Above is a Spotify playlist counting down each song. I don't even have a Spotify account but looks like all of you do, and every track (except for two from one album) is on Spotify. I guess this is the world now? Anyway listen and play along.
Another year distilled down to 35 songs. Unlike in years past, these are actually the best songs and not just my favorite ones (though, oddly, the two match up perfectly). So, to be clear, this is 100% and unequivocally the best music created in 2019. Objectively. If you disagree, I'm afraid you have some soul searching to do. Somethings haven't changed since last year. Like last year, I've included three tracks from 2018 that I just didn't hear in time to make last year's list, but they definitely would have made the cut if I had.
Top 35 Songs of 2019:
Here Gino and the Goons edge up to the line where distortion begins to take over, then run about a million miles past it. Those vocals sound like they were recorded from a busted bass amp at an all ages club, and that guitar tone exceeds all boundaries of good taste. It's sleazy and it's perfect.
This Rich Jones and Steve Conte-penned track is a whiskey-soaked marvel that should remind everyone that underneath all those ridiculous scarves and blush, hair metal was also damn good rock and roll.
Mike Kinsella's trademark earnest vulnerability is on full display while his band tumbles around him. The interplay with the raspy vocals of Hayley Williams makes for lovely contrast and a delightful song.
Bis returns to the forefront not with the hyperactive sugar high of Manda Rinn, but with a jerky new wave composition sung by John Disco. I'm a sucker for that chorus.
The world is a complicated place and Jeffrey Lewis feels every bit of it. This song illustrates anxiety, anxiety because of anxiety, and a calming stability of another that sometimes isn't. This song says a lot and whichever way you're wired, this is an important listen.
Bob Pollard takes a good idea, fails to adorn it, and pumps it directly onto vinyl 100 times a year. How does it do it? Listen to each of the guitar licks here, drift away on that vocal melody, and when that shaker appears, try to figure out why any song needs to be longer than this 1:22 gem.
When an outtake released as a B-side years later is one of the best songs of the year, you know you've doing something right. There's so much roots rock in Gentleman Jesse's power pop that this cut has universal appeal. And that chorus, well you know how I feel about a stomping chorus.
You know I'm a straightforward pop guy, but the swirling psych of "Spectral Dawn" is such a perfect, warm embrace that I found myself returning to it all year. Spin this track and lose yourself in the siren call of Vanderslice's production.
This could have been a hit in any decade from the '50s through the '90s, but in 2019 with its twelve-string jangle, rushed percussion, backing harmonies, and just-to-the-edge vocals, it's destined to remain a niche track lauded by us power pop kids. Listen and join our cult.
Lovable curmudgeon Bob Mould breaks character here with a strummed number that imagines the halcyon days of punk rock as a summer camp. There's sincerity, and hope, and even a blueprint for how to handle whatever comes next. Thanks Bob, I'm listening.
Guitar rock is dead and Gino just DGAF. "She Can Take It" is as nasty and loose as they come. It's got all the trappings of proto-punk with the huffed nihilism of the real thing. I'm afraid of this band, and in love with this song.
Refused return with a punch to the throat. I love the meaty rock riff, the urgency, the chaos, and the halftime is just spooky. Can you imagine what this does to a pit?! Välkommen tillbaka boys.
It's that simple bassline that sets up both the call and response guitar and the coed vocals that soon echo that post-punk tension. The full voiced chorus is pure payoff -- like an EDM drop without the gimmick but with all the kinetic explosion.
On past albums a track where Jeffrey Lewis explains the origins of his record collecting fanaticism using his trademark rapid-fire lyrics and an acoustic guitar would be a gem, but with the full band including a '60s organ and a remarkably active bassline, the song is a fruggin' dance party.
I love it when a band doesn't deliver the album I want, but instead gives me the one I need. "Swamp and Bay" combines a gentle Laurel Canyon strum with just enough '90s Dinosaur Jr guitar squall to put me in a wonderful place that I'm totally unfamiliar with.
There's never been anyone truer to their vision than Bob Mould. Of course, it's about the guitar. It grinds you down and lifts you up, and here it even swings amidst all the chaos. But what if that Jon Wurster drum fill is the best part of the song?
When your ingredients are '70s glam, '90s riot grrrl, and modern intersectional politics, it's hard to go wrong. I love the thudding floor tom and insistent rhythm guitar on this, but the shouted vocals that give way to the gang vocal chorus feels like opening the door to a whole new world.
With more than a wink to Outkast's "Hey Ya!" Josh Berwanger has crafted a bouncing, infectious pop tune with lush backing vocals and a very skank-able rhythm guitar line. His lyrics also reveal how complicated it is for a divorced dad to date in 2019: "Your mother is a witch, I'd like to get to know her -- let her put a bad spell on me."
