Thursday, January 5, 2017

Favorite Songs of 2016

The best songs of the worst year.

The running joke is that 2016 was kind of a dick to everyone (except the Chicago Cubs). Culturally, there were quite a few things to scowl at: A plethora of iconic deaths, wars and rumors of wars, election nonsense, a refugee crisis, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria. Some superficial, some not so superficial. It was a rough 12 months for the general public, and it doesn't look to really be getting better.

But the sad and selfish truth is, I had a pretty rough year despite all those things. Some of these hardships I've talked about in public and social media, but I've mostly stayed pretty brief. I lost a job, lost a grandparent, and lost my marriage, which in turn led to the very dissolution of life as I've known it. It's a torture that still plagues me every waking day, and probably will for a long time. On top of that, I've also watched helplessly as some closest to me went through tragedies of their own. Needless to say, my life has been torn apart, and I've spent the better part of the last 6 months picking up the pieces as best I can. Little by little.


All along the way, there were the tunes. The respite found in the comfort of a glorious piece of music never ceases to amaze me. I found catharsis in the mutual heartache of some of my favorite artists of all time this year. Whether it was during the long commutes home from my new job, or buried between my headphones late at night, I shed more tears than I ever have before, with many of the following songs scoring the sorrow.

As a disclaimer, I can't promise this collection of audio nuggets won't depress the hell out of you. Then again, if you're looking for that then by all means, indulge! And if not, don't worry, they aren't all sad sap (just most of them). Rest assured, when the occasional lighthearted number did find its way into lifting my spirits this year, you can bet your ass it deserved recognition on this list.

Anyway. Sorry for the intro. These are the songs that scored one of the most life-altering years of my existence, and the hardest span of time in my life. It felt like they deserved a bit of introducing.

And this year I decided to draw tributes to my Top 5. So those get the juicy presentation below.

Each song links to a video of it when available. Dig in.
Here's the rest if you want: 

25-6   (regular nerd extras)
50-26  (ultra nerd deep cuts)

5\\(L)MIRL\\by Deftones

When Chino starts with "I don't miss you, I don't care where you are now," I get the feeling he doesn't really believe that. He wants it to be true, but he knows it isn't. At least that's what my own experience has taught me. Regardless, the important part is rebirth. He understands there needs to be painful death before glorious resurrection. The song shifts moods from dark and bass driven to skybound and hopeful after declaring "When I reawake, I'll reawake in the waves." Then the chorus dives head first into the waves triumphantly. Already one of the most powerful and melodic tracks in their impressive discography.

4\\I Need a Forest Fire\\by James Blake 
(ft. Justin Vernon)

I didn't think much of this song the first time I heard it. In fact, I almost forgot it existed until I revisited the album months later, with a new perspective. Suddenly the line "I need a forest fire" exploded in my psyche. Burning away the dead and regrowing something better and more fertile from the ashes. And this song takes place in the depths of that realization. It's not exactly a positive discernment, but surely a necessary one. It's not "I think I could use a forest fire..." or "May I have a forest fire?" It's "I NEED A FOREST FIRE." Once again, death is needed for rebirth. Pain is needed for growth. I always thought these two had similar voices, and somehow I never imagined I'd hear them fusing to perfection like this. But I wouldn't mind if they started their own band and kicked my heart in the ass like this now and then.

3\\I Will Love Again\\by Bat For Lashes

The first time I listened to this song in its entirety, I just sat in my car and cried. About everything. It's amazing how perfectly a piece of art can attach to you when you need it most. And usually it just requires being in a certain place to truly catch it. Natasha Khan always has had a flair for the melodramatic, especially on The Bride. But it was this simple, silent whisper of affirmation that stood out miles above the rest of the album and shed some light on the darkest hours of this dark year.

