A full playlist of the following songs can be found here.
Earmarked by a welcome rise in contemporary post-irony, 2015 made for an intriguing year in music and culture. From the drab mystery that is Trump to Oxford’s word of the year, the line between the joke and the genuine is no longer the dichotomous divide it once was (e.g. the new and improved Bieber condition). For some time now, a shared climate of sincerity and sentimentality has been priming up a new music mainstream. My picks for most memorable songs of 2015 exemplify these post-ironic proclivities in another year of art pop and millennial nostalgia.
20. Beach House – “Beyond Love”
Beach House has the very rare privilege of extended cultural relevance notwithstanding their release of the same album three times over. “Beyond Love” pulls their nostalgic dream pop rep a little deeper into post-punk/nu-gaze while retaining that signature romance that so seduces heady Millennials.
19. Lana Del Rey – “Honeymoon”
The Lana myth is as enduringly fabricated as ever, though I much prefer Honeymoon’s lethargic Disney princess waistoid persona to the troubled faux-poetess of Born to Die. “High by the Beach” is the year’s obvious burnout anthem (and with a very 2015 beat), but “Honeymoon” juxtaposes New Boring blues with early-Hollywood noir in a way only Lana’s smoky pipes can procure.
18. Marina and the Diamonds – “Solitaire”
Best way to follow up the powerhouse that was 2012’s Electra Heart was pulling in a live band for a more personal, medium-tempo record. So many keepers, but this gemstone metaphor for the lonely and yet-unwed was a springtime go-to.
17. Thundercat – “Them Changes (ft. Flying Lotus and Kamashi Washington)”
Finally the artful preoccupation of all my jazz friends converges with my penchant for pop hooks in this nu-funk opus.
16. Skylar Spence – “Can’t You See”
This record premiered a week before I got hitched, and although it’s about that glory-days intersection of narcissism and nostalgia, “I’m in love with my own reflection / And I feel like I could dance all night” made for the best wedding reception banger.
15. Hannah Diamond – “Hi”
Reminiscing about 90s proto-tech culture seems to be all anyone does these days, but this ballad captures contemporary nostalgia in a way that really strikes the core of millennial youth culture and what it was like pioneering new Internet communication as kids, hormones ablaze. Twinkling fx and staccato soprano crooning hark back to Aqua and B*Witched with poise, and “Hi” is a quintessentially 2015 nod to the days before EDM introduced (and fully overused) “the drop.”
14. Sufjan Stevens – “Should Have Known Better”
The soft-hearted Sufjan we knew in high school returns en acoustique for Carrie and Lowell, and as he lullabies, “No, I’m not a go-getter, the demon had a spell on me / My black shroud, captain of my feelings / The only thing I wanna believe,” every Millennial nods with generational empathy. Sincerely though, this is a very beautiful tune.
13. Tame Impala – “Eventually” / “Cause I’m a Man (Haim Remix)”
Currents was one of the best and coolest LPs this year. The dizzying synth and melodramatic percussion of “Eventually” made for the perfect lazy summer jam, then Haim’s Rechtshaid-produced cover of “Cause I’m a Man” dropped and then I got positively lazier.
12. Kero Kero Bonito – “Picture This”
KKB’s topical concerns are just so incontestably beyond me: dancefloor chicken? That song about minecraft?! Every 2015 release left me pulverized. “Picture This” cleverly brings together selfie culture, the (alt)reality of curated social media, Western photo-nostalgic constructs, and those trending cartoon sounds to form a transoceanic, sonic map of contemporary pop-narcissism.
11. Grimes – “Kill v Maim”
Ninja cowboy art pop Grimes ≥ medieval outsider witchwave Grimes.
10. Kendrick Lamar – “Hood Politics”
Following a soulful intro and a leveling of street and big-gov politics atop a brainy Sufjan sample, about half of the spoken word component of To Pimp a Butterfly has unfolded by this point in the album, reaching a critical point when Kendrick laments his survivor’s guilt, “But while my loved ones was fighting the continuous war back in the city, I was entering a new one.” As was clear from virtually every album review, the rest of 2015’s hip hop releases were boo boo next to Butterfly.
09. Joanna Newsom – “Waltz of the 101st Lightborne”
Fairy queen / master harpist Joanna Newsom is one of my favorite lyricists. Case in point: “There was a time we were lashed to the prow of a ship you may board, but not steer / Before you and I ceased to mean Now and began to mean only Right Here, to mean Inches and Miles but not Years / Before space had a taste of its limits.” I’m just a sucker for solid time-space librettos.
08. SOPHIE – “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”
Sweet, sweet nostalgia in a stupefying, min-max vortex of hyperpop synth and bashful pitch-lifted vocals. Ya fuz??
07. Elliphant – “Love Me Badder”
Elliphant made my 2014 list with her refreshing MØ duet “One More.” This year she bats another homerun in “Love Me Badder,” infiltrating the realm of contemporary ride-or-die love ballads with a Swedish rude-girl vibe all her own. Here’s hoping for a proper LP in the not-too-distant.
06. Father John Misty – “Chateau lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)”
FJM channels the silly sincerity and orchestrations of early Jens Lekman in this timeless nu-folk record about enamored first-timers united over endearing, collective contempt. The bridge is so heartwarming and makes me wanna bundle up wiff wifey and wittle pup.
05. Tove Stryke – “Burn”
The production on this buoyant break-up record is impeccable (listen for the millisecond moments of silence), and it’s probably one of my most-played summer jams.
04. Charli XCX – “Vroom Vroom”
Can’t remember the last time a fever transpired from a first listen. I’m already all over anything with SOPHIE’s stamp on it, but this collab marks the beginning of the end of my feeble mortal life.
03. Rihanna – “Bitch Better Have My Money”
Contra the detrimental emergence of certain regressive, faux-feminist squads, Rihanna’s BBHMM crew—although a little violent for my philosophy—was the illest thing I saw all year. More importantly, this record further redirects misogynistic terminology and asserts that feminist anthems are now (finally) chart-topping anthems for all. Moo-la-lah.
02. easyFun – “Laplander”
easyFun is my favorite PC Music project, and “Laplander” (short for light airbag protected lander, presumably a metaphor for love-gone-sour escape plans) is the quintessentially post-ironic amalgamation of grim lyricism and cheerful production that makes this new genre so irresistible. May we all dance and weep to the moon and back, interminably.
01. Majical Cloudz – “Silver Car Crash”
Speaking of weeping. Maybe it’s the fact that I finally sealed the deal with my benevolent furiosa, or maybe it’s that I actually do drive a silver car. Either way, lines like “I want to kiss you inside a car that’s crashing / And we will both die laughing, ’cause there is nothing left to do” are a contemporization of fearless, Shakespearian love, securing this Majical Cloudz tragedy in my 2015 top spot.