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The Best Songs of 2020 - #1 - Kyoto - Phoebe Bridgers


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I've resisted the urge to indulge myself in one of these countdown threads but what the hell, let's see if there's interest when it's more current songs. Usually around this time we do a music draft of 2020 songs but a lot of the regulars for that are here less often, so I'm going to do this and then afterwards, we can maybe do one to fill in the gaps/for people to tell me I'm an idiot for missing something.

Basic Notes:

- This will be heavy on "rock" music as a banner - leaning mostly towards indie rock but with some mainstream rock, some pop and pop/rock. Not much country/hip-hop, those are somewhat blind spots for me.

- It's not the biggest hits of the year, it's the songs that I, NV, liked the most.

- I'm limiting myself to two songs per artist, the Killers released a 2020 album but the top 10 won't consist of that front to back.

- There will be more Canadian Content than you'd usually see on a list like this because I live in Canada.

- I do have these on a Spotify playlist I'll post at the end. A couple people follow it, I'm guessing they are from here - consider the list spoiled, though I may tweak placements of songs.

- I'll try to do a basic descriptor/background of the song so you know if it's your thing.

- This will be a slow rollout over the next couple weeks.

Edited by Northern Voice
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#110 - Sunflower - Dizzy

This is an appropriate starter, it sets the tone for the countdown in a lot of ways. It's a Canadian, female fronted indie/rock/pop song with a big chorus. Dizzy is from Oshawa, Ontario and is growing pretty big in Canada, winning a Juno award (Canadian Grammys) for her debut album. A "recommended if you like" artist might be Lorde.

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Come be surrounded
By those who love you the most

 

#109 - About Blank - Gord Downie

 

Posthumous solo release from the former Tragically Hip frontman (RIP), this is typical Downie lyrics and singing over a folky-punk track (his solo albums were always more experimental than the Hip stuff)

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #108 - Change - Pale Waves

#106 - AEIOU - Wye Oak w/ Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Wye Oak make beautiful, sometimes droney, dreamy, alternative pop music. Slow building throughout, til the voices come together at the end with some noisy distortion, until it drops back to quiet again. Were there really 105 songs better than this in 2020, I guess, maybe?

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #106 - AEIOU - Wye Oak
  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #104 - Love That Boy - Plants and Animals
  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #102 - Berlin - A Certain Ratio
4 hours ago, Northern Voice said:

#102 - Berlin - A Certain Ratio

From their first album in 12 years, The 40 year vets, adapt their post-punk sound to the modern era to great affect with New Order-esque electronic stabbing and shimmering.

Hey now - they're coming up in my countdown too.  Had no idea they were still making music.

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9 hours ago, Northern Voice said:

#104 - Love That Boy - Plants and Animals

These guys were darlings in these parts around 2008 with their excellent Parc Avenue album. Their stuff since hasn't grabbed me nearly as much as they've moved more into jammy, proggy territory. This in more in line with the indie leanings of the past.

Definitely their best album since Parc Avenue. 

And Spotify has been throwing the new ACR at me non stop...it's all felt a little too new order (you nailed it- I hadn't put my finger on it until your post) but at least it's better than the new New Order.

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Wanted to add, once you finish this up, if you want to do a ranking of every Hold Steady song (including B-sides), I promise to comment on every single post.  I may be the only one, though.

Edited by scorchy
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11 minutes ago, scorchy said:

Wanted to add, once you finish this up, if you want to do a ranking of every Hold Steady song (including B-sides), I promise to comment on every single post.  I may be the only one, though.

Sounds like that'll be a constructive summer

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On 1/15/2021 at 5:57 PM, scorchy said:

Hey now - they're coming up in my countdown too.  Had no idea they were still making music.

My first thought as well. Never really listened to them back in the day, but I’m a big fan now. 

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#99 - Big Night - Anyway Gang

Canadian supergroup featuring Sam Roberts, Chris Murphy (Sloan), Dave Monks (Tokyo Police Club) and Menno Versteeg (Hollerado). Each of those bands make their own variation of guitar crunch power pop and they come together here to take a verse each of crunchy power pop with a big singalong chorus. Nothing groundbreaking but a fun as hell pop-rock song, the type that still can get tons of radio play up here in Canada and exists as a kind of cool niche as a result, IMO

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #99 - Big Night - Anyway Gang

#95 - Step Into You - Hum

This song would have been a hit in the mid-90s, which is around the last time this band released an album. The whole Hum album Inlet released this year is very good but this is the closest thing to a "single". It's still loaded with crunchy guitars and a huge guitar solo but it's a little less heavy/sludgy than the album as a whole and it climbs and climbs throughout.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #95 - Step Into You - Hum
  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #92 - Ablaze - Alanis Morissette
  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #90 - Murder in the Cathedral - Kiwi Jr.

