My Favorite Tracks of 2015
My list of favorite tracks of 2013 was topped by Vampire Weekend, who have essentially gone ghost since then. 2014’s list was pumped full of hip-hop. This year, just two of the top ten songs are rap. This list is always my favorite to put together because of how unpredictable it is. You can guess which artists will have great albums, but great songs are impossible to see coming.
With that said, here we go. My 40 favorite tracks of 2015:
40. Father John Misty — I Love You, Honeybear
39. Runaway Brother — Moth
38. Fetty Wap — RGF Island
37. Jamie xx — I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) (ft. Young Thug & Popcaan)
36. Adele — Hello
35. Yung Lean — Hoover
34. Kendrick Lamar — The Blacker The Berry
33. Drake — Preach (ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR)
32. Vince Staples — Norf Norf
31. Isaiah Rashad — Nelly
30. The Weeknd — Can’t Feel My Face
29. Tame Impala — Let It Happen
28. Father John Misty — Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)
27. Kanye West — Only One (ft. Paul McCartney)
26. Pusha T — Untouchable
25. Drake — Hotline Bling
24. Justin Bieber — What Do You Mean?
23. French Montana — Off The Rip (ft. Chinx & N.O.R.E.)
22. Action Bronson — Actin Crazy
21. Runaway Brother — Virgin Rock
20. The Front Bottoms — Cough It Out ▶
The Front Bottoms newest album, Back On Top, was really weird for me. The group released a slew of singles leading up to the album, all of which I positively hated. As a fan of their previous major-label releases, it felt like FB was hitting the tank. Slowly but surely, the album grew on me. I still don’t think it sounds like the same band I fell in love with, but it’s a perfectly fine album, captained by this mega-catchy number.
19. Sorority Noise — Corrigan ▶
“Corrigan” starts sheepish: “All I wanna be is the one you sometimes miss.” And finishes bold: “I will never be the one you need. I only hope to be the solid ground beneath your feet.” It tries to navigate the curious web called love, and also features Modern Baseball’s Brendan Lukens on the second verse, which is neat. [Read my review.]
18. The World Is A Beautiful Place… — You Can’t Live There Forever ▶
In an album with so much energy and emotion, the first breaths of Harmlessness are soft and sweet. “There’s tiny worlds inside your mind, your fingers are a distant sky,” opens “You Can’t Live There Forever,” over muted acoustic guitar. In some weird way, the warm blanket of an intro makes perfect sense as the opener of such a driving album. The song’s blooming point is one of my favorite pieces of music this year. [Read my review.]
17. Modern Baseball — The Thrash Particle ▶
2015’s anthem of rejection and jealousy comes from Modern Baseball. Sometimes we can be petty, but that’s normal. Brendan Lukens sings to the crush that left him hanging, hoping he’s succeeding in upsetting her the same way that she upset him. “Is this the hook you wanted? Is it stuck inside your head?” [Read my review.]
16. Sufjan Stevens — Should Have Known Better ▶
“Should’ve Known Better” seems to be getting praise as the jewel of Carrie & Lowell. Personally, I feel that distinction belongs to a certain song further down this list, but I digress. Sufjan explores the days after his mother’s death and questions the way he chose to handle things before eventually concluding that he’s going to drive himself crazy if he doesn’t give it up. “The past is just the past. A bridge to nowhere.” The ending here is oddly Postal Service-esque. [Read my review.]
15. Travis Scott — 90210 ▶
As with a lot of Travis’ stuff, this one is all about production. “90210” starts slow, tick-tocking through two hypnotizing verses with background vocals from Kacy Hill before picking up speed in a jam-packed, melodic finale about life in the fast lane and the determination to make your family proud.
14. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment — Sunday Candy ▶
Although this first came out last year on Soundcloud, it didn’t get the official treatment until 2015, complete with arguably my favorite music video of the year. It qualifies for this list, albeit on a technicality. Chance The Rapper’s ode to his grandmother gets backed by lush, live instrumentation and a gang of contributors, including a buttery hook from Jamila Woods. [Read my review.]
13. The Weeknd — Tell Your Friends ▶
On “Tell Your Friends,” Abel Tesfaye tries to make you jealous of his lifestyle. I guess whether that works is up to you. Either way, Kanye brings in the piano with great success (how many times has he done that?) and The Weeknd croons about cruising through the West End in his new Benz. This one cracks my Top 15 largely in part to its sing-along appeal.
12. Sorority Noise — Using ▶
“Using” is a tale of successes and failures, the kind that come with depression and addiction. After walking through the valleys, the chorus sprints to the peak, hollering: “I stopped wishing I was dead.” It’ll get your blood pumping. [Read my review.]
