Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best of 2015: Songs

Well, well, here we are again. Better late than never, right? It's time for me to count down my top 10 songs of 2015!

I did something this year that I've failed to do in previous years, and it ended up being really helpful: in January, I created a playlist that said "Best of 2015" and I added songs to it gradually, over the year. Obviously you need to be pretty confident in your song selections if you're going to go this route, though you could also add more than 10 songs and pare them down at the end of the year. But I'm apparently really good at this sort of thing, and I ended up with ten songs I loved and didn't have to pare anything down. It was such a relief to not have to go combing through my archives to find songs I loved but didn't write down, or something. I'll definitely use this method in the future.

A lot of good albums came out this year. My album of the year is definitely The Wombats' Glitterbug, an incredible achievement of disco-electro-fucking perfection. But there have been a lot of other albums I've listened to a lot, as well. There have even been albums that were great, but a song didn't particularly stand out enough to make it onto this list (Best Coast - California Nights comes to mind, along with Grimes' Art Angels).

I focused on a lot of stuff other than music this year, in my own life, and I think that's why I feel less emotionally attached (overall) to this list than I have in years past. These are still all great songs and they are all songs I've loved to death this year, so take a listen! Maybe you'll find something you like.


1. The Wombats — Give Me A Try

It is no surprise that The Wombats are one of my favorite bands. Ever since I discovered them on last.fm radio in 2008, they've been one of those bands who can do no wrong for me, ever. I know every single one of their songs, can sing along with every one of their songs in concert, and they touch parts of my heart and soul that no other band can. I love them so much even though I've largely abandoned my love for indie rock, and they are a band who has never sold out over the years, never evolved in a way that wasn't conducive with my own evolution, never strayed from the same path I've been on. It's a band match made in heaven, really. But on to this song, one from their perfect 2015 release, Glitterbug. Every single time I listen to this song, I feel a euphoria that I otherwise rarely, if ever, feel. It's one of those songs that hits every pleasure button, almost like being on drugs (sorry mom!). It's so beautiful in every way and on an album full of highlights, this one still stands out.

We could be gigantic, everything I need
Vicodin on Sunday nights
This could be worth the risk, worth the guarantee
This could be the drug that doesn't bite
Just give me a try

2. Torul — All

Torul is a synthpop band out of Slovenia. I first began hearing this song on Sanctuary Radio last year, but was unable to get it on an album until this year. Like every other song on this list, there's just something about it that makes my heart swell, something that sticks with me. It has touches of other bands you might love, and if you love synthpop -- popular synthpop -- you will like this, too. I encourage you to give it a listen, because if you love it then you'll love a Slovenian band, and that's really cool, right? Thank goodness for the internet and for Sanctuary Radio.

3. Belle & Sebastian — Enter Sylvia Plath

I had just seen Belle & Sebastian again around the time this album came out. I am typically more a fan of their live shows than I am of their albums, but this song stood out to me immediately upon listening to the album, and not just because it name checks one of my favorite poets, Sylvia Plath. It also has some synth action, and that is really awesome, because this band does not often go that direction, and this year has pretty much been the year of the synth for me. This is a great song, and it's a great way to introduce yourself to Belle & Sebastian if you aren't into them already.

Boy, you don’t know what you want
It isn't what you think it is
All the dreams, and guilt and loneliness, loneliness
Boy, if we were to be friends
Subtle is the art required
To draw the evil from this lonely pyre, lonely pyre

4. Blur — My Terracotta Heart

OK, so, first things first: I love Blur, and I have for about ten years now. It's a very emotional thing for me, my relationship with this band. They haven't been my #1 band for years, but it's like any kind of relationship where you still feel like you're sort of in love with them, even though you haven't been together in a long time. And speaking of emotions, these guys have a lot of emotions for and with each other. Back in the day, I knew about the intense friendship between Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon, and the awful falling out they had, which was rumored to be the subject of the heartbreaking song "Battery in Your Leg" off of 2003's Think Tank. Interestingly, time seems to have brought perspective and a lot of open emotions to this friendship, which is decidedly back on (and thank goodness for that!). "My Terracotta Heart," off of Blur's new album, The Magic Whip, is new Blur at its best. It is also a song that both Damon and Graham say is about their relationship, which as you might imagine, makes my heart go pitter-pat! And it's such a vulnerable, raw song. It makes me so happy and sad to listen to it.

