1975: Just A Silly Phase I’m Going Through

I’ve often heard my birth year described as the absolute nadir of the 1970s—just peruse the era’s fashions, architecture and home furnishings. It now appears as an Earth-toned world atoning for the sins of the prior decade’s psychedelic, Technicolor spectacle.

It follows that the music of 1975 would fall right in line with this perspective. After all, the year’s top-selling US single was The Captain and Tennille’s “Love Will Keep Us Together”, as deathless an encapsulation of mid-seventies kitsch as one could imagine. Easy listening, in addition to prog-rock and earnest singer/songwriter stuff seemed to dominate. Punk and new wave were still a year or two off from creating seismic change (in the UK, at least.)

Still, scanning through this year’s number-one singles, look beyond the likes of Olivia Newton John, John Denver, Tony Orlando and Dawn, etc. and you’ll find imperial phase Elton John (for good (“Philadelphia Freedom”) and for ill (his pointless Beatles cover)), Earth, Wind and Fire (somehow their only Hot 100 number-one) and even David Fucking Bowie (with help from arguably the coolest Beatle.)

You also have The Bee Gees thrillingly reinventing themselves with “Jive Talkin’”, reflecting how disco, not yet entirely dominant, started seeping into the mainstream. This mix’s first third is made for dancing, bouncing between instrumental funk (Average White Band–the number one song when I was born), orchestral splendor (Tavares) and pure camp (Disco Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes). It shows how disco gradually spread across the globe, from Philly (The Spinners) to Miami (KC and the Sunshine Band) and over to Munich, with Silver Convention’s remedial but transcendent simplicity setting the stage for Donna Summer’s 16-minute-long orgasmic aria, truly like nothing preceding it in the clubs or on the charts.

Perhaps another innovative single, 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love” evokes the era more vividly, its watery electric piano and overdubbed expressionist vocals suffusing the air like pea soup; both its era-specificity and peculiarity anticipate the weird assortment of songs that follow. On one hand, the artists everyone knows: Fleetwood Mac, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Heart, Steely Dan (albeit with an (admittedly catchy) album track about a pedophile!); on the other, the cultish stuff my contemporaries will lionize decades later—mid-period Joni Mitchell and Neil Young, but also Sparks and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and even some proto-punk/new wave stuff like Patti Smith and Brian Eno.

Visually, yes, 1975 remains a flurry of deep browns, harvest golds and avocado greens; sonically, however, like any other year, it contains a considerably wider spectrum of color.

Click here to listen to my favorite songs from 1975 on Spotify.

  1. Average White Band, “Pick Up The Pieces”
  2. Silver Convention, “Fly Robin Fly”
  3. Earth, Wind & Fire, “Shining Star”
  4. Tavares, “It Only Takes A Minute”
  5. LaBelle, “Lady Marmalade”
  6. Bee Gees, “Jive Talkin’”
  7. The Pointer Sisters, “How Long (Betcha’ Got A Chick On The Side)”
  8. Disco Tex and His Sex-O-lettes, “Get Dancin’ (Part 1)”
  9. KC & The Sunshine Band, “That’s The Way (I Like It)”
  10. Donna Summer, “Love To Love You Baby”
  11. Electric Light Orchestra, “Evil Woman”
  12. The Spinners, “They Just Can’t Stop It The (Games People Play)”
  13. Dionne Warwick, “Once You Hit The Road”
  14. Elton John, “Philadelphia Freedom”
  15. Shirley & Company, “Shame, Shame, Shame”
  16. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, “Bad Luck”
  17. David Bowie, “Young Americans”
  18. The O’Jays, “I Love Music”
  19. 10cc, “I’m Not In Love”
  20. War, “Low Rider”
  21. Paul Simon, “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”
  22. ABBA, “Hey Hey Helen”
  23. Richard & Linda Thompson, “Hokey Pokey”
  24. Fleetwood Mac, “Say You Love Me”
  25. Tim Curry, “Sweet Transvestite”
  26. Sparks, “Looks, Looks, Looks”
  27. Teach In, “Ding-A-Dong”
  28. Al Stewart, “Carol”
  29. Neil Young, “Tonight’s The Night”
  30. Dwight Tilley Band, “I’m On Fire”
  31. Pink Floyd, “Wish You Were Here”
  32. Steely Dan, “Everyone’s Gone To The Movies”
  33. Joni Mitchell, “Edith and The Kingpin”
  34. Patti Smith, “Gloria: In Excelsis Deo”
  35. Brian Eno, “The Big Ship”
  36. Heart, “Crazy On You”
  37. Sweet, “Fox On The Run”
  38. Wings, “Call Me Back Again”
  39. Bruce Springsteen, “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”
  40. ZZ Top, “Tush”
  41. Led Zeppelin, “Kashmir”
  42. Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)”
  43. Roxy Music, “Just Another High”
  44. Queen, “Bohemian Rhaspody”
  45. Dickie Goodman, “Mr. Jaws”

