If you’re reading this, I’d like to congratulate you on surviving the first half of 2020. To say the past six months have been challenging would be putting it mildly. Pandemics and protests are only the start of our troubles. And even though most of us have been spending a whole lot of time at home, we could still use a break from everything. While I can’t sit here and tell you that the world will somehow magically get better and there’s light at the end of this extremely dark tunnel, my hope still remains intact that life will improve sooner rather than later.
It seems like every year I comment about how challenging it is to put together a “Top Songs” list, because unlike albums, which are larger works meant to be taken as a whole, songs are fractions of that whole. There are multitudes more songs in the world than albums, so in essence it’s like splitting hairs. Imagine my surprise then, when this Top 50 Songs of 2019 list came together rather easily. Perhaps there were fewer standout tracks than normal to really catch my attention. It was a slightly “off” year for music, so that might have helped too. Color me clueless as to the actual reason, because all that matters is these are 50 songs I can say without a doubt are the ones I loved and in many cases listened to most this year. My sincerest apologies if your personal favorite didn’t make the cut. Everybody has their own unique tastes, and while I’d hope most of these songs will satisfy, you might feel differently. That’s okay! The songs on this list span across nearly every genre of music and range from dancefloor bangers to depressing bops and back again. My sincerest hope is that you’ll discover something new you haven’t heard before, and may even fall in love with it as much as I have. There are really only two rules I set when composing this list:
1. Songs must appear on an album, EP, or standalone single released in 2019 (so no new Tame Impala, Grimes, The 1975, etc. from 2020 LPs).
2. Only one song per artist, to help spread the love around (featured guest vocals don’t count).
Every song on this Top 50 is accompanied by a link to stream it (and in many cases watch the video) on YouTube. There’s also a Spotify playlist embedded below, organized just like this list, from #50-1. Please enjoy, and feel free to share your own opinions or lists in the comments!
Welcome to the start of another Pitchfork Music Festival Week here at Faronheit! There’s so much to cover over the next seven days, but the first step involves familiarizing yourself with the lineup. The diverse collection of talent that takes the stage in Chicago’s Union Park every July remains unparalleled, as the festival provides a breeding ground for tomorrow’s superstars while simultaneously paying respects to legends. Artists such as Bon Iver, The National, Fleet Foxes, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance the Rapper all performed at Pitchfork before they became household names. But you also get seasoned pros like Public Enemy, Yoko Ono, The Jesus Lizard, Guided By Voices, Pavement, A Tribe Called Quest, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Bjork, and George Clinton with Parliament Funkadelic showing up to guide everyone through their classic catalogs.
The 2019 edition of the Pitchfork Music Festival maintains a strong grasp on that dynamic, celebrating the decades of music we’ve gotten from The Isley Brothers, Mavis Staples, Belle & Sebastian, Neneh Cherry, and Stereolab while also providing an introduction to local and international names like Clairo, Black Midi, Tirzah, Lala Lala, and MIKE. It may interest you to know that the lineup is gender balanced, and makes a particular point to include a number of Chicago-based artists. If you’re planning to attend the festival this weekend but haven’t yet studied up on everyone that will be performing, what are you waiting for?
To help on your journey of discovery, I’ve assembled a playlist that you’re welcome to explore at your own discretion. The Spotify version embedded below features a pair of songs from every artist on this year’s lineup, with the exception of the Great Black Music Ensemble. They are sorted in the order they’re scheduled to perform, starting with early Friday afternoon and ending with Sunday night. As an alternate option, since not everyone has Spotify or wants to dig through an 80+ song playlist, you can also scroll through the lineup in alphabetical order and click on links to listen to individual songs from artists on YouTube. Hopefully that will satisfy just about everyone. So explore a bit. Find something new that inspires or motivates you. Then prepare to make some tough decisions when planning out your festival weekend. Speaking of which, please continue to check the site over the coming days for preview guides and advice on artists you shouldn’t miss at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival! If you still need tickets, here’s where you can buy them. Prices increase on Tuesday 7/16, so you may want to move quickly to save a few bucks.
