shaun

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“What really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films — these things matter.”
— High Fidelity

Etcetera

Best Songs of 2015

As I have done for the past two years, in 2015 I resumed my project of publishing Best Songs lists for 35, 30, 25, 20, 15, 10 and 5 years ago, along with a list for this year. My favorite part about this process isn’t so much the end product (though I do love sharing it), but the act of making the lists, for in doing so I am able to discover new artists and new songs along the way.

For lists like this one, created in the year when they are published, everything is new—even those songs from familiar artists. Additionally, this journey to 100 songs is very different from the other lists in another crucial way: rather than assembling a mix of 100 tracks, my lists for the past few years have been culled from playlists nearly double that size.

This means that whereas once I had to scrounge for tunes to include, just to hit that century mark, now I have to make cuts, some of them often quite difficult. In the end, this makes the list maybe more a collection of 100 coherent songs than it does my 100 “best”. Then again, that designation was always kind of arbitrary, so I doubt this new method makes the result any less reasonable.

And yet, it felt like a burden of sorts this year. I kept trying to listen to more and more songs, chasing a pipe dream for a true list of the 100 best of 2015. This completist tendency, if anything, left me with more difficult decisions, and less vested interest in my final 100. The paradox of choice is real, and though I have been preaching Barry Schwartz’s teachings for years, in 2015 it became clear that I still have much to learn myself.

Despite my everlasting, ultimately pointless search for great songs in every nook and cranny of the music world, one thing I did a great job of this year—helped along by that same cursed, ever-growing playlist I padded every week—was to listen to these songs. Often this came at the expense of listening to their attendant albums, but it did mean that, on the whole, I probably engaged more with each of these songs than I did with those of my lists in 2014 and 2013.

At times this also meant shutting myself off from a large chunk of my music collection, so I can safely say that these songs truly represent my music listening year even more than normal. Sure, I discovered old albums and tunes in 2015, but with my massive collection now reaching its logical limits (of physical space, but mostly mental capacity), my attention was largely focused on the year that was, and these songs are the ones that best held that attention.

For these year-end lists, I like to undertake the seemingly impossibly task of creating an hours-long mix. The order you see below represents that effort, which you can listen to via Spotify. Sadly all 100 tracks aren't available, but you get the general idea. Track notes to come eventually or maybe never.

  1. Beauty Behind the Madness

    I Can’t Feel My Face

    The Weeknd

    Beauty Behind the Madness

    Republic

    via the ether

  2. 2.0

    Clean

    Big Data featuring Jamie Lidell

    2.0

    Warner Bros.

    via Rdio New Release browsing

  3. Wildheart

    Waves

    Miguel

    Wildheart

    RCA

    via past experience

  4. The Past, The Present, The Future

    Nobody Wins

    Jodeci featuring B.o.B.

    The Past, The Present, The Future

    Epic

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  5. Uptown Special

    Uptown Funk

    Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

    Uptown Special

    Columbia

    via past experience, the ether

  6. Slip Slide

    Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment

    Surf

    self-released

    via Cody Goins

  7. Rhythm & Reason

    Waterboarded (In Love)

    Bhi Bhiman

    Rhythm & Reason

    BooCoo

    via Mark Baker

  8. In Colour

    I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)

    Jamie xx featuring Young Thug & Popcaan

    In Colour

    Downtown

    via Pitchfork (probably)

  9. Jack U

    Where Are Ü Now

    Skrillex & Diplo featuring Justin Bieber

    Jack Ü

    Mad Decent

    via Charlie Rose

  10. Every Open Eye

    Leave a Trace

    Chvrches

    Every Open Eye

    Glassnote

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  11. White Light

    2Shy

    Shura

    White Light

    Interscope

    via Said the Gramophone

  12. Mind Out Wandering

    No Justice

    Astronauts, etc

    Mind Out Wandering

    Hit City USA

    via Fluxblog

  13. Cool Uncle

    Game Over

    Cool Uncle featuring Mayer Hawthorne

    Cool Uncle

    Fresh Young Minds

    via Stereogum

  14. EP

    Hailslide

    Júníus Meyvant

    EP

    Record Records

    via KEXP

  15. The Album About Nothing

    The Bloom (AG3)

    Wale

    The Album About Nothing

    Atlantic

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  16. Ludaversal

    Not Long

    Ludacris featuring Usher

    Ludaversal

    Def Jam

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  17. Coming Home

    Better Man

    Leon Bridges

    Coming Home

    Columbia

    via past experience

  18. I Could Have Sworn

    New England Crows

    Hamilton Leithauser & Paul Maroon

    I Could Have Sworn

    Leithauser & Leithauser

    via past experience

  19. Yours, Dreamily

    Stay in My Corner

    The Arcs

    Yours, Dreamily,

    Nonesuch

    via past experience

  20. Southland Mission

    Great Tide

    Phil Cook

    Southland Mission

    Thirty Tigers

    via past experience

  21. Don't Lose This

    Somebody Was Watching

    Pops Staples

    Don’t Lose This

    Anti-

    via Aquarium Drunkard

  22. Fresh Blood

    Vision

    Matthew E. White

    Fresh Blood

    Domino

    via past experience, Stereogum

  23. Club Meds

    Vessel

    Dan Mangan + Blacksmith

    Club Meds

    Arts & Crafts

    via KEXP (probably)

  24. Sky City

    NFB

    Amason

    Sky City

    Fairfax

    via Amy Madrigali

  25. Hasta la Raiz

    Hasta la Raíz

    Natalia Lafourcade

    Hasta la Raíz

    RCA

    via Song Exploder

  26. Till It's All Forgotten

    Are You Real?

