I hope you guys got all of the laughs and chuckles out on those lasts two lists. Sometimes it hurts to tear into an artist's song or album but you know what, if you put out a song or project as bad as those, you deserve it. But enough of the bad stuff. Today, we are here to celebrate and honor what I believe to be the 30 best songs released between January 1, 2020, and today. It was tough to try and keep this list to just 30 songs and there were a bunch that I had to cut to keep the list at that number. Nonetheless, we are here now, so without further ado, let's get this train rolling. I want to also say that for songs 30-16, the writeups will be kind of brief, just getting out what I like and what makes the song good. 15-6 will have a little more explanation but maybe just by a few sentences, and 5-1 will be full breakdowns of the songs and why they're so good.
|Daniel Dumile, professionally known as MF DOOM, was announced dead by his family on December 31. He was known for his trademark metal mask that he always wore on stage and in public appearances.
This song is, without a doubt, the best song off of GUM, side project of Tame Impala touring member Jay Watson’s 5th album, Out In The World. It's a psych-rock banger with some of the best drumming I've heard all year. The intro fill on here automatically transports you into his psychedelic world. I also love the little bit of studio banter before it kicks in where Jay asks someone in the studio, "Oh what tempo is this? Oh that's pretty fast innit?" On the lyrical front, it’s pretty lackluster, however, that "Alphabet Soup / I'll forget you" gets stuck in my head quite often. But it's the production and the instrumental that really make up for it. The break where the chorus is supposed to be is filled with horns, synths, some chimes, it all sounds amazing together. It just pulls my body higher and higher above the clouds as it keeps building up. If there's any other complaint that I have, it's just that I wish it was longer.
When I first reviewed The Slow Rush I was pretty indifferent towards this song and said that I hoped it would grow on me. Now, I think this might be the second-best Tame Impala opener to date (nothing will ever top Let It Happen). There's this gated vocal line that's repeating the title over and over again throughout the song and as time has gone on, Kevin Parker's lyrics have only become more fitting for the times opening the song (and the album) by asking "Do you remember we were standing here a year ago?" He later sings lines about how "If there was trouble in the world, we didn't know it / If we had a care, we didn't show it." Instrumentally, this song has a lot more House influence with some sharp drum breakbeats driving the song. I also have to give Kevin props for writing a song in 14/4 time which is something I would only expect from Tool or King Gizzard at this point but hey, why not Kevin, throw your hat in the ring too.
If you've never listened to Thundercat, this is a great entry point into his music. Funky groove, something that'll make you feel good, and some beautiful singing. The lyrics on this song are hilarious with Thundercat trying to get acceptance from this love interest continually asking her, "How do I look in my durag?" There's also this amazing line in the third verse where he says, "I may be covered in cat hair but I still smell good." There's another hilarious few lines near the end of the next verse where he sings "Did you wear that dress just for me? / 'Cause I'm tryna smash / Baby girl, I'ma smash in my durag / 'Cause it's only right." I really love that "Stay with me and love me through the night, endlessly" refrain that pops up a few times throughout the song. There's also some fantastic saxophone solos courtesy of Kamasi Washington who slides into the song so perfectly. There's not a build up or anything just kind of sneaks into the song and makes himself known real quick. There's also a hilarious video directed by Zack Fox that's linked above, please watch it if you want a good laugh.
This Texas trio has been one of my favorite finds during these extended periods of isolation. Khruangbin is that sort of band that if you put on two headphones and turn it up loud, you'll be on another planet and while this isn't quite the ascension material that I love from them, this one just makes me want to dance. The production here is super airy, kind of psychedelic. It's a song that will either have you on your feet twisting and grooving or laying in bed just floating above the clouds too. The guitar work on here is incredible and licks are incredibly tasty. And the vocal harmony all throughout the song are amazing. Bassist Laura Lee and guitarist Mark Lee sing in different octaves throughout the whole song and it sounds great. Great enough to distract from the lyrics of the song which are sung in Spanish. The chorus roughly translates to Laura singing, "Now I / Now I can be a ball." The song is hypnotizing enough on its own to where I don't have to care about the lyrics. They fit on top of the song smoothly so the meaning of them doesn't really detract from the experience.