Favorite Films of 2019

1. PARASITE
The first Bong Joon-ho film to become a genuine sensation, it lives up to all the hype and then some. It’s so well-constructed, you believe every facet of it even as it threatens to spiral out of control. As usual with the director, it’s hard to classify or define: is it a class-conscious satire, a race-against-the-clock thriller or a revenge-driven horror story? Bong seems to be asking, “Why not all of these things, and simultaneously at that?” Also, he and his impeccable cast and crew show you can create technically astounding cinema that’s also thoughtful and deeply felt.

2. SWORD OF TRUST
Lynn Shelton’s first feature in five years might be her best. An inspired screwball romp regarding the sale of a sword from the Civil War, it features a sharp ensemble cast headed by Marc Maron. Exhibiting real growth as an actor here, he’s equally adept at deadpan humor and convincing pathos as a laconic pawn shop owner. Shelton’s ease at letting him and the likes of Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins and Jon Bass improvise and play off each other results in a hilarious indie comedy that was somewhat overlooked.

3. KNIVES OUT
Rian Johnson’s spirited homage to neo-whodunits like Clue and Murder By Death is first and foremost wonderfully entertaining—I can’t recall the last time I had so much pure, unadulterated fun at the movies (and how could you not with Daniel Craig somehow pulling off a ridiculous Foghorn Leghorn accent?) That Knives Out not only concerns familial bickering but also class differences and illegal immigration firmly renders it a film of its time, and one I suspect will serve as a defining record of it decades from now.

4. GIVE ME LIBERTY
Following a young medical transport driver over a single day in Milwaukee, Kirill Mikhanovsky’s American indie is one of the more ambitious and exciting to emerge in recent memory. Focusing on multiple populations that aren’t affluent, white and/or fully abled (like his lead character, Mikhanovsky’s the son of Russian immigrants) in one of the country’s most segregated major cities, it’s breakneck-intense and more than a bit messy, especially in its artier moments; it’s also funny, lyrical, breathtaking, and full of outstanding performances.

5. LITTLE WOMEN
Lady Bird was a fine (if *slightly* overrated) directorial debut for Greta Gerwig; this follow-up shows what she’s made of as a filmmaker. Her openness-bordering-on-irreverence to the well-wrought source material is captivating—any complaint of having to work to comprehend the fractured timeline dissipates as that structure pays off beautifully in the final third. With the aid of an ensemble for the ages, Gerwig lends invention and life to a familiar tale, her adaptation a sparkling reminder as to why some tales endure and a guide as to how one should retell them.

6. END OF THE CENTURY
Kicking off with ten-to-fifteen sublime, dialogue-free minutes all over Barcelona, this eventually becomes what you’d want to a call a love story if that term didn’t feel so reductive. As the rest unfolds in non-chronological order, it depicts a relationship but also delves into themes of sexual coming-of-age, deciding whether or not to act on a feeling and, as the title spells out, a little pre-Millennium tension. A mashup of transcendent art film and affecting character study, End of A Century is also a hidden gem.

7. THE FAREWELL
The latest in a long tradition of family wedding films and one of the more relatable, realistic depictions of such I’ve seen. I’d like to think Lulu Wang was influenced by Ang Lee’s somewhat forgotten The Wedding Banquet, where one can swap a lie about illness with one regarding the groom’s sexuality, but this feels closer to the recent work of another great contemporary, Hirokazu Kore-eda. Awkwafina exhibits range far beyond her usual comedic persona, but don’t forget Shuzhen Zhao, who is perfection as the grandmother.

8. THE SOUVENIR
When I finished watching Joanna Hogg’s latest, my first thought was, “I really want to see this again,” and it’s been some time since I last felt that way about a new film. At this date, I haven’t yet returned to it, but I still think fondly of Honor Swinton Byrne (who should have no trouble following in her mother’s footsteps based on her excellent work here) as a stirringly complex heroine and the ultra-specific world Hogg (re-)creates for her, informed by memories and artefacts that add ample heft and texture.

9. ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
This is Tarantino’s best since the ‘90s (come at me, Inglorious Basterds-stans!) because it has everything I want from him right now: great deep-cut soundtrack, insane period detail, wacko cameos and, as something missing from the rest of his recent work, an earned emotional resonance via the bromance between DiCaprio and Pitt. The ending is imperfect and kind of dumb but also ballsy and truly cathartic, so I don’t know. Pulp Fiction, although trailblazing and iconic, is also imperfect, and perhaps only Jackie Brown is more poignant than this.

10. HER SMELL
Elisabeth Moss as a Courtney Love-style ’90s alt-rocker is an unlikely but juicy proposition in Alex Ross Perry’s searing psychodrama, which captures not only the frenzy of ratty concert venues and lived-in recording studios, but also their lingering monotony and ennui. Moss suffuses her bratty, monstrous tyrant with humor, weirdness and depth, exhibiting full command of her character’s startling emotional trajectory. Not holding back in its depiction of dark excess and terrible behavior, Her Smell also recreates a time and culture with fluency and feeling.

TIED FOR 11TH PLACE:

Apollo 11
Hail, Satan?
Maiden
Marriage Story
Monos
Pain and Glory
Under the Silver Lake

ALSO RECOMMENDED:

And Breathe Normally
Aquarela
Ash Is Purest White
Booksmart
Diamantino
Gloria Bell
Honeyland
In Fabric
The Irishman
The Last Black Man In San Francisco
Museum Town
Shadow
Uncut Gems
Varda By Agnes

Best Songs of the ’10s: #10-1

10. The Radio Dept., “Committed To The Cause”
These Swedes almost always appear blissfully out of time—when first hearing “Pulling Our Weight” in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, I assumed it was from 1983, not 2003. So it goes with this unlikely swirl of early ‘90s Madchester dance-rock (with a smidge of Toto!), which lyrically at least remains the most timely and prescient tune of 2016.

9. Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas, “Instant Crush”
An instant standout from Random Access Memories, not only for DP’s deepest dive into New Wave, but also for its robot-voiced utilization of The Strokes’ lead singer, of all people. Blame the melody or chord changes, but I have a far stronger emotional reaction to Casablanca’s voice when it’s masked like this. Should’ve been the album’s second single instead of “Lose Yourself To Dance”.

8. Twin Shadow, “Too Many Colors”
George Lewis Jr.’s 1980s-inspired project produced a great run of singles across this decade; my favorite is this track from 2018’s Caer—a soulful/electro combo that I never would’ve thought feasible (at least outside of Alison Moyet.) Still, it all comes together beautifully, from its bell-like flourishes and unstoppable chorus to Lewis’ impassioned vocal.

7. Iron & Wine, “Call It Dreaming”
After a series of ever-more lushly produced albums that bent his folk-pop as far as it could in that direction, Sam Beam returned to form with this straightforward but effective tune. Organically building from lone acoustic-guitar-and-vocal to a full-bodied arrangement, it ends up resounding like a beating heart that has gradually expanded until it’s all you can hear, and it’s everything.

6. Belle & Sebastian, “Nobody’s Empire”
At his peak, Stuart Murdoch sang, “Nobody writes them like they used to / So it may as well be me”; nearly two decades on, he’s still at it on a single as good as anything from If You’re Feeling Sinister, only with the added musical prowess and wisdom gleaned from twenty years of struggle and exhilaration. The song’s gorgeous, chiming hook gives me hope that he’ll keep writing ‘em well into this new decade and beyond.

5. Saint Etienne, “Tonight”
What a way to return after a seven-year hiatus—the central song on an album about loving pop music, it’s an ideal three-minute encapsulation of this veteran trio’s inclusive approach and aesthetic. Early in their careers, the inimitable Sarah Cracknell and her mates invited listeners to “Join Our Club”, but you see, they’ve always been fans as well: “I can hardly wait,” she sings, and her joy is just infectious.

4. Robyn, “Dancing On My Own”
Considering that it never even made the Billboard Hot 100, I’m thrilled to see this song popping up on so many end-of-decade lists. Regarding vulnerable yet defiant crying-on-the-dancefloor anthems, this is easily one of the all-time best for how the groove steamrolls along while also never obscuring the infinite shades of pain and perseverance in Robyn’s bruised but luminous performance.

