Saturday , May 30 2020
Post Malone - Hollywood's Bleeding

Charlie Doherty’s Top 50 Tunes of 2019

As a music connoisseur who hears or reads about new releases on an almost daily basis, I can honestly say I had a harder time finishing my 2019 favorite tunes list than my 2018 one. And it’s because in my view, compared to 2018, I’d say the quality of music in 2019 was just better. Narrowing such a list down to a readable count proved tougher than I anticipated – and that’s a good problem to have, especially in an era where cynics are more apt to quip “they don’t make music like they used to” no matter what.

Female artists and hip-hop dominate pop music these days, starring the likes of Lizzo, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and the overnight success story of Lil Nas X. He managed to cross not one, not two, but three genres – rap, country, and pop – on his #1 hit “Old Town Road,” with the main melody being a sample of a song by industrial rock titans Nine Inch Nails. (So he technically managed to include four genres in one song if you think about it.)

“Old Town Road” was everywhere, but (longtime family friend) Lou Bell (professionally known as “Louis Bell”) had his biggest year yet co-writing/producing hits by everyone from Taylor Swift (three tracks on the Lover LP) and the Jonas Brothers (“Sucker”) to Halsey (“Without Me” and “Graveyard”), Lana Del Rey (“Fuck It, I Love You”), and of course, Post Malone (“Wow.,” “Sunflower,” “Circles,” etc.). He even became the second person ever to hit #1 on Billboard’s (new) Hot 100 Producer chart last summer.

I always try to include a healthy amount of music genres in my lists. I hope that within these selections that you will discover some music you’ll want to add to your own collection. So here are my picks – in no particular ranking but with commentary/background info throughout.

Top 50 Songs of 2019

Baroness “Tourniquet” (If I had to name one song as my absolute pick for “Best Song of 2019,” the epic “Tourniquet” from Gold & Grey would be my pick.)

Post Malone - Hollywood's Bleeding

Post Malone “Wow.” (Released around Christmas 2018 and later added to his Hollywood’s Bleeding LP, it blew up the charts immediately. It features an infectious beat, clever shout-outs (Dak Prescott, Fall Out Boy, and NBA legend Dikembe Mutombo), and even some conventional rapping.)

Halsey “Without Me” (Without a doubt, at over 347 million YouTube views, this is Halsey’s biggest hit to date. Even my dad, who worked in the radio industry for a few years, loves it, especially her “innocent rage” as he puts it. I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say it any better – and you thought I was the only music critic/professional in the family.)

Silversun Pickups “It Doesn’t Matter Why” (A new SSPU album is always worth looking forward to, and Widow’s Weeds definitely has some inspiring moments, this one being among them.)

The Jonas Brothers “Sucker” (The reunion of the Jonas Brothers couldn’t have gone any better, as it produced one of the biggest hits of their career. Check out their even better kickass guitar-centric performance of it on Saturday Night Live from last May.)

John Dennis “First Light” (The acoustic-led “First Light” is a lovely, soft-spoken slice of Americana based on Illinois native John Dennis’s “own version of a creation myth” and from his forthcoming January 31 release, Mortal Flames. RIYL Paul Simon.)

Don Felder “Sun” (The former Eagles guitarist also delves into Americana, with glorious vocal harmonies akin to prime Crosby, Stills, and Nash.)

Sharon Van Etten “Seventeen (with Norah Jones)” (This introspective single from Remind Me Tomorrow was a hit before Norah Jones got involved. Together, they take it to a whole new level of intense emotion and power.)

Tyler, the Creator “New Magic Wand” (It’s true that popular music today often lacks edginess or danger. That’s certainly not the case with Tyler’s music, as his electrifying – or rather terrifying for some older folks – Grammys performance Sunday night of this cut from his critically-acclaimed Igor album showed.)

Carly Rae Jepsen “Now That I Found You” (Jepsen continues to prove she has staying power far beyond “Call Me Maybe.”)

Pete Yorn “Calm Down” (Not to make you feel old, but Yorn has been releasing music for almost 20 years now – since 2001’s musicforthemorningafter. Talk about staying power.)

Blood Incantation “Slave Species of the Gods” (This is from the Denver group’s album, Hidden History of the Human Race.)

Beck “Saw Lightning” (Beck’s been in the game for over 25 years, as has his co-writer and producer on this bouncy track, Pharrell.)

Brittany Howard “History Repeats” (The Alabama Shakes singer brings on the funk here – and it hints at David Bowie’s “Fame” or Prince.)

DJ Shadow “Rocket Fuel (f/De La Soul)” (DJ Shadow scored a hit with Run the Jewels a few years back – “Nobody Speak” – but was not going to end the decade without another notable hip-hop collaboration, this time with Long Island legends De La Soul.)

Greet Death “Strange Days” (It’s from one of my top albums of 2019, New Hell.)

Post Animal “Safe or Not” (This Chicago “pop prog” band has a sound a tad like Tame Impala on this one.)

