Stream should be up roughly 8 minutes after this post is here
In the immortal words of Tkay Maidza, last year was weird, vol. 2. But you all know that this time. After all, I certainly didn't fly to the other side of the world in 2020, though arguably I spent much longer conversing with gamers due to everyone else being brought down to my level of being perpetually inside and online with nothing better to do. It feels dumb to say it, but those quirky family friendly multiplayer games really elevated things for me in unexpected ways. Fall Guys was a silly Takeshi's Casle-style romp that I'd been looking forward to ever since announced, though with reservations about matchmaking especially as an Australian. Someone I think I added on Steam to get an achievement in a game that I saw get played at SGDQ live in 2019 (ooh it does come back around) gave me a demo code back when they were highly sought after commodities, the GameStop stock of mid-2020, and I quickly realised that the game was going gangbusters. For solid weeks after release, it was just an endless series of gatherings to fill out 4-slot parties. I've often felt really anxious about my perception from other people, especially back in school when it seemed apparent how parasocial my limited reactions were with other people. A lot of me needing to make the first engagement with some of my closest friends because on their loftier tree of connections I was 2nd or 3rd tier at best. At one point last year though I was asked by literally 4 different people on the same day if I wanted to play Fall Guys with them, which didn't set in at the time but was very heartwarming in retrospect. Made nicer by the fact that I made these connections through my passion and aptitude for gaming.
And yet Fall Guys was only the entrée, because just weeks later, I mean 2 years prior, Among Us was released and I'm still immensely addicted to this day. It's a game I first heard about through watching a friend's stream, and by friend, I mean someone I went to school with who found my Twitch channel because of the SGDQ thing and wow sometimes things just turn out nicely. Among Us had more of a roadblock though, as it's a social deduction game which requires more than your average number of participants to get the ball rolling. 6-8 players can be okay with the right settings but the game is only at its best with 9-10 people, which is...more than I'm able to wrangle together in my overlapping circles. So for quite a while I was sitting on this game that seemed like a blast to play but couldn't even commit to buying it on fear that I'd never even get to play it right. Eventually I hopped onto a game with some strangers via a mutual friend (to this day I've never actually played in a public lobby, and I'm sure I'm not missing much), and I was really, really bad at it. It's easy to watch someone play and underestimate the sheer amount of information you have to process, and if you're playing in a voice chat as you should, communicating information solely for your own benefit knowing that others are working against you, is a mighty difficult task. If you're innocent, the truth works (usually), but as an impostor, you need to keep coming up with more lies and misleading statements while being careful not to say anything that can be called into question. As it were, I was watching one of my two favourite moderately but not monstrously popular Canadian streamers who casually mentioned playing Among Us on their discord server (which I'm on but rarely interact). Lo and behold a day or so later I see the server lit up with I believe two simultaneous lobbies and I casually parked myself in there, mostly to watch because there were already so many people that I couldn't imagine that I (especially some nobody) could get a go. One such session of these went on for literally over 24 hours with people rotating in and out. I was a rubbish player still, getting caught by all the noob traps of faking too many tasks, not faking enough tasks, and most importantly, killing someone while on camera. You make these mistakes once so you know not to do it again, usually. At one given point I actually got to team up impostor duties with said streamer and won despite probably not deserving to. If you loosely consider that a collaboration, then I can finally confirm I have had a Bacon Number of 5 ever since Cyberpunk 2077 came out. These sessions kept happening and started developing a regular clique of which I was part of. I got put in a DND alignment chart, I got put in the Children yelling "McDonalds!" triangle. Then we started just hanging out for the sake of it, playing things that weren't Among Us, and we even started our own server with Blackjack & hookers, but really no it's mostly the same except we have frequent movie watch parties, which I really appreciate as someone who constantly feels illiterate about such a major pop culture sphere.
That's also because I spent much of 2020 watching an ungodly amount of Jeopardy!. I think I had occasionally had sprees of interest in it from when it first got put on Netflix, and the other moderately popular Canadian streamer started making it part of his brand to talk about it a lot, which was prior to the relative big boom of 2019. Naturally what I'm saying is that James Holzhauer is to Jeopardy! what The Queen's Gambit is to Chess. And hey, Australia is permanently a year behind on syndication so little did I know what was in store for me back when the most exciting thing for a while was that a member of The Runaways won 4 games in a row. Actually a lot of people won 4 games in a row, while in the latest season, it's all about those 3 game streaks. It's actually one of my favourite dynamics about the show, that everyone starts off as just a stranger with an above average intellect, but there's always that tipping point where they become a minor celebrity in this niche, even though only a couple of players in the past year or so have even spent more than a week on the show, which in fact is only a day worth of episode tapings. I'd seen tournaments on Netflix in the past but going into them blindly gives you less time to warm up to the contestants. But going into the one that aired just a month ago was such a blast because I recognised nearly every contestant by that point (still waiting on SBS syndication to reach the last few) and it was extremely wholesome to see all those familiar faces again, although amusingly the tournament ended up largely dominated by the last bunch of contestants to have qualified for it. I'm well aware I rattle on way too much about it, but for me it's just a great combination of rapid fire trivia that's written in a way to let the correct response fall out of you, rather than wondering whether or not you know obscure fact #58392 like most trivia shows. Also Alex is a legend. The show is so structured that any sort of unusual thing he says or does becomes monumentally entertaining. Though it was something most people knew was coming, November's news still hit like a brick. I'm not good at processing grief but I spend hours upon hours reading up heartwarming stories that emerged in the wake. I've now got his autobiography which I plan to read at some point, which is of course relevant because the audiobook of it was nominated for more GRAMMY Awards than anything The Weeknd released.
Oh yeah on that note music was good. I once again wasn't putting it on the forefront, but I found a routine that worked for me to keep plugging away at discovering new stuff I liked and making charts of it. It actually got to such a automatic process that I scarcely was listening to new albums for a while, which probably impacted this list so don't expect a big album to clog up the top of this list like they usually do (the lower end though, yeah there's a few). The end result is to me a strange an interesting list. The obvious contenders are there in spurts, but it's also filled with more curious oddities, as my tendency to just hear something I like in the new releases pile and roll with it, rolls on yet again. I don't know if it's more sonically diverse than usual, it might be. I'm always just gravitating to anything that pokes out to me. So it all makes sense to me at least.
