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


Oh, hey there, Internet. I didn’t hear you come in. Welcome to our annual year-end festivities here at the TMT Ranch! Don’t be shy; kick off your boots and have a look around. Here’s some hot cocoa while you browse.

If you head straight down the hall, you’ll find our first offering: a cute little “Favorite 50 Songs of 2015” feature. Notice how there are no “rankings” or “weighting” or “letting C Monster pick whichever songs he wants while the rest of us get drunk and go see Blue Man Group” involved. Instead, we all just submitted our favorite tracks and once again grouped them into five, bite-sized, candy-coated mixes totaling 50 songs for your earmouths’ holiday enjoyment. The mixes are titled: GYM, VOID, ALLEY, CLIFF, and COUPE. No fuss, no muss!

So, go ahead and poke around. Take some pictures, give the mixes a little listen, and be sure stop on by again throughout the week for each new installment of the 50 songs that captured our hearts this year. Hope you like what you hear. Uh, but even if you don’t, could you do us a little, teeny favor and enthusiastically retweet each list anyway? (I’d do it myself, but I’ve actually been on vacation for the last two paragraphs or so. I don’t know how they got done!) Thanks so much in advance, and see you next year! <3


PART 1: “GYM” mixed by Mr P


Red Velvet

“Dumb Dumb”

[SM Entertainment]

Oh, South Korea. You may be small, but in even just one of your silly pop songs, we find a world: where “Bang Bang” doesn’t suck; where PC Music’s corporate pop fantasies have existed for 20 years; where the high-concept philosophy that One Direction fans read into total nothingness is amply real; where an interminable weekend of the Ultra Music Festival finds its true calling in a 10-second, curveball-brilliant bridge. You may be far, but we’re on our way.

easyFun

“Laplander”

[PC Music]

“Laplander” felt like more than just a song; it felt like a declaration. An absolute banger from easyFun, one of PC Music’s lesser-known affiliates, the track announced that the label’s gleam would not be dulled by exposure and success. In fact, “Laplander” is perhaps the most compositionally assured dance pop yet from PC Music, an achievement made without straying from their manifesto: the lyrics are sad, the music is not. And while it was a staple of bedroom DJ sets, it also inspired us to put on socks and shoes and venture outside, where the sun was shining and the birds were chirping. And their chirps were pitch-shifted up.

PMM

“Serpent’s Promise”

[Berceuse Heroique]

If the preponderance of industrial techno in the chemical malls of 2015 has already started to wear thin in some quarters, it’s worth noting that the year has also been a good one for nothing less than timeless electronic dance tracks that don’t necessarily need a DJ to translate or a room to fill. Alongside sterling work from John Heckle, Mono Junk, Gesloten Cirkel, Simoncino, and others, “Serpent’s Promise” stands out as the hardest and fastest of tentacular xenomorphic dicks. Banging but not brainless: against “dystopian” techno’s New Wave, “Serpent’s Promise” offered listeners the Dionysian Truth.

DJ Paypal

“Slim Trak”

[Brainfeeder]

In his memoriam to DJ Rashad, Mr P ended with the words “if we want to hear ‘new’ Rashad in the future, all we have to do is keep listening to new electronic dance music.” And looking at this year, even specifically at these mixes, Mr P was right. Artists like DJ Paypal have been filling in the massive void Rashad left with tracks like the call-back thumper “Slim Trak,” a brilliant cut out of many off Paypal’s latest release, Sold Out. So, spread your feet and fly, baby boy. You’re a star here in town now.

D∆WN

“Calypso”

[Our Dawn]

For lack of a better hook, pop imagery owes a lot to sports. The journey of an “artist” is an endurance race full of practice regimes, mental hurdles, lawyers, mentors, and managers. Music also loves an underdog story, with narratives perennially recycling on the X-Factor, American Idol, and programs like MTV’s Making The Band (hosted by Diddy). This is where Dawn Richard’s career modestly began. It might have ended modestly as well, had D∆WN failed to evolve. “Calypso” has nods to footwork, PC culture, and Janelle Monáe — it’s all tech fabrics, bio-futurism, 90s braids, Soylent… On Blackheart, D∆WN is flawlessly chic. Health Goth meets Saks Fifth. After all, looking good at the gym is what’s most important.

