Year End Music Countdowns #18: 2019

Ok here it is

The Top 25 Songs of 2019

25.Wake With– TR/ST

The word “enigmatic” is thrown around a little too liberally in contemporary music journalism, particularly in the past decade when everyone and their grandmother became secluded geniuses forging electro-pop on their laptops in the darkest hours of the night. TR/ST is pretty enigmatic though. I think it’s just one guy now? And he just pops up randomly every few years with a new album, not especially visible on any scene. He just shows up, drops a collection of electronic goth tunes, then leaves. He did that twice in 2019, with the first EP a solid offering featuring the laconic “Wake With” among other bleak synth-driven songs which may or may not be discussed before this countdown is through.

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24. The Tide 2.0 – The Spill Canvas

Thirty-five seconds before this song ends, The Spill Canvas launch into a moment of catharsis every fan of theirs has been unknowingly waiting for since the original acoustic version of “The Tide” dropped during the golden age of mall emo in the mid-2000s. Singer Nick Thomas’ voice has always dripped with venom during the band’s heavier tracks, and hearing him apply that venom to such visceral lyrics is something we didn’t think we needed but definitely did. It’s the rare reboot done right.

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23. Alone – Being As An Ocean

Fifteen years ago, this song would have landed somewhere in the top 10 of my yearly countdown. Thirteen years ago, perhaps in this same position. Ten years ago, I would listen to it but never admit to anyone that I was. Seven years ago, I would not have listened to it at all, dismissing it with a snide remark.

And so we’ve come to the point where I’ve completely lost any predilection for a specific genre. I just want good music, man. Being As An Ocean will likely not become an artist that will enter regular rotation on my playlist, but their brand of overly earnest hardcore has a certain charm to it. They’re like a cross between Blindside and mewithoutyou, or for the layperson, a less rap-oriented P.O.D.

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22. Lately – Metronomy

Metronomy have always skewed towards the artsier side of pop music, opting for more difficult arrangements than straightforward hooks. In that sense they’re a lot like Bloc Party, whose influence looms large over this track’s complex rhythm and pained verses.

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21. Stag- Goat Mumbles

With a brand new decade on the way it’s pretty likely that the world will be seeing a full blown aughts revival in pop culture, and The Districts will be able to say that they were one of the first. Vocalist Rob Grote‘s devotion to bands like Interpol is laid bare in most of their tracks, and it seeps into his side project Goat Mumbles as well. It’s slightly more electronic than The Districts, but maintains that New York cool vibe effectively.

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20. Jungle – Hotel Mira

As I’ll say many times over the course of this rundown: I don’t care where my music comes from anymore. It can even be from a west coast jangle-pop group that are basically another Said the Whale. Doesn’t mean I’m gonna suddenly become a Hotel Mira superfan just because I like the call-and-response choruses they’ve crafted in the energetic “Jungle”.

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19. Prismism – Keuning

I’m not sure whether Dave Keuning is still in The Killers or not, but if he’s not and he’s just going to keep on releasing sad vocoder ballads like this one then I’m okay with it.

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18. I THINK – Tyler, The Creator

Last year this spot was occupied by permanently disaffected singer-songwriter Father John Misty, a man so jaded he can’t enjoy a bowl of cereal without commenting on how the high-fructose corn syrup will put holes in his teeth that he’ll have to travel twenty minutes to get fixed at an overpriced dentist’s office. This year it’s the similarly too-cool-for-emotions Tyler, The Creator, only he’s not too cool this time around. As he states in the song’s hook, he’s fallen in love – or so he thinks – and it’s turned him into, you know, an actual human being instead of a Daria wannabe like every single e-celeb on Twitter (see: the toxic irony dorks that make up the chapo traphouse collective). In a world where sincerity is recoiled from, the one-time super troll has shown that he has actual feelings and he is okay with them.

