Top 25 Tracks of 2019

Jackson Wyatt, Digital Editor-in-Chief

2019 was certainly a competitive year in the music world, with many notable mainstream and underground artists putting out a slew of excellent material for everyone’s eager ears to digest. Some reminded us why we love the genres that currently stand, and others defied all categorization to reach forward into the near future. In a marathon with so many talented runners, it is hard to only congratulate the fastest twenty-five, but in the spirit of competition, here are this year’s strongest tracks that managed to rise just above the rest.

  1. Aldous Harding, ‘The Barrel’

From the moment its opening guitar line unfurls like a wisp of cool sea air, New Zealand singer-songwriter Aldous Harding has you wrapped around her finger with ‘The Barrel.’ It is a wonderfully smooth track, underscoring the songstress’ mystifying lyrics about peaches and ferrets with crisp harmonizations and a patient but infectiously funky beat. It all means something, and even though that something is not quite clear, Harding pulls off a timeless number that sits as one of the year’s best and most replayable tracks.

 

  1. Noname feat. Phoelix, ‘Song 31’

Dropped on the first day of 2019, Chicago rapper Noname’s ‘Song 31’ has not lost an ounce of freshness or power over the remaining 364 days. Over a jazzy drumbeat and Phoelix’s angelic harmonies, Noname weaves together her personal struggles, the progression of black entertainment and the unjust processes of society in a beautiful patchwork of a verse that still stands as one of the year’s tightest and strongest. With ‘Song 31’ as a standard, no one would mind listening till at least Song 2,000.

 

  1. Stef Chura, ‘Method Man’

Grunge is not dead on Michigan singer-songwriter Stef Chura’s track ‘Method Man’; in fact, it is thrashing around with a burning passion. Acid-dipped guitar riffs buck and squeal as Chura sings about sipping taurine, spraining ankles and ripping books to shreds. The catharsis wafts off like chemical fumes, transforming into a grimier and grimier tilt-a-whirl ride as the track progresses. All-in-all, it is so mad-cap genius that you cannot help but trust Chura’s exhilarating methods. 

 

  1. Tyler, the Creator, ‘EARFQUAKE’

Cushioned with thick layers of lotion-soft bass and pitch-shifted vocal harmonies, the track ‘EARFQUAKE’ sees hip-hop heavyweight Tyler, the Creator stirring sugar-sweet melodies and lovesick lyrics together to amazing results. Add in an instantly infamous Playboi Carti verse and angelic piano chords and you have one of the best genre-defying, extraterrestrial-sounding bangers of the year. In fact, it is so powerful that it could practically make the ground shake.

 

  1. Poppy feat. FEVER 333, ‘Scary Mask’

Internet performance artist Poppy has always been divisive in her musical offerings, but her pull out of electro-pop towards nü-metal tendencies in the past year has been especially exciting to watch. ‘Scary Mask’ is a standout track from her slew of offerings, shifting from dreamy synth passages to sludgy guitar riffs to breakneck solos multiple times in the course of three minutes. It is an absolute shock to the senses, with Poppy standing robotically in the center of its chaos. No matter what mask she wears, though, ‘Scary Mask’ is a frighteningly good time.

  1. Big Thief, ‘Cattails’

After two exceptional album releases in one year, the early-released single ‘Cattails’ still sees Brooklyn alt-folk band Big Thief at the top of their game, playing together like how an ecosystem runs. Vocalist Adrianne Lenker sings of scattered memories concerning nature and family members over breezy guitar lines and a marching beat, building an unforgettable tapestry of sun-soaked, frayed images and a resulting track that will warm the soul and cool your face on summer’s hottest days.

 

  1. Ezra Furman, ‘Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone’

On her doo-wop and punk number ‘Calm Down,’ Chicago singer-songwriter Ezra Furman spits venom as she spirals deeper and deeper into an all-consuming sea of panic and despair. Sound fun? It is surprisingly, with gritty guitar riffs, head-pounding drums and Furman’s wonderfully gruff voice reaching up to the ceiling before tearing it all down in a finally crash. By her final shrieks, Furman makes it impossible to calm down, and why would we want to with a track this good?

 

  1. Solange, ‘Almeda’

The blood of Houston, Texas, flows through ‘Almeda,’ with Solange paying tribute to her hometown and the power of her Southern black roots over Pharrel Williams’ speaker-rattling chopped-and-screwed beat. R&B singer The-Dream and rapper Playboi Carti assist Solange as she lists off the beautiful facets of her culture and denounces appropriation with a stunning grace. ‘Almeda’ may be rich in history, but its attitude and dreamy palette will have you reaching for the replay button time after time. 

