TOP 10 SONGS OF 2015

#10: “Alright”/ Kendrick Lamar:

At the center of To Pimp A Butterfly, “Alright” stands out as the track that holds the album together with its optimism and razor sharp rhyme schemes all above a gorgeous horn riff. As the summer wore on, it became somewhat of an anthem, and offered a rare moment of hope amongst a collection of songs that burst with darkness and uncertainty elsewhere.

#9: “Come To Your Senses”/ Panda Bear:

Noah Lennox’s impressive Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper showcases this seven minute epic at its midpoint. It’s the longest track on the record and stands an undeniable highlight with its bonfire beach party groove that builds behind a slowly escalating melody as Lennox sings repetitively “Are you mad?” before answering nonchalantly “Ya, I’m mad”, a response in certain contrast to the upbeat mood and tone the track establishes.

#8: “On GP”/ Death Grips:

Easily the most complex song ever written by the experimental project Death Grips, “On GP” alternates between its incredible punk rock riff and spaced-out psychedelica to create an amazing stylistic contrast. All the while, leadman MC Ride delivers anxiety-laden vocals that are unwavering, relentless and panic-inducing.

#7: “Stonemilker”/ Bjork:

Shimmering production permeates this amazing opening track to Vulnicura, which in its entirety is a heartbreaking concept album pertaining to the highly influential artist’s divorce. Never is a moment more powerful than this one, with its gorgeous string arrangements supplementing Bjork’s unmatchable vocal range as she states obvious but clearly unfulfilled desires to “Find our mutual coordinates” and observes “We have emotional needs.”

#6: “Should Have Known Better”/ Sufjan Stevens:

There’s a whispery, stripped down Elliott Smith influence on the standout track to Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell, a concept album dedicated to his late mother. The entire album is both immaculate and incredibly melancholy throughout, but where this track separates itself is when it switches midway through from minor to major chords, gorgeous in their simplicity, as Stevens finds a “reason to live”…”My brother had a daughter/ The beauty that she brings/ Illumination.”

#5: “Beyond Love”/ Beach House:

Of all the music in the now massively deep Beach House catalog, I’d argue nothing comes off any more gentle and gripping as this one. It’s a song about hope and the ability to realize the abundance of potential happiness out there, even after loss. It shows an ambiguity of time and place that seems fitting for any stage of a particular relationship, as Victoria Legrand hits a slightly off-key note near the end of the song while she sings “All I know’s what I see/ And I can’t live without it” that is both painful and comforting all at once.

#4: “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”/ Jamie XX feat. Young Thug and Popcaan

You can argue about The Weeknd versus Fetty Wap all you want; this was the undeniable song of the summer. This upbeat, approachable track stood out like a sore thumb on a record that elsewhere was decidedly minimalistic and nuanced, just as the debut record from The xx was before it. As such, producer Jamie Smith took a big risk combining rap verses from Young Thung with a Caribbean funk chorus courtesy of Popcaan all over a catchy and melodic tropical vibe, but somehow it all melted together perfectly.

#3: “Let It Happen”/ Tame Impala:

The sprawling opener to the mind-boggling Currents begins Tame Impala’s best album to date with a bang. As the title implies, it’s a song about surrendering to chaos and learning to abandon logic and reason, and at nearly eight minutes in length, is a gutsy way to begin. It’s heavy and challenging both lyrically and musically, as complex a song as the band has ever recorded, building and swelling behind its intense disco loops and jabbing bass synths before breaking down into a thrilling crescendo.

#2: “When You’re Smiling And Astride Me”/ Father John Misty:

In terms of pure beauty and orchestration, there wasn’t a better song written in 2015 than this one, which came out of nowhere as the highlight from former Fleet Foxes member Josh Tillman’s stunning debut album. Maybe no other lyric better defined the middle of my year than this one, “I can hardly believe I found you, and I’m terrified by that.” That lyric is meant as a vulnerable admission in what was the year’s greatest love song, but for me, it meant pure, legitimate fear.

#1: “Kill V. Maim”/ Grimes:

The fascinating centerpiece of her stunning album Art Angels might be the first pure club joint that Grimes has ever produced, and in a year that didn’t have a solid favorite for Song of the Year heading into the last quarter, this thing took full command of the title and should be no surprise in this spot for anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention. There’s so much going on in this track that it often feels like it’s over before the listener’s head stops spinning or can even get a read on what’s happened. I will never forget the first time I heard it, walking to work with a massive smile on my face as I attempted to grasp what I was hearing. Huge, propulsive stadium beats support vocals that showcase high-pitched ferocity, constantly shifting between cheerleader chanting that is equal parts demonic and angelic, and all executed to immaculate effect. Grimes stated in an interview that the track was “written from the perspective of Al Pacino in the Godfather 2, except he’s a vampire who can switch gender and travel through space”, which makes it even more awesome than it already was.

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