Top 30 Songs for December 29, 2019-January 4, 2020

1. YOU? – Two Feet (1)
2. CIRCLES – Post Malone (2)
3. DISSOLVE – Absofacto (4)
4. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools (7)
5. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO (3)
6. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze (6)
7. ORPHANS – Coldplay (8)
8. CALM DOWN – Pete Yorn (11)
9. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper (14)
10. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates (12)
11. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev (5)
12. REWARD – Paul Iwan (13)
13. ALL THE GOOD GIRLS GO TO HELL – Billie Eilish (15)
14. LONELY – Secret American (10)
15. THE RUNNER – Foals (18)
16. MAN ON THE MOON – The Common View (19)
17. BLIND LEADING THE BLIND – Mumford & Sons (21)
18. WARS – Of Monsters and Men (22)
19. 2ALL – Catfish and the Bottlemen (23)
20. THE BEST – AWOLNATION (24)
21. THE END OF THE GAME – Weezer (20)
22. STAY HIGH – Brittany Howard (9)
23. BEEN BUSY – Thunder Fox (27)
24. UNEVENTFUL DAYS – Beck (28)
25. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (16) 22nd week on list
26. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi (17)
27. NIGHT TIME – Isolda (29)
28. USED TO LIKE – Neon Trees (30)
29. OBSESSION – Joywave (25)
30. LIFE IN THE CITY – The Lumineers (N)

Top 100 Songs of 2019

MISSIO Album ArtLana_Del_Rey_-_Doin'_TimeCage_the_Elephant_Social_CuesBillie Eilish albumTrench_Twenty_One_PilotsYoung-the-GiantSHAEDVox Eagle album art

2019 was another great year for music, with so much of it being released that even the most avid music junkie couldn’t possibly keep up with it all. With all the digital music applications and software available today, as well as music platforms like Soundcloud, Reverbnation and Bandcamp, it’s easier than ever for aspiring artists to create music from their bedroom and get it out there for public consumption, and I’ve written about quite a few of them. In fact, this year a third of the songs on my Top 100 list are by indie or unsigned artists.

As a music blogger, I’m exposed to a tremendous amount of music. I receive 5-10 submissions a day from artists, PR reps and labels wanting me to review their music, so I listen to A LOT of it in the course of a year. Nevertheless, I realize I’ve heard only a fraction of all the singles and albums released in 2019. Consequently, my list includes only songs I know, and I’m certain there are some great ones that should be on this list, except that I’ve never heard them! That said, there were so many outstanding songs in 2019, and it frustrates me to have to cull them down to only 100, omitting scores of tracks I really like. And a song ranked at #40 isn’t necessarily better than one at #60.

Music tastes are very subjective, so it’s guaranteed that not a single person reading this will agree with my song choices or their rankings. My list contains my favorite songs of the year, not necessarily songs that were ‘popular’ or influential. I’m now late middle-aged, so my song picks are going to reflect that, though I do still have my guilty pleasures. But you won’t find the tiresome “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus (which was the longest-running #1 song ever on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the #1 song of 2019) on this list.

Many bloggers and critics list songs in the year they were released, while Billboard and other charts generally place them in the year they were ‘hits,’ which is what I prefer. Most of the songs on this list were released in 2019, however, a number of them were released in 2018. Because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, I include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 are indicated with an *. I’ve created a Spotify playlist for this list, which is included at the end of the post. Hopefully you’ll find some of your own personal favorites on this list. Let me know what songs were your favorites of 2019.

1. I SEE YOU – MISSIO
It’s not often that I love an entire album at first listen, but that was exactly the case with The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man by Austin, Texas-based duo MISSIO. (Read my review here). Comprised of singer-songwriter/producer Matthew Brue and songwriter/producer and instrumentalist David Butler, MISSIO’s unique, eclectic sound is a glorious mashup of alternative electronic rock, hip hop and dream pop. In 2017, they released their outstanding debut album Loner, which generated several singles, two of which – “Middle Fingers” and the mesmerizing “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” – ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list. Their follow-up album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man is equally superb; three of its songs are included among my Top 100 Songs of 2019. “I See You” was the third single from the album, and it’s my favorite song of the year. This was confirmed by my Spotify Wrapped report, which identified it as my most-streamed song of 2019.

And what a gorgeous song it is, at once sad yet hopeful, and brimming with emotional intensity and sweeping instrumentals. Brue’s beautiful, stirring vocals bring chills as he sings the poignant lyrics that can be interpreted as being directed either to a loved one or to oneself, reassuring the intended that they are understood, supported and loved despite their shortcomings. “I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me. What a mess you’ve made of everything. I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me. And I’m hoping that you will see yourself like I see you.”

2. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey
One of the most delectable songs of 2019 is “Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey, from her stunning and critically-acclaimed album Norman Fucking Rockwell, which she co-produced with Jack Antonoff. It’s a cover of the song originally recorded by the ska punk band Sublime, which itself samples the great classic “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess, written in 1934 by George and Ira Gerwshin, with lyrics by DuBose Heyward. Del Rey’s version is faithful to Sublime’s ska vibe, but her beautiful, seductive vocals and dreamy instrumentals take the song to a whole new level, as well as capturing the languid, sultry feel of the original “Summertime”. I love that she kept the lyrics and pronouns exactly as written by Sublime, which describe a cheating girlfriend whose infidelities and poor treatment of her lover makes him feel like he’s in prison. “Me and my girl, we got this relationship. I love her so bad, but she treats me like shit. On lockdown, like a penitentiary. She spreads her lovin’ all over, and when she gets home, there’s none left for me.

3. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant are one of my favorite bands of the past decade, with a long string of consistently great singles. The title track from their fifth studio album Social Cues, this song now ranks among my top favorites of their many songs. The bouncy tempo is incredibly catchy, and those chirpy synths are irresistible, but what I love most of all are Matt Shultz’s wonderful vocals that always sound so genuine. The rather poignant lyrics speak to the anxieties and insecurities of being a rock star: “Hide me in the back room, tell me when it’s over. Don’t know if I can play this part much longer. I don’t know if it is right to live this way, yeah. I’ll be in the back room, tell me when it’s over. People always say, ‘Man, at least you’re on the radio’.” The song’s production and arrangement are flawless.

4. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish
2019 was a huge year for the insanely talented young Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Billie Eilish (her full birth name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell). With the meteoric success of her ground-breaking debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, one of the biggest-selling albums of 2019, she became a superstar. I was blown away by her riveting performance at this year’s Coachella Music Festival, when she was only 17 years old. “Bad Guy” reached #1 on numerous music charts in the U.S. (where it thankfully ended the 19-week run at #1 of “Old Town Road”) and around the world, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Greece, Hungary, Norway and the Czech Republic. Musically, the song has an unusual minimalist bass-driven melody that pulls us headlong into a thumping, ominous soundscape. Eilish’s clipped, breathy vocals have a seductive, almost menacing quality as she sings the provocative lyrics that seem beyond her tender years, yet she makes them believable. “I’m that bad type. Make your mama sad type. Make your girlfriend mad tight. Might seduce your dad type. I’m the bad guy, duh.” It’s brilliant!

5. TRAMPOLINE – SHAED
Indie dream-pop band SHAED is based in Washington, D.C., and consists of lead vocalist Chelsea Lee and multi-instrumentalists and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst. After struggling for several years to gain traction in the music business, they struck gold with their haunting breakthrough single “Trampoline”. The song was originally released back in May 2018, but got little airplay until it was featured in an Apple MacBook Air commercial that October, and the song quickly took off. The song debuted on the Billboard Alternative Chart in early December 2018, and as I write this one year later, it’s still in the Top 10! The gorgeous track was named the #1 song of 2019 on the Alternative Chart, and finishes at #5 on my list. SHAED’s inspiration for the song came one night as the trio sat together watching old family videos of Spencer and Max jumping on a trampoline as small children. The song’s meaning has been the subject of debate, ranging from death to suicide to drug addiction, but SHAED simply wanted to write a great song loosely based on the idea of the Stranger Things alternative dimension “Upside Down”.(Genius.com). This is artfully captured in the beautiful and stylish video for the song.

6. CHLORINE – twenty øne piløts
As far as I’m concerned, twenty øne piløts can do no wrong, and are one of my favorite bands of all time. Incorporating too many different genres to mention, and a vast array of instruments and synth sounds, they combine them with intricate, complex melodies, brilliant lyrics and Tyler Joseph’s amazing vocals to create truly unique and spectacular music. “Chlorine” is the third single from their monumental concept album Trench, and their seventh single to reach #1 on my Weekly Top 30. The song was co-written by Joseph and MUTEMATH frontman Paul Meany, who produced Trench, and whose voice we hear in the opening lines. They’ve stated the lyrics address how creativity can cleanse dark impulses, but also cause pain. Like many of the tracks on Trench, the song has a complex melodic structure, and shows a growing maturity in twenty one pilots’ sound and music style. I love the sweeping, spacey synths, Josh Dun’s sharp percussion and Joseph’s haunting layered vocals.  The wonderful little twinkling piano riff adds a slightly menacing vibe to the track. It’s a dark and stunning song, and Joseph’s plaintive vocals in the final chorus are exquisite as he laments “I’m so sorry I forgot you. Let me catch you up to speed. I’ve been tested like the ends of a weathered flag that’s by the sea. Can you build my house with pieces? I’m just a chemical.”

7. SUPERPOSITION – Young the Giant
Alt-rock band Young the Giant has an instantly recognizable sound unlike no other, thanks to their brilliant instrumentation and front man Sameer Gadhia’s distinctive vocals. Formed in Orange County, California in late 2009, they just celebrated their 10th anniversary as a band, and I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert this past August. “Superposition” is the second single from their fourth studio album Mirror Master, and one of their most beautiful songs. Starting with a deep bass line and a rhythmic toe-tapping drumbeat, the band layers moody synths, delicate piano keys and an enchanting ukelele riff to create a gorgeous backdrop for Gadhia’s captivating vocals, which are in turn backed by lovely vocal harmonies. The term ‘superposition’ is used in physics to describe how things or items in nature overlap or interact. For the song, Young the Giant uses the term to describe the strong pull or connection we feel to those we love, and how fate and inexplicable events can bring us together, which they artfully express in the lyrics: “Superposition aims with imprecision. But when things can’t be explained – superposition. In any universe you are my dark star. I want you to want me. Why don’t we rely on chemistry? Why don’t we collide the spaces that divide us?

