Top 30 Songs for January 10-16, 2021

  1. CAN I BELIEVE YOU – Fleet Foxes (1)
  2. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals (2)
  3. VIRUS – Vanity Fear (4)
  4. THINK I’M CRAZY – Two Feet (5)
  5. FIRE FOR YOU – Cannons (6)
  6. CAN YOU FEEL THE SUN – MISSIO (9)
  7. SHAME SHAME – Foo Fighters (7)
  8. VISITOR – Of Monsters and Men (3)
  9. SKIN AND BONES – Cage the Elephant (10)
  10. TROUBLE’S COMING – Royal Blood (11)
  11. DIRTY – grandson (14)
  12. LEAVE ME ALONE – I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME (15)
  13. THEREFORE I AM – Billie Eilish (16)
  14. HEAT WAVES – Glass Animals (17)
  15. 1ST TIME – Bakar (18)
  16. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo (8)
  17. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala (12) 20th week on list
  18. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly (13)
  19. THE ADULTS ARE TALKING – The Strokes (23)
  20. SOFIA – Clairo (24)
  21. SURVIVIN’ – Bastille (22)
  22. COLD – Chris Stapleton (30)
  23. HEADSTART – Jade Bird (25)
  24. BROKEN PEOPLE – almost monday (27)
  25. MOOD – 24kGoldn featuring iann dior (19)
  26. MY WAY, SOON – Greta Van Fleet (28)
  27. SATISFIED – Skar de Line (29)
  28. IDENTICAL – Phoenix (20)
  29. BURN THE VISION – Amongst Liars (21)
  30. SLEEP – The Frontier (N)

New Song of the Week – “Fire” by Two Feet

At the end of a week that saw one of the darkest days in recent American history, Two Feet goes and drops a fantastic new single “Fire“, bringing some badly-needed light and joy into the lives of his many fans. I think it’s one of his best songs yet – which is saying a lot – and I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

Beginning with the release of his breakout single “Go Fuck Yourself” in 2016, the Brooklyn, New York-based singer-songwriter and guitarist has been on a creative roll, releasing several singles, including his #1 hit “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” in 2018, and two outstanding albums, the most of recent of which was last year’s Pink (you can read my review here). He’s become my favorite artist, and I love every single piece of music he’s released. Since that album’s release, Two Feet has dropped three singles – “Think I’m Crazy”, which is currently enjoying a long run on my Weekly Top 30, “Time Fades Away”, and now “Fire”, which dropped today, January 8th. 

I’ve stated previously that many of his songs are slow burns, and that’s certainly the case with “Fire”. The song has a sensuous and smoldering deep bass groove that sounds like a slowed-down version of “Every Breath You Take” by The Police – one of my all-time favorite songs. Two Feet and his trusted keyboardist/programmer Geoffrey Hufford (aka Huff) layer bluesy guitars and gorgeous sultry synths to create an almost cinematic soundscape that soars to a scorching crescendo befitting the song’s title. Two Feet sings in a much higher octave here than usual, with an almost breathy, yet impassioned falsetto as he croons to a lover of his intense ardor: “Darling, You call my name / I like the games you play / Charming, My love for you / Burning, I feel it too.” I love it!

Connect with Two Feet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple MusicAmazon

CLINT SLATE – Album Review: “Dragons”

Clint Slate is the music project of French singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gregg Michel. Based in Paris, the versatile musician has been involved in numerous projects over the years, and wanting to further explore and experiment with his art, Michel created Clint Slate in 2015. The moniker is a variation of ‘clean slate’. That same year, he released his debut solo album Before the Dark, a beguiling work featuring 12 tracks he described as “a trip between sonic landscapes and electro-organic sounds, a travel in my mind, a snapshot of life between light and darkness.” The album was an exploration of his feelings of grief and loss after the death of his father. He followed up in 2017 with his exquisite second album Woodn Bones, which he premiered in a live performance on the internet with a full band plus choir in a theatre. It was an album recorded live and in a single take.

At the start of 2020, Clint was preparing to release his third album, a progressive concept work titled The Last Man, but then the Covid-19 pandemic swept across Europe, resulting in a lockdown in France and many countries. He decided to postpone the album’s release until the time comes that he can give it a proper release in front of an audience. He had also been involved with several collaborative projects, including becoming a metal singer for the former drummer of Skakin’ Street, a crooner for Alexandre Azaria’s soundtracks, Bono for a U2 Tribute, and a rock’n’roll clown for the musical stage troupe Les Franglaises.

