The Round-Up: The Best Songs of 2019 (1st Quarter)

Even though we’re a solid week into the second quarter, better late than never right? Here’s a quick round-up of some of my favorite songs of the last three months. To keep numbers manageable, I didn’t include anything from any of my favorite albums list and prioritized songs I haven’t yet written about. For all of our sakes, I tried (and mostly failed) to keep write-ups Tweet length. Songs are in no particular order.

Duggie x Odunsi (The Engine)
“Nightshift” (f/ Omagz)

Sojourn (out now on Blac-Apollo)
I’ll start the list by breaking my own rule. Though I wrote about the criminally under-reported Nigerian producer’s masterful debut EP on my Albums List, I couldn’t make this list without mentioning my possible song of the year so far. “Nightshift” is a beautiful marriage of styles that injects an Afrobeats heart into a smooth late-night R&B body, resulting in a borderless sound that mirrors our increasingly borderless musical world. Odunsi (The Engine) is quickly becoming one of the key figures of Nigeria’s ultra-exciting, new alté generation, and his versatile, playful delivery beautifully matches Duggie’s busy percussion and aqueous synths. Omagz rounds things off with a sublime, laid-back verse that sums up the track’s effortless magic.

Orville Peck
“Turn To Hate”
Pony (out now Sub Pop)
Blessed with a booming baritone and a razor-sharp pen, the masked man from Nevada dropped one of the most interesting debut records of the year. “Turn to Hate” is a rich, evocative country rocker that perfectly sums up Peck’s nontraditional, yet traditional country sound. You can hear classic crooners like Roy Orbison and Chris Isaak in his voice, but there’s a palpable modern edge to his music, which defies characterization and stands out from the rest of the scene.

Digital Single
The talent coming out of LA is insane right now, but the Princess of Compton is as exciting as anybody. Besides being a whole slap, “Spotlight” highlights Azjah’s impressive ability to switch up her flow on a dime, weaving between playful, melodic singing and stinging barbs with ease. “Spotlight” is the kind of track that sticks in your head the moment you hear it and is a press push away from being a smash.

“Kno U See It”

THE DOPE SHOW (self-released)
I probably should have included the Houstonian’s syrup-soaked screw tape in my best albums list, but this Young Joc flipping, molasses-thicc creeper more than stands on its own. Though OG Ron C was always quick to remind you that his music was “chopped up, not slopped up,” Rabit leaves all the slop in, layering dense waves of sound alongside the pitched-down, infernal vocals. What a glorious mess.

Triad God

“Gway Lo”

Triad (out now on Presto!?)

“Know what the fuck I’m saying?” mutters the Vietnamese-born, South London-based Vinh Ngan on this dreamlike track. And even though his words are hard to make out (and sometimes in Vietnamese), if you listen closely, you’ll start to get it. Triad God keeps his voice down low, repeating a few mantras over and over, on top of a gorgeous vocal sample and angelic strings from producer Palmistry. The effect is hypnotic and affecting, and if you listen closely, you’ll realize what the fuck he’s saying much quicker than you think.

La Dispute
“Fulton Street I”
Panaroma (out now on Epitaph)
Though I wasn’t familiar with the Grands Rapid emo vets, this frenetic, wild-eyed freak-out reached out and grabbed me. This track gives off serious At the Drive In and mewithoutyou vibes, and vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s wild-eyes vocals and frantic questioning are as cathartic as anything either band ever delivered.

Dan Bodan
“I Get Along Without You Very Well (Except Sometimes…)”
Digital Single
Though the Berlin resident has mostly kept a low profile since his wonderful 2014 DFA debut LP, “Soft,” he popped his head up on this magical piano ballad that recalls the timeless sound of Cole Porter. Blessed with one of the sweetest voices around, he’s also an affecting, impactful songwriter, who will hopefully be hearing more from this year.

The BoyBoy West Coast
“Bottoms Up”

TikTok Snippet
Though we’re still waiting for the full version, I have a feeling that it won’t be able to match the bonkers magnetism of the “Bottoms Up” original viral snippets. Everything about the clips is striking and unique — from the low-rent, iPhone auto-tune to the eyebrow/goatee combo to the cheeseball mannerisms. It’s abundantly clear that BoyBoy is cut from a different cloth… and that cloth is fire a velour hoodie.

Sam Binga x Paul Wall
Digital Single
A Houston vet and a UK bass-music futurist might seem like an odd couple, but they combine deliciously on this slithering single. Binga’s delicious, cinematic keyboard filigree and bouncy bass is the perfect tonic for Wall’s relentlessly quotable bars (“Pockets fatter than a pregnant giraffe”) and evergreen charisma.

Laura Stevenson
“Living Room, NY”
The Big Freeze (out now on Don Giovanni)
On one of the high-points of the Hudson Valley singer-songwriter’s undeniable fifth album, Stevenson injects a little extra urgency into her modern folk stylings. The result is a simple, yet spellbinding tune about yearning to be with someone (or somewhere) and the way those urges can dominate every inch of your thoughts.

Lucinda Chua
“Feel Something”
Antidotes 1 (out now, self-released)
The London composer’s debut single, “Somebody Who,” was one of my favorite tracks of 2018. And this year, Chua gave it a worthy project to belong to. The EP’s first track injects a little bit of quiet storm into her sound and pushes her mega-soothing voice a little higher into the mix. The results are subtly stunning.

Hayden Thorpe
Diviner (out 05.24 on Domino)

Though Wild Beasts are rarely mentioned among the best bands of their generation, the Lake District quartet was always one of my favorites. And though I was disappointed that they broke up last year, I’m optimistic about vocalist Hayden Thorpe’s forthcoming solo work. First single, “Diviner,” pairs his odd, quivering falsetto with sparse, twinkle-toed pianos to delicious effect.