    Farao

    Till It’s All Forgotten

    Arts & Crafts

    via Mark Baker

  27. Cathedrals

    What’d You Say

    The Go! Team

    The Scene Between

    Memphis Industries

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  28. My Love Is Cool

    Your Love’s Whore

    Wolf Alice

    My Love Is Cool

    RCA

    via KEXP

  29. Feels Like

    Brainfreeze

    Bully

    Feels Like

    Columbia

    via KEXP

  30. High

    Carolina

    Royal Headache

    High

    What’s Your Rupture

    via Cody Goins

  31. The Things We Do

    Hard Luck Kid

    Beach Slang

    The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us

    Polyvinyl

    via Grantland

  32. No Life for Me

    Come Down

    Wavves + Cloud Nothings

    No Life for Me

    Ghost Ramp

    via past experience

  33. No Cities to Love

    A New Wave

    Sleater-Kinney

    No Cities to Love

    Sub Pop

    via past experience

  34. What Went Down

    Mountain at My Gates

    Foals

    What Went Down

    Warner Bros.

    via past experience

  35. Untethered Moon

    Living Zoo

    Built to Spill

    Untethered Moon

    Warner Bros.

    via past experience, Side One Track One

  36. Kintsugi

    The Ghosts of Beverly Drive

    Death Cab for Cutie

    Kintsugi

    Atlantic

    via past experience

  37. Bashful Creatures

    Suicide Saturday

    Hippo Campus

    Bashful Creatures

    Grand Jury Music

    via KEXP

  38. The Helio Sequence

    Stoic Resemblance

    The Helio Sequence

    The Helio Sequence

    Sub Pop

    via past experience

  39. Momentary Masters

    Born Slippy

    Albert Hammond, Jr.

    Momentary Masters

    Vagrant

    via past experience, Side One Track One

  40. Highlights

    Slipping Away

    Tanlines

    Highlights

    True Panther Sounds

    via past experience

  41. Wizards on the Beach

    Summerlong Wave

    Moonbabies

    Wizards on the Beach

    Culture Hero

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  42. Falsework

    Ready to Shine

    Young Galaxy

    Falsework

    Paper Bag

    via past experience

  43. Product 3

    Another Go Round

    Beat Connection

    Product 3

    Anti-

    via past experience

  44. All Possible Futures

    Wild Motion (Set It Free)

    Miami Horror

    All Possible Futures

    Dine Alone

    via KEXP

  45. What For?

    Empty Nesters

    Toro y Moi

    What For?

    Carpark

    via past experience

  46. Dreams

    Dreams

    Beck

    Dreams 12"

    Capitol

    via past experience

  47. Black Magic

    The-Dream

    Crown Jewel

    Capitol

    via past experience, Stereogum

  48. Currents

    Cause I’m a Man

    Tame Impala

    Currents

    Interscope

    via past experience

  49. Multi-Love

    Can’t Keep Checking My Phone

    Unknown Mortal Orchestra

    Multi-Love

    Jagjaguwar

    via past experience

  50. To Pimp a Butterfly

    These Walls

    Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat

    To Pimp a Butterfly

    Top Dawg

    via past experience, Mike Guay

  51. The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam

    Them Changes

    Thundercat

    The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam

    Brainfeeder

    via past experience

  52. Know-It-All

    Here

    Alessia Cara

    Know-It-All

    Def Jam

    via I cannot recall

  53. Unbreakable

    Dammn Baby

    Janet Jackson

    Unbreakable

    Rhythm Nation

    via past experience

  54. Why Make Sense?

    Need You Now

    Hot Chip

    Why Make Sense?

    Domino

    via past experience

  55. All We Are

    Ebb/Flow

    All We Are

    All We Are

    Domino

    via I cannot recall

  56. Born in the Echoes

    Wide Open

    The Chemical Brothers featuring Beck

    Born in the Echoes

    Virgin

    via past experience

  57. Are You Alone?

    Downtown

    Majical Cloudz

    Are You Alone?

    Matador

    via past experience

  58. Eclipse

    I’m Ready

    Twin Shadow

    Eclipse

    Warner Bros.

    via past experience

  59. E•MO•TION

    Run Away With Me

    Carly Rae Jepsen

    E•MO•TION

    Interscope

    via past experience

  60. The Chase

    The Chase

    Future Islands

    The Chase 7"

    4AD

    via past experience, The Late Show

  61. Teenage Talk

    Teenage Talk

    St. Vincent

    Teenage Talk 7"

    Loma Vista

    via past experience

  62. You Confuse Me

    Ian Ball

    A Mixtape from Ben Lee

    self-released

    via past experience

  63. Goon

    The Wait

    Tobias Jesso Jr.