2\\Decks Dark\\by Radiohead

Not to wax blasphemous or anything, but I accidentally made Thom look like Jesus, and somehow that seems very appropriate this year. I ain't even mad. Other songs on this album may have connected to my heartache a little more personally this year, but it was this one's quiet doom and gloom that was the perfect all-encompassing umbrella for the general shit show that was 2016. Thom likens the darkness to a spacecraft blocking out the sky. And there is no escape. "You run to the back and you cover your ears \\ but it's the loudest sound you've ever heard." The truly sad part of this is that he seems completely ambivalent to oblivion. "This dread still covers us \\ You gotta be kidding me \\ the grass grows over me." That's it. It's over. There's no more fight left. This, of course, is all over the top of one of the most gorgeously understated grooves the band has ever produced. Collin Greenwood's bassline rolls right along, just takin' a walk through the dark. It all comes to an end with some wonderfully bluesy piano and Thom whispering "So dark... so dark" into the shadows. "We are helpess to resist \\ in your darkest hour." Couldn't have said it better myself, Thomas.

1\\The Colour In Anything\\by James Blake

Back in 2011, James Blake released my favorite song of that year with "Lindisfarne I/II," barely edging out Radiohead's "Give Up the Ghost." I mentioned that the song (from his debut album) had me eagerly awaiting this young talent's inevitably wonderful career. Little did I know that five years later, Mr. Blake would once again edge out my favorite band of all time to produce a song that could not have channeled my broken soul better had I written it myself. I also didn't expect it would be in the form of a simple piano ballad. Blake is a minimalist master, and as a primarily electronic artist that empty space pulls you in that much more with a song this organic. 

This is a man laying his bleeding heart on the table and lamenting the loss of someone he intended to have forever. But it has to go both ways. At some point you "listen to the sounds" and realize there's nothing more you can offer a person. "You must not be looking \\ you must not be trying like I'm trying." These were emotions that tore me in half. In my life, no pain has been greater than failing to find "the colour in anything" after trying so hard to paint a worthy story together. This song put those emotions to music. Sometimes I wonder if I can even come back to songs like this as the years go on - as the colour comes back. I suppose I'm looking forward to finding out one day. 

Favorite Songs of 2016: 25-6

Each song links to a video of it when available. Dig in.
Here's the rest if you want: 
Top 5

25\\Gasoline and Mirrors\\by Bibio (ft. Wax Stag)"In the sunlight you shimmer \\ like gasoline stains in the wells of rain"Hard to choose a favorite off of this album, but this wonderfully bubbly number builds to some worthy synth-phoria. (That's right, "synth-phoria." I think that's a good thing.)
24\\Gore\\by Deftones

"We lay in the gore of our vices \\ Oh, we writhe in them"

One of the heavier tracks on the album of the same name. The slow motion churn of that grand finale is one of 2016's more epic moments. Seeing it live was pleasantly cell shattering.

23\\FloriDada\\by Animal Collective

"Oh let's go get lost in the image \\ I made of the everywhere place 
I see the lads from Osaka \\ Died in FloriDada"

A welcome moment of euphoric insanity by some of the dudes that do it best. That's about it.

22\\The Changing Man (pt1) While It Still Beats (pt 2)\\by Ray LaMontagne

"So ends the game, so ends the chase \\ There's only one way to get out of this race"

Technically two tracks, but nobody has any business listening to one without the other. This one two punch is one of the most convincing Zeppelin imitations you'll hear. And that's a good thing. Such a good thing.

21\\29 #Strafford APTS\\by Bon Iver

"Threw the meaning out the door (Now could you be a friend) 
There ain't no meaning anymore (Come and kiss me here again)"

Easily one of the most beautiful things Justin Vernon has put to record. I love the vocal presentation here, digital manipulations juxtaposed with a pretty straight forward acoustic ballad. And of course, a gang of sax players dressing it all up. Can't quite tell if it's happy or sad, but it always seemed to fit no matter my mood.

