In a year of phenomenal music these are the songs we’ve had continuously on repeat, blasting through our headphones until we got sick of them, then fell in love with them all over again. There’s been some phenomenal displays of extreme musicianship, songwriting and studio wizardry this year, and these are the songs we feel bring all of these elements together in a perfect smoothie of sound. Yum yum in our ear drums (sorry). We’ve put them all together in one handy playlist for your listening pleasure as well which you can find here.
50. IDLES – Reigns
A showcase of IDLES new found production prowess, the huge distorted bass swells are the natural progression for a band revered for their unchallenged raw power. Reigning in their chaotic sound to it simplest form, whilst still retaining the grandeur.
49. King Krule – Alone (Omen 3)
First appearing at the end of 2019, Alone (Omen 3) came into existence by a power plant. The acoustic representation of the song would then have its second coming on the announcement of King Krule’s latest album Man Alive! In the album format, the song is a grunge absorbed slice of heaven. The track wallows in loneliness, a voice leaning over you at your lowest. Words of positivity and hope bellow across like a mantra. Guitar and voice give way to a hidden void. Archie Marshall proves himself yet again to be one of the most talented fucking humans. Don’t answer your phone, take the train and remember that you’re not alone.
48. PVA – Exhaust/ Surroundings
A showcase of the London based 3-pieces songwriting technical ability. Just as you think you know what’s coming next, the band will swerve into new challenging lanes. The switch outs from the techno club groove into blissful synthesisers and back again perfectly captures that feeling of euphoria on the dancefloor.
47. Nadia Reid – Other Side Of The Wheel
Simply put, this is a very beautiful song. As Nadia Reid embraces her acceptance of moving on from lost love she delivers a truly emotive indie folk ballad. Swirling soundscapes and a driving groove, Reid further establishes herself as one of New Zealand’s best kept secrets.
46. Overmono – Everything U Need
Evocative music is really hard to pinpoint. Everything U Need is a lesson on how emotion can be conveyed in the best way possible. Dance music with every element being lovingly treated and cared for. This is the melancholy banger that everyone wanted from this year.
45. Fiona Apple – Rack Of His
Three decades into her career and Fiona Apple isn’t ready to give away her mantle as one of indie rocks most revered stars. Reversing the misogyny often given to women around to men when she sings “Check out that rack of his, Look at that row of guitar necks”. Not only speaking from experience, but calling for all those who have also experienced the onslaught of male depreciation to speak out and find power in each other. Also featuring an off-key piano line that will climb through your mind for days to come.
44. Arlo Parks – Black Dog
This has certainly been Arlo Parks year, debut album on the way next year. One of the biggest catalysts for Parks sudden surge in attention was “Black Dog”. It’s hard to pick an element of this song that exceeds the rest as Parks’ emotionally impactful lyrics and vocal performance backed with simplistic yet moving instrumentation makes an all round heartfelt indie anthem.
43. Georgia – Never Let You Go
Confident and cool. That’s the feeling all over London based producer Georgia’s latest album and “Never Let You Go” is the pinnacle of that. Unravelling vibrant and explosive soundscapes backed with a shake-your-butt like groove culminate in one of indie pop’s best bangers this year. We can’t wait to hear this one in the club.
42. Moses Sumney – Virile
Moses Sumney transcends genre to combine his emphatic vocal performance with a hugely expansive backing track that is both hard hitting and beautiful simultaneously. As he breaks down the contradictions of masculinity Sumney seeks to find the grey area in between it all in this groove filled banger.
41. Oneohtrix Point Never – I Don’t Love Me Anymore
Daniel Lopatin can paint sounds like no other. The sound of “I Don’t Love Me Anymore” is so addictive that it’s hard to not have this track on repeat. You’ll spend half the time trying to unravel every layer of sound and unwrap the deep vocal manipulations, but all this does is allow you to appreciate how much of a talented craftsman of sound he really is.
40. Kelly Lee Owens – On
A perfect combination of flourishing dream pop and techno from singer-songwriter/ producer Kelly Lee Owens. Showcasing her studio flair and ability to bend sounds to her will, continually evolving and expanding until it reaches its hard groove filled climax.
