Top 100 songs of 2015.

As with all of my music lists, this represents my personal preference. If I don’t like a song, it’s not here. That wipes out some critically-acclaimed artists’ 2014 releases entirely, including Sufjan Stevens, Kendrick Lamar, Drake (are you kidding me with this?), Deafheaven, Father John Misty, and The Weeknd. Other folks liked that stuff. I didn’t.

The top 100 playlist has all tracks ordered from 100 to 1; I excluded one song, Everything Everything’s “Regret,” from the list because it’s not technically available in the United States and isn’t on Spotify here either.

You can alsy try this direct Spotify link if that doesn’t work.

Here’s last year’s top 100, andmy top 15 albums of 2015; I refer to both links numerous times below.

100. Heartless Bastards – Gates of Dawn. A bluesy four-piece from Cincinnati with a fantastic name, Heartless Bastards have been around for a decade, but this was the first time they hit my radar, with a yearning, gloomy guitar-driven track.

99. Hinds – Garden. This quartet from Barcelona has had a ton of hype that might exceed the quality of their output, but I find it hard to resist their ebullient acoustic-folk sound and their crude-by-design vocals.

98. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Can’t Keep Checking My Phone. UMO’s sound varies widely across their output, but when they click, as they do here, it’s the vocal hook that keeps you coming back.

97. Battles – The Yabba. Incredibly experimental and, well, just flat-out weird, but that’s Battles’ whole output, isn’t it? Just bear with the intro, which sounds like some sort of test pattern, to get to the meat.

96. Rose Windows – Glory Glory. This Seattle-based psychedelic rock band called it quits abruptly in March, just weeks before their second album dropped, although singer/songwriter Chris Cheveyo is already in a new outfit called Dræmhouse. In the meantime, this was Rose Windows’ best song, a blues-rock number reminiscent of the best work of Trouble.

95. Drenge – Favourite Son. Their second album barely made my top 15 albums of 2015, and this was the best track by virtue of being the most like their first album – fast, angry, a bit obnoxious, yet underneath all the youthful arrogance, undeniably melodic.

94. Boxed In – Mystery. It’s a bit sparse, but this single from Oli Bayston, who records as Boxed In, has a great little hook in the keyboard line that brings you into the song and a bigger one in the chorus, kind of like a Bombay Bicycle Club track but more focused and less experimental.

93. Floating Points – Peroration Six. Speaking of experimental, Floating Points, the nom de music of English musician and neuroscientist (!) Sam Shepherd, is way out there too, but Shepherd goes the electronic route rather than following Battles’ rock-based approach. It’s not trance music, but the vibe is trance, although nothing is as potent here as the sudden end of the crescendo of sound with ten seconds left in the track.

92. The Gills – Rubberband. A fun hybrid of a very standard garage-punk song and heavy blues rock, as if two forces were competing to pull the song in their separate directions.

91. Ten Commandos – Staring Down the Dust. I was hoping for a bit more from this supergroup of members of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and QoTSA, but the album is very light on memorable hooks; this track, featuring former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, is by far its best.

90. Ghost BC – From the Pinnacle to the Pit. I went back and forth between this and “Cirice” as the album’s top track over the last few weeks, but while “Cirice” got a little airplay and is the more accessible song, this one is the superior track musically – although none of their lyrics, most of which sound like a ten-year-old obsessed with Satanism wrote them, do them any credit.

89. Total Babes – Blurred Time. The other guys from Cloud Nothings made a band and a record and no one seemed to pay any attention – but me, of course. Unsurprisingly, it sounds a lot like Cloud Nothings, but with a purer energy and less of the thrown-together feel of Dylan Baldi’s weaker material.

88. The Little Secrets – All I Need. This British duo has released exactly one song as far as I can tell, and I’m not sure if they’re even signed anywhere, but I couldn’t get enough of this track, which reminded me both in melody and in the sound of Stacy Jo’s vocals of the late, lamented Velocity Girl.

87. Sunflower Bean – Wall Watcher. I’m definitely drawn to groups that seem inspired by a couple of specific genres from my youth – late-70s British metal, 1980s New Wave and post-punk, and early-’90s grunge. Sunflower Bean definitely draw on the latter, more on the Mudhoney/Seaweed side of the house than the kind of grunge that crossed over into the mainstream, which is probably why this sounds fresh even though it’s rooted in a familiar sound.

