Jan 8, 2017

2015 Year In Review Part V: The Tracks

We continue now with my favorite 75 songs of the year. As per my somewhat standard disclaimer, the traditional notion of a "single" is virtually meaningless in an age of multiple exclusive promo streams, YouTube, Bandcampe, etc. - so these are just 75 tracks that made me happy in 2015.

75. "Dumb" - Jazmine Sullivan f. Meek Mill
74. "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" - Jamie xx f. Young Thug & Popcaan
73. "Cumbia de Donde" - Calexico
72. "Sapokanikan" Joanna Newsom
71. "Grief" - Earl Sweatshirt
70. "Dream Lover" - Destroyer
69. "Will of the Ancient Call" - Crypt Sermon
68. "Dope Cloud" - Protomartyr
67. "Can't Keep Checking My Phone" - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
66. "In the Dreams of the Dead" - Tribulation
65. "Autodidact" - Swervedriver
64. "Brought to the Water" - Deafheaven
63. "False Hope" - Laura Marling
62. "Speed Trap Town" - Jason Isbell
61. "All Day" - Kanye West f. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney
60. "Run Away With Me" - Carly Rae Jepsen
59. "Backlit" - Kowloon Walled City
58. "Sagres" - The Tallest Man On Earth
57. "Mutant Standard" - Oneohtrix Point Never
56. "On To Something Good" - Ashley Monroe
55. "Sparks" - Hilary Duff
54. "Sedona" - Houndmouth
53. "Carrion Flowers" - Chelsea Wolfe
52. "Huarache Lights" - Hot Chip
51. "Dimed Out" - Titus Andronicus
50. "Demon" - Shamir
49. "Dime Store Cowgirl" - Kacey Musgraves
48. "Stonemilker" - Bjork
47. "Something Soon" - Car Seat Headrest
46. "History" - One Direction
45. "Honeymoon" - Lana Del Rey
44. "Coffee" - Miguel
43. "Ozymandias" - Horrendous
42. "A Quick Death in Texas" - Clutch
41. "Lonesome Street" - Blur
40. "Pretty Pimpin'" - Kurt Vile
39. "Nobody's Empire" - Belle & Sebastian
38. "Twist My Fingaz" - YG
37. "If It Takes a Lifetime" - Jason Isbell
36. "The Hunt Eternal" - Dead To A Dying World
35. "Lift Me Up" - Vince Staples
34. "Paul" - Girl Band
33. "Snakeskin" - Deerhunter
32. "The Yabba" - Battles
31. "The Black Plot" - High On Fire
30. "The Rhythm Changes" - Kamasi Washington
29. "Missing U" - Dam-Funk
28. "The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt." - Father John Misty
27. "Clearest Blue" - CHVCHES
26. "The Book of Souls" - Iron Maiden
25. "A New Wave" - Sleater Kinney
24. "Biscuits" - Kacey Musgraves
23. "Accelerate" - Susanne Sundfor
22. "Let It Happen" - Tame Impala
21. "Feel You" - Julia Holter
20. "Depreston" - Courtney Barnett
19. "The Blacker The Berry" - Kendrick Lamar
18. "Really Love" - D'Angelo
17. "Sweet Satisfaction" - Ryley Walker
16. "Should Have Known Better" - Sufjan Stevens
15. "Hello" - Erykah Badu
14. "Bitch Better Have My Money" - Rihanna
13. "Ship To Wreck" - Florence + The Machine
12. "Pedestrian at Best" - Courtney Barnett
11. "Kill v. Maim" - Grimes

10. "I Really Like You" - Carly Rae Jepsen
Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of this song upon first hearing, it felt too cutesy and a little too on the nose to get me excited about the follow-up to her big breakthrough album. But as I got to know its parent album better, the song's simple charms wormed into my head and heart. While not my favorite track on the record, see below, it's still another great single from an artist that is proving herself to be the furthest thing from a one-hit wonder.

9. "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" - The Mountain Goats
While I'm not an obsessive Mountain Goats stan, I've grown to be a big fan of most things into which John Darnielle pours his energies, whether it's a book, a blog post or a new album. I particularly love it when he digs into his, ahem, nerdier pursuits - as he does on his latest Mountain Goats record, exploring the world of professional wrestling. No matter the filter, Darnielle remains an astute observer of the human condition and a killer song writer. "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" joins an already lengthly list of beautiful songs he's written.

