GUEST LIST WEEK
GLW 001: ILANA BERGSTROM
GLW 002: Curt Trnka (coming tomorrow)
GLW 003: Remko Van Knippenberg (coming Thursday)
GLW 004: Saskia Warwick (coming Friday)
GLW 005: Ben Evangelista (coming 12/23)
GLW 006: Marisa Plaice (coming 12/24)
GLW 007: Megan Swidler (coming 12/25)
GLW 008: Erik Kristjanson (coming 12/26)
Ilana’s Favorite Songs of 2019
Well, 2019, you’ve been quite the year. Landing in Amsterdam on January 5, Aaron and I had two friends, a couple of suitcases, one dog, two weeks of temporary housing, and tons of unanswered questions. Where are we going to live? What am I going to do with my time? Will I make any straight friends? Can I ride a bike after drinking three beers? Will we really like it here?
As with most things, with a little patience we started to get some answers. (De Pijp! Lots of exploring! Some! Rough start, but now, yes I sure can! YES WE DO.)
And while we sorted out our new Dutch lives, new music was always with us. Dancing to Lizzo in our first Airbnb, crying while cycling around town listening to The Highwomen, running to Dua Lipa at my new cult fitness studio. I love the way that music helped me connect with new friends; constantly inviting them to concerts at Paradiso and occasionally exchanging “Songs I Think You Should Know” playlists.
I’m not sure what my Dutch life has in store for me in 2020, so for now I just want to say “dankjewel” to all of the artists who helped make this year so much fun.
1. Sturgill Simpson – Make Art Not Friends
An interesting choice for my Favorite Song of 2019 — the year I made ZERO art and LOTS of friends — I know. Its lyrics are all about staying inside and giving up because the world’s on fire, but the song itself doesn’t make me feel that way at all. Contrary to the antisocial message, this song’s propulsive rhythm makes me want to get outside, take an extra lap around the neighborhood (whether I’m on foot with Ginger or riding my bike), make plans to spend time with my friends, and to see the world. It’s so negative, so pessimistic … and I just love it. Oh and if anyone could help me place the distinctive keyboard riff, I’d really appreciate it. It’s been driving me crazy (in a good way, apparently) since September.
2. Sharon Van Etten – Seventeen
For the first half of the year I was convinced that this was going to be my Favorite Song of 2019, but in less-than-shocking news for any song that gets released in January, I started to grow tired of it by the end of the summer. Even though the song is about nostalgia for the past, it makes me think about how 17-year-old Ilana’s head would’ve exploded if she found out that 17 years later she’d be living in Europe.
3. Georgia – About Work The Dancefloor (Edit)
This was a Popjustice “Song of the Week” back in March, and it took me approximately six seconds to fall madly in love with it. The lyrics are both simple and nonsensical, but who cares because everything about this dance pop track makes it a total JAM. Robyn fans, take notice.
4. Big Thief – Not
I’m thrilled to publicly announce that my best friend* Jia Tolentino and I agree that Big Thief is brilliant. Every single thing about Adrianne Lenker breaks my heart, and the particular way she sings/growls the word “hunger” in this song just destroys me.
*Someone please introduce me to Jia Tolentino.
5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Want You In My Room
CRJ’s directness in this song would make a Dutchman PROUD! Get it, Carly.
6. Lil Nas X (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) – Old Town Road (Remix)
Living in Europe means that I’m sometimes a little late to the game when it comes to cultural phenomena back in the United States. Like, we wake up some days wondering why everyone’s suddenly tweeting about feral hogs, baby Yodas, and cybertrucks. Similarly, I was late to the whole genre-bending scandal of Old Town Road. Is it country? Is it hip hop? Can it be *gasp* both? Once I finally heard the song though, I quickly understood why it was such a hit. And because I live in Europe (have I mentioned that enough times? Buckle up, this is only my sixth song blurb), I rarely hear this song in the wild which means I’m not sick of it.
7. YBN Cordae (feat. Anderson .Paak) – RNP
This song’s an instant mood-elevator, and the music video is even better.
8. King Princess – Hit the Back
An unapologetic bop for bottoms. Finally.
9. Taylor Swift – Cruel Summer
Sitting next to the Sado River Estuary in Portugal, Aaron and I hovered over my iPhone and listened to the leaked version of this song the day before Lover’s official release date. After listening for about 30 seconds, I messaged a friend back in San Francisco, “You’re going to like it fine I promise. Compared to ME! it’s a masterpiece.” I stand by my review.
10. Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now
Disco Dua has never been hotter. P.S. Who wants to buy this for me?
11. Carly Rae Jepsen – Now That I Found You
12. Better Oblivion Community Center – Dylan Thomas
I’m still waiting for Phoebe Bridgers to do something to upset me. Her solo work? Of course she’s amazing. When she teams up with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus? She’s unbelievable. And if there’s ANYONE who can make me love both a goddamn original Christmas song AND a devastating Tom Waits cover, it’s her. So when it comes to this collaboration with Conor, it was a no-brainer that it’d be a homerun. And the best part is that BOCC is even better live.
13. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall
Simply my favorite song off of my favorite Vampire Weekend album.
14. Lizzo – Juice
This is the sort of January song that I should be sick of now in December, but it’s still so good. Do yourself a favor a see a live Lizzo show. It’s impossible to go and not have the time of your life.
15. Billie Eilish – bad guy
If you were born in the 80s and don’t quite understand Billie Eilish’s massive popularity (this 17-year-old has more than 44 million Instagram followers!!!), you’re not alone. I still don’t get it completely myself, but this is the gateway song that made me really start to pay attention.
16. Ashley O – On A Roll
Oh, honey, I’d do anything for more pop covers of NIN songs.
17. HAIM – Now I’m In It
Someone had to make Savage Garden relevant in 2019, and I’m glad it was the Haim sisters.
18. Carly Rae Jepsen – Too Much
I just have a really hard time picturing CRJ partying “too much.” Love everything else about the song though.
19. Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens – Gone
Christine and the Queens was my favorite performance at the Primavera Sound music festival this year, and it was extra exciting to see her premiere this song with Charli. (I just wish it didn’t happen at 3:00 am!) But it wasn’t until I listened to the recorded track during normal daylight hours that I could fully appreciate the “eep eep” noises during the breakdown that make me think of little French chickens cheeping while smoking cigarettes. (My mind!)
20. Ariana Grande – bloodline
We’ve all questioned many of Ariana’s life choices in recent years, but not making this song a single is absolutely inexcusable.
21. Normani – Motivation
This is the sort of song I would’ve completely ignored had it been released during the TRL era that Normani pays homage to in the [great] music video, so I’m glad it came out in 2019 instead.
22. Charli XCX (feat. Lizzo) – Blame It on Your Love
There was so much hype about this Charli x Lizzo collaboration and then it turned out to be … a song we already knew and liked.
23. Martha – Mini Was a Preteen Arsonist
There are very few bands that I’d follow to Belgium, and Martha is absolutely one of them. They’re such a great band, and I’ll never forget how Antwerp did them so, so wrong. Even in front of a tiny audience, they really rock.
24. White Reaper – Might Be Right
[See #23 above.] White Reaper is another underrated rock band that would be huge if anyone still cared about rock bands.
25. Jenny Lewis – Heads Gonna Roll
I love listening to On The Line all the way through, and this opening song always sets things off on the right foot. Jenny Lewis is the sort of friend I think everyone wants to have.
26. Alex Lahey – Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself
The lyrics “... pick me up like Coach Bombay” made me smile SO big the first time I heard it … and nearly every time thereafter. Alex Lahey is such a gem.
27. The Highwomen – Highwomen
Do you love emotional roller coasters? If so, this is the album for you! I can’t even attempt to write anything about this one without tearing up. So, we’re moving on ...
28. Matt Berninger & Phoebe Bridgers – Walking on a String (Alt Version)
[See #12 above.] If anyone’s going to change my opinion about The National, it’s Phoebe Fucking Bridgers.
29. Charly Bliss – Capacity
For a couple of years now Charly Bliss has been the band who most consistently ended up on every algorithm-generated playlist Spotify shared with me, regardless of the genre or mood. Eva Hendricks’ bubble gum pop vocals always made me take notice, but I can’t say I was a real fan until Young Enough came out this year. And speaking of “real fans,” watching this one excited preteen and her dad meet the band after their Amsterdam show this summer was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
30. Oso Oso – the view
There’s something about Oso Oso that’s timeless to me. I feel confident that I would’ve loved them just as much in 1999 and 2009 as I do in 2019. (In 1989 I was more of a Paula Abdul-loving gal.) Check back with me in 2029 to see if I still feel the same way about them.