When I finally signed up for a Spotify Premium subscription in January 2019, I didn’t expect just how radically it would transform my music listening habits. Having spent a few years rarely venturing far from my all-time favourite artists, I was suddenly discovering talented musicians who I absolutely adored on a weekly basis.
This list was born out of a sincere desire to pay respect to the artists who made my year, from chart topping superstars to niche new bands which Spotify’s algorithm decided to send my way. All of these songs are collected on a playlist which you can find here or alternatively it’s embedded at the bottom of this article.
Criteria for inclusion:
- One song per artist.
- First released in 2019.
- No cover versions.
40. “How It Feels To Die”
by I Experienced Love
“How It Feels To Die” was easily the standout from I Experienced Love’s latest EP. The 80s-style track bursts into life with a pretty synth melody and the melancholic plea: “Don’t give up on me/ Just give me some time.” According to Spotify Wrapped, this was my fifth most-played track of 2019, proving that independently produced music can be just as compelling as major label work.
39. “Hatrið Mun Sigra”
It would be fair to say that the Eurovision Song Contest isn’t known for hosting quality music, but Hatari’s brand of BDSM-infused anti-capitalist techno-rock stood out as strikingly brilliant at this year’s show. This nihilistic track translates to “Hatred Will Prevail” and remains utterly gripping with or without its very particular brand of visuals.
38. “What We Do”
by Swindle feat. Rider Shafique, P Money, D Double E and Daley
Taken from the third album of London-based producer Swindle aka Cameron Palmer, “What We Do” opens with a powerful spoken word section delivered by Rider Shafique, accompanied with an elegant orchestral tune that comes to a screeching halt for a verse from P Money, D Double E and Daley. The full record, No More Normal, is packed full of similarly strong collaborations.
37. “Be Strong, Smoke Less”
by Tugboat Captain
Few opening lines have resonated quite so strongly this year as: “Be strong, smoke less, maybe you’ll feel less depressed.” This track from London-based alt folk band Tugboat Captain is a love song for people struggling to get their shit together: sweet, endearing and just a little sad.
36. “Backward in Love”
by shy kids
“Backward in Love” dispenses with the dramatic hyperbole typical of songs about heartache, presenting a refreshingly grounded account of an ailing relationship in their place. Set to a simple but very catchy melody, the vocals express a sincere desire to fall “backward in love,” but sometimes a dying fire just can’t be rekindled.
After a handful of live shows last year, Sistertalk finally recorded their first single back in February… which would go on to become their last. Sadly, the band announced on Facebook a few months later that they had decided to split, but that doesn’t make “Vitriol” any less of a gem. Written from the perspective of a jaded performer filled with contempt for their audience, its a brooding, offbeat listen that leaves a big impression.
This intense track from Sucré, a group comprised of musicians Stacy and Darren King, really lives up to its name. “Retribution” is a damning condemnation of a failed relationship, backed up by defiant horns and powerful words, with the final chorus asking: “Give me one good reason why I should ever forgive you?” The tone is dark, threatening and foreboding as Stacy King declares there will be “no resolution”, just “sweet retribution.”
Noisettes front woman Shingai Shoniwa made a triumphant return to the music scene this year with her new EP Ancient Futures. Like the other tracks on the album, Zimtron is inspired by the rhythms and melodies of her Zimbabwean heritage, using these influences to create something that feels totally fresh and exciting.
32. “Hey Lover”
by Mini Mansions feat. Alison Mosshart
The dynamic between Mini Mansions lead singer Michael Shuman and The Kills’ Alison Mosshart is so effortlessly engrossing throughout this song, depicting a passionate relationship on the brink of burning out completely. Packing both roaring flare ups as well as quiet, confiding moments, Hey Lover bares the same emotional unpredictability as an actual break-up conversation.
31. “Melody of Love”
by Hot Chip
The seventh studio album from British synth-pop band Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy, lived up to its name with several euphoric tunes, but this second single is a personal favourite. Simply put, it’s a bop and Alexis Taylor’s vocals are superb.
30. “Rollin’ Stone”
by Kyle Lux
That the debut single from Kyle Lux is so confident and assured is a very impressive accomplishment. It’s hard not to be instantly absorbed by “Rollin’ Stone,” with its silky smooth vocals and a chorus too difficult to resist. Upon a closer listen, you’ll find poetic lyrics that chart a story of inner turmoil and self discovery. It’s a striking start for Lux, who released his first full EP in November.
by The Limousines
It has been almost seven years since the release of The Limousines’ last full-length album, meaning this standalone single was a very pleasant surprise when it dropped in November. Parachute’s authentic and vulnerable lyrics unpack a co-dependence on medication, set to an attention-grabbing electronic tune the likes of which The Limousines are known for.
