Here’s a non-comprehensive, unordered list of 32 tunes that I just really loved in 2015. They approximately go from fast and loud to quiet. Happy 2016, y’all.
“Let’s Go Jump Into the Fire” – Devin James Fry and the Namesayers
“Glass Heart” – Magic Giant
“Seven Hells” – Quiet Company
“Shiny Destination” – The Rutabega
“The Fringe” – Sego
“In the Woods” – Bobby’s Oar
“Run with Me” – Heather LaRose
“Don’t Go Quietly” – Light Music
“Marina and I” – The Gorgeous Chans
“Bad Blood” – Fred Thomas
“Golden Coast” – Billy Shaddox
“Flare Gun” – In Tall Buildings
“All This Wandering Around” – Ivan and Alyosha
“See You Soon” – Valley Shine
“Through the Night and Back Again” – Michael Malarkey
“By the Canal” – Elephant Micah
“Everglow” – Jared Foldy
“Father’s Day” – Butch Walker
“Muscle Memory” – Laura and Greg
“Odell” – Lowland Hum
“Waking Up Again” – Emily Hearn
“Pilot Light” – The Local Strangers
“Death Came Knocking” – B. Snipes
“Hold On” – We are the West
“Money in the Evenings” – Hermit’s Victory
“California Song” – Patrick James
“Winter is for Kierkegaard” – Tyler Lyle
“Paperback Books” – The Pollies
“Closet” – John Vournakis
“Ein Berliner” – Jacob Metcalf
“Spring” – Sam Burchfield
“Vacation” – Florist
I don’t usually do this, but I have so many videos to cover this month (a good problem to have!) that I’ve listed them like I would MP3s. Instead of commenting thoroughly on them, I’ve posted the main takeaway from each video as a description. Enjoy!
1. “Modern Man” – Brian Lopez. Intergenerational friendships are cool.
2. “Ghost (feat. Patrick Baker)” – Lane 8. Love triangles affect even biker clubs.
3. “Something Good” – Dead Sara. If the dancing, the camerawork, and the song all evoke the same era, it’s gonna be a fun video.
4. “Cops Don’t Care, pt II” – Fred Thomas. Concepts as simple as “hey, pour tons of sprinkles on me in slow-motion” can work in the right conditions.
5. “Magnifying Glass” – Girlpool. Sometimes the right conditions for a simple concept is a 36-second song.
6. “Hold Up For” – The Silver Lake Chorus. There are still clever concepts that keep me watching a video to find out what’s going on.
7. “Frayed” – Waterstrider. You can make a rad dance video out of 40,000 still images stitched together.
8. “Underwood Milk” – Kieran Leonard. Self-aware, self-deprecating humor is still very funny.
9. “Secret Friend” – Grounders. You can make a trippy, abstract video really interesting (I’m not sure what the formula is, but they make it work here).
10. “Broken Bones” – Daycare for Jedi. Somewhere in my heart, there’s an small but undying flame for the exaggerated enthusiasm and adrenalized pogoing of the pop-punk performance video.
11. “Pink Blossoms” – Connecting Stars. I am a sucker for a sad, romantic song and video.
12. “Dancing Star” – Lilies on Mars. Digital modeling is way cool.
13. “Moony Eyed Walrus” – Cayucas. It is difficult to surf in a redwood forest.
1. “The Giving” – Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders. Squires plays the traveling troubadour here, finding “poverty and magic all around me” in a New Orleans full of found sound, delicate guitar, his signature vocal style, and fitting trumpet.
2. “Red” – Mt. Wolf. Here’s a slow-burning, tension-releasing amalgam of acoustic guitar, beats, and falsetto that sounds like Bon Iver 2.0. Mmm, mmm, mmm.
3. “Heart” – Pistol Shrimp. The falsetto-filled acoustic version of this dance-rock banger sounds somewhere between Ben Gibbard and Ben Folds, which is pretty impressive. Maybe they should do this more often.
4. “Odell” – Lowland Hum. Afflicted, pastoral, theatrical indie-folk has previously belonged in my mind only to Bowerbirds. Move on over, Bowerbirds–Lowland Hum are here with a beautiful tune in that very specific mood.
5. “Cops Don’t Care pt. II” – Fred Thomas. Thomas follows up his epic debut single with this one, which is a lot simpler musically but just as powerful lyrically.
6. “Other Suns” – Magic Giant. With mandolin, cello, and harmonica, Magic Giant is doing their best to act the folk part of their folk rave name in this mid-tempo ballad.
7. “Love or Die” – Magic Giant. I know I just put them in this list, but this Lumineers/Twin Forks stomp-along is just too much fun to pass up.
8. “If It Don’t Kill You” – Family Folk Revival. Get that outlaw alt-country feel on and enjoy this low-slung, rootsy jam.
Here’s the last drop of tunes from January. On to February!
1. “Bad Blood” – Fred Thomas. This is the indie rock equivalent of an LCD Soundsystem song: deep bass groove, highly emotional lyrics in a speak/sing milieu, unexpectedly hooky melodies from unusual places. It’s basically the promise of indie rock 1979-1992 coming to fruition. Damn.
2. “Story of My Life” – Martin Sexton. Yes, this is a One Direction cover. It basically sounds like One Direction covered Martin Sexton. Yes. You need this in your life.
3. “Soul Shine” – Sam Joole. In addition to smooth singer/songwriter stuff, Joole does reggae. I don’t cover reggae, but this one is so smooth and includes such infectious horns that it stole my heart. Mad props.
4. “Bells and Buzz” – Matt and the McCues. If you were listening to early ’00s indie-pop (verses), ’90s alt-rock (chorus) and bass-heavy ’80s indie-rock (breakdown!) on three stereos at once, you’d end up with this track. It’s an unusual stew, but Matt and the McCues make it work.
5. “If Only” – Ships Have Sailed. If you’re looking for pop-rock with an artsy bent (but not too artsy, you want to sing along, right?), Ships Have Sailed is showing themselves as a solid bet. Get your head-bob and hum on with this great track.
6. “Following the Plan” – Bellwire. Noisy, jangly guitar-pop with Guided by Voices vibes and unironic “whoo-hoo-hoo!”s in it: who can ask for more in a pop song?
7. “Upside Down” – Lime Cordiale. If The Killers, MGMT and Muse all collaborated on a track, they couldn’t come up with something more towering than this.
8. “Pins” – Natalie McCool. Like a grittier Lorde, McCool is on the fast track to a lot of people knowing who she is.
9. “MAD” – Honey & the 45s. Funky, sassy, soulful, gripping: this band knows how to make that old-school soul live.
10. “Spat Out Spit” – Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. Lady Lamb is endlessly fascinating in her lyricism, song construction, and arrangements. Her newest track is no disappointment on any of those fronts.
11 “Hammer and a Nail” – Vienna Ditto. This slinky, enticing, cinematic track is like soul and film noir all wrapped into one. Awesome.
12. “Paying” – Sarah Bethe Nelson. If you’re a fan of long, minimalist folk-type tunes OR singer/songwriter women OR despondent rock tunes from the ’70s OR good things, you’ll be all up in this.
13. “Safe” – Emily Ann Peterson. Raw, deep emotion expressed in a piano-and-vocals one-take, complete with hall gorgeous reverb and all.
14. “Electric” – Föllakzoid. Y’know, I’m usually not into Chilean deep groove, psychedelic, bass-heavy dance vibes, but this one sucked me in and kept me going for twelve minutes. Twice. Going on a third time.