    Goon

    True Panther Sounds

    via Rdio New Release browsing

  64. Sometimes I Sit and Think

    Depreston

    Courtney Barnett

    Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

    Mom and Pop

    via past experience

  65. Range Anxiety

    I Don’t Mind

    Twerps

    Range Anxiety

    Merge

    via Cody Goins

  66. Ivy Tripp

    La Loose

    Waxahatchee

    Ivy Tripp

    Merge

    via past experience

  67. Fast Moving Clouds

    Every Other Sunday

    Sarah Bethe Nelson

    Fast Moving Clouds

    Burger

    via Mark Baker

  68. More Faithful

    Moon in My Mouth

    No Joy

    More Faithful

    Mexican Summer

    via Fluxblog

  69. Painted Shut

    The Knock

    Hop Along

    Painted Shut

    Saddle Creek

    via KEXP

  70. Teens of Style

    Something Soon

    Car Seat Headrest

    Teens of Style

    Matador

    via Side One Track One

  71. All Odds End

    Police My Love

    The Mantles

    All Odds End

    Slumberland

    via past experience

  72. Constant Bop

    Struck Matches

    Bop English

    Constant Bop

    Downtown

    via past experience (White Denim), Side One Track One

  73. Individ

    The Tide

    The Dodos

    Individ

    Polyvinyl

    via past experience

  74. Vieux Loup

    Influence

    The Acorn

    Vieux Loup

    Paper Bag

    via past experience

  75. Ones and Sixes

    What Part of Me

    Low

    Ones and Sixes

    Sub Pop

    via past experience

  76. Many Moons

    Vestiges

    Martin Courtney

    Many Moons

    Domino

    via past experience (Real Estate)

  77. St. Catherine

    Surreal Exposure

    Ducktails

    St. Catherine

    Domino

    via past experience

  78. Return to the Moon

    Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo)

    EL VY

    Return to the Moon

    4AD

    via past experience (The National, Ramona Falls)

  79. Gunnera

    Work for Me

    Pfarmers

    Gunnera

    Jurassic Pop

    via Pitchfork (sorta), past experience (The National, Menomena)

  80. Let It Grow

    Let It Grow

    Maximum Ballon featuring Karen O & Tunde Adebimpe

    Let It Grow digital single

    Federal Prism

    via Pitchfork

  81. Evermotion

    Long Night

    Guster

    Evermotion

    Nettwerk

    via past experience

  82. Sound & Color

    Future People

    Alabama Shakes

    Sound & Color

    ATO

    via past experience

  83. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

    Ship to Wreck

    Florence + The Machine

    How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

    via past experience

  84. Short Movie

    Don’t Let Me Bring You Down

    Laura Marling

    Short Movie

    Ribbon Music

    via past experience

  85. What a Terrible World

    Mistral

    The Decemberists

    What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

    Capitol

    via past experience

  86. Chasing Yesterday

    Riverman

    Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

    Chasing Yesterday

    Sour Mash

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  87. Hey Love

    Time Ain’t Slowing Down for Us

    Hayden

    Hey Love

    Arts & Crafts

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  88. b'lieve i'm goin down

    Wild Imagination

    Kurt Vile

    b’lieve i’m goin down…

    Matador

    via past experience

  89. Vestiges & Claws

    Leaf Off/The Cave

    José González

    Vestiges & Claws

    Mute

    via past experience

  90. Primrose Green

    Primrose Green

    Ryley Walker

    Primrose Green

    Dead Oceans

    via past experience

  91. If I Was

    Steady

    The Staves

    If I Was

    Nonesuch

    via Justin Vernon

  92. Over and Even

    Over and Even

    Joan Shelley

    Over and Even

    No Quarter

    via Mark Baker

  93. Sing Into My Mouth

    God Knows (You Gotta Give to Get)

    Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell

    Sing Into My Mouth

    Black Cricket

    via past experience

  94. Carrie & Lowell

    The Only Thing

    Sufjan Stevens

    Carrie & Lowell

    Asthmatic Kitty

    via past experience

  95. 1989

    All You Had to Do Was Stay

    Ryan Adams

    1989

    Pax-Am

    via past experience

  96. Dark Bird Is Home

    Sagres

    The Tallest Man on Earth

    Dark Bird Is Home

    Jagjaguwar

    via past experience

  97. No No No

    No No No

    Beirut

    No No No

    4AD

    via past experience

  98. Love Is the Great Rebellion

    Goodbye to Yesterday

    Ben Lee

    Love Is the Great Rebellion

    Warner Bros.

    via past experience

  99. The Firewatcher's Daughter

    Wherever Is Your Heart

    Brandi Carlile

    The Firewatcher’s Daughter

    ATO

    via past experience, Rdio New Release browsing

  100. The Age of Adz

    Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home)

    Dave Rawlings Machine

    Nashville Obsolete

    Acony

    via past experience