The coronavirus brought all these activities to a halt, which then led him to conceive of a new project based on the idea of a ‘cadavre exquis musical’ (or ‘exquisite musical corpse’), and that could be created virtually and remotely. Enlisting the help of two other musicians, bassist Francesco Arzani and drummer Louison Collet, Clint set to work on an album entitled Dragons, which dropped today, January 4th. He wrote the music and lyrics, sang vocals and played acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, stylophone and percussion. He also produced, mixed and mastered the album. Louison also played glockenspiel on “Dark is Wire” and Clint played bass on “Obstacles”.

Dragons was inspired by Clint’s love of David Bowie’s album Earthling, which he explains “allows itself to digest Drum&Bass, Jungle and electro and to spit them out totally transfigured in a unique result. It’s thanks to this album that I realise the importance of breaking genres and codes, like listening to Mike Garson’s jazz out piano parts on the volcanic electro/rock “Dead Man Walking” or Reeves Gabrels’ string after string guitar solo with alien like sounds on “Looking For Satellites”. It also allowed me to discover William Burroughs and the Beat Generation, Bowie explaining that he applied the cut-up principle to several songs. But what is cut-up? It’s a process created by the surrealists where words written in the course of thought or newspaper clippings were mixed in a bowl and randomly drawn to create new phrases. It is a way to shake up inspiration, to renew oneself, to explore the unconscious and to play with meaning or nonsense.” Clint told me Dragons is a kind of love letter to artists and explorators he admires.

Work on Dragons took place between May and July 2020. Clint would compose the music, working as quickly as possible to keep from overthinking while he recorded melodies, riffs or suites of chords. He then sent them to Louison and Francesco without giving them any more information than an audio clip, chords and a BPM, which allowed them to add their own touches without knowing what the other did. The rules were simple: Be spontaneous and think as little as possible, record yourself three times maximum and get out of your playing habits. Once he received their tracks, Clint added them to the guitar parts and then distorted everything until the original idea had been transfigured or even supplanted by the new sounds. Each track was given a random name, which was then entered into a word generator to find the lyrics, flirting with nonsense, abstract and surrealism.

The result is a totally unique, fascinating and eclectic collection of songs that (in Clint’s words, as I couldn’t possibly say it better myself) “winds between styles, genres and atmospheres to propose a new journey through the unconscious and surf on the wave of the moment. The nine songs of the album are as many monsters and chimeras to discover and tame.” The album opens with “Sunset, Nova and Earth“, an interesting track that starts off with Clint rapping over an almost dubstep beat, accompanied by clicking sounds, then settles into a languid folk rock vibe with bluesy guitars. As promised, the lyrics are abstract and surreal: “You noisy capture birds to get the galaxies, the warm aurora of unseen specific lights. Recognize in us storytellers. Raw change might help sunset, Nova and Earth.”

David Bowie’s influence can be heard on “Reconciliation TV (The Love Tides)“, which to my ears also has a strong Pink Floyd vibe, thanks to its sweeping organ riff and colorful mix of jangly and distorted guitars, followed by relatively calm, introspective interludes. Clint’s knack for sounding like Bono is evident on the hauntingly beautiful “Ghost America“, a song that seems to allude to an America now past its glory “The rise of the greatest worldwide team. Theft beyond trading. The ghost of America, America.” “Dead Noise” has a somewhat cinematic feel as it builds to a dramatic crescendo, while the brooding “Dark is Wire” seems to channel Radiohead. With its combination of delicate synths, strummed guitars and Glockenspiel layered over Francesco’s moody bass line, the captivating song is one of my favorites on the album. And once again, the lyrics are obscure: “Nothing to die / dark is wire / shortcuts useless / a crisp stark pink interface.”

The Sixth Trip Plan” is a melodic and upbeat track based on a twenty seconds long riff on two very simple chords that Clint developed, and enhanced by a bass riff created by Francesco. I really like this video showing each of them performing independently, but sounding fantastic together. The lyrics are rather non-sensical, but make for a fun listen: “Fresh self-respect / Carbon exchange / Join the flowers of a hundred dictionaries / Double bread crown for twin Spanish horses / Challenge the last dance call that’s the sixth trip plan.”

The darkly beautiful “Obstacles” is another favorite, with stunning guitar work that Clint states was recorded in a single take shortly after he composed it. He adds that the song “mourns a world that has become as cold as steel“, as expressed in the lyrics “A wireless force / Dangerous events holding the web, focused / You offer everything / Stealth warranty / Candidates multiply instantly.” Though the lyrics are rather foreboding, his vocals are warmly comforting.

