for the second year now, I’ve had my friend T.J. contribute his top 50 songs of the year – and much like last year neither of us saw each other’s lists (I just got his a few hours ago and he has not seen mine until this thing posts) but there was quite an overlap of us picking the same artist, but just different songs – yet there was a decent exact song overlap as well:
T.J. had Colleen Green at #1 I had her at song at #31
T.J. had The Weeknd at #4 I had him at #29
T.J. had Kendrick Lamar at #9 I had him at #23
we both had Alabama Shakes in the top 10 but just with different songs
T.J. had Grimes at #14 I had her at #42
T.J. had Death Team at #29 I had them at #21 making that silly ass song the one that we had the closest ranking to, hah.
Neither of us had Adele, because she sucks.
A few disclosures on my list – 1) there are a number of 2014 releases on it that to me had more of a 2015 impact on them and somehow these songs all missed my radar last year, but they are great songs and should be lauded so yeah, I cheated a bit. 2) you will notice I have no Father John Misty songs on my list, and that is because his album was the album of the year and by that I mean it should be listened to as one loop – so there was no way I could single one song out as I had done on his previous album.
Now onto T.J. list with an intro by T.J. and his listing 1-52 followed by my list which counts down from 50-1.
2015 was one helluva year for art. All year long I could not catch up on the great films and music coming out. But even with all the great work coming out, it took a lot to pierce this thick shield I’ve built up around me. On top of raising three kids as a divorced single father, I work two jobs, one of them starting at 3am in the morning. I spend those mornings directing local news, hearing about all the horrible shit in the world. All of this makes you numb. Sometimes it’s the only way to get through the day. You shut down and float. But every now and then something gets through. Maybe it slaps me in the face. Or hits me in the heart. Or gets my brainwaves going. My body moving. Says what I’ve wanted to say. Makes my naughty bits tingling. Thaws me out. And for a few minutes, I actually feel. Cheers to these songs for doing just that.
1. Colleen Green – “Deeper Than Love”
Cos I’m shitty and I’m lame and I’m dumb and I’m a bore
And once you get to know me you won’t love me anymore
Oh my god I love this woman. And not just because I have a weakness for girls whose emotions are darker than their dark hair. (Plus one for her apparent kinky doctor fetish, too). Colleen Green is the only woman in 2015 that made me feel cool as fuck. All thanks to turning this song up to maximum, rolling the windows down and putting on my Ray Bans even if it was 3am and I was on my way to my soulsucking j-o-b. Sure it’s slightly dangerous but it’s worth it to feel like you’re above all the bullshit for a moment even if you don’t have your shit together.
2. Protomartyr – “Dope Cloud”
That’s not gonna save you, man
That’s not gonna save you, man
Recipe for post-punk magic: 1) killer guitar riff 2) list shit that’s dumb 3) dash of ennui 4) repeat and repeat again. Another motherfucker that begs to be turned up louder than loud. I’m pretty sure I lost my balls sometime between 2011-2014 and in 2015 Protomartyr reattached those wrinkly, saggy bastards, took away all the fucks I had left to give and sent me on my way. Guitars!!!
3. Majical Cloudz – “Downtown”
There’s one thing I’ll do if it ever goes wrong
I’ll write you into my all of my songs
“Downtown” singlehandedly made me miss being in love. And for a guy who convinced himself that he’d given up on it entirely, this is huge. I can’t shake the mental storyboard I have for a video to this song. I just need a charming, active couple in their 90s.
4. The Weeknd – “The Hills”
I’m just tryna get you out the friend zone
Cause you look even better than the photos
If you need proof of The Weeknd’s power, look no further than Cinderella Clark. My prudish, nearly-60-year old mother, could not WAIT to buy his album when it came out. The uncensored one too! I’m pretty sure he drops the word “pussy” about 27 times in one song. All he sings about is fucking and getting fucked up, yet he had a grandmother of three from Oklahoma jonesing for his album. Kudos, Mr. Weeknd. Not even the brain-slaughter of my mom getting horny to your music could keep me away from your sultry tunes.
5. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”
Erroneous, harmonious, I’m hardly sanctimonious
Dirty clothes, I suppose we all outgrow ourselves
Self-Deprecation Anthem of the Year and also one of my peppy go-to driving songs. I’ve never felt so good about feeling so bad for myself.
- John Moreland – “Hang Me in the Tulsa County Stars”
When it feels like nothing’s real and no one’s standing on your side,
Just find me in the Indian Nation sky.
When a guy who looks a lot like me sings about the place I live and things I feel, it’s more than a connection. I didn’t just relate to this song. I adopted this song, cared for it like it was my own, lived inside of it and absorbed it into my body. Only Moreland could make me go from numb to sobbing in a single verse.
