Said the Gramophone - image by Ella Plevin
by Sean

These are my 100 favourite songs of 2019: songs I love more than bananas, duct-tape, or end-of-decade retrospectives.

Said the Gramophone hasn't published much in in 2019. Forgive us: we're very old. I had the best of intentions about rebooting this blog as a monthly essay publisher but we get by on cinders and old string, so it wasn't really to be. Nevertheless: it is nice to be here with you today.

This is the 16th list like this at Said the Gramophone: see 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no primary artist may appear twice.

The best way to browse the proceeding is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs in three parts:

For the first time this year, I've created a Spotify playlist for these tunes. (#76 was not available.) Update: Thanks to Joey Berger for this Apple Music playlist, too.

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This list is the work of me, Sean, and not any of Said the Gramophone's other contributors. Don't blame them for my questionable taste.

If this is your first time at Said the Gramophone, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.

The WagersPlease read my books! I'm the author of two novels—Us Conductors, from 2014, which reimagines the story of the theremin, and The Wagers, a novel about luck, which came out in Canada this fall and will be published in the USA in January 2020. The Globe & Mail called it "a literary fireworks display, an explosion of joke-filled energy that manages to be a novel of ideas, but one delivered as if it were a caper story." You can learn about both of these books (and order them) at my website byseanmichaels.com

Among the 100 artists below, 38 are mostly American, 21 are Canadian, 16 are British and there are five Nigerian (an all-time high), four Australian, three Irish, three French, two Norwegian, one New Zealand, one Cameroonian, one Trinidadian, one South African, one Colombian, one Spanish, one Swedish and one Ghanaian act. More than 10% of this year's list draws from African producers. 52 of the frontpeople/bandleaders are men, 46 are women, and two acts are girl/boy duos. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain't perfect. Here are some charts of this and past lists' demographics.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures.

My favourite albums of 2019 were:

  • Jonathan Personne - Histoire naturelle;
  • Clairo - Immunity;
  • Arthur Russell - Iowa Dream;
  • John Coltrane - Blue World;
  • Corridor - Junior;
  • Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe;
  • Purple Mountains - st; and
  • Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis.
I promise: all of these are fantastic.

Now, without any more rigamarole, lots of proudly mixed metaphors:

Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2019 - original image by Amber Vittoria
(original image by Amber Vittoria)

