Trey’s Top 25 Tracks of 2019

Trey Williams, Op/Ed Editor

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Last year, I made a top ten list of my favorite songs of 2018. Now that 2019 is over, I thought I would go even bigger. Here are my favorite 25 songs from 2019.

 

#25: Crime Pays – Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Following up the duo’s critically acclaimed album “Pinata”, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs and legendary producer Madlib come together once more with “Bandana”. I am a huge Madlib fan, and this project is just another impressive release under his belt. I love how he uses sampling to make his beats have a unique nostalgic feeling to them. Freddie Gibbs also brings his best with this one. I did not love this album as much as many others did, but I still love this song. Try it out. 

 

#24: High as a Kite – Weezer

In February I tried to guess based on the singles off this album if Weezer’s “Black Album” would be good. It wasn’t. Still, this song is easily in my top 10 Weezer songs. This song takes a theatrical approach to the typical Weezer formula. I love how this song doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s super fun, it has those great Weezer guitars we know and love, and a hilarious bridge. If you want to know what Weezer are up to, listen to this song. Skip the Black Album. 

 

#23: Black Moses – Channel Tres (feat. JPEGMAFIA)

This combination of hip-hop and house off of Channel Tres’s “Black Moses” EP from this year was excellent, and this was my favorite track off the album. The production is minimal, just some 808s and drums with other aspects sprinkled in. This song sounds so cool. Anybody that knows me would also know I am a sucker for anything JPEGMAFIA touches, so it shouldn’t be surprising I love his verse in the middle of the song. The build up to this song’s drop is satisfying every single time throughout. I also love the breakdown at the end. Any fan of experimental house music or hip-hop should keep an eye out for Channel Tres.  

 

#22: Air Conditioning – Lightning Bolt

This song sounds like a splitting headache and I can’t get enough of it. It feels like Lightning Bolt is smashing you over the head with their guitars and drums from the second this song begins. The guitars are so crunchy and rough, it creates an interesting abrasive sound. This album never gives you a chance to breathe, and this song is no exception. Mosh to this song as soon as you can. 

 

#21: GINGER – BROCKHAMPTON

In my original review of BROCKHAMPTON’S GINGER, I said this was my favorite song on the whole album. I only like it more now. This song is a microcosm for the rest of the album: high production value, sad lyrics and tone, and beautiful singing from Bearface. If you only listen to one song off the album, listen to this one. You won’t be disappointed. 

 

#20: Acarine – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard somehow released both an excellent Blues album and an amazing Thrash Metal album in the same year, and somehow my favorite song from either record is a strange, electronic, multistage saga of a song about bee wellness. 

If that doesn’t sell this song to you, I don’t know what will. This song is a roller coaster, being the transition marker between the rest of the blues album and a 80’s synth song next on the track list. The way the song transforms is incredible. The first time I heard this song I literally got chills and said “whoa” out loud. How could I expect anything less from a band named King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard?

 

#19: Lorem Ipsum – Anamanaguchi

Remember that old viral video Nyan Cat? Remember how annoying the song for that video was? “Lorem Ipsum” by Anamanaguchi sounds like that song elevated into something genuinely magical. This song makes you feel like you’re flying through space on a rainbow. I had no idea until I heard this song that chip tune as a genre had so much potential. Retro video game fans, Nyan Cat fanatics, and everyone else, give this one a shot. If as you listen you get transported into space, you’ve been warned. 

 

#18: Down Bad – DREAMVILLE (feat. JID, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG & Young Nudy)

Of all the posse tracks to come out this year, this is easily my favorite. The chemistry on this song between JID, J. Cole, and everyone else is excellent. It sounds amazing to hear all these accomplished rappers come together to one-up each other over a tight beat. I also love how the beat transforms for each person, adding to this song’s effect. Hip-hop fans, don’t miss this one. Especially JID’s verse. You’ll know when you hear it. 

 

#17: Gone – Charli XCX (feat. Christine and the Queens)

One of the catchiest, poppiest songs on the list, “Gone” by Charli XCX is masterfully assembled. The production on this song is futuristic, bouncy, and extremely satisfying to listen to. Charli’s vocals are infectious. This feels ahead of its time in style and pure technical quality. If you love pop music, you have to give this album a listen.