20\\Doomed User\\by Deftones

"I've been scarred \\ Fucking repulsed by this \\ My only tale is one I can't stand
Now I've become torn and I rot and wilt \\ My heart is black and I will never feel"

My buddy Greg says the big difference in our musical tastes lies in the fact that he has hidden sadness and I have hidden anger. And while I wouldn't say "anger" was a prominent component of my trials this year, it's always just below the surface. It sure did help to have a scorcher like this to ignite my soul and channel it now and then.

19\\I Just Can't Stand You Anymore\\by Sleigh Bells

"Sometimes we come out all wrong \\ Cause I was blind half of the time
Paralyzed, the fault is mine"

Despite what it seems, this song wasn't necessarily a thematic anthem for me as much as I just think its a near perfect pop/rock beast. Alexis Krauss has never sounded better, and Derek Miller's guitars blaze to glory with perfection. They still got it, and that makes me happy.

18\\Are You a Dancer?\\by Mogwai
Another delicately constructed instrumental gem by the band. Found myself closing my eyes in somber meditation quite a bit to this one.

17\\Identikit\\by Radiohead

"When I see you messing me around \\ I don't want to know \\ I don't want to know"

A song I first heard years ago as a live bootleg (and subsequently in concert in 2012), the studio version immediately stood out as an early highlight. It's minimal groove and offbeat tempo is so choice. And Thom's manic wailing of "Broken hearts make it rain" hits home every time.

16\\Chronolorado\\by Mesita

"All the time we spent here doesn't really matter 
All that we went through here has been lost forever"

A beautifully heartbroken tune I related to all too well on occasion. It's that final repeat of the line "Keep on carrying on" that brings it out of hopelessness. For those times you find yourself hanging in there, even when you're not sure you have it in you anymore.

15\\Your Best American Girl\\by Mitski

"Your mother wouldn't approve of how my mother raised me \\ But I do, I finally do"

The best Smashing Pumpkins song to come out since Silversun Pickups "Lazy Eye" (just kidding, Billy, I loved Oceania). A simple but poignant song about trying to overcome different backgrounds and cultures to find love. It doesn't seem to workout in the tune, but half-Japanese singer/songwriter Mitski Miyawaki embraces her roots by eventually admitting she "finally" approves of how her "mother raised her." Your loss, white boy.

14\\Moth Into the Flame\\by Metallica

"Guarantee your name, you go and kill yourself  \\ The vultures feast around you still 
Overdose on shame and insecurity \\ If one won't do, that fistfull will"

This is the kind of song Metallica built their career on. And somehow it doesn't seem like a front for these mega-rich old dudes in one of the biggest bands of all time to light up the fame monster that plagues our American youth culture. These dudes have been around the block, and prove they still got it with this face-melter.

13\\Daydreaming\\by Radiohead

"This goes \\ Beyond me \\ Beyond you"

Is it about a failed relationship? Is it about climate change? Probably both. It's Thom Yorke, so your guess is as good as mine. But this dreary and tired lament hit me right where it needed to. When Thom's warped voice melts into Johnny's haunted strings, you can almost hear the sound of being too tired to fight anymore.

12\\In My Own Way\\by Ray LaMontagne

"All the plans \\ That were made \\ Let them die \\ Let them fade
I'll spend the day in my own way"

One of the few songs that could soothe my tortured soul this year. Doesn't mean I didn't break down listening to it. But it was a quiet reminder to take time for myself and let the troubles fade, however long it takes.

"Well I'll wrap you up \\ And I take it by the touch \\ Darlin', don't a failure fright"

I think I'm on an island with this being my favorite tune on Bon Iver's superb 22, a million. And I get it, definitely not the most digestible morsel on the album. It isn't the prettiest, in fact it may be the ugliest. But I think that's why I like it. The first time I heard it my eyebrows went up and I thought, "Woah..." And that doesn't happen a ton these days. In fact, until that moment, I had almost given up on Justin Vernon (he'd been gone awhile, and the luster of his last album had faded quite a bit for me). But this tune renewed my faith and excitement for the artist, and still puts a little death in my breast (By the way..."Beth/Rest"..."deathbreast".... get it?). Anyway, mad props.