Charli XCX ft. Rita Ora

“Doing It (A. G. Cook Remix)”

[Atlantic]

In this first flirtation with the mainstream, PC Music impresario A. G. Cook held nothing back from his arsenal of dancefloor firepower as he warped Charli XCX’s original anthem into a gleeful, sinister vision. The track transitions between ideas with blinding swiftness: cutting the bass in favor of an introspective piano breakdown here or a soaring synth sequence there, all while those signature revved-up vocals holler out the hook on a monumental scale. The song’s staccato glitch bass is its centerpiece, however, fully revealing its true madness only in the track’s final looping moments, reverberating in a glory few mortal remixers could hope to match.

Galcher Lustwerk

“I Neva Seen”

[Lustwerk Music]

The term “chill-out” is vastly overrated, used by those who actually have the least amount of chill (or none at all). And, despite having enough cool in his human body to save polar bears from Antarctica’s melting ice caps, you won’t find Galcher Lustwerk using the phrase. But an otherworldly idleness did happen the moment his gorgeous, effervescent synths on “I Neva Seen” washed over our ears. And just when we thought the song couldn’t possibly get any better, Galcher came in with a smooth-ass verse about “some shit [you] neva seen,” just before we were officially dappin’ five to the man upstairs. “I Neva Seen” was a helluva drug, fam.

Gesloten Cirkel

“Real Melbourne House”

[Murder Capital]

Gesloten Cirkel takes me places. I’m thinking the pill-eyed abandon of a city in the early hours, on a warm summer’s night. The kick drums are the pavement beneath my tired feet, with synths hanging in the air like smoke. “Real Melbourne House” was all about that metropolitan swagger, with the Cirkel’s build-and-release production giving way to acidic crunch and cheeky references to house music lineage. Compulsively listenable, from car to club to home, once you were subsumed into the “Real Melbourne House,” you only wanted one thing.

Surfing

“Fire”

[1080p]

Waiting in a line at Bossa Nova Civic Club, which stretches around the corner of Suydam Street. It’s about midnight on a Wednesday, and work tomorrow starts at 7AM. So, flexing muscle gets you and a plus-one into the club, just as stoner-house DJ/productionist Surfing takes the booth. That’s when all hell breaks loose: heads are either on the dance floor or out the door, flushing in even more heads bound in an area no bigger than your shotgun apartment kitchen And as the club gets lit, Surfing just douses “Fire” on the crowd, burning off shoes and making attendees walk home barefoot.

f(x)

“4 Walls”

[SM Entertainment]

Although still young, f(x) are the elder labelmates of Red Velvet — and the experience shows. Following the departure of an original fifth member, “4 Walls” pulses with real pain and pathos, a multi-media meditation on what it means to lose a piece and persevere. It’s a fitting spin for the GYM: UK garage hasn’t sounded this fresh since the “Running” remix.

Click next to hear the “VOID” mix by Adam Devlin.


PART 2: “VOID” mixed by Adam Devlin


Matthew Revert

“Prediction”

[Kye]

Like the best things in life, Matthew Revert’s Not You was pleasingly peculiar and inexplicable, sometimes amusingly obscene, with “Prediction” — a song consisting of a single repeated phrase foretelling a future banality we’ve already lived through, intoned over clatter and static — happily proceeding to the illogical conclusion (absence/truth) of whatever it was that might have maintained the album’s tenuous grip on the label “singer-songwriter” (Bizarre storytelling? Using a guitar to play “notes”?). Words reduced to semi-sensical sounds, the absurd reduced to absurdity, pointlessly profound or profoundly pointless, just like life: What more could you possibly want from anything?

Ahnnu

“The Racer”

[Leaving]

With Perception, Leland Jackson took the evolution of his Ahnnu moniker to yet another new level, using surface crackle, loops, noise, jumps, and effects to create a soundworld of crossover, where hip-hop walked hand in hand with field recordings and the lines that existed between such varied realms of music-making came to a cerebral peak. “The Racer” was just a luminary fragment from within that realm, and it shined beyond the confines of the album from which it came. With its coarse and fanciful juxtapositions of tonal contrast, it hinted at the scope of the album while showcasing Leland’s aesthetic vision as an artist. A magnificent milestone in the Ahnnu canon, “The Racer” emphasized the rate at which this incredible producer continues to remain a cut above the rest.