11. Future — News Or Somthn ▶
In a year where Future effectively exploded in the hip-hop world with numerous successful solo releases and an album with Drake, my favorite moment came in a cast-off Soundcloud cut from June. Future finds his rhythm and jogs through a tale of trap houses and grim reapers, capped off with a guitar solo. Of course.
10. Modern Baseball — Alpha Kappa Fall Of Troy The Movie Part Deux (2 Disc Directors Cut) ▶
This song was released earlier in the year, but never clicked with me until I heard it in the context of Modern Baseball’s The Perfect Cast EP. The viscous cycle of early 20s passivity and malaise — and the trap it presents — is splayed in a single, dense verse from Jake Ewald. Modern Baseball manages to capture the feeling of stagnation despite the fact that “everything is changing even faster than it was back then.” [Read my review.]
09. Justin Bieber — Love Yourself ▶
Bieber came up firing with the help of Ed Sheeran, crafting one of the catchiest songs of the year. In the midst of an album filled with EDM and R&B, my personal high note was the guitar licks of “Love Yourself.” It also had one of the most sneakily scathing lines of 2015: “My mama don’t like you, and she likes everyone.” [Read my review.]
08. Courtney Barnett — Depreston ▶
We all have to face our own mortality at some point, but I’ll bet few reach that point while house hunting. While touring a potential new home, Courtney Barnett meets reality in the form of what was left behind by the previous owner. “Then I see the handrail in the shower, a collection of those canisters for coffee, tea and flour, and a photo of a young man in a van in Vietnam.” At the end of the song, Barnett wanders back around to the reason she’s there. “I wonder what she bought it for,” she ponders. It’s a snapshot of the brief interaction between two people who never meet.
07. Drake — Know Yourself ▶
The kid who grew up on Degrassi and blew up writing songs about his struggles with fame and his relationship with his parents is currently one of the hottest artists in the world. A career that started with pensive, introspective lyrics has blossomed into arena rock. “Know Yourself” was written for Toronto, and written to be screamed at the top of your lungs. It’s the type of song that was created so this could happen.
06. Destroyer — Times Square ▶
There was a weird couple of weeks this summer when I discovered and became deeply in love with Destroyer’s 2011 album, Kaputt. Having successfully bathed myself in the album, Poison Season dropped in August, much to my delight. While it didn’t reach the flawlessness of Kaputt, it was still pretty darn good, and “Times Square” is one of my favorites of 2015. After the restrained Kaputt, seeing Dan Bejar let it rip feels good.
05. Post Malone — White Iverson ▶
It’s too early to call Post Malone a one-hit wonder, but this song had that kind of explosion to it. This quickly went from neat little song in my Soundcloud likes to something I couldn’t stop playing to Top 10 on the hip-hop charts. Sometimes I can predict an artist’s rise to fame, and sometimes I get completely blindsided when I watch a meteoric rise like this. The correct predictions are more satisfying, but the surprises are more fun.
04. Jack Ü — Where Are Ü Now (with Justin Bieber) ▶
2015’s summer anthem cracks the top five, as if there were any doubt. I guess that’s the craziest thing about this one: It’s a no-brainer list-topper. Last year, I can assure you I would not have guessed a Bieber/Skrillex collaboration would be here, but there’s something magical about what Bieber channeled this year. The beat drop will do this to you.
03. Kendrick Lamar — King Kunta ▶
Kunta Kinte, the main character in Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, was a slave. In “King Kunta,” Kendrick tosses him a crown and lets him stunt on everyone he left behind on the plantation. “I got a bone to pick,” is the way Lamar opens things up. It serves as a perfect warning shot for what’s to come. Kendrick uses Kinte as a parallel for his own personal story, one of escaping the gang mecca of Compton and reaching the top of the Billboard charts. Aside from all that, the bounce is infectious. Try to listen to this with a frown on your face.
02. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die — January 10th, 2014 ▶
Grandeur trumps a lot of things in my mind. Nothing quite as grand as one woman’s face to face battle with her living, breathing demons. Born out of an episode of This American Life, “January 10th, 2014” rises and falls, whispers and shouts, walks and sprints, cries and bleeds. “Ease the babies out of their wombs. Make your hair blonde. Hop on the number four,” the song opens. It’s beautifully biographical and completely mesmerizing. [Read my review.]
01. Sufjan Stevens — The Only Thing ▶
The most bittersweet song of 2015 was also the best, in my humble opinion. For many artists, the final step in the healing process is one of song, and perhaps this is Sufjan’s. When you lose someone who means so much to you, what’s next? Probably something like this. With a lot of artists vying for ownership of 2015, Sufjan has a very good case for the crown. [Read my review.]