On the futuristic “Systems and Batteries“, Clint uses wobbly industrial synths, throbbing reverb and a skittering beat to create a harsh, yet dreamy otherworldly soundscape for his droning vocals, augmented by electronically-altered vocals speaking the lines “Imperial common unit / Imperial views / Theoretical tools and technology measure something here.” The final track “Smash” is an exhilarating guitar-driven progressive rock song that ends with the album title as the last word: “Update the leaders, compatible with riders / Commit together, contact the dragon.”

Dragons is an unusual but sonically satisfying album that I found immensely enjoyable. I applaud Clint for his imaginative approach in the creation of this unique work, proving that – even in isolation – musicians are capable of producing some really innovative and compelling work. If you like music that ventures outside the norms in terms of melodic structure, lyrics and sound design, you will enjoy this album.

Follow Clint Slate:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream his music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music

Purchase:  BandcampAmazon

Top 30 Songs for January 3-9, 2021

  1. CAN I BELIEVE YOU – Fleet Foxes (2)
  2. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals (1)
  3. VISITOR – Of Monsters and Men (3)
  4. VIRUS – Vanity Fear (5)
  5. THINK I’M CRAZY – Two Feet (6)
  6. FIRE FOR YOU – Cannons (7)
  7. SHAME SHAME – Foo Fighters (10)
  8. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo (4)
  9. CAN YOU FEEL THE SUN – MISSIO (14)
  10. SKIN AND BONES – Cage the Elephant (12)
  11. TROUBLE’S COMING – Royal Blood (13)
  12. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala (8)
  13. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly (9)
  14. DIRTY – grandson (17)
  15. LEAVE ME ALONE – I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME (18)
  16. THEREFORE I AM – Billie Eilish (19)
  17. HEAT WAVES – Glass Animals (20)
  18. 1ST TIME – Bakar (23)
  19. MOOD – 24kGoldn featuring iann dior (11)
  20. IDENTICAL – Phoenix (15)
  21. BURN THE VISION – Amongst Liars (16)
  22. SURVIVIN’ – Bastille (23)
  23. THE ADULTS ARE TALKING – The Strokes (24)
  24. SOFIA – Clairo (26)
  25. HEADSTART – Jade Bird (27)
  26. LETTER TO YOU – Bruce Springsteen (22)
  27. BROKEN PEOPLE – almost monday (28)
  28. MY WAY, SOON – Greta Van Fleet (29)
  29. SATISFIED – Skar de Line (30)
  30. COLD – Chris Stapleton (N)

Top 100 Songs of 2020

It goes without saying that 2020 turned out to be a year for the record books on so many levels. It started out well enough, but quickly went to hell beginning in March as the Covid-19 virus spread throughout the world, causing a global pandemic that resulted in a shut down of many countries’ economies, and nearly 1.8 million deaths as I write this at the end of the year. One of the hardest-hit sectors has been the music industry, particularly live music, which in these days of unlimited streaming, most musicians count on to make a living and promote their music. On the plus side – if there was one – many musicians had more time to write and record new music, blessing us with some really stellar works. The Rolling Stones used the lockdown to put out their previously-written but timely “Living in a Ghost Town”, their first new single in four years, while AC/DC thrilled fans with their surprise release of Power Up, their first new album in six years. The Pretenders, Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney also released new albums.

Like with every year, in 2020 we had to say goodbye to far too many legendary musicians – something that seems to be happening with greater frequency as music icons we grew up with pass away primarily due to having reached old age. Some of the notable passings included Bill Withers, Little Richard, Peter Green, Eddie Van Halen, Spencer Davis, Neil Peart, Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy, Bonnie Pointer, Mac Davis, Ennio Morricone, Johnny Nash, Jerry Jeff Walker and Chad Stuart (of Chad & Jeremy). Sadly, we also lost John Prine, Charley Pride and Trini Lopez due to complications from Covid-19.