Foodman

“Awa Buro”

[Orange Milk]

Foodman loves to confuse us. The nearly non-musical pieces that made up the Japanese producer’s sublime COULDWORK shed all vestiges of conventional tone and structure to sketch out some twisted railway tour of the husk of a carnival, all looped metal shards and demonic clowns screeching for our attention. “Awa Buro” confounded even deeper, because Foodman applied his post-footwork deconstruction tactics to beautiful ends. The song dripped with bass bursts and clattering hi-hats, but alongside the interwoven central synth melodies, this percussion lulled more than it disrupted. We wiped away tears as we two-stepped obliquely across the empty fairgrounds.

Carter Tutti Void

“f = (2.7)”

[Industrial]

Duh! But if you know the trio’s music, then you know that Carter Tutti Void’s presence on this mix goes beyond a simple verbal connection. The former Throbbing Gristle members joined Nik Void for their second full-length album overall this year, and the finale of the LP was simultaneously numbing and hallucinatory, as the intermittent guitar ringing seemingly conveyed an incurable mental anguish in response to the dichotomy. The characteristic thumping had us spiraling down the rabbit hole, and how much control did we have over our fate? Inexorably; at least Alice’s trip was more of a float than a careen.

Wes Tirey

“Old Ohio Blues”

[Cabin Floor Esoterica]

“Old Ohio Blues” sounded out of place in 2015, as its true-to-life folk tale was spun in stream-of-consciousness like hobo balladeers of yesteryear. Wes Tirey played as the countryside whisked by, delivering a railcar sermon of leaving his old Ohio home for the mountains of North Carolina to be with his betrothed, only to watch love fade. A song as darkened as the hollar in which Tirey wistfully lamented, its warble hissed across the static of time as he rode. But his ghost will keep haunting this place, until he is freed from these “Old Ohio Blues.”

Levantis

“Jamaican Greek Style”

[Technicolour]

After the chaos of Ghettoville, Romantic Psychology 1 opened things up by tying a few things down, and its creator pushed things forward by stubbornly holding back. R.P.1’s elliptical fades, submerged melodies, and pixelated snares derived their emotional weight from the almost-absence that coursed through them. Coming in at nearly 10 minutes, “Jamaican Greek Style” took up almost a third of the album’s playing time, and its virtues typified Romantic Psychology 1 as a whole. Its constraints felt organic, its transitions intuitive, and its mastery of ambiguous moods unique to the artist. “Jamaican Greek Style” was the sound of an idea melting into being before the glare of a broken laptop screen — it’s probably Cunningham’s finest work since 2012’s R.I.P.

Prurient

“Greenpoint”

[Profound Lore]

You wanted to be a part of something big and important, so you moved to New York. Your post-industrial neighborhood doesn’t grow so much as decay and rebuild; there’s no more space. Is it cold in here? You live near the East River, and last winter, the water was full of shards of ice or broken glass. You’ve met people. Your art has found its home here, but you aren’t satisfied. Is that a good thing? You’ve been drinking too much. Your landlord is raising the rent. Where will you go? And what is that object floating in the river?

Arca

“Mutant”

[Mute]

Mutant, the globby, cocked centerpiece of Arca’s 2015 masterpiece, was sound desiring cinema, wanting it as a lover — a deeply sexual, sensational trip into transmorphic revelry. Cinesexuality is a concept that describes intense feelings toward film, conjured by psychic tension and release that reflects physical sexual experience. That tension crested in the track’s first minute, as erotic machines pummeled and lifted human screams and explosive squeals; it was released as the severe-pleasure caved in, subverting the brutality with shy, softer synth-work. Mutant’s cinephilic pacing indulged in its own ability to destroy and caress in equal measure, meandering through sentiment and violence in a fluid dom-sub continuum that continuously exchanged into inter-sex.

ZS

“Corps”

[Northern Spy]

Jazz is the teacher. Funk is the preacher. Minimalism is my co-pilot. My other car is a copy of the full album? ZS, in its 2015 trio form, was an aerodynamic smear of so many familiar avant-garde tactics defamiliarized by relentless musicianship and deployed prudently, precisely. In the instance of “Corps,” they traveled the terrain of a motorik-ish (always an -ish) riff, the narrative coalescing and dissociating according to a hidden geography. The year is ending and experimental music in the rock or jazz idiom mostly plodded along procedurally, like the detective TV show. But we continued to listen and watch, if only for moments like “Corps,” when the procedure melted away, and the tension of the form reappeared anew… ish.

