Top 50 Songs of 2015

top 50 songs of 2015 UMO30. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”
from Multi-Love (Jagjaguwar)

UMO went tribal funk on us in April with this single. Ushered in with a mysterious brass/guitar salvo, the song clatters into action with an irrepressible, densely packed post-disco beat. Clacking wooden blocks, clipped handclaps, jungle drums and stabs of Jerry Harrison-style guitar are just some of the ingredients that make up the jittering, restless track. Ruban Nielson’s lyrics are too specific to be meaningless, but too minimal to be understood (he somehow ties together worrying about a holographic universe with drinking chicha in the jungle). We are deliberately left guessing what it’s all about, but with a song this energetic, nobody will be sat still for long enough to be worrying about that. — MP


best albums of 2015 so far Drake29. Drake – “Know Yourself”
from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late (Cash Money Records)

“Know Yourself” is a song in two acts. The first act is a moody rumination on success, pointing to his ability to get a Ferrari to “swerve” or a Bugatti “just to hurt.” It also takes aim at critics and competitors who want “his spot and don’t deserve it.” The second act is a celebration of his friends (his W.O.E.s) and his hometown of Toronto. Rife with joy and with tension, “Know Yourself” presents the duality of great success. Yeah there’s happiness but there’s also stress. As Biggie Smalls once said, “mo’ money, mo’ problems.” But perhaps the greatest strength of “Know Yourself,” and Drake, is that it’s never so self-serious to become a drag. When he yells, “running through the 6 with my woes,” we yell too, we make memes about it. It’s defiant and exuberant, full of swagger, but also something we can use lightheartedly and joke about. — JI


top 50 songs of 2015 Destroyer28. Destroyer – “Dream Lover”
from Poison Season (Merge Records)

“Ah shit, here comes the sun” muses Dan Bejar on an oddly celebratory Destroyer track. In addition to being a sly Beatles reference, those are the thoughts of a nighthawk stretching moonlight to its absolute brink. With a compellingly catchy saxophone hook and an effortlessly charming vocal performance delivered by Bejar, “Dream Lover” is one of those songs that could easily be ten times as long. And, unlike the night, we can simply step back and repeat the track over and over again. — KN


Bosse-de-Nage All Fours27. Bosse-de-Nage – “A Subtle Change”
from All Fours (Profound Lore)

“A Subtle Change” is a traditional black metal song—for about 18 seconds. Once Bosse-de-Nage drummer H. rolls his way out of a blast beat into a more grounded, four-on-the-floor stomp, it transforms into something more furious and weirdly inspirational. The emotional standout from Bosse-de-Nage’s fourth album All Fours, “A Subtle Change” is the gut-wrenching anthem that the Bay Area black metal band has spent the past decade building up to. It sears and it soars, using classic Scandinavian sounds as a connecting flight that detours through post-rock and screamo on its way toward a final destination somewhere in the neighborhood of ecstatic oblivion. Vocalist Bryan Manning screeches his way through a meditation on the chaos theory tenet that a minor impetus can become the catalyst for monumental events (“Perhaps a word or phrase that ignites the intellect”). As “A Subtle Change” roars through its post-hardcore climax into an impossibly beautiful, string-laden conclusion, it becomes that idea in reverse: The hurricane that dies beneath a butterfly’s wings. — JT


top 50 songs of 2015 Alabama Shakes26. Alabama Shakes “Don’t Wanna Fight”
from Sound & Color (ATO)

Has there ever been a more energetic song about giving up? A tune about throwing your hands up in despair with a funkier groove? From that gravelly opening squeal to the soaring falsetto of the chorus, Brittany Howard sounds absolutely exhausted on “Don’t Wanna Fight”—but also completely in her element. It’d be easy for someone with a voice like hers to take this song to showy, Adele-like levels of drama, but “Don’t Wanna Fight” communicates its bereavement with much more subtlety and elegance. Not to mention danceability. — SP


top 50 songs of 2015 Deerhunter25. Deerhunter  – “Snakeskin”
from Fading Frontier (4AD)

“Snakeskin” smacks into you at a high velocity, its disco-sharpened guitar riff unrelenting. Barring perhaps “Coronado,” it’s the most immediate song in Deerhunter’s diverse discography. As the emotional climax of Fading Frontier, it also manages to make Bradford Cox’s examination of his own feelings of alienation—to which he applies an almost mystical sense of fatalism—a hell of a lot of fun. Cox, of course, isn’t one for false catharsis; when the song sheds its funk bounce for an ambient outro, the tense momentum remains. These aren’t issues with easy solutions; look at them for too long, and they just change shape and slither away. — SP


Julia Holter Have You In My Wilderness24. Julia Holter – “Feel You”
from Have You In My Wilderness (Domino)

Sometimes you get love songs that are down on your knees and that are begging you darling please, but with L.A.’s  Julia Holter we get her heart which goes, “Can I feel you?/ Are you mythological?” Throughout the song, which is a challenging but never off-putting listen, Holter sings elusive, un-rhymed, longing lines in her gorgeous voice over chiming harpsichords and diving strings that sound like an updated Left Banke. —SC


top 50 songs of 2015 Missy Elliott23. Missy Elliott (feat. Pharrell Williams) – “WTF (Where They From)”
from Block Party (Goldmind/Atlantic)

Missy broke her seven-year silence with the same direct force that has guided her through her entire career. “The dance that you doing is dumb/how they do where you from/sticking out your tongue girls, but you know you’re too young.” She may have been away, but clearly she’s been watching. Her swag is untouched by time, and only with her back do you notice how much she’s been missed. She even manages to breathe renewed life into Pharrell – we are much nearer to “Grindin’” than “Happy” here, and his long-drawn sub-bass booms give the song its most identifiable hallmark. Missy’s percussive delivery adds to the multi-layered street-party beat, and if the track doesn’t change up all that much as it moves forward, it’s because it is fire from the start. 2016 could be big for Missy Elliott. — MP


Top 50 songs of 2015 Run Away with me22. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”
from EMOTION (Interscope)

When it comes to giddy, rapturous, shout-it-from-the-rooftops love, no one makes better songs of it than Carly Rae Jepsen. “Run Away With Me” is her best yet, a profession of adoration set to Shellback’s relentlessly driving synth riffs and bubblegum-funk production. The massive hooks come at you with the force and velocity of a fucking missile. Jepsen’s lyrics, with their kite metaphors and basic rhymes, may be simple, but the feelings and impact on the listener are not. “Run Away With Me” is emblematic of those times when you’re up all night with a lover: Maybe you’re out and about, maybe you’re making love, maybe you both just can’t stop talking (or some combination thereof). But no matter what you don’t want to risk sleep because you don’t dare let your euphoria end, not even for a handful of hours. — LG


FKA Twigs M3LL155X21. FKA twigs – “glass & patron”
from M3LL155X (Young Turks)

“Glass & Patron” may be nominally classifiable as electronic dance music, but that’s pretty reductive considering the unpredictable path it takes during its four minutes. The jarring stutter-steps of its percussion, the juxtaposition of FKA twigs’ vocals between soft come-ons and pleas of raw, hungry desire, its refusal to maintain a danceable rhythm for more than 30 seconds tops—all these factors make it a unique beast of a song. FKA twigs voices both the dominant and submissive sides of an impending sexual assignation, and you’re not sure whether to feel turned on or terrified (or both). But you’re also nothing short of riveted. She’s got you right where she wants you as she whispers, “Now hold that pose for me.”  — LG

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