As a music blogger, I receive a lot of submissions from artists, PR reps and labels wanting me to review their music. I also follow a large number of music blogs, where I learn about music, and as a result, end up listening to a tremendous amount of new music over the course of a year. That said, I know I’ve heard only a fraction of all the singles and albums released in 2020. Some of the standout albums I had the pleasure of hearing were Taylor Swift’s Folklore, Run the Jewels’ RTJ4, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, The Killers’ Imploding the Mirage, Tame Impala’s Slow Rush, Fontaines D.C.’s A Hero’s Death, Fleet Foxes’ Shore, Two Feet’s Pink, Haim’s Women in Music Pt. III, Bryde’s The Volume of Things, Kidsmoke’s A Vision in the Dark, Surrija’s brilliant eponymous album Surrija, and MISSIO’s Can You Feel the Sun. (The albums I reviewed are highlighted in blue, and if you click on those titles it will take you to my review.)

One of my favorite music genres is Dream Pop & Rock, which seems to be undergoing a major surge in recent years. The genre was well-represented in 2020 by numerous stellar songs, including “Are You Bored Yet?” by Wallows ft. Clairo, “Can I Call You Tonight?” by Dayglow, “White Lies & Palm Trees” by The Lovepools, “Lost in Yesterday” and “Is It True” by Tame Impala, “Can I Believe You” by Fleet Foxes, “Downs” by Roadkeeper, “Fire For You” by Cannons, and the entire aforementioned album by Kidsmoke. 

Obviously, my list of the Top 100 Songs of 2020 includes only songs I know. I’m certain there are likely other great ones that should be on this list, except that I’ve never heard them. Still, among the thousands of songs I did hear in 2020, there were many outstanding ones, and it frustrates me to have to cull my favorites down to only 100, omitting scores of tracks I really like and wanted to include. Furthermore, a song at #40 isn’t necessarily better than one at #60, but I had to rank them somehow.

Our 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.

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. Many of the songs on this list were released in 2020, however, a number of them were released in 2019. Absofacto’s “Dissolve” was originally released in 2015, but didn’t chart until 2019. Because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, like Billboard, I include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year. I always wrestle with how to rank them, as well as whether to list them in only one year or two. For example, Two Feet’s “You?” was #1 during the final week of 2019, and the first four weeks of 2020, so it would seem only fair to include it on the lists for both years. That song ranked #18 on my Top 100 of 2019, and ranks #3 on this year’s list. I suppose that at the end of the day it’s all silliness, but this is the way I choose to do it. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared in my Top 100 Songs of 2019 are indicated with an asterisk *.

For previous years’ Top 100 lists, I wrote little pieces for each of the top 20 songs, as well as embedded their YouTube videos, then simply listed the remaining 80. That always left me feeling a little bad for those 80 songs, as it made them seem like afterthoughts, which was certainly not the case. For this year’s list, partly out of fairness, and partly to save myself huge amounts of time, effort and stress, I’ve decided to forego with the individual descriptions and videos, and simply list the entire 100 songs.

As always, 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 it. Let me know what songs were your favorites of 2020.

