List

Stereogum’s 100 Favorite Songs Of 2019

Within the macro tradition that is year-end list season, we at Stereogum have carved out our own micro tradition: Every December, instead of publishing a staff list of the year’s best tracks, we present a bunch of personally selected top-10 lists from our staffers and contributors. So although our rundown of 2019’s best albums represents a hard-argued consensus, the following collection of tunes is deeply personal. No songs are allowed to appear on more than one playlist, but otherwise anything goes. It just feels right to do it this way; think of it as a series of carefully curated mixtapes containing the songs that forged a deep connection with us this year. –Chris DeVille

Scott Lapatine

This year the Brooklyn-based Stereogum staff started working out of a new office in Times Square. The best music to listen to while jockeying for a path amid chain restaurants and Elmos is really anything (headphones signal to CDR-pushing hustlers that you’re not interested) but louder is better. Maybe that’s why I loved so much thrash in 2019. During the daytime, anyway. At night, after my requisite two hours of true crime podcasts, is when I engaged most with more delicate music: Jessica Pratt, Big Thief, Nick Cave. I’m also pleased to report I caught exactly half of the artists on my tracks list in concert this year — it’s good to take your earbuds out once in a while too.

01 Big Thief – “UFOF”
02 Weyes Blood – “Everyday”
03 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Bright Horses”
04 Denzel Curry – “RICKY”
05 Octo Octa – “Can You See Me?”
06 Jessica Pratt – “As The World Turns”
07 Take Offense – “The Consequence”
08 Burna Boy – “African Giant”
09 Esther Rose – “Handyman”
10 Hey Colossus – “It’s A Low”

Tom Breihan

This year, my daughter turned 10. On her birthday, her bus driver had a full-on meltdown, threatening to drive back to school and make everyone’s parents come pick them up. The reason: All the kids on the bus were singing “Old Town Road” too loud. I wish I’d been on that bus. It sounds fucking awesome. None of the songs on my list caused any mass shout-alongs on elementary-school buses, at least as far as I know. (“Act Up” and “Bandit” could’ve potentially been shout-alongs, but I hope not, since they would both be pretty inappropriate.) Rest in peace to the heartbreakingly young Juice WRLD, who died just after he released his catchiest, most hypnotic song.

01 Lana Del Rey – “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have but i have it”
02 NLE Choppa – “Shotta Flow”
03 Polo G – “Pop Out” (Feat. Lil Tjay)
04 Angel Olsen – “Lark”
05 City Girls – “Act Up”
06 Taylor Swift – “The Archer”
07 Bleached – “Shitty Ballet”
08 Miranda Lambert – “Locomotive”
09 Envy – “A Step In The Morning Glow”
10 Juice WRLD & YoungBoy Never Broke Again – “Bandit”

Chris DeVille

My list leads off with the best track on my favorite album of the year, but “Harmony Hall” and its indelible guitar riff could have just as easily been “Stranger” and its instant-classic vocal harmonies; both became Pavlovian pleasure triggers upon impact. Next up is a Big Thief song that could not be replaced by anything else because goddamn. A couple of my other favorites, “Lark” and “Pop Out,” are on Tom’s list, which created more space to spotlight the likes of Snarls and Ludovic Alarie, lesser-known artists whose tracks have not left my head in months. There’s also some impeccable festival-core, some ambitious emo, and a rap song I was always happy to hear on the radio, which is good because it was always on the radio.

