50. “June” by IDLES – In a year that featured another Mount Eerie album about his wife’s passing, it’s “June” by IDLES that might be the most gut wrenching song of the year. Reflecting on what is was like to lose his daughter during childbirth, lead singer Joe Talbot sings a punk ballad that you need to mentally prepare yourself for before listening.
49. “Stay Down” by boygenius – I’m not sure the video game references really work here, but man this is peak Julien Baker, backed by Dacus and Bridgers to amplify the passion.
48. “C’est La Vie No. 2” by Phosphorescent
47. “Sober to Death” by Car Seat Headrest – Following the classic Car Seat Headrest song format–slowly mumbled verses lead into a brash chorus, before the song repeats lyrics, fading out. It’s something singer Will Toledo, the internet’s rock & roll king, has effortlessly mastered.
46. “How Simple” by Hop Along
45. “WIFI Lit” by Future
44. “Push Me to My Limit” by Rae Morris
43. “Get Up 10” by Cardi B – Cardi opened up an album that had no right to actually be good with a “Dreams and Nightmares” level intro. She goes all in here, showcasing her talent for bars and wordplay while silencing all doubters with an oomph.
42. “Skin” by Soccer Mommy – Indie rock is being dominated by young women with guitars perfectly constructing complex rock anthems. “Skin” is the best track on Soccer Mommy’s debut album, there were very few moments better than the way Sophie Allison sings“Falling in to myself / You’re still in my skin / I just wish you also felt like this”. It’s the classic rock mantra, filled with all the angst of forlorn love.
41. “One Trick Ponies” by Kurt Vile – Vile’s stoner folk never really works for me across a hold album–just too much hazing noodling. But Vile can sure craft an album opener– 2013’s “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” is one of the best songs of the decade and 2015’s “Pretty Pimpin’” is up there. “One Trick Ponies” shows Vile as chill as ever, his voice gentle, like a breeze on a summer day.
40. “Testify” by Kamasi Washington – Washington might be the jazz musician indie rock populist of the moment, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get quite avant garde. “Testify” features him at his gentlest, offering a beautifully sung ballad in the midst of he and his band’s complex jazz work.
39. “All For You” by Years & Years – There were quite a few pretty good alt-R&B albums released this year, several of which are on this list. Years & Years is a British synthpop group who has their foot firmly planted in indie rock while eliciting comparisons to a boy band like One Direction.
38. “I’m Not Scared” by Tomberlin
37. “Party For One” by Carly Rae Jepsen – Carly Rae released another one-off that slowly crawled its way up the best songs of the year. Though it wasn’t as good as last year’s “Cut to the Feeling”, “Party For One” is another saccharine single that leaves you eagerly anticipating her next full length.
36. “Disconnect” by Basement – I randomly threw on Basement’s new record one Friday and surprisingly and instantly fell in love with Besides Myself’s opener, “Disconnect”, an encapsulation of the melodic joy one can find in new wave pop-punk/emo. I need to hear this song played live, legions of fans shouting along with the chorus: “My prodigal son / what have you done? / Return while there’s something left.”
35. “SGL” by Now Now
34. “Missing U” by Robyn
33. “Stick” by Snail Mail
32. “Television” by IDLES
31. “Playinwitme” by KYLE (feat. Kehlani) – KYLE’s songs could easily be too sweetly sincere, veering toward the edge of corniness, but I find this duet between he and Kehlani to emit so much joy that it overcomes my most jaded thoughts.
30. “Karl (I Wonder What It’s Like To Die)” by Pale Waves – Ooh we, Pale Waves, who typically create indie-pop songs with 80s vibes, abandon synths for an acoustic ballad about the death of singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s brother. It’s just as heart wrenching as you would think.
29. “It’s Been a Rough Year” by Carb on Carb
28. “Another Lifetime” by Nao – Opening with highly affected vocals, the bass and drums kick in like a punch to the throat letting Nao howl her critiqued commitment toward her amour.
27. “Out the Window” by Confidence Man – Confidence Man are an indie-pop synth group from Australia. They create songs that are tongue-in-cheek, almost silly at times. When a choir singing “sunshiiiiiine” kicks in toward the end, it’s both cheesy and beautiful.
26. “Hate the Real Me” by Future – Future’s songs are filled with tales of excess drinking, drug use, and sex, yet are rarely filled with any of the celebrating typically associated with these acts. Here, in a rare moment of vulnerability, he lays himself bare, perhaps offering insight into why his escapades masquerade such melancholy. In the midst of his vices he admits he “hate[s] the real me”, repeating in a chorus that he’s just “tryna get as high as I can”. It’s a sad song that you can only hope leads him to some place of comfort.