|Songs of 2019 - So Far|
Some huge releases coming out in the next month, so I'm mainly doing this to see how much it changes! Limit one song per album. Top 5 are in order, everything else unranked.
Starting off with a completely unoriginal choice, but this album warrants that. In an album of career highlights, "Strange Flower" stands above the rest for me. A tale of distance and apathy with a driving beat in the background in the beginning manages to transition into the most beautiful, heartbreaking two minutes of the album and potentially Copeland's career. The bridge/ending makes this my favorite moment in music in 2019, and also in recent past.
|2||In Her Own Words|
A mid-tempo pop punk track with incredibly touching lyrics on the death of the death of the father of Joey Fleming, the lead singer of the band. The song relies on the powerful vocal performance of Fleming, with the band giving an above average performance fro m what is typically expected of a pop punk band. The emotion in this track is pure and real, with a pretty spectacular sound to back it up.
This Wild Willing
As a huge musical theatre nerd, Glen Hansard has been an incredibly influential artist to me since the release of Once. While a fan of his work since the movie, none of it has grabbed me in quite the same way. Cue This Wild Willing, with Hansard leaving everything he has out in the open. This is no more clear than in "Don't Settle". Similar to "Strange Flower", the key to the song is the build. Starting subdued with a clear tension, halfway through the song explodes into a cacophony of sound, with brass heavy in the mix. As Hansard shouts into the void, the hopeless romance of Once has been replaced with one that somehow rings of both hope and hopelessness.
Beware Of The Dogs
An incredibly playful sounding song by a justifiably pissed off women. This is a song where I can't even pick out the hook, because the entire thing seems to be a hook. The dissonance between the jangly pop sound and entirely blunt lyrics that Donnelly employs throughout the entire album is brilliant, with the "fun" sound peaking at Tricks. The clever wordplay throughout is the icing on the cake of this song (Get laaaaaaaaaid).
The orchestral-rock, bordering-on-cinematic sound that Owel creates on Paris fully culminates on "Jumble Gem". Each member of the talented outfit gets it chance to be at the forefront, with an interplay between piano and synth being a highlight, with the ever present strings constantly building to an entirely earned climax.
You Swear It's Getting Better Every Day
A chorus that goes on for days, the most accomplished vocal performance of singer Tyler Zhumov, and creative interplay between the guitars earns "Nose Blunt" its place on this list. The most pop-punk of the tracks on the album, it still has a strong incorporation of Midwest Emo vibes that make it sound entirely fresh.
This song earns its place almost clearly on basis of lyrics alone, with the story it tells being incredibly engaging, but also emotional to a level that makes it hard to listen to. Luckily, the level of experimentation Pup does on their sound means that, even ignoring the lyrics, it makes for a compelling listen.
OK, I’M SICK
As has possibly been made clear from this list, I'm a big fan of soaring choruses. Badflower plays a pretty non-unique brand of MCR-ish radio rock, but they manage to do it so well that I don't even care. Promise Me is by far my favorite chorus of the year, being incredibly singable but also with enough lyrical variation that it stays interesting. The build in emotion in the song is absolutely heartbreaking, while still managing to be incredibly fun all at the same time.
|9||Gary Clark Jr.|
My personal favorite protest song to arrive in the past few years, mainly because of how pissed off it is. Gary Clark Jr. doesn't hold back in calling out hypocrisy, with powerful lyrics and a biting vocal delivery. Pair that with his prowess on guitar and you have a deeply moving song that actually makes you want to stand up and act.
"Fulton Street I"
This takes the introspective sound of "Rooms of the House", my personal favorite La Dispute, and pairs it perfectly with the intensity of "Wildlife". The pay off of Joey Dreyer yelling "But I never plant flowers in the street" is entirely cathartic and entirely deserved.
You Are OK
"My Best Habit"
While not as strong as their past output, The Maine still are able to capture the lightning in the bottle of their past word on "My Best Habit". A relentlessly bouncy pop rock anthem, it manages to hit all of the right notes without feeling like it's retreading other artists work.
An absolute stomping guitar riff underneath an earworm of a chorus harkens back thoughts of 80s power rock. Instrumentally, Black Hole takes inspiration from heavier rock, with some absolutely face-melting riffs, but still manages to maintain a fresh 21st Century sound.
|13||Buke and Gase|
On an album that unfortunately tries to experiment too much without a whole lot of success, the title track of this Buke and Gase record shows the potential they have. A driving beat and stunning vocal performance that floats back and forth between distortion, random bursts of instruments, and an interesting use of minor keys makes this song a joy to listen to, all while not entirely sure what's going on in it all at the same time.
The Big Freeze
The most heartbreaking song on Laura Stevenson's new album, a restrained vocal performance and minimalistic song structure builds and builds until an explosion of strings and beautiful wailing brings the listener right into Laura's own struggles.
|15||The Tallest Man on Earth|
I Love You. It's a Fever Dream.
