Sunday, December 27, 2015

My Favorite Songs of 2015 - Part 2

20. Matthew E. White - “Take Care of My Baby” (Fresh Blood)
I saw Mr. White open for the Mountain Goats when we were living in Minneapolis and he was a delight. And then I forgot about him. And then I randomly got this album, put it on, and holy shit, I was grooving around the bedroom. How can a big white dude like that sing with so much soul?

19. Waxahatchee - “Poison” (Ivy Tripp)
“Is this on Merge?” I asked Jenny when we listened to this album in the car right after it came out. Sure enough. Merge Records. Makes sense, since this sounds like a Merge record from the 90s. Just the distortion on the guitars, the raw, earnest vocals, the general heartswelling vibe. Katie Crutchfield forever.

18. Wilco - “Magnetized” (Star Wars)
The Song Exploder podcast did an episode where Jeff Tweedy discussed his process and how it birthed this track and it was the most inspiring thing I heard all year. Listen to it here. The chorus is so simple and beautiful and full of sweet affection for Tweedy’s wife, but never sappy, as is his way. Though I lost the man, the man hasn’t lost it.

17. Sufjan Stevens - “Eugene” (Carrie & Lowell)
I know the detail of the man who taught Stevens how to swim calling him Subaru is meant to draw out a really sweet sort of reaction, and I’m a sucker. It’s tough to pick just one track from Carrie & Lowell, as the sonic and thematic link between the tracks is so strong, but “Eugene” is the feeliest.

16. Julien Baker - “Sprained Ankle” (Sprained Ankle)
It takes guts to put yourself out there in song, but it takes more guts to do it on a track that is stripped down to its bones. A little plucked guitar and some atmospherics are the only thing that keep Baker’s raw vocals company. It’s a little monument that says it is OK for music to be simple and beautiful.

15. The Tallest Man on Earth - “Dark Bird is Home” (Dark Bird is Home)
I’m a sucker for any song that has strings come in towards the end. It’s an easy triumph, and the strings that crash in on this track’s climactic moment are excellent. I do not understand how this album got a universal “Eh” from the rock chump community.

14. Bill Ryder-Jones - “Tell Me You Don’t Love Me Watching” (West Kirby County Primary)
Though the rest of West Kirby County Primary is pretty standard folky brit-rock, the opener is a slow, lurid scene. It could come across as trashy, but there’s enough self-deprecation to make the guy watching his ex from afar a sad and mournful thing.

13. Titus Andronicus - “Fired Up” (The Most Lamentable Tragedy)
TMLT is a lot to unpack, and its two most immediate and accessible tracks come back to back in the middle of the record. “Fired Up” edges out “Dimed Out” because I’m a sucker for big, anthemic choruses and calls to action and the Springsteen that resides in the blood of these New Jerseyites. Excuse me while I find a brick wall to run through.

12. Laura Stevenson - “Claustrophobe” (Cocksure)
I’m pretty sure Laura Stevenson is my spirit animal. I feel like these days I want to find music that matches the sound of my spirit, and the prechorus and chorus of this track is pretty much a perfect match. Strangely, this song kept coming up on shuffle. I had the whole album on my phone, in addition to ten other albums, and this one was always the first or second song that would pop up when I shuffled. So maybe the universe was trying to tell me something. If so, it worked.

11. Mikal Cronin - “Turn Around” (MCIII)
I waffled between “Turn Around” and “I’ve Been Loved.” On the one hand, that hilarious Natalie Imbruglia-parodying video was hilarious and my introduction to this incredible record. But on the other, Cronin’s performance of “I’ve Been Loved” on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast was what really drove it into my Top 10. And of course the last six songs are a song cycle, so what do you do with that?! I’ll stick with “Turn Around” here because it exemplifies what Cronin does best: garage-pop with sweeping orchestral flourishes and brain-melting melodies.

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