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TOP 12 SONGS OF 2019

listening to music since 2005!

As with every caveat, disregard the dilemma and stay for the nub of the post: these twelve tracks, all available on Spotify, are surely worth listening to.

The caveat: no list is complete without Springsteen, Madonna, Beck, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Deerhunter, Burial, Joe Jackson, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, George Michael, Stormzy, Vampire Weekend, Pixies, Perry Farrell, Michael Stipe, The National, Lana Del Rey, Karen O, The Killers, Will Young, Richard Dawson, Weyes Blood, Ariana Grande, Wire, Stereophonics, slowthai, Tame Impala, Sharon Van Etten, - to absurdly mention just 30 of the acts and artists who released notable new tracks this year, sometimes posthumously - yet the list below leaves all these talents out, and hundreds more you might arguably add.

So, what makes an 'Eyewear song of the year'? A variety of factors, recklessly applied in no order, but basically: catchiness, replayability, cultural impact, genre-mastery, and wit. If you ranked every song you heard from 1-20 on these five points, you'd quickly see why certain songs by Patti Smith, The Doors, Prince, Bob Dylan, Public Enemy, and Robyn, for instance, could score easily in the high 90s.

Anyway, in alphabetic order of title, my songs of the year...

1. 'About Work The Dancefloor' - Georgia

There's something genuinely melancholy and yearning, poignant, embedded in this pop gem - it's clearly inspired by Robyn, a synth-sheened paen to dancing - but I love the lyrics, especially the 'I don't have material gifts for you' - in this post-thing age, that resonates.

2. 'All For Us' - Zendaya, Labrinth

The great soundtrack breakout from Euphoria, the shocking youthquake of a series about the lives online and in the flesh of teens in the Now - this quirky, creepy, anthemic hymn to something desperate, seems to refer to something just out of reach - love, or hope, or life after an overdose.

3. 'bad guy' - Billie Eilish

You don't have to like this somewhat lo-fi song, exactly, to recognise it is the aural equivalent of an Instagram hashtag, and its ironic inversion of tropes of toxicity and guilt are both clever and dissonant - it instantly made the singer central to the year, stylistically and thematically.

4. 'Big' - FONTAINES D.C.

There hasn't been a really great Irish punk-rock group in donkeys. Now there is, again. Insistent, brash, a bit crass, and refreshingly parochial, this song has a mighty rawness, and the lines 'my childhood was small / but I'm going to be big' is surely one for the ages.

5. 'Closed On Sunday' - Kanye West

He may not be a genius, or Trump's fan, but West is pretty damn close to being key to the past decade's sonic formation - and this weirdly moving, biblical, and homely track from his religiose release is totally unexpected, and superb.

6. 'East of Eden' - The Luckies

Little-known country-indie band from Montreal may sound like someone else's cuppa, but the twist and twang is endearing, and the vocals are superb; one can feel the winter blast as fans enter the dive bar where they perform. A tiny bit of Canadian majesty.

7. 'Happens to the Heart' - Leonard Cohen

And, speaking of Montreal, here's the most haunting and enriching surprise of 2019 - a new song by Leonard, that's easily as good as any song he released while alive - 'in the prison of the gifted' he may have been, but this was one jailbird on a heavenly wire. Classic status beckons.

8. 'Maniac' - The Beat, with Ranking Roger

There's more than one group now with this name - and that division is a pity - but this iteration had the better songs this year, and the better sax and toasting. Ska is always uplifting, and seems an ideal vessel for containing political anger while keeping people dancing. This song - as good as any he recorded before dying too soon - will thrill fans of the 80s Beat, and remind us that the Blue politics of the 80s is, for many sadly, back.

9. 'Old Town Road' - Lil Nas X

This genre-bending masterwork is so pithy, funny, strange and bold as to have single-handedly created a new thing - a country and western rap song; and its Cowboy hat from Gucci added bling to the rhinestones.  Will forever be one of the sounds of this decade, and beyond.

10. 'Perfect Goodbye' - Celine Dion

Also from Quebec, the Queen of Schmaltz is the best diva since Barbra, and the most divisive - yet a younger generation seems to be loving the cheese. Her new album - state of the art pop written by songmeisters like Sia - was about coping with life after the death of her husband, and this track is both soaring and beautiful, and deeply sad. It also has the word 'shit' in it. First time she's ever cussed (this shit is perfect). I love it.

11. 'Rolling' - Michael Kiwanuka

Sounding as if Hendrix had made an album in the 10s, this was the perfect psychedelic riposte to a world of singer-songwriters with nothing to contrive to reveal; soulful, natch, and heedlessly captivating, one felt like one had been dropped into a vat of summer's best acid - so delicious, memorable, and gently complex, as if the kiss meant something; as it does.

12. 'Runaway Girl' - Kakkmaddaffaka

By an odd-named Euro-group whose first language is not English, with a bit of A-ha to them, this could only be a daft anti-Brexit pop song - or maybe not. At any rate, its ludicrously relentless pop drive and never-ceasing cornball catchiness make it a sort of Squeeze classic, like 'Hourglass' - a perfectly-crafted seemingly lightweight love song for a time of darkness and loss.


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