  1. Julia Jacklin - "Don't Know How To Keep Loving You" [buy]
    My favourite song of the year is an extraordinary, unbending ballad about falling out of love; or else maybe not, no, not falling out of love but finding yourself at the end of love, without a clear road ahead. "I don't know how to keep loving you," Julia Jacklin sings, "now that I know you so well." I love the generosity of this song, the way it's grieving and wishing and loving at the same time: Jacklin's not casting her lover aside, she's not crowing about freedom—she's searching herself for what it means to feel this way. "I just want to keep loving you," she eventually sings, sadly, but it's not a plea for reconciliation. It's a mourning for everything she'll have to leave—the warm body beside her, their home, even her lover's mother ("I want [her] to stay friends with mine"). Jacklin performs this track with a clear-eyed mastery—she's not so close to the story that she's breaking in half; but she's folded, folded in two, examining the crease. Like most of the best songs, "Don't Know How To Keep Loving You" can stand up to other performances, other singers even—Jacklin performed a great version at Paste HQ in January, and allowed Lana Del Rey to take the lead mic at a gig in Denver in November. Still, this track's strengths aren't just its craft or even its singer: listen to the white-hot embers of the band's performance, drums + guitars + doubled vocals, all of them flashing like one of Magnolia Electric Company's farewell transmissions.
  2. Vampire Weekend - "This Life" [buy]
    Try as I might, I couldn't resist this song. Ezra Koenig has been writing fan letters to Paul Simon since as far back as "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," and here it's a tribute to Simon's most cheerful, end-credits-sequence persona, the Pied Piper of Ham, with a bittersweet hook and a bounding, Tigger-like bassline. If it weren't for the cryptic (mildly menacing) refrain, "This Life" might feel like children's music—and maybe it feels like children's music anyway, harmless as a paper airplane. But a bop's a bop, and this is a pop song like a teddy bears' picnic, brilliant and summery, with old friends in asnooze and bottles resting sideways in the grass.
  3. Sarkodie ft Akan - "All Die Be Die" [buy]
    From Ghana, a rattling chain of a song, or maybe the sound of a broken chain, a chain that's skipping and dinging behind you as you run away down the road. Sarkodie celebrates his life and the overall having of one: don't take it for granted, he raps (in a language called Twi), "all die be die," every death's the same, don't fuck around, be restless, be.
  4. Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens - "Gone" [buy]
    A pop-song of unusual material—fibreglass and poured concrete, aluminium and steel. Everything's clanging—the synths, the percussion, even the meeting of Chris & Charli's unsanded voices. It sounds less like a duet and more like a duel—not with each other, with us, an adversarial shout to the world that's making them mad.
  5. Molly Sarlé - "Human" [buy]
    Sarlé's song is like a compass-reading, an attempt to decode the measure of a man (or perhaps of herself). I love the way it's haunted—by God more than ghosts, I think, and reverb like a spirit. A bassline as generous as your own best self.
  6. Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus - "Old Town Road (remix)" [buy]
    A rare jewel in the history of pop sensations—exceptional for its moderation, restraint, like a cowboy who takes a single sip of water. Lil Nas X saved his superabundance of charm, ideas, ambition & energy for everything outside of "Old Town Road"'s two-and-a-half minutes—from his amazing live appearances to his procession of guests and remixes (whither Dolly?). The best of these versions is still the, uh, second one, the one that took it over the top: Cyrus lends a bit of texture to what is otherwise tarmac-smooth, overdoing it just enough to cement the song's sense of glee.
  7. Purple Mountains - "Nights That Won't Happen" [buy]
    I find I can still sit with this song, even since David Berman's death. It is the only track on the record for which this is true. All of Purple Mountains now feels like a suicide note—it's gutting to hear, not just Berman's despair but his talent so richly expressed. It should be obvious from its title that "Nights That Won't Happen" is not an exception. But whereas other tracks on this record make me feel sorry for Berman, or ruined by what occurred, or even, in a couple places, annoyed by the pretence of other obsessions, this song helps me make sense and make peace. It is not a song about ending your life so much as a song about having ended it, not why—but what to do, now, after that "black camel" is over the horizon and away.
  8. Nilüfer Yanya - "Paradise" [buy]
    London musician Nilüfer Yanya writes and sings songs that seem different from anything else—despite the familiarity of the instrumentation, the genre, the form. "Paradise" is a little Neneh Cherry and a little Dan Bejar, with verses and choruses that take strange turns, dodged side-streets: she arrives where you expect but by an alternate route, as if she's got her own unique GPS or a different kind of map.
  9. Rosalía ft Ozuna - "Yo x Ti, Ti x Mi" [video]
    I am helpless before Rosalía and these steel-drum triplets. If I'm a candle, she can blow me out.
  10. Jonathan Personne - "Comme personne" [buy]
    At the beginning of the year, I fell hard for Histoire naturelle, a psychedelic bedroom rock record by Jonathan Robert—frontman for the band Corridor (see #18). It's music that feels vaguely out of time, reverby and melancholic, and "Comme personne" is like a hazy, vintage anthem - recalling Television, The Byrds, and the Olympics ceremonies for some former Yugoslavian republic. Yet for all its riff & crash, "Comme personne" also retains a kind of softness, a vulnerability maybe, the impression that underneath all that softness is a humble secret flaw.
  11. Joseph Shabason - "Broken Hearted Kota" [buy]
    Shabason wrote this song for the soundtrack of Omega Man, Yung Chang's documentary about the wrestler Kenny Omega. I haven't had the chance to see the film but I feel as if I have, imagining it in shades of Shabson's pinks and violets, love and melancholy, sax and guitar, with "Broken Hearted Kota"'s plaintive melody as a plot-line or an arc, the next best thing to a story.
  12. Clairo - "Bags" [buy]
    A drowsy tumbling, stumbling, the inverse inside-out of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." Clairo is slipping & falling, slipping & falling in love, listening to Joni's "Case of You," waiting on the couch and wanting to speak, to say, to stumble and tumble and say the rest of the story, the rest of the way.
  13. Leif Vollebekk - "I'm Not Your Lover" [buy]
    My favourite song on New Ways is a love-song turned inside out, where every memory and tenderness is remade by the title, by the chorus. Contains my favourite lyric of the year - a line about a sign, the highway (and rain).
  14. Maggie Rogers - "Overnight" [buy]
    I hope we'll eventually get around to a critical (re-?) appraisal of the work of Maggie Rogers—a songwriter whose one-and-a-half albums are already evidence of a considerable talent, closer to Carole King (who writes her own songs) than Carly Rae Jepsen (who mostly doesn't). "Overnight"'s lyrics are fine, but what I love most is the solemnity of Rogers' singing—the way she counterweights the production's quirks and clavs—and then the unexpected grace-notes of the key changes, those moves at 1:30 and 2:21, before the suspended question-mark of the ending.
  15. Lana Del Rey - "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have - But I Have It" [buy]
    I feel like Lana Del Rey's years of celebrity have finally passed through her system and the author of "Video Games" is able to deploy her talents with the care they deserve, that same sense of mischief & craft & self-control. Norman Fucking Rockwell poses often, but it doesn't pander. "Hope is a Dangerous Thing..." reminds me of Leonard Cohen in its patience and riddle, its droll deployment of rhyme—but you might also say it reminds me of Plath, if Plath had been cat-eyed, invincible.
  16. Zlatan - "This Year" [buy]
    "This Year"'s celebration feels completely unconstrained—broader than young or old, church or club—as if a party isn't something you throw, but something you hold inside you and can carry wherever you want. Festive, loose, but laced with a certain sorrow too, a little thread of silver, not so very unlike a different, North Carolinian "Year".
  17. Haim - "Summer Girl" [video]
    The teaser singles for Haim's third album have been an interesting series of tributes: "Now I'm In It" for Savage Garden, "Hallelujah" for Fleetwood Mac, and "Summer Girl," by far my favourite of the bunch, for Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"—or maybe Q-Tip's "Can I Kick It?" beat. It's a song that's tidy and messy at the same time, like a Saturday morning, like a grown-up's bedroom. None of the hi-def shine from Haim's last LP: instead a simple ratatat, dreaming saxophone, and Danielle Haim's low serenade, like a voice inside your head.
  18. Corridor - "Domino" [buy]
    A bicycle down de Maisonneuve; a seagull in a storm; a kayak through the whitewater; or just a rock'n'roll band from Montreal spraying seltzer in the snow.
  19. Mount Eerie and Julie Doiron - "Love Without Possession" [buy]
    "Rose-petals were blustering"—and that's what I think of when I listen to this reply to Lost Wisdom (2008), one of my favourite albums of all time. Because Phil Elverum's new love is beautiful and deserved and rose-petal (and tragic) and also a kind of bluster. This song is clear as window glass. Every now and then Phil or Julie move close enough to breathe on the surface, look at the cloud there, wipe it off.
  20. Hatchie - "Without a Blush" [buy]
    Fluorescing, cascading space-pop from Brisbane's Harriette Pilbeam (what a name!).
  21. Vanishing Twin - "Magician's Success" [buy]
    Beefheart, Broadcast, the Flaming Lips, the Incredible String Band—Vanishing Twin's got a little of each of these in its goofy, virtuoso DNA, but I'm not convinced they've spent much time listening to other people's records; there's still too much clover to pick, both three-leafed and four-.
  22. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Julien" [buy]
    I like to pretend that this song's about Peter from the Delphi.
  23. Mac DeMarco - "Nobody" [buy]
    I'm a silver minnow. Mac's a blue-eyed angler, one hook in his maw. Reel it in.
  24. Sharon Van Etten - "Seventeen" [buy]
    The author of my favourite song of 2009 returns 10 years later with a track that's looking back to 20 years ago, a bitter accounting of the freedom and trials that awaited Sharon then. What seems at first like a march turns out to be a sprint, a motorcycle race. Van Etten hurtles down the pavement to the end of "Seventeen"'s fourth minute, plunging headfirst into the fire—and emerging from the wreck.
  25. Loraine James ft Theo - "Sensual" [buy]
    Aptly named—but despite its frilled tactility, or maybe because of it, the song "Sensual" reminds me most of is Loscil's 2010 collaboration with Destroyer, "The Making of Grief Point," where a different voice painted pictures over shifting electronic planes. James and Theo recognize the strength of a song like this is in the way its angles meet, the elements sparking and refracting instead of just coming to rest. "Sensual" doesn't just absorb light, it makes it.
  26. KH - "Only Human" [buy]
    Four Tet's Kieren Hebden snips and loops Nelly Furtado, of all people, to create this dry dancefloor filler, a track that's simultaneously bright and dark, grim and florid, like a warehouse filled with children in multicolour clothes.
  27. Katy Perry - "Never Really Over" [video]
    I'm already on the record for my vulnerability to a certain strain of Katy Perry's lab-grown pop, and the industrial chemists at KP HQ have done it again. Perry undoes my defenses every time the post-chorus(?) snaps in, synths flashing into double-time.
  28. Angel Olsen - "What It Is" [buy]
    With its radiophonic fuzz and elastic-band beat, "What It Is" feels at first like some hokey pop throwback—the aural equivalent of Bronner's peppermint soap. But the string-section's sleeker than they ever had back then; the drums are blown-out; Olsen's silhouette here is glitchy, pixellated, a JPG full of artifacts. Pleasant as it is, "What It Is" will break you record player; it hangs crooked on a wall.
  29. Daniel Caesar ft Koffee - "Cyanide (remix)" [buy]
    I want to live wherever "Cyanide" lives—where the breeze is a touch and the sunlight's caramel. (That's Koffee on the new verse and Kardinal Offishall helping out on backing vocals.)
  30. Luke Temple - "Henry in Forever Phases" [buy]
    Maybe this is a glimmering folk-motorik song about Hallmark channel series When Calls the Heart, but probably not, probably Here We Go Magic's Luke Temple is singing about a different Abigail and Henry, an Abigail who is generous and a Henry who is disfigured, both of them "unfolding," possibly quantum, as if every love story is happening in multiple universes simultaneously, like four notes at the same time, a chord. A song I could spend a few years inside, beautiful.
  31. Daphni ft Paradise - "Sizzling" [buy]
    Daphni (aka Caribou aka Manitoba aka Dan Snaith) turns 10 seconds of Paradise's "Sizzlin' Hot" into five minutes of gibbering disco emergency, with drums that feel like axes to a burning chicken coop, smashing the walls til every panicked hen has gone free.
  32. Arlo Parks - "Cola" [buy]
    A dusty young song with so many amazing lines, from the opening kiss-off ("It's better when your coca-cola eyes are out of my face") to the coo of the chorus ("Take your orchids elsewhere / elsewhere"). Parks' level-headed soul is ravishing but discreet, precious as a key.
  33. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - "Ancestral Recall" [buy]
    The title track for Adjuah's latest, magisterial jazz album seems like a twist-up of Coltrane's "Acknowledgment" and Terry Riley's "In C," an overture pointing up the hill to unseen heights, the glory ahead that's the memory behind—the journey that's also the destination.
  34. Niniola - "Boda Sodiq" [video]
    Another song with its own twilit weather. Although the (Nigerian) house backing recalls Burial's nighttime uneasiness, Niniola's vocals bring an effusive, kinetic pleasure—a pleasure that's instant and beyond question, even without watching the moment she first heard the beat, literally leaping ontop.
  35. Aldous Harding - "Weight of the Planets" [buy]
    A shuffle that feels almost beachside—that is until the sinister gist of the refrain: Harding's (ex-)lover's gaze "sucking me out" like Saturn's gravitational force. Bar by bar, moment by moment, the song gains force and strangeness, a playfulness that's richer than mere conviction. After all, the reason we leave someone isn't usually (just) that we believe we should. It's because we want to play.
  36. Kes - "Savannah Grass" [buy]
    I'm defenceless before the clatter of Kes's soca anthem, despite its towering deployment of synths. Those chords are a little too much—at best they're like "XO," at worst they're mid-tier Coldplay—but they also give this party-tune some heft, the sense that it isn't just passing by.
  37. Bertrand Belin - "Sous les lilas" [buy]
    "Je tombe sur toi," sings Bertrand Belin, I fall upon you, as piano and guitar play a figure just slightly out of time. The hunger of this song, its violet love, falls upon the evening and makes the bare trees seem heavy.
  38. Richard Dawson - "Jogging" [buy]
    Like most of Dawson's work, "Jogging" falls half-way between Sleaford Mods and Scott Walker—in a realm where music & lyric can clash in productive ways, making hay with that weird destructive energy. "Jogging" is partly a juddering attack of the daleks, part metal-tinged Fountains of Wayne, part Jenny Hval or Owen Pallett. An urban short-story set forcefully against electric guitars, as if Tenacious D had a Cambridge PhD and a subscription to Jacobin.
  39. Tove Lo - "Glad He's Gone" [buy]
    Dragged down by its trashy, semi-incompetent wordplay, "Glad He's Gone" is still one of my favourite pop tracks of the year, carried by the elastic leaps of its melody and Tove Lo's singing.
  40. Jaimie Branch - "Prayer for Amerikkka pt. 1 and 2" [buy]
    The British jazz trumpeter and her ragged, unhesitating band offer a prayer—or maybe two—and neither of them are kind. (Thanks Julien.)
  41. Kito & Empress Of - "Wild Girl" [buy]
    A song of true 2019, using chords from 1996. Kito, an Australian beatmaker, sews together sounds from Burial to Kiiara to Miley, producing a quilt of unusual glamour and unlikely tensile strength. A song like this, filled with all the sweetness of today's pop & EDM, ought to make my teeth hurt. It's a tribute to Kito—and to Empress Of's solemn delivery—that "Wild Girl" instead feels nourishing, almost (?) good enough to last.
  42. Blick Bassy - "Where We Go" [buy]
    Light as a moonbeam—just a singer, some cello and trumpet, making music about what comes next. Born in Cameroon but living now in France, Bassy is the latest in a series of otherwise "world" artists who have made incredible, contemporary-sounding records with the Paris label No Format. (Their previous signees include Mélissa Laveaux and Oumou Sangaré.)
  43. Billie Eilish - "ilomilo" [buy]
    Billie Eilish's biggest singles have a bit too much Marilyn Manson for me to bear repeated listens, but I love and admire her weird flavour of artistry: the space, the whirligigs, the mixture of circus, graveyard and art-school. I didn't know Lorde needed a stoned, Tom-Waits-ian nemesis, however I'm glad Eilish has reported for duty, mischievous and sad, with red eyes.
  44. Michael Kiwanuka - "I've Been Dazed" [buy]
    Whatever dazed Michael Kiwanuka, he seems OK tbh. Dragging his feet through London, a shuffle that picks up momentum and all sorts of pretty chaperones, squirrels and sunbeams and darting jays.
  45. A-Star - "Solege" [video]
    Nigerian hip-hop with a beat that's been cooked down to the metal, til it's hot and dry and dangerous. A-Star's clipped rhymes make him seem like cartoon or an SNL character, a kindly bandit who would help you change your tire.
  46. Sampa the Great ft Ecca Vandal - "Dare to Fly" [buy]
    The greatest dancers of all do not even need to move.
  47. Jenny Hval - "Ashes to Ashes" [buy]
    A song that's exactly as Jenny Hval describes it, in-song: a dance track, a club song, about a burial and a dream. "Even the groove was filled with sadness / Every beat went all the way down / Into the two holes in the ground."
  48. Brittany Howard - "History Repeats" [buy]
    Squelching, thrilling, kitchen-sink funk from Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard, who fixes the listener with a gimlet eye and a million-dollar grin.
  49. Afro B ft Wizkid - "Drogba (Joanna)" [video] (MP3 broken? No idea why.)
    Jury's out on which of "Drogba (Joanna)"'s dedications is most important—whether it's the girl called Joanna or the footballer named Didier Drogba. I love a double love-song, especially when it moves across a dance-floor like a slow, majestic garter snake.
  50. Beirut - "Landslide" [buy]
    Like a shining golden monument pointed toward the land where you came from, sculpted in the shape of a towering middle finger.
  51. Beyoncé - "Find Your Way Back" [buy]
    Taken from Beyoncé's generally uneven Lion King tribute album, "Find Your Way Back" isn't just faux-afrobeat—it's real afrobeat, with contributions from writers and producers like Sarz, GuiltyBeatz and Bankulli. The beat's the best thing about "Find Your Way Back," low and indigo, and I take pleasure in imagining it as the soundtrack for a grown-up Zazu, wearily flapping his way home from work.
  52. Men I Trust - "Tailwhip" [buy]
    A song that's like lighting, because there's good lighting and there's bad lighting, anyone who's ever taken a photo knows this, the way some light makes you ugly an other light makes you beautiful, or brave, or sickly, and this light is the kind that makes you mysterious, unfolding, like #25 maybe, but artificial light, not natural, Men I Trust bought fancy LED light panels at the plaza on St-Hubert.
  53. Stormzy - "Vossi Bop" [video]
    "So much Vossi I might open up a Vossi shop," Stormzy raps, and I hope he does—a shop where he sells Courvoisier and does the Vossi Bop all day, shakes customers' hands, flirts, steals girlfriends, tells jokes, cements his reputation as a neighbourhood institution, a local treasure, lends people money and secretly reads books, Zadie Smith and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, while soccer plays on a screen in the corner. (PS: Fuck Boris.)
  54. Li'l Andy - "All The Love Songs Lied To Us" [buy]
    A country song about love songs and their deceptions, rich with wit and kindness—the sense that tall Andy knows why the songs lie so much and is grateful that they do. I love the sound his band found here—neither too dry nor too sweet, serious but laughing, like children playing soldier.
  55. Big Brave - "Holding Pattern" [buy]
    Heavier than any heartbeat, Big Brave's minimalist metal stamps on and on and on, like someone testing the ice, someone testing it and still not believing, waiting for the crack-up, the ritual, for the others to arrive and for whatever it is comes next. Ten minutes long, expansive and transforming—when the songs modulate in "Holding Pattern"'s second half it's as if the stars have changed, the constellations shifting, and you recognize the power of Robin Wattie's voice, its capacity to make skies move.
  56. Arthur Russell - "In Love With You For the Last Time" [buy]
    When I was younger and dumber, I thought Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" was an unbarbed bit of resignation, the song of a singer who was at peace with an ending and saying goodbye. (It is not.) But Russell's "In Love With You..." is I think, mournful but content, abiding, among the sweetest farewells I have ever head. It is still a song full of heartbeak, but it's stronger than its regrets, clear in its knowing, maybe even wise.

