As is every list published on this blog, these “best songs” of the year are my opinion. That said, I am nixing the best videos list this year and so I felt it was only right to extend the songs list again. Scroll on to enjoy my favorite fifteen songs of the year. YouTube and Soundcloud playlists are available for your convenience; be advised that some songs are not available on those platforms.
15. Planningtorock – “Gay Dreams Do Come True”
Who doesn’t want an extra dollop of queer joy in their life? Planningtorock returned with more eclectic pop stylings this year, including All Love’s Legal and Gay Dreams Do Come True EP, which followed the album release in October.
14. Helado Negro – “Gemini and Leo”
Most noun band names lose their meaning over time, but not so for Helado Negro. His music reminds me of a waffle cone of vanilla and chocolate swirl, especially on the groovy single “Gemini and Leo” cut from his latest record, Far In. My parents are a pair of gemini and leos, so the warmth I get from the track comes from more than the instrumentation.
13. Nilüfer Yanya – “Keep On Calling”
If I had created a list of videos this year, this would have been a contender for sure. “Keep On Calling” has a haunting start but lays out breezy melodies before long. Nilüfer Yanya makes unexpected pop music, forging new paths to take us through age-old dilemmas of unrequited love.
12. Tropical Fuck Storm – “G.A.F.F.”
I think we can all relate to the premise of Tropical Fuck Storm’s “G.A.F.F.” The video’s imagery and aesthetics complement the angry indifference of the lyrics, and I gotta hand it to the band for really selling the apathy. Post-punk makes for the best working-class protest songs.
11. Momma – “Medicine”
Nostalgia is my middle name and Momma scratches a particular 90s alternative itch. The follow-up to last year’s imaginative grunge album, Two of Me, “Medicine” is a casual earworm. I live for the hook in the pre-chorus.
10. The Weather Station – “Wear”
Fashion is meant to be freeing—the most pure form of self-expression. But on “Wear,” pulled from The Weather Station’s urgent Ignorance LP, Tamara Lindeman weaves a metaphor around a wardrobe’s constraints. After all, the mirrored suit she wears on the album cover and across most of the other associated media makes her feel invisible.
9. Lars Bartkuhn – “Every Morning I Meditate”
Lars Bartkuhn released “Transcend” as a 12″ single in December. Serving as a reply to its A-side counterpart, “Every Morning I Meditate” is the year’s healthiest trance track. I certainly don’t do everything that’s good for me every single day, though I am trying to be better about practicing yoga and a skincare routine.
8. Pearl & the Oysters – “Wizzo”
Flowerland was everything I could have hoped for in a self-described space opera. Pearl & the Oysters employ such whimsy, it’s hard not to love, and “Wizzo” is all that and more. No spoilers, but the sitar in the outro absolutely steals the show.
7. KAINA – “Come Back as a Flower”
Another absolutely delightful video for a delightful ditty. KAINA’s hopeful and soothing track “Come Back as a Flower” is not necessarily out of the realm of possibility. Our bodies will return to the earth once we leave, and, regardless of the afterlife that you believe in, the greatest outcome would be for our decaying vessel to fertilize the roots of new life.
6. Georgia Harmer – “Headrush”
Fuzzy guitars, subdued percussion and some glockenspiel-like action all make “Headrush” by Georgia Harmer the perfect indie rock tune. Even Harmer’s swaying voice adds a dimension to the nostalgia she sings about. Ironically, now that she’s in the video accompanying the song, she will live forever in that day, if she gets to choose.
5. Aziola Cry – “The Ironic Divide”
This 21-minute epic is divided into four chapters and each one barrels into the next with a vengeance. I considered placing The Ironic Divide on my albums list, but I was particularly obsessed with the title track. And yes, it is over 40% of the record, but still…consider this my recommendation to also listen to the other three tracks to get the full picture of Aziola Cry’s power.
4. Benjamin Lazar Davis – “Snow Angels”
On “Snow Angels,” Benjamin Lazar Davis is hanging on by a thread, best exemplified by the plucked guitar accompanying the verses. The chorus provides the grinding contrast of an amp turned up too high for the inputs. Benjamin Lazar Davis Album (2021) did not make my list this year but the indie quirks that define the titular musician’s style are always apt.
3. Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders & London Symphonic Orchestra – “Movement 6”
Everyone went nuts for Promises, the collaborative record by Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders and the London Symphonic Orchestra—and for good reason. It disregards every convention and embraces the marginal nuances of the genres that each collaborator has mastered (electronica, jazz and classical, respectively). “Movement 6” stands apart with its own emotional narrative.
2. Trevor Lang – “The New! Solution”
Trevor Lang makes the type of indie pop that I hope never goes out of style. The vocal melody in “The New! Solution” carefully treads the heels of the guitar, interacting like a couple in a carefree romance. The lyrics are sobering yet still hopeful, especially with his commitment in the final three lines.
1. illuminati hotties – “Threatening Each Other Re: Capitalism”
In my coverage for Grimy Goods, I have already said so much about this track. It is brilliant in its pacing and lyrical structure, though just saying that makes the whole thing feel sterilized. illuminati hotties band leader Sarah Tudzin trudges through the verses punctuated with ah’s to demonstrate the cycles of desperation that capitalism thrusts us into—financially, socially, and of course existentially. Isn’t that genius?