While I’m not usually one to wrap up a year of my own musical tastes as a “Best Of” list, this year I felt really moved by a wild, eclectic array of music and felt like sharing with the group. I put together a playlist of the stuff that was in steady rotation for me, the stuff I kept pressing repeat on immediately after my first listens, and the music that just moved me emotionally this year. Turns out it’s about 25 songs that stood out. 😎
Scroll down to see my My 25 Favorite Tracks of 2019 and check out the full Spotify playlist here. I think there’s something for everyone here, and frankly I’m quite proud of the of the eclectic spread of the selections. This is the best music of 2019 for me…
Jib Kidder -- “Games”
Jib Kidder is a solo psychedelic electronic that I’ve been following for a while, and the new collection of songs he released this year is a fun ride through a creative sampler and tinkerer and a voice that reminds me of Panda Bear. The LP is called Sums, and this mini track “Games” samples a few old school video games and it hits me right in the nostalgia feels. Plus the length and vibe made it immediately repeatable for me, so I must have listened to this track 25 times the first time I heard it.
Moses Sumney -- “Virile”
While I had clearly been enjoying the music of Moses Sumney via his other work and his contribution to the Bon Iver i,i release in 2019, I wasn’t really placing a face with a name until my buddy reminded me to go check out his set at Desert Daze.
Right as I strolled into that set, Sumney announced they would be playing a new song and that tune was “Virile.” It totally floored me. Then I went back and realized he had already made me a fan — he was on the Bon Iver released AND the James Blake release, both of which make an appearance later in this list. Story checks out why Sumney immediately clicked for me.
“Virile” will be out on his new album, græ, due out next May.
Tyler The Creator -- “I THINK” (feat. Solange)
For me Tyler, The Creator‘s music always seemed to fly ancillary to the radar frequencies I was turned into. I’ve always respected how creative he is and the music and vibe he puts across is super unique, but it just never fully grabbed me until this year. Somewhere before his Camp Flog Gnaw festival went down, I caught a YouTube video of him opening up a recent concert with this tune and seeing the crowd absolutely LOSE IT. Naturally it got me a bit intrigued and found that the studio track is “I Think” featuring Solange.
Love the production on this track front to back; this beat is so swingy.
Garcia Peoples -- “One Step Behind”
This song could really warrant its own post, because it’s a monster. It’s basically like, 20% of the length of the playlist. But it’s worth it. Garcia Peoples is really turning heads out in the New York City jamband scene, so I haven’t gotten a chance to see them live yet. But when I drove into their latest LP, it seemed pretty clear as to why the band is getting some new attention.
“One Step Behind” takes you on multiple journeys, with lyrics in places there should be and jams in other places there should be and everything unfolds nicely as the song progresses. It’s like 10 songs in one, and none of them need stand on their own. In short, it’s wildly impressive, and the payoff you get at minute 26:00 is some of the best guitar riff rock ever recorded if you ask me. Don’t just skip right there, you need it to build first.
Amon Tobin -- “One Shy Morning”
Not a lot of people talked about the return of Amon Tobin this year, maybe because it’s a tough gig to follow up the hugely ambitious ISAM 2.0 project that was the last time a national audience stood up a take notice. But he was releasing some incredible music this year, including this “One Shy Morning” track that was a steady repeat on my playlist while punching away at my computer.
Such a hauntingly good track.
Solange -- “Binz” (feat. Panda Bear)
Solange may have cancelled that Coachella appearance much to our dismay, but she made up with it hugely this year and put out a stellar new album, When I Get Home. Not a lot of people went deep on this album, but I immediately fell in love once again (A Seat At The Table is a top album for me) and got stuck on this track “Binz” that had production from Panda Bear (assumedly, the beat).
Steve Gunn -- “Vagabond”
Similar to the Garcia Peoples vibe, this guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn finally hit my radar thanks to the recommendation of my friend Aaron who was hyping him pretty hard earlier this year. The album that features this song, The Unseen In Between, is a masterpiece front to back, but this was the song I kept coming back to.
Beyoncé et al. -- “MY POWER” from The Lion King: The Gift
While the commercial success of The Lion King reboot was a bit stunted compared to the expectations placed on it, the soundtrack was pure fire. And the track that destroyed me was the one that perhaps had the most hands touching it — Nija, Beyoncé, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack, Moonchild Sanelly & DJ Lag all play a part of “MY POWER” and it truly slaps hard.
Altin Gün -- “Anlatman Derdimi”
So glad I got a chance to see Altin Gün at this year’s Desert Daze festival, because they were hitting pretty funky for me all year. I put most of their discography and just felt comfortable with this Turkish folk-groove disco music (or whatever it is), much more than I would have expected.
