Top Songs of 2019:
- Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall
The first track released from the indie rock stars’ double album Father of the Bride, and man was it harmonious perfection. Mellow acoustic guitars and saloon piano, perfect production and some of the most memorable lyrics of the band’s career (“Anger wants a voice, voices want to sing. Singers harmonize, until you can’t hear anything”). When the chorus comes in, with the gospelish harmonies and swirling melodies, you know you’re listening to something special. It’s a song that makes you feel good about the world on first listen. It sounded like nothing else Vampire Weekend had done before, but continues to make me excited for what they will do next.
2. Alex Lahey – Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
There’s so much to love about this song. The track’s narrative, a plea to a friend who overburdens themselves to be take it easy, was one I had never heard in a song before, and was clearly personal, but also hit a universal note any workaholic could relate to. Next, the track was incredibly catchy, with a bouncy hook that is pure sing-along goodness. And then there’s that SAX SOLO. It blares and buzzes and booms and makes a great song into one of the best songs of the year.
3. Dave Hause – The Ditch
The synthesis of heartland rock and punk isn’t something new, but it’s something Dave Hause has been mastering with each new album, and on Kick‘s “The Ditch”, he shows he’s perfected it. Singing a tale of trying to overcome struggle, or simply learning to live with it, it’s the perfect anthem for the underdog, and in a year when most Americans probably feel like an underdog, it’s the song we all need right now.
4. Ryan Bingham – Wolves
“Wolves” is a coming-of-age story given life through moving Americana. Bingham’s dusty, sorrowful vocals spin a tale of learning to stand up to the bullies in our lives, creating a musical paean for finding inner-strength. The acoustic guitars ring out crystal clear thanks to pristine production, creating an indelible atmosphere the brings the song to visual life in your mind. It’s a credit to Bingham’s songwriting that he can evoke such strong imagery through his craft, and leave an emotional mark that doesn’t fade.
5. Reese McHenry – Detroit
The term “barn-burner” was coined for songs like this. McHenry’s rails against a lover trying to get away from her in Detroit, and upon one listen you know she’s serious. An old-school garage rocker that bulldozes anything trying to get in it’s way, the track explodes with soul, with the band laying down a tight rhythm that helps propel McHenry’s wailing into the stratosphere.
6. Bad Religion – My Sanity
Despite being nearly forty years into their existence as a band, Bad Religion are still making punk rock that sounds as urgent and necessary as ever, and with “My Sanity”, they proved they can still churn out hard-hitting yet radio friendly rock ‘n roll as well as ever. It’s not hard to see where the song is coming from in these crazy times, but “My Sanity” is as much an ode to the music that keeps Bad Religion going as it is a commentary on the current state of our world.
7. Darlingside – Rodeo
There’s an otherworldly quality to Darlingside‘s music, with it’s exquisite, ethereal harmonizing. “Rodeo” uses these harmonizing moments to bring a nostalgic warmth to this movie folk ballad. The power of this song is its ability to reach in and pull out memories from the far corners of your brain as the lyrics roll out the kind of details that we leave behind in our youth. The track’s sadness is countered by a breathtaking hopefulness as our protagonist “pushes out the door to the front gate”, preparing to leave move forward in life.
8. The Rembrandts – How Far Would You Go
The band best known for the Friends theme song have not lost their ability to write power pop that brims with hooks and harmonies. “How Far Would You Go” is the kind of shamelessly romantic nugget that should be playing at the end of every romcom, as the hero races to make-up for whatever stupid mistake they made and try to win back their lover. It’s all heart, and if you don’t smile while listening to it, then you may not have one.
9. Strand of Oaks – Weird Ways
“Weird Ways” goes in so many strange directions that it’s hard to fully grasp it all on first listen. At times delicate and pining, at others a spacious and sprawling rocker, what grounds it is Timothy Showalter’s virtuoso ability to turn subtle melodic changes into gripping moments of thoughtful drama. As he sings “It’s a weird way to say goodbye” over and over in the chorus, he rings out heartbreak and longing from every note, while never turning the song saccharine. The psychedelic guitar solos also let the track revel in its weirdness.
10. The Glorious Sons – The Ongoing Speculation Into the Death of Rock and Roll
There is of course some irony in a band writing a kick-ass rock and roll song about…the death of rock and roll. And while I’m sure The Glorious Sons are aware of the irony, they simply sound like they are having a blast with this rollicking jam. A stadium-ready ode to the genre they love, and how it’s been commoditized to the point of being “a poster now, and nothing more”. At the end, we are all responsible for it’s death, but bands like The Glorious Sons are some of our best hopes for bringing it back to life.
11. The Killers – Land of the Free
The Vegas rockers release their most political and uplifting track to date.
12. Yungblud – 11 Minutes (feat. Halsey and Travis Barker)
A cinematic, melancholy slice of punk-styled musical drama.
