A couple of weeks ago, I ran down my favourite albums of 2015. Today, I’m going to talk about my 40 favourite songs of the year. Why 40? Because I did 35 last year, and I wanted to do more this year. Why did I do 35 last year? STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.

Three things before I get started (which I copy-pasted from last year’s list):

  1. I thought about including YouTube or Soundcloud links wherever possible, but I didn’t want to eat up your bandwidth or cause your browser to crash. Besides, it would take too much time to gather all those links. So instead, I’m limiting myself to just a short blurb for each song. You’re resourceful; you can go look them up on Spotify.
  2. The list is not ranked. While my relative assessments of albums remain fairly constant, I like some individual songs more or less than others depending on my mood. Instead, I’ve organized the list by ascending alphabetical order of band name.
  3. Only one song per artist. Though there’s a lot of overlap with my favourite albums list, I wanted to showcase some music that I didn’t get a chance to talk about earlier too (like songs from EPs).

Okay, now for the list:

  1. Adventures – “Heavenly”. Until its outro, “Heavenly” seems like just another unassuming indie rock tune. But in the last minute of this track, the band kicks it into high gear, with lead singer Reba Meyers repeating “He’s a swarm” over and over again. I have no idea what that means, but it’s damn catchy.
  2. Alabama Shakes – “Gimme All Your Love”. Alabama Shakes’ lead singer, Brittany Howard, is well known for her powerful voice. But she really outdoes herself here, with a yelp in the chorus and bridge that’s both melodic and throat-shredding. Also of note in this song is the switch from compound time to simple time for the energetic bridge, pushing listeners out of a comfortable groove for something exhilarating.
  3. All We Are – “Go”. Like the aforementioned “Heavenly,” “Go” is a song whose appeal lies in its outro. English indie pop trio All We Are bursts out a crescendoing polyphonic wall of guitars, keyboards, and drum fills in an off-kilter 7/4 beat. It’s weird, daring, and awesome.
  4. Barenaked Ladies – “Silverball”. As far as I’m concerned, Barenaked Ladies died when Steven Page left the band. But every once in a while, its remaining members manage to put out something special, like this adult alternative track, with its extended pinball metaphor, and its keyboard riff recalling the cold steel of the ball.
  5. Braids – “Taste”. I named Braids’ Deep in the Iris my third-favourite album of 2015, and that was largely on the strength of “Taste,” a song about pushing a lover away only to realize that they’re truly the one for you. It’s a fantastic showcase not only for lead vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s vulnerability and vocal range, but also for drummer Austin Tufts’ complex ride-based rhythm in the final chorus.
  6. Chvrches – “Clearest Blue”. Chvrches got into a bit of a sophomore slump on Every Open Eye, with most of its songs failing to be memorable or catchy. “Clearest Blue,” though, is an exception, largely because of the strength of its sublime outro. (That seems to be a running theme.) When it finally explodes after a song’s worth of build-up, a prominent synth riff and duelling male/female vocals carry the song to its conclusion.
  7. Dawes – “I Can’t Think About It Now”. This track sees Dawes abandoning the lush Laurel Canyon sound they helped create for some straight-ahead folk rock. The centrepiece of the song is a minute-and-a-half “Hotel California”-esque guitar solo. It’s both plaintive and lyrical, reflecting the darkness of the song’s lyrics.
  8. Death Cab For Cutie – “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive”. Some time between 2011’s Codes and Keys and 2015’s Kintsugi, Death Cab For Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard’s marriage to actress Zooey Deschanel collapsed. However, Kintsugi is not just a reflection on failed romance, but also a blueprint for recovery. “The Ghosts of Beverly Drive” is Gibbard’s take on romance after divorce; the sparks of young love may not fly, but there’s comfort in companionship.
  9. The Decemberists – “Make You Better”.  One of The Decemberists’ most rocking tunes, “Make You Better” tells the story of a failed romance (as many songs do). It builds up through an energetic bridge to a strong final chorus with both male and female vocals. Overall, another solid addition to the band’s folk-rock catalogue.
  10. Desaparecidos – “Von Maur Massacre”. I tend to be interested in songs that are written from a sick and twisted person’s perspective. “Von Maur Massacre” is mainly written from the point of view of Westroads Mall shooter Robert A. Hawkins. The lyrics are written matter-of-factly, as if to suggest that Hawkins’ massacre was the result of cold, logical thought. It’s a disturbing undercurrent that is belied by the song’s propulsive punk energy.
  11. Dikembe – “Surfed in the Loft”. Dikembe has always had a knack for channelling their emo revival tendencies into really catchy tunes. “Surfed in the Loft,” off their Ledge EP, is no exception, with its chugging chromatic guitar riff and mildly depressing lyrics.
  12. Florence + the Machine – “Queen of Peace”. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful marked a return to the soaring choruses and catchy melodies of Florence + the Machine’s debut, and that’s no more apparent anywhere other than on “Queen of Peace.” Staccato horns, a driving percussive stomp, and Florence Welch’s powerful vocals make this track one of the band’s most impactful songs.
  13. Foals – “Birch Tree”. Foals’ most well known songs are their hardest-hitting, like “What Went Down” or “Inhaler.” But their subtler tracks, like “Milk & Black Spiders” or “Birch Tree,” are often their best. “Birch Tree” in particular never has a cathartic release of tension. Instead, it lets a staccato guitar riff and a syncopated keyboard line carry the song, before ending with a subtle duelling guitar outro. It’s one of the prettiest things Foals has ever put to tape.
  14. Foxing – “Night Channels”. For many people with a conservative upbringing, sex and guilt are inextricably intertwined, especially when they’re the third man in a love triangle. Foxing attempts to unpack that complex relationship in “Night Channels.” Beginning deceptively as a piano ballad, it eventually transforms into a post-rock extravaganza with a wall of guitar notes in the bridge and final chorus. Still, it’s never anything less than absolutely gorgeous.
  15. Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”. In Grimes’ own words: “‘Kill V. Maim’ is written from the perspective of Al Pacino in The Godfather Pt II. Except he’s a vampire who can switch gender and travel through space.” Okay then.
  16. Half Moon Run – “It Works Itself Out”. Half Moon Run is at their best when they’re crafting dark, lush, folk-tinged rock. “It Works Itself Out” is a perfect example of that kind of music. It even adds a few electronic elements to the mix, providing a subtle variation on the band’s trademark sound.
  17. Idlehands – “El Shakes”. Dena Mora is the closest thing to Juturna you can find without actually popping Circa Survive’s debut record into your CD player. (CD players, eh? Do they still make those?) Idlehands has the formula down: angular riffs and off-kilter guitar rhythms, complemented by nearly impenetrable lyrics. However, a deeper look reveals that “El Shakes” is about drugs. For trippy music like this, it’s an appropriate subject.
  18. Incubus – “Absolution Calling”. With their first track since 2011’s monotonous If Not Now, When?, Incubus had to prove that they could still rock with the best of them. “Absolution Calling” isn’t the chaotic hard rocker that fans of A Crow Left of the Murder… were probably wanting, but for those who enjoyed the heavier tracks of Light Grenades or the aforementioned If Not Now, When?, especially “Adolescents,” there’s a lot to love, including a prominent keyboard line and a huge hook.
  19. I the Mighty ft. Max Bemis – “Friends”. The subject matter of “Friends” is typical post-hardcore break-up material. Where it shines in its clever lyrics and its bridge, which features a back-and-forth between lead singer Brent Walsh and Say Anything frontman Max Bemis. It’s actually one of Bemis’ best recorded vocal performances.
  20. Matthew Good – “Army of Lions”. As Matthew Good ages, he moves closer into adult alternative and farther away from the distorted, energetic alt-rock that defined his earlier career. However, “Army of Lions” is reminiscent of Good’s earlier days, with a propulsive beat and a pounding rhythm that belie his age. His words encourage younger generations to rebel against authority and seize control of their lives. Even as Good ages, he remains young at heart.