 

  1. Jenny Lewis, ‘Red Bull & Hennessy’

These cowboy boots were made for strutting, and that’s just what they’ll do on indie singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis’ ‘Red Bull & Hennessy,’ a loose firecracker of a track ascending brightly into the night sky. Lyrically, Lewis sings about her woes and confusion in a relationship before deciding to choose the wild side with her unhinged lover, drinking the titular beverages and even offering to try and devour the moon. With this country-tinged track seemingly powered by jet fuel and sas, Lewis convinces us that she could if she tried.

 

  1. 100 gecs, ‘800db cloud’

At just around two minutes and twenty seconds, the forward-thinking duo 100 gecs’ song ‘800db cloud’ transforms again and again over its course like a malfunctioning transformer, exploding with references to electronic music, hip-hop, pop and even death metal at its close. In short, it is insane, a bubbling, coagulating shot of equal-parts motor oil and Monster Energy Drink that somehow manages to be delicious on the way down. The future of music is now, and the apocalypse has never sounded better. 

  1. Y La Bamba, ‘My Death’

Equally a lullaby, self-reassurance and eulogy, ‘My Death’ sees Portland indie-folk band Y La Bamba pondering the mysteries of life with a refreshingly tranquil attitude and dreamy instrumentation to compliment. Reverb-soaked guitar strums and beautiful vocal harmonies push forward like spring-time foliage as frontwoman Luz Elena Mendoza sings about yearning for a reason behind everything. That reason may never come, but ‘My Death’ feels like a warm hug telling you that everything will be fine regardless.

 

  1. BROCKHAMPTON, ‘SUGAR’

The boys of BROCKHAMPTON contemplate loneliness on ‘SUGAR’, a track overflowing with sombre verses and gorgeous, pitch-shifted harmonies. Lightly structured and forward-moving, it never loses its liquid-smooth flow, buoyed by Bearface’s angelic vocals and Ryan Beatty’s absolute earworm of a chorus. All-in-all, ‘SUGAR’ is the closest BROCKHAMPTON has gotten to their self-proclaimed boyband status, and the result is so sweet that you will never want it to end.

 

  1. slowthai & Denzel Curry, ‘Psycho’

Never has a title fit a song more than the collab between Northampton rapper slowthai and Florida rapper Denzel Curry, both of whom use their shining talent behind the mic to rage as much as humanly possible on top of a head-rattling beat and shrieking string samples. ‘Psycho’ feels as gargantuan as music can get, crashing down on the listener’s head like the meteor that killed the dinosaurs.  Truly, overstimulation has never sounded better.

 

  1. (Sandy) Alex G, ‘Gretel’

With ‘Gretel,’ Philly singer-songwriter (Sandy) Alex G captures whole universes in the margins of his instrumentation and lyrics, creating a scattershot and almost intangible tapestry in the mind of the listener. References to the titular fairy tale and burials builds a sense of tension and dread beneath the dreamy guitar strings and soft melodies, lending the song a dark green and earthy energy similar to that of a shadowy forest floor. No matter what you imagine, though, ‘Gretel’ is one of the most complex and enjoyable listens of the year. 

 

  1. Doja Cat feat. Rico Nasty, ‘Tia Tamera’

Current rap-world it-girls Doja Cat and Rico Nasty team up for the addictive ‘Tia Tamera,’ a candy-coated banger that cleverly blends references to everything from Chia Pets to Madea with their tight rhyme-schemes and flows. The beat itself is one of the year’s best, too, turning a Twilight Zone score sample into an unforgettable synth line. All-in-all, the nostalgia might be strong on  ‘Tia Tamera,’ but it shows that the future of rap is bright.

  1. Kevin Abstract, ‘Peach’

If the season of spring could be translated into an audio format, it would sound just like Kevin Abstract’s ‘Peach’, a smooth rap-R&B crossover that feels equally balmy and refreshing on the way down. Abstract reminisces on past memories and late night conversations  over carefree guitar strums and vocal contributions from some of his frequent collaborators, building up ‘Peach’ as a campfire sing-along for one of the nicest but most fleeting seasons.

