Friday 20 December 2019

My Top 20 Favourite Tracks Of 2019

We've looked at the worst tracks of 2019, but what about my favourites? Here are just a few of the tracks that I kept returning to throughout the year, complete with descriptions of why I love them. 

PS: There are a lot of embedded Youtube videos here, so I apologise now if it this page takes ages to load.

PS. PS: Also, if you like lists, don't forget to check out my favourite tracks of 2018, 2017 and 2016.

20. Suicide City’ - Onoe Caponoe

This lo-fi funky beat gives me tingles – props to producer Jae Genius, whose SoundCloud you can check out here. UK rapper Onoe Caponoe meanwhile matches the energy with some speedy bars and lovably abstract lyrics about fucking a cactus and smoking with Draculas (that’s about all I could make out). The trippy visuals are the cherry on top.

19. Activate’ – Elle Shimada ft. Abbey Howlett & Cazeaux O.S.L.O

It’s a bit all over the place (as are many of the songs this week), but the sheer creativity of this track makes it worth it. The beat produced by Melbourne artist Elle Shimada is a speedball of woozy jazz samples and frenetic 808s. There’s some breathy singing from Abby Howlett and a rapped verse from Cazeaux O.S.L.O.  All in all, it’s a lot of fun. The track is off the Wondercore Island mixtape SURF JAZZ – it features a medley of experimental artists and its proceeds go towards an Australian surf charity.

18. Vossi Bop’ – Stormzy

I can usually take or leave Stormzy, but this track is fire. The beat is mental, the hook’s super-catchy and I appreciate the sentiment ‘Fuck Boris’. It’s also probably the biggest budget UK hip hop video I’ve seen to date (Idris Elba even makes a cameo!).

17. All In Your Head’ – Clipping ft. Robyn Hood and Counterfeit Madison

Clipping never fail to impress me with their sonic inventiveness. This track comes straight off of the experimental hip hop band’s latest album There Existed An Addiction to Blood. It starts off cold and abrasive – over noisy clangs and whirrs, Daveed Diggs trades gritty bars with guest rapper Robyn Hood. Then towards the end, the track takes a euphoric melodic shift. Second guest Counterfeit Madison delivers some gospel-flavoured singing and slowly from out of the darkness rises triumphant instrumentation until it reaches a loud and bright crescendo.

16. ‘Paramour’ – Anna Meredith

This instrumental track from UK composer/musician Anna Meredith is truly genre-bending. It begins with a hyperspeed oscillating synth that is gradually joined by more instruments from cellos to electric guitars, taking various twists and turns but never losing momentum. The exciting musical journey is visually captured in a music video following a Lego train, filmed in one shot. I can’t imagine how many takes it took to get it right!  

15. God of Love’ – Liturgy

Hipster-metal band Liturgy may sometimes be a little pretentious, but this latest single is an utter thrill-ride (providing you like avant-garde extreme metal – otherwise it’ll likely sound like pure noise). The intense instrumentation making up this track has so much detail in it, slowing and speeding up, even briefly glitching out (I thought my computer had crashed) and the settling into a more melodic breakdown with vocal oo-oohs and Sugar-Plumb-Fairy twinkling celestas (at least, that’s what I think they are). I’d prefer if the screaming wasn’t as buried, but the wild instrumentation makes up for it.

14. Old Town Road’ – Lil Nas X ft. Billy Rae Cyrus

I usually can’t stand country and tend to automatically despise any rapper with Lil in their name. But this hit country-rap crossover is a work of genius. After the thousandth time of hearing it on the radio it has lost some of its appeal - but given that I initially loved it, it still deserves a place on this list.

13. Don’t Go Riding Down The Cosmic Drain’ – Syrup, Go On

This exciting track from Gold Coast indie band Syrup, Go On ticks all the right boxes for me – the music video is stylish, the guitars are groovy and layered, the male/female vocal harmonies are catchy and there’s plenty of reverb to give it that dreamy finish (but not so much that the detail is drowned out). The lyrics are also motivational without being syrupy (which I expected, given the band name). Fans of this track can check out their new album here.

12. I Love My Computer’ – Hollowlove

It amazes me how this duo are able to tackle serious social messages whilst crafting ridiculously fun songs in the process. This time the topic is tech addiction, sung from the perspective of a lovestruck digital junkie to the accompaniment of glossy synths funky enough to rival Jamiroquai. If I ever get married to my laptop (I hope she says yes – I’m yet to pop the question), this is the song I’ll use for the first dance.

