2015 has absolutely flown by. I began this list as a Top 10, then a Top 15; in all honesty I could have gone to 100, but I eventually settled on a Top 20 to avoid undermining the purpose of the format any further. These sort of lists are inherently subjective, and often controversial, and so I hope that you’re not too incensed by my choices. I will offer a small recompense in the form of an honourable mentions section, which you will find nestled at the foot of the article. In the mean time, here’s the final cut:
20. A New Wave – Sleater-Kinney
This track is awesome for more reasons than the Bob’s Burger video collab – Sleater-Kinney broke 10 years of musical silence with the nigh-on-flawless No Cities No Love, and A New Wave is infectious.
19. Baby Ain’t Made of China – Wolf Alice
Funnily enough, this track doesn’t appear on Wolf Alice’s Mercury-nominated album My Love Is Cool, instead featuring as a B-side to single You’re A Germ. Nonetheless, it’s arguably their finest piece of the year.
18. Constantly Hating – Young Thug (feat. Birdman)
Safe to say 2015 was a fairly mixed bag for Young Thug – on the one hand, he dropped his debut album Barter 6 to widespread critical acclaim, on the other he was arrested for the possession of drugs and illegal firearms. Swings and roundabouts, eh?
17. Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas – Beach Slang
The debut album from Philadelphia group Beach Slang was full of fun anthemic punk riffs and lyrics about being a fuck-up – it’s great.
16. Bored In The USA – Father John Misty
It’s amazing to think that Joshua Tillman was once a lowly drummer in Fleet Foxes; this year his blossoming solo career bore fruit once again, in the form of the seminal I Love You, Honeybear – a poetic masterpiece crowned by this scathing assessment of the American dream.
15. Preach – Drake (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)
2015 was huge for Drake’s label, and he teamed up with fellow OVO Sound artist PARTYNEXTDOOR on Preach – the first and arguably best single from his fourth studio album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.
14. Annie – Neon Indian
Alan Palomo has absolutely nailed the nu-disco niche of the modern musical market, with Annie representing his funky pièce de résistance.
13. Don’t Breath Out – Roots Manuva
Roots Manuva has been the ever-present, if not recently underappreciated, father of the UK hip-hop scene for over 15 years. His most recent single Don’t Breath Out is a potent reminder that he remains one of the most talented producers in the country.
12. Cornerstone – Benjamin Clementine
This year’s Mercury Prize winner has captured critics’ imaginations with his rags-to-riches tale, which has seen him go from busker on the streets of Paris, to writer of profoundly intimate and avant-garde debut At Least For Now.
11. Sorry – Justin Bieber
Some reckon Purpose represented a huge comeback for JB – but in all honesty, he’s never been this good. The lyrical honesty may betray some of his more egotistical flaws, but it’s nigh on impossible to resist those tropical house vibes.
10. Run Away With Me – Carly Rae Jepsen
Emotion pips Purpose to the title of pop album of the year, which makes Run Away With Me the genre’s crowning glory, with its fruity synth and sensual lyricism cementing Carly as much more than a one-hit-wonder.
9. No Other Heart – Mac DeMarco
Mac DeMarco put together his mini-album, Another One, as a dedication to the art of writing a love song, and No Other Heart is a melancholic reminder that Mac is one of the biggest songwriting talents around.
8. Pretty Pimpin – Kurt Vile
Few artists can capture the existential torment of an artist as simply as Kurt Vile, and this headline single from 2015’s b’lieve i’m goin down… serves as an enchanting reminder.
7. Without You – Tobias Jesso Jr.
Tobias Jesso Jr.’s abilities as a songwriter effortlessly disguise the fact he’s only been playing the piano for around two and a half years. Indeed it’s the musical and lyrical simplicity of Without You that makes it such a powerfully beautiful piece of music.
6. Sunday Candy – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment
Chance The Rapper had a busy 2015, but it was this brass-infused side project that produced Sunday Candy, a gospel-laden dedication to a beloved church-goer.
5. Hotline Bling – Drake
Maybe not the best, but undoubtedly the most fun track of the entire year – watching Drake freestyle his way around a multi-coloured box to some tinkling R&B hooks is nothing short of irresistible.
4. Death with Dignity – Sufjan Stevens
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about this year in music without mentioning Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell was Sufjan at his emotional peak, and this oblique tribute to the death of his estranged mother is both profoundly poignant and remarkably intimate.
3. Lift Me Up – Vince Staples
If Kendrick set the scene for hip-hop in 2015, then Vince Staples stole the show. The 22-year-old Long Beach rapper delivers Lift Me Up, from his debut album Summertime ’06, with the relentless honesty and flow of a man who is undoubtedly destined for greatness.
2. The Less I Know The Better – Tame Impala
Irresistible funk and sexually frustrated gorillas – The Less I Know The Better served up a music video as psychedelically entrancing as the track itself.
1. These Walls/The Blacker The Berry – Kendrick Lamar
I know – I’m a horrible cheat. My track of the year had to come from To Pimp A Butterfly, but it was just impossible to pick a single standout – These Walls is perhaps the most playful of Kendrick’s tracks, whilst The Blacker The Berry strikes at the heart of the political torment that runs through the album’s veins. Unbeatable.
Honourable mentions: Bird of Prey – Natalie Prass; On The Regular – Shamir; Malukayi – Mbonkwana Star; Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna; The Battle Is Over – Jenny Hval; Pedestrian At Best – Courtney Barnett; Mural – Lupe Fiasco; Jump Hi – Lion Babe; Mrahc – Title Fight; Snakeskin – Deerhunter; Dream Lover – Destroyer, Re Run – Kamasi Washington; Down – Petit Noir; Run Baby Run – Toro Y Moi; Everytime Boots – Julia Holter.
Check out our PearShaped Spotify Playlist of The Top 20 Songs of 2015 below.