13. Sam Fender – Hypersonic Missiles
A kinetic blast of high energy, with a chorus that explodes
14. J. Cole – Middle Child
The best rap song of the year. Cole’s thoughtful lyrics and sick flow show why he’s one of the greatest out there.
15. AJR – 100 Bad Days
AJR have proven themselves masters of the smart pop song with depth, and this one comes with a thoughtful outlook to boot.
16. Thoughts – No Heart
Part pop rock, part classic R&B, and all together a great piece of music.
17. The Comet is Coming – Summon the Fire
I dare anyone to listen to this jam and not dance uncontrollably.
18. The Raconteurs – Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)
Starting off like a lost Lynyrd Skynyrd track, the song evolves into a head-banging ode to life that we all can use.
19. Kaiser Chiefs – People Know hot To Love One Another
The UK rockers find their inner Jackie Wilson with this anthemic paean to loving your fellow man.
20. The Menzingers – Strangers Forever
Inspired by Anna Karina, a poignant pop punk song for anyone left heartbroken and searching for a way to move forward.
21. Fang Fang – Hey Church
Catchy pub rock from this up-and-coming Philly band.
22. Spanish Love Songs – Losers
SLS have gotten the formula for sardonic, self-flagellating punk rock down perfectly.
23. The Strumbellas – Salvation
An instant, feel-good anthem from the Canadian folk rock troupe.
24. Bedouin Soundclash – Better Days
A song we should all be singing to ourselves to get through these dark times.
25. Lana Del Rey – Looking for America
Even after releasing her critically acclaimed album this year, Lana still found time to record this one-off, anti-gun single with Jack Antoff. And it’s a stunner.
26. Kishi Bashi – Summer of ’42
Epic orchestral pop from this accomplished violinist.
27. Avril Lavigne – Souvenir
Love her or hate her, there’s no denying Lavigne’s ability to write an Uber-catchy pop rock gem.
28. Steve Gunn – Vagabond
Gunn’s fantastic guitar playing elevates this drifting folk rock track into elegant stratospheres.
29. Mike Posner – Wide Open
Moving, open-hearted ballad with electronic touches.
30. Fitness – Yellowjackets
Clever indie rock that will have you singing out loud “I’ve been young since the day I was born”.
31. Blink-182 – Heaven
The pop-punk kings take a heavier turn in this tribute to the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting.
32. Machine Gun Kelly – I Think I’m OKAY (feat. Yungblud and Travis Barker)
Yungblud proved himself a master collaborator this year, joining rapper Machine Gun Kelly for this bouncy pop-punk anthem.
33. DJ Shadow – Rocket Fuel (feat. De La Soul)
Shadow creates the best old-school rap jam in ages with help from some of the best in the game.
34. Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock
It’s all in the title – a shining blast of energetic guitars and soaring vocals.
35. Los Coast – The Morning Weight
Brooding and moving soul rock from this talented Austin band.
36. Matthew Ryan – On Our Death Day
Ryan’s lyrics are at another level here on this beautiful, spacious folk song.
37. Angels & Airwaves – Rebel Girl
Tom Delonge brought back his AvA band this year with one of the catchiest tracks he’s written in years.
38. Sara Bareilles – Fire
A song that blazes and burns with heartache and passion.
39. Broken Bells – Shelter
Quirky alt. pop that floats along like an elegiac dream.
40. Third Eye Blind – The Kids Are Coming (To Take You Down)
A power-house, pile driving rocker dedicated to Greta Thunberg and all the kids like her doing what it takes to save our world.
41. Rob Thomas – One Less Day (Dying Young)
Thomas manages to age gracefully and write a great song about appreciating growing old.
42. Tim Barry – Big Ships
This track is an emotional gut-punch through and through.
43. The Growlers – Who Loves the Scum?
Apocalyptic lyrics set to a cheery sing along
44. Illenium – Good Things Fall Apart (feat. Jon Bellion)
Captures the experience of an ending relationship with a delicate balance of acoustic guitars and dance beats.
45. Anderson .Paak – King James
A soul funk banger, straight up.
46. Jackie – New at Drugs
A cautionary tale of what happens when youth are sheltered too much, without the caution.
47. Davila 666 – Huesos Viejos
Puerto Rican punk that has the edge of Iggy and the verve of the Ramones.
48. Dessa – Grade School Games
Dessa’s songwriting is always on-point, melding rap and pop melodies to create perfect songs.
49. John Mayer – I Guess I Just Feel Like
Mayer gets thoughtful on this easy-going acoustic track.
50. Landfill Crew – Worldwide Warfare
If dance-hall punk wasn’t a thing before, this track from Tim Armstrong’s animated band makes it one.
As mentioned above, there were so many songs this year to love, that we wanted to make sure they weren’t lost to time, so you can find our top 50, please many more tracks we dug this year in our playlist below: