Little snippets that caught the ear, lyrics that stunned, and at least a million spots devoted to mewithoutYou. It’s the “Best moments of 2015” list!
20. Big Data – The Business of Emotion (feat. White Sea)
“Doesn’t matter if you like it or not…”
This is the part that sells the song (well, that and the percussive backbeat). Lots of artists are emulating the 80’s these days, but few have captured the outright catchiness as well as well as Morgan Kibby does in the pre-chorus.
19. Lil’ Ugly Mane – SIDE THREE-A
“I sent a bomb to a computer expert”
“A catalog of destruction.”
18. Tame Impala – Disciples
Tape clicks – filter drops
Disciples is a decent song. Kevin Parkers sings most of the song with a thick pseudo-70s effect applied to his voice, as if the song were being played on an AM radio or a cassette tape. Then, the tape deck clicks, the vocal filter disappears, and the unfiltered hook bursts forth.
17. Sufjan Stevens – The Only Thing
Carrie and Lowell is heavy, man. In the midst of it, “The Only Thing” ends up possibly being the heaviest thing about it. Lyrics like “The only thing that keeps me from driving this car half-light, jack knife into the canyon at night” abound. Just as the dour mood threatens to overwhelm the listener, though, a short instrumental line soars. It’s just part of the wonder of Sufjan Stevens: able to craft moments of intense, fleeting beauty in the midst of songs that are stacked with anguish.
16. Lupe Fiasco – Body of Work (feat. Troi and Terrance Martin)
“Sanskrit dance on the page of the dead book”
There’s some annotation over at Genius. I just like the way it sounds. When Lupe is on his game, he twists words in such a beautiful way. It was good to see that version of Lupe back for Tetsuo and Youth.
15. Day Wave – Drag
“I know it’s hard being around me.”
Day Wave’s breakout hit “Drag” hides within its hazy pop and bright guitar lines a look at a relationship which is strained by the singer’s depression. Things come to a head in the bridge, where the singer simply admits “I know it’s hard being around me” before swinging back to the chorus “hold me back, I don’t wanna be a drag.”
14. Toundra – Viesca
Horns? In MY crescendo porn??
I love me some guitar-fronted post-rock. The problem is, of course, that a lot of it sounds similar. Most of the big bands have their style, of course, but an Explosions in the Sky song sounds like an Explosions in the Sky song. Same with Godspeed, etc. Toundra’s not really all that much different, but in “Viesca”, they add horns to the mix for an excellent crescendo that sounds triumphant and invigorating. WOuld that more post-rock bands tweaked things like this.
13. Beach House – Levitation
“There’s a place I want to take you”
God, I love Victoria Legrand’s voice. I could listen to her sing the fade out to this song all day.
12. Bully – Trying
“Been praying for my period all week”
I mean, what’s more alt rock than a pregnancy scare? Close second: the part at the end of the song where she screams “TRYING. TRYING.WHY AM I??”
11. mewithoutYou – Rainbow Signs
“Let’s keep that silly punchline between me and you…”
And so, the year’s other depressing album about parental death ends the only way it really could: with an unexplained inside joke about “apostrophes and pronouns and you-remember-who” between Aaron Weiss and his departed father. The song, and the album along with it fade away. There’s nothing more to say.
10. Falling Up – Aron on the Wind
The end credits to the movie that exists only in my head
So, Falling Up made a post-rock album out of some of the studio castoffs from their final album. I suppose that’s not such a surprise – most of their last couple of albums have sounded like the kind that could have some pretty interesting material missing. What is surprising is how THEATRICAL some of it is. “Aron on the Wind”, in particular, stands out. Every time I hear it, about a minute in, I get the feeling I’m watching the credits of some great movie.
9. Sufjan Stevens – Should Have Known Better
“My brother had a daughter”
Same comment as the earlier moment, only MORE. I just love the line “My brother had a daughter – the beauty that she brings: illumination.” For a moment in a very dark album, a little light shines through.
8. Majical Cloudz – Downtown
The romantic sentiment of the year
“…and if I suddenly die
I hope they will say
He was obsessed, and it was okay…”
7. EL VY – I’m The Man To Be
“…the green one”
The line is “I’ll be the one in the lobby in the green collared ‘fuck me’ shirt…” which is absurd enough (and yet, strangely amazing, given that it’s being sung by Matt Berninger), but then he just has to go ahead and add “the green one” with such a cocksure, redundant swagger, that it’s pretty much the best thing to ever happen.
6. Courtney Barnett – Depreston
“If you’ve got a spare half a million”
“…you could knock it down, and start rebuilding”
Never has such a vaguely affirming sentiment seemed so… depressing.
5. Carly Rae Jepsen – Run Away With Me
“I’ll be your sinner in secret”
The way her voice goes up for the second syllable of “sinner”. Pop moment of the moment, no doubt.
4. mewithoutYou – Blue Hen
“You’ll soon see exactly where my victory is”
This was never going to be a happy album – albums about dead parents rarely are (oh, hi, Sufjan…), but Blue Hen takes the cake. After ironically singing “death, where is thy sting?” earlier in the song, Aaron Weiss turns the tables on himself. As Death, he retorts:
Death where is thy sting?
You ought to put more thought into what you bravely sing
Aft-mast ships of straw-short bricks
You’ll soon see exactly where my victory is
3. Kendrick Lamar – The Blacker the Berry
“The bigger I shoot”
There were a few parts from this song that could have conceivably fit here. There’s the menacing chord change in the beginning of the song that mirrors the one in the hook (with Kendrick singing “and sometimes, I get off watching you die in vain”), there’s the now-legendary part at the end, where he bitterly declares himself (and through implication, just about everybody) a hypocrite.
Still, the part I’m picking is the pre-chorus, wherein “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice” morphs into a distorted growl “the blacker the berry, the bigger I shoot”. I’ve done this because it’s visceral, badass, and terrifying. It stops you in your tracks, even as it sounds SO cool. It’s a microcosm of the song, and the album that contains it.
2. Jamie xx – Gosh
Color seeps in
“Gosh” is fun to sing to your infant son. ake my word on this. The part where the backbeat gets half-time handclaps is quite awesome, as well.
The part that really gets me, though, is the end of the song, where a synth, very slowly sneaks it way into the song, and suddenly, it’s all you hear, splashing color and melody everywhere. It’s beautiful.
The music video for “Gosh” is perfect for the song. First, it shows a planet, then it shows a slightly closer look. When the synth line comes in, it shows you the mountains and the valleys you can’t see from the distance. Life is everywhere, beauty is all around.
1. mewithoutYou – Red Cow
The heaviest song on the album (and the one that most resembles the 2004-2006 mwY) gets the most memorable bit of music that mewithoutYou has written in a long time. It all ties back to that guitar line in the hook. It’s huge, it’s crunchy, but it has that progression… all while Aaron finally gets to get some of the lead out. Memorable lines like “Iron mixed with Oxygen as per the laws of chemistry and chance” and “was he a violent man? well, he had his genocidal moments”. This is a side of the band I thought was lost.