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17. Eraserland – Strand of Oaks —

A lot of Strand of Oaks‘ songs sound like second-tier knock offs of The War on Drugs. This one does not, and it’s a smart direction for the band to go in the future. Built upon a cyclical hook that revolves like a massive windmill, a stone grey monolith inscribed with the world’s troubles. It’s a stately slice of Americana that veers more toward the sound of The National, and hopefully a harbinger of things to come.

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16. When Am I Gonna Lose You- Local Natives

For many years my response to the question “what kind of music do you like?” was “I’ll give every single band and genre a chance, and the only band who have never written a good song is Local Natives”. But now they have and I can’t say that anymore.

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15. Once – Two Door Cinema Club

TDCC didn’t have quite the success over the course of the decade that their 2010 hit “What You Know” did, but they did drop a few sunny, upbeat jams like this one.

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14. Unbleached – TR/ST

Okay, my bad, there are two people in TR/ST, and they make good electro goth music like this song.

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13. SLAVES OF FEAR – HEALTH

HEALTH were another group that started strong in 2010 but didn’t do as well as I (or they) had hoped later on, which is a shame because they have all the ingredients- they just haven’t put them all together in one song. I mean, as much as I like the garish chug of “Slaves of Fear”, this track isn’t going anywhere near a Billboard chart.

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12. Serbia Drums – !!!

The always reliable aughts disco veterans with an unpronounceable name dropped another solid track this year. It starts the same was as Life is a Highway…but then it isn’t. Ok, that’s it.

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11. Run the Wild Flowers – Friendly Fires

It was hard to find this song, because it was tucked away at the very end of a supremely mediocre record.

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10. Wild Roses – Of Monsters and Men

The Icelandic group finally ditch the limited melodic pallet they’ve been using for the past few albums and the result is as liberating as you’d expect. It barely sounds like the staid indie of “Little Talks”, leaving behind the taupe hooks for a blast of technicolour pop that bodes well for the band’s future.

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9. You Can Feel Bad – Moon Racer

At first pass this seems like little more than a melancholy bedroom pop cover of a 90s country standard about a breakup; it’s when you parse the lyrics that it reveals itself to be a lot more complex. Simultaneously shrugging off an ex-partner’s performative contrition and doubting her own feelings, singer Autumn Ehinger and her small, unassuming production show the conflict that arises during the end of relationships in a more personal light than original vocalist Patty Loveless did.

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8. My Name is Dark – Grimes

It’s not going to be an easy road ahead for Grimes, who remains partnered with eccentric billionaire Elon Musk. As anti-corporate sentiment grows in the Western world, the wealthy and those tied to them are increasingly looked upon with scorn. It doesn’t help that every new Grimes single prior to this one was kind of a dud. Nevertheless, Claire Boucher proves she’s still got some sense of her strengths with this chaotic piece of dark pop. It’s less a wall-of-sound and more a hurricane-of-sound, with all of Grimes’ tried-and-true effects hitting their marks effectively. The vocal echoes, the nu-metal guitars, the slurry of shrieks and wails- even if the new album doesn’t measure up to Art Angels, it’s still got one solid track in “My Name is Dark”.

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7. Veil – Pure Bathing Culture

There’s a grandiose richness to Pure Bathing Culture’s sound, a lush sense of space similar to Beach House if they weren’t on Ambien. “Veil” is a prime example of that richness, continuing the band’s record of solid records.

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6. I’ve Been Waiting – Lil Peep & ILoveMakonnen feat. Fall Out Boy

Could it really be true? Is the next big thing in pop music……melody? It certainly seems that way, with a sizeable portion of hip-hop artists this year incorporating a greater sense of musicality in their tracks. I’m not exactly sure who is the main artist on this song, but whoever it is, good job.

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5. Comeback Kid – Sharon Van Etten –— 

Van Etten has always been a pro at accentuating the bigness of small towns, and “Comeback Kid” is another example that. All thundering drums and sky-spanning synths, the track is a motorcycle down a highway in the heartland of America.

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4. Balisong – Phantom Planet — 

It’s almost as if they never left. Eleven years after their last record, art-poppers Phantom Planet return with a bombastic track that would have fit perfectly on that album.

