Here are some songs that I thoroughly enjoyed this year, but didn't quite make the final cut for my year-end list. All of them are still very much worth a listen.
Originally published on 12/28/20.
Channel Tres – “Weedman”
This song is one of a growing number of reasons why Channel Tres has been quietly blowing up over the past couple of years. “Weedman” – which, yes, is simply a song about buying weed – is yet another endlessly playable funk-rap gem from the California artist. Throughout the song, Tres delivers genuinely funny lyrics through his signature laconic delivery, providing an irresistible combo of coolness, smoothness, and just plain fun – God knows we needed as much of that as possible this year. It has a thick, catchy bassline, punchy percussion, and a fantastic hook; what’s not to love? Really, if you’re not moving around while this song is on, something’s wrong with you.
Childish Gambino – “53.49”
3.15.20 isn’t a perfect album by any means, but Donald Glover emphatically sticks the landing with “53.49,” a thrillingly sunny closing track. Through much of the song, Glover channels Anderson .Paak with intense, energetic, gospel-infused vocals; one could argue that he sounds too similar, but I think Glover pulls it off regardless. Glover’s singing throughout is as impressive as ever, tuneful baritone mixing with Prince-like wails. The instrumentation is bright and creative, punchy drums colliding with excellent bass playing and reverb-soaked piano. Joyful and infectious, “53.49” is just a wonderful track that serves as the perfect swan song for the Childish Gambino name.
Destroyer – “Cue Synthesizer”
Dan Bejar’s newest Destroyer project Have We Met is full of well-written, catchy tunes, but “Cue Synthesizer” stands as arguably the album’s finest moment. Built around a fantastic bassline and a somewhat funk-inflected groove, the song is a thoroughly enjoyable piece of indie rock. Bejar sings his usual brand of cryptic phrases, his lyrics exhibiting vague apocalyptic imagery of some sort. Throughout the song, wonderful guitar lines play off his vocals to create a call-and-response structure that works extremely well, and the groove is maintained for the whole song without going stale. An excellent track that once again showcases Bejar’s musical talent.
Rico Nasty – “OHFR?”
Rico Nasty has been noisily stomping all over the rap scene since she found fame in 2018, effortlessly redefining what it is to be a female rapper in the 21st century. This standout single from her brand-new debut album Nightmare Vacation is arguably this year’s best proof of that. Over a minimal but merciless beat from hyperpop guru Dylan Brady, the 23-year-old unleashes a litany of quotable one-liners in her distinctively vicious manner, once again establishing her high level of confidence in the most fun way possible. It also manages to completely avoid overstaying its welcome; its mere two-minute runtime makes it ripe for replaying again and again, something I have been happily doing for the past month-and-a-half.
Tame Impala – “Breathe Deeper”
This standout cut from Tame Impala’s latest album The Slow Rush is a wonderful piece of disco-infused pop. With a creative arrangement, an irresistible groove, and poetic songwriting, “Breathe Deeper” is just as suited for the dancefloor as it is for casual listening. The lyrics, simple but effective, appear to be about getting through an anxiety attack with the help of a significant other. On top of that, the low-pitched, morphing, distorted synth line during the clever fake-out ending might be my favorite moment on the entire album. A catchy, enjoyable slab of psychedelia that no one but Kevin Parker could have put together.
Listen to all of these songs on Apple Music or Spotify below.