Topher’s Top 100 Tracks of 2015
2015 was an interesting year in general, but particularly for my musical tastes. While I’m still partial to all forms of rock and alternative, this year saw me opening up to more popular artists, a la Top 40 material, but also in hip-hop and rap. Disclaimer: while I obviously try to stick with releases from 2015, there are a few singles on here from forthcoming projects slated for release sometime in early 2016.
36. Drake – “Back to Back”
32. Pop Evil – “Dead in the Water”
25. Son Lux – “You Don’t Know Me”
The dirty-sounding electronics pair well with Lott’s vocals and the instrumentation from the other 2/3 of the group. “You Don’t Know Me” is a standout from perhaps the act’s best effort yet.
24. Madcon – “Don’t Worry”
When I first heard the funky new single from Norwegian hip hop duo Madcon this summer, I instantly thought it was going to strike gold on the charts. A feel-good disco tune featuring Ray Dalton on the chorus? Why wouldn’t it? Yet, several months later, it still hasn’t caught on here in the States, which is a darn shame as far as I’m concerned.
23. Skylar Grey – “Cannonball”
Co-written with and featuring X Ambassadors, in some ways “Cannonball” feels more like their own song than Skylar Grey’s. Nevertheless, Grey is sure to leave her mark, as the bouncy pop song with a thumping bassline showcases a folksy guitar part that holds everything together.
22. The Weeknd – “Tell Your Friends”
Before Kanye West was well-known as a rapper, he was a notable producer. “Tell Your Friends” sees him returning in part to that original role, and doing it well. This smooth lounge chart from The Weeknd can be attributed in some ways to the sampling of Soul Dog’s “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.”
21. Wolf Alice – “Freazy”
Wolf Alice took over alternative radio earlier this year with their hit “Moaning Lisa Smile,” but their newest single is post-punk at its finest. The simplistic yet infectious groove from the rhythm section is what really pushes “Freazy” over the top.
20. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
Kendrick Lamar is among the few rappers who speaks on the important issues in the world, and “Alright” is just one example of that. The saxophone-laden jazz beat is the perfect musical backdrop for Lamar’s riveting social commentary.
19. twenty one pilots – “Stressed Out”
“Stressed Out” is one of the reasons why twenty one pilots is so well-known. The musical “fun” of the keys and drums together perfectly offsets the somber, more reflective lyrical message of growing up.
18. 10 Years – “Miscellanea”
Whether you call the style of music they play “heavy rock,” “alternative metal,” or something else, 10 Years has proven time and time again that they are one of the best at what they do. The head-banging lead single from their latest full-length packs an unmistakable punch, but it’s the recurring piano part that sets “Miscellanea” apart from its modern rock counterparts.
17. Death Therapy – “Possessed”
It’s been a few years since Jason Wisdom stepped down as frontman for Becoming the Archetype. Since his departure, the band ventured into the “core” realm before seemingly stopping altogether, while Wisdom has stayed true to his death metal roots. The latest proof of this is Death Therapy, the solo project with only bass and drums providing the music to go along with Wisdom’s signature gutturals.
16. Mumford & Sons – “The Wolf”
When people found out that Mumford & Sons were going electric, they flipped out. But despite what the snobs who think “they’re too radio-friendly now” say, Wilder Mind is a fantastic effort from the Brits, and one of the album’s highlights is its second single, “The Wolf,” a full-blown rocker and one of its edgier moments.
15. Enter Shikari – “Anaesthetist”
Enter Shikari holds nothing back on “Anaesthetist,” an aggressive jam with finely-incorporated electronic elements thrown in. The song is exactly what post-hardcore should sound like, despite much of that style not even coming close to meeting this standard.
14. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
If any song from Beauty Behind the Madness can make the “Michael Jackson 2.0” argument, it would be “Can’t Feel My Face,” where Abel Tesfaye’s vocals sound very much like the King of Pop. Add to that a fun beat and it’s no wonder why this single was the hit of the summer.