  1. BLINDING LIGHTS – The Weeknd
  2. LEVEL OF CONCERN – twenty øne piløts
  3. YOU? – Two Feet *
  4. CAUTION – The Killers
  5. HALLUCINOGENICS – Matt Maeson
  6. FEEL YOU – My Morning Jacket
  7. EVERYTHING I WANTED – Billie Eilish
  8. HELL N BACK – Bakar
  9. DON’T START NOW – Dua Lipa
  10. MARIA – Two Feet
  11. BLACK & WHITE LOVE – Beating Hearts Club
  12. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper *
  13. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo
  14. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala
  15. DOWNS – Roadkeeper
  16. HOW WILL I REST IN PEACE IF I’M BURIED BY A HIGHWAY?// – Kenny Hoopla
  17. CAN I CALL YOU TONIGHT? – Dayglow
  18. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools *
  19. MY OWN SOUL’S WARNING – The Killers
  20. IF NOT FOR THE FIRE – The Million Reasons
  21. IT’S YOU – The Frontier
  22. LOST IN YESTERDAY – Tame Impala
  23. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals
  24. CAN I BELIEVE YOU – Fleet Foxes
  25. MONSTERS – All Time Low featuring blackbear
  26. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly
  27. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates *
  28. BLACK MADONNA – Cage the Elephant
  29. USED TO LIKE – Neon Trees
  30. WARS – Of Monsters and Men
  31. CARDIGAN – Taylor Swift
  32. ORPHANS – Coldplay
  33. LEMON DROP – Absofacto
  34. THE BEST – AWOLNATION
  35. DISSOLVE – Absofacto *
  36. HONEYBEE – The Head and the Heart
  37. ADORE YOU – Harry Styles
  38. YOUR LOVE (DÉJÀ VU) – Glass Animals
  39. VISITOR – Of Monsters and Men
  40. MOOD – 24kGoldn featuring iann dior
  41. DELETER – Grouplove
  42. PSYCH FILM – Strangely Alright
  43. SOMEONE ELSE – Rezz & Grabbitz
  44. A HERO’S DEATH – Fontaines D.C.
  45. DANCE OF THE CLAIRVOYANTS – Pearl Jam
  46. BAD DECISIONS – The Strokes
  47. LOVE YOU FOR A LONG TIME – Maggie Rogers
  48. THE RUNNER – Foals
  49. VIRUS – Vanity Fear
  50. REWARD – Paul Iwan *
  51. THINK I’M CRAZY – Two Feet
  52. SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT – Black Keys
  53. 2ALL – Catfish and the Bottlemen
  54. VAN HORN – Saint Motel
  55. LIFE IN THE CITY – The Lumineers
  56. IDENTICAL – Phoenix
  57. GIANTS – Dermot Kennedy
  58. FIRE – Black Pumas
  59. LAY YOUR HEAD ON ME – Major Lazer featuring Marcus Mumford & Diplo
  60. OH YEAH! – Green Day
  61. UNEVENTFUL DAYS – Beck
  62. COME & GO – Juice WRLD & Marshmello
  63. BLIND LEADING THE BLIND – Mumford & Sons
  64. HOODIE UP – MISSIO
  65. HERO – Michael Kiwanuka
  66. PARADISE – Creeper
  67. WATERMELON SUGAR – Harry Styles
  68. UNCHAINED – Devon Gilfillian
  69. EXPECTATIONS – Katie Pruitt
  70. FIRE FOR YOU – Cannons
  71. HEAVEN IS HEART – Jaded Jane
  72. TEXAS SUN – Khruangbin featuring Leon Bridges
  73. OVER AND OVER – Amongst Liars
  74. HONEY – King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
  75. LIVING IN A GHOST TOWN – The Rolling Stones
  76. HOW WE LIVE – Mandalan featuring Cadence XYZ
  77. MY FUTURE – Billie Eilish
  78. STRANGERS – Mt. Joy
  79. NOT OK! – Chaz Cardigan
  80. MARINERS APARTMENT COMPLEX – Lana Del Rey
  81. LETTER TO YOU – Bruce Springsteen
  82. HOLD ON – Noah Reid
  83. BE AFRAID – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
  84. FAULT LINES – Callum Pitt
  85. LET’S FALL IN LOVE FOR THE NIGHT – FINNEAS
  86. ME & YOU TOGETHER SONG – The 1975
  87. HALF YOUR AGE – Joywave
  88. SERAFINA – BAMBARA
  89. COLORS – Black Pumas
  90. THE LET GO – Elle King
  91. SWIMMING CLOSER – HAZY
  92. REAL LONG TIME – White Reaper
  93. NOTHING LOVE – Surrija, Albert Chiang, Christine Tavolacci & Matt Chamberlain
  94. MAN ON THE MOON – The Common View
  95. DO YOU FEEL THAT? – Ronnie the Bear
  96. RAINBOW RECORDS – Oceanography
  97. BURN THE VISION – Amongst Liars
  98. ZEN – X Ambassadors, K.Flay & grandson
  99. ROSE TINTED EYES – Seprona
  100. SKIN – The Ocean Beneath & Fran Minney

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #1: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele

And now we’ve arrived at the pinnacle of my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s, and the song at #1 is the magnificent “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. It’s fitting that the British singer-songwriter would have my #1 song of the 2010s, as her song “Chasing Pavements” was my #100 song of the 2000s. It’s also owing to the fact that Adele is one of the greatest female vocalists of our time, and that “Rolling in the Deep” is a spectacular fucking song!

Released in November 2010, it was the lead single and opening track of her phenomenal second album 21, which is now one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, setting numerous chart and sales records, and topping the album charts in the U.K., U.S., and around the world. It was the top-selling album in the world both in 2011 and 2012, and as I write this at the end of 2020, 21 has spent 495 non-consecutive weeks (that’s nine and a half years!) and counting on the Billboard 200 Album chart. “Rolling in the Deep” was itself named the #1 song of 2011 on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end list, as well as in Canada, Belgium, Hungary and the Netherlands. Rolling Stone ranked it #8 on its list of “The 100 Greatest Songs of the 21st Century”. It also won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Short Form Video.

