By James Pavel

20. Where we’re going – Gerry Cinnamon 
 Gerry Cinnamon sounds like a classic voice our parents grew up with on the radio. In 2019, the world seemed as connected as ever but in 2020, the year of sans travel, Cinnamon’s accent sounds more beautifully foreign than ever. English all sounds the same until you hear a Scotsman belting one out. 


19. Melody – Matthew Madigan 
Dublin’s finest peers out the window of past relationships and reflects on the parallels between music and love. The tune bops its way to a hand-waving chorus – the marching drums and soft guitars pair perfectly with Madigan’s raspy, vodka-stained words. 


18. There must be more than blood – Car Seat Headrest
Car Seat pounds on a solo piano key like a kid learning the instrument, but accompanied by a piercing electric, heavenly synth waves, this song is great before it even really begins. I can’t decide if it’s the worst or the most brilliant band name in recent memory, but they have us distracted with a wicked 2020 single for now. 


17. All of us – Sam Roberts 
Every album reveals a new sound for Sammy and company and yet they maintain a clear and obvious sound. What every band would kill for is someone who can write a banging hook and Sam seems to be sitting on a plethora of them.


16. Save your tears – The Weeknd
Canada’s Michael Jackson thankfully values quality over quantity (looking at you Drizzy) and when he drops an album, it’s always a guaranteed banger. Weeknd has done his 80’s homework, and isn’t afraid to borrow from the nostalgia lost and found. 


15. Real love song – Nothing but Thieves 
The guitar is not a guitar in this one -it is a modern-day spaceship, blasting a million miles an hour towards the raging sun. It torpedoes over and over, a high-speed atomic missile detonating all over 2020 rock stations.


14. Wild – John Legend feat. Gary Clark Jr. 
Johnny boy seems like the neighbour you’d gush about and the friend you’d call if your car broke down. The album itself has Legend stepping a little too far out of his comfort zone, but “Wild” is Legend playing in his safe zone, meaning triumphant choruses and inspiring mantras. 


13. New president – Mt. Joy
A new president was declared the solution to everything the minute Donald Trump shockingly won back in ol’ 2016. The left has gotten their wish and now time will tell – Can Biden miraculously save the most contentious, ego-centric country to ever exist? A year where you would think protest songs would be everywhere, Mt. Joy is one of the few that managed to get their point across with a song easy enough to enjoy. 


12. Champion of the world – Coldplay 
Coldplay went global a long time ago, but their music has never sounded as culturally diverse as their 2020 input. Martin’s voice is far from perfect and yet it remains smooth and comforting particularly in the most turbulent year maybe ever. If anybody can tell us everything is going to be okay and we believe them, it’s Coldplay. 


11. Into happiness – Phantogram
What begins like a gothic ballet quickly sails into a swimming pool of happiness. It dries off for a minute only to climb the ladder and take a leap off the deep end into a thousand smiley faces. 


10. Just exist – Eliza and the Delusionals
Lyrics are clear as day and when they resonate in all the right places, an audience will develop. Being heartbroken is perhaps the loneliest feeling known to us – if one could just not think about that person for a day, for even a minute, it would make existence infinitely easier. But it remains  a right of passage – have your heart removed from your chest in order to grow stronger. It provides wisdom and teaches empathy. To just exist without the perpetrator is unfortunately not possible and it is for the best.  


9. Chinatown – Bleachers feat. Bruce Springsteen 
It’s generally rap songs where you are counting down the seconds for the guest appearance to finally kick in – in this case, it’s when you can finally hear the grizzly Bossman’s sandpaper rapture. He wasn’t going to hop on a track if it didn’t have some whiff of classic Springsteen – Bleachers made sure they researched what would make the legend tick, and inevitably add his vernacular to “Chinatown.”


8. Sad happy – Circa Waves 
It’s the Pet Shop Boys for the Tik Tok/Vape generation. I was happy I was quarantined because I could spend infinite time with my family and yet sad because the world was falling apart before my eyes. One of the many paradoxes we live in is this dual feeling of sadness/happiness. 


7. This is the end – Sea Girls
 ‘I found heaven in your highlights’ – The fact that we are referring to highlights in 2020 is further proof that the 90’s continue to puke all over this dumpster fire of 12 months. Is 2020 the end? It certainly could be. Never has the existence of aliens seemed more certain and the economic collapse that we have still not fully experienced will make the Great Depression look like Scrooge McDuck’s money pool. 