Definitely one of the sadder songs on the latest Blue October album, this song is a slow burner that I haven't been able to get over ever since it was released as a single. This is classic Blue October through and through. Justin Furstenfield's writing is top-notch here and his voice is soft but powerful. There's a sort of pain or anxiety there too that really makes this song great. In Furstenfield's words, it's a song about a marriage being taken for granted. The third verse here is the saddest with Furstenfield singing, "I know I just tore you down / And my words will come back around just like that / Just like that honeymoon I promised you, but you never got." The pre-chorus on here also cuts with Furstenfield singing "And the weatherman said / That the storm will clear / That this is our year / Maybe, just maybe, this time he'll be right." But the song ends with a hopeful tone with the lyrics in the post-chorus riffing on the idea that this couple is "right on the edge of a blue sky." It's probably the smoothest song on this album but it also cuts the deepest so if that's your thing, give this a shot.
WOW! WOW! I did NOT expect Deftones to come back as strong as they did this year. This song is one of their best of the last decade and it just does not let up for the 4 minutes it's here. The guitar on here is super chunky and put through a Harmonizer pedal to make it sound even bigger, almost like something from a Smashing Pumpkins or Queens of the Stone Age song. And probably the most surprising part of this all is, Chino actually comes through with not just a solid performance, but also lyrics that make sense next to each other. It at times feels like a song of protest even though I know it's not, there are more themes about trying to fix something after it too late to have an effect. But those opening lines, "We're surrounded by debris of the past / And it's too late to cause a change in the tides," just capture the essence of the song perfectly. It's such an energizing song and I'm glad that Deftones bounced back the way they did.
17. Taylor Swift - exile (ft. Bon Iver)
It's songs like this that make you realize that Hayley Williams needed a solo outlet to get some of these songs out because this would never work out as a Paramore song. It starts off pretty bare, just some drums while Hayley is vocally riffing. There's also this weird synth swell before the verse starts. Through the song, Hayley sings about isolation and being comfortable alone in her home. Singing about how she talks to her dog and eats her breakfast "in the nude." I also love the phrase that repeats a few times throughout the song where Hayley sings, "I'm not lonely, I am free." When the instrumental finally kicks into full swing, the song goes from good to great. Funky bassline, this cool guitar lick, and the drums on this song are just fat and groovy. There's a little bridge after the second chorus where the instrumental transforms into something slower, a little moodier, almost like something off of Radiohead's In Rainbows. There's a drum fill soaked in phaser before the song transitions to its final leg which is magical. Just the band jamming away while Hayley riffs a little more. It's such a fantastically produced song and it's so off the wall. I never expected to get a song like this from Hayley but it's moments like this that make me so happy that
The title track from this smash-hit album has slowly become my favorite song on this album and might honestly be my favorite song that Abel has ever released. The song starts with these soft synth chords and a guitar sample that makes it sort of haunting, it creates a dark vibe around the song. It almost calls back to his Trilogy, the same creepy atmosphere is present throughout the whole song. About 25 seconds in, the guitar sample gets transposed up one octave and there are these huge hits of bass that almost sound like a bomb going off over the song. The first verse lyrically is Abel pining over a failed relationship and shows a lot of desire about wanting her back singing about how without this girl he can't sleep and how he wants her next to him, promising not to leave next time. I love how when the song starts building up to the beat drop, there's a little bit of pushback, telling the listener, "just wait a few more seconds, it'll even better." And it is a fantastic release when it does drop. The second verse shows Abel as an open book admitting his mistakes and admitting that he turned into a man that he used to be and isn't proud of it. The chorus is sad but sweet, with Abel singing, "Oh baby / Where are you now when I need you most." I love how the song pulls back again for the bridge, just about everything drops out except for Abel's voice which is pained and regretful. I'm happy that this song actually fills out all 6 minutes of runtime and I get more out of it each time I come back to it.
After a period of being a little indifferent towards Billie Eilish's new music, I'm glad this song came through and reminded me how good she is. Of course, I could complain and say it sounds like a When We All Fall Asleep... B Side but this style always suits her well and her performance and energy on the song really reflect that as well. The production here shows FINNEAS and Billie continuing to push themselves musically rather than just trying to coast on the fumes of their success. The beat is bass heavy with some nice string and synth embellishments but there’s also a lot of stuff buried in the mix that you won’t notice unless it’s turned up extremely loud or you have good speakers/headphones. Billie’s harmonies on the song are fantastic as well and the fact that she does all of them live rather than just pitch shifting them makes the song a lot more admirable. The song lyrically is about people who are trying to say they were close to Billie or claim that they were there before Billie became the superstar we know today and she doesn’t enjoy it one bit. Her vocals reflect that because she sings with anger and bitterness, especially on those “Get my pretty name out of your mouth / We are not the same with or without” lines. I really dig the chorus on this song, especially the title tie in where she sings, “You think that you’re the man / I think therefore I am.” I also love how seemlessly the song transitions from verse to chorus mainly thanks to how Billie will start a line at the end of a verse then finish it at the beginning of the chorus. It’s the same lines both times with Billie singing, “Did you have fun? / I really couldn’t care less and you can give them my best but just know...” then the chorus will drop in again. It's such a great arrangement and pacing and I hope that Billie and Finneas continue on this hot streak they're on and I hope this album comes out sooner rather than later.
