BEST SONGS OF 2019
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


 

These are my 100 favourite songs of 2019: songs I love more than bananas, duct-tape, or end-of-decade retrospectives.

Said the Gramophone hasn't published much in in 2019. Forgive us: we're very old. I had the best of intentions about rebooting this blog as a monthly essay publisher but we get by on cinders and old string, so it wasn't really to be. Nevertheless: it is nice to be here with you today.

This is the 16th list like this at Said the Gramophone: see 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no primary artist may appear twice.

The best way to browse the proceeding is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs in three parts:

For the first time this year, I've created a Spotify playlist for these tunes. (#76 was not available.) Update: Thanks to Joey Berger for this Apple Music playlist, too.

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This list is the work of me, Sean, and not any of Said the Gramophone's other contributors. Don't blame them for my questionable taste.

If this is your first time at Said the Gramophone, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter.

The WagersPlease read my books! I'm the author of two novels—Us Conductors, from 2014, which reimagines the story of the theremin, and The Wagers, a novel about luck, which came out in Canada this fall and will be published in the USA in January 2020. The Globe & Mail called it "a literary fireworks display, an explosion of joke-filled energy that manages to be a novel of ideas, but one delivered as if it were a caper story." You can learn about both of these books (and order them) at my website byseanmichaels.com

Among the 100 artists below, 39 are mostly American, 21 are Canadian, 15 are British and there are five Nigerian (an all-time high), four Australian, three Irish, three French, two Norwegian, one New Zealand, one Cameroonian, one Trinidadian, one South African, one Colombian, one Spanish, one Swedish and one Ghanaian act. More than 10% of this year's list draws from African producers. 52 of the frontpeople/bandleaders are men, 46 are women, and two acts are girl/boy duos. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain't perfect. Here are some charts of this and past lists' demographics.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures.

My favourite albums of 2019 were:

  • Jonathan Personne - Histoire naturelle;
  • Clairo - Immunity;
  • Arthur Russell - Iowa Dream;
  • John Coltrane - Blue World;
  • Corridor - Junior;
  • Nilüfer Yanya - Miss Universe;
  • Purple Mountains - st; and
  • Matana Roberts - Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis.
I promise: all of these are fantastic.

Now, without any more rigamarole, lots of proudly mixed metaphors:

Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2019 - original image by Amber Vittoria
(original image by Amber Vittoria)

