70. You Ain't Gotta Lie (Momma Said)---Kendrick Lamar
Lamar is no stranger to rapping from the perspectives of folks other than himself, but that doesn't make the bars he rattles through from the prospective of his grandmother any less striking. This is a feel good track on an album more prone to wrestling with complex issues, a laid back jam that invites you to get on its level.
69. Cream on Chrome---Ratatat***
Wait... this song came out in 2015, and not in 2005? Cream on Chrome is the exact kind of instrumental dance floor stomper that Ratatat has become famous for over the last decade plus, but when your aesthetic is this fun, why change?
68. A Knife in the Ocean---Foals
Like much of its parent album What Went Down, Knife's opening minutes are filled to the brim with fraught tension that finally gives way to an absolute explosion. It's no wonder why it serves as album closer; there's not really anywhere else to go after such a bellowing, colossal effort.
67. Double Cross---Blanck Mass***
Speaking of songs with some size, Double Cross positively launches out of the blocks, ramping both volume and intensity up to full power the very second it begins. Benjamin John Power only knows how to make music that sounds enormous, and this one booms from first moment to last.
66. Retriever---The Dodos
There's usually a fairly clear dichotomy between Dodos tracks that aspire to be soft and inviting, and those that want to rock until they blow the speakers out. Retriever manages to split the difference, Meric Long's hushed, unhurried vocals floating atop fiery guitars that eventually win the battle, and take the track with them.
65. Sparks---Beach House
As steeped in hazy dreaminess as any and all Beach House numbers, Sparks manages to stand out by employing a jagged electric guitar to counterbalance the song's billowy backdrop. Alex Scally's six-string has never sounded so urgent or inspired, finally wrestling control of a track from Victoria Legrand's omnipresent organ.
64. My Head Hurts---Wavves***
Nathan Williams might be something of a whiner, but he can sure as hell write a pop song. My Head Hurts feels like a tune you've heard a million times upon first listen, its beyond-basic structure and familiar melodies endearing you to this lovelorn, hungover anthem before you've even encountered the verse.
63. Majorette---Beach House
That crunchy guitar line from Sparks is back again, but this time synthesized much deeper into the mix, throwing a perfect wrench into the song's otherwise ravishingly polished presentation. Cozy and troubled at the very same time, Majorette is yet another grandstanding lo-fi wunderkind from the genre's current champion.
62. In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)---My Morning Jacket***
As welcome a surprise as My Morning Jacket's album-long return to form on The Waterfall proved to be, the existence of In Its Infancy strikes me as the bigger shocker. It's a track that legitimately stands with the best festival-ready enormities that have afforded the rock/country band its lengthy staying power, their first such number in over a decade.
61. Strange Encounter---Father John Misty
A sullen sing-a-long relayed at a woozy, deliberate pace, Strange Encounter finds Josh Tillman leaning hard into his tremendous powers as a storyteller, spinning a yarn about the effect of watching someone unravel right in front of you. As dark as it is beautiful, the song's multi-tracking allows the Father's gorgeous voice to swirl and envelope everything in sight.
60. The Wait---Tobias Jesso Jr.***
What a tiny, delicious little morsel The Wait is. Jesso's lyrics are like something you'd find in the diary of a 14-year-old, but so were the words often penned by his clear inspiration, Paul McCartney. The two have found success with the very same tools; an infallible ear for melody, and a talent with words to which we can all relate.
59. Street Punk---Vince Staples
The coldest, hardest beat on an album defined by its frigid, congealed worldview, Street Punk leans and leers its way into being one of the year's best hip hop songs. This is trash talking, line-in-the-sand marking rap, a warning sign to all those who dare step to one of our finest up-and-coming MC's
58. Institutionalized---Kendrick Lamar
Essentially the polar opposite of the last song on this list, Institutionalized finds Lamar exploring the debate between nature and nurture in unthinkably breezy fashion. With an assist from a mellowed-out Snoop Dogg and varied instrumentation, the track causally explores the near-impossibility of outgrowing your surroundings.
57. Dead Format---Blanck Mass
Insanity, intensity, ruthlessness; these concepts continue to arise as it concerns the art of Benjamin John Power's Blanck Mass side project, and as Dead Format readily attests, it's not without reason. Everything is warped in a manner befitting a psychedelic experience, vocal samples and faux percussion drilling their way into your impressionable brain.
56. Witness---Will Butler
Will Butler's solo debut, Policy, is nothing if not a modest effort, and album closer Witness represents a perfectly calibrated finale to such a record. Steeped with broad verbiage and relentless forward motion, the song concludes the disc on its very highest note, and doesn't mind employing both call-and-response chants and frenzied pace to bring it across.
55. I Love You Honeybear---Father John Misty***
Misty's latest is an album full of ballads, and the title track/opener wastes no time in establishing this identity. Grandstanding in the most self-aware manner possible, it's a song that uses bold gestures to convey simple ideas, applying end-of-the-word stakes to a relationship, and its cleansing, restorative powers.
53. *tie* Should Have Known Better and The Only Thing---Sufjan Stevens***
There are literal decades of evidence that listeners love it when an artist bares their soul, but Sufjan Stevens' Carrie and Lowell accepts this truth as the only thing that could ever truly matter. Like most of the album, the two tracks referenced above make their bones on the simplest of sound worlds imaginable, Stevens using little more than an acoustic guitar to eloquently elaborate on this pair of intensely personal narratives, finally allowing a synth-y line to take hold at the end of the formerly mentioned beauty.
52. Price Tag---Sleater-Kinney
Though No Cities to Love is full of both winners and bangers, I would venture to posit that the album's very finest track is its first. The verses represent a sort of breathless, urgent tension, but even they must bow down to the hard, hulking chorus that serves as the tune's meaty core.
50. *tie* Gibraltar and No No No---Beirut***
There's no denying that I'm kind of on an island in my love of Beirut's new stripped-down aesthetic, so this seems like a perfect place to double down. Gibraltar is one of the most immediately sumptuous, tactile tracks of the year, a minimal amount of disparate elements combining for a fully-realized whole. No No No, on the other hand, is a brazenly basic ditty that would hardly make an impression were it not for its irrepressible ear-worm status, and immediately relatable sentiments.
It's impossible to know whether Stonemilker is actually my favorite Vulnicura song, but the song's status as LP introduction certainly colors my opinion. Violins opine and drums wait their turn on this sumptuous album opener, a wounded, frayed standout on an album with no real shortage of analogous offerings.
48. Throwaways---Beach Slang***
Like everything Beach Slang, Throwaways aims straight for the main vein, bowling ears over with a cascade of crashing ax lines, each glazed with James Alex's softly sharp howls. The song hardly lasts two minutes, and yet allows for a celebratory, wordless second act that ascends to heaven via pure exuberance.
47. Annie---Neon Indian***
Neon Indian's VEGA INTL. Night School is an album full of bold sonic choices, and while its esoteric nature has swung both attention and favor in its direction, I prefer the record at its most basic. Annie is an R&B-tinged pop song if ever there was one, and while I'm certain there are some who prefer Alan Palomo's less accessible material, I delight at hearing him beat Drake at his own game.
46. London Thunder---Foals
Is London Thunder a pint-sized, melody-driven standout, or a bring-the-house-down, cathedral-ready banger? I've probably listened to it a million times, and I still can't make up my mind; it's a 4+ minute journey that makes small talk to the people, and then ascends straight to heaven.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2015
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2015