Tyler Childers continues to be one of the most exciting artists in modern country music and it's good to see that real country music is still out kicking. His passionate, gravelly voice adds a lot of character to all of his songs and his writing style is sometimes sweet, but other times it’s haunting and dramatic, like this song, a song of protest. The song is just about as raw instrumentally as possible, just some fiddle, acoustic guitar, and banjos back Tyler’s voice, but that just adds to the experience. Knowing Tyler’s fan base, a lot of his fans probably won’t enjoy the lyrical content of this song, but he acknowledges that, saying that he understands that he’s a Kentucky redneck, and that he might be ignorant on the matter, but that part of his identity has never made him fear for his life. He then asks the listeners “Could you imagine just constantly worryin' / Kickin' and fightin', beggin' to breathe?” Tyler actually brings a lot of thought provoking and smart lyrics in this song, from the jump, the opening line “It’s the worst that it’s been since the last time it’s happened.” I also really love the second verse where Tyler sings, “Been passed off as factual, when actually the actual / Causes they're awkwardly blocking the way.” But the best part of this song is one of the final verses where Tyler sings, “How many boys could they haul off this mountain / Shoot full of holes, cuffed and layin' in the streets / ‘Til we come into town in a stark ravin' anger / Looking for answers and armed to the teeth?” It’s a really interesting and smart way to write a protest song. I think I’ll end this write-up with a bold claim, this is the most important song Tyler Childers has written to date.
I always enjoy going into The 1975's songs and albums with no clue what to expect but one of these days, they need to just make a straight 80s rock/pop album because every time they play around with this sound, it's incredible. The song has an almost psychedelic intro with what sounds like violin strings being plucked, there’s also some guitar in the distance while FKA Twigs hits some beautiful high notes. Then there’s a guitar lick soaked in echo and reverb before some drums and a saxophone bring us into the song. One of my favorite qualities of this song is that Matty Healy’s vocals aren’t annoying or hard to listen to, he actually brings a pretty solid performance. Throughout the first verse, it’s sort of unassuming, just Healy singing with some harmonies but when the chorus drops in, it’s beautiful. There’s a fantastic horn section, booming drums with a new wave flair to them, there’s also these little bell chimes that accent the horns, and it’s sooo catchy. That “Maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes” hook is one of the best things to turn up on this album. There’s also this huge saxophone solo about 4 minutes in that takes the song up to another level. I didn’t expect a sax solo to ever fit so well in a 1975 song but you know what, 2020 is crazy so why not. The song slows down for a few seconds after the solo for Healy to sing the hook again before everything comes running back again. This song, in my opinion, will never get old and if I were to have done this list a few weeks later, this song might be even higher. I hope that one day Healy realizes that all he had to do to make me a huge fan is write an album of songs full of songs like this.
Without a doubt the hardest song from the 8 track EP from one of my favorite rappers Denzel Curry and one of the newest hot producers in the hip hop world right now Kenny Beats. I wish I could nail a single vibe that this song follows but it's hard to. There are tribal drums mixed with super loud 808s and different vocal samples popping in and out, the beat on here is honestly nuts. This whole song is one of Denzel’s best performances is a little while dropping clever bar after clever bar. In the first verse alone, there are so many great one-liners. Whether it’s the line where he says, “I don’t cry / Matter of fact I don’t lie like a bedside,” or that one line where he raps, “I get new jersey’s like I was a guido.” I also love the self-awareness before the chorus where he raps, “This next bar was bout to do some Logic sh*t / But now I gotta stop the sh*t and let me pop my sh*t.” The chorus is Denzel channeling his inner DMX, almost screaming the whole first half of it, but what really sells the chorus for me is the second half of it where he raps, “The shogun, came through with no gun / One man, Ichiban, fresh outta Japan, do as I command.” The second verse has a few more great one-liners but it’s really the sampling that makes the second verse great, with one line going “I am the master, came through like a...” then Denzel takes a breath while a sample pops in and says, “wait a minute” before Denzel finishes the line. Also that “If the game was a tooth, I’m a f*cking pair of pliers” line is amazing. I hope the two come together more often. It’s songs like this that beg the question, why didn’t this collab come together even sooner?
