PuR’s Top 50 Songs of 2019 !

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The mission of Picking Up Rocks has always been the same, to shine a light on the best pop music regardless of label affiliation or level of fame or social media presence or perceived coolness…because who cares. A great song is a great song. And whenever we stumble upon a great song ( and there were a lot in 2019) we want to share it with you no matter if it was born in a garage, someone’s bedroom, a state of the art studio or a freakin’ treehouse !

Did that sound angry ? I swear it’s unintentional, guess I’m just weary of seeing the same songs mentioned on every year end list. Look, I genuinely like Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Billie Eilish. But know who released songs as good as theirs this year ? Kingsbury, Whitelands and The Hails. It’s okay if you haven’t heard all of them because that’s why we’re here, to both celebrate them and maybe introduce you if you haven’t.

I have listened to thousands upon thousands of songs this year because I am a crazy person who is always looking for a song to alter and upend the daily grind. Culling the master list down to the 50 best has been both nightmarish ( because there were lots of goods) and revelatory ( had forgotten just how good certain songs were) but we did it ! And so here they are, PuR’s TOP 50 SONGS OF 2019 ! 50 awesomely wonderful tracks by some equally wonderful artists all neatly arranged for you to listen on Soundcloud or Spotify ( links below). It’s my sincerest hope that you’ll discover something or someone within in who rocks your life and makes you swoon or at least say fuck yeah repeatedly.

THANKS TO ALL THE ARTISTS FOR THESE AWESOME SONGS, YOU ARE THE SUN.

Ready ? Okay then, here we go :

Soundcloud:

Spotify:

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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A black squirrel scurried across my path in Central Park today in the cold rain and while I’m not going to attach any deeper meaning to it ( apart from the fact I rarely see them there), I wanted to acknowledge that it was cool just to run into him or her being all unusual and shiz. Jeezus I’m rambling already. Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST ! I haven’t done this for a couple of weeks because there’s some bigger piles of words on the horizon that are taking my attention, one being the Top 50 SONGS OF THE YEAR as well as a lengthy, maniacal article on some ’80s popsters who are going to remain nameless for a minute. Anyway, that’s all coming in the next week or so and hope you dig it all ! On the off chance you actually miss my hyperbolic scribbling, please head over to covermesongs.com to read my weekly contributions to the world’s best cover songs blog Cover Me ! It’s not my blog as there is some serious quality control employed and awesomely awesome writing by a whole lotta amazing contributors but I am honored to be a small cog. Please go check it out ! Believe me when I tell you the cover version world is an endlessly fascinating, bottomless well of discovery.

Okay, so here are some of the finest pop songs and instrumental interludes (for emo moments) we’ve heard over recent days. Hopefully they will warm your heart and inspire you to kick ass in your daily endeavors. You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify.

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

 

Opeongo “Port Boys”

“Port Boys” sounds as if it has randomly landed on earth inside a glittery spaceship full of runny mascara from some far off universe where it is currently 1972. It’s a glam ballad that could sit comfortably next to David Bowie’s “Lady Stardust” or, coincidentally enough, a ballad by the guy that very song was actually written about, Marc Bolan. The sound ghosts don’t stop there as there are touches of Nick Cave and Placebo lurking in it’s DNA as well. Yes, that’s a lot of stuff to absorb but want to encourage the wonderful context it should be considered in. Theatrical, mournful and gloriously peculiar.

 

Weekly New Wonders Playlist

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This latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST featuring our favorite new songs from recent days is kind of small. 2019 has been a crazy good music year, with inevitably more to come so we can just put this down the universe taking a breather. And hey, this is in no way a reflection on the beauty and finery of the songs included this week. In fact we are going to take the half full approach because it so happens there was a brilliantly wonderful album released this week to fatten up your listening schedule.

Michael Kiwanuka’s third album titled Kiwanuka was released this week and it is too, too beautiful. As in every song. Now while The Guardian review of the album this week described it as “one of the greatest albums of the decade”, I’m not going to go there just yet. That’s because I’m currently in throes of complete irrational infatuation with this thing. And so I think it would be best to wait until the emotional smoke clears before I’m saying crazy, over the top shiz about how I want to spend the rest of my life with it or start comparing it to my favorite album of all time, Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”BUT it is without question one of the absolute best things I’ve heard this year, managing somehow to be both tear inducing and life affirming.

It sounds like the past distilled through the lens of the future. It’s ROCK AND SOUL united. Like The Isley Brothers in 1971 disassembling and transforming “Fire And Rain” and “Ohio” into profound, powerful soul. Like the haunting psychedelia of Minnie Riperton on “Les Fleurs”. Like Gil Scott-Heron preaching about how hard it is to be alive while embedded in the sweetest melody. Like the mournful majesty of Friends of Distinction’s “Going In Circles”. “Kiwanuka” just glows with all of this and more. It feels both eerie and like the sun warming your face. It’s instantly memorable and endlessly tuneful.

I know I sound like a nerd saying all that in such a flowery over the top way but I just want to drive home that this thing is really kind of beautiful. Check both that and the wonderful new stuff out below !

