Around these the digital parts, tradition holds that the tolling of a new year means a quick look back at the old. As accompaniment to yesterday’s listing of favored albums, I present a quintet of songs that spun me around happily during 2019. This isn’t meant to be another ranking, nor am I claiming these are the five best tracks of the year. For one thing, I bypassed tracks from the albums I already celebrated, and there are stellar singles to be found there. That fact isn’t meant to diminish the value of the songs embedded here. These are all fantastic, and I’m absolutely grateful I discovered them.
In addition to the links to previous posts, or there’s a freshly updated YouTube playlist for your viewing and listening pleasure.
Pom Pom Squad, “Honeysuckle”
I don’t know if this is the best song of the year, but it’s definitely the one that hit me hardest and fastest. Mia Berrin slings her guitar with punk-fueled brashness, but also brings a keen sense of pop craft to her songwriting. “Honeysuckle” recalls nineteen-nineties gems by Sugar or Hole while avoiding the deadening effects of retro pining. Rock ‘n’ roll’s resurgent future is lurking in this slashing chords.
Michael Kiwanuka, “You Ain’t the Problem”
Soulful and rich, Michael Kiwanuka’s song is a pep talk you can groove to. There’s inspiring beauty in his intricate musicianship and a needed positivity to his lyrics, every bit of the track offering assurance that peace can be found and survival is earned.
Lizzo, “Cuz I Love You”
I leave it to others to craft animated think pieces about the emergence of Lizzo as a cultural force in 2019. All I know — and all I need to know — is that she performs the hell out of this song.
Bleached, “Hard to Kill”
“All the cities that we burned down/ Turns out I’m very hard to kill.” We might need to upgrade our volume knob technology. I can’t seem to get this song loud enough.
A band with exemplary pop-rock chops grapples with the dismay of our current moment and emerges with a heroic rejoinder. “Just remember if you can/ Power is a hologram,” sings Emily Nokes, and wise listeners realize they’ve found a useful mantra for the scorched-earth election year ahead.