It’s been well-documented that Adele conceived of and wrote many of the songs on 21 after a painful breakup with her then-boyfriend. She had begun writing and recording songs for the album while still with him, but couldn’t seem to find much inspiration. Then, the day after her break-up, Adele contacted producer Paul Epworth (who’s co-written and produced songs for Foster the People, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Bloc Party & Coldplay, among others), wanting to capture her seething emotions in a song. She told London newspaper The Sunday Times: “We’d had a fuming argument the night before … I’d been bubbling. Then I went into the studio and screamed.”

She and Epworth began restructuring a song she’d been working on, rewriting the lyrics and renaming it “Rolling in the Deep”.  The melody and instrumentation evolved as they went along. After trying out various jazz riffs, Adele sang the first verse “There’s a fire, starting in my heart, reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark” a cappella, which then inspired Epworth to come up with a melody on his acoustic guitar. They came up with the strong thumping drum beat to mimic her racing heartbeat. (Wikipedia)

Essentially a song of revenge, Adele called “Rolling in the Deep” a “dark, bluesy, gospel, disco tune written as a ‘fuck you'” to her ex-lover after his disparaging remarks that she was weak and that her life without him would be “boring and lonely and rubbish.” As the song unfolds, Adele’s emotions, as told through the lyrics, run the gamut from angry: “Go ahead and sell me out and I’ll lay your shit bare / See how I leave with every piece of you / Don’t underestimate the things that I will do“, to defiant: “Baby, I have no story to be told / But I’ve heard one on you and I’m gonna make your head burn / Think of me in the depths of your despair / Make a home down there as mine sure won’t be shared“, to wistful: “We could have had it all / Rolling in the deep / You had my heart inside of your hand / But you played it. You played it, You played it, You played it to the beat.”

The dark and rather surreal video, directed by Sam Brown, shows Adele singing the song while sitting on a chair in an abandoned house. Various scenes show a room filled with hundreds of water-filled glasses vibrating to the beat, a drummer playing his drums under a staircase, and a ghostly figure dancing about a room kicking up white dust, while in yet another room, white china is thrown against an illuminated piece of plywood suspended from the ceiling. Finally, a white model of a city on a large table is set afire by five bursting light bulbs, all of which signify a relationship that’s gone up in flames. In addition to its Grammy for Best Short Form Video, the video also won 2011 MTV Video Music Awards for Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction. As of the end of 2020, it’s been viewed more than 1.76 billion times, but in January, Adele abruptly removed the video from YouTube! So, I found this one…

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #2: “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra

Song #2 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra. I still vividly remember the night in 2013 when the song won the Grammy award for Record of the Year. Prince was presenting the award in that category at the ceremonies that night, and as he opened the envelope to announce the winner, he said “I love this song.” So do I, along with millions of others around the world. It was a massive hit, selling over 12 million copies and reaching #1 in the U.S., UK, Australia and 23 other countries. It was named the #1 song of 2012 on the Billboard Hot 100, Adult Pop and Alternative charts, and was one of the biggest hits of the decade. Not only did it win a Grammy, it also won the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) for Single of the Year.

Gotye (born Wouter “Wally” De Backer in Belgium, and now based in Melbourne, Australia) is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has recorded as both a solo artist and with his band The Basics. Kimbra is a singer from New Zealand. “Somebody That I Used to Know” was first released in Australia and New Zealand in July 2011 as the second single from Gotye’s third studio album Making Mirrors, and later released that December in the UK, and in January 2012 in the U.S. The song explores the bitter breakup of a relationship from the perspective of both parties. Gotye laments: “But you didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing / And I don’t even need your love / But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough / No you didn’t have to stoop so low / Have your friends collect your records and then change your number / I guess that I don’t need that though / Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”

Musically, it samples the opening guitar riff from Brazilian composer and guitarist Luiz Bonfa’s instrumental track “Seville”, and builds from there with spooky synths and an array of mesmerizing beats. One of the notable features is the use of xylophone that gives the song an intriguing, almost exotic vibe. Many music critics noted the similarities between the song and works by Sting, Peter Gabriel and Bon Iver.  Jon O’Brien of AllMusic called it an “an oddball break-up song whose stuttering rhythms, reggae hooks, and hushed vocals sound like The Police remixed by The xx.” (Wikipedia) As for me, I remember being dumbstruck when hearing it for the first time, wondering “what is that song!?!” It’s a beautiful and haunting masterpiece.

