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Class of 2020 – The 100 Greatest Songs of the Year!

13 Dec, 2020

Playlist on Spotify at the bottom of each page.

#100-#81 | #80-#61 | #60-#41 | #40-#21 | #20-#11 | #10-#2 |#1


citattecken I wrote it in quite a difficult place from the point of view of a version of myself in the future that knew her shit and was more confident…”

60. Låpsley “Womxn”
(from Through Water)

“That was the first track I wrote for the record. I’ve been touring since I was eighteen and then took a year off for many reasons, trying to recharge. I wrote it in quite a difficult place from the point of view of a version of myself in the future that knew her shit and was more confident. It’s funny, because now when I sing it it’s my present.

I originally wrote and produced that track in my flat in Manchester just with a little home set-up. Then I reproduced it with Peter Grady who has a project called Joy Orbison. I re-did a lot of the synth lines in his studio.”

– Holly Fletcher

citattecken “It was the last song written and recorded for I Like It Here and it was completed right before California went into the first lockdown…”

59. Trevor Beld Jimenez “When Your Love Surrounds Me”
(from I Like It Here)

“‘When Your Love Surrounds Me’ was written on the piano in one sitting on a fall afternoon in Southern California. Produced by Jonny Niemann and recorded at Mono Deluxe in Los Angeles, CA. It was the last song written and recorded for I Like It Here and it was completed right before California went into the first lockdown. It is also the last song on the LP. Features Jonny at the piano, Eric Johnson (Fruit Bats) on harmonies and Tim Ramsey (Parting Lines) on slide guitar. It is a song about the gift of grace.”

– Trevor Beld Jimenez

58. Phony Ppl “Fkn Around (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)
(Single)

57. Amy LaVere “Painting Blue On Everything”
(from Painting Blue)

56. Ringo Deathstarr “God Help The Ones You Love”
(from Ringo Deathstarr)

citattecken “Turns out we were like 100 plus years behind and the song had already made its rounds as a Stevedore shanty and been in American circles forever…”

55. Bonny Light Horseman “Lowlands”
(from Bonny Light Horseman)

“‘Lowlands’ was the first song we collaborated on, even before we were a ‘proper’ band and refers to the Lowlands of Scotland, which borders on Northern England. We were originally captivated by the Anne Briggs version, which is unaccompanied and spooky-beautiful. In the Briggs version, John is a ghost that returns from the sea, “green and wet with weeds so cold.” In an attempt to find a trans-Atlantic link, we decided to conceive of the Lowlands as being from the Gulf Coast – Mobile Bay, Alabama to be exact… Kinda re-contextualizing the ballad geographically. Turns out we were like 100 plus years behind and the song had already made its rounds as a Stevedore shanty and been in American circles forever.

The only remaining shanty-like aspect of our version probably sits in the Greek chorus vibes of the refrain, “lowlands away, lowlands away my John” – beyond that it’s pretty much a love song and a song of longing for lost love. So, very much a universal theme. We tried cutting this song a few different ways and ended up with a rolling, cloud-like impressionistic rendition that felt most like us, letting the space between the words present as oceanic. We recorded the final version during a snowstorm in an old church-turned-studio up in the Catskills for full dramatic effect.”

– Josh Kaufman

citattecken “…we all know love isn’t fair, but what is? At a certain point you have to toughen up, at least a little, wipe away the tears and attack life…”

54. The Exbats “Wet Cheeks”
(from Kicks, Hits, and Fits)

“‘Wet Cheeks’ is about crying. And crying a little too much. A lady very close to us spends too much time feeling sorry for herself, and this is our message to her. It’s like this; we all know love isn’t fair, but what is? At a certain point you have to toughen up, at least a little, wipe away the tears and attack life. Also, it’s a very sassy thing to say, and a little rude. We like a little bit of sassy, rude and funny in our songs. Wet Cheeks! I suppose it’s just the classic ‘come out and play’ type of song.”

– Kenny McLain, Inez McLain and Bobby Carlson Jr.

53. Soccer Mommy “circle the drain”
(from color theory)

52. Chromatics “TOY”
(Single)

citattecken It sounds almost like somebody playing a Red Hot Chili Peppers song on Youtube on their guitar, it’s not quite right or what you expect to hear…”

51. Caribou “Like I Loved You”
(from Suddenly)

“There are a couple of tracks on this album that use this instrument called Omnisphere, which is mostly used for making soundtracks and stuff like that. Through that you have access to a whole arsenal of symphonic and synthesized sounds, most of which are of no interest to me at all, but it has this collection of guitars. Somebody has sampled every possible not on a guitar play played in different ways.

The guitar sound in ‘Like I Loved You’ is played on this fake guitar instrument but on a keyboard rather than a fretboard. The interesting thing, for me anyway, was playing a part with my fingers in a piano setting that a guitarist would not think of playing. Bending notes on a synthesizer has a slightly different character. It sounds almost like somebody playing a Red Hot Chili Peppers song on Youtube on their guitar, it’s not quite right or what you expect to hear.

