Another great year in music. There are few things we at Ear to the Ground love to do more than to create our year end “Best Of” lists. This year, I decided to give more attention to the bands that I was fortunate enough to cover on my first full year at ETTG instead of some of the bigger acts (sorry Adele). Also, it is important to note that these are some of my favorite jams of the year. By no means do I think your list is any less inferior to my own. If you want to hear these songs together, PLUS a few extra that didn’t make this most illustrious list, follow me (matt simon) on Spotify and check out my “Best Songs ’15” playlist. And now without further ado:
#20: “Set A Fire” – Justin Hulsey
“Set a Fire” is a pure gem and probably one of the more accessible tracks on the Denver based singer’s Morning Bloom album. This is also the tune most likely to set up residence in your head for weeks after. Hulsey’s trademark lyrics are pronounced over a relentless drumbeat and heavy guitar sway. You are definitely going to like this one.
#19: “I’m In Love” – Fool’s Gold
LA’s world-indie band Fool’s Gold have created something special on their latest album Flying Lessons. Mixing African and Middle Eastern sounds along with relaxed pop longings, the band’s follow up to the 2011 release Leave No Trace, led to acclaim from major outlets like SPIN and NPR and even earned them a tour spot with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. “I’m In Love” is a fun tune in the general arena of a funky TV On The Radio jam. The music video is exceptional as well and really tells you everything you need to know about the band (including a hypnotic dancing camel). If you love afro-beat drums and humbling guitar, then this will definitely find its way on your playlist.
#18: “Lion Eyes” – Island Apollo
The breakout single from the California indie act beautifully illustrates the mind and heart of a man wrestling with his human condition. “Sometimes I fear the thoughts that I keep to myself and it makes me feel like I am just an animal,” sings vocalist Ryan Kilpatrick over searing instrumentation. Lyrically this tune refreshingly turns the stale love song structure upside down. This is guaranteed to make you a believer in Island Apollo.
#17: “True Believer” – Spirit Animal
We here at Ear to the Ground have the sense that these guys are going to be BIG. The Brooklyn group are beautifully creative, groovy, and more than anything incredibly fun. Landing somewhere between Outkast and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the guys have expanded their sound for their new album World War IV. Spirit Animal has the creative energy of Awolnation mixed with the funk soul of James Brown. We are brimming with expectancy for the release of their album, but you don’t have to wait any longer to hear what all the rage is about. “True Believer” feels like a hit and pairs nicely with their first single “Regular World”.
#16: “It Did Me Well” – Embleton
This is a soaring Chris Isaack tune that both pummels and affirms the cliché that “it all works out in the end”. Leaving home to explore the great unknown, the song’s protagonist realizes that the same pain that drives him away also drives him back home. “It Did Me Well” tells the story of a man who leaves town to discover himself. He’s surrounded by a loving community, but he knows he’ll never find out who he truly is unless he gets away . . . . It does him well to get away for a season, and by the end of the story he finds himself back home, a changed man” explains Embleton.
#15: “Brutal Heart” – Shanee Pink
Album opener “Brutal Heart” was our site’s first exposure to her energetic and explosive sound. An untraditional love song with the dance inducing chorus of “go / take your brutal heart / rip it from your chest / show it to me beating in your hand”, it is uniquely positive for having such a dark refrain. Shanee shows the depth of her imaginative songwriting while balancing a catchy pop-laced beat. Words truly falter in describing how much I love this song.
#14: “Glitches” – Flint Eastwood
Making music out of a historic re-purposed church in Detroit, Flint Eastwood has recently released a fantastic EP Small Victories. Balancing stirring and emotive lyrics with pop sensibilities, her music is both abstract and accessible. Her recent release draws on the loss of her mother, who was her biggest fan. While all six tracks are worthy of being on this list, this particular tune showcases her Lorde type production and Lana Del Rey swagger.
#13: “Reckless” – The Fight
“Reckless” is the most catchy and youthful song of the Edmonton quintet’s fantastic EP. The band thoroughly looks back to a time when they were “young and reckless”. Any one of us in the twilight of our youth can relate to this nostalgic look back complete with chances not taken. Reminiscent of The National, the band goes from self-defeatism to self-affirmation with genre busting ease. “I should of run after you” is sung with genuine lament that will surely resonate with more than a few listeners.
#12: “Something New” – Secret Weapons
The Brooklyn duo has a niche for making anthem laced pop explosions that is sure to melt the most stubborn of hearts. “Something New” has found itself in heavy rotation since it came across our overflowing emails. Indie pop gold. On their sure to be smash single which longs for something new in a life of the same, the duo are concise and fun. Billboard recently recognized the guys who are sure to continue to win over listeners. Currently they are on tour with Nate Ruess and are set to release some new tunes in the future.
#11: “This Life” – HEAT
HEAT were one of my favorite finds this year. The Montreal act remind us of a cool ‘70’s throwback mixed with The Strokes and a little Dandy Warhols for good measure. Lead singer Susil Sharma uses the F-bomb with New York confidence and true rock and roll swagger. This might be the most cocksure track on the list and only gets more assured with every listen. This is a baritone shoegaze rock worthy of your time and energy.