  1. Julia Jacklin - "Don't Know How To Keep Loving You" [buy]
    My favourite song of the year is an extraordinary, unbending ballad about falling out of love; or else maybe not, no, not falling out of love but finding yourself at the end of love, without a clear road ahead. "I don't know how to keep loving you," Julia Jacklin sings, "now that I know you so well." I love the generosity of this song, the way it's grieving and wishing and loving at the same time: Jacklin's not casting her lover aside, she's not crowing about freedom—she's searching herself for what it means to feel this way. "I just want to keep loving you," she eventually sings, sadly, but it's not a plea for reconciliation. It's a mourning for everything she has to leave—the warm body beside her, their home, even her lover's mother ("I want [her] to stay friends with mine"). Jacklin performs this track with a clear-eyed mastery—she's not so close to the story that she's breaking in half; but she's folded, folded in two, examining the crease. Like most of the best songs, "Don't Know How To Keep Loving You" can stand up to other performances, other singers even—Jacklin performed a great version at Paste HQ in January, and allowed Lana Del Rey to take the lead mic at a gig in Denver in November. Still, this track's strengths aren't just its craft or even its singer, and it shimmers even for those of us who are happily in love: listen to the white-hot embers of the band's performance, drums + guitars + doubled vocals, all of them flashing like one of Magnolia Electric Company's farewell transmissions.
  2. Vampire Weekend - "This Life" [buy]
    Try as I might, I couldn't resist this song. Ezra Koenig has been writing fan letters to Paul Simon since as far back as "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa," and here it's a tribute to Simon's most cheerful, end-credits-sequence persona, the Pied Piper of Ham, with a bittersweet hook and a bounding, Tigger-like bassline. If it weren't for the cryptic (mildly menacing) refrain, "This Life" might feel like children's music—and maybe it feels like children's music anyway, harmless as a paper airplane. But a bop's a bop, and this is a pop song like a teddy bears' picnic, brilliant and summery, with old friends asnooze and bottles resting sideways in the grass.
  3. Sarkodie ft Akan - "All Die Be Die" [buy]
    From Ghana, a rattling chain of a song, or maybe the sound of a broken chain, a chain that's skipping and dinging behind you as you run away down the road. Sarkodie celebrates his life and the overall having of one: don't take it for granted, he raps (in a language called Twi), "all die be die," every death's the same, don't fuck around, be restless, be.
  4. Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens - "Gone" [buy]
    A pop-song of unusual material—fibreglass and poured concrete, aluminium and steel. Everything's clanging—the synths, the percussion, even the meeting of Chris & Charli's unsanded voices. It sounds less like a duet and more like a duel—not with each other, with us, an adversarial shout to the world that's making them mad.
  5. Molly Sarlé - "Human" [buy]
    Sarlé's song is like a compass-reading, an attempt to decode the measure of a man (or perhaps of herself). I love the way it's haunted—by God more than ghosts, I think, and reverb like a spirit. A bassline as generous as your own best self.
  6. Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus - "Old Town Road (remix)" [buy]
    A rare jewel in the history of pop sensations—exceptional for its moderation, restraint, like a cowboy who takes a single sip of water. Lil Nas X saved his superabundance of charm, ideas, ambition & energy for everything outside of "Old Town Road"'s two-and-a-half minutes—from his amazing live appearances to his procession of guests and remixes (whither Dolly?). The best of these versions is still the, uh, second one, the one that took it over the top: Cyrus lends a bit of texture to what is otherwise tarmac-smooth, overdoing it just enough to cement the song's sense of glee.
  7. Purple Mountains - "Nights That Won't Happen" [buy]
    I find I can still sit with this song, even since David Berman's death. It is the only track on the record for which this is true. All of Purple Mountains now feels like a suicide note—it's gutting to hear, not just Berman's despair but his talent so richly expressed. It should be obvious from its title that "Nights That Won't Happen" is not an exception. But whereas other tracks on this record make me feel sorry for Berman, or ruined by what occurred, or even, in a couple places, annoyed by the pretence of other obsessions, this song helps me make sense and make peace. It is not a song about ending your life so much as a song about having ended it, not why—but what to do, now, after that "black camel" is over the horizon and away.
  8. Nilüfer Yanya - "Paradise" [buy]
    London musician Nilüfer Yanya writes and sings songs that seem different from anything else—despite the familiarity of the instrumentation, the genre, the form. "Paradise" is a little Neneh Cherry and a little Dan Bejar, with verses and choruses that take strange turns, dodged side-streets: she arrives where you expect but by an alternate route, as if she's got her own unique GPS or a different kind of map.
  9. Rosalía ft Ozuna - "Yo x Ti, Ti x Mi" [video]
    I am helpless before Rosalía and these steel-drum triplets. If I'm a candle, she can blow me out.
  10. Jonathan Personne - "Comme personne" [buy]
    At the beginning of the year, I fell hard for Histoire naturelle, a psychedelic bedroom rock record by Jonathan Robert—frontman for the band Corridor (see #18). It's music that feels vaguely out of time, reverby and melancholic, and "Comme personne" is like a hazy, vintage anthem - recalling Television, The Byrds, and the Olympics ceremonies for some former Yugoslavian republic. Yet for all its riff & crash, "Comme personne" also retains a kind of softness, a vulnerability maybe, the impression that underneath all that softness is a humble secret flaw.
  11. Joseph Shabason - "Broken Hearted Kota" [buy]
    Shabason wrote this song for the soundtrack of Omega Man, Yung Chang's documentary about the wrestler Kenny Omega. I haven't had the chance to see the film but I feel as if I have, imagining it in shades of Shabson's pinks and violets, love and melancholy, sax and guitar, with "Broken Hearted Kota"'s plaintive melody as a plot-line or an arc, the next best thing to a story.
  12. Clairo - "Bags" [buy]
    A drowsy tumbling, stumbling, the inverse inside-out of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill." Clairo is slipping & falling, slipping & falling in love, listening to Joni's "Case of You," waiting on the couch and wanting to speak, to say, to stumble and tumble and say the rest of the story, the rest of the way.
  13. Leif Vollebekk - "I'm Not Your Lover" [buy]
    My favourite song on New Ways is a love-song turned inside out, where every memory and tenderness is remade by the title, by the chorus. Contains my favourite lyric of the year - a line about a sign, the highway (and rain).
  14. Maggie Rogers - "Overnight" [buy]
    I hope we'll eventually get around to a critical (re-?) appraisal of the work of Maggie Rogers—a songwriter whose one-and-a-half albums are already evidence of a considerable talent, closer to Carole King (who writes her own songs) than Carly Rae Jepsen (who mostly doesn't). "Overnight"'s lyrics are fine, but what I love most is the solemnity of Rogers' singing—the way she counterweights the production's quirks and clavs—and then the unexpected grace-notes of the key changes, those moves at 1:30 and 2:21, before the suspended question-mark of the ending.