Then also my friend Colin Fisher, who is a super highly prolific guitar and saxophone player flew over from Toronto and put layers of actual guitar on top of it. The song is the closest thing in terms of instrumentation to having a real band. There’s a drum beat, guitar, other interlocking parts and there’s a vocal, but not the way it would be played by a live band.

There are a couple of songs about a divorce in my family in the last five years and this is one of those. Just reflecting on that kind of loss or separation. Something that was there in a romantic relationship that is no longer there. The way that permiates through people’s lives. It isn’t really so much an album about romantic love, but that track is.”

– Dan Snaith

citattecken I was in Prague with my wife who was filming and I rented a studio there. Our daughter was five or six months old and we were going through a really hard time…”

50. James Righton “Start”
(from The Performer)

“I was in Prague with my wife who was filming and I rented a studio there where I was working. Our daughter was five or six months old and we were going through a really hard time trying to reconfigure our life, who we were and this new dynamic between the three of us. I wanted to write an honest song about how I was feeling.

When you have kids you’re not supposed to say how tough it is, or the human race would end, do you know what I mean? But it was really hard and it put a great deal of stress on our relationship, trying to figure out how to make it work in this new dynamic. From sleepless nights to juggling our lives. When we had our firstborn, we suddenly realized that you have to give up your old self.

Within all of this difficult period in our lives we both still had a belief in the original reasons we were together. In my head I wanted to go back to the start and wanted us to remember the good things from when we first met. So I went on to write a song about that, really.

I made an album under the pseudonym Shock Machine and it was full of gear, synths and stuff, so I went on to make a really stripped back record without synthesizers. I made sure the bass, drums and vocals were really direct and everything down the middle, frequency-wise. No layers or millions of harmonies vocally. Bass with a lot of movement and the drums interesting. I wanted the guitars, strings and Wurlitzer to come in and out so the sound in the middle wouldn’t be cluttered, but as melodic as possible.

I rebelled. I always do that. Whenever I’ve made albums, I never want to do the same as I’ve done before, there’s no fun in that. Once I found a palette of sounds it was easy writing it.”

– James Righton

citattecken “I pondered, how can we tackle the feeling of hopelessness, helpless in the face of utter fuckery whether caused by man or the natural world…”

49. Snowgoose “Hope”
(from The Making Of You)

“The beginnings of the song ‘hope’ was created whilst on holiday in Donegal, Ireland; taking some quiet time, strumming the chords on the porch looking out to sea, and thinking about the world and how it sometimes turns to shit in front of our eyes! I pondered, how can we tackle the feeling of hopelessness, helpless in the face of utter fuckery whether caused by man or the natural world. This song is a reflection on the universal human condition, it can’t help but resonate with us all no matter how bleak things are turning… we just didn`t realise at the time of releasing in 2020 how poignant it would be!

The backing track was recorded live at ‘Red Kite Studio’s’ a beautiful spot in the wild hills of Wales, we later did the overdubs back home in Glasgow. Raymond McGinley (Teenage Fanclub) came up with the striking guitar riff which winds its way through the song, for that we are truly grateful as he raised the song from being a great track to one that is sublime!”

– Jim McCulloch and Anna Sheard

48. Caroline Rose “Feel The Way I Want”
(from Superstar)

47. Tom Misch & Yussef Dayes “What Kinda Music”
(from What Kinda Music)

46. Nadia Reid “Heart To Ride”
(from Out Of My Province)

45. Whethan “All In My Head (feat. grandson)”
(from Fantasy)

citattecken “I ran out the studio doors and heard fire trucks. I ran all the way home and saw my street was completely dark and there were fire trucks everywhere…”

44. Elephant Stone “House On Fire”
(from Hollow)

“‘House on Fire’ is as autobiographical of any song I have ever written. On November 26th 2017 I was rehearsing with the band at our studio for our tour supporting The Dream Syndicate in the USA two days later. While taking a break between songs I noticed my wife had called three times without leaving a message. I found this odd as she rarely calls me during rehearsals. Sensing urgency, I called her back. “Come home! Our house is on fire” is what she said. I ran out the studio doors and heard fire trucks. I ran all the way home (usually a 10 minutes walk, but I did it in 5 minutes) and saw my street was completely dark and there were fire trucks everywhere. My wife and three kids were safe at our neighbours place.

We spent that night at my parents house and then returned home the following days to ruins. Luckily, the fire damage was minimal but the water damage from burst pipes and from the firehouse was significant. That night I sorted out an Airbnb for us to stay at for the next month while we gathered our bearings. Then two days later I went on tour. I left my family at their most confused and vulnerable. At a time when they needed me most, I convinced myself that I needed to continue with the two week and everything would be fine.

In the end, I cancelled the last few dates and returned home and to my responsibilities. To this day, I kick myself for leaving on tour… but I can’t change what I’ve done. All I can do is write a song and apology to my wife and kids. So, this song is me saying “I’m sorry”. This event was also the beginning of the narrative for Hollow: what do you do when you lose everything? We have managed to rebuild our lives, and home, stronger.”

