Using the common nomenclature of my little corner of the digital world, consider what follows This Year’s Models. Tradition holds that I commemorate the first day of the new year with a look back at the songs from the previous stretch of three hundred and sixty-odd days. These aren’t necessarily my picks for the best tracks of the year. For one thing, I steered away from artists represented by the ten albums celebrated yesterday. At different points, though, these songs helped sustain me, offering the reminder that there will always be good among the bad.
The Chicks, “Gaslighter”
Fourteen years passed between albums for the trio comprised of Natalie Maines, Emily Strayer, and Martie Maguire, enough time to make them reconsider the word “Dixie” in their name. They reemerged with fury and purpose, beginning with a single — the album’s title cut — that properly pummeled every cheating cad who ever dared to do something that could make a woman seethe “‘Cause, boy, you know exactly what you did on my boat.”
Mourn, “This Feeling is Disgusting”
This fabulous rock clatter from the Barcelona-based trio Mourn sums up the queasiness of young adulthood’s uncertainty in the clearest manner possible.
Christian Lee Hutson, “Get the Old Band Back Together”
Christian Lee Hutson goes deeper into adulthood, ruminating on dreams of rock stardom deferred. Producer Phoebe Bridgers accentuates the musical understatement of Hutson’s folk-tinged indie rock, allowing the wry, clever humor to take the forefront: “You idiots in your leather jackets and glasses/ You know I can still kick all your asses/ Harry, I had a thought, if I dust the old axe off/ Maybe we could give this thing a real shot.”
If Carly Rae Jepsen retreated to a remote cabin for a year and listened to Len’s “Steal My Sunshine” on a loop the whole time, she might return with this glistening gem of a pop number. Kitten’s single is like a bright California day swirling into an irresistibly catchy tune.
Billy Bragg, “Can’t Be There Today”
With somber delicacy, the Bard of Barking provides a quiet, measured anthem about the required sacrifices of familial and interpersonal connection in this time of COVID. This whole messy year is summed up nicely by one fan’s tweeted reaction to this track: “I mean, I know it’s serious, but I didn’t realise it’s Billy Bragg writing a song serious.”