8.  WANDER – Vox Eagle*
Vox Eagle is the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, an indie artist I’ve featured numerous times on this blog over the past three years. One of the tracks from his outstanding 2018 album TriumAvium, “Wander” is the highest ranking song from an indie artist on this year’s list. It’s an enchanting mashup of melodic dream rock and hip hop, and when those magical keyboard and string synths wash over us like a shower of tiny diamonds, I’m covered with goosebumps. Eventually, a trip hop beat ensues as Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Guest vocalist Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over for the last third of the track, adding another element of texture as he freestyles “We don’t try hard no more. / Where we all gon’ go, where we all gon’ go? We just wander, we just wander.” I love this spectacular song so much I’ve probably listened to it five hundred times.

9. THE HYPE – twenty øne piløts
I love every song by twenty øne piløts, and “The Hype” is no exception. The fourth consecutive single from Trench to reach #1 on both my and the Billboard Alternative charts, it topped the charts more than a year after “Jumpsuit”, a testament to the album’s high quality and staying power. “The Hype” is a beautiful and compelling song about remaining hopeful through difficult times, both mentally and physically. Tyler Joseph told Coup de Main magazine that the lyrics are told from the point of view of a younger version of himself. “Nice to know my kind will be on my side. I don’t believe the hype. And you know you’re a terrible sight, but you’ll be just fine. Just don’t believe the hype.”

10. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities
Australian dream rock band Crystal Cities have come a long way over the past three years, from a garage in Sydney to Abbey Road Studios in London, where they recorded their extraordinary debut album Under the Cold Light of the Moon. The gorgeous, similarly titled lead single is my #10 song of 2019. Crystal Cities consists of Geoff Rana (Vocals, Guitars), Jared King (JK) (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Daniel Conte (Drums). The song was inspired by the courageous North Korean girl Yeonmi Park, who bravely escaped North Korea in search of freedom. After seeing her moving speech at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, where she told the audience “When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much”, Rana felt compelled to interpret her story through a song. The uplifting track features vibrant, layered guitars, driving bass and galloping percussion that conjure up dramatic images of Park escaping on horseback. The addition of lush orchestral strings create a stirring, cinematic wall of sound that does justice to Park’s epic tale of survival. The beautiful animated video tells the adventure of her harrowing nighttime escape.

11. READY TO LET GO – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant are back with their second song on this year’s list, “Ready to Let Go”. The track was the first single from Social Cues, and reached #1 on both the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts, as well as my Weekly Top 30. The song has a slower, bluesy melody, with a strong thumping drumbeat, deep bass groove and terrific guitar work. The lyrics speak to the realization that their relationship is broken beyond repair and the time has come to end it: “Don’t you worry, baby, no sense trying to change it. I’ma strike these matches, never had control. I’m ready to let go, no, was I fooling myself? I’ma spread these ashes, never had control. I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to let go.”

12. CIRCLES – Post Malone
Post Malone (born Austin Richard Post) is one of the biggest music artists today, churning out hit after hit since exploding onto the music scene five years ago with “White Iverson”. His wonderfully eclectic sound draws from hip hop, rap, R&B, rock, pop, grunge and country, and Malone himself has referred to his music as “genre-less.” “Circles” is the fourth single from his phenomenal, critically-acclaimed third album Hollywood Bleeding. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was a huge hit worldwide, reaching #1 in Iceland, Malaysia and New Zealand. I’ve seen a few complaints that it’s too ‘pop’, but I love it, and it’s my favorite of his many songs. The sweetly strummed guitars, deep bass, keyboards and thumping drums are all exquisite, and set to an infectious, hauntingly beautiful melody. Malone’s impassioned vocals lament of a relationship in which the flame has gone out: “Seasons change and our love went cold. Feed the flame ’cause we can’t let go. Run away, but we’re running in circles. Run away, run away.” It’s perfection from start to finish.

13. FEAR THE FUTURE – IAMWARFACE
British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE are one of the best indie bands in the UK right now. Based in Brighton and London, their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic groove-based sound, and I’ve been thrilled to feature them on this blog many times. From the moment I first heard their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016 – which I likened to being hit by an atomic blast – I’ve been a devoted fan. Since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another; three of their singles – “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” – have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart. “Fear the Future” is a scathing attack on all the banal music and entertainment, bullshit and fear-mongering being fed to the masses in a pernicious attempt to dumb-down and divide us, making us more willing to be controlled. Musically, the song features the band’s signature explosive instrumentation and massive, driving rhythms, making for a incredibly exhilarating song that slams us against the wall. Front man Matt Warneford has a commanding powerhouse singing voice, and raises our adrenaline with his dramatic impassioned vocals. The disturbing video brilliantly brings the dark lyrics to life.

14. GO – The Black Keys
What can I say about The Black Keys other than that they’re fucking awesome! Friends since childhood, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been putting out fantastic blues/garage rock for almost 20 years. “Go” is from their ninth album “Let’s Rock”, and saw The Black Keys return to their roots after a three year long hiatus that had some speculating they had, or were considering, splitting up. It was their first release since their previous album Turn Blue in 2014, marking the longest gap between studio albums in their career. The two were simply burned out from touring, and Carney had also seriously injured his shoulder in a swimming accident, which took longer to recover than anticipated. During their hiatus, they were involved in numerous projects of their own or with other artists, including Auerbach’s band The Arcs, with whom he released an album in 2015.

