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NPR Music's Top 20 Songs Of January

"Simmer," the first single from Paramore singer Hayley Williams' solo album, is one of the best songs of the month.
Lindsey Byrnes
Courtesy of the artist
"Simmer," the first single from Paramore singer Hayley Williams' solo album, is one of the best songs of the month.

Stream this playlist via Spotify or Apple Music.

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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYMission-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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYDan 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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYA 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

Hayley Williams, "Simmer"
Paramore's powerhouse singer sheds her skin for something darker and stranger; her dynamism bleeds through an ominous cloud. —Lars Gotrich

Kassa Overall, "Show Me a Prison"
APPLE / SPOTIFYListening 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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYThe 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)"
APPLE / SPOTIFYFrom 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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYThe 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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYA 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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYArthur 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"
APPLE / SPOTIFYNigel 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

Waxahatchee, "Fire"
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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