2019 was a weird year for me, in terms of the music I enjoyed most. A lot of artists put out genuinely great singles, only to follow them up with lackluster albums, EPs as stopgaps between albums, or really nothing at all. It’s a good thing I was following all of my favorite artists on Spotify, as well as some newer ones I was curious to hear more from, or else I might have not heard a good quarter of this list until 2019, if ever. Usually the vast majority of my Top 100 songs for the year comes from my favorite albums released that year, with some spillover from the year before. While that’s still true in 2019, it’s worth noting that nearly a tenth of my list this time comes from EPs or compilations rather than albums, and close to another tenth of the list is made up of non-album singles, that have yet to be attached to a larger collection of songs (assuming that will ever happen at all). While this speaks to the ability of many of my favorite artists to strike while the iron is hot in terms of getting new music out, it also worries me slightly where the longevity of the album format is concerned. But that’s an issue to discuss when I get to my list of Favorite Albums for the year. My Favorite Songs list, while eclectic and probably whiplash-inducing at certain points, definitely required some tough decision-making because there were so many great songs that spoke to me this year. At the end of the day, whether a song is part of a larger narrative or not, that’s really all that matters – whether the song stands out to me as unique in some way, and makes me want to keep coming back to listen to it over and over again. And everything on this list passed that test with flying colors!
As I do each year, I’ll give some insight into my reasons for picking the Top 30, and you can assume after that point that the ordering is somewhat arbitrary. Many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2019 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.
Burlap to Cashmere rocked the Hotel Cafe last night. Not many bands can do this without electric guitars. But Steven Delopoulos and his cousin Johnny Phillipidis are absolute monsters on the acoustic. The way Johnny plays is close to an epileptic fit at times, and the stage was so small, I’m surprised he didn’t whack the keyboardist in the face.
We’ve reached the end of the list now. These are the albums that represent the cream of the crop in the ginormous stack of CDs I’ve accumulated over the last ten years – the heart and soul of the things that get me most excited about music.
The spring and late summer of 2008 saw me finally getting into a couple of bands that I’d been on the fence about for several years, but wasn’t quite in the right headspace to fully appreciate until they dropped new records that year. As I look back on the set of songs I chose for this particular soundtrack, I’m noticing a theme of wanting to fly away or escape from some sort of captivity in a handful of the songs on Disc One, while Disc Two dives deeper into disillusionment with hypocritical leaders, and with the “prosperity Gospel” I was still trying to shake of the last vestiges of as I was confronted by issues of poverty and marginalized groups that had been treated poorly by the Church. Heavy stuff, though I saved a few lighter songs of “romantic gratitude” for the end, just to conclude the set peacefully. There’s also a pair of songs about counting, and a number of songs that switch between 3/4 and 4/4 time, which was apparently a thing I was really into at the time.
In with the New:
Out with the Old:
Steven Delopoulos (as a solo artist – appears later with Burlap to Cashmere)
Five O’Clock People
Not having seen Christine’s parents since late 2006, we took an “off-season vacation” in late January/early February to go back to Oahu and visit them. This was a much cheaper trip than usual – no side journeys to outlying islands or overnights in Waikiki hotels or anything like that. Just low-key relaxation in suburban Mililani – and of course the usual driving around and exploring the island that I can never resist doing. Most of these songs aren’t tied to memories of that trip in the direct sense, but any good vacation offers its fair share of moments to pause, take in the peace of a beautiful place far from home, and reflect on personal issues I’m dealing with at that point in time, ways that my beliefs and passions are being shaped and challenged, etc. Listening to this batch of songs ten years later, it’s pretty clear that I was on the verge of some of those changes.
In with the New:
Jon Foreman (as a solo artist – appears earlier with Switchfoot)
Out with the Old:
2007 was the rare year where I actually embraced and enjoyed the winter season, as evidenced by the Christmas and winter-themed songs that dominate the end of Disc Two. Southern California winters are not known for being snowy, but there’s winter imagery to be found if you’re looking for it. As a deliberate contrast, the first several songs on Disc One are dominated by the theme of fire. Because, unfortunately, wildfires are a common feature of California autumns.