Also I haven't written properly about the Hottest 100 so let's do that here. It was great fun. My main concern always going into it is that it's inevitably going to have too many slots taken up by the obvious suspects possibly because as a fan, we fill obligated to give that push to maintain an artist's successful status quo. I wouldn't be surprised if vote tallies contribute to this as people see the groundwork in front of them and are more likely to gravitate to those names they like, leaving out possibly more interesting options from the less obvious names. In some respects that is what ended up happening. Like when you get to the top 30, it starts to become the same names over and over again. I generally like the vast majority of it though so it was still a fun listen then. Maybe I'll like more once I start flogging them on shuffle across the next 24 months. Honestly it was weirdly refreshing to find out just how much stuff by artists I thought I didn't like, I actually did. There's a gradual transformation from me being extremely unamused at the prospect of an extremely Victoria-centric song getting in but now I'm all in on this wave and hoping to see it in the ARIA top 50 tomorrow. Something I did say was that voting a song that barely got in is a really wonderful feeling. Voting a song that barely didn't get in isn't, but I did the former twice this year so it's a net positive. Lists of years past would be featuring a cross-over well into the dozens with my list and the Hottest 100. This one has less than 10 and yet I don't even care. Like statistically I could say that the Hottest 100 is going downhill from a personal perspective, but I still enjoy it no less than I used to. The Hottest 100 inspires some of the most angry bile on the internet because these expectations are set sky high, but honestly I'm loving the ride still. Good for me I guess.
The real mystery is if I can justify putting a well liked song at #100 or does it just feel like my hand has been forced by past transgressions. I guess we'll never know. But hey, life is a game of changing because we're now at a point where DMA'S figure in my list whereas so many other artists I was very much into around when I was clowning on DMA'S endlessly do not. You can't just say it's due to changing sonics as it's far from the first song of theirs I've liked, but it's a very likeable outing. A great control of pacing and peaking, and that fun thing that some songs do by overlapping previously separate layers and somehow it just works.
There are definitely songs in this list that I did not actually hear in 2020 and this is nearly one of them. Suffice to say it wasn't on my radar when it first came out but this album that I cannot begin to attempt to pronounce, by this artist that I cannot begin to attempt to pronounce was an instant vibe with me when I did hear it. Of course, the value of hearing pre-release singles beforehand has its strengths in that you don't absorb an entire mass of songs in one and have difficulty remembering which one them are. I had a song from this album stuck in my head when I was semi-awake one day and I don't remember which one it is. I'm about to learn which song this is as soon as it starts.
I was very slow to getting around to listening to "Circles" because I figured it was going to be a pretty heavy undertaking that I was not at all prepared for. But it was also an album that I really didn't know what to expect from, as a posthumous album that wasn't especially hastily put together, but also one from an artist whose creative trajectory wasn't especially clear in the first place. What we ended up getting seems about right I suppose but also I took to it pretty readily.
You'd think that I'd have heard so much music like this that I'd be numb to it, but somehow there are always some songs that manage to find their way to stand out enough for me. In the case of "Desk Chair", I think the simple situation is that they did not at all need to go so hard, and yet here we are. I didn't think it'd quite make my top 100 list but then I kept listening and realised that I couldn't leave it out.
The class of 2010 has done pretty well for itself but I must admit that I didn't expect to be writing about Grouplove again. I want to avoid talking about how music from January-February 2020 feels a bit weird to listen to now but clearly this is symbolic of something. The main thing to take away from it that this song manages to compell my favourite bad joke but also be extremely fun as a side gig.
It is very difficult to truly determine what is the algorithmic desired song structure. Whenever something that doesn't really fit in underperforms, it's quick to cry foul of generic listening habits but at the same time that's entirely ignoring every time a strange song does take hold. Maybe there's some layer of artist expectation involved, in that the Billie Eilish hit song expectations has a few archetypes but "my future" is assuredly not one of them. For me it makes me weirdly nostalgic for 2000s coffee house music which doesn't feel like something I should be nostalgic for, but this song makes a good argument for re-evaluation. It's all just so light and breezy which plays off well with the light optimism of the song itself.
Vaguely on the topic of 2000s coffee house music, I have especially isolated nostalgia for the early 2000s which is especially manifested in whatever particular songs struck a fancy with me. I didn't know what the charts were at this time and there was often little discernable correlation with that and what I heard, so it means that even something as shrug-offable as say Madison Avenue's cover of "Reminiscing" by Little River Band is a track I always like to go back to. I imagine for anyone older at the time either aware of the original, or growing numb to the Madison Avenue hit empire, it's a pretty forgettable outing. For me, it's an instant time capsule but one that holds up on its own as I find both of Cheyne's vocal registers pretty compelling and the whole thing just a pleasant melodic journey. I was already making this comparison when I first heard "Sushi In Tokyo" but this song oozes in it so hard that I feel the initial comparison wasn't deserved. Maybe most people would just call it indie girl voice and call it a day, but there's something about the way she controls her affectation to take control of the song's mood that it feels like a masterstroke.
Relatively speaking I only have a passing interest in Charli XCX's music so I never really know what I'm going to get. For that matter, when something does gravitate towards me, I feel a stronger kinship to it because it just as easily could've been a song that never clicked with me (or rather I didn't give it enough time for the chance to do so). "forever" tows the line between abrasive and simple. I think with a more conventional sound, the lyrics could fit into a crossover hit, there's even a(n assumably unintentional) slight nod to her biggest one in 'drove a car off the road'. But the core sentiment is so universal that it strings everything together in a cathartic way.
I listened to this album when it came out and enjoyed it, but with the absence of a big obvious draw, it was destined to be shelved until I inevitably returned to it in December to sift through for these purposes. What I ended up with is perhaps the most obvious result by which I mean I really like this song which sounds a lot like "Pretty Years". What is this if not a combination of the huge cathartic release of "Mallwalking" and the intense guitar straddling of "Dancing Days". Yet at the same time, it feels like D'Agostino has skipped back an undeterminable number of emo waves because I want to compare it to Built To Spill at the same time.
It's taken a number of years but we've got one of those fun big league promotions here courtesy of AYLA who's been on my radar for years at this point. This success comes by way of a team up with Reuben from Peking Duk which probably becomes apparent after the chorus of this song. It's a tasteful drop though that gels well with the general icy tone of the song.
