Our Favorite Songs of 2018

The world may have gone crazy in 2018 but at least we’ve got some amazing music to show for it. To help round up some of the best new music we asked our staff to share 5 of their favorite songs from the past year. Get the full list here or follow the links to listen to their picks. Or, scroll down to the bottom and get all of these songs in one playlist!


Jody Denberg – Host M-Th. 5p-8p, Fri. 12n-4p

(Listen to all of Jody’s picks HERE)


Alejandro Escovedo – “Sonica USA”

A standout track from his timely concept album – “The Crossing” – featuring the Italian band Don Antonio. Looking forward to seeing them perform it in its entirety January 5th at the Paramount.

Black Pumas – “Black Moon Rising”

Another timely entry, with the amazing Eric Burton’s vocals and  Austin’s Adrian Quesada anchoring this new band. Anxiously awaiting the rest of the collection…

Erika Wennerstrom – “Extraordinary Love”

From the Heartless Bastards’ frontwoman’s solo debut, a recording that actually manages to capture the grandness of its title. Pass the Ayahuasca (carefully).

Kacey Musgraves – “Slow Burn”

I love the line “grandma cried when I pierced my nose” from this song by the Golden, Texas native. Even the CMA’s got it right when they named her “Golden Hour” album of the year. Think Neil Young as a 30-year-old Texas woman.

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Where have all the protest songs gone? Not sure, but this one captures the frenetic atmosphere of modern day USA. Even without the incredible video this performance stands on its own.

Elizabeth McQueen – Producer/Host of This Song podcast, On-Air host Sat. 10a-2

(Listen to all of Elizabeth’s picks HERE)


Anderson Paak – “Til It’s Over

I think this song is one of the more perfectly constructed songs I’ve ever experienced. The verse sounds just like the inside of your head when you’re debating getting involved in something you know can’t last. It sets you up perfectly for the chorus, which posits the only solution to such a situation — ride it ’til it’s over.  Though this song is about a romantic relationship, I’ve been using it to remind me of all the beauty we can experience in the world, as long as we allow ourselves to make peace with impermanence and potential heartbreak.

Dessa – “Fire Drills
It’s rare that you hear a song that makes you re-examine your core values, but this song does exactly that for me.  As a mother of two girls, I’ve tended to see my role in this world as one of a protector — it’s my job to protect my daughters from a dangerous world, right?  This song makes me rethink that idea, and expand my notion of motherhood. Perhaps my role is also to give my girls the tools they need to be brave, ambitious and adventurous. After listening to this song, I’m sure it is.
Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel
Dirty Computer, the record this song is on, has been hands down the most important record of 2018 for me.  This world, as you may have noticed, is growing increasingly fractured and chaotic.I for one need help trying to figure out how to survive within it. Dirty Computer shows me way, and has helped me see that love, sex, dancing, joy, vulnerability, humor, resistance and empathy are the best strategies we can use when times get dark.  Nothing this year has done more to heal me than this record.  And I’m so grateful to Janelle Monáe for making it.
Tameca Jones – “Are You Awake
This song is such a jam. It’s definitely the best song about a late night booty call that has ever been written. Jones’ voice is as stunning as ever, and the production by Walker Lukens is right on point.  I will admit to listening to this song on repeat, just to get access to the feeling of making a glorious mistake, over and over.
Zettajoule – “No Thank You
This song is all the things I like. It’s weird and experimental while being accessible and hooky at the same time. I always come up with a full formed story about it when I hear it.  Plus, it was recorded and mixed on a iPhone, even though it sounds like it was made in a million dollar studio.  I truly cannot wait to hear what else Zettajoule has coming out in the future. I have a feeling I’m going to love it.

