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PledgeMusic Staff Picks 2018

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Presenting the PledgeMusic Staff Song, Album and Gig picks of 2018. Ranging from the innovation of Janelle Monae's funk-fuelled "Make Me Feel" to the depth and grit of Viagra Boys' debut masterpiece Street Worms, these choices all have two things in common: they burst with charisma and deliver year-defining individuality. Read on to get a taste of what an eclectic NYE Party hosted by PledgeMusic would sound like, but who wins the monumental midnight slot? 

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Janelle Monae, “Make You Feel”
The closest thing I can get to a new single by Prince. I’ll take it. (Ben James)

Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds, “Three Lions” 
Maybe next time. (Harry Johnson)

Childish Gambino, “This Is America" 
What a statement on the unfortunate state of society in the US (sorry to be a bummer). (Rebecca Carroll)

Maribou State, "Turnmills"
A subtle kind of banger, it bubbles along with the typically lush arrangements you'd expect from Maribou State and is just really a really lovely tune. (Luke Arthur)

Parquet Courts, “Almost Had to Start a Fight/In and Out of Patience” (Thom Debaere)

Ariana Grande, "No Tears Left to Cry"
After the couple of years she's had, the fact that Ariana Grande is still standing, never mind going from strength to strength, is testament to a character publically straddling a precarious tightrope between kids pop icon and grown-up cult concern and Max Martin & Ilya's production on this momentous single captures this lightning in a bottle with expert sleight of hand: a dichotomy of simple pop pleasure fortified with infinite depth, when looked at from the right angle. (Barney)

Hot Snakes, “Six Wave Hold-Down” 
Released back in January it was a great start to the year hearing that a band who have been away for a while can still come back on top form and still write a perfect 3 minute killer track. (Stuart Davie)

Simian Mobile Disco, “Defender”
Electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco teamed up with all-female singing collective Deep Throat Choir for the enchanting LP Murmations. "Defender" was the first single from it, and encapsulates the hypnotic combination of the two worlds. A high contender for my favourite album, but this track is a great taster. (Fay Pritchard)

Travis Scott, “Sicko mode”
It's just a banger isn't it, go back to it all the time! (Josefine Aberg)

Four Fist, “Unjinxed”
The final song on the P.O.S and Astronautalis side-project's debut 6666 leads with a sampled Joe Strummer interview: “…I’ll do what I can to create as much chaos as I possibly can”, before the record's most joyous production and life-affirming lyrics take over to close out the album in the most surprisingly positive fashion imaginable. (Mike Hemsley)

Caroline Rose, "More of the Same"
The song generally is about that moment of disillusionment when faith in things, in people, in the world, starts to fade. Caroline likens this feeling to: “floating around in a vacuum of space”, which almost like a magic trick is revealed and you don't know what to believe in anymore. This tune is my favorite one of the year because that exact feeling, and the reckoning that comes with it, of the flaws in people and in things you love are discovered, it's an incredible growing pain that is both humbling and disappointing. (Nicole Pompei)

Greensky Bluegrass, "Courage For The Road" 
This song's album will actually drop in January 2018, but I've been smitten with it since Greensky Bluegrass debuted it at their inaugural eponymous festival this past summer. It represents the best of everything they do: heartfelt lyricism, high energy instrumentation blending between genres, and plenty of space for far-out improvisational jamming. (Will Sword)

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Wye Oak, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs 
Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack are two of my favorite musicians and are an excellent songwriting/production duo! The piles of drum machine beats, synth pads, choked and distorted guitar riffs, multi-tracked vocals all fall together into a graceful ambience throughout the full record. (Nicole Pompei)

Mayday Parade, Sunnyland
No-one expected this. Don't think even Mayday Parade expected it, tbh. Absolute pop-punk perfection. It came out in June and I'm still not over how just straight up good it is. Fantastic. (Mike Hemsley)

Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer 
She is incredibly creative and innovative. (Rebecca Carroll)

Viagra Boys, Street Worms 
My most listened to song from Spotify Wrapped 2018 was “Frogstrap”. I also made a 2 hour round trip to get the vinyl so that confirms it really. (Harry Johnson)

Django Django, Marble Skies
Their best yet. The harmonies have never sounded better and Tic Tac Toe is frighteningly fun.(Luke Arthur)

Adron, Water Music
Adron has long made the most wonderful tropicalia-infused sunshine pop in the world, but I think she really outdid herself with her latest effort. It's got all the rich, full-bodied production of a classic Stevie Wonder record, paired with the immaculate vocal and lyrical twists of a Joni Mitchell album. I listened to it on repeat all summer. (Will Sword)

White Denim, Performance
It's not musically groundbreaking, but it's White Denim doing what they do very, very well. I've had it on repeat all year, ensuring a smiling, toe-tapping sing-a-long every time. A PledgeMusic site favourite of the year, we were also lucky enough to go and see them perform their tight, fast-paced rock n roll live at Rough Trade East. (Fay Pritchard)

Skylight, Pinegrove (Thom Debaere)

