We are at the halfway stage of the year, and as usual, Eyewear likes to weigh in with their favourite earworm list for our readers.
Obviously, the usual caveats pertain - this is not a definitive list - there is plenty of country, grime, rap, rock, indie, punk and pop not covered here - our list of the top tracks so far is over 200, and we have listened to about 1,000 songs on Spotify to come to this listing.
2019 has been a major moment for music even so far, and heavy-hitters keep pitching new material our way - Morrissey (now morally compromised), Avril Lavigne, Bieber, Halsey, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, Gang of Four, Sia, Sam Smith, Will Young, Whitesnake, Dido, Deerhunter, the National, The Specials, Beck, Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, Billie Ellish, Bryan Adams, Karen O, Sleaford Mods, Alan Parsons, Skepta, Slowthai, The Black Keys, The Saboteurs, The Cranberries, Tame Impala, Vampire Weekend, White Lies - all great acts, none listed here.
What we do have here are 12 tracks - often by outliers, or lesser-known acts - that catch a certain mood, of dread and joy, mixed - each with a sugar-rush of music-as-uplift. In alphabetic order by title:
1. 'About Work The Dancefloor' - Georgia
This blog is partial to Georgia - her line 'I don't have material gifts for you' seems to capture the ethos of the age - experience over accumulation. An inversion of the material girl stance of Madonna's classic dance-pop tune, this hits all the key targets, to make it a Robyn-style classic, yearning and melodramatic.
2. 'Angels of Sweat' - Tamaryn
We caught Tamaryn's superb show recently in London. She's ace. Tamaryn, originally from NZ, now LA-based, crafts expert shoegaze-dreampop moments that signal to her heroes - Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Cocteau Twins, and other great 80s-90s indie bands. Her swooning voice is poetic, haunting, and gorgeous. This one is both erotic and oddly touching.
3. 'Chaos from the Top Down' - Stereophonics
By no means unknown, these past-masters of rock-pop hits like 'Dakota' have a knack for an arena-sized hook. This Brexit-era anthem, about a doomed youth, is so powerful, it feels like a rugby tackle from Boris Johnson. 'Lose my soul now' - exactly - the dangers of the times summoned in less than four minutes - epic.
4. 'Future Ruins' - Swervedriver
Speaking of shoegazers, here comes a classic band, at their peak, with a song that feels like it was torn from Greta's diary. A vision of the wasteland to come, with Ozymandias via Chernobyl mournfulness, the gloomy slow-tempo dirge, tinged with dead bells, sounds like a coffin being encased in lead. So melancholy, so plausibly predictive.
5. 'Jupiter 4' - Sharon Van Etten
We caught Sharon earlier this year in London, and she was on top form, a sort of Joan Jett or Benatar - she's gone new wave and synthpop on her latest LP, and this slow-moving haunter feels like Mazzy Star via Springsteen - it's a rock-pop narrative-lyrical masterwork of desire thwarted, dreams aching.
6. 'Killer' - Zeina
This song comes out of nowhere, but it comes like a tortured cupid, toting an AK-47, aiming for heartfelt revenge. Sad as the last day of summer, bleak as a dirty needle in the eye, this is a love song for a dying planet, a diseased world. You want to drive across the Badlands with this one on.
7. 'Machine Girl' - Perry Farrell
The force behind some of the greatest 90s indie rock moments, here he comes, strutting like a robot Jim Morrison had swallowed T-Rex and swaggered onto stage nude. A thoroughly sexy, rocking masterclass in traditionalism praising individual talent. We'll be dancing to this android-erotica all summer.
8. 'Maniac' - The Beat, Ranking Roger
Sadly the ska genius Ranking Roger died recently, but not before leaving behind his best work to date - Public Confidential, the LP, is as good as early Beat, for sure. Here he attacks the May government's Brexit cruelties, the hostile environment, and Trumpian-Farage alt-right menace. A stirring, heroic, pure cut of ska-pop, thank you sir!
Fans of very eccentric, weird British bands, with magic-pixie vocals will not be disappointed - here comes a track that might have freaked Blancmange out, for its quirky indie pop sensibilities. Awake gets rhymed with 'tummy ache' - but it's all good. It's got a bridge that's ecstatic, a super pop swoon, ruined-brilliantly with a squawking blart of horn. You'll see.
10. 'Old Town Road' - Lil Nas X
This is the song of 2019, as far as I can tell. Proof that it's already a cause celebre, and has outgunned the C&W critics to achieve a badge of honour - it is the first genre-blend, of any impact, between hip-hop and country - is it featuring in the Rambo trailers. Greatness beckons, may it earn a fistful of dollars.
11. 'Ring Ring' - Anteros
The blue print is pretty clear - make music like Blondie. A lot have tried, few have built much from this premise. First, you need perfect pop nous, then you need a lead singer who can match D. Harry's excellence. It's not entirely true that this is as good as golden age 'Call Me' - but it is certainly as good as Karen O's attempts to do Blondie earlier this century. And she was damn good herself with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. So just say, it's vintage pop heroin.
12. 'Runaway Girl' - Kakkmaddafakka
I don't like the name this band has - it is ludicrous. But what a song - its chilly, icy synths suddenly adrenalized with 'Jerk It Out' level energy. I can't think of another such outrageously driving, soul-saturated euro-pop song. It keeps building, it keeps getting odder, and faster, and more tormented - 'secret mettings in the bathroom' - at 1.42 it soars with pep and vim. Probably only Flock of Seagulls was better at fusing new wave and love-pop, like this. Okay, OMD.
Enjoy! Will any or all be on our final Top 20 at year's end?