Stereogum’s 60 Favorite Songs Of 2020

Stereogum’s 60 Favorite Songs Of 2020

Every December, after we publish our best albums list, the Stereogum staff puts a more personal spotlight on our favorite songs of the year. Rather than voting on a collective countdown, we each present a playlist of 10 tracks that meant the world to us. Today we’re ready to once again present our picks. The parameters: No song can appear on more than one person’s list, and all the songs had to be released in 2020 — or at least they had to loom large over this year after coming out in 2019. Enjoy!

SCOTT LAPATINE

I would’ve spent 2020 stuck inside and online even if there wasn’t a novel coronavirus; in February I took this website back from our parent company, and rebuilt it as an independent business (over Zoom) while producing a Hinder tribute album (over email) to help us keep the lights on. Stereogum apparently didn’t sell enough albums to buy emoji display in articles, but if we did I’d put a Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Cold Sweat here. When I wasn’t crowdfunding or doomscrolling, I found many new acts to get excited about, and a handful of them — Militarie Gun, Bartees Strange, Disheveled Cuss — are represented on this list of favorite songs from a trying year. Porridge Radio’s “Lilac” actually dropped at the end of 2019, but its refrain remains apt: “I don’t want to get bitter/ I want us to get better/ I want us to be kinder/ To ourselves and to each other.” Maybe next year.

01 The 1975 – “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)”
02 Porridge Radio – “Lilac”
03 Bartees Strange – “Boomer”
04 Militarie Gun – “Life In Decline”
05 Oneohtrix Point Never – “Long Road Home”
06 Ashley McBryde – “Never Will”
07 GUM – “Low To Low”
08 Disheveled Cuss – “Oh My God”
09 Chris Stapleton – “Hillbilly Blood”
10 Thundercat – “I Love Louis Cole” (Feat. Louis Cole)

TOM BREIHAN

The songs I loved the most this year were the ones that, for a couple of minutes at a time, jerked me out of my persistent stupor and forced me to feel something. Sometimes, novelty did the trick, as with Sam Hunt pulling off an inexplicably smooth Migos flow on the “My Truck” remix. Sometimes, I needed anthemic power; that’s what “We Paid” had to offer. Often, I needed sheer skin-peeling ferocity, and I got it from One Step Closer and City Morgue and Napalm Death and Masterpiece Machine. (Rest in peace to Power Trip’s Riley Gale, who gave us one last extremely fun one-off before leaving.) My favorite song of the year supplied all three. “WAP” was a gleefully silly, aggressively horny world-conqueror, a rare burst of cultural fun in a very unfun era.

01 Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion – “WAP”
02 Breland – “My Truck (Remix)” (Feat. Sam Hunt)
03 Lil Baby & 42 Dugg – “We Paid”
04 One Step Closer – “Lead To Grey”
05 Touché Amoré – “Reminders”
06 Masterpiece Machine – “Rotting Fruit”
07 Bfb Da Packman – “Free Joe Exotic” (Feat. Sada Baby)
08 City Morgue – “ACAB” (Feat. Nascar Aloe)
09 Young T & Bugsey – “Don’t Rush (Remix)” (Feat. DaBaby)
10 Napalm Death – “Logic Ravaged By Brute Force”

CHRIS DEVILLE

At this point I’m well into the washed-dad phase of my life, so my picks would skew toward music for chilling at home with the family even if a pandemic hadn’t turned that setting into a 2020 default. Despite all the pop, rap, R&B, punk, and screamo I consumed, songs like Jeff Rosenstock’s rousing “Ohio Tpke” and the late Pop Smoke’s resounding “Dior,” a 2019 release that took on new life via radio rotation and Black Lives Matter protests this summer, were the exception to the rule. The music I came back to most often was expertly crafted comfort food; even Haim’s bashed-out classic rocker “The Steps” and the 1975’s shimmering barrage “Me & You Together Song” felt more like easy listening than hard-hitting rock songs. Some of my favorites wrung humor from their neuroses (Thundercat, ME REX), while others delivered pure distilled melancholia (Sam Hunt, Soccer Mommy). Some, like Laura Marling’s “Held Down” and Little Kid’s “Losing,” were like gorgeous waves that gently swept me away. That was the vibe this year; if this list was longer it might extend to tracks by Waxahatchee and Bill Callahan and Bob Dylan, the kind of artful singer-songwriter fare you can sit back and soak up while sipping your morning coffee or cracking open a beer on the deck at sundown.