It’s easy to get the impression that 2019 has been a relatively quiet year for music so far. There haven’t been quite as many high profile album releases, and few things have really captured the cultural zeitgeist beyond Lil Nas X and perhaps Billie Eilish. We’re in a pretty weird place, right? If you were to ask me point blank what five of my favorite albums were this year, it’d take me a few minutes to come up with a clear answer. I haven’t been listening to less music overall, there’s just less things managing to grab and hold my attention. Or so I thought.
In reflecting on the first half of the year, I wanted to assemble and share a playlist of about 50 songs that I genuinely enjoyed and/or frequently returned to over these last six months. The rules for the list were simple: only one song per artist, either released as a standalone single or as part of a 2019 LP/EP. The goal was to spread the love around, but I had to reach 50 songs first. It was tougher than I expected, until it wasn’t. What started out at barely 50 songs quickly ballooned to nearly twice that amount after taking a closer look at some release lists. A 100 song playlist would have been too much, but 50 ultimately felt like too little.
So here’s the final compromise: 75 great songs from the first half of 2019. They’re arranged in alphabetical order by artist, because official rankings are best saved for a year-end wrap-up. Please enjoy this five hours of music! Play it at your BBQ or just in your car while driving around on a hot day. I hope you discover some tracks and artists you missed earlier this year, or rediscover some fun songs you may have forgotten about over the last few months. Listen through the Spotify embed below, or follow this link. You can also listen to every song (minus Julien Baker & Thom Yorke) on the playlist individually via YouTube by clicking on the title.
Tuned In is a feature in which special guests from the world of pop culture share a playlist of songs based on a topic or theme of their choice.
Jen Kirkman is not only one of my favorite comedians, but also one of my favorite people. If for some reason you’re not familiar with her stand-up, she’s got two fantastic and hilarious specials available on Netflix called Just Keep Livin’? and I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine). You can also find them on your favorite audio streaming or download service (Spotify, Amazon, Apple) if that’s your preference. Let those serve as an introduction to her unique perspective and a way to inject some much-needed laughter into your life.
In addition to consistently crafting new stand-up material and touring around it, Jen Kirkman has written two very funny and very smart books that made the NY Times bestseller list, has a weekly podcast talking about her life and things happening in the world, spends time writing for the Golden Globe and Emmy-winning Amazon show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and maintains a strong, bullshit-free social media presence. She’s so hard-working and multi-talented there are definitely other things I’m forgetting too (talk show appearances, Drunk History segments, etc.), so the best way to keep track of everything is by joining her email newsletter.
There’s also Kirkman’s taste in music, which is as delightful and whip-smart as her comedy. She’s gotten downright poetic in the past when talking about the brilliance of David Bowie, Prince, and Morrissey, among others, and has often cited Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” as her go-to karaoke song. It’s no surprise then that she puts a tremendous amount of care into crafting a pre-show playlist for her tour dates. Here are ten fantastic songs she’s selected that help put her in the right frame of mind before a show. You just might hear some of these before her set at Thalia Hall on Thursday, January 17th. It promises to be a great night kicking off her extensive tour for 2019 with plenty of laughs and brand new material. Plus, she’ll be signing books after. Buy tickets in advance now, because there’s a very good chance this show will sell out!
Thursday, January 17th at Thalia Hall (1807 S. Allport St.)
