This is a 100-song playlist of songs that made 2015 unique from other years. Songs that I listened to a ton, songs I discovered for the first time, songs that hold immense emotional weight, and other assorted sonic ephemera. My usual haunts like Avalanches, Burial, Smiths & Slowdive I did listen to a lot, but what’s new? I listen to those bands almost every day. It’s listed chronologically, so the first song marks January 1st, 2015 and the last for December 31st, 2015.
A lot of these are sadsack songs because I was a big old sadman for the last third of the year. However, I made a lot of essential musical discoveries this year: The Sundays, Mulatu Astatqe, Midlake, Stereolab, Neil Young’s On The Beach, the mystical world of American Primitive guitar music, Casino Versus Japan, Kanye West’s 808’s & Heartbreaks… So many good things. A lot of these, however, are songs from this year. I tried to make them different from the songs in my Top 100 of 2015 but some are just so good that I couldn’t choose any others.
Here’s another Spotify playlist as well. The songs that aren’t on there are linked here with Youtube clips on the song name. I hope you enjoy, Spotify users.
I did one of these last year too.
- Jeremy Zuckerman – “Legend Of Korra Ending Theme“
I ended 2014 on the highest of high notes with the glorious ending of my favorite show, The Legend Of Korra. The ending theme killed me and listening to it even now gets me all misty.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion – “Cruel Angel’s Thesis“
I started off the year watching the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, which was fantastic. I had the theme song stuck in my head on multiple occasions, so here you go. I highly recommend this show if you haven’t watched it before. There’s also a video of a military man dancing to it that’s just the best.
- Yo La Tengo – “We’re An American Band”
Sitting in the airport during a layover listening to Yo La Tengo was another great way to start the year. Yo La Tengo – great rainy day & airport band.
- Father John Misty – “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me”
I Love You Honeybear was the first record of 2015 I became fully obsessed with. This was so fun to listen to. So romantic, so extravagant.
- Mount Eerie – “Boat”
I clearly remember playing this on the radio really loud and screaming along with the shriek of feedback in this song. Occasional loud Phil is a good Phil to have around.
- Björk – “Stonemilker”
The first taste of new Björk left me in tears. I remember having a tough day that day too, so this definitely helped it out.
- Jib Kidder – “Dozens”
The freaky guitar solo in this song is everything I need in life.
- Sunflower Bean – “Tame Impala”
Sunflower Bean played at UConn in early 2015 and they were so good and so nice. I love this band and everything about them. Full length debut coming in 2016!
- Hundred Waters – “Cavity (Shigeto Remix)”
Can’t be a good year without Hundred Waters, therefore 2015 was a pretty good year I guess.
- Gustavo Santaolalla – “Tema Amores Perros + Atacama”
This was the ending theme to a film I watched in one of my classes and it mesmerized me so much that I went out and downloaded the soundtrack just for this song. Shout out to Carlos, if you’re reading this.
- Kanye West – “Paranoid (Ft. Mr. Hudson)”
This was my last Kanye album to discover. This song is a lot of fun on an album that ain’t too much fun.
- Krill – “Tiger”
A very good and very important song from an important band in 2015.
- And The Kids – “Glory Glory”
And The Kids performed this at WHUS for a studio session and it was my favorite session of 2015.
- Mulatu Astatqé – “Tezeta”
- Mulatu Astatqé – “Tezetayé Antchi Lidj”
These two songs came off a collection of Ethiopian jazz called Éthiopiques 4: Ethio Jazz & Musique Instrumentale 1969-1974 and it kept me sane during the most difficult semester of my college career. I cannot recommend it enough. There are so many Ethiopiques records out there, too. Get listening!
- Kelela – “A Message”
I listened to this song a disgusting amount of times in 2015.
- Felt – “Down But Not Yet Out“
Shout out to Joel. This isn’t the last mention of him.
- Wet – “No Lie”
I don’t want to reach the day where I personally connect with these lyrics, but who knows, it could come.
- Chromatics – “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around”
Where is the album tho.
- Sufjan Stevens – “No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross”
The first taste of new Sufjan was a punch to the gut, the whole album was a semi truck of emotion to the gut. Woof.
- Pure X – “Every Tomorrow”
Got way into Pure X this year. They’re really, really underrated. Great spring time band.
- Yowler – “Bedroom Wall”
Sad times abound.
- Grimes – REALiTi (demo)”
Lots of fun. Don’t care much for the newer version.