    Astonishing to me that Arthu Russell's musical vaults are still turning-up collections as rich and deep as Iowa Dream.

  57. Big Thief - "Not" [buy]
    Big Thief put out one album in May, another in October, an incredible pace for a band whose dark-eyed, natural indie rock is already leaving an important mark on the scene. "Not" begins in a procession of negations, Adrianne Lenker enumerating all the things "it" is not, from "a ruse" to "the room" to "the meat of your thigh." It ends with fire and confession: three minutes of electric guitar, furious and despairing, or perhaps, in the end, full of hope.
  58. Sigrid - "Never Mine" [buy]
    Synth-pop that rewards the hangers-back: join the dancefloor half-way through, crashing into all your friends.
  59. Floating Points - "Falaise" [buy]
    Chamber music, a tiny pastoral, which gradually reveals itself as an electronic miniature, glitching in the dawning of the countryside.
  60. Coldplay - "Arabesque" [buy]
    Working with Stromae (!) and Femi Kuti, Coldplay offer their most successful experiment in years—a bristling second line that's constructed around saxophone and kickdrum, surprisingly menacing guitars, and "Coldplay's first official lyrics to feature profanity." Maybe it's a song about refugees, maybe immigration or foreign aid, it's a bit too vague for me to be certain—but I can fault neither Coldplay's intentions nor their execution, their willingness to build a different kind of soapbox and stand up on it.
  61. Tresor ft Msaki - "Sondela" [video]
    South African slow jam, glinting like a fortune.
  62. Sandro Perri - "Wrong About the Rain" [buy]
    Maybe it's a song about giving up religion, maybe it's a song about findng it, or finding something better up there, in the space between the raincloud and the shower, where atomic reactions occur like squiggles of guitar and skittery drums, a falsetto gone lilting into a microphone's ear.
  63. Biig Piig - "Sunny" [video]
    Mumble and cowbell, funk in fullest slink, as if the sunset's a curtain you can draw across the sky.
  64. Diplo & Cam - "So Long" [video]
    Lil Nas X, what hast thou wrought? As poorly as I fear they'll age, I find much to enjoy in 2019's suite of stripped down country/dance tunes, where sinuous melodies wind across bedroom beats (see also #81). They seem tailored for dancing—a different kind of dancing, maybe, 15 seconds at a time, but dancing all the same, it all counts.
  65. Operators - "I Feel Emotion" [buy]
    A glittering new wave song and one of Dan Boeckner's best vocals in years, full-hearted and certain. Shinier than anything he ever made with Handsome Furs (or possibly even Wolf Parade), but still a little grimy, tarnished, waiting for a purifying ray.
  66. Victoria Monét - "Ass Like That" [buy]
    A song that begins like a love-song to the gym, literally—and honestly doesn't get very far from that. But I'm endlessly impressed by the production choices Monét has made on this slice of gym-bunny R&B—the way she leaves it so lean and stripped-back, its horns humbly regal. It's a better testament to pride of hard work and exercise than any flailing Iggy Azalea flop, a more beautiful song than anything I'd expect anyone to dream up at the Y.
  67. Khruangbin and Leon Bridges - "Texas Sun" [buy]
    Bridges (from Atlanta) and Khruangbin (from Houston) collaborate on a tribute to the Earth's second-most important celestial body and the way its heat feels in Texas. I'm less impressed than most by Bridges' voice and songwriting, but I love hearing him with Khruangbin, who have gradually become one of my favourite contemporary bands—albeit for playing in the background, where their mastery of sound and space can enfold the rooms I'm moving through. Here, Bridges lets them do their thing and they let him do his, broadcasting charisma, narrating the way the sunbeams move through the air.
  68. Lucy Dacus - "Dancing in the Dark" [buy]
    I'm usually cautious including covers in this list—it can be hard to tell where the cover picks up and the original leaves off. But game gotta recognize game and Dacus's Springsteen take does more than just hold up the memory of the original. There's a weariness I love about the way Dacus sings it—as if her conviction, her impulse to dance, comes out of just how tired & worn-out she is. She's not a manic rock-star just dancing everywhere she goes; she needs to be brought to this point, by long hours and bullshit, the assiduous work of her hands upon her guitar.
  69. Mahalia ft Burna Boy - "Simmer" [buy]
    If the heat is high enough, everything becomes frictionless. Even an argument glides.
  70. The Highwomen - "Crowded Table" [buy]
    One of the obvious highlights of this year in country was the debut album by a super-group called The Highwomen, consisting of Nashville singer-songwriters Brandi Carlie, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires. "Crowded Table"'s hygge and harmonies make it my clear favourite, a song of humble gratitude that reminds me of CSNY's "Our House". "I want a house with a crowded table / and a place by the fire for everyone / Let us take on the world while we're young and able / and bring us back together when the day is done."
  71. Palehound - "Aaron" [buy]
    A song of forceful love, insistent love, love that's knock-knock-knocking on a worthy door. Palehound's Ellen Kempner sings to a partner (literally) in transition, to Aaron, tells him: "I can, I can, I can, I can, I can, I can, Aaron I can." (Thanks Peggy Sue.)
  72. Beauts - "Good Measure" [buy]
    "Good Measure" is one of those songs, a face like one you feel you've seen before. "Oh, it's you--" But you've never met, it's new, "Good Measure" just reminds you of old friends, former lovers, the way the light looked on other Wednesdays, when the guitars were jangling and the drums were cantering and the voices were all in tune.
  73. Bill Callahan - "Morning is my Godmother" [buy]
    I like to imagine that every morning, before his coffee even, Bill Callahan pulls out the four-track and sings his tousled blanket thoughts. (Merci comme toujours, Alex.)
  74. Better Oblivion Community Center - "Dylan Thomas" [buy]
    Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst unwind a dark-hearted rock song full of jangle and stomp, conviction and despair, like the rope you might throw out the window or hang above the door.
  75. Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - "I Don't Care" [video]
    The first time I heard this song I was in a hotel room in Prince Edward Island and before I clicked play I thought, "Oh please don't be any good," because Sheeran & Bieber & their corporate masters have already taken enough hours from my life: but lo, it was good, and I was fairly helpless in the Maritimes.
  76. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "Building a Fire" [buy]
    I wouldn't have predicted that what I was waiting for was a duet between Bonnie "Prince" Billy and a clarinet. "Tomorrow is an octopus," Will Oldham sings, "you can look for me there," and I don't know quite what he means, but I feel like the clarinet does, it meets and holds his eyes, nonplussed, it understands Oldham's wisdom and will hold (all) my hand(s) until I work it out.
  77. Fireboy DML - "Jealous" [buy]
    Not, alas, a Nigerian rework of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy." Yet Fireboy DML's on-mic charisma is not so very far away from Lennon's; over a luscious moonlit beat he sings with handsomeness and intelligence, explaining—without distress—the many ways he's been undone.
  78. Hand Habits - "Placeholder" [buy]
    A song without forgiveness, its resentments expressed in honed electric guitar and Meg Duffy's velvet voice, her glove around the knife, better prepared now for a moment when she should use it.
  79. Maverick Sabre - "Drifting" [buy]
    "Drifting"'s beat is all movement and contours, following the curves of the city like a kid on a skateboard, painting a grey day in drum-break, jingle and Sabre's bare bassline. Self-produced by the Irish rapper, "Drifting" coasts under its own calm power, handsome and self-sufficient. (Thanks Whatever's Cool With Me)
  80. Santi - "Sparky" [video]
    "I'm a liar," Santi sings, over "Sparky"'s dirt-dry drums. At first it sounds like "lawyer"—"I'm a lawyer,"—but no, the Nigerian rapper's more dangerous than that, he's telling us he really can't be trusted, not today, going where he's going, stalking his enemies, darkly (yes) sparky.
  81. Blanco Brown - "The Git Up" [video]
    Certainly a big chunk of my affection for "The Git Up" is a halo from the TikTok dance challenge of the same name, which offers my favourite mixture of the carefree and ridiculous. Without it, Blanco Brown's sunny country-rap song wouldn't have seemed particularly dance-floor ready, but from "Louie Louie" to Shaggy, one of the pleasures of an unexpected hit is the way its listeners uncover concealed beats, hidden moves.
  82. Cate Le Bon - "Daylight Matters" [buy]
    A fruit-plate of a song—green and orange and banana-yellow. Cate Le Bon sings a serenade in her creamiest voice while her band plays sweet, loopy valentines to a lover who's already disappeared.
  83. Maison Neuve - "Vega" [buy]
    "Vega" is an ending, an ending in the present continuous, something that is still ending, in the weeks or months before Arthur Russell's song at #56, in the endless minutes of pointless coffees, as love sluices away, as dreams expire, as spirits grow tired. "Mais on cesse de rêver, bébé..." he sings—"But we give up dreaming, baby, like the guys used to sing about..." and then an electric guitar searching and searching and searching, reverberating in an empty room.
  84. Rapsody ft D'Angelo and GZA - "Ibtihaj" [buy]
    It's beautifully 2019 when a rapper names a track after a hijab-wearing swordswoman, reconfiguring "Liquid Swords" and getting GZA himself to jump on the same beat. "An MC should electrify, beautify / strive to empower / inspire / transform a worldview," he raps, and Rapsody does just that—acknowledging her predecessors, saluting her sisters, bending the meter to suit her vision. And who knew what I wanted from D'Angelo this year was to get all Monster Mash-y, traipsing around a track like Casper in a mansion.
  85. MUNYA - "Des bisous partout" [buy]
    Silken swish and sharpened skates, under MUNYA's whispered coo. Less troubled than fellow Montrealers like TOPS and Helena Deland, but similarly dressed, in a pastel snowsuit, mirror shades.
  86. Steven Lambke - "Dark Blue" [buy]
    A love-song penned in faintest finepoint, thin poetry—and then the accompanying page of blotted ink, bloomed blue, the giddy unsaid pieces. Lambke mutters merely, and lets it be sufficient: "Something in the corner rattled like a tambourine."
  87. Lil Pump - "Racks on Racks" [buy]
    Ugly, misogynistic, reprehensible enough that Portishead's Geoff Barrow - whom "Racks on Racks" samples - renounced the track, asking Lil Pump to lose the beat. So what to do when it's still a song that lifts up out of my mind's churn at least once a week? I wish to be honest with you. And so here it is, horrible and unforgettable, wildly careening, sticky as a recent chewing-gum stain.
  88. J Balvin and Bad Bunny ft Mr Eazi - "Como un Bébé" [buy]
    Reggaeton princes from Colombia and Puerto Rico, featuring with a Nigerian singer—and a Nigerian beat—for this golden-tinted invitation. "Baila pa' mí," they sing, Dance for me, again and again, as if each of these entreaties has its own separate attraction, a different appeal. (Thank you Nat!)
  89. Jennah Barry - "The Real Moon" [buy]
    Barry conceals her melancholy under sprightly guitar and flute, even a luxurious horn solo, but the plainsong of her restlessness is still there as plain as day, like a deer blinking on the lawn. A pleasant home is its own kind of trap.
  90. DAWN - "we, diamonds" [buy]
    Dawn Richards in a kind of back-to-basics—except she's Dawn Richards, so "back to basics" means stuttering harpsichord (or something like it), a beat that leaps between landscapes, from courtly pastoral to church basement to her girlfriends' kitchens. Richards celebrates her sisters without resorting to extravagance—she lets the words and music do the work, studious and proud.
  91. The Who - "Got Nothing to Prove" [buy]
    A bonus track on WHO, the Who's first album in 13 years, "Got Nothing to Prove" is built atop a demo from half a century ago (circa "I'm a Boy"). Strange to hear them singing "I've got nothing to prove any more!" way back in 1966—stranger still to imagining them revisiting it now and wondering what they do still want to make clear. They've made something odd out of this antique skiffle—Townshend commissioned a brand new orchestral arrangement, asking explicitly for "an Austin Powers fantasy." Despite the cartooniness, it works: there's a grace and whimsy to the combination of old tapes and young bombast, unlikely serendipity.
  92. Charlotte Cornfield - "Silver Civic" [buy]
    I don't mean it as a backhanded compliment when I say that my favourite part of "Silver Civic" is the quiet of the piano—not the piano but its quiet, half-forgotten in the mix. Like all of Cornfield's best songs, "Silver Civic" is extraordinary for the strength of its singer's choices, the distinct decisions she makes along the way. Some musicians are all instinct, fully automatic—but I admire Cornfield for her hesitations, her consideration, the way she studies a thing and then names it. "I'm just teetering in adulthood," she sings, unafraid, "like a flower in a drought."
  93. Jessie Reyez - "Far Away" [video]
    A resplendent and sensuous long-distance love song, the kind of song that makes you feel good, not because you're the one Jessie Reyez is singing to but because you're glad someone is, two people having a correspondence like this, desire stitched into song. (Thank you Natasha!)
  94. Pop Smoke ft Nicki Minaj - "Welcome to the Party (remix)" [buy]
    Nicki Minaj makes the most of the moment, jumping onto this smouldering Brooklyn drill track. I can't do much better than the string of YouTube comments underneath the original: "This song makes me want to rob my own home"; "This song makes me want to wake everyone up to tell them I'm going to sleep"; "This song make me want to call in sick on a doctor appointment."
  95. Gallant - "Sharpest Edges" [buy]
    Love an sympathetic R&B song where a recurring hook is, "Don't hurt me!"
  96. Tyler, the Creator ft Playboi Carti and Charlie Wilson - "Earfquake" [buy]
    I'm not quite convinced by Tyler's turn toward the sincere—or rather, I don't know quite what to make of it, to empathize or to snicker. It doesn't really matter—there's something constructive in the ambiguity—but I'd like this song better if I was sure it either was or wasn't just a trick.
  97. Fionn Regan - "Collar of Fur" [buy]
    At the end of the world, if things get really bad, you'll probably find me under a blanket listening to singer-songwriters and their fingerpicked guitars. In 2019, there wasn't much better than "Collar of Fur," where Regan's like Lennon or Keats, singing a moonlit scene, catching the temperature of the air.
  98. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - "Crime Pays" [buy]
    Listen—this is very bad advice.
  99. Maren Morris - "A Song for Everything" [buy]
    "One danced you through love / one rocked you through lonely / mixtaped your heartbreak and made you feel holy..." Surprised that it took as many decades as this—and the total obsolescence of the audio cassette—before someone wrote a line as handsome as that. All respect to Morris (and her two co-writers): it isn't easy to write a song about loving other songs, not without sinking into self-indulgence. It's so tempting to squeeze in winks and nods, and I appreciate that Morris restrains herself to just a few, Springsteen and Coldplay and Katy Perry (Morris is 29). Most of "Song for Everything" is reserved for the real topic at hand: the magic of music, because music is magical, it is, I know this is the dumb internet, but let's remember.
  100. Blue Jeans Bleu - "Coton ouaté" [buy]
    The strange truth is that a coton ouaté is a fleece sweatshirt, and Blue Jeans Bleu's "Coton ouaté" was the biggest song of the year in Québec, where I live, a province of 8.5 million people, 5.9 million of whom have watched the video for "Coton ouaté" in the seven months since it premiered. It is difficult to properly convey the appeal of this track—there's something of "It Was A Good Day" and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat", but also "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" and maybe "How Bizarre." About 75% of the allure comes from the blunt Québ slang of the chorus: "Heille! Fais-tu frette? / On est-tu ben juste en coton ouaté?" (Hey! Are you chilly? Or are you OK just in a sweatshirt?) This isn't self-serious: Blue Jeans Bleu are appropriately self-mocking, snazzy in fleece & cowboy boots, netting their rhymes like biscuits through the five-hole. And the music's fine too, if you like slap-bass and hand-claps and tunes you can't really dance to. Mostly I admire the carpentry of les paroles, the way the band's canny songwriter(s) fasten & dovetail the particular argot of a goosepimpled people.