Michael Crockett – “Horizontes” Sun. 7p-10p

(Listen to Michael Crockett’s picks HERE)


Rosalía (Spain) – “Malamente

 Rosalía blends traditional flamenco singing with trap and electronic music and lyrics based on a 13th century manuscript. It is a seductive and mysterious sound that has now spread from her native Spain to Latin America and the rest of the world thanks to her several recent Latin Grammy nominations and awards. (The album, “El Mal Querer”,  even made NPR’s Top 10 for the year)

 Santiago Cruz (Colombia) & Vicente Garcia (Dominican Republic) – Vida De Mis Vidas

Colombian singer Santiago Cruz wrote and released this lovely, poetic song as a ballad, but Dominican singer Vicente Garcia gave it new live with a danceable bachata rhythm which he sings with Cruz as a duet.

Natalia Lafourcade (Mexico) –“Danza De Gardenias”

 This year Mexican pop singer, Natalia Lafourcade,  released a follow-up (Musas II) to her successful acoustic/traditional album from last year and included this beautiful música tropical song she wrote of learning to reflorecer, or bloom again from a wilted love.

Gepe (Chile) –“Joane”

 Chilean singer-songwriter Gepe pays homage to a Haitian immigrant woman, who died on the streets in his country,  giving voice to the current plight of immigrants in many parts of the world.

 Maria Rita (Brazil) –“Reza Pra Agradecer”

A beautiful prayer of thanks in a song to the Afro-Brazilian goddess of the sea, Iemanjá,  from Brazilian singer Maria Rita’s new album “Amor É Música.”


Art Levy – Host Sun. 10a-2p

(Listen to all fo Art’s picks HERE)


Christine & The Queens –“Doesn’t Matter”
A song that puts two strangers in a room together: glittering electro-pop and existentialist philosophy. Sparks fly.
August Greene –“Black Kennedy”
A song sent from middle age. Everything–the wisdom, the pain, the off-kilter beat–is hard-won.
Leon Bridges –“Bad Bad News”
A song made from minimal ingredients, confidently cool.
Wye Oak –“The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs”
A song made from maximal ingredients, loudly peaceful.
Will Courtney –“Crazy Love”

A song that’s another link in Austin’s country-rock chain.


Susan Castle – Host M-Th. 9a-12p

(Listen to all of Susan’s picks HERE)


Childish Gambino – “This is America”

Digest the lyrics, absorb the video and be mesmerized and dispirited at the same time. Astonishing.


Ghostland Observatory –“Miss Abyss”

‘cuz I never tire of a good disco beat and still consider the Austin duo’s live epic performance at the Four Seasons during our SXSW live broadcast a 2018 highlight. From See You Later, Simulator, their first full-length in eight years.

Steve Gunn – “New Moon”

A warm acoustic guitar and a gentle thud of a standup bass hooks me and once the shaker comes in, I’m along for the ride that takes me somewhere north of “Astral Weeks” and east of the soundtrack to Midnight Cowboy.  Philly-born, Brooklyn-based guitarist, singer-songwriter and one-time guitarist for Kurt Vile’s band the Violators.  His 4th solo record arrives in January.

Molly Burch – “Wild”

Favorite song hook of the year.  “Wishful thinking’s got me blinded/got me losing all control/ it’s in my nature to be guarded/I wish I was a wilder soul”.  Makes me think of my baby.

Colter Wall – “Plain to See Plainsman”

What a voice! Hard to believed this weathered baritone belongs to a 23-year-old…a singer-songwriter & guitarist from Saskatchewan, Canada. Mickey Raphael’s harmonica adds to the longing.  From Colter Wall’s sophomore album “Songs of the Plains” released in October and produced in Nashville by Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton) and recorded in the storied RCA Studio A.


Jeff McCord –Music Director, Fridays 6a-9a

(Listen to all of Jeff’s picks HERE)


Childish Gambino – “This is America”

A provocative juxtaposition, inseparable from its viral video. Musically it’s all dancing, jubilant chants, and African choruses giving way to grim, steely rap. Lyrically it’s something more, a spot-on summation on being black in today’s times, where violence and racism shape the reality of so many lives. “Don’t catch you slipping’ up.”

