As I’ve done in previous years, I’m doing a rundown of some of my favourite songs of 2019. I feel like my top albums list doesn’t always give a full picture of the kind of stuff I was listening to in a year. For one, this list is a lot weebier. As usual, this isn’t really my “top 35.” I’ve limited myself to one song per artist, just to keep things interesting.

The list is organized alphabetically by artist. I’ve included YouTube or Spotify links where I could. Band names and song titles in foreign languages are translated into English with the originals in parentheses.

  1. Aaron West & The Roaring Twenties – “Rosa & Reseda”. Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s side project can still deliver some folksy goodness, with “Rosa & Reseda” being one of his best bluegrass stompers. Handclaps optional.
  2. Akai Koen (赤い公園) – “Highway Cabriolet”. Heading into 2019 with a new vocalist, no one was sure whether Akai Koen could continue to deliver their brand of bright, upbeat pop rock. Their second single with former Idol Renaissance member Riko Ishino sees them going full-on dream pop, and it works extremely well. Y’all can breathe a sigh of relief.
  3. Bat For Lashes – “The Hunger”. This dark, bass-heavy synthpop tune sees Natasha Khan (performing under the moniker Bat For Lashes) channelling her inner Kate Bush. Brooding isn’t an emotion typically associated with Khan’s work, but she wears it well.
  4. beabadoobee – “She Plays Bass”. Consider this: British singer-songwriter beabadoobee is still a teenager. That’s right, she’s still a teenager, and she writes better dream pop tunes than you. Chew on that.
  5. Big Thief – “Not”. A snarky thing I could say about this song is that it’s an ultra lo-fi, less electronic version of U2’s “Numb.” More accurately, though, it’s Big Thief’s best song, featuring a hypnotic beat and a wicked guitar solo.
  6. Bombay Bicycle Club – “Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You)”. Last year, Bombay Bicycle Club came off their hiatus and put out a single in anticipation of their upcoming album, Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. If this is the kind of stuff that these post-punk revivalists have up their sleeve, then it could be a strong contender for album of the year.
  7. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Julien”. Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated didn’t grab me as much I’d hoped, but its opening track, “Julien,” is a slice of retro-pop perfection. More of this, please, Carly.
  8. Caroline Polachek – “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”. There might be a bit of a pattern here with pop artists who release somewhat disappointing albums with one or two fantastic tracks. Former Chairlift vocalist Caroline Polachek delivers a relaxed, kinda slinky tune with “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings.” I still wish we could have Chairlift back, but at least this song is good.
  9. Chance the Rapper ft. Darius Scott & Nicki Minaj – “Zanies and Fools”. Chance the Rapper has always brought love and positivity to his music, so it’s fitting that the closing track of his official debut LP, The Big Day, is probably his most celebratory-sounding since 2012’s “Prom Night.” It’s not quite a party, but it’s hella life-affirming.
  10. Charly Bliss – “Camera”. Lemonade from lemons: “Camera” was inspired by a real-life story where lead singer Eva Hendricks’ credit card was stolen and used to purchase a very expensive camera. It also happens to be one of the band’s best songs.
  11. Clairo – “Bags”. I know this list isn’t ranked, but if it were, this tune would be somewhere near the top. I lost track of how many times I put this song on loop, just went about my business, and let myself soak in the soft strumming, delicate drumming, and perfectly-positioned synth lines.
  12. Copeland – “Colorless”. If anyone were hoping for old-school Copeland to return in full force on Blushing, they must have been disappointed. But a lot of the album’s tracks do bring back the crunchy aggression that was missing on Ixora, and “Colorless” is the best example, mixing ambient synths with distorted guitars for an explosive, fuzzed-out freak-out and some booming brass in its second half.
  13. DAOKO × MIYAVI – “Senkyaku Banrai” (「千客万来」). Japanese alt-pop goddess DAOKO is no stranger to experimenting with new sounds, and her collaboration with guitar maestro MIYAVI provides a bridge between her typical synthpop and more adventurous electro-funk. It’s supremely catchy, and it makes me want to get up and dance around.
  14. Edoga-Sullivan (エドガー・サリヴァン) – “Wonderful Wonder”. A weird gross ecchi anime like Ao-chan Can’t Study! doesn’t deserve a theme song as catchy as “Wonderful Wonder.” This pop-rock tune will have you tapping your toes and clapping your hands. (Side note: I know that the band’s name is meant to transliterate to “Edgar Sullivan,” but they officially transliterate it to “Edoga-Sullivan.” Don’t blame me.)
  15. Hibou – “Flood”. The closing track on Hibou’s third effort, Halve, is one of its darkest, and also one of its most complex, featuring complex synth lines and a lengthy, wall-of-sound instrumental coda. Hibou have never sounded better.
  16. Japanese Breakfast – “Essentially”. Despite not releasing a new LP last year, Michelle Zauner and her erstwhile side project turned full-time gig, Japanese Breakfast, were seemingly everywhere in 2019. She was on TV, she was writing widely-circulated essays, she was selling out huge live shows, and let’s not forget, she’s scoring the hotly-anticipated Sable. With “Essentially,” Zauner demonstrates why she’s so in-demand: her knack for writing memorable dream pop earworms is unparalleled. (Side note: I have no idea why W Hotels launched a record label. Stop asking.)
