Hurt Me – Lapsley – 20
Another of the songs on this list that rather caught me by surprise, Hurt Me is a heartfelt outreach to a lover. It starts as it means to go on, conveying emotion perfectly from chord to chord. And the chorus is unbelievably good. You can literally see peoples ears prick up when they hear it for the first time. Still not really sure who Lapsley is, I’m almost scared to find out more because the initial bar has been set so high.
To The Top – Twin Shadow – 19
I’ve yet to hear a bad song from Twin Shadow. Their album Eclipse really did not receive enough love, so I will try to make up for that with this list. Talking about going back to the peak of a relationship, George Lewis Jr. (the man behind the music) lets fly with a masterful set of vocals. One of the most underrated songs of the year without any doubt.
Everyday – A$AP Rocky (Rod Stewart, Miguel, Mark Ronson) – 18
Ambition is good. Ambition gets you somewhere. Even writing this list is ambitious (I’ve written more words than my university dissertation already). So to be A$AP Rocky, and take a bloody Rod Stewart vocal, twist it, invite Miguel to but cream on top and Mark Ronson to serve it all up is stupid. It shouldn’t work. It’s a big giant no-no. But what we do get is maybe the party song of 2015. It grows and grows, bringing the best out in both Rod and Rocky.
Emoticons – The Wombats – 17
I never would have thought I’d have put a Wombats song on this list when I started, but here we are with a surprise at number 17. I maintain that genuine pop songs these days are in short supply, so for The Wombats to trust this upon us is something to be thankful of. A genuine bit of brilliance, it’s simplicity is to be appreciated above all else for me. It wants to be a banger, and it 100% succeeds in just that.
Lone Wolf and Cub – Thundercat (Mono/Poly, Flying Lotus, Herbie Hancock, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson) – 16
Something a little less up tempo, but no less upbeat, is Thundercat’s Lone Wolf and Cub. Known mainly for being a bass player, Stephen Bruner goes for it solo this time around, and with great triumph. He has a whole host of back up production wise, which you can tell have refined and edited this to the absolute maximum possible.
U Mad – Vic Mensa (Kanye West) – 15
Without doubt, the official hype song of 2015. The energy provided in U Mad is ridiculous, and despite what he might say, it’s put Vic Mensa on the map. Outshining Kanye’s feature with bars flying out from the first few seconds, Kanye has to be on his absolute top game to get close to that quality. Which all in all makes for an even better record.
Mountain At My Gates – Foals – 14
If The Wombats were a surprise at 17, having Foals at 14, a band I only knew for supposedly being shit live for the last couple of years, is frankly ridiculous. But no song in 2015 grows on you like this one does. It begins like a template soft rock song, before absolutely exploding into life, which ends up like an orgy of volcanoes for the final 45 seconds or so. I can imagine it being bloody hard to convey having a Mountain at your Gates, but Foals give it a very good go.
Bad Blood – Nao – 13
No silly, there’s no typo, this isn’t meant to be the Taylor Swift song. Mainly because that’s not very good and this, well, is. Not actually massively sure who Nao is, and it doesn’t help that a quick Google seems to think she’s the National Audit Office. On closer inspection, she’s the Londoner who’s made one of the very best songs this year. The chorus standing alone would have it in the top 20, it’s just lucky we get all the genius surrounding it.
The Blacker The Berry – Kendrick Lamar – 12
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget Kendrick. Just after making one of the best, most consistent and important albums of the last 10 years it was hard to put anything of his anywhere else but in and around the Top 10. First up is The Blacker The Berry, one of many outpourings of Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp a Butterfly. Succeeding in his goal to become a strong voice in popular culture, self-depreciating songs like this will only strengthen his cause.
Flatliners – Twin Shadow – 11
As good as To The Top was, this other effort from Twin Shadow simply spreads its arsecheeks and shits all over it. Flatliners is just amazing in every way. It’s slow introduction before bursting at the seams with noise is something many tried and failed to conjure up this year, and yet Twin Shadow simply make it effortless. I’m almost scared they may never make a bad song.
Sunday Candy – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – 10
We enter the top 10 with certainly the best ever hip-hop song written about somebody’s Grandma. Chance the Rapper is cheeky and inventive, and the Donnie Trumpet album has seemingly given him another level of musical freedom, which has resulted in tracks like Sunday Candy. Each stage of the track, of which there are at least half a dozen, is performed magically. I want more people to sing about their grandparents, too.
