30 December 2015

top 50 traxx of 2015 (20-11)

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20. "Hurt Me" by Låpsley

Another young artist, Låpsley's voice is like thick molasses. Her powerful contralto stands up so well to the loud production on this track that it's easy to get lost in either. The hook has the instantly-singable simplicity of a '90s pop radio ballad.

19. "Living As A Ghost" by GEMS

Have you ever heard a song and thought, "I had no idea the world needed this music, but in retrospect how were we all living without it?" That is how I felt after my first listen through of the amazing debut by GEMS, Kill The One You Love. It's sleek, calculated, bassy, and makes you feel warm and rhythmic. This track has my favorite hook of the collection, and I love its oddly abrupt ending.

18. "Want To Want Me" by Jason Derulo

I've probably had the biggest change of opinion on any musical artist in my lifetime on Jason Derulo. In 2010, he was a punchline to me; someone to whom Gaga gave the front 5 feet of her massive stage to sing over a couple of tracked songs before she brought the house down. 2014 was the beginning of these changes, and 2015 moved him so much further in the right direction that here he is in my Top 20. This is a serious jam that basically exemplifies what is great about modern R&B pop music.

17. "Circles" by machineheart

I think the Vanic remix of this track is probably the better known-version, but the original of this exercise in pop purity did it for me. The kind of track that just makes you bounce inside and out.

16. "I Really Like You" by Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly's sophomore album Emotion might be the most underappreciated of the year. It was to '80s music what It Follows was to '80s slasher flicks: Art made by artists who deeply respect that era and created something that was tonally and thematically in that moment without being a reductive copy. Baffling to me that it barely barely barely barely barely barely cracked the Top 40.

15. "Hey QT" by QT

I'm pretty sure this track is some kind of inside joke that I don't get, but I don't care; it's incredible. QT seems to be more performance art than music career. She's a character being played by a British artist named Hayden and promoted a (fictional?) energy drink called DrinkQT. She never breaks character, though, so we're all sort of left not knowing whether to laugh while we dance.

14. "Cranekiss" by Tamaryn

You could dub this track onto a cassette and play it for the world's hardest-core My Bloody Valentine fan, telling them it's your favorite shoegaze cut from a local band's homemade tape release that you bought at their show in a dive bar in 1991 and they'd believe you. Again, as with so many alternative songs, it's only "retro" in spirit; this track is still somehow perfectly 2015. Gorgeous vocals that have the crisp flow of a garden pond and saccharine drum crunches are the toppings on the many layers of just-melodic-enough distortion guitars.

13. "Age Of Consent" by Parallels

This is the first time a cover has ever made my top songs of the year, but it feels justified. While definitely faithful to New Order's original, Parallels succeeds in making it their own by polishing up the rough edges of the rhythms and vocals and giving it more of a glistening finish that suits their style. The decision to make it a duet was a brilliant stylistic choice too -- it becomes a conversation rather than a plea into the night sky.

12. "Electric Love" by BØRNS

Somehow, 23-year-old Garrett Borns pulls off a glam rock song with a classic rock tinge that omits everything that was obnoxious about those genres in their heyday. His voice is sublime, and his distored guitar's riff will make you think of Norman Greenbaum in the best way.

11. "Deadwater" by Wet

I've been watching Wet perform this song live for three years now, so it was great to finally get a studio version of this incredible downtempo pop song about the struggle to find motivation in the face of certain defeat. Their debut album FINALLY comes to us at the end of January 2016!