Jenny Hval

“Holy Land”

[Sacred Bones]

It’s weird discovering that Norway also has a “Bible Belt,” that this experience is not uniquely American. One thinks of these full-of-God yet godforsaken places, where pure devotion reigns as youth populations dwindle in the religious statistical category. I understand an affinity to live and yet not live, as it might be the thought of an afterlife or rebirth or the transference into the body of another person or thing that keeps one from feeling the crushing guilt of having wasted the last hour liking pictures on Instagram or aimlessly driving through empty streets. “Holy Land” was supposed to be the coda of another song that didn’t make the album, yet the simplistic lyrics and abstract movements reached their idea(l)s just as well as any other track on Apocalypse, girl.

Click next to hear the “ALLEY” mix by Monet Maker.


PART 3: “ALLEY” mixed by Monet Maker


WWWINGS

“Delirium”

[Tar]

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.

Future

“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.

Lolina

“Miss Understood”

[Self-Released]

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”

[RCA]

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!”

M.E.S.H.

“Methy Imbiß”

[PAN]

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.”

Container

“Calibrate”

[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”

[Harvest]

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.


PART 4: “CLIFF” mixed by Willcoma


Waxahatchee

“Summer of Love”

[Merge]

Maybe it’s the way Katie Critchfield leans into “summer” at the end of the second chorus, her fingers strumming those chords with a little extra force. Maybe it’s the realization of how she sings around her subject, her lyrics metonymously depicting loss and longing without actually invoking either. “Summer of Love” is a heart-sleeved sibling to “In The Aeroplane Over the Sea” and “Black Boys on Mopeds,” and like those songs, its power lies in the force of its conviction, as well as the artfulness of its evasions. Maybe it’s that this isn’t a song, but a time machine, taking you back to the bleary end of all your formative relationships.

Sufjan Stevens

“Death With Dignity”

[Asthmatic Kitty]

It starts with not knowing. It seems like such a distant cry from an atlas introduction. Sufjan Stevens knows better than anyone that all roads end, right? But what happens next? How do you begin again when you’ve run out of road? Here, in this Age of Adz, faith is often seen as “blind obedience,” but what about those who have trouble seeing clearly as the dust still settles? On “Death With Dignity,” Sufjan maps out these dead ends that have separated him from his mother throughout his life, throughout her death. It’s a crafting of a new beginning from nothing, a wavering, chasm-spanning act of faith from an artist who has, time and time again, let what spirit has moved him flow through us too, unimpeded (and this time amplified) by our own self-doubts.

Björk

“Stonemilker”

[One Little Indian/Sony]

With “Stonemilker,” a cliff couldn’t be more relevant for an artist who has reached all emotional bounds. The song, the opening track on Vulnicura, is devastatingly personal (the only track solely produced by Björk). But it universally clasps our hearts in a day and age of social disconnection, her captivating lyrics resonating in water droplet rhythm surrender. “Who is open chested/ And who has coagulated?” It’s a small glimpse into our humanity, into the deterioration of feelings.

Julia Holter

“Feel You”

[Domino]

Truly listening — being present while still being in perpetual flux with everything else — can feel like running footless on hard ground during a rainstorm, never quite knowing what kind of insecurities lie up ahead. Momentum and intuition correct for every stumble, but falling is inevitable; embracing it is what keeps you going. But running (even toward what you cherish) isn’t love, and while I’m not sure what love really means, I guess that figuring it out lies somewhere in that impossibility of seeing who you’re waiting for. Feeling out relationships is just as much a process of momentarily forgetting where we’re going, where we want others. Sometimes, really listening is stopping and letting it all rush past in a brilliant flash of purposes and impossibilities. You feel me?

Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Kanye West

“FourFiveSeconds”

[Roc Nation]

How long was 2015? I wasn’t ready for it (were we ready for this song?), and it’s already four, five seconds from ending. “FourFiveSeconds” is a denim-sleeve-hearted anthem, Rihanna doing a little time, compressing our tics and hopes into a week, a weekend, a minute, a few seconds. It’s affective dissonances cast as temporal confusion. She thinks she’s had enough, might get a little drunk. But on the organ-bridge, the reason for this song, she knows about tonight, about right now. Make no buts about it (Kanye’s wild/positive voice, Paul’s pitch-shifted mania), this is Rihanna’s song. This is for our tomorrow, in a year.