After collaborating with producer Danger Mouse for their previous four albums, the duo decided to self-produce “Let’s Rock”, scrapping the keyboards in favor of just guitar, drums, and vocals. The guys got together at a recording studio in September 2018 to begin working on “Let’s Rock”, and within a few minutes, they were playing together as if no time had passed. “Go” is a short song, running only two and a half minutes, and features fairly sparse lyrics about getting out of one’s rut and hitting the open road. But man, Auerbach’s blazing riffs in the bridge are positively spine-tingling! The hilarious video pokes fun at the rumor they hated each other.

15. DARK PLACES – The Frontier
I realize I’m sounding like a broken record as I keep describing so many of the songs on this list as “gorgeous”, but dammit, the term applies to “Dark Places” by Virginia indie pop/rock band The Frontier in spades. I’ve followed The Frontier for several years, and am immensely proud of them for producing such a wonderful track as this. As the title implies, the song is dark, but also quite stunning, with a captivating sensual melody and shimmery synths, accompanied by subtle guitars, thumping bass and crisp percussion. Front man Jake Mimikos’ smooth, ardent vocals are enthralling as he sings of the internal struggles many of us experience with our darker side, and the attendant fears, anxieties, anger and even bad thoughts we must grapple with: “I’ve been to dark places in my mind. Seeing shadows in the night. It gets a little lonely when I’m in dark places in my mind, falling further from the light.” Jake stated that he was inspired to write the song by a show he watched on Netflix about serial killers.

16. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel
Mars Motel is an immensely talented alternative dream rock band hailing from Brooklyn, New York, and they make some of the most captivating music of any band I’ve heard. Their single “Coming Up for Air” is a real stunner of a tune, with swirling riffs of chiming guitars backed by shimmery synths and a pleasing rhythm section of gentle bass and thumping drumbeats. They all meld into a lush, sweeping backdrop for lead singer Sarik Kumar’s beautiful soaring vocals. He explained “This song is about an android-like being longing to be human and attempting an alteration. It captures the universal need for connection and the loneliness one can feel in being viewed as an outsider.”

17. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO
I’ve already gushed about how much I love MISSIO and their album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man, and another of my favorite tracks from that album is “Underground“. The song instantly hooked me with its irresistible hip hop beat, trippy vibes and deliriously catchy melody. MISSIO combines an array of synthesizers, instruments and textures to create a dense, almost psychedelic sound, and I love Matthew Brue’s distinctive vocal style that registers in the higher range, just below a falsetto. He fervently croons of his frustration that success and money haven’t brought the happiness and peace of mind he expected: “I’m down. I should be on top, but I’m always underground. Things are lookin’ up, but I’m making myself drown. High anxiety that money just compounds. I’ll be right here, just waiting underground.”

18. YOU? – Two Feet
Ever since first hearing his dark and sultry “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” early in 2018, I’ve had a huge man crush on Two Feet. Based in New York City and born Zachary William “Bill” Dess, Two Feet is a soulful singer-songwriter who’s become one of the finest blues guitarists today. His songs are slow burns, characterized by scorching bluesy riffs and intense, booming basslines that cut straight to the core. I had the pleasure of seeing him live in Los Angeles in November 2018 (you can read my review here), and he spent the first few months of 2019 touring with Panic! At the Disco, which exposed him to a whole new audience who hadn’t heard of him previously. I relished all the tweets from fans who’d gone to see PATD, and came away excited new fans of Two Feet. In the fall of 2019, he began releasing new singles in advance of his forthcoming album Pink. One of those singles is “You?”, which is fucking incredible, and his guitar work and vocals sound better than ever. He had an official video made for the song, but I like this live performance better, as it features a killer extended guitar solo that really showcases his guitar skills. You can hear the original version on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post.

19. ESCAPE – Ships Have Sailed
Los Angeles-based duo Ships Have Sailed have built a huge following over the past several years with their pleasing style of alternative pop-rock, characterized by infectious melodies, uplifting lyrics, and sublime instrumentation. This past February, they released their deeply moving anthem “Escape”, which I loved so much it spent five months on my Weekly Top 30, going all the way to #1. Vocalist Will Carpenter has a beautiful voice with an impressive range. As the music intensifies in the third verse, with drummer Art Andranikyan’s crashing cymbals and assertive drumbeats adding drama to the track, Will’s vocals rise to the occasion, becoming raw and impassioned, and raising goosebumps on the back of my neck. “Escape” is about a person struggling with personal demons and addiction. About the song, Will explained “Born as the stark expression of an especially trying year, ‘Escape’ represents a shift from what we’ve become best known for, exposing a more vulnerable angle. It represents musical honesty in its most raw form, and we truly hope it makes you feel something.” It certainly resonated with me.

20. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five
Heist At Five is a wickedly talented and undeniably charismatic electro-rock band based in London, but with an international pedigree. Band front man and lead vocalist Oskar Abrahamsson is from Sweden, bassist Marco “Fuzz” Paone is from Italy, guitarist Jozef Veselsky is from Slovakia, and drummer Josh Needham is from England. Together, they play an aggressive, innovative style of alternative rock that borders on experimental, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and spine-tingling electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. I’ve featured them a number of times on this blog, most recently when I reviewed their magnificent single “Falling With Style”. The band states that the song “is about fully embracing the idea of failure and finding comfort in it.” The imaginative and surreal video tells the story of a young woman who sees moments of her life in flashbacks, which ends up changing her perspective about life, and in the process breaks her old pattern of decision making.

21. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons*
22. SIGUE CON EL AMOR – John Defeo
23. DISAPPEAR – Western Jaguar
24. POWER OVER ME – Dermot Kennedy
25. LONGSHOT – Catfish and the Bottlemen
26. BURY A FRIEND – Billie Eilish
27. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi
28. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with Jon Bellion
29. SUNFLOWER – Post Malone, Swae Lee
30. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers
31. DELTA BLUES – Jetstream
32. HIGH HOPES – Panic! At the Disco
33. MISSED CONNECTION – The Head and the Heart
34. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men
35. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike
36. DISSOLVE – Absofacto
37. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives
38. IN THE WATER – The Underground Vault
39. HURT – Oliver Tree
40. CRINGE – Matt Maeson
41. ROOM TO BREATHE – Made of Eyes
42. LOVE IT IF WE MADE IT – The 1975
43. VOLCANO – Feather Weight
44. STILL FEEL. – half-alive
45. CHANGE – The Revivalists
46. ASSUME FORM – James Blake
47. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash*
48. BACK DOWN – Bob Moses
49. FIGHTER – Joseph
50. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev
51. OLD MAN’S WAR – Roadkeeper
52. STAY HIGH – Brittany Howard
53. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score
54. SEVENTEEN – Sharon Van Etten
55. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper
56. THE MIDDLE – Agency Panic
57. S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun) – The Glorious Sons
58. HARMONY HALL – Vampire Weekend
59. RAD DRUGZ – MISSIO
60. HOME – morgxn featuring WALK THE MOON
61. PATIENCE – Tame Impala
62. TWILIGHT – Anderson .Paak
63. APOCALIPSTICK – Lazy Queen
64. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband
65. TIME – Morosity
66. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze
67. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools
68. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant
69. FAST TALK – Houses
70. BELOVED – Mumford & Sons
71. I’LL BE AROUND – Morning Fuzz
72. PRESSURE – Muse
73. NORTHERN LIGHTS – Death Cab for Cutie
74. LOVE CRAZY – Karolina Rose
75. “99” – Barns Courtney
76. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights
77. GOODBYES – Post Malone featuring Young Thug
78. OBSESSION – Joywave
79. LONELY – Secret American
80. CALM DOWN – Pete Yorn
81. SECRETS – The Million Reasons
82. EXITS – Foals
83. SAW LIGHTNING – Beck
84. WANNACRY – Darksoft
85. MOVEMENT – Hozier
86. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates
87. REWARD – Paul Iwan
88. LIGHT ON – Maggie Rogers
89. HERE WE GO – Ben Priory & Charlie Pereira
90. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend
91. GENERATION Y – Guide Dog
92. THANK U, NEXT – Ariana Grande
93. CELLOPHANE – FKA Twigs
94. 16 – Highly Suspect
95. SECRET THAT LIES BEHIND – The Gear
96. STORM WILL COME – Morgendust
97. LO/HI – The Black Keys
98. DESERVING OF LOVE – Lyia Meta
99. BROTHERS – Harroland
100. SPAZTIC ROBOT – Spaztic Robot

Top 30 Songs for December 22-28, 2019

1. YOU? – Two Feet (2)
2. CIRCLES – Post Malone (1)
3. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO (3)
4. DISSOLVE – Absofacto (4)
5. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev (5)
6. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze (7)
7. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools (8)
8. ORPHANS – Coldplay (12)
9. STAY HIGH – Brittany Howard (6)
10. LONELY – Secret American (11)
11. CALM DOWN – Pete Yorn (13)
12. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates (14)
13. REWARD – Paul Iwan (15)
14. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper (17)
15. ALL THE GOOD GIRLS GO TO HELL – Billie Eilish (16)
16. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (10) 21st week on list
17. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi (9)
18. THE RUNNER – Foals (19)
19. MAN ON THE MOON – The Common View (20)
20. THE END OF THE GAME – Weezer (21)
21. BLIND LEADING THE BLIND – Mumford & Sons (22)
22. WARS – Of Monsters and Men (23)
23. 2ALL – Catfish and the Bottlemen (24)
24. THE BEST – AWOLNATION (25)
25. OBSESSION – Joywave (18)
26. BEEN BUSY – Thunder Fox (27)
27. 16 – Highly Suspect (26)
28. UNEVENTFUL DAYS – Beck (30)
29. NIGHT TIME – Isolda (N)
30. USED TO LIKE – Neon Trees (N)

DIARY OF AN OUTLAW – Single Review: “BIGTIME”

Diary of an Outlaw

Diary of an Outlaw (DOA) is the music project of singer-songwriter, producer and director Angel Synn. He’s a kind and gracious guy too! Originally from Michigan, where he grew up both on a farm and in Detroit, Angel now calls Hollywood, California home. He was once frontman for the rock band Down In Hollywood, but took a long hiatus from music to care for his wife who eventually passed away from cancer. This past summer, he decided to get fully back in the game as Diary of an Outlaw, and started recording new songs. On December 4th, he released “BIGTIME”, a hard-driving banger of a tune that speaks to his passion for music and dreams of making it big. And after all the tough challenges and heartache he’s gone through, he’s now fearless in his quest, and nothing’s gonna deter him from doing everything possible to achieve his goal.

