The Best Songs of 2015: Paul’s List
Father John Misty – “Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)”
This hasn’t moved an inch since I named it my favorite song of 2015 back in May. His note-perfect lyrics are so precise and clever that it’s like someone describing a Wes Anderson set diorama. And when the trumpet comes in, forget it. Game over. Favorite song of the year.
Laura Stevenson – “Ticker Tape”
Ghostly, tentative whispery road trip of a song. It’s a beautiful sketch mark of harmonies that rise and fall like the telephone lines alongside the highway as you drive along.
Frank Turner – “Get Better”
This song is the important song I heard in 2015. Hands down. It hard-charges out the door and then just keeps racheting up the pathos. This is an anthem, wake-up call, love song and recovery song all in one.
Alice Boman – “Waiting”
This is the literal sound of hearing someone’s heartbreak, documented and recorded for posterity. Boman’s wood-sprite voice is so forlorn and lost here that you just want to find her and hold her, telling her everything’s going to be okay.
[Alice Boman Facebook]
Ryan Adams – “This Love”
I showed up for the novelty of hearing Ryan Adams doing something fun, plus I like Taylor Swift. There, I said it. Say what you will about his “1989” (it’s in my Top 5 of the year) or dismiss it as an art project, but there’s no denying that his version of “This Love” strips the song bare in ways that it was never intended. It does less revealing architecture than it does reconstruct what makes love tick. It’s transcendent.
Palace Winter – “Menton”
They’ve obviously taken more than one song from the War on Drugs playbook, but “Menton” is worth a listen—a roiling song that’s about the goings-on of a house that evoke drama beyond what’s going on within the walls.
Cannons – “Evening Star”
In the first five seconds, there’s a sultry swagger to “Evening Star” that roots itself in the base of your neck. You’re a puppet—a slave to the slinky, oil-slick beat they’ve created here. Dream-pop at its sexiest.
Matrimony – “Giant”
This is my “Letters from the Sky” of 2015: Telegraphed importance from the opening piano, dissolving into something harder and more meaningful. The lyrics (“There’s a giant leading me going to god knows here”) suggest something about past relationships and obligations keeping you in a small town and how this invisible hand keeps someone alone as a result. It’s as straightforward as it is oblique.
Best Coast – “California Nights”
Best Coast reviews write themselves. This is no different. “California Nights” fades into view like a call from down Mulholland, echoing through the canyoned city walls. It takes its time before getting there.
Lyla Foy – “Impossible”
I have no idea who Lyla Foy is but her “Impossible” has been in my head a lot in 2015. Maybe it was her repeated refrain “You can’t look back” that speaks to the recovering addict in me, but it’s simple and resigned and beautiful all at once.
Júníus Meyvant – “Hailslide”
The 4-song EP blew my doors off but since we can’t name them as albums of 2015, this will have to do: a floating, swirling confection that sounds like it’s been around forever. Bright folk-pop at its most seductive, immerse, and confident.
How Sad – “Hot Blur”
This song is just so simple. I’ll let it speak for itself. Its wind-up is almost good as what the shout-up mellifluously says: “Life doesn’t give a fuck about what you want.”
Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) – “Brothers In Arms” – Mad Max: Fury Road Soundtrack
It’s not every day you get to recommend the standout track to a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film crammed with surrealistic imagery and balls-out vehicular warfare. But this, like the film, is something special. It’s so brutal and bombastic at that you can almost taste the gasoline and gunfire but it’s also strikingly (and shockingly) quiet and tender in places that you can easily get lost in its desolate, sandy soundscape.
Courtney Barnett – “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)”
Barnett’s sleep-talk hasn’t worn off its welcome yet. For a record that’s all about the profundity of everyday occurrences, Barnett’s debut effort is anything but ordinary. This song is no different. Conversational without being breezy, observational without being navel-gazing, it’s a precise stopwatch of a track that’s frighteningly clever and deceptively complex. It’s also just downright fun.
Lord Huron – “The World Ender”
Like a photograph of the American Southwest that’s impressive on its own widescreen terms, Strange Trails is similarly enchanting and expansive the longer you sit with it. Lord Huron has always amused me in their self-serious, all-sound-and-fury approach to songwriting but, start to finish, this propulsive, occasionally haunting LP has a jangly swagger that recalls everything from John Ford movies to pulp Westerns set in the purple sagelands.
Wet – “Deadwater”
This song is the equivalent of watching ink splotch and unfurl in a glass of water. Disarming and delicate.
Eskimeaux – “I Admit I’m Scared”
What starts out as gorgeous and unassuming gives way to one of the most rousing songs of the year.
Gem Club – “First Weeks”
This was the very first song I heard in 2015. It reminds me of sunsets on barren, ice-slaked fields—warmth in emptiness.