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Wow, what a year it has been! I usually post my year-end song list in January, but between the passing of my dad and the coronavirus pandemic, things have been rather hectic. Perhaps it’s just the comparison with this year so far, but 2019 was largely a really good year, for me at least, and the music released was a big part of that. I was finally able to become a web developer and get a desk job, and that allowed me to listen to a whole slew of songs and artists I might never have stumbled upon otherwise. And naturally, I had to compile a Top Twelve list of my favorites.

In past years, there were certain artists I discovered that defined the year and became instant favorites (Florence and the Machine in 2016, Kygo in 2017, Aurora and Chvrches in 2018), but 2019 revealed artist after artist that I was thrilled to discover for the first time: Saint Motel, September, Kensington, Kaiser Chiefs, Sigala, The Naked and Famous, TWRP, Skyhill, Foxes, The Protomen, Sigma, Parade of Lights, and the list goes on. Fans of those artists may wonder what rock I’ve been under, but I’m certainly glad to join their ranks. While not all of these released new albums, there was still so much good music last year, and so little of it is actually on the radio. I can only shake my head over Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” getting the most attention.

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As always, my list below is strictly my personal choices based on my personal tastes. There are plenty of other good songs out there for other tastes, so I wanted to recommend Chris’s list at Movies and Songs 365 as an alternate Top 10. I was particularly hard-pressed to pare down my honorable mentions, and in the end, I still ended up with over 60. Forgive me for the length, but it could have been longer, and they all deserve mention. And no doubt, I’ll likely discover some songs in the next year that slipped through the cracks and will make me wish I could include them here. I certainly wish I could have highlighted TWRP’s “Starlight Brigade” or Metric’s “Now or Never Now” on last year’s song list.

Without further ado, let the Top 12 countdown of 2019 songs commence!

 

  1. “Tokyo” – White Lies

 

I agonized over what should be #12 for a long time, because there were at least eight songs that might as well have been a tie. In the end, with the assistance of my tie-breaking VC, I decided to go with the instant earworm of “Tokyo.” The chorus is one of those instantly-recognizable tunes that most bands wish they could conjure, and it’s an ethereal delight. Special mention also for their “Hurt My Heart.”

 

  1. “Something Unreal” – The Script

 

In addition to discovering artists new to me, I also realized how much I had underrated bands I’d known for years. The Script’s new album made me recognize how good the Scottish band can be, and the melodic, pulsing beat of “Something Unreal” might be my favorite song of theirs. Special mention for “The Hurt Game,” “Same Time”, and “Hot Summer Nights.”

 

  1. “It Only Gets Better” – WILD

 

I always like to highlight lesser-known bands with songs that deserve more attention, the kind that never see airplay and can only be found by those tooling around YouTube. WILD doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but boy, do they deserve one and so much more. “It Only Gets Better” is a joyous, indie, sing-along type of song that never gets old, guaranteed to raise the spirits of those lucky enough to stumble upon it.

 

  1. “In Case You Don’t Live Forever” – Ben Platt

 

Not many songs can bring me close to tears, but this one did. Releasing his first solo album after the Tony-winning success of Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt delivered a haunting ballad expressing a child’s appreciation for a parent, which all too often is realized too late. With the loss of my dad fresh in my mind, this song strokes the deepest feelings of grief and love and is beautiful to boot. Special mention for “Bad Habit” and “Grow As We Go.”

 

  1. “Timebomb” – Walk the Moon

 

And Walk the Moon returns to the year-end song list, last placing #2 back in 2017! Ever since “Shut Up and Dance,” they’ve been among my favorite bands, and this is a fine addition to the quartet’s stellar record of radio bangers. Special mention for “Eat Your Heart Out” and “If I Lose You.”

 

  1. “Almost (Sweet Music)” – Hozier

 

It took a while, but I’ve come to appreciate Hozier’s distinct vocals and lyrical ingenuity. “Almost” or “Sweet Music” has such a lilting joy and a smooth mellifluence that it feels like a song that will be enjoyed for years to come. Special mention for “Dinner and Diatribes,” “Movement,” and “Would That I.”

