2020 Year in Review: Favorite Songs

There aren’t a lot of good things to say about the year 2020, but it was nevertheless a year filled with great music. Here are 20 of my favorite songs for 2020. Please use the comments box to add your favorites. And check out the end of the post for links to my favorite songs lists of previous years.

“Antifa Dance” by Ana Tijoux

“Be” by Mourning [A] BLKstar

“Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa

“Ferris Wheel” by Sylvan Esso

“Hapi feat. Big Rube” by Spillage Village

“Is There Something in the Movies?” by Samia

“Lifetime” by Romy

“Los Angeles” by HAIM

“The Low” by Jonah Mutono

“Mansplain” by Thick

“Phenom” by Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

“Shameika” by Fiona Apple

“Sing Gently” by Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6

“Siyabuela” by Asher Gamedze

“Take a Piece” by The Big Moon

“Take What You Can Carry” (Scientist Dub One) by Mia Doi Todd

“Tenebrist” by The Ballroom Thieves

“walking in the snow” by Run the Jewels

Favorite Songs by Year, 1973-2019


2019 Blogging AtoZ Challenge Theme Reveal #AtoZChallenge

Greetings long time readers of Panorama of the Mountains and anyone who may have just stumbled upon this blog today!  In the month of April, I will once again be participating in the Blogging A to Z Challenge.  The purpose of this challenge is to write a post each day of the month on something starting with each letter of the alphabet from A to Z.   These posts can be something different each day just starting with a different letter, or they can be tied together with a theme across all the posts. Since there are 30 days in April and only 26 letters in the alphabet, we take Sundays off from posting.  But the even bigger part of the challenge is finding other participants blogs and reading their posts and leaving comments, so Sundays are a good day to catch up!

This will be the fourth time I’ve particpated in the A to Z Challenge. In previous years, I blogged on different themes:

I’ve long loved music and wanted to do something musical with my A to Z, so this year my theme will be;

A Song and a Story

Great songs have meaning far beyond what the artists who create them intended. Songs are part of our daily experience and hearing them brings up images of people we love, places we’ve been, and the things we do.  So for my A to Z Challenge, I will be writing about some of my favorite songs and telling a story I associate with those songs.

AND, because I’m feeling ambitious, I’m also going to try to watch and review documentary movies from A to Z again.  That’s right TWO A to Z Challenges for the price of one.

If you have a blog and want to get involved in this fun and transformative experience, check out the official website for more details!

Chronologically Self-Aware Songs

Making a random list of songs that date themselves by  mentioning a day, month, or year that is more or less the time when the song was recorded and/or released to the public.  This means that a song like 1999 by Prince does not count because it was recorded in 1982 and Prince was singing about the future.  Similarly, when The Four Seasons’ December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) does not count because they were singing about a time in the past when the song was released in 1975.

Public Enemy – “Fight the Power” – 1989 the number another summer.

Asia – “Heat of the Moment” – And now you find yourself in ’82.

Escape Club – “Wild Wild West” – Heading for the nineties living in the eighties.

Killing Joke – “Eighties” – I’m living in the eighties

Falco – “Rock Me Amadeus” – 1985, Austrian rock singer Falco records: Rock Me Amadeus! 

The Ramones’ “Rock and Roll Radio” –  It’s the end, the end of the 70’s

Barenaked Ladies – “Shoe Box” – You’re so 1990, and it’s 1994.

Clash – “1977” – In 1977, sod the Jubilee.

Surely there are others!  List them in the comments.

The Best Beatles Songs You’ve Never Heard

The Beatles are an amazing band in that if you go through their catalog you can find dozens of songs that never see the light of day on classic rock radio but would be hit songs for many other bands from the 60’s. Paste magazine recently ran a series of articles called The Coolest Beatles You Might Have Missed (the link goes to the final post in the series which lists all of Paste‘s songs).  Coincidentally, I have my own list (and iTunes playlist) called The Best Beatles Songs You’ve Never Heard.  I planned to write this post a couple of years ago, but after working on it for some time it just wasn’t working and I deleted my draft.  So I can’t accuse Paste of stealing my idea, but to quote Bono, I’m “stealing it back.”

The basic idea here is to find Beatles songs released during their career that were never featured as the A sides of singles, collected on compilations such as 1962–1966, 1967–1970, and 1 or otherwise overlooked by everyone but the most dedicated Beatles’ geeks.  From this I’ve culled 15 tracks spanning the Beatles recording career that I think make a fine alternate Best Of collection.

