Yes it’s that time of year again when we all look back across a year in music to think about what songs we played to death, what songs stood out from the many heard and what songs really defined the moments of your life.
Find mine below. I have not had as much time to write this year so I have included some tracks which come from albums I have not had the chance to review. Let me know your favourites!
20) SZA – Nobody Gets Me
By echoing ‘Fade Into You’ by Mazzy Star, SZA has brilliantly channelled all her heartbroken misery into a dreamy anthem of self-loathing and despair. Her voice is quite reminiscent of Rhianna but what makes her stand out is that she manages to transcend the usual genre boundaries which makes her a very modern, and intriguing star.
19) Wet Leg – Angelica
In the search for the next female festival headliner we could never have expected a random indie band from the Isle of Wight to step forward and grab the prize. Offbeat, funny, smart, catchy and just the kind of left-field joy that indie pop is build on, Wet Leg are no novelty act but instead are the band to show that indie nonchalance can still deliver the goods on the big stage.
18) Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
Well, well, well here is the first positive appearance for Ms Swift on the blog for a long while (maybe ever). I have always had a kind of love-hate relationship with her music and personality which ironically makes this song all the more appealing. Here she admits she’s the problem and it’s hard not to love her for monetising her own personality flaws in such a creative and catchy song. Inescapable brilliance.
17. Kelsey Waldon – Tall & Mighty
By admitting ‘you can’t stand tall and mighty all the time’, Kelsey Waldon takes her personal story of struggling in the music industry and makes it universal on this brilliant honky tonk anthem.
16) Michaela Anne – Oh To Be That Free Again
Some voices are just made for summer nights, enjoying those endless evenings of light stretching out in front of you. Here Michaela Anne captures those moments in a song full of beautiful nostalgia for a simpler time.
15) Amanda Shires – Empty Cups
On her recent album Amanda Shires embraced her dark side, transforming into a hawk. This quietly devastating ballad stood out, with support from a beautiful orchestra and her Highwomen bandmate Maren Morris. Sublime sadness.
14. Leona Naess – Name Across the Sky
In an unexpected return to music Leona Naess offered us a dream pop shimmer on ‘Name Across the Sky’. A quietly joyful song which reminds us all that renewal and rebirth is always possible.
13) S.G. Goodman – If You Were Someone I Loved / You Were Someone I Loved
A devastating song inspired by the opioid epidemic, SG Goodman exposes the horror beneath the surface of rural America. Her eerily evocative lament to the lost stands out as one of the most compelling songs of the year.
12) Lana Del Rey – Did you know there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd
A late entry to the list is the title track from Lana’s upcoming album. She sounds better than ever, her hot streak of quality ballads unrivalled. Don’t forget me, she sings comparing herself to the closed up California tunnel on Ocean Blvd. Another instant classic.
11) Lizzo – About Damn Time
Some seem to forget how radical and transgressive it is to have a pop star who looks like Lizzo and whose music offers such radical self-acceptance. She might have had to deal with some sniffy reviews and insulting social media attacks but on a song like this she shows that expressing yourself and finding joy in music can help us all to survive anything. An instant dance floor classic. I can’t wait to see her live show next year.
10) Plains – Abilene
This unexpected collaboration album between Jess Williamson and Katie Crutchfield offered us many beautiful songs, most notably this heartbreak ballad about the bittersweet end to a relationship. Gorgeous.
9) Lainey Wilson – Heart like a Truck
Country music’s newest star Lainey Wilson has her moment in the spotlight and seizes it with startling power. Find a field, spin your wheels, turn this one all the way up.
8) Sunny Sweeney – A Song Can’t Fix Everything
Memory, nostalgia and the power of a melody to transport you in time are explored in this heartbreaker from Sunny Sweeney. Play it again and again until all your tears run dry.
7) Angel Olsen & Sturgill Simpson – Big Time
As if this song wasn’t stunning enough, Angel Olsen then releases a version featuring none other than legend Sturgill Simpson himself. As one of the key inspirations for her album, our man sounds quietly reinvigorated after some time away with vocal chord problems. I had to be losing to get here on time, suddenly takes on a new meaning.
6) Caitlin Rose feat. Courtney Marie Andrews – Getting it Right
One of the musical miracles of the year was the return of Caitlin Rose, a trailblazer of the recent indie Americana sound who had been quiet for nearly a decade. On this perfect song about imperfection, featuring co-writer Courtney Marie Andrews, she tries to offer herself some hopeful self-compassion for the future.
5) Florence and the Machine – Free
On the pulsating ‘Free’, Florence celebrates singing in the face of ‘suffering and pain’, trying to decide whether sedation or elation is the right way to get through the dance that is life. For a moment her fever dream comes spectacularly to life on this epic, which easily sits alongside her best songs.
4) Caroline Spence – Mary Oliver
Here’s a perfect little devotional hymn to the poet god Mary Oliver by the wonderful Caroline Spence. Mary showed us the way to live – with our hearts on our sleeves – and its no surprise that her plain speaking truths have become such an inspiration for lyric writers. Spence’s voice and songwriting reaches a new level on this song and her album ‘True North’.
3) Hurray for the Riff Raff – SAGA
SAGA is a heartbreaking song about enduring trauma and sexual abuse, and like everything that Alynda Lee Segarra sings the song is full of compassion and musical strength. The lines I don’t want this to be / the saga of my life/ I just want to be free / Get over it in time leaves some hope to those enduring such suffering.
2) Nikki Lane – Denim & Diamonds
After you’ve lit up your whole life, where do you go next? Nikki Lane shows us the path forward – a trail she’s blazed for herself and every other Highway Queen out there. With nods to Cher, and a kick ass rock and roll sneer she refuses to be scared or compromise herself for anyone. If that’s a problem, well she doesn’t give a shit what you think anyway.
1) Ashley McBryde & Caylee Hammack, Brandy Clark & Pillbox Patti – Bonfire at Tina’s
In her surprise collaborative album ‘Lindeville’ Ashley McBryde and friends sang an anthem about community, connection and the power of pyromania. The bonfire at Tina’s was a place where anyone could bring their baggage, douse the pain of their past, strike a match and watch it burn into ash. In a song that was written to be sung by a crowd LIGHT IT UP! takes on a new and powerful meaning.
Find all the songs here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7CmsnHMegT3JTQf57yJGkm?si=Dhz2skInTF69k53_Et3v4A