- Kendrick Lamar – “Wesley’s Theory”
I chose this song because it’s the first track off To Pimp A Butterfly, so this makes sense to be a major song from 2015. The first look at a modern piece of art.
- Sun Araw – “Conga Mind”
I like to describe Sun Araw’s early output as the perfect hot tub music. Evidently, this album is also really good for doing homework to, since it puts you in some sort of primal trance.
- Chastity Belt – “Joke”
“Nothing serious, everything’s a joke.” Important song for erasing graduation anxiety.
- Ava Luna – “Tenderize”
Ava Luna played at UConn in February and they were so nice. Bands that came to UConn were usually nice. I liked that part about my job.
- Death Grips – “On GP”
Jenny Death then.
- Red House Painters – “Katy Song”
Finally started my trek into Red House Painters in 2015. The longer songs are usually my favorites.
- Prefab Sprout – “Wild Horses”
Shout out to Joel again and also Ross. And also my mom who listened to Prefab Sprout in college.
- Sicko Mobb – “Kool Aid“
I’m not sure if there’s a song that’s more fun than this on this list. This record is such a blast to listen to if you just lose the pretension for a second or two. Walking around on campus to this made outside things bearable.
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”
- Hop Along – “Texas Funeral”
“None of this is gonna happen to me within my lifetime.” And then it all happened.
- Holly Herndon – “An Exit (ft. Amnesia Scanner)”
This song would give me stomach aches because of how deep I would get into it. One of my friends said that they should play it over and over to interrogate people. Despite its intensity, it’s quite beautiful.
- Donnie & Joe Emerson – “Baby”
The sexiest and most romantic song I listened to in 2015.
- Dan Lambert – “Charley Town”
I got way super into solo acoustic guitar music this year, specifically American Primitive Guitar style a la John Fahey. This has got a nice touch of bluegrass in there, which I love. It’s off a delightful compilation called Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli. I cannot recommend it enough.
- Eskimeaux – “I Admit I’m Scared”
Very important. Especially the end.
- Juan Wauters – “Woodside, Queens”
The king of chill. One of the nicest dudes ever. Good leisure driving music.
- Seoul – “The Line”
These nice Canadians stopped by UConn in April and played a great concert. Later they dropped their debut album and it sounds like how a perfect summer day feels. Canadians are the best.
- Young Thug – “Halftime”
The only Young Thug song I could handle for most of this year. This song is just so bonkers! It’s got an impressive “skrrrrr” from Thugger and lots of bizarre lyrics. So like, that’s all you need from a Young Thug song.
- Connan Mockasin – “Forever Dolphin Love”
I feel this song on so many different levels. An unstoppable groove.
- Two Gospel Keys – “I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore”
Discovered Portland-based Mississippi Records & Little Axe Records in 2015 and they have splendid collections of so much good stuff. This is off a compilation of worship songs from different corners of the USA from 1927-1948. This one’s more traditional gospel, but there’s all sorts of stuff on there. Some heartwarming, some strangely haunting.
- Carl Perkins – “Her Love Rubbed Off”
More old-world country music. Bradford Cox of Deerhunter said this song is what Suicide would sound like if they were a country band.
- Jamie xx – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) (Ft. Young Thug & Popcaan)”
Not my favorite song on In Colour (“The Rest Is Noise”) but definitely the most fun and inescapable. There’s a resonating snap at 1:51 that seals the deal for me.
- Leon Bridges – “River”
Simple, soulful perfection. A great late-night summer song.
- Domenique Dumont – “Comme Ça”
The sound of my summer. Unbelievably breezy and beautiful. The sound of going out to breakfast on a Sunday morning with a best friend.
- Roman A Clef – “The Prisoner”
Shout out to Joel, again. Also my friends in PF!
- White Reaper – “Last 4th Of July”
- Beach House – “Sparks”
This song raised my expectations for Depression Cherry to unreasonable heights. But hey the album was still good.
- Vince Staples – “Norf Norf”
Bless Mr. Clams Casino for this one.
- Clarence Clarity – “Bloodbarf”
The best boy band sound from a non-boy band from the past 10 years. I don’t know what came out 10 years ago, though, so I can’t be sure if it’s more than 10 years.
- Smog – “Dirty Pants“
Down and dirty Smog is one I can get down with.
- Angel Olsen – “Drunk And With Dreams”
Never actually been drunk while listening to this, but it captures the feeling well. I listened to Strange Cacti a lot when I was home alone this summer.
- Mac DeMarco – “Without Me”
Favorite song off the new Mac. Can’t beat that shimmering guitar tone, baby.