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3. Without You – Joseph

This is a band that knows what a good song is; the production is so on point it seems almost too good to be true. The dynamics are perfect, with each kick drum hit in the chorus hitting with the force of a thousand gut punches.

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2. Gimme – Banks — 

Ten notes. That’s all it takes to make the best instrumental hook of the whole year. Slinking around through almost the entirety of this electo-pop gem, it proves just how important a central motif is to any piece of pop music. The trance synths and warped vocals are entirely welcome accoutrements, but it’s that ten-note hook that affirms this song as one of the year’s best.

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AND THE BEST SONG OF 2019 IS…

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1.Sing Along – Sturgill Simpson — 


Time may finally be up for Bruce Springsteen as the patron saint of modern indie; the new wellspring being drawn from resides on the Texan ranch belonging to ZZ Top. That wellspring is what contemplative country singer Sturgill Simpson took a deep swig from before he crafted this bold and bizarre Frankenstein project called Sound and Fury: a concept album developed as the soundtrack to a Netflix anime special. Discarding nearly every vestige of his earthy acoustic trappings, Simpson takes the bluesy sound of the Black Keys and shoves it into a deep fryer. This song is Kentucky Fried Black Keys, with a big greasy riff and a devil rock disco strut that makes every similar act sound anemic by comparison.

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The 5 Best Albums of 2019 –

Here are the most well-rounded efforts taken into consideration as a whole piece of work:

5. [Surviving]– Jimmy Eat World

(Choice Cuts: “Delivery”, “555”, “Recommit”) 

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4. [VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR]– HEALTH

(Choice Cuts: “SLAVES OF FEAR”, “FEEL NOTHING”, “STRANGE DAYS (1999)”) 

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3. [Widow’s Weeds]- Silversun Pickups

(Choice Cuts: “Strawman”, “Songbirds”, “We Are Chameleons”) 

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2. [Good Luck, Kid]- Joseph

(Choice Cuts: “Without You”, “Green Eyes”, “Fighter”) 

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1. [Shadowboxer]- Mansionair

(Choice Cuts: “Astronaut (Something About Your Love”, “Alibi”, “Violet City”) 


THE REST OF 2019

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Big hits in 2019 were about as scarce as they have been in recent years, but the ones that did emerge were legitimate successes that either left a defined impact in cultural consciousness or paved the road for a strong career.

The big three hit early in the year which was kind of a tease, because the rest of 2019 did not deliver as you’d think based on such an exciting first few months.

There was of course “Old Town Road”, the undeniable monster hit that consumed every bit of discussion about pop music for months and continued to remain in the spotlight due to a series of remixes. The longevity of Lil Nas X after 2019 though, is more difficult to forecast. The guy is stuck between two industry paradigms, one in which he will undoubtedly end up as a “one hit wonder”, and one in which he will thrive as a cult icon. It’s likely he won’t ever storm the charts again, but his online savvy will ensure his legion of followers won’t abandon him.

Billie Eilish will almost definitely have a more traditional career trajectory, not only scoring several of the year’s biggest hits but also introducing the world at large to the baggy T-shirt spooky tumblr aesthetic.

K-Pop also had some time in the spotlight earlier in the year, though the momentum’s stopped since then. The genre’s most visible ambassadors to the western hemisphere, BTS, haven’t made any headway in terms of big hits.

Then nothing really happened for a while. Shawn Mendes had some tepid semi-hit that everyone knows but nobody likes. I think Maroon 5 had something? Kanye released a gospel album.

And then there was Lizzo, who along with Eilish will probably be a major force in the next decade. How she managed to revive two-year-old songs into hits is a mystery, but she’s the final success story of the year and the decade.

Rock was non-existent. It just didn’t show up. Not a single crossover hit. Instead, we got a new annoying trend: the disaffected 90s revivalist. See: every single one of these acts–

Cyberbully Mom

Florist

Frankie Cosmos

Adult Mom

Soccer Mommy

Snail Mail

Snarls

Mothers


Anyway, that’s it, bye.