Wesley’s Theory – Kendrick Lamar (George Clinton, Thundercat) – 9
It’s Kendrick again! And to be fair I could have picked any song off the album, put it right here at number 9, and you couldn’t argue one bit. That’s just how good Kendrick has been this year. As it happens, the track which features what are infrequent collaborators on the album is the one what done makes it. A song that you seemingly could play at any social event, it transcends genre and status to simply become one of the best pieces of music heard in this year or any.
Let It Happen – Tame Impala – 8
Everybody waxed lyrical about Tame Impala’s 2015 album, Currents, and I was no different. Something everybody else seemed in agreement about too was that Let It Happen was the best song on said album. You’ll hear no arguments from me. To keep up the level of quality the Australian band do for over 7 minutes is nothing short of inspiring. Never dropping in excellence for a second, it simply has to be in everybody’s top 10 this year.
Don’t Wanna Fight – Alabama Shakes – 7
The song that grew on me more than any other by miles this year, Don’t Wanna Fight is a tune that simply warrants listening to again and again and again. When it starts, it is like the touchpaper has been lit before an explosion, as a tsunami of magnificence hits you like a sledgehammer. I’ve no idea where this Alabama Shakes came from, but I want to hold them close and make sure they stay forever.
Offred – Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – 6
I was told I absolutely had to listen to the album this song features on, Club Meds. It turns out you don’t, but you simply must, must listen to this. A distorted, unnerving backdrop matched with velvet vocals, I simply cannot fathom how a song like this came to be. It’s like somebody used power-ups on a normal soft rock song, and Jesus does it improve for it. I wish more bands took risks like this, rather than playing at being dark and broody.
SMUCKERS – Tyler, The Creator – 5
It can take a lot to bring out the best in Tyler. It can be the same with both Kanye West and Lil Wayne. To do that all at once, on one song, is nothing short of inspired. I trust Tyler, who takes his music seemingly more serious than most out there, to not allow his first real prestigious features to let him down and what they end up doing is creating the 5th best song this year. The to and fro Tyler and Wayne play for the last couple of minutes is the highlight, and deserves multiple listens. Fuck you, Cherry Bomb haters.
Slip Slide – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment (Busta Rhymes, B.o.B) – 4
Now, something more difficult than putting Tyler, Kanye and Wayne together and making something meaningful is this collaboration. I don’t like Busta Rhymes, and I really don’t like B.o.B. So I’m not sure if it’s a double negative, or the production of Chance really is that good, but this is simply amazing. The most powerful, in terms of energy, song this calendar year is not only that but addictive as hell. A song made simply to make you happy, and there isn’t enough of that.
Bloodsport ’15 – Raleigh Ritchie – 3
The re-release of this under different chords means it can be here, and thank God. I’ve loved Bloodsport for 2 years, so for it to be improved was something I didn’t even think possible. But the subtle differences are enough to put it as high as number 3. It shows off the complete arsenal of Raleigh Ritchie, dulcet and yet later in the song, harsh tones reflect the agony of the tumultuous relationship. I wish upon wish people start to notice him for more than being Grey Worm in Game of Thrones, because genuinely he could end up being one of the best musicians in the world.
Alright – Kendrick Lamar – 2
Not done with Kendrick just yet. Picking the best song on To Pimp a Butterfly was almost a no-contest, as no song has had the impact in the last 12 months that Alright has. From simply resonating with people within their headphones, to actually being sung by activists towards police during protests against them is nothing short of incredible. The surprise album of the year has become the surprise piece of positive propaganda from this year. This year of all years, when the rise of #blacklivesmatter has reached its peak. Oh, and the songs not bad either.
River – Leon Bridges – 1
I deliberated and deliberated, weighed it up for days about which of the top 3 should actually get the number 1 spot, but I think I knew the first time I heard River that it was going top of this list. If I could sing one song, which unfortunately due to a chronic flat vocal cord is not possible, it would be this. This is beautiful. River is a hark back to old school soul, something that people may scoff at and say that it has been done before, but when it is done with this much emotion and power, who is anybody to argue with it?
In the end a relatively simple choice for the top spot, which when you consider the competition it has had to throw off to get there, is a stunning achievement. No song in the last 5 years has hit me that powerfully that quickly, and it makes River mine and hopefully your definitive choice for Song of the Year.