I was running out of heart that day
I was running out of open road to you and I know
I was emoted, I was dazed
Is there something broke inside me
'Cause at the moment I'm lost and feeling that I don't know
If I'm losing you again


5. Grimes — REALiti (Demo)

I really love Grimes, and her new album, Art Angels, is fantastic. But this is the song that made it onto my list this year. This is a demo version of the song that made it onto the album, but I am pretty sure I'm not alone in my belief that this is way better than the album version. It's "just" a demo, no bells or whistles and it's not mixed or anything, and I love it that way because it's REAL. And it's really really fantastic. I have listened to this song more than any other this year, and it really helped solidify my love and respect for Claire Boucher.

Oh, baby, every morning there are mountains to climb
Taking all my time
Oh, when I get up, this is what I see
Welcome to reality

6. Ashbury Heights —Phantasmagoria

I've loved this synthpop/futurepop band from Sweden for years, and this year Ashbury Heights managed to put out a new album, even though they're busy with college (yup) and don't have a ton of time to make music right now. The album, The Looking Glass Society, is a major grower, one that I really enjoyed as I listened to it more, but "Phantasmagoria" -- a pretty cheesy tribute to all things goth/Sisters of Mercy/Edgar Allen Poe/darkness -- stands out as the best song on the album, by far. Catchy, cheese-goth lyrics at their best, synth hooks for days, danceable in all of my favorite ways ... it's really too bad I wasn't able to find a better version of this song on youtube. In fact, this is the only recording or post of it that seems to exist, which is crazy, but hey, I guess I do listen to some obscure shit.

And every ghastly apparition
Claims to be the soul I'm missing
Even though I keep on saying 
That chair is empty now

Can't you see, can't you see?
That chair is empty now

Life is phantasmagoria now
And every shadow is reaching out to me
Life is phantasmagoria now
And all that's left is the stranger part of me

7. Ayria — Feed Her to the Wolves

I had been waiting all year for new music from Ayria, and we finally got some near the end of the year, in the form of an EP. This was the song that stood out on it, and I had it stuck in my head after listening to it only twice -- which says a lot. Super catchy with undertones of feminist ideology and some really catchy synth stuff. A nice evolution of the Ayria project, for sure. I can't wait to hear more from Jennifer Parkin in 2016.

She could have ruled the world
But we fed her to the wolves
Because we all abhor it
Oh vanity, it kills
You left her there as a warning in case it wasn't clear
Don't misunderstand, we rule by fear

8. Orange Sector — Glasmensch

Electronic Body Music at its best, and it was made in 2015! What could be better than that! Many say "EBM is dead" and I agree it's waning, but we can't let that stand, can we?! I'm so happy that bands like Hannover, Germany's Orange Sector are out there fighting the good fight, making pure, classic EBM. "Glasmensch" was, I believe, the first single off of their 2015 release, Night Terrors, and features a healthy dose of Big Brother/1984/CIA/White House-quoting paranoia, which, well ... someone's got to do it, and I don't hear many American bands doing it.

9. Tyske Ludder — Meskalin

Speaking of awesome German bands, Tyske Ludder has always been a sentimental favorite of mine, not just because they make good music, but because their name means "German Whore" and was a term used during WWII in Norway/Denmark to describe a native woman who slept with a Nazi soldier. See, didn't you want to know that?! Isn't that a great band name?! Anyway, "Meskalin" is the first single off of Tyske Ludder's recently released album, Evolution, and it's catchy as hell. Every time it would come on Sanctuary Radio, no matter what I was doing, I'd get sucked into this song and eventually look up to see what it was. After this happened a few times, I realized it had to go on the "best of" list, because I couldn't shake how much it made me groove.

10. Frozen Plasma — Crazy

And finally, wrapping up this year's list, another German band, Frozen Plasma. This song has one of the best opening synth lines I've ever heard in my life. I kept listening to the album, over and over, in recent weeks, and although the lyrics can get pretty cheesy (that's futurepop!), and there are songs on the album with better lyrics/choruses, I can't get past the impact of the synth work here. It's fantastic. Best synths of the year, probably (that's an important distinction, if you're me ...). Anyway, this is a great band and a great song and if you're looking to see what I largely listen to day in, and day out, this is a great example of what I dig.

dancing into ecstasy
every touch from you is killing me
I'm going crazy in this torture game
twist my brain until I scream your name

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And there we have it! Another best of music list complete! Let me know what you think and have a wonderful new year <3 <3 <3




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