The song that captured the best mish-mash of the sounds was “Anlatman Derdimi” which comes in the middle of their Gece LP.
TroyBoi featuring Skrillex -- “WARLORDZ”
Dubstep is not dead, folks. If we thought that Skrillex was just going to head back into his hardcore roots and his forays into pop music production and hip hop signaled that he had moved on from this style of production, this track was Skrillex saying “I’ve still got it, folks.”
“WARLORDZ” basically hit harder than any of his other drops this year. The artwork is bonkers. The sounds clanging together on this as wildly abrasive. And truly, this may be one of the wildest songs Sonny has ever helped produce. Even if you don’t like dubstep, give it a listen just for the sheer production chops alone. 👽
Panda Bear -- “playing the long game”
Panda Bear returns again to songs with beats and I’m immediately a happy camper. While his Buoys LP has some gems in there, it’s a relatively calm release and a bit too mellow for my tastes. So when “playing the long game” dropped with an official video and not much pre-fanfare, I was quite pleased to find that the snares returned and we had something we could spark to.
No word yet on where this music will end up, but with Noah Lennox you can always assume he’s working on something you haven’t heard yet and this track turned out to be a pleasant surprise on my playlist whenever it came up.
Thom Yorke -- “Impossible Knots”
Thom Yorke continues his side project as a three-piece with Nigel Godrich and Tarik Barri, now what they’re calling his Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes project, and he put out a stunning LP this year called ANIMA. I happened to catch this tour in Las Vegas last December, right around Christmas time, and it was truly a marvel of live concert design and a mind-blowing set by Yorke.
One of those songs that floored me was released on the ANIMA album, the electronic dance bubbler known as “Impossible Knots.” I always turned the volume up a notch when this song came on.
Flying Lotus -- “Fire is Coming” (feat. David Lynch)
Flying Lotus followed up his massively ambitious You’re Dead LP with yet another opus of an album, Flamagra. The first track he put out was the one I kept returning to, mostly because of the creepy vocal that defines the intro, spoken by none other than legendary filmmaker David Lynch.
Because when that beat drops in the song, it’s truly a MASSIVE cacophony of sounds and I remember immediately starring it. And as expected, when his 3D show came to this year’s Desert Daze, it was the perfect opener to bring the crowd into his twisted, demented world. I. Loved. It. 🔥🔥🔥
Burial -- “Old Tape”
Off the HyperSwim compilation release and once again buried amidst a somewhat quiet media rollout was a new Burial track, and boy is it wild. Nobody makes music like this. This was a track that continually made me press repeat.
He just released a full collection of all the singles and EP’s he’s been putting out over the past decade, the aptly titled Tunes 2011-2019.
Sturgill Simpson -- “A Good Look”
It was hard to resist the hype that dropped around the epic Sturgill Simpson release, Sound & Fury, earlier this year. I can’t say I was the hugest fan before, but whatever this Hell--scaped based country funk album was doing to my soul was undeniable whenever this track came on.
He sat down with Joe Rogan for a long chat that was pretty interesting, too, and the roll-out of this album paired with intimate shows in a few major metros is definitely a model I think more artists could benefit from. And this song is wicked. 👹
Bob Dylan -- “Isis” from Rolling Thunder Revue
Talk about a big year for Martin Scorsese! This dude had his name all over everything (and a nice distro deal with Netflix to do it), and one of those projects was Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story film featuring amazing real footage and a somewhat fake story to fit the vibe of that legendary Bob Dylan tour back in the ’70’s. I won’t give really anything else away about it, but the performance they show of Bob Dylan doing “Isis” really just stuck with me. I kept listening and listening to this version you’ll hear on the Spotify playlist, as the video below is not the same one (but close).
As for the version in the film, here’s what someone else wrote about it and it perfectly captures what I may have tried to say: “It might be the single greatest Dylan performance ever captured on film, astonishing and electrifying. By its end, the audience I saw it with was sitting in stunned silence; I’ve revisited it several times since, and it’s lost none of its power.” [Flavorwire]
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard -- “Fishing for Fishies”
Before King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard closed their creative output of 2019 in the death metal zone, they released an incredible boogie and swing album that just had me LOVING these guys even more than ever. I’ll honestly be okay if that Infest the Rats’ Nest album doesn’t get a huge amount of play at the Marathon Sets they’re planning next year — I’ll be at both nights of Red Rocks (NO REPEATS) — and I’m truly hoping their boogie woogie side on the Fishing For Fishies LP gets its full due.
