I don’t like ranking songs. I find it difficult to qualify one as distinctly better than another. Music is the fucking best. So here are some songs I really loved this year and feel like writing about.
Eugene- Sufjan Stevens: “Some part of me was lost in your sleeve/ Where you hid your cigarettes.”
An Illustration of Loneliness(Sleepless in New York)- Courtney Barnett- Few artists can match the lyrical dexterity of Courtney Barnett, and “Illustration” makes this abundantly clear. The verses surround the simple chorus, “I’m thinking of you too,” illustrating her mental state, as the title of the song suggests. Her stream of consciousness lyrics take her from staring at the wall, to a meditation on death, with a casual memory of reading about palm readings. It is a stand out track on an album of stand out tracks, and proves why we should consider Barnett, possibly the best lyricist making music right now.
January 10th, 2015- The World is a Beautiful Place and I am No Longer Afraid to Die: Diana seeks revenge on a bus driver for the rape and murder of women on buses. Holding the spirits of several of victims within herself, she exacts retribution upon rapists and abusers. It’s huge. It’s an epic. It’s a song futile to describe. Just listen to it.
Pretty Pimpin- Kurt Vile: The song swaggers from its first note. It’s an existential identity crisis while grooming oneself for the day. For a man concerned with aging and responsibility, on Pretty Pimpin, Vile sounds pretty damn sure of himself.
Alpha Kappa Fall of Troy The Movie Part Deux( 2 Disc Director’s Cut)- Modern Baseball: “Rained out, wrapped up in our metaphorical over priced ponchos.” Modern Baseball have a knack for quick one liners that stay with you long after the song closes. Alpha Kappa is no exception. Delivered in a continuous monologue, this song is an absolute gem.
Fatal Flaw- Titus Andronicus: It’s midnight at the bar and you need a sing along. Try this one.
Beautiful Blue Sky- Ought: Beautiful Blue Sky chugs along, pushing forward through yuppie malaise, it’s motorik beat cutting through the mundanity of gentrified society. The affirmative “yes” at the song’s center accepts death and dancing, as possibly the only ways to escape the homogeneity that has gripped western cities. What do you do when the your neighborhood has been taken over by condo developments, keep dancing and wait to die, because there’s really nothing else to do is there?
FloriDada- Animal Collective: Released quietly over Thanksgiving weekend, FloriDada was a surprise, at least for me. Like all AnCo, it is a Dionysian triumph that intoxicates the listener, and awakens our most primal urges.
On the Regular- Shamir: On the Regular is one of the toughest songs of the years. It’s confident and arrogantly delivered, demanding pure acceptance without compromising its nature. That being said, it is also the most inclusive, danceable song, inviting you in, and allowing you into its world. Shamir has the distinct ability to flip you off as a welcoming gesture. Shamir exposes himself in this song. This is who he is, and if you like it awesome if not, “you could get five fingers, and [he’s] not waving hi.”
West Virginia- The Front Bottoms: Some songs resist being written about. Some songs can only be felt a little drunk, sweating in a basement, and shouting out of tune lyrics with your best friends. The Front Bottoms have a knack for these anthems, and on West Virginia, they’ve never sounded better.
Picture This- Kero Kero Bonito: After listening to the song repeatedly, it’s still unclear what’s going on. Is this song a celebration of selfie culture or a tongue in cheek criticism of it? Is it a little bit of both? Does it matter?
Lonesome Street- Blur: Thanks for coming back guys.
No, No, No!- Parquet Courts: In a year when Ought combatted the growing commodification of music by exclaiming “yes,” Parquet Courts did the opposite. “No, no, no” Andrew Savage shouted at us. After releasing two of 2014’s best records, the band returns with Monastic Living, which picks up right where they left off after their last album, Content Nausea. Here they continue their stance against a critical marketplace that produces thought piece after thought piece, creating a mass of homogeneous content, swallowing any true insight, by the sheer quantity of data. On, “No, No, No,” Parquet Courts reasserts their independence as a band, not a commodity for critics and content managers to project themselves onto.
Under A Rock- Waxahatchee: Katie Crutchfield is the Confessor of adult life. “Under A Rock” is just one of her works of beauty through suffering.
Kill V. Maim- Grimes: You know that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the one at the end when they open up the ark of the covenant. All of these beautiful, angelic spirits appear from the covenant, and fly around, enthralling the Nazi soldiers with their beauty. Then, out of nowhere they suddenly turn demonic and start shooting beams of light into the stomachs of Nazis, and making their faces melt and explode. That’s exactly the feeling that Kill V. Maim gives. It’s a song about a gender bending, vampire version of Michael Corleone, who can travel through time. It is aggressive and filled with the some of the best pop hooks in recent memory. It is a beautiful weapon. A vicious attack disguised as a pretty song.
Get Old Forever- Jeff Rosenstock: It’s a song about aging and failing. It’s about how it feels to see each of your friends move on to the next stage of their lives, and feeling left behind. Although Rosenstock’s friends may be buying starter homes, “Get Old Forever” is about as universal as a song can get. It’s a feeling you get at 23, 18, or 50. It’s the realization that just because you’re still drinking cheap forties of Steel Reserve, you’ll never stay young forever.
No Life For Me- Wavves and Cloud Nothings: Could there be a more natural collaboration?
