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PartnersDecember 20, 2018

Best Music 2018: The third annual Spinoff Music Survey!

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We asked you, our loyal readers, what your favourite albums and songs of the year were, both from here and from elsewhere. Oh, and your favourite shows, your reflections on the year, and predictions for next year. This is what you told us.

Best local album

The Beths Future Me Hates Me (24%)
Avantdale Bowling Club – Avantdale Bowling Club (16%)
Chelsea Jade – Personal Best (13%)
Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love (13%)
October – Ultra Red (4%)

The Beths! Who can deny the power catchiness of the Beth’s Future Me Hate Me? It’s one of those records so packed full of hits that it could be a best-of record, even though it’s their debut. In fact, one criticism I read about the album is that, like a best-of, it lacks an album structure, with narrative flow and breaks to take a breath. I dunno… Whenever I listen to it, it bangs and I drum along on the steering-wheel and sing along embarrassingly. Is there any better reaction to a power pop/pop punk/emo record?

But look, these are all bangers. If you’d asked me in February, I’d have thought Marlon Williams’ Make Way for Love would have been a shoo-in, but it’s a testament to how good the year was that it’s third-equal on our readers’ lists.

And cool to see October come through for an album that something weird happened to and seemed to disappear without much of a trace, despite a hot start and a great live show. I guess she just hasn’t found her audience yet? When I saw her live it was all fashion kids and art kids, which are good kids to have on your side, but you need more than them if you want to make pop(ular) music. And if she doesn’t want to make pop music, it’s kind of a waste to shoot at a pop music trajectory and miss all the indie/goth/electro types who just didn’t seem to latch on to this record like I thought they would.


International album of the Year

Robyn – Honey (12%)
Soccer Mommy – Clean (8%)
Pusha T – Daytona (6%)
Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love (3%)
Idles – Joy as an Act of Resistance (2%)

I struggle to overstate my love for Robyn and although this record disappointed some of her long-waiting fans (‘where are the bangers?!?’ they screamed on the day of release) still I love it. It’s weird, understated at times. And Body Talk is still there if you want it.

Soccer Mommy’s Clean is just one of a number of amazing women-led auteurist indie records (see also Lucy Dacus, Snail Mail, Phoebe Bridgers, Boy Genius, etc). It’s on a slightly different plane, but I’m surprised Mitski didn’t make it on here. Oh, well.

In an era of long tracklistings and longer playing times, Kanye West’s series of seven song albums that he produced for a bunch of artists were a breath of fresh air. And Pusha T’s Daytona was the best of them, certainly better than Kanye’s two and Nas’s disappointing snoozer.

Deafheaven continues to perfect their lush, shoegaze metal and Idles have made what people seem to be saying is the best punk rock record of the year. (It wasn’t my pick though – I’m calling it for The Beths which I call a punk album.)

Best local song

Chelsea Jade – ‘Laugh It Off’ (11%)
Avantdale Bowling Club – ‘F(r)iends’ (9%)
Drax Project – ‘Woke Up Late’ (5%)
Hans Pucket – ‘Fuck My Life’ (4%)
The Beths – ‘Future Me Hates Me’ (4%)

I thought it was going to be hard for people to converge on a single song from Chelsea Jade’s hit-filled debut album, but our dear readers overwhelmingly liked ‘Laugh It Off’ over, say, ‘High Beam’ or ‘Pitch Dark’. Still… BANGER!

Same with Avantdale Bowling Club. While ‘F(r)iends’ might be the best song-song (with catchy chorus and everything!), I was floored by ‘Years Gone By’ – the ambition of the whole thing, recounting one life year-by-year in a single song. But ‘F(r)iends’ works on another level, I guess, taking a similar spotlight and pointing it on someone other than the author. Plus it bangs a little more.

Drax Project’s ‘Woke Up Late’ is 100%, unquestionably the popular New Zeland pop song of the year, a level above Six60’s best. Try getting that guitar/vocal line out of your head after you play this thing a couple of times in a row.

I love this Hans Pucket song (even though I haven’t really given the record that much time, though I probably should). If I could, I’d make a radio cut, cos this should be a hit if there was still a place for it to be a hit. In the mid/late-90s, if this was paired with a smart/funny video, it would have made Hans Pucket like Goodshirt big! Garageland big! Elemeno P big! Fuck this is a good song. I sing it to myself all the time, usually after changing a nappy or something equally as fuck-my-life-ish.


International song of the year

Childish Gambino ‘This is America’ (13%)
Ariana Grande – ‘thank u, next’ (12%)
The 1975 – ‘Love It If We Made It’ (6%)
Mitski ‘Nobody’ (5%)
Yves Tumor ‘Noid’ (4%)

Shit – it feels like ‘This is America’ came out years ago. Remember when that video came out and everyone went crazy trying to find every little bit of meaning? Like, ‘OMG THERE’S A HORSE IN THE BACKGROUND! DID YOU SEE THE HORSE? IT’S THE APOCALYPSE, GET IT? GET IT?’ Anyway, the song still bangs and if the video didn’t fuck you up you can’t be fucked up.

