Top 50 Tracks of 2020 (20-11)

20. The Exbats “Wet Cheeks”

The cheekily titled “Wet Cheeks” from The Exbats’ second full-length studio album, Kicks, Hits, and Fits, has the band proudly showcasing their affinity for British Invasion-era pop and 60s girl-groups. Over Kenny McClain’s plucky lead guitar line, singer and drummer Inez McClain motivates the brokenhearted, encouraging them to move on by singing, “You can take your soggy pillow, you can throw it out the window, do you really want to die in there?” The song builds nicely to an emotional bridge halfway in before rolling into a rousing conclusion that has Inez repeating, “You gotta pick up your heart and fight.” – Andy Mascola

19. Yelle “J’veux Un Chien”

Despite the song’s title, “J’veux Un Chien” is not actually about wanting a dog. Instead it is about Yelle wanting a male companion who is loyal and will come when called. But when she sings “J’veux un chien/Un animal” and her voice strains with heartache, you can’t help but root for her to get a puppy. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

18. Dehd “Haha”

There is something beautifully complex wrapped up within the simplicity of a Dehd song. “Haha” is no exception to this wonderful conundrum of contradiction. How is it possible for a stripped-down trio but with vocals, bass, guitar, snare and floor tom hit like one of Spector’s Wall of Sound records? “Haha” offers but one possible answer, tongue clicks. – Greg Scranton

17. Woolen Men “Alley Cat”

The Portland post-punk trio Woolen Men delivered a surprise between-album single this past spring with their peppy, power-pop-inspired song “Alley Cat”. Over quick, crisp drumming and sharp, thoughtful chord transitions, bassist Alex Geddes bemoans a failed relationship wherein his former partner is now left living with an alley cat. Whether intended or not, the song’s theme perfectly matches its purpose as “Alley Cat” marked the first release in the Woolen Men’s newly launched Singles Club. – Andy Mascola

16. KennyHoopla “how will I rest in peace if I’m buried by a highway?//”

15. The Strokes “Bad Decisions”

Lifting the catchy-as-hell and already successful melody from Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself”, The Strokes gave the familiar, thirty-year-old refrain a second life with their single “Bad Decisions”. The mention of the 1972 Moscow summit may give a clue as to the song’s lyrical intentions. “Bad Decisions” may be singer Julian Casablancas’ way of addressing and offering Strokes fans an olive branch regarding their desire for the band to return to a sound more like that of their debut. Although, it’s possible the song’s meaning is more aligned with mending fences with Casablancas’ father. Either way, “Bad Decisions” is immediately infectious and was a bright, upbeat moment during an otherwise bummer of a year. – Andy Mascola

14. Osees “Gong of Catastrophe”

Dwyer and company are back with yet another truly excellent album with a handful of standout tracks. Sonically and imagistically, “Gong of Catastrophe” finds the band high atop the El Gour plateaus in the Algerian desert plucking mock microtonal riffs while dueling rhythmic drumming that seeks to herd the wandering nomadic basslines and thirsty trailing organ blasts. Mount your trustiest even-toed ungulate and venture out into the Protean Threat if you dare. – Greg Scranton

13. Fontaines D.C. “A Hero’s Death”

Listing off tasks to make you a better person, the titular track to Fontaines D.C.‘s sophomore album is reminiscent of Nada Surf‘s lone US hit, “Popular.” It is hard to tell if the reciting of the lyrics are sarcastic or not, but Grian Chatten’s deadpan delivery of the chorus “life ain’t always empty” doesn’t do a good a job of convincing anyone. It does do a good job of getting lodged in your head though. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

12. Laura Jane Grace “The Calendar Song”

The lyrics to the second track from Laura Jane Grace’s sophomore solo studio album, Stay Alive, have the Against Me! frontperson reminiscing about travel and time. “Cross your days off a calendar map. How long you been gone? How long you got left? Only a fool would live their life like that,” Grace sings matter-of-factly. In just over two minutes, accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, Laura Jane manages to simultaneously mourn the forced stagnation due to the year’s circumstances while delivering a life lesson on the importance of staying in the moment. – Andy Mascola

11. The Avalanches ft. Jamie xx, Nena Cherry, Clypso “Wherever You Go”

Although the Avalanches‘ third album, We Will Always Love You came out too late in the year to be considered for our end of the year list, the album’s third single “Wherever You Go” came out in July, giving us plenty of time to let it sink in. Over the single’s six minutes, it takes the listener from outer space dream aided by Jamie XX‘s production to a danceable club track. Although Nena Cherry feels underutilized with only a short appearance towards the end of the track, the rest of the guests and samples work masterfully together to create one of the best singles of the Australian duo’s storied career. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan

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