6. Hit the coast – Future Islands 
Hit the coast – travel – move – explore. Ideas that were once certainties have suddenly become fantasties. Does a Canadian see California again without a mask? Does arriving at a beach require proof of vaccination? Is the proverbial letting one’s hair down only allowed in groups of 6 or less? Our freedoms are currently being sacrificed, ostensibly for the greater good – but we do this with the assumption that freedoms will return in full. We hope that to hit the coast remains with no strings attached. 


5. Why are Sundays so depressing – The Strokes 
The New York lads were back in 2020 and they didn’t disappoint. They’re singing about depression and yet, Julian hasn’t sounded this happy since ‘Last Night.’  Did the Strokes put out the album of 2020? Probably. They are a band that can never be more important than their first album because if they were, they would be in Beatles territory. They’ve seem to have finally come to terms with the idea of just cranking out great rock music is what the world needs from them right now – classic or not. 


4. I’m going nowhere – Kings of Leon 
A collective, global quarantine – We were all trapped within our four walls, forced to reflect on where we live, who we are with and where we are at. No escape to the pub, no jaunt to the gym – the clock became temporarily useless and we lived in what we thought could only exist in a sci-fi movie. We all went nowhere and allowed the powers that be dictate how and when the world would go back to a new normal. For the first time, even filthy rich musicians had to play by the rules and Caleb allowed us to feel closer to him than ever. Arguably the greatest voice in rock n roll ,a guy that could sing along to the blowing leaves and make it sound like a classic, bared his soul with a truly relevant and reflective moment. 


3. Second best – Younger Hunger
In 2020, every second rock band sort of sounds like Foster the People. A world filled with unlimited options has proven overwhelming in the best of times. What a crushing blow to discover that not only are you not the apple of someone’s eye, but merely a number in a long list of potential suitors. ‘My heart’s about to break for the seventh time today’ is one of the more compelling and accurate descriptions of a scorned lover’s anguish in recent memory. 


2. August – Taylor Swift
 It is too easy to forget that she might just happen to be one of the greatest songwriters ever. Who is she dating? Who cares. Who does she support politically? Yawn. Swift, unlike the majority of famous people in 2020, doesn’t get paid to do nothing. Swift gets paid to create 4 minute vacations into her soul. This is her life, or maybe it’s a character in her endless library of stories – August went from forgotten month in the summer to one of the greatest songs of 2020. 


1. My own soul’s warning – The Killers
Brandon Flowers told us this one was special and he wasn’t lying. A band that had to shed two members, whether it was Brandon’s ego or it was the dread of yet another monster global tour, the remaining members refused to hang it up. Brandon easily could have slid out the back door and continued on with his solo career, but he recognizes the magic in the name, the history and the future of the giant ‘k.’ No band tries harder to make concert anthems and they’ve had plenty that failed miserably – but as the English say, MOSW is a proper belter. You can practically hear the crowd screaming “I just wanted to get back to where you are” and they haven’t even had the opportunity to feature the track in front of a full, live audience. The Killers have realized they aren’t for everyone – but they also realize that there are bands that want to be like them. They haven’t aged badly – they’ve benefited greatly from misplaced nostalgia. People assume that Mr. Brightside is either a) older than it actually is b) is from the 90s (way off) or c) they grew up always loving it. There is an argument to be made that Mr. Brightside has never been bigger. When you are a hustler like Brandon Flowers, you seize this moment. You perform Brightside for the Las Vegas Raiders opener despite having a new album, and you make sure the record you put out is worth a listen for the Spotify generation – and boy did they ever. The boys sound alive again – “Wonderful, Wonderful” was beautiful but also confusing. “BattleBorn” was almost a half-made album. “Imploring the Mirage” is comparable to “Hot Fuss” in that half the album sounds like hit singles. MOSW is about remaining true to one’s self – a possible pledge for the next decade to not be absorbed with even more selfies, mindless videos and hedonistic values. Nobody bleeds authenticity like Brandon Flowers – he holds his heroes up for all to hear and see and more often than not, he does them justice. MOSW is the song Bruce Springsteen himself could only dream of writing – The Killers are 15 years in the game and continue to have the hungriest of hearts.