Here it is! The moment you have all been waiting for (well, if we’re being honest, probably not). It’s my top 10 favourite tracks of the year! 2015 has seen some incredible new releases from some of my favourite artists like Tame Impala, Grimes and Sufjan Stevens as well as my own discovering of some new artists whose music I loved this year. See what made my top 10 below.
10. No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens has been a staple of every alternative music fan’s library since his 2005 masterpiece, Illinoise. Ten years later, the release of his 7th LP Carrie and Lowell showed that his impact on folk music is just as great as it once was. A collection of exquisite songs about Steven’s favourite subjects love, death and God are not crowd pleasers by any means, but rather show the power that poetic lyrics can have over a listener. In the style of some his most heartbreakingly beautiful songs like Romulus and John Wayne Gacy Jr, No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross tells the listener a story, one of heartbreak and anguish. Stevens whispers poetic lines like “Drag me to Hell in the Valley of the Damned” showing that he is not opposed to questioning his highly publicised Christian beliefs. Furthermore, hearing Stevens casually drop the f-word is shocking and jarring, but also incredibly significant giving more impact to the word than any hip-hop song this year.
9. Mountain At My Gates by Foals
As one of the most beloved indie rock bands of the 2000s, Foals released their fourth album this year, What Went Down, a mixture of songs showing both their quintessential math-rock sound and a more demure side to the band. The album’s standout track Mountain At My Gates is an atmospheric, guitar-laden song that bears a striking resemblance to their 2010 hit Spanish Sahara. Just like that song, Mountain At My Gates builds and builds until its last minute where it transforms into a jolty, brash anthem. It doesn’t stray too far from what we expect to hear from Foals, yet it is also so irresistible and easy to get caught up with the catchy ferocity that engulfs your eardrums.
8. You’re A Germ by Wolf Alice
Vicious, audacious and chaotic, Wolf Alice’s best single from their debut album My Love Is Cool, You’re A Germ is more rock-star than Mick Jagger throwing a TV out the window of a hotel room. With obvious influences from 90s female-led punk rock bands like Hole and Bikini Kill, the London band uses raucous noise and bratty vocals to create what is undoubtedly the year’s best rock song. They also get the prize for the year’s most bonkers music video, emulating the beloved B-grade, schlock horror movie genre from the 70s as the band fights off adversaries in the form of an axe-wielding maniac, zombies and a clown with a chainsaw.
7. Music To Watch Boys To by Lana Del Rey
Oh Lana, you’ve done it again. This year, the Queen of Sultry™ followed up last year’s highly underrated Ultraviolence with an old-fashioned ode to Hollywood and all its demons, her third LP Honeymoon. Seductive and restrained, Del Rey moves past the grand orchestral sound of earlier hits like Born to Die and Young and Beautiful to create an incredibly moody record. However, of course it stills sounds like typical Lana, smooth, sexy and empowering. Last year I included the exquisite Shades of Cool on my Hottest 100 list describing it as the “theme song to a James Bond film directed by Quentin Tarantino”. I am going to use that description again to describe Music To Watch Boys To, but this time Bond would have to be played by either Lucy Lui, Uma Thurman or Pam Grier.
6. Get Down by Jess Kent
Bearing an eerie similarity to vintage M.I.A and Lily Allen, it’s easy to pass off Jess Kent’s break-through track Get Down as imitation, however the young Australian musician’s song is incredible in its own right. Cheeky and catchy, Kent’s use of underdog lyrics and a reggae-like hip-hop beat sounds fresh and exciting, no matter how obvious her influences are. With perfect production and mainstream appeal, it’s outrageous how Get Down isn’t a massive hit on commercial radio. Teamed with a ridiculously cute music video made entirely out of emojis, Get Down proves that Jess Kent is going to be a name that we’ll be hearing a lot more.
5. Kill V. Maim by Grimes
Canadian musician Claire Boucher a.k.a Grimes is easily one of the most talented artists of her generation. She has the skill of effortlessly creating infectious, dreamlike electronic tunes using effervesce beats and sharp-witted lyrics. Just don’t call her music “pop”. This year, Grimes followed up her critically acclaimed 2012 album Visions with Art Angels, a record that combines many differing genres – country, hip-hop, rock, electronica – into one perfect playlist. The album’s certified “No. 1 banger” is Kill V. Maim, a violently aggressive and whimsically playful tune that uses cheeky lyrics and perfect production values to get into your head. In an interview with Q Magazine, Boucher said the song is “written from the perspective of Michael Corleone in The Godfather Pt II, except he’s a vampire who can switch gender and travel through space”.