10\\True Love Waits\\by Radiohead

"I'm not living \\ I'm just killing time \\ Your tiny hands \\ your crazy-kitten smile
Just don't leave \\ Don't leave"

This song has already been bringing me to tears for years as a live fan favorite, but its surprise studio resurrection as the melted piano closer of A Moon Shaped Pool was a heart-wrenching godsend, especially with the personal heartbreak Thom brought to the album. The stripped comparison to an already well-known fan favorite solidified the record's aura of exhausted sadness with a quiet sigh. Suddenly an old plea took new meaning, youthful fears became aged reality. I had the chance to see it live just as my own emotions began to unravel this year. I watched in silence, mesmerized and heartbroken, with tears in my eyes once again. Right then, I connected with my favorite musician of all time more than I ever have before.

9\\New Song\\by Warpaint

"You are the sun, you are the sun \\ That leads me babe, to where I belong
Where I come from \\ Because of you, I know where I belong"

Did I mention I had a rough year? Well, it wasn't entirely bad. Out of a lot of pain I was able to explore my place in life with the help of some very special people. In fact, one in particular has gone out of her way to "lead me back to where I belong." And just like that, this righteously groovy tune by Warpaint brought me to tears in some very unexpected ways. It's fun, it's inspiring, it's redemptive. It's a new song, baby.

8\\Vertigo Flowers\\by Nothing

"Watch out for those \\ Who dare to say \\ That everything \\ Will be okay"

A dark melancholy sits above the entirety of Nothing's Tired of Tomorrow, and there's no exception here. Euphoric, fuzzy guitars shoegaze their way through a lyric of discontent: it's a simple song that seems to be about not being satisfied with outside attempts to lift your spirits. Sometimes nothing anyone can say will help, despite the best of intentions. Sometimes the onslaught of flowers makes you dizzy. Sometimes you just want to be left alone with your sadness. And sometimes that's a good thing.

7\\Tongue Tied\\by Shura

"I love that we're different \\ You got something that I'm missing
You keep playing so cool \\ Wish I could be like you"

This is the third year in a row Shura has made my list, as she's been releasing singles for Nothing's Real for a few years now. In fact, that's the only reason two or three more songs of hers didn't appear, because they actually already did. This might be the best of the bunch, though. It's a straight forward pop song about two people overcoming insecurities to connect with each other. The chorus kicks it up a notch with shimmering synths and a plea to "Just say that you want me." It's more out of a fear to admit it herself, rather than a declaration of impatience. As if to say, "I think I like you but... YOU SAY IT FIRST!" By the numbers, pure pop bliss.

6\\Present Tense\\by Radiohead

"As my world \\ Comes crashing down \\ I'll be dancing 
Freaking out \\ Deaf, dumb, and blind"

Radiohead made songs just for me this year. When it hit me just how close to home this was, I was a bit overwhelmed. In fact, I was almost anxious to see it live when I finally did. To me, it's a song of avoidance. Of denial. The disbelief as everything is falling apart right before your eyes. "This dance is like a weapon of self defense against the present tense," Thom sings, recognizing his own inability to sit still and accept fate. "Keep it light, keep it moving, I'm doing no harm," he continues. But there's also the insistence that there's no going back - "I won't turn around when the penny drops, I won't stop now." He knows it has to be this way. This is the present he faces, even if he insists on facing it "deaf, dumb, and blind" just to survive. It's a song that hits me on a level too deep to truly divulge. It's still hard to listen to. But it's also incredible. And that's Radiohead for you.

Top 5

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite Songs of 2016: 50-26

Each song links to a video of it when available. Dig in.
(Cheat and go straight to the Top 25)

50\\Under the Sun\\by DIIV

49\\Lazarus\\by David Bowie

48\\Dream No More\\by Metallica

47\\Golden Gal\\by Animal Collective

46\\Bitterness Centrifuge\\by Mogwai

45\\Eaten By Worms\\by Nothing

44\\Never Ever\\by STRFKR

43\\Sweet Relief\\by Kimbra

42\\Song About Me\\by TV Girl

41\\Weep\\by Magik*Magik

40\\Hum\\by Eerie Wanda

39\\Can't Be Guilty\\by The Radio Dept.

