Breathless – Waxahatchee – 80
She may have one of the hardest names to say after one too many Bacardi Breezer’s, but Waxahatchee know how to make a moody track. Taken from the Ivy Tripp album, Breathless was released in the summer, yet you’d never know listening to it. Performed almost with boredom, it talks of a dissatisfying relationship with melodic expertise.
Deeper – Ella Eyre – 79
One of the most naturally catchy songs of the year, Deeper is a perfect display for the seemingly bottomless lungs Ella Eyre possesses. A warped backing track only enhances that fact, which is all the more impressive when you consider Eyre is only 21. Put simply, it’s like somebody tried to make “I Really Like You” by Carly Rae Jepsen for everybody.
Sensei on the Block – Mos Def (Ski Beatz) – 78
How often do lists like this contain a song so predominant in steel pan? The answer is never, you piece of shit, so stop guessing. A song that made Mos Def become Mos Def again (for the past four years he’s been Yasiin Bey) can only be a good thing, even if Boogieman himself seems to be against the song being released in the first place. Which is a shame, as it’s definitely up there for the prestigious Hook of the Year award.
A Message – Kelela – 77
“If I was your ex-/girlfriend”. Never has a gap in a song sounded so expertly executed. This song by Kelela, from her Hallucinogen EP, thumps along as a strong follow up to her critically praised debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me, in 2013. Co-written by Kelela herself, its slow and almost chilling feel fits perfectly with her somewhat alternative video.
Freakout! – Mini Mansions – 76
For all intents and purposes, this sounds like one of the most cheery songs of the year on first listen. Replay it though, and you notice that somebody almost seems to have peppered Freakout! with gloom with nobody noticing. It’s a remarkable release from a band that seems to have finally nailed it, having been active since 2009. Queens of the Stone Age diehards (I really hope that isn’t a thing) will appreciate bassist Michael Shuman’s talents here too.
Down – Petite Noir – 75
Sounding like a modern hybrid of Rick Astley and Tony Hadley (that genuinely is a compliment), Down is the impressive release from the infuriatingly named Petite Noir (it translates into “Little Black”. WHY). Taken from the album Life is Beautiful, it has a soulful and yet catchy vibe to it. The bridge alone will rattle around in your head for hours.
Green and Gold – Lianne La Havas – 74
A song born out of cultural roots, Green and Gold is a personal and heartfelt love letter to one’s origins, in this case Jamaica. In the expressively poignant track, La Havas documents herself from a wet behind the ears six year old, to the impressive young musician she has grown into today. One more thing to be thankful to the Green and Gold of Jamaica for.
You Don’t Own Me – Grace (G-Eazy) – 73
A dreamy yet punchy Australian diamond, You Don’t Own Me is the result of relative new kid on the block’s work with renowned producer Quincy Jones (who was behind songs such as Billie Jean and We Are the World). The song is a cover of the original, performed by Lesley Gore in 1963. Coincidentally, Grace is the same age at 17 at the time of recording that Gore was.
Silver John – This is the Kit – 72
It takes a lot to produce a song you can fall asleep to that is actually any good, but folk outfit This is the Kit seem to have outdone themselves with Silver John. Although, beneath its wistful undertones, the track actually ends up contemplating the apocalypse. Simply “mulling over the way of the way of the human”, in Kate Stables own words, Silver John ends up being one of the most sincere songs of this year.
Let Me – Adam Tensta (Sibille Attar) – 71
On the subject of apocalyptic situations, next up is a song that strings out the pain of most people’s end of the world scenario; breaking up with a long-time partner. Performed with bitterness and empathy in almost equal measure, Let Me shows Adam Tensta trying to make sense of the new found world he finds himself in.
The Hills – The Weeknd – 70
Despite one of the strangest intros I’ve ever heard, which seems to be made of samples of The Weeknd thrusting into a ladyfriend, The Hills ends up being the centrepiece of the massive breakthrough album that is Beauty Behind the Madness. Although I don’t like it as much as seemingly the whole world does, this impressive effort detailing the breakdown of an affair merits a place on anybody’s list.
Teeth – The Japanese House – 69
Owner of the last ever “Hottest Record in the World Right Now” as awarded by Zane Lowe, albeit for a different song, The Japanese House are certainly in demand in what is only their first year in the industry. A slow released EP peaked with Teeth, a trancelike song that combines the themes of pain and love. It even experiments (which pay off) by playing parts of the song backwards and then presenting them as an outro.
Marilyn Monroe – Sevdaliza – 68
The curiously named Sevdaliza provides a haunting and cold track in the also curiously named Marilyn Monroe. Seemingly one octave away from shrill, the record becomes one of the most chilling and yet chilled out songs of 2015, one that articulates the full range of talent the Dutch-based singer has at her disposal.
I Am – AWOLNATION – 67
After the slow-burning success of Sail, which seems to have been around for over an eon now, AWOLNATION ARE BACK WITH I AM.
Sorry, Caps got stuck. Moving on from such childishness, I Am provides a distorted backing track brought to fruition by the incredibly reliable vocals of Aaron Bruno. It definitely tops the impressive but intermittent Sail for me.
In The Air – MAALA – 66
KEEPING WITH THE CAPS LOCK THEME, NEXT UP IS MAALA.
However, this is considerably less shouty than the song it pipped to the much-coveted 66 spot on this list. Premiered by list favourite Zane Lowe on his Beats 1 radio show for Apple Music, fellow New Zealander MAALA is making waves. If he keeps the quality of some of his early releases, particularly this deftly emotional song, there’s no limit to how far he can go.
Baby Blue – Action Bronson (Chance The Rapper) – 65
I think I like this song just for its blunt ambitiousness. Not that anything like that should surprise us from a collaboration of Action Bronson & Chance the Rapper, but lines such as “I hope yo’ titties saggy in your early twenties” really sell it to me. Not that the beat isn’t skilful enough on it’s own regardless, but with Bronson and Chance bouncing off each other for nearly 5 minutes, it becomes one of the party songs of the year.
Keep You on My Side – CHVRCHES – 64
Ignoring the potential for any caps lock related fun, Keep You on My Side is the story of a woman trying to save a broken relationship, though you’d never know at first glance. It plays like a jewellery box ditty on acid, slowing down in all the right places to let CHVRCHES frontgirl Lauren mayberry strut her stuff. Another album I wasn’t expecting to like, Every Open Eye was the biggest musical surprise of the year for me.
Silhouettes I, II, III– Floating Points – 63
An utterly fantastic piece of experimental music, Silhouttes is a 10 minute audio representation of the kind of thought power that goes into something as brilliantly pointless as solving a Rubiks Cube. It builds and it grinds itself to a crescendo of noise, beginning with interspersed sounds to become a gorgeous collective by the time it is over.
Dreams – Beck – 62
Following his somewhat surprising Grammy win for Best Album in 2014 (much to Kanye’s inevitable disappointment) he provides an immense follow up, with one of the best pre-chorus’ I have ever heard contained in what is known as an opposite to that award winning album, Morning Phase. It seems stupid to say that someone with the longevity and success of Beck might be breaking through, but a sizable amount of casual listeners simply haven’t heard of him. With tracks like Dreams that is bound to change.
Lift Me Up – Vince Staples – 61
After hearing such good things about Summertime ’06, when I did finally get round to it, it fell a little flat. The diamond in the rough however, was the powerful Lift Me Up. With beats strong enough to match its vocal story, Vince talks how the upper class poach from people with backgrounds such as him. Yes, it’s an old argument amongst rappers such as Vince, but no less valid now then it was when the question of class was first asked. When presented as solid as Lift Me Up has been, it has the potential to become anthem-like.