8PM / $26 / 17+
There were a lot of really great songs released in 2018. Actually, there are a lot of great songs released in any given year, and definitely more than a list of 50 can fully contain. But I’ve got to try anyway. The 50 songs in the list below feel like a relatively comprehensive chronicle of what it was like living through 2018, though I suppose if it were truly accurate there’d be a lot more depressing shit that’d turn most people off. Overall I’d say this is a strong balance of mood, tempo, style, and genre I sincerely hope will leave you feeling satisfied. The most fascinating thing to me about this year’s list is that the top two songs are not currently part of any full-length album. As for the unofficial “rules” behind the selections for the Top 50 Songs, there are only two: the song must have been officially released by an artist or band in 2018, and no artist is allowed to be featured more than once (for diversity’s sake). While there are audio streams and in some cases videos to accompany each song (apologies for the couple of live videos, as album versions were unavailable), you can also stream the entire list (minus one song) via the Spotify embed at the bottom of this post, or by going to this link. Please enjoy these Top 50 Songs of 2018, and feel free to share your favorites in the comments or let me know on social media (@faronheit).
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the music for festing and everyone telling you have a cold beer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes friends, it’s time once again for Christmas in July, aka the start of music festival season in Chicago. I’m thrilled to once again to spend the week providing wall-to-wall coverage of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. The next seven (or so) days will be jam packed with previews, reviews, highlights, and music direct from Chicago’s Union Park. The 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival officially begins this Friday, July 20th, and runs all weekend with 40+ performances from a diverse set of artists and bands from the (figurative) past, present, and future. So whether you’re already planning to attend, are thinking about attending, or are simply wishing that you could go, my hope is there’s something for everybody with this extensive guide to one of the best and most unique music festivals on the planet.
Before attending a smaller, more boutique festival like the Pitchfork Music Festival, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the lineup. Pitchfork historically has one of the most well-rounded lineups every year, and often includes smaller, up-and-coming artists you’ll be hearing much more about in the coming years. Not every band is a household name, so if you’re not up on, say, Irreversible Entanglements, you might want to know what they sound like before choosing to include them as you plan out your schedule for the weekend. This is where a playlist comes in handy. Below you’ll find a variety of ways to learn a bit more about the artists performing at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, including tracks to stream on YouTube and Soundcloud. If Spotify is your preferred streaming service, I’ve also assembled a playlist (ordered by day and set time) at the very bottom of this post featuring two songs from just about everyone on the lineup. Click around, explore a bit, listen to some tracks, and get your bearings before this weekend!
If you’re thinking about attending this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival but don’t have your passes yet, here’s where you can go to find out more information and purchase tickets. The official preview guide starts tomorrow, with an hour-by-hour breakdown of the best acts to see on Friday. Join me, won’t you?
The burden of choosing only 50 songs to help define the year in music feels wrong and just a bit insane. After all, there are literally tens of thousands of tracks to choose from, and the ability to discern the difference in quality among them can often seem akin to a parent being forced to choose a favorite child. So my decision process when assembling this list was challenging to say the least. It did leave me with enough regret to compose an additional “Honorable Mention” list, which you can check out right here if you’re so inclined.
Before we get started, I wanted to briefly explain a couple of rules I implemented when making selections for these top 50 Songs. First and foremost, no artist may be featured more than once on the list. That rule doesn’t apply to guest spots or features. It’s how *spoiler alert* Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington managed to make it onto this list twice. Secondly, every song on the list must have been officially released in 2017 as part of an album, soundtrack, or single. In other words, you won’t find any leftover songs from 2016 here, nor will you find any pre-release singles for early 2018 records. There are a few tracks on this list from artists that didn’t release an album or EP in 2017, but still delivered one-off singles. Those songs may wind up on yet-to-be-announced records for 2018, and if that’s the case they will automatically be disqualified from “Best of” consideration for next year.
As for the songs featured in this post, I’m fully convinced and committed to proclaiming they’re the cream of the crop. They’ve managed to provide a guiding light for me over the course of this dark year, while also pushing back against the status quo. Their ability to excite, innovate, and comfort is unparalleled. If you don’t understand what they’re trying to do on the first listen, give them another shot, because a few of these are real growers. It is my sincerest hope that this list manages to bring back some fond memories of shows or albums you heard earlier this year and loved, or provides inspiration and discovery of artists and songs you might not have heard of before now. So please absorb these tracks into your life and let them work their magic. Click the play button on each one to hear a stream, or just scroll to the very bottom of this list for a Spotify playlist featuring every track except for one. See if you can figure out which for the 50 that is! Join me after the jump, as we take a closer look at the 50 Best Songs of 2017.