When you click on an IDLES song and hear it being more mid-tempo, strap in because it's going to be a banger. I would say that this song is politically charged but come on, it's IDLES. As long as Joe Talbot is fronting the band, they'll always have that attitude. While a lot of IDLES more politically charged songs usually hide their views in funny or clear ways, there is nothing funny about the way they’re presented here, Talbot wants to get his point across and doesn’t want the message to get lost in translation. The song starts out with an interesting pitch shifted guitar delay thingy, there’s a breakdown of it in this video here. After 3-4 cycles of that there’s these huge drums and blaring guitars that come in and after that. The song is off to the races. I also really love the breakdown near the end of the song where the song turns into a cacophony of guitars and just, noise. Talbot’s voice is just what you would expect, he’s loud, he’s pissed off, and you can hear his face turning red as he sings. I love the short and sweet chorus here, the lines “Do you hear that thunder? / That’s the sound of strength in numbers.” Such a strong line in such a short amount of time. The second verse sees Joe talking about the bands homeland of England but not in a positive way, singing “Fee fee fie fie fo fo fum / I smell the blood of a million sons / A million daughters from a hundred thousand guns / Not taught by our teachers on our curriculum.” I also love the verses the song ends on with Joe taking a strong stance against Social Justice Warriors and people who cry for change but don’t work for it saying that “not a single thing has ever been mended by you standing there and saying you’re offended” and later singing, “There’s nothing brave and nothing useful / You scrawling your aggro sh*t on the walls of the cubicle.” If anything, this song is a good reminder that punk is definitely not dead.
I still remember the day I found out that this was dropping and being super hype for it because not only were we getting new Gorillaz music, but Slowthai on a Gorillaz song was something I wasn't interested to hear. And I just want to tell you guys, this song absolutely slaps. I know it starts off slow and kind of vibey but let the song keep going. Once Slowthai starts rapping, the gloves are off and it's a wild ride. I love the punk energy on the song and how great the chemistry is between Slowthai, Slaves, and Gorillaz. They all bounce off each other super well, better than I expected. As I said before, the intro is polar opposite from the rest of the song, starting with a little guitar riff, some sweet singing from Isaac Holman of Slaves. There's a little transition where all of the synths swell up, almost like the song is building up to liftoff, then there's what sounds like a synth bass line before Slowthai drops in with some happy and uplifting bars. Singing about how compliments make him blush and
Possibly my favorite opening song of 2020, this song really makes me wonder where the hell The Strokes went for all of the 2010s. They really had this kicking around but decided to drop Comedown Machine instead? Come on. This song is one of the most off-the-wall Strokes songs since the release of Angles which is almost 10 years at this point. And there are so many good aspects to it as well to the point where I don't even know where to start talking about it. I think I'll start at probably my favorite part of the song and that is Julian Casablancas's vocal performance here because nobody told me he had this range. Usually, when you turn on a Strokes song, Julian's voice is muffled or distorted to the point where his voice is pretty much just another instrument in the song but here it's front and center, he's singing in a pretty soft tone until after the 3-minute mark where he starts pulling out these insane falsettos that I didn't know he was capable of pulling off. I also like his writing on this song quite a bit even though it's never been the high point of The Strokes music. I like the tongue in cheek look back at the bands beginning, singing "They've been sayin' you're sophisticated / They're complainin', overeducated." There's also a lot of political undertones in the song especially in the second verse where Julian sings "No more askin', questions, or excuses / The information's here / Here and everywhere." Pretty much saying that in the digital age, no one can really get away with anything, especially those with positions in power. I also have to talk about the guitar playing on this song because it is amazing. If you ever have the chance to listen to this song in a stereo setting or with both headphones on, do it because there's nothing more enjoyable than the guitars panning from channel to channel while they solo. The first solo here is Albert Hammond Jr. and Nick Valensi going lower and lower on the fretboard to the point where the solo reaches a climax. The second is a weird, fuzzy, octaved solo that ends the song well. It's hard to explain the tone of it through words. But wow, I don't know what fire got lit under The Strokes ass but I hope it keeps burning.
