Confession: I'm a year-end "best of" list junkie. I love learning what everyone enjoyed watching, reading and listening to throughout the year, because there's so much content and entertainment to consume these days, it's all too easy to miss some gems. I love making my own lists just as much, and I always look forward to making a playlist of my favorite songs of the year, because music will always be magic to me and I love getting to share what tracks I got swept up in.
This time around I started it off with "Comeback Kid" by Sharon Van Etten, my favorite play-on-repeat song for my daily commute. Her perfect vocals and raw energy made sitting in traffic actually enjoyable which is no easy feat. And then there's Jim James. There's few modern artists as prolific as James, who makes my list every year. He came out with two great albums in the past 12 months, but "No Secrets" is the track I keep coming back to again and again. Another note -- I don't always include covers in my list, but this year I couldn't get enough of Soccer Mommy's version of "I'm on Fire" and Morrissey's take on "Back on the Chain Gang."
We saw a lot of angst in the zeitgeist in 2018 -- political turmoil at home and overseas, foreboding reports on the future of our planet, and a general loss of faith in the goodness of both our neighbors and strangers. Of course, this was reflected in our art, and some of the best songs of the year were an overt response to these pressure points. Hozier's "Nina Cried Power" featuring Mavis Staples (a legendary R&B and gospel singer who marched with Martin Luther King Jr.) is a potent reminder that our civil liberties and rights were never given to us freely. "This Is America" by Childish Gambino made its mark with an unforgettable, viral music video that contrasted gun violence and racism with Afro-dance moves. Although many of us ended the year discouraged, there's a lot to be thankful for. Here in the U.S. we saw an increase in activism and participation in racial and social justice, and I look forward to Nick Kristof's column next week to learn why 2018 was the best year in human history. (Read last year's here.) I have hope because I believe evil is always overcome by good, and that's why I ended my playlist with Martin Dovali's optimistic chorus, "We're gonna be alright." Press play and turn it up. (Click here if the playlist isn't showing up below.)