I think I often spend more time admiring Laura Marling's music than actually listening to it. It didn't take long for her to assert herself as an evocative songwriter who wasn't just swept up in 2008 folk-wave with nothing to offer. Maybe at this point it's not necessary to say that she defies her age as she's turning 31 next week. "Held Down" isn't remotely re-inventing the wheel but is just more a reminder of her strengths in making a compelling performance under even the most simple templates.
Depending on your prior knowledge going into this list, this song might just sound a little bit familiar. The reason of course being that it was written and produced by the same person who did the OP & ED for the new Higurashi When They Cry anime series, and I couldn't help but laugh at how much this sounds like that OP which you may or may not be familiar with at this point. This song isn't from the anime, but instead a mobile Higurashi tie-in game that I was only scarcely aware existed when I first listened to this. I don't play mobile games so I wouldn't be a good judge of whether or not it's good but at least this element of it certifiably slaps. Last edited:
Clearly the real benefit of me adjusting all my lists for my End Of Decade purposes is so that I can make the astute observation that the #1 & #100 artists from last year's list have ended up remarkably close to each other a year later. Perhaps moreso than last year, Yuna is capitalising on what seems for me is an unprecedented interest in R&B-adjacent music which I didn't even notice until I put this list together. While last year she was mostly trading on songs with big hooks, this song only barely registers one at all, mostly working as a warm blanket.
I've evidently reached a point where I'm too cynical to get invested in many modern UK rock bands that don't rhyme with Jewel Phallus, which is either because I've seen the tale of the tape too many times or just more likely because I don't have time. BLOXX seem relatively promising though and this is a song that I could not bring myself to release from my playlist for a very long time. There's nothing especially deep to it, the song is rather direct. The stilted delivery and scattered line stops make it fun to sing along to in its own unique way.
I want to say deryk caught my eye with her evocative first single but it also applies to her visually striking EP artwork. I worry that putting this song here is going to date my list hard if she eventually releases a 'proper' version of this song, but honestly you could take out the qualifier from this and nobody would question the quality of this track. It only really feels that way at the start which feels like it's doing the Jasmine Thompson "more" thing by putting in a really early voice app recording.
I don't know if this is even the best Purity Ring song this year because I never got around to hearing the album, which is a common theme for me but hey, at least I'm honest. It's a strong effort in the world of fulfilling the Purity Ring brand. The production is often chaotic but a pretty & pleasant hook still manages to poke through.
If nothing else, Lastlings are proof that what I said about Eefje de Visser wasn't just an issue of language barrier. If you got me to plot together lines to correctly match up the 3 Lastlings songs I was into last year in terms of order, name, what they sound like and which one I liked the most, I would undoubtedly fail because human memory is mush and I won't pretend to be immune to it. Still, they've definitely found a niche that works for them.
It's strange that they say there's no cure for psycho and yet what am I listening to right now, I am a very good comedian. I can only assume that a member of this band is an avid Wikipedia editor because I've scarcely seen a more professionally written article for a band who I'm not sure technically qualify for Wikipedia's notability clause in the first place. I'm not sure I've heard anything else from them, but this song shows its borderline nu metal cards very quickly and suddenly I'm sold. On the other hand I do associate this song with the first time I heard it, which was just before I broke my 28 winstreak in Hades, so it's impressive that I didn't reject the song out of spite. Last edited:
I'm bad at ranking comedy songs. A principle rule I made for myself early on in my chart making days was to never chart a song if my primary interest in it is for comedy, largely because I was really into Flight Of The Conchords at the time and had no idea what to do with them. I'm also bad at ranking popular hit songs due to a complicated history with my own shyness. As much as I enjoy those annual novelty articles about 'What your favourite album of the year says about you', that itself is rooted in a frustrating tendency we can have to maliciously categorise people based on these small pockets of information. I'm not free of doing the same thing myself though I do try to internalise it and stop myself. So with that, it's kind of part of the reason I gravitate to the niche and obscure because knowing there isn't an easy out from which to ridicule me gives me a much needed safety barrier at times. This is all to say that here's a song that peaked at #39 on my chart that otherwise needs no introduction. In many ways it's the song of 2020 where for better or worse, your stance on it says a lot about you as a person. While this may look like another year of a spite-based top 100 entry, it honestly just comes down to the fact that listening to this song still now, I can't help but revel in it as a greatest hits package of absolutely shameless depravity. Also that bassline is perfect.
This song draws a lot of comparisons to "I Will Survive", which I completely get, but for me I instantly thought of "It's A Sin". Either of these is of course a very high compliment, though I am more partial to the Pet Shop Boys on that head to head. And of course really it should get compared to "Jolene". Still, it's a remarkably good example of a song that was always destined to get modest radio airplay, above average sales and absolutely zilch in the world of streaming (there's certainly an observation to be made about the ratio of plays between this and "Secrets" on YouTube vs. Spotify, although "Secrets" is weirdly censored on YouTube so I guess I couldn't blame people).
As the saying goes, girl put your old records on. Despite the title, this is not at all about boomer music, but instead extreme breakup pain, though depending on who you ask, there's probably a strong link between the two. This manages the impressive feat of being extremely overloaded but still feeling like it makes a heavy drop when the chorus comes through.
By my recollection, this is the 4th song that I have ever nominated into a #1 ACI debut, done purely as a semi-ironic response to the lack of debuts in the previous week. On my own chart it allowed Lucky Daye to baton pass away his own one hit wonder status and hand it over to SG Lewis. This is a nice chill dance tune though, one that I feel could get some popular traction if not for the problem of lacking a hitmaking name on it.
I regret to inform you that the start of this song sounds like the start of "Younger" by Ruel. I think when I first heard this I had really high aspirations for it as if it were to eventually become my favourite Two People song. That didn't quite happen but I still went away very much enjoying it. There's a moment where everything drops away before the chorus and it arrives with what feels like an airhorn, which might be the least likely place to find one.
Little Simz does a little bit better at defending her crown obviously. This is not a very long song but it doesn't need to be either, as it trades on the initial burst of energy that never really lets up. It's all about that sheer surprise when you first start listening to Schrodinger's Bang, especially when it comes on shuffle.