  15. Lana Del Rey - "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have - But I Have It" [buy]
    I feel like Lana Del Rey's years of celebrity have finally passed through her system and the author of "Video Games" is able to deploy her talents with the care they deserve, that same sense of mischief & craft & self-control. Norman Fucking Rockwell poses often, but it doesn't pander. "Hope is a Dangerous Thing..." reminds me of Leonard Cohen in its patience and riddle, its droll deployment of rhyme—but you might also say it reminds me of Plath, if Plath had been cat-eyed, invincible.
  16. Zlatan - "This Year" [buy]
    "This Year"'s celebration feels completely unconstrained—broader than young or old, church or club—as if a party isn't something you throw, but something you hold inside you and can carry wherever you want. Festive, loose, but laced with a certain sorrow too, a little thread of silver, not so very unlike a different, North Carolinian "Year".
  17. Haim - "Summer Girl" [video]
    The teaser singles for Haim's third album have been an interesting series of tributes: "Now I'm In It" for Savage Garden, "Hallelujah" for Fleetwood Mac, and "Summer Girl," by far my favourite of the bunch, for Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side"—or maybe Q-Tip's "Can I Kick It?" beat. It's a song that's tidy and messy at the same time, like a Saturday morning, like a grown-up's bedroom. None of the hi-def shine from Haim's last LP: instead a simple ratatat, dreaming saxophone, and Danielle Haim's low serenade, like a voice inside your head.
  18. Corridor - "Domino" [buy]
    A bicycle down de Maisonneuve; a seagull in a storm; a kayak through the whitewater; or just a rock'n'roll band from Montreal spraying seltzer in the snow.
  19. Mount Eerie and Julie Doiron - "Love Without Possession" [buy]
    "Rose-petals were blustering"—and that's what I think of when I listen to this reply to Lost Wisdom (2008), one of my favourite albums of all time. Because Phil Elverum's new love is beautiful and deserved and rose-petal (and tragic) and also a kind of bluster. This song is clear as window glass. Every now and then Phil or Julie move close enough to breathe on the surface, look at the cloud there, wipe it off.
  20. Hatchie - "Without a Blush" [buy]
    Fluorescing, cascading space-pop from Brisbane's Harriette Pilbeam (what a name!).
  21. Vanishing Twin - "Magician's Success" [buy]
    Beefheart, Broadcast, the Flaming Lips, the Incredible String Band—Vanishing Twin's got a little of each of these in its goofy, virtuoso DNA, but I'm not convinced they've spent much time listening to other people's records; there's still too much clover to pick, both three-leafed and four-.
  22. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Julien" [buy]
    I like to pretend that this song's about Peter from the Delphi.
  23. Mac DeMarco - "Nobody" [buy]
    I'm a silver minnow. Mac's a blue-eyed angler, one hook in his maw. Reel it in.
  24. Sharon Van Etten - "Seventeen" [buy]
    The author of my favourite song of 2009 returns 10 years later with a track that's looking back to 20 years ago, a bitter accounting of the freedom and trials that awaited Sharon then. What seems at first like a march turns out to be a sprint, a motorcycle race. Van Etten hurtles down the pavement to the end of "Seventeen"'s fourth minute, plunging headfirst into the fire—and emerging from the wreck.
  25. Loraine James ft Theo - "Sensual" [buy]
    Aptly named—but despite its frilled tactility, or maybe because of it, the song "Sensual" reminds me most of is Loscil's 2010 collaboration with Destroyer, "The Making of Grief Point," where a different voice painted pictures over shifting electronic planes. James and Theo recognize the strength of a song like this is in the way its angles meet, the elements sparking and refracting instead of just coming to rest. "Sensual" doesn't just absorb light, it makes it.
  26. KH - "Only Human" [buy]
    Four Tet's Kieren Hebden snips and loops Nelly Furtado, of all people, to create this dry dancefloor filler, a track that's simultaneously bright and dark, grim and florid, like a warehouse filled with children in multicolour clothes.
  27. Katy Perry - "Never Really Over" [video]
    I'm already on the record for my vulnerability to a certain strain of Katy Perry's lab-grown pop, and the industrial chemists at KP HQ have done it again. Perry undoes my defenses every time the post-chorus(?) snaps in, synths flashing into double-time.
  28. Angel Olsen - "What It Is" [buy]
    With its radiophonic fuzz and elastic-band beat, "What It Is" feels at first like some hokey pop throwback—the aural equivalent of Bronner's peppermint soap. But the string-section's sleeker than they ever had back then; the drums are blown-out; Olsen's silhouette here is glitchy, pixellated, a JPG full of artifacts. Pleasant as it is, "What It Is" will break you record player; it hangs crooked on a wall.
  29. Daniel Caesar ft Koffee - "Cyanide (remix)" [buy]
    I want to live wherever "Cyanide" lives—where the breeze is a touch and the sunlight's caramel. (That's Koffee on the new verse and Kardinal Offishall helping out on backing vocals.)
  30. Luke Temple - "Henry in Forever Phases" [buy]
    Maybe this is a glimmering folk-motorik song about Hallmark channel series When Calls the Heart, but probably not, probably Here We Go Magic's Luke Temple is singing about a different Abigail and Henry, an Abigail who is generous and a Henry who is disfigured, both of them "unfolding," possibly quantum, as if every love story is happening in multiple universes simultaneously, like four notes at the same time, a chord. A song I could spend a few years inside, beautiful.
  31. Daphni ft Paradise - "Sizzling" [buy]
    Daphni (aka Caribou aka Manitoba aka Dan Snaith) turns 10 seconds of Paradise's "Sizzlin' Hot" into five minutes of gibbering disco emergency, with drums that feel like axes to a burning chicken coop, smashing the walls til every panicked hen has gone free.
  32. Arlo Parks - "Cola" [buy]
    A dusty young song with so many amazing lines, from the opening kiss-off ("It's better when your coca-cola eyes are out of my face") to the coo of the chorus ("Take your orchids elsewhere / elsewhere"). Parks' level-headed soul is ravishing but discreet, precious as a key.
  33. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - "Ancestral Recall" [buy]
    The title track for Adjuah's latest, magisterial jazz album seems like a twist-up of Coltrane's "Acknowledgment" and Terry Riley's "In C," an overture pointing up the hill to unseen heights, the glory ahead that's the memory behind—the journey that's also the destination.
  34. Niniola - "Boda Sodiq" [video]
    Another song with its own twilit weather. Although the (Nigerian) house backing recalls Burial's nighttime uneasiness, Niniola's vocals bring an effusive, kinetic pleasure—a pleasure that's instant and beyond question, even without watching the moment she first heard the beat, literally leaping ontop.
  35. Aldous Harding - "Weight of the Planets" [buy]
