Sunday, January 5, 2020

Top 50 Songs of 2019

Disclaimer: I am not a professional and while I do hope to hear every song at time of release, there are some older tracks in here as always. This is more like a list of the 50 songs I fell in love with this year. I try not to overdo it with too many songs by the same artists, but everything I loved is in the Spotify playlist regardless of how many times it's the same artist. I hope you enjoy and find something you love. 

1. Tame Impala – “Posthumous Forgiveness”

Strap in folks, this song will take you for a ride. Tame Impala, now well-established as one of the biggest acts in rock music, are readying their follow-up to their mega-hit album Currents, and if “Posthumous Forgiveness” is any indication, lead singer Kevin Parker is about to get a lot more personal. The song is a message delivered directly to Parker’s recently deceased and estranged father, dealing with his emergence from a child who still looked up to him to his eventual understanding of how selfish his father actually was in his abandonment (“Did you think I'd never know? Never wise up as I grow?”). The lyrics are cutting, reminiscent of the no-holds-barred anger in Death Cab for Cutie’s “Styrofoam Plates”. “And while you still had time, you had a chance/But you decided to take all your sorrys to the grave,” Parker sings. What separates “Posthumous Forgiveness” from a track like “Styrofoam Plates”, beyond the terrific music itself, is the woundedness and openness of part two, bereft of the anger this time. Parker longs for a father that would have seen and loved the crazy life he ended up living (“Or the time that I had/Mick Jagger on the phone/I thought of you when we spoke”). And of course, the song includes, as the title implies, a sequence of forgiveness after all. Yes, the song hits me close as a father of a young son, I do not deny that, knowing the responsibility I have to be the kind of father and influence I so strongly want to be. “Posthumous Forgiveness” is a stark reminder of what happens when that responsibility goes awry, the damage it can cause, and why I hope to spend every year on this Earth trying to be the best father I can be.

2. Local Natives – “When Am I Gonna Lose You”

Can things be good to be true? “When Am I Gonna Lose You” is a love song, in a way, it really is. But it’s about those early stages of love when you just can’t believe it can possibly last. I tried for years to get my eventual wife to notice me, love me. I remember those early years, that sense of self-doubt so embedded that it lingers, even when things are going unmistakably right. It’s a feeling and subject matter not often explored, an insight into anxiety and that feeling that this perfect thing, this wonderful person, cannot possibly love imperfect me.

3. William Fitzsimmons – “Angela”

If you’ve heard William Fitzsimmons before you’ll be familiar with the hushed vocals and emotion in the lyrics. What you’ve never heard before is music this layered, with the guitars underpinning the background reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games”. This musical growth combined with what is undoubtedly a heartbreaking song about, well, heartbreak (“Sometimes at night I can still hear you laying beside him/Whispering about all the hurt that you’re leaving behind”) and the holes it leaves behind (“Sooner or later we end up as fragile compartments/Tired of carrying a soul that is so far from home/I never said I was scared of eventually dying/My only fear is I might have to do it alone”). 

4. Bon Iver – “Faith”

In a fine career with top flight albums and top flight songs, it means a lot to describe something as among Bon Iver’s very best. “Faith” is there, though. Unlike some of his recent work, these lyrics are more personal and direct. The song is, as the title implies, about faith. Ever-changing, transforming, difficult faith. I think of the challenges of growing older, losing that automatic faith instilled in you as a child (“It's not going the road I'd known as a child of God”, he sings), wondering how it becomes your own and struggling with knowing if you still have it when it just doesn’t feel the same. Countless songs have been written on this topic, but Vernon’s conclusion is different than some, especially his contemporaries in increasingly unchurched, faithless world. “And we have to know that faith declines…I'm not all out of mine” is one of the year’s most powerful lines.

5. Noah Gundersen – “Watermelon”

Noah Gundersen has been a revelation for me the last two years. His latest album, Lover, is his best yet. His ability to shift from personal and nostalgic to raucous and powerful is truly impressive. “Watermelon” is the former, a painfully introspective song that looks back at life’s ups and downs and looks forward to life’s next steps. 

6. Interpol – “Fine Mess”

7. Mick Flannery – “Fool”

8. The National – “Quiet Light”

9. Lana Del Rey – “The greatest”

10. Yola – “Faraway Look”

11. Novo Amor – “State Lines”
12. Bootstraps – “Replica”
13. Charlie Cunningham – “Minimum”
14. Jimmy Eat World – “555”
15. Bear’s Den – “Laurel Wreath”
16. The Hold Steady – “Traditional Village”
17. Harry Styles – “Lights Up”
18. Kishi Bashi – “Marigolds”
19. The Head and the Heart – “Running Through Hell”
20. The Violents – “Scene Unseen”

21. Lizzo – “Juice”
22. James Blake – “I’ll Come Too”
23. Billie Eilish – “bad guy”
24. Taylor Swift – “False God”
25. Biffy Clyro – “Tunnels and Trees”
26. Third Eye Blind – “Ways”
27. Tame Impala – “Borderline”
28. William Fitzsimmons – “In the Light (Alternate Version)
29. Local Natives – “Megaton Mile”

30. The National – “Oblivions”
31. Bootstraps – “Evergreen”
32. Noah Gundersen – “God Don’t Talk to Strangers”
33. Bon Iver – “Hey, Ma”
34. Foals – “Exits”
35. Panda Bear – “playing the long game”
36. Chvrches – “Death Stranding”
37. Coldplay – “Everyday Life”
38. Patrick Watson – “Here Comes the River”
39. Grimes & i_o – “Violence”

40. MØ ft. Foster the People – “Blur”
41. Jonas Brothers – “Sucker”
42. MISSIO – “I See You”
43. Weezer – “High As A Kite”
44. Blood Orange ft Toro y Moi – “Dark & Handsome”
45. Sufjan Stevens – “Love Yourself”
46. Francis and the Lights – “Take Me to the Light”
47. Liam Ghallagher – “Once”
48. Backstreet Boys – “Chances”
49. Caribou – “You and I”
50. Local Natives – “Café Amarillo”