Crazy soul singers! Heartfelt odes to newborn children! Profanity! Egregious Korean rapping!
This list has it all!
20. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – She’ll Kill You
It isn’t until about midway through “She’ll Kill You” that it hits you. This soundtrack has been nearly completely devoid of drums. Luckily, when they kick in, they totally rule.
19. M83 – Go! (feat. Mai Lan)
“I’M COMING I’M COMING I’M COMING FOR YOU”
Formula for success: smooth breakdown to a soft, soothing bridge, cut to Mai Lan chanting the main hook, then break into Steve Vai and the most 80’s guitar solo since….well, the 80’s
18. Annabel Jones – Happy (k?d remix)
Drops are a dime a dozen anymore. I think that the only reason this works so well for me is that it sort of comes out of nowhere. Annabel is part of the way through singing the pre-chorus again when suddenly…BOOM. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a pretty satisfying little synth breakdown.
17. Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama
LEEEEEEET MEEEEEEE IIIINNNNNNN TO YOUR HEEEEEAAAART
I had no idea what I was in for when the song started. Childish Gambino has made his (musical) name as a rapper, after all. But then that fuzzy guitar starts wailing and… then Donald Glover does, too. Easily the best part, though, is when the choir drops all pretense and booms out “LET ME IN TO YOUR HEART”. Instant classic.
16. LIVE, SIK-K, PUNCHNELLO, OWEN OVADOZ, and FLOWSIK – EUNG FREESTYLE (응프리스타일)
너랑 네 친구들 꿈을 나는 다 알아 여자 가슴 한 번 만져보기
아무 것도 안하면서 부럽다고 싫어하는 fuck boy들이랑은 I don’t fuck with
I understand six of those words, but with the cadence of SIK-K’s rapping, along with the cool backbeat. It’s not surprising that YouTube used it as its ad hook.
15. Pinegrove – Size of the Moon
“We had some pretty good ideas, but we never left that fucking room”
Pinegrove was pretty good for a standout moment or two this year. Evan Stephens Hall isn’t afraid to push his voice to, and then past the breaking point. The inflection that he puts into the last line of the first verse snaps the listener’s attention immediately. It’s also a great example of how a profanity can be used to punctuate a statement rather can just be casually tossed off.
14. Car Seat Headrest – The Ballad of Costa Concordia
“How was I supposed to know?”
As the breakdown (speaking both musically and mentally) of the superepic “The Ballad of Costa Concordia” progresses, singer Will Toledo’s frustration at his inability to properly process adult life spirals from asking questions like “how was I supposed to know how to use a tube amp?” and “how was I supposed to know how to drive a van?” to “how was I supposed to know how to keep a job?” and “how the hell was I supposed to know how to steer this ship?” before singing/shouting “i give up” THEN riffing on Dido’s “White Flag”. It’s a rollercoaster that’s all downhill.
13. 65daysofstatic – Asimov
It’s post-rock, a big crescendo is practically a gimme, but a gimme that I’m a sucker for (my number one favorite moment in music is form the genre). The trick is that “Asimov” starts out with an already high strung drumbeat. The build goes on for a couple minutes, as they often do. Then, instead of there being an actual crescendo, the song switches gears and goes cinematic to close out the last two and a half minutes
12. Radiohead – True Love Waits
Even casual Radiohead fans had heard various versions of this song for over a decade. But not like this. The way he sings the words “don’t leave” with absolute resignation just hits me in the gut every time.
11. Animal Collective – Floridada
It’s a silly gimmick. I do love the way they seamlessly cut the psychotic laugh and first consonant sound from “Wipeout” into the phrase “where’s the bridge that’s gonna take me home?”
10. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD”
“I didn’t need you that night. Not gonna need you anytime.”
Justin Vernon’s crisis of faith reaches a boiling point, and he makes his declaration.
9. Mick Gordon – BFG Division
Hell starts screaming at you
In which what was already the most interesting song on the DOOM Soundtrack (and one of the best instrumental metal songs I’ve heard in a long time) suddenly kicks it up a notch. How? CREEPY FUCKING SCREECHY EFFECTS.
8. Radiohead – Burn the Witch
Toward the end of “Burn the Witch”, the strings that have served as the backbone of the song start to get injected with some dissonance and chaos. It brings an extra layer of paranoia and alarm into what is already a paranoid, alarming song. It also sounds pretty awesome.
7. Aesop Rock – Blood Sandwich
An ill-fated little league game
Aesop Rock should really do more storytelling in his music. Whenever he does it (as he does here, as well as “No Regrets” from a past album), it scores big, in my opinion. The entire first verse of “Blood Sandwich” is riveting as he recounts the story of his little brother’s baseball game where the children get a bit more of a life lesson han they had bargained for. It’s completely engrossing every time I hear it.
6. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales
“It doesn’t have to be like this”
Will Toledo tried to snap out of his self-destructive habits with one simple, but difficult to enact truth: it doesn’t have to be like this. If only it were so simple.
5. Floating Points – Kuiper
Let’s get our Vangelis on
Kuiper’s eighteen minutes go by pretty quickly, thanks to an extended intro that features some of my favorite tricks (rapidly plucked muted guitar chief among them) and it all builds up to…something glorious that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on the Blade Runner soundtrack.
4. Moses Sumney – Lonely World
The song melts
This is a fairly new addition to the list, but the song is so pretty. Particularly beautiful is the transition to the ending, where the entire song melts away into a haze of chords and sighing vocals.
3. Pinegrove – Cadmium
“You could hold it right in your hands”
Like I said before, Evan Stephens Hall is not afraid to push his voice past the breaking point.
2. Mitski – Your Best American Girl
“I think I’ll regret this”
That moment when you know that despite everyone’s best efforts, it isn’t going to work out.
“you’re the one….you’re all I’ve ever wanted, I think I’ll regret this…”
(insert kickass wall of guitar)
1. Sturgill Simpson – Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)
“Hello, my son…”
Hello, my son
Welcome to earth
May not be my last
But you’ll always be my first
Wish I’d done this ten years ago
But how could I know
How could I know
That the answer was so easy
Goddammit, a country song just gave me the feels.