39. Dua Lipa – Hallucinate
A straight up pop anthem. It’s no doubt that Dua Lipa has made one of this years most confident pop albums in Future Nostalgia and “Hallucinate” showcases everything noteworthy about it. Highly catchy chorus, dance floor worthy groove and a supreme vocal performance from Lipa reaffirms her as one of pop’s biggest forces to be reckoned with.
38. Sault – Hard Life
Delightfully intoxicating groove, soulful melodies and a switch up that’s full of messages of self worth, further amplifying the pseudonymous collectives continuous messaging that black lives do matter. The mysticism surrounding the project only makes it that much more enticing.
37. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Straws In The Wind
King Gizzard have always been giving a retrospective of modern times within their music but this might be their most black and white song to date on the matter. “Pandemonium, selfish pigs
Headless chickens scared shitless, The media will never quit” declares singer Ambrose Kenny-Smith. Weird production aesthetics and more explorations into microtonal tuning sees the band stay as colourful as ever. Also featuring the best leaf blower solo in recorded history.
36. Bdrmm – A Reason To Celebrate
Pure shoegaze bliss. Borrowing from the founding fathers of shoegaze, bdrrm capture the explosiveness of My Bloody Valentine and melancholic joy of Slowdive to form a sound that’s as fresh as the Hull 5 piece’s faces.
35. Charli XCX – Pink Diamond
Recorded entirely during lockdown, Charli XCX’s latest album is a testament to her incredible work ethic and prolific output. Opener “Pink Diamond” is hard hitting ode to the club, that captures the longing we’ve all been feeling this year. Harsh beats, heavy hitting synths and shrink wrapped production make for yet another addition to Charli’s ever-growing list of bangers.
34. Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess
This is Angel Olsen at her most candid. Returning to a sound that was found in the early days of Halfway Home, Olsen crooning over crunchy reverbed guitars. Speaking on the feeling of constantly wondering how you’ll mess the day up, Olsen is raw in every sense of the word.
33. Ana Roxanne – —
The beauty of Ana Roxanne’s music comes from its assured ability to evoke memories you thought you’d lost forever. Put on some headphones and get ready to become lost in transcendence as the arpeggiated mellotron and emphatic ambient notes swirl and turn around in your head.
32. Axel Boman – Eyes In My Mind
Returning for a single outing, Axel Boman released Eyes Of My Mind back in April during the height of the pandemic. Being locked behind doors listening to the enchanting soothing house was a real pleasure in the abundance of sadness during this period. Eyes Of My Mind will always be seen as a reflection of hope.
31. Thundercat – I Love Louis Cole
Thundercat ventures into some his most progressive jazz yet, featuring his signature fast fingered flurried bass lines and a hard driving beat from none other than Louis Cole himself. A testament to the bassists extreme musical talent.
30. Caribou – Never Come Back
This song will make you want to dance and cry at the same time. With a deeply hypnotic groove and melody it’s sure to have your head bopping wherever you are. But dive deeper than the rich production that Dan Snaith brings once again and you see the producer/ songwriter trying to gain clarity of lost love, and whether the other person truly wanted to be there.
29. Nothing – Say Less
A brutal and chaotic chaotic soundscape that only gets denser with each listen. Guitars flailing and drums spiralling, there is a war going on within this song. Nothing have taken their already devastating sound and pushed it to new and exciting boundaries .
28. Kurt Vile – Dandelions
Kurt Vile has a supreme talent for finding true beauty in simplicity. That’s why this ode to a summers day spent playing in the flowers with his daughters is so elegantly pure and heartwarming. Each instrument and sound feels like it’s bursting out from behind a cloud, to shine light wherever it can.
27. Tame Impala – On Track
Kevin Parker’s take on a stadium ballad, sprinkled with his signature serving of flanger. As with most of Parker’s album from this the concept of time takes center stage, mainly the overarching fear that it’s slipping away without any progress, a fear that we have all felt this year. Without knowing it Parker perfectly captured the mood of 2020.
26. DEWEY – Is It Infatuation?
The hypnotic groove of this track will immediately draw you in, becoming truly infatuated with its melodies afterwards. A confident and bold pop ballad that is sure to be the first of many to come from Brighton based singer-songwriter Fifi Dewey.
25. Aleksandir – I Used To Dream
Aleksandir solidifies his name with his debut album. Released as a single, I Used To Dream, is a song acting like a lucid dream. The song propels and develops in a way that is extremely satisfying, yet completely unpredictable. Aleksandir is an absolute delight to listen to.
24. Rina Sawayama – Dynasty
Pop-rock ballad with a top level vocal performance from one of indie pop’s most exciting new stars. Just listen to Sawayma match the rising guitar solo towards the climax almost note for note, true musical prowess. A power anthem that is sure to be a staple of Sawayma’s live show, and we can’t wait to see it.
23. King Krule – Underclass
Jazzy, moody and a crisp saxophone solo, this is King Krule distilled into one powerful tune. Archie Marshall asks the question of whether he will still be loved at his lowest. Lush instrumentation that glides you through the hazy and deeply intoxicating mind of Marshall.
22. Clipping – Say The Name
Daveed Diggs and co. return with a more bloody and menacing follow up to 2019’s There Existed An Addiction To Blood . And this title track distills the album to its core. Infatuating beat and menacing chorus lines over a superb and continuously flowing delivery from Diggs descends into all out horror towards the back end of the song.
21. Okay Kaya – Comic Sans
A master craft of minimalism. A highly addictive chorus line and sparse production allows Kaya Wilkins to show off her greatest talent, vocal manipulation. Every listen brings something new to the forefront, it’s a song that keeps on giving.
20. Mary Lattimore – Pine Trees
It’s truly incredible the emotions and memories that Mary Lattimore can invoke with just the pluck of her harp. Layering melodies and warm synthesisers until you at once feel at ease, feeling as if nothing in the world could be wrong. Close your eyes and let the plains of flowing grass hills take over your mind.
19. Fenne Lily – Elliott
With heartbreak at its core, this emotional filled slow burner is as moving as it is intimate. It’s hard to pick one element that is more beautiful than the rest as the slow plucked guitar, sweeping violins and hushed vocals all compete to make you cry the most.
18. Lianne La Havas – Can’t Fight
As this sons builds through its many intricate layers there’s one constant that remains, Lianne La Havas’ immeasurable natural talent. Reaching a truly hypnotic and enchanting climax of sound that showcases La Havas’ delicately rich songwriting ability.
17. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Intrasport
Who knew that they needed a microtonal 90’s Turkish house banger? Well here King Gizzard are to deliver it, and boy does it slap. Infatuating groove and a deeply funky bass, this latest expanse on King Gizzard’s ever revolving sound is both hypnotic and sinister if you dive deep enough into the lyrics. “I used to dream about killing certain people” sings Joey Walker.
16. GUM – Don’t Let It Go Out
Jay Watson really is a force to be reckoned with in the world of psychedelic rock. When he’s not touring the world with Tame Impala or writing for POND he’s busy crafting huge sonic bursts of grandure, like in the climax of this song. When the sun eventually explodes and burns us all to a crisp I expect this to be exactly what it sounds like, unrelenting bliss.
15. Sorry – Rosie
There’s just something about the way that Sorry write songs that make them sound so familiar yet in a world of their own. A classic indie rock sound at its core, yet deep below in the production and flow of the song lies a darkness that feels like its trying to emerge at every opportunity. The almost dead pan vocal deliveries of Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen lure you in to somewhere that feels distant and yet oh so familiar.
14. Yves Tumor – Gospel For A New Century
Glichy melodies, sensational chorus lines and twisiting instrumentation. This song allows Tumor to show off their new found lead singer status. Taking the song and owning it with an unchallenged glamour throughout, instrumentally and vocally it’s one of the most enticing sounds Tumor has created to date.
13. Katy J. Pearson – Take Back The Radio
A confident and assured country/ pop/ indie anthem. A hugely catchy chorus and infatuating melody, it showcases Pearson’s fresh and vibrant songwriting talent. If this isn’t featured on the next season of Nashville (is it still going?) then what has the world come to. Bristol’s best kept secret has been given to the world, and it’s a better place for it.
12. Benny Sings feat. Mac DeMarco – Rolled Up
The combo we all needed this year. A simple, and yet tasteful expression of the blues we all feel at times shows that you don’t always need deep layers of production to make a fantastic song. DeMarco’s happy-go-lucky chorus lines paired with Benny Sings’ minimalist crooning melodies are a true match made in heaven.
11. Adrianne Lenker – Anything
Adrianne Lenker manages to create so much with so little. From Songs And Instrumentals, an album recorded in its entirety with analogue equipment, Lenker perfectly captures the intimacy of love. The combination of the caressing guitar sounds and Lenker’s emotive vocal performance is enough to make anybody believe in love.
10. I Break Horses – Turn
A gloriously magic and sonically layered 7 minute dream pop journey, guided by Maria Lindén’s radiant vocals. Twisting and turning over its run time, forever gliding to its next moment of pure bliss. Turn out the lights and let Lindén take you to new found depths of consciousness.
9. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
The title track of Phoebe Bridgers sophomore album is an ode to Elliot Smith, without a doubt Bridgers’ biggest influence. Pouring her heart out to someone she’s never met shows just what it’s like to be infatuated by the idea of someone. Instrumentally this is one of Bridgers’ most hauntingly beautiful and delicately devastating tracks so far; I hope the rolling piano line is the soundtrack to the ascent to heaven.
8. Perfume Genius – On The Floor
The chorus and groove of this song is an infatuating as the emotions that Michael Hadreas sings of in this indie pop anthem. Fantastic production, feeling reminiscent of both 70’s funk and 90’s power pop this track is sure to have you writing letters to your teenage heartbreak asking where it all went wrong. Both emotionally fuelled and impactful.
7. HMLTD – Mikey’s Song
Bathed in 80’s power pop ballad nostalgia, this offering London based experimentalist indie outfit HMLTD has it all. An encapsulating melody, huge powerful chorus and gorgeous instrumentation. The band prides themselves on not having any two songs in the same style, well if they were to do more with this much bravado then I don’t think anyone would complain.
6. IDLES – War
An immediate and hard behemoth of an opener that sets the tone for the whole of IDLES third album, brutal. Both chaotic and controlled at the same time, the noise descriptions of lead singer Joe Talbot seem tongue in cheek at first listen, but soon you realise they are describing the horrors of real war. Affirming their political stance with no sense of mysticism about it, “This means war! Anti war!” cries Talbot of blistering guitars and searing synths.
5. L.A. Priest – Rubber Sky
Where Sam Easgate excels as a songwriter is his continual strive to push sounds to their absolute maximum potential. Recorded and played in its entirery by Eastgate this electronic pop banger not only showcases his multi octave vocal ability but also his ability to make sounds transcend into new planes of depth. Also featuring a truly dirty bass line.
4. Tame Impala – One More Year
Kevin Parker is a studio wizard and the opening track of The Slow Rush only enhances this notion. Almost gregorian chants of “One more year” circle around the soundscape as Parker sings of having to wait just a bit longer to be where he wants to, sound familiar to anyone? Unknowingly creating the psychedelic blissful sounds that soundtracked many peoples quarantine life.
3. Phoebe Bridgers – Garden Song
Phoebe Bridgers has a unique talent for sounding so huge whilst simultaneously delivering some of the warmest and softest sounding songs in indie folk. The watered guitar line continually tries to reach out over itself, just to be nurtured back down by Bridgers soft reminiscing of her dreams. It’s hard to describe just how much beauty is in hidden within the subtleties of this song, it’s best to just let it speak for itself.
2. Sorry – As The Sun Sets
It’s hard to describe just how hard hitting this song is whilst simultaneously being so full of suave. A truly menacing sound, the beauty is in the dense and ever expanding production. Quoting Louis Armstrong’s classic “What A Wonderful World”, Sorry seek to capture the emotional density of just simple life, and do it with an unchallenged cool.
1. Phoebe Bridgers – I Know The End
Phoebe Bridgers wrote the soundtrack to the apocalypse, and then the apocalypse happened. This hauntingly devastating and emotionally triumphant closer to one of this years best albums perfectly combines the beauty of Bridgers delicate guitar ballads in the first half, to break out into all out chaos in the end. Fanfares, choruses of “The end is here” and a final bow out scream from Bridgers perfectly captures the collective emotional whirlwind of this year.