I feel like I'm a hoity toity self-diagnosed "Album Person," but if I really look at my habits in the mirror, when it comes to consuming a particular year's new music, I'd almost always rather listen to a 30 song playlist of the year's best tracks than listen to the year's best album in its entirety. I mean, it depends on the album, but I'm a crave variety so this makes sense. Ask my wife. It's hard enough for her to get me to take leftovers to work. There are certain meals we straight-up just don't have around the house anymore because I got sick of them (roast chicken, chicken noodle soup, it goes on). My usual protocol for new music consumption involves taking an album I have been looking forward to, or one that has been touted by reputable sources, or one that has a cool album cover/title and I put that record on my iPhone with ten other albums. I don't listen to music in the car much anymore but if I'm at work setting up for the daily Kids Cafe program or doing the money or discharging the book drop, I'll put all of the music on shuffle and skip around until I find something I can latch onto. The process is tried and true, and it keeps my best of list from being 50% track ones.
Every year has at least ten songs that are absolute worldbeaters. Those are songs that I'll always carry with me. Every year also has about 20-40 songs that are damn good but are more products of the moment and will channel more nostalgia when I listen to them down the line. Still, a good song is a good song, and I like making these lists because I like looking a back at the good songs from years gone by and reevaluating down the line. It's like making a fun little time capsule filled with great tunes.
30. Car Seat Headrest - “Something Soon” (Teens of Style)
Wunderkind Will Toledo caught the attention of Matador after making 12 albums over the last 5 years and putting them on Bandcamp for no one. The chorus bears a world class hook that unfortunately bends to the will of an instrumental/whoa-ing outro piece that goes on wayyyyy too long. This is effectively a two minute song that ends and you IMMEDIATELY throw it on again. But that’s the pop purist in me talking and this young man’s talent and drive is a goddamn inspiration. Note: I promise this is the last time I will talk about chorus repetition etiquette on this list. I also promise to never refer to myself as a “pop purist” ever again. I just can’t understand why great bands ruin perfectly lean pop songs with fat and gristle.
29. Yo La Tengo - “My Heart’s Not in It” (Stuff Like That There)
Ever the purveyors of obscure covers, YLT plucked Darlene McCrea’s 1964 tune from a hat and turned out an astoundingly lovely and sad song in typical YLT fashion.
28. The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - “January 10th, 2014” (Harmlessness)
Emo revivalists TWIABPAIANLATD go deeper and bigger on their excellent new record. At its core the track is about a vigilante woman hunting down murderous bus drivers (based on a true story) but on its face it’s a big, sweeping track with back and forth boy/girl vocals that is just one of the many highlights of Harmlessness, which, is likely going to top the “Shoulda Been on my Best of 2015 If I Wasn’t So Preoccupied/Lazy” list I put out in March or April).
27. Beach House - “Majorette” (Thank Your Lucky Stars)
Beach House’s chill vibe has never really been my thing. Ever since their debut came through music staff in like 2008 I have found their music to be intensely lovely but hard to sink my teeth into. After watching Aziz Ansari’s “Master of None,” which takes its name from a Beach House track, I revisited the band and found that they released TWO albums this year. I admire that sort of boldness. I tuned out about four songs in, but “Majorette” stuck with me.
26. Mac DeMarco - “Peter’s Pickles” (Some Other Ones)
I think I like Mac DeMarco better when he’s not singing. His album of instrumentals was a treat. “Peter’s Pickles” instantly reminds me of chilling on the driveway sidewalk chalking with Rosie this summer.
25. Destroyer - “Time’s Square” (Poison Season)
If you’re gonna put three versions of the same song on your record, that better be one damn good song. Can’t tell if it’s top-shelf Dan Bejar or I’m just stockholm syndromed from listening to the thing so many times.
24. Death Cab for Cutie - “No Room in Frame” (Kintsugi)
Ben Gibbard is finally writing break up songs about Zooey Deschanel. And it’s like throwback Death Cab. The track is light, fun, and heartbreakingly cutting.
23. Kendrick Lamar - “How Much a Dollar Cost” (To Pimp a Butterfly)
Honestly, take your pick from To Pick a Butterfly. I’m just gonna go ahead and side with President Obama on this one. It’s a concise and powerful piece of storytelling and dizzying talent.
22. Desaparecidos - “Ralphy’s Cut” (Payola)
Payola is what my political id feels like. I can’t pay attention to politics anymore. It’s too depressing. I’ll vote leftie, I still feel all of that stuff, but most of my energy is focused on being a good dad. These songs are how I feel in my heart. “Ralphy’s Cut” became my favorite because it’s was the one that kept getting stuck in my head the most.
21. Jeff Rosenstock - “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” (We Cool?)
Despite being a really fun record, We Cool? has some heavy moments tucked away inside. But “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry” feels devastating. Every single time.