86. Zhu – Hold Up, Wait a Minute. There are a few songs on here that I expect to get some flack for including, led by this one, which features Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Trombone Shorty. I think it’s incredibly inventive and catchy while also feeding some of my nostalgia yen with some dope rhymes from the members of Bone Thugs and a brief nod to “Billie Jean” when the boys start singing. I could have used more Trombone Shorty, though.

85. Wolf Alice – Freazy. This album is so strong and so even that I could have slipped a number of songs into this spot, including the Grammy-nominated “Moaning Lisa Smile” or the stop-and-start “My Love’s Whore” (which has a tremendous coda), but the way Ellie Rowsell sing-talks this chorus is the album’s best earworm and also gives the disc its title.

84. Bloc Party – The Love Within. Bloc Party’s fifth album, Hymns, is due out in late January, and this lead track gives me hope that it’ll be miles above their disappointing fourth record, and more in line with Kele’s electronic-heavy, more experimental solo work.

83. Wavves – Heavy Metal Detox. Sneering California punk-pop with some big hooks all across the album; this track, the opener, presages several of the later ones and packs the most punch of all.

82. Veruca Salt – Laughing in the Sugar Bowl. The album was a huge letdown but this one single showed Louise and Nina recapturing their old magic for two minutes in a track that fits just fine between “Volcano Girls” and “Seether.”

81. Of Montreal – Bassem Sabry. I dig a lot of experimental music, but a lot of Of Montreal’s work goes a bit over my head – I know it’s good, but I just can’t quite get into it. “Bassem Sabry” wraps up that experimentation in a funk-rock track that has the feel of improvisational jazz but keeps the structure tight enough to feel familiar.

80. Orchid – Helicopters. You could say they’re highly derivative of Black Sabbath, to which I would respond by asking what the hell is wrong with that?

79. Animal Collective – FloridaDa. Much like Of Montreal, Animal Collective produces some wild stuff that manages to stray beyond the boundaries of what I can digest and enjoy – it’s a me problem, so to speak – but when they confine their sound into more conventional song structures, as they did on “My Girls,” there are few artists that can match their ingenuity. This lead single from their album Painting With, due out February 19th, has a very traditional structure, but the layers of sound here are like little else I’ve heard.

78. The Creases – Point. Another indie-pop act out of Australia, this time out of Brisbane, the Creases don’t seem to have made a dent here in the U.S. yet even though this is their second great jangle-pop track in two years, with “Static Lines” making my top 100 last year.

77. Kero Kero Bonito – Picture This. The sound is very J-Pop, especially with lead singer Sarah Midori Perry singing and rapping in both English and Japanese, but there’s an ironic undercurrent to the lyrics, mocking the selfie phenomenon from within and blunting the saccharine nature of the music.

76. Young Fathers – Shame. The 2014 Mercury Prize winners dropped their second album a few months after they received that award, continuing in the same vein of melding hip-hop with alternative rock, reminiscent of earlier TV on the Radio releases but lyrics that are rapped rather than sung.

75. Twerps – Back to You. More Australian jangle-pop, dancing on the edge of catchy and annoying, and the best track from another of my top albums of the year.

74. Shy Technology – High Strung. Shy Technology seems to reclaim the earnest piano-driven emo sound of the 1990s from the bastardized versions we hear on pop radio (looking at you, Gavin DeGraw), with stronger lyrics than almost any other artist in this vein.

73. Speedy Ortiz – Raising the Skate. Sadie Dupuis is a minor heroine of mine, resurrecting the half-dissonant noise-pop sound of artists like Helium that came and went way too fast in the mid-1990s, drowned in a wave of Britpop that crowded it out of even alternative radio slots. There are great melodies underneath the apparent cacophony of most Speedy Ortiz songs; both this and “Graduates” were highlights from their second album.

72. Courtney Barnett – Elevator Operator. The lyrics … I mean, I can’t get over how brilliant Barnett is, especially for someone so young. She’s an incredibly gifted storyteller and her first album (my #2 album of 2015) saw her incorporate heavier rock melodies to craft a masterful full-length debut.

71. Belle & Sebastian – Allie. Stuart Murdoch is at his best when setting dark stories to sunny melodies, as in this track about a disturbed young woman who tries to run away in response to news stories of bombings and terrorism.

70. The National – Sunshine on My Back. The side project El Vy didn’t do it for me – again, it’s Matt Berninger’s laconic delivery that just turns me off – but this one-off single featuring Sharon Van Etten shows that they can craft some really beautiful pop music.