This is another song that I severely underestimated on my first run through. I think I'd been occasionally hearing new Phoebe Bridgers songs for a while that had mostly not really stuck with me but "Kyoto" definitely feels like the bid for stardom moment. For someone who's otherwise relatively low key, this song just sounds huge and triumphant, aside from how much of a downer it actually is.
I think it's a very good idea to put a huge banger as track 1 on an album, especially if it's not a single because it just hypes you up to coast through the rest. Rina's album is full of bangers in perhaps not the obvious way. One of my favourite moments is when she interpolates the actual victory jingle from Final Fantasy which is both hilarious and weirdly works. "Dynasty" on the other hand blends nu metal & Evanescence, but also scarcely rests on its tricks for very long, vaulting into a monster guitar solo barely 2 minutes in.
Kendrick speaks of playing Tetris in the first person but Tkay has it in the third person so it's not entirely clear if it should be considered a diss or not. Speaking of Kendrick I'm convinced that his voice is briefly sampled in the outro to this song. Have I ever mentioned though that Tkay is just on a mammoth winstreak lately though? I'm sure I'll get another chance to.
An extremely good song title all things considered, although it works best if you didn't listen to their other music from 2020 or you might have trouble remembering which song it is (shocking to think they released a song that doesn't say its title I know). Methyl Ethel have a rewarding discography that being said, just because when the songs do click, they often have very distinctive hooks & grooves which means listening to the proverbial greatest hits package is always fun. "Majestic AF"'s main trick is the classic chorus that never stops giving, with at least 3 distinct passages, like some sort of self-contained proverbial greatest hits package in the space of 20 seconds.
It has been a very long time but I have been notably rather dismissive of Troye Sivan in the past and he doesn't deserve it. At this point he's proven to be one of the most interesting artists in this country to amass a strong following. "Take Yourself Home" doesn't remotely sound like something that's focus grouped to hell because there are so many things about it that just scream 'you need to get rid of that'. But he didn't and you get a real treat for it. The spooked outro is just icing on the cake.
It's easy to look at all the different avenues that Halsey takes her music sometimes and wonder if her biggest hits are thus some manner of compromise for record sales. I don't think it's entirely fair as a lot of those songs strike me as especially personal with no real sign of being generally checked out for it. I think she's just eclectic like that. That being said, this hit me like a ton of bricks and I'm absolutely here for more of it. Not just from Halsey but Bring Me The Horizon as well for that matter, as I can't recall the last time they've sounded quite this relentless either. I love that she doesn't hold back either, absolutely belting it out at the end.
Park up your favourite lawn chair because it's actual Bernald. What I mean to say is the very unsurprising fact that Something For Kate's new album is very good, but for that matter, genuinely top tier. This obviously serves as a tip to the hat from arguably the #1 band most responsible for Something For Kate never winning an ARIA Award. It would be extremely funny if they were to end up winning the Adult Contemporary Award next year or something like that.
Honestly I couldn't tell you what Cosmo's Midnight are going for with this but it's working for me. Like it could be a straight forward love song but it's built around such a roundabout turn of phrase like it's trying to be extra. Punctuated by a choppy beat though, it proves to be evocative all the same.
I always feel a bit weird if I find myself gravitating to an album or discography as a whole that's seen in high regard, but at the same time not necessarily for the key moments that are generally seen as the best. Kind of like you're going halfway to buying into the consensus to not be a contrarian, but at the same time being a contrarian with the added adage of wondering if you're supposed to be liking something so much. This is all my roundabout way of saying that my favourite "Fetch The Bolt Cutters" tracks are probably not the same as yours, but on the other hand, most people tend to agree on this one. If the whole album is a bit too much to get through, this is a good bite sized experience, carrying all the quirky, frenetic energy into a more brisk 4 minutes.
This and another song that's not far away are carried so hard by their samples that I start to question myself on whether the actual songs do hold up without it. The seed for me liking this was definitely planted by the sample even if I couldn't recognise it, Montell Jordan's similarly sampling "Get It On Tonite" being a modest favourite of mine recently. The end result is that I think what Biig Piig is doing on this song is good, but for the most part, I'm just waiting for that smooth transition into chorus again.
I am just checking in for another year to say that I enjoy Samsaruh's music. I also especially enjoy the regular mystery of what sub-genre of rock her music will be categorised as on iTunes. This one is listed as Adult Alternative. There's a different producer in tow for this single but it still manages to fit in pretty nicely with her other recent singles.
I am nothing if not so painfully on brand as to take the one song on The Weeknd's new album that reminds me most of the mixtape days and get fully on board with it. That said, I do think "After Hours" is probably his best proper album, with a lot less bloat than its predecessors, and a pretty strong consistent vibe. With that in mind I'm shocked the title track exists. It also naturally took the status of following up one of the biggest hit songs of all time to even be a modest chart hit that it otherwise had no business being.
Speaking of The Weeknd, this song's chorus is so remarkably similar to "Pray For Me" that I wonder if some sort of unintentional melodic memories could be in play. This is also a far way away from when she was a teenager singing Simon & Garfunkel on The Voice, but it definitely works for her. I obviously cannot remotely call it my slowest grower of 2020 but it's definitely up there, considering there was a time when it wasn't even my favourite song called "Lie To Me" that was around at the time.
The days of Washington bubbling around the charts with a fervent audience are long gone but she's gotten no worse in the years since. There's something cute about the way the song skirts around a consistent tone, using words like 'icky' and 'yucky' just before launching into a big moment of self-realisation. A song about imperfections should never be straight forward I guess.
This could be describe as an extremely /r/thathappened song. The idea that you have the perfect snarky response on hand to dismiss a creepy dude at a bar. If I was better acquainted with French beforehand, it would have made for a fun surprise to see the titular phrase used entirely ironically. It being a total banger on the side is just a neat bonus.
As a follow up to my Biig Piig comment, this is a song with its own vintage sample, but one that I was certainly less familiar with. It harks back to the late '80s with Michel'le's "Something In My Heart". That's a great song in its own right that's carried by Michel'le evocative crooning. "Outside" takes it to a different direction in that it takes 2 seconds to cite a catchphrase from Juicy J. That being said it's definitely something different from Megan that's not focused as much on over the top absurdity and flexing. The flex is still there, but the minor chords make it feel more grounded, like a reflective moment.