- Thundercat / Flying Lotus / Kamasi Washington – “Them Changes”
Somebody tell me how I’m supposed to feel
When I’m sitting here knowing this ain’t real
Another rotund dude singing about heartbreak. Hell yes. I want to start a club. Me, Thundercat and John Moreland, chowing on omelets at IHOP while talking about the girls that destroyed us. Too bad those guys are busy. At least I have omelets, hashbrowns, my headphones and confusing stares from waitresses as Thundercat’s funky aches make me bob and weave.
- Laura Marling – “False Hope”
Is it still okay that I don’t know how to be at all?
There’s a party uptown but I just don’t feel like I belong at all
This folk darling got a lot of shit from her fans for going electric and that’s not the only comparison to Dylan. Her lyrics are killer and she can write the hell out of a song. Her blonde pixie cut and sexy voice mean I’d much rather make-out with her than Mr. Zimmerman, though.
- Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”
(By the time you hear the next pop, the funk shall be within you)
To Pimp A Butterfly is a masterpiece but it’s such a work of art, breaking it into singles feels wrong to me. Except for when King Kendrick channels James Brown and lays down this burner. I play it loud when I want to scare all my white friends away.
- Alabama Shakes – “Over My Head”
I feel it through all my past life
It feels good, I’m never saying goodbye
Every housewife and nerdy news anchor I know loves them some Alabama Shakes, but shit, I can’t deny it either. Especially this soulful beast that screams and aches it’s way into my chest every time it’s played. “I’m in over my head,” Brittany Howard wails. Me too, girl. Me too.
- Alessia Cara – “Here”
It’s weird when you and your teenage daughter share a favorite song. What’s weirder is that you both relate to it. Then again, maybe it’s not so far fetched. She is my kid. I passed down my genes and apparently my detachedness and anxiety about parties, too.
- Jamie xx / Romy – “Loud Places”
Not really The xx and yet it’s the best The xx song in years. Maybe ever. Jamie xx’s whole album is great but this reminder of where he came from influenced where I want to go…. And that’s into the arms of sultry introverted girls that hopefully sing like Romy.
- Johnny Jewel / Saoirse Ronan – “Tell Me”
The movie Brooklyn pretty much bored the shit outta me but I’d watch it again and again just to stare into Saoirse Ronan’s amazing blue eyes. Turns out she’s got an equally beautiful voice.
- Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
What Grimes does with her voice in this song makes me feel things, things I’d be too embarrassed to admit publically.
- Modest Mouse – “Lampshades on Fire”
Modest Mouse came to Cain’s Ballroom and I was all like “nah I’m over Modest Mouse. I ain’t going to that.” And then I heard this song and I was all like, “Fuck! Tickets are already sold out?!”
- SOPHIE – “VYZEE”
Warning: Listening to SOPHIE might drive you crazy. Or it might make you wanna choreograph some sick dance moves in your bedroom while wearing nothing but tightie whities and a cowboy hat.
- TOPS – “Anything”
I have a weakness for pop ballads. If you’re gonna break my heart, do it on the dance floor.
- Toro y Moi – “Buffalo”
One of the most consistently great artists working today is keeping disco alive with this tune. Every single time it popped up on my playlist, the day immediately got better.
- Torres – “New Skin”
The darkness fears / What darkness knows / But if you’ve never known the darkness / Then you’re the one who fears the most. Preach it, Mackenzie. I love this whole damn album and it’s hard to pick a standout song but the breakdown at the end of “New Skin” earned a forever spot in my heart parts.
- Earl Sweatshirt – “Grief”
“Daddy, can you change the song?”
“I’m sorry, kids. I know he says the N-word a lot, but he’s a rapper so he’s allowed to.”
“No, it’s not that. This song is just making me really sad. I didn’t know rappers talked about anxiety.”
“That’s why he’s awesome. The name of his album is I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside.”
“Hey, that sounds like us!”
- Hannah Diamond – “Hi”
I should not like this song. It’s so simple. So cheesy. So poppy. So adolescent. In 10 years it will either be insanely dated or everything will sound exactly like it.
- Elvis Depressedly – “Ease”
I’ll just let the silence drift over my mind
would you ease up on me?
I have failed at everything that i ever tried
would you ease up on me?
All hail the new saddo king.
- Demi Lovato – “Cool For Summer”
Hello my name is TJ Clark, 37-year old single-father of three and I have a huge crush on Poot Lovato’s twin sister, Demi. My teenaged daughter is annoyed by Demi Lovato and embarrassed by her father’s crush on the former Disney star but now very very adult bipolar queen. I tell her she needs to be nice to her future step-mother. Demi is who she is and she makes no apologies, dammit. Yes, this song is filthy but it makes me feel things, mostly horny things, but whatever. Don’t judge me. Don’t judge Demi. We’re cool for the summer.
