Our Favorite Songs of 2018 (So Far)

We’ve reached the halfway point of 2018, so we thought we’d take a poll of the KUTX hosts to get their Top 5 songs of 2018 (so far) – here’s what they had to say. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to get a playlist of all our picks!

Jeff McCord’s Top 5

KUTX Music Director, Host Fridays 6 a.m. – 9 a.m.

Soccer Mommy – photo by Andrea Garcia

Soccer Mommy  – “Cool”

Wise-beyond-her-years Sophie Allison has a silly moniker but a serious and endearing outlook. She approaches the trials of adolescence with a detached bemusement, no more so than on this song, “She’ll steal your joy like a criminal” she sings in worship of a friends callousness. “I wanna be that cool.” 

Black Pumas – “Black Moon Rising” 

Grammy-winning producer/guitarist Adrian Quesada has been the man behind the curtain for so many projects that it has become a bit of a running joke. Quesada’s relentlessly driven to make music of all kinds, connected by nothing more than success and deep psychedelic grooves. Yet none of his endeavors has leapt out of the gate quite like Black Pumas, who have become Austin’s hottest new band based on one dubbed-up single, and on the way the ingrained soul of newfound vocalist Eric Burton instantly commands your attention.

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

 This winning, danceable piece of social commentary hits hard. Even forgetting the accompanying video (impossible, I know), Glover portrays a country divided, torn with violence, with few chances or opportunities. “Don’t catch you slipping’ up.” Resonating on every level, this is the song of our summer. 

Jungle – “Happy Man”

Guarded optimism of sorts from this UK collective, back after a long hiatus. “Happy Man” resembles, ok, mirrors, the chord progression of their hit “The Heat”, but it’s an infectious earworm delving into the pursuit of happiness. One of the few bands that mines tradition and sounds wholly modern at the same time. Great to have them back. 


Ty Segall – “Every 1’s A Winner”

On everyone’s list because it’s so much fun and so unlikely. Segall has likely never written a song he hasn’t recorded; he’s a master of the Neil Young school of throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. When he’s on, like at his recent Studio 1A performance, he’s amazing. Or like on this gem, a Hot Chocolate cover, no less. 


Jay Trachtenberg’s Top 5

Host Mon – Thu 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Dream Syndicate – “Glide”

Here’s a blast of sonic splendor from Steve Wynn and his cadre of veterans from L.A.’s 1980’s Paisley Underground from their first album in 30 years.  Meant to be played really LOUD.

 Leon Bridges – “Bad Bad News” 

With his sophomore release, this Ft. Worth R&B stylist takes his previous retro sound and pivots in an exciting new direction.  The distinct jazz feel on this one scores points in my book.

photo by Gabriel C. Perez


Abhi The Nomad – “Letter For God”

India-born, Austin-based rapper certainly has a way with words as he contemplates the universe on this joyous, melodically rhythmic ride. 

 Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”

The Electric Lady is at it again.  Everything about this sultry song has it goin’ on, from the beat to the message.  Perfect for summer listening.



Superorganism – “Something For Your M.I.N.D.”

One of the buzz bands of this year’s SXSW, this London-based collective with members from around the world delivers a dreamy, trippy, irresistible slice of electro-pop.  

Jody Denberg’s Top 5

Host Mon-Thu 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. & Fri 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

This song captures the skittering intense energy of the USA right now. And that’s hearing it WITHOUT its incredible video.

 John Prine – “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door”

Prine is truly an American treasure. And the entire “The Tree Of Forgiveness” album portrays the kind of America I would like to live in: John Prine’s

Erika Wennerstrom – photo by Gabriel C. Peréz

 Erika Wennerstrom – “Extraordinary Love”

A highlight from Ms. Wennerstrom’s first solo foray. Her voice of abandon and the song’s huge production capture
the enormity of universal love. Pass the Ayahuasca.

 Mien – “Earth Moon”

Great vibe on this side project by Black Angels’ Alex Maas. Pass the sitar.

Brownout – “Fight The Power”

Even if you’re not well-acquainted with Public Enemy’s music, the album “Fear Of A Planet” gets across PE’s empowered view – and does it without the lyrics, AND with a sense of musical adventure!

Art Levy’s Top 5

Host Sundays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

No Age – “Drippy”

True to their California roots, this band makes punk rock that feels like you’re riding a tidal wave, guitars and drums surfing together with synths and samples. Not bad for two dudes making music in a home studio.

Ty Segall – “Every 1’s A Winner”

Here’s a brilliant idea: slather Sabbath sludge onto a ’70s disco hit by Hot Chocolate. Thanks, Ty: I’ll never hear those two bands the same way again.

