The Top 10 Songs of 2019

#10: “Gretel”/ (Sandy) Alex G

Dark, howling strings combine with sweet acoustic guitar in this symmetrical but atypically constructed track, a highlight from House of Sugar that reaches its pinnacle midway through as high-pitched organ notes carry the bridge.

#9: “Naeem”/ Bon Iver

The standout track from i, i is built around two simple piano keys but gradually expands and explodes into off-kilter percussion backed by an understated choir as Justin Vernon’s desperate but powerful vocals hang on the final note of each line and truly emote. It stands up to the very best of the Bon Iver catalog, even if the album probably doesn’t.

#8: “Running”/ Helado Negro

The astonishing centerpiece to This Is How You Smile holds the sixth and best album from Helado Negro together with its warm, circular vibraphone riff and soft, intimate bass line combined with rolling, dream-like percussion beneath the melodic repetition of its chorus.

#7: “Venice Bitch”/ Lana Del Rey

This nine and a half minute opus builds with patience and precision over a simple repeated guitar chord progression before the percussion and electric guitar distortion kicks in midway through, content to take a back seat again as this key track from Del Rey’s career-topping Norman Fucking Rockwell! collapses effortlessly beneath its own weight.

#6: “Not”/ Big Thief

The snarling centerpiece to Two Hands, Big Thief’s second essential record of 2019, combines its memorably melodic sing-along chorus with a guitar solo that absolutely shreds, complete with some of the most directly simplistic and honest lyrics you’ll ever hear.

#5: “Cellophane”/ FKA Twigs

The raw, stripped down simplicity and vulnerability of the closer on Twigs’ career-topping Magdalene is an essay in sorrow, as her voice cracks and strains showcasing an incredible octave range above two repeated piano chords.

#4: “All Mirrors”/ Angel Olsen

Shimmering synths on the title track emerge as a clear highlight on Angel Olsen’s fifth record. Perhaps the only thing more striking than the production quality is its immaculate attention to build and timing as a sudden shift from major to minor key illuminates its stunning crescendo.

#3: “This Life”/ Vampire Weekend

A bright, bouncy acoustic guitar riff harkens back to the early days for these East Coast preps, but imparts additional wisdom beneath perhaps the catchiest hook in the band’s entire catalog, a much needed rock song of the summer.

#2: “Cattails”/ Big Thief

There’s a flawless and precise folk dynamic to the highlight track on the stunning U.F.O.F, which glides along effortlessly beneath Adrienne Lenker’s ever-so-slightly strained and discordant vocal. Lyrical imagery abounds throughout as she belts out lines like “And I find you there in your country flair/ Middle of the river in a lawn chair/ With your wrinkled hands and your silver hair/ Leaving here soon and you know where.” This might just be a perfect rock song.

#1: “Dawn Chorus”/ Thom Yorke

The death of Thom Yorke’s longtime partner and mother of his children Rachel Owen looms like a specter over the entirety of ANIMA, but never is this more apparent than on the standout centerpiece “Dawn Chorus,” as Yorke captures the fragile essence of awaking into a painful reality- that fleeting moment where you recongnize that your dreams were not real, but that your consciousness is. Yorke’s practically spoken-word vocals communicate a sense of loneliness and acceptance over its muted keyboard synths to create a virtually perfect song, the best of the year and of his solo career by far.


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