Best of CH 2018: Listen Up

From synthpop to indie, disco-inflected bops and more, our favorite songs of the year

Each day, our editorial team listens to new music and shares favorites in the Listen Up section. Be it synth-pop, indie, experimental or beyond, the discoveries are always powerful. This year provided plenty of ammo—from the ferocious to the poetic, political and personal, delicate tunes, bops and more. While some artists represented are long-standing CH favorites, we were pleased to discover that many of our best-loved tunes from the year are from young, queer artists. Take a look (or a listen) below to see some of our favorite songs of the year are your favorites too.

serpentwithfeet: bless ur heart

Since serpentwithfeet’s 2016 debut EP blisters, we’ve been entirely beguiled by the Brooklyn-based artist. The Baltimore-born singer (aka Josiah Wise) has released the first track from his debut LP soil, “bless ur heart.” Like much of serpentwithfeet’s previous music, it’s an enthralling and dramatic piece of R&B/gospel that surges to a stunning climax. The accompanying video is as bewitching as the song itself.

King Princess: Pussy is God

With equal parts sweetness and swagger, King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) crafted an incredibly satisfying and infectious bop with “Pussy is God.” The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer’s track is glittery and polished, with plenty of synths and boom-bap percussion, but shies away from becoming overly saccharine or twee. It’s a delightfully catchy, perky pop song celebrating queer love.

Fleet Foxes feat. Graduale Nobili: Crack-Up

Produced by music publication Consequence of Sound and filmed in one continuous take at Reykjavík‘s Harpa Concert Hall, “Crack-Up” sees Fleet Foxes joined by all-female Icelandic choir Graduale Nobili. Directed by Eilífur Örn Þrastarson, the video captures the magnificence of the performance—and its soft glow—from start to finish.

Frank Ocean: Moon River (Cover)

There have been hundreds of covers of “Moon River” since the original (performed by Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”) but Frank Ocean’s surprise version—released earlier this year—is certainly one of the most beautiful. Pared-back and relying mostly on Ocean’s divine vocals, the track is (in Ocean’s style) both celestial and haunting. This serene cover is more evidence that seemingly everything Ocean touches turns to gold.

Janelle Monáe: Make Me Feel

This track comes off Janelle Monáe’s album Dirty Computer, her first LP in five years. “Make Me Feel” is accompanied by a vivid narrative video. Beyond being visually stunning, the videos are part of a larger Monáe project called “Emotion Picture.” The first track featured is a timeliness zinger and the video just emphasizes the style and substance to her handiwork.

Andre 3000 + James Blake: Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)

André 3000 (aka André Benjamin) released two surprise tracks—both created in collaboration with James Blake—”Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)” and “Look Ma No Hands.” Both tracks (the latter which is a 17-minute instrumental) are dedicated to his mother, Sharon Benjamin Hodo (who passed away in 2013) and feature Benjamin on the bass clarinet. The piano-driven “Me&My (To Bury Your Parents)” is a sweet reminder of Benjamin’s immense musical talents—which include but stretch far beyond rapping with OutKast.

Teddy Geiger: I Was in a Cult

Teddy Geiger’s been rather busy over the last five years, collaborating with many well-known artists on their music—and delivering several hits in the process. Now, she returns with her first solo material in five years. It’s nothing shy of a powerful pop-rock number. “I Was in a Cult” is the first track from of Geiger’s forthcoming third solo LP, LillyAnna.

Kelela feat. Princess Nokia, Junglepussy, Cupcakke and Ms. Boogie: LMK

Kelela‘s sublime 2017 album Take Me Apart is getting a full remix version—out 5 October on Warp Records—and from it comes quite the star-studded update on “LMK.” The new version, titled “LMK_WHAT’S REALLY GOOD REMIX,” features the likes of Princess NokiaJunglepussy, Cupcakke and Ms. Boogie, and builds in its smooth fierceness with each moment. Concurrently divine and nasty, this remix is wildly infectious.

Robyn: Missing U

After eight (long) years, Robyn has finally released her first new solo song and it’s perfectly Robyn. “Missing U” sees the Swedish singer reunited with her frequent collaborator/co-writer Klas hlund as well as Metronomy’s Joseph Mountwhose touches are quite evident. The infectious, glittery song confirms (yet again) that Robyn is an important pop star and one who consistently proves just how glorious pop music can be.

boygenius: Bite The Hand

A supergroup formed by three of the most exciting voices in the singer/songwriter community right now, boygenius taps into each and every known strength (and more) of Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus. The trio has offered up three of the six songs that will appear on their debut self-titled EP, which subsequently came out in November. Both the Bridgers-led “Me & My Dog,” and the Baker-led “Stay Down” feature meticulous, emotive storytelling. The Dacus-led “Bite The Hand” is our favorite, however, for its magnificent harmonies and delicate but powerful conclusion.

Empress Of: Love For Me

Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez) released her second full-length album Us—the follow-up to 2015’s Me—and it included the super-catchy “Love For Me.” The track, co-produced by the duo DJDS (Jerome Potter and Sam Griesemer), is sweet and dreamy. And, like most Empress Of tunes, it’s infectious—warranting repeat listens.

St Vincent: Slow Slow Disco

Stripping away all the original synths to effortlessly morph her track into a piano-led ballad, St Vincent offered up yet another version of her glorious “Slow Disco.” The song—from 2017’s MASSEDUCATION—has been renamed “Slow Slow Disco” and it’s a seductively melancholic take. St Vincent (aka Annie Clark) says, of her rework, “Songs are living things. They grow, they evolve, they change their moods and personalities over time.”

Lonnie Holley: I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America

Nothing short of a poet, Lonnie Holley delivered a razor-sharp portrait of the state of the States with his single “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America.” From the vocal onslaught to the militant percussion and an eerie brass section, the track bulldozes forward. The video, directed by Matt Arnett and Ethan Payne, features warped iconography and many artworks that jar viewers to their core. It’s certainly effective.