Then there’s the amazing video, which was directed by Australian artist Natasha Pincus. It shows Gotye singing the song while standing naked against a neutral backdrop. As he sings, his body and the backdrop gradually become covered with paint so that he seems to be part of a painting. My take is that his identity is being swallowed by his surroundings. The camera eventually pans to include Kimbra, who then sings her response to Gotye: “Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over / But had me believing it was always something that I’d done / But I don’t wanna live that way / Reading into every word you say / You said that you could let it go and I wouldn’t catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know.” As she sings, she becomes separated from the painting, then the paint starts vanishing from her body, signifying her escape from what was left of their relationship. It’s absolutely brilliant!

Top 30 Songs for Dec. 27, 2020-Jan. 2, 2021

  1. MARIPOSA – Peach Tree Rascals (1)
  2. CAN I BELIEVE YOU – Fleet Foxes (4)
  3. VISITOR – Of Monsters and Men (3)
  4. ARE YOU BORED YET? – Wallows featuring Clairo (2)
  5. VIRUS – Vanity Fear (8)
  6. THINK I’M CRAZY – Two Feet (9)
  7. FIRE FOR YOU – Cannons (10)
  8. IS IT TRUE – Tame Impala (5)
  9. BLOODY VALENTINE – Machine Gun Kelly (6)
  10. SHAME SHAME – Foo Fighters (16)
  11. MOOD – 24kGoldn featuring iann dior (7)
  12. SKIN AND BONES – Cage the Elephant (14)
  13. TROUBLE’S COMING – Royal Blood (15)
  14. CAN YOU FEEL THE SUN – MISSIO (19)
  15. IDENTICAL – Phoenix (11)
  16. BURN THE VISION – Amongst Liars (12)
  17. DIRTY – grandson (18)
  18. LEAVE ME ALONE – I DON’T KNOW HOW BUT THEY FOUND ME (20)
  19. THEREFORE I AM – Billie Eilish (21)
  20. HEAT WAVES – Glass Animals (22)
  21. 1ST TIME – Bakar (23)
  22. LETTER TO YOU – Bruce Springsteen (13)
  23. SURVIVIN’ – Bastille (25)
  24. THE ADULTS ARE TALKING – The Strokes (26)
  25. NERVOUS – Au Gres (17)
  26. SOFIA – Clairo (29)
  27. HEADSTART – Jade Bird (30)
  28. BROKEN PEOPLE – almost monday (N)
  29. MY WAY, SOON – Greta Van Fleet (N)
  30. SATISFIED – Skar de Line (N)

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #3: “Stressed Out” by twenty øne piløts

Song #3 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Stressed Out” by twenty øne piløts. It’s the highest-ranking of their six songs on this list (“Tear in My Heart” was #7, “Ride” #19, “Heathens” #61, “Jumpsuit” #67 and “Chlorine” #87), and is also now one of my favorite songs of all time. Released in November 2015 as the fourth single from their spectacular album Blurryface, the song became a massive hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs, Mainstream Top 40, Adult Top 40 and Alternative charts, where it spent 12 weeks on top. It peaked at #2 on the Hot 100.

For those who’ve been living under a rock, twenty øne piløts is a duo from Columbus, Ohio consisting of the ridiculously talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tyler Joseph and drummer Josh Dun. Incorporating a wildly eclectic mix of genres – including hip hop, rap, alternative rock, pop, reggae, ska, psychedelia, electronica, new wave, folk and funk – and employing a vast array of instruments and synth sounds too numerous to mention, they create music that’s complex, innovative, exciting and totally original. With their unique sound, not to mention Joseph’s distinctively quirky vocals, they sound like no other act, and their music is immediately recognizable.

Blurryface is a loose concept album named after a fictional character called Blurryface, who Joseph said “represents all the things that I as an individual, but also everyone around, are insecure about”, namely, our doubts, fears and self-loathing. Joseph wore black paint on his hands and neck during their live shows and music videos for the album, almost apologizing: “Very dramatic, I know, but it helps me get into that character.”

“Stressed Out” was written by Joseph and produced by renowned musician and producer Mike Elizondo, who’s worked with such diverse artists as 50 Cent, Eminem, Carrie Underwood, Fiona Apple, Mastodon, and Ry Cooder, among others. Elizondo was a bit perplexed during the song’s production. In an interview with Billboard, he recalled: “At the time I heard the song, I had no idea what Blurryface was, [and I was] kind of scratching my head going, ‘Dude, uh, what’s Blurryface?’” Well, it’s a brilliant alternative rap-rock song about facing the burdens and responsibility of adulthood while longing for the simplicity and safety of one’s childhood, as well as touching on the insecurities of being a musician. I love the droning, deep bass-driven groove, spooky synths, discordant piano keys, Dun’s pounding drums, and Joseph’s monotone vocals that convey the angst and uncertainty expressed in the clever lyrics.