  21. Mew – “Witness”. +- wasn’t as catchy as Mew’s earlier work, with the Danish band often delving into full-on prog rock. However, “Witness” is the perfect showcase for their post-punk revivalist tendencies, with an insistent, bubbling energy and a memorable melody.
  22. Miguel – “waves”. Sometimes the best songs aren’t particularly deep. Miguel’s “waves” is just a catchy rock/R&B tune about having fun and making love. His distorted vocals add just a hint of aggression, giving the track a tantalizing sense of danger.
  23. Milo Greene – “Royal Blue”. On their sophomore effort, Control, Milo Greene eschewed the Laurel Canyon folk of their debut album to make a strange synthpop record that didn’t quite work. However, on Control’s closing track, the band returned to their comfort zone and put out one of their best tracks yet. With softly strummed guitars and beautiful vocal harmonies, “Royal Blue” creates a feeling of fragility; the drums don’t even kick in until the final minute. But a deep synth line indicates that there’s something dark and sinister beneath the surface. This tension between fragility and darkness makes for one of the best songs of the year.
  24. Natalie Prass – “Bird of Prey”. Nashville songstress Natalie Prass released her impressive self-titled debut in early 2015, and “Bird of Prey” is the most impressive track on it. With her mumbled vocals (which create a neat scat-like effect in the outro), she lets the string and horn arrangement take centre stage. It takes impressive restraint and maturity to let someone else be the star, and Prass has both in spades.
  25. No Devotion – “Grand Central”. After recovering from what might have been the most painful band break-up in history, the members of Lostprophets (minus convicted child sexual abuser Ian Watkins) teamed up with former Thursday frontman to form No Devotion. Their post-punk meets synthpop debut, Permanence, closed with “Grand Central,” a sweeping, six-minute epic of synthesized goodness.
  26. Of Monsters and Men – “Thousand Eyes”. While the rest of Of Monster and Men’s sophomore effort, Beneath the Skin, is considerably more lightweight, “Thousand Eyes” is dark and tense, building up in a swirling, storm-like crescendo over its four-minute running time. It finally reaches its apex only fifteen seconds before its conclusion, with the wall of sound suddenly cutting out for a softly sung outro.
  27. Oh Wonder – “Lose It”. “Lose It” provides an opportunity for indie pop duo Oh Wonder to get funky. The lyrics encourage listeners to lose themselves in the music and just dance, which is exactly what you should when you’re listening to this tune.
  28. Pet Symmetry – “Class Action Force (Useless Tools)”. Police brutality has become an increasingly talked-about issue in the United States, and with good reason: it’s a problem that the country needs to tackle in order to ensure justice for all its citizens. Pet Symmetry doesn’t provide solutions, but in “Class Action Force (Useless Tools),” their anger is palpable; they describe the Chicago cops as “fucking pigs” and “useless tools in blue.” It’s the kind of anger that punk rock has been sorely lacking for a while, and Pet Symmetry has it in spades.
  29. Runaway Brother – “Reprise”. People change a lot in college, sometimes to the point of becoming unrecognizable. “Reprise” relates the singer’s feelings as he watches an old friend sink into drugs, drink, and partying, reflected by the song’s bouncy melody. “Universities and institutions, they’re what took you away,” he sings in the first verse. It’s an all too common sentiment, and one that’s familiar to me.
  30. The Sidekicks – “Hell Is Warm”. With “Hell Is Warm,” the opening Runners in the Nerved World, The Sidekicks successfully complete their transition from pop-punk to dream pop. After a hazy, relaxing intro, a lone guitar kicks in, followed by drums and more guitars, and finally the full band. And true to the dreamlike quality of the music, there are no lyrics in the outro, just harmonized “aah”s.
  31. Silversun Pickups – “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance)”. Silversun Pickups’ bassist, Nikki Monninger, takes the lead on “Circadian Rhythm (Last Dance).” She should do it more often, because her delicate vocals give this shoegazey love song a lovely, ethereal touch.
