Irish singer-songwriter and musician Hozier (born Andrew John Hozier-Byrne), has never shied away from addressing social and political topics in his songs, and in a 2021 interview with Forbes magazine, he stated that he believes “the personal is the political“. His breakout hit “Take Me to Church” highlighted the injustices and violence perpetrated against the LGBTQ community; the video for his song “Cherry Wine” raised awareness of domestic violence; and “Nina Cried Power” paid homage to such artists as Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, and Mavis Staples, whose work often took political or social justice stances.
His latest single “Eat Your Young” was inspired by Gluttony, one the 9 Circles of Hell contained in the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, and describes a feast being prepared and served together with the chaos that comes with it. Many of the allegorical lyrics can be construed to be anti-war, with references to corporate greed and capitalistic warfare, and sacrificing our young to fight our wars. According to an annotation in Genius, the line “pull up the ladder when the flood comes” could be interpreted to mean that when the biblical flood comes, rather than leaving the ladder down to help other people climb to safety, the ladder is pulled up-presumably because to save them would be to share resources with them. The darkly captivating song, from his forthcoming third album Unreal Unearth, due for release in August, ascends to the #1 spot on my latest Top 30. It’s Hozier’s third song to top my chart.
In other chart developments, the Foo Fighters‘ “Rescued” climbs six spots to enter the top 10. Four songs make their debut this week: the lovely and heartwarming “Marry Another Man” by singer-songwriter Wise John (whose wonderful EP The Mr. Love Sunset Show! I recently reviewed), “We’re All Gonna Die” by singer-songwriters Joy Oladokun and Noah Kahan, “Chemical” by superstar Post Malone, and “Superglue” by pop-rock band Michigander.
EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (2)
KID – The Revivalists (1)
NOT STRONG ENOUGH – boygenius (4)
PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (6)
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (3)
DUMMY – Portugal. The Man (9)
GO DOWN RIVER – The Heavy Heavy (10)
GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (5)
THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (7)
RESCUED – Foo Fighters (16)
THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (12)
ESSENCE – Refeci featuring Shimmer Johnson (14)
FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (8)
WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (13)
1982 – Morgendust (17)
RESCUE ME – Dirty Heads (18)
LEAVING – Au Gres (19)
THE WAY – Manchester Orchestra (20)
THOSE EYES – New West (21)
IN MY HEAD – Mike Shinoda & Kailee Morgue (22)
WHY – Future Theory (23)
BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (11)
TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (15)
HELLO – GROUPLOVE (27)
EMPTY NEST – Silversun Pickups (28)
PINEAPPLE SUNRISE – Beach Weather (30)
MARRY ANOTHER MAN – Wise John (N)
WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE – Joy Oladokun & Noah Kahan (N)
“Kid”, the feel-good anthem by New Orleans band The Revivalists, remains atop my Top 30 for a second week, while Hozier‘s enchanting “Eat Your Young” moves into second place. Entering the top 10 are “Dummy” by Portland alt-rock band Portugal. The Man and “Go Down River” by British duo The Heavy Heavy, at #s 9 and 10 respectively. The biggest upward movers this week are “Rescued” by Foo Fighters, leaping 12 spots to #16, “Not Strong Enough” by supergroup boygenius (Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus), climbing five spots to #4, and “Those Eyes” by New West, also advancing five spots to #21.
The lone debut this week is “Pineapple Sunrise” by Beach Weather, who’ve become one of my favorite bands over the past year. The title track from their album of the same name, “Pineapple Sunrise” has not been officially released as a single, however they did release a terrific new video for the song this past Friday, and I love it so much it’s made my Weekly Top 30.
