1. Sufjan Stevens – Should Have Known Better
Sufjan Stevens is your ideal hipster uncle and you always wait for his appearance every Christmas since you cannot guess what his Christmas presents will be. It may be a vinyl of obscure band whose name cannot be pronounced or an 8mm camera that cannot be used but you’re okay with it since it is cool. Stevens is also cruel. He creates a very outstanding album and all of songs in it are mellifluous. It is really hard to pick the best song out of Carrie & Lowell because–well–every single song in this album is f**king great. I finally pick “Should Have Known Better” since it depicts Stevens at his most sorrow stage, at his most fragile state. Even though he is in his forties, “Should Have Known Better” turns him into a little boy who recounts his experience when his mother left him in a video store. Stealing a phrase from Buzzfeed, if you’re not crying while hearing the song, your heart may be made of stone.
2. Madeon – Pay No Mind (feat. Passion Pit)
Leclerq is a bastard. I can spew every swearing word to him just because he is so damn cool. He is eight days younger than me, yet he can create one of the best electronic albums of the year so far, Adventure. “Pay No Mind” is arguably the best song from the album. Not only Leclerq collaborates with Passion Pit, but also Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit’s voice really blends into Leclerq’s mix. Together, they create a perfect jam for summer.
3. Titus Andronicus – Dimed Out
Last year was such a great year for genre punk-rock or post-punk or I do not care–who cares about genre? We had Cloud Nothings and Protomartyr and The Hotelier; all of them are great. “Dimed Out” by Titus Andronicus is probably the only standout post-punk track of this year so far. I usually cannot digest Titus Andronicus’ songs easily; most of them need to be listened for a thousand times before you understand what they mean. I love “Dimed Out” instantly, and I think their concept for their latest album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy–where they want to create an album of rock opera–is genius.
4. Carly Rae Jepsen – All That
You can blame the radio if you hate Carly Rae Jepsen. But for me, Carly Rae Jepsen does not deserve to be hated. “Call Me Maybe”, for example, is one of the best songs in this decade. Trust me, making a catchy song is not easy, and making a catchy song that is infectious is way harder. Jepsen has that talent. And when she comes back with “I Really Like You”, she is about to repeat her success. But it is “All That” that makes my jaw drop. “All That” is written by Jepsen and Blood Orange and produced by Ariel Rechtshaid who gives us–surprise, surprise–Swift and Kendrick Lamar’s Bad Blood. This track may not stand out in lyrical department, but its production value is the best. “All That” has transported us to 1980s era, and even though I am not born in the era, I still can feel the magic.
5. Miguel – Coffee (F*cking) (feat. Wale)
“Coffee (F**king)” is an explicit song that explains the correct steps to–well–f*ck. On the original song, he sings, “Sweet dreams turn into coffee in the morning”, but when Miguel rerelease the song, he changes it into, “Sweet dreams turn into f**king in the morning”. It sounds really awkward and forced to be honest, but it is not the f-word that matters. “Coffee (F**king)” is a song about sex, and Wale made it more clear as he raps about morningwood, and a corny song, but f**k it. It is one hell of a song.
6. Wet – Deadwater
To be honest, I have just known about Wet this year when these trio from Brooklyn actually have been known since last year. They have released a critically-acclaimed EP, and their full length album will be released this year. “Deadwater” serves as the first single of the album and is a poignant R&B electronic song that talks about a shaky relationship as Kelly Zutrau whispers, “Shaky when he comes to me; shaky when I believe there are better things for me.”
7. Years & Years – King
My most anticipated summer album? It is Communion by Years & Years. I have listened to “King”, “Worship” and “Shine”, and they all are amazing. While those three songs may all sound catchy, they can still be distinguished. “King” is the first song that I have heard that successfully makes me fall in love with them. This is insanely catchy, and you can sing along with Olly Alexander. If catchiness and singing-along-ness are criteria to determine the best song, then “King” deserves every award it can get.
8. Tobias Jesso Jr – How Could You Babe
Jesso Jr is a living proof that you do not need over-the-top instrument and arrangement, or lyrics with SAT vocabulary to create a good and touching song. Jesso Jr only uses his piano, and writes simple lyrics, but the result is one of the most heartbreaking songs I have heard this entire year. He wails and wails and wails. He longs for an explanation why his lover left him. He cries, “How could you babe? How could you babe?” In this haunting ballad, Jesso Jr questions the meaning of a relationship.
