Quite simply, 2015 is the decade’s best year in music (so far). A year where the mainstream actually stood tall (Drake, The Weeknd, Taylor, Justin), and the indie scene truly excelled, it’s fair to assume that over the course of the year, you missed an incredible number of dope tunes (we all did).
Here’s where we come in, to fill you in with some essentials, and to curate a collection that doubles up as a ‘Hello, summer’ playlist.
1. Louis the Child – “It’s Strange (feat. K.Flay)”
Flume’s influence can be readily heard in the music of Chicago based, Louis the Child – “It’s Strange” bears a resemblance to the Australian’s hugely popular remix of Disclosure’s “You & Me”. But that’s no detractor - the production, coupled with the lyrics, are playful and provocative in just the right measure. With Lorde’s seal of approval, and its inclusion in the latest iteration of the FIFA video game franchise, it’s the most well-known track on this list – though, that shouldn’t stop you from jamming to it.
2. Isaiah Rashad – “Nelly”
24-year-old Isaiah Rashad could very well be TDE’s rising star. During an almost two-year-long period where Kendrick took centre stage, and Schoolboy Q grew in stature, Rashad quietly drifted away after the release of his critically acclaimed debut project, Cilvia Demo. Then, in late September, and just days after we were promised new material in 2015, came the captivating “Nelly”. It’s a bare track – underwhelming, even – but, as the track lopes on and on, and his flow bores into your mind, you realize just how damn effortless it all is.
3. Porter Robinson – “Sea of Voices (Galimatias Remix)”
For anyone unfamiliar with Porter Robinson’s (largely underappreciated) Worlds, “Sea of Voices” was the talented young producer’s attempt at reproducing the magic of French electronic band, M83. It’s a gorgeous, cinematic piece – something Danish producer Galimatias, knew all too well. Instead of adjusting the song, he completely reworked it, creating a languid, easy-listening cut.
4. Christine and the Queens – “Tilted”
I first chanced upon the immensely talented Héloïse Letissier, known by her stage name Christine and the Queens, via a remix of her commercially successful French-language song, “Christine”. As an attempt to crack the international market, “Tilted” is an English reinterpretation of “Christine”, but by no means does this lessen the song’s impact. The warbled production and glossy synths are infectious, and her voice – be it in French or in English - is alluring and incredibly assured.
5. DIIV – “Dopamine”
Summer is a time for music, and there are few bands more suited for summer than American band, DIIV. With breezy guitars and lofty vocals, “Dopamine” is the terrific lead single off their upcoming sophomore record. Candidly discussing lead singer Zachary Cole Smith’s heroin addiction, there is a lot more than meets the eye with the sure-to-be Laneway favourites. “Would you give your 34th year / for a glimpse of Heaven, now and here”, is a particular lyrical standout, citing the effect on lifespan heroin typically has.
6. The Preatures – “Cruel”
First heard in 2014 on the Australian five-piece band’s brilliant debut, Blue Planet Eyes, “Cruel” was released as a single in June this year. It’s easy to see why, “Cruel” was a standout on the album, an irresistible indie-rock tune that lends itself well to the vibes of summer (“You keep working, I sleep in late”).
7. Kasbo – “World Away”
Another artist influenced by the ‘future bass’ movement sparked by Flume, the 19-year-old Swede has since come into his own. “World Away” is a special track; simplistic, yet utterly stunning – few things surprise me quite like the drop at the 1:06 mark. Some songs take you on a journey, and some come off more like the destination – this is the latter; the sound you hear as you reach the summit of a mountain.
8. Young Thug – “Raw (Might Just)”
While his contemporaries Drake, Future, and Fetty Wap, dominated airplay and attention, 24-year-old Young Thug was arguably hip hop 2015’s most deserving star (bar one). With three highly regarded full length mixtapes, and a personal – and musical - style that divided opinion, he was sure to gain both an intense following, and a significant number of naysayers. But when you break it down and really open yourself to modern hip hop, no one sounded more current, and more necessary, in 2015 than Thugger. “Raw” is a love song, for the Tinder age; “I, I might just take care of bae”.
9. Jazz Cartier – “Rose Quartz / Like Crazy”
A Toronto based rapper, Jazz Cartier made waves in 2015 through the release of his debut, Marauding in Paradise. It’s a flawed record, but an encouraging start to a potentially exciting career. Undoubtedly, the track that stands out most is the gorgeous Toro y Moi flip, “Rose Quartz / Like, Crazy”, which features samples from 2011 romantic drama, Like, Crazy. It’s an inspired choice, matched with an evocative vocal and ethereal production, I found myself coming back to this track on many an occasion.
10. dvsn – “The Line”
Toronto act dvsn is currently choosing to remain anonymous, and allowing the music to speak for itself, an act that’s fairly risky in the fast-paced society we live in. But it does speak for itself, in spades; “The Line” is one of the best songs of the year - an R&B slow-jam that D’Angelo would be proud of. His voice gently floats above this sparse, but densely layered, production - that is, until the choir kicks in, and his vocal begins to soar. It then all breaks down rather suddenly to subdued synths on the bridge, where he quietly croons, “At the end of it all, I’m coming back to you”.