Alex G

“Brite Boy”

[Domino]

“Brite Boy” is a shy bit of sea glass; a sand-caked, forgotten souvenir rescued from the beach dunes. Two lovers call and respond with foregone infatuation, singing promises to each other, ones they’ve repeated so many times they’ve taken on new inflections — perfunctory, like mantras. Love and marriage will solve us, she says in a languid, full-cheeked falsetto. If you come back, it will be okay, sings Alex G. They both know this is true. They both sing with the poise of pop, naïve and sweet and loving, the ideal duet. They are far apart; they do not hear each other.

Beach House

“One Thing”

[Sub Pop]

Chris Marker once said that memory is a layman’s prayer. Does that make retro-minded bands secular prayer-wheels? If so, in “One Thing,” a song about a tryst complicated by the tedium of familiarity, Beach House concoct a hymn that climaxes to an Hallelujah. And while sensuality was always a big part of dream-pop and shoegaze, it rarely reached the profane carnality of “One Thing.” A track that has nothing to do with tender lovemaking, but rather passive-aggressive, scornful fornication — striving for the impulse that makes you look at yourself in the mirror instead of the person you’re fucking. And that lets “One Thing” depict lust better than any other piece of music this year.

Heather Woods Broderick

“Glider”

[Western Vinyl]

I listened to “Glider” for the first time in the middle of a restless night spent half in bed. I struggle, as we all do, I think, with belonging. My college house doesn’t always feel like home, and there is no use denying that we need homes of varying shapes and sizes which may or may not be where we sleep and stay dry in the rain, or that life can be a constant and painful process of renegotiating, refurnishing, and abandoning these homes. People can give us a feeling of home, and when I lost someone this year, I listened to “Glider” and cried as if I had nowhere to go. I am, as I’m sure we all are, setting up camps here and there forever in a cycle of confusion and heartbreak I have no immediate interest in ending. Setting up camp is important and helps me to feel the full responsibility of being human. Heather Woods Broderick understands, with extraordinary sensitivity and vitality, that I still need songs for the days when I’ve had enough.

Joanna Newsom

“You Will Not Take My Heart Alive”

[Drag City]

Joanna Newsom’s lyrics are thoughtful, complex, and haunting, but on “You Will Not Take My Heart Alive,” her bewildering passion is even more pronounced than usual. The unabashed acceptance of the unspoken is on full display, deeper than leaping into a bottomless abyss of commitment. Interpret how you will; the poignant tone here is simply human. Before spilling the chorus, a refrain of the title, Newsom eases, “And I won’t come round this way again?/ Where the lonely wind abides.” Newsom’s harps and minimal synth have never mixed as well with her poetry as it does here.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

“Love after Love”

[Mexican Summer]

“Lucifer, furious and sad angel
rotting your innocence in a lake
I will not tire of licking the Moon
of putting my hands in the Sun
of burning my face in the love
I will not tire of cursing the light
I will not tire of shouting in dreams
I will not tire of telling you
that fog is fire and blood
is the fire that one bites
until you return
the innocence of my hands.”

Oswaldo Reynoso Luzbel (fragment translated by )

Click next to hear the “COUPE” mix by C Monster.


PART 5: “COUPE” mixed by C Monster


Young Thug

“Constantly Hating”

[300 Entertainment]

Pour that shit up, fool; it’s ours. Young Thug won 2015, and when Thugger wins, everybody wins. The world was a confusing place this year, and, contrary to some reports, this music came closer than anything else to forging a space of reprieve. In this understated opening track, there’s no “post-verbal” fury to struggle with, nothing “formless” to try and pin down, nothing we need chaos theory to explain. Simple truth, the love of life, pleasure, and others are alive in Young Thug’s world, which is constantly hated and maligned, even by those who attempt to get into it by way of explanation. I didn’t, and still don’t, understand this shit, and I definitely don’t understand the power Young Thug must have, with his phallic blunts and studio doodles, over Birdman to get him to rap like this in 2015. Young Thug’s music is one of the things I deeply love within a constant storm of hatred. I feel overwhelming humbled by and thankful for this song. And still, I feel like I’ve won every time I run it back.