69. Grimes – REALiTi. We got a demo version of this song in March from the album Grimes recorded and deleted, then got a slicker version when she finally released the amazing “Art Angels.” I think I prefer the rawer first attempt, although it’s such a great song it still works even though the cleaner production took off some of the edge.

68. Viet Cong – Silhouettes. There’s a strong Interpol vibe here, blended with some post-punk elements along the lines of Television. The band announced in September that they intended to change their name due to the negative connotations of their current one, which surprised me … it’s not like they named themselves Khmer Rouge, which was an actual punk band in the early 1980s.

67. Daughter – Numbers. This London trio may be about to cross over in a huge way, based on the two lead singles from their album Not to Disappear, due out on January 15th. It brings me back a bit to Coldplay’s first album, Parachutes, which couldn’t be more different from the disposable pop act they’ve become – they created suspense and intensity even in softer soundscapes, and Daughter has that same knack, along with much better lyrics.

66. Mourn – Gertrudis, Get Through This!. Another quartet of teenagers from Barcelona, Mourn go the punk route, melding deliberate dissonance with this wonderful sneering arrogance to create something that sounds new even though this kind of fusion has been around for decades.

65. CHVRCHES – Make Them Gold. The best showcase of Lauren Mayberry’s voice on their hugely successful second album, Every Open Eye, one of my top five albums of the year.

64. Telekinesis – Sylvia. Michael Lerner, who records as Telekinesis, changed his entire sound for this album, Ad Infinitum, going all-in on an homage to classic new wave sounds, very heavy on the synths. This and “In a Future World” were both standouts.

63. Sons of Huns – An Evil Unseen. Their album While Sleeping, Stay Awake just missed the cut for my best albums of the year, but if you like old-school thrash with some 1970s psych-rock elements, I strongly recommend it. This track had the best hook, whereas most of the album struck me as more atmospheric but less immediately catchy.

62. Of Monsters and Men – Crystals. I mentioned on the albums ranking that I thought this LP was somewhat maligned because it wasn’t like their first record, which was poppy and accessible but certainly became repetitive by the time you reached “The Lake House” near its conclusion. “Crystals” was the transitional track here, bringing back some of the harmonies from My Head is an Animal while introducing the mellower, more introspective bent of the new album.

61. Saint Motel – My Type. Pure pop goodness with “one-hit wonder” written all over it, especially since their follow-up single, “Cold Cold Man,” wasn’t one-tenth this catchy.

60. Coeur de Pirate – Carry On. Béatrice Martin’s voice is absolutely intoxicating, a little smoky, a little kittenish, a little mysterious with the hints of her Quebecois accent. This song came from her first album recorded in English and deserved a much better reception than it received.

59. Passion Pit – Until We Can’t (Let’s Go). I feel like this song, my favorite of theirs since “Little Secret,” was overshadowed by Michael Angelakos’ public acknowledgement that he’s gay, which shouldn’t even cause a ripple at this point. Passion Pit are strongest when they write music like they’re about to play a giant warehouse party, and that comes through here like it hasn’t in years.

58. Death Cab for Cutie – Black Sun. Death Cab’s album Kintsugi will be their last with guitarist/producer Chris Walla, and even here it already sounded like his influence on the songwriting had waned, with the record more uneven than Codes and Keys and lacking that record’s epic feel. “Black Sun” has Walla and Ben Gibbard rocking out like they did on “You Are a Tourist,” and this is the kind of song at which I think DCFC excels.

57. Ceremony – Your Life in France. They’re nominally a punk band, but their latest album was more post-punk like Joy Division of Gang of Four, led by this song and “The Separation.”

56. Wilco – You Satellite. I’m not a huge fan of Wilco’s overall output so I didn’t react to their release of the surprise album Star Wars with quite the enthusiasm as their longtime fans showed, but there were a number of standout tracks here … just not “Random Name Generator,” the song everyone else seemed to love.

55. Iron Maiden – Speed of Light. I’m not remotely sorry for including this, so don’t even start. Their album The Book of Souls floored me, as it was their best in more than two decades and one of the best albums of the year, good enough to forgive them the eighteen-minute closing track/endurance test.

54. SEXWITCH – Helelyos. That’s Bat for Lashes, singing folk songs from non-Western cultures in various foreign languages (I think this is Farsi), with the band Toy backing her up on the group’s six-song EP.