    A shuffle that feels almost beachside—that is until the sinister gist of the refrain: Harding's (ex-)lover's gaze "sucking me out" like Saturn's gravitational force. Bar by bar, moment by moment, the song gains force and strangeness, a playfulness that's richer than mere conviction. After all, the reason we leave someone isn't usually (just) that we believe we should. It's because we want to play.
  36. Kes - "Savannah Grass" [buy]
    I'm defenceless before the clatter of Kes's soca anthem, despite its towering deployment of synths. Those chords are a little too much—at best they're like "XO," at worst they're mid-tier Coldplay—but they also give this party-tune some heft, the sense that it isn't just passing by.
  37. Bertrand Belin - "Sous les lilas" [buy]
    "Je tombe sur toi," sings Bertrand Belin, I fall upon you, as piano and guitar play a figure just slightly out of time. The hunger of this song, its violet love, falls upon the evening and makes the bare trees seem heavy.
  38. Richard Dawson - "Jogging" [buy]
    Like most of Dawson's work, "Jogging" falls half-way between Sleaford Mods and Scott Walker—in a realm where music & lyric can clash in productive ways, making hay with that weird destructive energy. "Jogging" is partly a juddering attack of the daleks, part metal-tinged Fountains of Wayne, part Jenny Hval or Owen Pallett. An urban short-story set forcefully against electric guitars, as if Tenacious D had a Cambridge PhD and a subscription to Jacobin.
  39. Tove Lo - "Glad He's Gone" [buy]
    Dragged down by its trashy, semi-incompetent wordplay, "Glad He's Gone" is still one of my favourite pop tracks of the year, carried by the elastic leaps of its melody and Tove Lo's singing.
  40. Jaimie Branch - "Prayer for Amerikkka pt. 1 and 2" [buy]
    The American jazz trumpeter and her ragged, unhesitating band offer a prayer—or maybe two—and neither of them are kind. (Thanks Julien.)
  41. Kito & Empress Of - "Wild Girl" [buy]
    A song of true 2019, using chords from 1996. Kito, an Australian beatmaker, sews together sounds from Burial to Kiiara to Miley, producing a quilt of unusual glamour and unlikely tensile strength. A song like this, filled with all the sweetness of today's pop & EDM, ought to make my teeth hurt. It's a tribute to Kito—and to Empress Of's solemn delivery—that "Wild Girl" instead feels nourishing, almost (?) good enough to last.
  42. Blick Bassy - "Where We Go" [buy]
    Light as a moonbeam—just a singer, some cello and trumpet, making music about what comes next. Born in Cameroon but living now in France, Bassy is the latest in a series of otherwise "world" artists who have made incredible, contemporary-sounding records with the Paris label No Format. (Their previous signees include Mélissa Laveaux and Oumou Sangaré.)
  43. Billie Eilish - "ilomilo" [buy]
    Billie Eilish's biggest singles have a bit too much Marilyn Manson for me to bear repeated listens, but I love and admire her weird flavour of artistry: the space, the whirligigs, the mixture of circus, graveyard and art-school. I didn't know Lorde needed a stoned, Tom-Waits-ian nemesis, however I'm glad Eilish has reported for duty, mischievous and sad, with red eyes.
  44. Michael Kiwanuka - "I've Been Dazed" [buy]
    Whatever dazed Michael Kiwanuka, he seems OK tbh. Dragging his feet through London, a shuffle that picks up momentum and all sorts of pretty chaperones, squirrels and sunbeams and darting jays.
  45. A-Star - "Solege" [video]
    African (via London) hip-hop with a beat that's been cooked down to the metal, til it's hot and dry and dangerous. A-Star's clipped rhymes make him seem like cartoon or an SNL character, a kindly bandit who would help you change your tire.
  46. Sampa the Great ft Ecca Vandal - "Dare to Fly" [buy]
    The greatest dancers of all do not even need to move.
  47. Jenny Hval - "Ashes to Ashes" [buy]
    A song that's exactly as Jenny Hval describes it, in-song: a dance track, a club song, about a burial and a dream. "Even the groove was filled with sadness / Every beat went all the way down / Into the two holes in the ground."
  48. Brittany Howard - "History Repeats" [buy]
    Squelching, thrilling, kitchen-sink funk from Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard, who fixes the listener with a gimlet eye and a million-dollar grin.
  49. Afro B ft Wizkid - "Drogba (Joanna)" [video] (MP3 broken? No idea why.)
    Jury's out on which of "Drogba (Joanna)"'s dedications is most important—whether it's the girl called Joanna or the footballer named Didier Drogba. I love a double love-song, especially when it moves across a dance-floor like a slow, majestic garter snake.
  50. Beirut - "Landslide" [buy]
    Like a shining golden monument pointed toward the land where you came from, sculpted in the shape of a towering middle finger.
  51. Beyoncé - "Find Your Way Back" [buy]
    Taken from Beyoncé's generally uneven Lion King tribute album, "Find Your Way Back" isn't just faux-afrobeat—it's real afrobeat, with contributions from writers and producers like Sarz, GuiltyBeatz and Bankulli. The beat's the best thing about "Find Your Way Back," low and indigo, and I take pleasure in imagining it as the soundtrack for a grown-up Zazu, wearily flapping his way home from work.
  52. Men I Trust - "Tailwhip" [buy]
    A song that's like lighting, because there's good lighting and there's bad lighting, anyone who's ever taken a photo knows this, the way some light makes you ugly an other light makes you beautiful, or brave, or sickly, and this light is the kind that makes you mysterious, unfolding, like #25 maybe, but artificial light, not natural, Men I Trust bought fancy LED light panels at the plaza on St-Hubert.
  53. Stormzy - "Vossi Bop" [video]
    "So much Vossi I might open up a Vossi shop," Stormzy raps, and I hope he does—a shop where he sells Courvoisier and does the Vossi Bop all day, shakes customers' hands, flirts, steals girlfriends, tells jokes, cements his reputation as a neighbourhood institution, a local treasure, lends people money and secretly reads books, Zadie Smith and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, while soccer plays on a screen in the corner. (PS: Fuck Boris.)
  54. Li'l Andy - "All The Love Songs Lied To Us" [buy]
    A country song about love songs and their deceptions, rich with wit and kindness—the sense that tall Andy knows why the songs lie so much and is grateful that they do. I love the sound his band found here—neither too dry nor too sweet, serious but laughing, like children playing soldier.
  55. Big Brave - "Holding Pattern" [buy]
    Heavier than any heartbeat, Big Brave's minimalist metal stamps on and on and on, like someone testing the ice, someone testing it and still not believing, waiting for the crack-up, the ritual, for the others to arrive and for whatever it is comes next. Ten minutes long, expansive and transforming—when the songs modulate in "Holding Pattern"'s second half it's as if the stars have changed, the constellations shifting, and you recognize the power of Robin Wattie's voice, its capacity to make skies move.
  56. Arthur Russell - "In Love With You For the Last Time" [buy]
    When I was younger and dumber, I thought Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" was an unbarbed bit of resignation, the song of a singer who was at peace with an ending and saying goodbye. (It is not.) But Russell's "In Love With You..." is I think, mournful but content, abiding, among the sweetest farewells I have ever head. It is still a song full of heartbeak, but it's stronger than its regrets, clear in its knowing, maybe even wise.