KID – The Revivalists (1)
EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (3)
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (2)
I’ve loved making song lists since my teens, but one thing I don’t like about doing them is having to drop songs down and then ultimately off. And just because I move songs down and then off my lists doesn’t mean I no longer like them or am even tired of them, but they must eventually make way for newer songs to have their own time in the sun, so to speak. That said, it makes me a little sad to knock “New Gold”, by Gorillaz, Tame Impala and Bootie Brown, from the top spot it’s held the last three weeks, but it must step aside because The Revivalists‘ “Kid” is my new current favorite song. For those unfamiliar with The Revivalists, they’re an 8-piece alternative roots rock band who formed in New Orleans in 2007. They finally burst onto the music scene in 2015 when, on the strength of their third album Men Amongst Mountains, Rolling Stone magazine named them one of “10 Bands You Need to Know”. One of the singles from that album, “Wish I Knew You”, was a sleeper hit, finally reaching #1 on the Billboard Adult Alternative Songs chart in September 2016, then topping the Alternative Airplay chart in May 2017.
The exuberant feel-good anthem “Kid” is the lead single from their forthcoming fifth studio album Pour It Out Into The Night, due for release on June 2nd, and is currently #1 on the Adult Alternative Songs chart. Band lead vocalist David Shaw said the song “is about capturing the essence of life. We all go through ups and downs. Sometimes, we don’t believe in ourselves. We’ve got skeletons in the closet trying to drag us down. But you’ve got to believe in yourself. You’ve just got to live for the spirit. Nothing good ever comes easy. If you don’t have hope, what do you have?” Besides making great songs, The Revivalists use their music as a force of positivity, and are actively involved in several philanthropic causes, including establishing an umbrella fund Rev Causes in 2019, for the purpose of supporting various organizations dedicated to reviving and investing in their communities, public health, and the environment.
The lone debut this week is “Empty Nest” by L.A.-based alt-rock band Silversun Pickups, who’ve been making music since 2000.
KID – The Revivalists (3)
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (1)
“New Gold”, the wonderful collaboration between virtual band Gorillaz, Australian alternative psychedelic music project Tame Impala, and American rapper Bootie Brown, maintains it’s grip on the #1 spot for a third week, while “Ghosts Again” by Depeche Mode moves into the #2 spot. Jumping five spots each are “Kid” by The Revivalists, to #3, and “Eat Your Young” by Hozier, to #5. The raucous “Paid Off”, by British alt-rock band Oli Barton & the Movement, enters the top 10 at #10. They just released their biting new single “Left Alive in America?” on May 5th, and will be releasing their album Pipe Dreams on the 19th.
Making their debut this week are “Rescued” by the Foo Fighters, their first new release since the untimely death of drummer Taylor Hawkins, at #29, and “Hello”, by the always delightful L.A. band GROUPLOVE, at #30.
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (1)
“New Gold”, the marvelous collaboration between virtual band Gorillaz, Australian alternative psychedelic music project Tame Impala, and American rapper Bootie Brown, remains at #1 for a second week. Holding at #2 for a second week is the beautiful “Tropic Morning News” by The National, which previously spent two weeks at #1. Depeche Mode‘s “Ghosts Again” holds at #3 for a second week, and “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus moves up a notch to #4. Moving up three spots each are “Soften” by Canadian singer-songwriter Alex Southey, to #5, and “Bluebell Wood” by British singer-songwriter Frank Joshua to #6. Entering the top 10 are “Kid” by The Revivalists, climbing three spots to #8, and “Eat Your Young” by Hozier, which jumps six spots to #10.
Two songs make their debut this week: the gorgeous “Those Eyes” by Toronto band New West, entering at #29. The song, which reminds me a bit of Coldplay’s beloved earlier songs like “Yellow” and “Fix You”, was actually released in May 2019 as their very first single, and later included on their debut EP Call Me When You Hear This Song. Like Beach Weather’s “Sex, Drugs, Etc.”, the song apparently went viral on Tik Tok, and has recently been climbing the Alternative charts. Entering at #30 is “Why”, a stunning song by British psychedelic indie rock band Future Theory, an immensely-talented act I’ve written about many times on this blog. This is their third song to appear on my Top 30, with their 2021 single “One and the Same” reaching #3.
