2019: My Top Tracks

2019 was the year where I threw myself into rock music: I even became part of a committee of a rock society, and tried to find as much local music as I could. But it was also the year that my love of dance music returned with a vengeance- and that’s why it dominates this list.
My top 30 will follow, before my top 15 will go into more detail about the tracks. It was extremely hard to make this list, and I’ll probably want to change it as soon as it’s written. Hopefully I’ll help someone find some good new music!

Top 30:
30. Iggy Azalea, Alice Chater – Lola
29. Flume, London Grammar – Let You Know
28. Y!kes – Hold On To Your Grudge
27. PBH & Jack, Hayla – Waiting All My Life
26. Within Temptation – Supernova
25. Kylie Minogue – New York City
24. Jax Jones, Tove Lo – Jacques
23. ZENA – Like It
22. Florence & the Machine – Moderation
21. Dream State – Primrose
20. Kygo, Whitney Houston – Higher Love
19. Hatari – Hatrid Mun Sigra
18. Niall Horan – Nice To Meet Ya
17. Riton, Oliver Heldens, Vula – Turn Me On
16. Martin Garrix, Bonn – Home

15. The Clause – In My Element

The Clause are a Birmingham based rock band, who combine punk vocals and political lyrics with modern rock music. In My Element is their 2019 single. Fans of ‘Slaves’ will enjoy their music; this song could even be one of the reasons why the Brummie accent is now one of my favourites.

14. Example – Do It So Well

For a man who stopped charting in 2014, Example’s comeback to music is surprisingly excellent. His November single was self-described as “a techno one” (in reference to his grime and rap) and his wife Erin called it the best thing he’s made in years. She ain’t wrong. Catchy, upbeat and with a typically memorable music video, even at 37, he does it so well.

13. Kiesza – Sweet Love

Another artist left in 2014, Kiesza suffered a serious car accident which left her with brain injuries and forced her to take a step back from music. Following an EP with producer Chris Malinchak, in 2019 she has been back releasing solo material. Sweet Love is a break away from her dance-oriented debut album. She’s matured, with a ballad with enough life to feel uplifting, and a voice which sounds better than ever. Her other recent stuff has also been great.

12. Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now

How do you follow up one of the debut albums of the decade? After taking the UK by storm with her self-titled debut album, and bops like ‘New Rules’ and ‘Be The One’, Dua Lipa began releasing material from ‘Future Nostalgia’, her 2020 second album. Retro disco-infused pop with the catchy, modern feminist lyrics which are fast-becoming her trademark, ‘Don’t Start Now’ feels like a natural continuation to her career. Hopefully it will be just as successful as the beginning.

11. Tove Lo – Sweettalk My Heart

Arguably, the fifth single from Tove Lo’s fourth album, ‘Sunshine Kitty’, may be the best thing she’s released since 2016. She has previously stated that when she wrote this song, she knew that her fourth album was “in the works”. She sings about how she wants to be with a person who is probably not right for her, but she’ll overlook it and even support this person lying to her in order for a relationship to work, she wants it that badly. This may not have been the Grammy-nominated song off of ‘Sunshine Kitty’, but it should be.

10. Martin Garrix, Matisse & Sadko, Alex Aris – Mistaken

My top 10 begins with a March single from Dutch DJ Martin Garrix. Quieter this year than previous, this trance gem managed to be hidden amongst his slightly poppier, guitar based collabs. ‘Mistaken’ sounds like it belongs more in 2012 than 2020, but that’s not a problem. Perhaps it’s the Matisse & Sadko effect, but it sounds like a fusion of Garrix’s own trademark style and something which early Avicii would have produced. It’s a rare thing for a dance song to be both 4:42 and feel the perfect length, but it manages it. Alex Aris’ dreamy vocals over the track are hypnotic, and even add an angelic quality to the track. I hope Martijn doesn’t slow down his creations next year.

9. Charli XCX, Christine and the Queens – Gone

Positioned amongst the top songs of the year by multiple magazines – Pitchfork even listed it as 4th best of 2019, while BBC Radio 1 listeners made it Annie Mac’s 3rd biggest of the year – Gone is a punchy synth pop track which captures social anxiety and the weight of expectations in a blistering four minute track. Which bit is the best? The unforgettable chorus? Christine’s hypnotic French serenadum? Or the wild breakdown for the final minute which turns ‘Gone’ from being a typical pop song to a dance track? Also, listen to it with the video – a surreal but fitting concoction of dancing on cars, a heavy downpour of rain and homo-erotic movements from the artists. A stand out track in one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, ‘Gone’ is one of those songs which has potentially made 2019 the year of the collab.

8. Lindsey Stirling, Elle King – The Upside

Lindsey Stirling’s beautiful violin playing works even better when she teams up with another renowned artist to provide vocals. Elle King, who shot to fame with ‘Ex’s and Oh’s’ a few years ago, perfectly compliments the fusion of classical and electronic dance which has become Lindsey’s trademark. It won’t leave your head for about a week, and the bass on the track is something else. Uplifting and positive, it elevates ‘Artemis’ to another level (featured on my list of best albums). The instrumental bridge between chorus 2 and 3 just provides emotion (maybe violins just do that, though), before a build up to a euphoric finale which most producers would be proud of. Lindsey Stirling continues to build on her own eclectic brand; I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

7. Charli XCX – White Mercedes

It’s another track from ‘Charli’, this one perhaps the most poignant, and expressing a more vulnerable side to Charli than she often presents. She opens ‘White Mercedes’ by suggesting that she finds it hard to talk about her feelings, before moving on to recognise that the drugs she has openly taken in the past aren’t that great after all. Perhaps she’s comparing herself to her lifestyle: moving too fast? She also expresses feelings of inadequacies concerning her appreciations of a partner- is she trying to get something which she can’t reach? Whatever she was conveying through this song, I argue this clash of both her internal and external worlds, along with her brilliant production, makes this the best song on ‘Charli’, despite the initial dislike from certain corners of her fandom. Hopefully she can push herself to a brighter place.

