In the 1980s, coming-of-age movies and teen comedies overflowed with hip, contemporary tunes and boasted characters with impeccable musical taste. This curation was by design: The powers that be wanted moviegoers to relate to onscreen teens—or at least aspire to be as cool as they were—and saw music as the best way to create an emotional connection.The movies John Hughes wrote and directed (including 1984’s Sixteen Candles, 1985’s Weird Science, and 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) tend to draw special praise for their music supervision, namely because these films placed familiar acts next to underground artists. In fact, coming-of-age films were the tastemakers and influencers of the ’80s where music was concerned.However, pre-Hughes, the cult 1982 movie The Last American Virgin and 1983’s Valley Girl had already used this formula to expose new groups to a wider audience. Los Angeles power-pop band The Plimsouls especially benefited from the latter, in no small part because they appeared as a bar band in the flick. Little details such as these ensure that coming-of-age films are deeply intertwined with their musical selections.Many of the biggest ’80s movie hits are inextricably linked to memorable musical moments. In Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald’s character finally consummated her crush on hunky Jake Ryan to the gorgeous sound of Thompson Twins’ synth-pop ballad “If You Were Here.” The infamous Phoebe Cates swimsuit-shedding scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High was set to The Cars’ lurid “Moving in Stereo.” And, of course, John Cusack single-handedly made Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” a love song for the ages when, in Say Anything, he played the tune for Ione Skye from a boom box hoisted over his head.
What’s This Playlist All About? “The most trusted voice in music” works its way through a decade we all can’t seem to get enough of with this disclaimer: “Longtime readers may remember that, in 2002, we made a list of The Top 100 Albums of the 1980s. That list was shorter, sure, but it also represented a limited editorial stance we have worked hard to move past; its lack of diversity, both in album selections and contributing critics, does not represent the voice Pitchfork has become. For this new list, we gathered votes from more than 50 full-time staffers and regularly contributing writers to open up our discussion.”What You Get: The usual suspects crowd the top of the list (Prince, MJ, Madonna, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, New Order), but dig into the heart of it and you may find some real hidden gems. You’ll find the throbbing, funky post-punk of Bronx band ESG; the brilliant sampling of hip-hop greats EPMD; the Satanic doggedness of death metal gods Morbid Angel; the infectious South African rhythms of The Indestructible Beat of Soweto compilation; and the intricate computer patchworks of electronic pioneer Laurie Spiegel. Let’s just say the whole 575-song mix certainly has the diversity promised.Greatest Discovery: At No. 130 is Scientist’s Scientist Rids the World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires, excellently described by reviewer Eddie “Stats” Houghton as “one of the greatest dub albums ever, transforming the swing of dancehall’s catchiest tunes into their spookiest, most expansive selves. Historically, this record is a precursor to trip-hop and dubstep, but even encountered as an isolated sonic experience, the tracks are revelatory, uniquely suffused with an eerie joy.”Do We Really Need Another ‘80s Playlist? This list is surprisingly fresh, and it may even be worth starting from the bottom, as you’ll likely discover some unexpected treasures you’ve never heard before. In other words, yes, another ‘80s playlist will do just fine. There’s still plenty to discover from the decade that just won’t die—thankfully.
Get set to realign what you thought you knew about some of your favorite songs—specifically, their origins. The past several decades have been loaded with widely loved tunes that have secret pasts. From rock staples to pop anthems to soul milestones, heres a heavy batch of classic cuts you never knew were not the original versions.Some one-hit wonders even built their entire careers off a stealth cover. Toni Basil’s lone success, the 1982 No. 1 “Mickey,” was the result of gender-tweaking a 1979 tune called “Kitty” by British glam-rockers Racey.You wouldn’t have wanted to be a member of Motown group The Undisputed Truth when their minor 1972 hit “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” found a place in the R&B pantheon courtesy of The Temptations’ version later that same year. The New Wave era brought plenty more. Blondie’s 1978 single “Hanging on the Telephone” first found life as the opening cut on power-pop cult heroes The Nerves lone release, a self-titled 1976 EP. Bow Wow Wow’s ’80s smash “I Want Candy” was originally written and recorded in 1965 by The Strangeloves, a band that included future Blondie producer Richard Gottehrer. Even some artists famous for revamping classic tunes have been known to slip one by. Though Joan Jett scored a bunch of hits by rebooting other artists’ songs, most people are unaware that her biggest track, “I Love Rock ’N Roll,” was a 1975 glam-rock nugget by The Arrows.A decade later, The Lemonheads were another act known for covers whose biggest single was widely mistaken for an original. “Into Your Arms” originated not with Evan Dando but with the Australian duo Love Positions, who released it in 1989, after which band member Nic Dalton joined The Lemonheads, eventuating their version of the tune.Even ex-Beatles were part of the phenomenon. One of the biggest hits of George Harrison’s solo career was 1987’s “Got My Mind Set On You.” The song never gained much traction in its 1962 release by R&B singer James Ray, but George became familiar with it and retained it all those years later. One of the things this goes to show is that you never can tell where a great song will wind up.