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (1)
TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (2)
GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (3)
FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (5)
SOFTEN – Alex Southey (8)
BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (9)
TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (4)
KID – The Revivalists (11)
THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (10)
EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (16)
PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (6)
LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (7)
PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (14)
WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (15)
I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (12)
THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (17)
NOT STRONG ENOUGH – boygenius (18)
GO DOWN RIVER – The Heavy Heavy (20)
DUMMY – Portugal. The Man (21)
ESSENCE – Refeci & Shimmer Johnson (22)
BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (13) 20th week on chart
ANGELICA – Wet Leg (24)
1982 – Morgendust (25)
RESCUE ME – Dirty Heads (26)
LEAVING – Au Gres (27)
TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (19) 22nd week on chart
I love when artists from different genres and backgrounds come together to create music, especially when the pooling of their collective talents and imagination results in glorious sonic alchemy. One of the finest examples of this in recent memory is “New Gold”, a brilliant collaboration between virtual band Gorillaz (fronted by British singer-songwriter and producer Damon Albarn), Australian alternative psychedelic music project Tame Impala, and American rapper Bootie Brown (aka Romye Robinson). The deep, pulsating beat and lush, intricate synths by Albarn, producer extraordinaire Greg Kurstin, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker create a magical backdrop for Albarn’s and Parker’s dreamy vocals and Brown’s flawlessly rapped verses, all of which not only complement each other beautifully, but also create a palpable sense of excitement and energy. The song is a gorgeous feast for the senses, and ascends to the #1 spot on my latest Weekly Top 30.
Co-written by them all, the song’s lyrics speak to the ephemeral and often unfulfilling things too many people indulge in, expressed in the chorus “New gold, foolish gold, everything will disappear.” They rely on self-delusions or any number of palliatives, rather than face their problems in a realistic way, whether it be the ultimately self destructive overuse of cosmetic surgery that often ages poorly, abuse of party drugs that destroy the user’s mind, or endless social media drama, wasting time on online content lacking any real value or engaging in online arguments that only serve to make us feel more isolated than ever.
In other chart developments, Young the Giant‘s poignant and lovely “The Walk Home” enters the top 10, and two songs make their debut: “The Way” by American alt-rock band Manchester Orchestra, at #29, and “In My Head” by Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Arizona-based singer-songwriter Kailee Morgue, at #30.
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (3)
TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (1)
GHOSTS AGAIN – Depeche Mode (4)
TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (2)
FLOWERS – Miley Cyrus (6)
PEPPER – Death Cab for Cutie (5)
LOVE FROM THE OTHER SIDE – Fall Out Boy (7)
SOFTEN – Alex Southey (9)
BLUEBELL WOOD – Frank Joshua (10)
THE WALK HOME – Young the Giant (12)
KID – The Revivalists (14)
I WANT YOU DEAD – Two Feet & Allie Cabal (13)
BACKPATTERS AND SHOOTERS – The Zangwills (8)
PAID OFF – Oli Barton & the Movement (15)
WOLF – Yeah Yeah Yeahs (16)
EAT YOUR YOUNG – Hozier (23)
THE PERFECT PAIR – beabadoobee (19)
NOT STRONG ENOUGH – boygenius (20)
TROUBLE WITH THIS BED – Beach Weather (11) 21st week on chart
The beautiful “Tropic Morning News” by The National holds at #1 for a second week, with Sea Power‘s majestic “Transmitter” also remaining at #2. “New Gold” by the dream collaboration of Gorillaz, Tame Impala and Bootie Brown slides into 3rd place (Gorillaz & Brown performed the song at the Coachella Music Festival this past Friday night), while Depeche Mode‘s “Ghosts Again” assumes the #4 spot. British singer-songwriter Frank Joshua enters the top 10 with his sublime love song “Bluebell Wood”.
Three songs make their debut this week: Entering at #23 is the amazing “Eat Your Young” by Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. He states the song was inspired by Gluttony, one the 9 Circles of Hell contained in the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem Divine Comedy, and describes a feast being prepared and served together with the chaos that comes with it. “Rescue Me” by Southern California reggae-ska rock band Dirty Heads enters at #29, and “leaving” by Michigan singer-songwriter Au Gres enters at #30.