01 Vampire Weekend – “Harmony Hall”
02 Big Thief – “Not”
03 Snarls – “Walk In The Woods”
04 Haim – “Summer Girl”
05 Oso Oso – “Basking In The Glow”
06 Greet Death – “You’re Gonna Hate What You’ve Done”
07 DaBaby – “Suge (Yea Yea)”
08 Mura Masa – “I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again” (Feat. Clairo)
09 Ludovic Alarie – “We’re A Dream Nobody Wrote Down”
10 Glass Beach – “Glass Beach”

Gabriela Tully Claymore

My 2019 was all transitions. I left Stereogum, where I’d worked for four years, and New York City, where I’d lived for eight, in order to get my MFA in nonfiction at Iowa. I never thought that I’d end up in this situation, so whenever I look out at the cornfields it really feels like that *record scratch, freeze frame* meme. Now, instead of blogging I’m constantly being asked questions like, “What is an essay?” and writing my own. It’s wild how you can feel so competent at something then go to grad school and realize you don’t know shit. The songs I included on this list mostly come from artists I wrote features on this year, which ended up being some of my last bylines for Stereogum as a full-time staffer. I’m really proud of all of the work I did with this crew and I miss them big time.

01 Holly Herndon – “Eternal”
02 Lana Del Rey – “Happiness Is A Butterfly”
03 Big Thief – “Jenni”
04 Jessica Pratt – “This Time Around”
05 Mannequin Pussy – “Drunk II”
06 Control Top – “Covert Contracts”
07 (Sandy) Alex G – “Hope”
08 Charly Bliss – “Young Enough”
09 Arthur Russell – “Barefoot In New York”
10 Caroline Polachek – “Look At Me Now”

James Rettig

This year I moved out of New York City after five years and moved down to North Carolina. I spent a lot of time listening to music, as is my job, but I also spent a lot more time reading books, watching movies, writing for myself about things that are not music so that I would appreciate what I did listen to even more. As in years past, my list is purposefully representative of music that did not make our albums list. Now that I drive regularly, my favorite thing to do is have a song that I have to listen to the second I get in the car. A lot of these are those songs, ones that provided a feeling of connection as I dodged traffic and made my way to a different coffee shop every day to work and write, a more isolating existence than living in the big old city but one I’m learning to enjoy.

01 Joanna Sternberg – “This Is Not Who I Want To Be”
02 Palehound – “Aaron”
03 Sir Babygirl – “Pink Lite”
04 Chromatics – “Move A Mountain”
05 Emily Reo – “Ghosting”
06 Clairo – “Bags”
07 CHAI – “I’m me”
08 Leggy – “Taffy”
09 Laura Stevenson – “Living Room, NY”
10 Becky Something – “Control”

Peter Helman

What happened this year? I honestly can’t remember … and maybe that’s for the best. In a lot of ways, 2019 felt like a weird in-between year for me, and so my favorite songs of the year were the ones that jolted me out of that liminal space and right back into the present moment. For example, it took me way too long to notice that my promotional copy of Great Grandpa’s Four Of Arrows was ordered alphabetically and not by the actual sequencing, but “Bloom” will always be the fake album opener of my dreams. Katy Perry made a case for her continued relevance with the shockingly good “Never Really Over,” and Jessie Ware got me excited for her future with a string of killer dance-diva singles. And even if I couldn’t get favorites like Blanck Mass, Anna Meredith, and Jay Som onto our albums list, at least their songs will live on in this list forever — or at least until the world ends. So another six months, give or take?

01 Great Grandpa – “Bloom”
02 Charly Bliss – “Under You”
03 Blanck Mass – “Love Is A Parasite”
04 Vampire Weekend – “This Life”
05 Hand Habits – “can’t calm down”
06 Anna Meredith – “Inhale Exhale”
07 Jay Som – “Tenderness”
08 Jessie Ware – “Adore You”
09 Katy Perry – “Never Really Over”
10 Little Brother – “The Feel”

Ryan Leas

Without getting too dramatic, 2019 was a rocky one — enough to make an astrology skeptic believe in that whole late 20s Saturn Return business. The songs that stuck with me seemed to fall into three categories: reflecting some form of strife and anxiety back and crystallizing my own experience, providing some transcendental escape, or most importantly functioning as solace, songs that were grounding or cathartic no matter what else was happening. Some of my favorites came from artists that hadn’t clicked for me in the past, offering a sense of newness, revitalization — but, really, these are just the songs I couldn’t stop listening to, the ones that drowned everything else out when most needed. (Honorable mention shoutouts to Fontaines D.C.’s “Roy’s Tune,” which would’ve been here if they weren’t on my list last year, plus Nick Cave’s Ghosteen and Strand Of Oaks’ Eraserland, both which would’ve been represented if I could decide between the songs.)

