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


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#40 - Smart Mouth - Riverby

I sent my top 100 playlist to an IRL friend of mine and this was his favourite new discovery on the list. He asked me where I found it and I have no idea. The Youtube video there has 1,132 plays, so it doesn't seem like it has any sort of notoriety. Maybe it's from XMU or the "Fierce Femmes" playlist I follow on Spotify. In any case, it's a hard driving song that walks that emo-punk-indie line I love so much with big drums and guitars and fierce femmes vocals on the chorus that get a little more frantic every time.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #40 - Smart Mouth - Riverby
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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 o

way off so far

#98 - She's There - Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever 2018's big hype band doesn't quite match the heights of their debut and standout single "Talking Straight" but they mine 90s indie rock for a n

#39 - Cheap Regrets - The Districts

Dance/rock is back! This is at its core a noisey rock song but it has a disco bass line behind it. The lyrics are dark, the music is upbeat. RIYL: Any of Dan Boeckner's projects (Handsome Furs, Wolf Parade, Operators, etc...)

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #39 - Cheap Regrets - The Districts

#38 - Can I Believe You - Fleet Foxes

From one of my very favourite albums of the year (this is their second song on the list), a song about trust and belief, complete with a choir, soaring chorus, there are hints at religion throughout (and appropriately they performed it on Colbert from a church), it drops out with about 45 seconds left before finishing strong. It's Fleet Foxes using all the best Fleet Foxes tricks. 

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#36 - The Great Divide - The Shins

As we head toward the top of the list, there are certainly a few early 00s indie bands that carry a whole lot of weight in terms of my taste, that is my sweet spot and will be reflected a couple more times on the list... This song leans more towards the Broken Bells end of James Mercer projects with it's vintage synths and backwards looking production. The chorus repeats on end and soars above everything else. 

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #36 - The Great Divide - The Shins

#35 - Who Do You Think You're Talking To - Dawes

A Springsteen via country-rock banger about a guy who goes to the bar for a few drinks and gets into a spirited discussion with... well you'll see. Probably the most "fun" song Dawes has released since Christmas in LA. The YouTube comments informed me that Taylor from Dawes is now married to Mandy Moore.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #34 - Visitor - Of Monsters and Men

#32 - Honey - Partner

Partner are weird in a great way, this video is completely bonkers. They are two lesbians from East Coast Canada and I've loved them from their first single. This is a big crunchy rock and roll single about big crunchy rock and roll (Turn it up to 10... All 4 knobs!")

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #31 - Televised Mind - Fontaines D.C.
  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #30 - Gospel For a New Century - Yves Tumor

#29 - Lost in Yesterday - Tame Impala

So my favourite song on this album is actually Borderline but I had it high on my 2019 list since it was out as an early single. Lost in Yesterday is a backwards looking psych rock single, it's classic Tame Impala, I wish I could have seen this performed at a festival last year.

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#27 - Watermelon Sugar - Harry Styles

This is pure sugar sweet pop music "tastes like strawberries on a summer evening and it sounds just like a song" everything Harry Styles does is completely infectious. Okay, hopefully not everything because this song is also clearly about oral sex. Anyway it's great and I listened to it endlessly this summer.

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#26 - Simmer - Hayley Williams

I've made no secret about how much I love Paramore's recent work as they ditch the pop-punk angst and go straight 80s pop. Hayley Williams was that band and her solo album picks up where Paramore left off. There is some rage behind this song, as in her early work but it's clearly more refined than "Misery Business" and the like in sound and tone.

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#25 - Post Humorous - Gus Dapperton

I work on the road a lot, which is why I've been slow getting through this list but it's also where I do a lot of my best music discovery. This song was all over SiriusXM Alt Nation, and while that playlist often skews a little too twenty one pilots for me, this one really stuck with me all year. It has that slow build into a big freak out climax that I love so much. I don't know much about Gus Dapperton, I Just know I turned this up loud every time I heard it. 

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#23 - Deadlines (Thoughtful) - Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest were the most exciting new band out there circa 2015/6 with Teens of Style and Teens of Denial and then they lost me for a bit. They were boring live and I kind of wore out on them. I'm fully back on board with this one though. The backgound is pure dance/dubstep and Will's voice sounds surprisingly awesome over top of it. It makes me want to go run a marathon. The quiet finish with the out of nowhere screams works really well too.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #23 - Deadlines (Thoughtful) - Car Seat Headrest

#22 - My Own Soul's Warning - The Killers

I joked in the first post about not having ten Killers songs as the top ten here and truthfully, in my list of top 100 songs of the year, there might have been 5 or 6 from Imploding the Mirage, it's not easy to choose just a couple and know where to put them. The big single and one that shows up on critics lists is Caution, but I prefer this one, the follow up single that is classic Killers arena rock. Big drum beats, huge hooky synths, big chorus. It leads off the album and I can only imagine would have opened their shows had they happened in 2020. I could go on and on about this band and song but basically a lot of it boils down to me loving that they still try to write BIG songs, they still try to be a BIG band in an era where most rock music has been pushed farther and farther from the mainstream they still find a way to break through, at least to some degree. I typed this all out a while ago and realized I needed to move it higher