Fin, for another year.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. (Invest in what's important or it will go away.) Be kind to each other, be brave, endure, undo the harm before you. Remember: you can put music into the air whenever you want.

Love,
Sean

by Dan

Purple Mountains "All My Happiness is Gone"

4am outburst from the mountain damp with pillows. It's the last memento fit into the tupperware of taste, giving in to giving up. Forty Feelings waterskiing the mobius strip, comforted to revisit my own wake. Shake the same way, and the tears come out different, different spatter pattern on the wall, or when they don't even come at all. The softest word spoken is louder than all my thoughts, music is far louder than all my own thoughts, I'm waiting to think, waiting until it's necessary, come out of retirement for one last thought. Something falls away, is baked off, rots from within, chips away, incrementally, silently, your teeth a scam artist thinking they'll never get caught, behaving like a criminal wanting to get caught.

And then dancing.

Not like, planning on dancing. Just, sudden, car-crash, how-did-i-get-here dancing. All these things I've loved are not nostalgic because they are not past, they are Old and Present. They have worth. Their worthlessness is clear, chipped, haggard. Their beauty is spinning, and toppled. If this is what a body looks like, then here is where Montreal left its mark. Filter by "date modified" and it all blends into one. My heart is melted and dissolved, it's in the air now, catch a whiff.

[out July 12 on Drag City]

by Mitz

Shintaro Sakamoto- "Matomoga wakaranai" [Buy]

How have everyone been doing!!!!????

wow, I haven't written so long. I hope everyone is well. My internet friends. I had a lot of things happened to me since last time I wrote. To be honest, I don't even remember last time I was here just like you don't remember myspace password or even email you used for. Time sometimes freezes online.

I met a girl 8 years ago. She offered me salted fish at friends' birthday picnic. No one ever did that to me.

We shared netlifx account.

Got a 1998 Subaru Outback together. Drove around til it died.

We had a cat named, Moses. We had to put him down sadly.

I met her family. We went to Japan and she met my family.

We got cheap washer and dryer finally in our apartment.

Our last dryer was making our clothes dirtier.

I made her dinners
She made me dinners

I did dishes
she did dishes
I forgot dishes
She forgot dishes.

Got dresser through Craigslist, from someone whose mother passed away recently. Went to pick it up at empty room in old folks home. As we said goodbye to the lady, she told us about her mother and she cried, we cried and hugged her.

we got a cat, Bowie. She like her but doesn't like me much. Only wants to be fed. Its ok.

Our 2004 Subaru died 3 months after we got on highway on Christmas eve. Her dad came to pick us up at Tim Hortons at 2am.

Went to Japan and proposed her at this fall in my hometown She was wearing Adidas track pants because it was a little hike but I asked her "are you wearing that?" She said, "yep. why?" I couldn't say anything to blow up my cover.

my aunt passed away a month before our wedding.

we got married last summer.

My friend got a puppy.

Got swamped with work. My boogers were sawdust from my shop for 2 weeks straight.

My friend's puppy is a dog now.

So many things happened and happens, will happen.

Yesterday, I turned 38.

OH! Last week went to IKEA and their water pipe was broken so couldn't eat frozen yogurt!!!!!!

anyways, ill try to write more.

take care everyone.

by Sean

When I was 18 years old I moved to Montreal and set up a music file-server. I was there for university, the internet was fast, I didn't even know yet what I liked. How free that felt - not to even know yet what I liked. I knew I knew very little; I knew there was still so much to hear. The purpose of the server wasn't just to share the little music I had already discovered - artists like Sloan, Belle & Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel - but for visitors to share their own favourite music, so I could learn what else was out there.

Belle and Sebastian - "The Stars of Track and Field".
Dave Matthews Band - "Lie In Our Graves".

My server was called "Into the Grove." I called it that because I liked the image it evoked - entering a hiding-place, ducking under boughs. I had never heard of the Madonna song. I was 18 years old, I didn't even know yet what I liked. After logging in, users could see all the music on my computer: everything I had bought and ripped myself, everything other people had uploaded. Instead of Napster or KaZaA I used a service called Hotline, which allowed users to upload and download complete albums. There was 69 Love Songs and Tom Waits' Rain Dogs, Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds' Live at Luther College and Glenn Gould's Goldberg Variations. Dozens - and eventually hundreds - of records, which you could download yourself, unlimitedly, as long as you were a member.