I’ve bolded the tracks that are also on the Paste list, and the song titles are linked to a youtube recording of the song.
There’s a Place

In that most pop music of the early 60’s focused on boy-girl love, cars, and frivolities, this is a daring song that is an anthem for introverts. “There’s a place/where I can go/when I feel low/when I feel blue/And it’s my mind,” is pretty brainy for pop music.  Of course, it is a love song too, but we hear John Lennon in his ‘guru’ persona telling his lady love that she too can find happiness in solitude and introspection.

Not a Second Time

A kicking rock song with some great harmonies.  But wait, who is it that Lennon is harmonizing with?  Why it’s himself!  This is one the earliest examples of the Beatles playing around in the studio to improve their music, in this double-tracking the vocals.  With or without that historical footnote, this should’ve been a hit

I’ll Follow the Sun

The Beatles for Sale is an underrated album in which the band both rejuvenates by going back to their rock and roll roots with a number of covers, as well as experiments with new ideas that they would build on in future recordings.  This song is a little of both, a McCartney original that was originally written in 1959.  It has a beautiful melody and peaceful vocals that belie that this is a pretty dark song about a man whimsically ditching a woman, probably due to a fear of commitment

You Can’t Do That

This is one of those songs where you just have to ignore the lyrics, because they’re icky, paranoiac, and somewhat misogynistic.  This song you listen to for the music, bluesy with some great changes between the choruses and verses, call & response vocals, and a jangly guitar.

I’ve Just Seen a Face

For all their innovation and influence on pop music in the sixties, I don’t think anyone ever credited the Beatles with inventing folk rock.  And yet listening to this stripped down, cheerful love song with a bluegrassy feel, I think the Beatles out-folk a lot of the folkies.

I’m Down

This is a great rock & roll rave up, but I think it benefits from a live performance such as the one at the dearly departed Shea Stadium where their joy and energy shine  through, and John famously plays the organ with his elbows.

The Word

This another innovative song in which the idea of love is presented in abstract, universal terms as opposed to the boy-girl romance themes that dominate pop music.  Here is guru John again preaching about love.  The theme is revisited in the more well-known song “All You Need is Love,” but I think the “The Word” is musically better with it’s funky beat, and lyrically it avoids the cliches of the later song.

I’m Looking Through You

More great folk music, in a sadder and somewhat slower track than “I’ve Just Seen A Face.”  Then it all changes with the bouncy rave-up on the chorus.  Groovy, man.

I’m Only Sleeping

I love naps, so this is practically my theme song.  Listening to the music, you’d be right in guessing that psychedelic drugs had some influence, yet lyrically this song is about the feelings any of us (even the clean and sober) have as we’re dozing off. It turns out that Lennon enjoyed spending time in bed reading, writing, and thinking.  And he wrote a song about it.  That’s so cool.

And Your Bird Can Sing

Although the Beatles totally rocked-out on their cover of the thoroughly materialistic “Money (That’s What I Want)”, their own song writing often touched on anti-consumerist themes.  “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Baby You’re a Rich Man,” and this song are examples, with “And You’re Bird Can Sing” being a great rocker with tight harmonies and clever lyrics.

Don’t Pass Me By

The first song penned by Ringo Starr to make it on a record is this fun little ditty with a bluesy tune and country piano and fiddle flourishes.  Ringo worked long and hard to get a song out, and his effort pays off.

Long, Long, Long

This is a slow, sad, spiritual song with some contrasting speed-ups.  It’s both eerie enough to be disturbing and beautiful enough to make me weep.

The Inner Light

George Harrison recorded three songs with the Beatles influenced musically and thematically by Indian music and Eastern spirituality: “Love You To,” “Within You, Without You,” and the most successful “The Inner Light.”  In just two-and-a-half minutes, Harrison invents World Music and deftly summarizes Taoist philosophy.  Not bad for a pop song.

Two of Us

An introspective song about love and friendship, and something of a road song too.  I particularly like the line “Two of us sending postcards” since this is a favorite pastime I share with my wife.  I had the DJ play this song at our wedding reception.

You Know My Name (Look up the Number)

If you watch the Beatles’ movies, television appearances, and interviews you know that they were a hillarious group of young men.  Yet their humor rarely makes it into their music.  That’s what makes this song so special as the Beatles sing the same line over and over again in a variety of styles (the Anthology version includes a ska break!).  The lounge singer portion makes me bust a gut every time.