 

#16: Yellow – Rich Brian (feat. Bekon)

Easily one of the most surprising releases of the year, former meme rapper Rich Brian somehow created an ambitious R&B odyssey called “Yellow”. Considering the pink shirt and fanny pack beginnings of Rich Brian, this song is as unexpected as it is excellent.  This song feels cinematic. This is easily the best song Rich Brian has ever released, I highly recommend you give this song a chance. 

 

#15: In the Fold – Matana Roberts

Matana Roberts’ spoken word album is unforgettable. This album tells a deeply disturbing story through what can only be described as ambient jazz music. Of all the tracks, “In The Fold” is easily the creepiest. The music serves like a horror score to the disturbing imagery of a girl talking about her mother dying in an insane asylum, attempting to hunt for food in the woods after running away, and much more. This song is genuinely terrifying; I have heard nothing like it before. Try this out if you want to be uncomfortable. 

 

#14: Obamacare – Quelle Chris

No question, hands down, this song has the coolest first 30 seconds out of any song on this list. The beat to “Obamacare” by Quelle Chris is like a more complex cousin of Danny Brown’s “Really Doe” from 2016. This beat has a ton of detail to it, I hear new things each listen. Quelle Chris also delivers clever bars packed with references and wordplay. This is just a great rap song. What more could you want? 

 

#13: Come In – Weatherday

Weatherday burst onto the indie music scene with their album “Come In” and I love every single track from it. This recording is rough, but the energy and lo-fi vibe of the album work extremely well together. The first song off the album, also called “Come In” is a huge burst of underdog indie energy. The guitars are sharp, the vocals are passionate, and the energy of the band is inspiring. This reminds me of hearing the band Car Seat Headrest for the first time. If you are into indie, check this song and all of “Come In” out. 

 

#12: An Angel of Great and Terrible Light – Uboa

“An Angel of Great and Terrible Light” by Australian Uboa is one of the most haunting songs of the year. The use of sparse guitar and a marching beat over faint, chilling vocals is goose bump inducing. As the song progresses, more elements of noise music are added, creating a feeling of insanity. By the end the use of harsh guitars contributes to a wall of sound that can only be appreciated with nice headphones.

I love that this song uses harsh noise to express feelings like anger in a ugly, raw way. If the idea of harsh ambient music sounds intriguing, give this track and Uboa’s album “The Origin of My Depression” a shot. 

 

#11: Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy – Xiu Xiu

If aliens had to guess what music sounded like, they would probably make “Pumpkin Attack on Mommy and Daddy”. This would be a club song in a dark, gritty, low-budget sci-fi movie. The punching drums, scattered cryptic voice samplings, and what can only be described as “alien noises” in the middle make this song a journey you won’t ever forget. This song is creepy, punchy, and has the lyrics “if you want to be a human being, you just have to eat garlic?”. 

This song is not for the faint of heart. Try it if you want something strange. 

 

#10: Speedway – Black Midi

If you would have told me that a song about old buildings and bureaucratic regulations would be one of my favorite songs of the year, I would have probably believed you because that’s so specific you can’t make something like that up. 

Black Midi’s “Speedway” has a unique, stilted, strange sound on this song. The repeated guitar chords at the beginning of the song turn eerie and disturbing, and the band goes back and forth from generally staccato and upbeat to dissonant and uncomfortable. Accompanied by the emotionless, minimalist vocals, this is already unusual. It gets even more strange with the buildup at the end, where the band conjures a feeling like something is about to go terribly, horribly wrong. The disturbing buildup at the end pushes it over the edge, making this one of the most unique rock songs I have heard this year. 

Black Midi have brought a really interesting approach to rock music. If you like rock but you want a unique new sound, look no further than “Speedway”. 

 

#9: Two Halves – Richard Dawson

Richard Dawson has been one of my favorite discoveries of this year. Dawson is an experimental folk artist, known for his guitar work and his voice that sounds like a bard straight out of the middle ages. 

This song “Two Halves” showcases everything I loved about his new album “2020”. From his passionate, dynamic voice, to his aggressive guitar playing, to his thematic lyrics, I love every single thing about this song. Hearing Dawson belt out notes to his guitar makes me feel cozy, like I’m getting read a story as a child. 