How did you become a member? You had to upload an album I'd like. Something that wasn't yet in my collection - plucked from your own CD shelves or hard disk. I remember the server had a document laying out some of my favourite things, as loose inspiration. LIKES: The Beatles, Mogwai, Ben Folds Five, Beck; DISLIKES: Led Zeppelin, Limp Bizkit, Dr Dre, The Deftones. I hadn't yet wrapped my head around pop music, or hip-hop, or country, or dance - then again Into the Grove was how I started to do that. A user who saw I liked Odelay uploaded OutKast's ATLiens; someone answering my call for stuff that sounded like Smog gave me my first taste of Gillian Welch. I had lists of requests based on things I had heard of (but usually not heard). Without enough life-experience, without context, I didn't know what was obscure and what wasn't - whether Elliott Smith was more famous than Björk, or Björk than Clem Snide. I didn't know that my first Joy Division album wasn't supposed to be Les Bains Douches. I didn't know that no one else was crazy for the Hungarian fiddler Félix Lajkó. People uploaded treasures, their own private treasures, and everything sounded new to me, a thousand revelations - as if the ground was covered in gemstones, more than I'd ever pick up.

Lajkó Félix - "Etno Camp".
King Geedorah - "Fazers".

Into the Grove ran off a graphite-coloured iMac G3 in my dorm room. The computer would slow to a crawl when there were too many users connected, so I'd shut it down when I was on deadline - pulling an all-nighter for "The Social Imaginary of Tokugawa Japan." I didn't think of it as stealing music, even though it was. I was still buying new CDs several times a month. There was too much music to imagine paying for it all.

It wasn't long before I had filled the iMac's whole drive with songs. Since external hard-drives were too expensive, I bought a CD burner. Now I could back up albums to blank CDs, re-importing the music as I needed it. Each 650 MB CD could hold eight to ten albums: soon I had five, then ten, then 20 of these supplementary CD-Rs, carefully catalogued, stuffed with Radiohead B-sides, the Uncle Tupelo back-catalogue and Belle & Sebastian EPs. As the server became more popular, I started to go through more and more of these discs; paying $3 or $4 a pop began to take a toll, and eventually one of the Into the Grove regulars offered to meet me at a métro station and drive me to Kahnawake - where blank CDs, tax-free, sold for less than a dollar each.

Joy Division - "Disorder" (live at les Bains Douches).
Cat Power - "The Leopard and the Lamb (White Session)".

I said yes. One Sunday I took the subway to a stop I'd never been to before. The guy was waiting in a little Honda, the interior littered with kids' toys and Pepsi cans. I never learned his name but I can't even remember his username any more - Pedro or something like that. I don't know if he was an immigrant or Indigenous or Québecois; I didn't even ask him about his kids. Our real lives seemed taboo, like events we had witnessed in a war. Pedro (?) wasn't the first person I had met from the internet but he was the first peson I had met from Into the Grove - someone linked to me not by lengthy correspondence or hours of conversation but simply by shared interest, mutual obsession, a passion for diverse recordings and their accumulation. On the long drive to the reservation we talked about the Foo Fighters and Radiohead, HMV and Cheap Thrills, and Sam the Record Man's going-out-of-business sale. We passed signs for beer, fireworks and tax-free cigarettes. No thank-you, I thought to myself. We're here for blank storage media.

That media? We bought it. Entire spindles of CD-Rs, discount spoils - room for many months' worth of music. Or at least it should have been, but by then I was greedy. Albums arrived online every day and I was gobbling through them, discovering new artists by the hour. Looking back, I know I must have become less discriminating - but it would have been difficult to separate my appetite from my curiosity. My taste was expanding at the same rate as my hoard - gigabyte by gigabyte, discography by discography - as if each new upload was an invitation, or a dare.

Can you like this? What about this?

Let's be clear: none of this story is special. I'm telling the tale of Into the Grove not to hoot about taste but to commemorate a place that gave me an education. I didn't have a local record-store guy or world-wise older sister. I was just a teenage music pirate.

At the turn of the millennium, the internet seemed full of heartfelt pitches. Millions of users singing the praises of their favourite things - crowding around them, talking about them, calling for others to recognize their charms. Not the sturm und drang of social media: just clear-throated whoops, and echoes. Strangers like Pedro logging on to share their passions, not just once but every week, long after they had earned their Into the Grove membership rights, as if they couldn't help themselves.

Carlo Spidla - "Blackfly Rag".

I didn't appreciate them at the time. At the time, I thought the music mattered most (the quantity of stock-piled files; all those precious, catalogued mbs). It did not. Where are those CD-Rs now? (They're in an Edinburgh landfill.) The part of Hotline that lasted longest is the other people. Without them, in some alternate universe, 18-year-old Sean Michaels went on listening to Sloan and Belle & Sebastian and Neutral Milk Hotel. He went on listening to those, and their corollaries, whatever sounded similar-enough or congenial.

I didn't even know yet what I liked. But here's the thing: I still don't. None of us do. We'll keep changing til we're gone. Til we're cold in the ground. We can learn pleasures, discover - we can like what we don't.

That's the wonder of living, of not being dead.

By now I know: there aren't many better feelings than sharing something beautiful with someone else. I don't mean the crummy kind of sharing - a fleeting power dynamic, teacher/student - but the kind of sharing that reminds you of the ways you love something, the ways it touches you and makes you vulnerable. Sharing something precious is like holding up a mirror. And there's something radical to it too, I think. This gesture's at the heart of romantic love, and parts of parenthood, and maybe even of our responsibilities as human beings. By sharing what we've found, we can all be richer.

Alina Bzhezhinska - "Journey in Satchidananda".
The Blue Nile - "I Love This Life".

True sharing takes generosity. It has to mean something. It requires intention, and the sense that the thing you're offering has value. An algorithm can't be generous, just as a coin-flip can't be kind. My old file-server was a refuge, and also a kind of theft. But I understood the value of what I had. All those thousands of splendours. I thought I was a millionaire.

by Sean

These are my 100 favourite songs of 2018: songs I love more than yanny, laurel, and self-destructing paintings.

Said the Gramophone hasn't published much in in 2018. Forgive us: we're very old.

"People don't read blogs any more."
      "People don't read about music any more."
            "Does it make you any money?"
                  "Algorithms!"

I believe in making things because the making's the thing. I believe in good things lasting. (I also believe in finding the right endings.)

But this blog isn't ending. It's changing.

In 2019 we'll be publishing longer stories and essays, one a month, by writers you love like Emma Healey and Mitz Takahashi and me. Dear old friends and bodacious surprises.

I hope you'll enjoy my Best Songs of 2018< and I hope you'll stay with us, checking in now and then. You're important to this.

This is the 15th list like this at Said the Gramophone: see 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no primary artist may appear twice.

The best way to browse the proceeding is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs in three parts:

Thanks to Joey there are also Spotify and Apple Music playlist versions.

#

Said the Gramophone has had many authors, most recently: Emma Healey, Jeff Miller, Mitz Takahashi and me, Sean Michaels. This list is all Sean's dumb doing - don't blame the others for my bad taste.

If this is your first time at Said the Gramophone, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter or read my first novel (it's about the theremin). A new book, The Wagers, will be published in about a year.

Among these 100 artists, 43 are mostly American, 29 are Canadian, 10 are British and there are 4 Australian, 2 New Zealand, 2 German, 2 Irish, 2 Swedish, 1 French, 1 Jamaican, 1 Korean, 1 Nigerian, 1 Spanish and 1 South African act. 46 of the frontpeople/bandleaders identify as women, 51 as men, 1 as transgender and 2 acts are girl/boy duos. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain't perfect. Here are some charts of this and past lists' demographics.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures.

My favourite albums of 2018 were:

  • Joseph Shabason - Anne (listen);
  • Kyle Gann - Hyperchromatica (listen);
  • Young Galaxy - Downtime (listen);
  • Rosalía - El mal querer (listen);
  • Madeline Kenney - Perfect Shapes (listen);
  • Tampa - Belated Love (listen);
  • Tim Hecker - Konoyo (listen);
  • John Coltrane - Both Directions At Once: The Lost Album (listen);
  • Melissa Laveaux - Radyo Siwèl (listen); and
  • Makaya McCraven - Universal Beings (listen)
  • I promise: all of these are fantastic.

    And now, without any more rigamarole, lots of proudly mixed metaphors:

    Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2018 - original painting source unknown