This post-punk revival song is defined by its disco beats and funky bassline, but the thick, moody production makes this just as fun for headphones as it does the dancefloor.
A solo bedroom project with an electronic pitch, a thoroughly modern perspective, and a chorus that swells like slick morning show theme. I'm enamored by writers who arrange this well.
Frontman Willie Jordan might portray Drugs & Attics as a drunken party rock band just looking for white drugs and a good laugh, but this song is smart and tight. That wiry guitar doesn't happen by accident and catchy songs like this aren't the outcome of all drunken half-remembered nights. Someone is secretly a crafty son of a bitch.
Joey Rub leads this '60s garage stomper that could have been pulled from a magical crate of 45s. I'm feeling the cocky vocals, the delightful harmonies on the chorus, and that simple pounding percussion.
Damn I miss David Berman. This song is a perfect final thesis as Berman initially announces that he's "Drawn up all my findings, and I warn you they are candid" before ultimately revealing in a horn-fueled chorus that we're all living our lives with no more significance than drinking margaritas at the mall. Berman thought bigger than whatever indie folk genre we could create for him, and this is the last poetry we'll get.
BA Johnston is the patron saint of the also rans and the downtrodden. No, not the noble working folk of a Springsteen song, but those that have lived life poorly – likely in a suburban basement in Atlantic Canada. His hurried vocal delivery with syllables jammed where they shouldn't be, and barely audible guitar set the scene so clearly that I can taste the sugary grape vitamins and weighty despair in mission statement "I drink the whiskey to forget that you're gone / and eat Flintstone vitamins for the strength to carry on."
This Aussie band is pure punk played by a pub rock band. And like The Damned before them, guts and spit and blood may lead, but the package is much smarter than the fist-pumping chorus has any business being.
Although certainly harking back to the band's twee roots, the production shows that the band has learned a lot since Tigermilk. Stuart Murdoch's rising vocals sit front and center guiding each verse to a chorus of ecstasy. More of this please. More of this forever.
This delightful combination of several twee and indie pop stalwarts delivers on the promise. "Airport Town" paints the setting wonderfully, and as the band gallops towards the chorus you know you're going to find emotional release. Simply ethereal.
Alt rock's heyday may have passed, but don't tell Potty Mouth. Fuzzed out guitars, slick production, and those thick vocals may recall 1994, but who wouldn't want to time travel?
Is it nostalgia? Or is this alt rock popfection? The combination of gurgling guitar, bounding bass, tambourine, and vocals are quite nice, but add in Hatfield's own "more is more" production, and I've got to scream it from the rooftops, "I'm still in love with Juliana Hatfield!"
There's no politics, just a sincere ode to the groundbreaking performer Sister Rosetta Tharpe. A history lesson, a lot of bounce, a catchy AF chorus, and a key change in the bridge that just feels so damn good. I don't know how but this reminds me of The Teardrop Explodes and that's a very good thing.
With a lyric sheet as long as Santa's naughty list, Empty Moon's Brendan Hangauer delivers a Craig Finn-worthy tale about aging out of the college bar scene that sets a scene both tragic and appealing. It sounds horrible and I want to live it all over again.
"Seventeen" is an effortless power pop cut that is surely a spiritual cousin to Teenage Kicks. Youthful paean, harmonies, and simple guitar pop. Being this pure is a nearly impossible task, and The Whiffs deliver.
This twangy ode to young punks tugs at my heart. When I first head the pre-chorus, I thought the song had an amazing hook. Then the chorus came and holy shit. If you're not singing this one, then I got nothing for you man.
What more can I say about The Whiffs? This song has such sweet verses built on that twelve-string guitar before exploding into a power chord chorus. Singer Rory Cameron gives everything he's got on this one and hot damn, what a solo! Power pop perfection.
Rock and roll bravado done to perfection. Gruff vocals with sweet AF backing vocals on a stomping chorus and a twin guitar attack that revs my motor. I first heard this song live and I was screaming out the lyrics and jumping up and down by the end like it was my reason to live. And that might be, because I can listen to this song on repeat and each time is just as exciting.
This song is all energy. Every part of the song just makes me want to bounce. Flawless.
Like a big dumb lovable Lab, this song is stupid and sweet and endearing and does everything a power pop song should.
How to label this track is anyone's guess, but it's been stuck in my head all year. Just catchy AF.
Tracks #8 through #1 can be heard on Too Much Rock Podcast #501.
Are your favourite songs on my list? If not, let me know and maybe they'll make my 2020 adventure picks.