    Astonishing to me that Arthu Russell's musical vaults are still turning-up collections as rich and deep as Iowa Dream.

  57. Big Thief - "Not" [buy]
    Big Thief put out one album in May, another in October, an incredible pace for a band whose dark-eyed, natural indie rock is already leaving an important mark on the scene. "Not" begins in a procession of negations, Adrianne Lenker enumerating all the things "it" is not, from "a ruse" to "the room" to "the meat of your thigh." It ends with fire and confession: three minutes of electric guitar, furious and despairing, or perhaps, in the end, full of hope.
  58. Sigrid - "Never Mine" [buy]
    Synth-pop that rewards the hangers-back: join the dancefloor half-way through, crashing into all your friends.
  59. Floating Points - "Falaise" [buy]
    Chamber music, a tiny pastoral, which gradually reveals itself as an electronic miniature, glitching in the dawning of the countryside.
  60. Coldplay - "Arabesque" [buy]
    Working with Stromae (!) and Femi Kuti, Coldplay offer their most successful experiment in years—a bristling second line that's constructed around saxophone and kickdrum, surprisingly menacing guitars, and "Coldplay's first official lyrics to feature profanity." Maybe it's a song about refugees, maybe immigration or foreign aid, it's a bit too vague for me to be certain—but I can fault neither Coldplay's intentions nor their execution, their willingness to build a different kind of soapbox and stand up on it.
  61. Tresor ft Msaki - "Sondela" [video]
    South African slow jam, glinting like a fortune.
  62. Sandro Perri - "Wrong About the Rain" [buy]
    Maybe it's a song about giving up religion, maybe it's a song about findng it, or finding something better up there, in the space between the raincloud and the shower, where atomic reactions occur like squiggles of guitar and skittery drums, a falsetto gone lilting into a microphone's ear.
  63. Biig Piig - "Sunny" [video]
    Mumble and cowbell, funk in fullest slink, as if the sunset's a curtain you can draw across the sky.
  64. Diplo & Cam - "So Long" [video]
    Lil Nas X, what hast thou wrought? As poorly as I fear they'll age, I find much to enjoy in 2019's suite of stripped down country/dance tunes, where sinuous melodies wind across bedroom beats (see also #81). They seem tailored for dancing—a different kind of dancing, maybe, 15 seconds at a time, but dancing all the same, it all counts.
  65. Operators - "I Feel Emotion" [buy]
    A glittering new wave song and one of Dan Boeckner's best vocals in years, full-hearted and certain. Shinier than anything he ever made with Handsome Furs (or possibly even Wolf Parade), but still a little grimy, tarnished, waiting for a purifying ray.
  66. Victoria Monét - "Ass Like That" [buy]
    A song that begins like a love-song to the gym, literally—and honestly doesn't get very far from that. But I'm endlessly impressed by the production choices Monét has made on this slice of gym-bunny R&B—the way she leaves it so lean and stripped-back, its horns humbly regal. It's a better testament to pride of hard work and exercise than any flailing Iggy Azalea flop, a more beautiful song than anything I'd expect anyone to dream up at the Y.
  67. Khruangbin and Leon Bridges - "Texas Sun" [buy]
    Bridges (from Atlanta) and Khruangbin (from Houston) collaborate on a tribute to the Earth's second-most important celestial body and the way its heat feels in Texas. I'm less impressed than most by Bridges' voice and songwriting, but I love hearing him with Khruangbin, who have gradually become one of my favourite contemporary bands—albeit for playing in the background, where their mastery of sound and space can enfold the rooms I'm moving through. Here, Bridges lets them do their thing and they let him do his, broadcasting charisma, narrating the way the sunbeams move through the air.
  68. Lucy Dacus - "Dancing in the Dark" [buy]
    I'm usually cautious including covers in this list—it can be hard to tell where the cover picks up and the original leaves off. But game gotta recognize game and Dacus's Springsteen take does more than just hold up the memory of the original. There's a weariness I love about the way Dacus sings it—as if her conviction, her impulse to dance, comes out of just how tired & worn-out she is. She's not a manic rock-star just dancing everywhere she goes; she needs to be brought to this point, by long hours and bullshit, the assiduous work of her hands upon her guitar.
  69. Mahalia ft Burna Boy - "Simmer" [buy]
    If the heat is high enough, everything becomes frictionless. Even an argument glides.
  70. The Highwomen - "Crowded Table" [buy]
    One of the obvious highlights of this year in country was the debut album by a super-group called The Highwomen, consisting of Nashville singer-songwriters Brandi Carlie, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires. "Crowded Table"'s hygge and harmonies make it my clear favourite, a song of humble gratitude that reminds me of CSNY's "Our House". "I want a house with a crowded table / and a place by the fire for everyone / Let us take on the world while we're young and able / and bring us back together when the day is done."
  71. Palehound - "Aaron" [buy]
    A song of forceful love, insistent love, love that's knock-knock-knocking on a worthy door. Palehound's Ellen Kempner sings to a partner (literally) in transition, to Aaron, tells him: "I can, I can, I can, I can, I can, I can, Aaron I can." (Thanks Peggy Sue.)
  72. Beauts - "Good Measure" [buy]
    "Good Measure" is one of those songs, a face like one you feel you've seen before. "Oh, it's you--" But you've never met, it's new, "Good Measure" just reminds you of old friends, former lovers, the way the light looked on other Wednesdays, when the guitars were jangling and the drums were cantering and the voices were all in tune.