TROPIC MORNING NEWS – The National (1)
TRANSMITTER – Sea Power (2)
NEW GOLD – Gorillaz, Tame Impala & Bootie Brown (6)
The song at #32 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is “Take Me to Church“, the debut single by Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. This is one of two songs by him on this list, the other being “Nina Cried Power”, which appeared at #68. The darkly stunning song was released in September 2013 as a free download, as he was a struggling musician at the time, performing at open-mic nights in and around Dublin. He wrote the song while living with his parents, and recorded a rough demo in their attic. The song first caught the attention of independent label Rubyworks, where producer Rob Kirwan overdubbed the original demo with live instruments, played by Hozier and drummer Fiachra Kinder.
Raised as a Protestant Quaker, Hozier now identifies as agnostic, and was inspired to write the song by his frustration with the Catholic Church, which he saw as a negative dominant force on social and political life in Ireland. He told Rolling Stone, “Growing up, I always saw the hypocrisy of the Catholic church. The history speaks for itself and I grew incredibly frustrated and angry.” (As a still-recovering Catholic myself, I completely agree.) In another interview with New York magazine, he stated: “Sexuality, and sexual orientation…is just natural. An act of sex is one of the most human things. But an organization like the church, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation – that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love.”
Hozier uses religious terminology in the lyrics to describe his feelings of romantic and sexual obsession with his lover, while also condemning church dogma: “My lover’s got humor. She’s the giggle at a funeral. Knows everybody’s disapproval. I should’ve worshiped her sooner. If the Heavens ever did speak. She is the last true mouthpiece. Every Sunday’s getting more bleak. A fresh poison each week. ‘We were born sick’, you heard them say it. My church offers no absolutes. She tells me, ‘Worship in the bedroom’. The only Heaven I’ll be sent to is when I’m alone with you. I was born sick, but I love it. Command me to be well. Amen, Amen, Amen.”
The darkly disturbing black and white video produced for the song was conceived by Hozier, Brendan Canty and his writing partner Emmet O’Brien. It was directed by Canty and Conal Thomson, and filmed on location at Inniscarra Dam in Cork, Ireland. The video, which is at times difficult to watch, tells the story of a gay relationship in Russia and the violent homophobic backlash that ensues when the community learns of one of the men’s sexuality. Upon its release in September 2013, the video quickly went viral, leading to Hozier’s subsequent signing with Columbia Records in the U.S. and Island Records in the UK.
“Take Me to Church” became a massive worldwide hit, topping the charts in 12 countries and reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It reached #1, however, on the Alternative, Adult Alternative, Adult Top 40 and Hot Rock Songs charts, where it spent 23 consecutive weeks at the top. It was also nominated for a Song of the Year Grammy, and has sold over five million copies in the US.
For those too squeamish to watch the video, here’s a Spotify link:
The song at #68 on my list of 100 Best Songs of the 2010s is the stirring “Nina Cried Power” by Hozier featuring Mavis Staples. Born Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, the strikingly handsome Irish singer-songwriter burst onto the music scene in 2014 with his massive hit “Take Me to Church” (coming up later in this list) and self-titled album Hozier. Exhausted from nearly two years of touring, he took a break in 2017 and then began writing new songs, but it would be four years before he followed up with a surprise release in September 2018 of a four-track EP Nina Cried Power, which featured the title track. The song was also included on his second album Wasteland, Baby!, released in March 2019.
“Nina Cried Power” is a magnificent gospel-infused ode to Hozier’s love of American rock and roll and its roots in R&B and gospel, with tributes paid to iconic artists like Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday, James Brown and Mavis Staples, who lives up to her reputation by adding her soulful and raw vocals to the song. In addition, legendary musician Booker T. Jones contributed his organ-playing to the song and other tracks on Wasteland, Baby! It’s a stunning masterpiece in my not-so-humble opinion, yet seemed to fail to connect with very many listeners for reasons I cannot comprehend. It was a hit only on the Billboard Adult Alternative chart, where it reached #1.
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. THANK U, NEXT – Ariana Grande
92. GENERATION Y – Guide Dog
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