It’s FINALLY here lol. We’ve spent the last several weeks listening to, relistening to, and then ordering and reordering well over a hundred eligible singles to try to find our Top 20 Tracks of 2018. I say “our” Top 20, because this list is just that. There is so much worthwhile music in Knoxville beyond what makes it into these EOY lists. So if you think we missed anything, let us know on our social media, because we’re going to have a followup post next week to share what you, the readers and music appreciators of Knoxville, have to say about it. Just remember that some songs may be absent from this list because they’re going to be included in our Top Albums list coming out later this week.
Speaking of this being a celebration of some of the best that Knoxville has to offer, it’s fitting that our sponsors for this post and the Top 20 Albums (coming up in a few days) are Remedy Coffee and Raven Records! Drop in to Remedy at 800 Tyson St. near the corner of Broadway and Central Street to try some of their amazing Intelligentsia Coffee & Teas. Then you can make a day of it and pop down to Raven Records & Rarities and pick up some vinyl from their incredible, diverse collection.
And now, on to the songs!
20) City of Animals - “Sad Devil”
There are some familiar names involved in City of Animals in Michelle Porter and Rob Morrow, formerly of Mad Queen Mary. 2018 brought us the first dark and deep synth-pop track from City of Animals, and it looks like there might be some more new stuff in the works to look forward to from this band.
19) Art Smashes Records - “Choose to Fall”
Art Smashes Records continues to hold court in the indie-pop genre for Knoxville. “Choose To Fall” has some heavy Mutemath vibes to it mixed with a little bit of early Passion Pit. This was one of three singles from the Knoxville five-piece, and the other ones are certainly worth checking out as well.
18) Yung Life - “Someone”
Synth-wave / indie rock outfit Yung Life quietly released a few new tracks in 2018, and if you’re as big a fan of the dreamy chilled out vibes they’ve become known for over the years, then "Sum One” is for you!
17) More More More - “Voices Shake Me”
“Voices Shake Me” is the debut single from More More More, another band on this list whose single is a preamble to more new music that we’re very much looking forward to. This track is a beautifully textured song with a lot of layers and a strong, danceable beat that you can really pump your fist to.
16) Nancy Ann - “How to Know That They Don’t Love You”
You can really hear the Civil Wars influence in the hauntingly sweet melodies of Nancy Ann’s “How To Know That They Don’t Love You.”
15) The Verns - “High Fashion Savage”
We’re really excited to point you in the direction of what The Verns are doing. If you haven’t checked out any of their stuff or if you’ve never heard them before, stop scrolling through this article and hit the play button on “High Fashion Savage.” It’s a hype af track that’s just begging for a mosh pit.
14) Kelsi Walker - “Breathe”
Really changing up the pace from #15 to #14 lol. Kelsi Walker’s “Breathe” is a beautiful and well-written song about grace and redemption and hope.
13) Electric Darling - “Love Child”
We were really stoked to get our hands on some new music with Electric Darling featuring their new front-woman Sarah Phillips. Her gritty, soul singing on “Love Child” harks back to Janis Joplin. Not sure if that’s intentional or not, but the result is fantastic. As always with Electric Darling, all the musicianship built around the lead vocals is on point.
12) Lamont & Ukamea - “Lycan Life”
Ukamea is one of the most prolific artists in East Tennessee, and he always seems to find his way on these lists. Lamont has been consistently putting out quality stuff as well. Putting the two of them together is kinda not fair. “Lycan Life” is the lead single from There Are Werewolves, a collaborative full-length record from the two hometown hip-hop upstarts, and it’s definitely worth your time.
11) Jaymison - “Yellow Squash”
With his first single to hit Spotify, Jaymison found his way on the New And Notable playlist and watched his streaming numbers soar. Few knock it out of the park with their first swing like that, but when you hear the smooth beach vibes of “Yellow Squash,” you’ll see that it makes total sense. (BTW, Jaymison is celebrating the release of his next single with a show at Remedy Coffee on March 1st. They’re one of our sponsors, remember. That’s synergy, baby!)
