17 Dec 2018

Best of 2018: RNZ presenters and staff pick their favourite tracks

From RNZ Music, 12:30 pm on 17 December 2018

The team at RNZ - both on air and off - pick their favourite songs of 2018 and tell us what they're up to over summer!

L-R: (1st row) Jogai Bhatt, Susie Ferguson, Jim Mora (2nd row) Jana Whitta, Koro Vaka'uta, Jesse Mulligan (3rd row) Gyles Beckford, Matthew Hutching, Eden More

L-R: (1st row) Jogai Bhatt, Susie Ferguson, Jim Mora (2nd row) Jana Whitta, Koro Vaka'uta, Jesse Mulligan (3rd row) Gyles Beckford, Matthew Hutching, Eden More Photo: Supplied

Gyles Beckford, business editor

Gyles Beckford - RNZ Business Editor

Gyles Beckford - RNZ Business Editor Photo: RNZ

Favourite track of 2018: Blair Jollands - ‘7 Blood’

I heard the Blair Jollands track on RNZ National one night and then picked up the interview in Music 101. I like the lush strings accompaniment to a strong driving beat that has elements of funk and disco. And it has a great video.

In terms of local music, Fat Freddy’s Drop is a just an automatic choice for me. I have never been disappointed by them and 'Trickle Down' delivers the familiar brass with a great electronic soundtrack, and some thoughtful lyrics into the bargain.

And for old times' sake, The Beatles. Having grown up in Liverpool I couldn’t not be a Beatles boy. 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' from The White Album reissue, has a particular significance.

Gyles’ holiday plans:

For summer, it’s reading, walking the dogs, chilling with Matinee Idle.

Jesse Mulligan, host of Afternoons and  Kate Newton, journalist for RNZ's In-Depth team

Jesse Mulligan with Elizabeth and Jonathan from The Beths, and Kate Newton

Jesse Mulligan with Elizabeth and Jonathan from The Beths, and Kate Newton Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Both Jesse and Kate chose The Beths - ‘Future Me Hates Me’

Jesse: Every time you hear a new song from The Beths you think “Wow, they will never top this one,” then you love their next song even more. Look, if you’re putting a gun to my head, I’ll choose 'Future Me Hates Me', for its massive opening chord sequence, the way Liz (despite being the toast of the international music press) delivers the last word of every line in an unmistakable Kiwi accent, for Jonathan’s beautiful little guitar fills and for the way the verses go loud/quiet, loud/quiet before dropping into one of the hookiest choruses in indie pop history.

I saw them play this song live and watched the band vibing giddily off the audience who were jumping up and down and singing along from start to finish. Jumping and singing is the best and only way to listen to this song.

Jesse’s holiday plans:

I am heading north with my beautiful children to catch kingfish and pretend that I enjoy going to the beach (I hate the beach! But when you have three children it’s important not to be a bad influence)

Kate: First of all, step off Jesse Mulligan.

I chose this track, as it’s like Liz Stokes has built some secret road of national significance directly to the inner recesses of my mind. Wittingly making life choices that might break your heart but doing it anyway? Yeah.

Also, my flatmates and I are a bunch of absolute Beths creeps (step off, John Campbell) and this is probably the most played tune in our house this year. That fuzzy guitar riff is like a piece of the furniture now; the walls could probably hum it back to you.

Kate's holiday plans:

This summer my mum and I are road-tripping up to Northland. She was worried they’d close the Waipoua forest before she saw Tane Mahuta again. She’s never heard of The Beths but she’s about to, big time.

Susie Ferguson, host of Morning Report

RNZ's Susie Ferguson proudly wears the ginger badge.

RNZ's Susie Ferguson proudly wears the ginger badge. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Favourite track of 2018: Aretha Franklin ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’

Part of me wants to go for Marlon Williams’ ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’ ft. Aldous Harding, but it did win the Silver Scroll, so it may be too obvious. I do think it's achingly beautiful though, like it reaches around your heart, pulling and tweaking it.

