Top 24 Songs of 2015 (Thank you Philadelphia, hyphens)
24. Warm Thoughts – Intangible
Elliot Babbin is the drummer of Touché Amore. Warm Thoughts (formerly Dad Punchers) is his nostalgia-fueled bummer rock project on the side. ‘Intangible’ has a lucid arrangement that builds off a stock Casio drumbeat, where dreamy weezery-rock is boiled down and refined to its sweetest crux. Their full length Mar Vista was the greatest ‘Polaroid for an album cover’ style album that ever tickled your wild and unmanicured old man ear hairs. Certainly far more enjoyable than any other overblown emo reincarnation mumbo jumbo.
23. Nice Hooves – The Gall
The title track off the ‘The Gall’ is deafening, vehement meditation on a single moment of an Every Time I Die Song. A biker meth masterpiece.
22. Antarctigo Vespucci – I See Failure
Hard-to-pronounce project of power duo Chris Farren and Jeff Rosenstock return with a full length record of beach rental property anthems. The bombastic closer of Leavin’ La Vida Loca takes a somber look back at drinking rum out of ceramic mugs. ‘I See Failure’ is sentimental at a glance, but it sincerely validates the moments that lead up to it. Could easily be the blockbuster sequel to Bomb the Music Industry’s Vacation.
21. Kylesa – Moving Day
The best part of a new Kylesa release is the one or two shoegazey 90’s songs that Phillip Cope contributes amid all the yellin’ and psyched out swamp rock. Cope is unafraid to get completely lost in down comforters of grandiose delay and other swathes of effect pedal mire. Thicker than Alan Thicke himself. 10/10 Sony Discmans.
20. Timeshares – Naive
Hunky pop-punk band Timeshares have grown up a little and gone alt. country and it is glorious. Ten out of ten single coils. These are your stompy, rag time Gin Blossom saviors. One insanely infectious & joyous hootenanny party song after another. I guess this is growing up.
19. California X – Nights in the Dark
California X sound like they unearthed the perfect overdriven amp tone while searching for fossil fuels to get buzzed off of. Smooth stoner rock with heroic guitar leads that could be direct translations of the 8-bit audio snippets that play when the princess is rescued. I wish there were a hundred more bands like this.
18. The Body and Thou -The Wheel Weaves as the Wheel Wills
Sounds like hallucinating about being eaten by headhunters, while succumbing to fever in the deepest trenches of South America’s premier tropical rainforest.
17. Bangers – Trousers of Time
Miley Cyrus named her last album after this band and with good reason. UK gravel-springsteen outfit Bangers released a fantastic record with an embroidered cockatoo on the cover called Bird. This album teetered between dissonant punk races to the finish and big rural chords that take their time in taking shape. Bangers tamper with melody and dissonance with powerful results. Easily stands out from other org-core efforts and it also truly has the loveliest album cover of 15. Look at it.
16. Frank Ocean – Bruce Valentine
Frank sings about a flaming Chevy Malibu in the wake of a Zuma County beach sunset. Its charred frame a metaphor of lost love in the face of painkiller dependency. A galactic empire of keyboards rise and fall around an Earl Sweatshirt verse, while the distorted sample of Phantom Planet’s ‘California’ skirts around a ricocheting Roland TR-808. The album that almost was…
15. The Armed – Paradise Day
Detroit destruction punk. If this was featured on Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, those gorilla monsters from Ghost would have come alive from the shadows to tare your chosen character apart limb from limb. A blast of catchy pop swaddled by Kurt Ballou’s quicksludge static.
14. All Dogs – Skin
Skin is a dark, desperate, completely gorgeous ode to whatever goo the human soul is made from. It has four different parts – beginning in the shade and careening through desperate confession, before dying in a dazzling, young dinosaur fuzzcendo. Sincerity pours of Maryn Jones and foams up all smokey and burning. A haven of grunge, with grout always hidden just beneath the surface.
13. Sumac – Thorn in the Lion’s Paw
Tough to pick the best track off The Deal. They are all filthy, cowboy ballads for sitting solitary around fires on cold prairie nights. Sumac is the ultimate fantasy sludge-metal team assembled by sludge ball nerds at their kitchen tables. ‘Thorn in the Lion’s Paw’ is chaotic alabaster guitar and mad man hammered piano, until de-tuned twang succeeds to neon Miami heat. Their follow up is being recorded in a church.