– Rishi Dhir

citattecken “The image in my head was that the singer of this song was a kind of manic mascot for the apocalypse, cheekily dancing but despairing…”

43. Chemtrails “Blurred Visions”
(from The Peculiar Smell Of The Inevitable)

“‘Blurred Visions’ was the first song written for our latest album, The Peculiar Smell of the Inevitable, and in some ways inspired the whole feel of the record: strange happy-sounding poppy segments interrupted by slightly sinister turns. The image in my head was that the singer of this song was a kind of manic mascot for the apocalypse, cheekily dancing but despairing, while watching the world crumble from a big tower.

We wrote and recorded a demo in about a day, and we liked the guitars and vocal takes so much that we ended up using them in the final cut. ‘Blurred Visions’ was born nearly-fully formed – if only every song came so easily! It’s definitely one of the songs we are most proud of as a band. We also made a video for it over lockdown, which I think it’s fair to say captures its frenzied mood.”

– Laura Orlova

citattecken “It’s really about any young man who wants to get the attention of a woman he’s attracted to but has no self-confidence, he has no social skills…”

42. The Lickerish Quartet “Bluebird’s Blues”
(from Threesome, Vol. 1)

”Our intention is always to keep the point of the song fairly straightforward and very catchy right from the onset. We enjoy having fun with production and arranging intricacies here and there, but we never want those to overshadow the raw, innocent beauty of a song. This whole song, both musically and lyrically, is pretty much from myself. Obviously, Eric and Tim are in there, they help with the arrangement and some sections, like the intro, outro and some stuff in the bridge. But the lyric and the core of the verses and choruses came from me.

My gosh, I wrote most of that song in 1988! The lyric was written very recently, in the last couple of years, but most of the music came right when I graduated from college and I was living on my own in San Francisco. Jellyfish hadn’t even formed yet, but I was working with Andy [Sturmer] who was going to be my partner in that band. I was writing lots and lots of songs and that was just an idea that popped out. There were so many songs to do over the years in Jellyfish and other projects that it never got completed and I thought it would be a perfect song to try for the Lickerish Quartet.

The lyric basically is the old familiar tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. That’s me taking that theme and running with it. It’s really about any young man who wants to get the attention of a woman he’s attracted to but has no self-confidence, he has no social skills. He’s inept to speak his heart. Very often that’s a lot of musicians or poets and they’ll do that through their art because they often don’t have what it takes to simply walk up to a woman and tell them directly that they’re attracted to them.

When I work on songs and create ideas I never really have a lyric in mind, that always comes later. I would sing made up words and gibberish just so I can create a melody, so when I first wrote that song I was singing this ’bluebird’ word over and over again. I decided to run with it to see if I could create an entire lyric that way. So yeah, the bluebird is the one who serenades the girl because the man is ill-equipped to do so for himself, ha ha!

Everything you hear in the song is very, very intentional. It takes us a very long time to create this music. We always try to hold the listener’s attention, we never want the listener to start nodding off or for things to become too repetitive or too boring, so we love all the games, earcandy, playfulness and seduction we try to do as audio. The intro is mysterious, ’what’s about to happen?’. It’s sucking you in ideally to this mysterious world that happens in the first verse which is very stripped down.

We love having fun with background vocals. So many of our heroes inspired us over the years, certainly in the sixties and seventies. Rock and pop artists could really harmonize and sing very well, certainly a lot of the psych pop in the sixties. They experimented with the power of vocals. We enjoy doing that too on our own terms.”

– Roger Joseph Manning Jr.

citattecken ‘Spotlight’ has got the drama and melodrama that I love and I think my fans enjoy. But yeah, it’s unashamedly dance music…”

41. Jessie Ware “Spotlight”
(from What’s Your Pleasure?)

“It was one of the first songs that me, Shun [Govere], Danny Parker and James Ford made. I’d just come off tour in America which had been a real difficulty being away from my family, I lost lots of money because it was expensive. Straight away I went in the studio when everyone thought I should have some time off, but I really wanted to do some music and do it with James. Shun and Danny whom I’d written with before came over from the States. We were just listening to music, we were dancing and wanted to move.

‘Spotlight’ was in reference to a Fern Kinney track called ‘Love Me Tonight’. I wanted that yearning and longing but I wanted it to have optimism. For me, in quite a few of the tracks on What’s Your Pleasure? – this one and ‘Save A Kiss’ – there’s been a familiarity of Jessie Ware music but it’s got this driving beat. That relentless quality to it that keeps it going, but then there’s this kind of hopeful euphoria within it too. For me it’s about having all these emotions and be able to have them together but the beat doesn’t stop, it carries on and keeps you going. It was with my fans in mind, really, to keep them dancing. To feel this new era of escapism.

‘Spotlight’ has got the drama and melodrama that I love and I think my fans enjoy. But yeah, it’s unashamedly dance music. Probably one of the more orchestral, dramatic ones on the record. I really love it, I’m so proud of it. It’s a great start to the album with its quiet intro. I’m not trying to leave anything I did before behind, rather it’s about them trying together, that being that crossover.”

– Jessie Ware

#100-#81 | #80-#61 | #60-#41 | #40-#21 | #20-#11 | #10-#2 |#1

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