In 1982 Tina Turner laid the groundwork for her Private Dancer comeback when she collaborated with the British Electric Foundation, a side project of Human League and Heaven 17s Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh. Their collaboration—a synth-heavy rework of The Temptations 1970 broadside "Ball of Confusion"—was enough of a smash for the then-unsigned Turner to ink a deal with Capitol, and the B.E.F. offered to produce. But they had a difficult time agreeing on a track. "Nearly everything [Ware] brought me was some kind of R&B," Turner told Musician in 1984. "I said, I dont want R&B, I want rock n roll." Turner bristled when people pigeonholed her as a soul singer; "I am a rock and roll singer," she told Rolling Stone while promoting Private Dancer in 1984, neither the first nor the last time she would correct anothers assumptions. "River Deep, Mountain High," which she recorded with Phil Spector in 1966, was one of her early efforts at defying convention, her bravura vocal paired with Spectors famed (and pricey) Wall of Sound; the song, now a standard, stiffed at radio in the States. Spector, as guitarist and longtime friend Marshall Lieb recounted in Mark Ribowskys biography of the producer Hes A Rebel, believed it was because hed refused to engage in payola. But Tinas ex-husband, who was credited on the track yet didnt appear on it, had other ideas: "Ike Turner, who places River Deep up next to Good Vibrations as his two favorite records, says the Spector production didn’t get airplay because the soul stations said too pop and the white stations said too R&B," Ben Fong-Torres wrote in a 1971 issue of Rolling Stone. "’See, what’s wrong with America,’ [Turner] told Pete Senoff, is that rather than accept something for its value…America mixes race in it." While Ike Turners overall effect on his ex-partners life was pretty terrible (and he and Tina did have a fair amount of R&B in their repertoire), this broken-clock sentiment touches on a couple of things that have been true for decades. First, listening with ones eyes can result in genres being placed on music despite its sonics; and second, the stringent formatting of radio leaves a lot of worthy records by even big names stuck between the cracks. Black artists who, like Turner, rooted their music in rock ideals had to forge their own path. Betty Davis mixed rock and funk with Davis intense yowling in ways that still blow minds. "She introduced me to the music of Jimi Hendrix—and to Jimi Hendrix himself—and other black rock music and musicians," Miles Davis (her ex-husband) wrote in his 1989 autobiography. "She knew Sly Stone and all those guys, and she was great herself. If Betty were singing today shed be something like Madonna: something like Prince, only as a woman. She was the beginning of all that when she was singing as Betty Davis. She was just ahead of her time." The R&B trio Labelle, meanwhile, followed up the breakout success of "Lady Marmalade" with Phoenix, a showcase for singer/producer Nona Hendryx’s rock knowledge that stiffed on the charts. And Princes 1981 slot opening for the Rolling Stones—who had brought Ike and Tina on tour with them a decade-plus earlier—for two shows in Los Angeles was received so poorly by audiences conditioned to a particularly white-man-dominated "rock" ideal that promoter Bill Graham had to calm the crowd down. “I got hit in the shoulder with a bag of fried chicken," then-bassist Brown Mark recalled in 2016, "then my guitar got knocked out of tune by a large grapefruit that hit the tuning keys.” Private Dancer, the first album to result from Turner’s Capitol deal, operated squarely in the rock realm even as it contained covers of Ann Peebles "I Cant Stand the Rain" and Al Greens "Lets Stay Together" (the latter wound up being the song she collaborated on with Ware and Marsh). Her cover of David Bowies pre-apocalyptic "1984" pairs her roar with glittering synths; the simmering "Private Dancer" has a weeping guitar solo by Jeff Beck; "Better Be Good To Me" pairs Turner with a gang-vocal choir that wouldnt sound out of place on an AC/DC album. Yet with the exception of "Better," none of Private Dancers singles charted on rock radio—not even the monumental "Whats Love Got To Do With It," which topped the Hot 100 for three weeks in 1984.As the tabulations of the Hot 100 have shifted, that cross-genre chart has become more susceptible to trends among radio programmers and consumers. In recent years, this has particularly affected those artists whose music checks multiple boxes, or even the wrong one. While Beyoncé is rightly considered one