Saturday, April 3, 2021
Saturday, March 6, 2021
“The Last Man on Earth” premiered on February 24 at 7 PM. It was a Wednesday. It had been a hard day. I don’t remember why. There have been a lot of hard days. Covid. Winter. Darkness. Isolation. I hadn’t moved from my desk in hours, and I hadn’t been outside since before sunrise. I listened to “The Last Man on Earth” for the first time, thinking about how badly I wanted that light to shine on me, seething about just how far away that light felt. Before I fully realized what had happened, I was out the door, and I wandered the dark, empty streets of Amsterdam listening to this song on repeat for almost an hour, slowly realizing that it was not meant to provide any easy comforts. Lyrically, Ellie Rowsell pulls no punches, and there’s no obscuring the song’s message: Get. Over. Yourself. Musically, though, the song’s intimate-then-anthemic structure recasts Rowsell as a concerned friend and softens the message to something more like “you need to get over yourself because that would be better for you.” Somewhere in those repeated listens it dawned on me that my ambient anger about the state of the world and my conviction that I somehow deserved better was actually pushing me further away from that light. The unspoken optimism at the heart of this song is that we can choose to let go of that feeling of unearned entitlement at any time. Whether any of us will, though, remains to be seen. 
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
(1) Julien Baker - “Hardline”
The first great song of the year. My first  for The Singles Jukebox. Either this will be my favorite song of the year or a better song will come along, which is a comforting thought.
(2) Camp Trash - “Bobby”
The first band of the year that I’m irrationally obsessed with. One of the guys writes for The Alternative, and he’s been talking about his band on Twitter for years, but the running joke was that it wasn’t actually a real band since they had never recorded anything. So this month they put out a four song EP, and ... somehow it’s perfect? That plot doesn’t even work as a movie pitch. Anyway, this is in that hallowed Oso Oso strata where emo is so catchy that it becomes power pop.
(3) The Hold Steady - “Heavy Covenant”
My excitement for this month’s Open Door Policy has reached completely unsustainable levels. Of the two new singles, I like this one a little better than “Spices.”
(4) Wild Pink - “Oversharers Anonymous”
Okay, now we’ve hit all three of my most-anticipated February releases. I have a lot of emotional eggs in the “awesome new music is coming soon” basket.
(5) Maggie Lindemann - “Crash and Burn”
I’ll be honest, I have no idea who Maggie Lindemann is, but Alex Lahey wrote this and it sounds like The Veronicas, which is honestly everything I want from pop music.
(6) Baby Queen - “Raw Thoughts”
I’m not going to go back and double-check, but I think this is the year’s highest scoring song on The Singles Jukebox. Not sure it’s quite that good, but I’m looking forward to hearing more from her this year.
(7) Pale Waves - “You Don’t Own Me”
Following The 1975’s album release cycle model where you put out so many singles that it’s hard to keep track of them. This is, I think, their fourth single from the new album, and it might be their best.
(8) The Sonder Bombs - “k.”
Clothbound is one of two contenders for my favorite album of the month, if you like this song or “What Are Friends For?” from 100 Songs for 2020, you should check out the whole record.
(9) Lande Hekt - “Undone”
Here’s the other AOTM contender. Going to Hell is Hekt’s first solo release, her day job is leading longtime Burn Your Hits favorites Muncie Girls.
(10) Olivia Rodrigo - “drivers license”
Isn’t everything just better when the biggest song in the world is actually good? (If you’re interested, I made it too personal at The Singles Jukebox.)
(11) Bill Wurtz - “Here Comes The Sun”
This is how the internet used to be: you’d stumble across some weird thing, and you wouldn’t really be able to tell if you were supposed to take it seriously, and it’s impossible to describe (“easy listening” and “smooth jazz” are basically insults, really, but that’s the closest I can get), but it’s catchy and it gets under your skin and you can’t stop thinking about it (so much that you miss the submission deadline). Anyway, you might hate this, and I might hate it in a month, but for right now it’s great.
(12) Kynsy - “Happiness Isn’t a Fixed State”
More support for one of my most strongly-held beliefs, which is that The Strokes should have had a girl singer.
(13) PONY - “Couch”
If you google “pony couch” at least she shows up once.
(14) IAN SWEET - “Drink The Lake”
IAN SWEET is not the name of a person, it’s the name of a band, but the band is just one person, and that person’s name is Jilian Medford. Some artists are just trying to be confusing on purpose, aren’t they?
(15) Citizen - “I Want To Kill You”
Former hardcore band now making mid-2000s blog rock. I will always be here for a Bloc Party homage.
(16) Arlo Parks - “Hope”
I should have put this in the “best albums of the month” section above. Collapsed In Sunbeams is consistently comforting.