Any fan of folk music should check this guy out. Every single song I’ve heard from him I love. Listen to him in front of a fire with some hot chocolate. 

 

#8: Venom – Little Simz

Little Simz came out with one of the hardest rap songs of the year. This song is extremely impressive. The beat is an excellent example of minimalism done right, from the simple violin refrain in the beginning to the symbols that go throughout the song, it creates a mood without distracting from the insane bars from Simz. 

Eminem, Logic, and Tech N9ne fans who are obsessed with spitting as many words within the shortest amount of time need to listen to this song. The way Little Simz rides the beat rivals any other song to come out this year, and she does so while actually saying stuff. There is not a word of fluff in this song, especially impressive considering her lyrical density. 

Little Simz is vicious in every way on this track, from her flow to her delivery. Any fan of rap with an emphasis on lyrical content must listen to this song and the rest of her album “GREY Area”.

 

#7: money machine – 100 gecs

There’s some weird stuff on this list, but this is easily going to be the hardest one to explain. St. Louis based electronic duo 100 gecs is one of the strangest, most difficult to categorize groups I have heard this year. 

This song is utterly ridiculous. This song is if a producer like SOPHIE, a banjo, and seven too many cups of coffee came together. This song sounds like Optimus Prime ate Alvin and the Chipmunks and Alvin is screaming for help from the inside. This is if a Redbull met with Blink-182 and made a trap influenced bluegrass song.  

I’m not kidding, I really have no clue what this is. I don’t even know why I’ve listened to it so many times. Check it out if you want to listen to something you definitely haven’t heard before. 

 

#6: Dawn Chorus – Thom Yorke

“Dawn Chorus” by Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame is one of the moodiest, downtrodden, downright depressing songs of the year. This song does not have a lot to it, it’s just York’s synths and his strangely low, almost spoken word delivery. This is the sort of song you listen to taking a walk in the middle of the night. If this song had a time, it would be 3 a.m. 

I enjoyed Thom Yorke’s solo album “Anima”, and this was the most emotional, beautiful track on the entire album. If you were into the slower, depressing songs from Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool”, or you need to have a good cry, check this song out. 

 

#5: GONE, GONE / THANK YOU – Tyler, the Creator

Tyler, the Creator’s “IGOR” has only grown on me since I reviewed the album in May. Tyler of Odd Future fame has created a concept album, and it’s a stunning combination of rap, soul, and Tyler’s signature quirky aesthetics. 

The concept is basically about a complicated love triangle, and the double track “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” is the emotional climax of the album. This song goes through multiple stages, and each part does a fantastic job of expressing the feeling of heartbreak that comes along with a breakup. The pitched chorus of “GONE, GONE” from CeeLo Green of all people is exactly the sort of thing you belt in the shower. 

The track moves to a verse of vulnerability from Tyler, which transitions perfectly into “THANK YOU”, which has a totally different sound and depressing lyrics about how he never wants to feel love again. The layering of sounds on this track is incredible, from the synth arpeggios to the guitar from Jack White to the drums, I can’t praise this song enough. Have a lonely sad dance party to this song right now. 

 

#4: Movies – Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood’s album “Titanic Rising” is a pretty great singer-songwriter album, almost as good as that album cover. Weyes Blood’s tracks have full, whole instrumentals, often incorporating guitar, strings, and drums to make a beautiful and theatrical aesthetic. While the songs seem pretty simple on first listen, there is a surprising amount of detail to nearly every song. 

By far, my favorite song off the album is “Movies”. This song builds beautifully from a simple arpeggio that contrasts nicely with Weyes Blood’s long vocal lines. The key word of this song is buildup: this song has one of the coolest climaxes of music on this whole list about two thirds of the way through. The way this song slowly gets bigger and bigger gives me chills every time I listen to it. I highly recommend giving this one a listen if you’re into baroque pop. 

 

#3: Free the Frail – JPEGMAFIA (feat. Helena Deland)

JPEGMAFIA’s new album “All My Heroes are Cornballs” is probably my favorite album of the entire year. 

It’s far mellower than “Veteran”, featuring way more singing and way fewer abrasive beats. JPEGMAFIA takes the smoothest, easiest to listen to aspects of Veteran and creates a beautiful record out of it. 

This change in sound gave space for “Free the Frail” on the track list, something you could never find on Veteran. 