    1. Rosalía - "Pienso en Tu Mirá" [buy]
      My favourite song of 2018 is one of those stunners that reminds you that pop songs can do anything, there aren't any rules. Across her magnificent second album, 26-year-old Rosalía Vila Tobella reimagines (and arguably appropriates) flamenco music, weaving in pop and hip-hop, Auto-Tune and "Cry Me A River," demonstrating the same sense of invention that has marked the careers of M.I.A., Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake. Her videos are ravishing (no surprise Pedro Almodovar has recruited her for his next film) and El Mal Querer is actually surprisingly doleful, declining the temptation to attempt an Andalusian Thriller. Still, "Pienso en Tu Mirá" feels propulsive and magical, carried forward by handclaps, synth stabs and Rosalía's nightingale of a voice. Minor instead of major, dark instead of bright - but luminous with feeling, aglow with possibility, as powerful an incantation as anything I heard this year.
    2. Robyn - "Honey" [buy]
      Robyn's first appearance on one of Said the Gramophone's Best Songs lists was thirteen years ago (!), when "Be Mine!" was my favourite track of 2005. I compared her to Bob Dylan and James Joyce. I said that "Be Mine" revealed "the triumph of acknowledging your sorrow." Sweden's greatest solo pop star has undergone at least two transformations since then, yet these two songs still seem linked. For all its lines about breath and flesh and saliva strands, "Honey" is a song about pleasure that doesn't quite sound happy. Instead it's bittersweet - the sort of bittersweet that Joyce left out of his bawdy love-letters: a sense of Robyn's longing or regret, or maybe just her wisdom. You can hear it in the bass notes, dark and gleaming, and at the end of her phrases. You can hear it in the production (ghostly in spite of cowbell!). Perhaps there's a secret message to a lover un-won; perhaps Robyn's desire's just chronically minor-key. But I read "Honey"'s ambivalence as bigger than that, and more grown-up. Not the anguish of loss, nor the melancholy of falling short, but the sadness of realizing what it is you always deserved.
    3. Drake - "Nice For What" [buy]
      "Nice For What" is a song of plunging orbits, big ellipses, the kind of song that ought to eventually go on forever - an endless New Orleans bounce, an endless loop-around and begin-again; endless starts, groundhog days. Women hustling and hustling and fighting and fighting, Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor" sucked into a black hole - reborn as something infinite. If there's an actual song factory somewhere, this is the sound of its machinery. Persistence leads to victories, perseverence to just deserts.
    4. Sandro Perri - "In Another Life" [buy]
      The MP3 here is an excerpt of Sandro Perri's extraorinary 25-minute "In Another Life," which is not so much a song as a weather system, a climate that moves into a room and waits there, changing the colour and temperature. I've long-described Sandro as a musician who makes free music, free as in jazz - but who happens to operate in a genre (singer-songwriteriness) where that avant-gardism isn't obvious. What does it sound like to break apart a Nilsson-esque pop ballad? What does it sound like to make it fizz into nothing or fold itself in two? Can a nice tune still be a riddle?
    5. Christine and the Queens - "Doesn't Matter (Voleur de soleil)" [buy]
      I can't imagine preferring the English version of this electro-pop masterpiece - a song that gathers lustre with every syllable out of Héloïse Letissier's lips. "Doesn't matter (voleur de soleil)" relies on its agility, its swiftness: a song about despair that somehow finds a way to lift off.
    6. La Force - "Lucky One" [buy]
      One day I will make a mixtape about trying to live a good life. I'll call it The Republic and I'll fill it up with songs by Silver Jews, Patti Smith and maybe Iggy Pop; with songs like "Unless It's Kicks" and "We Have Everything" and La Force's "Lucky One." This is a song like an ember burning at the bottom of the hearth. It's a song like the songs we whisper to ourselves. Ariel Engle - of AroarA and Moufette and, now, Broken Social Scene - is more Dorothy Parker than Socrates; her wisdom's tossed-off, stinging. But she is still trying to sing something true here, with a voice like a silver cord. "Don't you forget what's simple / and what's small," she sings, sadly almost, not because it isn't true but because she knows how often she doubts it.
    7. Ariana Grande - "thank u, next" [video]
      It isn't very often that a #1 smash hit seems to have a different emotional register than every #1 smash hit that ever came before. What sets "thank u, next" apart isn't its sound - an airy, tinsely R&BB - but Ariana Grande's disposition. After a million anthems of self-reliance and reinvention, of overcoming one's exes, it's startlingly refreshing to hear someone just saying thank u to their past loves - not feebly but bravely, wisely, gently, thank us for moments shared and lessons learned, miles travelled to this spot. (And still, also: next!)
    8. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever - "Talking Straight" [buy]
      There are times when Australia's Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever feel too much like a composite of other guitar-pop bands I love, from the Go-Betweens and the Feelies to Nap Eyes and Alvvays. But that kind attitude of leads to crankiness, not bliss, and I cannot but swoon for the snap of "Talking Straight," its gallop and its bray. Jangle like falling fortunes; riffs like ten-foot cacti, full of flowers; a melody you could hang your hat on all winter; everything picking up speed...
    9. Janelle Monae - "Make Me Feel" [buy]
      Purple-tinted funk like the wet and misting pop! of grape soda.
    10. Tim Hecker - "This life" [buy]
      I've spent dozens of hours with Konoyo, Tim Hecker's ninth album - a work of tinting electronics and efflorescing noise that feels more narrative than anything he has made before, as if it's not raw sound but story. "This life," which begins the LP, is like the opening sequence of a VanderMeer film adaptation, or of a Werner Herzog Heart of Darkness. It's a noise like a secret mission - keening sirens, insects, ghosts - and I feel almost as if I can smell it: scent of jade leaves, dark and vegetal, flexing in the night.
    11. 6LACK ft J Cole - "Pretty Little Fears" [buy]
      So much of a love-letter that I'm surprised it's not a rhyme in the first verse, rhyming with "propeller." 6LACK conceals his raunchy verses in the song's tender sound; from his tone of voice you'd be forgiven for assuming he's reading Neruda. The fit's a bit more natural on J Cole's feature - if only he had spared his wife the Matrix reference. (Thanks Neale!)
    12. Young Galaxy - "Seeing Eye Dog" [buy]
      A song reduced to essences: desire, audacity, moonlight. Such a respite - soft synths, Catherine McCandless's plainsong, everything as light as moths' wings. Taken from the tremendous Down Time, the most overlooked album of the year.
    13. Madeline Kenney - "Cut Me Off" [buy]
      Guitar-pop that's ravishing and askew - prisms twinkling, angles everywhere. Kenney's rosy voice tinges red at the edges; it blots almost, over "Cut Me Off"'s beautifully wrongish hooks, its beautifully wrongish drums. While Perfect Shapes owes something to Dirty Projectors' slanting vocals, Perfect Shapes (produced by Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner) is twice as good as Dave Longstreth's latest - vividly original, utterly delightful, one of the best damn things around.
    14. Connan Mockasin - "Charlotte's Thong" [buy]
      Drowsy, handsome music, with the pong that characterizes all of Connan Mockasin's tunes - that extra-terrestrial scent. An electric guitar prowls the house - searching for somewhere to lie down and sprawl. Drums beat like minute hands. And then Mockasin's mushy mumble: a wimp's voice, vaguely botanical, a stranger at this sumptuous table.
    15. The 1975 - "Love It If We Made It" [buy]
      A glittering, millennial reimagining of "We Didn't Start the Fire" or "It's the End of the World As We Know It." You get everything you need to know from the self-mocking opening lines, as the snare comes Phil-Collins-ing in: "Fucking in a car / shooting heroin / saying controversial things / just for the hell of it." I'm on-record as a 1975 fan; they continue to make a case for themselves as the UK's most interesting contemporary pop band, sucking the marrow from the Talking Heads and Radiohead, Danny Brown and Bright Eyes, Michael Jackson and The Streets. They integrate their influences in a way that feels almost anachronistic - and there's a similar out-of-time-ness to their (outstanding) big-budget videos, which seem lifted from MTV's heyday. Like most of my favourite diatribes, "Love It If We Made It" is really a declaration of love: to an algorithmic singularity, to the end of the world.
    16. Laura Jean - "Girls on the TV" [buy]
      I don't know what it is about this soft-focus indie pop song (or maybe I do - the grace of the singing, the unusually elaborated guitar-line, the chorus, the performance, the arrangement, the songwriting, everything).
    17. Mount Eerie - "Tintin in Tibet" [buy]
      Like last year's "Real Death", this song should not be on a ranked list; it should not be on a list at all. It should be at #1 or #100 or unnumbered, set apart. Its goal as a piece of music isn't the same goal as the other tracks here. Why count these things together, or measure them against each other? As Phil Elverum carries on, singing present and past, his vision somehow grows ever clearer.
    18. Lydia Képinski - "Premier juin" [buy]
      Sock yourself with this song, take it like a conker to the temple. A pipe-organ and a string section; a synth and a guitar. A song that tastes so ripe and raw that it's partly bloody iron, partly strawberry jam. Képinski's Montreal pop points right back to Arcade Fire's "Tunnels," Charles Burns' Black Hole, Frankie Barnet's An Indoor Kind of Girl. Today at full gallop, bolting toward the new. (And get a load of this.)
    19. SOPHIE - "Immaterial" [buy]
      Bouncing like a ball-peen hammer from ecstatic, sample-driven pop to something harder - shiny and warped. Featuring vocals from Montreal's own Caila Thompson-Hannant (Mozart's Sister, Cecile Believe).
    20. DJ Koze - "Pick Up" [buy]
      A midnight-coloured circle with Gladys Knight at its centre."[It's the] counterbalance of the sad voice and the disco loop," DJ Koze told Resident Advisor. "You find one loop, and if it's magical, you can hear it forever. But they're not easy to find. ['Pick Up' is] the only track I've made in one night -- in three or four hours, with a bottle of red wine."
    21. Mélissa Laveaux - "Lè Ma Monte Chwal Mwen" [buy]
      A song that erects its own fanciful, radiant universe - with Laveaux's elastic voice and winking Creole, the junkyard feel of the electric guitar. Like Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" reimagined on a Haitian beach.
    22. Nicholas Krgovich - "Spa" [buy]
      A man's hushed yet wry confessional - a break-up song that pulls no punches, beats around no bushes, itemizing the ending of a thing its singer did not wish to see end. Tragic and also somehow charming - it must be the saxophone.
    23. Thus Owls - "My Blood" [buy]
      Thus Owls' live performance of this song on 9/29 was probably the most moving performance I witnessed in 2018. Erika Angell sings about motherhood with a wisdom that seems visceral, not learned but felt - felt and then sung out, as if she has found the right words for these impossible feelings. (And Simon Angell beside her, strumming away, every chord a kind of vow.)
    24. Maggie Rogers - "Light On" [buy]
      A song like this makes songs like this seem easy: just verses, a chorus, a melody and harmony, drums. Mid-tempo and handsome, nothing to set it apart. Yet: marvellous. An ordinary pleasure to cherish and repeat.
    25. Boygenius - "Me & My Dog" [buy]
      Phoebe Bridgers leads all my favourite songs on the debut record by Boygenius - a group that brings together Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus. She has a gift for writing tracks with a little sourness to them, an antidote to the sweet; it gives a break-up song like this a sort of seductiveness, as if the end of things is somewhere you might choose to stay.
    26. U.S. Girls - "Rage of Plastics" [buy]
      Meg Remy's Fiver cover turns the grave blues of the original into something jittery and brightly lit. Country rock with a bit of Phil Spector to it - and also squealing saxophones, wounded keys, high moxy, high-capitalist anxiety. It's like a plant that grew up in a shopping-mall atrium, now it's too big to stop.
    27. Les Louanges - "Tercel" [buy]
      I love the twisting grooves of Les Louanges' La nuit est une panthère - a record full of funky rock'n'roll and avant-R&B, neons flickering on rue Masson. "Tercel"'s lefthanded storytelling owes something to Frank Ocean and something to Beck; it owes something to the drummer and the debt-collector.
    28. Jennifer Castle - "Texas" [buy]
      A road song of straight highways and big sky, with Castle - like Johnny Cash or Bill Callahan - mingling the everyday and the erotic, the somber and the merry.
    29. Saba - "Prom/King" [buy]
      Saba's greatest gift as a rapper isn't his rhymes or his flow but his storytelling, his ability to choose the right detail. "Prom/King" is a two-part portrait of his cousin John Walt, and it's a song that conceals its full intentions, that holds back the ending - lingering instead on small conversations, until the end, when Saba's words - and "Prom/King"'s beat - prove literally insufficient, everything running out.
    30. Kurt Vile - "Bassackwards" [buy]
      Some artists are inventors. Kurt Vile's not one of these - someone who invents and reinvents, transforming their sound. A Kurt Vile song in 2018 sounds a lot like a Kurt Vile song in 2015, a Kurt Vile song in 2011: slacker monologue, warm guitars, a tune that walks in circles like a stroll around the block. And yet a song like "Bassackwards" still feels sublime - not because it is a copycat, a beloved re-run, but because it is its own polished jewel, unlike anything else. Not a reinvention but a refinement, as each of Vile's best songs is - its own original refinement, a slightly new perfect.
    31. Post Malone - "Better Now" [buy]
      I'm with Jayson Greene: I can't stand Post Malone and also I adore him, adore this dripping catchy music that has rien à faire with the rest of my aesthetics, the things I think and say I like. Crude and treacly, unsubtle, labouring: yet magnificent, gold-leafed, a sad song I could hang like a wreath on my door.
    32. Frog Eyes - "Pay for Fire" [buy]
      If Mannheim Steamroller recorded an elegy with David Bowie and The Residents; if a tree sang a serenade to its soil... The pearl of Frog Eyes' final album is a mess that's going to be cleaned up, a cataclysm mid-solution. Carey Mercer's never sounded sweeter, his band never so kind. But they're still capable of violence - daggers to betrayers' ribs, rocks to traitor's skulls, poison in the developers' wine. There are still forces of resilience out there, knights in declining armour.
    33. Ella Mai - "Boo'd Up" [buy]
      A gravity blanket of sparkly R&B.
    34. Cardi B with Bad Bunny & J Balvin)- "I Like It" [buy]
      "I Like It" is an exemplar of interpolation - not just a competent remix of a Latin classic but a glorious transfiguration thereof. Chock full of tiny details, slowly gathering momentum, crackling with musical energy.
    35. James Blake - "Don't Miss It" [website]
      This is my favourite style of James Blake: when he finds himself at the middle-point between Klavierwerke and "Limit To Your Love", when his sappier singing instincts get cut-up and enjambed. "Don't Miss It" is a song that seems to keep starting and restarting, and every time it does it glows a little differently, not more but merely differently - as if its current is being sent down alternate routes, undiscovered channels. Electricity can move in different ways through a circuit.
    36. Tampa - "Synth Quirk" [buy]
      Tampa is the best ever rock band in Memramcook. That's a town in New Brunswick (Tampa's also based in nearby Moncton). Their scrambling indie-rock is like a handful of Pop Rocks - sugar fizz and crackle-snap, tidy only in the hand.
    37. Charli XCX - "No Angel" [buy]
      Soap-bubble pop with some metal to it too, like Charli's tossing around aluminium pans.
    38. Wye Oak - "Lifer" [buy]
      A song of perseverence. Patiently gleaming til the guitar part at 2:00 - a phosphorescing solo that rends the song in two, rouses the phoenix in its nest.
    39. Toni Braxton - "Long As I Live" [buy]
      There are portions of "Long As I Live" that feel as if they could have been released in 1996, in Braxton's un-broken heyday. But listen carefully: you'll hear a voice with more years in it, a production haunted by younger sounds.
    40. Troye Sivan - "My My My" [buy]
      A pop song with hop and jump - no, with skip, a thousand split-seconds suspended mid-air.
    41. Tirzah - "Say When" [buy]
      Tirzah dismantles contemporary R&B, rebuilding it as something room-sized and almost barren. Working with Mica Levi (Micachu and the Shapes), songs like "Say When" are as much about the desires they withhold than the pleasures they indulge - like an experiment with abstinence, pop-musical renunciation.
    42. Channel Tres - "Controller" [buy]
      A work of pure hypnosis, Channel Tres's voice and oscillating beat mesmerizing the listener, leading them onto the dance floor. (Thanks Max!)
    43. Yves Tumor ft James K - "Licking an Orchid" [buy]
      One of electronic music's most interesting makers showing a Bryan Ferry-like head for songcraft.
    44. Loma - "Joy" [buy]
      I loved the debut LP by Loma - a collaboration between Cross Record's Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski, and Shearwater's Jonathan Meiburg. Like "post-rock" or "chamber pop," "chamber folk" seems like a lapsed genre at this point - something old and in need of regeneration. However songs like "Joy" have enough strength - and enough discord - to feel relevant and new, an alarm unfolding under woodwinds, drums, guitars, a lacework of synths. Cross and Duszynski's marriage ended over the course of this recording project, and I can't help but project that knowledge onto the music: a sense of transformation, or that something is really at stake.
    45. Low - "Always Trying To Work It Out" [buy]
      This is what I imagine it feels like to live in Trump's America. A song like a failing state - grim and cataclysmic, all the old rules fracturing. Yet also somehow hopeful, progressing: a staggering march, toward a far-off beam of light.
    46. Porches - "Find Me" [buy]
      Is cereal a soup? Are hotdogs tacos? How should one describe "Find Me"? A song that's a beeping, skittering rave-up - but with a singer who's doleful, melancholy, slinking through the bushes around the warehouse.
    47. Félix Dyotte - "Chrysanthèmes" [buy]
      I love the timelessness of "Chrysanthèmes." Dyotte plays the classic chansonnier while his band makes sure all the studio plug-ins are up-to-date, new and sumptuous.