(17) Jazmine Sullivan - “Girl Like Me” (feat. H.E.R.)
Maybe you’re tired of hearing me talk about The Singles Jukebox. I hope not. Anyway, one issue that I’m struggling with is how to rate and review music from genres that I don’t really have a personal connection with. Like, I think this is near-perfect execution for a neo-soul song, but I also don’t think I’ve listened to it since I submitted my review.
(18) Sweet Soul - “Noises Drown”
On the other hand, this is a pretty derivative pop-punk song. By any objective, critical standard, it is not as good as Jazmine Sullivan. And yet I know that I will listen to this so much more often. It’s a hard realization that my tastes might actually be somewhat pedestrian.
(19) The Whiskey Talking - “Staggers and Jags”
As I’ve mentioned many times before, the only person to both appear on 100 Songs and submit their own Guest List is Ilana’s high school classmate Maya from the sadly-defunct The Colourist. To be honest, I didn’t think we’d ever have a second, but our prospects are looking up due to this month’s release of Grounded, the debut album from The Whiskey Talking, led by great friend of the blog Scott Lawson. I first heard “Staggers and Jags” sometime around 2007, so it’s weird to think of it as a “new” song, but it is newly-released in this form, and it’s still great, so I’ll allow it.
(20) Buck Meek - “Pareidolia”
Not just “the other guy in Big Thief” anymore! What is the funniest way to describe this? Is he the Kelly Rowland to Adrienne Lenker’s Beyonce? The Andrew Ridgely to her George Michael? The Oates to her Hall?
(21) Teenage Fanclub - “I’m More Inclined”
I never know what to do with these. Teenage Fanclub are one of my favorite bands of all time, and it’s cool that they keep making good music, but they’ve made literally dozens of songs better than this, so why should I listen to this when I could just listen to “Sparky’s Dream” or “Alcoholiday” or “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From” for the millionth time?
(22) Slaughter Beach, Dog - “Do You Understand (What Has Happened To You)”
There’s always at least one really good album that comes out in late December after everyone has finished their lists, and this year it was SBD’s At the Moonbase. I have no idea why bands choose to put out records that close to the end of the year.
(23) Cicala - “Turn It Off”
I think we’ve reached the point where the term “alt-country” has lost all meaning, but if you’re the kind of person who likes the kind of music that used to be called alt-country, I think you’d like Cicala.
(24) Hospital Bracelet - “South Loop Summer”
Philadelphia is still the American city where all good new bands come from, but Chicago is certainly climbing the rankings.
(25) Cheekface - “Emotional Rent Control”
Still not sure if I like these guys or not, but their Fans Also Like page on Spotify includes: illuminati hotties, Rosie Tucker, Bad Moves, Antarctigo Vespucci, Oceanator, Radiator Hospital, and Slaughter Beach, Dog. The algorithm has already decided that I love them, I just need to get there.
Sunday, January 10, 2021
2020: GUEST LIST WEEK YEAR IN REVIEW
Today marks the end of the increasingly inaccurately titled Guest List Week. Counting my own list, twenty-six of us wrote about the year in music, a new record! Thanks to everyone who participated! Next year it will be Guest List Month. (Or, why limit ourselves? Maybe Guest List Season, or Guest List Festival, or … I am now accepting suggestions. What should we call this?)
As I did last year, I have put together a quick post aggregating and summarizing the year in lists. It’s interesting to see the consensus that we managed to reach when we weren’t trying to reach a consensus at all. Everyone approached this project from a different perspective:
Lists varied in size from ten songs to one hundred. (Jamie, I love your four hundred song throwback list, but I’m excluding you from the year-end summary because otherwise I think Lil Kim winds up being our #2 Artist of the Year. I hope you understand.)
Most were exclusively 2020 songs, some broke that rule once or twice, some broke that rule as often as it made sense to do so.
Some were ranked, others were partially ranked, others weren’t ranked at all.
Some considered the entirety of the year’s musical landscape, while others limited themselves in fun and interesting ways (Women Only, Latinx Hits Only, Taylor Swift Only).
Curt succeeds every year in his annual attempt to limit his list to songs I haven’t heard.
And yet, when you add it all up, it creates a fairly coherent picture of the year that was, a great year for music and a terrible year for everything else. (Spoiler Alert: This will likely be true for 2021 as well.) Here’s a quick rundown of the songs and artists that helped get us through it all.
Before we get to the results, a quick review of the rules: We judge this based solely on the number of lists on which a song appears. Since not everyone ranks their lists, and others rank only a part of their list, it would skew the importance of ranked lists if we tried to account for where on specific lists these songs appeared. So, one point per list. Simple. (Honorable Mentions count.)