#89 - The Alarmist - Pinegrove

“You still exist I feel good knowing it”. There are more and more bands hitting the intersection point of emo/indie/alt-county but Pinegrove still does it best IMO. Pinegrove went away for a while after a self-inflicted #MeToo situation that is referenced on another great 2020 song, "The Birthday Party" by The 1975. I don't really have much to say about all that, the massive essay in that link covers it. 

The best Pinegrove songs remain Aphasia and Old Friends but "The Alarmist" cracks the top 5

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #89 - The Alarmist - Pinegrove

#88 - Sunblind - Fleet Foxes

One of my favourite albums of the year and Fleet Foxes are definitely more of an album band than a singles band in my opinion. This song is a beautiful Beach Boys influenced tribute a number of influential artists lost in recent years but with it's summery vibe and big swells in the chorus it's more uplifting than sorrowful.

 

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #88 - Sunblind - Fleet Foxes

#87 - Ghosts - Bruce Springsteen

In his post-peak work, Bruce always seems to find just the time to release his very best new songs at the time people need them. The obvious example is the post-9/11 The Rising but this does the same thing for a challenging 2020. The repeated "I'M ALIVE"  would have been magical to sing a long to at concerts this year but that wasn't meant to be. I would expect this to be the opening song whenever we do get tours again though. It has all the classic Springsteen hallmarks - glockenspiel, sax solo, big chorus.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #87 - Ghosts - Bruce Springsteen
On 1/21/2021 at 10:56 AM, Northern Voice said:

#90 - Murder In The Cathedral - Kiwi Jr.

These guys have a new album coming out tomorrow, they're a Toronto band and the bassist from Alvvays is in it. Pavement indebted and Bon Jovi referencing, it's really good. RIYL Car Seat Headrest as well, maybe. Can't find it on YouTube so Spotify link. 

 

On 1/20/2021 at 3:02 PM, Northern Voice said:

#94 - Lost in the Country - Trace Mountains

The song that answers the question, "What if The War on Drugs were a straight ahead alt-country/Americana band?"

 

Two of my top 20 albums from '20.

Edited by The Dreaded Marco
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#84 - Physical - Dua Lipa

In terms of pop music, 2020 really felt like the year of Dua Lipa, the smash (aided by the emergence of TikTok) was "Don't Start Now" but it won't be appearing here because it's really from 2019 and I like this song better. There are some strong 80s dance vibes here but the production is definitely modern.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 (according to me) #84 - Physical - Dua Lipa

#83 - Shampoo Bottles - Peach Pit

Peach Pit first came to my attention when I was getting to know the 2020 Bonnaroo lineup - a festival that didn't happen of course. As the year wore on, I started to hear them everywhere and got more bummed about missing them at the festival. This song is a bit of a bummer too (in the best way), a heartbreak anthem about a man wistfully observing his ex's things everywhere he looks. Melancholy-pop at it's best.

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#82 - Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) - Bombay Bicycle Club

This one actually has a similar vibe to the last one, but with more synth and a bit more of a positive feel to it, even as the lyrics betray that the singer is lost in his own memories. Bombay Bicycle Club returned from a long hiatus last year (technically late 2019) with this 90s alt rock inspired gem.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 - #84 - Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) - Bombay Bicycle Club
1 hour ago, Northern Voice said:

#82 - Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) - Bombay Bicycle Club

This one actually has a similar vibe to the last one, but with more synth and a bit more of a positive feel to it, even as the lyrics betray that the singer is lost in his own memories. Bombay Bicycle Club returned from a long hiatus last year (technically late 2019) with this 90s alt rock inspired gem.

Frontman Jack Steadman but out a cool solo side-project called Mr. Jukes during the band's layoff.

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On 1/21/2021 at 9:56 AM, Northern Voice said:

#90 - Murder In The Cathedral - Kiwi Jr.

These guys have a new album coming out tomorrow, they're a Toronto band and the bassist from Alvvays is in it. Pavement indebted and Bon Jovi referencing, it's really good. RIYL Car Seat Headrest as well, maybe. Can't find it on YouTube so Spotify link. 

Not sure what to make of their new one yet

Edited by Eephus
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#81 - Try Again - Andy Shauf

Canadian singer-songwriter received much broader recognition this year with his excellent album Neon Skyline. This song is typical of the album as a whole, a small vignette of akwardness, Shauf is a storyteller and this one bounces along beautifully. 

Somewhere between drunkenness and charity
She puts her hand on the sleeve of my coat
She says "I've missed this, " I say, "I know, I've missed you too"
She says, "I was actually talking about your coat"
She makes me laugh, oh how she makes me laugh
I just let my head sink down and fake some deep sobs

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The 110 Best Songs of 2020 - #81 - Try Again - Andy Shauf
  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #1 - Kyoto - Phoebe Bridgers

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