12. Glocca Morra – Secret Drinker
This is the last song these bastards ever put out before Glocca Morra broke up and their members became professional apiarists. A southern gothic that embodies staring into the abyss that stares back into you. Pleaded vocals gradually become drowned out by sweet, sweet chunks of guitar, in lieu of the twinkly passages of Morra’s back catalogue. It was the beast that killed beauty. A stand-up guy of appalachian highs in mother’s eyes/Could do no wrong/Could never die. (2008-2015).
11. Macklemore – Downtown
She got 1988 Mariah Carey hair/Very rare, mom jeans on her derriere/Throwing up the West Side as we tear in the air/Stop by Pike Place/Throwing fish to a player, Macklemore relents in the dramatic build up to the years most unexpected and operatic chorus. If you hear ‘Downtown’on the radio then turn it off, because this track should exist only as heard/watched on the official music video. That’s just where ‘Downtown’ lives. Unabashed feel-good rock opera that is completely different than anything released this year.
10. Spirit Club – Sling
The collaboration between Nathan Williams and Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings was slightly underwhelming, as was the new Wavves material. But Spirit Club got everything just right, and then some. Crawling heavy metal fuzz, drawled out stoner masterpiece of a record. Spirit Club’s debut captures that magic of a song’s first incarnation with the happy accidents that arise out of recording at home. ‘Sling’ delves in the splendor of lo-fi heartache. What Arnold from Hey Arnold! would really sound like if he laid down some jams in that crazy room with the giant window panes and the pre-gentrification Brooklyn skyline rotting in the background.
9. Modern Baseball – …And Beyond
Modern Baseball are secret princes of cow punk. This song is so fucking great. It starts with this cool shuffling drum beat and EMOTIONAL guitar before we get a funky ass thumpin bass and a false start, only to be followed by downtrodden telecaster canoodling. Serious saloon closing time cowgirl serenade. Ten out of ten spurs. You know how it ends? With more of that funky bass line. A left field approach from Modern Baseball that is altogether charming and utterly addictive.
8. Baroness – Kerosene
If you are an adult then smoke pot and listen to this right now. Then imagine the damp latex skin of monsters from 80’s movies, and the punk detectives that chase them through time, firing their laser bullet slugs. Rejoice in the little muffled explosions of ‘Kerosene’ that bring in the rainy city street of ‘Fugue,’ which finally declares itself with ‘Chlorine & Wine.’ Purple is a succint attack of a non-concept album foray into mushroom growth and battlefields. A record without singles, because every song is a single. Complete with plenty of Southern picked country and sparkling solo’s fuzzed out in classical Baroness grandeur. Triumphant.
7. Joey Bada$$ – Paper Trail$
Sure everything is 90’s alt. punk but what about 90’s hip-hop? B4.da.$$ is passionate and heavy. It cuts through to something that wasn’t necessarily invited. Bada$$ raps like someone who both loves what they’re doing and is pretty goddamn amazing at it. A hard hitting beat and scratched back vinyl recalls another time you may or may not have experienced. Joey Bada$$ leaves room in his music. It has space to breathe, but it pummels you all the same. His acclaimed album brings to mind 2014 buzz word ‘swagger’ and reinvents its meaning into something invigorating and palpable. Relentless yet without the exhausting theatrics of Kendrick.
6. Viet Cong – Continental Shelf
The band name that people who love to be offended, loved to be offended by. ‘Continental Shelf’ is if Grizzly Bear got super stoned and covered Iron Maiden. Low laying mantra of creepy, table-saw guitar behind funereal march bass that softens only in an ethereal chorus. The accompanying music video is a spot on visual counterpart to how ‘Continental Shelf’ haunts your head. But unlike all of the other obscure art rock bands your roommate or basketball coach or liquor store clerk told you were great, Viet Cong’s 2015 album was actually enjoyable.
5. Alabama Shakes – Shoegaze
Every member of this group is a force to be reckoned with. Everyone from the thunder fingered bassist to the guy who plays the triangle is contributing something staggeringly good. Then there’s Brittany Howard, who just fuckin’ destroys anything that wasn’t upheaved by the band. Whether it be with more sweetness or with sultriness. It was no surprise when the long awaited Shakes follow up turned their grief-stricken Motown into celebratory music to hang out on the clothes line of fast living and good weather. How awesome does this song sound. Like carrying briefcases full of money, in the 70’s because you are wearing a YELLOW SUIT.
