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10 Favourite Songs of 2019

10. Lala Lala & WHY? – Siren 042:  A few Lala Lala tracks caught our ear in 2018 but not like this one with WHY?.  The atmosphere on “Siren 042” is a bit sad as Lala Lala apologizes and explains herself in the lyrics but at the same time loses her personality as she makes changes.  This got played a lot in the early mornings.

9. Loma – Half Silences:  The sound is haunting when members from Shearwater and Cross Records get together to record.  The only thing that would make this track better is extending the first instrumental passage for a few more minutes before the vocals appear. This is also our favourite video of 2019.

8. Bleached – Shitty Ballet:  After the release of their debut in 2013, we lost track of Bleached until this first track from their latest album was released in April. The band has a knack of getting songs lodged in the head and this one was no different as we sang, “don’t want to pretend it’s OK when it’s not” throughout the year.

7. Lizzo (Feat. Missy Elliott) – Tempo:  Easily one of the coolest tracks of the year. The steady groove never gets too hyped but always keeps the head nodding along. Lizzo has received all kinds of attention in 2019 and when you can get the queen Missy Elliott on your track, you know you’re doing something right.

6. Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen:  When Van Etten released her newest album, this is the track that everyone latched onto.  It sounds like a female Bruce Springsteen looking back on her younger self while screaming that “I know what you’re going to be”.  In this case, that’s a great place to be.

5.  Billie Eilish & Justin Bieber – bad guy:  Always liked this track but our ears really perked up on the Interrupters version which made us go back and listen to the original even more.  Eilish’s vocals are hushed like she’s hiding in a closet while the simple beat gives Bieber room to really roll with a great vocal performance.

4. Fontaines D.C. – Boys In The Better Land:  Hearing the slower “Roy’s Tune” did not prepare us for this energetic anthem that blared out of our car speakers all summer. Name checking James Joyce, this one also had us Googling what “only smokes Carrolls” means.  This one makes us believe that the (rock) kids are alright.

3. Haim – Summer Girl:  An early morning drive to work and hearing this on CBC Radio 2 had us hooked immediately. Missed this one for the summer but it made our autumn a lot brighter with the mesmerizing saxophone hook.  Almost makes us want to book a trip to LA and have this on repeat.

2. Lil Nas X (Feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) – Old Town Road:  One late evening on stereogum.com we read about the country chart controversy with “Old Town Road” then watched about 20 TikTok videos afterwards. Being purists, we liked the original better but the Billy Ray Cyrus version is fine too.  The “can’t nobody tell me nothing” is the lyric of the year and the fact that the track gets in and out as fast as possible gives the listener whiplash as they hit the repeat button 5x.

1. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall:  This was instantly one of our favourite songs of 2019 from the first time we heard it. Listening to the feature on Song Exploder recently, we got the original meaning of the song slightly wrong the first time around but found the actual meaning of beautiful plantation houses being used for weddings fascinating. The sound recalls early VW tracks but is musically far more complex and nuanced.  It may not be the lyric of the year, see above, but “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die” is certainly right up there.

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Favourite Albums of 2018

51k7S8+kLDL._AA327_QL65_5. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour: Arguably the biggest country crossover into the indie rock world of 2018. Musgraves’ fourth major album release was as slick as they come but hard not to appreciate the quality of the songs. “Lonely Weekend”, “Space Cowboy” and album standout “High Horse” are the touchstones. But those are accompanied by opener “Slow Burn” and “Velvet Elvis”. While many of these songs could easily be featured in almost every commercial on TV, it doesn’t take away from the fact that virtually every one is a winner.

Mitski4. Mitski – Be The Cowboy : The first vocal on Mitski’s fifth album claims “you’re my number 1” which is fitting as this is topping album polls across the world. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes with most songs around the two-minute mark, it is easy to leave this one on repeat for a few hours. First single “Nobody” provides the longing that is at the heart of this album. The hard rocking “Remember My Name” is followed by the defiant “Me and My Husband”. There is a reason people keep talking about this album, the quick snapshots of music cut across numerous styles but most of all, it does them expertly.

trcy3. Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny : Quietly one of the most welcome returns to music was from Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell. Her voice is like a warm fire on a cold winter night. Here she appears with Danny Coughlan and together they create one of the best runs of music in 2018 from first track “Home & Dry” to infectious single “Alabama”. Second half highlight belongs to Coughlan with his 50s style “Anybody Else”. Overshadowed by bigger releases, this Merge Records release is an easy album to fall in love with.