53. Wolf Alice – Giant Peach. The first Wolf Alice song I heard, one that really establishes the group’s rock chops, especially Ellie Rowsell’s merits as someone who can sing over a heavy rhythm and distinguish herself with her vocals.

52. Neon Indian – Annie. I’ve heard lots of Neon Indian stuff in the past, but his work on 2015’s VEGA INTL. Night School was brighter and a little more accessible, all to the good on songs like “Slumlord” and this track, which at first I thought was a new song from St. Lucia. (That’s high praise.)

51. Frank Turner – Get Better. Another album that really failed to meet my expectations, since I loved 2013’s Tape Deck Heart, although this lead single could easily have come from the preceding album given its music and lyrical theme.

50. Allison Weiss – Golden Coast. Indie-pop is such a mixed bag and as a result an increasingly worthless (decreasingly worthful?) term. Ingrid Michaelson still gets the tag, but she’s had two top-five albums and a handful of crossover hits. (She’s also cute, which never hurts a female musician and I find often is what people really mean when they say “indie.”) Anyway, Allison Weiss is better than Ingrid Michaelson and this song is one example.

49. Metric – The Shade. I’m pretty serious about lyrics; great lyrics often overcome mediocre music, and if the lyrics are dumb, then the music better be pretty fucking awesome, which the music and melody on “The Shade” are.

48. Hot Chip – Huarache Lights. A meditative track from some of the masters of electronic pop music; they’re not the edgy group that brought us the mocking “Over and Over” any more, but they’ve retrained their sights on more serious subjects like the depersonalization of man in an increasingly technological first-world society.

47. Lower Dens – To Die in L.A.. Dream-something – it’s not poppy, more ambient than anything else, but with a quicker tempo. I get a Robert Plant Principle of Moments vibe out of this for some reason.

46. Sleater-Kinney – Price Tag. The best song from their comeback album was “Bury Our Friends,” which made my top ten in 2014; this was #2 for me on No Cities to Love, followed by “Surface Envy.”

45. Superhumanoids – Anxious in Venice. Encouraging you all to listen to Superhumanoids is becoming an obsession of mine; not only is lead vocalist Sarah Chernoff incredibly talented, with both great range and precision in her voice, but the trio keep churning out smart, immersive tracks that feature slow builds and choruses that provide cathartic releases of all that pent-up energy. This was the lead single from their 2015 album Do You Feel OK?, another of my top albums of the year, and my second-favorite track from the record.

44. Wild Nothing – To Know You. A very promising return from Wild Nothing echoes Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life” in both music (bass line and chord changes in the verse) and lyrics (“Funny how…”). Their new album drops February 19th.

43. Savages – The Answer. These four women are back and they appear to be seriously pissed off. “T.I.W.Y.G.” is also solid, with both tracks on their sophomore album, due out January 22nd.

42. Grimes – Flesh Without Blood. The lead single from Art Angels, my favorite album of 2015, and the most acclaimed track from what I’ve seen so far … and hey, it’s a great song all around, although I think she reached greater heights both in her experimentation with structure and in her pursuit of her own brand of pop perfection. She does use her vocal range to great effect here.

41. Tame Impala – Let It Happen. Everyone but me loved this album; it’s too monotonous for me, so that a song like “Cause I’m a Man,” which is so smart and well-crafted, blends right into the rest of the album’s many soporific rhythms. “Let It Happen” is the longest song on my top 100, but Kevin Parker makes good use of the nearly eight minutes of the track – and lets his psych-rock inclinations come through a bit more.

40. Chemical Brothers – Go. I’m not gonna lie to you – you put Q-Tip on a track, I’m going to put it on my top 100. It’s pretty much automatic. Bring on The Last Zulu!

39. Kid Astray – Diver. I had this just a bit ahead of “Cornerstone” among singles from this Norwegian group’s first full-length album, Home Before the Dark; neither is as good as their first minor hit, “The Mess,” but these guys (and gal) have a great sense of melody and an overall sound like Naked & Famous.

38. Deerhunter – Snakeskin. Their 2015 album Faded Frontier is a bit of beautiful chaos, although some of the experimentation doesn’t quite work; this lead single’s syncopated rhythm (with a chord change that reminds me of Fiona Apple’s “Criminal,” of all things) gives you an uncomfortable sense of being off-balance through the entire song’s groove.