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #22 - My Own Soul's Warning - The Killers
1 minute ago, Northern Voice said:

#22 - My Own Soul's Warning - The Killers

I joked in the first post about not having ten Killers songs as the top ten here and truthfully, in my list of top 100 songs of the year, there might have been 5 or 6 from Imploding the Mirage, it's not easy to choose just a couple and know where to put them. The big single and one that shows up on critics lists is Caution, but I prefer this one, the follow up single that is classic Killers arena rock. Big drum beats, huge hooky synths, big chorus. It leads off the album and I can only imagine would have opened their shows had they happened in 2020. I could go on and on about this band and song but basically a lot of it boils down to me loving that they still try to write BIG songs, they still try to be a BIG band in an era where most rock music has been pushed farther and farther from the mainstream they still find a way to break through, at least to some degree. I typed this all out a while ago and realized I needed to move it higher

Despite the late August release, this was my #1 album on spotify last year and I don't think others came close. Love it.

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#21 - Can I Call You Tonight? - Dayglow

In searching the Youtube video for this, I discovered it was actually originally released in 2018, in any case, it clearly peaked in popularity in 2020, so it qualifies here (there's another coming in my top ten that was from a 2019 album but was a #1 alternative hit in 2020). It feels appropriate to have this one follow up the Killers, it's a similar 80s referencing synth rock vibe with a big chorus. Total earworm.

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#20 - I Know The End - Phoebe Bridgers

I don't know if anyone is on a greater upward trajectory than Phoebe Bridgers these days. From her debut to boygenius to her mammoth 2020 album, it feels like she's everywhere and completely deservedly so. I saw this song at #1 on some year end lists and honestly I wouldn't argue that at all. From it's quiet beginning to it's bombastic finish, it's always outstanding and that's not even getting into the lyrics. 

No, I’m not afraid to disappear
The billboard said, “The end is near”
I turned around, there was nothing there
Yeah, I guess the end is here

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #20 - I Know The End - Phoebe Bridgers

#19 - betty - Taylor Swift

Again, it feels appropriate having this song going back to back after 'I Know The End'. This too is an epic slow build masterpiece of a song. On folklore Taylor is on full storytelling mode and this is the centrepiece in that context. In true Taylor Swift fashion, the story is set in high school and is the uplifting chills down your spine type with the music to match.

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#18 - Identical - Phoenix

A one off single from the soundtrack for "On The Rocks", this is everything great about Phoenix. New wave referencing pop goodness, released just at the end of summer. I think Phoenix are the coolest sounding band in the world but there's a lot of art behind them as well. They're a go to band for me when I just want to smile and feel good.

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#17 - Strangers - Mt. Joy

I guess I'll have to fall in love with strangers
Go ride through New York City like I'm famous
And I did not want our love to be erased, but
Lord knows we chased it, love just rearranged us

I saw Mt. Joy early in 2020 opening up for The Lumineers, who they completely blew off the stage. This song is firmly in the stomp and holler vein but rises above the sameness of a lot of those songs by putting the keyboard front and centre. I'm always down for a key heavy song (my favourite band is Spoon, after all) and this is a great one.

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#16 - Be Afraid - Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

Jason Isbell is at the intersection of a bunch of genres - indie, country, dad-rock, woke-rock where his appeal seems to grow broader and broader every year. There is an honesty to his songs and his willingness to take on real subjects tat is endearring. This is an ANTHEM, a call to arms to get the hell out there and do something. Obviously I'm a lyrics guy as this countdown has shown.

We've been testing you
And you failed
To see how long that you could hold it in before you screamed
But you only exhaled
And I don't think you even recognize the sound of your voice
When it's blasting through the speakers in the sky
And if your words add up to nothing
Then you're making a choice to sing a cover when you need a battle cry

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #16 - Be Afraid - Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

#15 - The Steps - HAIM

Lead single and grammy nominated from their fantastic 2020 album, this is more guitar centric and even a bit country influenced in contrast to their more pop-rock influenced hits of years past. The infectious pop is still there in droves though, just a slightly different take on their signature sound.

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#13 - Yellow is the Color of Her Eyes - Soccer Mommy

This is the song that I've pushed up the list the most in this latest version/revision. Every time I listen to it, it grows and grows on me. I think Circle The Drain was the more popular one in most places, probably because this one is 7+ minutes long. But it's worth all 7 of those minutes as it meanders through a Beach House or Alvvays inspired sad as hell bedroom pop song before slowing right down and finally letting loose with a climactic guitar solo. 

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #13 - Yellow is the Color of Her Eyes - Soccer Mommy

#12 - Blinding Lights - The Weeknd

First off yes, this song was absolutely everywhere in 2020 and I completely understand if people are burnt out on it but you can't realistically have a list of the best songs of 2020 and not have this near the top of the list. There's a reason it's been played everywhere from the beach to the club to the super bowl. The references are pure 80s - Neon, new wave, Michael Jackson, Depeche Mode. 