of pops premier artists, she didnt have a chart-topping single between November 2008, when "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" was in the pole position, and December 2017—and that was through a featured credit on an Ed Sheeran song (the goopy "Perfect"). The Hot 100s ever-mutating formula shut out the pop-art explosion video for "Countdown" and the "If It Isnt Love"-saluting clip for "Love On Top"; both came out in 2011, two years before YouTube stats were incorporated into the big charts formulas. And her keeping Lemonade off Spotify was a big part of why no song from that watershed album cracked the top 10. Beyond Beyoncé, though, R&B seemingly fell out of favor among pop programmers in the late 2000s, a trend that was accelerated by radio consolidation, programmers doubling down on tight-ship formatting, the rise of the less-grooving style of music shorthanded as "EDM," and the increased presence of sports talk, a longtime staple of the AM band, on the FM dial. While that didnt alter Beyoncés musical trajectory very much, it did leave R&B artists—even ones with proven track records, like the silvery-voiced Amerie and the human-condition observer Ne-Yo—in what seemed like eternal turnaround. Ameries joyously resilient "Gotta Work" found its biggest audience when it boomed out of NBA All-Star Game promos; Ne-Yo, meanwhile, had his greatest chart successes when he played Pitbulls foil, giving a winsomeness to hope-tinged EDM bangers like "Time of My Life." More than five decades after "River Deep, Mountain High" was rejected by American programmers and listeners, artists who want to identify as pop while also bridging genres are still finding if not outright resistance, at least confusion from the more conservative-minded people out there (and in boardrooms). But theyre soldiering on, and as Miguels Kacey Musgrave-assisted country rework of his psych-funk track "Waves" shows, theyre continuing Tina Turners legacy of resisting classification, and—like her—theyre doing so loudly and proudly.
During the first season of Tina Feys zany Muppet Show update 30 Rock, Alec Baldwin, playing ever-demanding executive Jack Donaghy, stares at a portrait of his boss—the man who represents, to him, the pinnacle of corporate achievement. As he raises his teacup to the portrait, which he himself painted, he sings, softly, the chorus of a song that ruled radio during the 80s waning months: "Simply the best.. uh, uh, uh."Tina Turner plucked "The Best" from the back catalog of Welsh belter Bonnie Tyler for her 1989 album Foreign Affair, and its since become one of Turners signature songs. Its soundtracked number-retirement ceremonies for top-tier athletes like Philadelphia 76ers sparkplug Allen Iverson and the appropriately named Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux. It accompanied the New York Rangers victory lap after their curse-breaking Stanley Cup victory in 1994. And its been used to honor championship-team anniversaries and no-hitters, as well as the 2008 Presidential campaign of Joe Biden.On TV, though, "The Best" has a slightly different story, one thats connected to the rise of self-lacerating, reference-heavy comedy that particularly took off in the 90s, when mind-numbing McJobs and Alanis-branded irony were just entering the cultural bloodstream. The Voice, The X Factor, and other singing-competition shows have featured hopefuls emulating Tina, although those who pick the rock-tinged "The Best" over, say, "Proud Mary" are also setting themselves up for tart-tongued rebukes from the judges.But quite a few uses of "The Best" play Turners triumphant vocal in a context that sorely needs it: the workplace. One of its earliest placements came in a 1998 episode of The Drew Carey Show. In the fourth-season episode "Drew Between the Rock and A Hard Place," Drew (Drew Carey) — blonde and goateed, thanks to his burgeoning music career—is enticed to do one last job before quitting to pursue his dream of life on the road. He hems and haws some, and then: "Get my lumbar pillow — Im gonna be doing some sittin," Carey declares before the songs chorus kicks in. (It pauses for a bit while Carey sharpens his pencil.) The songs placement probably presaged the ending where Carey decides to stay in Cleveland and with his officemates for at least a few more seasons.Other uses, however, are a bit more laden with irony. Arrested Developments 2013 episode "The B Team" uses "The Best" to introduce Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) and his core production team for the ill-fated biopic about his thieving family — a prison warden