS – Child

A crown jewel in a brilliant debut mixtape from the pop boundary pusher, ‘Child’ is a BIG mood atop a bouncing Swick beat delivered with tongue in cheek, featuring the most gorgeous articulation of the word “shit” I think I’ve ever heard.
– Holly O’Neill

KWAME – WOW

LYKKE LI – sex money feelings die

MGMT – When You Die

NINA LAS VEGAS & SWICK – Lucky Girl

The NLV Records head honcho shared her most intimate single yet this year with ‘Lucky Girl’, letting listeners in more than ever before. unveiling her singing in all its glory on this song, it’s a vulnerable new direction for Nina Las Vegas who continues to lead the charge when it comes to new and exciting music for Australian dance fans, and with a new EP out in the second half of 2018, I can’t wait to see what she does next. – Emma Jones

ODETTE – Take It To The Heart

THE PRESETS – 14U+14ME

REBEL YELL – Stains (Ft. Gussy)

Criminally underrated, Rebel Yell is one of 2018’s most self assured artists. She knows exactly who she is and what she’s about, and because of this, she consistently delivers forward thinking, progressive music that maintains a certain level of genuineness that is often lost in dance music. This particular collaboration with Gussy had me hooked within seconds, and her recently released debut album is a testament to how talented she is as an artist. – Emma Jones

RITON & KAH-LO – Ginger

SINJIN HAWKE & ZORA JONES – God

SLIM SET – Cooked

SOPHIE – Immaterial

An infectious ode to how our corporeal form/material outsides doesn’t necessarily match our interior self, a celebration of how technology informs our ability to leave our bodied, socially inscribed identities behind. It’s also the key to unlocking one of the year’s most alluringly enigmatic, sonically and conceptually rich releases; much of OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, caught as it is in a perpetual state of transition or becoming, reads as a preface to the moment of sublime realisation contained within the track. The transition between ‘Immaterial’ and ‘Pretending’, the droning, cavernous ambient suite that immediately precedes it, is stunning, a whole new world emerging from the formless, blurred sludge of SOPHIE’s debut. It’s the best track that SOPHIE has produced to date, the sound of an artist actualising and then transcending their enormous reservoir of potential to come out the other side with the smartest pop song of the year. – Kyle Fensom

With the release of OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES, SOPHIE launched herself into the spotlight exploring sexuality, identity and the culture of celebrity with a self assuredness and totally unique perspective on production, and ‘Immaterial’ distills all of that into a glistening B O P. – Holly O’Neill

SWICK & NINA LAS VEGAS – Hydration

THANDI PHOENIX – My Way (Prod. by Rudimental)

TROYE SIVAN – Bloom

WILLARIS. K – Risen

I could not be more excited about Willaris. K. To say his rise has been anything but thrilling would be doing him a disservice as he took a year off work to focus on music and give it a go, and now he’s reaping the well deserved rewards of this hard work. From releasing ‘Alchemy’ at the start of 2017, I knew something big was coming, but his EP of the same name blew any and all expectations out of the water with just out spectacular it was. He’s still got plenty more left in the tank, so I can’t wait to see what comes next. – Emma Jones

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SEE ALSO

PURPLE SNEAKERS TOP SONGS OF 2017

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