01 Big Thief – “Cattails”
02 Angel Olsen – “All Mirrors”
03 Jenny Hval – “Ashes To Ashes”
04 Grimes & i_o – “Violence”
05 Girl Band – “Prefab Castle”
06 Black Midi – “953”
07 The National – “Where Is Her Head”
08 Holly Herndon – “Frontier”
09 Cate Le Bon – “Magnificent Gestures”
10 Moon Duo – “Stars Are The Light”

Julia Gray

Despite what my astrological alignment might tell you, I’ve always struggled to find balance. I’ll read two books in a week but forget to make it to the gym. I’ll work out every day but eat out for every meal. This is all to say, taking care of yourself is hard. The self-care puzzle is composed of many interlocked pieces. I prioritized my relationships this year — the puzzle’s crucial but easily overlooked core. I found myself drawn to songs that challenge the isolation we’ve come to accept as normal: choruses that beg singalongs, bass that slaps you in the face and hurls you onto shared ground, transcendent moments, songs too big to keep to yourself.

01 Charli XCX – “Next Level Charli”
02 100 gecs – “800db cloud”
03 Pup – “See You At Your Funeral”
04 Ariana Grande – “Bad Idea”
05 Slowthai & Mura Masa – “Doorman”
06 Caroline Polachek – “So Hot You’re Hurting My Feelings”
07 Channel Tres – “Black Moses” (Feat. JPEGMAFIA)
08 Oso Oso – “The View”
09 fka Twigs – “Cellophane”
10 Better Oblivion Community Center – “Big Black Heart”

Keely Quinlan

I started this year out as the dweeby Stereogum intern and am ending it as a regular contributor. The luxury of writing for this site has been interrogating my tastes, while discovering new tunes I might’ve never crossed paths with. I also gained a more refined appreciation for my faves, so this lyric from Lana Del Rey’s “California” sums up my year quite succinctly: “I’ve heard the war was over if you really choose/ The one in and around you.” These songs soundtracked a lot of pain, but also healing and growth — so I tempered the despondency with some bops.

01 Lana Del Rey – “California”
02 Banks – “Contaminated”
03 Yola – “Ride Out In The Country”
04 93PUNX & Vic Mensa – “3 Years Sober”
05 Marika Hackman – “i’m not where you are”
06 Carly Rae Jepsen – “No Drug Like Me”
07 Weyes Blood – “Picture Me Better”
08 Honey Harper – “Vaguely Satisfied”
09 Maggie Rogers – “Say It”
10 Billie Eilish – “xanny”

Collin Robinson

I will always be an album listener. It is what it is. It ain’t what it’s not. Coming up with lists of songs are hard for me because I can’t seem to pull them or even singles out of the comprehensive context in which the artist embedded them. I even go as far as to have a slight degree of saltiness when I hear a song I love at a bar or club and start singing the next song on the album, knowing damn well it’s not going to play. That said, here is my list of songs I had on repeat at some point this year. They range from the soulful audio ASMR of April + Vista to the worldly melanin of one Santan Dave. Enjoy.

01 Dave – “Black”
02 EARTHGANG – “Up”
03 Little Simz – “Venom”
04 Rapsody – “Ibtihaj” (Feat. D’Angelo and GZA)
05 YBN Cordae – “RNP” (Feat. Anderson .Paak)
06 Nilüfer Yanya – “Paralysed”
07 Men I Trust – “Show Me How (Album V)”
08 SiR – “LA”
09 Marika Hackman – “blow”
10 April + Vista – “Every Void”

Listen to a playlist of all our favorite songs on Spotify.