37. Kenneths – Cool As You. A London punk trio who revel in the melodic hardcore sound first popularized by groups like the Descendents.

36. Waxahatchee – Under a Rock. There’s a little-but-fierce quality to Katie Crutchfield’s voice here, set against a jangly guitar riff that wouldn’t be out of place in an playlist, one that works better on this rock track than on the more lugubrious songs that flesh out her newest album, Ivy Tripp.

35. Modest Mouse – Lampshades on Fire. They’re at their best when they’re a little crazy, which they are here and on “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box,” songs that are more “Dashboard” than “Float On” even though Johnny Marr has moved on.

34. The Wombats – Greek Tragedy. Probably the best-known song from Glitterburg, a joyous pop trip from start to finish that’s fueled by Matthew Murphy’s utterly bonkers lyrics with their strongest melodies yet. How many artists could work in a reference to falling up a set of Penrose steps without sounding ridiculous?

33. Dagny – Backbeat. This debut single from a Norwegian solo artist (real name Dagny Sandvik) gets a big boost from my daughter, who latched on to this song on first listen and has made it one of her most-played tracks of the year.

32. The Dead Weather – I Feel Love. With Jack White’s solo output rather disappointing, I’m glad we at least have the Dead Weather to give us some of that unapologetic ’70s heavy-blues sound that influenced so much of the White Stripes’ best work.

31. St. Lucia – Dancing on Glass. The first single from his upcoming sophomore LP was very promising; the second single, “Physical,” was far less so. St. Lucia’s debut album was one of my favorites of 2013 but attracted almost no attention; I’m hopeful he won’t change his sound as a reaction to the lack of sales.

30. CHVRCHES – Never Ending Circles. Of the hits on their second album, this was the one that I think would have fit best on their debut album – which is very much a compliment, since The Bones of What You Believe was so strong, but I was also happy to see some evolution in the trio’s sound on Every Open Eye.

29. Jamie xx – See Saw. I’ve never been wild about The xx, but their keyboardist/producer outed himself as some kind of genius with his debut album In Colour, full of these atmospheric, dense electronic tracks, here highlighted by vocals from his xx bandmate Romy.

28. Prince – Stare. I think he’s now put out four albums in the last fifteen months, although much of his output these days amounts to quantity over quality. I’ve been a huge fan of Prince since 1982 or so, but his material tailed off badly from 1994 on, starting with Come, the last record he released as Prince before the whole name-change folly. The funky, horn-driven “Stare” is stripped-down compared to the glam-funk style he pioneered in his heyday, but it’s his strongest track in over two decades.

27. The Libertines – Gunga Din. On the one hand, I’m glad the Libertines are back together, not least because it means Pete Doherty hasn’t died of a drug overdose yet. On the other hand, the likely lads seem to have grown up a little too much – the joyous excess of their first two albums is muted by maturity and perspective here. “Gunga Din” is the main exception, a song about, what else, drinking too much (and perhaps regretting it).

26. Gardens & Villa – Fixations. I feel like they should have named their album Music for Degs instead of Music for Dogs, but maybe that’s just me. If I hadn’t known who sang “Fixations” when I first heard it, I would have assumed it was a Shins song – and I mean that in a good way, with a really memorable hook and very specific, immersive, piano-and-keyboard sound.

25. HAERTS – Animal. I assume this track, released as part of a two-song single or EP or whatever the hell we call it these days when it’s all digital anyway, presages a 2016 album release. HAERTS goes a different route here than on their previous songs, with a very long, slow build that doesn’t bring lead singer Nini Fabi into the track until just past the two-minute mark. It’s highly effective primarily because Fabi’s voice is so strong that she can appear on less than half of the song’s length and still own it.

24. Mimicking Birds – Dead Weight. I admit that the opening lyric “I am a corpse/you are a corpse/we’re just corpses floating without a course” could be a bit of a turnoff, but give the song a chance – it’s dark folk, a sound I might expect to be on the soundtrack of a film set hundreds of years ago, with Nate Lacy’s always thought-provoking lyrics.

23. Purity Ring – push pull. Megan James’ lyrics are outstanding and her voice can be a real strength, but too much of their sophomore album Another Eternity puts her vocals through effects that distort it and emphasize some of the higher registers, to the songs’ detriment. She’s singing with little interference here, and the tenuous relationship between her vocal melody and the music gives the song a beneficial tension that never really lets up.

