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‘The Never-ending Hits In My Head’: Paul Corby’s favourite songs of 2020

The torrential torment of commercial radio is not as toxic this year in Toronto, since all the stores and restaurants where we usually have to suffer under its miasma are in a dragged-out lockdown. We are left to our own devices, and we are also perilously susceptible to the best tunes that our neurons can retrieve for us.

There is a fine line between a rapturous song crush and a persistent, indelible earworm. For example, the other gorgeous songs on Rebecca Hennessy’s recent All the Little Things You Do, are as complex and memorable as any released this year, but the title/opening track got me almost crazed for a while when it first came out. It is soooo listenable, ornamented by the sparkles of Kevin Breit and David Travers Smith, and with a marching band that occasionally ploughs right down the middle of it, but as a simple one-line chant, it can be turned into a hypno-melodic moebius spool in the mind.

Be forewarned also that there’s a new record, by Montreal’s Justin Saladino Band, entitled Live. It seems to be a robust collection of raw bluesy fun with a blazing band, captured live in a bottle, but beware the second song, “Honey.” It has a hook that stitches itself into your mental fabric instantly. I. Wanna Know How. SWEET. Your. LOVE. Can. BE. Some nights it is there when I close my eyes and perched there again when I open them in the morning, restless as a lava lamp, churning through the darkness.

And always waiting just backstage on my brainstage is Borealis’ Braden Gates with his mop and fiddle, joyously cleaning up my cerebellum with “Norah Jones At Closing Time”; and Lynn Miles posting an amber alert to remind me about how “Main Street (Ain’t Main Street Anymore)”; and Joe Nolan’s tidal loneliness, that surges in with “If you wanna stay, then hold on, don’t turn away,” then hushes away with “but if you wanna go, go now, just fade away.” The song is “Jaguar,” off his latest for Fallen Tree Records, Drifters, and it’s so short, like a moment of decision, and it leaves you eternally pondering your choice. Just fade away… fade away.

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar claim a significant part of my cerebral geography with the viral blue spark of “Loving You Is Easy (With A Broken Heart),” that can spiral around inside my skull for hours at a time; Rae Spoon pushes the mind rewind constantly with the appropriately titled “There Is No End.” Wait for it: “If … I had…magic POWERS!!!”. Perpetual musical oceans overflow whenever I hear Rick Fines’ country blues setting for Jesse Winchester’s “That’s What Makes You Strong” with Melissa Payne; the ominous “Sins We Made” by Harrow Fair, with its ancient mariner, heave-ho chorus, Melanie Peterson’s manifesto of seduction “Do You Want To Be Loved,” which a wiser radio conglomerate might easily boost into a hit, and Moscow Apartment’s “New Girl” with its sinister double hook (“Walkin like a movie” and “Don’ look at me, don’ look at me”) are all particularly infectious.

The insinuatingly insidious “Lemonade,” a new single by Lowell suffers no resistance, and once you hear her wistful “over and over and over and over again,” that’s all you will hear for a long long long long time. And just try to escape Dione Taylor. When you think you have turned off her new album, Spirits In The Water, SHE’S STILL THERE, coming up right behind you, singing “Now I’m STRONGER, stronger than I was BEFORE.”

Doctor Theresa Tam should soon be dutifully obliged to issue a public warning against the brain contagions that can potentially be propagated by such songs, to protect those unwarily listening or sharing them. They are covered in a vicious layer of aural velcro. Proper ear covering, regular application of mineral oil and swabs of clinically approved oldies stations can mitigate, but not cure, the affliction. And of course, one should stay a minimum of six feet away from anyone humming one of them.

Special caution should always be used when long periods of silence are imminent. Govern yourselves accordingly.

CAUTION: Most Dangerous Thirteen Songs Alert for 2020

“All The Little Things You Do” – Rebecca Hennessy – All The Little Things You Do https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=All+The+Little+Things+You+Do%E2%80%9D+-+Rebecca+Hennessy

“Honey” – Justin Saladino Band – Live https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7qhkULEkRc

“Norah Jones At Closing time” – Braden Gates – Kitchen Days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BAEtPOEh20

“Main Street” – Lynn Miles – We’ll Look For Stars https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ff3sTSvyKVU

“Jaguar” – Joe Nolan – Drifters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAwExuDMe8s

“Loving You Is Easy” – Samantha Martin – The Reckless One https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkLrahDuzEE

“There Is No End” – Rae Spoon – Mental Health

“That’s What Makes You Strong” – Rick Fines – Solar Powered Too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7Gl1H5rsks

“Sins We Made” – Harrow Fair – Sins We Made https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fTagRihX0M

“Do You Want To Be Loved” – Melanie Peterson – We Got This

“New Girl” – Moscow Apartment – Better Daughter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KdlzSrbt30

“Lemonade” – Lowell https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQOTt0AS4ks

“Running” – Dione Taylor – Spirits In The Water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERgjfkOkpJA

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