- Sleep – “Dopesmoker”
Drove to and from UConn a lot to this, also played a lot of video games to it. Also beckoned the first big thunderstorm of the summer with this by playing it real loud with all the windows open in my apartment. It was awesome. It also annoyed my roommates.
- Blue Sky Black Death – “And Stars, Ringed”
Vividly remember packing up my apartment and leaving my college town forever to this song. Oddly uplifting. It was a feeling of “you’ve done your job here, it’s time to move on.” Pretty magical.
- Carly Rae Jepsen – “Gimmie Love”
The best around. The best in town. Can’t give me any flak for this, you’re not allowed.
- Porches – “Daddies“
Seeing Porches this summer in Brooklyn was so lovely. This song kills me. Huge early Modest Mouse vibes on this.
- Battles – “Rainbow”
Rediscovered Battles’ debut record this summer. What a wicked album. I hope this song was well-touted when it first came out, because it deserves it. The beginning section sounds like something being wound up too much and exploding from the pressure, then it all builds, then there’s a huge explosion, then a glorious afterglow. If you’ve never heard this song before, I hope you’re ready for an amazing ride.
- 2814 – “恢复”
This is the first song on an album I would listen to every single time I went back home from NYC this year, starting in August until December. Naturally, I listened to it the most since it’s the first song. It’s the perfect late night train song, like absolutely perfect. If you show me a song that fits better on a night train ride, I’ll be impressed.
- Kate Bush – “Jig Of Life“
I had been a fan of Hounds Of Love before this year but had never dug too deep into the second half of the album due to the immense strength of the first half. Little did I know that there was a stellar Celtic jig track on there. This and “Hello Earth” are my favorites on the back half.
- Heathered Pearls – “Personal Kiosk (ft. The Sight Below)”
Got into this album as I noticed some darkness slowly filtering into my life. It helped me smooth it all down and drown it out. Distinctly remember listening to this while driving to a vegan restaurant with my girlfriend this summer. Good memories.
- The Sundays – “Here’s Where The Story Ends”
- The Sundays – “A Certain Someone”
- The Sundays – “My Finest Hour”
These three songs by The Sundays are from the 1990 album Reading, Writing and Arithmetic, which is by far my favorite discovery I made this year. It’s the perfect jangle pop record. This song in particular I’ve undoubtedly heard before but had never consciously known what it was, so once I knowingly listened to it for the first time, I was thrown for a loop. If anyone can find this on vinyl for me, that would be great.
- Tears For Fears – “Head Over Heels”
Shout out to Dan. I should have sang this at karaoke.
- Drake – “Hotline Bling”
I can only handle this song in extremely small increments now but when it first came out – damn it was hot.
- Yung – “Not A Shelter”
Something about the chord progression of this song just gets me in an indescribable way.
- Sergei Rachmaninoff – “Lilacs, Op. 21, No. 5”
In January I got this collection of Rachmaninoff pieces played by the man himself and they’re just beautiful. This is by far the most serene and best standalone track on the album. I highly suggest you listen to this and experience the piano wizardry.
- Julia Holter – “Sea Calls Me Home”
“I DON’T NEED NO ONE TO FOLLOW, FEATHERS FULL” is a triumphant way to start a great track. But on a serious note, I listened to this album a ton after a member of my family passed away this year and it was the perfect antidote for a bruised heart & hurt soul.
- Majical Cloudz – “Heavy”
I hibernated in this song for a while. The muted, heavy synthesizers that pulse in and out on this track perfectly emulate feelings of numbness. Then the lyrics take it even deeper with meaning, this time on the literal side. Lots of sadsack songs in the latter half of the year. Sorry.
- Life Without Buildings – “The Leanover”
Shout out to Harlan.
- Fetty Wap – “679 (ft. Monty)”
I fell for Mr. Wap this year, gotta be honest. I was a little late, but I came around. I think it’s because I started watching a lot of Vines around this time.
- Midlake – “Van Occupanther“
A great fall record. The beginning of my descent back into the 00s indie rock scene.
- Sun Kil Moon – “Duk Koo Kim“
This song gets me. It also kills me. 14 minutes of pure, Kozelek anguish. I spent many a night laying in the dark, staring at the ceiling and listening to this song. Another sadsack song.
- Casino Versus Japan – “Aquarium”
Anything from late nineties – early 00s & tied to Boards Of Canada in any way is up my alley.
- The Garden – “All Smiles Over Here :)”
For when I’m feeling really weird.