slashes screenwriter Warden Stefan Gentles (James Lipton), as well as Carl Weathers and Andy Richter, playing themselves, as they strut through the soaring lobby of Imagine Entertainment. The music is actually coming from Gentles iPad, but the effect remains. Similarly, in the 2016 The Simpsons episode "Much Apu About Something," a motley crew of volunteer firefighters—among them Krusty the Clown ("This is the one good thing I do!") and Principal Skinner—speed away from a burning building as "The Best" plays.Perhaps its most well-known TV placement of the past two decades is probably during the “Motivation” episode from the second seasons of the original UK version of The Office. Hapless aper salesman David Brent (Ricky Gervais) caps a buzzword-and-leaden-joke-filled speech with a jog over to a strategically placed boom box. "Promise me youll remember one thing, yeh?" Brent asks the confused workers sitting before him—then he hits "play" on the radio and engages in an animated lip sync thats clearly designed to make the attendees clap and sing along. They do not. The pantomime goes on for what seems like an excruciating time, but is only about 20 seconds, until Brent pierces the silence—"Ive been David Brent! Youve been the best!" he winks, bopping out of the room in front of the incredulous crowd.Why does this particular song have so much resonance not only with the comedy crowd—its also been used on Zooey Deschanels kicky New Girl and the disgraced-richies chronicle Schitts Creek—but with those who place their characters at work? The production—handled on the original version by Tina Turner and the late soul singer Dan Hartman—is likely part of it; its surfaces resemble the glossy sheens of office-supply catalogs, sparkling efficiency to which the most dingy, windowless offices aspire.But the real reason is Tina, whose reassurances that her subject land with the confidence that made her one of rocks biggest stars—a self-possession that the hapless workers portrayed in these bits rarely deserve. While the full song, minus the oft-used soundbite, is directed toward a lover (comedic uses tend to cut off the chorus right before she declares "Im stuck on your heart, I hang on every word you say/ Tear us apart, baby, I would rather be dead," perhaps fortunately), when Turners chorus is chopped down to its most essential part, it lands like a strivers internal monologue manifested in the air, cutting through the drudgery of paper shuffling and pencil sharpening and turning the everyday into a triumph. But the victory is as short-lived as the two-word phrase that inspired it.
With a career that spans more than 60 years, Quincy Jones has one of music’s most formidable résumés: sideman, Dizzy Gillespie musical director, bandleader, label executive, arranger, soundtrack composer, TV mogul, and winner of 28 Grammys (so far). His biggest legacy, however, is as a producer—a job he described as “part babysitter, part shrink.” Though his long footprint has been known to careen into jazz, bossa nova, and hip-hop, it’s the R&B, pop, soul, and soundtrack music he made in the ’70s and ’80s that define entire worlds, thanks to Q’s lush arrangements, perky percussion, and airy sounds—not to mention his work on Michael Jackson’s 1983 album, Thriller, the biggest-selling album of all time.His early-’70s soundtrack work and TV themes mixed large orchestral vision with indelible jazz-funk rhythms. His mid-’70s solo albums—and concurrent work with Aretha Franklin and the Brothers Johnson—simmered with soft-focus groove, bravado, slickness, and warmth. It was a perfect fit for the era when disco and funk met pop, when he eased on down the road into the 1978 soundtrack to The Wiz and Michael Jackson’s glossy 1979 breakthrough Off the Wall. The records he produced on his record label, Qwest—George Benson, Patti Austin, James Ingram, and a late-career album for Frank Sinatra—provided sophisticated songs for Quiet Storm radio and beyond.By the end of the ’80s, Jones had produced the record-breaking charity single “We Are the World,” garnered three Academy Award nominations for his work on The Color Purple, produced Jackson’s Bad, and taken his own victory lap with 1989’s star-studded solo album Back on the Block, winner of that year’s Grammy for Album of the Year. On the title track, featuring rappers Ice-T, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, and Big Daddy Kane, you can hear the whining horn from Ironside that he had introduced nearly 20 years earlier. In honor of Off the Wall’s 40th birthday, here’s a celebration of Jones—the producer—in his most iconic period.