28. “Cuz I Love You”
While Truth Hurts was certainly the top Lizzo track of the year, due to its initial release being way back in 2017, it is sadly exempt from inclusion on this list. Fortunately, the title track from her latest album, Cuz I Love You, is a worthy replacement as it blends her powerful vocal range with raw lyrics and a booming instrumental. It’s a ballad that demands attention.
27. “Late Night Feelings”
by Mark Ronson feat. Lykke Li
Mark Ronson’s latest album of collaborations specialised in so-called “sad bangers” and Late Night Feelings is perhaps the epitome of that description. It’s the perfect song for anyone wishing to dance away their heartache, with Swedish singer Lykke Li bringing emotional vulnerability to the vocals, set to a groovy disco beat from Ronson.
by Better Oblivion Community Center
The opening notes to Sleepwalkin’ never fail to grab my attention and as they flow effortlessly into the first verse, the song becomes near impossible for me to switch off. As a collaboration between Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, it’s no surprise that this song is a rousing success, culminating with the beautiful line: “I gave what I got, it came as a shock / To find out I’m fine with what I’ve lost.”
25. “Ex Girlfriend Tattoo”
Hailing from Norway, Egge turned up one week on my Spotify release radar and gradually established himself as one of my top artists of the year with debut album Egge Stadium. His brand of alternative rock is loud and unrefined, but that’s exactly why it works for me. It’s unapologetic and unlike anything else out there right now.
24. “Dream Within A Dream”
This charming indie rock offering from Tristen is just such a cool listen every time. There’s a timeless quality to its lush vocals and electric guitars, which roar to life in the anarchic bridge that has an almost otherworldly sound quite appropriate for a song titled “Dream Within a Dream.”
by Johnathan Rice
This sweet but sad love song from Johnathan Rice cuts straight to the heart, with a gentle melody and vocals that lend authenticity to its poetic lyrics. “If I could change one thing, I would change your mind” is a line that gets me every time.
22. “Real Life”
This upbeat indie pop offering from Cayucas perfectly encapsulates the youthful frustration of waiting for “real life to begin.” As someone who often said those exact words in my early teen years, it’s a sentiment that resonated with me strongly – the gag being that now, almost a decade later, I sometimes feel like I’m still waiting.
21. “Things Still Left To Say”
by Mal Blum
Mal Blum had a banner year with the release of their sixth full-length album, Pity Boy, which had two standout rock singles in Things Still Left To Say and I Don’t Want To. Either could have made this list with ease, but I chose the former because its video is karaoke-themed and that is very much in my wheelhouse.
20. “Easy Peeler”
by Phoebe Green
Phoebe Green is one of the most promising new talents on the UK indie music scene right now. Her debut album, 02:00AM, had several striking tracks and she isn’t slowing down with her latest single, Easy Peeler. Green’s voice is entrancing and the hedonistic chorus boasts a very catchy hook.
19. “Symbols of Joy & Eternity”
by Sundara Karma
Something about the quirky rock of Sundara Karma’s latest album reminds me of the The Hoosiers in their heyday, that is to say it’s a blast to listen to with Symbols of Joy & Eternity being a definite highlight.
18. “Dana Be Mine”
by TC Superstar
The latest album from TC Superstar explores love and relationships from the perspective of two fictional characters: Ricky and Dana. While not every observation feels profound, the songs born out of this concept are consistently enjoyable electro pop, with Dana Be Mine standing out as a particularly good time.
17. “Wedding Guests”
Every single Cheekface song is dripping with dry wit and cutting satirical insights and Wedding Guests is no exception. The band are continuously poking fun at the inanities of modern life, making their songs both a refreshing new voice on the alt rock scene and an effective method of staying sane.
by Karen O and Danger Mouse
Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O earned a Grammy nomination for her performance on this track, taken from her collaboration with Danger Mouse: Lux Prima. It’s a rock song with a distinct and powerful identity, that can boast a live music video directed by the one and only Spike Jonze.
15. “White Noise White Heat”
There’s a reason why Elbow have become one of the most prominent and respected bands in the UK over the last twenty years: the group led by Guy Garvey are synonymous with quality. White Noise White Heat from their latest release, Giants of All Sizes, is perhaps their finest alt rock anthem since the 2008 smash-hit Grounds For Divorce.
14. “Life After”
Given the title, it’s quite fitting that Life After sounds very much like a transmission from some otherworldly plane of existence. The crackly piano melody is enrapturing from the start, while Georgia Nott’s description of what awaits is both surreal and oddly moving.
by King Princess
Taken from her first full-length studio album, Prophet is a gorgeous offering from up and coming artist King Princess. The moody track depicts an innocent affection that twists into unhealthy obsession, as the lyrics cry out: “I can only think about you.”