11. Titanium 2 Step’ – Battles

‘Titanium 2 Step’ is a quintessential Battles track – which is to say it sounds nothing like any other music you’ve heard. It stomps along mechanically, whilst the guitars blip and whirr as if threatening to fall apart at any moment. I’m still yet to listen to the new Battles album – if all the tracks are as good as this, I’m in for a treat.

10. Puff Daddy’ – JPEGMAFIA

Eccentric Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA joins forces with producer Kenny Beats, resulting in this abrasive banger. I still haven’t got round to dissecting Peggy’s bars – every time I’ve tried to focus on the lyrics the beat has distracted me. Is that a distorted 808 kick or a laser gun? Whatever it is, it slaps hard.

9. A Boy Is A Gun’ – Tyler, The Creator

All of the beats on Tyler’s latest album Igor are phenomenal, but this might be the best of them all with its choppy Motown sampling, twinkling pianos and synth arpeggios. The lyrics meanwhile centre around the dangers of unrequited love with a man – progressive material for a rapper that was delivering homophobic bars at the beginning of the decade.

8. Inner Paths (To Outer Space) – Blood Incantation

This is largely an instrumental (there’s a lone growl at the end, but otherwise it’s an instrumental) and it slowly transitions from time-stretched cinematic ambience to prog rock to full out death metal. All the while, the video takes the listener on a trippy journey through space before drowning the viewer in blood. The talent that has gone into the production and composition of this track is incredible. To steal a comment I read on the Youtube video, it makes ‘Tool look like Smash Mouth’. The band have a new album out that I’ll definitely be checking out over the weekend.

7. Together’ – Katie Rush

This heartbreak-themed pop song has some really left-field production. The sugary groove feels like a hybrid of 80s/90s electropop, whilst wailing guitars are layered over the top, which – to quote the PR email – ‘mock the cries of coyotes, hungry for love’. There’s nothing else out there that sounds quite like this. The NYC-based singer has a new album out titled Stage Life which you can check out here.

6. Jan 3’ – Improvement Movement

There’s a lot going on in this three-and-a-half minute frenetic, genre-bending rollercoaster of a track from Atlanta band Improvement Movement. The drummer sounds like he has more arms than a hindu deity and I love the cartoonish interplay between the vocals and psychedelic keys. The band offer their own description: ‘This song is an instruction manual on how to not get mugged, written and recorded the night I got mugged. It's a 3AM walk down Mitchell Street, scored by Oscar Peterson, dunked in a bucket of Fuzzy Fun Machines and chilled to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.  We hope this helps you not get mugged’.

5. Lullaby for my Insomniac’ – James Blake

I wasn’t the biggest fan of James Blake’s latest album, but this track is absolutely beautiful.  It sees the alt-pop singer gently crooning against a percussionless backdrop of swelling chords. The silence itself is an instrument, giving this track a dreamy weightlessness. Towards the end, Blake builds upon the chords with vocal harmonising that sounds almost like Gregorian chanting. I thought lullabies were meant to help you drift off to sleep – this has me hooked from start to finish.

4. Mountain of Dreams’ – FEVRMOON

If the ascending piano and dreamy vocals don’t put you in a trance, then the symphonic strings most certainly will. This track is utterly hypnotic – I have a tendency to overuse that word, but honestly, this is some Derren-Brown-level shit. I’m not even sure what genre to classify this as? Parts of it feel very digital such as the warping sub-bass and numerous vocal effects, but other parts such as the piano and sighed-out vocal delivery have a very earthy feel. It’s one of the most fascinating sounds I’ve heard all year.

3. Tempo’ – Lizzo ft. Missy Elliot

I’m not usually one for ass anthems or skinny-shaming, but this banger is so ridiculously fun that I couldn’t care less. These two seem like the perfect pairing for a track for this, both bringing ample amounts of attitude. As for the beat, well, it’s absolutely filthy.

2. Tu Es Belle’ – Starwolf

Starwolf aren’t from around here. As their Facebook bio explains: ‘After traveling as stardust for 13.8 billion years through the universe, Starwolf has morphed into human form to satisfy your ears’. It makes sense given that this track is out of this world. Commencing with some beautiful guitars, the track then evolves into a funky synthpop number with Daft-Punk-esque vocoders before soaring into a heavenly climax of jazz flute and triumphant saxophone. It’s barely two and half minutes long and I feel like I’ve just been on an epic journey across the cosmos.

1. It Might Be Time’ - Tame Impala

You ain’t as young as you used to be’. I hate how depressingly relatable these lyrics are. The fact that those synths sound like the Kill Bill siren also adds to the anxiety. And yet the groovy pounding drums and gorgeous keys make this the most enjoyable panic attack I’ve ever had. Tame Impala will be releasing a new album in 2020 and I’m absolutely psyched.