Thank you for checking out the seventh installment of our Thrash 101 program, produced in conjunction with GimmeRadio, your free 24/7 radio station hosted by heavy-music experts and artists. Check it out here.In 1987, heavy-music scenes were strictly divided and definitely did not play nice with each other. But looking back on such a landmark year some three decades later, we can now appreciate the influence of Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction alongside the impact of Deaths debut and the bombast of Candlemass—because not only can those records be seen in a clearer context, they also proudly share some of the same fans. And thats the beauty of time: things marinate and evolve. Ideas change, mentalities change, landscapes change. But when it comes to the heavy-metal revolution that was happening around the world 30 years ago, what was rad stayed rad—and thats what were celebrating with this playlist.Thrash adheres to the same face-ripping formula today as it did back then, and those who are into it are still completely stoked to be caught in a mosh. Monster ballads are now less polarizing to Beavis and Butthead types because most of us decided its not only okay to have guilty pleasures, it actually might be a lot cooler if you did. And yeah, there might still be some purists who will forever ignore the fact that Whitesnakes finest hour came at the same time as Napalm Deaths (and who think the two bands have no business being on the same playlist), but the variety of heavy music and abundance of killer guitar solos that define 1987 are actually pretty impressive to see in one place.It was a year where you could venture deep into the darkness with Sodom and Bathory, glimpse the future of extreme music with Death, scale the highest heights (and notes) on King Diamond and Helloweens most iconic albums, or maybe even get a little emotional with Def Leppards biggest commercial hit. You also got essential records from one of the greatest metal singers of all time (Dio), one of dooms most prolific bands (Candlemass), one of extreme metals sacred godfathers (Celtic Frost), not to mention a few of thrashs big guns (Testament, Anthrax, Death Angel, Overkill). It wasnt all just happening then; much of it was still emerging then, taking shape and branding its scorched mark on heavy and popular music worldwide. Heres a 30-year flashback of all the awesome varieties of metal from 1987.
In terms of Western music opening itself up to global influences, the years 1976 to ’82 represent a major paradigm shift. Radical invention was everywhere, both at pop’s fringes and its center. While world renowned visionaries Talking Heads and Joni Mitchell drew African-informed polyrhythms deep into their singular visions, underground mavericks Throbbing Gristle and The Pop Group grafted clanging atonalism to tribal percussion and reverb-encrusted dub, respectively. Jazz, too, boasted its fair share of explorers. Frenetic Afro-Caribbean percussion, mesmerizing Sufi music from Morocco, exotically droning woodwinds—nothing was off limits for the likes of Ornette Coleman or Miles Davis. Not surprisingly, this playlist casts a wide net. Some cuts are as hot and humid as a rainforest; others evoke the cold, dank isolation of abandoned warehouses. Yet they’re united in their bold, ethnological innovation.
As detailed in Tim Lawrence’s Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor: 1980-1983, the early ‘80s marked the ascendance of the “rock disco” as funk and disco influences found their way into the new wave/post-punk world, and rock bands on both sides of the Atlantic discovered that it was permissible—and maybe even desirable—to make people groove. Not that every London or Lower East Side punk refugee suddenly became The Fatback Band—the adaptations of R&B that emerged from this cultural cross-pollination were often willfully jagged. But whether it was James White of the Contortions coming off like James Brown on crystal meth, established acts like The Clash and The Jam figuring out how to get their good foot on, or New Romantics like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet fusing funk bass lines, cutting-edge electronics, and Bowie/Roxy influences to create a new kind of glam, it was all embraced by the underground NYC club scene at legendary venues like The Mudd Club, Hurrah, and Danceteria. Here’s a hint of the sounds that made rockers and dancers one within those hallowed halls.
This post is part of our Psych 101 program, an in-depth, 14-part series that looks at the impact of psychedelia on modern music. Want to sign up to receive the other installments in your inbox? Go here. Already signed up and enjoying it? Help us get the word out by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or just sending your friends this link. Theyll thank you. We thank you.Following punks back-to-basics mission in the late-70s, psychedelia crept back into rock in a big way in the ’80s. In the process, it unleashed a million different shades of fuzz, reverb, and echo. Storming out of the deranged underbelly of America’s heartland, the Butthole Surfers and The Flaming Lips created acid-drenched alt-rock that conflated consciousness expansion with (Reagan era-inducing) madness. Though not nearly as eccentric (damaged, in other words), The Jesus and Mary Chain, Loop, and shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine all were no less committed to inducing altered states of mind through deafening levels of distortion. In contrast, neo-psychedelic acts like Echo and the Bunnymen and Paisley Underground denizens Rain Parade created atmospheric and catchy pop by blending dark, jangly new wave with lysergic-spiked tropes unique to ’60s psych-pop. Madchester pioneers Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses blended a pop-focused aesthetic with hypnotically funky rave grooves. And let’s not forget the long list of swirling, squalling outfits—Dinosaur Jr., Soundgarden, Cosmic Psychos, Mudhoney, and Jane’s Addiction—who rekindled the greaser ethos of vintage psych through thanks to a love for hard rock riffing and brain-vibrating wah-wah.