41M5dXB2SNL._AA327_QL65_2. Courtney Barnett –  Tell Me How You Really Feel: In the disposable world of streaming and downloads, it’s rare that an album is a grower but Tell Me How You Really Feel did just that. Hard to get into at first, it feels disjointed and a bit of a downer album about touring but repeated listens prove that is not true. “City Looks Pretty” and “Nameless, Faceless” are dynamite indie rock songs. “Need A Little Time” features a pretty melody in the chorus and it’s all closed down with the melancholic uplift of “Sunday Roast”. Barnett tore the Winnipeg Folk Fest down on the Friday night this past summer. Too hard rocking for a lot of the crowd but was a glorious racket for the rest of us.

61KEfYl6iVL._AA327_QL65_1. Beach House – 7: When reviewing the latest Beach House on the Celebration Rock Podcast, critic Steve Hyden talked about how 7 does exactly what he wants from a BH album. This is pretty much bang on. “Pay No Mind”, “Lemon Glow and “Dive” standout and the rest of the album does a very good job of being atmospheric and ethereal. “Lose Yourself” is beautiful as is “Woo” but with an 80s synth feel. 7 glides along on its rails and is happy to take the listener to the next station for its duration.

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10 Favourite Songs of 2018

10. G Flip – About You:  One of the earliest songs that caught our ear in 2018, this Australian released “About You” in February. The DIY esthetic was not just in the music but in the music video as well. The beat doesn’t drop until the chorus while a synth makes thunder like noises in the background. Sounding not too dissimilar from Grimes, “About You” announced a brilliant new talent.

9. Cherry Glazerr – Daddi:  Recording under the Cherry Glazerr moniker, Los Angelino Clementine Creevy delivers a wallop of defiance in just over three minutes. Asking “Daddi” what she should be doing, where she should be going and who to be f*cking but never wanting to actually hear the answer.  The verses are breathless before she shouts the chorus. This fiery track was a late entry into our top ten.

8. U.S. Girls – Rosebud:  Meghan Remy put out her second album on 4AD in March of 2018 and found quite a bit of critical acclaim. This single is memorable right from the first-string sounds before it falls into an up tempo lounge track. In typical U.S. Girls fashion, the great sound bed covers up that Remy is digging deep into lyrics about the government while using Citizen Kane as a jumping off point. One of the groovier tracks of the year.

7. Vital Idles – Solid States:  This minimal track from Glasgow’s Vital Idles hardly set the world on fire in 2018 but it certainly grabbed our attention. The simple guitar melody and deadpan vocals recall post punk records from the early 80s. “It won’t do, it won’t do” but somehow this track does and does.

6. SL – Genes (Feat. Chip):  “I’m flexing in my 20s, I was flexing in my teens” is my most quoted lyric from 2018. With his “Gentleman” track from 2017 having over 23 million views on YouTube, SL was picked by factmag.com to be one of the UK rappers to keep an eye on. While the rest of the lyrics on “Gene” are harder to follow for these 40+ year old ears, the chorus is pure fire.

5. Robyn – Missing U:  Released in September, “Missing U” was the lead single from the Honey album and it was a banger. In an interview with Time magazine, Robyn has said this is the track she spent the most time on over than any other, and it shows. Everything fits together perfectly. The cascading synths are propelled forward through the beat of the chorus in this perfect pop song.

4. Playboi Carti – Shoota (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert):  I’m not sure what it is about this single from Playboi’s fifth album but the piano at the start sounds like a call to arms for having a great time for two minutes. The music really kicks in just over a minute for the Playboi verse while the beat takes forever to finally drop. The “pecan drop” and “bestie” are ridiculous but add to the infectious fun of this track.

3. Courtney Barnett – Sunday Roast:  The melancholy track sounds like Courtney talking to herself. The fourth single from Barnett’s excellent sophomore album, suddenly takes an uplifting turn in the second half of the chorus when she sings “I know you’re doing your best, I think you’re doing just fine” and features a pep talk in the outro. It’s the sound of hanging out with friends, enjoying the quiet times and not just the nights out on the tiles.

2. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Talking Straight:  The Melbourne group’s debut LP featured several terrific guitar rock songs, none were better than this. The guitar melodies all meld together while vocalist Joe White nails the kick-ass chorus. This is the kind of thing you want blasting out of the car on road trips to the beach.

1. Otha – One Of The Girls:  If you base your track of the year just based on listens, this is the one for me. Otha quietly sings over a bed of electronic beats and synths. It’s a downcast track, sounding both defiant and sad at the same time. I came across it on Pitchfork then never heard or saw it anywhere else. It mysteriously appeared and disappeared that one day but got played endlessly in basement parties at home, by myself.