Usual- QUARTERBACKS: In a year where the only Cloud Nothings release was a collaboration, QUARTERBACKS filled the void. Usual is a song about fucking up over and over again, calling the person you sworn you’d stop calling. It’s approach is deterministic, unable to stop the inevitability of the mistake about to be made.
The Answer- Savages: This is an assault and its welcomed. More than prepared for another Savages album.
the valley- Miguel: The most carnal song of 2015, Miguel lets his fantasies run wild in the valley. But while he attempts to establish sexual dominance over his partner, it’s impossible not to sense that Miguel opens himself up and exposes his own vulnerability. By attempting to be the pimp, pope, and pastor, Miguel completely loses himself, and puts himself in control of his lover. While trying to gain control, he loses it, ceding it. His claim to dominance makes him subservient.
Surface Envy- Sleater Kinney: Towards the end of her memoir Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girls, Carrie Brownstein writes, “All we ever wanted was just to play songs and shows that mattered to people, that mattered to us.” They were successful.
La Loose- Waxahatchee: I want to put every Waxahatchee song on this list. I really do.
Leave A Trace- CHVRCHES: It takes your feelings, everything that you’ve hidden and buried, all the tears you’ve held in, and forces it all to the surface, forcing you to recognize them, while validating them as you do. “I know I need to feel released,” Lauren Mayberry sings. It’d be selfish to hope she isn’t.
Venus Fly- Grimes: Oh shit.
Should Have Known Better- Sufjan Stevens: Yes, it’s practically obligatory to comment on the spirituality of Stevens’s music, but the reason so is made clear at the end of this track. Just past the halfway point, the song’s tone changes and begins reaching for pure transcendence. As his subject matter shifts from the pain of remembrance of his mother, to the joy and hope that he sees in his niece, Stevens reaches heights of emotion that traditionally only religion could create. Sufjan Stevens doesn’t make music about religion, he makes music religion.
Wish You Were Beer- Benny the Jet Rodriguez, Martha: The last time I listened to this song my brother changed it on the grounds that I was listening to it too much.
Loud Places- Jamie XX, Romy: “Loud Places” is the place I search for each time I’m in a loud place. It’s comforting, offering tranquility and solace in a room of chaos. In a room of too many people and too many noises, it provides safety for its listener.
Dancing in the Dark- Downtown Boys: The final track of Full Communism, Downtown Boys’s cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic is celebratory. This is liberation. On an album, that thrashes at the prison industrial complex, a militarized police force, racism, and any phobia you can think of, “Dancing in the Dark” is a brief pause of pure joy at the end, while we wait for the next wave of the band’s attack.
Before the World Was Big- Girlpool: It’s a song about being little, or remembering when you were young. But it’s a huge song, with an incredible riff, and some of the best shared vocals this side of Sleater Kinney.
March of Progress- Viet Cong: “March of Progress” is an assault raged against its listener. The pounding drums push forward for three minutes before the singing begins over descending staccato notes, eventually releasing into a post-punk anthem.
Street Punks- Vince Staples: Street Punks is fearless from the get go. Police don’t scare Vince and neither does anyone else. Other rappers, other gangbangers, Vince clearly doesn’t give a fuck. Try and stop him, try and criticize him, he’ll rob you blind.
Molly-Palehound: Danceable. Actually a really danceable song, in a genre most famous for starting the standing still craze.
Dimed Out- Titus Andronicus: A song in which our protagonist’s doppelganger tells our protagonist, “I bow down not to masters, Gods, nor managers/ ‘Cause all the greatest artists they were amateurs.” The centerpiece of a rock opera about manic depression is also a staunch defense of DIY ethics and punk culture.
Raising the Skate- Speedy Ortiz: Inspired by the “Ban Bosey” campaign, Sadie Dupuis’s lyrics flip gender binaries, as she declares herself not only boss, but “shooter, not the shot,” and “chief not the overthrown.”
Keep on Chooglin’- Andrew Jackson Jihad: Because it’s the song you need after landscaping each day over the summer.
Eventually- Tame Impala: One of the year’s best breakup songs, “Eventually” deals with just how hard it is to end a relationship, even when there seems to be mutual agreement on both sides. It also has an absolutely killer drum kick in the outro.
Empty Nesters- Toro Y Moi: Sometimes songs feel like drugs. Sometimes they feel like sex. This one is the latter, but not the intense carnal eroticism of Miguel. “Empty Nesters” is the first time in high school with your parents on vacation.
Heavy Metal Detox and Way Too Much- Wavves: Songs for getting way too drunk at the beach with your family.
Pedestrian At Best- Courtney Barnett: “I’m a fake, I’m a phoney, I’m awake, I’m alone/ I’m homely, I’m a Scorpio.” Stream of consciousness has never been this self loathing.
Sparks- Beach House: In a year with a lot of music coming from Victoria LeGrand and Alex Scally, all of it welcomed, this is their best. The distortion covers their lush sounds threatening to tear the song apart at the seams. But it is from this contrast that the song gains its strength. On “Sparks,” Beach House deliver one of their most powerful songs to date.
Breaker- Deerhunter: From the same guy who brought you “Cryptograms” and Monomania. Just another expansion in the constantly evolving sound of one of our best American bands.
Boys Latin- Panda Bear: Noah Lennox has given us some of the best pop music in recent memory and continues to even as he tries to face the grim reaper face to face. It seems like whenever he confronts mortality, fatherhood, Lennox is at his best.
By Alex Sniatkowski