12. “Bad Guy”
by Billie Eilish
I question the wisdom of elevating someone to the level of international pop star from the age of just 16, but it can’t be denied that Billie Eilish tapped into something potent with her debut album. Bad Guy racked up over a billion listens on Spotify alone in 2019, standing out from competing chart music with its vaguely sinister lyrics, instantly recognisable style and extremely effective hook.
11. “How Long?”
by Vampire Weekend
How Long? feels a little more subdued than Father of the Bride’s leading tracks This Life and Harmony Hall. Opening with a catchy rhyme accompanied only by a quiet bassline, it goes on to fold in percussion, piano and guitars quite sparingly, imbuing the track with a really quirky and original sound. Definitely one of the most vivid and memorable songs from Vampire Weekend’s latest.
10. “Old Town Road”
by Lil Nas X
It remains to be seen whether Old Town Road will stand the test of time or if it is indeed just a glorified TikTok fad, but almost everyone had fun with this zany track at the height of its popularity – whether they’re willing to admit it or not. It also allowed Lil Nas X to establish himself as a strong comedic voice, even if his musical credentials aren’t quite as respected just yet.
Soulful Canadian songstress Begonia dropped this single from her first studio album towards the beginning of 2019, showcasing her truly beautiful voice and boasting powerful lyrics to match. “Anyway, any day (I wish I was) / Anyone else instead of myself,” she confesses, in a song that explores how difficult, yet essential, it is to see the good in oneself.
8. “Everybody Here Hates You”
by Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett fans had it tough last year as it was the first time since 2016 that she didn’t release a full studio album. Fortunately, Everybody Here Hates You was more than enough to tide us over. It’s an anxiety-fuelled journey into a self-loathing mind, but don’t worry: we’re going to tell everyone it’s okay.
Alex Toth’s wonderful (and superbly titled) solo album, Practice Magic and Seek Professional Help When Necessary, was an absolute delight that had already secured him an entry on this list when Juliette dropped in November. This is a sugar coated ode to unrequited love, backed up by a wonderful tune on horns and capped off with a rose-tinted description of an image that will never be.
6. “Je Ne Me Connais Pas”
Mattiel had a busy year in 2019, releasing both an EP and a full album, with this gem taken from the latter. Je Ne Me Connais Pas (which translates to “I do not know myself”) tackles the hot button issue of toxic masculinity and does so with a sense of humour and electric guitars. What’s not to like?
5. “P.S. Never Mind”
by The Wild Reeds
The Wild Reeds knocked it out of the park with their brilliant third album, Cheers, from which P.S. Never Mind is a personal favourite. The track’s loud and boisterous chorus disguises emotionally charged lyrics that come to the forefront in a thoughtful closing verse that questions: “Did I sacrifice my wonder in order to know? Did I give away the mystery to have something to show for it?”
4. “Have You Both”
by Wild Belle
Wild Belle’s Have You Both is a tongue-in-cheek response to our throwaway dating culture, facilitated by smartphone dating apps and the like. Their psychedelic pop sound has such a strong identity and inhabits a truly unique space, pairing stylishly with Natalie Bergman’s sultry vocals. According to my Spotify wrapped, this was my most-played track of the year (and for good reason).
3. “Calm Down aka I Should Not Be Alone”
by Ezra Furman
Perhaps the most aptly titled Ezra Furman song to date, Calm Down’s frantic pace is accompanied perfectly by his panicked, shouting vocals. It’s a glorious anthem for everyone right on the cusp of losing their shit completely. Furman’s fifth solo album, Twelve Nudes, is filled with similarly brilliant tracks and is arguably his best to date.
2. “Go To Sleep Kimberly”
Superet have been referred to as the “best band you’ve never heard of” and it’s a description I would have to agree with. Their debut studio album, How To Work A Room, was not only one of the best that 2019 had to offer, but in fact one of my favourites in recent memory. It’s very hard to pick just one track from the bunch, but Go To Sleep Kimberly is a guaranteed great time with every listen. That roaring final chorus never gets old.
1. “Party Clown”
by Jenny Lewis
Never one to shy away from heavy themes, the fourth studio album from Jenny Lewis tackled both lost love and the complicated relationship between she and her late mother, who suffered with drug addiction. Party Clown is one of the lighter tracks on the release, with the piano keys and chiming bells giving it a uniquely quirky sound. Its lyrics frequently border on the surreal, but everything comes into focus during the pivotal line: “Can you be my puzzle piece, baby?”
Top 40 Songs of 2019: The Spotify Playlist