DOA gets right down to business, blasting through the airwaves with an explosive barrage of raging riffs and pummeling drumbeats. He’s a fine guitarist, shredding his guitar like a man hell-bent on destruction through much of the track, but then he lays down a tasty little solo in the bridge, accompanied by some scratching to create a nice, contrasting interlude before the onslaught returns in the final chorus. His raw, commanding vocals remind me a bit of Scott Stapp as he fervently sings “Can’t you feel the music rising like a cannonball straight from your veins? / See the party, feel the people giving energy. Kickin’ ass while I’m taking no names! I am headed for the bigtime!” Keep playing guitar like you do, and it’s guaranteed DOA!

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MANDALAN ft. CADENCE XYZ – Single Review: “How We Live”

Every so often, I hear a song for the first time that instantly takes my breath away, which for a jaded old music lover like me is a very big deal. That’s the feeling I got when I heard the stunning new single “How We Live” by Mandalan, featuring enchanting vocals by young singer Cadence XYZ. I hit the replay button numerous times, as I couldn’t get enough of it!

Mandalan

Mandalan is the music project of Los Angeles-based musician, composer and producer James Brennan. He’s been recording and producing electronic and EDM music for the past several years, and teamed up with vocalist Cadence XYZ for his latest single, which I think is his best work yet.

Drawing from a colorful kaleidoscope of shimmery synths, Mandalan adds a mesmerizing percussive beat to craft a dreamy, almost exotic soundscape that evokes a sun-kissed faraway place. Then there’s Cadence XYZ exquisite vocals that so beautifully complement the sultry vibe of the instrumentals. Wow, what a gorgeous voice she has, at once sweet yet seductive as she croons of escaping to a paradise where life can be better: “It’s a new day in paradise, an island sure in sight.  The sun is warm as it starts to rise, shining so bright. Silent storms in your eyes, wildfire in your veins, and I’m drowning in love… Come fly with me. Soar across the sea. There’s no turning back, just signs for us to pass. Let it go, let it go, letting it all slip away.”

Check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

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Top 30 Songs for December 15-21, 2019

1. CIRCLES – Post Malone (1)
2. YOU? – Two Feet (3)
3. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO (2)
4. DISSOLVE – Absofacto (4)
5. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev (7)
6. STAY HIGH – Brittany Howard (8)
7. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze (9)
8. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools (10)
9. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi (5)
10. THE HYPE – twenty one pilots (6) 20th week on list
11. LONELY – Secret American (12)
12. ORPHANS – Coldplay (13)
13. CALM DOWN – Pete Yorn (14)
14. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates (15)
15. REWARD – Paul Iwan (16)
16. ALL THE GOOD GIRLS GO TO HELL – Billie Eilish (17)
17. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper (18)
18. OBSESSION – Joywave (11)
19. THE RUNNER – Foals (24)
20. MAN ON THE MOON – The Common View (22)
21. THE END OF THE GAME – Weezer (21)
22. BLIND LEADING THE BLIND – Mumford & Sons (25)
23. WARS – Of Monsters and Men (26)
24. 2ALL – Catfish and the Bottlemen (27)
25. THE BEST – AWOLNATION (28)
26. 16 – Highly Suspect (29)
27. BEEN BUSY – Thunder Fox (30)
28. FIGHTER – Joseph (19)
29. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with Jon Bellion (20)
30. UNEVENTFUL DAYS – Beck (N)

VOX EAGLE – Single Premier: “Can’t Stop”

Regular readers of this blog know I write about a lot of indie artists and bands, as one of the things that drives me is wanting to support them in what little way I can. One of my absolute favorites – both from a musical and personal standpoint – is VoxEagle. Essentially the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, VoxEagle first burst onto the music scene in the beginning of 2017 with the release of the electro-pop single “No Sleep”. The terrific song has been streamed over 279,000 times on Spotify. He then followed up with a second single “Come Over”, both of which were featured on his debut EP Flamingo Paradiso Pt. 1., released in July 2017. I loved both songs so much they ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list.

Also in 2017, Andy and his wife relocated from bustling Manhattan to the bucolic solitude of Evergreen, Colorado, high in the Colorado Rockies west of Denver. There, he built his own recording studio, which he dubbed “The Eagles Nest”, and set to work on his first full album, the brilliant genre-bending TriumAvium, which was released in October 2018. You can read my album review and interview with Andy here. One of the tracks on the album titled “Wander” went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 this past February.

Now he returns with a wonderful new single “Can’t Stop“, which I’m thrilled to premier today. The song officially drops on December 16 on all major digital music sites, some of which are included at the end of this post. “Can’t Stop” has a soulful dance pop vibe, and captures the infectious energy we first encountered on “No Sleep.”

VoxEagle Studio 2

That energy is the essence of VoxEagle’s unique, yet eclectic, sound. In our interview, he told me “VoxEagle is a musical energy; I hate to call it a band or whatnot. It’s vibe I suppose is with me at the helm, [though] the whole idea of VoxEagle in the beginning was to collaborate with various artists.” He added that his main overriding objective in making music is that “It’s just gotta have big melodies and be real energetic.