  32. Siskiyou – “Deserter”. After opening with a sinister, minor-key choral intro, “Deserter” reveals a churning bass line, giving the verses a dark edge. But the chorus is pure alt-folk goodness, and the saxophone solo is just hella fun. Mixing these varied styles together could sound like a disastrous mishmash, but Siskiyou makes it work.
  33. Solvey – “Redlight”. Solvey delivers alt-rock with an electropop edge, and “Redlight” is an excellent example of that. The distorted bass gives the song an insistent feeling, as if Solvey has something important to say.
  34. Steven Wilson – “Hand Cannot Erase”. Who says that prog rock can’t be catchy? While most of Hand. Cannot. Erase. is full-on proggy goodness, the title track takes an approach that would be more familiar to fans of Coheed and Cambria. It’s got a huge poppy hook and a melody that worms its way into your ears.
  35. Title Fight – “Your Pain Is Mine Now”. With Hyperview, Title Fight completed their transition from punk to shoegaze. It wasn’t wholly successful, but gorgeous songs like “Your Pain Is Mine Now” made it worthwhile nonetheless. In particular, the retro space-age guitar effect in the bridge wouldn’t be out of place on a mid-’80s Rush track. It’s exciting to hear this Pennsylvania band expand their sonic palette.
  36. Torres – “New Skin”. It’s worth seeking the 2014 single version of this song, which features Sharon Van Etten and The War on Drugs, because it’s better than this one. However, its year of release would disqualify it from inclusion on this list. The version that eventually made its way onto Torres’ sophomore record, Sprinter, is still fantastic. It’s the kind of alt-rock that all but disappeared from radio after the ’90s, but Torres’ mastery of it belies her young age.
  37. Turnover – “Dizzy on the Comedown”. While The Sidekicks’ transition from pop punk to dream pop was relatively gradual (and they’ve still retained traces of their punk edge), Turnover’s transformation was much more dramatic; just try to hear any traces of the band that recorded “Sasha” in “Dizzy on the Comedown.” But that transformation was for the best, because Peripheral Vision is an excellent record, and “Dizzy on the Comedown” is its best track. The hazy production and delicate lead guitar line perfectly complement the lyrics, which tell of the intoxicating sensation of falling in love.
  38. The Winter Passing – “A Different Space of Mind”. While The Winter Passing spends much of their debut full-length, A Different Space of Mind, mimicking Devil and God-era Brand New, on the closing (and title) track, the band forges their own path, reaching towards more recent indie rock for inspiration. With their trademark brother/sister vocals, the band creates something that sounds both familiar and fresh.
  39. The Wonder Years ft. Jason Aalon Butler – “Stained Glass Ceilings”. One of the persistent problems facing America today is racism. Compounding the problem is the fact that police in many jurisdictions treat black people like second-class citizens. Cops have killed far too many innocent young black people, often shooting first and asking questions later. The Wonder Years confronts that racial injustice in “Stained Glass Ceilings,” which for most of its running time is a tame track (at least by Wonder Years standards). In the bridge, however, is where the song really builds in intensity. The bridge features lead singer of post-hardcore band letlive., Jason Aalon Butler, who is of mixed black and white heritage. He spits lines like “It’s black or white and sometimes black and blue” and “Three-fifths a man makes half of me” before finally screaming “I am the ghetto’s chosen one, the privileged bastard son.” It’s that kind of fierce anger that makes “Stained Glass Ceilings” one of the best songs of 2015.
  40. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – “Mount Hum”. TWIABP put out one of the best records of 2015 with their sophomore album, Harmlessness. Closer “Mount Hum” showcases the band at its best, providing an epic, eight-minute bookend to the LP. It takes the listener on a sonic journey through several melodic and tempo changes, with none of them feeling jarring or out of place. Overall, a fantastic track, and one that won’t get old soon.

That’s my list of favourite songs of the year. There were more songs that I enjoyed in 2015, but 40 is probably already too many. What songs did you like in 2015? Let me know in the comments.

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