Liz Phair “Good Side” (A new memoir and a new song in the same year? And a promise of a new album in 2020? Phair fans should rejoice.)

Fire Tiger “Key to My Heart” (Retro pop rock with a catchy guitar riff.)

Doldrey “Siege of Doldrey” (This is rather impressive – for a “death punk” band from Singapore.)

Death Before Dishonor “True Defeat” (Out on Bridge 9 Records, this is hardcore metal the way it used to be – in the ’90s/’00s.)

Danny Brown “Dirty Laundry” (When you see that Q-Tip is the producer, you know it’s good stuff.)

The Weeknd “Heartless” (This is the latest from the Canadian “starboy.”)

Grimes & i_o “Violence” (That voice of Grimes – a.k.a. Claire Boucher – is from another planet.)

White Reaper “Might Be Right” (Here’s a highlight from the Kentucky rock group’s major label (Elektra) debut, You Deserve Love.)

William Patrick Corgan “Fragile, the Spark” (Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan channels his inner Lindsey Buckingham – à la “Landslide” – on this one from his 2019 solo LP, Cotillions.)

Prince “Manic Monday(With the release of Originals, we finally get to hear his original version of the hit song he gave to Susanna Hoffs and The Bangles.)

Third Eye Blind “Screamer (w/Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells)” (This ’90s band has never really gone away. And now they’re back with a modernized sound.)

Iggy Pop “James Bond” (Remember the talk of retirement from a few years back? Yeah, I didn’t buy it either. He’s now into his ’70s and still releasing music. This is from his 2019 album, Free.)

Mannequin Pussy “Drunk II” (Strange name, great song – it’s as if Dinosaur Jr. let a girl take over vocal duties for one day.)

Toro Y Moi – “New House” (It appears on the Outer Peace LP.)

Death Cab for Cutie “Kids in ‘99” (It’s a tribute to victims of an explosion and is from this past summer’s The Blue EP. The tune also feels pleasantly nostalgic, as it contains a flavor of fan favorite, “Company Calls Epilogue.”)

Amyl and the Sniffers “Gacked on Anger” (Australian punk is alive and well.)

Betty Davis “A Little Bit Hot Tonight” (It’s the ’70s female funk pioneer and ex-wife of Miles Davis’s first new song in 40 years!)

Oso Oso “Dig” (It’s like a throwback to Pinback.)

Jay Som “Superbike” (Lush? Cocteau Twins? Or The Sundays? No matter who this reminds you of, it’s an enjoyable ’90s nostalgic trip.)

The Underground Thieves “Whole Lotta Money” (I put this on the list for the smokin’ hot guitar solo alone. FYI It’s a bit of a supergroup featuring members of Silvertide and Rusted Root.)

Mike Patton and Jean-Claude Vannier “On Top of the World (Patton is a genius – and freakin’ hilarious, as on this track.)

Jessie Ware “Adore You” (Electronic/dance-pop that is produced just right – no flashy synths or Auto-Tune required.)

Jenny Lewis “Red Bull & Hennessy” (From her latest release, On the Line, this one will get you on your feet.)

Bon Iver “U (Man Like)” (Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak helps Justin Vernon out on the vocals and Bruce Hornsby plays piano here.)

Collective Soul “Porch Swing (with Tommy Shaw of Styx)” (In 2019, the Georgia rock band celebrated the 25th anniversary of their debut LP Hints Allegations and Things Left Unsaid and its biggest hit “Shine” with the release of their 10th LP, Blood. This is one of the true standout tracks.)

Future Teens “Emotional Bachelor” (Self-described “Boston bummer pop.”)

Sebadoh “Celebrate the Void” (Speaking of Massachusetts bands, here’s one from Dinosaur Jr. bassist Lou Barlow’s other great ’80s/’90s indie rock band. Find it on Sebadoh’s ninth full-length, Act Surprised.)

Control Top “Chain Reaction” (Philly post-punk trio with a sound here that combines the spirit of Sleater-Kinney with the bony bass sounds of Death From Above 1979.)

Deafheaven “Black Brick” (They go full-on metal on this one. It’s also Celtic Frost-ish but I hear old school Mastodon drums too.)

American Football “Every Wave to Ever Rise (f/Elizabeth Powell)” (The emo group’s self-titled reunion album features this cameo by Land of Talk’s Powell. The song’s guitar arpeggios remind me of classic Jimmy Eat World.)

Karl Denson “Change My Way” (He toured with the Rolling Stones as a sax player.)

1K Phew “How We Coming (f/WHATUPRG and Ty Brasel)” (It is from the What’s Understood EP.)

The Cranberries “A Place I Know” (Much like the distinct sound of Dolores O’Riordan’s voice, you’ll never get this song’s reverb-soaked slide guitar riff out of your head once you hear it. Its dreamy vibe is very reminiscent of The Sundays.)

See also my Top 40 Releases of 2019 list.

About Charlie Doherty

Senior Music Editor and Culture & Society (Sports) Editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Prior writing/freelancing ventures: copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. Keep up with me on twitter.com/chucko33

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