It has a bleak painful emptiness, while at the same time it respects and acknowledges the beauty of what is now lost. Stunning. That's my NZ song of the Year.

The other one I've gone for is by Aretha Franklin. Of course, she died this year and is a real intergenerational artist. I remember Mum playing her records when I was a kid; I listened to her when I was a student; and, "Can we have Aretha Franklin?" is often one of the first things my daughter says when she gets in the car or when we're putting music on.

So the choice of Aretha song has been delegated to Ms. 6 (Iris) as I couldn't decide. She's gone for ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’.

Aretha's voice and sass and songs are ubiquitous, but I learned so much about her after she died. I had no idea she had two children by the time she was 15 (OMG) and that at times she bankrolled the Civil Rights Movement.

Jim Mora, host of The Panel

Jim Mora, host of RNZ's The Panel

Jim Mora, host of RNZ's The Panel Photo: Supplied

Favourite song of 2018: Soaked Oats - ‘Gum-15’

I don’t know why I like it; well I do, but describing that would be a jumble. It takes me back to my Dunedin days in Castle Street (680 not 660), with flatmates finding melodies on guitars and forming bands with earnestness and great confidence.

This song just seems honest and not soaked in too much lacquer.

Jim’s holiday plans:

We are away down to the rural South Island, seeing family, and cycling through parts of Fiordland and Southland. My primary pre-Christmas mission has been assembling things that glow for a big night-time treasure hunt for extended whanau near Leeston.

Kim Hill, presenter Saturday Morning

Kim Hill

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Ed's note: Kim was evasive and managed to completely avoid choosing, although we've noticed a suspicious amount of Hurray for the Riff Raff on her show this year.

Kim: Sadly I’m always at least a year behind, so what I’ve been listening to… is not 2018.  And I’ve been trying to rifle through some newish releases to present myself as at least a little woke, but I don’t like anything much yet. Ask me next year... damn, too late again. 

Ravinder Hunia, sports journalist

Ravinder Hunia at goal shoot against the Parly Ferns in Auckland, September 2018.

Ravinder Hunia at goal shoot against the Parly Ferns in Auckland, September 2018. Photo: Photosport

Favourite track of 2018: Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino - ‘This is America’

Not only is the beat siiiiick, it really reflects a modern-day America. In my opinion, the provocative song set the tone for a lot of debate in America this year – to take off the fear goggles and finally talk about racial issues. The NFL stars taking a knee, gun violence, political controversy with black America – this song was a strong statement on all of that as well as the country’s past. It also started many conversations within NZ’s Maori communities.

It’s also a song I can bounce around to in the car and at the gym (lol).

Ravinder’s holiday plans:

I am celebrating my first summer break in five years! I am hosting Christmas at home with my beautiful family then going to wing it after that, hopefully, will get up to the Hokianga where my husband’s family is from.

Susan Strongman, journalist for RNZ's In-Depth team

Susan Strongman in Yosemite National Park

Susan Strongman in Yosemite National Park Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Princess Chelsea - 'I Love My Boyfriend'

I really like the lazy guitar in this song, it lowers my blood pressure. The lyrics are also very relatable and she introduces the guitar, a la Jonathan Richman, which is very good. Also, I love the video.

Susan’s holiday plans:

For my summer holiday, I will probably be working quite a lot because I went away for a month in September. But hopefully, I can still go to the beach a lot.

Cynthia Morahan, host of RNZ Concert’s Daybreak

Cynthia Morahan will spend her summer holiday sleeping!

Cynthia Morahan will spend her summer holiday sleeping! Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Marlon Williams - ‘Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore’

It’s been stuck in my head for months. Especially the last few lines: “What am I gonna do when you’re in trouble and you don’t call out for me…” – ahhh! So heartbreaking. This is a choir boy taking us to heaven. Also, I love the video – clearly conceived by someone with a realistic understanding of the service industry.