The first track and video they had dropped from the first album they dropped in 2019 was must-see stuff for me, and you’ve got to love that alligator playing piano at the end of the video. What a hoot.
black midi -- “Ducter”
I simply could not hear this black midi song enough. Over and over I just wanted to hear these guys thrash through “Ducter,” one of the most creative tracks I’ve ever heard. I told a friend that they remind me of what Clap Your Hands Say Yeah would sound like if they linked up with The Mars Volta.
For a killer live version of this song that hooked me, watch them rock through it here during a stormy Pitchfork Music Festival 2019 set that had the young punk rock kids dancing.
Reminds me of my childhood.
Maribou State featuring Khruangbin -- “Feel Good”
Khruangbin needed to be on the list somewhere, and this track they hooked up with Maribou State on had me feeling good (🥁) whenever it came up on my recent jams playlist. I fell in love with it easily.
WHAT A YEAR for Khruangbin, too. I saw them at FORM. I watched them rock with Trey Anastasio at LOCKN’ from my couch, and closed the summer seeing them crush their Desert Daze set to close out their festival season. I bet they “Feel Good” themselves right now, too.
Trey Anastasio -- “Ghosts of the Forest”
Phish‘s Trey Anastasio swung for the fences emotionally with his Ghosts of the Forest project, an album, band and tour that honored the memory of a friend of Anastasio’s that passed away from cancer. Some of this process was wonderfully captured in the Between Me and My Mind documentary released earlier this summer, which was a welcome addition to the band’s creative output this year after this project was debuted in April.
For many, it may have been a turn off — too heavy, perhaps — but for me, I found Trey’s new direction refreshingly sobering in the best way possible. The first single, the self-titled track of the LP, project and overall mystical concept that Trey dreamt up for the deliverable, was truly breathtaking for me. If you’ve ever felt that little tinge of depression yourself, this song probably rang deeply true to you. “I’m drowning in my own mind…”
Billie Eilish -- “bury a friend”
So I’m at a drag show at the FORM music festival at Arcosanti, Arizona and this song comes on the PA… and the subwoofers were HUGE, and the bass just hit me so deep in the chest. The vibe was scary. I was immediately a fan of whatever I was hearing, so I busted out my Shazam and sure enough, I had just experienced my first Billie Eilish moment. It was “bury a friend.”
“Oh,” I thought. “THIS is what that new ‘pop’ star everyone is talking about sounds like?!” I’ve been a fan ever since.
Four Tet (KH) -- “Only Human”
I happened to catch the Coachella webcast and the incredible Four Tet set, and a major component of the set was this “Only Human” track. The set was stripped down in a visual way, focusing the audience on the music selections and letting go, and somehow on my couch tour it reached me in the same way.
I wrote about it when it happened and this song definitely got some serious play from me this year. He was busy as ever, but this was the one that got the most rotation.
James Blake -- “Mile High” feat. Travis Scott and Metro Boomin
Travis Scott was on everything this year, and James Blake delivered an ambitious LP called Assume Form that feature Scott prominently on one of the first singles, “Mile High.” Metro Boomin was on the track as well, and it only took a listen or two through the LP for me to zone in on this track. There’s something so haunting about this for me. I just love the way each vocal comes in and plays with the rhythms on the track.
Bon Iver -- “Naeem”
I’ve been tuned into the music of Justin Vernon more so over the last few years than when he burst onto the scene with his sparse debut LP. And with the release of i,i early this year, his extension of the Bon Iver project into further challenges yielded some stunning results, especially in the live show he built this year.
The song that closed his sets was “Naeem,” bringing out a double-drummer attack at the end of the song and a vocal that Vernon was shouting — “I’m telling you that I do feel you” — that gave me chills when I saw it at Red Rocks in September.
Watch this version from Raleigh earlier this year.
Lil Nas X -- “Old Town Road” feat. Billie Ray Cyrus
What can I say… there was just something undeniable about the breakout hit from Lil Nas X that just truly made me smile every time I heard it come on. What started out as a controversy — can this country trap song be considered “country?!” — ended with a young, gay incredibly ambitious rapper breaking the record for most consecutive weeks at Number #1 on the pop charts. “Old Town Road” was proven to be undeniably good and one of the biggest songs ever made, like it or not.
I may be one of the most jaded vets of them all at this point, but this song just melted my jaded little heart. It’s easily the Song of the Year for me and it wasn’t even a question.
There you have it…My 25 Favorite Tracks of 2019.
Hope you enjoyed the selections. 🎧