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Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries 2018

5. Paris Angels – Perfume (Song): When going down a YouTube rabbit hole late one night, we discovered this lost track from the early 90s Madchester scene. We like to consider ourselves fairly up on British guitar bands from that era but had never even heard of this band before. With well over 200K views on YouTube, it is not obscure by any stretch and the anthemic quality to the track is a good reason why. The “loved up” version on Apple Music is the one to get.

4. Pet Shop Boys – Please/Further Listening 84-86 (Album): Over the past two years, Pet Shop Boys have been re-releasing remastered versions of their albums along with B-sides and rarities discs. The first album in their long career,Please provided a worldwide smash hit in “West End Girls”, a handful of great singles, and memorable album tracks. The second disc is a strong collection of dance mixes and B-sides almost as good as what appears on the original album (“In The Night”, “Was That What It Was?”).

3. Paul Simon – The Paul Simon Songbook (Album): Taking advantage of sales and gift cards, we picked up both the Simon & Garfunkel box set as well as the solo Paul Simon collection. While the S&G debut failed to deliver, many of those songs appear on the Paul Simon Songbook a year later in better form (“The Sound of Silence”, “He Was My Brother”) along with acoustic version of future classics (“I Am A Rock”, “Kathy’s Song”). The recordings are sparse and at times Simon delivers them by spitting out the lyrics but this album helped gain a following in England and superstardom back home was only a few months away.

2. Lily Allen (Feat. Giggs) – Trigger Bang (Song): Right at the end of 2017, Allen released one of her best singles in years. A brief intro by Giggs before the lady herself steps in singing about her past party lifestyle. As with her best songs, “Trigger Bang” was self-aware with a chorus that sticks in the head for days.

1. The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 2CD Deluxe (Album): This was an easy one. Released in November of 2017, I received this at Christmas last year and started listening in early 2018. The original album continues to be a wonder and the new remix by Giles Martin/Sam Okell make it even more so. After listening to the album for the 1000th time and just when you think it couldn’t get any better, “A Day In The Life” appears at the end. The second disc of different recording takes with new versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” was better than most rarities collections. It is one that will continue to get played for years to come (see: the title track, “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and “Getting Better”).

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10 Favourite Songs of 2017

10. The XX – On Hold:The first track of 2017 to make an impression, this is The XX at their most pop and one of their best.  The melodic hook at the “the stars and the charts and the cards” part is one of the best moments of the year.  I’m sure there are a million and one remixes of this that I would hate.

9. Chastity Belt – Different Now:Another early 2017 entry that we listened to a LOT.  This understated track from the Walla Walla, Washington band seems wise beyond their years. I’m not sure how these young women came up with the line “Yeah, it’s different now, you’re old” but it’s too true.

8. St. Vincent – New York:  The first single of the Masseducation album, this track is a smash right from the first note of “New York isn’t New York”.  Known for being a bit quirky, Annie Clark is the great guitarist who also knows her way around writing great singles.

7. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder:  Songs like this title track from the latest BSS album is why we keep buying their albums.  The band really shines behind trendy, hushed female vocals.  Possibly our favourite BSS track since 2002’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”.

6. Lorde – Green Light:  One of the biggest songs of 2017 is also being toasted as one of the best of the year across most publications.  Just one of the many highlights in the New Zealander’s career,  the leadoff track  from Melodrama was inescapable throughout the summer.

5. Swordfish – Ghost Song:  The Michigan band’s May release is like a more emo version of Ben Folds Five’s mid 90s classic “Brick”.  A mournful horn runs parallel to the band shouting that last Halloween was the worst.  In a few years this will pop up on a road trip playlist and it will get replayed 5 times before moving on.

4. Caroline Says – Winter is Cold:  This acoustic track from the Austin based Caroline Sallee grabbed our attention immediately and never lost it’s charm even after hundreds of listens. The tossed off thought of the line “I’ve never been to the west coast, I’ve always heard it’s the best though” is one of our favourite lyrics of the year.

3. Rostam – Gwan:  Released in the spring, this was a track we kept coming back to.  The leftfield pop song is so full of joy and wonder that it’s hard not to smile throughout.  Rostam does not have a particularly strong singing voice but here it fits this charming track perfectly.

2. Alvvays – In Undertow:  The Toronto band has a knack for writing great pop hooks and there is no better example than this. This is the kind of earworm that will get stuck in your head for days and help give the listener a sunny disposition even in the dead of winter.

1. The Moonlandingz – The Strangle of Anna:  This sleazy track from the band’s first full length sounds like it was released in the early 90s.  The female vocals, French lyrics and echo on the drums add a certain majesty while the lyrics are a mystery.  The “Sunday morning” lyric recalls The Velvet Underground while “ma belle” brings to mind The Beatles. The video and feel of the track give it a tongue in cheek quality but it’s quality none the less. This is one track that we listened to over and over and over again throughout 2017.