From a 700 song longlist and after weeks of deliberation and shameless pilfering from other peoples end of year lists, it’s finally time for the top 50 of the 14th edition of the MUSIC LIKE DIRT TOP 200 TRACKS OF THE YEAR.
Yes, another end of year list…I know but suppress a yawn and hopefully enjoy 14 hours or so of absolutely incredible music! I’ll forgive the occasional skip.

Please listen below and then check out numbers 51-100151-200101-150.

If you prefer playlists, there’s plenty of those too, so you can listen at your leisure…

(TOP 200 TRACKS OF 2018)



50. Streetboxxer – Tear Down Level 22

Hidden Operator and Samo DJ indulge a rugged digi dub session on Kings Chamber. Four wonky dancehall sidewinders ranging from natty acid dub and Skweee-like bumps to ruddier dancehall mutation with sloshing tablas, and one wicked bit sounding like late ‘90s Lenky productions.

49. Nat Birchall – Youth Iron Rock / Wisdom Dub

48. TY – Brixton Baby (Daz – VIP – Rare Groove – Rinse)

With a nod to Roy Ayers ‘Brixton Baby’ masterfully captures the bittersweet essence of one of my favourite parts of London, in a celebration of coming from somewhere and the opposite to a hip hop postcode war. Bafflingly this remix doesn’t seem to have got much publicity which is a shame as Ty has called on one of the pioneers of London’s Broken Beat sound Daz-I-Kue (a man who has worked with the likes of Soul II Soul, 4Hero and Macy Gray) to masterfully transform Ty’s original into a rare-groove classic.

47. Tirzah – Holding On / Gladly

46. Squid – The Dial

45. Car Seat Headrest – Bodys

44. Kacey Musgraves – Slow Burn

43. Illingsworth – Peeves (feat. Open Mike Eagle) / Open Mike Eagle – Microfiche

42. Owen Duff – Nobody Loves a Tortured Soul (Remix)

So in a laundrette on a street with no trees
I flicked through pages of slick journalese
And thought – a revolution’s coming, someone just has to call it

Owen was recommended to me in glowing terms by Melting Ice Caps and former Luxembourg frontman David Shah way back in 2011 and I can only apologise to David and Owen that it’s taken me seven years to post rave about Owen some more.
His latest four-song E.P. takes the listener on a journey from a sanatorium in the Swiss Alps in ‘The Magic Mountain’ to a psychedelic city summer with a touch of supernatural dread in ‘Witches’, by way of the ecstatic love song ‘You Amaze Me’ ending with the ironic disaffection of ‘Nobody Loves a Tortured Soul’. And yes you will be humming the theme tune from Sesame Street by the time your tortured soul finishes loving the final track.

41. Carla J Easton – Wanting What I Can’t Have

Carla J. Easton is the indomitable Princess of DIY Pop with a Post-Punk Ethos, fast emerging as one of Scotland’s significant voices and prolific writers from Glasgow’s rich musical landscape.

Carla follows the runaway sell-out and critically acclaimed success of her debut album Homemade Lemonade (as Ette) with lush symphonic arrangements for her second solo offering Impossible Stuff. Produced by Howard Bilerman, who counts Arcade Fire, Leonard Cohen and British Sea Power on his CV, Impossible Stuff sees Carla J. Easton maturing musically with this exceptional Spectoresque offering of ambitious symphonic sounds.

According to Carla the first single ‘Wanting What I Can’t Have’ is about, “I want the first times – the first time you realise you’ve fallen in love, the first time you ride a bike in the sun and feel free, the first time you feel like you’ve arrived in a cherry-bomb burst – knowing I’ll never have those first times again doesn’t mean they can’t still exist in defiant memories.”

40. Brandi Carlile – Every Time I Hear That Song

39. Mary Gauthier – Bullet Holes in the Sky

38. Confidence Man – Don’t You Know I’m In a Band

37. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Not in Love We’re Just High

36. Purple Disco Machine – Dished (Male Stripper)

35. Dirty Projectors – Break-Thru

34. Nas – Cops Shot the Kid (feat. Kanye West) / Kanye West – Ye vs. the People (starring T.I. as the People)

33. Fatima – Caught in a Lie

32. Mars89 – End of the Death

It’s a decade since Depth Charge last released a record but anyone craving more J Saul Kane could do worse than pickup Mars89 from the always killer, Bokeh Versions label. From the moment Cutty Ranks bellows “Six million ways to die! Choose one!” I was in familiar territory
The Japanese producer lays down a scratchy drum pattern that feels halfway between Aphex Twin’s “At The Heart Of It All” and early Dizzee Rascal, pairing eldritch machinery with the square wave bass of early grime.

31. Young Fathers – In My View

30. black midi – bmbmbm

29. Vybz Kartel – Under Water / Spice – Under Fire

28. Duval Timothy – 2 Sim

27. El Michels Affair – Never Be Another You (Reggae Remix Dub) [feat. Lee Fileds]

26. JPEGMAFIA – Baby I’m Bleeding / I Cannot Fucking Wait Until Morrissey Dies

25. Childish Gambino – This Is America

24. 1010 Benja SL – Wind Up Space

23. Against All Logic – This Old House Is All I Have

22. Janelle Monáe – Make Me Feel

21. Robyn – Honey

20. Eminem – Killshot / Venom

19. girl in red – Girls

No, this is not a phase
Or a coming of age
This will never change…
They’re so pretty it hurts
I’m not talking ’bout boys, I’m talking ’bout girls

“i make songs in my room🏳️‍🌈🌹🖤” says 19 year old Norwegain, Marie Ulven on the Instagram where she premiered this song live back in June.

