Well, we made it you guys. Though I have a great time discussing our favorite tracks of 2015, all good jams must come to an end. We’ve been all over the place with the tracks that either spoke to our political, irreverent, or romantic sides, and today we conclude with some mega jams that really defined the year for me as well as many of us here at Nerdist HQ. So thanks for tuning in for another year of excellent music, and here is to an especially groovy 2015.
St. Vincent – “I Prefer Your Love”
St. Vincent’s self-titled album is a conceptual composition that asks many questions about how we interface with one another and process emotions in the digital age–“Digital Witness” is like a masters thesis turned into a rock song–but the most compelling song on this album was a personal, string-laden cut in which Annie Clark the person (as opposed to St. Vincent, the artist) speaks earnestly about her mother’s love. It is heartbreaking and personal and perfect.
Broods – “Mother & Father”
Broods are a bother-sister synth pop duo from Auckland, New Zealand, who, along with Lorde, collaborate with producer Joel Little. And though the similarities are very obvious, I think Broods have created much more personal songs on their debut–perhaps as a result of the familial bond, perhaps as artistic instincts. But “Mother & Father” (see a theme here?) is anthem about growing up, begrudgingly, and feeling loved but not necessarily feeling security.
Michael Jackson – “Love Never Felt So Good”
It feels unfair that once an artist has passed away we get to mine their archives and look through rough drafts and unfinished demos with expectations of genius, fully realized songs. The best tracks, even if they sound effortless, are often labored over, and MJ was a notorious perfectionist. So I was so skeptical when “Love Never Felt So Good” was released–I felt as though he would be embarrassed to release that song sketch were he still alive. But even just the inception of an idea in Michael Jackson’s head is leagues beyond where many musicians end up. “Love Never Felt So Good” is excellent and is the sonic equivalent of waving goodbye to an old friend as you are traveling away from them, and they slowly disappear into the horizon.
D’Angelo – “Prayer”
If I ever go back to school for a masters degree, I will ineluctably write a thesis on D’angelo and how he impacted R&B from 1995-2015. Lol. I reallllly love D’Angelo–the last time I looked at my play count for his second album Voodoo, I had over 1000 plays for each song. Suffice to say I was in rapture when he surprised us with his new album this year (5 days ago) and it is the only thing I have listened to this week. It is dense and politically relevant–the Ferguson-Garner travesties were enough to make this hermetic artist to come out of his shell and release his first album in 14 years after endless empty promises from sources that new material would surface for years. “Prayer” was the song that struck me first because it sounded the most despondent, the least sexy. I was taken so completely aback by D’Angelo’s frank admission that we all have pray for redemption–it sounds so essential this year. Still way too much to unpack with this song, let alone the entire album. Happy to have D back though, that is for sure.
Lykke Li – “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone”
Ohh mann, why are all my favorite songs so saddd?? Lykke Li sounds like she is on the verge of tears throughout this entire song, the highlight off her latest album, I Never Learn. Her voice is powerful at the same time it is injured and abraded. It’s a plea that is likely made in vain to someone who will never listen, but also truly harrowing and beautiful.
Nothing – “Get Well”
“Guilty of Everything” is truly a redemptive, baptismal wash of a rock song. The backstory is impossible to ignore: lead singer Dominic Palermo served a two-year sentence in Philadelphia for aggravated assault and attempted murder after he stabbed someone during a fight. While in prison he began writing what would inevitably become Nothing’s debut LP, Guilty Of Everything. He might not ever forgive himself, but you can hear him trying to learn how.
BRONCHO – “Class Historian”
This song has been stuck in my head since the very first time I heard it, and sometimes I will catch myself singing the stutter-heavy hook around my house/office/car/shower/sleep. It is infectious and poppy, and definitely a welcome dose of levity in this accidentally heavy final list of songs.
Ricky Eat Acid – “In My Dreams We Are Almost Touching”
Sam Ray’s Ricky Eat Acid Project prompted me to think about how tangible my roots to my home were this year. The repetitive refrain, “My only wish is I die real”–lifted from Drake’s Take Care and decontextualized–becomes this comfortable mantra, but you also lose track of what it means after so many times hearing and repeating it. It’s that thing where you say a word too many times and it just becomes a jumble of angular syllables that mean nothing. But thinking about “what is real” and self actualizing requires you to operate outside of routine comfort zones. You essentially have to redefine “home” at certain points in your life, and it is up to you to figure out how to be comfortable but never stop challenging yourself.
Sun Kil Moon – “Carissa”
Mark Kozelek made an ass out of himself this year, but that absolutely should not detract form the fact that he made an album that transcends his corporeal douchiness. This track is about Kozelek returning to his childhood home in Ohio to attend the funeral of his recently deceased younger cousin, whom the song is dedicated to. It is exceptionally literal, like we are hearing the though process/stream of consciousness of a stern man who is trying to figure out how to grieve. Total bummer, but amazing.
Run The Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
“Fuck the law, they can eat my dick, that’s word to pimp…you can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks” It’s like El-P and Killer Mike absorbed each and every, unfortunately frequent, atrocity that defined 2014, harnessed it and shot it right back in one of the most brutal and vital pieces of hip-hop that has come out in the 2010s. It is lewd without being sexist and overtly political without ever being preachy. This was the album we needed this year and “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” is a feat of production and lyrical deftness from two enraged emcees. It is what we needed in 2014, and we were lucky enough to get it.