Gabriel Garzon-Montano – “Golden Wings”

Maybe it’s the surroundings of his Brooklyn neighborhood, or his French-Colombian heritage. Whatever the cause, Gabriel Garzon-Montano feels the funk with a capital “F”. His previous standout, “Crawl”, boasts a slinky rhythm that imbeds in your cortex. “Golden Wings is even better. Garzon-Montano plays everything, opening with a floating-in-air vocal refrain and a pregnant pause, the slow stealthy groove seems to almost spill into place. With little more than a click track, some echoing drums, sparse electronics and a bass line supplied from what sounds like a tuba, Garzon-Montano makes his own kind of magic.

Janelle Monae – “Make Me Feel”

This bold, impossibly talented champion for equality and humanity’s latest release, Dirty Computer, is one of the year’s most beguiling. As the album’s sole straight-up love song, Make Me Feel, is a bit of an outlier. But as a joyous Prince homage/knockoff (which he may or may not had a hand in), it’s pure pop wizardry.

Night Glitter“Tunnels”

The dreaded “H” word – hiatus- has been put forth in connection with this Austin band, led by Iranian, Paris-raised vocalist LouLou Ghelichkhani  (who also tours and record with Thievery Corporation). But this was a busy year for them, they released an EP, and this hyper-cool gem (produced, of course, by Adrian Quesada), hanging Ghelickhani’s free-floating French vocals amid vaporous reverb and blazing sitars (what year is this, exactly?).


Soccer Mommy – “Cool”

As if to say there’s a lot of life yet to live, she keeps a sense of the absurdity of it all. Few manage to see so clearly through the haze of adolescence. Twenty-something Sophie Allison’s mission statement “Your Dog” (“I don’t want to be your f–ing dog,” she snarls in answer to decades of obliviousness) gets most of the attention, but it’s this blunt declaration of peer envy that brings her self-deprecating charm to play. “She’ll steal your joy like a criminal,” Allison sings in admiration. “I wanna be that cool.”

Rick McNulty – Host “Left of the Dial” Fri. 7p-11p

(Listen to all of Rick’s picks HERE)

Pom Poko“My Blood” and “Follow the Lights

This is by far my favorite band of the year and they have yet to release an album. Fortunately, this Norwegian quartet released two singles that are equally amazing. A wall of elephantine guitars, flying trapeze melodies, and hooks around every corner. They sound unlike anything I’ve heard before. If I ran the circus, Pom Poko would be a household name.

Walker Lukens“Baby”

Just on the sumptuous verge of yacht rock, Austin’s own Lukens has struck gold with an unconventional love song. It’s all bad advice: let’s make out in public, max out our credit cards, report them stolen, tell your boss she’s awful, and so on. It’s the kind of romance Bonnie & Clyde were after, just without all the killing.


They’ve been on my radar ever since I heard their stunning cover of the Beatles’ “Michelle.” As luck would have it, it seems Rubblebucket does some amazing stuff with their own material. These New Yorkers have a talent for making a huge production sound modest and sneaking in a pack of earworms in the most tasteful manner.


U.S. Girls – “Velvet 4 Sale”

Meg Remy has written some provocative songs on her new album, and this is by far my favorite. It’s from the perspective of a woman who wants to flip the script on abusive men and “instill in them the fear that comes with being prey.” As in it may be time to arm yourself to make men behave with a bit more civility. And oh, those harmonies!

Janelle Monae – “Make Me Feel”

Not only is it the best Prince song of the year, but it was my favorite 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 and a delightful reminder of her killer set at the ACL Fest.



Matt Reilly – Program Director

(Listen to all of Matt’s picks HERE)

Zettajoule “No Thank You”

This is a cool earworm from the Austin duo. Lots of fun little production tricks, totally catchy and recorded on an IPhone, which is very 21st century of them. The Jetsons didn’t see this coming.


Pond“16 Days”

Australia has been churning out some great psych rock. This is a side project from members of Tame Impala and has the same feel but with more sensuality and playfulness. Some babies might get made.