18. Mortimer – Careful

17. Fontaines D.C. – Chequeless Reckless

16. Courtney Marie Andrews – May Your Kindness Remain

15. Sons Of Kemet – My Queen Is Ada Eastman (feat. Joshua Idehen) / My Queen Is Harriet Tubman

14. Valve – The Happening

13. Meat Beat Manifesto vs Terry Riley – ‘In C’

12. Neneh Cherry – Natural Skin Deep / Kong

11.Teyana Taylor – Hurry (feat. Kanye West)

10. Popcaan – Body So Good

9. John Prine – Summer’s End

8. Christine and the Queens – Doesn’t matter

7. Goat – Let It Burn

6. Thegiornalisti – Felicità puttana

5. IDLES – Danny Nedelko / GREAT

4. Je ne sais quoi – Baudouin III

La Souterraine (or ‘The Underground’ in English) isn’t strictly speaking a label as such – operating more as an unofficial network of activists and artists – but whatever ermm… label you choose to stick on them, one thing’s for sure, anything with their name on it is pretty much guaranteed to be worth a listen. Marie Modiano’s epic and beautiful ‘Guérir ma colère’ was one of my highlights of last year and there are plenty more notable delicacies on their Bandcamp.

Their latest Gallic pleasure comes from Bordeaux duo ‘Je ne sais quio’ with their album ‘Qu’est-ce que ça’ and in particular the opening track, ‘Baudouin III’ which originally came out in 2016. Spoken entirely in French so I can’t tell you much about the lyrics or if it’s about Baldwin the third, Count of Flanders (940AD) but if you can imagine James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem on one of his laments/musings on life but with production credits taken by Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel (Air) then you’re getting close. A French friend of mine informs me the lyrics are basically a “long meditation on insomnia, car crashes, space, hunger in the world, science and more existential drifts”.

3. Koffee – Toast / Raggamuffin

Koffee is 17 but says her mission is “to preserve Jamaica’s roots and culture in music and to empower the youth of my generation”. Aim high! On the evidence of ‘Raggamuffin’, she’s got the goods lyrically, dropping references in broad patois to Mario Balotelli and the failure of the Jamaican government to help the island’s youth, onto the ever infectious classic ‘Real Rock’ Riddim.

On the strength of this release, BBC 1xtra teamed her with Chronixx for a MistaJam special at Tuff Gong studios, again on the Real Rock Riddim. The video has over a million streams on YouTube alone.

2. Sol Patches – Last Soil (feat. Emeka, Andre & Chaski)

Binary me, can’t parish me
believe me, I’m living this legacy
trans nigga therapy, cause gender is a heresy
and i can’t ever let it be… construct by whiteness – (lyrics)

Sol Patches popped onto my radar thanks to my irregular and at the time forlorn search to see if rapper/singer, Andre (formally Leandra & The Dream) had released any new music. Tracks like ‘Don’t Wanna Be Poetry‘ blew me away back in 2016 and of course, featured in my year-end top 200.  It’s a mystery to me why they aren’t yet a household name but thankfully a first LP ‘Tale of the mind’ arrived last summer (scroll down for a track from that too).

Anyway, I digress, one particular Andre google search took me to Sol Patches, a trans rapper who like Andre uses ‘they/them’ pronouns, and whose track ‘Last Soil’ features not only Andre, but also another favourite, EMEKA.

Here’s how Sol Patches describes the ‘Garden City’ album:
“Sol Patches (they/them) presents Garden City, a love letter written in music for trans people, we who dream and live to unlearn- creating in a field that denies our very existence. Sol Patches was born on the southside, raised partially on the westside, and has family roots in Cabrini Green. Part of their mission is a wide implementation of their stories to interrogate streamlined conversations of difference, while rooted in care, compassion, and critical theory. The social structures that are prescribed to the black body trans body tire Patches deeply. Garden City simultaneously specifies and abstracts the black trans body, a body often lost in violent translations. The investments made towards this project are decidedly not capital. No income was involved, instead, a chosen family is responsible. Garden City marinates on this idea of chosen family, how each member’s hearts sound, how their love feels. Love letters are really just letters with a lot of love in them. Garden City is a love letter, and an inhalation. A testimony and a critical reading that tracks Patches’ experience riding a line at which fire is at peace with the dark. We pass through empty lots, where the grass was left unbothered, where the abandoned buildings tumble, where empty bottles glisten, where the kids played hide and seek, and where law enforcement hid around the block. Garden City is for those Gardens, a project that encompasses all these sightings and is in constant TRANsition. We want to welcome you to experience it.

‘Last Soil’ – and the album it comes from – rewards repeated listening (I must be in the 100’s by now). It’s lyrically dense but playful and exudes warmth despite lyrics that don’t hold back on the forces stacked against ‘them’. Perhaps the opening chuckle from Andre sets the tone, and their appearance midway through is – for me at least – a highlight although I wouldn’t say they ‘lift’ the track as it was up there already.

1. Nakhane – You Will Not Die / Age of Consent

I was very late to the hype around South African artist, Nakhane but the hype is in this case very much justified. Nakhane’s voice is a thing of utter beauty and I can think of no higher praise than to say, when I first heard it I couldn’t quite believe it wasn’t a new album by David McAlmont. Such is the similarity in phrasing, tone, pitch, everything. Listen to McAlmont on ‘You’ll Lose A Good Thing’ and then listen to Nakhane. Anyway, I should talk about Nakhane, not past favourites, but being compared to someone with one of THE voices of this or any century can’t be a bad thing 🙂