Wye Oak – photo by Gabriel C. Peréz

Wye Oak – “The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs”

For over a decade, this is a band that’s oscillated between guitar heroics and electronic experimentation. The best of both of those worlds run together in this rocket-fueled pop explosion.

Leon Bridges – “Bad Bad News”

The retro soul clothes fit well on the Ft. Worth singer’s debut, but this song is something else entirely. It simultaneously sounds classic, forward-thinking, and damn cool.


August Greene – “Black Kennedy”

Hip-hop has usually put its aging stars out to pasture, but the past few years have seen some much-needed historical reckoning of the genre’s past in the form of documentaries and books. MC/actor Common, jazz pianist Robert Glasper, and drummer Karriem Riggins have been around long enough to be talking heads in those docs, but as August Greene, the trio proves that hip-hop has interesting things to say at middle age. “Black Kennedy” is timely, timeless, and haunting, a veteran move that feels fresh.


Rick McNulty’s Top 5

Host Left of the Dial, Fridays 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. / Host Uptown Saturday Night, Saturdays 7 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Ty Segall – photo by Julie Reihs

Ty Segall – “Every 1’s a Winner

This guy has been one of my favorite artists of the past several years. He’s a prolific songwriter, slightly deranged and knows how to swing a guitar. He also has impeccable music taste: he covers an old Hot Chocolate song from the ‘70s for his new album – and he nails it!

The Lemon Twigs – Foolin’ Around c/w Tailor Made

This gets two entries because it’s one of the those rare “double sided singles” that live up to the name. The vibe is a throwback to ‘70s power pop and it bounces along like the best hits on a K-Tel or Ronco compilation (22 Hits by 22 Original Artists!). These New York brothers are caught in a delicious time warp.

U.S. Girls – “Rosebud”

From the one album I’ve been listening to more than any other this year (it’ll blow your mind if you give it a chance). It begins with a fat, danceable groove and reveals itself to refer to the premise of the classic film Citizen Kane: everyone has a “rosebud,” that only you and you alone possess the one key to understanding and delivering yourself.

Dream Wife – “Let’s Make Out”

It’s the perfect dumb bubblegum pop song to brighten the long summer days. If this song doesn’t make you feel young again, you might need to get out more often.

Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

Not only is it the best Prince song of the year, but it’s my front runner for song of the summer. Ms. Monáe finally delivered on her promise of greatness and there is nothing not awesome about this track. A real classic.

Jack Anderson

Host Mon, Tue, Wed 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. & Saturdays 6 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Absofacto: “Dissolve”

Michigan’s Jonathan Visger has been singing for the indie-alt rock outfit Mason Proper since 2004. After the release of MP’s second album, Visger donned his new chill-hop moniker Absofacto. Now, a decade later, we have the Thousand Peaces EP. Its sample-smashing lead single sounds like Chaz Bundwick and Birocratic made a collaboration track but nope – everything you hear is pure Visger.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Hunnybee”

What kicks off sounding like the intro of a classic Yes tune quickly turns into what we love about UMO: soft spoken, cooly delivered indie post-disco.

Natalie Prass – photo by Gabriel C. Peréz

Natalie Prass – “Short Court Style”

Equal parts old and new soul, this Richmond, Virginia songstress made a huge impression with the recent release her sophomore album, The Future and the Past. Confession: When this number reaches the outro vocal ad libs, I always secretly wish the record was titled, “The Future and the Prasst.” Secret’s out, I guess.

Tuxedo ft. Zapp – “Shy”

Speaking of old-meets-new…Mayer Hawthorne on lead vocals? Check. Jake One handling the production? Bigger check. Larry Troutman channelling his late brother Roger on the talkbox?! Biggest, funkiest, check mark ever. This cross-generational jam wins bonus points for using the idiosyncratic ’80s Zapp bass bounce rhythm throughout the tune.

The Regrettes – “Come Through”

Every time this comes on, my jaw drops in awe at the tenacity of this L.A. riot grrrl quartet. Short but heavy and straight to the point. More, please!


Taylor Wallace

Host Thur. 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. & Saturdays 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Parquet Courts – “Almost Had to Start A Fight/ In And Out of Patience”

It’s a safe bet that when Parquet Courts release a new track, it’s gonna be an instant favorite of mine (especially if it’s penned by A. Savage), and their latest effort Wide AWAAAAAKE! is no exception. PC worked with Danger Mouse on this album and prove that they can work with some of the most high-caliber personnel the industry has to offer and still remain distinctly the punks of Parquet Courts. Fast-paced and perfectly danceable, this song carries the same flavor as most of the rest of the album: delicious.