Townes Van Zandt
“Sky Blue”
Sky Blue (out now on Fat Possum)

Posthumous releases are always dicey, even when it comes to legends like TVZ. “Sky Blue” is a bit of a grab-bag — mostly covers and live versions of well-known tracks — but its title track is a rare gem. One of the disc’s two previously unheard originals, the Texan sounds utterly miserable here, just a lonely picker, struggling to find meaning in it all.  It’s that certain kind of melancholy that he made his name on and is tailor-made for his worn, but warm voice.

Carly Rae Jepsen
“No Drug Like Me”
Dedicated (out 05.17 on Interscope)
Carly Rae is the queen of the pre-chorus. Nobody in modern pop does a “big build to a chorus” better than 33 year-old, and “No Drug Like Me” is one of her absolute best. The way she slightly hangs on “starry-eyed” and “open wide” ratchets up the tension beautifully before the chorus hits and lets the song breathe again. It’s a clever trick that ensures that each of her hooks feel like big releases, and she’s an absolute master at it.

PSYCHODRAMA (out now on Neighbourhood)
To be honest, I just haven’t quite gotten to the South Londoner’s debut LP yet, but fuck, “Streatham” is hard. Over crawling piano melody, the 20 year-old weaves a pair of vivid, characteristically sharp verses about the neighborhood that made him who he is. Dave’s got this unique ability to drop heavy bars without weighing down the tracks, allowing him to hit on serious topics without coming off preachy. A huge talent.

Colin Self
Siblings (out now on RVNG Intl.)

Though the record came out on the back-end of last year, I had to mention this swirling, swelling single from the Berlin-based multi-disciplinary artist. The disc deals with searching for a home for yourself in an often unfriendly world, and “Survival” is its soaring centerpiece. Self delivers one of the most unforgettable vocal performances of the year, as a bed of strings and monstrous drums rise around them.

“Outer Body”
Dolos (out now on Coil)
The Manchester producer’s long-awaited debut LP is a labyrinthine jungle of sound built around Blade Runner synths and skittering futuristic grime percussion. Early standout, “Outer Body,” undulates and wobbles like an open ocean without doing too much and getting the listener seasick.

Weyes Blood
“A Lot’s Gonna Change”
Titanic Rising (out now on Sub Pop)

Though I haven’t gotten to it yet, I will write more about the Natalie Mering’s bewitching fourth album soon. For those who haven’t dug in, its first song is a perfect place to start. The LA singer lays her powerful voice on top of an impossibly lush bed of strings and piano, singing to her younger self about the rocky road that lies in front of her. She doles out the kind of advice we could all have used in our younger years but never would have actually listened to.

“Ghetto Angels”
Digital Single
A modern hymn for anybody who has ever had to bury a close friend, the rising Alabama artist absolutely pours his heart out over spare 808s and Sunday Mass pianos. The verses are dripping with all the feelings that accompany a tragic loss: the initial shock, the hollow feeling that follows, and finally, the steely determination you’re left with to live for your friend and honor their memory. The feelings are heavy, but the music is light — ascendant even — and it drags NoCap’s lonely, weary vocals to the finish line, until they’re finally raised high by the rest of his friends who join him on the last chorus. Hard to find a better song than this one this year.

Russ Splash
“Gun Lean

Digital Single
No song called “Gun Lean” should be this innocent and carefree, but the UK driller’s breakthrough single is as buoyant as anything I’ve heard this year. A massive viral dance craze in his native England, the Gun Lean has been lighting up everything from TikTok to Premier League pitches and shows no signs of slowing down.

03 Greedo
“Traphouse” (f/ Shoreline Mafia)

Digital Single
Though he sits incarcerated in Texas for a non-violent crime, 03 Greedo’s presence still looms large. The LA native’s whiny refrain (“no sheets on top of my behhdddd”) drives this weightless West Coast banger and outshines solid verses from members of the city’s most popping group, Shoreline Mafia. It’s a testament to how much Greedo can do with a single line and a sad reminder that he was cruelly denied the moment that his elite talent deserved. Free Greedo.

Steel Banglez
“Fashion Week” (f/ AJ Tracey & MoStack)

Digital Single
Quickly becoming one of the most consistent hitmakers in the UK, the East London producer seems primed for a stateside takeover. On “Fashion Week,” Banglez enlists a few of the usual suspects on one of smoothest songs of the year. Over steel drums and syncopated drum patters, AJT and MoStack go verse for verse, dripping with dangerous levels of charisma and confidence.

Lil Uzi Vert
“Free Uzi”

Digital Single
The Philadelphia rapper is quickly developing into the rarest kind of superstar: the one with enough resources to do exactly what they want and the guts to do it. A few months after announcing his retirement (¯\_(ツ)_/¯), Uzi dropped this ultra-dynamic, frenetic new single out of the sky and shut the internet down. Very few people have this much power and even fewer choose to wield it in such an exciting way.

The Japanese House
“We Talk All The Time”

Good At Falling (out now on Dirty Hit)
I never would have guessed that Imogen Heap would become one of the dominant influences in indie-pop, but here we are, and I’m not mad about it. Nobody does Garden State-core better than the Japanese House (né Amber Bain), and “We Talk All The Time” is probably my favorite song she’s ever written. An affecting elegy on the last days of a relationship, Bain beautifully chronicles the gradual, painful way that two lovers can pull apart at the seems — with physical intimacy often being the first casualty.

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