WHAT IS 2015?
Last year I had a difficult time compiling a list of twelve songs that I loved released in 2014. I had a somewhat easier time compiling a list of twelve songs which were important to me regardless of their release date. This year I fiddled around and didn’t really work toward it because I felt lazy. As clarified by my esteemed graduate school faculty member Russell Flinchum, “There is a difference between laziness (you would not have made it this far if you were lazy) and avoiding the hard thing.” Turns out, I always choose to do the hard thing – it also turns out that it doesn’t seem as difficult as you once believed, some of the songs were actually released in 2015. In no particular order, with regard to nothing…
Jeremih ft. J Cole - “Planez”
It’s a secret to very few that I am not exactly the champion of slow/sex jams. I’d rather hear heavy bass or a party rager than anything that sounds like this. While on a press run in Chicago, though, I heard it repeatedly on the radio in the expensive rental cars I kept getting (shoutout to the O’Hare Avis), and I guess conflating sex with something I identify heavily with (constantly being on a plane) is the trick. The beat (in the wheelhouse of Sevyn Streeter’s “It Won’t Stop”) doesn’t hurt either.
NWA – “Express Yourself”
It would be impossible to not include something from Los Angeles in the year I finally moved here, combined with the release of Straight Outta Compton. I still find Gwyneth Paltrow flaunting her ability to rap a lot of NWA in public kind of weird, but that’s a pretty glass houses stance to take since I pride myself on my ability to rap this to myself out loud in my car at any given opportunity now that I once again own one. NWA’s music is about a lot of things but this song always seems like the core value of what motivated the rest of the subject matter. As someone who’s spent most of her life very much expressing herself, this year this got played out.
The Cave Weddings – “Bring Your Love”
One night, super late, I was trying to find a recording of a friend singing with her then-partner Jay Reatard. Along the way, I found a video she made in an attempt at catharsis of photos of them set to this song. I know nothing about this band, I didn’t even really do research (shocking, still) but I have listened to this song hundreds of times since. I was never in a band that sounded like this, not even close, but this is what I want bands to sound like all of the time. Had I heard this song prior to the invaluable resource that is the Internet I probably would have been Little Pete wandering the streets looking for my favorite song of all time, wafting out of a garage.
Vundabar – “Chop”
Last year was the high watermark of me not enjoying, or sparingly enjoying, new records. This year, instead, was once of chance discovery guided very heavily by the remarkable Spotify Discover algorithm. My trust in algorithms is low – I have many failed and pathetic OK Cupid stories to back that up. Spotify, however, has tracked just how much I like Joy Division and whatever else, setting this band’s “Holy Toledo” down in front of me. I listened to it over and over and decided to take a chance on their release from this year. I am pretty sure they are teens or barely in their twenties, but they made one of my favorite records this year.
Girlpool – “Cut Your Bangs (Radiator Hospital cover)”
Speaking of teens, I am almost positive that most of the shows I went to this year were all ages. There’s something weirdly invigorating about going to them, listening to teens exclaim and confess things to one another, hearing one say to another “This is my first show!” knowing yours was twenty years ago. I saw this band twice this year, they didn’t do this cover either time, even though it’s this cover that is my favorite thing they have recorded. The original is very different, but it’s the quiet, borderline loneliness of this one that made me listen to it over and over again in my darkened apartment when I felt quiet and lonely myself.
Blur – “Ghost Ship”
When this came out I texted my friend Alex – “pretty sure this is Blur’s ‘D’yer Mak’er’ moment” and I’m fairly sure I got some cool guy emojis and some palm trees in response. I was ecstatic about this album being released, I was beyond ecstatic to go see them for the first time since 1997 at the Hollywood Bowl and hear this live, among all the hits. Damon Albarn’s voice is perfect to me, and this kind of weird vacation jam about Hong Kong is exactly what I wanted to play every warm night when I first moved here. My feelings about their music remain as they did last year, but in this one I had their new music to guide them.
Sonic Youth – “Incinerate”
There are certain SY songs that sound good to me mostly because of the guitar tones. They could be made of nearly nothing else and I would love them intensely regardless. Now that so much intel about how Kim & Thurston’s relationship devolved is published, public knowledge, it’s changed how I view some of their songs, realizing this song is essentially about feelings for someone outside of their relationship was tough. Recall how difficult I found their breakup in 2011 and it wasn’t even remotely my business. “You doused my soul with gasoline / You flicked a match into my brain” is thematically up there with my well-documented feelings about Fetty Wap’s “We just set a goal / Talkin’ matchin’ Lambos.” My tenets for romance are not like yours.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – “All the Gold In California”
True Detective season 2 was nothing compared to the first season, and I would be hard-pressed to say that there was something about it that I enjoyed more than this cover. Nick Cave’s voice is chilling but also strangely comforting to me, part of the reason I joke that you can play The Boatman’s Call as a Christmas album and some people would never know the difference. Again, the contrast and sinister character to this cover compared to its original made it perfect for the first episode and I waited for the full version to be released so I could stop watching badly recorded YouTube videos from HBO. It’s a shame nothing else about TD2 was as good.
JD Samson & MEN – “All the Way Thru”
Do you ever have that twinge of regret when you find a song that isn’t new, but also isn’t exactly old, and you feel you’ve wasted so much time without it in your life? This was me listening to this for the first time this year when it came out in 2013. “I could’ve loved this for over two years!” I kept thinking, even though I know at the same time that songs sometimes come into your life at the appropriate time that may or may not coincide with release date.
Art of Noise – “Moments In Love”
In May I was with friends in a bar in San Francisco, a crew I hadn’t seen at once in years. We heard a golden fifteen minutes of soul classics that was immediately preceded by this. Post-punk is still crazy to me, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. The fifteen minutes was followed up by German industrial, further proof that nothing gold can stay.
Silkworm – “Let’s Kill Saturday Night (Robbie Fulks cover)”
Greg sent this to me at the end of 2014, Silkworm is more his territory than mine. That said, it still functions as a great horrible day salve in the year 2015 – one where he and I both spent a lot of time talking about our professional lives and what they would look like down the line. “If there’s a fire inside / It’s the one thing going” – here’s to eventually working for ourselves and with others. Here’s to 2016!
Perfect Pussy – “Interference Fits”
Joke is on everyone, when I originally posted I forgot to include this, which is the song I listened to the most according to Spotify. I was in the shower yesterday night when I realized it. Oops. Sorry about that.