Note, only music available prior to the 30th of June were included.
20. Jenny Hval
"That Battle is Over"
“Statistics and newspapers tell me I am unhappy and dying, that I need man and child to fulfil me”, Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval says, and though her words are written with parody in mind, her voice is tinged with curiosity. A lover of sound and complex structure, Hval voice falls to a murmur, and soars to great highs – constantly, and often only for seconds at a time.
Jenny Hval – “That Battle is Over”
19. Vince Staples
Produced by none other than Clams Casino, this might just be the most unique sounding track on the album. The lurching synthesizers accented by the rattle of hi-hats and Vince’s formidable flow make for an ominous ode to the ‘norfside’ of Long Beach, California.
Vince Staples – “Norf Norf”
18. Carly Rae Jepsen
Though her fame may be attributed to the status of a ‘one-hit wonder’, Carly Rae Jepsen has actually accumulated a backlog of fairly decent, catchy, pop music. However, it’s with the help of indie powerhouse producers, Dev Hynes and Ariel Rechtshaid, that Jepsen has finally released a track of similar quality to her breakout hit, “Call Me Maybe”. A breezy, 80’s pop track that finds her at her most vulnerable, and at her best.
Carly Rae Jepsen – “All That”
17. Courtney Barnett
Australian slack-rocker Courtney Barnett has released a number of truly excellent singles in the past few years, all similar in their love for mundane activities and unparalleled witty lyricism. But, no other track in her discography is as effortless, and as long-lasting, as her gorgeous ode-to-house buying, “Depreston”.
Courtney Barnett - "Depreston"
16. Kamasi Washington
What a year it’s been for Kamasi Washington. After playing a role in Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, Washington released his own critically acclaimed album – a three-hour opus of modern jazz. “Askim” remains one of the record’s highest points, punctuated by a terrific saxophone solo, and stellar drums throughout.
Kamasi Washington – “Askim”
15. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Chance the Rapper was one of 2013’s brightest sparks in music, and all that made his style so unique and compelling in his stellar Acid Rap, can be found in the soulful “Sunday Candy”. His flow is flawless, the chorus delightful – in a year where hip hop has truly excelled, this could become one of the most underappreciated songs of the year.
Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – “Sunday Candy”
14. Post Malone
There’s a video of the previously unknown Post Malone in his first TV performance, and it’s a perfect representation of the man and his music. He’s not your typical post-Drake hip hop artist; a smile is plastered to his face, he soars around in a manner similar to an aeroplane – he isn’t looking for fame, money, or acceptance, he’s just on his own buzz. If others happen to dig that buzz, well, he’s cool with that too.
Post Malone – “White Iverson”
One of modern R&B’s leading voices, with a number of truly excellent singles, yet, Miguel has never had an anthem quite like “waves”. His signature voice stands tall, but the magic is in the layered build-up and vocal. The track starts strong, but continues to build until the stunning bridge – the type of bridge one could imagine thousands roaring at one time.
“Legend” // “Know Yourself”
Braggadocio Drake has always been around, but it was only recently when it became the superior side to his musical persona. “Worst Behaviour” was the hint, and it was set in stone with the double salvo from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late of, “Legend”, and “Know Yourself”. “Runnin’ through the 6 with my woes”, might become the most recognisable lyric of the year.
11. Young Thug
“Constantly Hating (feat. Birdman)”
Young Thug could be the most forward thinking rapper in 2015 – his sound isn’t entirely original, but his mixtape, Barter 6, has some of the most assured hip hop in recent years. Polarizing, yes, but the best always are. “Constantly Hating” is the highlight, a downtempo – yet banging – classic.
Young Thug – “Constantly Hating (feat. Birdman)”
10. Father John Misty
“Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow”
Father John Misty’s I Love You, Honeybear is an exercise in expert songwriting, and “Nothing Ever Happens…” remains the most picturesque moment on the record. He’s petulant, jealous - it’s all too familiar. In an album that serves as a 45-minute declaration of love, his insecurities within the track make it the odd song out, all for good reason.
Father John Misty – “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow”
A lush opening to Vulnicura, Stonemilker denotes the beginning of her breakup. The pain in the songwriting as she tries to draw emotion from an inanimate object is beautifully contrasted by the harmony of the orchestration.
