Here it is. So many great songs but only ten can be the top of ’15. There is still time to check out my Spotify list if you want to check my top 30 tracks of this year. Feel free to send us your lists and if you’re in the Midwest, we might even debate over coffee.
#10: “I’m Losing Friends” – Tanner Swift / Jvdas
The small EP originally released by Tanner before he changed his performing title to Jvdas, is nothing short of a revelation of brilliant songwriting. It took one listen for us to willingly follow him wherever his tales of doubt and regret take him. On this stripped down gem, the artist battles within the confines of his mind. Lines like “I think we might all be demons when we want to be / I can’t afford to love / I’m afraid if I give too much you’ll leave / everyone does” showcases the fluid songwriting of a man possessed. He is a truly captivating performer who is set to have a huge 2016 if there is any justice in the world.
#9: “Daylight” – Young Guns
UK rockers Young Guns had an exceptional release this year with Ones and Zeros. “When you’re writing an album you need to believe that you’re doing the most important thing in the world,” says rightfully confident frontman Gustav Wood. The attention to detail is evident in the eleven songs that make up what has been a top rock album of the year contender for many. “Daylight” is a solid hit that mixes their trademark optimism with soaring vocals and a guitar solo that would make Tom Morello blush. The music video is a great apocalyptic showcase of all the things the band does well. This is my favorite song on an album that is sure to stir your soul in a way that few rock albums can.
#8: “Lydia” – Highly Suspect
Seven million streams on Spotify and two Grammy nominations can’t be wrong right? Brooklyn’s blues infused rockers Highly Suspect were on our radar since they dropped in our inbox months before the release of their guilty pleasure “Mister Asylum”. Not really fitting in any specific genre, the band remind listeners of Queens of the Stone Age and Kings of Leon and on this track you can see just how talented and confident the band are. While this is their most well known track, the entire album is an absolute scorcher and our review of it was one of our most read pieces this year.
#7: “Na Na Na” – My Brothers And I
Honestly, if you don’t like this song, we can’t be friends. A soulful and jazz flavored jam, “Na Na Na” is the best of the best on their phenomenal debut album. Originally finding this tune on YouTube made me watch intently. You cannot fake band chemistry like this. These guys run free in their musical space and excel at everything with a mix of creative discipline. This is the perfect evening soundtrack and will have you singing along while you melt into the sound waves.
#6: “Strange Hellos” – Torres
The uneasy and explosive opener to her second LP Sprinter, “Strange Hellos” shows the 24 year old songwriter dealing with the aftermath of a broken religious background. Amidst the uncertainty and hostility, Torres released one of the most honest and ambitious albums of ’15. “I dreamt that I forgave / that only comes in waves / I hate you all the same” brilliantly illustrates what the listener is in for. Much has been written of her trials and doubts, so I won’t begin to attempt to diagnose here, but in “Strange Hellos” we have something the music scene needs; heart, angst, and an underlying hope which circumstances can never strangle out.
#5: “Things Happen” – Dawes
Dawes have etched out a career that many up and comers can only dream of. While ever prolific, the LA rockers have continually released solid hits with incredible songwriting. All Your Favorite Bands is no exception. While I’ve always enjoyed their releases, I feel this is their best and many major media outlets agree. On the album opener “Things Happen”, we see the guys battling through the random meaningless occurrences that fill our every day experiences. “Things happen / that’s all they ever do” pretty much sums the incredible existential journey of the band with backing organ and guitar. It is both parts deep and meaningless and is classic Dawes through and through.
#4: “Times Square” – Destroyer
Certain songs grab a hold of you from the first listen and never let go. It comes on through coffeehouse speakers or amidst bar lit dance floors. Such is the case for this incredibly crafted ode to New York. With the turning of the calendar close at hand, this will be the tune that I will be listening to over the Ryan Seacrest directed celebration. “Times Square” perfectly embodies the spirit of a city that has itself grabbed many musicians’ hearts. The prolific and extremely diverse Destroyer has crafted a beautifully arranged and executed love letter to a city that is dear to so many hearts in a way that is only rivaled by Ryan Adams and perhaps Lou Reed.
#3:“Hold On” – David Ramirez
Honestly, almost every song on Ramirez’s Fables album could find it’s way on this list. Greg even placed “Ball and Chain” on his incredible list. “Hold On” makes mine because of the beautiful interplay between faith and doubt that makes Ramirez a premier songwriter. ““I can’t come to church because of my dirty mouth / I wasn’t invited to the party I’m too fucking devout / I’m always walking the line between cocaine and communion wine” is by far my favorite lyric of 2015. While the album version is more raucous, the more stripped down take available on Noisetrade is my preferred listen. He is a road worn troubadour who invites us into his head to help find the sacred amongst the profane, and listeners will gladly partake.
#2:“Trying” – Bully
This is a tune I found by accident. While covering HEAT on tour, I got exposed to these Nashville rockers who remind me of a better version of Hole. “I’ve been praying for my period all week in relief that I just can’t see / I question everything / my focus, my figure, my sexuality” croons vocalist Alicia Bognanno. The band plays with reckless punk type force and “Trying” showcases Bognanno’s amazing rock pipes that I’m sure will make any skeptic howl along with. The song has an incredibly deep message and is incredibly layered. This incendiary talent makes Bully one of the more exciting new acts we found this year.
#1: “Heartbreaker” – Noah Gundersen
This seven-minute Jeff Buckley style scorcher is a building boiler of a jam. The crunchy guitar and trademark Gundersen mumbled lyrics make this a welcomed departure from anything the artist has done before. Both epic and minimalistic, it abandons safety with its sweeping combustible quiver that makes the listener detached and uncomfortable. Clearly struggling with life, love, and faith, this song will stay with you long after the final note. Long time fans of Gundersen might be taken aback by the new direction of his art, but personally I welcome it. Carry the Ghost is one of the most intriguing and rich releases of the year.