1. Jenny Lewis – “Head Underwater”
One of the best tracks off of one of the year’s best albums, “Head Underwater” is a
doozy of a pop song. Lewis sings conspicuously dismal lyrics (“My own mortality, I
contemplated”) over a bubbly, dynamic beat (that she also produced herself), creating
interesting tension within a sublime melody. Who doesn’t love a song you can have a
good cry to while also dancing?
2. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
It’s tricky to deal with a subject like catcalling, especially through pop music, but Sylvan
Esso pull it off gorgeously. Amelia Meath’s vocals are luxe and silky as she sings
“Sooner or later the dudes at bodegas will hold their lips and own their shit” over Nick
Sanborn’s bass-heavy, booming beat. A very welcomed “hey mami” that I’ll gladly listen
to as I walk down the street.
3. Jessie Ware – “Keep On Lying”
Jessie Ware’s impressive sophomore album contained quite a few pop gems, but “Keep
On Lying” is a standout. The weirdly magnetic song features a dramatic and opulent
choir of voices paired with a rinky-dink keyboard sound that, together, conjure
minimalistic pop magic.
4. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me”
Another powerfully catchy and sunny song that boasts quite a forlorn narrative. The
lyrics of this romantic plea are unassumingly genius in the way they roll off singer Molly
Rankin’s listless tongue (“You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony”),
but they also hit a nerve that feels incredibly generationally relevant (“You’ve student
loans to pay and will not risk the alimony”). The push and pull between hopeless
romantic and practical realist has never sounded so blissful.
5. Chumped – “Hot 97 Summer Jam”
Chumped ooze nostalgia for ‘90s and early ‘00s punk pop without ever losing their
originality. “Hot 97 Summer Jam” is a fun and quick listen with endearing “ooh”s over
6. St. Vincent – “Psychopath”
Amongst a roster of outstanding and complex tracks, “Psychopath” is notable for its
slightly more pared down sound. It hooks you instantly, with its quick repetition evoking
an OCD tick that you can’t quite shake, but the spaced-out chorus balances that quality
7. TOPS – “Change of Heart”
TOPS’ music sounds like pure summer. “Change of Heart” dazzles with ‘80s influences,
but it’s also got a slight shoegaze-y sheen to it that allows the infectious ditty to stand
apart from the sea of dreamy indie-pop out there.
8. Sabina – “I won’t Let You Break Me”
Brazilian Girls’ chanteuse Sabina debuted her solo efforts this year to little fanfare, but
Toujours was a solid record with the catchy “Won’t Let You Break Me” tucked in near its
end. Pulling from French Yé-Yé and rock a la Velvet Underground, this song is proudly
alluring pop rock with worldly charm.
9. Banks – “Beggin’ For Thread”
Banks’ industrial R&B leans most heavily towards pop with “Beggin for Thread.” It’s
confidently aggressive and also playful in both its lyrics (“So I got itches that scratch /
And sometimes I don’t got a filter”) and its sound, making it a perfect dance number.
10. Mr. Twin Sister – “Out of the Dark”
After a little musical reincarnation, the new Mr. Twin Sister gifted us this funky electro-
pop banger that begs to be played on a dark, sweaty dance floor. Andrea Estelle adopts
a monotone, robotic voice but, thankfully, nothing can shake her seductive qualities.