Caroline Rose – photo by Gabriel C. Perez

Caroline Rose – “Bikini”

Rockabilly with a hint of surf rock, this is Rose’s most deliberate feminist anthem on the record, taking on the male-dominated entertainment industry and telling ladies in the crowd to listen and dance with middle birds flying high!

Lemon Twigs – “Foolin’ Around”
The U25 D’Addario brothers proved their precocious grasp on the music that built rock and roll with their debut Do Hollywood album last year. Their latest pair of singles continues the du sporting their Beatles/Beach Boys inspirations on their sleeve with this tune about one of the weaker points of the human condition.   


Soccer Mommy – “Last Girl”

It’s hard for anyone to be so open about their insecurities, especially in comparison to an SO’s past loves. Sophie Allison does this shamelessly at only 20 years old. Even more impressive is that the song doesn’t come off as self-deprecating, just wholly honest.

Alex Lahey – “I Love You Like A Brother”

Alex Lahey is easily my favorite non-Austin discovery of 2018 thus far. Helming a sort of pop-punk revival sound, Lahey reminds me of all my favorite elements of the music I loved as a teenager, but for a more inclusive crowd. Get mad, get happy, whatever, just know you’re heart rate’s on the increase!  

Fresh’s Top 5

Host The Breaks Saturdays 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.

Black Pumas – “Black Moon Rising”

I first heard about the Black Pumas and the song Black Moon Rising while scrolling my Facebook, and boy did the sound of that golden age of music capture my attention. Very reminiscent of a time where Blues ruled the air waves Black Pumas, Black Moon Rising is a breath of fresh air for the climate of R&B/Soul these days.

Mélat – photo by Gabriel C. Peréz

Melat – “Push”

This song just makes you want to get up and dance, even if you can’t (I can by the way), it just gives off a great vibe. Melat came with a great feel good song to kick off what has turned out to be another great year for her so far.

 Anderson Paak – “Til Its Over”

Anderson Paak said in a recent interview that he had 75,000 unreleased songs, and that Til Its Over was at one point apart of that unreleased catalog. The smooth, sultry, futuristic song just makes you want to groove all night long.


Leon Bridges – “Bad Bad News”

An artist I have grown to really enjoy, Leon Bridges kicked the year off with Bad Bad News from his album, Good Thing. The soulful jazz fused track is a song that shows you that not all R&B, Soul, Blues, etc. has to be about love. While love is great and all, Leon makes coming from the bottom and gaining everything sound so smooth worthwhile.

Deezie Brown – “Drive”

The song sounds like it should’ve been on the soundtrack to Blade Runner, the amazing production backing the braggadocious raps and flashy bravado, Deezie creates something that would be sure make Kanye West proud and have him weep tears of joy. Drive depicts something I think all men have felt at some point about a woman they wanted to be. We all have that one woman we want to drive insane, in a good way of course.

Ryan Wen

Host Fridays 10 p.m. – 2 a.m.

 Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – “Middle America”

 Speaking of veterans, Stephen Malkmus & the Jick’s “Middle America” might be the best thing he’s recorded since “Gold Soundz,” and as someone unfortunately shaped by the gospel of Malkmus brand self-deprecation and cynicism it brings me deranged joy that he’s back to writing sparse, sad, introspective music.

 The Shacks – “Follow Me”

 Twee pop with funky production from the mastermind behind El Michels Affair? Yes Please!

 Why Bonnie – “Practice”

Why Bonnie – photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

 Bedroom pop seems to be the flavor of the month with groups like Soccer Mommy and Snail Mail releasing some bangers in 2018. Maybe it was that brutally long winter that inspired an army of malaised musicians to make sad pop music, and hey if that’s the case, I hope next winter is twice as long and much colder. Nonetheless, Austin’s got it’s own promising lo-fi indie rock melancholia in Why Bonnie. Save this one for a rainy day, and be sure to stare wistfully out your window after you hit that play button.  


 RF Shannon – “Cold Spell”

 “Cold Spell” from Austin’s RF Shannon is like if Gram Parsons was high on Quaaludes and recorded a track with My Bloody Valentine. Lush reverb soaked Americana perfect for a night drive down a desert road.

August Greene – “Black Kennedy”

   Although it was once only associated with youth culture, hip hop is old enough now for younger fans to find a previous generation’s sound boring, and the old school fans to tell the kids to get of their lawn. I’m not here to take sides, but I’m excited about the future of hip hop as some MCs enter the Autumn of stay on planet Earth.

   We already saw it when, before Phife moved on to another groove, a Tribe Called Quest released one of their best records, and Ishmael Butler of Digable Planets reinvented himself with Shabazz Palaces. It’s the case outside the world of hip hop too of course; Neil Young was in his late 40s when he released Harvest Moon, and Leonard Cohen was around that age too when he released his best record (wanna fight about it?) Death of a Ladies Man.  

