So many songs tickled my fancy this year. I tried to make a top ten list but wound up with over 50. To keep it palatable, I’m listing in detail only the top twenty, not including songs from my favorite albums of the year, and linking to them in my Spotify list here.
Favorite Songs: 2015:
Honestly, some of my favorite songs were on my favorite albums. These include Indica by Foxing, Fairly Local and Goner by Twenty One Pilots, Silent Key by Frank Turner, Torn Apart by Enter Shikari, and We Are Infinite by The Lighthouse and the Whaler. But I already covered them in my albums list.
The Coma Machine by Between the Buried and Me
If Stefon from SNL where to invent a song this would be it because this song has everything! Seriously, it does. Listen to it. Listen to all of its metal, prog, hardcore, dreamscape glory and realize that you can never write a song this good. (i wish i’d liked the album as much as i liked this song)
Riding My Bicycle by Team Me
There’s a lot to disqualify this song: it’s actually from their first release (2011) and rereleased on their second album that actually came out in Europe in 2014. However, it was released as the opening track in the states in 2015 and it’s incredible, so I’ll allow it. It’s a harrowing journey that demands edge-of-your-seat tension with a three-minute intro and a deceitfully happy title. Pretty much every track on this album is a winner (I’m not sure why I didn’t include it on my album list actually).
S.O.B by Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
My brother introduced me to this song and it got some late-night exposure; I couldn’t have been happier. It doesn’t get catchier than this. I dare you not to clap along and scream the chorus–even in polite company. (about that–there are some swears.) That said, for a truly rich retro R & B experience I didn’t find the album delivered as well as Leon Bridges’ Coming Home.
Days Will Run Away by Motion City Soundtrack
Genre rock shines in this epic sing-along fest that wears its 1980s glam rock ballad pedigree handsomely while also wisely shedding it for a modern indie-rock sensibility.
Feel the Lightning by Dan Deacon
Nothing about this song–or this video–should work, but it all does so weirdly well (emphasis on weird). The electronic glitch-rock track drips joy and non-conformity in the most pop-savvy way imaginable. Plus it has lyrics like this: “And oceans have all been dried up and left; they became the skies and then they all wept the first time they heard the song from Tom Petty–the one where Johnny Depp plays the rebel named Eddie.” If Deacon keeps this up he might accidentally make an album that’s accessible AND popular.
Dreams Come True by Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers often talks about how he wants to capture the sound of the desert in his music; with “Dreams Come True” he’s come pretty darn close. It smells like neon lighting blinking over asphalted parking lots overlooking dusk-lit sagebrush rolling over mesas.
River from the Sky by The Weepies
This song stops me in my tracks and shoots me back to my wishing-on-the-first-star-I-see-on-a-summer’s-dusk innocence and infuses me with sadness and a strange hope. The Weepies always have an uneven approach to albums and I expect it might because they are a husband-wife team who co-write and one spouse must be the stronger writer. But when they hit, it’s haunting.
Thrash by Emery
The fun thing about this song is you can move the scrubber forward every forty seconds and hear what sounds like an entirely different song, genre, and band. That’s the Emery many of us grew to love in the early 00s. They made a pretty solid album this year, but for me this song was the standout moment.
Nausea by Jeff Rosenstock
This song is so messy that it feels like Rosenstock’s spit showers your ears when you listen to it; but that’s what makes it so great. Sloppy pop-rock with brutally honest lyrics and a sardonic sense of humor makes this song stand out. (warning: thar be swears)
Strange Hellos by Torres
Torres seems like an artist we are supposed to like forced on us by NPR and Paste Magazine but darnit if she ain’t great! “Strange Hellos” serves as a great companion to “Nausea” due to its rawness and introspection–not to mention the fact that you can hear Mackenzie Scott’s saliva as she screams “I was all for being real . . . what’s mine isn’t really yours.” The album Sprinter is solid, but if Torres ever makes an album with ten tracks like “Strange Hellos” then it will be ear-shattering bliss.
Deathless by Moving Mountains
I think it’s time for me to accept that Moving Mountains are never going to be the heart-wrenching, tempo-shifting band from the late 2000s that I grew to love ever again. I should just embrace the gentle, whispering musicians they’ve evolved into. But it’s hard for me to do so. This ditty from a split EP with Prawn makes it easier with a fantastic, non-rushed epic that knows exactly where it’s going.