38\\Minor Justice\\by Flock of Dimes

37\\Beyond the Moon for Someone In Reverse\\by Eluvium

36\\Xenon\\by Deftones

35\\No\\by Nicolas Jaar

34\\Got It Good \\by Kaytranada (feat. Craig David)

33\\Nineteen Ninety Heaven\\by Nothing

32\\All Out In the Open\\by Mesita

31\\It's Just Us Now\\by Sleigh Bells

30\\Modern Soul\\by James Blake

29\\Atlas, Rise!\\by Metallica

28\\Confessions Pt. II\\by BADBADNOTGOOD (feat. Colin Stetson)

27\\Ether\\by Mogwai

26\\Always \\by James Blake

(Continue to the Top 25)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Favorite Songs of 2015: 50-26

Well, here come my favorite songs again.

This year was chock full of tunes that really kicked me in the feel-goods. And lots of Beach House. I can't remember the last time I had such a hard time narrowing down what songs I should include. Which is interesting, because from an album perspective this wasn't the most impressive year to me. But individual songs kicked all sorts of azz.

I mentioned Beach House. You'll notice they've got quite a few tunes here. That's what happens when you put out two FANTASTIC albums in a year. Some of you duders may not like when an artist has multiple entries on a list like this, but...I list what I truly loved. So suck it.

That's about all I have to say about it I suppose.

Each song links to a video of it. Dig in.
(Here's the rest if you want: Top 25)

50\\Scream\\by Grimes ft. Aristophanes

49\\Cool for the Summer\\by Demi Lovato

48\\Moaning Lisa Smile\\by Wolf Alice

47\\Coffee\\by Miguel

46\\Echoes of Rain\\by Enya

45\\Stratosphere\\by Mutemath

44\\Mr. Noah\\by Panda Bear

43\\Third Day of a Seven Day Binge\\by Marilyn Manson

42\\61 Cygni Ave\\by Neon Indian

41\\The Right Stuff\\by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

40\\I Really Like You\\by Carly Rae Jepsen

39\\Cause I'm a Man, Woman\\by Tame Impala

38\\Annie\\by Neon Indian

37\\Going On 16\\by Daniel Johns

36\\The Game\\by Priest

35\\PPP\\by Beach House

34\\One Thing\\by Beach House

33\\Empty Nesters\\by Toro y Moi

32\\Run Away With Me\\by Carly Rae Jepsen

31\\Preach\\by Daniel Johns

30\\Space Song\\by Beach House

29\\Monument\\by Mutemath

28\\Indecision\\by Shura

27\\Tropic of Cancer\\by Panda Bear

26\\Cranekiss\\by Tamaryn

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 25 Songs of 2015

Well, here come my favorite songs again.

This year was chock full of tunes that really kicked me in the feel-goods. And lots of Beach House. I can't remember the last time I had such a hard time narrowing down what songs I should include. Which is interesting, because from an album perspective this wasn't the most impressive year to me. But individual songs kicked all sorts of azz.

I mentioned Beach House. You'll notice they've got quite a few tunes here. That's what happens when you put out two FANTASTIC albums in a year. Some of you duders may not like when an artist has multiple entries on a list like this, but...I list what I truly loved. So suck it.

That's about all I have to say about it I suppose.

Each song links to a video of it. Dig in.
(Here's the rest if you want: 50-26)

25\\Want to Want Me\\by Jason Derulo
I was actually a little mad at how much I liked this song when I first heard it. How dare Jason Derulo make such a sugary sweet throwback nugget! And when he hits them high notes? It's just too much. I give up.
24\\Ewok\\by Kidkanevil ft. Ocean Wisdom
Kidkanevil came out of nowhere to provide some of my favorite music last year after I found his album in the Tokyo Tower Records. I've been following his moves since then, and was blessed with this rambunctious number. I know nothing about Ocean Wisdom, but his raps over this nasty beat managed to impress in a year full of impressive rap. Plus, Star Wars.