Skrillex & Diplo

“Where Are Ü Now” with Justin Bieber

[Atlantic]

It’s just a Skrillex song pasted on top of a Diplo song, but there’s something utterly involving about that angelic Bieber vocal against that oh-so-airy bed, his sibilant nothings a perfect pop confection made all the sweeter by being just slightly too slow. And if The Tough Alliance finally left its mark on the mainstream nearly a decade after their time, at least it happened. Yeah, that main lyric is weirdly vindictive, but if you’re paying attention to what Bieber’s saying instead of what’s happening to that baby-angel voice, you’re missing the point. Utterly laid back, it’s pure aesthetics, the joy of Skrillex’s rapturous (yeah, fuck you, rapturous) vocal processing without that aggro backbone he usually leans on. It’s the most asexual song Diplo’s popped out in recent memory, and it’s all the better for it. It’s the rare pop song that’s not an exhortation to anything at all. A tacky L.A. pool at just the right temperature to luxuriate in, pure simulacra, but for once we don’t have to freak out about it. No one cares if we fuck or not. Run that chlorine-soaked finger up my thigh. Stop, that’s plenty. Yeah.

Sicko Mobb

“Kool Aid”

[Self-Released]

It’s easy to get down about the situation in Chicago right now. But instead of paying attention to the internet commenters, take it from some dudes who are in it: haters make you greater. Despite the murderous cops and the neighborhood violence, it’s still possible to turn up. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need: a cruise in the coupe, more strains of weed than Kool Aid has flavors, and a sense, however fleeting, that you run shit. Watch out for the haters, but walk out in front of them with your head high and your style on fleek. Fuck ‘em.

Chief Keef

“Ain’t Missing You”

[FilmOn Music]

Was it a joke? Was it a fuck you to all those kids who “listen to everything except country and rap?” Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Nah, it was just Sosa bein’ sober(ing), Sosa at his most delightful and charmingly weird. This touching tribute to Keef’s fallen friend and cousin Big Glo/Blood Money was the spiritual successor to Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You,” and if we here at TMT have our way, we’ll get to see the Almighty perform this alongside Jenn Em and John Waite at The Grammys in February.

SOPHIE

“JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE”

[Numbers]

Coming back into town, it looks exactly the same, and Sixth Street still smells like fertilizer. “The smell of money” absorbs the senses and the same old Benz with a couch-length backseat. Ball-tapping angels on the Mickey Mouse game. Seat covers. That same smiling set of eyes. A sibling connection that is neither romantic nor “just pals,” but something that’s exactly: feel. SOPHIE’s “JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE” really turn’t up the curiosity nob to 10 upon drop, because WHO is it about? I like to think it’s SOPHIE’s assurance that PRODUCT will last for infinity.

Kanye West

“Only One”

[G.O.O.D. Music]

No goodbyes to the 2015 Yeezus of “Piss On Your Grave” and “All Day,” just hellos to the Kanye-dad of “Only One.” Here’s the Kanye we can’t believe doesn’t like a smile on his face, the Kanye who can’t be told nothing, the Kanye who wrote “Family Business” and “Hey Mama.” The love of a mother passed on into the love of a father; North as the daughter of a dove. Do you know now what it meant to be someone’s only one? We heard him say.

Kendrick Lamar

“Alright”

[Interscope/Aftermath/Top Dawg]

For all the many characters, viewpoints, and stories Kendrick Lamar explored in his incredible To Pimp A Butterfly, nothing felt more impactful than the immortal refrain of its centerpiece, “Alright.” It was a simple, but powerful message to people of color in America — a message for mortal men and women everywhere, treated like statistics, brutalized by police, their perceptions vandalized, seeking a place in the world — an epiphany of the enduring spirit, a paean to those who suffer still in a supposedly post-racial world, and a stone of hope for the many who still need it in 2015.

Grimes

“REALiTi” (demo)

[4AD]

“Every morning, there are mountains to climb” — on the treadmill, cold water on the face, fresh look in the mirror, brushing, running with toast, zipping into the bus at the last minute, slunking down, and letting out a big breath of relief that blows up your hair. With this harried yet focused, “cold light of day” spirit, the marimba and waterfall spritz of Grimes’s unmastered old thing was our heroic breath of fresh air. As it’s been a year rife with artists achieving massive results with less refinement, it’s only natural that this’d be the “REALiTi” that suits us best.