4. Titus Andronicus- Fired Up
Rise up and dance and jump off the couch and get all fired up. TMLT is not art to digest or critique. It is a surface to leap from and land in. Titus Andronicus attacks with the cadence of rowdy bar-band punks. They have single handedly pioneered the genre, possibly by accident. Patrick Stickles never fails to sound like he is challenging you to a fight. A brawl, but against one’s own ego, upon layers of sax and ‘yano. Feedback resembling a constant, phantom harmonica.
3. Sam Russo – Crayfish Tales
Sam Russo’s debut LP Storm embodied how it feels to be indoors while sleet piles up outside. Singer/songwriter/story teller beard man Sam Russo does his job with fuckin’ complete and total mastery. In a sea of guy’s with wooden guitars, Sam Russo is a rusty, coal burning steamship. His follow up, Greyhound Dreams took that feeling on the road to introduce you to new characters and places. ‘Crayfish Tales’ is a narrative of letting go, gypsy cocaine and falling asleep in the car. Of a sky that looks like it’s trying to snow but unleashes hailstones instead. This song originally appeared on a split with Arby’s delegate Brendan Kelley.
2. FIDLAR – West Coast
FIDLAR ruled the landscape of 2015 between the watchful gaze of two life-size R. Kelly manikins. This is a hazy yet fond recollection of youth. But the sense of urgency here is false. ‘West Coast,’ even without Henry Rollins, is the beautiful realization that your hard living and fifty beer a day lifestyle has finally caught up with you. You’re dead. Life flashing before your eyes. Puke pooling on bathroom tiles, failing out of college and driving up piss-golden landscapes flicker like frames from a far off projector. Checked out/Waiting for the weekend is a final affirmation that you are embarking to that big tidal swell in the sky. The damp grip of the Grim Reaper’s hand is absent. It is just you and any memory you can hold on to. You smile. Prepare for another lifetime of messing it up all over again.
1. Hop Along – Sister Cities
Joe Reinhart and his beat up G&L decimated 2015 by plucking the most interesting lead guitar I’ve heard in 47 years. It’s like endless rays of prism glass bluegrass filtered through ferocious folk punk. All the while lead vocalist and chief song writer Frances Quinlan pushes the comforts of vocal alliteration to spill gripping stories of American life in the places between suburbia and downtown. We see the people beyond their poverty and what happens inside the houses off backcountry roads. The way in which the syllables of ‘eels twisting through the eye sockets of the horses head,’ are sung is defining in itself and one of many cinematic moments on Painted Shut.
Help! My uncle’s gone insane!
In his room he sits shaking a geranium!
Outside, the old dog resigned
Leaves heavy tracks for the father dragging the rifle to find
This song is so good that there are two formal recordings of it – the Shaking Through rendition technically came out in 2013, but it is the ultimate telling of ‘Sister Cities.’ Hop Along recorded it again for 2015’s Painted Shut, with even MORE unfettered guitar solo’s. Despite having a quaint discography, Hop Along are unequivocally one of the most exciting bands to come out of anywhere. I could wait another three years for a third LP, as theirs is the sort of craft that can be dwelt upon and invested in for good. There are just too many nuanced moments and so much brilliant prose buried in Quinlan’s snarl for their music to ever seem stale.
I know you had to shoot that dog I loved so much/I know you had to do it, Quinlan refrains from atop infinite, driving road trip mix-tape momentum. You don’t know where the battered car is going, but hopefully by this time you have come to realize that it doesn’t really matter.
Runners Up & Honorable Mentions
Torche – Loose Men
Self Defense Family and Touché Amore – Low Beams
Saintseneca – River
Kowloon Walled City – The Grift
Pusha T – F.I.F.A
Father John Misty – Bored in the USA
Loma Prieta – Roadside Cross
Dogs on Acid – Sun Bleached
Mutoid Man – Dead Dreams
The Front Bottoms – West Virginia
Fashion Week – Heroin Chic
The Weaks – Frances Quinlan Will Have Her Revenge On Philadelphia
Red City Radio – Rest Easy
Best Album from Ghosts of Best Years Past that Still Holds Up
Hard Girls – A Thousand Surfaces