40. Dua Lipa “Don’t Start Now”
There’s an alternate 2020, where this song had a chance to live. With a disco inspired beat and groovy bassline, “Don’t Start Now” is here to remind you that all you need is you to live your best life. What anyone else thinks is their own problem. – Jacob Holke
39. Fiona Apple “Newspaper”
Fiona Apple’s astounding return to music with Fetch The Bolt Cutters was a major highlight of this year. On “Newspaper,” the artist masterfully employs makeshift instrumental aesthetics to accompany brutally raw vocals and lyrics. “I wonder what lies he’s told you about me to make sure that we’ll never be friends” Fiona angrily questions among textured production, her delivery fierce and self-assured. The song is a thundering creature, exploding with frustration and sadness. – Hunter W.
38. Deerhoof “Future Teenage Cave Artists”
From their wobbly guitar riffs from Deitrich and Rodriguez to the melodic and breathy vocal stylings of Satomi Matsuzaki, Deerhoof builds upon their avant-pop legacy with their catchy 2020 hit single and titular cut “Future Teenage Cave Artists”. This track and album are nothing short of remarkable given their storied history and prolific output as a band since their debut on the indie art rock scene in the late 90’s. – Greg Scranton
37. Ill Bill ft. Lord Goat & Sabac Red “Watch the City Burn”
There was no better time for the return of Non Phixion than 2020. The conspiracy-loving New York hip hop group hadn’t made a studio recording together since 2004’s The Green CD but the three original emcees Ill Bill, Sabac Red, and Goretex (flexing his new moniker Lord Goat) teamed up for “Watch the City Burn” from Ill Bill’s album, La Bella Medusa. With references to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor mixed among historical figures like Eldridge Cleaver, the track feels like the voice of armed struggle. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan
36. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist ft. Rick Ross “Scottie Beam”
There’s something deeply disturbing and saddening about the ease with which Freddie Gibbs tells us “my execution might be televised” over The Alchemist’s glittery piano. One of many excellent tracks from Alfredo, “Scottie Beam” confronts police brutality in yet another year of its presence. Also featuring Rick Ross, the song shows three remarkable artists yet again impressing. – Hunter W.
35. Fontaines D.C. “Oh Such a Spring”
The Dublin post-punk quintet Fontaines D.C.’s side A ender “Oh Such a Spring” from their sophomore studio album, A Hero’s Death, proved the band could pull off a ballad that is at once maudlin and tender. Over a reverb-heavy guitar, simple drums, and a gentle synth, vocalist Grian Chatten muses on the weather and passersby in an oceanside town while simultaneously longing for spring. “The clouds clear up, the sun hits the sky, I watched all the folks go to work just to die, and I wish I could go back to spring again,” Chatten sings in the song’s final moment. “Oh Such a Spring” is a fleeting glimpse of a place and time and a rumination on the ephemerality of life. – Andy Mascola
34. DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch “Rockstar”
Opposites are attractive. “Rockstar” finds DaBaby managing the tricky balance of outrageous braggadocio and subdued sincerity. Violent lyrics are layered on top of soft strings that become fitting for any occasion. The result is earnest and powerful. When everything is put together, DaBaby has a case for staking his claim as the best out there as he lyrically guns down his competition. – Jacob Holke
33. Phoebe Bridgers “I Know The End”
Few songs capture existential fear with such timeless and haunting beauty as the closing track to Phoebe Bridgers’ phenomenal record Punisher. Beginning with Phoebe’s characteristically intimate vocals, the song slowly progresses with spacey production towards its expansive closing minutes. Horns join a choir of voices before Phoebe explodes into impassioned screaming as increasingly intense drums thunder through the noise. The grandiose transition is reflective of Pheobe’s lyrics which move from small-scale endings and goodbyes to large-scale ones. Eventually, the song is reduced to a chant-like refrain of “the end is here.” Beautifully, Phoebe seems to embrace this mixture of fear and confusion, creating a sense of contentment within the storm. – Hunter W.
32. Bob Mould “American Crisis”
There are few artists as enduring as Bob Mould. From his days with Husker Du and Sugar, Mould’s solo career stands tall on it’s own, just as fierce and formidable as his Minneapolis punk rock days. There is no better anthem and call to protest of our current political predicament than “American Crisis”!
I never thought I’d see this bullshit again
To come of age in the ’80s was bad enough
We were marginalized and demonized
I watched a lot of my generation die
Welcome back to American crisis
No telling what the price is.
– Greg Scranton
31. Phoebe Bridgers “Kyoto”
“Kyoto” being released mid-pandemic was perhaps the best thing to happen to it. In normal times, Phoebe Bridgers singing about wanting to see the world, seeing it, and then changing her mind might have seemed selfish or ungrateful but during a time when no one was seeing anything, the song made us all feel a little ungrateful. We all had chances to make more human connections to see something new and have instead chosen binging Netflix or refreshing Twitter endlessly. While we may not have all frittered away the chance to see Kyoto, we have all passed up chances to do something and “Kyoto” was a little horn-filled reminder that we shouldn’t. – Adam Tercyak-Morgan