  73. Bill Callahan - "Morning is my Godmother" [buy]
    I like to imagine that every morning, before his coffee even, Bill Callahan pulls out the four-track and sings his tousled blanket thoughts. (Merci comme toujours, Alex.)
  74. Better Oblivion Community Center - "Dylan Thomas" [buy]
    Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst unwind a dark-hearted rock song full of jangle and stomp, conviction and despair, like the rope you might throw out the window or hang above the door.
  75. Ed Sheeran & Justin Bieber - "I Don't Care" [video]
    The first time I heard this song I was in a hotel room in Prince Edward Island and before I clicked play I thought, "Oh please don't be any good," because Sheeran & Bieber & their corporate masters have already taken enough hours from my life: but lo, it was good, and I was fairly helpless in the Maritimes.
  76. Bonnie "Prince" Billy - "Building a Fire" [buy]
    I wouldn't have predicted that what I was waiting for was a duet between Bonnie "Prince" Billy and a clarinet. "Tomorrow is an octopus," Will Oldham sings, "you can look for me there," and I don't know quite what he means, but I feel like the clarinet does, it meets and holds his eyes, nonplussed, it understands Oldham's wisdom and will hold (all) my hand(s) until I work it out.
  77. Fireboy DML - "Jealous" [buy]
    Not, alas, a Nigerian rework of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy." Yet Fireboy DML's on-mic charisma is not so very far away from Lennon's; over a luscious moonlit beat he sings with handsomeness and intelligence, explaining—without distress—the many ways he's been undone.
  78. Hand Habits - "Placeholder" [buy]
    A song without forgiveness, its resentments expressed in honed electric guitar and Meg Duffy's velvet voice, her glove around the knife, better prepared now for a moment when she should use it.
  79. Maverick Sabre - "Drifting" [buy]
    "Drifting"'s beat is all movement and contours, following the curves of the city like a kid on a skateboard, painting a grey day in drum-break, jingle and Sabre's bare bassline. Self-produced by the Irish rapper, "Drifting" coasts under its own calm power, handsome and self-sufficient. (Thanks Whatever's Cool With Me)
  80. Santi - "Sparky" [video]
    "I'm a liar," Santi sings, over "Sparky"'s dirt-dry drums. At first it sounds like "lawyer"—"I'm a lawyer,"—but no, the Nigerian rapper's more dangerous than that, he's telling us he really can't be trusted, not today, going where he's going, stalking his enemies, darkly (yes) sparky.
  81. Blanco Brown - "The Git Up" [video]
    Certainly a big chunk of my affection for "The Git Up" is a halo from the TikTok dance challenge of the same name, which offers my favourite mixture of the carefree and ridiculous. Without it, Blanco Brown's sunny country-rap song wouldn't have seemed particularly dance-floor ready, but from "Louie Louie" to Shaggy, one of the pleasures of an unexpected hit is the way its listeners uncover concealed beats, hidden moves.
  82. Cate Le Bon - "Daylight Matters" [buy]
    A fruit-plate of a song—green and orange and banana-yellow. Cate Le Bon sings a serenade in her creamiest voice while her band plays sweet, loopy valentines to a lover who's already disappeared.
  83. Maison Neuve - "Vega" [buy]
    "Vega" is an ending, an ending in the present continuous, something that is still ending, in the weeks or months before Arthur Russell's song at #56, in the endless minutes of pointless coffees, as love sluices away, as dreams expire, as spirits grow tired. "Mais on cesse de rêver, bébé..." he sings—"But we give up dreaming, baby, like the guys used to sing about..." and then an electric guitar searching and searching and searching, reverberating in an empty room.
  84. Rapsody ft D'Angelo and GZA - "Ibtihaj" [buy]
    It's beautifully 2019 when a rapper names a track after a hijab-wearing swordswoman, reconfiguring "Liquid Swords" and getting GZA himself to jump on the same beat. "An MC should electrify, beautify / strive to empower / inspire / transform a worldview," he raps, and Rapsody does just that—acknowledging her predecessors, saluting her sisters, bending the meter to suit her vision. And who knew what I wanted from D'Angelo this year was to get all Monster Mash-y, traipsing around a track like Casper in a mansion.
  85. MUNYA - "Des bisous partout" [buy]
    Silken swish and sharpened skates, under MUNYA's whispered coo. Less troubled than fellow Montrealers like TOPS and Helena Deland, but similarly dressed, in a pastel snowsuit, mirror shades.
  86. Steven Lambke - "Dark Blue" [buy]
    A love-song penned in faintest finepoint, thin poetry—and then the accompanying page of blotted ink, bloomed blue, the giddy unsaid pieces. Lambke mutters merely, and lets it be sufficient: "Something in the corner rattled like a tambourine."
  87. Lil Pump - "Racks on Racks" [buy]
    Ugly, misogynistic, reprehensible enough that Portishead's Geoff Barrow - whom "Racks on Racks" samples - renounced the track, asking Lil Pump to lose the beat. So what to do when it's still a song that lifts up out of my mind's churn at least once a week? I wish to be honest with you. And so here it is, horrible and unforgettable, wildly careening, sticky as a recent chewing-gum stain.
  88. J Balvin and Bad Bunny ft Mr Eazi - "Como un Bébé" [buy]
    Reggaeton princes from Colombia and Puerto Rico, featuring with a Nigerian singer—and a Nigerian beat—for this golden-tinted invitation. "Baila pa' mí," they sing, Dance for me, again and again, as if each of these entreaties has its own separate attraction, a different appeal. (Thank you Nat!)