3. Jens Lekman, “Evening Prayer”
Only Lekman would ever write a song about a man at a bar showing off a 3-D model of a tumor surgically removed from his back to his friend and a waitress; only he could make it both so jubilant and melancholy, inserting almost ridiculously bubbly “doo-doo-doo’s” within a blue-eyed soul arrangement. And there’s something in the way he sings, “It’s been a long, hard year” that nearly destroys me every time I hear it.

2. Mavis Staples, “Try Harder”
Sometimes, the simplest songs are the most effective: twelve-bar blues progression, guttural, insistent one-riff guitar, and a 78-year-old vocalist sounding nearly as robust as she did at half that age. With production support from improbable kindred spirit Jeff Tweedy, Staples is no one’s idea of an old fogey—especially when she repeats the key lyric, “Don’t do me no good to pretend / I’m as good as I could be.”

1. Destroyer, “Kaputt”
Kaputt the album cracked my top five of the decade, but it might not have without its monumental title-track centerpiece, which I knew was something extraordinary from my first listen nine years ago this month. You can liken Dan Bejar’s slight effervescence here to any number of signifiers (yacht rock, synth-pop, etc.), but in the end, “Kaputt” subsists in its very own universe, that incessant dit-dit-dit sequencer noise guiding an evocative quest through time and memory whose precise sound is an impeccable match for Bejar’s acquired-taste vocals. “All sounds like a dream to me” indeed.

Best Songs of the ’10s: #20-11

20. K.D. Lang & The Siss Boom Bang, “The Water’s Edge”
The highlight from Lang’s underrated 2011 album Sing It Loud, it has all of her strengths, from that one-of-a-kind voice to her refusal to play by genre rules. Timeless and deeply felt, it’s the song from her post-Ingenue catalog that should be as ubiquitous as “Constant Craving”.

19. Lana Del Rey, “Mariners Apartment Complex”
Possibly the decade’s best singles artist, this initial peek into her first great album solidifies all of her obsessions and aesthetic proclivities but also recasts them into something more intimate and direct and yet stylish enough to pull off that harpischord twirl in the intro.

18. M83, “Midnight City”
I resisted at first—what a blatant ’80s pastiche! Within weeks, however, I found myself genuinely thrilled to hear that dramatic intro, that moment when the beat wallops in, that breakdown after the second chorus, that shameless but transcendent sax solo at the climax.

17. Kelsey Lu, “Poor Fake”
Always on the lookout for weird new female artists that have at least a little Kate Bush in them, I instantly fell in love with this when it appeared on my Spotify “Discover Weekly” playlist. An orchestrated, danceable will o’ the wisp concerning art forgery? Yes, please.

16.Imperial Teen, “How We Say Goodbye”
As perfect a three-minute power pop song as you’re ever likely to hear; deceptively simple, it so effortlessly builds from verse to chorus that by the time it reaches the title hook at the end, you’re so caught up in the melodic rush of it all you might not realize how they’ve achieved so much with so little.

15. Emm Gryner, “Imagination”
From “Summerlong” to “Ciao Monday” this Canadian singer-songwriter has a talent for big hooks that you want to tell the whole world about; this one, a bold, technicolor, neo-psychedelic wonder, shows that two decades in, she still has the knack for them.

14. Florence + The Machine, “Queen of Peace”
She hasn’t topped Lungs yet, but she’s come close a few times, most noticeably on this track from her third album which tricks the listener into thinking it’s one kind of song (an aria, or a power ballad?) until the unexpected Motown-style beat appears and it suddenly transforms into something else altogether—just as exciting, and you can dance to it.

13. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Boy Problems”
Who knew teen-pop could be so utterly sublime? I admit I did not until this gem from her beloved E*MO*TION album wore me down (and it didn’t take long.) It’s as calculating a pop song as you’re ever likely to hear, but so sincere and yearning that the giddy high it produces is well worth whatever it does to get to that rare, heavenly place.

12. Tracey Thorn, “Dancefloor”
Thorn’s solo career continues to impress for its conciseness; this final track from Record is both a declaration and an epiphany: “Someone’s singing and I realize it’s me,” she notes over vital electro-beats, and I can’t imagine anyone who has ever loved singing along to music whether in a club or in the shower not being able to relate.

11. Of Monsters and Men, “Dirty Paws”
I ignored this in favor of hits like “Little Talks” until I heard it in trailer for Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty—its dynamic build, chiming notes and over-the-top shouts of HEY! got my attention, and I love how it goes out on a limb to risk seeming foolish or uncool, and ends up sounding rather glorious.

