Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
Reasons I Drink
The reason that Alanis Morissette’s output this year has resonated in the way it did is through its unflinching, often unexpected starkness, and Reasons I Drink might be the perfect condensation of all of that. For one, there’s a tension in the piano stabs and pulsing alt-rock angst that feels like a deliberate callback to her Jagged Little Pill heyday, but it never feels like a style-over-substance throwback, and like the entirely of that album, it works to fill in the context of where Morissette is as an artist. She’s dejected and supremely tired of having to play the game, and earmarking that as the reason for self-medicating and overindulging feels different and a lot more weighty coming from an older artist. It’s arguably the most direct song from the album too, and as the anchor point that etches in its thesis with a bullet, it really is something great.
Taylor Swift ft. Bon Iver
It was the standout track for many on folklore, and honestly, it couldn’t be easier to see why. There’s something so potent about how exile balances its fragility with a tempestuous beneath the surface, as both Taylor Swift and Justin Vernon sing their own divorced parts from the perspective of ex-partners for whom a lack of communication was clearly an issue, and attempt to shoulder blame onto each other while keeping the subtext of a yearning want for closeness present all the way through. You get that from the layering and interweaving vocal lines that hit the spot of pop excellence on their own, but the solemn piano that backs Vernon’s baritone is simply magic, as is Swift offering a vocal contribution that’s perhaps more poised, but no less real. In a year where Taylor Swift seemingly dropped the curtain of artifice around her for good, exile stands as a tentpole moment in her career, where she proved that even as the indie darling that few could’ve expected her to embrace, she’s one of modern music’s biggest for a reason.
Bring Me The Horizon
On paper, Teardrops feels like an easy home run for Bring Me The Horizon. It’s tapping more into the nu-metal side of their catalogue they’ve found good success in, and with a caving groove and arena-ready chorus, it’s the sort of thing they could knock out in their sleep. And yet, that’s probably why it works so well, as hewn and perfected as the modern Bring Me The Horizon enterprise gets, while still having the muscle and bite to justify their seat at the table of modern rock giants. It’s not quite as lyrically ornate as some other tracks on this list, effectively being a screed on how desensitised to everything Oli Sykes is, to the point where even the numbness of depression doesn’t hit him in the same way, but this sort of slobberknocker rock anthem has a place when done as well as Bring Me The Horizon do it. That hook is an absolute monster for a start, and an abundance of punch and power that surge through hit the mark ridiculously well, to the point where, for alt-metal at its most direct, it’s truly hard to fault. Put it this way – when Bring Me The Horizon next tour, this will be an absolute riot.
Spanish Love Songs
Few lyrics have withstood 2020 as brazenly as “My bleak mind says it’s cheaper just to die / The prick inside my head’s laid off and daring me to try.” It’s that blazing emotionality and almost impossibly pertinent bluntness that’s made Spanish Love Songs such a powerful addition to modern punk, with Losers being a highlight on an album comprised of nothing but highlights. It’s arguably that pertinence that’s sent this song rocketing up to such a height, acting as patient zero for depressed, bleedingly honest writing that can’t shift the weight on its shoulders no matter how much it tries, but the special thing about Spanish Love Songs is the rawness that never feels faked or stylised for even a second. It’s partly a result of their alt-punk sound being so lived-in and honest as it is, but Dylan Slocum’s quivering shout and the breathless pace of it all allows it culminate so much easier, and hit that relatable centre with the velocity and volatility of a bullet train on fire. Even for a band whose relevance to the mood of 2020 came about entirely on a fluke, Losers is a truly special song from a truly special band, who’ve been given every opportunity this year to show just how hard they can kick.
