The Best Songs of 2019 (Revisited)

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

Ok, we're at year-end, and while the final quarter of the year didn't add much, I'm updating my earlier post to include my favorite song of 2019, That Dog's breathtaking "Old LP."  (I've also added a few other faves, so it's no longer just a Top 10.)

That Dog, "Old LP."  90s indie rock/punk-power-poppers That Dog returned this year with their first album in 22 years, and it's truly great.  But it's the title track that stands out, a lush, orchestrated tune commemorating the passing of bassist Rachel Haden's father, jazz bassist Charlie Haden (whose voice can now only be heard on the referenced old LP).  It's a stunning tear-jerker, not just the incredibly moving lyrics, but the delightful harmonies of Haden, lead singer Anna Waronker, and their friend, actress/comedian/singer Maya Rudolph.  The video includes a lengthy (and fascinating) documentary about the making of the song; or you can just skip ahead to the 6:15 marker for the song itself.
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 Gingrich'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."
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 with new wave flourishes and soul-baring lyrics.  "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.
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."
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.
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'.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Better Oblivion Community Center, "Dylan Thomas."  A supergroup of sorts pairing Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst with Phoebe Bridgers, the debut album is nifty indie-folk-pop, all perfectly lovely, but this song stands out as hopelessly infectious, with the most effective use of their intertwined vocals.
Young Guv, "Patterns Prevail." Stunning fizzy power pop straight out of the Teenage Fanclub songbook, with hooks and energy to spare.
Jess Ribeiro, "Stranger." A mellow, hypnotic, somewhat Americana groove, sounding like the perfect thing to roll out behind the opening credits of some obscure film noir.
Guided by Voices, "The Rally Boys."  As GbV fans are painfully aware, GbV and Robert Pollard albums are hopelessly inconsistent; will you get more dregs from Pollard's bottomless notebooks, or a concise, catchy pop track worthy of the band's 90s glory days? Fortunately, 2019 saw some surprisingly solid work from the boys, none more so than the anthemic "Rally Boys."
Pernice Brothers, "The Devil & The Jinn." Joe Pernice is back with the first Pernice Brothers album in several years, and it just may be my favorite, chiming, jangly pop with hints of the ol' Americana.  This song is one of several standouts, bumped to the top with the aid of some Neko Case helping out on vocals.  Alas, it neither streams on Spotify, nor is there a video, but you can preview (and please buy) it on Bandcamp.
The New Pornographers, "The Surprise Knock."  Speaking of Neko... The New Pornographers were back with another winning album, In The Morse Code Of Brake Lights; plenty of great baroque pop tunes to choose from, but I'd give a slight edge to "The Surprise Knock" for its great use of the band's telltale interwoven vocals.
Taylor Swift, "You Need To Calm Down."  It's funny to see all the year-end lists praising Lover but slamming this single.  Me, I thought the album was pretty meh, and I unapologetically love the single.  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 whatever you think of the song's muddled and perhaps unearned messaging, I think it's got a killer hook, one of the catchiest pop songs Swift has written to date.