Also, we’re grouping all versions of a song together: this includes remixes (Troye Sivan gets points for “Easy” with or without Kacey Musgraves), edits (we were evenly split on whether people preferred the shorter Single Edit for Jessie Ware’s “Save a Kiss”), alternate versions (like Phoebe Bridgers’ Copycat Killer EP), and live versions (like Taylor Swift’s Long Pond Sessions).
For 2020, that remix rule proved dispositive, because our Song of the Year is Miley Cyrus’ “Midnight Sky,” appearing on a total of eight lists (three original, five remix).
Tied for second are the two songs I would have wagered on for Song of the Year: Rina Sawayama’s "Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)" and Lady Gaga’s “Rain on Me” with Ariana Grande.
Rounding out the top five are (no surprise) Chappell Roan’s “Pink Pony Club” and HAIM’s “The Steps.”
In total, forty-two songs appeared on three or more lists. They appear below and in the playlist above. (A full list of all 100+ songs to appear on two or more lists can be found here.) It is incredibly impressive that Dua Lipa and Rina Sawayama both landed four songs in the Top Forty-Two. And yet neither is our Artist of the Year.
|8||Miley Cyrus||"Midnight Sky" / "Edge of Midnight"|
|7||Rina Sawayama||"Comme Des Garçons (Like The Boys)"|
|7||Lady Gaga||"Rain On Me" (feat. Ariana Grande)|
|6||Chappell Roan||"Pink Pony Club"|
|5||Rina Sawayama||"Bad Friend"|
|5||Soccer Mommy||"circle the drain"|
|5||Christine and the Queens||"People, I've been sad"|
|5||Megan Thee Stallion||"Savage" (Remix) (feat. Beyoncé)|
|4||Dua Lipa||"Break My Heart"|
|4||Will Ferrell||"Husavik (My Hometown)"|
|4||Phoebe Bridgers||"I Know The End"|
|4||Shamir||"On My Own"|
|4||Perfume Genius||"On the Floor"|
|4||Jessie Ware||"Save A Kiss"|
|4||Daði Freyr||"Think About Things"|
|4||Cardi B||"WAP" (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)|
|4||Rina Sawayama||"Who's Gonna Save U Now?"|
|3||The 1975||"The Birthday Party"|
|3||L Devine||"Boring People"|
|3||Waxahatchee||"Can't Do Much"|
|3||070 Shake||"Guilty Conscience"|
|3||The 1975||"If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know)"|
|3||SG Lewis||"Impact" (feat. Robyn & Channel Tres)|
|3||The Chicks||"Julianna Calm Down"|
|3||Busta Rhymes||"Look Over Your Shoulder" (feat. Kendrick Lamar)|
|3||BLACKSTARKIDS||"SOUNDS LIKE FUN"|
For 2020, we’re trying something a little more expansive in our attempt to name an Artist of the Year. Last year, the criteria was “most different songs named on at least one list,” the idea being that this would demonstrate the breadth of an artist’s influence, and in this way we could honor an artist who made a great album, or maybe even multiple great albums, not just one great song (that’s what the Song of the Year category was for). This worked fine last year (and, also, it was very easy for me to tabulate), but it didn’t feel quite right (an artist with four songs that each showed up toward the end of one list would rank higher than an artist with three massive hits at the top of a bunch of lists).
So, this year, we’re ranking artists based on Total List Mentions. If you had three Jessie Ware songs on your list, she gets three points for that. Simple. We’re including all mentions, including features, so artists who didn’t release much music of their own (Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, even Stevie Nix!) show up higher than you might expect.
This brings us to what I will call The Taylor Swift Laws. Nicole’s list, as you may remember, consisted of thirty-two Taylor Swift songs. Shay, as is his tradition, included the whole of folklore on his list. I can’t give her a combined forty-eight points for those two lists. Instead, I’m giving Taylor two points for Nicole’s list, and one for Shay’s.
And yet, despite the fact that I had to make up multiple rules to limit her dominance, our Artist of the Year is Taylor Swift, by a significant margin (which is fascinating to me since she only had one song in our Top Forty-Two, and even that one song was tied for tenth place. We all found our own T Swift favorites this year).
No surprises at the top, as Dua Lipa, Rina Sawayama, Lady Gaga, and Phoebe Bridgers round out our Top Five.
Finally, a word of encouragement to all of the forgotten little cishet white boys out there who feel like the deck is stacked against them: If you work really hard, and never give up, and maybe catch a few breaks along the way, you ... could potentially wind up tied for fourteenth on an aggregated year-end list, just like Matty Healy and The 1975. Anything is possible!
Below is a list of all artists with four or more mentions this year. The full list of artists to appear on two or more lists is here.
|11||Megan Thee Stallion|
|9||Christine and the Queens|
|4||Carly Rae Jepsen|
|4||Chloe x Halle|