6. MEDUZA, Goodboys, Becky Hill – Lose Control

A pure dance track, which seemingly shouldn’t jump out from a slew of dance-pop which entered the British charts last summer. But, for whatever reason, this song resonates deeper with me; maybe it’s the lyrics about needing someone there to stop the world spinning into it’s own version of crazy and help put you back on the right path? I hadn’t heard of either DJ before the track, but I can confirm their other stuff is pretty decent too. Becky Hill has one of the best voices in the business, and it fits perfectly with this made-for-Ibiza floor-filler.

5. CamelPhat, Jake Bugg – Be Someone

This is possibly one of the most unexpected collaborations of the year. While CamelPhat have been building a solid fanbase and discography with hits like ‘Cola’, ‘Panic Room’ and ‘Breathe’, Jake Bugg has been somewhat absent from the music scene. Following a breakout in 2012/13, his third and fourth albums didn’t gain mainstream success (despite several great moments, listen to ‘Gimme The Love’,) but now he seems ready to make a comeback, with the release of this and some other new material. It’s amazing he’s somehow still only 25 years old. I didn’t think I would ever hear his voice on a house track which, for me, defined the early part of summer upon its release in June. CamelPhat’s brand of deep, progressive (almost hypnotic) melodies under soft, breathy vocals is addictive, and ‘Be Someone’ is their best yet. Having only recently caught the eye of the public, the UK dance scene is much stronger with them in it. Hopefully 2020 provides the much deserved success both artists deserve.

4. Sigala, Becky Hill – Wish You Well

Three words: loyalties, insecurities and priorities. That’s possibly how you’ll know this track, which is another showcase of the vocal talents of Becky Hill. I’ve praised her repeatedly over the last few weeks, but has anyone else’s voice ever been so made for house music? Whenever Sigala releases a song, you just know that it’s going to be good. His bouncy production can make even the coldest December morning feel like the height of July; something about it makes me feel free and elated. This is one of the first glimpses of his post-‘Brighter Days’ world, a compilation album detailing the seemingly endless list of hits he’s had in the second half of this decade. And he’s picked up where he left off: ‘Wish You Well’ peaked at number 8 in the UK this summer. It’s got a deserving place in my top five.

3. Bring Me The Horizon, Dani Filth – wonderful life

One of the heavier tracks off of their 2019 album, BMTH provides a sarcastic look at the feeling at the bottom of depression. It opens considering the natural deterioration of the brain from 27 years old, and continues on a tangent from there onwards, containing topics such as environmentalism, veganism and serial killers. Full of cultural references and strange comparisons, Oli Sykes is at his best here. A personal favourite line of mine is: “like a plastic-boxed orange with no peel on, I wanna waste away”. For the chorus, the band are joined by the lead vocalist of In Flames, Dani Filth, to add the heavier, screamer effect which is in low supply on ‘amo’. ‘wonderful life’ is addictively good.

2. Jax Jones, Ella Henderson – This Is Real

Jax Jones is a hit machine. He had a #1 in summer 2014 with Duke Dumont (‘I Got U’) but since 2016 he’s taken the UK by storm, starting with ‘You Don’t Know Me’, which also launched RAYE’s career. In contrast, Ella Henderson has been absent from the charts for several years, having binned at least one studio album and changed record company since taking part on The X Factor in 2012. The final single from Jax’s debut album, ‘Snacks (Supersize)’, is possibly the best. Her eclectic vocals work brilliantly with Jax’s uptempo trademark style which makes you want to do the Running Man dance as soon as one of his songs comes on. It reached the UK Charts in the week of ‘Snacks’ release, despite not being released as a single. It eventually got to #10. Had it been released at the right time, it could so easily have hit the top. Catchy and cheerful, this is a song you won’t forget.

1. Bring Me The Horizon, Grimes – nihilist blues

A song which would be more likely to be on a Ministry of Sound radio show than a Bring Me The Horizon album, ‘nihilist blues’ destroys the boundaries between a previously heavy rock band and a synthpop queen who doesn’t appear to conform to the restrictions of a pre-future world, fuses together compositions originally found in music by Evanescence and Katy B, and blends them in a dark-trance track so cold it could freeze the gates of Hell. There’s a lot to unpack with this track, and that’s not even covering the lyrics, which refer to pre-Victorian children’s games, repeated references to destruction, war and the collapse of society, and, of course, ‘isolation neophyte’. For someone like me, who will devour a synthwave movie soundtrack like no-one else whilst simultaneously wanting something heavier and more aggressive, this song is perfect. Although some fans of BMTH have criticised them for departing so far from their roots they’ve been virtually disowned, ‘nihilist blues’ helps ascend the band to the image of some entity which transcends genre, although that is undoubtedly elevated by the ethereal presence of Grimes. And, hey, they could still win the Grammy for Best Rock album, even though winning this list is quite obviously the most prestigious and culturally relevant thing which any artist could wish to achieve.