- Tame Impala – “Yes I’m Changing”
Life is moving, can’t you see
There’s no future left for you and me
I was holding and I was searching endlessly
But baby, now there’s nothing left that I can do
So don’t be blue
There is another future waiting there for you
I saw it different, I must admit
I caught a glimpse, I’m going after it
They say people never change, but that’s bullshit, they do
The breakup song I needed to hear about five years ago.
- Tobias Jesso Jr. – “Just A Dream”
Tobias channels Paul Simon and Paul McCartney stylistically but it’s Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” that comes to mind during this tune, the sweetest little song about having a baby just before the end of the world.
Songs 26-52. One song for every week in the year. And because I aimed to do 50 but could not let those last two fall off without mention.
- Wavves / Cloud Nothings – “Nothing Hurts”
- Alex G – “Brite Boy”
- D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”
- Death Team – “Fucking Bitches in the Hood”
- Father John Misty – “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apt.”
- Kurt Vile – “Life Like This”
- Sufjan Stevens – “The Only Thing”
- Sleater-Kinney – “No Anthems”
- Charli XCX – “Famous”
- The Chemical Brothers – “Wide Open”
- Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”
- Jonathan Wilson – “Slide By”
- Dan Deacon – “When I Was Done Dying”
- Erykah Badu – “Hello”
- Joey Bada$$ / Kiesza – “Teach Me”
- The Internet / Janelle Monae – “Gabby”
- Open Mike Eagle – “Dark Comedy Late Show”
- Jeff Rosenstock – “Nausea”
- Oscar – “Daffodil Days”
- Shamir – “Make A Scene”
- Two Sheds – “It’s Okay”
- The Walters – “I Wanna Be Good”
- Pinegrove – “New Friends”
- Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf”
- Empress Of – “Standard”
- Julien Baker – “Sprained Ankle”
- Benjamin Clementine – “Cornerstone”
Trey’s top 50 songs
50 – Fetty Wap – Trap Queen – I mean, the song is catchy.
49 – Petite Noir – Chess
48 – Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out – this band should have broken out bigger after their first two albums, nice to see them finally get their just do – but truth be told just over two years ago they were playing to a packed crowd at Lollapalooza on a daytime side stage set so the potential was always there.
47 – Sheppard – Geronimo – fun pop song from this young Australian band.
46 – OMI – Cheerleader – another catchy pop song, and dammit I’m needing me one of them cheerleaders.
45 – Protomartyr – Uncle Mother’s – this one has that Joy Division feel to it.
44 – Tribulation – Melancholia – perhaps the best pure metal song of the year, love it.
43 – Neon Indian – Slumlord
42 – Grimes – Kill V. Maim – Grimes always turns me off with her look at me look at me comments and views, but she always finds a way to make the best dance songs.
41 – Thomas Rhett – Crash and Burn – obligatory country song on the list so no one can claim I don’t like country.
40 – Disclosure and Lorde – Magnets – Disclosure will one day go down as a legendary band, they always find the right beat and the right person to sing on their tracks, and that usually leads to hit songs.
39 – Diet Cig – Harvard – you know I like my female singer indie rock bands.
38 – Fifth Harmony – Worth It – this song only on the list because it led to this amazing video by this total dream girl that I want to take a road trip with –
37 – Fall Out Boy – Uma Thurman – because, Uma Thurman.
36 – Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money – I’m usually critical of Rihanna but this is a damned fine song and that video is insane!
35 – Titus Andronicus – Fatal Flaw
34 – CHVRCHES – Clearest Blue – I do not think we have seen the best of CHVRCHES, which is crazy as they’ve given us a few great albums already. I think one day they are going to make a song that will be a crossover smash even though that may not be what they intend.
33 – Young Guv – Ripe 4 Luv – another fun song, this one has a Tegan and Sara guitar vibe going on it and awesome delivery of lyrics.
32 – Christine and the Queens – Tilted – best imported French song of the year
31 – Colleen Green – Deeper Than Love – I defer all comments on this song to T.J.’s ranking of it as his top song.
30 – Waxahatchee – Poison – did I mention I love my female sung indie rock songs?
29 – The Weeknd – The Hills – slightly overrated but the songs are on point.
28 – Twin Shadow – Flatliners – oh man, when he sings ‘you making promises you breaking promises’ in the chorus if you have a heart you listen to this song and say yeah, I’ve been there.
27 – The Struts – Could Have Been Me – those Mercury-esque vocals from this singer I mean c’mon. This is another young band that is bound to give us more special songs.
26 – Jess Glynne – Ain’t Got Far To Go – those claps, you want a big voiced pop song, fuck Adele, this is how you put out a girl power anthem.
25 – Tove Lo – Talking Body – this song is pure sexiness.
24 – Leon Bridges – Coming Home – just when you think that they don’t make ‘em like they used to, Leon Bridges goes out and makes one like they used to.