 

  1. “What Lies Ahead” – Kensington

 

The Dutch band Kensington was one of the best discoveries I made last year, and I was delighted when they then released new music for their brand new fan. Perhaps not as good as “Do I Ever” or “Slicer,” but “What Lies Ahead” is a great example of their special brand of catchy semi-hard rock that I’ve come to love. Special mention for “Bats” and “Uncharted.”

 

  1. “Save Me” – Saint Motel

 

Of all the bands I was lucky enough to discover last year, I think Saint Motel is my favorite. Nearly every single song of theirs is consistently lovely, inventive, memorable, invigorating, haunting, or some combination of all five. To my mind, they’re like a modern-day version of The Beatles. And “Save Me” is a smooth, let-your-eyes-roll-back-in-your-head kind of song, with a strangely nostalgic aura. How did I not hear of them sooner?! Special mention for “Diane Mozart,” “Van Horn,” and “Old Soul.”

 

  1. “Fireman and Dancer” – Royal Republic

 

Walk the Moon doesn’t corner the market on bangers; Royal Republic may be their steepest competition. This infectiously dance-worthy jam is a should-be hit with an unabashedly ‘80s aesthetic. How is this not all over the radio? Special mention for “Boomerang” and “Anna-Leigh.”

 

  1. “Wild Roses” – Of Monsters and Men

 

Of Monsters and Men is another band that has only grown in my estimation the more I hear of them. The Icelandic group’s latest album is a bit more pop-ish than their usual folk style, but that’s hardly a bad thing when it produces songs like this. “Wild Roses” is an immersive earworm, at once soothing and energizing. Put simply, it makes my ears very happy. Special mention for “Wars” and “Alligator.”

 

  1. “The Upside” – Lindsey Stirling

 

In addition to Walk the Moon, Lindsey Stirling has also graced a past list, snagging #4 back in 2016. Not to be confused with the Bryan Cranston/Kevin Hart movie of the same name last year, “The Upside” is Lindsey’s best song in years. With its exuberant lilting energy, it shows how rip-roaring a violin can be in the hands of the right person. Although she teamed with Elle King for vocals, I prefer the pure instrumental track for sheer audio euphoria. Special mention for “Darkside,” “Sleepwalking,” “Between Twilight,” and the whole Artemis album.

 

  1. “Never Be the Same” – Tritonal, feat. Rosie Darling

 

When I heard “The Upside,” I was convinced it would be my #1 by the end of the year, but no, there can only be one. And this is the one! “Never Be the Same” isn’t your typical progressive house song. No, this is the culmination of progressive house at its best. With possibly the finest drop I’ve ever heard, this song fills me with a primal, head-banging rhapsody that makes me worry about dain bramage afterward. It is my favorite song of 2019. Special mention for “Little by Little,” “Bloom,” and “Shivohum.”

 

 

And those are my Top Twelve Songs of 2019! What did you think? Solid picks or totally off-base? Even with all the music I’ve found in the last year, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s out there. Let me know your favorites in a comment and maybe I’ll find a new favorite too!

As promised above, I’ll now list my many, many runners-up, continuing the ranking in descending order (#13, #14, etc.), and if any of these are unfamiliar, I’d love for you to give them a listen. Songs and artists are only obscure until they get enough fans, and these deserve fans. 😊

 

“Don’t Throw Out My Legos” and “Karma” – AJR

“It’s Mine,” “Without You,” “Stronger,” and “Dying for You” – Mystery Skulls

“Chances”, “Sober”, and “Lies” – Ashton Love

“Back in My Body,” “Love You for a Long Time”, and “Fallingwater” – Maggie Rogers

“Nostalgic,” “Find Someone,” “Where You Are,” and “Problems” – Arizona

“Slide Away” – Miley Cyrus

“I Say No” – new song from Heathers musical

“Die Young” – Sheppard

“The River”, “The Seed”, and “Dance on the Moon” – Aurora

“Safe Place” – Pelago, feat. Maximus

“Golden Oldies,” “Lucky Shirt,” “Northern Holiday,” “Wait,” and the whole Duck album – Kaiser Chiefs