    48. Simmy ft Sun-El Musician - "Ubala" [buy]
      Something in the low end of "Ubala" makes it feel more like landscape than music - terrain that goes on for miles upon miles, beyond the horizon. South African house music as far as the eye can see.
    49. Amen Dunes - "Miki Dora" [buy]
      The chug at the heart of this song might be a car or a motorcycle; it might just be Amen Dunes' running feet. But it's clearly a dash - a long one, mile after mile, while the song scans the horizon. A little Springsteen and a little Kurt Vile, with some mischief in its pocket. A little mischief and a little nerve, treasure waiting at the end of the trail.
    50. Stephen Malkmus - "Middle America" [buy]
      It's been a long time since Malkmus sounded as good as this, and I can't remember him ever sounding so kind. There's a generosity to this song that feels almost sappy; never mind that Malkmus is painting his customary tableaux, only half-comprehensible. "Men are scum, I won't deny" (he sings the line like he's giving someone an anniversary present), "May you be shit-faced the day you die / And be successful in all your lies / In the wintertime / in the wintertime." As if all this time he's just been waiting for a reason to cozy up.
    51. Molly Burch - "To The Boys" [buy]
      Bubblegum guitar-pop that's adamant and unapologetic, Burch singing like an acrobat who has climbed out of a cannon, turned it toward her enemies, plopped in a cannonball and calmly lit the fuse.
    52. Bas ft J Cole - "Tribe" [buy]
      Two rappers playing catch over a samba beat - each of them feeling fat and happy, jolly, made.
    53. Spice - "Tik Tak" [buy]
      A dancehall track that cut like a hot knife through my playlists, dividing everything into Before and After. Spice spits like she's made of clockwork, her mechanisms newly wound, as sure of herself as of the number of minutes in an hour.
    54. Lucy Dacus - "Night Shift" [buy]
      A song like a letter to a former lover, a letter never sent. But of course it is sent, it's here in six and a half minutes, and so that's why it bursts into flame at exactly 4:09 - so the recipient won't forget it, can't shake it off; so they'll smell smoke and burning paper; so maybe they'll get burned, burned again (for the second time). Dacus has made a thing that's tender and fiery, a ballad she won't - can't - take back.
    55. AdriAnne Lenker - "Symbol" [buy]
      Experimenting outside her band Big Thief, AdriAnne Lenker makes music that's much more constrained: rhymes and fingerpicking, a voice just louder than a whisper. But it's the rhythm on "Symbol" that makes it click for me, the sense of tempo, like a series of keys fitting into locks.
    56. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" [buy]
      Somewhere there's an intra-dimensional Soul Train where "Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays" aired once in 1981. Ruban Nielson was wearing iridescent make-up, singing outside a giant cardboard TV. Stevie Wonder's sister played keys.
    57. Hop Along - "Prior Things" [buy]
      A cozier kind of Hop Along - as if they're living with friends in a green-gabled house, dinner cooling on the counter. Frances Quinlan sings her worries but I'm never actually worried for her - I believe in her instincts and the instincts of her friends, that good will win out. Those nodding strings; those bobbing keys; a whole world wishing her the best.
    58. Helena Deland - "Body Language" [buy]
      A ballad with undertow, the kind of hesitation that could save a life one day.
    59. Thom Yorke - "Suspirium" [buy]
      A piano figure forms the basis of this chilly lullaby, a ghost story in 3/4 time. "This is a waltz," Yorke begins. "Thinking about our bodies / what they mean."
    60. Ought - "Desire" [buy]
      Like a punk-rock "Song of Solomon," full of decent, law-abiding carnality. I love the randiness of the song, the impression of a band that's caught a springtime scent. "I could taste it in your paint," Tim Darcy sings, like a shipbuilder with a hard-on.
    61. Joseph Shabason - "I Thought That I Could Get Away With It" [buy]
      Saxophonist and composer Joseph Shabason made one of the most splendid albums of the year by taking snatches of sax and samples from interviews (with his mom), parcels of processed synths, pasting it all into a work that feels like it's about osmosis: the sense of a wisdom gained ambiently, over time. The accumulation of insight & experience & raw sensation, still only half-understood.
    62. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Party for One" [video]
      "Party For One"'s a clomping, stomping pop song, but its sense of sexuality's not so different from #60 - Jepsen's paean to self-love has a cotton-wool feel, as if freshly laundered.
    63. Scott Orr - "A Memory" [buy]
      A love-song that doesn't quite feel real, like something borrowed from slumber. "You woke up in a dream," Orr sings, "caught inside a memory. / I won't leave your side / and I'll lie with you baby." He brings to mind Sandro Perri or Damien Jurado but there's more flicker to this folk music, like it already senses its decay.
    64. Mariah Carey - "GTFO" [buy]
      Hard feelings don't deserve a song this pretty. "You took my love for granted," Mariah begins, all dusty rose. "You left me lost and disenchanted." But the song moves on past bland dejection: "My prince was so unjustly handsome," she sings, a line twice-stinging. Soon the listener begins to wonder: might she really spell out the song title? On a song that sounds like this?
    65. Pusha T - "The Games We Play" [buy]
      This song's here for the barb & prong of the beat, the blues guitar like a lean tiger.
    66. Couteau Papillon - "Peau d'opium" [buy]
      Glittering synth pop from Montreal that measures its pep against its weariness, its appetites against its caution. I love the zippy synths against Philippe Lachance's sandpaper falsetto, the skittering drums against the silvery guitar. A song to pack up in a suitcase when you're off to somewhere drab; wheel it along behind you, open it up when you get to the hotel.
    67. Viagra Boys - "Sports" [buy]
      Like a gritty remodelling of #42, Viagra Boys' "Sports" recalls Iggy Pop and even maybe Mark E Smith - men with baritone voices and an appreciation for the absurd, the way a saxophone can crack a song like an egg.
    68. Ebhoni - "Opps" [fb]
      With its bubbly synths and sunny horns, "Opps" seems at first feel like one of those R&B songs about riding round town with your friends. Instead, it's pure kiss-off: a venomous adieu to a 🐍 of an ex-friend, a sunny F.U. with the windows rolled down.
    69. Hollow Hand - "One Good Turn" [buy]
      Hollow Hand's a new romantic with a shelf-ful of Kinks albums, a shed full of guitars, a folder full of handclap loops. He's probably got a garden and a couple of sturdy old shovels. "One Good Turn" skips and jangles and la-la-las, weaves a tapestry, drives a tiny Citroen to the seaside.
    70. Jim James - "Just A Fool (Universal Clarity version)" [buy]
      My Morning Jacket's Jim James re-doing a rock song in full Bob Dylan get-up - a leather jacket around his shoulders, an acoustic guitar in his hands. No harmonica though: instead just a man's strange yodel, a dog-like yip, transsubstantiating the song in its final seconds.
    71. Lennon Stella - "Breakaway" [website]
      Spotifycore as it may be, Stella works wonders with "Breakaway"'s pre-chorus - a moment of tension when you don't know which way the song will go, higher or lower, faster or slower, into the sky or back down to earth.
    72. Rejjie Snow - "Désolé" [buy]
      Irish hip-hop - where the pennywhistle's synthetic and the hook's in French. I love "Désolé"'s elevator-music shimmy, its stop-start approach to catchiness. Not so sure about Snow's serenading skills: hopefully his lover likes her wooing off-key and genuine.
    73. Foxing - "Slapstick" [buy]
      Foxing perform a kind of alchemy, transmuting "Slapstick"'s punk-rock riffs into a variety of materials. Some of it still sounds hard and shining, but most of it is softer - emo balladry, fireside sing-along, games with yipping muppets. It's proggy something, I'm just not sure what - it owes as much to Justin Timberlake as to Jimmy Eat World.