Bjork – “Stonemilker”
8. Jamie xx
Jamie xx has slowly, but consistently, churned out some of the best electronic music of the decade. “Gosh”, the momentous opener to his solo debut, In Colour, does an incredible deal with little more than repetitive percussion. It builds with loops, creating layers of sound, eventuating with a keyboard solo that gives the track an ethereal, cinematic quality. Heavenly stuff.
Jamie xx – “Gosh”
7. Kendrick Lamar
“i” // “Alright”
Let’s rewind to 2012, and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The album’s true closer, “Real”, has a lyric; “But what love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself?” Cue in two of the year’s most significant tracks, courtesy of one, Kendrick Lamar; the triumphant “i”, whose shouts of ‘loving oneself’ serve as To Pimp a Butterfly’s most prominent message; and the equally remarkable “Alright”, with the simple call; “We gon’ be alright”.
Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
“Dragonflies to Sew You Up”
Dominick Fernow’s wall of noise hits you a hundred different ways with a uniquely comforting ambience that couldn’t fit more awkwardly with what’s actually going on. It somehow all comes together perfectly on this ironically cacophonous track.
Prurient – “Dragonflies to Sew You Up”
5. Sufjan Stevens
“All of Me Wants All of You”
In an album consisting of only sparse, intimate moments, “All of Me Wants All of You” is arguably the most haunting track on the record - it’s bare, and desperately solemn. It’s also typically in line with his ambiguous nature; is he speaking of a male, or female? Is he speaking about love, or friendship? More importantly, I think Sufjan’s always been trying to suggest there is very little difference between the two, on both instances. Regardless, it’s one of the year’s most breathtakingly gorgeous songs, and an obvious highlight on the beautiful Carrie & Lowell.
Sufjan Stevens – “All of Me Wants All of You”
4. Earl Sweatshirt
“I just want my time and my mind intact / When they both gone, you can’t buy ‘em back”. Set to the backdrop of your ordinary, modern hip hop beat, those words would sound good – introspective, even. But “Grief” isn’t your standard beat; borrowing heavily from the shoegaze/ambient genre, it’s the darkest, most thought-provoking track of the year. The self-produced beat lurches, his flow fades to a stream-of-consciousness vibe, and the song closes with the aforementioned lyric. No; on this certain track, Earl seems far past introspection - he sounds like he’s barely hanging on.
Earl Sweatshirt – “Grief”
3. Petite Noir
Beyond classification, it’s easiest to compare the South African, Yannick Ilunga, to the art rock band, TV on the Radio. However, that would be a slight disservice to the effort on display; “Chess” is equally impressive production, as it is his stunning vocal. It builds upon itself, layering sounds delicately onto each other. It’s only in the song’s final two minutes where it truly takes shape, where the drums carry you through, and your possible inhibitions towards the track are finally lifted.
Petite Noir – “Chess”
2. Kendrick Lamar
“The Blacker the Berry”
The integral moment on To Pimp a Butterfly; has Kendrick ever sounded as focused, as confident, as he does here? At the time of release, TDE co-president Terrence Henderson tweeted an image of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. side by side, annotating “The Blacker the Berry”, and “i”, respectively. This isn’t about hatred towards anyone in particular, it rather references black culture and the tendency for self-hatred. In many ways, the two songs aren’t all too different, their ideals are very much the same – the difference lies purely in the manner of their delivery.
Claire Boucher released “REALiTi” as a gift, an unfinished album reject never meant for listening; never mixed or mastered, she says. This resulted from “Go”, released in 2014 as the intended lead single for her upcoming album - the song received moderate, but divisive, critical success. She subsequently decided to scrap her album, claiming it subpar, but fortunately had the heart to release one album cut, the trance-like “REALiTi”. It stands tall among her impressive catalogue of songs, and if this is a sign of what was possible on her Visions follow-up, it seems a real shame for the remainder of those tracks to never see the light of day.
“When I get up, this is what I see / Welcome to reality.” An effortless blend of pop and EDM, Boucher has never sounded so real.
Grimes – “REALiTi”