The ’90s have never sounded better than they do right now—especially for modern-day indie rockers. There’s no shortage of bands banging around these days whose sound suggests formative phases spent soaking up vintage ’90s indie rock. Not that the neo-’90s sound is itself a new thing. As soon as the era was far enough away in the rearview mirror to allow for nostalgia to set in (i.e., the second half of the 2000s), there were already some young artists out there onboarding ’90s alt-rock influences. But more recently, there’s been a bumper crop of bands that betray a soft spot for a time when MTV still played music videos and streaming was just something that happened in a restroom. In this context, the literate, lo-fi approach of Pavement has emerged as a particularly strong strand of the ’90s indie tapestry, and it isn’t hard to hear echoes of their sound in the work of more recent arrivals like Kiwi jr. or Teenage Cool Kids. Cherry Glazerr frontwoman Clementine Creevy seems to have a feeling for the kind of big, dirty guitar riffs that made Pacific Northwestern bands the kings of the alt-rock heap once upon a time. The world-weary, wise-guy angularity of Car Seat Headrest can bring to mind the lurching, loose-limbed attack of Railroad Jerk. And laconic, storytelling types like Nap Eyes stand to prove that there’s still a bright future ahead for those who mourn the passing of Silver Jews main man David Berman. But perhaps the best thing about a face-off between the modern indie bands evoking ’90s forebears and the old-school artists themselves is the fact that in this kind of competition, everybody wins.
It may be that 2019 was the best year for ’90s metal since, well, 1999. Bands from the decade of Judgment Night re-emerged with new creative twists and tweaks: Tool stretched out into polyrhythmic madness, Korn bludgeoned with more extreme and raw despair, Slipknot added a new drummer (Max Weinberg’s kid!) who gave them a new groove, and Rammstein wrote an anti-fascism anthem that caused controversy in Germany (and hit No. 1 there too). Elsewhere, icons of the era returned in unique ways: Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor scored a superhero TV series, Primus’ Les Claypool teamed up with Sean Lennon for some quirky psych rock, and Faith No More’s Mike Patton made an avant-decadent LP with ’70s soundtrack king Jean-Claude Vannier. Finally, the soaring voice of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington returned for a moment thanks to Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton, who released a song they recorded together in 2017.
Taking a look at the playlists for my show on Boston’s WZBC might give the more seasoned college-radio listener a bit of déjà vu: They’re filled with bands like Versus, Team Dresch, and Sleater-Kinney, who were at the top of the CMJ charts back in the ’90s. But the records they released in 2019 turned out to be some of the year’s best rock. Versus, whose Ex Nihilo EP and Ex Voto full-length were part of a creative run for leader Richard Baluyut that also included a tour by his pre-Versus outfit Flower and his 2000s band +/-, put out a lot of beautifully thrashy rock; Team Dresch returned with all cylinders blazing and singers Jody Bleyle and Kaia Wilson wailing their hearts out on “Your Hands My Pockets”; and Sleater-Kinney confronted middle age head-on with their examination of finding one’s footing, The Center Won’t Hold.Italian guitar heroes Uzeda—who have been putting out proggy, riff-heavy music for three-plus decades—released their first record in 13 years, the blistering Quocumque jerceris stabit; Imperial Teen, led by Faith No More multi-instrumentalist Roddy Bottum, kept the weird hooks coming with Now We Are Timeless; and high-concept Californians That Dog capped off a year of reissues with Old LP, their first album since 1997. Juliana Hatfield continued the creative tear she’s been on this decade with two albums: Weird, a collection of hooky, twisty songs that tackle alienation with searing wit, and Juliana Hatfield Sings the Police, her tribute record to the dubby New Wave chart heroes (in the spirit of the salute to Olivia Newton-John she released in 2018). And our playlist finishes with Mary Timony, formerly of the gnarled rockers Helium and currently part of the power trio Ex Hex, paying tribute to her former Autoclave bandmate Christina Billotte via an Ex Hex take on “What Kind of Monster Are You?,” one of the signature songs by Billotte’s ’90s triple threat Slant 6.