9. Jenny Hval – That Battle Is Over
You know that traditional Javanese singer who chants that beautiful melodious Javanese songs? That’s what is reminded me of when I listen to “That Battle Is Over”. Hval hushes, she does not sing. It is as if she talks directly to her listener, especially since she uses linear melodies. She twists her voice, like what traditional Javanese singer usually does, and chants “Feminism is over, and socialism is over”, spreading her philosophy.
10. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian At Best
At first, I think Barnett is a sweet girl who sings cute song (I love her “Pickles from the Jar” which describes a dysfunctional couple). If I have not known who sings this song, and you ask me to guess it, and you say it is Courtney Barnett, I will say you must be joking. But no. It is her specialty to make witty lyrics. When Barnett is confused about her relationship, she consults her dictionary and finds several entries to describe her lividity. She even tries to make rhyme to describe it: “erroneous”, “harmonious” and “sanctimonious” on a same verse. She knows she is no good when she screams, “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint”. “Pedestrian At Best” reminds me of grunge era where Nirvana once reigns.
11. Torres – Cowboy Guilt
Sprinter by Torres is one of my favorite albums of the year, and if you have listened to it, you are probably to notice its dark atmosphere. But “Cowboy Guilt” does not fit the dark theme. “Cowboy Guilt” is gleeful and light and uplifting. The notable thing about the song is its thumping drum, like a trampoline, as Mackenzie (Torres’ real name) sings about her southern roots, talking about cowboy, hanging out on Sunday and Texas.
12. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Can’t Keep Checking My Phone
In this modern era where cell phone has become an extension of our palm like today, people always check their phone either for chatting or checking their email or calling their mother or playing Candy Crush or waiting for someone to call. Our eyes are set on the screen of our cell phone, waiting for our fling or crush to call. Unknown Mortal Orchestra knows that feeling, and makes a song about it. “I’m sure you’ll come back; till then I can’t keep checking my phone” elaborates our anxiety and our assurance whether our crush will call or not perfectly.
13. Jamie XX – Loud Places (feat. Romy)
Despite the title, “Loud Places” is not loud. In fact, this one chills me out and I use this song to accompany me in studying–yes, guys, I am still studying. Even though you can hear people murmuring at the beginning of the track, Romy’s cool voice quickly neutralizes them. As the song about to hit the chorus, you can also hear the beat of the drum, the claps and the loneliness that Jamie XX mixes. “Loud Places” sounds really like The XX’s song, but no, it is not. It is a Jamie XX’s song, and he asks Romy to sing it for him.
14. Speedy Ortiz – “Raising The Skate”
“Heaven, have a mercy on the hypnic jerk you blame for your speech,” Dupuis begs at the opening when actually “Raising The Skate” is not a song full of mercy. This kind of oxymoron is what makes “Raising The Skate” such a fun song. Dupuis screams her frustration where she and every other women are underestimated and often regarded as bitchy when they voice their opinion. She says, “I’m not the bossy, I’m the boss. Shooter, not the shot” and “Captain, not the crony”. Hmm, such a good empowerment song, isn’t it?
15. Public Service Broadcasting – Go!
The launch of Apollo 11 marks the advancement of human technology. It proves that there is nothing impossible. It also means that making a song based on a public service announcement is not impossible either. This British pseudonymous literally makes a song by using sample of fictional public service announcement when Apollo 11 launched. Like the launch of Apollo 11, this song also marks the advancement in music industry. Public Service Broadcasting captures the quintessence of the race to space between USA and Uni Soviet in 20th century. “Go!” is a remarkable track, since the beat gets intense each minute, and if I cannot control myself, I think I will launch myself to the moon.
16. Nao – Apple Cherry
Nao seems like last year’s Tahliah Barnett; they both are British, they both make R&B song, and they both are amazing. Nao’s strongest feature is her falsetto voice–how can you not shiver when you hear her hitting that high note? “Apple Cherry” is a song about fantasy. This song is not accompanied with a grandiose instrument, but I think Nao is still able to deliver her message well.
