As 2015 winds down, it’s time again to reflect upon the year that was. And, boy, what a year. Team Crimmins took on the Big C and finished strong, while the Mets took on the rest of the league and finished second best. And in the world of music, some old favorites and solid newcomers reminded us that we should never underestimate the healing power of listening to your favorite songs at full blast.
Here are my favorite 15 tunes of 2015. The ones that made me tap my toes, air drum, sing in the shower, and help forget about whatever crap was trying to bring me down. Powerful stuff.
You can click on the videos below to hear each track, or if you’re a Spotify user, feel free to listen to my playlist here. Either way, I hope you enjoy this year’s collection. Happy holidays and let’s go Mets!
01. “No Room in Frame” :: Death Cab for Cutie
From its opening words, “I don’t know where to begin…” this seemed to be the perfect first song for this year’s collection. Death Cab has made the cut in previous years and the combination of Ben Gibbard’s voice and a relentless beat that builds throughout is what gets me every time.
02. “Silent Movies” :: Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear
One of the newcomers of the year, Madisen Ward and his Mom, Ruth (The Mama Bear), gave us this fun foot-stomper that would sound perfect in just about any bar in the world. That’s Mama Bear on the guitar (at the ripe ol’ age of 63). You go girl.
03. “Random Name Generator” :: Wilco
So Wilco puts out a super secret album this summer (“Star Wars”) and just about every critic out there goes gaga over it. Not me. It sounded a lot like a random collection of leftovers that they just wanted to record. But the opening guitar riff of this track stayed with me, and Jeff Tweedy’s playful lyrics seemed to fit perfectly with the title.
04. “South” :: Hippo Campus
Another relative newcomer, Hippo Campus released this cut from their second EP. The 5-piece band out of St. Paul, Minnesota has supported such acts as My Morning Jacket and Modest Mouse. Now it’s their turn to shine.
05. “I Can’t Think About It Now” :: Dawes
At 6 minutes 15 seconds, Dawes wins longest song of this year’s assortment thanks to an extended guitar solo. But it’s the singing right after the solo that really grabs me (at the 5:08 mark). Truly memorable.
06. “The Less I Know the Better” :: Tame Impala
This number challenges Wilco’s track for opening guitar riff of the year. And the singing reminds me of a cross between Phoenix and Alan Parsons Project. Right up my alley.
07. “Big Decisions” :: My Morning Jacket
I was really looking forward to hearing this album, but other than this track, the album mostly disappointed. Great sense of melody by Jim James and the gang. Love the driving drum beat, too.
08. “Look It Here” :: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
These guys came out of nowhere this year with their single “S.O.B.” that received a ton of airplay. But it was this cut that appealed to me even more. A real Motown throwback complete with the requisite horn section.
09. “Losing Touch” :: Albert Hammond, Jr.
A welcome return to the collection for Mr. Hammond, former guitarist for The Strokes. And he puts the guitar to good use on this one. I hear a cross between George Harrison and Fountains of Wayne.
10. “Chateau Lobby #4” :: Father John Misty
I really enjoyed this album and this track in particular. Not quite sure what the song is about, but it sure is pretty. Love the Mavericks-like Spanish horns towards the end. ¡Arriba arriba!
11. “A Little Smile” :: Joe Jackson
Joe’s back! Yep, the guy we all thought was done back in the ‘80s makes a welcome return with this little ditty. Good to hear he hasn’t lost the knack for churning out pop gold.
12. “Sedona” :: Houndmouth
The quartet out of Indiana has been around since 2011, but I only discovered them this year. This folksy sing-along pays homage to the city in Arizona when it was known as “Little Hollywood.”
13. “Jules Verne” :: Korey Dane
Stumbled across this one from this rookie’s debut effort. An energetic acoustic standout from a guy out of Long Beach, CA. His lyrics get a bit garbled at times, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Kinda like Michael Stipe in the early days—you couldn’t tell what the heck he was singing and you didn’t care.
14. “10,000 Emerald Pools” :: BØRNS
The collection ends with two bands with the Scandinavian vowel letter ø. Go figure with this singer-songwriter, who hails from Michigan. His real name is Garrett Borns. Here’s his explanation: “I think the O with the stroke looks like a zero and I like that because it goes along with the concept of ‘borns’ and re-birth and zero as a number of no resistance.” Aha, now I get it 😉
15. “Trustful Hands” :: The dø
OK, at least this duo is actually French/Finnish, so the slashed “o” makes sense. According to Wikipedia, the band’s name is derived from the first note of the solfège scale and is pronounced as the English word “dough.” It is written with the letter Ø and the “D” often in lower-case to resemble a half note. Sounds logical to me. All I know is they also borrowed part of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Listen for it.