Welcome to another “best of” list feature on this blog. This time it’s gonna be my favorite tracks of 2015 so far. I’ve alphabetized them. Let me know what your favorite songs of 2015 are so that I don’t miss any when the end of the year rolls around!
1. Beck – Dreams
Alright this song is pretty cheesy and a bit lackluster, but I can’t deny Mr. Beck Hanson. It’s pretty heavily produced and doesn’t really have too much signature Beck originality to it, but man am I excited to hear a more upbeat, poppy Beck. What I need now is an album more akin to his singles from 2013, specifically “Defriended.”
2. Björk – Family
At the time of this writing, June 22nd, 2015, this song still gives me goosebumps after repeated listens from half the year. “Family” comes after the massive centerpiece of “Black Lake” on Vulnicura and carries almost more emotional weight, which is accentuated with a bludgeoning, hammer of a beat in the first half of the track, courtesy of assisted production from The Haxan Cloak. The strings on this song are especially elegant and devastating and while they’re paired against the destructive electronics, they still stick out in the immense din. The second half of the song is where washes of synthesized choruses flood the mix, smoothing away the damage done by the first half; much like finding rare sanctuaries of solace among a storm of pain. Truly a beautiful track that will stay with me always.
3. Braids – Sore Eyes
The newest Braids record is super good. I was never too huge into this band but I found that the straightforward, synth pop sugar rush of this song/record is what I needed to unlock my passion for this band. Now this isn’t just a typical synth pop track off of a typical synth pop record, it’s lyrically dense (see track Miniskirt) and has a killer balance of piano and pulsing electronics, plus great vocals. This track is pretty addicting, which is apt since the lyrical matter is about addictions and watching porn, interestingly enough.
4. Bully – I Remember
I’ve never had a breakup with a long-time significant other, but I feel like this song is the word-for-word description of flipping through a mental photo album from a relationship long past. With great, biting imagery from lines like “I remember the way your sheets smelled,” and “I remember what you do on Christmas,” explaining the deep minutiae that might be forever etched into your brain after a relationship, I’m not sure if I ever want that to happen to me. We’ll see!
5. Chastity Belt – Joke
In my opinion, “Joke” is the track that best showcases Chastity Belt’s skills on their newest record Time To Go Home. The track is slow, catchy and starts off with the phrase “Nothing serious; everything’s a joke.” Other song titles like “Why Try” and “IDC” also develop this slacker pathos, but I feel like this song portrays it the best. The end also has a heavier, jamming part but keeps it concise, feeling like a natural progression rather than a frivolous noise session. I can’t say enough things about this record and band. I can’t wait for more music and the chance to see them live.
6. Chromatics – I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around
Hey remember when we were supposed to get a Chromatics record this year? Well the year’s not over yet, but it was promised in 2015’s first quarter and there’s no word yet besides three singles, which are all pretty good. “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around” is my personal favorite, since it’s basically a snapshot of what Chromatics are all about. It’s a wistful, driving song about love, but maybe something about “bad” love? A love that changes someone? Something like that. Also, the instrumental is classic Italians Do It Better (their record label) faire, which is something that seems to be only done well by them only. Please Chromatics, let’s get this whole record soon.
7. Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – The Rest Of Us
I was a fan of Colin Stetson before this record, but with the addition of the stellar violin playing of Sarah Neufeld of Arcade Fire, I’m over the moon. Now this track isn’t the best at showcasing Stetson’s unbelievable skill of the saxophone, but I feel as though this song has the best balance of violin to saxophone, along with best balance of machine-like intensity to eerie uneasiness. Would love to get another record from these two.
8. Downtown Boys – Monstro
“SHE IS BROWN! SHE IS SMART!” Sure, this track cannot apply to me in any way, but the message is still there and super powerful and boy do I appreciate it. I’m not usually into many “protest” bands, matter of fact I can’t really think of any off my head, but I can say Downtown Boys are my favorite. I definitely appreciate this song more after seeing it performed live a multitude of times and getting the whole preface dialogue before it with the rallying saxophone melodies and ecstatic guitars going the entire time. This is the kind of band that needs to get big in the indie scene. There are too many losers that need this kind of message in their music.
9. Drake – Know Yourself
Gotta hand it to “Know Yourself,” the song that single-handedly got me sort of into Drake. I gotta admit, I was never too into him; not really sure why. But I gave If You’re Reading This a chance earlier this year and I’m glad I did so I can get the countless pop culture nuggets this track has already established, such as the legendary beat change and the wise words of “I was runnin’ thru the six with my woes.” Sure, I’m not too much of a fan of the dialgue at the end, but MAN: this song is hot. I can’t even try and deny it.
