Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top Songs of 2015: 1-20

Apple Music Link

Spotify Link

20. "Take My Hand" by Rich Homie Quan (from Summer Sampler EP)
"She a Aquarius / she keep that mad in her / but I can't please her, no way / I'm tryin' but I can't"

The way RHQ loses interest in completing the words he raps sounds a bit like someone taking a belt sander to the English language. That, or that he got hit by a tranquilizer dart mid-song. (On Spotify, but not Apple Music.) 
19. "Endless Rhythm" by Baio (from The Names)
"I've never heard a lyric that I really liked / every lyric I've written is a lyric I despise"

Vampire Weekend's bassist made the list last year with a looping instrumental, so the fact that his debut solo album sounds more like his other band with Morissey-like vocals was a surprise. Vampire Weekend mixed with the Smiths probably sounds awful, of course, to the subset of people out there who pretentiously enjoy hating on both bands' perceived pretentiousness. 
18. "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" by Pops Staples (from Don't Lose This)
"Is a better home awaiting / in the sky, lord, in the sky?"

The 1960 Staples Singers version of this traditional hymn (back when they were a gospel act) was already a favorite. So a version  recorded shortly before Pops' death in 2000 and lovingly produced by Jeff Tweedy was bound to resonate. The shift into "I'll Fly Away" at the end is the cherry on top. RIP Pops.  
17. "Mine" by Phoebe Ryan (from Mine EP)
"I'll pull it together and fix myself eventually"

Our favorite pop song of the year.  

16. "I Can Be Afraid of Anything" by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (from Harmlessness)
"Being this age / always seemed so far away"

The emo-heavy first five minutes are a mix of Explosions in the Sky and Pinback's darker side ... and then it turns into a Blink-182 song for the last two minutes.   As to the Hemmingway-esque band title, unlike Morgan Freeman we agree with the first part... 

15. "So Allowed" by Beirut (from No No No)
"It was in every word / somehow / and I was in return / so allowed"

... and rarely more so than when listening to Beirut.   

14. "Rock & Roll is Cold" by Matthew E. White (from Fresh Blood)
"Rock and roll it don't have no soul / everyone knows that"

Would have sounded great 40 years ago. Will sound just as good in another 40. 

13. "Dreams" by Beck (single)
"Oh get a dog and pony for a judgement day"

Loses some karma points for being released as an "advance single" six freaking months ago.  The new album still doesn't have a release date or title. Cruel. 

12. "Wishing Well" by Screaming Females (from Rose Mountain)
"Yeah in the next life I'll be better"

We try to be somewhat equal opportunity with our music listening, but it consistently skews male. In the last five years, the top 12 have included only 1-2 female singers. So we're happy to see the Screaming Females kicks off a top 12 that is this close to 50/50 (and where the women are much tougher than the guys).  

11. "Deeper Than Love" by Colleen Green (from I Want to Grow Up)
"And the only best friends I ever made / were people I knew I didn't have to see every day"

After a few pleasant low-fi albums, I Want to Grow Up was a significant step forward for Colleen Green. The fear of intimacy on this track is balanced by the self-confidence of the other album highlight, "Whatever I Want". The comparisons to (early) Liz Phair are earned, even if the musical palette is more narrow.  
10. "The Legend of Chavo Guerrero" by The Mountain Goats (from Beat the Champ)
"He was my hero back when I was a kid / you let me down but Chavo never once did"

At some point John Darnielle will run out of bittersweet autobiographical material for his songs, but that day is not this day. We finally read Wolf in the White Van and it is predictably great, even if the occasional style excess is more easily forgiven in a three minute song than a short novel .   
9. "Sunday Candy" by Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment (from Surf)
"I like my love with a budget / I like my hugs with a scent / you smell like light, gas, water, electricity, rent"

Chance the Rapper with his second top 10 appearance, albeit under a different moniker.  The single-take video showcases both how lame and thrilling musical theater can be. 
8. "Kill vs. Maim" by Grimes (from Art Angels)
"You gave up being good when you declared a state of waaaaaar"

Grimes kept topping herself this year. In March, single "Entropy" looked poised to be an 81-100 song. Then "REALiTi (demo)" came out shortly after, landing in the middle of the list. Art Angels arrived at year end with "Flesh Without Blood" as lead single, cracking our top 40. Then we heard Claire Boucher growl "but they don't know me" on "Kill vs. Maim".   
7. "Getting Ready to Get Down" by Josh Ritter (from Sermon on the Rocks)
"Turn the other cheek / take no chances / Jesus hates your high school dances"

Pretty much a perfect song (with a great lyric video), as long as you don't linger on the fact that it is a 39-year old dude is telling very young ladies not to worry about sleeping around.  Strong album of Americana with "Where the Night Goes" and "A Big Enough Sky" worthy of top 20 placement as well. 
6. "Pedestrian at Best" by Courtney Barnett (from Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit)
"Daylight savings won't fix this mess"

Another very strong album. "Depreston" and "Elevator Operator" are both great in different ways, but the lead single just rocks.  Our favorite running song of the year. 
5. "Pretty Pimpin'" by Kurt Vile (from B'lieve I'm Goin Down)
"And then Saturday came around / and I said who's this stupid clown / blocking the bathroom sink? / (but he was sporting all my clothes)"

We've talked about Country music that isn't very good but is amusing (at #88). We've talked about good Country music (at #31). Now Kurt Vile comes with Country that is so good it probably isn't Country anymore.  
4. "Powerful Man" by Hop (from Painted Shut)
"I was the only other adult around / I was eighteen / you were eight / maybe / you were ten" 

The second Hop Along album brings stronger overall songs to Frances Quinlan's still awesome vocal work. 
3. "Nest" by Young Fathers  (from White Men Are Black Men Too)
<pause> "baby baby" 

Some movie is going to find the right way to use this song and it will be a fucking celebration. Until then, it is the song of choice for kitchen dancing with the little ones. "Shame" is also exceptional.  

2. "Should Have Known Better" by Sufjan Stevens (from Carrie & Lowell)
"My brother had a daughter / the beauty that she brings / illumination"

An impossible choice between this and "Fourth of July". The latter held this spot for most of the year and it is perhaps the most devastating song about a parent's death ever recorded ("Shall we look at the moon / my little loon / why do you cry?"). But, at the end of day, it is a much easier song to admire than to love listening to on repeat. There is a reason most people have seen only Schindler's List once. Of course, this song is still about little Sufjan being left at a video store by his mom, so, not really a workout track. 
1. "King Kunta" by Kendrick Lamar (from To Pimp a Butterfly)
"I'm mad / but I ain't stressing / true friends / one question / bitch where you when I was walking? "

Yep, Kendrick. Just like everybody else. The thing is, To Pimp A Butterfly would not have cracked a list of our ten favorite albums of the year. "Allright" is pretty good, but we prefer the single version of "i" to the darker rework on the album. And while "The Blacker the Berry" has a strong message, it's not something we enjoy as, you know, music. "King Kunta", though, is a beast. Its the kind of song you keep turning the volume up on every 30 seconds or so as it builds and unravels. Definitely the king this year. 

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