If there's one song you need to listen to off of RTJ4, let it be this one. I want to say from the jump that Killer Mike's verse on this song might be the best rap verse of the year. You can hear the pain and the anger in his voice as he just drops bar after bar. But before I go into what makes his verse great, I don't want to discredit El-P's verse because it's just as good. He raps about oppression and indirectly raps about ICE rounding up illegal immigrants and American citizens just letting it happen. I love the line where he says, "The newest lowest on the totem, well golly gee, you have been used / You helped to fuel the death machine that down the line will kill you too." There's also his lines right before this about being caged up where he raps, "Funny fact about a cage, they're never built for just one group / So when that cage is done with them and you still poor, it come for you." There's another powerful line after these where he says, "Pseudo-Christians, y'all indifferent, kids in prisons ain't a sin? Sh*t / If even one scrap of what Jesus taught connected, you'd feel different." And while his verse is super serious and heavy, he ends it on a lighter note rapping, "I'd say y'all lost your god damn minds if you possessed one to begin with." Then, enter Killer Mike. If you know anything about him, you know he's never afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in, so when the verse starts, it's not really too shocking. Mike starts off his verse by rapping about our educational system in America, saying, "They promise education, but really they give you tests and scores / And they predictin' prison population by who scoring the lowest / And usually the lowest scores the poorest and they look like me." But it's right after these lines where the shock factor comes in. Before you read these lyrics, bear in mind that this song was recorded in November 2019. Mike raps,
I had a tough time choosing between this song and Dying Breed as which Killers song I wanted to include on this list but I had to go with this one. Production-wise, performance-wise, and lyrically, this song is one of the best songs the band has dropped post Sam's Town which is a bold statement considering it opens the album. Sort of like with The Adults Are Talking, I don't know where I need to start talking about this song because there are so many good aspects to it. I guess I can start with Brandon Flowers in general because I love the man so much. I can say without a doubt that he is the best frontman in modern rock music. His vocals are always super passionate and whenever he writes a great song or writes something poetic, it's amazing. This song is a case of that. It's about an inner struggle, trying to go with his gut even though his soul is telling him no. The first verse alone is some of his best writing in a long time with Flowers singing:
It really hurts to realize that Mac is gone because songs like this would've been incredible to hear live. The vibe of this song, the way the beat kicks in, the beat in general. There's not a single bad aspect of this song, maybe just the fact that it ends so abruptly but that's not even something to complain about. I think from the jump, I want to say that this is the best beat in all of rap and hip hop in 2020. The production is handled by Guy Lawrence, 1/2 of the amazing EDM duo Disclosure. There's this really great chopped up vocal sample that drives the song with some heavy sub-bass and some sharp percussion as well. Instrumental and production alone, this song is fantastic and it would easily fit onto any Disclosure album, but Mac comes through with a certain swagger and delivery on this song that makes it uniquely his. Listening to this song, you can hear the smile on his face while he's rapping, there's just so much positive energy on the song that it's hard not to also have a smile on your face while you listen to it. The song starts off with this really cool sample from The Four Freshmen, pretty much just setting the stage for the song. There's an effect that makes it sound like the sample gets sucked away before the beat hits. Mac slides into the song so well, wasting no time starting the chorus, I love the one line where he raps, "I ain't politickin' / I ain't kissin' no babies." The song is full of a lot of great one-liners, like right at the beginning of the first verse where Mac says that he's "cool as fall weather." He also reaches out to the listener in a cool, sort of "breaking the fourth wall" moment when he raps, "F*ck your bullsh*t I'm here to make it all better with a little music for you." I love the bass that builds up behind him in the verses, it's a nice little touch. There's a cool break right after the first verse where the beat transitions into some claps, some bells, and Mac singing a bunch of harmonies. The second verse shows Mac dropping a few more great bars rapping at the end of the verse,
If you have yet to listen to Chris Stapleton, let this be your queue to do so. It's songs and performances like this that make him stand out in a country scene filled with people just trying to get the next big hit or just trying to be relevant. Stapleton takes an opposite approach, he doesn't care about the fame or recognition, he just wants to write the best songs possible and craft the best albums possible. For someone at his level of fame, his pen game is still unmatched. His lyrics are always full of honesty and very relatable and his voice is just huge and thunderous and hits me in all of the sweet spots. His new album, Starting Over, was one of my most anticipated albums of this year and it lived up to all of the hype (more on that soon.) There was one major standout track though through my first listen and it was this song. It's a beautifully haunting song condemning mass shootings and acts of terror in our country, focusing mainly on the Las Vegas shooting a few years ago. But it's not just a song saying "we need to stop the violence" and "we need to be better." No, Stapleton takes another stance instead calling the shooter a "coward" and singing in the chorus that he can't wait to watch him burn in hell. The first verse features those coward lines and also touches on the fact that Las Vegas didn't get scared and the citizens kept living their life, showing that the shooter had no effect on the cities lifestyle. The second verse is the one that continually gives me chills because of how blunt it is with Stapleton singing at the end: