Top 10 Songs of 2019 (So Far)

As we approach the 75% marker, here's my take on the 10 best songs I've heard so far this year...

1. The Paranoid Style, "Turpitude."  While backed by a super-tight and compelling band (think the Hold Steady), the lure here is singer Elizabeth Nelson's brilliantly hyper-literate lyrics and deadpan (but snark-free) delivery.  Their latest album, A Goddamn Impossible Way Of Life, is dense with clever (and educational!) songs, but the lead-off track is particularly killer (maybe it's the surefire "woo-ooo-oos"), a sly look back at Newt Ginrich's 1990s:  "I smoked for the following reasons: The contract with America. I smoked because of Pulp Fiction, I smoked because of Mojo Nixon. And because back then it wasn’t rude. Nowadays I suppose they’d call that Turpitude."

2.  Charly Bliss, "Under You."  Pretty tough to pick a favorite off the band's terrific second album, which makes a huge sonic leap from the unadulterated pop-punk of their debut, diversifying the tracks and offering a denser, more synth-driven sound.  "Under You" probably comes closest to replicating the sound of the prior work, a pure, blissed out power-pop number that will make you giddy.

3. Vampire Weekend, "This Life." The band's fourth album is an unexpected treat.  While prior albums have been entertaining, I wondered how much life they had left in them; but they broadened their sonic palate and came up with some truly lovely baroque pop which keeps one foot in the indie rock world while embracing a more lush, classic rock sound.  I vacillate between this one and the delightful "Harmony Hall."

4. The Dandy Warhols, "Motor City Steel."  Kinda like General Motors went to Iggy Pop and asked him to rewrite "Real Wild Child" as a car commercial.  Which should be awful.  And it's wonderful.  And, per usual, awesome video.

5. The Dream Syndicate," Black Light."  The most entrancing psychedelic groove in some time, from the second great album in the band's surprising comeback run.  Caution:  Do not watch this video while high.  Just sayin'.

6. Sleater-Kinney, "Hurry On Home."  Say what you will about the latest album, which drops the band's indie/punk roots for a slick, sleek modern pop sound, but this single ably bridges the band's past and present (and another great video to boot).

7. Bleached, "Hard To Kill."  After a couple albums burying their indie pop nuggets beneath a Raveonettes-style wall of distortion, Bleached go clean, with a more classic girl-group sound this time around.  "Hard to Kill" has an infectious, Blondie-infused new wave sound about it, chewy ear candy.

8. Luther Russell, "Corvette Summer."  Throw into the blender a little Big Star and some early Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, and you might just end up with a perfect car radio riff.

9. Mike Adams At His Honest Weight, "Do You One Better."  Every now and then you hear one of those perfect power pop songs, where they hit the chorus and you're confounded that nobody has come up with that hook before.

10. Taylor Swift, "You Need To Calm Down."  Yeah, I get the politics here.  Is Taylor dubiously comparing the homophobia faced by the LGBT community with people who send mean tweets her way?  Did she wait until it was absolutely safe to wield her considerable clout to make a political statement?  (Me, I think if she's able to get an important message to kids in middle America, good for her.)  But this is the most indelible pop song of the year, a catchy hook that does not leave your head and leads you straight to the replay button.  I'm not as enthralled by the rest of the album as everyone else seems to be, but this song kicks ass.

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