Take of that as you will, but when Boucher playfully sings “Italiana mobster, looking so precious” it’s hard not to picture Al Pacino wearing lipstick and a flower crown. The song is also a clever take down of the inherent sexism in the music industry Boucher so often speaks out about, with lyrics like “I’m only a man, I do what I can” playing with the dichotomy of gender representation in the business.
4. Wide Open by The Chemical Brothers feat. Beck
I never thought I’d use the terms “melancholia” and “The Chemical Brothers” in the same sentence, but Wide Open will surely bring out that feeling in anyone who listens to it. The Chemical Brothers have been making glitchy, shiny electro-pop since 1989, but Wide Open is in vast contrast to their more danceable tracks like Let Forever Be and Galvanize. It’s even incredibly different to the remainder of their eighth studio album, Born in the Echoes. This year’s winner of the Grammy for Album of the Year, Beck provides appropriately sombre and soulful vocals, crooning, “It’s getting away from me” over and over again as atmospheric synths glimmer underneath.
3. Foolish by Alpine
Just like their name suggests, Alpine are experts at creating music that is chilled, icy and requires the wearing of some cool shades to protect yourself from bright snow glare. The Melbourne six-piece is responsible for creating the year’s best pure pop song that infuses gross words like “yuck” with pretty, glittering harmonies. With lyrics like “I’m hating what I’m feeling but I’m so foolishly attracted to you”, the song perfectly articulates that strange feeling felt by anyone who has ever had a weird crush. Incredibly infectious, Foolish loops itself over and over, creating one hell of an earworm. With shiny vocals and icy instrumentation, listening to it is the equivalent of floating on the surface of a cool pool, eating an icy pole on a hot summer’s day.
2. The Less I Know The Better by Tame Impala
Australia’s darling sons of psych-rock returned in 2015 with their third LP Currents, a perfect example of the laconic and relaxed type of experimental music they are so revered for. With the band’s international success from 2012’s Lonerism (including a Grammy nomination) it would have been easy for the band to go mainstream on us. But leading man Kevin Parker’s cheeky lyrics and daring experimentations on Currents ensured fans that their Aussie sensibilities remain and can be found within the album in abundance. The album’s more psychedelic tunes Let in Happen and Cause I’m A Man are in stark contrast to the melancholic beauty of The Less I Know The Better, a heartbreaking track about unrequited love underscored with a heaving 70’s inspired groove. You know you have a musical genius on your hands with couplets like, “She said it’s not now or never/In ten years we’ll be together/I said better late than never/Just don’t make me wait forever.” It all accumulates to a heartbreaking revelation where Parker reveals to the listener that he “was doing fine without you/until I saw your eyes turn away from mine”. The Less I Know The Better is one of the most relatable and tragic love songs ever to use synthesisers.
1. Flesh Without Blood by Grimes
With Flesh Without Blood, Grimes proved that she is the greatest artist of the 2010’s. As the first song we heard from Art Angels it offered a distinctly fresh style to the artist’s repertoire and immediately became my number one song on repeat. The track is energetic and magnetic with a nightmarish whimsy running throughout, helping underscore its razor-sharp critical lyrics on Boucher’s views of the music industry. Lines like, “you never liked me anyway/and I don’t see the light I saw in you before”, refer to the ridicule she was faced with when music outlets critiqued and dismissed her 2014 song Go for not sounding like her old music. However, Boucher certainly gets the last say here with her angelic voice on full display as she perfectly mixes layers upon layers of electronic sounds that melt into one another seamlessly. Accompanied by a film clip that looks like the result of David Lynch adapting Alice in Wonderland, Flesh Without Blood is a completely bonkers song that just happens to also be incredibly beautiful and adequately self-aware.
Honourable mentions: Take My Side by Will Butler, 20/20 by The Vaccines, Heaven Sent by Best Coast, Silver Car Crash by Majical Cloudz and Lay Down by DMAs