  17. K.Flay – “Good News”. K.Flay is now a veteran of the indie music scene, and there’s now a maturity in her music that wasn’t previously present. But she still lets loose on her third LP, Solutions, and “Good News” is perhaps the album’s celebratory track. Try not to dance when it starts playing.
  18. La Dispute – “Footsteps at the Pond”. Jordan Dreyer doesn’t sing. Not really, at least. He yelps, he murmurs, he kinda half-raps… but he doesn’t sing. The feat the La Dispute vocalist accomplishes on “Footsteps at the Pond” is to make you think he’s singing. His voice hints at shape and melody, carrying his bandmates’ riffing and drumming forward. It’s really a remarkable piece of music, and a testament to the fact that spoken-word doesn’t have to mean boring.
  19. Lizzo – “Juice”. This track was one of the most popular tracks of 2019, so putting it on here is no surprise. But hey, Lizzo’s self-love anthem is a friggin’ great song. Sue me.
  20. Lulileela – “Dive”. Lulileela has been on the Korean indie scene as a bassist for a while. But over the past few years, she’s been performing as a solo artist, and she has a knack for mixing funk, indie rock, and pop into a great package. “Dive” is among her catchiest tunes.
  21. mabuta – “prehistoric”. I don’t know much about Japanese pop-rock band mabuta, but I do know that “prehistoric” seems designed to play over the credits of an American teen drama. What can I say? I’m a sucker for that kind of music.
  22. MARKET SHOP STORE – “Pygmalion Land” (「ピグマリオンランド」). Japanese all-female post-hardcore band MARKET SHOP STORE hasn’t gotten off the ground as much as I’d hoped, but with catchy, complex tunes like “Pygmalion Land,” their big break should come soon, right? I can dream.
  23. Meg & Dia – “American Spirit”. I’ll readily admit to preferring the old alt-rock Meg & Dia to whatever they’re putting out now, but “American Spirit” really captured my attention for some reason. Maybe it’s because you don’t expect to hear a pop tune take aim at consumerism and the self-help industry. Very few people wrote lyrics as barbed as “My books say I’m a badass for just $12.99” in 2019.
  24. Michael Kiwanuka – “Hero”. Damn, this song is a blues-rock masterpiece. With funky keyboards, “ooh”s and “yeah”s, and a fuzzed-out guitar solo, it’s a rockin’ good time.
  25. Mineral – “Your Body Is The World”. Another song that would probably be near the top of my list, were it ranked. The world might have moved on from one of the most important bands of emo’s second wave, and a two-decade hiatus certainly didn’t help matters, but this track and last year’s “Aurora” demonstrated that Mineral is better than ever before.
  26. The Mountain Goats – “Younger”. I guess The Mountain Goats is a jazz-folk band now? Okay, maybe that’s taking things too far, but thumbs up to whoever decided to stick a saxophone solo in this song.
  27. Pedro the Lion – “Black Canyon”. “Black Canyon” is heavy shit. It tells the story of a man who commits suicide by stepping in front of a truck and the paramedics’ futile attempts to save his life. David Bazan’s lyrics are evocative, painful, and impressive.
  28. Perma – “To Let You In”. While a lot of Perma’s Fight Fair skyrockets between genres, “To Let You In” is planted fairly firmly in modern shoegaze. The male/female vocal interplay keeps things interesting throughout.
  29. Polkadot Stingray – “Love Call” (「ラブコール」). This is probably among the weirder Polkadot Stingray songs to feature here, considering how straightforward it is, featuring very little of the band’s trademark intricate fretwork. There isn’t even much of a guitar solo! But for my money, it’s one of the band’s best, catchiest songs.
  30. Radwimps – “Is There Still Anything That Love Can Do?”. Radwimps are probably only known to Western audiences as the dudes who score Makoto Shinkai’s films, and “Is There Still Anything That Love Can Do?” won’t do anything to change that impression. But it does work independently of the film it’s from, Weathering with You, as a sublime piece of pop-rock balladry.
  31. Sachiko Aoyama – “Vanilla” (「バニラ」). There were very few tracks I spun more in 2019 than Negoto’s “Suichuu Toshi.” Sadly, Negoto is no more, but lead singer and keyboardist Sachiko Aoyama is continuing on as a solo artist, debuting with her single “Vanilla.” It’s not very far removed from her previous band’s sound, in fact bringing back the prominent bass lines from Negoto’s early work. I don’t know if Aoyama will ever get out from under Negoto’s shadow, but as long as she keeps releasing tracks as catchy as “Vanilla,” I’m not sure that matters.
  32. Scandal – “Fuzzy”. Scandal’s upcoming Kiss from the Darkness is looking to be a much more slickly-produced affair than their previous album (and final major-label release) Honey. But they can still bring the raw rock energy, as they do on “Fuzzy,” which kicks off with some atonal distortion before diving into a propulsive pop-rock jam. Scandal might not be headed where I’d like, but at least we have this song.
  33. Split End – “Deep Love”. Look, I know there’s a lot of dream pop on this list, but it’s one of my favourite genres, okay? And Split End does it better than practically any other band. Here’s hoping they finally put out an LP in 2020.
  34. Totsuzen Shonen (火ヲ灯ス) – “Hi wo tomosu” (「火ヲ灯ス」). Sometimes you just need some old-fashioned punk rock to get in the mood, and Totsuzen Shonen get the job done. Heck, this is one of the best punk tracks of 2019. No idea why they’re shirtless in the video, though.
  35. The Twilight Sad – “I/m Not Here [missing face]”. I named The Twilight Sad’s It Won/t Be Like This All the Time as my favourite album of 2019, so I guess they get to be at the end of both lists. In any case, “I/m Not Here [missing face]” is the best track on an album full of great tracks, which is quite a feat. It combines the brooding atmospherics of shoegaze with the propulsive energy of post-punk revival for a truly fantastic track.

That does it for my roundup of great songs from 2019. Post your favourite tracks in the comments!