1. “Hot and Bothered” – Tameca Jones. Funky female-fronted soul with a touch of disco and a whole lot of sass.
2. “Be Your Man” – Rah Rah. Despite the title and the chipper power-pop included in the song, it’s actually a break-up song from the guy doing the dumping. Ouch, but at least we can dance along.
3. “When the Day is Fresh and the Light is New” – The Wooden Sky. You want some straight-ahead power-pop that you can feel good about? Of course you do.
4. “The Move” – Michael Persall. We can keep updating that ’50s/’60s perky pop sound forever, and I hope we do. The horns, clapping, and general enthusiasm here really seal the deal.
5. “Give Up the Ghost” – Legends of Et Cetera. Synthy new wave/power-pop a la the Cars with an alto female vocalist and a roaring chorus? Sign me up.
6. “Break” – Jesse Owen Astin. Blink and you’ll miss this indie-electro empowerment jam–if you need a stomping tune to get you through a tough thing from the indie spectrum, here you are.
7. “I Feel This Place” – Goldensuns. I never get why some people put only hazy, fuzzy old-school Super 8 footage on their music videos, but if Goldensuns did that for this song it would make perfect sense and I would love it. Languid, ethereal, nostalgic, and yet right on the current waves.
8. “White Flags” – I Used to Be a Sparrow. Andrea Caccese and co. pack a lot into this tune: charging guitars, soaring vocal lines, wiry instrumental sections, memorable melodic parts, and more. I’m always excited to hear more IUtBaS music, and this song is no letdown.
9. “Ode to the Spring” – Crocodile. If Bombadil’s quirky-yet-earnest approach to songwriting collided with Pet Sounds, the results would be similar to this acoustic-led track that balances psych wandering with straightforward acoustic pop.
10. “I Could Never Say No” – Heather LaRose. Here’s a fun modern pop song with solid vocal and synthesizer melodies. LaRose knows how to write a tune that sticks.
11. “Cobwebs” – Fell Runner. This one’s got a ton of atmosphere, as the indie-rock tune gives off the vibe of a meandering trip down a dark, foggy night street.
12. “Sigil of Forgiveness” – Kaito Gigantia. Any description of this song is going to be somewhat deceptive: R&B keys, trumpet, and whispered vocals power this tune, but this deconstructed/experimental take on the genre is like no R&B track you’ve ever heard. For adventurous fans.
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
1. “Run With Me” – Heather LaRose. A great pop song that has that Imagine Dragons / Magic Giant / Lumineers type of enthusiasm tinged with minor-key drama. You’ll be humming this one.
2. “New Minuits” – Tri-State. This low-slung rock tune escaped from some preternaturally chill realm: it’s smart, cool, moody, lyrically clever and vocally impressive without breaking a sweat.
3. “Nothing to Say” – WOOF. THAT BASS LINE. (Also, this a burbling, frenetic, arpeggiator-decorated mid-’00s indie-pop-rock tune. Tokyo Police Club would be proud.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH. THAT BASS.
4. “Take Me To a Party” – Sweet Spirit. “I’ve got a broken heart / so take me to a party” hollers the lead female vocalist over energetic, fractured rock music that sounds suitably unhinged.
5. “Corduroy” – Redcast. Gosh, there’s just something irresistible about a fresh-faced, clean-scrubbed pop-rock group with equal parts Beatles, twee indie-pop, and The Cars references.
6. “Soldiers” – Swim Season. Everything about this track makes way more success when you realize that it’s about to be summer in the band’s native Australia. This summery electro-rock jam slinks, sways and swaggers its way into your ears.
7. “Movies” – Captain Kudzu. Meticulous slacker pop seems like a paradox, but Captain Kudzu’s carefully crafted tune here sounds excellently like it’s not trying too hard. Foresty, moody vibes track with the easiness, making it an intriguing song.
8. “Captive” – WYLDR. Temper Trap + Passion Pit + a dash of Colony House = radio gold.
9. “Every Day” – Dream Culture. Here’s a funky psych-rock nugget with one foot firmly in the ’70s and one in outer space. The tension between grounded riffing and free-floating atmosphere pulls at each other in all the right ways.
10. “Hey Little League” – Michael Daughtry. John Mayer’s suave alt-pop touch collides with some tight ’90s pop-rock vibes to turn out this tune.
11. “Time to Share” – Model Village. Grows from a delicate pop tune to a surprising, swirling post-disco tune without ever losing a gentle touch.
12. “You Have Saved Our Lives, We Are Eternally Grateful” – Wovoka Gentle. Chiming voices float over shape-shifting synths, bouncy guitars, and an overall joyous mood. It’s kind of like a female-fronted Freelance Whales, only weirder in the best possible way.
I’ve got a lot of singles to catch up on. All these that I’m posting over the next few days have been sent my way over the past two months.
Electro / pop
1. “it was gone” – Orchid Mantis. Somehow combines found sounds, heavily processed vocals, insistent synths and stuttering drums into great clouds of sound. It’s a gem.
2. “Iron & Wood” – Quinn Erwin. Erwin, of the brilliant Afterlife Parade, turns his impeccable songwriting talent toward synth-driven pop-rock. The results are just as dynamic and exciting as his band’s forays into anthemic guitar rock and artsy post-rock. The lyrics, the vocal melodies, and the arrangement just all work together like clockwork.
3. “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” – Summer Heart. The song title and band name are perfect for this tune that balances wiry energy and dreamy vocals to create the soundtrack to a carefree summer afternoon.
4. “Go” – Sunday Lane. Lane isolates the chorus and lets that hook live on its own, letting the rest of the song draw its energy from the perky declaration, “Where we gonna go?”
5. “Everything at Once” – Her Magic Wand. Sonic texture is something I don’t call out that often, but this electro-pop track has some really nice layering of disparate sounds that give the tune a compelling sonic consistency.
6. “We Are Golden” – Nova Heart. Burbling synths, LCD Soundsystem-esque bass riffs, a buttery smooth mood, and luscious vocals make this mesmerizing electro-rock jam an easy fit for the dancefloor or the rock club.
7. “Broken” – Featurette. The herky-jerky rhythms of this tune rub up against the silky synths to create that juxtaposition that plays so nicely in electro: the jagged smooth, the spiky soft.
8. “Shake It Loose” – Astronauts, etc. If you need any suave, svelte, seductive babymaking music, this tune has my vote.
9. “Beachside” – Heather Larose. This acoustic-pop song makes me want to dance in my computer chair. ‘Nuff said.
10. “Tied Up” – Level and Tyson. Scandinavians have the most eccentric lenses when it comes to pop music: we’ve got Surrounded-style distorted vocals, walking-speed acoustic-vibes, ’90s-esque drum beat and some humming background vocals. The results are unique, to say the least.
11. “Lovers Can Be Monsters” – Roger Harvey. Harvey bears the burden of having a voice and genre similar to Ben Gibbard’s, but it would be a shame to pass up this addictive, oddly tender indie-rock track due to unasked-for similarities. I want to listen to this over and over.