Aside from being generally evocative, there's a subtle hint of poetry to this song's hook. It's kind of hard to portray a motif without it being heavy-handed or overly blatant, but here we get the youthful nostalgia of tying a ribbon in a secret public place, with two ideas of the fleeting nature of time ('the shortest day of the year', 'we can waste our breath'). Taking a special feeling of intimacy and tying it to mortality is evidently effective, and I imagine if he had three lives, he'd marry her in two.
This song does in fact sound quite a bit like "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, or at least it does for the first 2 minutes before it gets different ideas. It's something of a credit to the hugely shifting template that I often don't even notice that some lyrics from the start of the song return near the end because I've just completely forgotten about that part there. I have to admire the gall of making an extremely not playlist friendly track.
This feels like the black sheep of the EP only because it's the sole one that hasn't had its own release of some manner, like it's there to pad out the numbers or something. It does have the casual cross promotion aspect of being a partial Flight Facilities production credit though I don't think I've ever seen that actually get brought up either. It's a pretty flashy production though which manages to pop out more than Polo G. I assume it's not a diss towards Gala's 2nd most popular song.
It has been proven with science at some point that 'hey ya' is an effective hook for a song. Admittedly it's probably not my favourite part, it's more just a nice bit of glue to piece the whole thing together. In general it's a nice, mellow vibe that's always nice to go back to.
Dropping out everything for a nifty little guitar riff before the chorus is of course the oldest trick in the book. I made this observation before I saw the music video which borderline makes fun of the sheer calculated nature of song structure. This is all pretty apt since this song is not re-inventing the wheel (although admittedly I'm not sure I've heard a New Zealand train voice over in a song before) and instead makes for a comfortable gaze into familiar territory.
Once again Ok Sure wins the title for having the most obscure song in my list, which at the time of writing doesn't even have 1,000 plays on Spotify. Conveniently I only heard this song because I just happened to stumble upon it when I was researching about the obscurity of the last song of hers I had the same observations about. But it's no slapdash affair for it, as there's an alluring darkness to it all. The pulsing sound of it doesn't overwhelm the ears, but provides the necessary tension.
If you're by chance into the vibe of "Violent Turn" but find it a touch too long, then you could listen to this song twice in the same amount of time. This is a more straightforward song though, even when the chorus arrives, the chords hardly noticably change. It is moderately amusing to have a song that mentions eating cake next to a song called "Portals".
I wasn't really aware of Lucky Daye before this song but he does a great job of selling himself on this song. It's already got a great vibe, but it's all the stellar vocal melodies that especially had me coming back to this. I mean just listen to the way that the pre-chorus just cuts through, like an assurance that it's not just a by-the-numbers chill out.
A curious stat from my chart this year is that Hockey Dad is the only artist to score two top 5 hits. Ok well technically some other artists did but those were with 2019 holdovers so it's not as notable in the context of this list. What I like about this song is just how well the central hook fits the mood of the song. There's a stress on the titular phrase that I totally buy. Assumably they hope to come and see you when your state's doing great though.
You know I get the feeling that these guys like Nirvana and/or the Foo Fighters. But in another sense I'm reminded of "Summer" by Grenadiers for just being so blatantly a throwback that it sticks out immensely in a modern context. It's that sort of diversity that has made my weekly chart listen through such a fun experience.
Sometimes a song can stop me in my tracks without trying too hard. This is a very restrained, slow track which perfectly utilises all that empty space. The tension only rises just before the chorus arrives so it can be suddenly thrown away, making for an especially evocative hook.
There's a song that was on triple j rotation around 2006/2007 that had a similar intro guitar riff to this and I can't for the life of me pin down what it was. I feel like the line was accompanied by a repeated lyric along the lines of 'sing...a love song' but I'm not sure that's 100% accurate either. This is a very fun time though, and since it sticks the title line at the start of the verses, it really just feels like an all-chorus rush that never ends.
I'm not going to pretend that I had heard this song in 2020. Heck, I had thought I'd finalised this list before I heard it. I don't want to jump the gun and make a comparison even though I already have, but it's very much 'imagine if that song had horns & guitar instead of percussion'. Not saying the result is clearly worse, but it's rewarding enough in its own right to not toss it aside as a weak simulacra.
Clearly the true sign that I'm a boomer in disguise is that I drew my comparison back to the far reaching year of 2005 to say that this song reminds me of "This Modern Love" by Bloc Party. The younger folk would go for the much more modern comparison and say it's "Weird Fishes / Arpeggi" from 2007 and that is an extremely valid point. Really though it's fun that BENEE and her producer can slip a drum pattern like this into her album and have it fit in pretty seamlessly. The whole thing feels like a more serious outing in general too, lacking the playful side from a lot of her music.
Seeing a proverbial promotion is always fun. Shannen made a pretty good impression on me the year before with "Something In The Water", but this really stepped things up a league. From that relatively chill side this song low key goes harder than nearly everything else in this list with that tremendous guitar feedback over the chorus. I never caught it myself but I believe triple j absolutely flogged this, and I always like when their playlist seems to overlap with mine by chance, which makes me feel like my haphazardous hit searching is doing something right.
A lot of the time, Peking Duk songs get bogged down by a clunky hook or drop that kind of takes me out of it. Mind you that's true of my favourite ones as well; "Say My Name" embraces chaos and it's arguably better for it. "Move" is the first time in a long time though that all the pieces just seem to fit together perfectly. It's a cliche to say it, but that first sustained note of the chorus just feels euphoric.
Hell yeah Eurovision, I think. Saying this is my favourite Eurovision-related song would be like saying Die Hard is my favourite Christmas movie probably. It's probably just easier to treat this as an otherwise conventionally released single with a curious tidbit attached. It's very evocative though. I find myself pulled in by the strangely worded chorus, almost as if it represents a certain tension where you can't get your words out concisely.
I thought quite long about this because it seemed almost too stupid to actually happen but here we are. This song took me by surprise as it doesn't tick the usual Cherry Glazerr boxes, until the bridge there's nothing close to the big guitar riffs I'm used to. What we get is a more groove-driven affair, and it turns out that it works just as well.
I kind of want to use this song to launch into an observation of what I call zoomer song structure. It's kind of a recurring tendency where a young artist will have a viral hit out of nowhere thanks to a catchy hook, but the song itself is so scarce on ideas that it barely clocks 2 minutes if that (to be supplanted by the inevitable remix of course). This doesn't really work here because Alina & 6LACK are about my age, but nonetheless, Alina barely clocks 30 words in her only verse on this song and then the chorus largely takes over. It's such an alluring tune though, which I'm just now seeing compared to "Pyramid Song" & Tame Impala of all things which I can actually totally hear. Also 6LACK saying 'daddy's home' in peak 6LACK voice is never not funny.