Kristian Matsson's best bocal performance and, potentially, best song. The perfect blend of his original folk with added flourishes of horns, harmonicas, and piano creates an absolutely sound, all tied on a bow with Matsson's beautiful lyrics and surprisingly beautiful falsetto.
|16||Yes We Mystic|
Ten Seated Figures
A driving piano tune that sounds not too unlike a more straightforward Arcade Fire, which is meant to be an incredible compliment. A haunting atmosphere that builds into belted lyrics and a large variety of instruments, all while never sounding too crowded. A beautiful example of effective songwriting/building.
The Gloaming 3
"Athas" (Blurb taken from my own review)
In “Áthas”, Ó Lionáird is accompanied by a simple guitar line and the fiddles constantly bubble underneath the surface, with the piano taking almost as much a front seat as the vocals. Everything about the song sounds reflective, as if it could be the soundtrack of a man reliving the joys of his life. It is introspectively beautiful, and, extrinsically, its beauty draws the full focus of the listener.
"Echoes of You"
The masters of energetic pop rock. Likely their least consistent album, but Marianas Trench are always good for at least one bombastic, over the top pop song with soaring vocals, strings, synths, and literally everything else you could wish for. "Echoes of You" scratches that itch perfectly.
"This Time Around"
While her voice isn't for everyone, I could listen to Jessica Pratt sing the phonebook. Her unique timbre manifests itself so well in every song, creating a perfect night album. Any song could really be chosen from this album, but "This Time Around" creates the most calming environment of any of them, making it the best introduction to Pratt imagineable.
|20||Sharon Van Etten|
Remind Me Tomorrow
While I love everything about this song, from the atmosphere it creates to the daring instrumental choices made, it's Sharon Van Etten's vocal performance that makes it one of the best songs of the year.
"Like A Shadow"
An incredibly effective mix of modern rock sensibilities with an atmospheric post-hardcore ambiance. The vocal performance isn't anything to shrug your shoulders at either.
|22||The Twilight Sad|
It Won/t Be Like This All the Time
[10 Good Reasons for Modern Drugs]
A frantic energy that sounds almost claustrophobic creates an incredibly interesting listening environment, with vocalist James Graham sounding always on the verge of exploding. His howls among the swirling soundscape created makes for an absolutely showstopping sound.
The perfect morning song. Or mid-afternoon. Or sunset. Post-Americana for the soul. Nothing is more relaxing and soothing than the instrumental tracks created by William Tyler, with "Fail Safe" having the most full sound and an incredibly catchy guitar line throughout.
|24||Mike Mains and The Branches|
When We Were In Love
"Breathing Underwater" (Blurb taken from my review)
A blunt look at not only what living with mental illness is like, but what living with someone with a mental illness is like. Featuring the strongest beats on the album and the most varied vocal performance, the song culminates in an impassioned Mains singing out “I’m standing with roses in the rain”, with the listener hearing the pain in his delivery.
You Could Own An American Home
The shoegaze-inspired emo sound that 55 Deltic create on their debut reaches it's peak in closer "Fulbright". A slow burn song with a number of interesting melodies throughout, but it's the addition of strings around halfway through that makes it especially stunning.
Tides of a Teardrop
An incredibly effective Americana/Country track. Incredibly effective use of their titular instrument takes this fairly conventional country song to an interesting place.
|27||Better Oblivion Community Center|
Better Oblivion Community Center
A dark Americana track that is unmistakably depressing. That depression never becomes too overbearing, making it an incredibly affecting track. Oberst takes the lead on this one, his warbly voice creating an overwhelming feeling of empathy, with Bridges additions making for a haunting sound.
Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost - Part 1
Dance indie-pop/rock done well. "Exits" absolutely grooves along, with a number of movements throughout the song never feeling out of place.
|29||Angelo De Augustine|
"You Needed Love, I Needed You"
Sufjan Stevens-core, but still engaging enough to not sound like a pure copy. Whispered vocals, plucked guitar, moving lyrics. Doesn't reinvent the wheel, but sometimes the wheel is all you need.
A song that is plain beautiful. The low vocals create a warm feeling that makes it sound like the band is there with you, with ringing guitar and simple drums create what might be the best ballad of the year.
A shimmering, reflective atmosphere that feels both warm and cold at the same time. A trip hop sound escalated by Phoebe Lau's haunting vocals. "When you're done with her, just come pick me up / And I'll be the same, but I'll be ashamed"
Father Of The Bride
One of the only songs with staying power on Vampire Weekend's new album, but boy does it have staying power. An incredibly playful and bouncy rhythm leads into a 70s style singalong chorus, all while still sounding genuine.
"When Am I Gonna Lose You"
Soaring falsetto, effective harmonies, a driving beat, sleak and shimmering production - Everything you could possibly want from a Local Natives track. A fine return to form.