NPR Music's Top 20 Songs Of January
When Phony Ppl and Megan Thee Stallion debuted "Fkn Around" live at the Tiny Desk, we just knew it was going to be an instant hit. Now the studio version is out and, of course, it's made NPR Music's best songs of the month, along with new tracks from Thundercat, Waxahatchee and Marcus King.
Below you'll find an alphabetized list of NPR Music's top 20 songs of January 2020. Be sure to check out our top 10 albums from the month, too.
Cable Ties, "Sandcastles"
Mission-driven Australian trio stages a hypothetical argument with self-righteous naysayers by first listening to complaints ("I partly agree"), then by locating a message worth repeating until it builds to a roar. —Jacob Ganz
Dan Deacon, "Become a Mountain"
Dan Deacon shows an unusually vulnerable side of himself and expresses that with a more stripped-down sound. "I was feeling emotionally very raw," he told us, "and I wanted the music I was writing to reflect that." —Bob Boilen
FACS, "Teenage Hive"
If FACS' first record was a bold step through the door, and its second a pensive, deep breath, then the third is shaping up to be the spittle-scream that followed. Chaos in a bottle. —Andrew Flanagan
Forest Drive West, "Parallel Space"
A full-time dad and computer science teacher, the artist behind Forest Drive West blends old-school breakbeat with the spirit of Aphex Twin ambience for a new, never-ending groove. —Tom Huizenga
Kassa Overall, "Show Me a Prison"
Listening to the powerful tribal-like trance pulsating through this meditation on injustice in the U.S. prison system feels like being on lockdown, until activist Angela Davis, at the end, offers a ray of hope. —Suraya Mohamed
Marcus King, "Beautiful Stranger"
South Carolina's 23-year-old guitar slinger reveals himself as a love man who truly understands Al Green's legacy on this worthy throwback to the soul greats. —Ann Powers
Oded Tzur, "Here Be Dragons"
The title track of Tzur's upcoming debut for the highly regarded label ECM, is a beautiful (and lovingly recorded) introduction to the Israeli saxophonist's curious whispers. —Andrew Flanagan
Phony Ppl, "Fkn Around (feat. Megan Thee Stallion)"
While you decorate your desk with Megan's mantras for independence, beware: The secret sauce of this infectious single — that bubbling bass and Elbee Thrie's smooth hook — will seep into your brain. —Cyrena Touros
Rafiq Bhatia, "The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face (feat. Cécile McLorin Salvant)"
From his fascinating project reinventing jazz standards, this duet shows how one of the most sublime pop hits ever was always a call to prayer. —Ann Powers
Rosalía, "Juro Que"
The global pop star was in festival mode last year, leaning into beats and collabs. "Juro Que" re-centers the flamenco at the heart of Rosalía's music. —Cyrena Touros
Soccer Mommy, "Circle the Drain"
Humans have been writing about hearts for ages: breaking, aching, eclipsing, soaring. Soccer Mommy coins a new one on this dreamy, bummer-rock romp. —Cyrena Touros
Thundercat, "Black Qualls (feat. Steve Lacy & Steve Arrington)"
Somewhere deep in a P-Funk wormhole, our cat-obsessed bass guru got very worried about his Instagram and wrote this brilliant bounce of a tune. —Mano Sundaresan
Tõnu Kõrvits, "Tears Fantasy"
A supremely lyrical sensualist, Estonian composer Tõnu Kõrvits makes the orchestra sing in wistful sighs and luminous, falling figures while channeling England's Renaissance lutenist John Dowland. —Tom Huizenga
Too Free, "ATM"
Arthur Russell-inspired, avant-disco realness hits the ballroom floor in a minimalist bop that both flirts with that cutie across the dance floor and elevates visibility, "to be seen by you." —Lars Gotrich
Torres, "Good Grief"
In the middle of Torres' heady album about fear and desire comes this blistering avowal of the right to sullenness (which also serves as a reminder of Mackenzie Scott's forceful skill as a guitarist). —Marissa Lorusso
Ultraísta, "Tin King"
Nigel Godrich and Joey Waronker work up a hypnotic groove here, but singer Laura Bettinson remains Ultraísta's secret weapon, cramming tons of personality into a deadpan, texture-first performance with just a few notes. —Daoud Tyler-Ameen
Written on a drive over the Mississippi River, the first single from Waxahatchee's forthcoming Saint Cloud pulses with palpable warmth and radiates self-acceptance. —Marissa Lorusso
Wilma Archer, "Last Sniff (feat. MF Doom)"
Archer wraps a classic turn from MF Doom in a joyful, funky, rich, orchestral soul. And this is just one of the standouts from his brilliant upcoming album, A Western Circular. —Andrew Flanagan
Yoshinori Hayashi, "Bit of Garden (Prins Thomas Remix)"
One of Japan's most exciting auteurs of dance, reinterpreted by one of Norway's. Both play in the disco sandbox, and here Thomas helps Hayashi's somewhat sleepy original become a montage-worthy driver. —Andrew Flanagan
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