I feel like putting words to explaining why Jessie Ware makes good songs is a tough affair because this is a song that just screams 'duh, of course it's good'. But I mean that vocal run up to the chorus is just delightful, and I appreciate the ways of keeping it fresh when the backing vocals kick in later on.
In the music video for this song, flowerkid looks like he should be singing about being on smoko, though in reality he's barely old enough to even entertain the notion. A very interesting song though and hard not to stop one in their tracks through its evocative lyrics. They're surprisingly measured too given the blunt subject matter.
I feel like there has to be a better way to translate this title which ends up being "Absolute Bondage Her", feeling like a machine translation more than anything. I personally could get behind the idea of it just being about monogamy as in 'absolutely binding girlfriend', which if nothing else, is an easier thing to try to pretend to sing along to as the song's main hook. The whole thing is certainly different to the support act I saw before Kendrick Lamar, but who's to say this couldn't work too?
I am fairly certain I've made this comparison for another song before, but if you have by chance played the 3rd Ratchet & Clank game, I'm certain you would remember the fake Britney Spears song about robots committing genocide on organic lifeforms. How could you forget when it manages to be the ultimate minute long banger? Anyway it's of no short compliment to say that the pre-chorus of this song resembles that main synth line immensely. Slow it down and you can sing this song over it I swear. I find Mia's position of fame to be extremely peculiar, but if she keeps making bangers like this, maybe one day she'll be as famous as Courtney Gears.
This song obviously gets a bit wacky when it turns into a pool of Nine Inch Nails-esque chaos. By comparison, there's that Twin Peaks episode I saw recently where the Nine Inch Nails portion is probably the most normal part of it. clipping. is such a niche product that there's not a single comment I can find on "My Mind Playing Tricks On Me" connecting the interpolation that throughlines the entire song.
So the real reason I heard "Frustration" is because it's placed as a b-side to this track, which closes out the new Higurashi anime. I could not remotely say it's even my favourite ED from the series because honestly "Taishou a" would contend incredibly high on this list if not for the fact that it's over a decade old. The lyrics which I'm just now reading for the first time connect with the themes of fate, and becoming helpless and defeated in attempt to overturn it. This is a lot of the stuff that only started to get touched on towards the end of the original story. I go out of every new episode just wanting those kids to be happy.
This song hits like a sledgehammer the first time you hear it. It's somewhat similar to "Kyoto" in that sense but amplified to such an absurd degree, especially when nothing seems especially up for the first couple of minutes. It's a very good idea though. I think about watching fireworks, how the degree to which they can be escalated never gets very far. You can't get a big finish to go out on because you've already been desensitised to the endless barrage of explosions, even if the last one ends up just that little bit bigger. Phoebe just keeps expanding the chaos until you end up in a completely different place from where you started.
I regret to inform you that James Blake has removed the distinction of being a GRAMMY Award winner from his Twitter bio, which is remarkably hilarious when you realise what he won it for. "Before" is a series of neat little ideas that all package together pretty well. It's only when listening that I remember just how many there are, as I can get so focused on the big chorus hit, totally forgetting the intense change of pace after the fact (for some reason there are a lot of those in this part of the list).
I'm not saying that RIIKI sounds a bit like BENEE but the first song of her's that I heard does mention monsters in her sleep. For that matter, this production sounds more like BENEE than most of her actual music did this past year. Combine it with her name and you've got a summation of the non-reggae side of popular NZ music.
This song sounds positively ancient by this point, even if it's only a year old. With a name like this I'm not sure how seriously they're taking things, but this band's first single is a terrific approximation of late era Beatles. I'm sure if it came out around 2012 it would be my absolute favourite song but I still get a kick out of something that feels so instantly nostalgic like this.
The other observation I have with zoomer pop is the plethora of edgy pop which may or may not start with Billie Eilish. I do seem to come across it fairly often, with this being one of my favourite examples. As a bonus, REI AMI actually is a zoomer. I think it's the slower tempo which allows the song to feel especially creepy. Music trends tend to sneak up once the prevailing generation ages more into taking over the zeitgeist so I do wonder if we'll eventually see a lot more music like this making it big.
5am don't start 'til I walk in. This is one of the best hooks of the year, enough so that it completely earns the repeated chorus because it doesn't even need to swift transition to sound huge. Combine that with the beautiful synth patterns and I don't think it's controversial to say that 070 Shake is one of the best endorsements Kanye West has made recently.
I fell into the obvious traps and was very dismissive of Lil Baby. I scarcely actually heard his music, but it's easier to just pick two lines from "Yes Indeed" and feel justified to never look further. "The Bigger Picture" isn't really his first song that 'has meaning' but the big splash it made, made it impossible to ignore what he had going for him this entire time. After all, if you ignore Billboard's increasingly distorted idea of what a calendar year is, he did have the biggest album of 2020 in the US and you have to have something going for you to get that sort of draw. As for "The Bigger Picture", I especially admire it as a political song that doesn't just swing for the most extreme angle on either side of the perspective. The reservations made in the song are measured. You can tell he just wants to make a point, but he's focused on the issue at hand, rather than rubbing his nose in a different political alignment in the constant battle for one-upmanship which it often feels like. It makes the song feel unifying in a rare way.
Speaking of songs that are so inherently political that the only reason they exist is because of national strife...System Of A Down have always been very up front about their Armenian heritage. It's very easy to miss a lot of global conflict that isn't American & Eurocentric and ignored conflict is unchecked conflict. System Of A Down releasing new music for the first time in a decade and a half to shine a light on this all is pretty admirable. "Protect The Land" sounds extremely like Scars On Broadway but "Genocidal Humanoidz" is classic System. I enjoy the fact that the Wikipedia article calls the drumming tighter than a Khabib chokehold because it's a very evocative comparison that I only first understood shortly before the song was released.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Brooke likes Lost In Translation. It's a simultaneously cute & heartbreaking concept though, going overseas to try and make that flailing connection work, but only growing more apart, likening the incompatibility with trying to make sense of the foreign street signs. The sonic palette of the EP is pretty diverse but there's definitely a consistent lyrical theme of being scorned by asshole dudes. I hope it works as an outlet because I can't imagine just how much bottled up frustration she must have at times.