    74. Hatchie - "Sure" [buy]
      Blissful jangle-pop from Australia. There's a quality to this kind of music that makes me think of rain - washouts, downpours, the daylight all smeared. Does it ever rain in Brisbane?
    75. Anderson .Paak - "Bubblin" [buy]
      The California rapper's stuck in a spy movie credits sequence: will he make it out alive?
    76. A.A.L. (Against All Logic) - "Now U Got Me Hooked" [buy]
      My son likes to march: "March!" he announces, stomping up and down the hallway. (He's two and a half.) It's not a military sort of march; it's not rigid or formal. It's free, gleeful. He swings his arms and hikes his knees, stomping all alone. Which happens to be my preferred way of enjoying "Now U Got Me Hooked" - an infinitely amiable stomper by A.A.L. (aka Nicolas Jaar). Wave at the singer! Salute the trumpets! Ripple like a flag!
    77. Bonjay - "Night Bus Blue" [buy]
      The mystery of the night bus: where do they go in daytime? Surely they're not the same vehicles you see cruising down Bathurst, crawling up Yonge, while the sun's high in the sky? A night bus is a colder thing, frictionless and strange. It's brightly lit. The people inside are fading, or stirring, and after they're gone it's as if they were never there: the people of the city, the essence of it, dispersed to hidden workplaces or hidden away in bed. A night bus is a fleeting place and time and this song is as well - somewhere you can only remain for 7:20. It picks you up, it drops you off; you can't stay.
    78. Krystal Klear - "Neutron Dance" [buy]
      If robots ran on jam - tin-can machines with pectin-powered batteries, strawberry-scented servos, a convenient compatibility with peanut-butter - maybe then we'd all wake up together, the humans and the machines, to celebrate the morning with toast & "Neutron Dance." Part of a complete breakfast.
    79. Frankie Cosmos - "Jesse" [buy]
      This is a song about a conversation, Greta Kline explains in "Jesse"'s first verse - but immediately it leaves the frame of the conversation and goes into the ideas imagined there, the dreams turned over and remembered, as if the song is darting in the air above their heads, twisting between the figments of what's done and what's coming.
    80. Kim Petras - "All the Time"
      A song so sweet it'll make your teeth hurt. Petras is wrapped in foil, prancing across a stage, a girl without a past or a future - everything she's singing is a beautiful lie an she's singing it because it sounds right, or it sounds good, the kind of things a person might feel if they weren't too busy prancing, too busy tucking foil under their bra-strap, or behind their ear.
    81. Kacey Musgraves - "High Horse" [buy]
      I was not particularly smitten with Kacey Musgraves' turn toward a pan-generic country pop. Artists with the gift of vision should be able to indulge that vision, making songs like no one else. As much as I enjoy it, "High Horse" could as easily be the work of Katy Perry or Taylor Swift or even the likes of Jewel. But I shouldn't be too hard on a song I still like a lot: the Cardigans-like sheen of the guitars and strings, the handsome chestnut canter of the chorus's heart. And especially the splendid use of triangle, tinkling teensily while Musgraves sings about a tall pony.
    82. Snail Mail -"Heat Wave" [buy]
      The rippling thwack of an August heat wave; the thrum of a love that's at the edges of your summer, just out of reach. Lindsey Jordan's noisy, technicolour rock'n'roll feels strangely at-a-distance, as if she's describing the sunset before it falls.
    83. Burna Boy ft J Hus - "Sekkle Down" [buy]
      Nigeria's Burna Boy makes a song like this sound as easy as water flowing downhill.
    84. Pierre Lapointe - "Mon prince charmant" [buy]
      A love song that begins on the morning David Bowie died. Despite the stately string arrangements there's a loucheness to Lapointe's voice, to the way he observes his lover swimming - "like a David Hockney painting" - in the pool. He always sounds like he's holding something back, something unfit for polite company. Maybe he'll write it down, tuck the message into Prince Charming's towel.
    85. IU - "삐삐 (BBIBBI)" [video]
      Finally, a K-pop song about maintaining strong boundaries around social media. Filled with prrs and clinks, ringtones and pager-beeps, it tells a story of rejecting gossip, ignoring DMs. The chorus is a blinking line in the sand: "Yellow C-A-R-D," IU sings. "If you cross this line, it's a violation - beep." After 10 years atop the charts, IU doesn't need to put up with hashtag bullshit.
    86. Forth Wanderers - "Company" [buy]
      Sweet, clamorous and spasmodic punk rock - a song that swings on a wire from distance to intimacy and back, close and far and close again, as if it's tracking Ava Trilling indecision, her decision not to decide.
    87. Zen Bamboo - "Boys and Girls" [buy]
      A Strokes homage from Québec City - a world-weary singer and his band of plaid-clad rockers, all of them willing to stay up as late as it takes, but only as late as that. Then they'll go to bed. (Thanks Julia!)
    88. Chance the Rapper - "I Might Need Security" [soundcloud]
      A rap song about kingdom-making: not the acquisition of wealth but the distribution of justice, Chance telling us the ways he's reimagining Chicago, the people he wants out and the citizens he wants to call back in, the monuments he wants up (hint: it's a monument to himself). And all of it over a glorious gospel sample - the gospel, that is, of get the fuck outta here.
    89. Michael Feuerstack - "Before You Wake Up" [buy]
      Some advice from Montreal's most wise and useless advice-giver. One of Feuerstack's secrets is that if you ask him for directions, he always points to the closest stop-sign. There's no malice to it: Mikey only wants the best for you. He just knows how little he knows, knows you'd rather he sound convincing.
    90. Chaka Khan - "Like Sugar" [video]
      An old man in a blue blazer dancing til his shoes squeak.
    91. Teyana Taylor - "3Way" [buy]
      This is a very nice song about having a three-way.
    92. Mr Twin Sister - "Jaipur" [buy]
      A feverish groove, full of subtle touches. Andrea Estella's voice twists and trembles over a stylish hand-drum beat. Strings and flute, snatches of sax and dub, while she sings a dream of true love.
    93. Zora Jones and Sinjin Hawke - "God" [buy]
      A Ride of the Valkyries for mutant forces: superheroes zooming through thunderclouds, lasers lightninging out of their eyes.
    94. Major Lazer ft Burna Boy - "All My Life" [buy]
      Although I'm a fan of Major Lazer, there's a dutifulness to many of their songs: the sense of a procedure started and seen through. "All My Life" is much more interesting than the headline suggests - not just a competent Afrobeat-by-numbers but something oddly dignified, almost solemn, its tin-can grooves built around a dry, deliberate brass section.
    95. Panda Bear - "Dolphin" [buy]
      Panda Bear's just floating on a VR lake, singing like a melting cartoon character.
    96. Born Ruffians - "Side Tracked" [buy]
      Born Ruffians' band of merry men is finally reunited. Throwing axes at a wall, snatching harmonies out of the air, studying the geometry of roots-rock and R&B and then using the same math to make something sparer, not a luxury yacht but a raft.
    97. Westerman - "Confirmation" [soundcloud]
      Synth-pop under northern light, cerulean-blue.
    98. Tracyanne & Danny - "Jacqueline" [buy]
      Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell and Crybaby's Danny Coughlan offer up a chiffony country duet, a waltz for just inside the cemetery gates.
    99. Kids See Ghosts - "Kids See Ghosts" [buy]
      There are no real ghosts in Kids See Ghosts' "Kids See Ghosts." Any phantoms are of the Scooby-Doo variety - millionaire developers hiding behind paintings, would-be Instagram influencers noodling on the theremin. It's a song that feels like a children's illustrated mystery - smudgy paintings of old houses and neighbours' kitties, spectacled faces peeking through windows. But there's still something spooky to it - at least until Kanye West arrives, ruining the hard work of Kid Cudi and Yasiin Bey, a drunk uncle streaking magic-marker over the pictures.
    100. Jennah Barry - "Roller Disco" [buy]
      I've been to two roller rinks in my life - one in Québec, QC, the other in Atlanta, GA. Barry's "Roller Disco"'s more the former than the latter, but in a way it's a tribute to all the ways roller rinks are the same: the revolutions of the skaters, the orbits of the disco ball, adolescent love-scenes spinning through the evening. I like that Barry doesn't clutter the song with reverb, or drench the song in strings. Just the same old story the same old way, new despite it all.
    So that's 2018's century of songs, or the way they seem today. There are others that didn't quite make it, that I wish I were pointing you to too, and there will be so many I've missed. Maybe make your own suggestions in the comments or on Twitter.

    Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. (Invest in things that are important.) Be kind with each other, be brave, undo what harm you can. Remember: music's good for the heart.

    See you soon.

by Sean

Tune in later this week for Said the Gramophone's 15th annual Best Songs list.

by Sean
Eating fish


Lydia Képinski - "Premier juin". Sock yourself with this song, take it like a conker to the temple. A pipe-organ and a string section; a synth and a guitar. A song that tastes so ripe and raw that it's partly bloody iron, partly strawberry jam. A sprint down the alley, a flight through the woods. Churn and boil and run, run, run - hearstroke and klaxon and wolves' matted fur. Képinski's Montreal pop points right back to Arcade Fire's "Tunnels", Charles Burns' Black Hole, Frankie Barnet's An Indoor Kind of Girl. An idea of future, the singer's self coalescing. An idea of past, all these names crossed out. And finally here, now: present (present, sir!). Today at full gallop, bolting toward the new.

[buy]


Mata Hari - "Easy". A song about living in a bull's-eye. Maybe he moved there six months ago, maybe it was last week. His whole adult life he lived in some other building, some shoebox apartment; then finally he hired a van and brought his boxes to the bull's-eye, signed a lease. His friends had warned him against it. He didn't know if it would work out. But: of course it did. It was a bull's-eye! Concentric circles, red and white stripe. A target. He had been there only days when the first dart came flying, direct from cupid's bow - pow. Maybe "pow"'s the wrong sound. Zing, snap, STRUM. The luckiest days feel like hitting a target; one step down are the days when you are the target, or feel like it, or feel like you live in a bungalow erected on a target. When it feels as if the whole world, or all the things you want, are convening on the place where you're at, the place you're now standing - right on the threshold, hunched, fiddling with your keys.

[buy]