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Stuck in My Head: BIA – WHOLE LOTTA MONEY

BIA FOR CERTAIN

I didn’t expect this track to stay with me for so long, but since it’s been over a week since I’ve been humming lyrics about putting on my jewelry simply to visit the bodega, I decided it’s time to write about BIA’s “WHOLE LOTTA MONEY.”

The two-note sub bass line takes care of the hard-hitting, minimalist melody while BIA calmly flexes on all of us. My favorite parts include the 808 cowbell and the way BIA’s voice seems to fade into true nonchalance as she ends each refrain with “Bitch I’m getting money, give a fuck about a hater.” Words to live by.

Stuck in My Head: Necrophagist – Diminished to B

Necrophagist - Epitaph album art

I’ve yet to find another tech death band I enjoy as much as Necrophagist, which makes it all the more disheartening that they haven’t released a new album since 2004 and likely never will. (I was thrilled for a moment when I saw the website Metal Sucks report that an unearthed third Necrophagist album was coming out later this year, until I saw the date of the article – April 1st – and the title of the supposed final track of this album – “Endurance of the Gullible Masses.”)

Both of Necrophagist’s albums are masterpieces from start to finish, but lately it’s been “Diminished to B” that’s been stuck on a loop in my head – specifically the first thirty seconds or so. I love the halftime switch up that happens not even ten seconds into the song. I don’t think there’s any way one can ease themselves into extreme metal music like this, so this track is as good a place as any to dive right in if you’re curious. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be growling “SURROUNDED BY DARKNESS AND…. COOOOOLD” along with these crazy Germans in no time.

My Top Songs of 2020 (According to Spotify)

Justin Bieber wearing a pink hoodie

As I was deciding on my favorite songs of the year, the thought occurred to me, “Who would know my favorite songs better than Spotify?” So, after pulling up the “Your Top Songs 2020” playlist generated for me by Spotify according to, I think, simply the number of times I played each song, I have extracted my “official” top 10 songs of 2020. This means that I am only counting songs released in 2020. (If you take a look at the playlist, you’ll notice that many of my most played songs came out in previous years.) One more rule: only one song allowed per artist.

11. Billie Eilish – No Time To Die

Top 40 pop music can do a lot worse than Billie Eilish. I think she has a fantastic voice. The breakdown at the end of “Bad Guy” is really, really cool. But I haven’t listened to her much outside of that. This song was clearly an exception. There’s a perfect amount of the 007 twang to cap off an incredible vocal performance.

10. Bleed From Within – Night Crossing

A pattern that’s going to emerge quickly as we go through this list is that I’ve gotten deeply into metal music. Bleed From Within is a good entry point into the genre for fans of hard rock. I guess what I mean by that is the vocals are discernible and it’s melodic. “Night Crossing” has great riffs and strong energy throughout.

9. Rina Sawayama – XS

I am not the first person to observe this, but Rina Sawayama’s “XS” reminds me of the turn-of-the-millenium pop as seen in Britney Spears or the Backstreet Boys. The production really makes the track… pop… more than anything.

8. Suicide Silence – Love Me to Death

For me, it’s the scream. That “love me to DEEEAAAATTTTHHH!!!!” is so impressive. I think these vocals are as jawdropping as Billie Eilish’s, but I suppose you could say for a different reason.

7. Tokyo Incidents – 選ばれざる国民

Guys, you have no idea how happy I was to see Tokyo Incidents reunite out of nowhere. I’m sure they thought they would come back just in time to ride the clout of a likely Olympics performance, but COVID had other plans. The keyboard stabs in this song in-between the clapping beat are the energetic oddball fusion rock that we needed in 2020.

6. Machine Girl – Fully in It

Absolutely one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite albums of the year. Relentless from start to finish. And that finish! It just builds and builds and builds and then fizzes out gracefully. I love it.

5. Bring Me the Horizon – Dear Diary,

This is only number 5? I guess this is what happens when I let the algorithms do the thinking for me. If it were up to me, “Dear Diary” would be my number 1 favorite song of the year. It came out so late in the year; that must be why it is only number 5 on this list. It’s Bring Me the Horizon sounding as heavy as ever, but with punk energy and strangely relatable lyrics about a man going insane because he’s quarantining from a virus (in this case a zombie virus). The bass riff at the breakdown is incredible, and when the full band kicks in… bro.

4. Protest the Hero – The Canary

I had mixed feelings about Protest the Hero’s latest album, Palimpsest, released this year. The vocals have always been either the best or worst parts of any Protest the Hero song. When Rody Walker finds the right mix of scream and non-cringe lyrics, he’s incredible. “The Canary” was definitely a standout track on the album. That being said, I did kind of hate it when I first heard it. Even now, I think the vocals try to do too much… too many words and melodies crammed into not enough space. But there is no denying that the opening guitar riff is addictive.

3. Satyr – Picayune

The standout track from my favorite album of the year. And it’s a debut album, no less. I adore the mix of melodic and harsh vocals over nonstop djent rhythms. So heavy and melodically addictive.

2. Caligula’s Horse – Slow Violence

A heavy chugger. Great riffs throughout with vocal melodies that reach euphoric heights. Like Bleed From Within, I think Caligula’s Horse is a perfect entryway for fans of rock to get a taste of heavier music.