Fucked Up, Dose Your Dreams
An epic, sprawling monster piece of work that seamlessly melds a huge range of styles and influences in to an album that sounds massive, with an even bigger concept and story behind it all to boot.(Stuart Davie)

Logic, Young Sinatra IV
Alongside admittedly superior hip-hop efforts from J Cole, Pusha T and even Cardi B, not to mention cooler picks from Earl Sweatshirt and Kids See Ghosts, it's a bit uncomfortable to admit that my most-listened-to, and therefore surely my favourite album of the year, is Logic's YSIV, but then again when I think about the entire Wu-Tang Clan reunited on one track and take a cursory listen to the career-best beat and flow on 'Everybody Dies' I have to go…. you know what? I like it and if you can't handle it, you can just…. you know…. fuck off. (Barney)

MGMT, Little Dark Age
Had given up all hope, then heard ‘She Works Out Too Much’ and my faith was restored (Ben James)

Molly Sanden, Större 
She’s a Swedish pop artist that's been around ever since I was kid, she's about the same age as me and after moving to LA where she tried to make it, she came back to Sweden and completely re-branded herself and released a pop album with a sound quite new and fresh to the Swedish music scene (some may say not, as we do have similar artists, but I think she definitely did). She's also a very outspoken feminist and advocates for female empowerment, one of the reasons it's just an album I seem to go back to all the time. (Josefine Aberg) 

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SK Shlomo at The h Club, London. 28 November 2018.
There's not a shred of dishonesty in the statement that the live music performance I've enjoyed the most this year was SK Shlomo's PledgeMusic Presents performance in the intimate confines of the h-Club's Oak Rooms, with SK's onstage beatbox and loop station expertise rivalled only in the entertainment stakes by the antics of an engaged and adoring audience, all unified under the positive message and mission of mental health activism. (Barney)

Sustain-Release Festival, Upstate New York. 
Just a really-truly loving community of freaks in the woods for a weekend listening to some of the best house and techno you can wrap your ears around and letting it all hang out. (Will Sword)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, London. 21 November 2018.
First time seeing UMO and first time at Royal Albert Hall made for a pretty special evening. This one was an easy call for best of the year.(Luke Arthur)

HAIM at Alexandra Palace, London. 15 June 2018. 
Right in the midst of the Greatest World Cup Ever, HAIM arrived in London and closed off the Something To Tell You album campaign with the closest thing to a religious awakening I've ever experienced. Simply incredible in every way. (Mike Hemsley)

The Cardigans at Hammersmith Apollo, London. 7 December 2018.
Gran Turismo isn’t my No.1 Cardigans album, but it sure sounded majestic played in full at Hammersmith. No Peter Svensson as he’s off making songs for The Weeknd & Ariana G, but after their long absence from British shores, it topped anything else this year to hear Nina’s voice again live and the some of their greatest tunes. Magic Moment – The PA packed up during Lovefool, and the crowd sang the whole song through, til it kicked back in again. Favourite song of the night – ‘And Then You Kissed Me’ from Long Gone Before Daylight (that one is my favourite record). (Ben James)

Mitski, Be The Cowboy Release show at Elsewhere, New York. 18 August 2018. 
Mitski hired a bass player for this album cycle tour to free herself up for singing duties. Mitski's stunning vocal performance was accompanied by choreographed dance moves and gestures throughout the show – making this Be The Cowboy performance quite the performance art show. Plus, her backing band is some of NY's finest to boot! (Nicole Pompei)

The Feelies or Generation Axe
Torn between The Feelies playing the music of The Velvet Underground (incredible – they played for 3 hours the last hour was Feelies songs) and Generation Axe (oh, the virtuosity!) (Rebecca Carroll)

Parkway Drive at Camden Underworld, London. 16 March 2018.
Australia's loudest and potentially biggest export after Kylie and the casual use of the C word at a 500 cap venue! It won’t be forgotten. (Harry Johnson)

Kurt Vile and the Violators at Shepherds Bush Empire, London. 6 November 2018.
I’ve seen Kurt a lot over the past 10 years, but this was far and away the best show I’ve seen him do, he seemed more comfortable than ever cherry picking from his catalogue, which keeps growing at an amazing rate without any loss of quality. The production has stepped up too and the sound from the stage with the violators was amazingly rich and textured (Stuart Davie)

Dermot Kennedy at Scala, London. 14 February 2018.
My favourite performance was definitely when I went to see Dermot Kennedy, amazing performer and songwriter, definitely one of my 2018 favourites.  (Josefine Aberg)

Morrissey at Alexandra Palace, London. 9 March 2018. (Thom Debaere)

Friendly Fires (+ Django Django and Khruangbin) at All Points East, London. 27 May 2018.
New Years Resolution: Write down every gig I go to. Early on in our British summer-long heatwave, All Points East brought us a stellar lineup. My highlight was a mid afternoon set from Friendly Fires, that followed Khruangbin and Django Django. Couldn't have curated it better myself.(Fay Pritchard)

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