Honestly I've written at length about "Real" twice now and I feel like this is just ticking a lot of the same boxes. Everything about it is hypnotic, and it's the sort of music that no other artist really can make.
While a lot of Husky's music is low key, and I like it for that, this is a song that shoots for the fences and absolutely sticks the landing. It's not often you can say 'wow, this Husky song has a killer guitar riff', but also it's the constant punch of drums that really get the song moving. It's a song with so many moods.
The monster club anthem that 2020 couldn't possibly have a use for. US & British rap are so often separated that seeing them together is something of a novelty, but it's pretty seamless how well Amine & slowthai both fit with this Disclosure beat. Even in the confines of my headphones in my room, this is a massive party.
The side effect of me updating my lists for End Of Decade purposes is that Tired Lion lost their prior entry credentials which they instead have come close on so many times now. That's fine in the long run though because there's a much more stable replacement this year with "Waterbed". This is of course the song that has the whistle hook but also as a side gig goes absolutely relentless on the guitars. It sounds even more massive on the rare cases I was able to hear it while outside.
The king of the fake BENEE songs. If nothing else you can trust me as being internally consistent because I didn't realise Josh Fountain produced this one until I was already very on board with it. I very much enjoy abstract metaphors like this especially when love is described like something that sounds like a Castform attack.
Every now and then I'll come across a song that I generally vibe with on initial impression only for it to spiral out of control. I feel like charts do this inevitably as the old drops away (well, back when that actually happened) reliquishing their positions that have to be filled with something. Often times it feels only natural for it to have happened. "Laced" feels twisted but enticing all the same. I'm not familiar with either artist's ouvre but they play off well here, especially at the end when Tasker starts chopping up the hook to reach peak chaos.
I'm late to realising this, but I feel like a good touchstone for this song is "Sound Of The Underground", if say it was really leaning into its surf-rock elements. It's another strong entry in the world of 'This isn't what I signed up for but I can't complain with the results all the same'.
What's always a fun surprise is when a song goes harder than initially projected. Just because my past experiences with her music has been relatively restrained on the musical front and it already quickly feels like this song has shown all its cards quickly. But then that big pulsating rhythm comes roaring in and it just makes for a huge, intense atmosphere.
For as much as I bemoan the extended, drawn out post-album single environment, I do know what it's like to be just sitting on a monster and not really noticing until it gets more attention itself. At least it happened a lot with albums in the mid-late 2000s, though nowadays I'm more likely to pick out my own favourites pretty quickly. This wasn't prompted by anything other than me going back through my collection in order to make this list but it wasn't until then that I realised that this EP I bought months ago was housing this absolute monster. "Awake" is well documented for how good it is but I think this goes even further. Monstrous thuds, a blaring siren & Tkay going all in on it, what's not to love?
17. mxmtoon (feat Carly Rae Jepsen) - ok on your own
I swear I can like chill music as well. This is just drums and a ukelele after all. Then again maybe chill is the wrong word because it's really quite sombre. All the elements are in tandem to punctuate every note and draw that emotion out fully. Also there's a nice rhyme scheme in the chorus with comprehend/friend/confidence/confidant, the latter being a word I'm not sure I've ever otherwise seen used outside of Persona.
This feels like a nice meeting point of her singles discography. It has a bit of that intensity from "Rabbit Hole", but it's also punctuated with small rollicking guitar motifs that aren't unlike "You Got Left Behind". Also in general there's an excellent guitar solo across the bridge which gives me more creedence to the idea that rock is not remotely just a genre at its best when confined to the most clear image branding for it.
There's a part of me that thinks I'm only being this random about this one because of me randomly hearing this song, from a rather well respected album I've admittedly not heard in full. But given how consistently I liked, but never stuck with the singles from this album, this felt like a revelation on first play. I'm not even entirely sure what exactly it is about this song, but I guess the airy vibe of it works well with the thudding backdrop. Not that I can relate to this manner of phone calls. If they'd made a song about discord pings, then I'd be all in.
I mostly only came across this song by fluke by choosing to spend longer than necessary still listening to triple j after a countdown. For many this would be the least flattering comparison ever, but I get some serious "Falling" by Trevor Daniel vibes out of this other bleach-blonde looking dude with trap beats. Like it's all there in the weird melodic flow that's simultaneously fun to sing along just because of how freely it roams around. This is a song that was released in early 2020, before heads & hearts became more unified.
I'm actually not sure that this song ever gets any better than the first 15 seconds, when it's at its most tense and minimal. Obviously there's more to it or I never would have stuck by the song and heard it more than once. The hook in particular has a strong sustained modulation which makes the otherwise not particularly unique production really stick out to me.
This was such a slow burner for me that no song in the last 3 years has spent more weeks on my chart than it. Basically a song I thought I had figured out but realised every week that I was selling it short. It's not quite as direct as say a Camp Cope song but the sheer conviction with which she voices her frustration with the system really is quite powerful. The chorus line itself is a succinct rebuttal to anyone who tries to dismiss it, and what a big entrance that chorus makes at times.
In general it's all just a lot to take in. There's probably been a time in the past when I would have rejected the audacity but now I'm all in. The song basically revels in the...XS with a chorus that never ends, wants more, and then gives you more. My first listen was a fever dream that I found myself desperately wanting to return to because all these things I'd heard before, but never in such a galling combination proved extremely enticing.
King Princess's recent output has been all over the place in terms of genre which can't be good for marketing purposes though maybe recurrent "1950" streams still pay the bills. When the democratic process of popularity isn't on downloads but streams, or rather people actually hearing a song, it can be hard to work out how much popularity sifting really just comes down to whether or not people hear the music. Ironically a song that a lot of people hear but don't engage with can look like a huge success which ostensibly it is. What I'm trying to say is that this was instant gratification for me but apart from very heavy rotation on triple j, hardly anyone's heard it. In fact even "Ohio" has more streams on Spotify. Admittedly years of observation shows to me that it's not 'stream friendly' but still this is just hooks for days and days.
