FLOOD’s Best of 2015: Our Favorite Songs

We moved, we grooved, we were soothed.

Despite the thunder of thinkpieces saying otherwise, the album is not dead; the sheer number of Best Records lists that come out at this time of year, and the general diversity of albums they’re repping, seem to prove the point. But the music world is changing. Streaming models have made it easier than ever for artists to release brand-new songs straight to their fans. Which means that in a certain way, we’re returning to the way music was made and distributed decades ago: we’re experiencing the reemergence of the single.

And while there’s no doubt that 2015 was a particularly great year for the album, the number of excellent one-offs, quickie EPs, and surprise singles this year was so high that we didn’t even bother trying to rank them all. So here the FLOOD staff presents to you our individual favorite songs of 2015. You can listen along on Spotify below (and we’ve provided links to the handful of tracks not available through the service).

Sufjan Stevens’ “Fourth of July” gave me a not-so-subtle reminder of the fragility of the human condition. Being an adult with children in the world today—and having traveled the world while listening to this very song—it often reminds me just how lucky I am and how to others the words “we’re all gonna die” bear such a different meaning. At the same time, Tame Impala, Grimes, Ratatat, and Big Grams all gave us big booming bass and crazy synths, while Grace Mitchell’s “NoLo” had people shaking their asses wherever they may be. — Alan Sartirana, Publisher

  1. Sufjan Stevens, “Fourth of July
  2. Grimes, “Kill V. Maim”
  3. Tame Impala, “Eventually”
  4. Ratatat, “Cream On Chrome”
  5. Wolf Alice, “Moaning Lisa Smile”
  6. Grace Mitchell, “NoLo”
  7. Big Grams, “Drum Machine”
  8. Björk, “Stonemilker”
  9. Title Fight, “Chlorine”
  10. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”

 


I’m constantly surprised by what a sum reveals about its parts. Looking back at this list, only one thing really jumps out at me as a common thread or recurring theme: solo dudes. At first thought that’s pretty funny, as in my mind I’ve never really been a huge singer-songwriter fan. But, naturally, a glance through my personal record collection reveals otherwise. I guess 2015 was a pretty good year for what I can only call “solo dude songs,” and, as Loudon Wainwright said, apparently the one-man guy is the only guy to be. You learn something new every day. — Pat McGuire, Editor in Chief

  1. Matthew E. White, “Fruit Trees”
  2. Kurt Vile, “Wheelhouse”
  3. Elvis Perkins, “AM”
  4. Nosaj Thing, “Don’t Mind Me”
  5. Leon Bridges, “Coming Home”
  6. Father John Misty, “The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt.”
  7. Ratatat, “Cream on Chrome”
  8. Pops Staples, “Friendship”
  9. Ryan Adams, “Bad Blood”
  10. Matt Costa, “Beekeeper Becomes Eucalyptus Trees”

 


If this list is to be trusted, I was looking for two things in 2015: I was looking to dance, and I was looking for my heart to be broken. And while it’s hard for me to argue against giving “Alright” the top spot (on both counts!), I have an even more difficult time pinpointing a more sublime musical moment this year than the one that comes seven minutes into Kamasi Washington’s twelve-minute album opener. The LA sax-man breaks from a technically proficient solo and chokes his horn into a squeal as if it’s been burnt by the heat coming off of the band behind him. And when they all finally drop back into the groove together a couple of minutes later, it’s hard to determine whether that heavenly choir you’re hearing is part of the track or from another plane entirely. — Marty Sartini Garner, Senior Editor

  1. Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
  2. Majical Cloudz, “Silver Car Crash”
  3. Sufjan Stevens, “Eugene”
  4. Thundercat, “Them Changes”
  5. Kamasi Washington, “Change of the Guard”
  6. Ought, “Beautiful Blue Sky”
  7. Chance the Rapper, “Angels”
  8. Natalie Prass, “Bird of Prey”
  9. Boulevards, “Sanity”
  10. Gun Outfit, “Gotta Wanna”

 


The best music in 2015 brought the focus back onto albums as a healing power. There were so many complex sonic microcosms that touched my soul and rattled around in my head for months. My top ten songs rose above the static and helped me appreciate how to move through this world a little bit more—from beautifully expressing the endless quirks of love to understanding how to cope with the finality of death. Each song has been added to my emotional arsenal, ready at any moment to help me when I’m at a loss for words or notes. — Bailey Pennick, Associate Editor

  1. Courtney Barnett, “Depreston”
  2. Tame Impala, “Eventually”
  3. Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta”
  4. Panda Bear, “Tropic of Cancer”
  5. Father John Misty, “Chateau #4 (In C for Two Virgins)”
  6. Florence + The Machine, “Ship to Wreck”
  7. FFS, “Police Encounters”
  8. Deerhunter, “Snakeskin”
  9. Lianne La Havas, “Tokyo”
  10. Brandon Flowers, “Can’t Deny My Love”

 


Great songs should leave you dead in your tracks. I still remember the exact slack-jawed moment in which I first heard Joanna Newsom’s “Leaving the City.” It was a stop-what-you’re-doing kind of feeling—which was pretty easy to do considering that it was Emmy night (ba-zing!)—but that’s been no small-time feat in 2015, what with our lives turning into a dystopian nightmare of tech addiction and all. These ten songs chewed me up and spit me out this year, and in some weird, sadistic way, that felt about as necessary as a cold slap in the face. — Nate Rogers, Editorial Assistant

  1. Joanna Newsom, “Leaving the City”
  2. Thee Oh Sees, “Withered Hand”
  3. Tame Impala, “Disciples”
  4. Jim O’Rourke, “Last Year”
  5. Deerhunter, “Snakeskin”
  6. Dick Diver, “Tearing the Posters Down”
  7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “Stage or Screen”
  8. Built to Spill, “Living Zoo”
  9. Sheer Mag, “Fan the Flames”
  10. Juan Wauters, “Todo Terminó”

 


The songs in my list all share a common theme: surprise. Whether it be how Tame Impala’s rhythmically driven “The Less I Know the Better” morphs into the album’s (and perhaps the year’s) most memorable melodic statement, how Sufjan’s frank confrontation with death and his own weakness transcends his art, or how Kendrick Lamar’s triumphant, defiant “Alright” inspires hope against all odds, I was delighted by how these artists pushed the ball forward in unpredictable ways, without compromising sheer enjoyabililty. After all, if you don’t want to listen to it in the first place, how is it going to teach you anything? — Christian Koons, Editorial Assistant

  1. Tame Impala, “The Less I Know the Better”
  2. Sufjan Stevens, “John My Beloved”
  3. Battles, “The Yabba”
  4. Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
  5. Panda Bear, “Boys Latin”
  6. Vulfpeck, “Back Pocket”
  7. Fuzz, “Say Hello”
  8. Kurt Vile, “Pretty Pimpin”
  9. Boogarins, “Avalanche”
  10. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, “The World is Crowded”

Click here to check out the rest of our 2015 year-end coverage.

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