23\\Dear Skorpio Magazine\\by Neon Indian
In an album full of Sega Genesis grooves, this one was surely the most funky. Sneaky sly lyrics, and them shimmery synths make for a helluva good time. I think I'll go play me some Sonic the Hedgehog now.

22\\In the Heat of the Moment\\by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Uncle Noel always seems to hit me where it counts. A prime example of the elder Gallagher's melodic prowess and straight forward goodness, this one just rolls right along like it's existed forever. And his voice has rarely sounded better. Another notch on the man's belt, for sure.

21\\Stonemilker\\by Bjork
It's kind of hard to single out one track on the heart-wrenching Vulnicura. But if any of them deserve props it has to be this soul melting opening track. "Moments of clarity are so rare, I better document this" she sings, and as an introduction it perfectly sets up the story she's about to tell throughout the album, thematically and aesthetically. Those strings, that restrained beat, and that legendary VOICE. It's one of the most beautiful things she's done in a career full of beautiful things.

20\\What Do You Mean\\by Justin Bieber
Back in the day, I was known to enjoy a Bieb tune or two (especially when I thought it was Taylor Swift singing. Oh how things have changed!). Innocent pop, I thought. But nothing could have prepared me for how much I really did enjoy this one when it dropped. Suddenly I heard a little Timberlake in there and for a moment I allowed myself to think, "Is this actually good??" Yes. Yes it is. Very good. The album it came from was even decent, even if it didn't quite match the goodness from this single. Also, anyone else think Mario Cart when those flutes come in? No?

19\\Sleep Sound\\by Jamie xx
Oh how I wish the entirety of In Colour was as flawless as the first few tracks. For some reason it just wasn't so for me. But hot damn do those opening bangers bang. What gets me with this one is the bass. It is lovely hearing it go up and down in some nice headphones. Hard to beat that. Also, this was my New York theme song when I visited over the summer. Just seemed to fit the buzz of the city. Good stuff.

18\\Your Loves Whore\\by Wolf Alice
Nothing said "The 90's" quite like Wolf Alice this year. What a lovely, fuzzy alt-ballad this one is. It grooves along rather smoothly for most of the track, but when it lets loose for the finale and that ending line of "I could only love you more" soars through the air, it's one of the most euphoric moments of the 2015. Gives me goosebumps every time.

17\\Somewhere Tonight\\by Beach House
I'm fairly vocal about my love of Victoria's angelic sighs. But I dare say she has never sounded better than she does in this dreamy waltz. This is easily the best closing track they've done as a group, and certainly the best closer of the year in my book. All albums should strive to end with such perfection.

16\\Fourth of July\\by Sufjan Stevens
There is no shortage of heartbreakers on Carrie & Lowell, but this one certainly goes for the gut more directly than the others. Set up as a conversation between Suf and his mother's ghost, the whole thing is soaked in an eerie sadness. Every line ends with a pleading term of endearment (the best of which is "my little Versailles"), and it's certainly hard not to feel the punch of every repeated "We're all gonna die," especially as the final one signals an abrupt and unsettling end to the song.

15\\Small Poppies\\by Courtney Barnett
That first opening strum had me. And though it goes on for just a second under the 7 minute mark, not a single moment is wasted. The bluesy guitars grow in intensity and Courtney lays her hazy words over the top effortlessly. There's a moment her voice cracks early on as she sings "but I'm suuuuuure it's a bore being you." It's a righteous dig and perfectly flawed. Just like the song.

