Saturday, March 19, 2016

Top 20 Songs of 2015: Part 1

Finally, I get to publish my Top 20 Songs of 2015. I put a lot of thought and listening hours into this list. It's not perfect, but it's mine.

20. Three Days Grace -- "I Am Machine"

This Canadian band reminds me of Bad Religion for some reason. I love the vocals on this song -- their power matches the power of the theme. It makes me think about the character of Murphy in Robocop, but you could go with Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Vision in The Avengers, or pretty much any A.I. character who wishes he or she was human. Of course, I think the writers wanted it to be about how all of us are losing our humanity, and that's fine too.

19. The Decemberists -- "Till the Water's All Long Gone"

This is the first of two songs from The Decemberist's What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World to make this list, which is kind of weird because I felt kind of meh about the album as a whole. This song is beautiful, though, slow and haunting. It's sung by a character whose time has passed him by -- his beloved daughter is long dead, some distant ancestors have come down from the mountains, but he's protecting his water even if he can't quite remember who he's protecting it for. The song has nothing to do with this, but for some reason, it makes me think of the Bikura episode in Dan Simmons' Hyperion novel. I think it's because both the singer and the people coming down from the mountains remind me of the Bikura in their dimness.

18. Florence + The Machine -- "Ship to Wreck"

Florence + The Machine is a weird band for me. On each of their albums, including this one, I find I'm not impressed with most of the songs, but there are always one or two that I really like a lot. This song is the band at their best. It has a strong hook, the lyrics have strong imagery, and it all goes perfectly with one of Florence Welch's best vocals. Sometimes (too often, actually) this band gets into a bluesy thing that I don't care for, but this number is straight-ahead driving rock.

17. Melanie Martinez -- "Pacify Her"

Cry Baby, the LP on which this song appears, is a concept album.  The CD is done up as a kind of demented children's book. This particular song is pretty laid back -- slow, and a little dreamy. It's not the first song I noticed when I heard the CD, but it's the one that grew on me the most. Thematically, it's the reverse of Paramore's "Misery Business" -- this time, we're getting the point of view of the manstealer. "Tired, blue boy walks my way/Holding a girl's hand/That basic bitch leaves finally/Now I can steal her man." There's a wicked sense of humor here, and no repentance whatsoever, which makes it even funnier.

16. Coldplay -- "Everglow"

This is a slow, kind of sad ballad. It features a soulful vocal by Chris Martin, and some really exquisite Bruce-Hornsbylike piano work. It might be a little schmaltzy, but I can deal with that because it's so damned beautiful. And apparently Martin's ex, Gwyneth Paltrow, does an uncredited guest vocal. What's in the box, Chris?! Oh, what's in the f!-@ing box?!!!

15. Coin -- "Run"

Coin is a poppy alternative band from Nashville. This song is from their eponymous debut CD. The song is a delightful, upbeat indiepop number. It's a little like this -- imagine you took Curtis Mayfield's "Move on Up", sped it up, and added jangly guitars, some synth on the transitions, and some clean alt-rock vocals. That's what it's like. A little. Sort of.

14. Holly Miranda -- "Desert Call"

Holly Miranda is a singer-songwriter from Detroit. "Desert Call" is from her self-titled debut album. This is another slow, dreamy number, with vocals that are alternately breathy and belty. (I'm pretty sure I just made that word up.) There's some stark guitar in the beginning, and later on some gentle sax to carry the song home. And since she grew up singing in a church, there are some easy "halleljuhs" at the end that I'm pretty sure have more to do with world of the flesh stuff than with ecstasies of the spirit.

13. Virgin Steele -- "Hymns to Damnation"

Although Virgin Steele is a metal band, and there's plenty of fast-paced rock on the two-disc album from which this song comes, "Hymns to Damnation" is a ballad. It's a psychotic ballad, but it's a ballad. And you've never heard such a loving tribute to death, deceit and damnation, lovingly growled by lead singer David DeFeis. ("Child heart with bestial eyes/Like tears in spider webs, a perfect disguise ...") Demons rock!

12. Night Riots -- "Break"

Night Riots is a California band that has been compared to The Killers.  This track is from their Howl EP. The song is a strong alt-rock single, although strangely it wasn't released as a single. Go figure.  It's a medium-paced song with a positive message "They will try, but they will never break what you are/There is us, we are one/As the whole world falls apart." It's catchy. You'll like it. (Actually, I have no idea if you'll like it, but I like it, so that's why it's here.)

11. Hey Violet - "You Don't Love Me Like You Should"

Hey Violet is a mostly-grrl pop punk band from Los Angeles in the tradition of The Go-Gos. Apparently they used to be an all-grrl band called Cherri Bomb, but stuff happens.  The music is fast-paced and fun, even when the lyrics are about sad stuff (like when your significant other doesn't love you like they should). They've got a full-length CD coming out later this year, but this song is from last year's I Can Feel It EP.  I've never seen them live, but I bet they're a pisser.

Next Post: Top 20 Songs of 2015: Part 2