Best Songs of the ’10s: #30-21

30. Ezra Furman, “I Lost My Innocence”
Gender-bending glam punk rhymes “Box of Girl Scout Thin Mints” with “Pack of Winstons” within a jaunty ode to deflowering that Dr. Frank-n-Furter could sing in his/her cabaret act.

29. The Ting Tings, “Guggenheim”
I’ve played this curious, bratty ditty to the point of exhaustion and it hasn’t worn me down yet. Debbie Harry wannabe Katie White sings, “I’ll paint my face like the Guggenheim”; it still sounds like “play my bass” and both are magnificent nonsense.

28. The Rapture, “How Deep Is Your Love?”
Not a Bee Gees cover, but much better than that could possibly ever be. That breakdown in the middle just slays.

27. Eleanor Friedberger, “When I Knew”
This ex-Fiery Furnaces vocalist going trad-pop has given me more pleasure than I ever imagined it could. “She was wearing a pair of overalls, so I played ‘Come On, Eileen’” is just one of several terrific lyrics in this disarming declaration of lust.

26. Jenny Lewis, “Late Bloomer”
A throwback to classic-rock story-songs like “Maggie May” but filtered through Lewis’ puckish demeanor, “Late Bloomer” sports a melody and an arrangement both so inviting and generous I remain flummoxed as to why this isn’t more of a standard.

25. John Grant, “GMF”
The title’s a NSFW acronym that’s also too brilliant to reveal; with backing vocals from an interpreter of his work (see #39), this dyspeptic declaration of self is as bold and necessary now as Walt Whitman’s own was in his day (he might’ve liked the lyric, “So go ahead and love me while it’s still a crime.”)

24. Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Deadly Valentine”
Gainsbourg returned from a recording hiatus with this sinister orchestral disco banger that would’ve surely made her father proud. Even though it’s entirely in English, the words barely register or matter—that insistent, loping groove and descending melody (and countermelodies!) steady the song with an aura of an opulent dream.

23. The War On Drugs, “Pain”
I adore the intro here: drumless, airy, all those reverb-heavy guitars just gradually falling into place. As the beat kicks in and the melody, enhanced by Adam Granduciel’s croon keeps circling back to that opening, “Pain” grows richer and deeper, its layers crystallizing into a glistening whole.

22. Orville Peck, “Dead of Night”
A one-of-a-kind voice that nearly stopped me dead in my tracks when I first heard it: sonorous, robust and a bit camp, you could compare Peck to many other baritones (from Chris Isaak to Stephen Morrissey), but this song’s minimalist arrangement and vast sense of space further set him apart.

21. Sufjan Stevens, “Mystery Of Love”
Call Me By Your Name would’ve been great without musical contributions from Stevens, but their presence arguably makes it even better for how well they complement and contextualize the visuals. Still, I could sense how special the film might be when I first heard this weeks before actually seeing it.

Best Songs of the ’10s: #40-31

40. Betty Who, “Somebody Loves You”
Maybe the decade’s greatest one-shot? This Aussie singer has put out other stuff since, but nothing as pitch-perfect as this totally ‘80s dance pop wonder that somehow never became a big radio hit. Perhaps Kylie Minogue should cover it.

39. Sinead O’Connor, “Queen of Denmark”
O’Connor’s had another troubled decade, but she seemed on the verge of a comeback with her pretty good 2012 album, the highlight of which is this gloriously incensed John Grant cover. The original’s fine, but Sinead was born to sing lyrics like, “Why don’t you bore the shit out of somebody else?”

38. Hot Chip, “Let Me Be Him”
Man, these Brit dweebs had so many good singles (and albums!) this decade; out of all of it, I’ll go with this extended, shimmering prog-pop gem if only because it was an album track that should have been everywhere.

37. Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments”
Ware’s first major single is a breath of fresh air—with a Sade-like presence, only a tad more buoyant, it traverses both pop and r&b and lands somewhere in-between, only “lands” seems incorrect as, despite the resounding beat underneath, the whole thing positively glides.

36. LUMP, “Curse of the Contemporary”
Laura Marling was my artist of the decade until her considerable output actually petered out about 2/3 of the way through it. However, this most recent project, a collaboration with Tunng’s Mike Lindsay, suggests an intriguing way forward, especially on this sinewy, beautifully dark travelogue.