01 Sam Hunt – “2016”
02 Soccer Mommy – “circle the drain”
03 Thundercat – “Dragonball Durag”
04 Haim – “The Steps”
05 Laura Marling – “Held Down”
06 Pop Smoke – “Dior”
07 The 1975 – “Me & You Together Song”
08 ME REX – “Heart Of Garbage”
09 Little Kid – “Losing”
10 Jeff Rosenstock – “Ohio Tpke”

JAMES RETTIG

In this perfectly normal year, I tried to maintain some semblance of balance by working hard to keep my online and offline lives separate. Easier said than done, of course, and there were many slip-ups, but it also means that I didn’t listen to a lot of music outside work hours. Listening to music as a part of your job can make you deeply cynical about it and I don’t want that to happen. So while my music listening habits were a bit more regimented in 2020 than years past, there were plenty of songs that infected my off-hours, ones that I couldn’t get out of my head and blasted (or, in a few cases, whispered along to) in my car on trips to the grocery store or on the occasions when I drove around aimlessly just to feel alive. That’s mostly what makes up my list of favorite songs this year, though I limited myself to songs by artists that didn’t make it onto our other year-end lists, in order to spread the love and highlight some perhaps lesser-known musicians that don’t get their consensus-driven due in these sorts of things.

01 Katie Dey – “Dancing”
02 Frances Quinlan – “Went To LA”
03 Told Slant – “Family Still”
04 Braids – “Young Buck”
05 Rico Nasty – “IPHONE”
06 Pinkshift – “I’m Gonna Tell My Therapist On You”
07 Knot – “The World”
08 Cartalk – “Las Manos”
09 The Innocence Mission – “On Your Side”
10 Katie Gately – “Waltz”

PETER HELMAN

There was a lot of great pop music this year, and in a more normal year, my list probably would’ve included anthems from divas like Dua Lipa, Jessie Ware, Roisin Murphy, and Lady Gaga. But in a year that felt as weird and dark as 2020, I gravitated towards music that was a little weirder and darker too. That’s not to say there isn’t room for light on my list: Peel Dream Magazine’s “Pill” is a perfect little shoegaze pop song, Machinedrum’s “Kane Train” might be a more purely fun Freddie Gibbs song than anything on Gibbs’ own phenomenal album Alfredo, and Waxahatchee’s “Lilacs” is basically a hug in song form. But even the poppier songs on my list have a certain edge to them, whether that takes the form of Annie’s nuclear anxiety on “The Bomb” or the overwhelming atmosphere of wistfulness of Bicep’s “Apricots.” In a year of extreme uncertainty, leaning into that feeling became a counterintuitive source of comfort.

01 Yves Tumor – “Kerosene!”
02 Oneohtrix Point Never – “I Don’t Love Me Anymore”
03 Annie – “The Bomb”
04 clipping. – “Say The Name”
05 Waxahatchee – “Lilacs”
06 Peel Dream Magazine – “Pill”
07 Hum – “Waves”
08 Machinedrum – “Kane Train” (Feat. Freddie Gibbs)
09 The Strokes – “At The Door”
10 Bicep – “Apricots

RYAN LEAS

Beyond the general [gestures broadly at everything]-ness of this year, 2020 was one of upheavals. I moved out of my apartment in New York, and, as much as this can be true during a pandemic, I don’t really live anywhere full time. Little stretches holing up wherever I could safely/responsibly mirrored a fragmented period of listening: As I forged deep connections to smaller releases while feeling like 2020’s bigger or more widely acclaimed albums passed me by, I was just as often retreating to the comforts of old favorites or other forms of art entirely. Still, there were new songs that kept resurfacing for me, wistful for times gone by (“The Streets Where I Belong”), melancholic reckonings (“Sunny”), or flashes of beauty and optimism (“Blue Comanche,” “Cameo”); the reference to my (and Taylor’s) home state in “Seven” leveled me each listen. Sometimes, I put on songs like “Robber” and “Corner Of My Sky,” stuff that conjured far away places. Mostly, I held on to songs that could feel like mine and mine alone, songs by the likes of Nation Of Language and Casper Clausen, songs that followed me for a long time and managed to feel like anchors in a year that was somehow tumultuous and inert all at once. (Honorable mention shoutout to Shore, one of my favorite albums of the year but one I had an impossible time picking an individual song from.)

01 Nation Of Language – “The Wall & I” 
02 Casper Clausen – “Used To Think” 
03 Kelly Lee Owens – “Corner Of My Sky” (Feat. John Cale) 
04 Taylor Swift – “Seven”
05 Fontaines D.C. – “Sunny” 
06 Sorry – “Right Round The Clock” 
07 Westerman – “Blue Comanche” 
08 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “Cameo” 
09 Annie – “The Streets Where I Belong” 
10 The Weather Station – “Robber”

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

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