10. Elvis Depressedly – New Alhambra
Undoubtedly the best track off the album of the same name, “New Alhambra” is a dreamy, swirling track with a simple melody. There are other quirks about this song that really get me as well, like the strange clipping song effects during the chorus. In fact, I’m not really sure what those are, but they add a lot to the track. It’s also the longest track on the record, which helps elongate the atmosphere to a level that’s recountable.
11. Eskimeaux – The Thunder Answered Back
If you’re noticing a trend here on these track descriptions that goes something like “this song is the best representation of all the ideas on the record” and you’re getting tired of that, then skip this blurb. Short version: it’s a damn good song. Obviously. Long version: this track has so much depth, it’s unbelievable. There are so many things going on in the song: the repeating, muffled vocals in the background, the subtle arpeggiating synth line and group shouting in the climax of the end, and of course the lyrics: “it must feel like fucking hell, to be a patchwork of yourself” being a prime example. Listen to this album.
12. Father John Misty – When You’re Smiling And Astride Me
If you read my album description from a bit ago, you’ll know that this album has sort of worn down on me a bit. Sure, I do really like it, but it’s no longer the pride and joy of my 2015 experience like it was earlier in the year. However, this swooning track right here is still a go-to soundtrack for luxuriously romantic playing out in my head. I feel as though a lot of the love songs on this record have sarcasm slathered on them, but this one is lavishly sincere, in my eyes. Especially with the instrumental. Get me on this gospel train, please.
13. Grimes – Realiti
Technically, this song is a Oblivion-era b-side but I’ll let it pass as a 2015 track. The reason I like this song so much is that it’s a breath of fresh air after the festival fuel blast of “Go,” Grimes’ last song she put out. I like the song, it just doesn’t fit into the Grimes “traditional canon,” if you will. I’m all for artists expanding and experimenting with their sound, but I guess in this case I’m just selfish. This song is lovely and I can dance to it with my girlfriend like her previous material, so I’m really okay with it.
14. Holly Herndon – An Exit (ft. Amnesia Scanner)
If you’ve ever wondered what an existential panic sounded like, I feel like this is pretty close. One of my friends said that this song should be used for psychological torture. Whenever I think I’m not going to let this song get the best of me, it gets the best of me. My stomach gets in knots, my fingers lock up, my joints strain… the list goes on. Something about the urgency paired with this chord progression is just downright mind-bending. This is one of the most powerful, original and fantastic songs on this list; a true example of what Herndon and her music is about.
15. Hop Along – Texas Funeral
It was really tough trying to pick one ultimate standout track from this near-perfect album. But the anthemic line of “none of this is gonna happen to me within my lifetime” won the battle. Hop Along is too good of a band not to know about. Just listen to this song and you’ll know.
16. Hot Chip – Huarache Lights
The newest Hot Chip album suffers from the same affliction that all the other Hot Chip albums are stuck with: having a few really good songs among some pretty mediocre ones. Obviously this song is one of the good ones. It’s got a killer groove to it, which is pretty much the only thing a Hot Chip song needs to succeed. It’s determined and confident, something that a lot of Hot Chip songs lack as well – it’s clear where this one is going, and that’s only up.
17. Jamie xx – I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) (ft. Young Thug & Popcaan)
Yeah okay, this song took a while to win me over. First off, I’m not the biggest Young Thug fan (as of right now) and I thought the Popcaan part over the sample was pretty pointless. But after accepting that this song is like an extravagant dessert that I can enjoy anytime, I warmed up to it. Also, there’s a snap right after the choice line of “I’mma ride in the pussy like a stroller” at 1:51 that just makes this song for me. Also this song definitely stands out on an album that could use a few more adventurous tracks on it.
18. Jib Kidder – Dozens
Definitely the oddball on this list, “Dozens” by Jib Kidder is a lovely little track that I would listen to over and over earlier this year. The song itself is fine, better than most songs from this year, but there’s one part in particular that won me over: the guitar/stringed instrument solo at the end. I don’t really know what about it I like so much, but it really connects with me. There are also some subtle, heavily affected gong hits in the background of this solo that really make me smile. I think that’s what I like about this track: it makes me smile.