I wish I found some better sounds no one’s ever heard
I wish I had a better voice that sang some better words
I wish I found some chords in an order that is new
I wish I didn’t have to rhyme every time I sang

I was told when I get older all my fears would shrink
But now I’m insecure and I care what people think

My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think
My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh)
Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good old days (oh)
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

We’re stressed out

Sometimes a certain smell will take me back to when I was young
How come I’m never able to identify where it’s coming from
I’d make a candle out of it if I ever found it
Try to sell it, never sell out of it, I’d probably only sell one

It’d be to my brother, ’cause we have the same nose
Same clothes homegrown a stone’s throw from a creek we used to roam
But it would remind us of when nothing really mattered
Out of student loans and tree-house homes we all would take the latter

My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think
My name’s ‘Blurryface’ and I care what you think

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh)
Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good old days (oh)
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Yeah

We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Yeah

Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out (oh)
Wish we could turn back time (oh), to the good old days (oh)
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out

Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
Used to play pretend, used to play pretend, bunny
We used to play pretend, wake up, you need the money
We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space but now they’re laughing at our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money.”
Yeah

The delightful video was directed by Mark Eshelman, and filmed primarily at drummer Josh Dun’s childhood home and the surrounding neighborhood in Columbus. It portrays Joseph and Dun as both children at play and young adults grappling with the onset of adulthood, their parents and siblings looking on in bemused disapproval. It’s been streamed more than 2.1 billion times.

100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #4: “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood

Song #4 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Sweater Weather” by Southern California alternative pop-rock band The Neighbourhood. It’s hard for me to find the right words to fully describe how deeply I love this stunning song. I know I’ve stated this repeatedly in my discussions of several songs on this list, but I fell in love with “Sweater Weather” the instant I first heard it. The song is from their debut album I Love You, and was originally released in March 2012, but, unbelievably, didn’t chart until a year later. It enjoyed huge success on the Billboard Alternative chart during the summer of 2013, spending 11 weeks at #1, and later peaked at #14 on the Hot 100 and #7 on the Mainstream Top 40.

“Sweater Weather” is a hauntingly beautiful love song with a unique melody and arrangement that’s pretty spectacular, especially given that it was one of the first songs The Neighbourhood ever wrote. It was co-written by group members Jesse Rutherford, Zach Abels and Jeremy Freedman. Abels commented on the writing of the song in a 2014 interview with Radio: “One day Jesse was at my house and I was playing guitar. And he said, ‘Hey that’s pretty cool, let me record that.’ And it just so happened to be ‘Sweater Weather.’ When we got done writing the song, when it was all said and done we were like ‘Okay this is pretty good we should keep writing songs.‘” Rutherford added, “I think ‘Sweater Weather’ might’ve been the best song we’d ever written, but I didn’t think it was going to be the best song we’d ever write. It was kind of like getting a Platinum record, like a little tap on the butt. ‘Good job, keep going’.” The song did indeed go Platinum five times over in the U.S., with over 5 million sales and downloads.

Starting off with a sharp, rapid drumbeat and throbbing bass line, the band layers a rich palette of sparkling synths and gorgeous plucked guitars to create a breathtaking, almost ethereal backdrop for lead singer Jesse Rutherford’s incredibly sensual plaintive vocals. I love his voice, which so beautifully captures the fervor of a budding romance as he fervently raps the lyrics: “She knows what I think about / And what I think about / One love, two mouths / One love, one house / No shirt, no blouse / Just us, you find out / Nothing that I wouldn’t wanna tell you about, no / ‘Cause it’s too cold for you here / And now, so let me hold both your hands in the holes of my sweater.”

Two-thirds into the track, the melody and instrumentals abruptly transition to a languid tempo, highlighted by an achingly beautiful strummed guitar and bassline. Rutherford coos “Woah, woah, woah / Woah, woah, woah, woah…” before repeating the final chorus “‘Cause it’s too cold for you here / And now, so let me hold both your hands in the holes of my sweater.” It’s perfection from beginning to end, firmly planting “Sweater Weather” among my favorite songs of all time.