17. Westkust – Swirl
Since the song starts, “Swirl” will make your ear bleed in a good way. This song will assault your ear with its guitar riffs and the drum and the combination of Gustav Anderson’s and Julia Bjernelind’s voice. This Swedish shoegaze band may be still new, but they absolutely know how to please their listeners.
18. Waxahatchee – Air
“Air” by Waxahatchee is like air. You cannot touch it, but you can feel it. You cannot see it, but you need it. Crutchfield sounds like a frigid woman when she sings, “I left you out like a carton of milk.” But in fact, that is not the case. Crutchfield just weighs carefully every action she wants to take regarding her relationship and her soon-to-be ex.
19. Tame Impala – Cause I’m A Man
Tame Impala releases several songs to tease their new album, Currents, this year. All of them are great, but “Cause I’m A Man” captures my attention. After having fun with Mark Ronson, it seems like Kevin Parker does not want to stop exploring his talent. “Cause I’m A Man” is different than Tame Impala’s previous materials. “Cause I’m A Man” sounds space-y and distant; it’s like an otherworldly song. When Parker hits the chorus and sings, “Cause I’m a man, woman. Don’t always think before I do”, he tries that acknowledge even a man can do wrong.
20. Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
The list of best songs of 2015 will not be complete without Kendrick Lamar’s song. “King Kunta” will make any list complete. Taken from his acclaimed album, To Pimp A Butterfly, “King Kunta” is a funky song, a perfect street jam to accompany you make your way to your office, house, or cafe–basically anywhere. This song is ridiculously catchy, and even a not hip-hop fan, like myself, I definitely enjoy this song. The best part of the song is basically every second of it, but the solo guitar at the end of the song is something you cannot forget easily.
21. Viet Cong – Death
Viet Cong gave us “Continental Shelf” last year. Its guitar riff is insane and it blows my mind. Now, imagine a track like “Continental Shelf”, but the duration is three times longer. You have “Death”. Taken from their self titled album, “Death” is started with a guitar riff from Munro (or Christiansen or both of them?) and Wallace comes with his drum. I think “Death” is already a cool track even without Flegel singing. But of course, they do not want to make a halfway song. They make a 11:17-minute track that gives me an adrenaline-rush.
22. Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do
“Love Me Like You Do” is not Goulding’s best song. The lyrics are cliche and repetitive and simple. But there is magic hidden inside the song that hypnotizes me. I always imagine this song as soundtrack of a movie adapted from my book one day. This song gives me a feeling about a love that is sweet and pure–even if it is used as a soundtrack of a BSDM movie and there is nothing sweet or pure about that. When Goulding confides, “What are you waiting for?”, I give up. The hair on my nape stood as I’m ready to love her like I do.
23. Natalie Prass – My Baby Don’t Understand Me
I just glanced at ‘Why Men Don’t Listen, and Why Women Can’t Read Maps’ in a bookstore, and frowned my brows at it. This stereotype of gender is somehow exhausting and non-sense–I, for example, do not possess a good spatial skill–but it is probably true. It is hard to understand the mind of another gender. Fully knowing that, Prass makes a song about it, remembers her rocky relationship where her love does not understand her at all and puts her emotion on it. It makes “My Baby Don’t Understand Me” a raw and emotional song.
24. Soko – Lovetrap (feat. Ariel Pink)
I remember when I was still thirteen or fourteen, I listen to Soko’s “I’ll Kill Her”. Soko basically repeats “I’ll Kill Her” over and over, she sings out of jealousy. I did not understand the meaning of the song, at that moment. And come “Lovetrap”. Apparently, Soko’s songs are full of metaphors and fantasies and imagination which explains why her song is unique and different. Ariel Pink joins Soko in “Lovetrap” and it creates the most mind-blowing song. They both mumble about living fantasy, mermaid, and any other things I cannot imagine in this 1950s-infused song.
25. Active Child – 1999
Pat Grossi a.k.a. Active Child’s last album was released in 2011, and four years have been enough for Grossi to create new music. “1999” is his first song, coming from his latest album Mercy, due out this June. This song somehow reminds me of Krell’s (of How To Dress Well) work, but they may influence each other. “1999” is about a desire, a great longing of a man as proven by, “Sit back and let the days unwind, somewhere between now and 1999”. Grossi’s falsetto is brittle and as sharp as needle, make “1999” a great ballad R&B.