Keith’s Playlists: My Favorite Songs From 2015

When I assemble my yearly list of top albums (2015 #1-25, #26-50, #51-100), I put a gloss of objectivity on what is essentially a subjective process. But when it comes to songs, I throw objectivity out the window. If I like it, I throw it into a playlist – and if it’s a song I really like, it survives months of adding new songs, and dropping those that haven’t sustained my interest. Here (in no particular order) are the songs that survived well into 2016. And you can listen to this playlist on Spotify.

  • Holly Miranda, “Mark My Words” – A good song doesn’t have to be complicated. Take a simple chiming guitar arpeggio, add great yearning vocals, and some simple well chosen percussion, and you’ve got this awesome tune.
  • Joel Plaskett, “When I Close My Eyes” – I’m a sucker for a well-crafted ballad. Great lyrics and an honest vocal lift this one above the average.
  • JR JR, “Gone” – Ridiculously catchy, lovely harmonies
  • Julia Holter, “Feel You” – A gorgeous example of the mini-symphonies that Holter produces with unusual and interesting orchestration
  • City and Colour, “Woman” – Holy Drama, Batman! Distorted guitars and keyboards lead to a simple guitar figure and his incredible voice
  • Eric Church, “Mr. Misunderstood” – An autobiographical country rocker that kicks ass
  • Lana Del Ray, “High By the Beach” – A stoner torch song
  • X Ambassadors, “Renegades” – A simple acoustic song that sounds like the tune everyone uses for their travel and adventure videos on YouTube
  • Purity Ring, “Heartsigh” – Warm, uplifting and tuneful electro-pop
  • Shana Cleveland & the Sandcastles, “Itching Around” – What sounds like

    a dobro or National Steel drives this rhythmic, moody and edgy song

  • Beauty Pill, “Afrikaner Barista” – One of those songs I can’t really describe as there are so many different things going on. The whole blows away the sum of its parts.
  • Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, “S.O.B.” – The bar song of bar songs. You just know that people will be drunk singing this in bars 30 years from now
  • Aaron Lee Tasjan, “Made in America” – If Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Bob Seger had a love child (admittedly unlikely), it would sound like this.
  • Car Seat Headrest, “Sunburned Shirts” – A throwback to ‘60s psychedelia with some Jesus & Mary Chain drone thrown in
  • Eskimeaux, “Broken Necks” – A wonderful little fast-paced and catchy pop tune
  • Joywave, “Somebody New” – An urgent song propelled by plunging distorted guitar and keyboard riffs
  • Jessica Pratt, “Greycedes” – A slice of Laurel Canyon folk
  • Grimes, “California” – Sunny, handclap-driven electropop
  • Nate Ruess, “Great Big Storm” – I could have picked a half-dozen from Ruess’ insanely melodic solo debut, but this is my favorite with its big, generous chorus.
  • The Tallest Man On Earth, “Darkness of the Dream” – I played this song more than any other over the past year (although the next song came a close second). Terrific, energetic folk-rock
  • Josh Ritter, “Getting Ready to Get Down” – Ritter breathes new life into the classic story of a small town girl rebelling with his unique lyrical gifts. Best

    line: “And when you get damned in the popular opinion, it’s just another damn of the damns you’re not giving.”

  • Susanne Sundfør, “Accelerate” – Dark, propulsive, dramatic Scandinavian pop
  • Pale Honey, “Over Your Head” – Slightly sunnier but still dark Scandinavian pop
  • Steve Earle & The Dukes, “The Tennessee Kid” – The classic story: boy meets the Devil at the crossroads
  • Matt Pond PA, “The State of Gold Pt. 1” – Sweet ‘80s synth-pop
  • Martha Scanlan, “The State of Things Gone Missing, The Shape of Things to Come” – The title track from this “old-timey” singer-songwriter is a touching slice of Americana, right down to a sawing fiddle.
  • Julien Baker, “Blacktop” – A simple finger-picked acoustic song with a strong edge of melancholy
  • Kurt Vile, “Pretty Pimpin” – Rhythmic punk-folk
  • Ibeyi, “Stranger/Lover” – A great example of the Afro-Cuban-Franco sound these two twins have created. The simple minor chord piano figure that drives the chorus is wonderful.
  • Boxed In, “Mystery” – A bubbling bass line and percussive piano pump this little pop gem along
  • the bird and the bee, “Young and Dumb” – Disco developed such a bad reputation, but how can you resist this kind of funky little dance-pop number?
  • Toro y Moi, “What You Want” – The poppier side of Chad Bundrick
  • Ben Caplan, “Belly of the Worm” – Like a late-1970s, pre-growl Tom Waits’ tune
  • Beirut, “Gibraltar” – A funky chunk of piano and percussion driven pop
  • The Front Bottoms, “West Virginia” – A straightforward punky rock song
  • Beach Slang, “Throwaways” – Chiming, driving, uplifting rock
  • Asaf Avidan, “Little Parcels of an Endless Time” – This Israeli singer has an incredible voice and he uses it to full effect on this tune, particularly on the soaring dramatic chorus.
  • Ivy Tripp, “Under a Rock” – The melody starts with a hint of Oasis’ “Live Forever” but quickly diverges from that most male of bands with its chunky chords and airy almost child-like vocals.
  • Thunderbitch, “Very Best Friend” – A total throwback from Alabama Shakes vocalist Brittany Howard
  • LÁ-BAS, “Automaton” – NYC supergroup produces awesome dance track
  • Jessie Jones, “Sugar Coated” – Ridiculously catchy acoustic guitar, piano and handclap track with sunny, chanty vocals
  • Death Cab For Cutie, “Black Sun” – Even in their cheeriest songs, there’s always an undertone of melancholy in Death Cab For Cutie. Here the melancholy is right up front in this haunting track, perhaps their best song ever.
  • Destroyer, “Dream Lover” – A driving, uptempo number with terrific saxes and Dan Bejar’s quirky vocals taking the melody in all sorts of unexpected places
  • San Fermin, “Two Scenes” – There’s an incredible amount packed into this just over 4 minute track: a jazzy vocal breakdown, orchestral movements, quiet deep vocals swelling into a chorus with lovely harmonies – in short the full baroque formula of San Fermin
  • Ryan Culwell, “Amarillo” – Great heartland songwriting
  • Telekinesis, “Sylvia” – A great bass line and beats push this slice of synth-pop along
  • Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best” – 3:51 of riot grrrl energy and shouted vocals
  • Blitzen Trapper, “All Across This Land” – And we end with a kick-ass bit of classic rock

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