There’s a new revolution, a loud evolution that I saw
Born of confusion and quiet collusion of which mostly I’ve known
—Lana Del Rey, “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have…”
Yesterday, as I was sitting with the Math Greek in a San Francisco diner finishing up my coffee, “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish came over the speakers and, just as I realized I was unconsciously bopping my head along to the music, I noticed that the elderly black woman next to me was doing the same. And that pretty much sums up my year in music. I didn’t follow it as much as I have in the past and, along with everybody else and their mother, always seemed to come back to Eilish, who was inescapable despite the fact that I never listen to the radio of my own accord.
In any case, as I have for done for the last six years, here are some of my favorite songs and videos from the past year.
Best in Bad Guys: Billie Eilish, “Bad Guy” (When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?). Sure it was everywhere but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve to be. Both infectious and on point message-wise. I liked a number of songs on this incredible debut (especially “Bury a Friend”) and it was the first album I bothered to get this year.
Best in Bright Sides: Lana Del Rey, “Hope Is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It” (Norman Fucking Rockwell!). In many ways, the antidote to Eilish, but absolutely haunting. Bonus points for best album title of the year.
Best in Beacons: Maggie Rogers, “Light On” (Heard It in a Past Life). You may remember that I included Maggie Rogers way back in my 2016 roundup for her single “Alaska” (which also appears on this, her first studio album).
Best in Beverages: Lizzo, “Juice” (Cuz I Love You). Like Maggie Rogers, this is not Lizzo’s first appearance in my year-end roundup. I also love “Truth Hurts” but that one is not really from this year so I didn’t feature it here.
Best in Beats: Lucky Daye, “Late Night” (Painted). There are not many songs that actually make me want to get up and dance, but this is one of those songs.
Best in Broncos: Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” (7). If you know me, you know I love westerns. I do like this song, but the video is what truly sold it for me.
Best in Building Additions: Joy Williams, “Front Porch” (Front Porch). Speaking of Nashville sounds, Front Porch is the second solo effort for Joy Williams after her work in The Civil Wars (the duo officially split in 2014). If you like the sound of this single, I recommend you check out the whole album.
Best in Bodies of Water: Jake Xerxes Fussell, “The River St. Johns” (Out of Sight). In a different folk vein, Fussell is a Southern folksinger in the purest sense. All the songs on Out of Sight are traditional songs in the public domain.
Best in Bathing: Freya Ridings, “Holy Water” (Freya Ridings). If you find yourself missing Florence + the Machine, check out this single by a (relative) newcomer to the British music scene.
Best in Brooklyn: Sharon Van Etten, “Comeback Kid” (Remind Me Tomorrow). Sure, Van Etten moved to Los Angeles this past fall, but both this song and “Seventeen” seem very much infused with the vibes of her former home.
Best in Brutal Truths: J.S. Ondara, “American Dream” (Tales of America). Ondara grew up in Kenya listening to American music on his sister’s battery-powered radio and resolved to move to the United States to pursue music. Lucky for us, in 2013, he won the green card lottery and moved to Minneapolis at the age of 20. This is his debut album and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Best in Bluegrass: Molly Tuttle, “Take the Journey” (When You’re Ready). If you like a good guitar pick, look no further than this single from the debut solo album of Molly Tuttle, which contains perhaps my favorite lyric of the year—”You can try to control the weather, but the rain inside you is still gonna fall.”
Best in Blues: Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, “It Ain’t Right” (Kingfish). Speaking of guitars, there are more than a few songs from Ingram’s debut album that I could have put here. His talent shouldn’t be surprising—he hails from Clarksdale, Mississippi, the home of the blues, which I wrote about over in Mississippi Delta Blues. Run, don’t walk, to listen to this guy’s whole album.
Best in Boozers: G Flip, “Drink Too Much” (About Us). It is probably not surprising that my favorite song from this debut album by Australian singer-songwriter Georgia Flipo, which chronicles the ups and downs of a relationship, is about the regrets that come with drinking too much. Something that all too many people have started to do lately if recent news articles are to be believed. Personally, I can believe it. Here’s to better times ahead.
And, on that note, on to the rest of 2020!
For previous Year in Music round-ups, see
Unapologetic B*tch: The Year in Music (2014)
Surf’s Up: The Year in Music (2015)
The Year in Music 2015: Missing Links
Getting in Formation: The Year in Music (2016)
Shadow, Take Me Down: The Year in Music (2017)
Cowboys and Angels: The Year in Music (2018)
*Note to email subscribers, there is embedded video in this post that may not appear in your email. Please click through to the actual post to see the complete list of selections.