Cynthia’s holiday plans

Sleeping. I’ll also be trying to finish Milkman by Anna Burns. It’s hard going, but I’m motivated by the tantalising sight of Barbara Kingsolver’s latest next to my bed and next on the reading list.

The kids and I are also to idyllic Banks Peninsula for some swimming, bushwalking and dog time with my sister’s golden Labrador. The dog is extremely entertaining. I have watched her try and eat an entire Barbie doll.

Zoe George, producer and journalist for RNZ Concert

Zoe George

Zoe George Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Drax project - ‘Woke Up Late’

This has been the pick of the year for me. It won single of the year at the 2018 Tuis, and it’s easy to see why.

Drax Project will be performing the halftime show for the doubleheader cricket game featuring the White Ferns & Blackcaps at the Stadium in Wellington in February.

Hopefully they’ll have the entire stadium dancing at the cricket.

Cricket and music - my two favourite things!

Zoe's holiday plans:

Watching cricket and not much else!

Koro Vakauta, senior journalist at RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific News Editor, Koro Vaka'uta.

RNZ Pacific News Editor, Koro Vaka'uta. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Koroi Hawkins

Favourite track of 2018: Drax Project - ‘Toto’

I had to discuss this with my 10-year-old daughter because honestly, the only “modern” music I listen to is usually with her. (I’ve struggled my entire life to leave behind the heights of 90s RnB and hip-hop)

Being a born and bred Wellingtonian I have a soft spot for others from the coolest capital in the world, also I LOVE Toto’s ‘Africa’, so how could I ignore this little offering.

My daughter is constantly dancing, (when she’s not talking), so the video also appeals, as it features NZers from all walks of life and locations getting their boogie on.

Koro’s holiday plans:

For the summer holiday, I eat copious amounts, which is honestly not just restricted to holidays, but I will do so while surrounded by extended family who are gathering in Wellington, so there will be plenty of giggles and laughs shared.

Will head up to the Bay, (Hawke’s), for a couple of days of sun as well. And I’ll take off a week in Feb to attend Waitangi commemorations up north, which is always an amazing experience.

Katrina Batten, newsreader and presenter

RNZ's Christmas elves: Katrina Batten aka Sugar (right) and Catriona McLeod aka Spice (left).

RNZ's Christmas elves: Katrina Batten aka Sugar (right) and Catriona McLeod aka Spice (left). Photo: RNZ

Favourite track of 2018: Prince - ‘17 Days’ (Piano & A Microphone 1983 Version)

I LOVE Prince – especially early Prince.  When this version of 17 Days came out on his new album released this year, Piano and a Microphone 1983, I fell in love with him all over again – it highlights his musical talents so well, plus as a studio engineer, I love the fact that he’s telling the sound engineer to turn his feed of his voice down.  He was a fantastic musician especially piano and guitar.  I miss him. 

Katrina’s holiday plans:

I’ll be working over the summer like I do every year and will take a break later in 2019 to hopefully go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Nick Tipping, host of Inside Out, RNZ Concert’s jazz show

RNZ Concert presenter: Nick Tipping

RNZ Concert presenter: Nick Tipping Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Favourite track of 2018: Brad Kang - ‘Spiral’

Brad Kang is a Kiwi guitarist from Christchurch. He’s been in the U.S. for the last two years but has just moved back home. He’s playing at a word class level even though he’s relatively young. To me, that’s what Kiwi jazz is all about - doing our own thing and competing alongside the greatest on the world stage.

Nick’s holiday plans:

I’m going to two places: Tauranga and Akaroa, to be with family.

Jessie Chiang, reporter

RNZ reporter Jessie Chiang

RNZ reporter Jessie Chiang Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Lauren Daigle – ‘Look Up Child’

It has a very laid back vibe but also makes you want to dance. The lyrics of hope and comfort in life’s struggles aren’t necessarily something you’d pair with such a happy sounding tune, but in this case I think it works.

It has a carefree, child-like feel to it, which I love!

Jessie’s holiday plans:

I’ll be trying to hit up as many beaches and hikes around the North Island as possible. I love a good Kiwi summer and we haven’t had a lot of great weather days yet.

My brother is also getting married in Sydney in January so I’ll be busy with that too – I’m the MC and currently collating bad jokes in preparation for it.

Tim Dodd, producer for RNZ Concert

Tim Dodd of RNZ Concert

Tim Dodd of RNZ Concert Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Angelique Kidjo - ‘Crosseyed and Painless’

All the tracks on her Remain in Light album are brilliant, but let’s go with ‘Crosseyed and Painless’. The original Talking Heads album Remain in Light (1980) is one of my all-time favourites (although, I have to admit their previous one Fear of Music edges it slightly) and Angelique Kidjo’s re-imagining is revelatory.

The original songs, by a bunch of New England art school WASPs, were inspired by African sounds and rhythms - Kidjo and her band’s versions take them back to the continent and, in a way, authenticate them. They also kick ass.

Tim’s holiday plans:

Staying in beautiful Karitane, north of Dunedin, for Christmas … a family Christmas with my mother and my wide Dunedin family. Then a few days in Ophir (Central Otago), followed by tramping the Routeburn.

Claire Eastham-Farrelly, senior visual journalist

Claire Eastham-Farrelly, senior visual journalist

Claire Eastham-Farrelly, senior visual journalist Photo: Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Favourite track of 2018: SWIDT – ‘No Emotions in the Wild’

My favourite song of the year has to be ‘No Emotions In The Wild’ by SWIDT. I really love the juxtaposition of Spcc & INF’s verses in this track. It tackles some big issues like mental health, suicide and toxic masculinity in a really direct way up the top and then just as you’re settling in to the vibe the beat switches up and the song 180’s.

Claire’s holiday plans:

Trading my camera for an array of power tools & working on our house all holidays. Maybe squeeze in a beach trip or two.

Paul Thompson, CEO

RNZ CEO Paul Thompson and Trinidad journalist Mark Bassant, during Paul's recent trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica.

RNZ CEO Paul Thompson and Trinidad journalist Mark Bassant, during Paul's recent trip to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Brockhampton - ‘Sweet’

My daughters Carlin and Eden love Brockhampton. They introduced me to this hip-hop group,  though for some reason they didn’t invite me to go with them to the concert in Auckland.

For me, ‘Sweet’ is a bit of a gateway drug to new hip-hop and also has a whiff of the Chilli Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magic that takes me back to the early 90s. Also, after a visit to Jamaica this year, I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Marley and it sounds newly-minted to me (see photo).

Paul’s holiday plans:

Reading, biking, BBQ-ing, swimming and lawn mowing in various North Island locations.

Jana Whitta, audio engineer and producer

Jana Whitta, audio engineer

Jana Whitta, audio engineer Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Snail Mail - ‘Pristine’

Sheesh, this was hard! But I chose this refreshing wee number from Snail Mail because not only is it in the top 5 of my ‘Top songs 2018’ Spotify playlist, it is also an album that I rushed out to buy from the local record store when it was released.

Snail Mail is the solo project of 19-year-old guitarist and singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan. I  don’t know about you but I can’t remember much of how I was feeling when I was 19, let alone having the ability to articulate it, but I’m pretty sure I was no way near as self-aware or ‘deep’ as Lindsey demonstrates in her songwriting skills on her debut album Lush, and as a 34-year-old, I am quite in awe of it.

'Pristine' is the first single off the album, it immediately grabbed me with the opening strums, which introduce her excellent guitar playing, then her sweet, carefree vocal melody has all the feel good and hopeful hooks you want to hear in all great pop rock songs.

