As we start to wind down the shit hole of ayear, its only appropriate that we talk about son e of tne songs that have helped us get through everything. You'll find plenty of variety in genres, ranginbg from good old rap music, to heartfelt ballads about bad fathers, to everything in betweem. Enjoy!
10 CARDI B, MEGAN THEE STALLION:
Before we get started, this is very much a novelty pick. No it’s not some new revelation for either artists and their skills, but art doesn’t always have to be. Instead, Cardi and the Stallion both showcase the gifted raunchiness they've been known to add to their music. It’s pretty filthy, and even for a grown man like me I found myself blushing. The imagery is pretty incredible, and extremely sexual, obviously. We all know what the anagram WAP is based on so it doesn’t need to be stated again, but the mastery of the song lies in the sheer bluntness and sexual positivity permeating the song.
9 THE WEEKND:
BLINDING LIGHTS, AFTER HOURS
During his decade or so as the Weekend (Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) has crafted the sort of rough edged pop music various generations can enjoy and get behind. “Blinding Lights” is no exception. The opening synth beat projects itself like something out of an 80’s action movie, yet it never feels old or rehashed. Tesfaye lines the song with optimistic vocals with his trademark silky voice, And even though I’m sure we’ll be hearing this song in some commercial at some point in the near future, it’s merits are clear and it continues to prove that, as The Weeknd, Tesfaye is still one of the best popular musicians we have currently.
REIGNS, ULTRA MONO
I’m not sure if you’d call this punk, post punk, anything, but I know that this song, not to mention the entire album, has the ability to give energy that motivates its listener to chant, stomp and raise their fists in anger. Singer Joe Talbot’s throaty vocals and annoyed intensity build the song in an immediate and punishing manner, while the drums add to the chaos and bombastic nature of the song. It’s a track that very much feels like it belongs in this year, and the anger simmering and eventually bubbling out is all the more proof of its potency.
7 TAYLOR SWIFT:
Hate still pours on Swift pretty regularly, but she’s consistently demonstrated her skilled fullness at songwriting, which she does exemplary once again on “Mirrorball.” The song shimmers gently, as Swift’s vocals slowly pull in the listener. The song is filled with the type of romantic urgency she’s known for, but it’s more human, less antagonistic than her earlier works, but it’s still very Swift. It’s a gorgeous, easy listening track that showcases both her vulnerability but also her willingness to be part of something greater than herself.
FIRE, SAINT CLOUD
It’s taken Katie Crutchfield a few years to build her career, but anyone who’s been listening since the beginning already knows the intimacy and bluntness she routinely delivers in her work as Waxahatchee. Her voice evokes thoughts of a similarity between herself and Joanna Newsom, but the uniqueness of the vocal style makes it difficult to forget or move on from. The gentle guitar work also adds a bedroom isolation type of vibe, which in turn makes it feel more personal. The song itself speaks to learning from your past self and becoming comfortable with the person you’ve become. It’s a tricky journey for anyone to be on, but in the end “Fire” stands as a reminder to love ourselves and to let our future be determined by the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
5 BEACH BUNNY:
Pop infused indie rock has come a long way lately, but when Beach Bunny does it you feel the type of carefree most commonly associated with summer days with no plans. It’s fun in a bounce around sort of way, but Lili Trifilio’s lyrics have the ability to put you right in the middle of whatever scene is currently presenting itself. The melody here is easy to get used to, and the music, although energetic and complimentary, never gets in the way of the vocals, which ultimately makes the song that much better.
4 TAME IMPALA:
BORELINE, THE SLOW RUSH
Plenty of folks apparently didn’t latch on to this record like Parker’s previous three, but there are plenty of great songs to go around. “Borderline” is probably the best track on the album, with its synth dance vibes and difficult to pin down lyrics. It’s a song about the dangers of contentment, and what may come out of that feeling. You can tell during the song that feeling of uncertainty even though he’s grateful to have found a worthy life partner. Again all of this is done on the shoulders of Kevin Parker, who’s mastery in songwriting is now very well documented. “Slow Rush” and its parts might not be masterpiece worth, but tracks like “Borderline” show no less skill or attention than what we’ve become accustomed to when it comes to Tame Impala
3 HAZEL ENGLISH:
SHAKING, WAKE UP!
In this shit year, one of the best new artists I discovered was named Hazel English, an Australian American singer songwriter who already deserves more recognition than she’s gotten. “Shaking” has a lovely but gently soaring chorus, instrumentally speaking, but her coy, strong voice gives way to a backing band that rises and swells with the power of Hazel's voice. It’s a pretty irresistible song for me, and one I’ve gone back to countless times this year. Any other year I’d be lining up to experience this artist and this great song live, but as you know this year blows, so we can’t have nice things like more Hazel English in our lives.
2 PHOEBE BRIDGERS:
Simply put I can’t get sick of Bridgers brutally phrased, delicately delivered vocals. Her last two albums have been engaging, dark, and aggressively honest, but songs like “Kyoto” only serve as an added bonus when listening to Phoebe. The song feels conflicted to me, with the push and pull of emotions. It snakes sense though, since the motivation for the song itself was a pay phone conversation with her estranged, alcoholic father. The love is taken away as we listen to Bridgers unnerving uncertainty about whether she even wants to accept this new situation. The song, while musically upbeat, is mostly an homage to the changing nature of relationships, and the stresses those changes can bring to a life.
1 RUN THE JEWELS w/ GANGSTA BOO:
WALKING IN THE SNOW, RUN THE JEWELS 4
There are songs that hit at the exact time it would be most impactful. “Walking in the Snow” is one of those songs. The song emerges in the middle moments of RTJ4, like an unexpected moment of dread in a horror movie. It's a song that shows you how high the stakes are, and how important resistant, yet logically sound music and art can be. El’s verse is casual but critical, as he takes the chance to paint & view society as a cult on their way to the eternal punch bowl, which in this year seems accurate. Its a great addition to the track, but it’s not the main feature. The narrative painted by Killer Mike is stark and terrifying, a world where you’re determined to be a wash based on generations of unacknowledged bias, at best. The fact that the song was written possibly long before the death of George Floyd, yet it features the all too eerie “I can’t breathe” brings even more depth to how bad the problem is. The song is a wake up call to how bad things are, and because of the stress and reality bursting through the song, “Walking in the Snow” is the Song of the Year. Thanks for reading!
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Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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