 

  1. Caroline Polachek, ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings’

The complicated regret over leaving a relationship is elevated to pop perfection on New York singer-songwriter Caroline Polachek’s track ‘So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings.’ Over glistening, ‘80s-esque synths, a groovy bassline and syruppy guitar riffs, Polachek confesses her frustrations and how she longs to be back in the arms of a lover even when out for a night on the town. The hurt is real, but ‘So Hot’ is still one of the most fun tracks you will hear this year.

 

  1. Tierra Whack, ‘CLONES’

Philadelphia rapper Tierra Whack is no stranger to oddity, and ‘CLONES’ excels in being an equally weird and genius response to mainstream hip-hop’s current trends and homogeneity. Whack puts on her best mumble rapper voice and ad-libs using the word ‘ad-lib’ to build a tongue-in-cheek sense to the track, spitting about the way that everyone is trying to copy her style while trying to imitate the most general sound possible. ‘CLONES’ is a stand-out nonetheless, though, as both another banger under Whack’s belt and testament to her ingenuity.

 

  1. FKA twigs, ‘Cellophane’

Nothing about love is easy on art-pop provocateur FKA twigs’ comeback single ‘Cellophane’, a track that combs the depths of sadness through twigs’ ability to stretch her vocal range to glorious, emotive heights. Lyrics about the inconsistencies and privacy issues in twigs’ relationship are underscored by a beatboxed rhythm and crystallized piano chords, building up ‘Cellophane’ to be this year’s strongest and most crushing ballad. Bless the bleeding heart.

 

  1. clipping., ‘Nothing is Safe’

The true horror behind a violent drug bust is magnified to exhilarating extents on Los Angeles hip-hop trio clipping.’s ‘Nothing is Safe’, playing out similarly to a spoken-word slasher film over an addictive, John-Carpenter-inspired instrumental. Vocalist Daveed Diggs’ tight wordplay and flow beg for closer inspection, and with a track this densely layered and captivating, you will not be able to resist repeat listenings regardless.

  1. Girl Band, ‘Shoulderblades’

Dread piles up into an all-consuming tidal wave on Dublin four-piece Girl Band’s ‘Shoulderblades,’ a song that feels so gargantuan that even its six-minute runtime can barely contain its mass. Frontman Dara Kiely slurs and wails over walls of grinding guitar riffs and pounding drums, building up and up until it collapses into a shuddering wreck. Overall, ‘Shoulderblades’ is genius due to Girl Band’s ability to tightrope-walk between structure and insanity. Let the wave come.

 

  1. Megan Thee Stallion feat. DaBaby, ‘Cash S***’

‘Cash S***’ sees two of rap’s fastest-rising stars, Megan Thee Stallion and DaBaby, sparring off with clever wordplay, hilariously vulgar lyrics and enough confidence to power a small commercial aircraft. Sex and money are the main topics at hand, with both rappers flexing and smirking over a speaker-rattling beat to create a final product that is so addictive that it completely earns their enormous use of bravado. In fact, it feels priceless.

 

  1. Baby Rose, ‘All To Myself’

Beginning with a heavy sigh and digging deeper into the sea of frustrations behind it, Atlanta singer-songwriter Baby Rose’s track ‘All To Myself’ is a stunningly confessional look into thoughts of self-doubt and heartbreak, all buoyed by bluesy piano chords and Baby Rose’s exceptionally smoky vocals. The sheer amount of passion she exudes is enough to tear you in half, making ‘All To Myself’ out to be one of the most moving ballads of the year.

 

  1. Injury Reserve feat. Rico Nasty and Pro Teens, ‘Jawbreaker’

Equally a critique of modern fashion trends and a forward-thinking banger in its own right, ‘Jawbreaker’ sees Arizona rap trio Injury Reserve teaming up with reigning rage-queen Rico Nasty and producers Pro Teens to spit a series of clever and frank verses over a fascinatingly minimalist beat that combines hand claps, machine gun snares and xylophone notes together for a completely exhilarating listen. 

 

  1. Vampire Weekend, ‘Harmony Hall’

A good portion of the past decade saw indie-rock heavyweights Vampire Weekend gestating quietly in their creative juices, but when the result is songs as powerful as ‘Harmony Hall,’ the method is completely justified. Misty guitar loops, bright piano notes and choral harmonies all come together to make a lush sound palette as frontman Ezra Koenig details the dangers and beauty of the time we live in. In Vampire Weekend’s case, sometimes a good nap is all it takes to reach nirvana.

 

(All sources from featured artists’ Genius and Spotify pages)