23 – Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta
22 – Bully – Trying – indie rock song, female singer – I just can’t get enough.
21 – Death Team – Fucking Bitches in the Hood – this may be one of the silliest songs released this year but you can’t help from going back to listening to it over and over.
20 – Beirut – No No No – short song from this band that has been high only list before with ‘Santa Fe’. I love how the lyrics match the music on this one “Don’t know the first thing about who you are…”
19 – Elle King – Ex’s and Oh’s – again, fuck Adele – you want a powerful song sung by a female, this blows anything she’s done out of the water.
18 – Vic Mensa and Kanye West – U Mad – if the horns don’t suck you in, I can’t help you with life.
17 – HOLYCHILD – Plastered Smile – oh man this is a fun song, changes tempos all over the place and the singing is sexy and infectious. Check out this live version oh my god!
16 – Baroness – Shock Me – this is a brilliant rock song.
15 – The 1975 – UGH! – this song has that 80’s vibe to it and is a breathe of fresh air to the pop landscape and a tale of not giving up everything when you decide to give someone a second chance.
14 – Gal Pals – Ex-Marionette – they are gals, they are pals, and they fucking rock.
13 – Madonna – Ghosttown – yeah that’s right Madonna released a new album this year and yeah she put out the best ballad of the year, deal with it Adele.
12 – J.D. McPherson – Let the Good Times Roll – J.D. is just the master of modern day rockabilly and hey he has Tulsa area roots.
11 – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Cecilia and the Satellite – this was a 2014 song that somehow I missed last year but it really got more play on radio this year. Just a wonderful romantic song that makes you believe in love.
10 – Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance – I’m pretty sure if you can’t jam to this song then you have no fucking soul. Young love on the dance floor, that is what music is about.
9 – Ellie Goulding – On My Mind – top female pop song of the year.
8 – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Downtown – this song, featuring many guests on it including the singer of highly underrated band Foxy Shazam – is a brilliant tour de force that I am surprised to not see it on more top lists. The sing along chorus is the type that comes along only every so often. The Men Without Hats sample does not hurt.
7 – Death Cab for Cutie – The Ghosts of Beverly Drive – Death Cab is another band that just churns out songs that suck you in and don’t let you breathe. The beat on this one is one that I couldn’t even put into words explaining. It’s got a slight Cure feel to it but it totally has Death Cabs stamp on it.
6 – Miguel – Coffee – just to recap everything “wordplay – turns into gun play / and gun play – turns into pillow talk / and pillow talk – turns into sweet dreams / sweet dreams – turns into coffee (fucking) in the morning” – glad we had Miguel around to break it down for us. This is the song you play when you get a girl to your apartment after 2am.
5 – Big Grams – Lights On – Phantogram plus Big Boi equals a top five song. It’s just how math works.
4 – Alabama Shakes – Gimme All Your Love – I first heard this song I thought it was the Houston band The Ton Tons, who I adore – but yeah this one just grooves and again, Adele could only wish to sing as good as Brittany Howard.
3 – SOPHIE – Just Like We Never Said Goodbye – last year the SOPHIE produced track ‘Hey QT’ made my top 10 and this time a SOPHIE track is back in the top 10. Much like Walk the Moon, this one is about young love and how sometimes you see someone after a period of time and you click again as if you never were apart.
2 – BORNS – Electric Love – I think this was officially released in 2014 but like some other ‘14 releases on here, it got way more play in ‘15. Arena rock song of the year and just a beautiful letter to someone who is so special they are like ‘lightning in a bottle’.
1 – Dawes – Things Happen – every now and then a song comes along, and I hear it, and it is like the words were taken out of my head. This song has those lyrics that are so relatable it almost makes one cry.
“the true crime would be thinking it’s just one person’s fault”
“ain’t it funny how the past won’t ever let something lie”
“in a different time, on a different floor / I might mourn the loss of of who I’m not anymore”
“I can’t help how I feel / I don’t think anyone can”
“sometimes we’re lovers, sometimes we’re friends / behold the magnetism between two dead ends”
To top it all off, the chorus just summarizes life and relationships in four lines
“Let’s make a list of all the things the world has put you through
Let’s raise a glass to all the people you’re not speaking to
I don’t know what else you wanted me to say to you
Things happen, that’s all they ever do”
In just that one chorus four themes are presented: 1) everyone has been through hard times so no need to compare lists 2) remembering folks who have come and gone, in essence toasting to the cancers you have cut from your life 3) not being able to satisfy someone with an explanation (who has not been at the point in an argument where they are not sure what else they can possibly say), and finally 4) succumbing to the harsh reality that at the end of the day – shit happens.
For me, Dawes has put out a song that connects on all levels and came out with one of the more complete songs I’ve heard in the past few year