Welcome, everyone. I always like waiting until the year is actually over to get these lists out. Just doesn’t feel right to do it earlier.
I have a lot of posts coming out in the next couple of weeks, so let’s just get right into it.
10. Sharon Van Etten: “Seventeen”
“Seventeen” is the biggest moment of Sharon Van Etten’s career. This song about witnessing a changing New York City is elevated by a great vocal performance and a grand presentation.
9. FKA twigs: “cellophane”
Much has been written about the naked emotion in “cellophane,” but what makes it work for me is the slow, broken piano track.
8. Clairo: “Bags”
A song about the unspoken calculations in moments of intimacy, something about the simple swagger of the guitars here really brings “Bags” together. The best part is her lingering on “know you’d make fun of me.”
7. Stella Donnelly: “Tricks”
Beware of the Dogs is a frequently dead-serious album about Stella Donnelly’s exhaustion with men. “Tricks” is also about that (it calls out the men who heckle her with song suggestions), but it’s her most fun song by far and it includes all of her best hooks. Lose yourself in the “LEAVE IT ALONE, LEAVE IT ALONE” bit.
6. Vampire Weekend: “This Life”
“I’ve been cheating through this life/And all it’s suffering/Oh, Christ!/Am I good for nothing?” is the best refrain Vampire Weekend’s ever made, and Jake Longstreth’s lead guitar lines are the best among many on a great guitar album. “Harmony Hall” is more viscerally thrilling, but “This Life” has incredibly strong fundamentals which make its virtue longer-lasting.
5. Lizzo: “Juice”
Lizzo has finally made a song as fun as she so obviously is. Not sure why the public had to reach back to 2018 and 2017 to get her atop the charts.
4. Lil Nas X (ft. Billy Ray Cyrus): “Old Town Road (Remix)”
Remember: Billboard removed the original “Old Town Road,” a modestly charting trap song with a banjo sound here and there, from its country listings. This sparked a frenzy of streaming “Old Town Road” in protest, and the song was already headed to number one. But the rest of the story is in Lil Nas X’s best tweet: “see he left and came back with help lol”
The original’s two minutes didn’t have an unwasted second, so some will still prefer that. But Billy Ray Cyrus’s verses turn the song into a world-conquering triumph. “Old Town Road (Remix)” had the longest stay at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the chart’s history. Can’t nobody tell them nothing.
3. Alex Lahey: “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”
On I Love You Like A Brother, Alex Lahey found a foolproof formula. “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” returns to that formula and is the most euphoric thing she’s ever written. And she finally brings out a mainstay of her earlier career that had yet to appear in her solo work: her saxophone.
Her songs about daily millennial strife need this companion. Even if things are hard, you can make them just a little bit easier by being kind to yourself.
2. Lana Del Rey: “The greatest”
Lana Del Rey finally tops “Video Games” with this this weirdly triumphant song about the end of the world, inspired by the 2018 Hawaii false missile alert. What if the last words we ever heard were “Kanye West is blond and gone/’Life on Mars’ ain’t just a song/I hope the live stream’s almost on?”
1. Mannequin Pussy: “Drunk II”
God, what a fantastic band, and Marisa Dabice’s voice is a monster. What’s the greatest moment here? “I still love you, you stupid fuck?” “I have the answer now?” My vote’s for “you feel guilty, it’s pathetic.”
Dabice wrote the song while actually inebriated, drunk trying to escape the torment of her breakup.
“Drunk II” is a band taking everything it does well and doing it all at once. Holy crap.