Of the thousands of songs I heard this past year, narrowing a list down to my favorite 50 was exceptionally tough. There was plenty of heartbreak and disappointment upon the realization that some great songs were being left off of that final list. So in the spirit of giving attention to even more great music, please take these extra 25 tracks and give them a listen if you aren’t familiar with them already. They’re listed in alphabetical order so as to not prioritize any one over another. The only rules are that the tracks must have been part of a 2017 album, soundtrack, or single release. While you can click on the play button below any song title to hear it streaming (via YouTube), there’s also a Spotify playlist embedded at the very bottom of this post should you prefer to listen that way. Cool? Cool. And make sure to keep an eye out for my Top 50 Songs of 2017, which will immediately follow this post.
Welcome to the beginning of Pitchfork Music Festival Week 2017! It’s become tradition here on Faronheit in the last few years to spend a full seven days celebrating the three day blissful orgy of music that descends upon Chicago every July in the form of the Pitchfork Music Festival. In my opinion, you won’t find a better curated or more diverse festival lineup anywhere other than Pitchfork. They put their brand and reputation on the line to celebrate great and innovative artists across backgrounds and genres. If you’re unaware or ignorant of the festival, perhaps a glance at some past coverage will provide an accurate impression of how things go each year. We couldn’t be more excited to bring you a complete festival guide all week long on Faronheit, which includes day-by-day previews, day-by-day recaps, plus a whole bunch of photos and other media along the way. Whether you’re headed to Union Park this weekend and are unsure about what bands to see, or are interested in the lineup and are looking to vicariously experience the festival without actually going, the hope is you’ll make this site one of your stops for key information and on-the-ground reporting. It’s a pleasure to put this guide together every year, and I hope it’s reflected in the content posted.
Let’s get started by providing a proper introduction to all of the artists set to perform at Pitchfork Music Festival 2017. After the jump you’ll find a Spotify playlist featuring two songs from every single artist on the linup, along with individual links to websites, music videos and more. The Spotify playlist is ordered by day and set time, while everything else is sorted alphabetically. There are plenty of ways to get to know these artists, but obviously listening to their music is the most important of all. So click some links, stream some songs, and begin your education!
Tuned In is a feature in which special guests from the world of pop culture share a playlist of songs based on a topic or theme of their choice.
Jena Friedman is the definition of a multi-hyphenate. She’s been a field producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and a correspondent for National Geographic Explorer. She’s written for The Late Show with David Letterman, and is currently hard at work on her first film Serial Dater, starring Imogen Poots and John Cho. She wrote and is directing that one. So yeah, you could say that she’s got a lot of talents, and has been putting them all to good use. It’s left her plate very full, yet you might not know it because she’s not in front of the camera that often.
On a personal level, I found out about Jena Friedman a few years back via her stand-up comedy. She is tremendously funny and possesses that rare quality of being able to make you laugh about some of the darkest and most challenging topics facing our world today. Her recent, pre-election stand-up special American Cunt dives headfirst into politics, feminism, abortion, guns and religion without losing sight of our shared humanity no matter what your personal opinions might be.
After getting her start in comedy here in Chicago more than a decade ago, Jena Friedman is coming back to town next Friday, June 2nd for a set at her old stomping grounds, The Hideout. It is part of the Onion/A.V. Club’s 4th Annual “26th Annual Comedy Festival,” and promises to be a hilarious late night of stand-up with plenty of whip-smart insight about the pitch black turn our world has taken in recent months.
Friday, June 2nd at The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia Ave.)
10:30 PM / $15 / 21+