The track opens with spacey, almost seductive synths that quickly expand like a giant flower unfolding its petals into a beautiful explosion of sound and color. Starting with a deep, thumping bassline as a foundation, VoxEagle layers a rich palette of sparkling, dreamy synths, guitar, and percussion, including what sound like bongo drums, to create an exuberant groove that just makes you feel good. He has a fine, casual singing voice, and I like when he freestyles some of the lyrics. It all builds to an exhilarating crescendo before fading out with those spacey synths and pulsating bass. I love it!

Although “Can’t Stop” was written prior to the occurrence of a personal tragedy Andy recently experienced with the death of his best friend of 30 years, it really hits home for him, serving as a sort of anthem for his philosophy about life and his music career. He became so despondent over his friend’s death that he actually considered throwing in the towel on making music. Thankfully, he came around to realizing it would be impossible for him to stop, as making music is the one thing that keeps him sane at the end of the day – a sentiment I and many others I know can strongly identify with.

Those feelings are perfectly expressed in the lines “Every time I get the hook wrong, I stay back all night just to fix it cuz we can’t stop until we catch the feeling. All I know is that we’ve come too far. Too far to turn back now. Can’t stop these feet when they start moving, no.” I hope VoxEagle never stops making songs for us to enjoy.

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Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase: iTunesGoogle Play

New Song of the Week – NATH JACKSON: “Oncoming Storm”

Nath Jackson

Nath Jackson is a talented singer-songwriter from Leeds, England, who I learned about this past July when I reviewed an EP he collaborated on with electronic music project The Ocean Beneath. He wrote and sang the lyrics on two of the tracks on that EP, and I was really impressed with his captivating vocals. Nath is now writing and recording songs for his own debut EP Dreamers and Deceivers, due out in Spring 2020. He’s just released “Oncoming Storm“, which I’ve chosen as my new song of the week. It’s the first single from his forthcoming EP, along with an accompanying live recording of a second track “Best Laid Plans”.  The Ocean Beneath produced the tracks, with backing vocals sung by Nath’s brother Aaron and drums performed by Karl Rigby.

Nath Jackson2

“Oncoming Storm” is a beautiful and haunting track, starting off with sounds of approaching winds and Nath’s strummed acoustic guitar, accompanied by gentle cymbals that evoke waves crashing on the shore in advance of an oncoming storm. As the song progresses, his guitar strums become more urgent, while lovely but melancholy piano keys and measured percussion enter the mix to create a stirring backdrop for his warm, resonant vocals.

The lyrics seem to me to be about someone afraid of committing themselves to love or even to life, for that matter, fearing they’ll get hurt.

I know you wait
You waited for so long
You’ve been trying to run from the oncoming storm
So come along, won’t you come with me
I’ll get behind those eyes
I’ve got something that you better see

But it’s all too little too late
If life’s a game then you better play
From the upside to the down
The lost and the found
You better move soon before you hit the ground
And they’ve all got something to say
Waiting for those better days
From the love that you choose
The spreading out the news
Where do you go when you got nothing to lose?
Nothing to lose

On “Best Laid Plans”, it’s just Nath’s heavily-strummed acoustic guitar and strong, clear vocals, which are all that’s needed to make a highly satisfying and impactful folk-rock tune. The song speaks to not letting one’s life become trapped by too many rigid plans that can result in disappointment:  “And I find it hard to believe that the best laid plans fall apart at the seams. With just a roll of the dice, you can be free. Can’t wait til the moment’s gone. Dreamer keep dreamin’ on.

Though both quite different in sound and style, they’re both great tracks that showcase Nath’s skilled guitar work and beautiful vocals. I look forward to hearing all of Dreamers and Deceivers when it’s completed.

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DARKSOFT – Single Review: “Cybersecurity”

Darksoft Cybersecurity

Darksoft is the music project of Bill Darksoft, an imaginative and talented singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Seattle, Washington who I’ve featured twice on this blog in 2019. Inspired the by the high-tech industry of his hometown, he writes songs that address timely and relevant social and cultural issues related to technology. He also operates his own label and website Look Up Records (for which he also writes some pretty awesome reviews), and in addition to his music project, has played with many Seattle acts over the years.

Last February, I reviewed his brilliant debut album Brain, a concept work named for the very first computer virus to attack the internet back in 1986, with each track titled after infamous viruses that followed. Then in July, I reviewed his single “WannaCry”, which addressed the deep cultural and political divide in America, fed by our tendency to stay stuck in our own echo chambers. The enthralling song spent more than three months on my Weekly Top 30. Today. I’m happy to premiere his haunting new single “Cybersecurity“, where he touches on another thorny technological issue.

Like his previous tracks, “Cybersecurity” was written, performed and produced by Darksoft, and mixed and mastered by Mathieu Riede of L453RL4Dy Studios. Using a rich palette of cinematic synths as a foundation, Darksoft layers gauzy riffs of chiming and jangly guitars, along with a perfect balance of snappy percussion, to create a dramatic and sweeping backdrop for his captivating vocals. As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I really like his velvety, almost breathy vocal style, which adds a dreamy, ethereal quality to his sound. He also excels at writing beautiful, compelling melodies, and though I would not label this one as being “catchy”, it nevertheless stayed with me long after hearing it. It’s another winning song.