On paper, Enter Shikari’s satellites* * isn’t an obvious choice for this year’s best single. Really, it’s hard to think of anything that could’ve been an obvious choice, but thinking about it really makes sense. When so much of music this year has either been forgotten or used as an amplifier for the overwhelming dourness of the past twelve months, something that breaks away from that to offer real joy and hope stands out automatically, and satellites* * offers exactly that in spades. Even aside from having one of the most ebullient choruses of the year that will be absolutely transcendent live, the glittering production and brightly lit tone just sticks so resoundingly, and Rou Reynolds as a frontman does his utmost to match that sense of joy. It makes sense too, as a song used to empathise with the LGBTQ+ community who continue to be marginalised and scrutinised in everything they do, which makes the explosiveness and iridescence of that chorus celebrating real, unconditional love feel so spectacularly earned. Within the more melodic output Enter Shikari have trended towards over the years, this is its peak by a wide margin, and to come out when it did means it feels all the more needed and wonderful for it.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
Be My End
While drama all too often goes hand-in-hand with Creeper songs, one definite highlight of this year’s Sex, Death & The Infinite Void was album opener Be My End, a track that perfectly revisits the glorious highs of Down Below and Hiding With Boys. It’s a love song that’s deliciously Creeper with its end of the world and death metaphors, but on the other hand feels more buoyant with its almost 1950’s-themed teenage school dance feel. There are other places on Sex, Death & The Infinite Void where Creeper push boundaries more, but Be My End is where they’re at their most difficult to resist.
If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)
Everyone knows the drill with The 1975’s albums by now – they’re overlong with far more filler than necessary, but the songs designed to hit big do just that. The highlight from this year’s Notes On A Conditional Form is far and away If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), a gloriously ’80s guitar pop banger about online intimacy, deep and philosophical when you look into it further (this is a 1975 record after all), but simplistic and infectious enough on the face of it to have reeled you in before you’ve even noticed. The 1975 have a tendency to take an idea, no matter how out-of-left-field, and run with it to say that they’ve done it rather than focusing on creating tight, consistent records. But …Too Shy is the apex of what could happen if they did focus on quality more – plenty of people would prefer a record of this over Notes On A Conditional Form.
The Aces have shown they have more than a knack for making relatable, summery indie pop in their four years as a band, and Daydream (the lead single for second album Under My Influence) set a songwriting bar they’ll need to consider for the rest of their career. Sub-three minutes it cruises along, helmed by Katie Henderson’s quick-fingered guitar riffs and slight electronic experimentation. Lyrically, it’s a song that took on a new meaning being released a month into a global pandemic, becoming an anthem for those separated from loved ones and a much needed reminder to keep heads up. Daydream is probably one of the more classic Aces tracks on Under My Influence, but it makes a strong statement purely by being effervescent and optimistic.
Lady Gaga ft. Ariana Grande
Rain On Me
In this absolute hellscape of a year, few songs have provided the pure joy and escapism of Rain On Me. Embodying the house-influenced reverie of the whole Chromatica album, Rain On Me was a full-on musical event, bringing together two of pop’s most vocally talented women and exciting visionaries. Lady Gaga’s throaty belts and Ariana Grande’s airy soprano fitting together perfectly is one thing, but the track championing resilience and joining hands in hopefulness from two women who’ve had struggles publicly documented made it feel like a genuine statement of exhilarated togetherness. The circumstances it was released in made an already special song transcend any expectations, and the day we can all experience it in a sweaty, dancing crowd like it was intended will be one of pure, unadulterated joy.
All Time Low
Some Kind Of Disaster
Some Kind Of Disaster is an important song for All Time Low. Not only was it their first giant leap out of the darkness of Last Young Renegade, their worst album to date, but it showed that they could still write magnificent pop-punk anthems that could hold their own with the best of them. The vocal/guitar call-and-response, the way the track effortlessly weaves its way through different sections and the seemingly innate ability All Time Low have to relate to a crowd and rouse them at the same time are bonafide pop-punk songwriting skills, skills that are a crime to bury under subpar pop songs. Some Kind Of Disaster is a leveled-up The Reckless And The Brave – not only did it bring both the guitars and fun back to All Time Low, but it has the loveable appeal to become a staple of theirs from now on.