14\\Boys Latin\\by Panda Bear
There's not much to the lyrics. But it doesn't matter, they're just a vehicle for the melody anyway. Noah Lennox is no stranger to a lush construction of sound. His music is consistently some most sonically rewarding in existence. But "Boys Latin" accents just how vital his voice is to what he does as it bounces back and forth, right to left, and all around your head. One of my favorites in an impressive career.

13\\Rough Song\\by Beach House
There's a line in which Victoria sings "Shut the door, she'll have no more, another vodka cocktail party" right with the melody of her organ. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I realized she wasn't actually saying "mother f$#@in' cocktail party." Something about a sharp lyrical jab like that from Victoria just seemed perfect. But, thankfully the rest of the song brings an appropriately sharp emotional brevity that lends itself to the line regardless. One of the darker ("rough?") songs of their catalog. And as a result, the best track on a nearly perfect album.

12\\We Are Golden\\by Daniel Johns
Before this year, I never quite imagined I'd ever hear Daniel singing over such a thumping beat. But hearing it makes total sense. It's also fun and refreshing to hear a more straightforward approach to his lyrics. In other words, the fact that Daniel Johns made such a perfect synth-pop dancehall banger like this is simultaneously surprising and not surprising at all. What else could I have expected from one of my favorite artists of all time?

11\\The Less I Know the Better\\by Tame Impala
(Kind of an EXPLICIT video in the link, be warned).
Perfectly capturing the ache of seeing a former lover with someone else and the delusion that one day they'll see the folly of their ways and come crawling back. Anyone who's ever messed with the game of love can relate to it. So the song already has that going for it. But it certainly helps that it's spread over a tasty bass line.

10\\Lean On\\by Major Lazer & DJ Snake ft. MO
I have to give full credit to my wife for this one. I dislike Diplo as a human usually, so I'm not normally keen on caring about anything Major Lazer related. But, when your wife blasts it on her bluetooth speaker on a near daily basis for awhile, it sneaks up on you. Then all it took was hearing it on some huge speakers at an outside event, and I was hooked. Little by little this earworm grew until it breached my top ten. It's a perfect pop nugget, and my favorite mainstream tune of the year.

9\\Waking the Jetstream\\by The Go! Team
Another flawlessly executed pop gem from The Go! Team. Sometimes I wonder where they dig these out. So simple, so old school yet so contemporary. About as timeless as a pop song can be and full of a nostalgia you didn't know existed. Back in 2011 they put out one of my favorite songs of the decade in "Buy Nothing Day," and "Waking the Jetstream" nearly matches that perfection on every level.

8\\Genocide\\by Dr Dre ft. Kendrick Lamar, Marsha Ambrosius, Candice Pillay
(Sorry, guys, no link. Dre wants you to subscribe to Apple Music.)
Can't remember the last time a hip-hop track scored so high on my year end lists (might have been "Still D.R.E." actually). But the first time I heard this one wasn't too long after a trip to California where my buddy Greg and I went on an evening drive to LA. Dre captured the feel of that drive in this sliding, nasty groove. Another song that hearkens to the old days while still sounding appropriately modern. And while Dre isn't necessarily known for his rapping as much as his beats, he stands up with best-rapper-in-the-world Kendrick verse for verse. But my favorite part? The soulful acapella break towards the end, just after Kendrick melts our faces with a "f@#$ your ___" screed to make yo' momma cry.

7\\Stillbirth\\by Alice Glass
Fresh off a not so friendly split with Crystal Castles, and Alice Glass sounds PIIIIIISSED. A response to the abuse of that relationship, and abuse in general, it is pure audio vitriol. I was a mild fan of Crystal Castles, but this tune blows away anything I've ever heard from that project. Alice's voice sits on top of the mix just enough to properly emote, and the song is all the better for it. A month or two ago, I sat in a waiting room blasting this song on my headphones and I think I scared the bloomers off an old couple near me. I turned it down to be polite, but I smiled at the accomplishment.