Carson McHoneGood Time Daddy Blues”

I think we’ve taken solid honky tonk for granted. It was so prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s that we sorta thought it was covered. Enter Austin’s Carson McHone. She’s bringing it back. This has all the ingredients of a classic beer joint song – cheatin’, drinkin’, and a great pedal steel twinged groove.

Little Simz – “Offence”

This UK rapper doesn’t care who she offends. This is underpinned by a 70’s style funk track and feels like the soundtrack to giving the school bully a sweet comeuppance on the playground.

Will CourtneyCrazy Love”

Will’s been kicking around Austin for years now and has always had a knack for crafting catchy tunes. This one just feels like Texas. It’s rock, it’s about hard times, it’s simple and straightforward. Which ain’t easy. Hopefully it’s a springboard to bigger things.



Jay Trachtenberg – Host Sun. 7a-10a & M.-Th. 12p-2p

(Listen to all of Jay’s picks HERE)

Childish Gambino – “This Is America”

Hands down, the song of the year.  Even besides the chilling video, the song, like none other we played in 2018, captures this moment in an angry, violent, caustic, partisan America.  Have a nice day…..

Janelle Monae – “Make Me Feel”

Following her spectacular, empowering performances at ACL, both the TV taping and the Music Festival, its hard to deny that the Electric Lady has arrived!  This slinky, sexy, seductive tune really sets a mood.

Moving Panoramas – “Baby Blues”

Can’t seem to get enough of this driving, pulsating, yet dreamy, reverb-drenched rocker from this popular Austin band.  It will be on their new sophomore release, In Two, due out in February.

August Greene – “Black Kennedy”

Supergroup comprised of rapper Common, Houston-born, Grammy-winning keyboardist Robert Glasper and drummer/producer Karriem Riggins lays down a mellow, sublime vibe with a positive, uplifting message.

Sudan Archives – “Nont for Sale”

Los Angeles-based violinist and singer plucks her strings to wondrous effect in creating one of the more unique sounding songs we’ve played all year.  She melds those strings beautifully within an R&B/hip hop dreamscape.

Christine and The Queens – “Doesn’t Matter”

Enticing, infectious and very danceable electro-pop from this “new” French artist who we’ll hopefully be hearing more from in the future.

Matt Muñoz – Cactus Cafe Manager

(Listen to all of Matt’s picks HERE)

Shame – “Concrete ”

Soccer Mommy – “Cool”


Jaime Harris – “Depressive State”


Western Youth – “Lost The War”


Snail Mail – “Heat Wave” 


John Aielli – Host M-Th. 6a-9a

(Listen to all of John’s picks HERE)

Arctic Monkeys – “4 out of 5”


Carson Mchone – “Good Time Daddy Blues”


Iron Wine – “What Hurts Worse”


Shakey Graves – “Kids These Days”



Rey Castillo – KUTX Intern

(Listen to the playlist he made for Austin Hip-Hop 2018 HERE)

Denzel Curry – “Clout Cobain”

This record, along with the amazing visuals of the music video, will make you think about how the rap music industry has become poisonous with face tats and drug use as “cool.”


Freddie Gibbs – “Death Row”

A song about violence (as implied by the title of the once great west coast rap label), Freddie and Greedo team up to hit hard bars over an Eazy-E sample plus a booted-bass.


Deezie Brown – “Drive”

Austin’s very own, Deezie Brown, has a style that I found very unique for the Austin hip-hop scene. This song highlights his ambitious style that I believe would distinguish himself from others.


Lil Baby – “Southside”

Okay, so yes this song may imply where I was raised and born (southside of San Antonio) but Lil Baby has had an amazing year after dropping 7 projects (YES SEVEN) within the last 2 years and he’s continued to put ATL on the map worldwide.

Nomi Sutton – “Tonight!”

Nomi has an amazing voice and her latest EP “R E C O V E R E D +” is only a preview of what’s to come of her astounding music. This song has the feel that definitely deserves radio time.


Support KUTX’s ability to bring you closer to the music.

Donate Today