“Grand Escape” – RADWIMPS (from the film Weathering with You)

“Sixteen” – Ellie Goulding

“Harmony Hall” – Vampire Weekend

“Miracle” – Caravan Palace

“Moderation” – Florence and the Machine

“Think About You” (feat. Valerie Broussard) and “Carry On” (feat. Rita Ora) – Kygo

“Lion” – Hearts & Colors

“Longshot” – Catfish and the Bottlemen

“Bismarck” and “Fields of Verdun” – Sabaton

“555” – Jimmy Eat World

“Orphans” and “Arabesque” – Coldplay

“Black Gold” – Editors

“Inferno” and “Nexus” – Hiroyuki Sawano (from the film Promare)

“Fences,” “Feels Like,” and “Home” – Vicetone

“Into the Unknown,” “Some Things Never Change,” and “Show Yourself” – Frozen II

“Wish You Well” – Sigala, Becky Hill

“I Get No Joy” – Jade Bird

“Free to Go” – Seeb, feat. Highasakite

“The Bones” – Maren Morris, with Hozier

“So Am I”, “Torn”, and “Freaking Me Out” – Ava Max

“Talk” – Two-Door Cinema Club

“So Heavy I Fell Through the Earth,” “4ÆM,” and “Violence” – Grimes

“Love Me” – Felix Cartal & Lights

“In Degrees” – Foals

“The Best” and “California Halo Blue” – AWOLNATION

“Nomad” – Jeremy Renner

“Heavenly” – Cigarettes After Sex

“Heart upon My Sleeve” (feat. Imagine Dragons) and “Never Leave Me” (feat. Joe Janiak) – Avicii

“Paper Rings” and “Cornelia Street” – Taylor Swift

“Hidden Potential” – TWRP

“The Way I Feel” and “Love Too Much” – Keane

“You Mean the World to Me” and “Castles” – Freya Ridings

“Hurt People” – Gryffin, with Aloe Blacc

“Sad Forever” – Lauv

“Missed Connection” – The Head and the Heart

“Fight,” “Touch Your Body,” and “Mermaids” – Deamn

“LPs” – Jeffrey Lewis & the Voltage

“Walk Me Home” – P!nk

“One Day” – Sam Feldt and Yves V

“Mama” – Clean Bandit, feat. Ellie Goulding

“Dear Future Self (Hands Up)” – Fall Out Boy, feat. Wyclef Jean

“Globetrotter” – Ludvigsson

“Start Stoppin’” and “I Got You” – The O’Jays

“Stand Up” – Cynthia Erivo (from the film Harriet)

“Death Stranding” – Chvrches

“mother tongue” – Bring Me the Horizon

“Coming Home” – Adon, Nicolas Haelg, Sam Halabi

“Sucker” – Jonas Brothers

“Your Light” – The Big Moon

“Juice” – Lizzo

“Gloryhammer” – Gloryhammer

“Never Really Over” – Katy Perry

“Forgotten Kids” – Callum Pitt

“I Dare You” – The Regrettes

“Living in the Future”, “Forgot Your Name,” and “Tears in Her Eyes” – Mini Mansions

“Midas” – Skott

“Seventeen” – Sharon Van Etten

“Alive” – Dabin, feat. RUNN

“Dylan Thomas” by Better Oblivion Community Center

 

Despite everything going on with COVID-19, let’s hope 2020 will offer another year of great music!

And to end this musical extravaganza, like in past years, I wanted to provide a small tribute to all the musical artists lost in the last year, including Michel Legrand, Peter Tork of The Monkees, Andy Anderson of The Cure, Doug Sandom of The Who, Nipsey Hussle, Doris Day, Ian Gibbons of The Kinks, Jeff Fenholt, Eddie Money, Ric Ocasek of The Cars, Robert Hunter of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Naylor of The Crickets, Marie Fredriksson of Roxette, Kelly Fraser, Jack Sheldon, and so many others. Thank you for the music, and may you all rest in peace.