The Best Songs of 2015: Sean’s List
Each year, it gets harder and harder to keep up with all the great music out there making people’s days. But the search and discovery of new tunes to whistle or table-drum or headbang to is what keeps me young when I’ve no business calling myself that anymore, really. These 20 songs are a reflection of all the wonderful twists and turns my life took in 2015. I hope you like them.
20. JR JR – “Gone”
I’ve always had a soft spot for these lovable lads from Detroit. I feel as though their latest album — and accompanying name change — flew under the radar in 2015, but with “Gone,” they have made candy my ears can’t resist consuming. Particularly at around the 90-second mark where that Paul Simon-esque bass line kicks in for the first time — I am hooked.
19. San Fermin – “Jackrabbit”
There’s a reason this song is the title track of the band’s newest record. Charlene Kaye’s vocals are expressive but not strained, and the arrangement done by Ellis Ludwig-Leone drives momentum forward. It’s the most irresistible on the record of the same name.
18. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
This is like some kind of melancholy ghost-anthem run through a classic-rock reverb machine, then split and spliced for good measure. And that’s just the first four minutes. “Let It Happen” then implodes and takes all kinds of funky, elastic twists and turns. It’s nearly 8 minutes of multi-layered, fascinating rock music.
17. Kacey Musgraves – “Biscuits”
Fun without being frivolous, cliched without being trite, this anthem about keeping your nose out of other people’s business is also catchy without appearing to try too hard to be so. I still find it endearing after more listens than I care to admit.
16. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
This song may have been one of the biggest hits of 2015. But I just can’t shake the fact that I sing along with it whenever I hear it. Anywhere, anytime. Every. Damn. Time.
15. Earl Sweatshirt – “Wool (ft. Vince Staples)”
Both rappers spit tightly wound, impressive verses on this track, and the simple knocking beat and keyboard riff beneath them allows the focus to stay on the flow.
14. Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s – “Waking Up And Walking Out”
This song was previously only available on a somewhat obscure compilation, but the band released a collection of rarities from 2004 to 2014 this year, and the re-imagined and fully fleshed-out version — replete with horns, keyboards, banjo and fantastic energy — grabbed my attention all over again. A great way to reconnect with one of my all-time favorite bands.
13. Grimes – “California”
Grimes’ latest effort Art Angel is truly remarkable, and this track instantly had me with the catchy handclap percussion, hefty synths and the melodic layering of vocal and digital elements by the artist herself.
12. Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious”
This song feels like Chvrches crossed with late-era Robyn, but whatever comparisons I try to make won’t do Sundfor’s range and those bangin’ synthesizers justice.
11. Vince Staples feat. Snoh Aalegra – “Jump Off The Roof”
This is my favorite song from Staples’ full-length debut Summertime ’06.
10. Florence + The Machine – “What Kind of Man”
Florence Welch has always been able to sing with any artist out there. That and the dramatic stomping percussion and punchy horns make it a powerful sleezeball-slaying anthem.
9. Hudson Mohawke – “Scud Books”
HudMo’s album is full of mostly-instrumental bangers, and this one gets me going with its infectious energy.
8. Sufjan Stevens – “Should Have Known Better”
It’s amazing that Stevens can possess such power using only his whisper-quiet voice, an acoustic guitar and some reverb. But digital and vocal layers creep in and out (some wonderful eerie backing vocals) and it’s the weight of his story — one about the strengths and weaknesses of family ties — that drives this beautiful song home.
7. Laura Marling – “False Hope”
An understated but well-constructed angst-filled rock song, with Marling opening up a little more than we’re used to hearing.
6. Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin”
This song was immediately cool to me. It’s weird and catchy and is unmistakably Kurt Vile, with those layered guitar harmonies leading the way quite effectively.
5. The Mountain Goats – “Foreign Object”
John Darnielle strikes again! This is a gem, with his trademark nasally vocals and vivid storytelling, coupled with guitar and horns.
[The Mountain Goats Facebook]
4. Lady Lamb – “Spat Out Spit”
Aly Spaltro is a master of taking existential, stream-of-consciousness snippets and giving them exceptional life. Electric guitar, brass, all kinds of neat percussion and Spaltro’s own voice make this song a enjoyably spooky delight.
3. Lady Lamb – “Billions of Eyes”
2. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
About six songs from Lamar’s masterpiece To Pimp A Butterfly were in the running for this list for me. But I like that this one focuses primarily on his fabulous flow, but still features a fantastic musical canvas on which he paints.
1. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”
This song was most folks’ introduction to Barnett, who is one of the most gifted young songwriters going out there. And it’s a raucous, attitude-filled “how do you do?” I enjoyed it for dozens of listens in 2015, and still do.