6\\Sparks\\by Beach House
I did not like this song when I first heard it. Which really disappointed me. The off-pitch organs were just too much for me. But when the album dropped and I heard it in context, something clicked. "Just like a spark." Those organs suddenly served to enhance the soaring beauty of the rest of it. Alex Scally does one of the better My Bloody Valentine impressions in awhile, and Victoria gives us a hazy but almost hopeful vision as her lyrics move through the dark and into the light. "Just like a spark."

5\\Should Have Known Better\\by Sufjan Stevens

Few things are as painful as regret. "Should have's" abound in this tune. But there is a a line of hope in this song that gets my eyes misty almost every time. I read in an interview that Sufjan's experiences with his mother led him to think he would never want to have children. He didn't have a lot of faith in the parent/child dynamic, after all. But in the second half of the song, he repeats the line "My brother had a daughter, the beauty that she brings, illumination." That same interview spoke of how seeing his brother with his own child renewed his faith in such things. It's that glimmer of hope that stands out to me on this one.

4\\Surrender\\by Daniel Johns
When Daniel Johns first started sharing his first new music in 8 years, I'm not quite sure what I expected. Something along the lines of St. Vincent's "Birth In Reverse" would've made sense to me after Silverchair. But what we got instead were a few morsels of silky post-R&B goodness like this. "Surrender" was the third track he shared from the Aerial Love EP, a sampling of what to expect on his first full-length, Talk. And though I was pleasantly surprised by the first two offerings, it was this one that truly had me spinning. Soulful and smoove, groovy and chill. It was hard to believe this was the same person. Of course, Talk itself ended up being pretty fantastic. But it was this non-album first dose that stuck with me most throughout the year. Welcome back, Dan.

3\\Let It Happen\\by Tame Impala
I know the word "epic" gets thrown around way too much, it is. One of the most immaculately produced tracks on one of the most immaculately produced albums of the year. The whole thing sounds like blasting through a portal into the unknown. Knowing that Currents is essentially a breakup album, "Let It Happen" comes off as a bit of a mantra, opening the album with a declaration of survival. "I will not vanish and you will not scare me" he sings.  The layers and the grooves build until the only obvious bit of guitar on the whole album shines through like a battle cry, giving us one of the very best musical moments of the year. "Maybe I was ready all along" he repeats to the end. It's grand, it's inspiring, and yes... it's epic.

2\\Eugene\\by Sufjan Stevens
This song is a hymn. A subtle, honest reflection of the soul and small memories of summers in Eugene, Oregon. It's not all sad, mentions of a swim teacher calling Sufjan "Subaru" always makes me chuckle. But every line of "I just want to be near you" breaks my heart. Within its short length, we hear moments of nostalgia, sadness, doubt, fear, loneliness, regret, and praying to what he cannot see. This is a man I've never met, I don't know anything about him other than what I've read online or heard in interviews. And yet, every time I hear "Eugene," I want to cry right along with him. That's rare for me in music, to be so emotionally affected. And it's even more heartbreaking to hear that last line, and know we're not his intended audience: "What's the point of singing songs, if they'll never even hear you?"

1\\Gosh\\by Jamie xx
It starts pretty plainly. "Nothing too fancy about this thing..." I thought. For about two minutes you're wondering if this will go anywhere. And suddenly it does. The bass rumbles in, and a high pitched squeal drops from the sky like a meteor. And what initially seemed pretty plain and eventless slowly morphs into the most eventful thing all year. Suddenly you can see the cosmos. You can feel humanity. You can dance with God. Or is it "Gosh?" Suddenly a word to censor perceived blasphemy takes on a new meaning. "Oh my gosh! Easy, easy!" chants the samples. Apart from the out of body experience, my first thought upon hearing this tune was that I wanted to see it live. It's certainly rare that an electronic song can evoke such a reaction. But "Gosh" comes across as very alive, very organic, and very communal. When I hear it, I want nothing more than to join mankind in unified bliss and dance the night away. If you're gonna sample that link, do me a favor and make sure your headphones and/or speakers are worthy. Forever and ever, amen. May Gosh bless you.