10) Haley Labelle - “Bid Him So”
Haley Labelle is one of the most exciting new artists in Knoxville in terms of potential. Every time I hear her sing, I get chills. Her voice is stunning, and is truly a rare talent. “Bid Him So” is yet another debut single on this Top 20 list. Man, the future is looking bright in Knoxville right now.
9) Emily Ann Roberts - “Stuck on Me + You”
Rising to national fame on a major network singing competition show performing other people’s songs, it can be difficult to navigate following that up with original music. Emily Ann Roberts is making it look easy with her first run of singles. “Stuck One Me + You” racked up nearly 250k streams on Spotify, and the music video has about 100k more. By the way, it’s good to get at least one country song on this list.
8) Honkonen - “Pushpin Clovers”
“Pushpin Clovers” by Honkonen was listed as a b-side to his single “Dry Out.” Recorded at his own Pitchwire studio and produced by his Peak Physique bandmate Wil Wright, “Pushpin Clovers” is a dreamy track perfect for scoring a cloudy day.
7) Xandria Cross - “Brave”
Xandria Cross keeps getting better and better. “Brave” is a joyous, pure pop anthem. Anthemic pop is proving to be Xandria’s home base, the kind of song where she’s at her best.
6) Groundhog - “Turn It Down”
This is one of the few songs eligible to be on this list that actually came out in 2017. It’s December release happened to be right after the top tracks of ‘17 came out, and my obsession with this track made me make sure to remember it when it was time for this year’s list. “Turn It Down” has a real Pinback feel to it. The guitar tone, the mood, the lyrics, and the breakdown at the end are perfect. It’s the kind of song you can leave on repeat and never get tired of.
5) Travis Bigwood - “Paw’s Place”
The gentle background vocals of Aubrey Mullins and Skylan Bracey accentuate Travis Bigwood’s song “Paw’s Place” perfectly. It’s a captivating track, super tight, and well put together. Look out for a debut record from Travis Bigwood coming up some time in 2019!
4) Carly Bannister, Jordy Searcy, & The Tuesday Crew - “Just Like Autumn”
So much goodness in one song. The alluring voices of both Carly Bannister and Jordy Searcy?! It’s such a sweet song, and it’s so well done. It’s October release (and subject matter) made it a perfect anthem for fall.
3) Skitty - “Swimming in High Tech”
The beat is crazy. (Shoutout to MisterCorb) The flow is crazy. “Swimming in Hi Tech” by Skitty is a track that’s hard to wear out no matter how many times you play it in a row.
2) Octavio - “4LETTERWORD”
Octavio put out a handful of good singles in 2018, and it was honestly difficult to choose one of them. “4LETTERWORD” was sent to us by email submission, and we instantly fell in love with it. It’s so smooth, and the fusion of indie-rock and hip-hop is so tasteful. That can be a difficult combo to pull off, and Octavio nails it here.
1) Briston Maroney - “Freakin’ Out On The Interstate”
2018 was quite a year for Briston Maroney. He toured around the country playing packed clubs, and had his first song to crack a millino plays on Spotify. “Freaking Out On The Interstate” was the lead single to his five-song Carnival EP. As young as he is, Briston Maroney has gone through a couple major transformations as a musician. He was singing pop songs on American Idol what seems like an eternity ago. He fronted a bluegrass band for a few years playing everything from street corners to big venues. He’s now performing under his own name with an alt-rock three-piece outfit, and it feels like this most recent iteration fits him perfectly.
That’s it! Be on the lookout for the Top Albums of 2018 list coming soon. Thanks again to our sponsors, Remedy Coffee, Raven Records, and The Outpost. Be sure to let us know if there was anyone you think should be included, and check out our Spotify playlist with all these songs (that are available on the platform) below with a few more honorable mentions.