31 December 2015

top 50 traxx of 2015 (10-1)

<-- 20-11

10. "Soap" by Melanie Martinez

Pulling off a concept album for your debut is pretty ambitious, but Melanie Martinez dove headfirst into themes of childhood abandonment, neglectful parents, and teenage self-esteem struggles to create something very special in Cry Baby. It's certainly no surprise that her music lyrically resonates mostly with younger folks (or adults who haven't been to therapy), but the production is equally noteworthy. As evidenced by this and a handful of others on the list, 2015 was the year of the anti-chorus -- no singing a hook here, just popping bubbles.

9. "Keeper" by Ester Dean

I said it in a previous entry but it's worth repeating: I love Ester Dean, and I wish more people knew about her. Not only is she a brilliant songwriter, her views on gender and sexuality are extremely progressive. I would read a book on Ester Dean's ideas about sexual identity. This track, in which she unashamedly tells a guy how she got his woman, is such a perfect snapshot of who she is as a person and artist.

8. "Bury It" by CHVRCHES

Every Open Eye was my favorite LP of 2015. Each song is a standout of electronic bliss and angelic vocal melodies. "Bury It" comes on the strongest of any of its tracks, opening with raging sawtooth synths followed quickly by Lauren Mayberry's powerful voice at its most emphatic. A definite highlight of the year was being there when they brought out Hayley Williams to sing it with them in Nashville.

7. "WTF (Where They From)" by Missy Elliott

Easily the most anticipated comeback of 2015, and whoooooo did Missy deliver! She delivered herself to a new young audience that embraced her and reminded those of us in our 20s why she's been the queen of hip hop for almost 20 years now.

6. "Begin Again" by Purity Ring

A track that stirs emotions and makes your spine tingle, this first single from Purity Ring's latest album is an effervescent nighttime swim in a motel pool while the vacation air makes you reflect on your life choices.

5. "F Q-C #7" by Willow Smith

The Pinkett-Smiths have raised their children to be independent, confident thinkers and artists, and though they both say a lot of insane shit, they sometimes harness their egocentrism into interesting art. Willow is a great singer; she holds some powerful notes in this track, which feels like playing hopscotch on a sunny day. I wish I could say more about this song's production or even the rest of the album, but she's either already running from the project or just has a bad promotion team, because I can't even find a track listing.

4. "Bitch Better Have My Money" by Rihanna

This is more than a song; it's a goddamn revolution. A decade after we first met her, Rihanna has managed to remain relevant and edgy in all the right ways. This track was on the soundtrack to every night you've been out since it came out, its thumping, grinding bass and shoutable hook almost a call to party arms. The final quarter of the song goes totally off the rails into a rage -- presumably when the titular bitch is getting his comeuppance for failure to pay.

3. "Leave A Trace" by CHVRCHES

I was so nervous that CHVRHCES would never make a song that made me as happy as "The Mother We Share" does, BUT THEY DID. Like most of the tracks on Every Open Eye it starts with a crash, yet still finds ways to push and pull as it moves along. Certainly not a happy song (I consider it a spiritual cousin of "Walking On Broken Glass"), but one that is not without hope -- even just in the sense that experiencing loss and rejection is part of the human condition.

2. "Won't You See" by GL

WHAT A JAM! Bassline is funky as hell, snare drum is poppin, killer vocal hook. Dance-pop perfection. The Nu Shooz comparisons are fair.

1. "Flesh Without Blood" by Grimes

Grimes was on my radar before this year, but for some reason it took me this long to actually sit down and pay attention to her music. Her landmark 2012 track "Oblivion" is about being afraid to walk around at night. Now, three years later, we see a more confident, comfortable artist who still hasn't lost the awkward charm that makes her performances and live persona so enjoyable. Like "Leave A Trace" above, this too is about moving on after a breakup, but Grimes ends up in a better place. In fact, she tells you quite bluntly: "I don't care anymore."

Top 50 of 2015 Spotify Playlist