  89. Jennah Barry - "The Real Moon" [buy]
    Barry conceals her melancholy under sprightly guitar and flute, even a luxurious horn solo, but the plainsong of her restlessness is still there as plain as day, like a deer blinking on the lawn. A pleasant home is its own kind of trap.
  90. DAWN - "we, diamonds" [buy]
    Dawn Richards in a kind of back-to-basics—except she's Dawn Richards, so "back to basics" means stuttering harpsichord (or something like it), a beat that leaps between landscapes, from courtly pastoral to church basement to her girlfriends' kitchens. Richards celebrates her sisters without resorting to extravagance—she lets the words and music do the work, studious and proud.
  91. The Who - "Got Nothing to Prove" [buy]
    A bonus track on WHO, the Who's first album in 13 years, "Got Nothing to Prove" is built atop a demo from half a century ago (circa "I'm a Boy"). Strange to hear them singing "I've got nothing to prove any more!" way back in 1966—stranger still to imagining them revisiting it now and wondering what they do still want to make clear. They've made something odd out of this antique skiffle—Townshend commissioned a brand new orchestral arrangement, asking explicitly for "an Austin Powers fantasy." Despite the cartooniness, it works: there's a grace and whimsy to the combination of old tapes and young bombast, unlikely serendipity.
  92. Charlotte Cornfield - "Silver Civic" [buy]
    I don't mean it as a backhanded compliment when I say that my favourite part of "Silver Civic" is the quiet of the piano—not the piano but its quiet, half-forgotten in the mix. Like all of Cornfield's best songs, "Silver Civic" is extraordinary for the strength of its singer's choices, the distinct decisions she makes along the way. Some musicians are all instinct, fully automatic—but I admire Cornfield for her hesitations, her consideration, the way she studies a thing and then names it. "I'm just teetering in adulthood," she sings, unafraid, "like a flower in a drought."
  93. Jessie Reyez - "Far Away" [video]
    A resplendent and sensuous long-distance love song, the kind of song that makes you feel good, not because you're the one Jessie Reyez is singing to but because you're glad someone is, two people having a correspondence like this, desire stitched into song. (Thank you Natasha!)
  94. Pop Smoke ft Nicki Minaj - "Welcome to the Party (remix)" [buy]
    Nicki Minaj makes the most of the moment, jumping onto this smouldering Brooklyn drill track. I can't do much better than the string of YouTube comments underneath the original: "This song makes me want to rob my own home"; "This song makes me want to wake everyone up to tell them I'm going to sleep"; "This song make me want to call in sick on a doctor appointment."
  95. Gallant - "Sharpest Edges" [buy]
    Love an sympathetic R&B song where a recurring hook is, "Don't hurt me!"
  96. Tyler, the Creator ft Playboi Carti and Charlie Wilson - "Earfquake" [buy]
    I'm not quite convinced by Tyler's turn toward the sincere—or rather, I don't know quite what to make of it, to empathize or to snicker. It doesn't really matter—there's something constructive in the ambiguity—but I'd like this song better if I was sure it either was or wasn't just a trick.
  97. Fionn Regan - "Collar of Fur" [buy]
    At the end of the world, if things get really bad, you'll probably find me under a blanket listening to singer-songwriters and their fingerpicked guitars. In 2019, there wasn't much better than "Collar of Fur," where Regan's like Lennon or Keats, singing a moonlit scene, catching the temperature of the air.
  98. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - "Crime Pays" [buy]
    Listen—this is very bad advice.
  99. Maren Morris - "A Song for Everything" [buy]
    "One danced you through love / one rocked you through lonely / mixtaped your heartbreak and made you feel holy..." Surprised that it took as many decades as this—and the total obsolescence of the audio cassette—before someone wrote a line as handsome as that. All respect to Morris (and her two co-writers): it isn't easy to write a song about loving other songs, not without sinking into self-indulgence. It's so tempting to squeeze in winks and nods, and I appreciate that Morris restrains herself to just a few, Springsteen and Coldplay and Katy Perry (Morris is 29). Most of "Song for Everything" is reserved for the real topic at hand: the magic of music, because music is magical, it is, I know this is the dumb internet, but let's remember.
  100. Blue Jeans Bleu - "Coton ouaté" [buy]
    The strange truth is that a coton ouaté is a fleece sweatshirt, and Blue Jeans Bleu's "Coton ouaté" was the biggest song of the year in Québec, where I live, a province of 8.5 million people, 5.9 million of whom have watched the video for "Coton ouaté" in the seven months since it premiered. It is difficult to properly convey the appeal of this track—there's something of "It Was A Good Day" and "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat", but also "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)" and maybe "How Bizarre." About 75% of the allure comes from the blunt Québ slang of the chorus: "Heille! Fais-tu frette? / On est-tu ben juste en coton ouaté?" (Hey! Are you chilly? Or are you OK just in a sweatshirt?) This isn't self-serious: Blue Jeans Bleu are appropriately self-mocking, snazzy in fleece & cowboy boots, netting their rhymes like biscuits through the five-hole. And the music's fine too, if you like slap-bass and hand-claps and tunes you can't really dance to. Mostly I admire the carpentry of les paroles, the way the band's canny songwriter(s) fasten & dovetail the particular argot of a goosepimpled people.