22. White Reaper – I Don’t Think She Cares. This Louisville quartet melds punk, hard rock, and some late-60s psycheledic elements on their amusingly-titled debut album White Reaper Does It Again, with this song and “Pills” the two standout tracks.

21. Django Django – Shake and Tremble. Born Under Saturn couldn’t quite live up to their Mercury Prize-nominated self-titled 2012 album, but if you wanted more of the same vibe from this genre-fusing British band, you certainly got it here – it wasn’t as innovative but it was still a lot of fun.

20. Atlas Genius – Molecules. Australia is producing so much great pop/rock right now I can barely keep up with it. Atlas Genius broke through with “If So” off their first album but had several more great singles off their followup Inanimate Objects, including this and “Stockholm.”

19. Potty Mouth – Cherry Picking. I thought this song, which draws directly on early-90s alternative groups from Belly to Lush, would be a huge hit, but perhaps it’s a little time out of joint. It’s punk-inflected pop with a definite riot-grrl sneer to the vocals.

18. Waters – Up Up Up. Lead singer/songwriter Van Pierszalowski is both a huge Dodgers fan and a coffee snob, so I’m predisposed to like the band’s music anyway, but this is a great, sunny, southern California kind of pop/rock song.

17. Houndmouth – Sedona. It got overplayed once pop-radio discovered it six months after its release, but hey, I told you about the song back in April. I don’t know how this quartet can ever avoid comparisons to the Mamas and the Papas, although that’s pretty good company for any band.

16. Wolf Alice – You’re a Germ. I loved this whole album, but no single song encapsulated its greatness as much as “You’re a Germ,” where Ellie Rowsell goes from sultry to scream and absolutely owns the shit out of the entire track; my favorite vocal on the entire album is in the chorus here, a line I’m not even 100% sure I understand but definitely involves sending someone to hell.

15. Foals – Mountain at My Gates. Foals seem to be a lock for one great song per album; last time around it was “Inhaler,” and this time it’s “Mountain at My Gates,” even though the “I see it more and more each day” line is such a throwaway that it detracts from the imagery Yannis creates across the rest of the lyrics.

14. Grimes – Venus Fly. Janelle Monae takes control of most of the lyrics here, but the two girls combine for a feminist rant that keeps defying lyrical and musical expectations. When both women say “Why you looking at me” don’t you expect to hear something like “…boy?” afterwards? In an industry still too driven by men who evaluate female musicians by looks, this song inserts itself into the conversation with a declaration of independence for two musicians who just happen to be attractive but matter because they’re so talented.

13. Freddie Gibbs – Extradite. The best new rap song I’ve heard in years, powered by Gibbs’ very old-school, precise delivery and a tremendous guest appearance by Black Thought, over a track that sounds like vintage Eric B. and Rakim.

12. San Cisco – Too Much Time Together. This Australian group focuses on bright, witty material that fits in with the Wombats for the combination of upbeat music and ironic lyrics, often making use of dual vocals thanks to multi-talented drummer Scarlett Stevens.

11. Belle & Sebastian – Nobody’s Empire. The music alone would have put this song in my top 50, but “Nobody’s Empire” has some of my favorite lyrics of the year, as Stuart Murdoch – who always manages to tell a good story – has created something of an epic here, with more quotable, imagery-drenched lines than most groups fit in a whole album. The last verse just kills me.

10. Superhumanoids – Norwegian Black Metal. This song title is just pandering to me, even though there’s no hint of metal anywhere in the track, let alone metal of the Norwegian black variety; it is the best showcase for Sarah Chernoff’s voice on the album, and I can vouch for her talent, having seen them play live in September.

9. The Wombats – This is Not a Party. I don’t know why their label didn’t push this out as a single, as it’s incredibly catchy and has some of the funnier lyrics on the record; “Edward’s on the big white telephone to God” just creates this image in my head of a stoned preppie talking on an oversized telephone to … well, I’ll let you decide that for yourselves.

8. Chairlift – Ch-Ching. Their new album should be out in January, but if this is a taste of what we’re getting it should be a contender for the best album of 2016, with Caroline Polachek’s vocal gymnastics leading the way. I know there’s speculation over what the combination “27-99-23” means, but I keep imagining it as some kind of NFL play call.

7. Cloves – Frail Love. Cloves is just 19, from Melbourne, Australia, with a very distinctive (if odd) way of pronouncing certain words, and I hear a young Fiona Apple all over again, especially when she drops to the lower end of her vocal range. It’s a song to rip your heart right out of your chest.