8. "24 Frames" - Jason Isbell
As you can see in the list above, I was really pleased with what the former Drive-By Trucker had to offer on his latest solo record. "24 Frames" was the best of an already very strong bunch, using the number of frames that pass by the camera in a single second to tell one of his typical introspective, heartbreaking tales. It earned it's place on the list from the very first time I heard its most crippling line, "You thought God was an architect / Now you know he's something like a pipe bomb / Ready to blow".

7. "Can't Feel My Face" - The Weeknd
This was another inescapable pop song from 2015 that I didn't like all too much on my first exposure. It didn't help that I was really loath to actually engage with The Weeknd, since I wasn't all that impressed with his initial woe is me misogyny schtick. But he's developed an undeniable talent for writing a killer pop song when he wants, and this being one of the best of those. There's an inescapable Michael Jackson vibe in how effortless this feels and how easily it worms into your head.

6. "Angels" - Chance The Rapper f. Saba
Even without a proper release, mixtape or otherwise, under his own name in 2015, it was still a productive year for Chicago's rising superstar. After the collaborative release with some of his Chicago area friends, more on that soon, he released "Angels" - the lead single for his highly anticipated third full-length mixtape. Produced by the Norwegian Lido, this song bounces along as a conflicted ode to both Chicago and the two sides of expectations on Chance's career, bolstered by gospel harmonies and a horn section. It boded well for that third mixtape.

5. "Gimme All Your Love" - Alabama Shakes
It's been really cool to see this band so quickly adopted by the mainstream rock industry and Grammy voters. Not that either group means all that much, but it's still a kick for me when a genuinely talented new group slips through the cracks. It helps, of course, when you've got the powerhouse vocals of Brittany Howard leading the way. "Gimme All Your Love" didn't get quite as much radio shine as "Don't Wanna Fight" did, but I found this to be the longer lasting of the two.

4. "Making the Most of the Night" - Carly Rae Jepsen
I was really disappointed to see how quickly Emotion sank. Sure, it came with unrealistically high expectations when following up one of the best pop singles of the past half decade, but I'm still baffled that it didn't connect more with fans and radio listeners. The more time I spent with it, the more charms were revealed, and this was the track I played the most. It didn't have the biggest names attached to it, like some of the other tracks on this album did, but it didn't need them either. This was just a burst of near pop perfection that required no extra help.

3. "Sunday Candy" - Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
The name may not seem familiar to the uninitiated, but anyone who watched the December 5th, 2015 episode of Saturday Night Live won't be able to forget the infectious joy that Chance The Rapper brought to the stage while performing it. The album this came from was the brainchild of Nico Segal and his band The Social Experiment, friends of Chance from Chicago's incredibly underrated music scene. The whole album is well worth tracking down, but this was the clear standout for a reason - it's a sweet tooth's earnest dream, with Chance's unabashedly professing his love for his grandmother. Only a heartless person couldn't find the charm in this one.

2. "King Kunta" - Kendrick Lamar
I'll likely have more to say about Kendrick Lamar in the coming days, so you'll have to forgive me being a little brief on this one. To Pimp A Butterfly was, among many other things, one of the most profoundly impactful political statements of the year. And "King Kunta" was one of the most impactful moments within it. Starting from the titular references on down, I could unpack the lyrics for days. But I'd much rather have you click on the link above and experience it for yourself.

1. "Alright" - Kendrick Lamar
Yes, his name has popped up a lot on this list, particularly in the top two spots. And, yes, you'll be reading it again before my yearly lists are finished. But it's all with good reason and if I were to select any single track from To Pimp A Butterfly to show off just why I find it to be such an important, life-affirming record, "Alright" would be it. It's the shining moment of hope amidst the anger, pain and confusion. That shining moment of hope that both negates and underscores that anger, pain and hurt. It's an important moment of hope. That shining moment of hope that doesn't excuse or forgive the anger, pain, and hurt, nor should it. That shining moment of hope that we all may need to cling to a little more tightly right now.

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