Fire with Fire by Night Terrors of 1927
This song wins two awards: best song from worst named artist AND best pre-chorus of the year. The chorus kind of Foo Fighters it thought (which is when a song has a great verse and a pre-chorus but a disappointing chorus). Worth repeat listens though.
Look Up and See Infinity, Look Down and See Nothing by Mayday Parade
This is a whispery song that highlights the potential Mayday Parade has if they put their minds to it. I wish the song turned into a more epic conclusion instead of petering out, but we’ll take what we can get.
Never Ending Circles by CHVRCHES
At first I was disappointed with CHCRCHES’ new album, but I got a free copy of it and the more I listen to it the more it’s growing on me. This song, however, stood out immediately. It’s classic CHVRCHES–if that’s a thing yet.
Yellow Love by Citizen
This song is so slow and sad that it seems like it should bore me but instead it haunts me. Enough so that I kept coming back to it even if the rest of the album sort of fell by the wayside. Weirdly, the lyrics are quite upbeat considering the tone of the song. Or at least I think they are. To be honest, I have no idea what yellow love means. This song seems to subscribe to the 90’s alternative concept of cryptic, droopy lyrics equal depth. In fact, this song would be very comfortable being played on my static-infested boombox in my bedroom circa 1995.
Got to My Head by WATERS
The 90s remain strong in this thread with this upbeat track from WATERS. What’s with the all-caps bands, by the way? But this is more in line with the shout-along alterna-coffee shop rock that dominated the first half of that decade. But don’t worry nostalgia-phobes, there is enough 2010s infused to make anyone comfortable.
Of Crows and Crowns by Dustin Kensrue
Two albums into Kensrue’s solo career (not including his Xmas album) and I’m a much bigger fan of his musty acoustic solo work than his screechy Thrice discography. While now professing his love for his wife instead of Jesus he somehow still makes it just as universal as he did with his hymns. Kensrue can make an atheist sing hymns and a cynic sing love songs.
Hunted by Murder by Death
This song bears its heritage of cowboy songs and cranks it up to a Jolt Cola level circa 1996.
Collapsing by Word Alive
Apparently this album came out in 2014. My bad. Oh well, I thought it was 2015 so I’ll allow it because I make the rules on my listicles dammit! File this song under the hashtag #notallmetalcore if you thought the genre was incapable of creating anything worthwhile, original, or distinguishable. As an additional plug, my 7-year old, who hates screamy and hard music, recently requested this song. Perhaps because of the pretty “you’ll live to love again” chorus?
Left You Behind by Stick to Your Guns
Poor hardcore. It seems like the only time it gets recognition is when a song/artist challenges or uplifts the genre. Unfortunately–or fortunately–I’m doing the same thing here. On an otherwise unremarkable album Stick to Your Guns unleashed this gem of what the genre is capable of in 2015, showing what artists can do if they allow themselves to get over the traditions and setbacks holding down genres.
The Last Stand by Shining
The live version is the way to go! A perfect song to end on because it’s as uncertain and crazy as 2016 hopefully will be musically. From an album titled International Jazz Society that might be the most appropriately title album of the year and this song shows why. Listen to it and tell me what genre it is: jazz? metal? industrial? rock? At the end it doesn’t matter because it’s awesome.
And here’s the rest on my already overcrowded list:
On the Run by Dance Gavin Dance
Chlorine and Wine by Baroness
Make a Scene by Shamir
Stonefist by HEALTH
Dark Night by Hot Chip
Drunk Tank by Drug Church
River by Leon Bridges
Run by AWOLNATION
Bury My Bones at Crystal Cove by Hawthorne Heights
Cradle (Better Nature) by Silversun Pickups
Oh No by Bring Me The Horizon
Narrow Mouth by The Early November
I Didn’t Deserve This by Daisyhead
Black Sun by Death Cab for Cutie
A Road Inside by Inward Oceans
Thousand Eyes by Of Monsters and Men (my 1-year old loves watching this video)
Elektra by Refused
Damien by Modestep (thar be swears!)
Mark My Words by Holly Miranda
What Went Down by The Foals
Permanent Sunlight by No Devotion
Careless by El Vy
The Line by The Dear Hunter
August (Part Two) by Hotel Books
The Blacker the Berry by Kendrick Lamar (thar be swears!)