Graphics by Natalie Mak
As 2019 comes to a close, we here at 88.9 are taking a look back at some of our favorite tunes of this year. Every Monday in the month of December, some of your WERS faves are going to be counting down the songs they had on repeat. This first week, we're hearing from beloved afternoon host Phil Jones! You can hear him on-air weekdays starting at 2 p.m. Here's what he had to say about his top ten MVPs of the year:
By Phil Jones
I get to hear a lot of incredible music when I’m on-air. I also treasure the songs I get to hear when I’m at home: The ones I keep for myself. These are some of my favorites of the year, along with key lyrics:
1. "Pasta" by Angie McMahon
How am I simultaneously on top of someone’s pedestal, and also underneath someone else’s shoe?
Her very first song! What a crunchy debut, ideal for getting yourself out of a creative slump. Angie McMahon is my favorite new artist this year; the songs are arranged simply, but the writing is impossibly strong. I’ve listened to her album back to front more than any other record in 2019.
2. "13th Century Metal" by Brittany Howard
I promise to love my enemy and never become that which is not God.
The Alabama Shakes frontwoman takes classical music and flips it upside down while reading her manifesto of unmitigated kindness. Wow. This is the single song on the list that I’ve shown the most to people. I sit them down and say, “You’ve GOT to hear this.” It’s basically a monologue over some absolutely gnarly percussion.
3. "Summer Girl" by HAIM
Walk beside me, not behind me.
Remember, summer is a state of mind! Haim feels perfect for New England summers. I know that they’re from L.A., but this song has just a little bit of breeze that feels very Boston. This tune is my favorite to sing on the list. I am very lucky to work in a soundproof booth.
4. "New England Tune" by Low Ceilings
You’ve got a Massachusetts body.
I have NO idea what is meant by the lyric above. I’ve asked. I actually used to play in this group a few years ago. They’re Connecticut based now, so I can objectively say that the new music from them is ferociously good. Every place should have a song this beautiful written about it.
5. "Salt and Pepper" by Tory Silver
Take a look at what you made! It looks good….it looks great!
Tory–a local superstar–perfectly conveys the strange tenderness of a trip to the grocery store. Tory is one of the city’s most exciting guitarists; in performance, she can hold a room with just her electric in a way precious few people can. Topping the musicianship is her lyricism. Listening to her music reminds me that there’s meaning to be found in everything, especially a pepper shaker.
6. "I Need a Teacher" by Hiss Golden Messenger
Beauty in the broken American moment
Listen to this one LOUD. It’s political, it’s spiritual, it’s so human. I was taken by this wonderful protest song because the lyrics could be sung in any decade and sound potent. The song is backed up by M.C. Taylor’s devoted advocacy for public school teachers as a wave of strikes continues around the country. Like many great songs, "Teacher" reminds us what’s most important in just a few words.
7. "Superbike" by Jay Som
I’m not that kind of fool who needs to read a room.
Perfect song for a night drive, when you suddenly realize it’s time to leave the party. Jay Som’s newest record isn’t easy listening: The arrangements are complicated, the lyrics opaque. It’s worth going back to over and over again–a portrait of an artist opening up musically, but growing skeptical philosophically emerges. This song is the moment of joyful escape! Zoom!
8. "Shaking As It Turns" by Lula Wiles
Don’t talk about love if your love don’t burn
Love of country and love of self intersect in strange ways. Another local band with a good ear for history, this song takes an uncompromising lean into all of America’s tragic contradictions. The words are bleak, but there’s a powerful frustration the band seizes with glee.
9. "Everyday Life" by Coldplay
At first light, throw my arms open wide.
My favorite band, though I’ve had moments of deep queasiness with them over the last few years, I’ll admit. But, like a beleaguered sports team, I know there’s fight left if they could just get it together and stop being so darn happy all the time. There’s still parts of the new record that turn the stomach with carefree cheese. But there are others, like the title track, that are simply brilliant.
10. "Ghosteen Speaks" by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Look for me, look for me.
I won’t tell Nick Cave’s story here. Instead, I recommend reading his "Red Hand Files" for a discussion of the events that informed this music. I went to hear him speak about a year ago, and he worried that he was in no state to write lyrics, even though his bandmates we’re writing truly "bonkers" music. He clearly figured it out.
Tune into YIR next Monday, 12/9, when the hosts of Standing Room Only–88.9's exclusively show-tunes program–count down their top ten songs of the year, from Broadway and beyond.