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#11 - Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus - The Strokes

Much like The Killers, The Strokes could have been all over this list, I like The New Abnormal better than anything they've done since their first two albums. I saw a comment on Twitter about the Strokes receiving their first grammy rock nomination for their least "rock" album and I can sort of see that but I've never been opposed to seeing a big rock band dive head first into synths and keyboard and that's what The Strokes do with this one. Call it Dance-Rock if you want, it's a great big rock single that 2020 needed.

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Screw it, I'm going to bash through the top ten this afternoon.

 

 

 

#10 - If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know) - The 1975

...And one big rock song deserves another - the second song on the list from these guys. Their album was a genre hopping experience but this one featuring (yet more) 80s influence, a big saxophone solo and a memorable ear worm of a chorus was the best of the bunch.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #10 - If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know) - The 1975
2 minutes ago, Northern Voice said:

Screw it, I'm going to bash through the top ten this afternoon.

 

#10 - If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know) - The 1975

...And one big rock song deserves another - the second song on the list from these guys. Their album was a genre hopping experience but this one featuring (yet more) 80s influence, a big saxophone solo and a memorable ear worm of a chorus was the best of the bunch.

Was hoping this would make the list. :) It's been in the top 5 of my On Repeat playlist since April -- so much fun. 

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#9 - 7 Seconds - Porridge Radio

It feels like it's been quite a run here of big well known songs from big well known bands but there are still a couple more left field songs in this top ten. I think it's probably the vocals that win me over here, the growing desperation as she wails through the verses, the accompanying music growing alongside her before it all drops out with no happy ending to be found.

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#8 - And It's Still Alright - Nathaniel Rateliff

And now we'll leave all the noise behind for this slow folk masterpiece. Without his band the Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff is even more impactful, letting his song writing take centre stage. It's happy, it's sad, it's melancholy, it's uplifting, it's simple, it's complex.

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#7 - By and By - Caamp

The song I referenced earlier that was released in late 2019 but became a huge hit in 2020 (though Blinding Lights also qualifies). This was the "song of the summer" in my eyes, from the first note I'm transported to a lake or a campfire, it's such a great piece of folk/roots/americana with traditional instruments and spare production. I loved it in the summer weather and I love that a song like this became (at least on alternative radio) a hit. 

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#6 - 4 American Dollars - U.S. Girls

For most of the year I probably would have had this at the very top of the list. Taking hip-hop inspiration and layering it over a slick indie rock track is one of my favourite spinoff effects of music being basically genreless at this point. This is a harsh critique of capitalism buried in a catchy as hell pop song with a fantastic chorus that layers and repeats throughout the song.

“You gotta have Boots if you want to lift those bootstraps.”

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #6 - 4 American Dollars - U.S. Girls. Top 5 coming Now

#5 - Imploding the Mirage - The Killers

Obviously The Killers were going to show up again. This song wasn't even released as a single but it's my favourite on the album. From the first second with the backing girl group this one hits the ground running. Guitars are here but they're in the background, this is a pop song. The chours is appropriately massive. The usual influences are there, Pet Shop Boys via Bruce Springsteen, sure. But at this point The Killers sound is clearly all their own. 

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#4 - The Adults Are Talking - The Strokes

I did warn about my 2000s rock tendencies. The best song on their fantastic come back album. This starts as a somewhat by the numbers Strokes song, with its drum machine and signature guitar song but rather than clip in its 180 seconds of post-punk goodness it keeps going and going, with Julian Casablancas swapping crooning and falsetto while guitars duel back and forth for the better part of 5 minutes.

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#3 - Exile - Taylor Swift featuring Bon Iver

This was my most listened to song from my most listened to album of the year, the centrepiece of folklore a thrilling duet between two superstars at the top of their game. Simple piano for the most part, with the vocals doing all the work. Like 'betty', there's a story being told here and as the story unfolds, so does the music, the pace picking up as the voices combine telling alternate versions of the same story ("you never gave a warning sign/I gave so many signs"). 

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #3 - Exile - Taylor Swift f/ Bon Iver

#2 - Ohio - King Princess

How's it been in Ohio, Babe?

King Princess starts with sultry, whispery cooing for the first verses before letting loose an absolute avalanche of sound at around the 2 minute mark. I wasn't expecting King Princess to go fill Karen O rock star but she does that and more here in this guitar driven smash.

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#1 - Kyoto - Phoebe Bridgers

I hinted a bit that this was the year of Phoebe Bridgers. This is everything I want in a rock song. Beauitful vocals, memorable hooks, smart lyrics, all kinds of horns punctuating a huge chorus. It grows, it gallops, it never lets up and then it's over as soon as it started with never a wasted second.

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  • Northern Voice changed the title to The Best Songs of 2020 - #1 - Kyoto - Phoebe Bridgers

Nice!

This would be impossible for me to picks singles, especially howver many you went with here. Fantastic work...fun to follow along.

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Wow. As Pip said, you went from 30 to 1 in like a day. That was my first thought in seeing the new title of the thread.

Good work! I have to listen to some of these.

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