The Spotify playlist above counts down the Top 35 tracks of 2020, starting with #35 and progressing to #1. Sadly #6 "Little Shirley Melrose" by Daniel Romano isn't available on Spotify.
2020 was rough on everyone. I self-medicated with music. I added more releases to my library than in any other year ever. To put a number on it, 2,835 songs that equate to 6 days, 2 hours, 45 minutes (and 31 seconds) of music. Every track listened to multiple times when it was received and rated. Then all the highly rated songs listened to again in the last few weeks to sort them into the 35 songs you see here. This list would change every day, but here is a good ranking of songs that I loved, want to hear again, and mean the most to me. And also I've kept the tradition of reporting 3 tracks that didn't make the list last year only because I didn't hear them in time. I guess I wasn't adventurous enough.
Top 35 Songs of 2020:
This track has everything I love about post-punk, goth, and hardcore all in one foreboding track that just sounds dangerous and cool.
The jagged edges and nervous vocals are nice, but that strained chorus really sends me. What does it mean, and will I find out before the song implodes?
I know a good cowbell when I hear one. The big harmonies on this power-pop anthem are the taste of strawberry Lip-Smackers.
It's rare when a track can be specific and familiar and intimate. This cut is an emo gem that accomplishes all that then tosses in an infectious chorus just to show off.
Midway through listening to this song for the first time I thought about forming a band just because playing this song live would be so much fun. Melodic punk doesn't get any better than this.
Ryan Allen dials up the swagger and snarl on this hard-hitting power-pop track, and pounds this rocker directly into my brain.
I'm all about this raw emo barb as it explodes into layers and layers of sound. This song has gripped me by the collar and shaken a guilty plea out of me.
There's something about the way this track winds an arty guitar line around spoken vocals that has stuck with me for days. I'm humming this chorus. Hummable post-punk?
Have you ever taken a punch and thought, "Alright, I'll have another?" This song is going to punch you right in your soft spot for oi and mod revival, and then you're going play it again.
Power-pop catchy enough to be a sitcom theme song, yet there's something about that guitar that makes me want to make bad decisions.
Every time I hear those false harmonics, I pinch myself. This can't be real life. Simply awesome and epic black metal.
AM radio bubblegum perfection. This is the year's top dance track. Get out on the floor.
Anytime I want to feel the summer sun on my face, I put on this song. The synth undertones are cute, but that guitar solo blew the sleeves off my t-shirt.
The production on this blows my mind. Post-hardcore is never this nuanced. There's a surprise and hook at every perfectly composed turn.
This is the stupidest, most infectious racket I heard this year. I'm ready to rush the microphone and pump my fist when that chorus hits. Come on vaccine.
Bill Callahan's perfect baritone delivers a brilliant literary masterpiece leaving out just the right details.
It's power-pop from the garage beamed straight to my heart. The way the buzzsaw guitars give way to that syncopated guitar is transcendent.
Heart-on-your-sleeve roots rock with emotion and movement. If you've got access to a muscle car and can get the hell out of here, this is your soundtrack. Take me with you?
I love this breezy power-pop. I love the jangling guitars and the unhinged drums. And I love trailer court goth girls most of all.
I want everyone in front of the stage stupid dancing like Ally Sheedy in Breakfast Club and someone better break a chair. This is punk.
Jurado achieves a folky zen that (to borrow from William Cullen Byrant) is sustaining and soothing, like wrapping a blanket around yourself and lying down to pleasant dreams.
So much is happening in this propulsive indie corker in under two minutes. I certainly find the flavors of our favorite bands, but mostly I taste cotton candy while I'm on a way-too-fast Tilt-A-Whirl.
There's blood in this psychedelic garage stomper. Pounding drums play off of the wicked riff perfectly, but oh that siren's call.
The churning and chiming guitars on this indie rock cut are great, but when they open up for that chorus I'm floored. In the second verse the drums open up and I just shake my head. So brilliant.
Every time I listen to this song, I feel it tug and labor and fight. This song has to push to be heard and the vocals are taken right up to the breaking point.
The influences are obvious, but the student has become the master with this breezy indie singer/songwriter cut. Flawless.
Shoegaze with the most amazing motorik rhythm track. This sound could last 20 minutes, and I'd still want more.
After a decade away, the band returns with a snappy that lodged itself in my brain. Every instrument pops in this indie rock gumbo that I can't get enough of.
It's a power-pop cliché to talk about how modern songs would have been hits in another era, but once you listen to this leatherjacket-clad cut that bounces into a divine chorus, you'll join me in that dream.
I hereby submit my nomination for this song to become cannon sung by children in elementary school choirs. If the silly lyrics (well except that one line) don't work for you, just enjoy the delightful cadence, perfect melody, and all the country filigree.
I'm a sucker for a great chorus and this is the best I've heard all year. That build up, the chiming guitar, and bass that sets it all in motion - it all combines to create the most delightful power-pop gem of the year.
Simply masterful. "Pigeons" has everything: delicate picking, subtle production, poetic meter, devastatingly smart lyrics, and a narrative that frames a movie I want to see made.
The economy of this track is amazing. In two minutes we're given three sax leads and four trips through the chorus. It's simply all hook and I sing along every time I hit repeat.
I didn't think it was possible to vibe in 2020 until I heard this song. Drift away on a genre-less cloud of bliss, or try to keep up with rapid fire lyrics, either way my mental health needed this track.
There isn't anything more simple and clean and perfect and wonderful in this world than this track. This is bubblegum's saccharine longing married to the raw sincerity of a '60s garage nugget. I hope they stay together forever. This is my favorite song of 2020.
How did I miss this in 2019? Oh well better late than never. This high gloss '60s garage burner is the soundtrack to the banked track roller derby of my dreams.
I only heard this 2019 when it got a 2020 reissue from Surfin' Ki/Rum Bar. The whole album owes a debt to the late '70s LA power-pop scene, but the bubblegum punk energy on this one has me crushing hard.
Why didn't I get this in 2019? I love Ratboys. There's plenty of space, imaginative drumming, and crashing guitar in this loud/soft indie rock gem, but the hooky chorus is my everything.
And there we go. Are your favourite songs on my list? If not, let me know and maybe they'll make my 2021 unadventurous picks.
Tracks #8 through #1 can be heard on Too Much Rock Podcast #540.