    August Greene’s “Black Kennedy” is the latest addition to these latter day masterpieces. Common isn’t part of the generation that invented hip hop, but he’s a bonafide veteran and his tongue and message are sharper than ever. Then there’s Houston native and master pianist/producer Robert Glasper whose been blurring the lines between jazz and hip hop for almost two decades. AND there’s drummer/producer Karriem Riggins who makes the best beats out of Detroit since the great J Dilla.

   The first single from this supergroup, “Black Kennedy,” is both a reverie of one’s roots, and a hopeful message for young black listeners. Glasper’s piano twinkles and dreams over a head nodding Riggins beat, while Common reminisces of the family that shaped him, the friends who brought him happiness, and the realisms of his Southside Chicago upbringing. No doubt, this track’s message is aimed towards black American youth, but I hope this track’s chorus “there ain’t no ceiling to our thoughts now” becomes a mantra for kids world round.

Paul Carruba’s Top 5

Host Sundays 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Caroline Rose – “Soul No. 5”

Really, I could have picked any song on her latest album Loner. It’s that good. This may be the most obvious bit of satire on the record (and an undeniable earworm) but the rest is razor sharp as well. Rose has more than a knack for creating real, tangible characters in her songs (See “Jeannie Becomes a Mom” also) as well as undeniable hooks

Field Music – “Count it Up”

Field Music have always a bit hard to quantify. Their music always has a whiff of thinky, angular prog, but it’s always approachable and imminently listenable. This song walks that delicate line especially well. 

Bad Moves – “Cool Generator

I’m a sucker for punky power pop. I caught this DC band during SX, and they’ve been in regular rotation in my personal playlist. This particular song has a spiky effervescence that’s hard not to adore.

Childish Gambino – “This Is America” Music Video


Childish Gambino – “This is America”

Because $#@&, this is what 2018 feels like

Jealous of the Birds – “Plastic Skeletons”

This track from Northern Ireland’s Jealous of the Birds (aka Naomi Hamilton) reminds me of Stereolab in all the best ways, and I do love some Stereolab.



Elizabeth McQueen’s Top 5

Host of This Song podcast, Host Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Alex Lahey – “Love You Like a Brother”

At first, I thought this incredibly catchy song was about love for people who you consider brothers but aren’t actually related to you. Like band members.I personally have a few people in my life who I grew up playing music with and who  I consider to be brothers from another mother. But then I realized this song is actually about Lahey’s brother. What a good idea! Now I want more songs about siblings.  I love my sister more than the sky is big and blue. Alex Lahey may just inspire me to write a song about her…

Childish Gambino – “This is America”

Daniel Glover managed to create the kind of song that works on all the levels. Both the song and the video explore the complexities of being black in America and I just want to listen and watch and take it in and learn.

Courtney Barnett – “Nameless Faceless”

Courtney Barnett addresses her internet haters and in 3 minutes  dismantles the idea that sexist internet trolling is harmless by drawing a parallel between written threats and real life violence —”I wanna walk through the park in the dark, Men are scared that women will laugh at them, I wanna walk through the park in the dark, Women are scared that men will kill them.” Plus the tune is super catchy. Now that’s a good song.

Mobley – photo by Julia Reihs

Mobley – “Young Adult Fiction”

I think Mobley us making some of the most exciting music coming out of Austin, and this track from Fresh Lies, Volume 1 proves this.  It makes me want to think and dance and cry a little bit — all at the same time.

Janelle Monae – “Make Me Feel”

I’m loving Janelle Monae’s new record Dirty Computer and this track is one of the reasons why. “Make Me Feel “sounds like, in the words of Rick Daddy “The last great Prince song,” and  I’ve read that Prince had a hand in some parts of the making of this track.  Seriously though, if there’s anyone I trust to carry the legacy of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century into the 21st century, it’s Janelle Monae.


Susan Castle’s Top 5

Host Mon-Fri 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Donald Glover is mesmerizing.  The video is so powerful. And the song is so affecting, it has made it into my dreams. Twice.

Kasey Musgraves – “Slow Burn”

Which is exactly how it will worm its way into your head and your heart.  Still mad at myself for missing her recent ACL taping as this Golden, Texas native is firing on all cylinders and doing it her way.

Mikaela Davis – “Other Lover”

We just started playing this, but I’m already hooked.  I think her harp has hypnotized me or something.

Parquet Courts – photo by Eddie Gaspar

Hatchie – “Sure”

Do I wanna play this shimmery song every single day? I think you know the answer.

Parquet Courts – “Wide Awake” 

Just when you thought the Brooklyn-by-way-of-Denton, Texas band couldn’t get more fun.  Complete with Latin cowbell.

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