This is the first song I’ve heard from Peggy that is genuinely vulnerable. This song is about Peggy’s confused feelings surrounding overnight success. He writes about the pressure of keeping up his image he gained from his previous work, and how he feels his image as an artist is entirely different from who he actually is. 

This song is sort of meta, being a vulnerable song about releasing a vulnerable song. Something like this would never be on an album like “Veteran”. 

Peggy’s identity crisis has an incredible instrumental, easily the slowest song of Peggy’s since his 2018 breakout. This still features Peggy’s signature antiseptic synths, aided by squishy percussion. The chorus of this song is actually very pretty, Peggy’s synthetic voice sounding empowering and free. This is especially impressive considering his focus on abrasion on “Veteran”. 

This song is a gem. Anyone that likes R&B would at least appreciate this song. I highly recommend this song and the rest of this album. 

 

#2: HAJJ – Liturgy

Liturgy is an easy band to make fun of. The lead Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has labeled their sound as “transcendental black metal”, possibly the most pretentious sounding genre I have ever heard. Hunt-Hendrix even wrote an entire manifesto about what makes their “transcendental” sound different from black metal. Many have read it as Hunt-Hendrix denouncing the very genre that gave him his success.

Going into their new album “HAQQ”, I was not expecting much. I am not a huge metal fan, let alone black metal, and I think labeling your own music “transcendental” is laughable. 

“HAJJ”, the opening song, blew my mind. 

This is an odyssey of a song. This song is made up of a gazilion little passages of crunchy, heavy guitar, insane baselines, and head-splitting drumming. There is not a single dull moment in all eight minutes. This song builds and builds, blessing the listener with mini climaxes of relief, then throws you straight back into the chaotic cacophony this band somehow conjured up. 

Despite being black metal, a particularly abrasive and difficult to listen to breed of rock, I can confidently say that this song has one of the most divine, otherworldly passages I have heard this year. About three and a half minutes in, the song turns into sounding like a painting of literal heaven casting a light to earth, with angelic choir vocals in the background. 

This song feels like it’s two minutes long, the twists and turns taking a musical journey I never knew I needed. Call me pretentious too, I don’t care, this song actually feels like I’m transcending planet earth. 

Okay, maybe that’s a little bit too far. Either way, this song is a total blast, and has introduced me to a genre I never thought I would appreciate. If you have any interest in trying out black metal, but are scared of the harrowing vocals, headache-inducing guitar tones, or the general ridiculousness of the presentation, I would recommend this song and the whole rest of the album (it’s almost as good)  as an introduction to the genre’s caustic sound. 

 

#1: Nights that Won’t Happen – Purple Mountains

When Purple Mountains’ self titled album released in July, I was introduced to the world of David Bernam. Bernam was a singer-songwriter known for his band Silver Jews, active in the 90’s and 2000’s. After Silver Jews disbanded in 2009, Bernam disappeared from music until the release of “Purple Mountains” in July. Bernam in Purple Mountains manages to balance depressing themes with sprinkles of humor and catchy songwriting, easily making this one of my favorite folk albums of the year.

The standout from this album is “Nights that Won’t Happen”. While other songs sometimes attempt to keep that balance between quirky humor and sad lyrics, this song drops a massive weight on the heartsick side. This is a gut wrenching song about death. This song is slow and dreamlike, particularly with the addition of the haunting backing vocals between verses and the sparse xylophone. The faint guitar solo as the song fades out creates an outstanding ending. This song captures melancholy like no other song this year.  

Tragically, David Berman took his life just three weeks after the release of this album. This album was Berman’s final work, which makes this album, and particularly this song, a soul crushing listen. This was Berman’s final addition to his stunning career, and he likely knew it when he made this song. There has been no other song this year that has moved me as much as this one, and that is why I am putting this song at number one. 

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Can’t Believe The Way We Flow – James Blake

Dirty Laundry – Danny Brown

See You At Your Funeral – PUP

SAYONARA – Aries

What a Year it’s Been – Injury Reserve

Tia Tamera – Doja Cat (feat. Rico Nasty)

bad guy – Billie Eilish

6 day working week is a pain – Otoboke Beaver

Time Flies – Rico Nasty

Astral Flying – The Comet is Coming