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen to the Playlist AND Michael Kiwanuka on Spotify:

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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Sometimes a song will be so good, so perfect, that I will actually get misty. It doesn’t happen that often but whenever it does, it feels like being gifted with some brilliant, mystical prize. I’ll always remember hearing Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” for the very first time in my teenage bedroom & dissolving into floods of tears because…I don’t know. It wasn’t just the words, it was the sound of it. I mean, it was everything. It forcefully hit every nerve in ways I’ll probably never understand. I definitely didn’t then. All I knew is that I wanted to play it over & over & over again. Anyway the night sky is crying in NYC as I write this, plus it’s a little chilly which means conditions are ideal for putting on the headphones & cranking up the best new music from recent days. It’s all right here for you. WELCOME TO THE LATEST WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST ! You can listen on Soundcloud or Spotify below.

Soundcloud:

Spotify:

 

Kingsbury “Breaking Apart”

Caroline Kingsbury makes pop records so good they’ll get you misty. “In My Brain”, her first single release of 2019, was a beauteous, fist pumping pop anthem of the highest order. That was followed by “U Take It Back” , a glorious bit of neon tinged heartbreak that you could still dance to. Her latest “Breaking Apart” is anchored by a fat foggy drumbeat, shiny synth and may be even more perfect than the 2 aforementioned perfect tracks. It has the same emotional, widescreen feeling as Cyndi Lauper’s superb synth pop cover of “What’s Going On”, as well as some New Order-esque flourishes and soul crushing Robert Smith style lyrical heartache. It’s for driving away in tears but still feeling strong as fuck. All 3 tracks appear on Kingsbury’s new EP, also titled “Breaking Apart” and yes, it is very special.

School of X “Destiny”

Don’t be fooled by the delicacy on display in “Destiny”, for underneath the fluttery acoustic guitar, wandering flute and Rasmus Littauer’s (aka School of X) Jonsi-esque falsetto, exists a sentiment of genuine bitterness and frustration. It’s just delivered in the sweetest way imaginable and is ineffably pretty…and who doesn’t love a little iron fist in a velvet glove in their pop songs ?

New Pagans “Charlie has the face of a saint”

There was a time I felt like I could hear Wheatus’s 2000 megahit “Teenage Dirtbag” in literally every song with a freakin’ guitar in it. It was bizarre. It felt like every remotely rock-ish track loudly rang with the “Dirtbag” vibe, both it’s fat riff and supremely bratty chorus. But as time has gone by, that song has been replaced and my ears now regularly hallucinate that every song is in fact Nada Surf’s 1996, (also) megahit “Popular”. And “Charlie Has the Face of a Saint”, the new single from Belfast band New Pagans did initially bring it to mind with it’s gorgeous little hook and the cynical storyline…but overall, it’s true sound foremothers are kick ass, grinding alt greats Veruca Salt and hearing that anthemic 90’s thing done this well in 2019 is an absolute treat.

Weekly New Wonders Playlist !

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Rock and Roll has officially been kicking around since the mid ’50s. Since then many albums have been released. As a result of all this, not a week goes by these days, where someone does not call attention to a specific album anniversary. 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, 50 freakin’ years. I’m not 100% sure what is being signified by showcasing these anniversaries other than we are all getting older. Whenever I see an article celebrating an album’s original release, I think one of two things :

1- Shit, it’s been that long, seems like yesterday. Also, I’m old.

2-That album is not very good ( I’m phrasing that more politely than what my actual thought usually is).

The potentially mind-blowing album anniversary factoids haven’t happened yet, you know, like when The Beatles “Sgt.Pepper” turns 100, or Taylor Swift’s “Lover” turns 50. That stuff seems genuinely insane.

Anyway, last week saw the 37th anniversary of Daryl Hall and John Oates wondrous 1982 album “H20”, a record full of the awesomest 80s NYC soul pop this side of heaven. 37 is not a genuine demarcation point in anniversary world of course but in Hall and Oates world, this record was a significant event. And so any excuse to celebrate it’s beautiful, sweaty, poptastic life is valid.

There are going to be some new long form, faintly demented pieces appearing on the blog over next 2 weeks. One of them involves Hall and Oates and it will be both loving and critical, full of joy and Oates. I can’t wait to share it with the 1 or 2 of you that care ( seriously) !

Welcome to the latest WEEKLY NEW WONDERS PLAYLIST, featuring some beautiful pop music from recent days. You can listen on Spotify or Soundcloud below. And let’s make a pact to meet back here in 2056 to celebrate how awesome these songs still sound then okay ?

Listen on Soundcloud:

Listen on Spotify:

Tawiah “Recreate”

Tawiah has been around a bit. She’s toured the world with Mark Ronson as his featured vocalist, guested on tracks by Blood Orange and Cinematic Orchestra (amongst others) and dating back to 2007, has released 3 EP’s under her own name. Her official debut album “Starts Again” is being released this month, finally, via First Word Records. But frankly that title is too modest a reference for what this LP actually is, namely  Tawiah STARTS FOR REAL .“Recreate” is a cool beauty, craftily mixing neo-soul, and vintage Young Disciples while nodding respectfully in the direction of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” and Massive Attack’s “Safe From Harm”…which is to say it’s touched by a lot of brilliant things and is as fine a piece of soul as you’re gonna hear this year.