Best of Year

Published on December 20th, 2015 | by Andy Sedlak

15 Outstanding Tunes from 2015

Until Adele slipped in a record-breaking album at the tail end of 2015, we spent much of the year living in the shadow of a blockbuster that came out the year before. With 1989, Taylor Swift made 2015 work for her. The whole year was like a giant bash for Swift. And it seemed like very few opted out.

But for those who did, there was much to discover. Years from now when music historians are digging through music from 2015, they’ll find plenty of alternative storylines and worthy paths to retrace. Fans just needed to position themselves to best absorb it all.

Do we stream?

Do we download?

Do we start buying vinyl again?

It was awkward at times, yes. But the material was there. Keith Richards and Dr. Dre released new music. A collective 39 years had passed since the last time they put records out.

Kacey Musgraves continued her assault on country music. And Fall Out Boy somehow proved they were among the most energetic and entertaining live performers in rock.

Newcomers to the mainstream – from the Weeknd to Chris Stapleton – managed to put substance first. And they were rewarded for it.

So fear not. If you were one of the misfits who passed on Taylor’s diary of a socialite, you were covered. As always, you just needed to know where to look.

Below are 15 of the best tunes from 2015, nestled comfortably under the radar.

 

#15 — “High Time” by Kacey Musgraves

 

No one makes slowing down seem more noble than Musgraves. Putting the play on words aside, she delivers a valuable lesson to self-righteous millennials and their yuppie parents: cut the shit. Musically, it sounded like a modernized Spaghetti Western score mixed with spit-shined traditional country.

 

#14 — “Angels” by Chance the Rapper

 

Chance the Rapper is among the new crop of MCs bringing unrefined energy back to hip hop. His intellect and lyricism — always poignant and poetic — will ensure he’s in the game for as long as he desires. This was the introduction.

 

#13 — “Nothing on Me” by Keith Richards

 

If one song could speak for one man’s mentality, it’s this one. “They watched me like hawk and took me for a walk/Tried to make me squawk/But they got nothing on me.” Is he talking about the authorities? Medical experts? Musicians his grandson’s age?

 

#12 — “Between Me and You” by Brandon Flowers

 

If only all rockers had Brandon’s heart…

#11 — “Might As Well Get Stoned” by Chris Stapleton

 

Proving garage rock and country have more in common than one might think, Stapleton sings like a man who’s almost ready to come to terms with the blank page in front of him.

 

#10 — “Fourth of July” by Fall Out Boy

 

Fall Out Boy will always be cutesy, but in 2015 it became tolerable. They did it with songs like “Fourth of July,” which paired fully fleshed-out verses with their always-reliable catch phrases.

 

#9 — “Lipstick” by Kip Moore

 

At first it seems like arena-ready schlock. But you know what? It’s fun. And it gets better with every listen.

 

#8 — “All in a Day’s Work” by Dr. Dre (featuring Anderson .Paak and Marsha Ambrosius)

 

The Good Doctor delivers an ode to his perfectionism and makes the occupation of “billionaire beat-maker” seem almost blue collar.

 

#7 — “Christine” by Craig Finn

 

The devils — and glories — are in Finn’s details. His lyrics may be Paul Simon-esque, but at the end of the day Finn knows a person amounts to his or her desires. No more. No less.

 

#6  — “Forbidden Nights” by Darlene Love

 

Written by Elvis Costello, “Forbidden Nights” was tailor-made for vocal giant Darlene Love. The record, Introducing Darlene Love, is fascinating. Little Steven, Bruce Springsteen and Costello all had a hand in recreating Phil Spector’s famous Wall of Sound. The style, popularized in the mid-60s, originally turned them on in their youth.

 

#5 — “Speed Trap Town” by Jason Isbell

 

Bitter realities drive Isbell’s character away from the small town he grew up in. Even though he’s out, salvation is still up in the air.

 

#4 — “Three Year Old” by Eric Church

 

Church is no longer ogling girls across the bar and spends less time reminiscing about his teenage years. He’s refocused his powers of observation on his home life. It’s the same Chief, only domesticated. And it fit him like a glove.

 

#3 — “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” by Adele

*Note: “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” is not available on YouTube.

Can any of Adele’s songs be considered “under the radar?” It might be a stretch, but this song has been strangely absent from the discussion when people talk about 25. That could change any minute now.

 

#2  — “She’s Got You” by Rhiannon Giddens

 

Giddens’ voice is the type you might imagine hearing in a noir-ish bar late at night on the south side of Chicago. It’s smoky and mysterious and Giddens puts it to stunning use in this Patsy Cline cover.

 

#1 — “Coming Home” by Leon Bridges

 

Bridges’ brand of soul is rugged in spirit, clearly motivated by Sam Cooke’s workman-like philosophy. Like Cooke, Bridges finds grandeur in a plain-spoken writing style. “Coming Home” made it inside the Top 20 on Billboard’s R&B chart, but didn’t make an impact on the Hot 100. We can only hope a mainstream audience discovers him in 2016.

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About the Author

Andy Sedlak is a former television reporter who lives in Dayton, OH. He grew up in a household that pumped Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel every weekend. He instantly became a new man when he discovered Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” in junior high.



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