Ariana Grande is a contender for the celebrity gold medal of the year. She’s taken the worst circumstances (the Manchester bombing, the death of Mac Miller and, okay this isn’t that bad, a super high-profile break-up) and come out as the newest member of the pop elite. ‘Thank u, next’ is that most 2010s kind of pop song – a meme. A bunch of people were making ‘one taught me…’ who hadn’t even heard the song.

For the record, this was my favourite:

‘Love It If We Made It’ is the big pop-rock song of the year, Mitski is amazing but there are better songs on her album IMO (‘Geyser’ for instance) and I love that Yves Tumor record – it’s one of the few things I heard this year that sounded the most like something I’d never heard before.

Best reissue

The Beatles The Beatles (4%)
Stereolab Switched On 1-3 (2%)
A bunch of records with one vote…

This was a failed category. Reissues are super popular so I thought people would care, but lots of people said things like, “there’s no future in reissues,” and “not interested in new old music, stop living in the past bro.” If people voted it was for all different records, which is cool, but apart from those above – no clear winners. For the record, I enjoyed a couple of days of listening to new Beatles mixes and demos and now will never listen to that reissue again. And, I bought two of those Stereolab reissues and I love em. Here’s a TUNE:

Best show

Chelsea Jade – all over the place (5%)
UMO – Town Hall/Whammy (4%)
Kendrick Lamar – Spark Arena (2%)
A bunch of others…

I missed the Chelsea Jade show and am bummed. Everything about her recent shows looks great so it’s nice to hear people are loving it. I did, however, go see UMO at Whammy after their Town Hall show this year. And I LOVED IT. From what I saw on little videos the next day, the Town Hall show probably sounded better and was a better “show”, but, for me, one of the great joys in life is seeing an incredible band play on a foot-high stage in a small room. Fancy lights and screens are fine, but I prefer volume, intimacy and physicality. It reminded me of watching the Mint Chicks and I loved watching the Mint Chicks.

This was my official review the next day:


“Not a great year for albums, but then what is an album anyway… Also, a bad year to be a Kanye fan, for so many reasons including, sadly, his music.”

“Weak start, strong end. Earl Sweatshirt Some Rap Songs is a masterpiece but needs more time to grow on me. Great Kiwi acts coming through, a new wave of hip hop and emo/surf-tinged guitar bands.”

“A year spent only streaming female artists was a year bloody well spent, there were SO MANY great female artists who released albums this year. Same for LGBTIQ+ musicians, queer women received a lot of absolute bangers this year and it’s truly a gift.”

“A banger (not a typo) year for local artists tbh. We’re finally seeing the variety of our scene out in front.”

“Better than 2017 but only because there were less disappointing follow-up albums.”

“Where’s the good rock music?”

“Spent most of the year listening to what algorithms thought I would like and not enough exploring different and more challenging music. Seems like this is reflective in Be The Cowboy and Dirty Computer topping all the charts, two really good albums, but neither pushing either artist’s sound or pointing the way forward, just really safe choices by solid and under-appreciated artist who will turn up on critic’s Spotify ‘made for you’ playlists.”

“Banger of a year for NZ music, and music generally. I’m enjoying seeing a rise in the main(ish)stream of post-punk vibes.”

“This year was a year of fighting and a year of standing up for ourselves. The LGBTQI+ community (which I am a part of) really found creative and unusual ways to defend our identities and raise money.”

“So much excellent queer pop music, especially made by women.”

“Way too many good local releases to fill out this survey with confidence. Albums by Chelsea Jade, Avantdale Bowling Club, Princess Chelsea, and October were amazing. Some amazing individual songs by Bene, PHF (TRU), Dead Little Penny (Honeycomb), SWIDT (No Emotions), Melodownz (Gang Signs), and Vincent HL (Up All Night) … plus many more. Ridiculous! Good luck choosing.”

“How did Marlon Williams’ break up song – recorded with the one he broke up with and who, in her own right is a global star – not become the greatest song internationally of the year‽ Also, that London Jazz scene is fucking awesome.”

“There was a shift away from electro-pop towards indie rock, female artists dominated the scene especially. Fewer albums released thanks to streaming, and there were more quality projects and EPs as opposed to full-length albums.”

“Local artists levelling up way earlier, making better smarter decisions faster. Still major lack of career infrastructure in NZ though.”


“More political music as musicians struggle to distance themselves from issues.”

“Ska makes a comeback but with 808s and sprinkler hi-hats.”

“More venue closures?”

“The Beths will take over the world.”

“Ruby Frost makes a stunning comeback to become the star X Factor thought she was when they signed her.”

“Guitar music makes a comeback.”

“More 90s nostalgia and female producers.”

“Lontalius will release a great pop album.”

“Death of singer-songwriter.”

“Hopefully we have another Lorde moment with Robinson or Chelsea Jade. Or – outside chance – October or Saski. Josh Fountain (or Djeisan Suskov) will be the next Joel Little.”

“One of Openside or Robinson will have some kind of international moment.”

“More guitars.”

“Things get worse. I finally release music. Unrelated.”

“We going even higher baby.”

“Pivot to jazz.”


This content was created in paid partnership with NZ on Air. Learn more about our partnerships here

So much of the music mentioned above – songs and/or albums by Chelsea Jade, Marlon Williams, The Beths, October and more – was made with the help of NZ on Air. We thank them.

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