6. Pure Bathing Culture – Pray for Rain. This song came out of nowhere for me – I knew PBC but can’t say I ever connected with any of their songs as I did with this slice of smart synth-pop that

5. Grimes – California. It’s a sunny pop song masking a harsh vocal indictment of the music industry’s treatment of independent artists: “When you get bored of me, I’ll be back on the shelf.” The metonymical use of California as a stand-in for the industry is one of many poetical flourishes on Art Angels, my top album of 2015.

4. Jamie xx – Loud Places. Jamie xx’s debut solo album was a revelation, as he seemed to grasp the mantle from pioneers like the Chemical Brothers even as the latter put out their first new album in five years. This song is Jamie xx and electronica at their best, using samples to create multiple layers of sound, shifting tempos, setting Romy’s soft, breathy vocals in counterpoint to the rising wave of music he’s building beneath her. By the time the song reaches its devastating close, you feel like a hundred musicians have appeared on the song.

3. CHVRCHES – Leave a Trace. Every Open Eye was more of the same from CHVRCHES, but better, and no song exemplified that so much as “Leave a Trace,” the lead single from the album. The track keeps Lauren Mayberry out in front where she belongs, with a powerful crescendo leading up to each chorus, and it benefits greatly from the album’s higher production quality.

2. Courtney Barnett – Pedestrian at Best. Barnett is the best lyricist in music right now, telling Dylanesque stories with irony, wit, and empathy for the characters she creates, even when the character is herself. “Give me all your money/and I’ll make some origami, honey” is the greatest fake come-on of the year, and I think the biting nature of her humor works much better when the songs are uptempo.

1. Beck – Dreams. Yeah, he’s a member of a dangerous cult, but Beck is certainly a genius, and a shapeshifter too, as comfortable making mournful folk albums as he is here, making a song replete with funk elements that has been a mainstay on my playlists for the six months since its release. “Dreams” seems too complex to be pop but, because it’s Beck, is so infused with hooks and melodies that it seems silly to call it anything else. I wasn’t on the Morning Phase praise train, but when Beck gets back to his roots, crafting innovative songs that shove up against the boundaries of pop music without ever truly leaving it, I’m all in.


  1. I liked this list, not least because I happen to really love your top two. Dreams is my favorite Beck song of the last several years, and Courtney Barnett is AMAZING.

    Though I disagree over El Vy with you, I think that Berninger is that kind of love-hate artist where opinions will differ. And you did post a National song here, so it’s all good!

    I’m also happy to see someone out there is as into the Heartless Bastards as I am. Fantastic band out of Ohio.

  2. Moderately shocked to see Animal Collective on the Klaw list! Thanks for creating the Spotify playlist btw; I’m looking forward to filling in the gaps between the songs on your list I already like.

  3. I just learned who Drake was over the weekend.

    What a nightmare.

    • It doesn’t get any better. And Pitchfork named one of his songs the second best of 2015.

  4. Your list overlaps quite a bit with mine, but no Kurt Vile? Beach Slang? Alabama Shakes? Leon Bridges?

    • Nope, heard all four, not into any of them. Kurt Vile’s stuff is borderline annoying.

  5. “The side project El Vy didn’t do it for me …”

    Dammit. If Berninger didn’t click on “Return to the Moon”, he’s not ever going to click.

  6. Lack of love for New Order makes me sad. And that Charlatans record is ridiculously good — and I hadn’t listened to them since 1993 or so!

    • The new New Order record was a big meh. I love their classic stuff and even liked Get Ready.

  7. I was pretty lazy about seeking out new music in 2015 so this playlist has been nice as I’ve sifted through it today. Many of the artists represented in the playlist are familiar to me but many more are not, so I have mostly focused on the unfamiliar so far. A lot of the stuff with an edge has grabbed me (Drenge, The Gills, Orchid, Sunflower Bean, Sons of Huns), party because edgier stuff tends to be more “grabby” by nature, but beyond that I am really digging “The Yabba” by Battles, “Perforation Six” by Floating Points, and “Heleyos” by SEXWITCH. All of those songs are very cool, particularly “The Yabba”, which I have listened to multiple times today.

    I’m going to continue working through the list and then will probably make my own smaller playlist from this one. Some good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Glad to see at least one Dead Weather track on here. Big fan of the organ riff on Be Still on the album version of the song. It’s not in the “live performance” youtube video. I like most of the songs on the album but just wish the whole album was better produced. Sound quality seems very flat on the downloaded version of the album. I wonder if it’s any better in physical formats.