- Broadcast – “Tears In The Typing Pool”
I heard this at a venue alone during CMJ and thought it was an odd choice of something to play in between bands. But it did remind me of how good Tender Buttons is. Shout out to Cymbal.
- Stealing Sheep – “Love”
I saw Stealing Sheep twice at CMJ and they were extraordinarily good.
- Whitney – “No Matter Where We Go“
Quite possibly the opposite of a sadsack song. The last (and best) band I saw at CMJ was Whitney – such a good finisher for a stressful week. Midwest is the best. Look out for a debut album from these Chicago boys this year.
- Empress Of – “How Do You Do It”
Didn’t really dig this album too much on first listen but after seeing Empress Of at CMJ that changed everything I thought about the album before. This was the song that swayed me, along with the reactions from my friends Erik and Ross during the little synth part during the chorus.
- Neil Young – “Walk On“
On The Beach is one of the best albums ever made. Really found a place of happiness in the folds of Young’s country warble.
- Stereolab – “Diagonals”
Really dug into Stereolab this year. They had always been in the periphery but now they’re finally front and center. Dots And Loops was my first stop. Slowing moving forward now. This song is on Dots And Loops and it’s fun and odd and groovy as all hell.
- Colleen – “Lighthouse”
Simple, repetitive, meditative pop music.
- Natalia Lafourcade – “Hasta La Raíz”
What a treasure. Thank you Amoeba Music for introducing me to this gem.
- Arca – “Mutant”
The boldest statement on an already bold album. Took a while to develop for me but slowly revealed itself to be one of the most exciting and blood curdling tracks of 2015. The way all the parts slowly come together and then quickly come apart is so exhilarating.
- Future – “March Madness”
Not completely and fully sold on Future yet, but this song is doing work.
- Danny L Harle – “Awake For Hours”
So anxious and so crazy, yet so fun. That’s PC Music for ya. The hard hitting part starting at 2:10 is so satisfying. I love when songs just pound the listener like that.
- Eluvium – “Under The Water It Glowed”
I mean, I’ve been listening to this album for a while, but it provided a nice, much needed moment of respite during the year.
- Tame Impala – “The Less I Know The Better”
This has to be the best music video of 2015. Also my name is in this song. And also Tame Impala made shirts with “Fuck Trevor” on them. Pretty fuckin’ cool year to be a Trevor.
- Four Tet – “Sing”
Another one of those albums that really came into its own with me this year. This is a great morning train ride album. Pair this with 2814 at night and you’ve got a good collection of train music started. Let me know if you need any more – I have plenty.
- The Stone Roses – “I Wanna Be Adored”
I had this album in high school but didn’t really give it the time of day. I was a fool.
- Gillian Welch – “My First Lover”
My last little burst of folk for the year was a great one. Really happy I finally dug into the catalog of Gillian Welch to have something to look into more in 2016.
- Joanna Newsom – “Waltz Of The 101st Lightborne“
I teared up when I saw this performed live. On the record it’s at around 4:12. Also the premise of time travel, futuristic yet old-timey air warfare (is this a steampunk song? I dunno?), and the synergy of all sorts of instruments. There’s a fiddle solo at the end. Be still my beating heart.
- Yes – “Close To The Edge”
I get up, I get down. I GET UUUUP, I GET DOOOOWN. But oh my god, the organ.
- Jeremih – “Planez”
The way that Jeremih says “on a blimp” at the end of the chorus or hook really resonates with me. J. Cole is pretty unnecessary on here though. The whole song is decently unnecessary, except for “on a blimp.”
- Oneohtrix Point Never – “No Good”
My last month and a half of 2015 was defined by this song. I felt no good, everything was no good. This year, for the most part, was no good. A lot of the time I just felt so powerless, like nothing was under my control. This is what this song kind of reminds me of; a faceless narrator kind of being thrown about by unstoppable forces, especially in the deep intense middle section. No Good. Haha, this song is very good though. Haha.
- Jessica Pratt – “Game That I Play“
Got really, REALLY into Jessica Pratt’s latest at the end of the year. Like a LOT. Before it was great, like, obviously I liked it a lot but for some reason it reached another level in the final weeks of 2015.
- Grouper – “Alien Observer”
Listened to a lot of Grouper this winter, specifically A|A. It was really nice.
- Baroness – “Shock Me”
The final song of the year is a supremely badass one. This song is so righteously awesome and fiery – last time I felt this way was 2012, the last time Baroness released an album.
Thanks to my friends and family for the support this year. See you in 2016.