I don't know if everyone's just forgotten this song by this point, apart from DaBaby though he doesn't seem to be a fan. It's definitely an oddball of a single, even with Mitski having made post-grunge leaning songs before. This leans in harder and the result is phenomenal. The slow reveal of the lyrics at the end make it especially haunting once it goes into full "Carrie" (the novel/film, not song) mode, and honestly this could soundtrack the experience pretty effectively.
Hockey Dad definitely fill their own niche which works for them and their fans. For the most part you know what you're gonna get. With that in mind, I do love that for their first new single of the year they pivoted hard into less explored territory. It's been said a lot, but like, this is somewhere in the realm of late '90s Radiohead & Silverchair while not copying the homework too much to make it without merit.
I'm so naturally insular that I spend a lot of time being critical of my own perception. Like if I consistently like an artist or outward style, am I just not engaging my critical faculties correctly and just lazily falling back on assumptions of what will be good? What gives me validation is when I pin down these associations after I've already committed the chips. It wasn't for quite a while after me buying into this song that I realised it had an intense percussion line which was not unlike those of "Reflektor" or "On Me", two songs I'm very outspoken about liking, but also two songs that contextually were primed for me to liking. So this song by the much less obvious control subject of Lennon Stella makes way to validate my investment in those songs more so than for itself, where the recipe is just as potent when not done by an artist I clearly have a lot of investment in. Maybe I need to listen to the whole album because I'm really interested in where this dark, introspective pivot comes out of an artist I best know for making light electro pop songs with Jonas Blue & The Chainsmokers.
It's the sound of drifting peacefully in the sky. I think that's more or less how elevators work. It's somewhat peculiar that in these wafting vibes, it's largely about the lengthy trek to get there, which ends up consuming all of Ivy Sole's verse. I like to imagine that this is about staying in a hotel where the elevator is out of commission, as a way to validate the intense emotions.
It's just kind of a strange sounding song that I can't really pin down. Before this came out I had heard her previous single on the radio quite a bit as one of those songs that just seemed to be disproportionately on whenever I tuned in, but this was an interesting pivot for sure. Another of those songs that just sets the stage so well from its opening to instantly perk me up, it also shows a lot of melodic prowess. The pre-chorus takes the notion of washed out vocals to a whole different level, that aside from making an otherwise extremely Australian vocalist sound briefly British, adds a certain level of tension with every lyric. In fact nearly every lyric in the song in isolation is some manner of dour, negative or frustrated, which is an interesting process.
4. Terrace Martin & Denzel Curry (feat. Kamasi Washington, G Perico & Daylyt) - Pig Feet
Y'know it's kind of difficult to write about two different songs that tackle a very specific topic that itself is not easy to talk about in the first place. The approach is certainly different though, where "Pig Feet" feels like it exists as a vessel to unleash all the righteous aggression. The obvious comparison is N.W.A.'s similar calling card, both even going so far as to include skits with the beat rendered relatively minimal for them. Everyone's in full force here and the result is a song that could not possibly be more potent with the very timely speed at which it was released.
Higurashi When They Cry is a visual novel series I discovered about 4 years ago, when I was looking to sate myself on more immersive mystery settings since I was very much into Zero Escape & Danganronpa at the time. The first chapter (which is still free on Steam) gave me what I was after, and really excelled at the psychological horror aspect where you find yourself trapped alongside the protagonist in a world that feels poised to strike at any moment. It took me a long time to finish it because it took a long time for them all to get properly released here (despite being well over a decade old), but as I kept going back I kept being more enamoured by the denizens of Hinamizawa and their antics. The writing is especially evocative where it can make playing a game of Old Maid feel like an intense fight to the death. It definitely sells itself on the horror aspect which gets particularly unsettling at time, but in reality, it's more of a front for a story about perseverence and the power of friendship. That makes it sound really lame but honestly it's all just a big satisfying culmination with huge emotional stakes. Anyway, late last year, a new anime adaptation began airing which I've been watching weekly. It's a strange set up that initially seemed to just be a reboot before seemingly mocking you for ever thinking that and taking joy in every moment where you're thrown off guard because something's different. At this point I'm just along for the ride and I don't want off. This is of course the OP theme song and it is a monster banger. Only the first 90 seconds is actually used in the show so the dubstep breakdown was a complete surprise to me when I first heard the whole thing. Nipah~☆
This is another song that was there for me at the right time. It seems as though my chart exists to document my depressive episodes because there's definitely a catalyst moment a year ago where this song shoots to #1. For what is a relatively easy going vibe, this is a song that tackles a pretty uncomfortable situation that I find myself sitting on both sides of. Mainly this is because I'm just not very good at communicating empathy and find myself often hoping someone else will do so on my behalf. On the other side of things, I'm really not good at properly opening up because I know that it's not what anyone wants. It becomes better for me, and everyone around me if I just stick to my persona of someone who cracks dumb jokes and tryhards video games. "Good News" captures those depressive episodes, where you feel isolated, like a self-destructive force, like a dehumanised tool, but layers on a sense of optimism. Maybe the feeling of not being alone in your thoughts misses the point when it's being spoken by a dead celebrity, but the way that this song has touched so many other people alongside me gives me a sense of immunity. I never thought I would miss Mac just as much as I do.
1. Tkay Maidza (feat Kari Faux) - Don't Call Again
This is a good complimentary point to what I was saying about Fiona Apple. Wherever I look, Tkay's latest EP is adored by those who've actually heard it. Outside of Australia the massive critical wave has given her a big audience completely detached from when she was a moderate commercial force locally. For all of that, hardly anyone talks about this track on its own. It's tacked near the back and isn't one of the big powerhouse moments, but it's a song I gravitated heavily to no more than 30 seconds into my first listen. As a bonus, I had no idea who I was listening to, it was just on in the car getting its first radio play and I Shazam'd it to a face of shock, which is on brand for her I suppose. I don't have any emotional story to add for it either. It's my favourite song of 2020 because it just sounds so impeccably good that I can't think of anything else I'd rather listen to given the opportunity. I've never loved hearing Tkay sing more than on this track, going through all the necessary moods & motions. I never get tired of the silly melodrama of shouting 'No!' in the chorus, obviously taking notes from "No Cars Go" except absolutely not taking itself seriously. The rapping portion instead gets passed to Kari Faux who admittedly I'm not familiar with outside of this song but she's a good mood shift, with some cute backing vocal overplay to boot. I've said it all, all I need to say.