These lines are the real kicker:

“And I know myself, and I'll never love anyone else / I won't love anyone else / I'll never love anyone else“

They take me right back to feeling exactly like that when I was her age - a naive sentiment we can all relate to I’m sure! The real gold in the song for me is in the outro, where it builds slowly into an angsty place of acceptance for the finale.

Jana’s holiday plans:

I am going home to Wellington for Christmas with the family, then yet to organise something special for my first wedding anniversary with my wife.

Eden More, journalist for RNZ's Te Manu Korihi team

Eden More for Te Manu Korihi

Eden More for Te Manu Korihi Photo: Supplied

Favourite Track of 2018: Ella Mai - ‘Boo’d Up’

Boo’d Up was definitely an anthem this year. The puppy-love lyrics over a beat that sounds like a lost classic from SWV brings back that soulfulness feel of the 90’s RnB. Even though I’ve probably heard it 1261523 times I can’t help boppin' with it, it’s just too catchy. “Ba-dum, boo'd up. Biddy-da-dum, boo'd up!”

Eden’s holiday plans:

Spend time with loved ones, eat, tan, sleep and eat some more.

Trevor Reekie, presenter Worlds of Music

Trevor Reekie of Worlds of Music

Trevor Reekie of Worlds of Music Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Rob Ruha - ‘I Te Pō’ ft. Kaaterama & The Ru-Cru

I’ve talked to Rob a couple of times and he never fails to impress. The song came to my attention when I included it in a Worlds of Music episode and it just resonates.

It's a song that totally confirms music is a universal language.

Trev’s holiday plans:

I’ll be working!

Matthew Hutching, digital producer for Morning Report

Morning Report's digital producer Matthew Hutching

Morning Report's digital producer Matthew Hutching Photo: Supplied

Favourite track of 2018: Holly Arrowsmith - 'Every Kingdom'

It feels like it’s been a long year, and it’s hard to think back to what’s come out. Kurt Vile’s Bottle It In was a burst of warm tones in the middle of our winter, and Azimuth by local act Mali Mali was really absorbing. But Holly Arrowsmith’s new album A Dawn I Remember arrived in June and was our soundtrack through the cold months.

It’s spacious, colourful – Holly’s songs are glimpses of various places or people. 'Every Kingdom' is a favourite. I love the sound of the guitar, with this gentle sort of pace, holding the same notes while the song changes around it. It will be a good album to listen as we travel to Canada for a snowy Christmas.

Nona Pelletier, senior business reporter

Nona Pelletier

Nona Pelletier Photo: Supplied

Favourite Track of 2018: Michael Bublé - 'Let it snow'

Ed’s note: Nona missed the memo about choosing a 2018 release, but she’s Canadian and it’s Michael Bublé, so we’ll let it slide.

I chose this song because it makes me feel warm and happy inside… literally.

"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!", also known as "Let It Snow", is a song written by lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne in July of 1945. Love Dean Martin and the many versions of the song.

Nona’s holiday plans:

I'm spending my summer holidays in Winnipeg aka 'Winterpeg', my hometown.

Jogai Bhatt, social media journalist

Jogai Bhatt

Jogai Bhatt Photo: Luke McPake

Favourite track of 2018: Teyana Taylor - ‘Gonna Love Me’

I think I love it primarily cause I can hear the Jasmine Sullivan/Lauryn Hill influence, which is just super rich and soulful. Teyana’s voice is quite deep and raspy and that’s real comforting to listen to for whatever reason. It also features smooth production from Kanye West with a Delfonics sample weaved in over the post-chorus. Plus the generally bleak undertone of wanting someone’s attention. That slight tinge of desperation and desire just makes it.  K.T.S.E in its entirely is understated and underrated.

Jogai’s holiday plans:

Literally nothing. I’m looking forward to it.

  • RNZ Music's favourite local songs of 2018
  • RNZ Music's favourite international songs of 2018