35. Marina and The Diamonds, “I’m A Ruin”
Froot made my top ten albums of the decade, but the track from it I always want to hear most is this miraculous, mid-tempo number where she utilizes the best bits of past weirdos such as Sarah McLachlan and Kate Bush, bringing it all into her own domain.

34. Joe Goddard feat. SLO, “Music Is The Answer”
Goddard’s a member of Hot Chip (see #38); I still have no clue who female vocalist SLO is. Together, they made this cool, catchy and most of all immediate disco/dance throwback whose straightforward but profound lyrics absolutely sell it.

33. Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Blue Skies Again”
If Amy Rigby ever had the resources and gumption to hook up with a member of The Black Keys, the results might’ve turned out like this. Mayfield’s made other, much different music since, but none of it registers like this lovely, slightly warped, twangy power pop.

32. Alex Lahey, “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”
I might’ve been more receptive to Sleater-Kinney’s return this decade if their punk-pop was still as catchy and urgent as this, but then, they never would’ve incorporated a rousing, Clarence Clemmons-like sax solo into one of their songs.

31. Tori Amos, “Reindeer King”
Her last two albums have retreated from the wilderness somewhat, but Amos remains a worthy iconoclast open to kicking off an album with a seven-minute mood piece akin to a stroll through endless, foreboding terrain—thankfully, you can still see through to the other side.

Best Songs of the ’10s: #50-41

Having already written so much about albums, I’m counting down my favorite songs of the decade instead. Thanks to downloading and streaming, I’m more inclined to obsess over individual tracks—I still love and seek out albums, but often, a great single or track is simply more accessible and immediate. Here are fifty from the past ten years, ten at a time. Roughly one-third come from my favorite albums of the decade—I wasn’t going to include any crossovers, but then I’d be overlooking some really good songs.

50. Lake Street Dive, “Bad Self Portraits”
This bluesy but warm serving of self-deprecation comes from a quartet of former Berklee students whose vocalist could be a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Fiona Apple, with lyrics nearly as clever as the latter’s.

49. Natalie Prass, “The Fire”
An angelic-voiced chanteuse in the Dusty/Dionne mold, Prass nonetheless refuses to be pigeonholed: this track (among others) from her second album, The Future and The Past recalls highly buffed, late ’80s pop-funk but fully translates it for the here and now.

48. Guster, “Architects & Engineers”
When they lay off the goofiness, these Adult Alternative radio mainstays approach the soaring, melody-rich power pop and smarts of Fountains of Wayne (who’ve been inactive for most of the decade.) The wordless chorus here is aces.

47. Roisin Murphy, “Narcissus”
She’s put out so many divine stand-alone singles since returning from exile mid-decade; this most recent release might be the best of ‘em, a full-blown, Donna Summer-worthy disco epic with Murphy imploring, “Be in love, be in love, be in love with me.” Only the Gloomiest Gus would dare resist her.

46. Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse”
Speaking of disco, it feels like such a logical step for this difficult-to-classify artist, but admit it—did you ever think she’d actually put out a song like this? As with nearly everything else on her applauded, Grammy-winning album Golden Hour, it’s both a summation and an act of liberation.

45. Years & Years, “Shine”
Both nuanced and assured, Olly Alexander’s best song to date also manages to scratch that ridiculously catchy teen-pop sweet spot, and somehow does it with synths nearly straight out of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”.

44. Washed Out, “All I Know”
Portlandia theme aside, Ernest Green’s chillwave project peaked with this wonderful, neo-psychedelic pop song brimming with texture and layers of hooks but also a strong residue of 80s British guitar-rock—in particular, the moment you could almost dance to it.

43. The Decemberists, “Once In My Life”
Their recent ’80s-drenched phase can be hit-or-miss, but it’s pretty sublime on this good old fashioned anthem, which is melodic, airy and brimming with majestic flourishes. Who knew Colin Meloy could write such a perfect song for an imaginary John Hughes film?

42. Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
Like nearly everyone else, it was that infamous Letterman show appearance that made me fall for Samuel T. Herring and his synth-pop cohorts; dad-dance moves aside, it’s his mighty, primeval roar in conjunction with the key-change on the chorus that still makes me soon.

41. Janelle Monae feat. Deep Cotton, “57821”
As much as I love all of The ArchAndroid’s sideways twists and turns, this gently scintillating, uncommonly hushed, acoustic folk (like “Scarborough Fair” turned inside out) is what I return to most—naturally, there’s nothing else like it in Monae’s small but expansive catalog.