My Favorite Songs Lists are always works in progess. Each January I start a new list in iTunes called XX Favs, where XX = that year. As I listen to music over the next 11 months or so, I toss my favorites into it. A few times during the year I’ll scan the list, delete songs that no longer delight and put some thought into how they would line up if the year ended that day. So when October rolls around, and I begin considering the final order, I’ve already got nine solid months of thoughts about it.

Each year I evaluate songs a little differently. This year, after a period in November where I considered using the Top 10 + 10 unordered Honorable Mentions, I’m sticking with a true Top 20.

There was a complication. Long-time readers know I have the rule of only one song per artist. Well, this year I had the hardest damn time with one band in particular. It just happens to be my favorite current band, who put out my favorite album of the year. I struggled mightily to choose between two songs for what turns out to be my favorite song of the year. For a couple weeks I even considered having co-#1’s. But after many extra listens and some more thought, I finally picked one.

I’ll kick off the list with songs 11-20 today. Next week, I’ll share a song each day until we get to #1. Links will take you to Soundcloud or YouTube versions so you can sample on your own. I hope you find something new to enjoy here.

20 – “Colorful Kids” – Ha Ha Tonka
19 – “In The Morning” – Jon Hardy & The Public
We kick it off with two Missouri bands, one from West Plains, in south-central Missouri, the other from St. Louis.
Ha Ha Tonka sounds like an Ozarks Vampire Weekend. Jon Hardy is crowdsourcing funds to get his next album recorded, mixed, and pressed. Based on the songs I’ve heard, he’s worth the investment.

18 – “Perennials” – Widowspeak
I’m not ready to go all-in with the bearded, flanneled, neo-hippy, modern folk movement. But this is a beautiful song.

17 – “Honey & I” – Haim
One of the big, manufactured music controversies of the year that didn’t involve Kanye or Miley was whether Haim is “indie” or not. It doesn’t matter. Their music, which is more Sunny SoCal pop mixed with early 90s R&B, is damn good regardless of the label slapped upon it by others.

16 – “Confidence” – The Dodos
They remind me a lot of the Helio Sequence, a band that cracked my top 20 a year ago. I love the progression of this song, from gentle ballad to thumping scorcher.

15 – “Master Of My Craft” – Parquet Courts
They’re originally from Texas, but in their time in New York they’ve managed to soak up, and repurpose, all the best elements of classic NYC punk. You can hear the smart, arty rock of Talking Heads, the sneering snobbery of early Beastie Boys, and the pure silliness of the Ramones. And this has one of my absolute favorite lyrics of the year, “Socrates died in the fucking gutter!”

14 – “This Ladder Is Ours” – The Joy Formidable
Another fantastic song by my sister and brothers from Wales.

13 – “Weight” – Mikal Cronin
Take classic power pop, crank it up to 11, and you get Mikal Cronin.

12 – “Sea Of Love” – The National
They’ve reached Modern Masters status, and a new album pretty much guarantees they’ll make my year end favorites list. This isn’t quite as good as “Mistaken For Strangers” or “England,” but it’s still pretty great. Bonus points for a positively oddball video.

11 – “History Eraser” – Courtney Barnett
There are two young, mellow, incredibly talented, female artists from the southern hemisphere in my Top 20. Ms. Barnett has a very different artistic and visual aesthetic than Lorde, but she’s no less great. Her style is deceptive. Behind the pot haze and rambling vocals are some amazing lyrics. It just takes a few listens to realize it.