1. Justin Bieber – Yummy

Okay, this one caught me off guard. But Spotify has spoken. J Bieb’s lyrically barren single “Yummy” is apparently my most played track released in 2020. Maybe it’s the filtery, chill chords and hype trap beat or Justin’s soothing vocals, but this track definitely do got that yummy yum. I make no apologies. I never skip this song when it comes up on shuffle. Shallow as it may be, the production is fire and the melody is just plain fun to sing along to.


Here is the full playlist. As you’ll see, my most listened to songs of the year were not necessarily represented well by the above list.

My Top 15 Favorite Tracks of 2016

Both members of the band Justice looking away from the camera

All things considered, 2016 was a pretty great year in my career as a casual music listener. The year saw me deepening my tastes in avenues such as metal, jazz, and bonafide Japanese music (as opposed to music that simply plasters Japanese imagery all over its album art). I partially credit that to my move to Japan, though as always, most of the new music I discovered this year was within the borders of cyberspace.

This list has a single rule—only one track per artist. (Otherwise there’d be more Babymetal on here than I’m proud to admit.) Okay, let’s get started!

15. Crystal Castles – Char

This track’s disorienting synths and ethereal vocals resulted in the standout moment of Crystal Castle’s otherwise disappointing new album, Amnesty (I). Let’s hope that the inevitable Amnesty (II) contains more haunting bangers like this.

14. Underscores – Null

Underscores’ genre-bending Air Freshener was one of the most exciting EPs I heard this year. The music fluidly hops between wildly divergent jazz and electronic styles without any of the jarring discordance you might expect.

13. WONK – savior

This Tokyo-based “experimental soul band” manages to combine jazz and electronic sounds in a manner not unlike Underscores, but with the added bonus of vocals that fit perfectly into the band’s warm keyboards and virtuosic drumming.

12. Babymetal – Karate

Once you move past the gimmick of “little girls playing in a heavy metal band,” Babymetal provides some bafflingly enjoyable pop metal. (Wikipedia tells me to call this “kawaii metal,” but I refuse to propagate that term.) Don’t be one of the many who dismiss this band based on its premise alone—Metal Resistance ended up being one of my most replayed albums this year.

11. NVDES – My Mind Is (feat. Oliver Tree)

The infectious bassline that propels this track from start to finish is more than enough to forgive the track’s relentless noisiness. Throw this on at your next college party.

10. Vantage – Breaking Away

Yes, vaporwave was still a “thing” in 2016, but the best tracks to come from the genre sounded increasingly less like “slowed down elevator music played from a malfunctioning tape deck” and more like “French house for weeaboos.” Hey, I don’t mind. Vantage’s ナイトライフ [Night Life] EP was evidence that there are plenty of great samples left to be mined from the sounds of 1980s Japanese “city pop.” “Breaking Away” in particular is a high-energy jam propelled along by emotional strings and a relentless disco bassline.

9. Kero Kero Bonito- Graduation

Silly, bilingual lyrics and tongue-in-cheek (but tight) production has been a staple of Kero Kero Bonito’s music from the beginning, but they really hit their stride with this year’s Bonito Generation.

8. 水曜日のカンパネラ [Wednesday Campanella] – アラジン [Aladdin]

“Shining for you! I scrub for you!” There’s nothing about this Japanese dance-pop cut that isn’t fun.

7. Disclosure – BOSS

As much as I love the kind of obnoxious, vapid EDM that’s blasted across neon-colored festival grounds, it’s nice to know that there still groups like Disclosure out there making high-energy yet soulful dance tracks like “BOSS.”

6. Skrillex – Purple Lamborghini

There’s a point in the film Suicide Squad where an incomplete version of this song plays muffled in the background of a nightclub scene—and yet that mere taste of the track cemented that scene as my favorite of the movie. Hearing the full version unhampered by the film is… well, I’ll let you experience it. This is the sort of song that I imagine sounds even better blaring out of the speakers of a yacht while you and DJ Khaled smoke cigars and fire Uzis into the sky.

5. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

Bruno Mars once again proves himself to be one of the strongest songwriters in pop music today. “24K Magic” is unapologetic retro-funk fun. Also, bonus points for bringing back the talk box. #blessed

4. Beenzino – Dali, Van, Picasso

I know very little about Korean music, but this smooth, smooth track from rapper Beenzino makes me think I should do something to change that.

3. YUC’e – Future Candy (short ver.)

And now for the most out of left field pick on this list: “Future Candy (short ver.),” a wonderfully overwhelming barrage of pixie-dust-covered chaos. It’s over in two minutes, but not before blowing your mind three or four separate times in the process.

2. Green Day – Forever Now

This multi-part slacker’s anthem harkens back to Green Day’s best album—and no, I’m not referring to Dookie. “Forever Now,” along with the strong singles off this year’s Revolution Radio, gives me hope that Green Day might still have it in them to write an album to rival American Idiot.

1. Justice – Safe and Sound

2016 was a particularly divisive year, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the world needs more dirty, French disco music. Justice sought to remedy that with their new album, Woman, which ended up falling short of expectations—expectations set by this monster of a leading single. “Safe and Sound” layers a choral hook over the SLAPPIEST damn bass line I heard all year. If 2017 gives us more tracks like this, I’ll be happy.