13. Coheed and Cambria – “Eraser”
Though many Coheed fans have already expressed their concerns with the band ditching the concept album, the driving rock of The Color Before The Sun‘s second single is undeniable. There’s an edge to “Eraser” that makes it one of the record’s standouts.
12. Lamb of God – “Embers”
Heavy metal titans Lamb of God dominate on “Embers,” a powerful song that sounds great as it is, until the bridge comes in, at which point Chino Moreno steps up to the microphone. His signature crooning in conjunction with the preexisting brutality rockets an already-great song into a whole other stratosphere.
11. The Prodigy – “The Day is My Enemy”
“The Day Is My Enemy” is industrial music at its nastiest. Though the entire album from The Prodigy is fantastic, it’s the title track that stands out from the rest of the pack.
10. Brandon Flowers – “Can’t Deny My Love”
The frontman of The Killers is back with his second solo album, which released back in May. One part synthpop and another adult contemporary, the lead single “Can’t Deny My Love” is in a weird spot; it’s accessible enough to land on alternative radio, but isn’t quite Top 40 material. Then again, the gems from Top 40 are few and far between, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
9. twenty one pilots – “Fairly Local”
It was a struggle for me to decide whether I liked this or “Stressed Out” better, as can probably be seen by how close together they are in this list, but “Fairly Local” gets the slight edge because of how different it is. As Tyler Joseph proclaims in the song’s bridge, “this song will never be on the radio,” and with good reason. The alternative hip-hop banger isn’t your typical lead single, and that’s what makes it so great.
8. Skyharbor – “Blind Side”
Prog.-metallers Skyharbor returned with a new frontman earlier this year, and while their first single with Eric Emery, “Out of Time,” is solid on its own, its successor blows all of their previous material out of the water. You can thank the pummeling bassline and soaring chorus for that.
7. Modest Mouse – “Of Course We Know”
Modest Mouse has released several singles from their latest effort, Strangers to Ourselves, but none of them are quite as good as the phenomenal album closer. The visceral slow-burner is held together by a repetitive but effective piano line.
6. Tame Impala – “Let it Happen”
At nearly 8 minutes long, the opener from Currents isn’t just a track on a record; it’s a journey. The psychedelic feel is extremely evident throughout, and the musical trip of sorts never stops evolving.
5. Ghost – “From the Pinnacle to the Pit”
Heavy metal’s finest occultists have done it again with their third full-length Meliora. Instrumentally speaking, “From the Pinnacle to the Pit” is massive in every sense of the word, while Papa Emeritus III provides a powerful vocal performance to go along with the metal.
4. Mini Mansions – “Vertigo”
The Great Pretenders is one of the best releases from this entire year, so it’s no surprise that the best song from one of 2015’s best albums made this list. The groovy bassline and haunting keys give “Vertigo” an eerie “after dark” feel that the guest vocalist, Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, only adds to.
3. P.O.D. – “Rise of NWO”
As much as my musical palate has expanded over the past year, I still have no problem getting down to my long-time favorite band, P.O.D. “Rise of NWO” likely won’t be released as a single, but it should be. Marcos Curiel’s guitars in the verses are the perfect companion to Sonny Sandoval’s rapping, and the nasty riff in the chorus gives this song a unique aggression otherwise not found on The Awakening.
2. Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker the Berry”
Also among the best releases all year is Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece, and while every song from To Pimp a Butterfly is phenomenal in its own right, “The Blacker the Berry” is the perfect song for this year. From the opening “I’m the biggest hypocrite in 2015” through the hard-hitting verses to the reggae chorus and everything in between, the second single from Kendrick’s latest can’t be beat.
1. Refused – “Elektra”
What did I say about nothing topping “The Blacker the Berry?” Sorry, I lied just a little bit there, but can you really blame me? Arguably the greatest hardcore punk band of their time returned this year, and oh was it glorious. The opening track from Freedom is everything we missed about Refused and then some. The fast-paced foot-stomper is nothing short of amazing, and the half-time feel is the perfect backing for frontman Dennis Lyxzén’s melodic screams in the chorus.
Feel free to let me know what you think of my top 100 tracks in the comments below. I’d love to hear some more input regarding the year in music!