Yesterday, we shared the 40 best Australian tracks of 2020, and now as the AU team heads out on a Summer Break, it’s time to count down the best 40 tracks from the rest of the world that made their mark.
As we touched on in that article, it’s been an incredible year of music in spite of – and at times because of – the madness that has been this year. Where some artists may have otherwise been on the road, they have been creating new music (the true benefit of which we’ll experience in 2021, as artists once again look ahead to playing live).
Taylor Swift released not one but two albums – one track of which, “Carousel” finds its way onto this list. Artists like Fiona Apple and Run The Jewels found themselves the talk of the town as they dropped anticipated new releases, enjoying millions of streams of their new material.
And there were a surprising amount of artists who brought us their first new material in years: Doves dropping their first album in more than a decade, Caribou‘s first new album in six years, and French artist Woodkid brought us his first new full length in seven. Its first single, “Goliath”, comes in the top ten of this countdown.
Our list starts in Ireland, with a rising star from that music scene, ROE, who this year released a stunning EP in Things We Don’t Talk About. A single off that album, “Room to Breathe” has been on repeat for a lot of the year – and has fast become her most popular track on Spotify. Elsewhere in the first ten tracks we capture new releases from Portland’s Typhoon, New Found Glory, Fleet Foxes and Phoebe Bridgers, and what may have been the most talked about song of the year. Yes, it’s that Wet Ass Pussy.
40. ROE – Room to Breathe
39. Icarus ft. Nathan Ball – Meet Me There
38. Typhoon – Welcome To The Endgame
37. Phoebe Bridgers – Kyoto
36. T.I. ft. Lil’ Baby – Pardon
35. New Found Glory – Stay Awhile
34. Cardi B ft. Megan Thee Stallion – WAP
33. HAIM – Don’t Wanna
32. Thundercat – Black Qualls
31. Fleet Foxes – Can I Believe You
In the next ten, we kick things off with the long awaited return of Zero 7, whose EP Shadows featured four new tracks from Lou Stone, including this beautiful track “Take My Hand”. It’s followed up with one of the year’s most unexpected, yet welcome collaborations – with Orville Peck and Shania Twain in “Legends Never Die”. The list continues with the late Mac Miller, the great Fiona Apple, New Zealand’s The Beths, and Doves, the British group who released their first album in more than a decade, The Universal Want.
We also had the surprise EP from Switzerland avant-garde metal outfit Zeal & Ardor, with the stunning “Vigil” – a track off an EP that came in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, Wake of a Nation. This group of ten tracks finishes off with a stellar addition from Busta Rhymes, featuring Kendrick Lamar, and the aforementioned track from Taylor Swift, in what was only her first album of the year.
30. Zero 7 ft. Lou Stone – Take My Hand
29. Orville Peck & Shania Twain – Legends Never Die
28. Mac Miller – Good News
27. Fiona Apple – I Want You To Love Me
26. The Beths – Dying To Believe
25. Still Woozy – Window
24. Zeal & Ardor – Vigil
23. Doves – Carousel
22. Busta Rhymes (feat Kendrick Lamar) – Look Over Your Shoulder
21. Taylor Swift – cardigan
We continue our countdown with a voice who is no stranger to our countdowns – Yannis from Foals, who brought stunning life to “Hypercolour”, a track from electronic duo CamelPhat. Sarah from Phantogram also brought a similar level of class to a new track from ONR, “Must Stop”. Run The Jewels go on to wrap up this section of the countdown, that also includes a track you know, but you don’t know, you know by Iceland’s Daði Freyr. Also appearing are The Lemon Twigs, Sam Walwyn and Birdmask – another project from Manuel Gagneux, who appeared earlier on this list in Zeal & Ardor.
20. CamelPhat ft. Yannis from Foals – Hypercolour
19. Logan Ledger – Starlight
18. Sam Walwyn – Clutter
17. Caribou – Never Come Back
16. Sondre Lerche – You Are Not Who I Thought I Was
15. ONR ft. Sarah Barthel of Phantogram – Must Stop
14. The Lemon Twigs – The One
13. Daði Freyr – Think About Things
12. Birdmask – Set Me On Fire
11. Run The Jewels ft. Greg Nice & DJ Premier – ooh la la
And finally we take you to our top ten, which kicks off with the return of Glass Animals, and a stellar new track from LPX of MS MR, in “New Mood”. And before we take you to the top song, “War”, the breathtaking opening track from IDLES‘ brilliant Ultra Mono, comes in at number two. Woodkid, The Weeknd (with the song that broke Tiktok), Laura Marling, Disclosure, Jack Garratt‘s first new music in four years and Sports Team also make appearances in the top ten.
10. Glass Animals – Tangerine
9. LPX – New Mood
8. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
7. Woodkid – Goliath
6. Disclosure ft. slowthai – My High
5. Sports Team – Stations of the Cross
4. Laura Marling – For You
3. Jack Garratt – Better
2. IDLES – War
In what was a very close race, we ended up with a track from British band Everything Everything in our top spot – “Violent Sun”, which reviewer Dylan Marshall had this to say about when he reviewed the album back in September: “(It’s) a track about trying your best to hold onto the past, the straightforward nature of the track is complemented by the chaos of its accompanying video, featuring the band playing on their damaged instruments following an unfortunate fire whilst they were kept in storage between tours.”
Funnily enough, it seemed the band were getting one of those instruments ready for this shoot when our own Larry Heath sat down to interview them earlier this year.
1. Everything Everything – Violent Sun
And with that our list comes to an end! Listen to all the 40 tracks in our Spotify playlist:
Contributors to this list include Ben Somerford, Bruce Baker, Chris Singh, Dylan Marshall, Josh Champion, Larry Heath, Lyn Harder, Simon Clark and Tait McGregor.