Friday, April 1, 2016

Top 20 Songs of 2015: Part 2

I can't believe it's taken me until April 1 to post this. Work hours and health issues have just been kicking my ass, but better late than never, I guess.

10. Pvris -- "Smoke"

This is a band from Lowell, MA who hit it big last year with their White Noise album. They got a lot of coverage from magazines like Alternative Press and playing last year's Vans Warped Tour. This is a slow song with a lot of sexual heat. What's with spelling "Pvris" with a "v", though? For some reason, my iPod just can't cope with it, and I have to look them up by the album name instead of the band name. It's annoying. Anyway, lead singer Lyndsey Gunnulfsen has been getting more love in the press than any alt rock female singer since Hayley Williams.

9. Meg Myers -- "Desire"

This is another slow song sung by a female singer with a lot of sexual heat in the mix. Meg Myers is a Los Angeles resident (by way of Nashville, TN). Her debut CD Sorry made my Top 10 this year, not bad for a new artist. The album charted on the Billboard 200, and the song peaked at #17 on their Alternative Songs chart. She sings with some definite attitude. She claims to have been heavily into grunge, but her interest is in mixing it in with some nice pop hooks.  I think she's done a decent job of that here.

8. Lord Huron -- "Meet Me in the Woods"

I expected the Strange Trails CD that this came from to be a heavy rock album, probably because I was mixed up and thought the band had named itself after Lord Humongous from The Road Warrior film. Instead, it turns out Lord Huron is an indie folk band from Los Angeles. Nevertheless, there's a kind of darkness to this album, and particularly to this song, which hints of unspeakable acts going on in the woods ("There ain't language for the things I've seen/The truth is stranger than my own worse dreams"). And there's nothing I like better than a nice dark song.

7. Tang -- "The 11th Hour"

Tang's Blood & Sand was my Number One album for 2015, and this song is a good example of why. It's kind of medium-paced, with both melodic and screamo vocals, and the lyrics are full of images of armageddon. The song has some great dynamics, with soft breaks that contrast nicely with the points where all hell breaks loose. And although the song holds up just fine by itself, there's a great moody intro track called "Ashes" that leads into it. Blood & Sand was my Number One album of the year from the first time I heard it, and this track is one of the reasons why.

6. Elle King -- "America's Sweetheart"

This is what they used to call "shitkicker" music, with some driving banjo and a country-sounding vocal. To listen to her, you'd probably think Elle King was a Nashville gal, but she was born in Los Angeles and currently lives in Brooklyn (and frighteningly enough, apparently she's the daughter of Rob Schneider, the comedian). The song is about drinking, picking up guys and then dumping them, and otherwise  trying her hardest to not be a role model. ("What do you want from me/I'm not America's sweetheart"). It's not usually my style of music, but she does it really well.

5. Death Cab for Cutie -- "Little Wanderer"

As Death Cab is wont to do, this is a stark number, kind of quiet and sad. It's about a long distance relationship and what it's like to be the person that stays at home while the other one indulges in wanderlust ("But someone's gotta be the lighthouse/And that someone's gotta be me"). The song is bittersweet, and the music fits the theme.

4. The Juliana Hatfield Three -- "If I Could"

Weird coincidence, but this is the second song in a row on this list where the theme is long-distance relationships sung by the partner who stays behind. As compared to the previous song, this one is faster-paced, and the chorus has a really strong hook. The album is called Whatever My Love, and although Hatfield has been active as a solo act over the last 20 years, this is the first time The Juliana Hatfield Three has been back together since 1993's Become What You Are album. "If I Could" is a little less sad than "Little Wanderer", but no less worthy a single.

3. Jeremy Gilchrist -- "Letter from the 21st"

Jeremy Gilchrist is a singer-songwriter who currently resides in Vermont. This song is one of his strongest ever. It's basically a musical love letter to a future generation and an apology for the world our generation has left for them. The song is slow and a little sad, but there's also a sense of optimism that the future can be better, even if the present is less than ideal ("Sorry you can't drink money/It suited us just fine"). Though the lyrics are sarcastic and at times filled with mild despair, there's a sweetness in the hope that maybe future generations will learn from our mistakes. Nice job by a former Long Islander.

2. The Decemberists -- "Make You Better"

For most of the year, I thought this song was going to be my Number 1. It's certainly worthy. It's slow and fairly sparse, and has a strong vocal by Colin Meloy. I'll be honest -- I have no idea what some of the lyrics mean, beyond the fact that they're  about a relationship that's obviously gone south ("I want you thin fingers, I wanted you, thin fingernails"). But the words are kind of poetic, and the song definitely evokes a wistful feeling. There's also a cool video for it, featuring the band playing on a German television talk show while the clueless host fantasizes about hitting on his beleaguered production assistant.

1. Antigone Rising -- "My Town"

Antigone Rising has released two EPs in the last two years, Whiskey & Wine Vols. 1 and 2, and if they'd have released them as one full-length LP, it would have scored high in my Top 10 Albums list. Lead singer Nini Camps has always had an exquisite voice, and this is one of her strongest numbers. The song has a rural or small town feel to it, and while it might be an idealized vision, I really want to live in this town ("There's something here for saints/And for sinners like me"), where they "give second chances" because "We're hopeless romantics like that". This band has always managed to make a career for itself, but in a fairer world, they'd be huge.

So that wraps up my musings on 2015. I'm just starting to listen to some stuff from this year, so hopefully next post, I'll have something a little more up to date.