19. Kamasi Washington – Miss Understanding
Going from possibly the simplest song on this list to the most complex we have “Miss Understanding” from the monolithic achievement of an album The Epic. This album is roughly three hours long and I can’t really say I’ve listened to the whole thing with my full attention, let alone understand what’s going on on it. I’m not going to label myself as a jazz aficionado or anything like that. I just really vibe with this song. It’s got a manageable length of around nine minutes and puts Kamasi Washington’s entire ensemble on display. If you’re into jazz or want to try and get into jazz (say you’re into Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly or Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead) do yourself a favor and listen to this.
20. Kelela – A Message
Boy oh boy do I need some new material from Kelela. I’ve listened to this song an obscene amount of times and while that isn’t a bad thing yet, I’d love to have some other new songs surrounding it to give it some context within a project. This song though, is so killer. I’m a total sucker for Arca’s production and of course Kelela’s smooth vocals. The music video is also really good. All around good. Good good good.
21. Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
This record made it difficult to pluck one favorite off of, but “King Kunta” shows the obvious lyrical power of Lamar as well as his skill to write a musically complex + funky pop song that can be played at a cool-ass party. Sure there are songs on this record that are more politically and socially charged, but I thought this song made a nice balance of both fun and consciousness for a lead single.
22. Krill – Tiger
I love a good song with a story. This story is all about things dying, including a villager, a fish, a bad day and a good day. The villager and the fish were well liked by friends and family. Oh yeah there’s also a one-minute jam at the end of the track. Absolutely essential listening for 2015.
23. Lower Dens – To Die In L.A.
The killer thing about the new Lower Dens record is that I’ve seen a bunch of different songs from it rank in the “best of” lists from this year so far. “To Die In L.A.” happens to be mine. This was the lead single from the album and for good reason. It’s got a great melody and an AWESOME chorus that’s super fun to sing along to. Gotta love a good pop song, right?
24. Panda Bear – Boys Latin
Newest Panda Bear album is like, okay. I like it a bunch. I wish there were more songs like this on there with fat, squelchy synths. Can we just talk about how squelch is a real word? It’s like an onomatopoeia, but isn’t in a way, since it’s able to describe the action of crushing something gooshy and also the sound of crushing something gooshy. Can we talk about how gooshy isn’t a word? I can’t believe that.
25. Sannhet – Atrium
Are you in withdrawal from lack of Deafheaven instrumentals? Do you not know that other shoegazey black metal exists? Just look it up on the internet. If you don’t feel like searching, just go to Sannhet’s album Revisionist. It’s an instrumental black metal album with everything you want in a good black metal song, minus the retching that some people don’t like about Deafheaven. One friend said that she wants to take long naps inside their instruments. I can get behind that.
26. Sufjan Stevens – Fourth Of July
I’m not gonna cry. But I might. And that’s okay, because it needs to be more socially acceptable for men to express their feelings in the public realm. Not saying I have a problem with it, but it’s definite stigma. This song is really good.
27. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
If you know me, you know I’m a fan of the good grooves. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” has one of the best grooves of the year so far, but so do other songs on the Unknown Mortal Orchestra record. It was pretty hard for me to choose just one song, but I think the sick chorus on this song helped me make the decision. The chorus employs a super slick bassline, disco-like synth stabs and of course the signature UMO sun-baked vocals to get your body bouncing and grooving.
28. Viet Cong – Death
I’m in real love with this Viet Cong record and have a lot of difficulty choosing which song would be my favorite, much like the Unknown Mortal Orchestra record. I decided in terms of brute force and technical skill, “Death” should be my main choice. For the first say 3:30 of this song it progresses pretty normally, fitting appropriately into the record, but after that it gradually unfolds into noisy madness. There’s one portion that sort of mocks the tradition of dragging out the last note or moment to comical levels, continuing to play the same note for about two minutes. But then it turns into a completely different song on a dime, destroying any idea that people had about where the song was headed. Such a good closer.
29. Wet – Deadwater
The most recent addition to this list is Wet’s “Deadwater,” the first single off of their upcoming debut album. Super smooth and luscious, this track effortlessly glides around the zones of synth pop and strange adult contemporary pops jams from the 90s. Ultra dreamy and lovely to probably take a bath to.
30. Yumi Zouma – Alena
2015 has been a great year for music, as you can probably tell with the other 29 songs on this list. However, there haven’t really been that many standout summer jams. I feel like other years have been really good at kickin’ out the summer jams left and right, while 2015 mostly yielded unrelenting songs from the winter. “Alena” is a solution to the summer music drought, with a buoyant synth line and refreshing vocals. Totally super groovy, fit for a day and night’s worth of partying.