  9. I listened to a ton of stuff this year, but you still managed to uncover some hidden gems I hadn’t come across, so thanks! What’s your main method for discovering new stuff? Blogs, playlists, shows, etc?

  10. After doing research for Christmans purchases, I reached the same conclusion about the two best albums of the year that you did, Keith. Sometimes I Sit and Art Angels are amazing (Jamie XX, Tobias Jesso, Alabama Shakes and Torres were right behind). It’s a great year for female artists period.

    Heartless Bastards are one of our best local bands here in Cincinnati. If you get a chance to see them live, check them out. Erika Wennerstrom’s vox will melt your face in the best possible way. She’s a Detroit transplant like me, and it’s the Motor City’s loss. 😉

  11. A lot of great hidden gems in here, and I have to agree with your top pick. I love Beck, but he really outdid himself with “Dreams.” The range of music that man can make is astounding.

  12. That entire Sometimes I Sit and Think album was amazing but, man, “Depreston” is just on a completely different level. That song and “Divers” by Joanna Newsom are definitely the two most hauntingly beautiful songs I’ve heard this year.

  13. Apologies if I’m out of the looper here, but what Dangerous cult is Beck a member of? Googling ‘Beck and Cult’ only got me Glenn Beck results.

  14. Was wondering if you’ve ever listened to logic, whether it be anything off Under Pressure (my personal favorite) or his newer album The Incredible True Story. Very clever lyrically with some creative instrumental work.

  15. Was not going to forgive you if you left off Maiden. I enjoy the lists even though some times(IMHO)you leave off more popular acts to avoid the main stream but they had to be included. Empire of the Clouds is probably enjoyable to music fans like a runner enjoys a marathon.
    Any consideration for Wombats to be higher? I can appreciate Beck’s immense talent, but just not that big of a fan, with exception to Devil’s Haircut, I can’t get that song out of my head at times… no pun intended.

  16. Glad you included the new Iron Maiden. That album feels (almost) like 20 years ago, even if Bruce Dickinson’s voice seems like it might finally be starting to show signs of wear. I “get” the Beck song, but I didn’t like it as much as his older stuff, so I’m surprised you had it #1, although I feel like this was a bit of a weaker year for music. I always read this list every year and (despite my general distaste for a lot of the indie/pop/ambient stuff) pull a few gems out that I hadn’t heard before, but I was a little bummed this time that there wasn’t a Royal Blood, White Lung, or Band of Skulls that just blew me away. Still, good stuff, as always.

    • Sons of Huns and Orchid should match your tastes. Some folks like Baroness, although I find them a little slick, and you might also enjoy The Sword (check out “High Country“).

  17. Heartless Bastards are awesome. If you like them you should also check out fellow QC natives Wussy.

  18. Thanks for doing this Keith. I always get exposed to some bands I end up liking from these lists, so I hope they continue.

  19. I don’t know if Alt-Country is in your wheelhouse or not but Jason Isbell put out a good record this year. Good songwriter.

  20. If you’re willing to say that Scientology is awful and dangerous, are you willing to say the same about Islam when it’s worse?

    • If that were true, I would say so. But it’s not, and you’re merely affirming the consequent here.

  21. I see Muse isn’t on either this or the top albums list. I thought Drones was quite a bit stronger than their last few efforts. Did you get to hear it? Had you given up on them after The Second Law? (An understandable decision, if so . . .)

    • Heard it, didn’t like it, but then again I still think Showbiz was their best work.

  22. re: Metric, are you saying their lyrics are dumb? If so I kinda agree. I think they think they’re more clever than they actually are a lot of the time, but also agree that the music is generally pretty great.

  23. Keith, I’m obsessed with making lists as well. How did you decide the rankings? When I did my own, I simply followed what songs I’d listened to the most over the previous month/year.

    P.S. Where will Barnett’s album be for you? It’s my #1, and “Depreston” my favorite song off it.

    • I did a lot of pairwise comparisons: Do I think song A is better than song B? That’s part of why the list takes so long to assemble.

      My albums post went up the day before the songs post. Barnett’s album was #2.

  24. Curious if you’ve given Local H’s “Hey, Killer” a listen. If not, I recommend giving it a spin!

  25. As always, appreciate your monthly and annual lists!