Fin, for another year.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. (Invest in what's important or it will go away.) Be kind to each other, be brave, endure, undo the harm before you. Remember: you can put music into the air whenever you want.

Love,
Sean

Posted by Sean at December 9, 2019 9:07 AM
Comments

YAY! I'm so glad you had time to do this, Sean!

Posted by Dan at December 9, 2019 9:36 AM

Thanks for returning for this, Sean. Always highly anticipated!

Posted by Brayden at December 9, 2019 1:47 PM

Hey Sean!
Thanks so much for the list but you forgot to put Foxygen In at numero uno.
Whatsupwithat?
I would have chosen “Work” but there were about 6 songs on their most recent masterpiece that could have made it.
I mean come on!!!

Posted by Howard Mitnick at December 9, 2019 8:57 PM

Thanks so much for this. This list has been a holiday tradition for me for a decade now, through thick and thin. I discovered so much amazing music through this site. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the impact you and the whole gang had on me. I hope this site goes on. It is needed.

Posted by Tom at December 10, 2019 4:18 PM

On a whim I checked this page, hoping something new would appear. And then I found a top 100 songs! So glad you put this together and as always I'll spend much of the first half of 2020 discovering what I missed in 2019. I hope you and your family have a wonderful end to 2019 and look forward to reading more in 2020.

Posted by Mike W at December 10, 2019 9:45 PM

it wouldn't be christmas without this Sean, thank you

Posted by shane at December 10, 2019 9:52 PM

This has been a joy every year since I found it; thank you for keeping it alive.

Posted by Bryant at December 10, 2019 10:36 PM

Thanks so much for doing this Sean; reading (and listening to) this list has indeed become a treasured Christmas tradition. Every year I discover new artists and tracks that I had never heard of before.

Even with the blog slowing down to a crawl, I truly hope this list will continue for many years to come!

Posted by Simmers at December 11, 2019 3:58 AM

Thank you for this! Honestly christmas wouldn't be the same without it at this point.

Posted by Rob at December 11, 2019 12:41 PM

I am grateful that you do this. Thank you for sharing it, your lists are a gift.

Posted by JT at December 12, 2019 12:53 PM

So grateful you took the time to put this together. I dove right in and am enjoying some new finds - and placed a US pre-order for The Wagers to boot! Merry Xmas

Posted by Chris at December 12, 2019 3:24 PM

Thanks so much for this. Precious !

Posted by Tremolo at December 14, 2019 9:22 AM

Thank you for taking the time to do this Sean. Always a highlight of the year.

Posted by Phil Gyford at December 14, 2019 11:07 AM

This annual list has introduced me to so much good music over the last 14(?) years. I'm so glad you found time to continue it :-)

Posted by Adam E at December 15, 2019 5:50 AM

I literally shouted with joy when I saw this post. Thank you, once again, for this holiday gift! All the best to you and yours.

Posted by Guy at December 15, 2019 8:25 AM

Always glad for whatever Gramophone I can get, even if it's just this annual tradition. And that "just" isn't meant to belittle - it's quite a feat and I'm looking forward to taking in a lot of new songs.

Looking forward to The Wagers stateside. Happy Chanukah and stay warm in the meantime.

Posted by Matthew at December 17, 2019 9:06 PM

I woke up this morning before dawn; I'd left my charging iPod running all night, and popped in an earbud. 3 out of the next five songs were STG 'best of' selections from previous years! I thought I'd check the site today, just in case...and sure enough, Sean, you'd done it again! THANKS. Great to have you back (briefly). I'll be spending several days going through these. (And BTW, one of my favorite Xmas songs is from an old CBC holiday party album-Roy Forbes (Bim) "I Want A Mincemeat Tart for Christmas".) Thanks again. I'll be watching for the US release of the book...

Posted by J at December 22, 2019 12:41 PM

Thank you for anyother year of Said The Gramophone. This has been my internet home for years, that hasn't changed, but stayed as perfect as it is x have a great 2020

Posted by Neslihan at December 22, 2019 3:38 PM

So, so happy to see this list again. StG has been dear to me for 10 years now, through awkward teen years, creative spurts and droughts, a quarter life crisis, depression, homesickness, lovesickness, moments of desperation and moments of peace. Thank you (and Dan and Jordan, and Mitz and Emma and Jeff) for sharing all these years. A peaceful 2020 to you all.

(The Wagers is stellar, by the way, like a fine dessert--intensely satisfying and done way too soon.)

Posted by Pri at December 30, 2019 2:23 AM

I purposely kept my discovery of this list for a post-holiday "pick-me-up", as an incentive/reward for not complaining (too much) about heading back into my routine. That is the power and promise of this list, and I cannot thank you enough for it! All the best to you & yours for 2020.

Posted by Michelle at January 5, 2020 12:07 AM

Merci!!!

Posted by Ariane at January 13, 2020 6:10 PM

Been reading this list for well over a decade now...which makes me feel quite old, but what a wonderful touchstone of music familiar and new it’s been. So very grateful that you put this together. Many many thanks!

Posted by Hannah at January 14, 2020 10:06 PM

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(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
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Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
PAST AUTHORS
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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