The lyrics cast doubt on the assumption – or is it really a myth? – that all our data floating around out there in cyberspace is somehow being kept safe. What’s more, it can even be used to control and manipulate us in harmful ways that we hadn’t imagined.

The past is dying
In saturation
Confusion breeds control
Two points for the man
One humanity
We’re digits in a dream
Cybersecurity

Who can hide the past controls The Now
Information Age playing mind games

There’s something wrong
This picture’s off
What’s under your profile?
Did I do wrong?
Who can tell
When truth is gone
There is no cybersecurity

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Stream his music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Google Play
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / cdbaby

REVOLUTION RABBIT DELUXE – Album Review: “Swipe Left”

RRD Swipe Left

Revolution Rabbit Deluxe (RRD) is an indie rock band hailing from south Wales. Their innovative, alt-rock sound draws from Brit-rock, pop and punk influences, with meaningful lyrics tackling topical issues ranging from politics, culture and environmental justice to mental health. RRD started out as a solo project for founder and guitarist Rev Rab, but gradually evolved into a four-piece band. With the exception of Rev Rab, the band has an entirely new lineup since I last visited them a little over a year ago, when I reviewed their terrific debut album Tales From Armageddonsville. They’re now comprised of Rev Rab (guitar, lead vocals), Dan (guitar, backing vocals), Ben (bass, backing vocals) and Nick (drums), and recently dropped their sophomore album Swipe Left.

The album contains 12 tracks, and I’ll touch on what I think are the highlights. RRD gets right down to business on the opening track “Doomsday Clock/Cornucopia Croaked“, a rousing foot-stomper about mankind’s relentless assault on our planet. The track starts off with what sounds like a huge ticking clock in an empty room, backed by distant sounds of civil unrest. At the 30 second mark, the clock stops and we’re hit with a barrage of gnarly distorted guitars and hammering drums, driving home the urgency of the subject. Rev Rab issues a scathing assessment of our destructive tendencies: “We tore down the hills. We dug up the valleys. We pulled up the trees. Replaced them with concrete. And it’s goodbye world. Cornucopia croaked. Strangled by plastic. All our footprints soaked. Need to do something drastic.”

Keeping with the theme of earthly degradation, “Gods of Folded Bills” speaks to how our greed, over-consumption, and the downside of capitalism in general have led us down a path toward the looming prospect of our own demise: “We sold out to darker powers, and all the while, we pray to gods of folded bills. There’s no return, we’re driving down a one-way street. There’s no concern, as the rhino joins the queue.” The song has a cheerful synth-driven melody that belies the darker lyrics. So too with “Superglue“, its catchy new wave/psychedelic grooves in contrast with the more serious subject matter.  “Can’t you tell this fragile shell on which we live…is gonna give./The edifice you build is in your heart. A monument to pride. A prisoner inside. A prisoner to hide. The prisoner is you. And my advice is pull it down, tear it down, smash it down.

Picture of a Man” is a rather somber song about a man who puts forth a charming, gallant image that’s at sharp odds with his substantial shortcomings and cruel nature: “Don’t you paint a fine, fine picture of a man. So subtle, so refined, so charming, so cultured, so well-groomed. / A player, you play her well. You beat her, you cheat her./ Please leave her, relieve her. Just walk away. But freedom is what she wants from you. The one thing you can’t give.” “Guess Which Number” is a sweet tune, with sparkling synths and a lovely piano-driven melody, while “Father of Lies” seems to pay homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” with its similar iconic driving riff early in the song.

One of my favorite tracks is “Punk Rock is Dead“, a bouncy punk-infused song about how societal pressure to conform killed off the free-thinking, anti-establishment spirit embodied by punk rock:  “Take a message. Subvert it. Pump it out as truth. Take a free man, create dependence, and roll away identity. Millions like him share the uniform. A corporate rebellion. Punk rock is dead. Who killed it? Punk rock is dead. You killed it. Punk rock is dead. We killed it.

Steel September Skies” is a complex and haunting track. It begins with a gently strummed folk guitar, then a thumping drumbeat ensues as Rev Rab describes what starts off as a bucolic scene that quickly turns ominous, perhaps symbolizing a nation formerly at peace but now plunged into an authoritarian regime or civil war: “A picture-perfect parade winds down my street. As idols clap and children cheer, frozen in time. I hear the crash of jackboots black. Let’s change the scene. Ignore the screams. My mother’s arms holding me tight, keeping my safe. I try to smile, but my belly aches, there’s flies in my eyes. And then the screams, my mother screams.”

The music intensifies as his vocals turn urgent: “I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” Suddenly, things turn around to a more positive, hopeful tone: “Parade’s rewind and jackboots fade. All our wrongs are being undone, the guilty can’t run. It’s time to live, it’s time to love. I am just one man, got no master plan. But I’ll try to find if you’ll take my hand. Til the sun turns black, Til the sky is cracked. Til the kiss lies choked, I will cling to hope.” The music calms back down to the gently strummed guitar as the song fades out. It’s such a powerful and stirring song.

Swipe Left is another strong work by Revolution Rabbit Deluxe. Given their unique, sometimes unorthodox sound and deep, thought-provoking lyrics, their songs often require a couple of listens to unpack and fully appreciate all the nuance to be discovered within them. Putting forth the effort pays off nicely once you come to realize the high quality of their music.

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Stream on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase hereBandcamp