I published my rankings of the top 100 songs of 2015 and top 15 albums of 2015 in mid-December, which is nearly always a dead month for new releases anyway, so in past years I haven’t even bothered with a new playlist until the end of January. This time, however, there were about a half-dozen tracks I wanted to mention before we got too far along in the calendar, so I’ve put together this shorter-than-normal playlist to tide everyone over.
Animal Collective – FloriDada. This song reached me in time to make my top 100 for 2015, and it’s one of my favorites from Animal Collective alongside “My Girls,” but even more accessible. I’m still trying to piece together some of the lyrics, but I love the way the music, including the layered vocals, seems like it’s always about to veer off the road into the wild grass.
School Of Seven Bells – Open Your Eyes. SVIIB’s final album is due out in February, their first and thus only release since the death of co-founder Ben Curtis from cancer in 2013, including parts he recorded before his passing. I found their music beautifully melancholy to begin with, so I can only imagine how this record will feel knowing that Curtis is gone and the band is finished.
Bloc Party – The Good News. I’m mixed on this song; it seems a bit too much like Four, but after the promise of the first single from their upcoming album I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Wild Nothing – TV Queen. Good Wild Nothing tracks manage to sound upbeat and depressing at the same time, kind of like Joy Division and early New Order. This isn’t on par with “To Know You,” which I still say was practically lifted from Talk Talk’s “It’s My Life,” but still would have fit well on 2012’s Nocturne.
St. Lucia – Physical. Included because it’s St. Lucia and I have liked just about everything he’s released to date, but I don’t like this track anywhere near as much as “Dancing on Glass” or the bulk of his first album.
DIIV – Under the Sun. Zachary Cole Smith, who records as DIIV, is putting out a double album on February 5th, which seems to have a lot of the music press excited, but I’ve yet to see evidence Smith can fill a single album with enough worthwhile and non-repetitive material. Part of the problem is that every DIIV song I’ve ever heard sounds like it’s just a clone of the one original DIIV track, so if there were some sort of Panama disease that affected that one song his entire catalogue would be wiped out. This track is pretty good, though.
Conrad Keely – In Words of a Not so Famous Man. This quiet, pensive track is about the last thing I expected from the lead singer of …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. There’s still a hidden tension in the song, as we get from most Trail of Dead material, but where his main project creates huge shimmering walls of sound, this track is almost intimate by comparison.
(The London) Suede – Outsiders. They’re never going to make another “Metal Mickey” or even another “Beautiful Ones,” but Suede have settled into something comfortable for their middle age, with this track, released in late September, continuing in the same vein as their solid 2013 comeback album Bloodsports.
Killing Joke – Euphoria. I whiffed on Killing Joke’s album Pylon – I didn’t hear it until I’d already gotten well into writing my year-end posts and didn’t get to spend any time with it until after Christmas, but it should have slipped into the last spot on my top albums list. It’s not quite vintage Killing Joke, which was more punk than anything else, with many of their best-known songs (“The Wait,” “Eighties”) running long for punk but about the norm for radio-friendly rock; it’s more like an album full of longer, dark songs like “Love Like Blood,” six minutes and up, heavier, driving music that I’d call metal but might only qualify as “hard rock” by today’s standards. Whatever you call it, it’s fucking boss.
pop. 1280 – Pyramids on Mars. I admit I knew nothing of this band before hearing this track, and still don’t know much about them other than that they’re named after a great noir crime novel; this song is sort of noise-rock experimentalism with hints of early gothic new wave stuff like Bauhaus.