Drake

“Energy”

[Cash Money]

Drake’s energy can’t be taken away. It pulses through him in his tossed-off grievances about exes. It manifests when he has to sit through yet another inane conversation about someone’s Facebook. It comes through when he has to play nice with colleagues who he really couldn’t give a fuck about anymore. And it cultivates in his self-awareness about how first world-y all these gripes ultimately are. Aubrey Graham may be our preeminent millennial softie, but if there’s any joke going on here, you can guarantee that he’s the one laughing. Drake does bangers like only Drake can: satirical, sensational, sentimental, and surging with unbridled energy.

Carly Rae Jepsen

“Run Away With Me”

[Interscope]

“Run Away With Me” occupies the liminal space between Notes on ‘Camp’ and Teenage Dream, which is to say that it is sexless, synthetic, naive, extravagant, and, more than anything, sublime. Carly Rae Jepsen has been accused of being too chaste or juvenile to be a meaningful artist, but maturity is far beside the point of such giddy and ecstatic music. “Run Away With Me” is a pop song, but also a celebration of the aesthetic experience of emotion itself. Whenever that fake sax wails, we are helpless; take us to the feeling.

Click next to view the entire list.


PART 1: “GYM” mixed by Mr P

[00:00] Red Velvet - “Dumb Dumb”
[03:18] easyFun - “Laplander”
[06:25] PMM - “Serpent’s Promise”
[12:21] DJ Paypal - “Slim Trak”
[14:21] D∆WN - “Calypso”
[21:52] Charli XCX ft. Rita Ora - “Doing It (A. G. Cook Remix)”
[25:45] Galcher Lustwerk - “I Neva Seen”
[29:24] Gesloten Cirkel - “Real Melbourne House”
[35:12] Surfing - “Fire”
[40:37] f(x) - “4 Walls”


PART 2: “VOID” mixed by Adam Devlin

[00:00] Matthew Revert - “Prediction”
[04:53] Ahnnu - “The Racer”
[08:29] foodman - “AWA BURO”
[11:54] Carter Tutti Void - “f=(2.7)”
[18:18] Wes Tirey - “Old Ohio Blues”
[22:03] Levantis - “Jamaican Greek Style”
[30:06] Prurient - “Greenpoint”
[40:14] Arca - “Mutant”
[47:28] ZS - “Corps”
[59:40] Jenny Hval - “Holy Land”


PART 3: “ALLEY” mixed by Monet Maker

[00:00] WWWINGS - “Delirium”
[03:24] Future - “Blood On Money”
[07:51] Lolina - “Miss Understood”
[11:35] D’Angelo and The Vanguard - “1000 Deaths”
[17:18] M.E.S.H. - “Methy Imbiß”
[20:21] James Ferraro - “Skid Row”
[24:52] Dr. Yen Lo - “Day 81”
[27:46] Container - “Calibrate”
[30:46] Chelsea Wolfe - “Carrion Flowers”
[35:38] Lera Lynn - “My Least Favorite Life”


PART 4: “CLIFF” mixed by Willcoma

[00:00] Waxahatchee - “Summer Of Love”
[02:34] Sufjan Stevens - “Death With Dignity”
[06:28] Björk - “Stonemilker”
[12:58] Julia Holter - “Feel You”
[17:09] Rihanna, Paul McCartney, Kanye West - “FourFiveSeconds”
[20:15] Alex G - “Brite Boy”
[22:41] Beach House - “One Thing”
[28:12] Heather Woods Broderick - “Glider”
[31:26] Joanna Newsom - “You Will Not Take My Heart Alive”
[35:23] Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - “Love After Love”


PART 5: “COUPE” mixed by C Monster

[00:00] Young Thug - “Constantly Hating”*
[04:20] Skrillex and Diplo - “Where Are Ü Now?” with Justin Bieber
[08:15] Sicko Mobb - “Kool Aid”
[11:42] Chief Keef - “Ain’t Missing You”
[14:55] SOPHIE - “JUST LIKE WE NEVER SAID GOODBYE”
[17:37] Kanye West - “Only One”
[22:15] Kendrick Lamar - “Alright”*
[25:32] Grimes - “Realiti (demo)”
[30:00] Drake - “Energy”
[32:58] Carly Rae Jepsen - “Run Away With Me”*
*feat. S’mooreo

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


Most Read