2015: Favorite 50 Songs

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series

PART 3: “ALLEY” mixed by Monet Maker




Ever get mad at a song because it’s so good? Like, “That’s insane. Is this even legal?” That’s the mood we get in when WWWINGS’s “Delirium” fades around the two-minute mark and transforms into that vicious dog DMX put on all his album covers. The track was grimy and covered in sludge and barking through an unweeded chain link fence. Actually, “Delirium” (and the entire BLESSED EP) could easily be transposed over Hollywood’s Reign in Hell adaptation with zero editing. You hear that, Hollywood? WE WANT TO WATCH GROSS HELL BEINGS FIGHT TO THE SOUND OF WWWINGS.


“Blood on the Money”

[Epic / Free Bandz]

We pondered the auto-tuning on the word “hell.” On “Blood on the Money” — in his ostensibly detached state, after so much Easter Pink, when his voice called out from under ornate, frozen rubble — Future described his life and state-of-mind in a way we understood: depressingly, as a kind of clarity available in this anxious year. The precision and focus of Future’s weariness moved us. And he sounded, as Freddie Gibbs said, “like a guitar or some shit.” Still, what a low feeling. 2015 ends with bottoms, as they say, up.


“Miss Understood”


Relaxx with me, baby. But only after an airlift from the club, as a circus, as a half-filled dancefloor with smoke, streamers and purple light flickering across our gormless jamboree. This is where the club turns into the street, where it pours out onto the pavements and its known dimensions are as contorted as Inga Copeland’s latest threesome. RELAXIN’ was a half-serious, misread, misunderstood soundtrack to some urban space, where dissonance became quirkiness and “Miss Understood” disfigured the comforting embrace of a once-familiar dimension. The streets might be ours, but the streets are not what they seem.

D’Angelo and The Vanguard

“1000 Deaths”


You know that adage your granddaddy told of it being darkest before dawn? It’s complete bullshit — no offense. Let’s be real; things aren’t looking too hot for the Land of the Free. Since January, over 200 unarmed citizens have reportedly been killed at the hands of police. And somehow throughout this messy climate, one of the most common threads binding us all is music. Because American music is often, by its very nature, a protest — perhaps a sustained rebel yell in the night against social injustice — and the fiery judder of D’Angelo’s “1000 Deaths” arrived to light a fire under the Millennial era’s ass. It was unsophisticated, organized, and able-bodied all at once. We’re not talking about political art-making here, and “1000 Deaths” wasn’t posturing to a crowd — it was the fucking crowd, calling you to “stop singing and start swinging!”


“Methy Imbiß”


Amidst ill textures chorusing the angsty sizzle of acid rain stripping paint off a rusted hull, there were moments on Piteous Gate that sounded like psy-horror chase sequences between humanoid and replicant. “Methy Imbiß” stood as the record’s remarkably disturbed climax — the Gate’s diseased nucleus — when the droid-hunter’s fake flesh began to tear in chunks off its machine-skeleton, revealing red wine-y power-veins pumping scarlet fever into the hate-core of the deep machine. M.E.S.H. had mastered fragmenting both atmosphere and rhythm to literally split flesh away from apparatus. “Methy Imbiß” was the sound of cyborg wearables — implanted as a spectacular third eye — targeting, hunting, probing the fourth-world.

James Ferraro

“Skid Row”

[Break World]

Southern California. Los Angeles. Hollywood. Gated housing. Home security. Psycho cops. Feeling damaged in 7-Eleven? Seen the faces of monsters on magazine covers? Visions of Christ smoking crack? Children can’t sleep ‘cause there’s bass quaking in the trunk of a white jeep? Acid rain on your face? Can’t get away from the thoughts in your head? Just want to feel something beautiful? Let my man Dr. Hollywood fix you up with a brand new face. Get high in paradise on California grade sherm. Be a big boss in first class. Take a limo to Skid Row. Step out the whip; the world is your stage.

Dr. Yen Lo

“Day 81”

[Pavlov Institute]

Imagine, if you’ll indulge us, New York City’s alleyways as cloisters, its most valued and prominent art form, rap music, as a sacred rite practiced by hooded monks who’ve devoted their lives to the spiritual mastery of their craft and will therefore defend the sanctity of this holy place by any and all means necessary. Clergymen Ka and Roc Marciano go directly for the metal; hence, Metal Clergy. And on “Day 81,” they “squeeze a few” and “heard geese flew.”



[Spectrum Spools]

If Ren Schofield’s music as Container seemed to lope straight for the vanishing point over the horizon, somewhere between the warehouse and the abandoned tiki bar, “Calibrate” capped off his incredible third LP with his most succinct beatdown to date. He pruned his technoid bounce down to the barest of signifiers — bass drum throb, noise formant, clipped snare thwack — as if to investigate exactly how few sounds are necessary to get human beings to flop their arms and heads around ecstatically like those used car lot balloon puppets. And flop we did. A+. Will flop again.

Chelsea Wolfe

“Carrion Flowers”

[Sargent House]

You stand at the mouth of the abyss. That low bass rumble you hear is the beating of its monstrous heart. From inside, a woman’s voice drifts up to you, beckoning you onward like a witch light. Step in. Let go. Slither down its gullet until the only sound you hear is the clamorous churning of its belly. Open your mouth to scream and let it fill you, burst you, break you down. This is what it means to be born again, to dissolve into your component parts, and from the wreck of all that was your body and all that was your spirit, to blossom forth into something dark and beautiful. 

Lera Lynn

“My Least Favorite Life”


Composed with Rosanne Cash and T Bone Burnett, this motionless dirge served to set an irresistible tone for this year’s True Detective. And just like last year, TD itself looms a powerful specter amongst the legion of timewasters passed. Spooky portent took a backseat this time, though, allowing Lera Lynn to set the stage with a song of weary decline and curious detachment (one gets the sense she’s working from a short, dissolving list). Her scene-stealing, Julee Cruise­-like role in the show gave this simple song a resonance that hasn’t been glimpsed since the mighty “Falling” itself.

Click next to hear the “CLIFF” mix by Willcoma.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the year. More from this series

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